The Cage
  Copyright 2002 by dungeonmouse

    Helga comes early for Diedra this evening.  Diedra counts only 756 laps around the wheel when Helga arrives.     Usually she pushes her spoke at least 900 times round the circle each shift.  Helga unlocks Diedra's wrist chains from the spoke and fastens them to the metal belt around Diedra's waist.  She grabs the chain attached to Diedra's steel collar and leads Diedra from the wheel chamber.  Normally, Helga administers punishments then feeds the prisoners before releasing them from the wheel and returning them to their cells.  Diedra frets over the break in routine.  With Helga, “new” means “bad.”  Diedra prances along behind Helga, taking two steps for every one of Helga's so her manacled legs can keep up.
    Helga leads Diedra down a corridor Diedra has never visited.  The floor slopes down and becomes rougher.  Diedra's bare feet, toughened by walking on the bare stone floors, handle the sharp edges well enough but as dim light bulbs in the main dungeon give way to tar torches, Diedra struggles to keep her footing on the uneven floor.
    A metallic creak draws Diedra's eyes from the floor.  She stops just short of running into Helga.  A smoky torch splatters yellow light around a small chamber.  Several rusty shafts run along the ceiling.  One shaft creaks as it rotates slowly.  A chain, wound around the shaft, disappears into a hole in the floor.  Two guards peer down the hole.  At length, the rising chain pulls a cage through the hole.  The guards’ shadows prevent Diedra from seeing inside the cage.
    The top half resembles a large bird cage, the rust-coated bars arching over in a domed top.  As the cage clears the hole, Diedra sees the bottom half mirrors the top.  A large ring hangs from the bottom.  One guard clips a chain to this ring and pulls the cage sideways enough to clear the hole.  The guard steps back and Diedra draws in her breath.  Inside the cage slumps a girl.  Her wrist chains hang from the top of the cage and her ankle chains fasten to the bottom.  The cage provides just enough room for her to sit inside, one leg tucked under her, the other dangling between two bars, swinging at an odd angle on the end of its chain.  The girl's skin shows a blue cast even in the yellow light.
   The guards unlock the cage door and unfasten the girl's chains from the cage.  They pull her out.  Her body flops forward and the guards struggle to keep their grip.  They wrestle her body to the door then lose their grip.  She slithers out the door without twitching or jerking, landing in a jumble of limbs with a soft plop.  The guards pick up the girl, one each on her wrist and ankle chains, and drop her down the hole.   Diedra glimpses her blue-white face framed for an instant in the black hole.
    “She did poorly.”  Helga notes without emotion.
    Helga and the guards lead Diedra to the cage door.  Diedra stares into the cage then looks at Helga.  Diedra’s brain screams but only a small croak comes from her throat.
    "Your turn, Diedra."  Helga points into the cage.
    Diedra twists in the guards’ grip.  Helga slams the butt of her riding crop into Diedra's solar plexus.  Diedra doubles over.  Helga sweeps her up like a doll and tosses her in the cage.  The guards fasten Diedra into the cage before Diedra regains her breath.  One guard closes and locks the door.  The other eases the chain leading to the bottom ring and swings the cage back over the hole, unfastening the bottom chain when the cage hangs steady.  The shafts and gears overhead shudder and creak.  The cage jerks downward.
    Diedra clings to the bars of the cage.  Her brain commands her body to scream, yell, pull at the chains, beat on the bars, do something!  Her throat constricts into silence.  Her hands and feet hang against the bars, quivering tubes of mush.  She stares at Helga, pleading with her eyes.  Helga stares back.
    The cage disappears into the caverns.  Diedra locks her eyes on the circle of light coming through the hole.  The mechanism creaks and bangs, lurching the cage as the chain unwinds into the abyss.  Finally, the cage stops with a clank.  Diedra stares upward at the tiny light far above.  The guards close the hole around the chain, blocking the only glimmer of light into the cavern.  Diedra stares up into the blackness.  In her mind, she stares at a little circle of light.   A blue-white circle of light.  A circle framing a pale face.  A contorted face with water-logged blue skin and milky fish-eyes.  Her own skin and eyes.


