The Rains in Sest
By Dorothy Hutchinson
Date: May 13, 2016
Ch. 88

Clare smile sheepishly. “I hope you don’t get mad, but I already got some from them. I knew we were going to need it, so I found their stash in the middle of the night last night and swiped some of it, enough for at least a couple weeks.”
“Good work, and bravely done. Not sure I’d have had the nerve to do it.”
Clare snorted. “You’re just saying that to make me feel better. You’re way braver than I am.”
Unfortunately, that was true. “So you think we should go now?”
“I don’t see what choice we have. We can’t let the king marry you off to some stranger. Who knows what his plans for us might be?” Clare started to get afraid again.
Karen had to get her moving. “Okay, let’s go. Get dressed and I’ll check the hallway.”
Karen got dressed and went to the door, cracking it open. Unsurprisingly, there were two men in king’s livery down the hallway. She grabbed the bags and took them to the window. She opened the window and poked her head out. The siding was smooth, and there was no one they could climb down it. And even if they tied the sheets together to make a rope, it was too far down to safely jump. She threw the bags out.
Clare gawked at her. “What are you doing?”
“There are guards in the hallway. We’ll tell them we’re going to the kitchen.”
“It’s probably closed.”
“Yes, but these guards aren’t locals, so they won’t know that. Don’t worry, we’ll get by them. If we get separated, try to get through the city gates before they close. If you can’t go out that way, go to the west side of the city, where the new wall is only half-built, and climb out. Once you’re out of the city, find a safe place to hide where you can see Tommy or me on the road.”
“Go out into the wilderness by myself? I can’t do that.”
“Sure you can. You won’t be alone for long. Just curl up and fall asleep until dawn, then watch and wait for Tommy or me to come along. Piece of cake. Are you ready?”
Clare bit her lip. “I guess so.”
Karen turned one of the chairs on its side and jumped on one of the legs, knocking it free from the chair. She grabbed the chair leg.
Clare shot her a puzzled look.
“A weapon. Okay, let’s go. Let me do the taking, and do whatever I say, okay?”
Clare nodded.
Karen put the chair leg up her dress, holding it in place with her right hand and taking Clare’s hand with her other hand. She led her into the hallway. The soldiers were between her and the stairway, so she had no choice but to head toward them. She smiled as she and Clare approached the guards.
The taller of the two guards stepped in front of them, blocking their way. “Sorry, miss, but we can’t let you pass. Curfew.”
“Sir, we’re not going outside. We’re just going to the kitchen. We’re starving.”
“The kitchen’s closed.”
“Sir, the last time I stayed here, the cook let me snack at midnight. I can’t fall asleep in strange places without a snack, and neither can my friend. The cook is probably in the kitchen, but if not, she’s in room six, if you want to verify what I’m saying.”
“Alright, we’ll take you there. It isn’t safe for you to be walking alone in the middle of the night.”
“Sir, you undoubtedly are here to guard someone on this floor, and my guess is that this person is far more important than two hungry girls. Unless we’re the people you’re guarding?”
“Of course not.” The tall soldier turned to the shorter one. “Stay here, and I’ll take them to the kitchen.”
The guard motioned them forward.
“After you, sir.”
He shook his head. “You know the way, apparently.”
Karen gritted her teeth. He wasn’t making this any easier. Her best chance was to disable him on the stairway, where he might hurt himself falling down the steps. She led the way down the first two flights of stairs. Halfway down the final flight, she pretended to hurt her left ankle. She let the chair leg slide down her leg, turning to the left to shield the chair leg from his sight. She grabbed her ankle with her left hand, grabbing the freed chair leg with her right. She let go of her ankle and swung the chair leg at his knee. He managed to partially block it, but it still struck his left calf. She swung again and hit him in the arm, but he managed to grab the chair leg. “Run, Clare!” she yelled.
Clare hesitated a second, then took off down the steps.
The guard yelled for help.
Karen rammed her shoulder into the guard’s abdomen, knocking him down, and then kicked him in the left thigh. He managed to grab her arm, but she kicked him again and then squirmed out of his grasp. The chair leg was now free, so she picked it up and tried to hit him again, but he fell back and it missed him. He grabbed her arm, but she kicked him again in the leg. He booted her leg, sending her tumbling down the stairs, but she managed to regain her footing before he could limp down the stairs. The other guard raced down the stairs behind him, and she knew she’d never escape him. She stood her ground, ready to swing, trying to buy Clare every second she could.
“I’ve got her,” the tall guard said, turning to the other guard.
“Looks more like she’s got you,” the shorter one said.
“Shut up and get the other one.”
The wounded guard went for Karen, while the other started trying to skirt her. She raised the chair leg at the wounded guard and started to swing, but then dove at the feet of the other guard. He fell over her, and she grabbed his leg, trying to twist it. He kicked her, and the tall guard grabbed her, but she clung to the shorter guard’s leg for dear life. But he managed to break free, and then ran toward the exit. Clare was nowhere in sight.
The taller guard pinned her to the floor. Karen gave up the fight. Even if she screamed for help, no one would dare oppose a king’s man.
Four other king’s men raced down the steps.
She wondered why the king would assign six guards to two girls, but then realized that the king must be staying in this inn, too. She probed for him, and he seemed close, probably in the inn.
The tall guard sent two of the newcomers after Clare, then handed Karen over to the other two. He hobbled off, probably to get his wounds tended to. She smiled. At least she’d gotten a little something back at the king. She felt the king drawing closer to her, quite close now.
Two white-skinned men came down the steps. The one on the left was short, with a red beard and hair, and he wore a red silk shirt with gold embroidery on the shoulders. The other man, a clean-shaven blonde, sported a purple robe and black silk pants. He was the man of her vision, and his eyes were every bit as intense as Clare had described.

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