PAIGN KNEW, JUST KNEW, that this was his mother’s last day. Her weakness had deepened, even though there was no outward cause for it. She wasn’t old. At least, not old like the elderly farmers and their wives back home. She wasn’t hurt. Not that Paign could see. It was this that troubled him most. Perhaps she’s got something wrong inside of her…something I can’tsee.
Yet, he suspected—and, deep inside, knew the truth of his suspicion—that his mother had just given up. She didn’t seem uncomfortable or in pain. In fact, when she was awake, she seemed almost at peace. Her nerves were shot, of course, whenever their jailors were in sight and especially so when they brought the meager excuse for what they called “food and drink” once a day. At those times, she’d curl up in a ball with her back to the gargoyles and her face to the wall, quivering until she fell asleep. He couldn’t blame her for avoiding the food, which was vile, and the drink, which was filthy subterranean water with a strong and bitter mineral taste.
In his darkest moments, Paign wondered if she wanted to free him of herself. That she was actually willing herself to die, so he might escape. While his odds at such an endeavor were poor, at best, what chance did he have with his tottering mother in tow? He knew that she knew he would have dared to try it, to risk an escape, but now she was far too weak even to shuffle across their cell. Now, all he could do was wait. She’d know that.
But wait for what? Rescue? He could remember little else but waiting. Waiting and regret.
“Maybe I should just give up, too?” he whispered.
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