    Diedra sits in the dark clutching the bars.  She sits for hours, maybe days, maybe just many long minutes.  She wonders about The Bitch.  No other gods or goddesses visit here, that’s for sure.  Everyone pays lip service to the dungeon’s deity but no one really believes in Her.  Except Helga.  Helga worships the Bitch with a passion.     Diedra mumbles a prayer to the Bitch and stares into the blackness.
    Nature catches up with Diedra.  She shifts around until she sits between two bars and relieves herself.  After a few seconds, she hears a soft splash. 
    "The water in the caverns will rise and drown all the prisoners if you lazy twats don't push harder on that wheel."  Hilda had said.  Diedra thought Helga said that just to scare the prisoners.  It worked.  Diedra is terrified.
    Diedra sits in the inky black.  The cage rocks on the end of the chain.  Eventually, exhaustion and boredom take their toll and Diedra nods off. 


    The cage lurches drunkenly.  Instantly awake, Diedra clutches the bars and peers into the darkness.  The cage descends slowly.


    The cage lurches and drops a half meter or so, the mechanism banging wildly.  After an agonizingly long descent, Diedra hears water moving below.  Seconds (or minutes or hours) later, she feels the water flowing slowly through the bottom bars of the cage.  The water’s touch even though warm and gentle sends a shock through her body.  Diedra shrieks and jumps up in the cage.  The cage allows her a fraction of a meter before her head strikes the top.  The cage continues clanging its way downward.  The water rises up her calves, around her hips, over her knees, past her belly, under her breasts. 


    The cage slams to a stop.  The water ripples past Diedra's nipples and eddies around her back.  She shivers and shakes uncontrollably in the mild water.  She sits, half-immersed, for several hours (or minutes or days).  After a long eternity in the dark wet, she settles back against the bars, still shivering.  She relieves her bladder in the water.   Thirsty, she bends her head and sucks up water.  She spits it out.  Salt water with a slimy texture and a bitter after taste.  Diedra's shoulders shake up and down as she sobs silently in fear and frustration.  She cries for days (or minutes or hours) before exhaustion overtakes her.  She settles to the bottom of the cage in a stupor.


    The cage jerks upward, the chain and mechanism stuttering their rusty harmony.  Diedra snaps awake then settles back against the bars as the water recedes down her body. 


    The cage rocks violently then falls into the water.  Diedra sucks in a breath as the cage disappears below the surface.  She catapults upward against the bars of the cage, her hands clawing frantically between the bars, her head jammed against the top of the cage, her feet pushing against the bottom with all their strength.  Diedra's body thrashes about the cage, bruising itself in dozens of places as it fights against the chains and the bars.  Her lungs burn and scream for air. 


    The cage lurches again.  Her hands, groping out the top of the cage, splash the surface.  She clenches her teeth and knots her throat, desperately holding in the air as her lungs struggle to breathe.  Seconds (or hours or days) later the top of the cage shakes clear of the water.  Diedra presses her face between the bars and gulps air with only her mouth and nose clear of the surface.  Minutes (or seconds or hours) later, the cage creaks high enough so her head clears the water.  Diedra gulps the air, her breaths vibrating in tortured sobs.  She hugs the top bars in a death-grip. 
    The wheel flashes through her mind.  Pushing her spoke round and round.  Slowing down when the resistance increased, digging in with her feet and forcing the spoke round only after the guard applied the whip to her back.  How many girls struggled under the water while she waited for the whip before she pushed?  How many lived?  How many drowned?
    "DAMN YOU BITCH.  DAMN YOU HILDA.  DAMN YOU ALL."  Diedra screams through the gasps and the sobs, over and over, long strings of profanities and curses.


    Diedra clings to the bars in sudden silence.  The cage creaks upward.  Diedra's heart pounds in her ears.  The groaning mechanism tugs at the cage. 


