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“Your silence says a lot.” The Guardian pulled a chair closer. She winced at the scraping sound of the chair legs. “You don’t want that to happen again, right?”

“No.” Dres gulped, staring directly into her eyes. They told a story of a longing regret.

She heard the clangs of blades being sharpened, and so it began. Stripped from her own life and now forced to watch men take the only thing that she felt was truly hers. Three of them leaned forward, their hands holding large hunting knives, the sharp points digging into her flesh, along the pubic line, below her huge belly. She clenched her fists and screamed, her eyes rolling back, the pain unbearable. Their faces loomed over hers; they were cruel and heartless. That was to be expected. Just as they would be cruel and heartless to her child as he’d become another slave to the Kingdom. She knew she didn’t have long left to live, as the intense agony combined with blood loss from the open wounds would surely kill her. It was the helplessness that made her scream louder, knowing that she wouldn’t be there for her child just as her parents weren’t there for her. And no matter how lonely her child would become, she wanted him to know that he was loved.

She felt a bitter taste in the back of her throat and a strange light-headedness. The pain fading as she began to slip into unconsciousness. The connection to her newborn son, that she had felt for the past nine months heightened once his tiny body was removed from her womb—and she heard him wail with his first breath.

She shuddered, automatically reaching out her weak arms to hold him.

“Did that hurt?” The Guardian looked down at her, looking somewhat amused. “Pain is good—it means you’re still alive, for now.”

Her heart sank to her stomach as she heard a beautiful shriek resonate.

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