Maiden By Decree (Part 22)
Maiden by Decree
Maiden at Large
Or: What Do You Mean, Armed and Dangerous?
“That was work!” Deirdre grumbled as the group finally reached the top of the shaft they’d found deep within the dungeons. “Now I’m going to get big muscles and Garret isn’t going to want to marry me.”
“I thought you didn’t want that to happen.” Mina answered while adding. “Besides, exercise is good for you.”
“What? Getting muscles a guy would be proud of?” Deirdre snorted. “Not for me, thank you. I don’t think I’d look at all good with bulging muscles.”
“Let me get this straight.” Mina answered with a lift of her eyebrows. “Aren’t you the person who wasn’t going to willingly be a girl? And now you’re complaining about getting masculine muscles?”
“People change.” Deirdre shrugged. “If I could get rid of all ‘the people trying to kill me or throw me into dank, dark dungeons not to mention monsters trying to eat me’ stuff I could be good with things as they are.”
“Well, I can’t really argue with that.” Mina chuckled. “But you do seem to be more comfortable with your new self than you ever were before you got kidnapped.”
“I’ve had to reevaluate things.” The dark haired little hellion shrugged. I just had to face that I’ve had more fun as a girl than I ever thought of trying when I was a boy. Does that make me weird?”
“I don’t know.” Mina answered with a roll of her eyes. “I used to be an assassin, and a nasty one, now I’m happy being a sometimes ladies maid and full time bodyguard to a very difficult young lady who never lets my life get boring. You tell me which one of us is weird. Though counting all that has happened to you and your friends as fun is more than a little odd.”
“I have the feeling that my – umm – daughter will never have things other than ‘interesting’ going on around her, Mina.” Riddler interrupted that conversation with a chuckle. “She seems to attract ‘things of interest’ that tend to be more than a bit dangerous. I’ve only been reacquainted with her for a short while but that assessment appears to be right.”
“Oh, trust me.” Mina nodded with a wry smile. “It’s accurate.”
“All right, all right.” Deirdre grumbled then brightened. “You can all talk about what an unusual person I am later. The immediate question we should be considering is what do we do now?”
“As usual, the lady gets to the point at hand.” Mina shook her head and chuckled. “First, we get you out of here. Then cause whatever mayhem we can to distract Roric and his soldiers so you can make your escape good.”
“I see one problem with that plan.” Deirdre answered without the slightest trace of mischief in her expression. “If all of you stay behind, I’m not going. Besides, if I’m already outside the walls, that kind of ruins Garret’s rescue mission, doesn’t it?”
“It would also avert a minor civil war.” Mina pointed out.
“No.” Deirdre squared her shoulders and glared at the former assassin. “I get out, Garret takes me home, and Roric gets away with all this and will try again. He’ll interpret Garret’s withdrawal as weakness and that will just make him bolder. Not only would I not be safe, the entire kingdom would be at risk if that happened.”
“Gods, I prefer it when she is ranting or being so innocent she doesn’t understand the simple things.” Mina muttered. “It scares me when she actually makes sense. Bad things happen to people opposing her when she does that. Usually in spectacular fashion.”
“I’ve noticed that.” Riddler put in with a grin.
“Oh give me a break here.” Deirdre grumbled. “Like I can help it that things just kind of go waaay south when I’m involved. I don’t do it on purpose!”
“We know you don’t, dear.” Mina soothed. “But you do have to admit that ‘interesting’ things tend to happen whenever you’re involved.”
“Define ‘interesting’.” The fiery little beauty demanded.
Anthalas looked slowly around, took in the cramped little space they’d reached, and thought about what the delicate appearing little lady who had asked that had managed to do since he’d met her. And actually laughed. “Well, let’s start with you being thrown into a dungeon cell with an amoral criminal who just happens to be your father. Then we move right along to you enabling that one to pick the lock of your cell. After that, you managed to blunder into rescuing me. Should I also mention that you weren’t at all afraid of the Troll Hound, and even shouted ‘Bad Doggie’ when you were gleefully battering away at the monster.”
“It was just a spur of the moment thing.” Deirdre muttered.
“But now.” Anthalas went on. “We need to find a way out of here, for all of us. A way that won’t involve a lot of attention and people trying to stop us.”
“I can find that.” Mina grinned.
“But then Garret won’t have to ‘rescue’ me!” Deirdre countered.
“Oh trust me, dear.” Mina answered while holding in the laugh she wanted to let out. “Garret is angry enough that even if he finds you outside these walls, he won’t stop his attack.
“Ohhh.” Deirdre’s face took on the expression of a girl who was in love. “That’s sooo… romantic!”
“You and I need to talk about what romance really is.” Mina told her.
“Hey!” Deirdre interrupted the general plotting. “Bridget is down there, without a guard!”
“Oh, there are guards.” Riddler countered that with a shrug. “Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. The damned woman is important to Roric. Of course she has guards!”
“But I could sneak up on her, ‘Whang!’, half of our problem here is solved! She’s the brains of the outfit! Get rid of her and Roric would founder really fast!”
“Which would have ALL the castle guards actively hunting us.” Anthalas pointed out. “Instead of only half of them.”
