"You've been robbed of a life, finding yourself here." Matas closed his eye and shrugged. "I've no such illusions."
"You've resigned yourself to die?" Partho asked, his brows wrinkling together. Matas scratched at his chin and did not answer. He kicked at a rat that wandered to close, sending it bouncing off the damp wall with an angry squeak.
"What have I left to do?" Matas finally spoke. He regarded Partho with a single eye. "I have left a trail of bastards who have no wish to call me father. There are no real sons, no wife or home for me to wish for any longer." The old thief sighed, his manacles clanking as he shifted himself.
"This life has come to the end it deserves."
"You'll smile when the hangman comes?" Partho hung his head, wishing his stomach would settle. He could not chase away the taste of bile on his tongue.
"It won't change much if I do." Matas answered. "He's saved a rope for my neck and there's nothing that will save me from it now."
"I've no wish to die." Partho clenched his stomach, clasping a hand over his mouth as he stifled the urge to vomit. He swore he could taste death among the rancid rushes and old bones.
"Then it shall be a bitter morn when it comes." Matas tossed a loose rock at a rat, cursing under his breath when it missed. He leaned back up against the cell wall and closed his eyes again. There was neither peace in it, nor rest to be found. "These old bones will sleep well enough with the worms and earth. I've friends in the lichyard to keep me company."
"So you have told me, Matas." Partho looked over to his companion. "Yet a man so resigned to his fate would find it easier to sleep." Matas snorted and said nothing. He sat slumped against the wall listening to the steady drip of water and the scurrying of vermin. Partho's fingers tapped out a song Matas had often sung. The old thief's lips murmured a verse, a perverse smile pulling back his lips.
"Think of it what you will." Matas lolled his head towards Partho, opening his eyes. "I do not think sleep comes easy to any man in this cell." He turned his head up to the window, the faint glow of the coming dawn steadily growing. Matas swallowed hard. "We've both ran out of time to speak of it, Partho."
"Oh Gods, not the dawn." Partho hunched over, his stomach clenching. "Not the dawn." He mumbled that phrase to himself until the compulsion to spill his stomach could not be denied any longer. Matas closed his eyes and turned away, a slight wince working at his lips with the lad's every wretched heave.
It was not much longer before the heavy tread of boot heels approached, the jailor's keys jangling against his sword belt. He gave them both a grim smile as he unlocked the cell door, as did the two mailed men-at-arms on either side of him.
"Right you two," the jailor sneered. The latch clanked open and the door groaned open. "Time to take a little walk to the square. His lordship's got a pair of nice holes dug out in the lichyard he's eager to fill." Matas looked languidly up with tired eyes. All Partho could do is heave one last time before they dragged them both off to the gallows.
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