The large, meaty fingers tightened against the woman’s throat and make her gasping attempt to draw air futile.
Her weathered hands formed fists that beat repeatedly against the ox-like arm that held her. The sausage like fingers tightened still further on her throat for her troubles. The gasp became a gurgle as the iron grip began to crush her larynx. Her dangling feet could only bang uselessly against the wall behind her as she fought the burning in her lungs. Her fists changed direction to beat weakly at a foe too far away to reach.
“Idulki, release her!”
The voice hissed sibilantly from behind the shadowy hulk that was holding her. The darkness of the small room concealed their faces from her wide, frightened eyes. All she could sense was their calm, even breathing in the following silence.
Slowly, the vice-like fingers released her and she slumped coughing and gasping to the floor, her legs to in shock to keep her standing. Sweat broke out on her wrinkled forehead and slowly dribbled into brown eyes still keen for her age.
The blackness of the ox-like person before her was a blot on the lighter darkness of the room. She watched this shadow move aside to allow another, slighter shadow come towards her. With what little energy she possessed, the woman pushed herself back only to find cold stone against her bare back. Her clothes were stripped from her as soon as she entered this room and now sat in a pile by the heavy iron door. She was no longer worried about her nudity.
This slight man put the fear of the One into her.
“Can you still speak?” He whispered so soft that her ears strained to hear it.
A cold shiver of fear crept into her heart. This voice seemed to be telling her she was going to die.
Fearfully, she pressed herself back against the unyielding stone of the wall, eyes starring in horror at the slight form. A slender hand whipped out and her face slammed against the grainy surface of the wall.
“Can you speak!” the voice whispered with menace. The hand was now entangled in her hair and began grinding her face against the wall.
Her answer came out as a hiss of air filled with pain and anguish. Suddenly ashamed of her admission, she hoped that her answer was too soft to be heard. But the pressure of the hand lifted from her head and her face came away from the wall, flecked with grime and blood. She felt the hand slowly untangle itself from her hair, felt the back of a finger caress the skin of her cheek like a lover.
She waited in the darkness for him to continue but was met by silence. Sweat dribbled uncontrollably into her eyes and the burning pain in her throat began to throb in earnest. The invisible feel of fingers was still tingling around her neck and she dared not raise a hand to scrub at the burning sensation the man’s finger left on her cheek.
“What do you want of me?” she sobbed into the darkness. Her body throbbed from the beating she had received from the thugs who waylaid her in the street behind Evenstar Abbey and bought her kicking and fighting to this place.
Another stretch of silence before he answered.
The voice paused.
“Information about a girl child. A special girl child.”
A hysterical laugh gurgled passed her lips and she looked straight into the darkness. She knew this man now and though she was afraid he is a part of her destiny. It had been foretold to her long ago.
“I know many little girls. I teach the at the Abbey.” Her voice fell on silence.
“You know the child I am speaking of.” Was the reply.
She tried to tell herself that it was the cold that made her shiver.
“I know I’m going to die.”
She left the implied ‘why should I?’ unspoken.
She could feel the shadow’s gaze resting on her and a few moments passed before he said conversationally, “It’s all about choice Sister Asada.”
“Choice?” she winced as she heard her voice waver and crack.
“Choice,” he repeated, “The choice on whether to die slowly or to die mercifully.”
She met his answer with grim defiant silence.
Sister Asada died slowly.