I have decided to re-write this story, this time making it longer and slightly different, and adding more detail (knowing how it ends should help immensely). If have not read this before and do not want to spoil it, don't read my story, La Tour (please!). I would very much appreciate any constructive critisism; I'm trying to turn this into a proper novel or novella.
Madeleine listened idly to the monotonous chiming of the cathedral bells in the distance. The solemn sound of them cheered her heart and became the comfort she so desired in such a place: the confinement of a tower.
Three others were there with her: Danielle, a disagreeable girl of seventeen; Guy, a melancholy, homely man; and Guy's impish brother, Anatole. Their incessant quarrelling had sent Madeleine to the window to rely on the sound of bells to quell her longing for the slumbering city. It had been two days.
"Madeleine!" She was pulled abruptly from her thoughts by the demanding voice of Danielle, whose brows were arched in an irritable manner. "Take your book; you left it with my things."
"Thank you," Madeleine murmured when Danielle thrust the book into her lap. She tucked the book lovingly under her arm and went to sit beside the empty hearth, evading Danielle's credulous expression when she opened the precious covers and seemingly proceeded to read the faded words between.
"How can you read in the dark?" the other girl wondered.
"How can you not read at all?" Madeleine countered softly, forgetting that the knowledge of reading and writing was a rarity among her class.
"Honestly, I do not see how you even find the time to read."
"There is nothing else better here to serve our amusement," Madeleine remarked.
"There are… other things," Anatole suggested, flashing Danielle one of his mischievous grins. He received a glower from her in turn, and a smirk afterwards.
"Be careful," she breathed, "or your brother will give you a thrashing."
"It was your fault," Guy accused sullenly, readily sprawling himself across the floor to sleep.
"I did not!" Danielle shrieked in protest.
"You were the thief they caught—and we your accomplices, you told him. If you had not done it, we would not be here."
"A loaf of bread is hardly reason to lock four people in a tower," Danielle retorted.
"It is when there is hardly bread enough to feed his family," Madeleine informed her, turning the page of her book. "Even the fortunate are unfortunate these days," she remarked, speaking to no one in particular.
"He told us that he would let us out once he has decided what we must do for our crimes."
"Your crime," Guy corrected.
"Beggars are all criminals," Danielle shot back, accusing rather than accepting such a title. "He despises all those who live on the streets, in the stink of the gutters, in the dung heaps. He hates beggars."
"The man is mad, you know," Anatole finally spoke, fearing both his brother and Danielle before to speak. Danielle gave him a stunned look; he was the only one she ever listened to—even if his words were merely a source of amusement. Anatole's face brightened at her attention; she seemed genuinely interested in his tale.
"Continue," Danielle urged impatiently, pulling a ribbon from her dark hair and tucking it inside her dress for safekeeping.
"He murdered his wife," Anatole started, much to Danielle's horror, "and he sold his children." That was where his story ended.
"He will kill me then!" Danielle squealed, pulling at her hair and going to the window. She fearlessly climbed atop the windowsill, her hair flying from her hands as the wind snatched it from her. She screamed a plea for help, mixing it with wild laughter. Madeleine and Guy merely wondered if she would jump and only Anatole flew to the window to pull her from it, breathlessly urging her to find a place on the floor and sleep.
"No, no, I have the bed tonight," she told him, stumbling towards the little bed opposite the hearth.
"That's not fair!" Anatole cried, forgetting his concern and dropping her hand. "You had it last night."
"I need to sleep there; I do not like the cold, hard ground."
"We are all accustomed to it," Guy said.
"And I would feel naked without a blanket." Danielle removed her stomacher and petticoat, pushed off her shoes, and slid underneath the bedcovers, wrinkling her nose at the smell of them.
"At least you are warm," Guy said coldly, grumbling curses under his breath while his brother sulked in his corner, his back against the wall.
"I am warm enough," Danielle assured him, as if to acknowledge some worry. She sat up abruptly. "Madeleine, are you comfortable?"
"I am indoors," Madeleine replied dully, finding a place to rest at the base of a wall, and away from the men. "I thank you for your concern," she added wearily, her book clasped to her breast. There was a satisfied sigh from the bed, and then the quiet thump of a head on a pillow—if Madeleine ever was to imagine such a sound.
"Madeleine?" Danielle's voice sounded again.
"You are skillful at reading in the dark; will you read to me? It is too quiet and I cannot sleep."
"I do not read in the dark."
"You told me you did and I was watching you."
"I recognize the pages; the words are in my memory. I do not read words well, so I remember them from my father."
"Recite to me a story then, Maddie, so that I may fall asleep. I very much like your sweet voice." But Danielle's compliments did not win her a tale. Madeleine ignored her coaxing and remained silent, pretending to have drifted off to sleep. "Maddie?" Danielle tried again, her voice gaining an edge. "Madeleine."
"Go to sleep," Guy's voice sounded, muffled sleepily.
"I cannot sleep," Danielle told him. "The blanket smells of old corpses and there is a cold air from the window."
"Then give it to me, I pray you!" Anatole cried.
"No, no, I want to be warm."
"Sleep!" Guy commanded.
"No," Danielle replied sharply, becoming stubborn out of spite and swinging her feet over the edge of her bed. In the pale moonlight, Danielle's beautiful face distorted itself into an angry expression. She swiftly stooped down to retrieve her shoe and flung the thing in Guy's direction, but heard no yelp from him to indicate that she had struck her mark.
"Damn," Danielle cursed, then "oh!" as the wretched thing flew back at her, brushing her arm.
"Do that again and I will throw it back again—and I won't miss this time," Guy threatened through his teeth.
"Then I will throw both my shoes at you and we shall play at this game all night long!" she challenged in a smug, playful manner, climbing back into her bed and forgetting Madeleine's book and her request.
"Good night," Madeleine whispered, persuading Danielle to sleep. Danielle's garments fell from her bed and Madeleine felt them brush her fingers; the edges of the cloth were unworn, crisp to touch.
"Good night," Danielle sighed.
Madeleine was awaked in the night by Danielle's rising from her bed. She was weeping again as she squatted over the chamber pot, afraid to relieve herself in the silence. Her quiet sniffing earned her a little pity from Madeleine, who watched her figure move to the bed again, a shameful wilt to her posture.
"Do you like what you see?" Danielle hissed from her bed.
"It is nothing new to me," Madeleine dared to answer quietly.
"It is my fault," the other girl said. "But I will not have the others watch me piss into a pot. Oh, he is having a grand time imagining what it must be like for us here."
"We will be free tomorrow, you see." Almost at once, Madeleine regretted her careless assurance.
She did not remember the name of the man who had imprisoned them. Danielle had said it once, Madeleine recalled, but the name was as obscure as her memory of their imprisonment. It was a shadowy dream with no beginning and no end—but, she realized, the beginning was Danielle and there was sure to be an end soon. Their captor's face was handsome, though it bore a sickly pallour. His hair was black, white at his temples, and curled to his shoulders. He was accompanied by two guards.
"I will let you know when you can leave," he had said before shutting the door to the tower room. Madeleine, breathless from struggle, pressed her ear to the door, listening to the lonely sound of footsteps down the stairwell. They were left without a beating, without punishment, and without a proper explanation.
"And so it begins," Danielle had murmured oddly, going to the window. "They have sought us out."