Friday, September 23, 2016
*hands 21 Birthday cupcakes*
Hope you have a shiny day filled with a ton of books, cake and ice cream, and more books! :D
(Sorry it's a bit shorter than the other ones)
"Get it off me!" She yelled, wiping at her face.
"Sally, calm down." Bram said, grabbing her arms and turning her away from her reflection. "Breathe, okay?"
She took a deep, quivering breath.
"Good," He said. "We'll figure it out, okay?"
She nodded, but her eyes betrayed her fear. "What's happening to me?"
He shook his head. "I don't know," He admitted. "Look, it's gone."
She looked at her reflection again and to find her pale, wide-eyed face staring back at her, sans the symbols. She sighed in relief.
"But what was it? What caused it?" She asked her blue-eyed reflection. Behind her, Bram shrugged.
"I'll figure it out, I promise, but for now I think you should go home," He said, releasing her arms. "Try and get some rest. I promise I will contact you in a few days, alright?"
She nodded, too shaken to argue, and tried to calm her shaking hands. "How do I get back?"
"The same way you got here," He said. "Picture it in your mind and then will yourself there."
"Okay," She closed her eyes, picturing her bedroom, imagined how everything felt, what it smelled like.
When she opened her eyes, she was back in her room. She sighed and collapsed on her bed, studying her arms, but there was no sign that only a few minutes prior they were covered in swirling black symbols.
What did those symbols mean? She almost laughed. What did any of this mean? Why was she able to summon creatures, or travel to places she shouldn't be able to?
What was happening to her?
After Sally disappeared, Bram began picking up the remnants of what had once been a semi-organized table.
He looked around for the book she had picked up, finally finding it where it had landed several feet away.
He frowned as he studied it: there were no symbols on it now.
* * * *
"It has begun," The cloaked man said, raising his hands above the fiery brazier. "We won't have to wait much longer, my lord."
The dark figure behind the brazier chuckled. "Good."
* * * *
Sally dreamt strange dreams that night.
Some filled only with walking shadows, reaching out to her. Others were just voices, some screaming in pain, others shouting in what sounded like warnings, with one voice more distinct than the rest, that of a deep voice laughing.
She woke up in a cold sweat, her breathing ragged.
She ran a hand through her hair and looked at her clock. 3:05 am.
Groaning, she got out of bed and walked downstairs to get herself a glass of water.
She got a glass from the cabinet and turned on the faucet, allowing her eyes to close as she waited for the glass to fill.
When she opened them again, she screamed and dropped the glass, which shattered in the sink.
Her mother came racing down the stairs.
"What is it?" She said, carrying Sally's dads' old baseball bat.
Sally wordlessly pointed at the sink, and her mother gasped: what was coming out of the faucet wasn't water. It was ink.
* * * *
He raced down the halls, the now empty book cradled in the crook of his arm, trying to find a librarian to tell him what the book had been.
He had found it lying on the desk and had just picked it up when Sally had arrived, and he couldn't remember what he had been reading.
Finally, he found one, an old man called Slim.
"Slim!" Bram called, making the old man pause, allowing Bram to catch up. "I... need... your... help." He gasped, trying to catch his breath.
"With what?" Slim asked, his voice surprisingly silky for his age.
Bram wordlessly handed him the book while he continued to try and get his breath back.
Slim's eyes widened. "Where did you get this?" He demanded.
Bram shook his head. "It was on the table when I got there."
Slim shook his head, a worried light seeping into his eyes.
"Follow me," He said, leading Bram deeper into the Library.
* * * *
Sally sat at the kitchen island, eating her breakfast, and trying to shake off the bad mood she had been in all morning.
She had snapped at her brother (not all that unusual, actually), but she had become unnerved when she snapped at her mother, something she rarely, if ever, does.
It had been over laundry, of all things.
