Chapter Three: The Rescue

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They do indeed eventually come to the cistern chamber below the main tower just as Benedict surmised. A lone nervous young man paces back and forth that Deirdre quickly and silently dispatches with a dagger before he even has a chance to take a breath.

Three other tunnels lead off from the area and there are a set of stairs to their left. The glow of a fat rat’s eyes shimmers in the tunnel to the right.

She gives Benedict a questioning look, waiting for orders.

"We find your queen" Benedict instructs. "No point in securing our exit till we are sure we can remove her."

“Actually, I was wondering if one of these might lead to the stables, but it would be silly to take a chance on getting lost down here if we can simply head directly to the stables. Occam’s razor and all that,” she muses more to herself than Benedict.

Benedict props the dead guard up in a corner so it will look like he is still on watch to a cursory glance. He then vanishes up the stairs like a shadow. He waits at the top for Deirdre to join him and then silently opens the main door, peering out into the courtyard. Seeing the coast is temporarily clear, he nods towards the stables and smithy and then starts to head in that direction.

Deirdre slips up the stairs and follows along behind Benedict. No active smoke comes from the smithy any longer, and the sun now only provides enough light to cast suspicious shadows everywhere allowing them to move across the courtyard with surprising ease. The sounds of people putting their day to bed are heard here and there.

The smithy is closer than the stable, and she can see the warm glow of the fire within. A man walks around the corner, and in the dim light she sees the glow of a cigarette tip. She can tell he is squinting in the darkness to try and make out who Benedict and Deirdre are.

Deirdre continues walking toward the stable without pause, a relaxed but entitled swing to her stride as she speaks in a conversational tone that carries just far enough to reach the watcher’s ears.

She says in an excellent Syracusian accent, “I want you to take a look at her legs before I agree to purchase her. I heard from a very reliable source that she’s got ringbone. I didn’t see anything, but I’d have you take a look if you don’t mind Brother.”

The man’s attention is drawn to Deirdre allowing Benedict free rein to do as he wishes.

One hand closes over the man's mouth from behind as a dagger slides into his kidney. Benedict holds him until he had finished dying and the lowers him to the floor.

Benedict nods and indicates for Dierdre to start looking around. As she does, he does the same. A few minutes later he catches her eye and signals for her to join him. He is standing in front of a door to what is probably a tack room. A new padlock has been fitted to door recently.

Deirdre sniffs and smelling leather and neats foot oil, she too draws the conclusion that they are indeed probably dealing with a tack room rather than another type of storage area. Saddles and bridles and the like will most likely line the walls then, forcing the men into the middle of the room in a clump. She pulls a pin from her hair and listens closely at the door. She hears a shuffling sound followed by a soft repetitious patter and the metallic sound of coins clinking against one another at odd intermittent intervals. She thinks the guards are probably sitting around playing cards most likely. A man complains about his wife not putting out. Another says he has no problem getting the man’s wife to put out, and laughter is heard coming from at least three different men.

Her fingers work quickly and nimbly and before the laughter dies down, the padlock has not only been picked, but opened and removed without the men hearing a thing thanks to their hearty guffaws.

She signals to Benedict that she heard at least three, but suspects there may be four men inside. She moves back a bit, allowing Benedict room to enter first, as he is the more skilled of the two of them.

Benedict watches impressed as Deirdre opens the lock. He nods in understanding of he signals. He stands and opens the door. quickly. Te silence with which opens indicates that is has been oiled recently.

Benedict is through the door in the same motion that opens it. Deirdre has time to see that her surmise was correct and there are four men in the room. Three seated at table in the centre playing cards and a fourth standing at bench at one side that has been laid out with foodstuffs. He is pouring ale from a pewter jug into a tankard, an empty chair at the table indicating he has just vacated his eat to wet his whistle. The room is still crowded with tack and screen has been erected in one corner, presumably to provide the queen with some privacy from her captors.

The standing guard is the first to notice the door open. He turns, obviously expecting to see one his compatriots walk in. As he sees Benedict, he drops the jug and tankard and reaches for the sword sheathed on his hip. Benedict is a blur of motion, crossing the room and slicing the man's throat before the jug and mug have hit the flagstones. He instinctively ducks under the spray of blood that erupts as the soldier starts to fall.

Benedict spins and thrusts his sword at the back of the soldier seated closest to him. The sword enters his back and emerges from his chest even as his two comrades begin to scramble to their feet.

The two men never make it to their feet. One collapses back into his chair clutching his chest where Deirdre's dagger lies buried deep within his heart. He slumps over and falls face first into a pile of coins on the table with a merry jingle. The other seizes rigidly for a moment, then sighs, suddenly still and vacant in Deirdre's arms as she catches him before he tumbles to the floor. She extracts the small knife she'd thrown from his eye, wipes it on his shirt to clean it, and slips it beneath her sleeve again for later use. The process is repeated without delay with the dagger and she steps behind the screen.

The Queen is there, wide eyed and terrified. Some of the fear leaves her eyes when she sees Deirdre but not much.

Deirdre helps the very pregnant Queen to her feet and whispers in her ear as she leads her out of the tack room, "Queen Lorelle, Prince Benedict and I have come to take you to Syracuse as promised. You must be very quiet and do exactly as you are told without hesitation."

The Queen nods her head in understanding and slowly makes her way through the tack room around the dead, her hands wrapped protectively around her expansive abdomen.

Deirdre looks at the Queen for a moment and frowns.

"We will need to hurry, Brother. The baby has dropped significantly since I was last with her. She may go into labor at any moment."