Issue #4 – From the Ash
I snuck into the kitchen staff’s entrance, still under the cover of night. No one paid much attention to an area where only the lowly staff wandered in and out. It was too easy, yet I said nothing as I had no intention of jinxing myself. Finding Ella was step one; getting out alive into the forest was step two.
The old wooden door creaked a bit when it closed behind me so I hurried up the stone stairs before anyone came to investigate. I know she was locked in the tower above the kitchens, so my objective was close. I jumped the steps two by two as my excitement at completing my mission was growing. I rounded the last step to see the door was cracked open.
I gave a soft knock before announcing my presence. “Ella, it’s me John, the stable boy. I’m here to rescue you.”
Oddly, no answer came. I cracked the door a bit more open only to see the room was deserted. Well of humans. In the corner eating scraps of cheese were a few mice. Bloody hell, this was a failure. “Where is she?” My frustration was evident.
The mice heard my voice and scurried over to me. I jumped out of the way as the rodents got close, but they went by me and started running down the tower stairs. When I didn’t follow, they stopped and looked up. Could it be these creatures were trying to help me?
With no other clues and nothing left to lose, I went down with them. We came down into the kitchens and crossed over into the furnace room. I heard a short, sharp hacking noise and I stopped immediately. The mice kept going, disappearing into a cloud of smoke.
Then I caught her voice. “What are you doing down here?” The voice was soft, angelic, full of compassion and caring. “You have food upstairs and this is no place for small ones like yourselves.”
The mice squeaked in answer. My Lord! She was communicating with animals. “You want me to follow you over here? But why?”
Soft movements came back towards me. The mice bolted by first followed by the petite figure that was my Lord’s daughter Ella. She came up short, looking at me as if I was a spirit. Very ironic. “Ella, it’s me John. I used to work the stables with Cruxley.”
Her soft blue eyes didn’t hide the recognition. “I thought you were killed when that witch took Cruxley from us.”
“No, I escaped with Comet into the woods. Come, you need to follow me to safety.”
I expected urgency, yet there was none. “There is no need to go into the forest. It would only be a matter of time before Tremaine tracked and killed us. No, you are much better off alone.”
Time was being wasted. “That is not true! The one who sent me to rescue you believes you’re the key to taking back what’s yours. You must come with me and meet him.”
Ash covered portions of her face, probably from tending to the fire powered furnace. “Why I have great thanks in my heart for someone’s belief in me, I simply do not believe it myself.”
I hadn’t wanted to tell her it was her father. I figured seeing would be believing yet desperate times called for the same measures. “My lady, the Lord of this castle himself sent me. He is waiting for us, tell give us more direction. Please, I beg of you to come.”
“The Lord of this castle – surely you don’t mean-” Then it dawned on her. “My father is alive?”
“He is with us, but no he’s not alive. His soul lives on in the woods though. That is why I came so quickly to fetch you.” I hoped she believed me.
She wiped some of the grime off her cheek. “I had weird dreams, yet this seems impossible. John, you are telling me the truth, right? You are not in league with Tremaine?”
Just her name sent cold stakes into my heart. I would never forget the face of Cruxley’s murderer. “I promise you my lady my allegiance lies with you and your father.” I even gave her a salute. “Consider me your soldier in the fight against that monster.”
She finally smiled, one I remembered from years prior. “Thank you John. Take me to my father so that I may learn what he has in store for us.”
Those were the words I was waiting to hear. Without delay, we snuck back out into the courtyard and over the wall. Ella was no dainty flower, she was truly her father in girl form. She was nearly faster than I in scaling the stone wall.
From there it was a game of hide and seek past the guards and safely back into the forest. The sun was beginning to come up over the horizon and Tremaine would soon learn that her most valuable prisoner was no longer there. Under the cover of night, the first act had been played out in the war against that witch.
*Join us next week as we continue with part 5 – Reunited
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