“It was the right thing to do, Watchman.”
Shane turned away from the iron bars to raise his eyebrows at his companion, who was sprawled on one of the stained, narrow cots. “The right thing?”
“Killing that fellow.” The boy put his hands behind his head, every inch at ease—or at least pretending to be. “Harris, I mean.”
Shane turned back to the bars, angling himself so he could keep an eye on the boy as well. He didn’t trust him enough to put his back to him.
“Oh, my mistake,” his companion continued, stretching his voice into a mock-proper tone. “You’re innocent, of course. Well, whoever cut his throat, that was a favor to society, that was.”
“On that we agree.”
His companion fell silent. He was young yet—seventeen or eighteen, perhaps. Too young to comprehend the finality of what he was facing.
“Do you think they’ll sell me, Watchman?”
“No.” Shane leaned against the bars, taking an odd sort of comfort from the solidity of them, and savoring the coolness of the metal against his skin. “You clubbed a man to death and then robbed his corpse. Your judges will sentence you to the noose.”
“Huh. Well, I don’t reckon slavery would have been all that much better. Who knows? Maybe you and me will swing right next to each other.”
“They ain’t going to release you, just because you’re a lieutenant and all. Hell, I reckon they want to make an example of you.”
A surprising insight, considering the source. “Yes,” Shane agreed. “I reckon that’s true. But I won’t hang. I’ll face the dragon for my execution. You have the right to do the same.”
The boy sucked in his breath. “No thank you. Not me.”
“Your remains will go to him regardless.”
“That’s different. That ain’t the same as offering yourself up to his jaws.”
“No. But it’s more honorable than the noose. Besides, do you know how long it can take a man to die by hanging?”
“I don’t care. I saw Obsidian up close once.” The boy squinted up at the ceiling, as if conjuring the memory. “He was soaring over the city, and I was up on the roof and—and I swear he dove at me like a hawk who just spied a baby rabbit.”
He hesitated, but Shane kept silent.
“I caught a glimpse of his teeth and I—” The boy broke off to shiver. “I threw myself down, flat on my stomach. And after he passed me by, I dragged myself up to my knees and hurled my guts out.”
“Ah.” Shane shifted and stretched out his arms, brushing his fingers against each bar along the way. “Well, the dragon is known to have that effect.”
“Don’t eat before you see him. Don’t take any last meal. You’ll never hold it down.”
Shane let his arms fall back to his sides and then slowly turned back to the cots. The boy was staring at him now, wide-eyed and earnest. For the first time Shane felt a vague bond between them. “Thank you. That’s like to be sound advice.”