    The cage drops back into the water.  Diedra screams.  The scream echoes through the cavern then dies to a gurgle as she sinks into the water.  Diedra pushes herself up.  She presses her face again between the bars of the cage.  Her nose just clears the surface.  She sucks in air from her mouth and nose, breathing in water through her mouth.  She gags and coughs and gasps in more air.  Her lungs pump in and out, the water keeps coming.  Diedra's head spins.  Somewhere in the panic a stern Voice speaks in her head. 
Breathe slower.  Close your mouth.  Stop sucking water.
    Somehow, Diedra shuts her mouth.  She breathes through her nose.  She fights down the need, to cough and gasp to expel the water in her throat and lungs.  She wins the battle for a few breathes then coughs and gasps in more water.  She stifles the next cough and the next then gasps in more water.  The water is winning.  Diedra is drowning. 
    She begs the voice, “Please help me.  I’ll be your servant forever.”
I’ve no need of dead servants.  Live and I may have use for you.
    “Please!  I’m drowning!
That’s your problem, not mine.
    Diedra squeezes her mouth tight, fighting to hold her mouth shut while breathing slowly through her nose.  Water slops over her nose.  Her head abandons the conversation with the Voice and screams, “PUSH YOU WORTHLESS SLUTS, DAMN YOU PUSH, DIG IN YOUR TOES AND PUSH YOU USELESS TWATS PUSH DAMMIT PUSH!!!!!!!!”
    An eternity (or a second or an hour) later, the water laps slowly down her face.  The cage wearily extracts itself from the water.  Diedra coughs, vomits, spits and sneezes out water.  She shakes as the coughs and the terror rack her body.  She curses The Bitch for putting her here.  She prays to Her that the cage continues back to the dungeon.  Hilda can whip her until she bleeds from every pour in her body, just please, Bitch, no more water.  The Voice in her head remains silent.
    The cage clangs and drops once more during its slow ascent.  Diedra gulps air and redoubles her prayers as the cage falls.  The water rises from Diedra's navel up to her neck, pauses there for a short eternity (or an hour or a week) before the tortured ascent resumes.  The cage clears the water then grinds to a halt.  Diedra can still touch the water if she sticks a foot between the bottom bars.  She props both feet on bars inside the cage.  She sits and stares into the darkness, ears pricked for the slightest sound from the chain or its mechanism.  Occasionally the mechanism groans and Diedra sucks in a gulp of air.  Hours (or minutes or days) later, her terrified body can maintain its vigil no longer and she slips into a wet sleep.



    Diedra leaps up in the cage, sucking in a breath as she collides with the top bars.  A humming squeak comes from her throat as she fights to hold the air in and the terror out.  She presses her face between the bars and forces her mouth and nose as far upwards as the steel allows.

Clink.  Clink.

    The cage swings on the chain, shifting with Diedra's wild scramble.


    Diedra clings to the top of the cage.  She exhales quickly and sucks in another big breath.  Her heart thunders in her chest.  Her legs and arms quiver with exertion and fear.

Clinkclinkclink.  Clink.

    Diedra rolls her eyes, helplessly scanning the blackness.  The sound comes from the side of the cage, not from the mechanism.

Clink.  Clink.

    Diedra exhales and inhales quickly.  She reaches one hand down and runs her fingers quickly up and down the bars.  Nothing.  She grabs the top bars.  Exhale-inhale.  Fight off the panic.


    There.  Just above her left shoulder.  She reaches across with her right hand and runs her hand up and down between the bars.


    Diedra grabs the top bars.  EXHALE-INHALE. 

Clink.  Clinkclinkclink.

    She touched something.  Something metal.  She reaches back, sticks her hand between the bars, touches something.  A small metal rim.  Her fingers grope around the metal rim.  She sticks her fingers in something gooey, something warm.  Her brain screams, “Something recently dead.”


    Diedra yanks her hand back.  EXHALE-INHALE.  Her gooey fingers cling to the bar next to her nose.  She sniffs.  It doesn't smell dead.  It smells like porridge.  Diedra sticks her fingers outside the cage, around the bar and under her nose.  Only dungeon porridge smells that plain.  She licks a finger.  Yes, porridge all right.  First warm porridge she's had in the dungeon, ever.  Diedra reaches back, scoops up a glob of porridge, sticks her fingers around the top bars to her mouth still sticking out the top of the cage.  Porridge drips from her fingers, from  the bars, from her chin.  Messy.  Hilda will raise hell.  EXHALE-INHALE. 


