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Dream a Bitter Style: 3. Blood
It was as if Fingon were trying to avoid Glorfindel. He carried the air of a person who knew he had done a great wrong but refused to acknowledge it. He acted too innocent and oblivious. In the morning he left early, before the Sindarin boys brought breakfast. He only returned, with the barest of nods to Glorfindel's silent presence, for his bath in the evening. And he bathed by himself, not bothering this time to ask for assistance.
Glorfindel lay alone and shivered in his tangle of blankets. A wind howled mournfully around the tower, creaking the shutters. The sound of it made him colder. His whole body ached and his mind still felt clouded and dull, too exhausted to think and too burdened to sleep. Every time he lay down his head, a single vile thought coursed through him. It came in flashes of memory with hazy edges: Fingon's bright eyes, naked skin reflecting orange firelight, a faraway pain. A vulgar, fleshy smell, the sickly sweet scent of tainted orange oil, still lingered on his body. He felt sticky with the oil and Fingon's sweat and spit. And he lay half-aware in a mess of dirty blankets, staring at the sooty fire, breathing the stale air.
By the time Fingon finally spoke to him, after bathing, he had not moved or eaten all day. "The water is still warm, if you like," were Fingon's first words.
All his life, Glorfindel had taken time to wash every day, at least his face and hands and feet; tradition required it. Today, he had gone so far without. His first thought was the automatic; go to the bath. But his second thought was a realisation that religion no longer mattered. In one night, he had shattered the barrier between acceptable and sinful that he had struggled for so long to maintain. What did it matter now, if he followed one small rule or another? He no longer deserved them. Rules and religions were for the pure. He rolled over to look at the wall. The stiffness in his legs made him cringe. It was a reminder of his weakness.
Fingon came to sit on the side of the bed. He rested a hand on Glorfindel's shoulder, and kept it firmly in place though Glorfindel pulled from the touch. "Are you still feeling unwell?"
Glorfindel did not answer.
"I can carry you," Fingon said softly. His concerned hand slid down to Glorfindel's waist.
Again, Glorfindel gave no answer. But Fingon's arm wormed beneath his shoulder, and the hand at his waist scooped under his knees, and Fingon lifted him blankets and all from the bed. He gave only a token struggle of discomfort as he was carried across the bedroom, through the bathing room, and let down so he was sitting on the edge of the tub. The smell of fresh orange oil lingered in the damp air. It made his empty stomach turn, suddenly nauseated by the memory. He doubled over, nearly falling, but Fingon knelt on the floor to hold him steady.
"Do you need me to stay with you?" Fingon asked. His voice was as concerned as the hands gripping Glorfindel's arms. Glorfindel refused to meet his gaze to see if that same concern showed in his eyes. "If you need me to help you into and out of the bath, I'll-"
Glorfindel quickly shook his head.
He shook it again.
"Are you certain? You look like..."
A single word to break a chain of silence could have the most power. He needed only say it once. Fingon sighed, a defeated sort of sound, and stood. He released Glorfindel's arms only at the last moment. "I'll be waiting in the other room if you need anything," he said, then left quickly.
Glorfindel let the blanket drop only once Fingon had closed the door behind him. He slid into the bath, letting the water cover him like armour. He grabbed the dish of slippery liquid soap, pine-scented, and rubbed it over his body. It masked the smell of orange oil, but did not destroy it. The perfume lingered. It was in the air and water and on his skin. Like a brand, he thought. Fingon's property was well established. And he hated the idea. He hated Fingon, but he hated himself more for allowing it. For being so easily won.
A rough-woven cloth hung over the edge of the tub, and he took it to his body, scrubbing harshly at his neck, his chest, his legs: any place that Fingon had touched, any place that Fingon had kissed, any place that Fingon had even seen, any place that had been marred by his love. He scratched his skin until it was red and burning in the hot water, yet the cleansing did little to remove Fingon's presence. Disgusted, he threw the cloth to the floor and dropped his head into his hands. This fouling could not be undone by water. It was pointless to try. It could not be undone at all. At least, not by himself.
Lifting his head, he turned to look west. "My Lord Manwë," he whispered, "If I am dear to You, and You will one day forgive me my sins, I beg You send me a sign."
For a minute he sat as still as he could, hardly daring to breathe, watching for the faintest flicker of divinity. Nothing came.
