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Escort Duty – Part 21

Simon and Hollo looked down at the capitol. Booda was a large city at the bottom of a large valley, with a river port, which drew in both barges and cartloads of goods on their way to the sea. The bluffs beyond the city were of white chalk, and several paths and narrow roads led up their sides.

Their horses stood in a clearing behind them, eating and resting after a hard night of travel. Their saddles lay to the side, and the men had given them all a good rub down with their saddle blankets before collapsing to gaze across the valley.

“Haven’t been here in a while,” Hollo said quietly, “They’ve cleaned the place up.”

“Where does the duke live?” Simon asked, “The princess won’t be far from there.”

“His father had three places around the city. See those towers?”

Simon nodded as he peered down. This far out, the figures of soldiers on the city wall or atop the towers were dark dots against the gray stone.

“Think you can fly down there and have a look?”

“We’ll have to get closer. I’m exhausted. Won’t be able to hold the spell together for long.”

“We’ll go in this afternoon and see what we can find out,” Simon said, “I need to find a way to figure out which tower the princess is in.”

~~~

Erika watched as the maids laid out an elegant gown and jewelry. The dress was of fine, saffron-dyed silk, and it was accompanied by a heavy gold chain and pins for the dress.

“My lord asks that you be ready to have dinner with him this evening, my lady,” the matron said as she smoothed the silk out on the dressing table.

“Tell your lord that I will not be eating with him tonight, or ever again.”

“My lady, there is no choice in the matter. You will either walk to the table, or be carried. I’ve seen it happen before.”

Erika closed her eyes and shook her head slowly, her breath coming out in a huff.

“All right, tell that toad I will be ready for dinner, but I do not wish to be disturbed until then,” Erika said, her lips curled back on her teeth in disgust.

“Yes, my lady,” the matron replied, bowing as she closed the door behind her.

Erika walked to the window and looked down. Far below, several soldiers stood in the stone courtyard. The gate to the compound, made from wood and iron, lay at its far end. The plaza in front of it held a communal well and several merchants’ stalls.

One of the guards saw her poke her head out of the window and raised his hand in greeting. Erika quickly pulled her head back into the room.

Not that way, she fumed, drumming her fingers on the sill, unless I learn to fly.

She crossed to the door, and was surprised to find it unlocked. She opened it an inch or so, and startled at the smiling face of a guard looking at her through the opening.

“You desire something, lady?” he asked.

“Uh, no, thank you,” she said, closing the door.

How am I going to get out of here?

~~~

Simon and Hollo watched as farmers and traders made their way through the city gate. The guards either leaned against the stone walls or stood to search some random cart. Simon pressed his lips together and blew his breath out through his nose.

“Not going to get through there too easily with a sword,” he said, putting his hand on Gnarlthing’s pommel.

“Have to sneak in,” Hollo said flatly, “And I can’t carry you over the walls.”

The men knelt in tall grass at the edge of the woods. The wheels of carts and wagons creaked on the nearby road as they passed. Most were piled high with produce from the spring crops, while some carried trade goods. One, brightly painted and festooned with banners, caught Simon’s eye.

Its driver sat next to a woman, whose silver hair blew freely in the breeze as she sang to the rhythm of the horses’ steps down the road.

“If thou be Robin Hood,” bold Arthur reply’d,

“As I think well thou art,

Then here’s my hand, my name’s Arthur a Bland,

We two will never depart.

 

“But tell me, O tell me, where is Little John?

Of him fain would I hear;

For we are alide by the mothers side,

And he is my kinsman near.”

 

Simon listened to her for a moment, then began to tap out the familiar tune on the ground in front of him. Hollo scrunched his face up in a questioning look. Simon’s face, on the other hand, broke out in a wide smile.

“Wait here,” he said as he rose and jogged to catch the wagon. “I’ve got an idea.”


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

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