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Escort Duty – Part 18

Erika sat on the windowsill, wrapped in a bed sheet, enjoying the cool evening breeze. She was clean for the first time in weeks, and while her dress was dirty, and to be honest, stunk, a night hanging out in the air would do it wonders.

Another bowl of stew and a good stiff drink will do me wonders, she thought as she listened for Greta to return. She heard the stairs creak, and turned to face the door. The sound of heavy boots on the landing brought her heart to her mouth. She froze for a moment as she heard a hand work the latch on the door, then she moved quickly to hide.

A black-clad soldier burst through the door, followed by his partner, who still gripped Greta by the arm. The room was empty except for the bed and small table in one corner.

“Where is she?” The first soldier roared, kicking the bed over.

Greta looked around anxiously, but no sign of her mistress was to be found. The soldier holding her wrenched her arm badly, spinning her around to face him.

“If you’ve lied to me, girl, it’ll go worse for you,” he growled.

“I swear, I don’t know!” she cried in fear and pain. Her shoulder screamed as the soldier twisted it. He bared his teeth, pulling the small woman’s face close to his.

“Where did she go?” he demanded, spittle flying from his lips he spoke.

The other soldier walked to the window, and looked down at the yard below. Seeing nothing, he looked to either side. A wide smile came to his face as he extended his arm through the window.

“My lady, please, take my hand,” he said with false gentleness, “It would be a shame for you to slip and fall so far.”

Erika, who held to the stone gutter by her fingers, glared at the man for a moment before she reached up and took the offered hand. The soldier gripped her wrist tightly, and lifted her back through the window.

Erika straightened and adjusted the bed sheet covering her body after the soldier set her down on the floor. She gave him her most petulant look, saying, “How dare you bother me in such a manner? And how dare you abuse my servant?”

The soldier bowed, saying “Princess, we expected to see you sooner. Duke Kyrali has sent orders to watch for you, and that you are to be brought to him so that he may show you hospitality worthy of your station.”

“You mean he means to hold me for ransom, or worse.”

“I am but his servant, my lady,” the soldier replied, “Now, if you’ll come with us, we’ll get you to the Duke tonight.”

Erika turned to walk through the door, but then lashed out with her foot, kicking the soldier in the knee. He bellowed in pain as his leg folded underneath him. Her bare feet pounded on the wooden floor as she rushed for the door.

The soldier holding Greta reached out with his free hand and snatched the princess by the hair as she ran past. Her head wrenched back, and she lost her footing, landing hard on the floor. Greta screeched as she clawed at the soldier’s face, leaving long, bloody marks on his cheek.

The soldier roared in pain, throwing Greta to the floor. Erika stood again, pulling out a few strands of hair as she shook herself loose. The other soldier regained his feet, lunging at her, and catching the edge of the sheet as she ran through the doorway. Erika screamed as she felt him hold her back, and she kicked at her attacker, trying to break loose.

Greta regained her feet and jumped on the soldier’s back, pounding at his head with her fists. The second soldier, one of his eyes blinded with blood dripping from his wounds, drew his dagger and drove it into the maid’s back.

Time seemed to stand still as Erika saw the blade plunge into Greta. The princess watched as her maid stopped her attack when the pain hit her. Greta opened her mouth as if to scream, but no sound came came from her, as she looked into her mistress’ eyes in shock.

The soldier pulled his dagger from the young woman’s back with a twist, and kicked her in the ribs. Greta fell into a heap on the floor, a pool of blood slowly spreading out from under her. The two soldiers grabbed Erika by the arms, pulling her kicking and screaming down the stairs.

“Greta!” she screamed, “Greta!”

Other episodes can be found here.  The entire anthology can be purchased at Amazon.

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