Transdimensional Portal HUZZAH!

  by Van © 2021

Chapter 5



The meal was delicious, and even if they hadn't been so very hungry, Bonnie and George were sure they'd have enjoyed the simple stew of some sort of beef-like meat, slow-cooked until it was flaky-soft, served with mixed vegetables and savory brown gravy.  The vegetables in question might have been local varieties of potato, carrots, celery, and onions, or entirely different species, the adventurers weren't sure.  There was no doubt whatsoever, however, that everything was very yummy, as was the accompanying fresh bread, still warm from the oven.  The beverage was the same cider they'd imbibed earlier, and it tasted even better with food.

Dierdre sat at the head of the cavern's largest table, with an older woman on her left, then Bonnie, then several more gingers of varying age, but most were obviously over thirty.  Another elder was on Dierdre's right, then George, then more "senior" gingers.  However, at the foot of the table sat three very young gingers, all no more than thirteen or fourteen, and it was obvious the poor kids were more than a little nervous.

"Slàinte mhath dha na h-uile!" Dierdre announced solemnly, and the meal commenced with a buzz of conversation.  Bonnie and George's tablemates spooned food onto their plates, filled their wooden cups, and poured some sort of amber oil infused with flakes of dried spices into shallow dishes next to their plates.  Being experienced travelers, the captives noted how their captors ate and mimicked their use of the forks and chopsticks.  The naked duo were only slightly encumbered by their steel restraints and did their best to maintain proper decorum (especially George).

Dierdre lifted a slice of bread, and gestured with it towards George.  "Georsh," she said, then gave the bread a graceful wave.  "Aran."

All eyes turned to George (who blushed and smiled).  Bonnie's partner lifted a slice of bread from the nearest basket and held it aloft.  "Aran," she mimicked.

Dierdre turned her smile to Bonnie, who raised the slice of half-eaten bread already on her plate.  "Aran," Bonnie also mimicked, then pointed at the spice-infused liquid in small dish near her plate.  "Oil," she stated.

"Oil," Dierdre mimicked, then dipped her bread (aran) in the dish of oil next to her plate.  "Ola," she said, then took a delicate bite.

Conversation resumed, with Bonnie and George's tablemates continuing the language lesson, but not with any degree of persistence or urgency.  Now and then they would name an item of food or an eating implement.  The captives sensed that it was both the beginning of language learning and a polite effort to include them in the table discourse, at least on some level.

Now and then, while the meal progressed, conversations became intense, if not heated; however, neither Bonnie nor George got the impression they were the topic of discussion.  The debates or arguments seemed to be about other topics.

Bonnie smiled and directed George's attention to the trio of youngsters at the foot of the table.  Their green eyes wide and attentive, they ate with polite care and were closely following the closest conversations (but not participating).  Suddenly, one of the elders further up the table turned to one of the teenagers and asked a question in a loud voice.  The table-talk paused, the teenager froze, swallowed carefully, than gave a short, concise answer.  Then, a different elder asked what was probably a follow-on question, the teenager answered, and then both elders nodded and went back to eating and debating whatever it was they'd been debating with their tablemates.  All the other gingers also nodded and smiled.  The teenager sighed in relief, exchanged nervous smiles with her fellow teens, then resumed eating.

"School," Bonnie said silently, carefully mouthing the word for George's benefit.

George nodded in understanding.  We're dining in the midst of a gaggle of academics.  She glanced at the teenagers.  Academics and students.  She surmised the three adorable-but-terrified youngsters had been "invited" to dine with the faculty, to be grilled (so to speak) and to learn by observation.  She remembered suffering through similar ordeals while at boarding school.

Then, Bonnie and George noticed that Dierdre and several of the other mature gingers were watching them, apparently fascinated by the brunette strangers.

Bonnie smiled, dipped her bread in the oil beside her plate, popped it in her mouth, chewed, and swallowed.  She then pointed at the small dish.  "Ola," she announced in a loud voice.

Dierdre and the watchers grinned and chuckled.

George rolled her eyes and blushed.  "Clown!" she whispered across the table to her partner.

Bonnie shrugged her shoulders in innocence.  "Who, me?" she whispered back.

The meal continued, and Bonnie reached the conclusion that, as captors went, at least Dierdre's part of the Kingdom of Dragons and Gingers wasn't especially bad.  She could tell George was of the same opinion, but Bonnie knew that her partner was also preoccupied with the issue of being underdressed.  George would certainly be of the opinion that chain-encumbered nudity was never appropriate for any social occasion, including informal dinner parties.

