The child trudged right past the guards. They didn’t bother to search her anymore. Down the stone steps into the cool darkness she carried the tureen. The guard at the bottom of the steps noticed the change, alone with the prisoner he had more time on his hands and stopped her long enough to look in the pot before letting her pass. She set the pot on the table before the woman in chains and fished out a spoon from her clothes. The woman’s eyes got wide. She moved forward quickly rattling the chains in the echoing tomb and opened the lid to see the broth inside.
“Soup.” The child jumped. The woman hardly ever talked. Or moved for that matter. The girl had just gotten the idea from watching her that she didn’t much care for the nuts and burnt crunchies Ch’Byartha usually gave her. So she’d brought some old broth with mushy veggies in it.
“The child does not have a straw, would it?” the woman asked. Her voice was whispery, hoarse.
“No,” she answered, “Dinna know y’d want’n. Could bringya one next time ifya wanna?”
“The child is kind.” The girl shrugged and turned to go as the woman picked up the spoon. This place gave her creepies. Whether the tomb or the woman or both, she didn’t care. “Will One’s Guide bring the food again?”
“Who? Ya’mean the old blind guy?”
“One does. The Blind One once served as a guide for One.”
“Izzat why’re gonna kill’im? Izzat why’re torturing ‘im? ‘Cuzza you??” The woman recoiled. Sat back and looked even smaller than usual. She probably didn’t weigh any more than the girl herself.
“The Guide is a prisoner?”
“Yeah! Dey took’im! Dey beatin’ hell offa’im! Izzit cuzza you?”
The woman stared at the floor while she thought. “One fears it is.”
“Canyoo do sumpin?” The child’s eyes felt hot. “You gotta do sumpin! Izyerfault!” The woman looked at her with those eyes. The creepies got worse but she was mad and sick at the same time! She felt awful. Had felt awful since they had taken Ch’Byartha away. She would sneak close enough some nights to hear his screams. Here them crack things. She didn’t know what to do. But if this woman knew something that would get him let go… “Please! You gotta do sumpin! Dey killin’im. ‘E was gunna take me wiff’im.” She started to cry the first real tears she had cried in years, since learning to cry the fake ones which caused strangers to give her bread.
The woman turned to the guard. “Is it true what the Child says. Is the Guide being tortured for information?”
The big guy smirked. “Guess you should’a told the Major what he wanted to know.”
“One told the Major everything. The Major was not satisfied. Will the Guard now take One to the Major so One might free One’s Guide?”
“Aaaah, no. No, you can just sit here till the Major wants to see you.”
“It is unknown when the Major will come again. One’s Guide is suffering now.”
“Yeah, not my problem.”
The woman put the cover back on the tureen and placed it carefully next to her chair. “Is this viewpoint likely to be shared by the Guard’s companions outside?”
“Yeah, nobody letting you out of here.”
“One regrets the Guard’s lack of compassion and One apologizes.”
“For w-“ It was dark. The child’s vision was blurred with tears. Most of what happened next she could not see well but not for either of those reasons. It was over far too quickly.
“Will the Child show One to the Injured Guide?”
“Wha?” she rubbed her eyes. All three guards were laying in a heap on the floor. The woman was standing before her holding one of the legs of the table and offering her hand. The chains dangled broken from her bloody wrists and ankles.
“Please, take One to the Guide.” As they left, the woman retrieved the tureen.