An extract from "Child of Fate"

     Awake. Agony. Blackness. Relief.

 

     Awake. Agony. Oblivion.

 

     Awake. Agony. Instinct. Green. More Green. Soon the Green was pouring through me and my consciousness came with it. But I had to stop. It would not help my situation to suddenly be healed. Reluctantly I let the Green go, my head pounding still with waves of pain. Manageable, but only just. I tried to reach up to feel the side of my head, but I found I could not move. Paralysed?

     My thoughts still in fragments, I let go once more. It was the only way to escape the terror.

 

     Consciousness came back slowly, reluctantly. I could hear voices, but it still seemed to be pitch black. I tried to focus.

     "...could have sworn I felt fragments of skull, but they must have been hard clots. I guess more of the blow fell on his helmet than first appeared."

     "Gaius, you do not need the modesty with me. You have worked miracles once again. You shall be rewarded well. This prisoner is valuable."

     Hugh's voice? I realised now that it was not pitch black, but it was certainly dim, the flickering light probably no more than a large candle. I heard the sound of something being... gathered up? But my face I realised was turned to the wall. I decided it would be better to lie still.

     "I am, as ever, grateful to be of service", came the stranger's voice, and then footsteps as one man left.

     The next voice pierced my guts.

     "I hope you will allow me to bring him to justice, Lord Hugh. He is wanted for three murders."

     There was only the slightest pause before Hugh answered. "Justice is undeniably important, but I will not release him to you without the confirmation of the king. This boy is not something the king will want to cast aside without thought."

     Again a pause, then Beladûn's hateful voice once more.

     "I can certainly make it worth while for both you and for Chathuman. I feel a debt to the monastery in not bringing this boy to justice in the first place, and I would prefer not to have that on my conscience. If it is necessary to offer something in return, I am more than willing. You do not realise of course, but I made several offers to the king of my own volition but I would obviously appreciate a gesture in return."

     Footsteps. The two of them were turning away. Perhaps there were guards there too?

     "The king, Beladûn. It is a decision for him. I cannot hand him over without considering what Wahgir will offer to get him back."

     "They sent him to kill you!"

     "Even so."

     "Well they do not need to know that you have him discovered, surely? Clearly they did not realise what he is, or they would not have sent him to you in the first place."

     Fainter. "Again that is a decision for the king. For my part though, I am inclined to give him to you, for what it is worth."

     "Thank you. Then I shall go to Diocletian and confirm that. Can you wait until my return?"

     "As you saw, I am in no position to move him."

     And now the voices were lost to me.

     I lay for a moment longer, willing the pain to stop, but not reaching for the Green. I tried shifting a leg, and it obeyed me. The relief was so much I almost passed out again. Then I tried to raise my hand once more, but it was restrained in some way.

     Slowly I came to realise my situation. My head was wrapped tightly I realised. Bandages? Had they been there before? I could not remember. But with my legs free I levered myself to my back. I heard the rattle of chains as I rolled onto my hands. I was manacled with my hands behind my back, a chain or rope right around my torso to prevent me moving them at all. An understandable precaution if they thought I was a wizard I realised.

     When I turned my head to survey my surroundings, I could feel dried blood cracking on my neck. My thoughts veered away again from the injury and the pain. I could heal it, and knowing that was temptation enough without dwelling on it.

     It was dark, but not completely. Very dim light flickered and danced shadows across one wall. A torch, out of sight, but by the faint light I could see the bars at the foot of whatever I was lying on. I was in a cell.