 Chapter 5

Mac slept until noon, then decided to press on up the mountain.  She was still tired, but at least a little refreshed.  She dismantled her nest, carefully untying and coiling her rope and stowing it in her pack, but also careful not to allow any of the cut branches of her nest to flutter and/or crash to the ground.  She wanted to leave only minimal sign that someone had used the oak as a refuge.

Back on the ground, Mac did her best to obscure the footprints she'd inevitably left in the soil at the base of the tree, shouldered her pack, then started the trudge up the mountain slope.  Visibility was limited by the surrounding trees, which were mostly conifers, and the further she progressed away from the grasslands and towards the peak, the more mature, old-growth cedar dominated, and after the first hour, there were no oaks, maples, or anything but the cedar's massive, red-brown trunks and a carpet of needles underfoot.

The next time she decided to stop, Mac knew climbing a mature cedar to make a nest in the upper branches would be a very iffy proposition.  She'd have to find some other way to hide, perhaps under the exposed root-ball of a fallen cedar—and fallen cedars were regularly complicating her chosen path.  Of course, it was hard to be led astray when ascent was her ultimate goal, but repeatedly having to work her way around massive logs was time consuming.

Last night, out on the meadow and under the stars, the ground under her feet had been gradually rising; but now, on the forested flanks of the mountain itself, there was nothing gradual about the slope.  It was slow, tiring going, and Mac had more than fallen timber to content with.  Folds in the terrain were also an added difficulty.  She had to prevent being seduced into entering a gently sloping valley, only to have it turn into a steep ravine requiring a borderline technical climb to extricate herself.

Also, was her "plan" so very clever to begin with?  Even if she made it up to the plateau and its village/town of dragons and ginger warriors, how would she find, much less rescue Bonnie and George?  Start asking for directions to the dungeon?  And were they even there to begin with?

And when she finally did find them... what exactly did it mean for them to "escape?"  Still, uncertainties aside, Mac simply leaving her partners in captivity was totally unacceptable.  She'd find them, get them free, and then they'd sort things out.  Piece of cake.  Mac's stomach grumbled.  Not a good time to think about cake, she decided, and continued her journey towards... "up."

And then there's the matter of 'the voice,' Mac mused.  Is it leading me to my goal, to Bonnie and George?  ...or is it a distraction?

Mac continued climbing the slope, constantly scanning her surroundings for ginger soldiers, wolves, bears, velociraptors, or anything else that might be on the hunt.  She continued being careful to keep her disturbance of the soil and carpet of fallen needles to a minimum, but knew she wasn't being entirely successful.  She had to be leaving signs in her wake that something the size of a human had climbed this way, but there was only so much she could do about it and still make reasonable progress.  Mac did the best she could.

Finally, Mac had to stop.  She had no idea how far up the slope she'd managed to climb, but she had to stop... at least for a while.  Mac found a fallen cedar with exactly the sort of shallow hollow around the exposed roots that she required.  I'll only take a short breather, she promised herself, curled up on her side in the dry cavity, and closed her eyes.

Who is Bonniengeorge? the voice demanded.

"Excuse me?" Mac responded.

Oh... there's TWO of them.  Who are BONNIE... and GEORGE?

"My partners," Mac explained.  "They've been captured by... soldiers, and I have to rescue them."

Why? the voice demanded (rather petulantly).  Are you sure?  I mean, OF COURSE you're sure they've been captured, but you're coming to find ME, remember?  You PROMISED.

"They're my partners and friends," Mac reiterated.  "I can't abandon them."

That would make things easier, but no... I don't suppose you can.  ...  I know, come to me and we'll rescue them together!  It'll be fun!

Fun, Mac thought skeptically.  "You'll help?  Really?"

I said I would, the voice responded petulantly.  Then, its tone brightened.  Hurry!  I'll guide you.  Hurry!

"I'll come as fast as I can," Mac promised, and she meant it.  The voice might be a little childish, but it was beautiful, and Mac knew she'd never be able to rest until she solved the mystery of its origin.

Rest, the voice ordered/suggested, then hurry.

Mac smiled.  "I will," she promised, then closed her eyes... even though she knew they were already closed.

Mac rested (as ordered) for two hours, then resumed her climb.  But now, whenever she closed her eyes and stilled her mind, she could hear the voice... softly, quietly, very quietly, like a singer who was far, far away... farther away than Mac should have been able to hear her song (which she knew didn't make any sense).  In any case, when Mac faced away from the mountain, the voice faded to nothing... but when she turned around to face the peak, the voice returned... faintly... and it was beautiful.

