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for in the mind were found the answers to all questions and time was
meaningless. If in one s life a man can but find one truth, and pass it on to
those who come after him, he has done well.
But Casca was no philosopher, and try as he might to find the
peaceful state of mind that Shiu counseled, it was hate that sustained
him. The desire to have Ragnar s throat between his fingers was food-for his
soul; and the hope of vengeance satisfied him more than a handful of grub
could ever do.
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The only sounds he had ever heard were those faint trickles that crept through
the aperture, distant and far. He had never made a sound. Not a word had come
from his lips in two years, for he had a sense that told him it had been about
that long. The corridor, connecting his cell to the rest of the dungeon, was
similarly as quiet. He rested on the floor, his head lying on his forearm,
facedown. His body was only half the weight it had been before his
confinement, and most of that was from his bones. The elbows, knees, and
wrists were swollen to twice their normal size, but it was only the shrinkage
of the tissue around them that made them appear so large and deformed. His
cheeks were drawn into the sides of his face, eyes sunken into deep hollows,
hair hanging to his shoulders in dirty clotted Medusa tendrils, matted and
held together from the two years of accumulated filth and body grime.
But he knew he would not die, and for once that pleased him. He
would survive. He didn t understand or even care about the mechanics of his
survival or how his body made the most of every atom of nourishment he
consumed. He hadn t had a bowel movement since he had come there, A small
blessing at least he didn t have to add his own waste to the stink already
present.
One thing he hadn t lost was all of his strength. What was left of him was
twisted, knotted sinew and stringy muscle tissue. Most of every waking moment
he exercised to keep away the weakness that would come if he merely stood
idle, waiting. He knew he would one day have need for every ounce of strength
he could muster.
The creaking of rusty hinges, followed by the thump of a door closing, made
him jerk his head up from his arm. Rising, he stood beside the door. He
waited, holding his breath, his heart pounding in his chest. Was this the day?
Were they going to open the cell? Gruff voices, amused, came to him.
Two warriors were laughing at the sound of someone s misery. He could hear the
sound of a man being dragged down the stone corridor. He almost bit through
his lower lip in anticipation. They must open this cell. They had others, but
this must be the one. If they passed by this time, when would he have another
chance? It might not come again for years. They were near. It sounded like
they were going to pass him by. He ran a dry tongue over his lips and gave a
slow, soft whistle, once, then again. On the other side of the door, he could
hear that the dragging sounds had stopped. Good, they were listening.
He whistled again, slightly louder just a strange, whispering trill.
The men on the other side cocked their ears at the sound. There were no
prisoners in this corridor, unless someone had been moved without their
knowledge, and that was unlikely.
One guard said to the other,  Isn t this the cell where Ragnar put the Roman?
His associate responded in the affirmative.  Aye, but that was two or more
years ago, and as you well know he was to starve. There has been no one
permitted in the area since then. It must be something else. Maybe a bird flew
in through the air hole. They started to move off again.
Panic seized his mind.  No, they can t. Casca gave a low grunt, the kind a
rooting hog might make.
The sounds of movement stopped again.
One spoke to the other.  That was damned sure no bird. We d better check it
out.
The other hesitated.  I don t know. Ragnar said that cell wasn t to be
opened.
His friend laughed.  What are you worried about? There s nothing in there but
the bones of a man long dead.
Footsteps again, nearer, then stopping. There was a grunt, as the man outside
strained at the locked bar of the cell. It had been so long since it had been
moved that the wood had swollen shut. Casca closed his eyes.
Please, open.
He heard a sliding sound, and the exhaling of the man s breath, straining to
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force the bar back. It took an eternity, longer than the years he had spent
there, for the door to creakingly and laboriously swing open. One guard
entered, his axe held low in front of him, although he wasn t really expecting [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]