He inhaled and exhaled, slowly and shakily. "My Lord Manwë. If I have offended You and exiled myself from the grace of Your blessing, I beg You send me a sign."
As he spoke the final word, a scream of wind blasted against the tower and caused the shutters to crash open and shut. He spun around to look, feeling suddenly cold, and let out a scream of terror. A ghostly white bird flew in like lightning and struck the window. The weight of its body cracked the glass. The shutters clapped shut behind it again, hitting the window frame with such force that the broken pane shook loose and smashed to the floor. Then as quickly as it had come, the gust died down.
When Fingon came to see what had happened, Glorfindel was shaking. "I heard you shout," he said. "What happened?"
"The window," Glorfindel whispered. He raised a trembling hand to point. "A bird..."
Fingon crossed to the window, bending down to examine the shards. A white feather stuck there with a smudge of blood. "Looks like a poor bird hit the glass." He picked up the feather and carried it back for Glorfindel to see. "Must have been drawn by the light. It happens, sometimes."
Glorfindel pressed his hands against his eyes, refusing to look at the feather. A sudden gust of wind and a dead bird. What else could it be, if not a sign from Manwë? A wavering sob welled up from his chest before he could think to quell it.
"Oh, love, it was only a bird," Fingon said gently, stroking Glorfindel's wet hair. "It gave you a fright, but there's nothing to worry about now. Come on, I'll carry you back to bed. And I'll fasten all the shutters to make sure it can't happen again."
Another sob escaped as Fingon helped Glorfindel from the bath. Glorfindel clung to his neck, arms clenched tight and still shaking. "I want to stay in my own room tonight," he said. His voice faltered and his teeth chattered.
Fingon gave a concerned frown. "Why?"
"I just..." It was impossible to find the words to describe to Fingon what he wanted, and why. "I just want to be alone. For a while."
"You're still shaking," Fingon said. He kissed Glorfindel's ear and tightened his embrace. "It makes me worry about you. You should stay here tonight where I can-"
"No," Glorfindel interrupted. "I want to be alone."
Fingon sighed his defeated sigh again, and dropped his arms. "If you wish..." He retreated to the bedroom and sat on the edge of his bed. Glorfindel followed, gathering his discarded clothing as he went. "Make sure you call someone to light the fire for you," Fingon said. "It is freezing tonight."
Glorfindel nodded but said nothing as he pulled on his clothes, piece by piece.
"I'll come see you in the morning," said Fingon. "Make sure you're alright." His voice had an odd, hollow ring to it that made Glorfindel hesitate, but only for a moment, as he caught Fingon's gaze on his way out. The usually unreadable expression held so much blatant unhappiness that it caused a chill to run down his spine. He turned away quickly and shut the door.
It was Glorfindel who came to see Fingon in the morning. He had hardly slept at all.
All night, his thoughts had wound around a progression of themes. First, was he truly cursed by Manwë? Was Manwë so unforgiving? Yes, he had finally decided. Holy men always spoke of the Vengeance of the Lord of Arda. Followers were meant to fear and obey the Valar absolutely. There was no room for error, not even the error of one shadowy night. His thoughtless actions had cursed him.
Second, now that he was cursed by Manwë, what would he do? That answer came easily. Manwë had turned His back, so Glorfindel would return the favour. There was little sense in keeping up with a religion in which one was no longer welcome. Why should he pray to Manwë and praise His name only to get nothing in return? Why should he continue following strict orders for no purpose? Now that he and Manwë were at odds, there was no reason for any of it.
The third theme was most important. It spread through him like a golden revelation, clearing his mind and lifting the burden of worry. He could not pretend that he had not been battered and scarred as he was thrown from Manwë's favour. For a few hours as he lay in the cold and dark of his bedroom he had tried vainly to cling to the few splinters of hope he could muster. It had not been easy to give up his soul so completely. But once it was done, and the last ties severed, he began to feel a new sense of belonging. And he realised, with great interest, that the place inside him vacated by fleeing spirituality no longer felt so empty. It had been replaced by a new desire. A desire for freedom. A desire for things that had before been frowned-upon or forbidden, but that he could now have. A desire for power.
