A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 32: Dream

In his dream, Gilmir was back in the dungeon. He lay on his back on the stone table. A rag smelling of sweat and human anxiety was tied around his head, covering his eyes. He smelled blood and metal, and something else. An animal scent. No, reptile. Footsteps approached. He sensed someone lean over him. The torturer’s breath came rapid and shallow, smelling of lavender and pipe weed. Fánë alma—the elven tobacco made mostly of white flower petals. Gilmir pushed the strange notion that his torturer smoked elven tobacco to the back of his mind, and concentrated on his breathing. Slow and steady. The pain was not getting any worse. That was his consolation. He had been drowned, burned and cut, but still, the torturer was not satisfied.

A cold hand grasped his and pressed down on the hard stone. Metal pressed against the tip of his index finger.

‘You will break,’ said the coarse voice near his ear. ‘It’s better for you to tell me sooner rather than later. For in the end, you will talk, you will tell me what I want to know.’

The metal pressed harder against his fingertip. A tong, Gilmir realised. It clamped down on the tip of his fingernail. The pressure decreased before the tong was pushed further in on the nail and then clasped down again. In the background, Magnus the prison guard laughed. The one who always followed him to the torture chamber. And relished in other people’s pain.

‘It’s your own fault, you know,’ the torturer whispered, ‘Never lie helpless on the table of a torturer!’

Gilmir hardly registered the words. He fought a battle inside his head. In his mind, he screamed. In his mind, he cried. He talked. He told everything the man wanted to know. His heart hammered in his throat. A taste of metal flowed over his tongue. Water started to gather in his mouth. A sure sign that he was about to vomit. This was the worst part. The part where he knew what was coming and could do nothing but wait. He focused his mind. Retook control of his breathing. He would not lose this battle.

‘I feel sorry for you if you think this matters to me,’ Gilmir said with the most disinterested voice his training allowed him to produce. ‘If you think that an amateur like yourself can hurt me in any way that even resembles what awaits me if I come back after telling you something. Anything. You are a sorry excuse for a man. Even worse, you are a sorry excuse for a torturer. You have no technique, no finesse, no strategy. You’re just evil and perverted. But worse than that, you are not any good at it. In short …’

The tong started to pull on his nail, and the torturer used the distraction to start the questions again. ‘Who sent you?’

‘I am from the fourth island on the fifth ocean,’ Gilmir said.

‘What are you doing here?’

‘I came here to make a commotion.’

‘You will regret this, elf!’ The torturer pulled harder on the tong holding his nail. ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?’

‘I came with seven songs to sing.’

‘Who are you?’

‘I am the second son of the third king,’ Gilmir said through gritted teeth, gasping between each word.

‘Your choice, elf.’

Gilmir lost control. Gave in. The words came spilling out of his mouth.

I am the second son of the third king,

from the fourth island on the fifth ocean,

from the sixth road, not on the wing,

I came here to make a commotion,

I came with seven songs to sing.

He recited the old children’s verse. Over and over. Until the pain stopped.

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