Her mother had asked her to do the laundry this week (the chores were on a rotation, some weeks Harry would do the laundry [not often, because he always messed it up], and then Sally would cook, and their mother would do the dishes, and other times, Harry would do the dishes, Sally would do the laundry, and their mother would cook, etc. etc.) as she had just taken on a new client to represent, and they had just gotten some new regulations (basically, she was pretty swamped), and Sally had snapped at her about it, leaving both parties in shock before Sally stormed off.
Her mother walked in then, followed by Harry.
"Mornin'," Harry said.
"Good morning, sweetheart." Her mother replied. Sally clenched her spoon tightly, they were being too obvious about trying not to set her off, which was about to set her off.
Instead of blowing her top (again), she stood and walked towards the living room.
"Sally, could you put your bowl in the sink please?" Her mother asked before Sally stepped over the threshold.
Sally just kept walking.
* * * *
Bram followed the librarian through the seemingly endless stacks of books. Some books were stacked neatly on their shelves, while others were piled carelessly on the floor, or on tables and chairs. Some stacks were as tall as Bram, some taller.
Bram hurried to catch up with Slim, who had gotten ahead of him whilst he'd been gawking at the books.
Slim led him to a small door, disguised as a wall. He pushed on a stone and it squeaked open on ancient and barely used hinges. The room beyond was definitely not barely used.
There were lit candelabras every two feet, showering the circular room in light, illuminating the many, upon many more bookshelves, which were infinitely more cared for than most of the ones they'd passed.
Directly across from the door was a large wooden desk, with some books stacked on it, and papers scattered everywhere.
There was a man seated at the desk, his head bowed over a stack of papers. He looked up at them when they walked in.
Slim bowed his head slightly. "Sir, we may have a situation."
"What is it?" The man said, his voice deep and baritone, shoving away the stack of papers, clearly glad of a distraction.
Slim held up the book. "This was found in the middle of the library."
The mans eyebrows shot up. "It was what?" He seemed to notice Bram for the first time. "Who are you?"
"Bram, sir." He said, receiving only a grunt in reply.
"Bram here is the one who discovered the book," Slim explained. "Apparently he found it among some other books that he had gathered."
The man now looked at Bram suspiciously, obviously thinking that Bram had somehow stolen the book.
"No, I didn't steal it." He said, meeting the mans unblinking stare with one of his own. "So you can lose the suspicious look."
The man chuckled. "I like him." Slim cleared his throat, bringing the mans attention back to the matter at hand. "Right, which book is it?"
"We're not sure, sir, its blank."
"How can a book go blank?" Bram asked. He thought it would be a stupid question for any ordinary occasion, but this was a magical library, and these were trained professionals, who were taught the mysterious of the library as soon as they passed the tests that it required, so he felt confident that he wouldn't be laughed out of the library.
"Haven't the faintest." The man behind the desk said, disappointing him. So much for the 'librarians are all knowing' saying. "Shall we find out what book it was?"
"How are you going to do that?"
"The usual way: checking the Catalogs."
"Yes, the Catalogs." He answered as he stood and walked over to one of the bookshelves, followed by Slim and Bram, lagging behind, becoming even more uncomfortable with the situation. Why were they getting so excited about catalogs?
The man waved his hand in front of a large tome that had a strange rune on it that began glowing with a subtle blue light that gradually became brighter, until there was a swirling, blue portal where the bookshelf had once been.
"What is that?" He asked.
"The Catalogs." The man said, and stepped inside.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Deanna mumbled a 'thank you' to the boy, who was no older than fifteen, as he took Krennan's reigns from her.
Normally she would object and insist she take care of him herself, but seeing as how she could barely keep her eyes open, she couldn't be bothered.
The guard led them up to the kings tent, where Cayle was almost tackled by Cadman, who had seen them approaching from a nearby tent.
"I'm glad you're alive!" He said, a grin breaking out in his face. "Where's the girl?"
Cayle glanced at the guard, who had been watching, and the man ducked his head into the tent and announced the three of them, then stepped aside so they could enter.
