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Secret passage

Daily Deviation
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Desperate hunger filled my belly. It clawed on my inside like a untamed beast, gnawed at the corners of my mind and was dragging my attention away from the scribing tasks my master had given me. Being able to read, write and understand five languages, these were useful skills for a peacetime merchant’s apprentice. Yet they were near useless in a town under siege, with no trade to be had and no food left to buy. But what was a young girl to do? I had to get by in some way after all. And working kept my mind off my beloved up there on the high walls, kept my mind off the fact that he might get an arrow through his neck at any time. And then our fragile story of love, of skulking in the shadows, sweet kisses in the narrow alleys, become but a memory. A saga so sweet and tender that it had to be cut brief by the brutality of reality.

.

I set aside my quill and rubbed my eyes, dusk was invading the workshop and making work harder, as we had very little lamp oil left, only to keep one lamp burning. And the candles had run out last week. In the dusk, Master Rogaste had fallen asleep again. The time had come for me to leave my work and go in search of food.

.

It was a quick walk from the marketplace down to the walls. The streets were quiet, people staying indoors during the Carudian bombardment. Most of the stones hit the town walls, but some did fall inside and flying splinters of broken building could be as deadly as a direct hit. My best friend Mila had perished that way, hit in her back by mortar as she was going to the well for water. And now there was just me left of our tight core of tree girls who had sworn to never leave each other's side. Afla had lost her life to the plague two years back and then, last week, Mila had died too.

.

I clearly recalled those last heartbeats of a life cut short as I knelt by her on the dirty cobblestones. How her eyes had seek mine.

"Have a life, Cora," had she whispered. "Have your love with Lymon and a good and long life, Cora. Have grandchildren. And one day perhaps tell about this tight circle of best friends.".

"Mila..".

"I'll send Afla your greetings. I'll..".

.

That was the last things she said before her eyes paled over and she uttered her last, forlorn and painful breath as her blood coloured the ground beneath her.

.

I didn't want to think about it anymore. Didn't want to think about my lost girl friend.

.

Reaching the walls, I glanced up. My dear Lymon was on guard, almost looking like a true knight in his chainmail. I whistled and Lymon winked down at me, then formed a heart with his black-gloved hands. I made one back before I dashed on, sneaking into the slim gap between a stinking tannery and the walls. There, hidden inside a heap of old masonry, was a narrow tunnel. The end outside town lay concealed behind a stand of blackberry bushes, known only to me and my love these days. Afla had learned it and shown it to a few of us and we had used that to sneak away and steal kisses when were were expected to be in school, but now those playful years were over and the burrow had got another, more sombre kind of use. .

.

Fast as an eel, I slid through the gap and emerged into the bramble patch. The berries hadn’t ripened yet, and he would need to go further abroad to find food. Keeping a wary eye on the distant Carudian camp, I scrambled low across a muddy field, scurried along behind a hedge and emerged into a patch of wood half a mile outside of town. Apples hung from the higher branches of the trees, untouched by the besiegers. I would go a long way for an apple. Without pause, I clambered up the nearest tree, reaching out for the red fruit and biting in, feeling its juices wet my dry mouth. For a while I sat there, enjoying my fruit. But I needed more, both for myself and my little sister back home.

.

From among those high branches, I eventually heard a voice below.

“Get down here, you little wench!” The man spoke our language, but with an ugly Carudian accent. He had a bow pointed at me and an arrow drawn on the taught string.

.

Trembling with fear, I descended, my mind full of the terrible things I'd heard about the Carudians. The towns they had burned, the people they had killed, girls like me they'd raped. The fact that they had tails hidden under their tunics like demons in disguise.

.

There were a dozen or so of Carudian men in the woods, all armored and armed with swords and bows. The leader grabbed me by the throat and shoved me against a tree, bark clawing at my back.

“I saw you scurrying from beneath the walls, wench.” He drew a knife and held it beneath my nose. “You’ve got some secret way into town, don’t you?"

"Eh. no." I shook my head.

.

The soldier pressed the dagger against my cheek, drawing blood. “Tell me, you Niserian wench, or I’ll cut up that sweet peach cheek of your, turning you so ugly that no man will ever have you."

.

I swallowed. Of course I'd no desire to betray our town, but what could I do? At least this way the siege would soon be over, and we could eat again.

“This way,” I whispered.

.

The soldier kept a hand on my shoulder and a knife at my back as we moved across the fields toward the tangled bramble patch. The soldiers whispered to each other on the way. They had changed to Carudian, but I understood the language all too well.

“Fercan, get back to camp,” the leader hissed. “Once we’re inside we’ll storm the gate and get it open. I want the rest of the boys there before these frog wankers have a chance to fight back."

“And then?” one of the men asked excitedly.

“Then take what we want and burn the place to the ground.” The leader shoved I forward. “These people said no to the Empress. Lessons have to be learnt."

.

My stomach lurched. I wasn’t going to survive this, and neither was anyone else I knew. It crossed my mind to throw myself back onto the blade, guarding the tunnel’s secret with my death and then join Mila and Afla in death. But what about Lymon? Then he would be the only one of our little group of wild kids left. Instead, we they crept closer to the walls, I began to cough loudly.

.

“Shut up.” The soldier hit me across the back of my head. As I fell in the mud, I looked up and caught a glimpse of Lymon’s face. For a moment my love was there between the battlements, meeting my eyes, then he was gone. I just hoped he'd seen, understood.

.

Faking a limp, I rose and walked as slowly as I dared toward the walls. Fear still shook me, but there was pride too. Our defenders would have time before these men got through the hole. Maybe long enough to kill them as they emerged, one by one, from the tunnel. Surely long enough to stop them storming the gate.

.

As I pulled back the bushes and led the enemies into the darkness beyond, I thought I could hear the faint sound of steel against steal on the other side of the narrow gap.

.

Then I was out on the other side, Lymon catching me and pulling me to the side. The next moment there was a thunder of falling items as Lymon's three companions heaved excess bricks and stones on the emerging Carudians. They were buried almost instantly and with them their chance to open the gates of our town.

.

Chortling I leaned into Lymon's kiss, feeling his strong hands rub my back as I heard the other men's exhilarated roars as they patched each other's backs and congratulated themselves above us.

.

But our secret passage was gone now. And my belly still rumbled.

Published:
© 2020 - 2021 Konstantinity
Comments4
anonymous's avatar
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ryuunoske's avatar

You have such a wonderful way to write, I could keep on reading.


Alas, good things always feel like they fall short.

kwjibo-deviations's avatar

You really used you imagination really well!

sanipylehan1382's avatar
This rlly awesome! :D
Zara-Arletis's avatar

This sounds like a really interesting world. I loved the protagonist's internal debate on what to do when she was caught. The hope that something as small as a loud cough would be warning enough was a gamble. Not that dying was a better option ^_^ The character relationships also caught my attention - I can't help but wonder about the dynamics between Lymon, Alfa, and Mila. Feels like there must be a lot of history between them, and a lot of drama! Thank you for sharing.