Screams echoed off the cell walls - captives' shrieks of madness, frustration, and impotent rage.
I'll be joining them soon, Carrow thought darkly. Nearly another week trapped here. How much longer could they continue?
She'd never minded jail before. Because there'd always been an end in sight. Now her guilt over what she'd done to Malkom ate at her. She hadn't heard anything about him, or from him, in days.
And something was coming down the pipeline. Her senses were on red alert. She couldn't rest, couldn't eat the mortals' gruel. The hum from the lights above - so slight for humans - was beginning to sound like a swarm of killer bees to Carrow.
Any plan she devised to escape depended on leaving the cell. Yet not one of them had been allowed outside of it.
Only two things broke up the monotony: finding out gossip from the inmates and watching the traffic in the ward. Again and again, Carrow's friends and allies were led away, only to return different.
She and Lanthe tried to shield Ruby from the sight, shoving her behind the metal screen, but the girl refused to mind Carrow, always peering out.
That child was going to need so much therapy.
Now Carrow and Lanthe were sitting in their customary spot against the wall. It was night - they thought - and a storm was building outside, a dull drum on the roof. Ruby sang and played imaginary hopscotch, while the other two Sorceri lay on their bottom bunk, facing each other, whispering and laughing.
Carrow glared over at them together, not buying the whole lovers-for-centuries thing. Being in a relationship that long took a lot of commitment, and she just didn't see either of those Sorceri taking the plunge.
Plus, Carrow would be insanely jealous if it were true. Her eyes watered. I could've had something like that with Malkom. Hundreds of years of loving each other...
"Carrow?" Lanthe said.
"Huh? Got something in my eye. So what's on the inmate grapevine today?"
Yesterday they'd heard in whispers that Chase and his superior were still butting heads about the overcrowding here. Chase pushed to have all the immortals destroyed, not studied, not weaponized. But so far, he hadn't gotten his way.
And there was talk that the Sorceri species was the next rotation to be examined.
Lanthe answered, "Evidently the Order is now infecting beings to make ghouls, hundreds of them. If those creatures escape ..."
"If they escape? Try when! Two things that can never be contained? Velociraptors and zombies."
Lanthe tilted her head at her. "It's enough to put one on edge, I suppose."
Carrow knew she was on the verge of losing it, especially since Malkom had gone "uiet.
At first, he'd been roaring constantly, even bellowing in English, his vocabulary improving hourly. He'd banged on the walls until the entire building had seemed to shake. He'd been sedated repeatedly, only to wake up more enraged.
Until one morning, he'd grown silent. It'd been even worse for Carrow when his bellows had died down.
Added to this, Ruby was now singing They Might Be Giants' "Particle Man." Over and over. Carrow had taught her to sing it on repeat to annoy others - not herself. She muttered to the ceiling, "Amanda, I never knew."
"Particle Man, Particle Man, doing the things a particle can."
Between gritted teeth, she said, "Ruby, stop singing."
She pouted, flouncing to the foot of the Sorceri's bunk. "You said we were going home!" She reminded Carrow of that constantly.
Emberine rose and tsked. "Carrow is mean, isn't she?"
Carrow no longer tried to keep Ruby separated from the Sorceri. Because of their being trapped in a ten-by-ten-foot cell together and all. The two were continually slinking around Ruby, gazing at her with interest, tilting their heads at the girl as if they couldn't "uite place something about her.
"You've been sharp with her," Lanthe murmured.
Carrow hissed back, "Don't you feel the tension?"
"You're the one who told me to be firmer with her."
"Particle Man, Particle Man - "
Carrow leapt to her feet. "Ruby, damn it! I said no."
Lanthe yanked her to the other side of the cell, muttering, "Gods, Carrow, why didn't you just snap, 'Mummy has a headache! Go fetch Mummy's scotch!'?"
Ember cried, "Hide the wire hangers!"
Ruby asked, "Why hide the wire hangers?"
Portia patted her head. "May you never find out."
"I told her not to sing, and she's still doing it" - Carrow leaned around Lanthe to glare at Ruby - "just to annoy me."
"Of course, that's it," Lanthe said. "Not because she's seven, with no toys or anything else to occupy her. Think about it - the high point of our day is when they drag by victims."
Earlier, it'd been Regin again. As the guards had hauled the Valkyrie past Carrow's cell, her normally radiant skin had been ghostly. Blood had streamed from her mouth.
"Carrow ... is that y-you?" She'd coughed, spattering crimson. "Can't s-see."
Carrow had leapt to the glass, motioning for Lanthe to cover Ruby's eyes. "I'm here!" she'd said, cringing at the V of staples that tracked from Regin's collarbone down toward her stomach. Vivisection.
"Kill him, witch!" Regin's voice had sounded crazed, her amber eyes darting blindly and spilling with tears. "Curse Chase. He ordered this." Never have I seen fearless Regin cry. "He is Aidan the Fierce. T-tell my sisters."
"Aidan, the berserker?" Carrow had heard Regin speak of him before.
"Aidan the Betrayer," she'd screamed as they dragged her away, "Aidan the Defiler!" To the guards, she'd shrieked, "You fools! You're following one of our kind! You take orders from one of us. ..."
Centuries ago, Aidan - one of Woden's berserker warriors - had fallen in love with Regin, one of Woden's beloved daughters. Aidan had been killed, but he'd continued to reincarnate, seeking Regin in different lifetimes.
Could Chase be Aidan? And why would Regin believe Carrow could escape before Regin ever could?
Now Carrow exhaled. "You're right, Lanthe. I am freaking out." She pinched the bridge of her nose and lowered her voice. "But I have a male in the same building who wants to gruesomely murder me!"
Lanthe scoffed. "Like I don't?"
"One day you'll have to tell me what went down with you and Thronos."
"What went down? How apropos," she said, her tone cryptic. Before Carrow could "uestion her, Lanthe said, "But that's a story for another time. We're predicting your gruesome murder now. And speak of the demon, they intend to bring him out."
"How can you tell?"
"Look, they have twice the number of guards as usual, and they're heading for the end of the ward. So it's either Slaine or Lothaire."
Let it be Lothaire.
Carrow snapped her fingers at Ruby. "Go behind the screen."
"Crow, I wanna see - "