He had been so amazed by this new way of thinking that he slid out of bed, though it was scarcely sunrise, dressed, and went to find Oropher. The beginnings of an understanding were forming in the back of his mind. He had questions to ask. The burn of excitement drove his movements, and the stiffness in his body scarcely mattered any more. He went quietly but quickly down the corridor to knock at Oropher's door. After three tries there was still no answer. Oropher was likely in the King's room. In that case, Glorfindel would have no choice but to sit upstairs and wait. But luck was with him when he came to the fifth floor; Oropher was sitting by the door to Fingolfin's room, asleep, with his head drooping awkwardly against the doorframe. His breath showed white in the frigid air, and helped tiny ice crystals to grow on his eyelashes.
Glorfindel knelt down and gave him a gentle shake. With a start, Oropher woke. He rubbed the ice out of his eyes, mumbling, "What are you doing... it's not time to get up, is it? Why are you dressed already? It's not morning. Where were you yesterday?"
Glorfindel ignored the questions. "Why are you sleeping out here?" he asked.
"King told me to leave," said Oropher. With a yawn and a shiver, he pulled his cape tighter around himself. "And I figured I'd stay here, since he'd get angry if I wasn't around when he woke up. Bugger, it's cold..."
"Why did he tell you to leave?"
Oropher yawned again. "I don't know. He usually does. Gets me to do something, gives me some candy, tells me to leave. At least half the time. I spend a lot of nights out here. It's not too bad when you get used to it."
"You do what he says and he gives you candy."
"Mm." Oropher nodded. "Do what he says, get candy. Don't do what he says, get a whipping. Pretty easy choice, I reckon."
"So it's like an agreement," said Glorfindel. The understanding grew clearer in his mind. "Do what he wants, get what you want."
Oropher rolled his eyes. "You've been here how long and you just figured that out now?"
"I was more worried about other things until now."
"Other things don't matter any more."
"I know that now," Glorfindel said. It was so clear.
Oropher shifted positions, tucking his legs under him. "You just do what you can to get what you can. That's most important." Closing his eyes, he leaned back against the door frame. "Me, I'm working toward one day being a soldier..." His last words were slurred by an errant yawn.
It was hard for Glorfindel to see how sharing Fingolfin's bed could possibly lead to one day becoming a soldier. But then, he had only just discovered the system. Oropher had been studying it for a year and a half. He likely knew better his opportunities and limitations, what he needed to do and how far he could go. Those were things Glorfindel would need to discover. He considered asking Oropher, but stopped when he realised that Oropher's rules would be of no use to him. Those rules applied to Fingolfin. Glorfindel, dealing with Fingon, was in a completely different situation.
He smiled down at Oropher, now half asleep. "I will find you later," he said.
As carefully as he had come, Glorfindel slipped back down the corridor to stop by Fingon's bedroom. For the first time standing before that door, he could hear his heart pounding loudly and feel his skin tingle in brilliant anticipation. For the first time, he felt a desire for what was about to happen within. It had already started. He had not seen it at the time, but the previous night had marked a turn of fortunes. Fingon had changed. He was softer now, and less severe: less iron, more bendable. This new Fingon had accepted Glorfindel's "no" without complaint. He was losing power. The thought made the corners of Glorfindel's mouth twitch in a sly grin. Power Fingon lost, Glorfindel would gain.
So, with the knowledge high in his mind that he was about to write an entirely new set of rules for a system in a state of turmoil, he opened the door and stepped inside. For the first time, he felt like the prince. Fingon could be his servant. He needed only seize the opportunity.
Fingon was still asleep, and the fire was not yet lit. Glorfindel crossed the cold room, still dark as night, undressing down to his breeches as he went. He brushed the curtains aside with his hands, and with a deep breath to calm his racing heart, climbed onto the bed.
Fingon awoke immediately. His shadowy form sat up in the dark, and he gasped. "Laurefindil."
"Mm," said Glorfindel. He slid under the covers at Fingon's side, comfortably warmed by body heat in the stillness of sleep. He let his knee brush against Fingon's bare leg. Tolerate it, he told himself. It's all for the best. Work toward the goal. And what was the goal? He was not entirely sure yet. For the time being, he needed only to shift the balance of power in his favour. Once that was accomplished, he could decide how best to serve himself. He touched Fingon's arm with a sweet smile.
Without hesitation, Fingon fell upon him, pulling him into a kiss of furious desperation. Glorfindel allowed it. He returned the kiss as best he could manage. He arched his back obligingly when Fingon's arms slipped under him.
