Sitting alone in the dark made it easy to tell when someone was coming, bringing light. Footsteps carried well, too, so far from the usual prisoners who waited for judging in the underground prison. Kessa’d had plenty of time to wipe her face, smooth her plain skirt, and sit up straight on the rough wooden bench.

She’d never been pretty enough to play the helpless child – not with a half-barbarian’s black hair and coppery skin, and especially not with her eyes the way they were. Proper, stiff innocence, or dignified guilt, would have to serve.

She closed her eyes so she’d not be light-dazzled. There were soft words beyond the door, before it creaked open.