She Names a Nation - Part 13

Content Warning: Violence, imprisonment

The prison reeked of filth, even from the outside. Turning the corner from the back of the building and striding up the alley that bordered it on the northeast side, she wished that she had given thought to its administration earlier and arranged for more sanitary conditions. At such a troubled time, when the cells held far more occupants than usual, proper drainage and higher standards of cleanliness for the guards who watched over the building might have made her present task less nauseating. Still, she did not intend to spend much time inside.

Rounding the corner to the street-facing side of the prison, she stepped forward and presented herself to the two men guarding the door. They bowed on recognizing her, and one of them turned to unlock the door. As soon as he showed her his back, she brought the heel of her hand down on his neck, stunning him to the ground. The other, mouth agape, had barely registered the unwarranted assault before she grabbed him by the throat and rammed his head into the wall at his back. He also fell, unconscious, and she picked up the keys dropped by the first guard.

The third guard, manning the interior to keep the rowdier prisoners in check, was just rising in alarm when she burst through the door. Bewilderment replaced relief on his face as she crossed the space between them in a single leap and knocked him against the wall with a fist to his jaw. He groaned as he struggled upright again, and reached for her, but she smashed her forehead into the bridge of his nose, and he slumped over.

Before examining the cells, she dragged the unconscious guards inside, lest they draw attention on the street. Then, poking her head out of the door, she listened for any sign of disturbance. Hearing only the soft sounds of the city’s fitful slumber, she withdrew inside, closing the door behind her before turning to the single long hallway that housed the prisoners.

Even that single breath of fresh air had re-calibrated her senses, and she gagged as her mouth and lungs filled with the thick, rotting atmosphere of the prison. After a few steps, she had mastered herself, and she looked in at the door of the first cell. Through the tiny window she could see little but dark shapes clustered on the ground—unfortunate would-be rebels huddling together in sleep. None of them stirred, and she turned away to the next door.

Before she could reach it, though, a voice hissed at her from the opposite side of the passage. “You!” it cried. “Filth!”