The king was seated on a wooden chair at the head of a long table, that would ordinarily seat his advisors and generals, but which is now empty of all but the advisor.
The king stood as they entered, an anxious look on his face that made guilt twist in Deanna's gut that they had been unsuccessful.
His face fell as he saw that none of them were his daughter.
"I'm sorry," She said.
The advisor coughed at her lack of formality and she glared at him. This was not the time for formalities.
"We know where they are taking her, so we will be able to rescue her here." Cayle said, then added, after a glance at the advisor, who was scowling in disapproval. "Your Majesty."
The king took a few deep breaths, clearly trying to calm himself before he spoke. "Your advice to me is to wait? Who knows how they are treating my daughter in the meantime."
Deanna opened her mouth to speak when a trumpet sounded outside and a man ran inside and hurriedly bowed to the king.
"Forgive my interruption, Your Majesty." He said, his breathing labored slightly. "But we have spotted a group of people approaching the castle."
"Yes?" The king prompted, attempting to keep his voice neutral, but his voice still shook slightly.
"We believe we have spotted Princess Marianna among them."
Thursday, March 17, 2016
"Good thing the forest doesn't end for a couple more miles, huh?" Cayle whispered, grinning at her.
Deanna rolled her eyes as they crawled forward to get a view of the road.
They stopped just inside the tree line, where there were a few bushes to hide them should whomever is on the horses look in their direction.
They didn't have to wait long until the horses crested the small hill.
There were 3 riders, each with their own packhorse tethered to their horses. They were silent as they continued passed Deanna and Cayle's hiding place, before splitting up.
One man took the road north, the other two took the road to the south.
Once the riders were gone from sight, they slipped out of their hiding place and back towards the horses.
"Did you see what I saw?" Deanna asked, a frown on her face as she removed a collapsible bucket from her saddlebag and filled it with water for Krennan to drink from.
Cayle nodded. "One of those men was bearing the royal crest, but he looked no more a royal guard than I do."
She sighed as she leaned against a tree.
"What do you suppose we should do?" Cayle asked as he filled his own collapsible bucket for Starfall.
"I don't know." She said. "If there is an imposter in the royal house, we should warn the king, but would he listen to us?"
"Why wouldn't he?"
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "Really? A farmer and a fugitive? We'd be locked up before we got within two feet of the throne room."
He opened his mouth to reply, then shut it again. He couldn't argue with that.
"Then what are we supposed to do? Just let an impostor, a possible assassin, roam the castle grounds?"
"No," She said, picking up the bucket and putting it away, while also retrieving an apple and feeding it to Krennan. "We head back to the Dukes castle and talk to the others, we still need to rescue Marianna."
He didn't reply, so she continued. "Once we've accomplished that, then we will try and think of something to do about the 'guard.'"
'He nodded agreement and they led the horses out of the small copse of trees and mounted, immediately breaking into a gallop.
They spent a restless night in the saddle, stopping only to water the horses, before they would set off again.
When the light of day was just cresting over the hills in the distance, the Dukes castle came into view, and with it the Kings pavillion.
"Finally." Cayle said with relief.
Deanna nodded agreement and they spurred the horses into a trot towards the kings' camp.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
* * *
"What should we do now?" Cayle asked, his blanket pulled up over his shoulders to ward off the chill of the night.
They had decided to camp in the clearing that night, and had deemed a fire too risky.
Deanna shrugged as she took a drink from her canteen. "We head back to the Dukes castle."
"Why?" He asked. "Shouldn't we try and pick up a trail?"
"Why?" She replied. "We already know where they're taking her."
"To be ransomed." Cayle said sullenly. "I don't like the idea of her being out there alone, with just her kidnappers for company."
"Neither do I," She said. "But there's nothing we can do; we don't know how much of a head start they have on us, and we'd probably just wander around the countryside in search of some clue, which they'd probably have covered up, costing us precious time."
