Maiden By Decree (Part 24)
Maiden by Decree
There is no rest for the wicked!
“I think we may want to move our attack time forward, my lord.” Sestalphas calmly told Garret.
“Why do that?” The Knight asked. “We already have things planned out.”
“Well, I think your lady is alive and well.” The other answered and pointed at the walls of Aruendal Castle. “Look for yourself.”
Garret did, to see the walls flaring with of all things, fireworks. “That has to be Deirdre all right, it’s just her style. Subtle is something she hasn’t quite gotten a handle on as of yet.” With a chuckle that also held relief, he gestured at the walls of the castle. “Sound the attack, my friend.”
Deirdre grinned at Riddler and gestured towards the courtyard. “Shall we go, father?”
Mina and Anthalas had already departed, moving towards the high walled stock pens the merchants had been confined in, and the thief shook his head, sighed, and nodded. “By all means, daughter, let’s do that. Why would we allow all this beautiful confusion to go to waste?”
Taking out the goblin claw instead of the more sedate mace she carried, the girl actually laughed. “Now I really know where I got my wild streak, Daddy, dear.”
“It was from your mother.” He muttered while working to keep up with her pace.
“What was that?” She questioned.
“Never mind.” Riddler told her. “I know where your ‘wild’ streak came from, too. Though it may surprise you. We’ll discuss that later if you don’t mind.”
“Bridgette is down here somewhere.” Deirdre continued her progress, stopping long enough to brain the unfortunate guard who thought to try and stop them. “I want that bitch. Without her Roric is nothing more than an annoyance to slap down once in awhile.”
“I have to agree with you, knowing both of them.” The thief nodded and winced as she used the goblin claw on another guard. “Could you go easy on them, dear? They don’t realize what fools they are being when they get in your way.”
“What?” She asked sweetly. “Would you rather I sidled up sexily, kissed them then put a knee in the family jewels? At least this way they will be able to sire children if they get lucky with some girl.”
She punctuated that with another whack that took an incautious guard down then gave her father a questioning look as if to say ‘what?’.
“I can see that you and I are going to need to discuss our different definitions of ‘easy’.” He sighed.
“Later, daddy dear.” She smirked then began surveying the courtyard with a predatory expression. “I need to end this. And I need to do it soon.”
“Well, at least I don’t have the problem of worrying about you and boys.” He muttered. “If anyone besides Garret tries anything with you, they may as well start wearing dresses or apply for positions in some harem.”
“Oh, I’m not that bad!” She demurred.
“Darling, the beloved part will be decided later, daughter.” Riddler shook his head in mixed unease and admiration. “You are what they call a ‘ball breaker’. I wouldn’t presume to intentionally make you angry with me, I can tell you that much even no longer than I’ve known you.”
“It’s okay, daddy.” She gave him a winsome smile, patted his shoulder and finished. “I wouldn’t hurt you.”
“You have no idea of how much better that makes me feel.” He answered quite seriously.
“Good.” She responded then moved further into the courtyard. “Now that we have that lovely father/daughter moment finished, let’s find that bitch.”
“If you can stun the guards, I can open the gate.” Mina told Anthalas. “If I have to fight my way to the locks it might take longer.”
“Far be it from me, to impede alacrity in our endeavors.” The mage sighed as he made a few gestures and said a few quiet words. The four guards at the gate obligingly fell over. Anthalas grinned, waved her forward, and finished. “Do your stuff.”
“What if they shake off the spell while I’m working here?”
“If they do.” Anthalas grinned as he picked up a club and began to watch the fallen guards. “If that happens, I’ll make sure they have a really bad headache when they do wake up.”
“A man after my own heart.” Mina chuckled as she started working on the locks. “You and I should get together after all this. We’d have fun.”
“I was doing fine up to now.” He told her with a straight face. “But now I’m worried.”
“Aww, it’ll be fun!” She promised while popping one lock open and moving to the next one.
“Define fun.” He answered then stopped as the last lock opened and Mina pushed the gates open with a whoop of pleasure meant for him. “Never mind.”
“Okay all of you!” Mina shouted at the merchants who ranged from confused to moving to take advantage of the open gates with determined expressions. “Weapons and armor are out here for the taking, what you don’t find here, we can locate. But we need to take the front gate and open it for all this to work!”
