I was turning over ideas about how to get back into the tunnels when there was something tossed at my feet before Benebarak untied me once more. It was a bloody, red ruin.
“Meat.” The Stormrider grunted, “Ye’ll be needin’ tha’ if ye want ‘er continue workin’ and earnin’ ye keep undergrounder.”
My stomach turned at the thought of raw meat, but no way in Hell was I about to insult the beast before me by refusing his offering. Not when he could have just killed me and been done with me. He had started tearing into his own meat in front of me as if it was some grand feast. There was blood dripping down his great bearded chin, and trailing down his wide chest. He watched me curiously to see if I would refuse. No doubt there would have been punishment if I had. This was a test, there was no doubt in my mind.
I picked up a piece of the uncooked carcass in front of me and dug in as if it was the best thing I’d ever eaten. I showed my appreciation with a bloody-toothed smile and it seemed to please him. Test passed. For that, I was grateful. We ate in silence and then before long, with stomachs filled with the night’s dinner, and the wind howling outside like a demon, we both fell asleep.
Sleep was the one place I wasn’t a captive slave. I wasn’t separated from my unit, and I could see Ellie. Hear her voice, watch her face light up as she told me about her work or some book she had just started or finished. Dawn always came too soon and ended what peace I had left.