    Diedra sucks the warm porridge from her fingers.  Pushes the glob on her chin up into her mouth.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Porridge never tasted so good.  She wonders how long she's been here.  How long she'll be here.  How long before the cage catches her.  How long before she drowns......EXHALE-INHALE.  Diedra shivers at the top of the cage.  Tears roll down her cheeks.  Her body shakes.  A low wail escapes from her pressed lips.  She reaches down, scoops up another glop of warm porridge and sucks it from her fingers.  She hangs in the cage, face pressed between the top bars, eating porridge and sobbing. 
    “I suppose I’m to thank you for the porridge, Bitch.”
No.  Thank Helga.  She sent it down.
    “You won’t save me.  You don’t feed me.  What good are you?”
I fight wars.  I slay heroes and raise up new ones.  I alter history.
    “What do I care about history, damn You?  I want out of this cage!”
You should care.  Your mark on history is your immortality.
    “Screw history!  Screw immortality!.  Get me out of this cage!”
I already screw with history and immortality.  For the other, talk to Helga.  If you live that long.
    Diedra argues with the Voice as she eats the porridge but the Voice falls silent.
    As Diedra scrapes the last of the porridge from the little bucket, water trickles down on her head.  EXHALE-INHALE.  She presses her body up into the cage.  Water runs across her face and down her sides.  She sticks her tongue into the stream.  Fresh water, with a taste of rust from running down the chain.  She sips the water, presses her lips against the top of the cage and sucks in the stream.  Soooooo thirsty.  Soooooo good.


    EXHALE-INHALE.  The water runs between her breasts as she presses up into the top of the cage.


    The little bucket clatters up the side of the cage and tinkles its way up the chain.  Diedra stretches her hand up between the bars, reaching for the bucket.  She just touches the bottom before it clinks upward out of reach. 
    "Take me with you, little bucket.  Please take me with you."  Diedra sobs again and sucks the water trickling off the chain.
    The water stops.  Exhale-inhale.  More water, spraying this time in a shower around the chain.  Diedra tastes the shower and spits.  Soap.  Soapy water.  Not the harsh soap the guards use to clean the cells.  Soft, silky soap, scented with.....something.  Something nice.  Diedra rubs the soap on her arms and face, across her shoulders and down her breasts.  The manacles only let her touch the top of her breasts.  She rubs her elbows against her sides and wiggles around in the cage, rubbing against the bars.  The soap slides easily across her skin.   Diedra rubs her legs and thighs together and slides her heels across her buttocks, luxuriating in the softly scented shower.  The spray stops.   Exhale-inhale.  Exhale.  Inhale.
    The cage swings on its chain.  She slides down the soapy bars into a curved fetal position.  Diedra curses the Bitch then thanks Her for the porridge, the fresh water and the bath.  She pees between the bars and listens to the tinkle as the stream hits the water below.  Exhale.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Diedra sniffles, sobs twice and yawns.


    The cage drops in the water.


    Diedra inhales just before the cage hits the black water.  She grabs for the top bars but her fingers slip on the soapy metal.  Her feet slide out between the bottom bars and fetch up against her leg irons.  Her right ankle twists and wedges between the bars.  Water closes over her head.  She pushes with her legs, driving her ankles deep into the cuffs, bruising them.  The bars dig into her right ankle.  She gurgles out precious air from the pain.     She struggles to the top of the cage.  Water covers the top bars.
    Diedra presses her face to the bars, swallows and forces the air to stay in her lungs.