At least a cattle stampede didn’t leave the people it ran over mostly naked. But the mostly nude guards still lying there unconscious weren’t too badly trampled.
Taking in the confusion on the walls, and within the courtyard, along with the hostile troops rapidly advancing from the vantage of a balcony in keep, Bridgette ordered the members of her personal guard. “Get out there, get the unaffected men to the walls, and make sure that gods be damned fireworks merchant sets nothing else off inside these walls. Move!”
While her guards scrambled to obey, she continued watching as Roric managed to get the men on the wall facing the attack back into a least a semblance of order. The man was decent commander and warrior, she had to admit to herself, even if he was an easily manipulated fool in the bedroom. But things had reached a point where they were close to untenable unless something drastic happened to change things soon. She hoped the relatively unaffected reinforcements to the wall would manage at least some of that.
“Deirdre.” She almost growled. “This is your doing, all of it. If your dead body were to be thrown over the walls, or better yet your live, screaming one tied to outside of the main gates…”
Taking up a handy short sword, she waved her free hand in a gesture encompassing her remaining guards and the door leading out of the chamber. “I know that bitch is around in that confusion. We’re going to find her and put an end to this siege.”
Roric’s vision and hearing were starting to clear enough for him to be able to do more than shout out commands to minimize the confusion, but things were still more than a little blurred and disorganized. “Stay at the walls! Your sight will clear in a moment! Ware the scaling ladders now!”
Men whose sight and hearing wasn’t at all impaired began to reach the ramparts to both reinforce and relieve the still shocked troops that had been in position when the fireworks had impacted around them. Not caring at the moment who had ordered them there, he began directing them to the most advantageous positions he could find.
“They’re recovering from the fireworks display, m’lord.” Sestalphas observed as crossbow bolts, arrows, and a few stones began hitting among the attacking force.
“Yes.” Garret nodded as his troops began raising scaling ladders to the enemy parapets. “But the diversion allowed us to get next to the walls without interference. Let’s take advantage of that, shall we?”
“I believe we are, m’lord.” Sestalphas answered simply as the hooked ends of the scaling ladders gained purchase and troops began swarming up them.
“So we are.” Garret grinned nastily. “So we are.”
The semi-organized chaos of a fortress under siege aided Mina, Anthalas, and the freed ‘merchants’ in their progress to the gates.
“There it is.” Mina pointed towards the part of the gate tower that contained the mechanisms for raising the portcullis and opening the gates. The troops guarding our goal have their attention turned outwards. Carefully, now. Move up but wait for my signal to strike.”
“Murder holes.” One of the men pointed out as they viewed the man made tunnel between the outer gates and the courtyard.
“Leave that to us.” Anthalas patted Mina on the shoulder with a feral grin. “You lot concentrate on getting the gates open so Garret can get in. We’ll make sure he and his troops get here intact.”
“I’m liking you more and more, mage.” Mina grinned at him.
“Should I be worried about that?” He questioned.
“Oh yes.” The one-time assassin assured him. “People I really like tend to not live dull lives.”
“I noticed.” Anthalas answered with a sigh that wasn’t one of resignation. “Shall we go, my lady?”
“I am no lady, sir.” Mina chuckled as she started moving up the stairs leading to the chamber above the passage from outside.
“If Deirdre can be a lady, so can you.” He muttered then blushed when he noticed that she’d heard him in spite of the surrounding din of battle.
The smile she gave him in response nearly made him forget what they were supposed to be doing.
“She has to be out here somewhere!” Bridgette told herself while searching the confusion that was the central courtyard. “I’ll make sure that little bitch pays for all the grief she’s caused us.
Keep your eyes open.” She told the guardsmen with her. “You all know what to look for now. Miss her and you’ll regret it, I promise you.”
“I know that two faced, lying, conniving bitch is out here somewhere just waiting to get a taste of whatever hairpiece she’s wearing right now.” Deirdre muttered while giving the chaos in the courtyard a slow, careful look. “And this time I won’t be stopped from feeding her the whole thing.”
“Taste a hairpiece?” Riddler questioned, certain that his daughter had been up to far more than simply learning to be a lady in the time since she had been co-opted into helping Garret.
“I was feeding it to her once before.” Shaking her midnight hair away from her face with a minimal toss of her head, she shrugged. “Getting thrown into the fountain – twice – kind of interrupted that pleasant task.”
