Chapter Twenty-Nine

Cold

-oOo-

After she had been blindfolded and seized, Damalis had no sense of where she was or what was happening, she was only sure of the intense fear and panic she felt as she was manhandled, pushed and shoved into cart and then into a cold building where she could hear the footsteps echoing off narrow walls and the sounds of people moaning and the sounds of metal banging on metal. It was only when she heard the creak of a door was the bag roughly wrenched from her head and she was shoved into a dark room. Spinning about she saw in time one of the Spartan warriors slam a thick heavy door closed behind her, peering at her with disgust through the small barred window and disappeared, his footsteps echoing into silence.

Panting between her sobs, Damalis surveyed her new accommodation. She was in a small cell, no bigger then six paces from each corner, there was a small window that spilled some of the moonlight into her room, though it was too high for her to look out of. Damalis jumped up onto the small, rotten bench underneath and saw that the window looked out onto the back streets of the city, her eye line was level with the ground and she could see the cobbles of the well-worn path.

Shuddering, Damalis dropped down onto the bench, wrapping her arms around herself as she shuddered against the cold.

So it was done. She had been caught and would die a murderer. She recalled the looks of horror on the faces of the Captain, his wife and his daughter; none of them had any idea what was happening. Her only constellation was that Astinos knew and understood the reasons behind her crime.

Astinos.

For the briefest moment she had been the happiest woman alive. She had been in the arms of the man she loved, shared a kiss, a real kiss not a sloppy, drunken slurp and he had openly declared his love for her in front of his family. But now as she sat alone in the cold and the dark, the memory was fast becoming a dream, as if it had never happened at all in any way other then in her mind.

She couldn't imagine what was happening back there. Did the Captain believe she was capable of murder? had the list of evidence swayed him? And how could Otis betray her like that? What was it that Circe promised him that was worth someone's life? His freedom, perhaps or maybe money? Although she knew she should hate the boy, she knew that he was just as desperate as every other servant in the city. Perhaps Circe had even threatened him, but there was no point in contemplating what-ifs when she was already sitting in a cell, waiting to hear when she would die. Justice didn't exist for servants, when they were accused of guilt by a noble, they were guilty.

Damals unconsciously felt her neck, imaging the blade that would swoop down and take it off within a fraction of a second. At least it would be quick, she thought, at least there would be no pain.

With that little and morbid thought, she curled up on the bench and tried to sleep with the sounds of the wailing prisoner nearby to remind her of her fate.

-oOo-

"Wake up!" a voice shouted and suddenly Damalis was yanked roughly out of her fitful sleep and onto her unsteady feet. The daylight hit her as she tried to open her eyes and she stumbled as a hand shoved into the small of her back, pushing her toward the open door of the cell.

Now that she was not blindfolded, Damalis could see the dirty and gaunt faces of the prisoners flung into cells along the dark and dank corridor she had entered the night before. Hugging herself against the cold, Damalis followed a guard in front as the soldier behind her poked her in the back every time she lagged behind. She was shown to another small room at the end of the corridor, a little bigger then her cell, but with no window and in the centre sat a small table with a chair at each end. Already there was an elderly man wearing a modest robe seated opposite her, a piece of parchment on the table and a quill in his hand watching Damalis intently, the point of the quill already dunked into the ink and hovering above the page. Up against the opposite side of the room was another Spartan soldier, a decorated one with an air of power in the way he carried himself, back straight, arms clasped behind him, a trim haircut and battle scars running the length of his arms and face. He slowly turned to face Damalis and she saw there was nothing kind behind his small, piercing gaze. He too knew she was guilty before either speaking a word.

"Sit" he demanded in a deep voice and Damalis was thrust downward onto her chair, the guard who had brought her in held a pair of manacles in his hand and clipped them onto her wrists, heavy and cold was the metal that Damalis needed to rest them on her lap. The guard left and the door slammed shut behind them, leaving all three occupants in silence.

"Did you murder Theron?" the man asked. Straight to the point and without introduction. Damalis hadn't been expecting one, soldiers didn't bother to introduce themselves to servants, even ones that had killed a councilman.

Damalis took a deep breath, she had thought through the night through her uncomfortable sleep what she would answer when the question arose and she knew she had to lie. If she admitted she'd killed Theron, she would be killed, but it also meant that Captain Artemis and his family would be under considerable scrutiny. As Astinos had once said, the Captain had not been quiet in his dislike for the councilman and it could easily be twisted into an assassination plot by the Kings right hand man. She had to defend Astinos and his family from ruin, even if it meant lying to the King himself.

"No" she replied plainly, though her voice still shook with fear.

The soldier turned slowly on the spot and pierced Damalis with a frightening gaze, "Did someone pay you to kill him?"

"I didn't kill him" Damalis replied

"What weapon did you use to kill him?"

"I didn't kill him"

And so where the list of questions, though not once did the soldier listen to Damalis' responsive and all the while the man in the robe jotted down the interview, his quill scratching noisily across the parchment as he tried to keep up with the one sided interrogation. Not once did Damalis allow herself to neither slip and make a mistake, nor leave a pause between the question and her answer, but the soldier was unrelenting and even asked her the same questions twice or more in an effort to confuse her, but it didn't work. After what felt like hours the guard marched behind her and banged his fist loudly on the door, it creaked open and without another word the old man in the robe got to his feet and took his parchment out with him and Damalis was yanked to her feet and returned to her cell with a bowl of what looked like burn slurry.