    The cage rattles and bangs upward.  The top bars clear the surface.  Diedra digs creases into her cheeks, pressing her nose and lips above the surface.  EXHALE-INHALE.  EXHALE-INHALE.  The cage lurches upward until her head clears the water then bangs to a stop and drops some centimeters.  Diedra clings to the bars.  EXHALE-INHALE.  EXHALE-INHALE.  The water slops around her lips.  She tilts her head back and gasps through her mouth.  EXHALE-INHALE.  EXHALE-INHALE.
    The cage swings gently on its chain.  EXHALE-INHALE.  EXHALE-INHALE.  Diedra shivers in the water.  That was close.    She pulls her left foot back in the cage and wiggles around, trying to free her right one.  The cuff lies wedged between the bars.   She pushes her foot down, farther out of the cage and manages to work the cuff free.  She sits and breathes, foot dangling outside the cage, hurting like hell.  The sweet soap scent washes away in the water.  Algae and salt and fishy smells replace.......whatever it was.  The nice stuff.  The stuff that left with the little bucket.  Diedra chokes back tears.  EXHALE-INHALE.
     "Damn, I miss the nice stuff.  And the little bucket.  You will come back, won't you, little bucket?  You've only been gone a lifetime and I miss you already."  Diedra cries for the little bucket.  She hopes the little bucket made it to bucket heaven.  "DAMMIT, WHY CAN'T I GO TO HEAVEN WITH THE LITTLE BUCKET????!!!!??"
Heaven lies beyond Death.  I can show you the way if you like.
    Diedra screams at the Voice.


    The cage lunges sideways.  INHALE!  Diedra hangs on the bars.  Something bumped the cage.  Something big.


    The something bumps against the cage.  It sounds solid, like a log.  A log drifting in the current.  That’s what it is.  A floating log pushing against the cage.  Diedra concentrates on keeping her mouth above water.  A log.  Just a log.


    The log bumps the cage again.......from the downstream side.  The cage surges against the current, water swirling through the bars.  Diedra screams.


    The thing prods the cage, testing, searching.  Diedra flattens herself against the side of the cage, squeezing as far away from the thing as the tiny cage permits.  She jerks her right foot back into the cage but the cuff hangs on the bars again.  The thing slides under the cage.  Diedra's foot touches hard scales, slick with slime.  A sharp edge slices the bottom of her foot.  Blood oozes into the water.  Hard edges rasp over the bars.  Water surges through the cage.  Diedra shrieks and kicks the thing.  Her foot slides off the slippery scales and her leg shoots down below the cage, freeing the wedged cuff.  The thing turns, water swirling around Diedra's foot.  She kicks her leg up and back.  Sharp knives scrape the bars as her foot pulls into the cage.  Water pulses through the cage as jaws slam shut.  A rank, reptilian smell rises from the swirling water.  The smell of hunger, of ancient swamps, of death.
    Diedra screams, swallows water, coughs, screams and coughs some more.  She pushes her nose and mouth out the top of the cage.  Waves slop over the top of the cage.  Diedra swallows more water, coughs and gags.  Long daggers thrust into the cage.  Diedra jerks into the center of the cage, the dagger teeth pricking her skin. The chain and mechanism groan and grind.  The thing shakes the cage.  Black water swamps the cage.  With a clang, the thing pulls the cage below the water. 
    Diedra holds her breath and grips the cage for dear life.  The thing rolls and twists with the cage in its huge jaws.  The rusty chain screeches under the load.  The tired mechanism bangs away, making no headway.  Somewhere above, sweaty prisoners push against poles gone stiff.  The guard yells and whips them. The wheel refuses to turn. The thing pauses and shifts its grip on the cage.  Free for a second, the cage pops up, the mechanism rotates and the poles leap forward.  One prisoner stumbles and falls, stopping the wheel.  The cage halts.  The guard tires of the fumbling prisoners and whips the fallen girl to her feet.  The thing drags the cage lower against the protesting chain and mechanism.  Diedra gurgles and coughs under the water.  Her lungs burn.
    The thing tugs downward on the cage then opens it jaws to reset its grip.  The guard's whip lashes the biggest girl on the wheel.  She shoves her pole with a yowl of pain.  The rusty mechanism catches.  The cage lunges upward.  The thing snaps its jaws on the lower end of the cage.  Daggers rake down the bars, poking and scratching Diedra.  Warming to her work, the guard applies the whip with a vengeance to the backs of the prisoners.  The cage slowly rises from the water, dagger-teeth screeching down the bars.  Diedra coughs and retches as her head surfaces.  She scrambles up in the cage, away from the thing.  Her foot slips and slides out between the bars.  The thing's teeth slide off the bottom of the cage.  Giant teeth close around Diedra's ankle. The teeth clamp onto the large ring on the bottom of the cage.  The jaws don’t quite close.  Diedra's ankle hangs trapped in the gap between two huge fangs.  The cage stops and rattles as the thing twists its head, trying to shake the cage loose.  Diedra sticks her other foot between the bars and kicks.  Her foot slides into a huge nostril and stabs the tender membrane inside.  Startled, the thing relaxes its grip.  The thing drops away below the cage.     The fangs scrape Diedra’s skin as her foot slips through the partly open jaws.  The water roils below the cage as the furious creature searches for its lost meal.  Diedra sits in the cage.  Blood seeps from a dozen cuts and scrapes.  Her foot dangles below the cage, wedged again between the bars, missing some skin but otherwise intact.  Her hands reach out the top of the cage and clutch the chain.  Her body shivers.  Her eyes stare into the blackness.  Her lips move silently, swearing and thanking the Bitch Goddess.
  First time you’ve called me Goddess.  The leviathan may make you a believer yet.
    Diedra has no strength to argue.
    The guard pauses in her whipping.  The wheel turns smoothly again.  She considers reporting the balky wheel to Hilda.  Maybe she'll report it tomorrow.  Somewhere, a hand throws a lever and the wheel switches from turning the cage mechanism to driving a pump.  The cage bumps to a stop.  Diedra inhales deeply.  She sits and shivers and stares into the black.