He sighed. "I know."
"Besides, we need to head back to the Kings camp so that we can come up with a plan to rescue her."
"How are we going to do that?" He asked.
"I don't know," She said, laying down on the ground, wrapping her blanket around her. "That's why we need to head back first thing and make a plan. Goodnight."
"How is your ankle?" He asked, pausing. They had been leading the horses for a time to allow them to rest, and he had noticed that Deanna had started wincing with every step, which made him feel guilty, since had almost forgotten she had injured her ankle when they'd helped her escape from the Dukes castle.
"It's fine," She said. "Just twinges a bit."
"Well, we've been walking for a while now, I think it's time we switched to riding again." He said, preparing to mount his horse, who, since he didn't know the horses name, he had started calling Starfall.
"Wait," Deanna said, holding up her hand. "Do you hear that?"
"Horses." Cayle replied, putting his foot, which he had put in the stirrup in preparation of mounting, back on the ground. "Lots of horses."
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Her mood was almost as dark as the shadows that danced on the walls around her. Why had she been summoned? She hated talking to Herndon, he gave her the creeps, and she always felt as though he wasn't telling her the whole story.
Finally, the tunnel ended at a simple wooden door and she pushed it open and walked inside, quickly closing the door behind her so that the heat would not escape.
She set the lantern down on a table set up next to the door and walked over to the fireplace. She sighed in contentment.
This was much better than the cold, dank tunnels she had just spent an eternity walking down.
"Comfortable?" A voice asked, making her jump.
She spun around to face the speaker, seated in a corner of the room. "Why do you insist on doing that to me?" She asked, putting a hand over her heart.
The man stood and walked over to her. It was Cameron.
"Oh I'm sorry," He said, not sounding at all sorry. "Did I startle you?"
She opened her mouth to reply, when the door she had arrived through opened, letting in the chill of the tunnels, as well as two figures.
She stepped closer to the fire.
"Shut that thing, will you?" Cameron said, as one of the newcomers set his own lantern next to hers.
The newcomer, Harriet thought his name was Jared, cast an annoyed look at Cameron and closed the door, while the second, Jackson she believed his name was, looked around at the room.
He shed his cloak, revealing a clean military uniform, bearing the crest of the royal house of Huriendial: twin swords crossing over an Oak tree.
"Does anyone know why we were summoned?" Jared asked.
Harriet shook her head, as did Cameron.
"I suspect it is something to do with the Dukes plan." Cameron said.
"Why be so mysterious about it?" Harriet asked.
"You know that Herndon likes being mysterious." Cameron replied.
"Do I now?" A new voice said, and everyone jumped guiltily and turned to face Herndon, who was studying them all with a cool glare that set Harriet's teeth on edge.
She hated how he could make her feel so small so suddenly.
After an uncomfortable minute, Herndon's gaze relaxed a little from the icy glare he had been giving them, to his usual one of annoyance, as if he was surrounded by buzzing insects that wouldn't leave him alone.
"You are wondering why I summoned you." He said. "I have need of you."
"What do you need?" Jared asked after a moments hesitation. Apparently, Harriet wasn't the only one that Herndon made uncomfortable.
"You," He motioned towards Cameron and Jared. "Are to head to the Dukes estate and keep an eye on things."
They nodded as Herndon turned to Jackson. "How are things progressing?"
"The king is beginning to trust me," Jackson replied. "He has begun to take me into his confidences, but I have yet to learn of anything of great importance, but I am making progress."
Herndon nodded and finally turned to her. "And you, have you learned anything of use?"
She shook her head, trying to hide her unease. "No one has come asking about the Lady, but word has reached the village that she has been kidnapped, and that her father is camped outside of the Dukes castle."
"Rumors." She said.
She shrugged. "There are rumors that a ship has been sighted on the Westborn sea, and that the prince has been kidnapped. Some claim that the ship is filled with pirates who abducted the prince for ransom."
