With a groggy groan, Aveza woke up and the first thing she noticed was the smell. Something of a cross between moldy rot and a horde of nugs in a rut. She also felt the damp rocks under her through the tattered thin clothing that hung limply from her bony frame. At her extremities she perceived the chill of iron and the rustling of chain as she shifted slightly confirmed the presence of manacles. Next she attempted her eyes and was greeted with waves of pain which brought back the dull pain nestled in the back of her mind to the forefront. One eye, the left one, was swelled shut, but the right one seemed to work well enough; of course she couldn’t see much to begin with in the drab darkness of the jail cell. Standing up elicited another groan of protest from her body and she grinned as she remembered the events that had brought her here, or at least that had caused the bruises and injuries. She had taken on three armored guards, while unarmed and unarmored, and of what she recalled, she had been giving a fairly good account of herself until a fourth guard had arrived. The following moments had been hectic and painful, mostly painful.
Dull footsteps brought her back to reality and her good eye spied a faint light cutting through the dark and growing in intensity. Each step ringed in her throbbing head, but she made the effort of moving as far her bonds allowed her. Perhaps someone in the audience hall hadn’t had enough and was coming back for more. She grinned once more; if so she would be happy to oblige.
Gytha tried very hard to keep her face impassive as she followed the guard through the tunnels to the cells. This was more difficult than usual, as she couldn’t decide if she most wanted to thump the guards, the Assembly, or her Mistress, and the conflicting emotions were starting to give her heartburn. Any proper guard, with a more than passing acquaintance with intelligence or perception, should have noticed her simmering rage, and large maul, and refused her entry to the cells. Unfortunately, the idiot with the torch leading the way hadn’t had the sense to try and deny her anything, and thus she’d had no excuse to let some of the fury loose with a good beating. Or at least a yell or two. Not that those deliciously considered actions would’ve been at all appropriate to her rank or duties, so she probably wouldn’t have let herself follow through on them anyways. She suppressed a sigh and looked up as the guard finally rounded a corner and gestured at the cell at the end of the tunnel. A cell with only one bruised, bloody, barely dressed young dwarf glaring out with a wicked grin.
Halfway through the lunge that ended with the guard dangling against the wall with her arm holding him up by his neck, she realized she’d forgotten to check there was an extra torch in the room to replace the one she’d just forcibly made the young idiot drop with a squeak. A squeak! Guards in her day were tough enough not to squeak. It just pissed her off even more, and the fact that there was still some light just pointed out she was lucky, not smart. She hated it when she lost her temper, forgot her smarts.
“That woman in there is the Noble Lady Aveza Odyrn. You will show her the honor she is due, including food, clothes, and medical attention, or I will make sure there is so little left of you no one can find the pieces to return to the Stone. Do I make myself clear?””
She glared, waiting for a reply more useful than the gaping nug impression he was currently attempting, until a cough from the cell caused her to turn her head.
“That particular shade of red probably means he can’t breathe enough to answer you, Gytha.”
With a grunt of annoyance that she hadn’t figured that out for herself, Gytha dropped her arm and stepped back, watching the guard thud down to the floor.
“S-s-so sorry m-miss… ma’am, um milady? If you’ll just, um, I’ll be right… Captain’ll help with that?” With that final stuttered appeal to someone else’s authority, he staggered to his feet, turned around, and left at full speed, not even bothering to pick up his dead torch.
When the last of the guard’s panicked footsteps had faded away with distance, Gytha turned to face her noble lady. “Serve you right if I added to those bruises, milady. What were you thinking?”
“I thought…” Aveza shrugged with a small laugh. “I thought I hadn’t learned my lesson yet about standing for my beliefs.”
Gytha winced, feeling that answer like a punch to her gut. “Well, now, don’t you make me feel old and cynical. Of course you should be able to stand for your beliefs, and of course the Assembly ought to listen, and of course none of us should be here, like this. But you’re the only one still trying to make any of those things true, I’m sorry to say.” Her fingers twitched, as she resisted the urge to grab her maul and break down the Stone-cursed cell door and check out Aveza’s injuries without waiting for the guards. It was her job to take care of her lady, and she hadn’t been doing a very good job of it lately.
“You’re right, of course, I might just be a bit stubborn.” Aveza shot Gytha a crooked smile unbecoming of dwarven noble lady. “You should see in what shape I left the guards who tried to bring me down… It was beautiful.”
Gytha unsuccessfully tried to stop her lips from twitching into a rather evil grin. “Of course it was, milady. Never doubted you for a moment. I’m quite sorry I missed it.”
“What now?” The bruised noble asked. “They’re too much cowards to kill me, but not stupid enough to let me continue.”
“I hear rumors from the guardsmen that they’re in closed meetings at the Assembly. In a perfect world, they’d have finally realized you’re right, and that they have to close the pens down, regardless of who finds out about them after the fact. As this is not a perfect world, the current bet is on exile.”
The noble lady snorted disdainfully. “So they figure the darkspawn will rid them of this problem.”
Her short bark of laughter was decidedly unamused. “Well, it is just about the only thing darkspawn have ever been good for.”
Aveza suddenly turned serious. “Gytha, don’t let yourself get dragged down by me.”
“Don’t be silly, milady. It would be much too boring here without you. Besides, I’m not sure you could even put your armor on without my help.”
“You’d probably forget to eat properly as well, and lose your gauntlets at your first campsite.” She shook her head sadly.
“Gytha, you overprotective hen,” Aveza said in quiet tones. “I’m not worthy of your loyalty.”
“Of course you are, my dear.”
The sound of footsteps echoing down the tunnels indicated the guards were finally returning, and Aveza waved Gytha to the side to let them through to begin their belated ministrations.