    The days (weeks or months or years) blur together.  Diedra sucks in a deep breath at the slightest noise.  The porridge bucket clinks up and down, sometimes hot, sometimes cold.  Fresh water trickles down the chain, sometimes all she can drink, sometimes just a little.  Soapy water sprays over her, sometimes nice soap, sometimes the harsh stuff used in the dungeon.  None of these things happen on any schedule Diedra can fathom.  The leviathan does not attack the cage again though Diedra smells its putrid odor and hears it moving in the water.  Cramps stab through her muscles.  The cage grinds up and down on the chain, sometimes dipping into the water, sometimes dropping without warning, sometimes submerging her, sometimes just getting her wet.  During each dip below the surface, Diedra struggles for her life.  With time she learns to control her breathing, to relax her lungs under water, to hold on a little longer.  But she never controls the terror.  Between events, she sits in the cage, stares into the blackness and breathes.  She savors each breath like it’s her last.  Diedra knows sooner or later the cage won’t surface fast enough or she won’t breath soon enough or deep enough or the thing will come back or the chain will break. 
    The Bitch Goddess talks to her, sometimes when she’s drowning, more often in the moments after the cage returns to the air.  Diedra slowly gets over the idea that goddesses shouldn’t be cruel and fierce.  A harsh world needs a harsh Goddess.  Sometimes, she wonders why she hangs on.  Maybe because of the Bitch.  Maybe because of  the dreams.
    Hilda comes to her in the dreams.  Hilda put her here, chained in this cramped cage hanging over a black cavern filled with slimy water and vile monsters.  Hilda, no doubt, dreamed up using slave labor to raise and lower the cage without bothering to tell the slaves another girl’s life hangs on the other end.  Hilda probably even designed the decrepit mechanism that bangs and clatters and releases without warning.  Diedra smiles when Hilda appears in the dreams.  Smiles and reaches for her.  For Hilda is up there, above the cavern, away from the water and the monster and the cage.
    In the dreams, Hilda grabs Diedra by the hair, clamps her mouth over Diedra’s lips, brutalizing them with her teeth and tongue.  Hilda shoves the butt of her riding crop between Diedra’s legs, levering them apart then probing her with the fat, leather-wrapped rod.  Diedra melts into Hilda’s embrace, gives herself over to the brutal kisses and rides the crop with enthusiasm.  Diedra remains chained in the cage during the dreams.  Hilda does not open the door yet touches, whips or squeezes Diedra however she desires.  Dreams work like that. 
    Hilda’s love making takes a new sadistic turn in each dream.  The riding crop lashes her breasts and crotch until the welts and cuts and huge bruises render both regions unrecognizable as human anatomy.  A giant steel dildo penetrates her butt, brutally digs deep into her body and rearranges her anatomy.  Hilda grabs Diedra by the hair, tilts her head back and forces another steel phallus deep into her throat through the top of the cage, spitting Diedra on the two steel rods.  Hilda grabs Diedra’s crotch with gloves of chain mail and steel plate.  The metal fingers tear into her soft flesh, freezing with a cold her body cannot warm. 
    Diedra feels no arousal, experiences no orgasms in her dreams.  The torture is too violent, too unfeeling, too cold.  But Diedra cries when she awakes.  Her body intact, the pain gone, the dream over, she cries, she screams, she begs the Bitch Goddess to send back the dream.  Human touch, even a touch sheathed in chain mail, even a touch in a dream, beats hanging in the cage, waiting for the chain to clang, to drop her into the water, to drown her.