Mac continued her climb.  I need to find a walking stick, she decided, and eventually she did.  A bush-like, deciduous sapling was growing in the clearing left by a fallen cedar.  It was something like an alder, but she didn't recognize the exact species.  It had three long, straight, mini-trunks growing in a cluster.  Mack shrugged out of her pack, drew her dirk, and managed to bend and sever one of the sticks.  She then trimmed the leafy branches at the top and quickly whittled both ends into more-or-less smooth knobs.  The result was of little value as a fighting staff, but was a credible walking stick.  She decided pausing to make it had been worth the trouble.

Mac shouldered her pack, took a firm grip on her new helper, and resumed her arduous journey towards... up.

 Chapter 5

The meal was over, but Bonnie and George's hosts remained at the table.  Ginger teenagers (students?) appeared and cleared away the plates.  The trio of teenagers who had enjoyed (endured) the meal with the "Faculty" had risen from their chairs, bowed to Dierdre, then been dismissed with warm smiles from "Headmistress."  Several of the elders who weren't still busy squabbling about who-knew-what smiled at the teens as well.

Soon, the table was cleared and wiped clean and the teenage crew had placed several wooden trays with dark green glass carafes and matching glass cups on the table before departing.

Dierdre held her right hand aloft.  The still debating elders were politely nudged or otherwise interrupted, and now all eyes were on their leader (Bonnie and George's ultimate host).  Dierdre gave a brief speech, in her own language, of course, then a general discussion began.  This time it was crystal clear that Bonnie and George were the focus of attention.  Unfortunately the naked and chained adventurers' vocabularies were limited to aran, ola, truinnsear (plate), and a few other words (including feòil—which probably meant "meat," but might mean "stew," or even "dinner")—so they could neither follow nor participate in the discourse.

The voices droned on and on, with Dierdre letting the others do most of the talking.

With fierce concentration, Bonnie was doing her best to follow the debate, planning session, or whatever was happening.

George started out doing the same, but eventually her brown-eyed gaze became rather... unfocused.  It had been a long, eventful day, to say the least, and she was starting to flag.  Also, she might have imbibed a little too much of the delicious cider and eaten too much of the delicious stew.  She was struggling to stay alert.

Bonnie smiled at her partner.  Poor kid.  She then returned to listening to the debate.  What was being said, she had no idea, but the ginger scholars, doctors, teachers, or whoever they were didn't seem to be anything but hostile or unfriendly.  Now and then one would shift her green-eyed gaze to Bonnie or George, and in Bonnie's opinion their expression was one of curiosity more than anything else.

The discussion continued... and George's eyelids began to droop.

Then, suddenly, there was a knock at the main door.  Bonnie had noted earlier that the cavern was closed off from the outer passageway by a massive wooden gate with two leaves, with a much smaller door set in one of the leaves.  She surmised the main door was for the use of dragons, or at least the heads of the larger specimens, while the smaller door was for the use of humans.

Princess Danu
One of the gingers rose from the table and went to the human-size door, opened it, and admitted... another ginger.  (Big surprise.)  The new arrival was beautiful (of course), athletic (of course) and young, probably in her early twenties.  She was in full armor: military boots, greaves, a skirt of leather straps over a skirt of undyed linen, a breastplate over a sleeveless tunic of undyed linen, leather bracers on her wrists, and a sheathed short sword dangling from her belt.  All she was missing was a helmet.  A simple, narrow headband of gleaming gold encircled her brow instead.  Bonnie assumed it was some sort of rank emblem.  It certainly wouldn't be a credible substitute for the missing helmet in a combat situation.

Behind her came a pair of ginger amazons in full armor, including helmets.  Sheathed swords appeared to be their only armament, but they were carrying coils of hemp rope in their left hands.

From the way they moved, Bonnie's snap judgement was that all three of the armored newcomers were seasoned soldiers, like all the warriors who had participated in their capture of Sky Woman and her crew.  They might be in "dress uniforms" of undyed linen, rather than "field uniforms" of linen dyed in forest colors, but they moved like seasoned warriors.  They were not in costume.

 Dierdre rose and went to greet the amazons.  Bonnie and George (who was now fully awake) got the distinct impression the tablemates weren't particularly happy about the sudden appearance of the soldiers.  All eyes were on the door, but several whispered conversations were underway.

At the door, Dierdre greeted her guests, then entered into a conversation of her own with the warriors' helmet-less young leader.  The discourse was outwardly friendly and polite, but it soon became clear, even to Bonnie and George, that they were having a disagreement... a serious disagreement.

