SLOWLY, EVER SO SLOWLY, Paign regained consciousness. The throbbing in his head was matched by the perfectly timed eruptions of light in his closed eyes. When he twisted to roll over onto his chest, Paign nearly threw up from the nauseating pain that shot through his left leg. A groan escaped his throat in spite of his overwhelming desire not to make a sound.
His nose touching the dirty stone floor of his prison, Paign whispered to himself, “Well, I would have changed my name if I’d known it would be prophetic.”
Taking a deep breath and little consolation from his dark humor, Paign steeled himself for the onslaught of suffering he’d absorb. Then, resolutely he stood up. And nearly passed out again. Yet, he stood.
Rance-Dahl stared motionless for a moment, then smirked. “Hm. Not bad, boy. It only took you two attempts this time. Your first effort resulted in passing out again, I believe. Although, you took so long to rise this second time I thought, perhaps, you were—how do you say?—napping.”
Paign’s captor squatted on the gritty limestone floor, roughly thirty feet from the boy. The Glimmer twinkled behind the gargoyle, providing the only light in the chamber.
“Your leg seems to be seeping again, eh?” Rance-Dahl asked with mock concern.
Paign could feel a fresh trickle of blood crawling down his left ankle. When Rance-Dahl had thrown him across the room earlier, Paign’s upper left leg had been the first part of his body to impact the rough surface of the cave floor. He guessed that he’d slid for more than ten feet on that leg. His pants shredded immediately, leaving his skin exposed to the abrasive stone and grit. Most of his upper leg, from the hip to the knee, was skinned and raw. His left knee was gashed and the source of the trickle.
“So it would seem.” Paign’s eyes smoldered, but his voice was firm and calm. Was that the fourth time he threw me? Or the fifth? Paign was having trouble concentrating.
Rance-Dahl smiled. “Perfect.”
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