By God, not this. I had spent all my life trying to stay out of Bedlam. I would not let them do this to me now.

Sweat dripped into my eyes and I shook my head to clear them, searching desperately for something that might help me: uneven ground where I could brace my feet, or perhaps a friendly face, or even some ruffian I could bribe for assistance. But the grounds were smooth and well-kept, and while the passers-by watched with avid interest, none would let me catch their eye.

I tried not to look, but despite my best efforts my gaze was drawn upward to the statues over the gate. The sight of them made my stomach turn sour, the harsh tang of fear creeping up the back of my throat. I couldn’t have said which was worse—on my right, the sculpted man was chained to the stone arch, cringing like a cornered dog, while on the left the unbound man stared vacantly over my head, his slack face more lifeless than the stone he was carved from. I tore my gaze away, biting back a howl—of fear or rage I couldn’t say—and threw myself to one side.

The men beside me ignored my protests, lifting me bodily off the ground without a break in stride as if they had done this a hundred times before. And perhaps they had, for when I kicked the one on the right they each reached down in perfect unison to grab one of my legs, dropping me onto my back. My shoulders hit the ground first, mostly saving my head from a blow that would’ve cracked my skull; as it was, the impact made me see stars. The man I had kicked snickered as the breath was driven from my lungs, and they proceeded to drag me ignominiously through the doors and down the hall.

By the time my vision cleared we were already heading into the cell block, the iron gate that separated the two sides of the gallery sliding past my confused eyes as I was pulled along the floor. Without warning my captors turned and entered an empty cell, and I barely managed to roll onto my side to avoid having my head slammed against the door. In a trice they had the leg irons closed around my ankles, and almost before I could take a deep breath they were locking the cell door behind them.

I struggled until I was sitting upright. The chain of the leg irons passed through a ring set in the floor, and with the straitwaistcoat forcibly wrapping my arms around my chest I was, short of teeth, utterly helpless. And despite my location, I was too sane to be biting and snapping like a madman. Yet.

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