Varou blinked his eyes open and he was presented with the aged, wooden beams that made up the small prison's ceiling. Immediately his features scrunched up in a scowl. He knew it was dawn, bird chirps came from the only window in the room, from the girl's cell. He rolled his head to spy her across the floor, sleeping curled up next to her cell's bars, covered in that filthy blanket she always had wrapped around her. He glared a dirty glare at her back.
The door opening had Varou pushing himself up to sit. The guard Godane walked in carrying a wooden plate where he could see two chunks of bread and two cups of what he knew would be cold water. Godane went to the girl's cell first, as he always did. She'd woken at the sound of the door and sat pressed against the cell bars. Her pale hand snaked out of the blanket and through the bars to accept the bread and cup.
The guard crouched in front of her cell, and he spoke to her in low words that Varou could never make out. The girl would respond with nods or shakes of her head, but sometimes he'd see her hand moving oddly, making gestures with her fingers that the guard seemed to understand. He'd once caught her making a subtle gesture towards him the day after he was brought in, then she pointed to her ear, making a fist before opening it and spreading her fingers out wide. Whatever it meant had the guard chuckling, amused and saying, 'That he is'. Varou wasn't amused though.
Godane finally turned toward Varou's cell, his lips set in a firm line as he walked up to the bars. He tossed him the bread, and set the cup of water just outside the bars. Varou glared at the chunk of food. Stale, and hard as rock. He didn't doubt if the girl's bread was warm, soft and buttery.
"Where's my blanket ta be cuddly with, aye?" he mocked as he tore a piece off and shoved it into his mouth.
"You haven't earned yourself one," the guard said. "But with the way you've been acting, I imagine you'll have plenty of time to spend here and remedy that."
A deep scowl quickly took over Varou's features. Standing, he moved to the front of his cell and gripped the bars to growl low, "Yuh know ay ain' don' noth'n ta be in 'ere. A fine is wha' yuh give me. No' this. A keep for murderin' bastards is wha' this is. Givin' me food tha' tastes like shit, a cell tha' smells like shit, and a cellmate tha' looks like shit. Wha's she done, ay? Why's she be getttin' treated better?"
The guard's eyes had slid to the girl, whose gaze was locked on the water puddle in the center of the room as she silently ate her food.
"She's been in here since before you knew where to stick that overused tool." He jerked his chin towards Varou's trousers, frowning distastefully and continued, "And yet, after all these years, never once did she complain."
Varou scoffed. "'Cos tha' slag never says noth'n." Then he grinned slow, and made a show of roughly cupping his groin. "At leas' this gets used by more than me 'and, eh plumpty?" With a nod to the guard's stomach, he added, "Can yuh ev'n reach it with tha' boulder in the way? No? S'too bad."
Godane's eyes narrowed, jaw clenched and lips tight. He remained quiet for a few seconds before finally speaking. "It's getting cold lately. Might even snow, looks like. Enjoy your nights, Varou. I'll be enjoying mine, by the fire."
The guard reached down for the cup of water that Varou had yet to drink from, and turned to leave. The girl glanced up from her mindless gazing. Varou sneered at his back when Godane gave her a friendly nod as he took her cup after she had her fill, then walked to the wooden door leading out.
"Like yuh even need it. No' all of us 'ave layers of lard ta keep us warm withou' flames. Maybe yuh should sneak all them sweets yuh've been eatin' ta me? An' ay won' need me a bloody blanket once ay'm nice an round," Varou said, a crooked smile curling at his lips as the guard stiffened, gloved hand tightening on the door's iron handle, before he yanked it open and stalked out.
"Prick…" he muttered after the echo of the slammed door. He felt her eyes then, and his gaze shot to where she sat huddled in her corner, blanket wrapped securely around her form. "Oi, fuck off," he said, and the girl snapped her eyes away and frowned to herself.
Varou slumped onto the floor once again, digging his fingers into his hair. He squeezed his eyes shut, beyond frustrated at his situation. It all made no sense to him. How he managed to land himself in jail over something so trivial. And the jail itself confused him. It was more of a cave, with cells. Three small cells with nothing in them but a pail for waste. He'd been in the village cells before and it was nothing like the place he was currently in.
He had no idea where in the village he was either. Godane was a guard he rarely saw in the village, popping up only when something dire needed seeing to. Not over something as minor as a man spending coin he probably shouldn't be in the tavern. Varou released an aggravated huff as he laid back on the stone ground, tossing an arm over his eyes and forcing himself to sleep as there was not much else for him to do.
A stabbing wash of ice-cold water splashing on him yanked Varou out of sleep. He shot up and sucked in a sharp breath as his hands widely wiped at his face. His eyes, wide open, snapped to the guard in the center of the room. The young bald one, Anello, who held a bucket which he was getting ready to rock back.
