Sanarie woke up slumped against cold, hard, iron; it was pitch black "Korazsa?"
"Thank the mother" Korazsa’s voice broke on the last word; living through the first hours of a head injury was always tenuous, especially when you're rendered unconscious from the blow.
"It is night?" Sanarie asked.
"No, they just put out the torches on the avenue, no doubt an order from Keir for my suffering. Are you dizzy, headache, nauseous?" She asked.
"Headache and dizzy" Sanarie groaned quietly, noticing the pain in her skull, ear and aching tender face. Caldron only knew how she looked, or if her nose was broken, it didn't matter, she'd look a damn sight worse in a week, and the smell, she couldn't bear to think of it.
"I can't assess you as I usually would, I need you to put your hands on the iron and do what I say" she said.
Sanarie shifted in the small space to unpin her arms and place in front of her "Okay, I'm ready" Sanarie answered.
"Make circles with your thumbs on the iron, good, stop, tap your middle fingers at the same time, now separately, something a little harder; tap all ten of your fingers, starting with one pinkie on your left hand and finishing with the one on your right, one right after the other" Korazsa listened to Sanarie’s fingers trying to assess her processing ability and reaction time, it was all she could do without being able to lay eyes on her.
"That last one wasn't great was it?" Sanarie asked, starting to feel nausea creeping up.
"It could be worse, I will wake you every hour though, and ask you questions, at least until you're rested and more responsive, then I'll get some sleep" Korazsa sounded worried, she couldn't check Sanarie’s eyes or strength, it wasn’t even a proper test for her reflexes, but it was something.
"Are you okay? I know this is the worst kind of punishment for you" Sanarie said, dread turning in her stomach as the nausea kicked up a notch and made her throat bob.
"I'm okay, I panicked when the punishment was spoken, made it worse because of my state. It's never as bad as I think it will be; it's never quite like the cage during the war. I have you to worry about, that's enough distraction for me and it's not permanent, we will be out in 7 days".
"Wake me up if you start having fearful thoughts or anxious thoughts, I don't want you suffering like that alone' Sanarie said, and then realized the inevitable after a head trauma 'Old Gods above" she said right before she threw up all over herself.
"Oh, Sanarie' Korazsa said sympathetically 'I'm so sorry"
"It's okay, at least I feel better now, stink and all' she said trying not to let the smell get to her, she did not want to be sick again, which would only be bile at this point anyway 'just wake me up if you need me okay?"
"I will, I promise, now get some rest, sleep or don't, but you need rest" said Korazsa.
Sanarie sighed at the mess all over herself and the inside of the womb, trying not to breathe through her nose at the smell. She wedged her knees, and lower back into the opposing sides of the iron womb, and listed to one side supported by her arms, it was about as comfortable as you could get in the thing.
Hour after hour, Korazsa woke Sanarie, gave her random exercises and asked her questions, all in an effort to ascertain how her head trauma was healing. Each hour was marked by the guards, walking onto the pitch black cavernous avenue, to make sure they weren’t speaking. Light from their torches illuminated a faint glow, the light trickled in around the iron womb as a guard held up a torch, checking the locks and chains binding the womb and suspending it from the rock above. Every hour once the light was gone, Korazsa knew it would be safe to speak, all be it quietly.
No one had ever escaped a womb, but the guards wouldn’t dare risk the wrath of Keir Darkbringer, so every hour they checked that their prisoners were still in their prisons, and made sure they were silent, lest they make plans for an escape come dinner time, which they had done in the past and learned the hard way never to attempt such a thing again; Sanarie’s first three ear slits were gained after the attempt, amongst other scars the two now bore. Never, since the day they tried to escape, had they tried such a thing again, the punishments were not worth it. Even if they could clear the inside halls of the mountain, they knew from experience that they’d never escape Keir’s Darkbringer Warriors, through the mountains surrounding the Hewn City, there was no path to freedom from The Court of Nightmares, save death.
"Sanarie?" Korazsa called quietly after the darkness had been uninterrupted for a few minutes.
"Mm mm" she acknowledged, still half asleep.
"What's your name?" Korazsa asked in a low whisper.
"Sanarie Asperia" she replied.
"And why are you so named?" Korazsa asked again.
Sanarie sighed sleepily "Sanator in the old language means Healer or Curer; my mother made it a feminine name by making it Sanarie, instead of Sanator".