Herndon nodded thoughtfully and turned to Jackson.
"Any basis for this?" He asked.
Jackson shrugged. "The prince left for a minor excursion and never returned, some are claiming that he has been kidnapped by a rival king, others by pirates, as the girl says."
Harriet bristled at being called 'the girl'. After all, she was the one who had been trusted with kidnapping Marianna and keeping her hidden until it was time for her to be moved, but she said nothing.
She would let her actions speak for her.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
They'd been too late.
Marianna was gone.
She closed the door and put the padlock back on and made her way over to the stairs, blowing out her lantern and plunging the room into darkness.
She waited, listening for sounds of people above her. All was silent.
She slowly walked up the stairs and opened the trapdoor slightly, enough to see out of.
She could see Cayle still speaking with Harriet, now with a meal in front of him that looked as though it had already been eaten.
A waitress walked passed Harriet into the backroom and Deanna dropped the trapdoor, silently slipping back down the stairs and back into her hiding place.
The door opened and she held her breath as the waitresses descended.
She looked around, as confused look on her face and Deanna thought she had been spotted before her expression cleared and she walked over to a box that housed wine, rifled through it for a minute, before pulling out a bottle and returning upstairs.
Deanna released her breath and leaned back against the wall. That had been close.
* * *
Hurry up, Deanna. Cayle thought as he ate his meal, a concoction of ingredients that's origins he did not want to ponder, listening to a story Harriet was telling him, occasionally interjecting a witty comment, making her laugh. I can only be charming for so long.
He saw the trapdoor start to open and was just about to feel relieved when he caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye: one of the waitresses had walked passed him, heading for the cellar.
He caught his breath as the cellar door slammed shut just as the waitress got close. She didn't appear to have seen the movement, as she opened the door and descended in the cellars depths, emerging a short time later with a bottle of what appeared to be wine, closing the door behind her.
He breathed a silent sigh of relief that she didn't appear to have spotted Deanna when she was below, and turned his focus back to Harriet when he realized she had asked him a question.
"I'm sorry, what?" He asked, smiling.
She returned the smile. "I asked if you had a place to stay tonight. We have plenty of rooms available if you'd like to stay here."
"I'm sorry, but unfortunately, I am only passing through." He said, his smile turning to one of sadness.
Her smile faded. "Alright then, perhaps another time." She said.
"Perhaps." He said, still smiling at her.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of blonde hair beneath a hood walk passed him and a frown threatened to tug at his lips, and he knew that it was time to leave.
He straightened up. "I think I had better get going now,"
"Very well then." Harriet replied, also standing straighter. He left a few coins on the counter and turned to leave, but her voice stopped him. "It occurs to me that you have remained nameless throughout our exchange."
He turns to face her again and waited for her to continue.
"Might you leave me your name?" She asked.
"A little mystery is good for the soul." He replied, dipping his head in a small bow. "Thank you for the meal, milady."
She smiled at the title. "You're welcome, milord."
* * *
He met Deanna at the clearing where they had left their horses.
She was standing near her horse, Krennan, absently patting his neck while he ate an apple.
"Well?" He asked, nearing her.
She looked up at him as he approached, but didn't reply.
"What happened?" He prompted. "Where is Marianna?"
"She's gone." Deanna said simply, her tone distracted.
"Gone?" He repeated. "What kind of gone."
"Missing, vanished, moved." Deanna replied sharply. "She wasn't in the cellar."
"They moved her already?" He asked, frowning, and when she nodded, he continued. "Why do you think they did that?"
"I'm not sure." She said. "They could have just left for the meeting with the Duke, or they could have caught wind that we were coming."
"Harriet didn't seem as though she'd been alerted." He mused.
She looked at him with a strange look in her eyes. "Really? I wouldn't have thought you'd notice anything beyond all the flirting you two were doing."
He didn't say anything. Was that jealousy he heard in her tone?
"Besides," Deanna continued, walking to the center of the clearing. "She's a good liar."
