TO LIGHTEN THE mood, Evaine began singing a round, her clear, sweet voice echoing off the stone walls of their prison. Dafydd eagerly joined in, blending his boyish tenor with her melody. Counting out the beats until the next sequence, Ciaran overlaid a simple harmony. He exchanged glances with Evaine, his eyes signaling his gratitude for the diversion. Heartened, Robyn waited until the tune came around again and layered in a fourth harmony, adding a well-timed rattling of chains for emphasis. This elicited a chortle from the Bruce, roused from his nap. Evaine tittered, momentarily dropping her part as she bent over her patient. Noting the color returning to his cheeks, she smiled and picked up the refrain again when it came around.
Spirits slowly began to lift; stirred by a rising sense of defiance, the men’s voices grew rowdy, their verses more profane. They began a rhythmic clanking of manacles that punctuated each chorus, boisterously celebrating their capacity to raise hell despite the circumstances. Even the Bruce took part in the foolishness, happy to focus on something other than his wounds. The anarchy continued unabated for some minutes, each man urging the other on, fanning the flames of an irrepressible uproar.
From out of nowhere, three bellowing, powerfully built wardens barged into the dungeon, putting an immediate and violent end to the frivolity. One of the bullies clobbered Ciaran from behind, pinned his chest to a wall, then slammed his head against the stones with such force it temporarily knocked him cold. When he opened his eyes he saw Robyn doubled over spitting blood. The Bruce was on his knees, his expansive shape forming a shield between Evaine and another guard. From the corner of his eye, he glimpsed a third goon dragging Dafydd by the scruff of his neck into an adjacent cell.
He soon realized his nose was bleeding; the throbbing in his head dominated all other sensations. He only vaguely remembered being muscled into a separate vault, thrown to the ground and kicked several times for good measure before being left to vomit blood and finally to slip into stunned oblivion.