Finally, Dierdre accompanied the amazons to the table.

The helmet-less leader gazed at Bonnie... then at George... both times with a cool, calculating expression... then pointed at Bonnie.  "Am fear sin!" she barked, and her helmeted companions stepped forward.

Several of the academics erupted to their feet and protested, but Dierdre delivered some sort of explanation (during which it was clear that she was equally unhappy); however, none of her subordinates did more than scowl and watch as Bonnie was dragged to her feet and away from the table.

"Bonnie!" George cried, but her immediate tablemates placed their hands on her shoulders and prevented her from rising to her bare and shackled feet.  "No!"

Meanwhile, the soldiers were proving themselves to be experienced in the handling of prisoners.  Bonnie's chains were unlocked and removed, her arms folded behind her back, and a coil of rope used to bind her in a stringent, no-nonsense box-tie.  Soon, Bonnie's upper-arms were pinned against her torso, with multiple rope strands passing above and below her bare breasts, doubled strands yoking her shoulders and cinching the chest-ropes, and her wrists raised, crossed, and bound just below her shoulder blades.

Bonnie offered no resistance.  She knew she wouldn't be rewarded by making her handlers' jobs more difficult.  She did, however, lock eyes with the soldiers' young leader, the one with the gold headband.  The youngster had been watching the binding process with an irritating smirk, and Bonnie would very much like to give her an etiquette lesson... with her fists.

Finally, Bonnie's ankles were hobbled about a foot apart, and she was led (dragged) towards the door.

"Thank you for a lovely dinner!" Bonnie shouted over her shoulder to Dierdre and the other gingers still at the table.  "Later, Georgy-girl!" she added for her partner's benefit.

There was a brief pause during which Bonnie's escort thrust the knot of a cleave-gag in her mouth and the ends together at the nape of her neck, under her tousled brown hair.  Then, Bonnie and her new friends were through the door and it closed behind them with a quiet thud.

"B-Bonnie!" George whined, then burst into tears.  Her tablemates tried to comfort her.  They lifted her to her feet, one of them pulling her into a tight embrace and let her sob against her right breast.  The other stood close, patted George's shoulder and gently stroked her bare back.  Unfortunately, George was inconsolable.

The partners had been separated!

 Chapter 5

The sun was setting behind the mountain when the trees suddenly thinned and Mac realized she'd reached the plateau supporting the supposed dragon and amazon village or town.

Immediately beyond the treeline Mac beheld the first actual road she'd seen since coming to Elsewhere.  She found a hiding place in a dense copse of some species of leafy bush on the downslope of the mountain and near the road.  The cedar forest grew right up to the grassy shoulder of the road, but the upslope beyond was treeless, nothing but grass or jumbled rock for the final 200 yards up to the plateau.  From her current position Mac could see nothing of the buildings (or large rectangular rocks) she'd observed from the far side of the grassland below.  Apparently, they were set back from the edge of the plateau.  Perhaps after dark she'd be able to see the glow of their lights, especially the central lighthouse or watchtower or whatever it was.

The road was paved with closely set stone blocks, each about a foot square.  And there was intermittent traffic traveling in both directions, but the majority from Mac's right to her left.  It took the form of solitary or small groups of ginger pedestrians and the occasional two-wheeled cart.  The women wore simple shifts or tunic-dresses of undyed linen, but a few had added long, hooded cloaks in dyed shades of dull brown or gray.  All were burdened by backpacks, cloth-wrapped bundles, or large baskets.  (Mac's empty stomach assumed their cargoes consisted of meat pies, cheese, bangers, and/or packets of fish-and-chips.)

The carts were loaded with more bundles and baskets, but Mac watched one rumble past full of wooden barrels.  (Beer?)  The sturdy, well-constructed carts were drawn by shaggy ponies, but their coloration was different from any Mac had seen before.  The small equines had tawny brown heads, black manes, gray backs and forelegs, pale gray bellies, dark gray hind-quarters and hind-legs, and black tails that matched their manes.

Secure in her leafy hide, Mac chewed on a ration-bar, took careful sips from her canteen, and watched the traffic.  She'd already decided to rest and wait for full night before pushing on.  Traffic on the road might be intermittent, but not enough for her to cross the road and scramble up the grassy slope beyond without being seen.