Thursday, February 18, 2016
"It's complicated." Deanna replied in a terse voice that said that she did not want to discuss it. But Cayle was bored and feeling stubborn.
"I like complicated stories." He said.
"Too bad." She said, urging Krennan a little ahead of Cayle.
"Oh come on," He said, smiling. "You can't even give me a hint?"
"Nope." She threw back over her shoulder. "And if you were smart, you'd be focusing on how we're going to get Marianna."
He fell silent. She had a point, a very good point.
"Any idea where this Harriet might be keeping her?" He asked, urging his own horse forward.
"No," Deanna said with a frown. "I suspect a basement, as I didn't see a barn nearby."
"What do we do when we get there?" He asked. "Storm the place, swords twirling?"
"I was thinking a more subtle approach." She replied.
"Oh?" He prompted.
"Well, she hasn't met you yet, and if she saw me again she might get suspicious." She said. "I was thinking that if I could get passed her, I could investigate the backroom."
"So I'm the diversion?" He said.
"Pretty much." She said.
"Well, at least I have a purpose." He said.
* * *
When Cayle opened the door, he was hit by a variety of smells: ale, sweat, and smoke, both from pipes and the fireplace he could see as he walked towards the bar.
He stood at the bar, looking around the room, trying to surreptitiously spot Deanna, but there were several cloaked patrons, making spotting her difficult.
He saw someone seated in a corner, and thought he caught a flash of blonde hair when someone coughed at the bar, dragging his attention away from the crowd.
"Hello." A young woman said. She was pretty, with shoulder-length chestnut hair and sparkling gray eyes. She didn't look like a manipulative killer.
"Hi," He said, smiling his best smile.
"What can I get you?" She said, returning the smile.
"You're name, for starters." He said, his grin turning slightly impish.
She laughed. "My name is Harriet."
"A pretty name for a pretty girl." He said, earning himself another laugh.
"Well, aren't you smooth." She said.
"I'll have an ale, if you please."
"Coming right up." She said, turning to the massive shelves on her right, filled to the brim with alcohol.
Cayle sensed someone walk passed him, but dare not look, for fear that the slight movement of his head would draw Harriet's attention.
She turned back to him with a glass of ale. "Will there be anything else?"
"Depends," He said, sipping the ale. It was bitter and tasted like it's expiration date had come and went, but he didn't let his disgust show. "What do you recommend?"
She smiled. "Well, we have several specials available, would you like me to get you a menu?"
She turned to go to the backroom.
"No." He said sharply, making her turn back, a frown now creasing her face. "I would prefer if you could tell me."
"Why?" She asked, sounding suspicious now.
"Well, if I were to request a menu, then you would have to go and get it, depriving me of your presence." He said, smiling again. Internally, he was kicking himself for being so obvious, hoping that she would believe him.
She smiled in return again as she leaned on the bar. "Well, that's a bit unusual, but you're cute, so, just this once."
He only half-listened to what she listed, his thoughts distracted, hoping that Deanna would be able to find Marianna.
* * *
Deanna sat in the corner, her hood pulled up as far as it could go, watching as Cayle approached the bar and began speaking with Harriet.
She heard Harriet laugh at something Cayle had said. Flirting with Harriet, she corrected.
When Harriet turned to get him something to drink, she took her chance and quickly walked over to the bar, passing Cayle, and keeping a close eye on Harriet, lest she turn around and recognize her, even though she had her hood pulled up.
She made it into the backroom with no trouble, all the waitresses were on the floor, running orders and refilling drinks.
She looked around the small backroom, her eyes falling on a trapdoor.
She walked over and grabbed the handle, opening it as quietly as she could, casting anxious glances over her shoulder, hoping a waitress, or Harriet, didn't come back to get something or to investigate the noise.
The trapdoor revealed a short set of stairs, which she walked down, closing the door as she climbed down.
It was dark in the cellar and she felt around for something and found an oil lamp.
