They are taking me from the prison.
I don't know why. I hear the clack of iron boots beyond the door. The window slides open. Someone's there—a guard, if his conical helmet means anything. He doesn't say anything, just tugs his beard and sizes me up for a moment, and then his face disappears and the window clicks shut. The door swings open. He walks in.
He wears a leather cuirass. A sword swings by his side. Yes, a guard. Who else? "Stand up," he says. He grabs me by the wrist and looks at the tattoo on my forearm. I crane my neck to see for myself: Cell XVII. "Hold still," he says. I barely hear him. "Hold still. What, you don't remember? They said you wouldn't."
"Hold still or remember?"
"Remember. If I told you my name you'd forget it in half an hour."
"What is it, then?" I ask. Should I be laughing now?
"Dimus." He pulls a key from his belt and unlocks my shackles. "People seem to be afraid of you. After all the stories I heard, it took a lot to convince me to get you. But someone has to do it, right? Besides, if you wanted to escape you would've done it long ago. And this . . ." He raps his fist on the granite wall and his eyes glimmer with mischief.
"What people?" I ask, staring at him.
"The wardens. When they bring you your food you—sometimes you ask a lot of questions."
"About what?" I ask before I realize. "No," I say, "never mind." About who I am. Obviously. Who am I? This isn't the first time I've asked myself. I can tell. Some things just feel right.
"I'm taking you to the commandant. You'll be given fresh clothes and they'll let you go."
Let me go. "Why was I put in here?" I ask. Theft? Murder? Not murder, not if they're letting me go. Murderers get the noose. It's one less mouth to feed in the dungeons.
"I don't know. Ask the commandant. And be polite. Can you remember that?"
"Remember what?" I ask. He scowls. "I'm joking," I say.
"I know. Come with me. Don't wander off." He vanishes into the corridor, trailing a hand behind his back and waggling his fingers for me to follow. Slowly, I step out.
Cell XVII. It's Tavori script, finely carved into the broad oak door. My only means of identification, I think. It's awfully impersonal. Why don't they carve my name into the door?
Or don't I have one?
The corridor is worse than the cell. It's desolate and cold, and black as pitch save for the occasional torch hooked on the wall. The air is so thick you can barely breathe. It's the marshes. They fester and sweat in the shadow of the castle; their poisonous drafts wander into the dungeons and lose their way in the long, winding passages. Water—or worse—flows between the paving stones and drips from cracks in the ceiling. If you look closely, you'll notice the shapes of dead rats in some corners. And where there aren't rats, there's shit. And where there isn't shit, there are cockroaches. There's mold. Who's going to clean it up? The great prison of Rogefort has lain dormant for decades, and renovation doesn't seem to be among the commandant's top priorities.
The sheer misery of the place seems to suffocate Dimus' good humor.