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The Gauntlet

Karen Chance

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2010 Karen Chance

The Gauntlet

The sound of a key turning in the rusty old lock had everyone scurrying forward with hands outstretched, begging for food, for water, for life. Gillian didn’t go with them. Trussed up as she was, she could barely move. And there was no life that way.

The burly jailer came in carrying a lantern, with two dark shapes behind him. To her surprise, he didn’t immediately kick the women aside with brutal indifference. Instead he let them crowd around, even the ones who had been there a while, whose skeletal hands silently begged with the others.

“This is the lot, my lord,” he said. “And a sorry one it is, too.”

“Why are some of them gagged?” The low, pleasant tenor came from one of the shapes she had assumed to be a guard. The speaker came forward, but she couldn’t see much of him. The hood on his cape was pulled forward and a gloved hand covered his face, probably in an attempt to block the stench.

She smiled grimly and let her head fall back into her arms. It wouldn’t work. Even after two days, she hadn’t become inured to it: the thick, sickly-sweet odor of flesh, unwashed and unhealed.

“Some are strong enough to curse a man to hell otherwise,” the jailer informed him, spitting on the ground.

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