She felt in her pocket for her flint and lit the small wicker in the lamp, holding it in front of her as she took in her surroundings: she was in a food cellar.
She looked around, but there was no sign of Marianna.
She did a thorough inspection, but aside from some evidence of mice, there was no sign of the princess.
She was about to leave when she noticed a door that had been more or less camouflaged so as to go unnoticed.
She hurried over and noticed a padlock that had been purposely allowed to rust, so that it didn't reflect light anymore.
She pulled out her lock picking tools from her pocket, glad she had decided to bring them instead of leaving them in her saddlebag, and got to work.
She heard footsteps and froze.
She heard the cellar door open and she ducked down behind some wooden boxes, using her cloak to shield the light of the oil-lamp from view.
A waitress walked over to a water-tight box, taking a key out of her pocket, she unlocked it and pulled out something that looked like cheese, before quickly closing the lid and re-locking it, returning upstairs.
Deanna let out the breath she had been holding as the cellar went dark.
She walked back over to the door and set to work again. She was rewarded by a faint 'click' as the padlock unlocked.
She pulled the lock off and pushed the door open.
Inside was a small room, with a wooden pole set up in the middle.
She stared at the pole and started cursing.
The room was empty.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
"Deanna, wait!" Cayle shouted, chasing after her, grabbing her hand just before she could mount Krennan. "What's wrong?"
"I know this girl." She explained, retrieving her hand.
"No, Harriet." She said. "I stayed at that Inn."
She silently cursed herself as she mounted Krennan and took off at a run. Why couldn't she see what Harriet really was?
Cayle cursed then ran to one of the mounted guards. "I need to barrow your horse."
"What?" The guard asked.
"Sorry about this." Before the guard could react, Cayle reached up and yanked the guard from the horse, then climbed on. "Cadman!"
"Yeah?" Cadman asked, wondering where his friends' wits had gone.
"Hold down the fort here and watch Finn." Cayle yelled before he took off after Deanna.
"What am I? Two?" Finn asked.
"Don't sulk, Finn, it's unbecoming." Cadman said.
* * *
He managed to catch up to Deanna. "Wait up!" He yelled as she pulled ahead,
"Quit following me!" She yelled back. "I am sick of you following me!"
"I'm trying to help." He said.
"Don't!" She said. "I can do this on my own."
"Why can't you accept my help?" She pulled up short, and Cayle didn't notice immediately.
He turned the horse around and trotted back to where she was staring at him.
"Why on EARTH would I accept help from a guy sent to kill me?" She demanded. "Answer me that."
"I wasn't sent to kill you." He said.
"Just kidnap me?"
He started to speak, but stopped. She was right.
He was sent to abduct her.
"You're right." He said. "I was sent here to retrieve you, but you killed a man."
"Not this again." She said, rolling her eyes. "I didn't kill anyone!"
He looked at her.
"Oh come on, killing people trying to kill me doesn't count." She said. "That's self-defense."
"So you didn't kill Gregory Hamel?" He asked, skeptical.
"No, I didn't."
"Then who did?"
"Deanna?" Cayle said. "Do you know who killed him?"
She didn't answer for a long minute, before finally, she nodded.
"Then who?" He said, and when she didn't respond, he sighed irritably. "Deanna, if you know who did it, tell me, we can bring in the real culprit and the price on your head goes away."
"It's not that simple."
"Because the man who killed Hamel is too powerful for that to work." She said. "He would just find some way to get out of it, and then I would be found hanging."
"Who is this guy, Deanna?" Cayle asked. "Why are you scared of him?"
"I am not scared of him."
"Then why won't you tell me his name?" He countered.
"It wouldn't make any difference." She said, attempting to push Krennan forward, but Cayle blocked her path.
"Then tell me." He said. "Deanna, you have to trust me; I can help you."
She looked at him for a long moment, before sighing. "His name is Herndon."