"Asperia?" Korazsa reminded her.
"The name of my mother, bestowed upon me, by her, when she was dying, so that I would never forget, that I am her child, not his"
“Okay now finger exercises; tap out Nightsong, and quietly, if they hear us speaking, let alone tapping an Illyrian lullaby, cauldron knows what they’ll do to us” Korazsa said.
Sanarie tapped the first lilting verse of Nightsong, remembering Korazsa teaching her the song every night before bed. After her mother had died, Korazsa’s quiet singing, and gentle hands brushing her head, were the only things which could soothe her enough to sleep.
“Good, try tapping your pinkie on your right hand and your middle finger on your left hand at the same time, now separately, now repeat both exercises I just gave you, good job sweetie. One last question” said Korazsa
"Isn't that enough already?" Sanarie said.
"One more” she promised.
Sanarie’s exhausted huff was enough to tell Korazsa that, she was still exhausted, but compliant, a good sign, being belligerent with a head wound, would have been to the contrary.
“How many times have I woken you up tonight?" Korazsa asked the final question, this one would be a real test, if she passed it, they could both sleep for a few hours straight.
Sanarie had to think about it, she wanted to get it right for both their sakes 'seven times?"
"Yes, thank the mother, now we can both sleep" Korazsa said getting as comfortable as possible in the tiny space.
"Good night, sleep well sister" Sanarie said.
"You too' she said quietly, ready to fall asleep 'Sanarie?" She said quickly.
"Yes?" Sanarie said.
"When they bring our food, I'll swap with you at some point, I'll put as much healing magic in it as I can, try and eat it, no matter what they've done to it" she said, dreading the state of the food her stomach was already calling for.
"I'll be ready, thank you for risking yourself for me, yet again" Sanarie said.
"That's what you do for family" replied Korazsa.
Sanarie and Korazsa were woken by the shuddering of the wombs, as they were lowered by the chains to the ground, once the chains wrapped around them and the locks were removed, the iron wombs were opened to the fresh air of the mountain, it was so needed, especially in Sanarie’s case, who by this stage had not only vomited down her front, but wet herself, there were no toilet breaks for prisoners in the iron wombs.
One blonde haired guard stepped forward and held his torch up, first to Sanarie, then Korazsa “HA, I told you, both pissed themselves and the cripple has emptied her stomach, pay up”
The other guards stepped closer to see the females.
A guard next to Korazsa who had pitch black hair snorted and said “Disgusting, I guess we won’t be having any fun with these ones, I’m not touching any female who’s soiled herself”.
“You and me both’ said the leader looking on them in disdain. He had a shooting black star pinned to his left breast, a sign of his rank of lieutenant, holding his black cape around his shoulders ‘get up the two of you”
“You’ll have to help her out, she can’t get out on her own” Korazsa informed them, she knew Sanarie couldn’t sit up on her own, not in a womb; she had to be able to roll to her side to kneel or stand.
“I’m not touching either of you” spat the lieutenant.
“She can’t eat or drink like that, unless you want her to choke and have to explain to Keir why his favourite pet died on your watch” Korazsa said, reading the guards and manipulating the situation expertly.
“You help her up then” he replied.
Korazsa got up and went to Sanarie, she’d been building her healing magic as soon as she’d woken up, and she was ready to push it into Sanarie, she grabbed her by the under arms and hoisted her up, she helped her over to a wall so she could brace herself against it while she ate and drank, all the while letting her healing magic wash over Sanarie.
“Wait’ said the blonde haired guard ‘isn’t that one a healer?” he pointed at Korazsa.
“Gods damn you’ the lieutenant said, and pushed her away from Sanarie ‘Ellias give them their food and water, so we can go back to our game”
The guard with pitch black hair, called Ellias looked irritated, he stepped forward and said “next time either of you are put into a womb, you better hold it, or I’ll beat you, cut off all your hair and pull two fingernails from each hand’ he threw a piece of bread at each woman ‘I lost good money betting on you two, and now I’ll have to spend my evening finding another female to enjoy” his sickening grin darkened his face.
