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The Great Escape

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Crowds. By the Gods, I hate crowds. Yet there I was, on the ramparts, staring into the largest crowd that could be packed into the city. I could practically feel their eyes staring; it was not a good feeling.


I left the ramparts then. Made my way silently down the stone steps to the courtyard and then on. I cut through the kitchens to the cellar where I found myself set upon by a rather large woman.


“Oh no, you don’t,” she said. “You’re not sneaking away today. Oh no, not while Cooky’s around you’re not!”

I kept my expression flat while I was apprehended and taken to an empty corner of the kitchen, silently cursing Cooky and all her ancestors. She sat me on a dusty stool and handed me a small knife and a potato.

“There,” she said, pulling over a crate of the lumpy, brown tubers. “When you’ve finished with these you can go. But watch out, anyone catches you going into the cellar or attic or servants areas and you’ll be doing worse than this.”

She looked around to make sure no one was watching and then leaned in close. “Sir Ramesh was assigned to guard the sewer grate, and it’s put him in a mighty foul mood, so I would avoid the entire east side of the castle. However, Dr. Phan was set to the west courtyard windows, and if you were to finish peeling in about half an hour, you might have just caught him in the middle of his nap.”

She winked at me and stood up quickly, just in case anyone was watching. She said loudly, “Now you better get started!” and walked away.

I examined my charge. The crate was about as tall as my knee and about as wide, filled to the brim with potatoes. I’d be lucky to finish it in half a day, much less half an hour. In a rare show of rage, I kicked the crate, knocking it over on its side. To my surprise, skinless potatoes poured out and over a few unpeeled ones.

Cooky! That genius! That wonderful, kind-hearted, woman!

I jammed the knife into my belt and righted the crate, quickly stashing the unpeeled potatoes in the bottom and covering them with the peeled ones. Glancing around to see that no one had seen what I had done I made my escape.

Sure enough, Dr. Phan was right where Cooky said he would be, ‘guarding’ the west windows. Fortunately for me, he’d decided to get in his nap early. It wasn’t hard to slip past him; he was a notoriously deep sleeper, and once to the windows it was a simple matter of opening them and slipping into the outer gardens. I checked the Doctor to make sure he hadn’t woken, and i could swear that he winked at me.

The sweet, beautiful scents from my grandfather’s flower patches pulled my attention away from what I was sure was a trick of the light. I was finally outside the castle walls and, so long as no one found me and dragged me back, free to do what I wanted. Without hesitation i set off for the Orchards, careful not to go anywhere near the eastern wall.
It was less than an hours walk to the Orchards, which sat on the outskirts of the city. Somewhere along the road, the city became somewhat deserted. Everyone was probably in that large crowd outside the castle gates. For a second, panic overtook me. Had i come all this way for nothing? I broke into a run.
The Orchard gates were shut and locked tight, but that didn’t stop me, I never went in the front gate anyhow. Slowing to a brisk walk i turned sharply right and slipped between the wall and the toolshed. Three stones in sat a boulder about as large as a warrior’s shield, a little bigger than me hunched over. It was an escape hatch, designed in case of marauders. the great walls and gate of the Orchard were almost as sturdy as those of the castle, but it had almost no way to withstand any sort of siege. So three hatches and three tunnels were built so that anyone inside could get out.
The reverse was that it made it slightly easier to get inside; if you knew where to look.
I kicked the rock and swore under my breath as waves of pain shot up my leg from my stubbed toe.
“Who’s there?” Asked a beautiful, singsong voice from the other side of the wall.
“Just me,” I answered, my voice sounding like a donkey braying by comparison.
There was a click and the boulder ground out of position as old machinery opened the hatch. I ducked through the hole created by the absence of the boulder right into the sunlit glade of fruit trees known as the Orchard.
“Silly boy,” came the singsong voice again and suddenly I found myself rolling on the ground from an enormous bear hug from a rather slight young woman. I managed to pin her to the ground after she had managed to attach herself to my neck and cover me from head to toe with dirt, while keeping even the tiniest speck off her immaculate dress.
I kissed her forehead, she kissed my cheek.
“So then,” I said, pulling her off the ground. “Are we off to the Prince’s birthday bash?”
“Of course,” She replied and shot me a wry smile. “Happy Birthday.”



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