Cayle stared at her in shock. "Herndon? As in the 'Advisor to the King' Herndon?"
Cayle whistled. "When you pick trouble, you don't mess around."
* * *
"You're doing well." The man said, making Harriet jump and almost drop the cup she had been cleaning.
She spun around to face him. "Don't do that to me!"
"I would have thought you'd have been made of tougher stuff." He said teasingly. "I've been sent to inspect the merchandise."
"I assure you the package is intact." She said.
"I have my orders." He said.
She shrugged and led him to the storeroom, unlocking the door and stepping aside.
"Wakey wakey, Princess." She said. "You have a visitor."
Marianna looked up from where she was bound and flinched at the sudden brightness of the still open storeroom door.
"Hello, Princess." The man said, crouching beside her and removing the gag from her mouth. "My name is Cameron."
"What do you want?" She asked.
"I am simply here to make sure you are relatively unharmed." He said. "I have to check for loss of limbs, organs, stuff like that."
He stood and walked behind her, making sure she had both arms and hands, and all ten fingers, then he made sure she still had her legs and feet, with all her toes.
Then he crouched in front of her again. "Have you been operated on at any point?"
She shook her head.
"Have you been well fed?" She shook her head again.
He glanced briefly at Harriet, who shrugged innocently; he turned back to Marianna and asked a few more questions about what had happened since she had been captured.
Aside from a minor beating to subdue her when she was captured and a bit of malnutrition, she seemed in fine health.
He stood and walked behind Marianna again and undid her bonds, he doubted the poor girl had been given time to let the blood flow back to her limbs.
"What are you doing?" Harriet demanded, stepping forward. "She'll try to
"I doubt it," Cameron said. "And even if she tried, judging by how she's rubbing her arms and legs, she wouldn't be able to get far anyway."
"Did you let her limbs breathe?" He asked, and when she didn't reply, he sighed. "You idiot." He raised his hand to halt her retort. "You have to undo her bonds every so often so that her limbs don't die."
She looked at him for a moment before responding. "I didn't want to risk her escaping."
"You'd better hope that she's a fast healer, otherwise you'll have to deal with the Duke and his temper."
He walked passed her to leave, but paused and turned back. "And feed the poor girl. She's no use to us dead."
Harriet didn't reply as she closed and locked the storeroom door.
He gave her a look.
"What?" She said. "I can't risk her running away whilst I am preparing her food, now can I?"
He leaned against one of the shelves of food to make sure she did
indeed feed the girl.
He watched as Harriet prepared a meal of ham, cheese, and bread and take it to the girl, along with some water to wash it down with.
"You expect her to eat in the dark?" He asked, looking pointedly at a candle.
She sighed, barely containing her irritation and opened the storeroom again, bringing the candle inside and lighting it before coming out and looking at him expectantly.
"Any more orders?"
"No, you can close the door now." And she did.
He waited until they were in the empty dining room before speaking
"You should retie her bonds once she's finished eating." He said.
"No? Really?" Harriet said sarcastically.
"Says the girl who didn't know you were supposed to loosen them every few hours." He countered.
He could see the denial in her eyes before she even began to speak.
"Don't give me that 'I did know' crap," He said. "What part of 'she is not to be harmed' did you not get?"
"She is not harmed!" Harriet snapped.
"Oh really? And what do you call not being fed and almost losing her arms because you didn't want to deal with it?" She glared at him. "You're a moron, Harriet, I just didn't realize how dumb you were."
"That's harsh." She said.
"No, it's not, that's being polite." He said. "You were clever enough to kill your father and get your mother to cover for you, but that was as far as your cleverness goes, apparently. If I hadn't come when I did, she would probably have lost all of her limbs, thanks to you, plus the malnutrition, both of which are harmful, by the way."
She rolled her eyes. "Fine, I got the message."
"Good," He said, picking up his pack from the table. "Because if she is harmed in any way, we'll both get skinned."
She paled visibly as he walked out the door.