“A story I’m sure is well worth hearing.” The thief nodded while trying to get the imagined taste and feel of hair out of his own mouth without visibly shuddering. “But later, all right? “Concentrate on the task at hand. Finding her in this mess of bodies, carts, and livestock.”
“I am, daddy.” She shot back with an expression most daughters gave their fathers when asked if they were keeping up with the household chores or if they would get around to doing one of those. “Keep your own eyes open. Watch for a woman, mousy brown hair, decent body, and a nasty attitude. Oh, knowing her, she’ll probably be surrounded with guards of some kind.”
“Like that one?” He asked while pointing out a young woman accompanied by four soldiers not fifty paces away from where they were.”
“That’s her!” Deirdre crowed happily. “Let’s go get her!”
“A moment, dear.” Riddler literally pulled her back from charging right into the group he had spotted for her. “We’re outnumbered and those guards are much better armed than we are. I would suggest using a bit of stealth here. If you’re capable of that kind of thing at all.”
“I heard that!” She told him once he had muttered that last line.
“Just try and be a bit less obvious than you usually tend to be when we approach them is all I ask.”
“What?” The little hellion questioned with a hurt expression on her face. “Do you think I’m stupid? Shouting a challenge to her would have half the people in the castle on us in a heartbeat.”
“Oh, no, dear.” Riddler answered in a carefully placating tone of voice. “You just tend to be – somewhat more demonstrable than is appropriate at the moment.”
“You take care of the soldiers at the murder holes.” Mina told Anthalas, knowing he wouldn’t kill them out of hand. “I’ll handle the ones on the gate controls.”
“Just try not to kill too many of them.” The mage nodded with a crooked grin. “But you know what the lady charged us with so I’m sure you’ll use good judgment.”
“I’ll only kill them a little, I promise.” Mina winked.
“You have no idea about how much better that makes me feel.” He grinned back then picked half of the recently freed ‘merchants’ and told them. “Make sure she does that, will you? The rest of you, with me, we have things to do.”
Bridgette was furious. The fireworks merchant who had caused such trouble was nowhere to be found. Worse, that raven haired bitch she knew was the cause of it all still hadn’t been spotted. “How difficult can it be to find one merchant and a girl who a mere look at has men’s eyes popping out of their damned heads?!”
“Ummm, lady?” One of the soldiers with her asked quietly as he gestured carefully without pointing. “Would that be her?”
“Indeed it would be! Good man!” The putative lady of Lindsay answered almost gleefully. “Capture, don’t kill her! Holding her could well end this siege to our advantage yet.”
“Of course, m’lady.” The man answered, regretting that his ideas of a roll in the hay with the young woman in question had been dashed.
“Well, some of them are bleeding.” Mina admitted once she and her contingent had taken the side tower that held the controls for the gates. “But none of them are dead. Now get those gates open, people!”
No one answered because they were already doing just that.
Anthalas cast a sleep spell and was gratified to see that it worked on most of the men at the murder holes. The rest quickly fell to the men who were with him, and the rumbling of the gates opening and the portcullis that further shielded the interior of the castle raising reached them.
Looking at the men with him, the mage prepared another spell, and simply told them. “Now we hold what we’ve taken. Some of you tie these men up so they can’t give us trouble later.”
Garret smiled in satisfaction as the soldiers near the gates of the castle shouted. “The gates are opening!”
He urged his destrier forward until he waited at the slowly opening gates, and lifted his sword as the opening grew wide enough to admit a mounted man. “In! We have won the battle if we take this opportunity!”
Roric felt as much as heard the ponderous gates of Aruendal castle opening and turned from his defense of the wall. Swearing, he charged down the stairs to stand at the entrance to his castle while shouting. “To me! The gates! To me and hold them out!”
Garret gave Roric a thin smile as he entered the courtyard and his voice penetrated the pandemonium as if it was a razor sharp stiletto entering the vitals of an enemy. “So, cousin. I believe you are trying to hold someone who is dear to me. I have come to get her back.”
Deirdre and Bridgette saw each other at the same time.
“Yes!” Deirdre shouted almost gleefully.
“You’re going to die, bitch!” Bridgette shouted back.
“Don’t bother coming for me!” The raven haired little beauty shouted back with a feral grin. “I’ll come to you!”