Suddenly, she saw a column of armored soldiers approaching from her right.  Mac made doubly sure she was well-concealed... then watched the amazons tromp past her hiding place.  They were in five distinct troops. and the individual soldiers were all in full armor, plus bulging packs.  Their spears were on their right shoulders, with cloth bundles dangling from the trailing spear-points.  Their shields were on their left arms, with supporting straps across their left shoulders.  Clearly, they were on a route march, were carrying full loads, and were equipped to fend for themselves for several days, with provisions, blankets, tents, and bulging waterskins, as well as full armament.

Mac frowned.  There was a trio of officers in the front with feathered crests on their helmets, and two more with helmet crests were bringing up the rear of the column.  They were also carrying full loads, but all five were at least a head taller than their troops, not counting their helmet-crests.  Then, Mac realized the truth: the officers were all in their thirties or forties, while the troops in question were all young teenagers, maybe fourteen or fifteen, every one!  She was watching a cadre of young recruits, or conscripts, or military academy students.

By the way, all the young ginger soldiers looked like Mac felt: exhausted.  To use a rustic phrase (with which George might not be familiar), they'd been rode hard and put away wet.  They were tired.  Nonetheless, all were keeping pace, their ranks were dressed, and none were lagging.

The formation approached a group of three women, who stepped to the side, put down their burdens, and began clapping, cheering, and shouting.  Mac had no idea what they were saying, but clearly the women were doing their best to encourage the marching amazon youngsters.

The leading officer barked a command and... exactly four steps later... the first troop began to sing.  Seconds later, the rest of the troops had joined the song.  Again, Mac had no idea of the meaning of the lyrics.  It was in the same unknown language she'd heard back at the Sky Woman crash site, but clearly the three civilians were delighted.  They smiled broadly and clapped in rhythm as the young soldiers marched past.  Mac assumed it was a patriotic marching song... or possibly a bawdy little ditty the women remembered singing when they were younger and doing their military service.  In any case, Mac thought, it has a snappy beat and you could march to it.

Eventually, the last of the parade passed and the women picked up their burdens and continued on their way.

The column dwindled into the distance... rounded the curve of the mountain... and was gone.

The sun continued to set, the traffic on the road dwindled to nothing... and the road became quite dark.  Mac still couldn't see any light from the plateau above, direct or indirect.  Mac decided to take another nap, wait until after midnight, then cross the road, climb the grassy slope to the main plateau, and see what she'd have to contend with once there.

 Chapter 5

Bonnie's naked, hobbled, box-tied, and cleave-gagged after-dinner stroll (with military escort) was a long one.  Six more armored amazons had been waiting in the passageway when Bonnie, the irritating ginger brat with the gold circlet, and her two handlers emerged from the human-sized door set in the dragon-size door blocking off the... school cavern?  Bonnie still wasn't sure where she'd eaten dinner.  It might have been a school of some sort, or from the anatomical charts hanging on the cavern walls, maybe a medical school, but she couldn't be sure of anything.  She had to learn the gingers' language... which is difficult to do when you're gagged and being dragged on involuntary subterranean strolls.  Maybe George was having better luck... back at the school... the place with the friendly, un-military gingers... which Bonnie was leaving further behind with every hobbled, barefoot step.

With their irritating young leader at the front, Bonnie's two binders next, then Bonnie herself, and the remaining six warriors bringing up the rear, the trek continued... and it was a long one... something like a half hour of nonstop, fast-paced walking.  They passed through junctions with other torch-lit passages, as well as the entrances (or exits) of smaller, darker tunnels... then more of the large, open, multi-level caverns with tunnels and passageways leading up, down, and every which way.  Bonnie suspected the largest cavern/junction may have been open to the sky, far overhead, but, as confirmed by her inner clock, night had fallen and all she could see was inky darkness.

They passed a few tunic-clad gingers, singles or in pairs, with some carrying bundles or baskets.  And at one point, two more of the armored warriors trudged towards Bonnie and her escort, then stepped aside to let them pass.  Bonnie surmised the pair were on patrol.  They stared at Bonnie in open curiosity as she passed.  Bonnie briefly considered winking at them (just to mess with their heads), but decided against it.

Finally (and none too soon as far as Bonnie was concerned) they arrived at their destination: another dragon-size door of massive timbers with a human-size door set in its left leaf.  However, this time it was clear that beyond the portals was neither an Academy for Hot Teenage Gingers nor a Medical School.  A shield with crossed sword and spear was elegantly carved into the door, along with several words carved in a unknown alphabet Bonnie thought resembled Northern Luropean runes from back home.  Also, there was a formal guard post beside the human door, manned by a fully armored amazon armed with spear, sword, and shield, standing at attention.