    INHALE.  The cage rattles.  Diedra holds her breath.  EXHALE-INHALE.  Hold your breath while the cage moves, never know when the thing may drop.  EXHALE-INHALE.  The cage stops.  EXHALE-INHALE.  Stay in the top of the cage, mouth and nose sticking out between the bars.  The mechanism frequently releases after it stops.


    Cold water rushes over Diedra.  She suppresses a squeal of pain and wedges her face deeper between the bars, pushing her nose and mouth up towards the air.  Her mouth and nose clear the water.  EXHALE-INHALE.  Her whole body seems clear of the water.  She sticks a foot out the bottom and swings it around.  Nothing but air.  Where did the water come from?  She hears a noise in the blackness.  She knows that sound.  Hilda’s clucking laugh, the laugh she does before she whips you good.  Diedra cracks open one eye.  Pale yellow light plays on a rock ceiling.  The dreams never had light before.  Diedra opens her other eye.  The cage hangs in a stone room.  EXHALE-INHALE.  She lowers her head a fraction.  The cage door is open.  She puts a foot through the opening.  The clucking laugh sounds again.  EXHALE-INHALE.
    “Did you enjoy your little vacation, Diedra?  You don’t look very relaxed.  Were the other guests a little rough for your taste?”  Hilda stands outside the open cage door, tapping her riding crop on her open hand.  A guard stands behind Hilda, holding an large bucket.  Other hands reach in the cage and unfasten Diedra’s manacles and leg irons from the cage then drag her through the door.  Muscles scream in agony as the guards untangle her body from the confines of the cage.  The guards pull Diedra’s wrists behind her and she howls in pain.  They fasten her wrists behind her, the chains clicking together.  INHALE.  Diedra stands before Hilda.  Her lips quiver, her body shakes.  Tears roll down her cheeks.  She takes a step towards Hilda, stumbles and collapses to her knees on the rough rock floor.  She leans forward and nuzzles Hilda’s ankle, kisses her boot.  Great, wet sobs explode from her throat and she huddles on the floor at Hilda’s feet, bawling without shame.
    Hilda cracks the riding crop across Diedra’s back and buttocks, raising purple-red welts that ooze tiny drops of blood.  Diedra screams joyfully and sobs even harder.
    “I doubt you’ll be so glad to see me in an hour, Diedra.”  Hilda cackles a wicked laugh.  “Come along.”  Hilda jerks Diedra to her feet with the leash-chain attached to her collar, almost snapping Diedra’s neck.  Diedra scrambles to her feet and follows Hilda, still weeping.  The guards clang shut the cage door.  INHALE. 
    “Thank you, Goddess, oh thank you so much, you sick, twisted Bitch.”
  My pleasure, Diedra. Pause.  You did well.  Keep in touch.
    Hilda marches down the corridor, Diedra stumbling behind.  They climb back to the dungeon and the stone cells and the cold porridge and the chains and the wheels.  Back home.

  To follow Diedra back to the dungeons, read The Wheel  
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