Continued from “It was well she had come quickly.”
But the men, drunk as they were, were still too numerous for her to be sure of getting past them in an assault, especially if she had no weapons. The guards were armed with swords and daggers, and there were enough of the others to simply pile on her until she was subdued. But if she could just get a sword and dagger from one of the guards – especially if she could get that guard away from his fellows first – then she might have a chance of fighting her way through them.
She had only seen one other door leading away from the room, and it had the markings of a royal chamber. The princess must be imprisoned within. The serving maid would have entered from Tanei’s hallway.
She waited. When the maids came around the corner she quickly took the girl’s pitcher and pulled her back against the wall with one hand covering the girl’s mouth. She whispered in the maid’s ear, and after a moment the girl nodded and relaxed.
Shortly after, Tanei walked into the lighted room, her bearing meek, wearing the maid’s uniform over her own clothing and carrying the serving pitcher filled with cider. She no longer missed her sword, as she would have been forced to leave it behind in any case: there would have been no way to hide it properly under the skirt and apron, especially if one of the revelers were to grab her. As she approached the table, the men looked up at her.
“Well, now, here’s a new one!”
“Friendlier than that other one, I hope!” The voices were slurred.
“Ah! Where did you come from, wench?”
Tanei gritted her teeth and sidled up to the table, making sure to position herself between two of the armed guards. As she poured to fill one of the flagons, one of the guards put his arm around her waist.
Tanei did her best to smile and raise her eyebrows in a fetching way. It must have worked, for the men roared with approval, and the guardsman at her elbow rose to his feet. He held Tanei by the shoulders and gave her a kiss.
Tanei worked to keep the disgust from her face. She crooked her finger and led the man by the hand to the door leading to the royal chamber. He followed her with a sly grin, and the other men called and whistled after them.
The guard fumbled with his ring of keys, and Tanei was afraid for a moment that the man was too drunk to manage them. But finally he turned the key in the lock and opened the door. Tanei followed him into the room and shut the door behind them.
She felt the guard’s hand on her, and she whirled on him. There was a loud snap, and the man’s arm was broken in her hands, at the elbow. She knocked him to the ground and followed him down, her knees landing on his shoulders. His eyes and mouth widened in surprise, and Tanei slammed his jaw shut with her palm before he could shout out his pain. She pulled the knife from the guard’s belt in one practiced motion, and a moment later the man lay dead.
Panting slightly, Tanei look up and around the room. Princess Kandinei was there, seated on a wooden chair, her hands and feet bound to it.
“Well, sister,” Kandinei said, “and just when I was thinking you had decided not to attend. Might we leave now?”