"Yuh bloody git!" Varou froze and waved his arms quickly in front of him in a panic when Anello moved the bucket back. "Oi, wait! Wai—"
He lost his breath when the water hit his face again and just when he opened his mouth to shout the guard spoke.
"Stand up, he's coming."
Varou stared at him, mouth ajar. When the guard rocked the bucket again threateningly, Varou scrambled to his feet. Before he had a chance to speak, the young guard hurried to the door and left.
He wiped his nose on his sleeve and pushed his dripping, shoulder-length hair away from his face. His hands trembled and heart paced, still shocked from the cold water. Again, he felt her eyes on him, and when he looked at her, she looked away without being told.
"Who's 'He'? Varou asked. Even his voice had a shake to it, so he cleared it and stared at the girl.
He would have normally found her surprised reaction comical, were he not stuck behind rusting bars, in a cave, with no blanket. Her eyes widened and her brows shot up, posture froze, and still she kept her gaze from him as though unsure what to do. He was also sure she was holding her breath. Her mannerisms, as he was starting to notice, oddly reminded him of a child.
"Who's this 'He'," he repeated more firmly and finally she glanced at him. Hesitation flowed from the girl as her eyes drifted back and forth from the water puddle to him.
After a moment, she shifted slowly, facing him more, and gave a tiny shrug of her shoulder.
Varou huffed, but held back his scowl. He started pacing his cell, glancing at the closed door every few seconds. He strained to hear the footsteps on the stairs to signal someone's approach. His nerves grew and he struggled to keep still. Whoever was coming must have been important and perhaps was a sign that he was to be released. He hoped anyway.
Her eyes followed him pace, and normally he'd snap at her for it. Varou didn't have the mind to do it at the moment.
"Wha' yuh do ta get in 'ere, girl?" he asked suddenly, trying to keep himself from getting too worked up with nerves. "Somth'n bad? Yuh killed someone?"
It took a moment, she made a faraway face. Then she shook her head, her brows furrowed though as she glanced at the water puddle. When she looked at him again, her hand slipped from the confines of her blanket and she pointed to her eye.
Varou stopped pacing and frowned, moving to the front of his cell to look at her better.
"Wha's tha' mean?"
She only pointed at her eye again before slipping her hand back in her blanket.
The door burst open before he could question her further, and they both jumped at its abruptness. Godane walked through first, and Varou could see his rough face pinched in poorly veiled worry. The guard's attention was on the girl. The guard walked to her cell, and stood in front of where she sat, facing the door. Another guard entered, dressed in well-polished iron armor which he'd only seen on guards from Stonecrest Vigil, the Lord's manor. The soaring hawk insignia etched into the chest piece confirmed it.
It wasn't long after until Varou figured out who 'He' was.
The lord came dressed in whites and greys. His deerskin cape looked like a fresh blanket of snow that draped down his back. Not a flawed spot anywhere on it. It pinned at the neck, over a silken grey waistcoat with white embroidery, and fitted britches tucked into knee-high leather boots. His angular face appeared youthful, betraying his age with cleanly shaven skin, and like his cape, not a flaw on it.
The man's lips were curved to the side as he came to stop in front of Varou's cell, apparently amused by the sight Varou presented. He tapped his chin for a moment with a white-gloved finger as he stood quietly. Varou darted a look toward Godane, who still remained in front of the girl's cell. He saw her trying to peek around the guard's legs, but Godane kept stepping in front of her sight.
"You look well, Varou," the man spoke, a pleasant lift in his charismatic voice that sounded false, teasing even.
Varou wasn't sure how to respond. He'd only spoken to the man a handful of times, and mostly dealt with his steward instead. "Me...me l-lord–"
"It's quite cold in here, is it not?" the man mused, glancing around the ceiling.
"It is, my lord," Godane spoke up quickly before the man made to turn around when he received no response.
"Yes." He smiled as he looked back at Varou. "I've not been down here in some time. But I've been hearing some news about Varou having a hard time becoming acclimated with his new home, so I thought to come and check."
Varou's hands clenched at his sides. "N-new 'ome?"
"New home, yes. A smaller fit than your cottage but habitable all the same." He patted his copper hair and looked at the ceiling, scrunching his sharp nose. "Is it leaking in here? What's falling on me?"
"It's only water, my lord," Godane answered him. Varou could hear the anxiousness in his voice.
"Hmph..." The man kept a scrutinizing gaze on the ceiling, occasionally checking his cape for stains.
Varou tried to comprehend what the man said and while all he wanted to do was shout at him, he knew better and struggled to keep his tone level. "Wha' do yuh mean, new 'ome? 'Ow long am ay ta be in 'ere?"
