Grayne heard the distant sound of horns and wondered if they were part of his dreams. He dismissed the idea, because he rarely slept deeply enough to dream.
He remained still and listened.
Again he heard them. His muscles were weak and his body was bruised and mangled, but his ears were sharper than they ever were. He spent most of his days listening to the sounds beyond his prison and imagining the forms those sounds belonged to.
He listened for the return of Farzan.
Minutes passed and several times he heard the sound of booted footsteps running outside his prison. He remained lying on the floor, listening to the thrum of troop movements, feeling their unified booted footsteps passing on all levels of the keep he had been a prisoner within for almost five years. He felt a feeling he had not felt for as long as he could remember.
He felt hope.
That hope suddenly washed away as the heavy wooden door to the ten-foot chamber he lived in opened with a clang. Farzan entered the chamber with a rapid clack of his heavy boots. In a flash of motion, Farzan stood above the withered form of Grayne with a blade at his neck.
“You win, Grayne. I know not how you have survived all these years, much less resisted giving me the one thing I wanted from you. Troops from your family house are here and it is likely that they will take the keep. That is why I have decided to kill you.”
From the stone floor, Grayne looked up at his torturer. Though he lacked the strength to resist the sword-wielding man standing over him, his one deep blue eye continued its defiance. The other was milky white and bore a deep scar from the top of his right cheek across his eye and to his forehead.
Grayne’s toothless smile grinned up at Farzan. His ghastly mouth and grotesque eye seemed to mock his torturer. “You almost had me. I was planning on saying your lover’s name later this evening,” Grayne mocked him. “Let’s make a deal. If you can hold the keep until the Hour of the Wolf, I will say his name.”
Farzan was not amused. “You won the game, northerner.” The black-bearded masochist prepared to thrust his blade into Grayne’s exposed throat. Grayne did not resist. He could not stand much less defend himself.
Grayne’s lethargy turned to action and he suddenly yelled, “No!” Suddenly a hooded figure was upon Farzan, but he sidestepped and managed to avoid a fatal strike. Instead, the blade jutted out of his left breast. Blood poured from the wound as he pulled himself from the blade and his attacker.
Stumbling away, he dropped his sword and turned to see the hooded form of his female assistant. She was defenseless, but he was too stunned to attack her. He just stood there as soldiers entered the room.
Three men of house Marbrand entered the torture chamber with blades barred. One pointed his sword at the robed woman and another prevented Farzan from fleeing. The final warrior approached the beaten form of Grayne and started to cut him down. His sword wouldn’t cut the thick chains, so he began to look for keys.
In seconds, the soldier found the keys and freed Grayne. He slid off the torture rack and the soldier struggled to keep him upright.
“Why, Grayne? Why did you save him?” the hooded woman asked.
Grayne answered her with a question of his own, “What’s your name?”
“Raven, this man’s life is mine to take. I will kill him in time.”
The soldier that freed Grayne unsheathed his dagger and held it out to Grayne. “Go ahead.”
Grayne looked for long moments at the man who had tortured him for years. He stared with his one good eye at the now-powerless Farzan and slowly shook his head. “No. Not like this. One day, when we are both at full strength.” He smiled a horrible toothless smile and said, “I need him to fight back.”