Deirdre muttered about spoilsports, and too cautious people then shrugged. “You guys aren’t going to let me have any fun here, are you? But really! If I take that bitch out, I take out all the scheming and skullduggery Roric has been involved in recently. Then he’ll only be a bully who can be slapped down and will stay there. If Bridgette is around, he’ll be a constant danger to everyone.
Please, please! Let me bash her and get this over with.” She pleaded.
“No!” The others answered almost in unison.
“Can I throw a nice heavy rock at her?” The midnight haired hellion questioned almost plaintively.
The rest of them didn’t even bother to answer, just made very sure there were no rocks of even annoying size within her reach.
“Spoilsports.” Deirdre pouted. “I’m telling you my way would solve a whole LOT of problems really fast.”
“Not to mention that doing so would have the entire castle guard, all the soldiers, and even some of the merchants and peasants hunting us down.” Riddler put in almost laconically.
“You guys are no fun at all!” Deirdre sighed, but gave up on her plan to brain Bridgette.
Bridgette wandered through the courtyard, watching and listening carefully as she examined goods offered by the merchants occupying that area.
Paying attention to both accents and whether or not the merchant was really trying to make the best deal possible, she decided that the influx of traders was just a jump in the usual traffic. But still, she had an uneasy feeling.
“Search them all.” She ordered the guard commander as she walked past him. “Let them complain, but we need to be sure none of these merchants have more in stock than they show.”
“As you say, m’lady.” The commander bowed.
“Kill anyone you find with more than acceptable weapons for a merchant travelling a dangerous route.” She ordered. “Take the offender out of general view then do it. We don’t need a riot in the courtyard.
The Guard commander nodded, while wondering why he was obeying this trollop’s orders but sure that ignoring them would be a catastrophe for him and his officers. “I’ll see to it, m’lady.”
“Leslie Castle.” Sestalphas unnecessarily announced as he and Garret watched the fortress from the cover of the trees.
“Is she in there?” Garret questioned no one in particular as he scanned the ramparts with a telescope. “And if so, where?”
“Knowing your lady, my Lord.” Sestalphas answered quietly. “Probably where she can cause the most trouble in the least amount of time.
“Probably.” Garret chuckled in spite of his concerns for the young woman. “If she’s free, I can’t see my Deirdre NOT causing trouble of some kind for her putative captors.”
“As I said, my Lord.” The general nodded with a slight grin of his own. “I just can’t see your rather volatile lady putting up with being captive for any longer than it would take for her to slip the leash. Given her luck, I think that would have happened some time ago. Look how the guards and other soldiers are swarming behind the walls. Something has them stirred up.”
“Right.” Garret nodded with a slow grin spreading across his own face despite his worry, then he turned back to business. “What progress on the siege engines and how close are the cannon we brought.”
“The catapualts, and arbalests will be ready by dawn.” Sestalphas answered. “The cannon are even now moving into position. We’ll be ready by sunrise tomorrow, my lord.”
“Good.” Garret, still watching the walls of the fortress, answered. “Start the attack before sunrise. We should catch the night guard at their low point then.
Even if everything isn’t ready.” He finished at the look he got from the general. “And have the scaling ladders ready and at the foot of the walls when that happens. I want this to be as bloodless a possible, and as fast as can be done. This will be finished by tomorrow afternoon.”
“As you say, my Lord.” Sestalphas answered then gave orders that were passed along to the various units of the force waiting on a hopefully unprepared enemy.
“How did Roric get cannon?” Deirdre questioned no one in particular as she examined the wall defenses of Leslie Castle. “Those were supposed to have been limited to Chalmnessa and the navy.”
“The only constant about a state secret, or any secret.” Riddler answered. “Is that it isn’t quite the secret everyone thought it was. Unless the only people who know it other than one are dead.”
“Those guns will rip Garret’s forces apart unless we do something about them.” Deirdre ignored the homily and got to the point that needed to be looked at. “We need to do something about them.”
“Suggestions?” Riddler put in.
“Water the powder.” Deirdre answered, drawing on her knowledge from the sea voyage she had taken. “If it’s caked up, it won’t pour.”
“Are you saying that I should…” Riddler stopped when his daughter handed him a full water skin with a nasty grin. “Never mind, I’ll do what I can, sweetling.”
“Good.” The young woman gave him a sunny smile that slowly changed into a frown. “If I wasn’t your daughter, I’d hurt you for calling me that.”
“A father’s privilege, my dear.” The thief shrugged while watching all the movement on both the walls and the grounds of the courtyard. “I can do it, but I’ll need more water.”
“I can provide that.” Anthalas grinned. The mage flexed his fingers while watching the well at the center of the courtyard. “You won’t run out of water, believe me.”
Mina took a spike out of her pack, giving it and the cannon a speculative look. “Now if that doesn’t work, what would happen if the powder and shot had no exit in the front?”
“Like a blast spell, the force would have to go somewhere…” Anthalas answered then understanding dawned on the mage’s face. “The backfire would destroy the cannon!”
“That’s what I thought.” Mina grinned. “I can get to each of those cannon in all the confusion that’s going on around here now, and make sure they won’t fire.”
“And you people think I’m crazy.” Deirdre muttered.
“What do I do while you three are up to all this?” Deirdre questioned.
“Stay here, out of sight, and out of trouble!” Riddler answered, backed up by emphatic nods from the others.