"Quite some time, I'm afraid," he replied, still distracted by the dripping water.
"An' 'ow long is tha' then?" Varou asked, "Ay go' animal's ta tend to. No one knows ay'm 'ere. Me farm–"
"Oh don't worry about that. It's taken care of. That boy, Gregory? The miller's oldest son, he's taken over the farm."
"Wha' tha fuck for!" Varou couldn't keep in his shout, or his anger, especially at the eerily calm expression on the man's face. "Ay'm gonna pay me dues when ay get ou', ay swear it. Yuh can' give away me farm, tha's me da's land–"
"Mine, actually," the man said. "It's my land, you just live on it. You tend to forget that, Varou."
Varou shut his eyes and let out a shaking breath. "Ay said ay'm gonna pay once yuh let me out."
He heard the man chuckle softly. "I don't see how, you have no coin, Varou. Isn't that how you arrived at this mess?"
"Ay'm no' the only one who 'asn't paid yuh on time an' they arn' stuck in a pit like this!"
"Well no," he agreed. "But then again, they haven't beaten anyone to death in a drunken haze either."
Varou's eyes snapped to the man's, narrowed in confusion. "Wha' yuh mean?"
He pulled his white cape tighter around himself and raised a shapely brow. "Don't you remember?"
"Ay've no' 'ad a row with anyone for months."
"Days, it would seem."
"Nah..." Varou shook his head. The composed expression on the man's face had his stomach churning."Nah tha' wasn' me."
The man raised an amused brow, lips quirking. He turned to glance at his guard who stood silent by the door. "Was it not him, Jerold?"
"It was, saw it with my own eyes. Gruesome scene, my lord," the guard replied.
The man turned back with a smile. "There, see? It was you. And now you understand why I've given away your farm and can't let you go."
Varou's mind spun, and he fought to remember what had happened the night the guards took him. He was at the tavern, as he usually was, but he hadn't drank much. He wasn't drunk that night. He'd left the tavern to go home , and only a few steps down the road he was grabbed by the guards.
"Ay didn' kill no one," Varou growled, then said to Godane, "Yuh said this was 'cos of 'Tavern Trivialities'."
Godane faltered for words, but the lord replied for him. "Oh it was. You killed him over some trivial matter that happened in the tavern from what we know."
Varou shook his head. He'd not spoken to anyone but the barmaid the whole time there. "Oi, who is it ay 'killed' then?" he snapped. "Ay 'adn't touched no one tha' nigh'."
The man tsked, a false look of sadness on his face. "A poor fellow. New to the village. What was his name again, Jerold?"
"Rupert..." The guard glanced at the floor, and Varou saw a smirk on his lips when he added, "...Nooman."
The lord failed to hide his amusement when he gave a nod. "Rupert Nooman. He was planning to help out at the mill I believe, before you beat him to death. Shame."
Varou stared at the lord's guard, and the smirk he wasn't trying to hide. He took in the casualty of His Lord. His eyes drifted behind the man, to Godane, who kept his gaze from him. Varou swallowed, backing away from the bars, head shaking back and forth in disbelief. He let out a humorless chuckle and rubbed a rough hand down his face.
"Yer lyin'. Yer bloody settin' me up." He chuckled again, louder and it echoed hollowly against the stone walls. "An' yuh ain' ev'n try'n ta hide it."
The lord's lips curved to the side again, amused, though his dark blue eyes were anything but. He folded his hands behind his back as he surveyed Varou.
"'Oly fuck." Varou shot a glare at the lord, his body trembling in the anger he was holding back. "Wha' the fuck yuh doin' this for, aye?"
"My own reasons," the man said dismissively. He patted his head again and glanced to the ceiling. "You won't be getting out, Varou. Do stop harassing my guards. It won't change things."
"Yuh can' do this!"
"I already did. And even if I were to let you out, you will be seen as a murderer in the villagers eyes. That won't be pleasant, I imagine."
"'Cos ay killed someone who don' fuckin' exist? Yer a sorry piece of–"
"Watch it, Varou. Now, I've been kind to you. The penalty for your crime should be death, but I've convinced the people that you were not coherent when it was done. This is a better alternative, is it not?"
Varou guffawed in disbelief. His hands pressed to his head after he turned from the man, mumbling various curses under his breath. Varou knew the man was a crooked lord, he'd heard things. He'd just never seen just how so before.
"Well, I think we're done. I should hope we won't need to make another trip down here anytime soon. You will let me know if he becomes too much a problem, Godane?"
Godane gave a quick tight nod, back straightening when the man turned to him. Varou watched the lord through his cell, eyes burning with hate. The lord's eyes drifted to the guard's legs, where the girl sat behind. It was then Varou realized Godane was trying to block her from view.