"I was so worried about you last night," Fingon murmured against Glorfindel's cheek. His breath came in hot, uneven bursts.
"I'm fine now."
"Good... Good." He moved to kiss Glorfindel's ear, and the skin below. "You feel better?"
"Yes." Glorfindel forced himself to lift a hand to Fingon's back in a tentative caress. It was like a game. He had to play along. If he did the right thing, and made the right moves, he stood a chance of winning. So he would go as far as he dared. He would accept Fingon's touches and kisses, and only say no when it came to the critical moment. By then Fingon would be satisfied and let him be. That was how the game worked.
Fingon kissed his neck and shoulder, feathering tongue and teeth across his skin. "I missed you last night," he said.
"But you're here now..." He shifted back and propped himself up on one elbow, letting his free hand stroke Glorfindel's cheek.
"Mmm," Glorfindel replied as wandering fingers passed over his lips.
"Why did you leave me?"
Though the words were accusing, Fingon's voice remained soft and sad. "I don't know," said Glorfindel. "I had to think over some things."
Fingon laughed. "It must have been a long night."
"Yes, it was a very long night..." He leaned down for another, gentler kiss. "How cold it is, I know, to spend the hours alone, with only one's bleak thoughts for comfort and company."
Glorfindel, choosing to ignore the pointed hint, said only, "Hm."
Fingon kissed him again. A slow, indulgent kiss, hardly breathing, as he pulled Glorfindel closer until their bare bodies met, skin to skin. His hands hooked in the waistband of Glorfindel's breeches, the only barrier between them. His head turned, and his lips brushed Glorfindel's cheek. "Will you let me..." he began in a soft voice. Then he paused, wavering on uncertainty, before quickly adding, "I want you. Now. I mean... Will you let me, now?"
The critical moment had come too soon. Immediately, Glorfindel tensed. "I..." He could feel Fingon tense as well, though more of a flinch at the cut of rejection.
"No?" Fingon asked. He pulled back, though only far enough to be able to look Glorfindel in the eye.
"I didn't say no," Glorfindel said quickly.
"You didn't say yes," said Fingon. "That's as good as any no."
Glorfindel smiled coyly, hoping the gesture would at least buy him enough time to think of a new strategy. "I thought I wasn't allowed to say no."
Sighing, Fingon pulled further away and propped himself up on his elbow again. "Can't always say no," he muttered.
Glorfindel kept his victorious smirk to himself. Before, he had been unable to say no at all. Now he had won the right. He appreciated Fingon's new rules more with every passing minute. "Maybe..." he started.
"Why not today?" Fingon held his breath.
"I don't know. Just not today."
Fingon tilted his head, as if to indicate he was about to make a grand observation. "How is tomorrow so different from today? Only a short time passes before one becomes the other. It's no use putting something off for no good reason." His hand began to wander up Glorfindel's arm in a slow caress.
"I have a reason," said Glorfindel, brushing Fingon's hand aside.
"What is that?" Fingon asked.
"Um. I just think... maybe today... it isn't very... isn't..."
Fingon placed a soft kiss at the base of his ear. "Maybe I can change your mind." While his lips traced the contour of Glorfindel's throat, his hand slipped quietly between their bodies.
"But it's morning. Nearly breakfast time, isn't it?"
"Not yet," said Fingon. "Not for an hour, at least." He moved his hand boldly lower to press between Glorfindel's legs.
Glorfindel jerked back. "No!"
"No, what?" Fingon asked sharply. His hand stayed in place, gripping the inside of Glorfindel's thigh. "I think I am tired of you saying no so much. No to what now?"
Glorfindel squirmed until he was free of Fingon's grasp, kneeling up on the corner of the bed with his hands clenched defensively at his waist. "No, I will not agree to this," he said, "and no, I will not let you do these things, and no, you cannot change my mind!"
"Laurefindil, you are overreacting..." He reached out far enough only to touch Glorfindel's knee.
Glorfindel's confidence had abandoned him. He no longer felt like the prince, but again like the small and insignificant servant boy without a hope. It had been stupid to ever think he had any measure of control. It had been a sore mistake to consider challenging Fingon, who had a strong record of always turning things to his advantage. Every thought that had come to him over the night, and every realisation, was turning very wrong. And suddenly, acutely, he missed the blind comfort of his dedication to Manwë. It had been tossed aside too quickly. His situation was worse for it. He had nothing, now. And if his clumsy manipulation failed to save him, he would have to fight.
