Ned sat on the floor and trembled. The cell was in near darkness and he could not see the far wall. He crawled over and reached into the black. He flinched as a large insect scuttled near his grasp. The wall was damp and puddles formed on the floor. In a corner, he found some dirty blankets which he wrapped over his shoulders and sat on the material in an attempt to keep the cold at bay. Someone was in the cell opposite, but the lack of light meant he knew this only due to the dull moans and an occasional clank of a chain.
Ned was cooped up in the cell with no respite. The only happenings were a meal pushed into the cell once a day and, every now and then, a prisoner was dragged out of the dungeons. Sometimes, he heard echoed laughter from the jailors. A few days passed, it was hard to tell, and the jailor with a clubfoot unlocked Ned’s cell door and took the chain out of the bracket. Ned was dragged out. He held the clamp around his neck with both hands. The jailor stared at the boy and kicked his feet away. He dragged Ned across the flagstones toward the jailors’ area and torchlight.
The jailor limped toward his assistant and grunted. “I’m going to keep this one as my skivvy.” He wheezed a laugh and coughed up some phlegm.
“But didn’t Kroll want him sold at the market tomorrow?” The other jailor asked.
“What’ll he know? I’ll just throw him a gold coin.” The jailor turned to Ned. “If you even make a noise, I’ll snap your neck, you little runt… Or my name’s not Kristofer Numbskull.”
The jailor scraped his chair to one side, revealing a wooden panel. He lifted it and a box-shaped hole opened up. It was just big enough for the boy. The chain was unlocked from around Ned’s neck and Numbskull pushed him inside. He cracked a sour smile as the panel slammed shut. Chair legs scraped back into position. As he lay in the hole, Ned knew all hope had gone.