Anwar and Daemon face off at the door to Anwar’s cell. Daemon’s certain that he has the upper hand, and he’s only too happy to oblige his queen in bringing her the prisoner.
Anwar eyed the threshold as the door creaked open. Every fiber of his being screamed for him to run, that it was now or never. But as Daemon’s massive hulk stepped through the frame, Anwar found himself retreating deeper into the cell. He had failed her yet again.
“Your presence is requested in the Great Hall,” Daemon sneered.
That he derived enjoyment from this exchange did not bode well for Anwar.
“I’m afraid that truly doesn’t fit in with my schedule. Perhaps another time?” Anwar bowed formally, but how his knees did knock. Could he hope to hide his cowardice for long?
It won’t be long now. Anwar’s confinement is nearing its end. Why isn’t he happier about this?
A clang echoed in the outer chamber. Heavy footsteps entered the corridor above him. They walked as one, one footfall masking another. In all, Anwar counted five of them, a welcoming committee of Hespa’s design. He trained an eye on the barred window in the cell’s heavy door. The first flickers of a torch’s flame danced on the wall outside his cell, mocking him.
Five he had counted, yet only one had stepped into view – Daemon of Ahmnor. The glee on his face confirmed Anwar’s previous suspicions; Daemon had, indeed, awaited his return at the veil. No doubt he had anticipated the privilege of presenting Hespa with her prize. The fact that Anwar had returned alone must have highly disappointed him.
When you find yourself at the mercy of a witch, it’s good to keep your humor in check . . .
It was rumored the witch had cells forged in the lower tunnels, reserved for traitors to the Crown, for those prisoners deserving of Hespa’s special attention. To find not only that those rumors were true, but that she now thought herself a queen? If not for his current predicament, Anwar might have found that amusing. It was almost more than he could bear.
Secured behind iron gates with armed guards – not to mention, a series of Hespa’s own enchantments – the sole viable escape route took the prisoner through the tainted waters of the U’rudhene. Only the most desperate would attempt such an escape.
His brow furrowed. To attempt such a thing would be madness, he thought, though he did enjoy a challenge. Perhaps Hespa had a sense of humor after all.
The witch, Hespa, has had Anwar thrown into a dungeon known as the Tombs. He’s cold. He’s alone. But does he have what it takes to survive?
Did he dare cross the witch with so much at stake? As quickly as the thought materialized, he dismissed it as folly. A man knew his limitations.
An icy chill coursed through his body. Anwar cast off his cloak. His numbed hands trembled as he attempted to warm his arms, his thighs. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, anything to keep his blood flowing.
Then he heard it. The U’rudhene. Its steady dripping into the cells, a constant reminder to the condemned that their fate rested solely in the hands of the witch.
When last we saw Anwar, he had awakened in The Tombs, a dungeon the witch Hespa had specially forged for her prisoners.
He winced as his hand snaked toward a throbbing wound on the back of his head. It was wet with blood. Daemon must have awaited his return at the veil. Anwar doubted the oaf had acted on his own accord. His fealty belonged to the witch.
His eyes adjusted easily to the darkness – a necessity in his profession – though, to Anwar, one cell looked much the same as any other, with one exception. Hespa preferred floors of jagged stone to those of packed earth. Unshod feet assured a prisoner’s inability to steal surreptitiously away. Anwar wriggled his toes, tucked safely inside his scuffed boots. That meant only one thing. He still fit in her plans.
And we arrive at the second chapter of Once Upon Nowhere: The Tombs
A foul stench rose to his nostrils, filling his senses. Must. Sweat. Fear. The Tombs, they called it, and rightly so, for few men ever emerged from the dank recesses of Hespa’s dungeon. And those who did escape with their lives pleaded for death in the end.
Anwar shuddered against bone-chilling cold. His limp form, clad in the sodden cloak, sprawled across a stone floor. The length of his captivity up to that point remained a mystery.