Chapter Twenty-Nine

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He didn't even feel the blade at first. Alavardians prided themselves on the sharpness of their knives. It slid across the back of his leg, just above the knee. Smooth as buttered silk. Such a quick, simple motion. Like slicing roast fowl for supper--parting flesh from bone.

No, he didn't feel it at first. And then, it was all he could feel.

Pain tore through Lorn like a wild animal. It clawed up his leg, through his chest, and exploded in his head. He'd told himself he wouldn't scream--he'd been wrong.

Blood gushed from the wound, soaking his breeches and coursing warmly down his calf. He heard its soft pitter-patter onto the floor.Lorn closed his eyes and moaned. The man in golden armor pressed the knife deeper, grinding against bone.

Lorn clamped his jaws together over the gag and tried to force his breathing to slow. It hitched in his throat, tight, harsh and burning, coming in short gasps. The gag cut into his lips and chafed his tongue. He grew dizzy, the urge to vomit clenching his gut. 

I'm going to bleed out, he thought, but the realization was like a small creature running circles in his head--he couldn't catch hold of it, couldn't fully comprehend its meaning. All he could understand was the pain. It was a simple language.

Then, as if from very far away, he heard Guin cry out. The sound pulled him momentarily out of himself. Lorn's head jerked to the side and his eyes flew open.

She was on the floor, sprawled in a spreading puddle of ink. She tried to sit up, then slipped and fell again with a grunt. Thesul stood by with a disgusted sneer on his face, watching Guin struggle. Beside Lorn, the jailer in gold armor laughed.

You animals! Lorn wanted to scream. Filthy pit-licking scum!

But he couldn't shape the words around the gag. His vision swam. He blinked rapidly, forcing himself to stay focused, to ignore the pain coursing through his body. 

Again Guin tried to stand, and again she fell, almost as if she'd been shoved to the floor.

Lorn pulled against his restraints, but that was pointless, only made him bleed faster and increased his nausea. The manacles were connected to a system of gears, controlled by a wheel at the back of each chair. He could no more escape them than he could staunch his bleeding leg.

Guin, get up. Get up and fight. Please. Please don't give up now--you're stronger than him.

She had to keep going, had to get up--but Guin continued to lie sprawled on the floor and seemed, slowly, to be asphyxiating. Her eyelids fluttered weakly, and her breathing was growing shallow.

No. No, no please Guin no--I can't lose you, not you too--

When the soft, cool touch pressed against his face, Lorn thought it was his own tears. But no, he wasn't crying. It was a hand. A gentle palm, splayed fingers...

He thought, perhaps, that he heard a familiar voice.

An instant later, the sensation vanished. A moment after that, something happened that Lorn couldn't understand--a flash of light, a shattering of shadow, yet none of it truly seen, but felt--

When it was over, Guin stirred. She groaned, and sat up. She opened her eyes.

Thesul grinned and said, "Ah, now, perhaps you will be more coopera--"

The world seemed to shudder, to tear. And then, from nowhere at all, an ocean exploded into the room.

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