Fingon sat upright and leaned forward. "What exactly is your problem?" he asked.
"I won't share your bed," Glorfindel said flatly. "I won't."
"A little late for such thoughts, isn't it? When a minute ago... What are you playing, here?"
Glorfindel narrowed his eyes. He knew he looked frightened. He needed to look defiant. "I don't care what you say or what you do. I will not."
"You're not making this any easier on yourself," said Fingon, and he let out a long breath.
"I don't care."
Turning his eyes down to the blankets, Fingon rubbed his forehead and exhaled again, hissing. "Come over here," he said quietly.
"No," said Glorfindel.
Fingon's wrath turned suddenly terrible. "I said come over here!" he shouted.
It was a voice that Glorfindel had not heard before. Since his arrival, Fingon had never shouted at him with such ferocity, and it shook him. His stomach twisted. But still he said, "No," in a fainter, more fearful voice.
"Your purpose is not to vex me, but to do as I say! Now come here!"
Fingon lunged forward, hands out for a rough purpose, but Glorfindel was quick to defend. His left arm he held up across himself, away from his body. The right shot out. His fist connected squarely with the side of Fingon's face.
For a second, both of them were too shocked to move. Fingon froze, poised to grab Glorfindel's shoulder. Then he fell back. He teetered onto his wrists, eyes wide and mouth gaping, and lay dumb a moment before his hand flew to his nose. A trickle of scarlet began to show, which soon became a steady flow. It dripped down over his lips, off his chin, and onto his chest in a bright puddle.
Slowly, Glorfindel pulled his hands back to his body, tucking them tight against his stomach. The knuckles on his right hand stung.
"You... struck me," Fingon said slowly. He did not move, but continued to blink at Glorfindel in shock.
"I'm sorry," Glorfindel whispered.
"You struck me!" Fingon repeated. His voice was louder. Though his mouth was half blocked by his hand, Glorfindel could see his mouth twist in rage. "By Varda, you little..."
He was not paralysed any more. Snarling and dripping blood from between his fingers, he jumped off the bed and crossed the room. He threw the door open violently to shout into the hall. "Alkarrossë! Alkarrossë, get over here!"
While Fingon shouted and waited by the door, Glorfindel remained sitting on the bed. His whole body shook. He struck the prince. He drew royal blood. The punishment would be severe. "I'm sorry," he said, loudly enough for Fingon to hear across the room, though is voice faltered. "My lord, forgive me, I did not intend..."
"Shut up," said Fingon. He spat blood at the floor. "Alkarrossë!"
Celeiros appeared after a cold and tense minute, rubbing his eyes in the blue light and pushing tangled hair away from his forehead. His look granted Fingon no favour. "What?"
"The Vanyarin boy refused my command." He spat again and shook out his bloody hand, spattering Celeiros' nightshirt with red.
"What happened to your nose?!" Celeiros asked.
"Not important," said Fingon. "The boy-"
"Did he strike you?!"
"I said it's not important!" Fingon shouted. "What is important is that he refused my command, and I want him punished for it."
Celeiros turned to regard Glorfindel with a sudden interest. All signs of sleepiness were gone from his face, replaced instead with a thin, cruel smile. "Punished how, my lord?"
"I don't care." Fingon sniffed and wiped his nose, smearing blood over his cheek. "Whatever you see fit. Twenty lashes, forty... This is your area."
"Yes," Celeiros murmured. "It is." His eyes glinted fiercely.
Glorfindel went without a struggle. He allowed himself, numb and shaking, to be dragged from the bed and pulled down corridors and stairways. His body registered neither the cold in the air nor the clawing grip on his arm. But he heard Celeiros' vicious words clearly.
"You know I've been waiting months for this... waiting for the beloved Vanya to slip... I thought it would have happened long ago. He's far too lenient with you. Treats you better than you're worth."
"I'm sorry..." Glorfindel mumbled.
"I suppose it took a blow to the nose for him to take a fair look at you. Well. Important or not, you will be punished for what you've done. I promise it."