The lord looked surprised for a moment, there was hesitancy when he tilted his head. His eyes stayed pinned on her huddled form for a long while. Then that curled smile appeared on the man's lips again and he slowly walked over to the cell, boot splashing in the water puddle carelessly.
"Move aside, Godane," he said, a firmness in his voice that wasn't present earlier.
"My l-lord..." the guard tried.
He looked to the guard slowly, brow raised. "Did I not say move aside?"
Godane reluctantly stepped aside. The man made a shooing motion to get him completely away from her cell. Without Godane in the way, the view of her was clear. She sat in the center, close to the bars. The man looked down at her for many moments, causing a prominent, uncomfortable silence to fill the room. The girl's skin had paled even further upon looking at him. Her eyes were too wide, full of trepidation as she held his gaze, and Varou could see her hands shaking as they gripped and fidgeted with the edges of her blanket.
The lord crouched to be level with her, resting his arms on his thighs. She flinched back slightly at the movement.
"Now, why is it I was led to believe she died, what four... five years ago?"
"It...it was a false diagnosis, my lord. I...I thought you were informed..." Godane spoke with a shake to his voice.
"I wasn't." The man kept his gaze on her. "But I supposed it matters little. Nothing would have changed, as I see not much has."
Varou had seen the girl's fear the night he'd been brought down below due to his behavior. But the way she stared frozen at the man looked like she thought he'd run her through right then and there.
"Why, hello," the lord said, giving her the charming smile Varou had often seen on his face whenever he spoke publicly to the village.
She didn't respond, but he seemed unbothered by it.
"All grown up now, I see." His eyes traveled along her face, and lingered on her neck. The girl curled into her blanket further, making the man smirk. "Will you not greet me?"
Still she said nothing.
"So it's worked then all this time?" he asked, looking over his shoulder at Godane.
"Of course it has, my lord," the guard whispered.
"I'm pleased to hear, or rather, not hear, I should say." He chuckled to himself, patting his hair once and continued. "But not surprised, really. She's a good girl, yes Godane?"
Varou saw the guard swallow thickly, and he was sure he could see sweat beading at his greying temples. "Yes, my lord."
The lord faced her again, he reached his white-gloved hand between the bars. He looked as though he would stroke her dirty cheek, but she flinched away from his reach. Her scared eyes had dropped from his scrutinizing gaze and flitted to the floor.
"Yes, you've always been quite a good girl." The lord smiled again, softer as he watched her try to avoid him, then he whispered, "Hüna."
Her head shot up, alarmed at first, but a spark of recognition glazed her eyes, which was slowly replaced by tears that refused to fall. Varou gripped his bars as he watched the two.
He struggled to understand why that name sounded so familiar.
"You remember that, don't you?" the lord continued to whisper to the girl. "You remember too much, I bet. Shame that wasn't taken away as well. Then perhaps you'd have no need to be in here. It doesn't suit you."
The lord sighed when she looked away again and huddled in her blanket. He stood, dusting off his thighs and brushing his shoulders.
He gave her one last look. "Are you sure, Godane? Nothing?"
"Yes, my lord. Nothing since."
When he turned to Varou, he smiled pleasantly. "Be good now, Varou. I truly don't wish to come back down here."
Varou's lip curled back in a sneer. The lord chuckled at him as he fixed his pristine cape around his shoulders. His guard opened the door, and the man walked through without another word. Godane let out a loud breath before he too followed the other men, closing the door behind him.
Varou glanced back to the girl, who'd moved to the corner and was staring dolefully at the water puddle. Her tears left clean tracks down her dirty cheeks. When he thought of the name the lord called her, fragmented memories of a child came to his mind. His thoughts kept drifting to the forest surrounding the village, of a child running through them.
"Hüna?" he spoke. Immediately she looked up, her gaze wary. "Yer name's Hüna?"
She hesitated for a second, then nodded.
Varou rested his forehead on the cell bar, and closed his eyes as he tried to remember.
Hüna. Little girl...running...forest...man crying-a farmer...village searching for a young girl. Ran away, whispers danced in his head.
"Fuck..." he whispered. His eyes snapped open, landing on her and he stared intensely. Not a little girl anymore. "All this time."
If she'd been in there as long as he suspected, it wasn't looking good for him.
Author's Note: Had a hard time with this chapter because it's a dialogue heavy chapter. I don't plan on having the other chapters follow that fashion unless it's necessary, so hopefully the next ones will come easier. I'm still a little unsure about it though, so I'd love to know people's thoughts.
Anyway, I'd appreciate feedback of course :D
Thanks for Reading!