He shrugged. "Have it your way."

He got up.

"I'll have someone bring you some food."

He left.

It was getting dark. Soon, the only thing I could see through the window was the black night sky. The corridor behind the bars was dimly lit by some light source that I couldn't see, probably a torch in a fixture on the wall.

I awoke with a start. One of the helpers, still clad in black, was crouching behind the bars, carrying a tray that he proceeded to shove into my cell through a narrow space under the fence. On the tray were a cup and a number of steaming bowls, and I felt my mouth water at the smell.

"Thanks", I said.

He paused, and then got up and left.

I wrapped the blanket around me and got up to collect the tray. I set it down on the bunk and sat down beside it. There was a cup of wine on it, a bowl of soup, a bowl of stew and some bread and cheese. No knife, of course, though there was a wooden spoon. I wolfed everything down. Afterwards it was all I could do to put the tray on the floor, stretch out on the bunk and pull the blanket over me before I fell asleep.

It was a bright and sunny day. My Rhiana was there, of course. She would be. I walked up to her and drew here close. She smiled.

"Don't go", I said.

She wore a richly decorated Maiden's crown. A veil, made of the most precious lace, fell down from it onto her back and shoulders. Her hair was blonde and her face was lean and hungry, not at all like my Rhiana's. Under the white silken gown her body was hard and slender and her breasts were small, and all of it was all wrong.

She spoke:

"I was beautiful. I was innocent. I was beloved by my people. I was the firstborn and my father killed me. Will you serve me?"

"No", I said. "I will tell your tale, but I will not serve you."

I looked up. The silver crown was tarnished. The veil was in tatters, moulded and gray. Her face was gone, empty holes in a naked skull looking back at me. Her voice was like the rustling of long-dead leaves.

"I dwell in the House of the Dead, and he who has slain me goes as yet unpunished. Will you not serve me, and get this deed revenged?"

"No, lady, I will not. I will send out my words to haunt your killer, but peace for your soul I can grant you not."

Then my Rhiana was there again. "Stay", she said, "and grant me breath once more, so we may dwell here forever".

"I'm dead to the world and alive here with you. But I will not serve you."

Then the phantoms were gone, and all was quiet around me.

A world of words stretched out in all directions, and I could see them, hear them, taste them and speak them with absolute clarity.

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