As Bonnie's party approached, the guard crouched into fighting stance with raised shield, spear at the ready, and all in one fluid, obviously a well-practiced maneuver.  The youngster with the gold circlet raised her right arm and Bonnie's escort detail snapped to a halt.  What followed was obviously a formal challenge and reply.  Words were exchanged, the guard resumed her formal resting-at-attention pose, and the detail (including Bonnie, of course) passed through the human door.

The chamber beyond was just as wide but at least twice as deep as Dierdre's cavern, with correspondingly more side tunnels.  Amazons were milling about, a few in full armor, but most in boots, tunics, and sword-belts (without swords, Bonnie noted).  The six warriors at the rear of the detail peeled off and made for one of the tunnels.  However, the two soldiers who had box-tied and hobbled Bonnie took hold of her arms and hustled her to another tunnel.  They were still being led by the irritating youngster.

The tunnel led to a large, brightly lit side-chamber with a long wooden table, and on the table Bonnie recognized objects that should have been properly stowed aboard The Spirit of Sky Woman.  Among the looted property were:
(1)  Various hand tools, including wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, files, etc.;

(2)  A shovel and a pick-hoe;

(3)  A pair of hand saws, one small and designed for delicate work, and the other a much larger crosscut saw;

(4)  A hatchet and a full-length ax;

(5)  A row of knives and machetes, some from the galley and some from field equipment storage;

(6)  The knives that Bonnie and her partner had had hidden on their persons at the time of their capture.  (She noted that Mac's dirk was conspicuous by its absence.);

(7)  And finally, several firearms looted from the armory, including Bonnie's personal Tesla pistol, several more handguns, three rifles, and one of the "Monster Sparkler" Tesla long-guns.
All the items were being examined by a pair of warriors in their late forties, or possibly early fifties.  They were dressed in military boots (without greaves), stained but clean linen tunics dyed gray, and full-length, brown leather aprons.  Bonnie noted their muscular arms and visibly scarred hands.  Given the setting, she surmised the pair were senior armorers, or possibly smiths.

The irritating youngster with the gold headband engaged the armorers in an animated discussion while Bonnie and her guards cooled their heels.  The topic at hand was the tools and weapons on the table, and eventually Bonnie recognized the universal military drama of a pair of senior NCOs trying to explain the obvious to a junior officer (while being neither condescending nor insubordinate).  That said, Bonnie got the impression the youngster was asking good questions and the armorers held her in genuine respect.  Bonnie could tell.  I still think she's an irritating brat, Bonnie thought.

Anyway... after about two minutes, the youngster seemed to suddenly remember about Bonnie.  She turned and gave the escort an order, then Bonnie was led back to the main chamber, towards the far end, and into another tunnel.  The officer and two armorers had remained behind, still discussing their stolen booty.

Bonnie's next destination was what she eventually recognized as a brig, stockade, or whatever a place to hold prisoners was called in ginger military parlance.

A warrior in armor, but armed with only a club, manned a desk in front of a gate of iron bars.  She rose from her chair, unlocked the gate, and Bonnie was led down a long tunnel with more tall, narrow, barred gates on either side.  At the very end, the cudgel-bearing amazon unlocked a gate and Bonnie's guards led her into a small cell chiseled from the stone heart of the mountain.  It was about ten-feet by ten-feet, and resting on the floor was a crude pallet in the form of a straw-filled burlap mattress, a metal bucket with a hinged lid, a quart-size terracotta jug with a wooden cup for a lid... and that was it.

The guards untied and removed Bonnie's gag, stepped back into the main tunnel, the gate closed with a clang and was locked with a click, and the three soldiers left.  No gloating, no pointing at the brown-haired freak and laughing, no leering at Bonnie's box-tied, naked body... they just left.  Bonnie didn't know whether to be relieved or offended.

"Uh... goodnight!" Bonnie called after the departing amazons.

The prisoner then heaved a sad sigh and settled down onto the pallet as best she could given her box-tied and hobbled condition.  Just as she'd feared, straw poked through the burlap.  Without a doubt, ginger military prison accommodations were not up to accepted Grand Alliance standards.

"I bet George is sleeping in a real bed with real sheets and a real mattress," Bonnie muttered under her breath.  She was also thinking (worrying) about Mac, but had insufficient information to focus her concerns.  Finally, Bonnie closed her eyes and did her best to drift off to sleep.  Eventually... she succeeded.

 Chapter 5


Chapter 4
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