Damalis didn't realise how hungry she had gotten and wolfed down the foot despite the dry and stodgy texture and curled up on the bench once again.

She wished somehow she could get a message to Astinos, to tell him that she had denied her crimes to protect him and his father, to tell him not to risk himself or his family for her. She was dead either way. It truth she had been surprised to have made it this far. To have killed Theron and escaped the Councilman's Hall, to have survived Lykalios lust induced beatings and to finally hear Astinos tell her he loved her. She had been living on borrowed time and the more she thought about it, the more she realised she had been a fool to stay in Sparta.

Twice more that day Damalis was taken to the cell where she was bombarded with the same questions, however the second time she was asked whether the Captain had approached her about killing the councilman. Damalis replied simply "No, and my Master would never do something as dishonourable" before she fell quiet again for the next question. The fact that she was being asked such a question posed a problem. The Captain was now a suspect.

Thrown once more into her cell, Damalis wished with all her heart that she could see what was going on outside those four walls. Had the Captain been arrested? Had Astinos? She was worried about Timeus too; she missed the boy and Miss Adelpha and Penthea. She hated the silence, hated the cold and the loneliness, all she could do was huddle up and sleep.

When Damalis next awoke the cell was pitch black, Damalis felt the ground and to her relief felt another bowl of slurry by the door which she quickly ate and left to sit on the bench again. Footsteps sounded from outside and Damalis wished she could call out for the person to help her, but in all reality they would spit at her, no one had any time for a servant accused of murdering a councilman.

Again a few second later more footsteps hurried back and she could hear sharp whisperings. Curious, Damalis got to her feet and felt her way up onto the bench and grabbed hold of the bars. From the lights emiting from the barracks, Damalis could see down the street, but could not see anyone.

"Damalis!" the whispering said. The girl thought she was going mad. Someone was out there calling her name? Impossible. She had been in a cell for no more then a day and already she was going mad.

"Damalis! Can you hear me?"

Damalis was sure she heard her name that time, "Hello?" she called back and the shuffling came neaer until a shadow fell ove rher and she almost fell backwards until a pair of hands grabbed her wrists.

"Damalis! It's me!" Astinos whispered in relief "Are you okay?!"

Damalis sighed and almost sobbed allowed as Astinos rubbed her cold arms with his own warm palms. It felt so good to hear his voice, to feel his skin on her own. But it killed her that she could not hold him, that she could not see his features in the dim light.

"Oh Astinos! What are you doing here?" she demanded, "You could get caught!"

"It's okay, I made sure it was safe. Are you unharmed? What have they said to you?"

"They keep asking me questions, I know they don't believe me, they kept asking about your father. Oh Astinos, I denied the whole thing, you were right all along; your family is in great danger. You need to convince them to leave"

"We're not going anywhere, I'm not leaving you here"

"You don't have a choice. Either way I'm…I'm going to be executed"

Damalis felt the grip on her arms tighten, "No. I won't let it happen. I'll convince that little snitch to keep his mouth shut"

Damalis shook her head helplessly, "It's doesn't matter, even without hard evidence they've got to execute someone for Theron's murder and a servant has no rights"

"It won't happen. I won't let them"

Damalis felt the tears form in her eyes, "You have to, or although wise your whole family will be in danger"

"There has to be another way," he snarled and suddenly he dropped Damalis' arms and began fruitless tugging at the window bars, trying to pry them loose.

"Astinos!" Damalis snapped, "You can't do this, it just…it just has to be this way," she faltered, "I'm sorry, I have to pay for what I did"

"But he deserved it!" Astinos snapped, "He killed thousands of people, your family!"

"Unless there's proof they won't believe it"

"I can explain it to them, make them understand Theron deserved to die"

"It won't work, there's no proof! This is the only way to-"

"Proof" Astinos whispered.

"What?"

"Proof! That's what we need! How did you find out that Theron was the man responsible for destroying Kalamata?"

"I spoke to one of his men, Otis managed to track him down for me" she answered.

"What's his name?"

"I don't know, he said we shouldn't swap names"

Astinos cursed, "Where did you find him?"

"At The Wooden Horse in lower Thérapné" replied Damalis, confused.

"Right" Astinos hissed and Damalis felt him move away.

"Wait!" she said and felt Astinos sink back to her, "What are you going to do?"

"I promised you I would fix this"

Damalis reached her hands out as far as her manciles would let her and she felt Astinos give her a reassuring squeeze, "Don't do anything stupid. I would gladly walk to the block if anything happened to you"

"Don't say that" Astinos whispered and she felt the warmth of his lips on the back of her hand, "I love you, be strong" he whispered and then he was gone and Damalis was clutching only air.

"I love you too" she whispered and slowly sank down to the bench.

-oOo-

emogirl1790 - Not offended at all, just means I'm doing a good job! Thanks for the review!

CandiedChris - Yeah there was really quite a lot crammed into that last one, things are gonna speed up from there as Damalis has only a short time left!

Jeanie91 - Fingers crossed!

Ellelaia - No writers block thank God! This one really came to me quickly so I wrote it down as quick as my fingers would let me. Hope it doesn't disappoint!

A/N: Obviously it's only been a few days since my last update but I'm starting to get a little flow going, hope you all like.