Eva’s dreams were filled with random images full of blood, fire and violence and after waking up she didn’t feel rested at all. The fact that her entire body was still sore, all muscles protesting against the tremendous amount of work they had to do to get up from bed. Taking a few steps across the room felt like a heroic achievement. She was halfway through a bowl of a truly disgusting oatmeal someone had thoughtfully prepared for her when someone knocked at the door.
“Come in,” she was hoping to see Garret, but apparently this new day was not going to go easy on her. It was Sikaro, her other assistant, one she disliked simply because he never seemed to shut up for more than two minutes.
“Inquisitor Gallard,” he entered and bowed his head. “I was hoping you would be awake. I have urgent messages from Superior Jennal.”
Eva closed her eyes for a moment, considering the option to just go to bed and sleep till the next day, since today already seemed like it was going to be hell. “Where is Garret?”
“Well he is still in the city, helping out in the House of Questions. Oh right, you probably haven’t heard yet, there had been huge riots in the entire city for most of the night and House of Questions was attacked, many acolytes and clerks were killed, even one inquisitor is dead, and one seriously harmed. The Vanguard and the city watch restored order and arrested many people, most of the Royal inquisition had been recalled to deal with the prisoners. I mean, you should have seen the horrible mess there, everything broken and destroyed, bodies everywhere, how do those people even dare to lay hands on…”
She stopped listening to his blabbering, trying to figure out what the hell was happening. A few days ago, everything seemed just in order, and now there are riots in the streets, assassins and traitors amongst the people close to the king, members of the Inquisition, city watch and Vanguard being attacked and killed. Could this even be a random coincidence or is this all incited by the rebellious group? She really needed to talk to the Tyler woman and also to Fenros again.
“But that is not what I came here to tell you,” Sikaro barely had time to breathe in between his fast-paced sentences. “There have been certain problems inside the castle during the night and…,” he hesitated, knowing very well what happens to the messengers carrying bad news, “I am afraid that the prisoners and princess Eleanor have escaped.”
“WHAT?!” she yelled out and then just stared at him in disbelief as he told her about everything that has happened during the night. She wanted to scold him for not waking her up earlier, but then again, what good would that do? She could hardly take up a sword and prevent Fenros from escaping, or (ha-ha, so funny idea) jump on a horse and chase them through the woods. “So, they had help?”
“Yes, and it seemed well prepared and organized. One person took out the guards in the dungeons and helped them out through a system of tunnels no one knew about. And when Fenros came to rescue the princess, a considerable number of the Vanguard members stood on their side, staying behind to cover their escape. Several of them were captured alive. There was also a mysterious extremely skilled archer who killed or injured many of the guards as he helped Fenros and Eleanor escape over backyard wall.”
Eva just shook her head. “The Vanguard? Is there no one left loyal in the entire fucking kingdom?” She frowned upon the mention of a skilled archer, there was only one person that always jumped into her mind when those words were spoken, but that were just her personal feelings for the man, there was no reason to assume it was him. Or could it be? The Woodsmen, as mysterious and secretive they were, have always been loyal to the kingdom and it seemed unlikely they would have a sudden change of heart. Plus, the ‘exceptional’ archery could have just been an excuse used by the guards to cover up their incompetence.
The bodies had been taken away, but blood splatters on the grass still marked positions. “Where were they shooting from?” she asked the sergeant that was accompanying her. They were followed by a group of guards who had survived the previous night and now tried their best not to look frightened, no doubt thinking about the punishment they will be given for their failures. Sikaro wandered around, hands in his pockets, seemingly uninterested, but Eva knew that he is noticing every detail of the scene. At least his mouth was shut for now, a small blessing, but you have to take what you are given.
“From up there,” one of the guards pointed to the tip of the wall. “But there was only one, my lady.”
Eva frowned. Only one archer did this in such a short time? She had to correct her previous thought, this truly was a display of an exceptional archery. It didn’t prove anything, but who else than the Woodsmen would have such skills? “And then they just climbed that wall and disappeared?”
“We think they had a rope prepared and used it to climb up,” sergeant answered quietly, sensing her growing anger.
“You don’t know that,” one of the guards opposed.
Second one quickly joined in. “Yea, I didn’t see any rope either.”
“That’s coz you were hiding behind that haystack, desperate to save your ass,” sergeant tried to put an end to the debate quickly, but Eva had already had enough.
“So,” she turned to the first guard, “it is your expert opinion that there was no rope used? I think we will have to make an experiment to confirm that. As I recall, miss Tyler had an arrow wound on her shoulder, right?” There was a look of confusion on man’s face. She didn’t give him any time to react as she pressed a hidden button on her cane. A long sharp blade slid out from the bottom and Eva quickly stabbed the man’s shoulder, watching the confusion turn into disbelief and pain. The others stayed quiet and motionless, smart enough not to draw any attention to themselves. “And also,” she turned to the other guard who spoke before, “sir Allaway had badly broken wrist.” She nodded at Sikaro, who leaped towards the guard, grabbing his hand and twisting it until a series of cracks could be heard. The man screamed in pain and looked around in horror, realizing no one is going to help him.
The sergeant’s lips were sealed so tight they were almost invisible, but he mustered up some courage and moved towards her. “My lady,” he started in a quiet calm voice, “these men…” The look in her eyes made him stop mid-sentence.
“These poor excuses for men you have here,” she hissed and pointed to the rest of the guards, who now looked like they would be happier if the land opened and swallowed them, “let the traitors escape, some of them didn’t even try to stop them. This incompetence will not be tolerated and certainly will not go unpunished, do you understand me?” The field was quiet now, even the injured men have stopped screaming and just sobbed quietly, hoping she would forget they existed. But Eva wasn’t done with them just yet. “I believe we still have the mystery of the rope to solve,” she turned back to them. “So, now that we have established similar conditions, we can begin the experiment. You two have three minutes to get over that wall. If you fail to do so, I think it is safe to assume that the prisoners had a rope. Sergeant, if either of them is still on this side of the wall when the time is up, kill them.”
The men stared at her in horror for a moment, searching for signs of a joke or mercy in her eyes, but not finding any. Desperate, they ran towards the wall and started a series of attempts to scale it.
Sikaro watched them, clearly amused. “Does it really matter if they had a rope or not?” he whispered into her ear.
Eva frowned. “Of course, it doesn’t. But these idiots need to learn that there is a price to pay for incompetence and even higher one for stupid attempts to cover it.”
The men had no chance of getting over the wall, even when they started cooperating, the injuries simply didn’t allow them to pull themselves on the top of the wall. Panting and sobbing they stood on the ground, having nowhere to escape, as the sergeant moved closer to them, reluctantly pulling out his sword. He looked back at her, hoping she might have changed her mind, that maybe this was enough of a lesson for those two, but she just nodded. The men started begging, dropping down to their knees, but their pleads were interrupted by gargled sounds as the blood burst from their cut throats.
“The rest of these men should be punished as well, sergeant. I will leave the means of the punishment to your consideration, but next time one of these dimwits fucks something up, you will be held personally responsible,” she said loud enough for everyone to hear and turned away, walking slowly back towards the dungeons, heavily leaning against her cane.
“Now we have some more traitors to question.”