"Please don't forget me," Ion whispers, to the darkness, once the other is gone.
I know the new king holds no stake in me, but I have been consecrated to Eusebeia. I have sacrificed at your altar, and I have striven to live by your tenets.
I have never missed a sacrifice until now, locked in a cell, and I can only pray that my mother makes them for me. Please do not be angered; I would make them, if I could.
I have done what was right. My lord Brimedius has my loyalty, I've sworn it to him, and could I break that for a gentle young man with a right to the crown? Should I?
Of course I should have. But how could I have known?
I knew he was good; I knew he was a good man, but what would have happened to my mother if I had switched allegiance? To my father, or to my brothers?
No. I did what was right.
Please, goddess. Forgive me; don't abandon me here.
It's dark in the cell, and cold, colder now as it drops into late autumn. Ion thinks of the fields in Brimedius, of the harvest and the toil. He was never directly involved in the harvest, but he spent many days, before Sounis came, keeping track of the taxes of the countryside in order to pass on as much as they could to the king. He remembers the careful hiding of the people’s money in the ledgers, the altered numbers to preserve enough to keep Brimedius running, to protect the land and the people against starvation.
Was that disloyalty, also? Did the king deserve the money that gave them the energy to stand?
He thinks the words of the prayers to Occator to himself, of good harvest and good health for the workers, but he doesn't dare to speak them. He does not know what will offend Eusebeia in this time.
Good lady, please, good kind Eusebeia, call upon your husband, Nomos, voice of the Law, to speak words of explanation to Sounis. Let him know that I am innocent.
Am I innocent? If I am, let me free! Have I offended the gods with my actions? Have I done you wrong?
If I have, forgive me. I will sacrifice everything to you; I will give you whatever you wish. Is this the price you ask of me? To live in darkness, where I can neither follow your commands nor dedicate to you what is yours?
If I am not innocent, I am surely not guilty. My heart never tended toward deceit. If I had betrayed my lord to support the man who would be my king, where would that place me? What if he had not won? What would you have thought of me, then?
I should not question. I should not have questioned you, please do not - please do not count it against me, honest Eusebeia.
Please. Have your gracious daughter speak to the king, to his officials. Let her inform his judgment, that it be fair. Let him see that I would not betray my king to any against him, just as I would not betray my lord to my king.
My actions do not lie against me, do they? They do not cast me in an untrue light? They give clear note to who I am.
Yes. They give note that I am a loyal idiot.
That is better than some things, isn't it? It is better than many things.
Please. I will be an idiot, if I can be a free one.
Not long after Ion falls quiet, his hands running along the surface of the cell, a guard brings his dinner. With it is a blanket, moth-eaten with a frayed and rough weave, and he is surprised enough that his hand only tentatively reaches towards it.
"If you're warm enough," says the guard, voice wry, "then feel free not to take it."
"Oh –" Ion's hand grasps the blanket on its fold, and he accepts it from the guard with the bowl of pottage and piece of bread. "No, that is – thank you."
The guard nods, professional but no more or less so than any of the other guards, and leaves for the night.
Ion sets his blanket down in the front way as he eases into the back of the cell to eat his pottage and bread. He does not want to risk dropping anything onto it.
Maybe he shouldn't treasure something like this blanket, with its holes so wide he can slip his fingers through them. But there is more fabric than there is holes, and it smells cleaner than his clothing, and once he's finished his pottage (but saved his bread for later), he curls his hands into it and rests his face against it and cries.
And then he starts to pray.
To she who is kind, and gracious, and gentle, thank you for this gift; thank you, thank you, I did not deserve it and I cannot repay it. You have kept me when there has been no benefit in keeping me, and you have protected me here in the jail cell.
Please, if only you find me a way out, I will repay all your kindnesses thrice over; I will follow the king you and your god-brethren have chosen if it kills me, I will bring kindnesses to those in jail cells as you have brought such kindnesses to me.
He wraps himself in the blanket, awkwardly; it is a little too short to cover all of him but as he curls into the front of the cell he can make it cover most of him.
It is still far too cold to sleep at night, but it is almost warm enough to think of things other than the pain in his muscles from the cramping space and the cold.
It is warm enough to think about things like hope because the blanket is the closest thing to a sign that he has received, that maybe he hasn't been forgotten.
Thank you for remembering me.