The jingling of a bunch of keys, the clanging of metal doors, angry shouting of prisoners and guards alike. All prisons sounded the same. At least all of them which had, at one point or another, been graced with a visit of Lotye O’Tulvar. To her luck, that hadn’t been all that many or, if one were to believe a lot of guardians all over Lyrion, by far not as many as she would have deserved to be in. In her three years of criminal activity there had only been two extended stays in prison, both counted in weeks rather than months. In one case a capable lawyer had been able to get her free on a technicality, in the other one, she had served most of the sentence for stealing food and then was let go, seemingly repentant and reformed.
That she had had a lot of luck in this regard didn’t mean that she had no problems with being deprived of most of her liberties. Not long after Aeto Arrowwise had left, Lotye sat on the hay in a dark corner of her cell, her back against the hard, cold stones of the wall, her knees drawn up to her chest. All semblance of defiance was gone being alone and unwatched now. There was nobody to storm against, nobody other than herself. Her eyes were wet and despite her best efforts, blinking and snuffling, she seemed to lose the struggle against the tears. It was one of her worst fears, losing her freedom. It was what had driven her to rebel against her father, against her teachers, against the old wizard, against all the rules and norms that seemed to be made only to restrain her. She had been in a constant state of rebellion.
And now, I finally have lost the struggle. It was pointless all along. While the sun sunk towards the horizon, plunging the cell in ever deeper shadows, her mood did the same, the shadows of her thoughts lying over everything. She had always felt like this when she had been confined and locked-up. But this time it was even worse, as she didn’t even really know why she was here. The more she thought about it, the less she was able to understand it. What had she done? It all had happened so fast. Was it even her fault? Those cards, what were they? Some kind of old magic, far beyond her knowledge? She had only been an apprentice, how could she even know? And somehow she doubted her master would have understood much better. How could she explain this to anyone then? The merrow lawyer was right, nobody would believe her.
One option seemed as hopeless to her as the other. Cooperating with her lawyer and the court probably was her best chance, but she could just as well end up incriminating herself. Her other crimes weren’t the reason she was here, after all. Even if she would somehow be able to identify the man she had stolen the cards from, or maybe even the one who had sold them, she still would have to admit that she had stolen them. In the end, she would stay in a cell, only the reason for it would change. Maybe it was her best chance, but it was none she liked.
A grumpy guardian brought her a a plate of porridge and piece of hard bread. Lotye ate without really tasting it, which was probably for the better. Not much later, she lay curled up on the uncomfortable bed of prickly hay, listening to all the noise of the keep and the city around, imagining that she would have to hear these same sounds every night for a long time. It was long after midnight that she fell into a restless sleep.
She dreamed she was in court. In front of her, like giants sitting on thrones made for giants, their heads nearly meeting the ceiling of the otherwise much too narrow room, sat the judges. They were her father, still wearing the garb of a fisherman under the white wig, his strong biceps proudly put on display, the old wizard with his long white beard and his staff in hand and a nameless, faceless guardian with bloody scratches on his arm. Wherever she turned, there were familiar faces, people she knew, friends and foes alike, victims of her scams and those who had made a profit of them. All of them accusingly pointed at her with long fingers. Lotye felt small, crushed by the masses, suffocated by the warm, dusty air. She wished she would wake up, but she didn’t wake up until the first finger of sunlight reached through the small hole far up in the wall of her cell.