Imprisonment

A prequel to Don’t Cheek Witches (Even If You’re A Dragon)

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Arith’s chains rattled as he was marched through the town. The guards had left him enough slack to walk, but only just. The rest of his body was bound too, so tightly that the metal round his torso made no noise. He didn’t care. He deserved it. Deserved the mutters and curses of the crowd. Head down, he walked until a yank on his chains stopped him. The voices were louder now, angrier, and there were more of them. He had reached the castle courtyard.
‘Arith the Red!’ At that voice, he had to look up. He had expected the Mayor, maybe even one of the Princes. Now he understood how serious the situation was. On the platform before him stood the King himself.
‘Arith the Red,’ the King continued, ‘You have committed the most serious of crimes for your kind, the destruction by fire of the village of Lymeth, and the death of six villagers, and two unidentified others. Do you have anything to say?’
Arith tried to speak, but only a hiss escaped his dry mouth. Huge tears rolled down his cheeks.
‘What’s that?’ The King barked.
‘I’m sorry’, whispered Arith. ‘It was an accident…’ Then realising how ridiculous that sounded, he stopped.
‘An accident.’ The King spoke softly, terribly. ‘How can you call what you did an accident?’
‘I was angry…’ But Arith tailed off. It was no use. Whatever had happened before the village burned, it did not change the awful thing he had done. There was no point in trying to explain further. He hung his head again.
The crowd were murmuring again now, and a few brave souls jeered.
The King sighed. Somehow, he knew there was more to the story, but the prisoner hadn’t explained, and without witnesses, the explanation would be no help, anyway. For the creature’s own safety from the mob, (or indeed, the mob’s safety from Arith), he had to act.
‘Arith the Red, you are hereby imprisoned in the castle dungeons until I see fit. Your dungeon will be of ice, like the chains that bind you, lest you decide to disobey the law again and use your flame to escape. Take him away!’
Arith the Red Dragon of Rethmore stumbled forward as the guards pulled his chains once more. The crowd receded, some now cheering; others still booing and shouting insults. Through the inner gates, then down a winding stair that seemed to go on forever and was scarcely wide enough. As he stepped into the ice cave, his guard released the chains, coiling them and stepping back. Arith tried to stretch his wings, but could only open one at a time in his narrow prison.
The door shut, and he heard the key turn.

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