Monday 20 – Friday 24 August 2012
Elle approached the decimated village with stealth and caution. Barnaby was in hiding just in case she needed back up. It was a full moon night, and if she played her cards right, Elle would be able to get into the heart of the village before anyone noticed.
With everyone apparently in the barn asleep, Elle’s ingress was unopposed. She took a moment to steel herself. One man was easy to take on, but confronting a whole village would see her dead in no time. She pulled the door ajar and looked inside, giving her eyes a few seconds to adjust to the difference in light level inside the barn.
Several men had been positioned against the walls to act as sentries. Elle counted eight in total. Of those eight, she thought that at least two of them were sleeping on their feet. Still, six men was a difficult ask even for Elle. She calculated her odds of taking down more than one sentry before she was apprehended. They weren’t good.
‘There’s always the front door approach,’ she whispered to herself.
She raised her hand to knock on the barn door when, unexpectedly, it swung open, almost hitting her. Elle leapt back in surprise, and fell hard on her backside. One of the sentries she had seen against the north wall exited and was just as shocked to see Elle on her backside.
‘Don’t move,’ he said and held a pitchfork to her throat.
‘A little common, isn’t it? The old vigilante villager with a pitchfork image?’ she laughed at her own joke. The man did not.
‘What do you want?’ he asked.
She lifted a hand and pushed the pitchfork away as she spoke.
‘I was here the other day. I spoke to you all about taking revenge on the Queen,’ she started.
‘And?’ he interjected.
‘And, I’ve been made aware of some very important news that Patrick and the village need to hear. I came as soon as I was told.’
The villager, whose name Elle couldn’t remember, squinted at her in the moonlight. She understood that he was assessing the validity of her story. She held his gaze as he lowered the pitchfork to his side, and thrust out a hand to help her up. Elle grasped it with strength that made him smile.
‘Wait here. I’ll raise Patrick.’
Without waiting for a reply from Elle, he turned on his heels and went back inside the barn.
Moments later, a groggy and dishevelled Patrick stumbled through the barn door. He rubbed his eyes, sniffed, and wrapped his arms around himself. The wind had risen and the cold was biting through his flimsy nightshirt.
‘What is it that couldn’t wait until morning, Elle?’ he whispered to her.
‘Do you know Michael Smith particularly well?’ she asked in reply. He shrugged his shoulders.
‘Then explain to me why he sought an audience with Queen Josslyn, and why he informed her of our plan?’
Even in the moonlight, Elle could see the colour drain from Patrick’s face. In front of her was the portrait of a man, betrayed.
‘Are you sure?’ he asked of her. Elle nodded.
‘I have someone close to the Queen and he says it is so.’
‘You believe and trust this person?’ Patrick asked.
‘With my life,’ she replied.
Patrick turned back to the barn. His strides began slow, but turned quickly into a run. Bursting through the barn door, he screamed, ‘MICHAEL. MICHAEL SMITH. SHOW YOURSELF.’ The sleeping inhabitants of the barn were shocked to consciousness. Rumbles of discontent flowed in an increasing wave of sound. Torches and candles were lit. Villagers stirred. Patrick looked for Michael, but only caught sight of the traitor as he fled the barn through a side door.
Fast on his feet, Patrick raced back out of the barn and ran to the side of the building. He vaguely made out Michael running through the fields and off in to the distance. Elle grabbed Patrick’s arm and stopped him from giving chase. He pulled against her grasp, his instincts telling him to chase Michael down and dole out a suitable punishment for betraying his community.
‘It’s pointless, Patrick. He’s done the worst he can do. She knows we’re coming for her. If he thinks she will give him sanctuary, he’s wrong.’
. . . To be continued . . .