Sanarie just looked at the stone, she felt numb to threats like this, she’d experienced everything awful a woman could in this world and survived it, so they wanted to make her experience it again, that didn’t mean they’d get the chance. She picked up her bread and ate it, trying not to think about what may be inside. When she was done with her bread she reached for the large jug, her only water for the day until evening, she tipped it down her front, it was cold, but it washed most of the sick from her front, and it was worth the cold and wrath of the guards, to not have to smell it for the next 7 days.
The lieutenant took a sharp breath in and wound back his right hand, and hit her in the face “Aemon go and refill her jug”.
The blonde haired guard nodded, took her jug and left.
“Tend her ear while she waits” said the Lieutenant.
The attendant stepped forward and unbound her ear wrappings, and turned to look at the guard horrified, “it has almost fully healed”
“Then cut her again, and be sure that it looks identical to the cut her father made” the lieutenant said.
“I do not have a knife” said the attendant.
“Here” the lieutenant handed him his knife, and then turned to Korazsa, he walked to her and kicked her in her guts.
“You healed her” he kicked her again.
“Don’t you dare” he punched her in the side of the head.
“Ever” he grabbed her by the jaw and pulled her up.
“Try that again” he slapped her across the face leaving nail marks across her cheek.
Korazsa to her credit, gave him a bored look between the winces of each blow.
Sanarie whimpered as the attendant cut where her father had, she thought it was where she’d hit her head when she passed out, but no, her father had butchered her fae ears again.
The attendant bound her ear as he had in the throne room, and stood back, waiting to make sure his work was undisturbed before he left, and he wouldn’t leave until they were hoisted into place.
The lieutenant took the jug from Aemon, and placed it before Sanarie and said “drink it all and be quick about it, I have better things to do than smell you and your friend”.
Sanarie took the second jug and poured it down her front again, making sure as much of the sick as possible was gone from her tunic, she wasn’t afraid of these males, they and everyone else under this mountain had nothing on her father, she’d save her fear for someone worth fearing.
The lieutenant was angry, he sent his guards to fetch a blanket and another jug “if you weren’t Keir’s favourite pet, I’d let you go back up there thirsty and primed for hypothermia. But, as you are his favourite toy, it’s my duty to carry out your punishment AND see you alive at the end of the week, so you will be wrapped in a blanket after you’ve drank the whole pitcher”.
As he finished, his men returned, the dark haired, cruel faced Ellias, put the jug in front of her, Sanarie braced herself on the wall, digging her fingers into a crack in the stone so she wouldn’t slip, and drained the pitcher. She was fairly certain there was urine in the jug, but thankfully, it seemed to be mostly water, so she only gagged a little and “accidentally” spilled the last little bit, which the lieutenant rolled his eyes at a little and waved the blonde guard Aemon forward to place the blanket around her.
Aemon took care to wrap her evenly, and pin it to hold it in place, he went as far as to leave some bunched around her neck, that would be comfortable to sleep against Sanarie thought, she wondered if it was a kind mercy or just a fastidious guard doing his job.
The lieutenant stood over Korazsa and said “help her back in, no magic this time or she’ll only have to be cut again”.
Korazsa smiled up at him and said “what makes you think I was trying to heal her ear?”
He scowled and dragged Korazsa to Sanarie by her hair “just put her in the damn womb and get in yours”.
Korazsa was fighting a smile as she picked Sanarie up under the arms and helped her into her womb, making sure to fix the disturbed blanket from the move perfectly around her, so that she’d be as warm as possible.
The guards wasted no time closing Sanarie’s womb, and then Korazsa's. They were locked, stood vertically, wrapped in chains, locked again, and then finally raised back up to the ceiling, with a system of coiled chain around, large, wooden, spools.
Once the guards were gone for a few minutes, Sanarie whispered to Korazsa "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, had a little fun with him at the end. They're so easy to rile up" Korazsa said, amusement in her voice.
"What were you trying to heal?" Sanarie asked.
"Your concussion. In fact, I was trying to bend the magic anywhere but your ear, I knew they'd cut you again if it healed, the injurues were too close, I'm sorry I couldn't manage it" she said.
"You risked a beating for me, which you got, don't be sorry, I'm grateful for your healing, your loyalty and just to have you" Sanarie said.
"As I am, to have you, little sister" Korazsa replied.
Life in The Court of Nightmares had taught Sanarie many things, aside from survival skills, she learned to live moment by moment, and to appreciate the people you love, while you have them.