"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.