He pulled Glorfindel through the main hall, empty save for a few huddled children sleeping around kitchen vents, and down a corridor Glorfindel had never used before. It led to a heavy wood door, beyond which was a dark stair lit by a feeble, dying torch. The feeling of dread hanging on this place made Glorfindel shiver in a way the freezing morning alone could not manage. "Where are we going?" he whispered.
Celeiros smiled coldly at him. "You will see."
The smell of damp and filth grew chokingly strong as they descended. Fearsome sounds echoed through the stones: the clink of metal, sobs and cries, desperate Sindarin voices howling and begging in the darkness. At the bottom of the stair, Glorfindel understood why. They were in a prison. Stone cells with iron bars lined a long, dirty corridor. Dim lamps hung burning and smoking from the ceiling. In the first cell they passed, a boy no older than Oropher lay sprawled on the stones while rats crawled over his bloody legs and sniffed at his wounds. Glorfindel froze and backed against the wall.
"Keep on," said Celeiros. He grabbed Glorfindel by the hair to pull him further forward.
For the first time, Glorfindel resisted. He pulled back against Celeiros' grip, heedless of the pain. "Please let me go," he choked. "Let me go, please, I'm sorry... I'll go back to Findekáno. I'll go back. Whatever he says... I'll do whatever he says. Please let me go. I swear. Whatever he says, I swear... Let me go..."
"You're somewhat too late."
"Let me speak to him!" Glorfindel pleaded. "Please, if you let me speak to him, he will forgive me, I know!"
"And that is exactly why I cannot let you speak to him," said Celeiros. "He will forgive you. He is too soft. You need to be punished."
He dragged Glorfindel further down the corridor, passing rows of cold and filthy cells. The prisoners within, all Sindar, cried out in fear and pain or else sat hopelessly still. Most were heavily chained. All wore signs of abuse: cuts, welts, and scabs of dried blood on skin and clothes. Glorfindel watched them as he passed, staring into each vile tableau, until Celeiros jerked him to an abrupt stop at the far end of the row. Then he leaned over, braced his hands on his knees, and vomited onto the dirty stone floor.
The two guards at their table laughed. Celeiros gave his hair a sharp tug to pull him upright again. "Our Prince Findekáno sends a prisoner," Celeiros said.
"Crime?" asked one of the guards.
Celeiros cleared his throat. "For the crime of refusing the Prince's rule," he stated officiously; "for the crime of raising a hand against our noble Prince; for the crime of causing royal blood to be spilt; for the crime of grievous injury to a royal person: as servantmaster and secretary to King Nolofinwë of Hisilómë, I do hereby recommend that Laurefindil of Valmar be kept no less than forty years in confinement."
"It will be done," said the guard, and he grabbed Glorfindel roughly by the shoulders.
"Forty years!" Glorfindel whispered hoarsely. His voice seemed to fail him. A few days, he had thought: five or six or, at the most, twelve. He could have tried to endure that.
Celeiros turned to him with sharp eyes and the a shadow of a mocking smile. "Forty years," he repeated harshly. "I am being very gracious on account of your young age. The normal sentence would be three times that."
It scarcely registered to Glorfindel through the fire of panic in his mind: the chilling click of iron around his ankles, the weight of cold metal dragging down on his skin, the frigid air of the unheated cell. He could struggle, but vainly. The guards were far stronger. Together, they could carry him, and keep him still as they took his arms and chained him to the wall with bolted shackles that hung above his shoulders. The bonds bit his wrists.
"Let me go..." he pleaded with them. His throat was tight, as if constricted by a chokehold. His tongue was too heavy. The words buzzed in his ears, muted and inadequate. "I beg you, please let me go. This isn't... this isn't what Findekáno wanted..."
"Shut up," snapped Celeiros. "I don't think it is your place to decide what the Prince does or does not want."
"This isn't what he wanted!" Glorfindel cried. "He wouldn't! You know he'll be angry when he learns what you've done!" His voice held too much fear. Even Glorfindel could hear how weak he sounded, and how frantic, to cling to the faint hope of Fingon's grace.
Celeiros smiled in reply. "Well then," he said. "If that be the case, we will simply have to keep him from knowing."
What Glorfindel recalled last, as Celeiros turned and left the squalid cell, was the guard's rough fist smashing against his cheek an instant before his head snapped back and cracked against the stone wall. The pain lasted only a second before he fell unconscious.
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