Eyes flickered open to the sounds of screams. Muffled screams from the far side of a stone wall. Arlin, Gaston, Miirik, Thothen, and Firae sat upon sacks of grain in a dark store room. A thatched roof hung above them, boxing off the stone walls and floor of the cottage storage rooms. The screamed voice matched the missing group member, Jarik.
All were hunched over and motionless while senses returned. Hands and legs were bound with tight cord which felt like it cut to the bone. Crusted bandages covered wounds. The fire that had once raged in their young eyes was extinguished. Arlin hung his head low, unflinching to the half-elf’s screams
The room bathed in unnatural quiet when the screaming stopped. After a few minutes the door slammed against the wall. A large Ildonian dragged Jarik by his scalp and threw him against a wall. Bruises and gashes were upon every inch of the rogue’s bare flesh and his clothing was damp with blood. Blondie followed into the room and soldiers filled the doorway behind him.
“Next time try asking a question.” Jarik spat blood at the Ildonians.
Blondie nodded and a soldier jammed a soiled handkerchief into the half-elf’s mouth. The cloth was secured in place with a leather strap. “Anyone else want to be a hero?”
Jarik scrambled to his feet and staggered for the Ildonian. The soldier’s fists came down in a hammer punch across the rogue’s back. Jarik hit the floor with a loud thud and didn’t move. The soldier picked him up and with a length of rope hung him from a hook embedded in the wall.
“I’m glad that the rest of you are obedient dogs. It would be such a shame to give you all the same treatment.” Blondie towered over Arlin. All of the young men except for Arlin followed the Ildonian with weary eyes. Arlin never broke his concentration upon the floor. “You know the command to open Mandel’s spell tome, don’t you boy? Of course you do. A good prince trained under the wizard would know many secrets. Tell me, what is the command?”
“He won’t tell you anything,” Gaston said. A soldier punched his face. Blood dripped from Gaston’s split lip. Arlin did not move. His eyes did not blink. He saw only the floor.
“This is no game, boy. Tell me the command or I’ll dish out some more of the same treatment your dog received.”
Arlin didn’t budge. He didn’t speak.
“Looks like your mind’s made up.” Blondie gestured to the soldiers in the doorway. In the next room a woman screamed. It was Queen Heather Catheldor.