Hunger woke Paign. Ravenous hunger. He was lying face down in a darkened room and his stomach growled. What time is it?
He sat up, suddenly. Taking in his surroundings, his jaw dropped open. Paign glanced quickly at his bed, lifted his hands as if they were on a hot burner, and jumped off, twisting around to stare at the bed. It was made of fine, clean cloth and blankets woven from a material he’d never seen before. Rather than straw piled on a wooden slat bed like he was used to, this bed appeared to be made of a huge rectangular pillow, stacked upon a second rectangle. Sliding out of bed, he dropped to his knees, laid his hands on the floor and looked under the bed. He gasped to see interlacing bands of metal and wire supporting the rectangles. What is this place? Where am I?
Paign glanced quickly down at his hands and stared at the floor he kneeled on. Running both palms back and forth, he marveled at the texture. This little room didn’t have a dirt floor, but something shiny and patterned. He’d seen pictures of the interior walls of the Royal Palace, and this reminded him of the pattern.
Rolling off his knees and onto his bottom, he spun around on the slippery floor and surveyed the room. A rough-hewn wooden table stood in the opposite corner. That looks right, at least! he mused. A single, high-backed wooden stool stood beside the table, with a brightly colored woven blanket draped over it. While the blanket looked to be made from spun wool, the brilliant colors were in a pattern he’d never seen before. A large candle rested in the middle of the table, flickering gently, with what looked like a tin platter underneath. Grotesque shapes, made up of spent candle wax, littered the platter. The room wasn’t hot, but neither was it cold, so Paign wondered where the heat source was. Nearby, I guess. Probably just on the other side of the door, he thought, imagining a cast-iron wood stove or fireplace.
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