The two guards at the table seemed a bit confused by her appearance, but neither of them rose from the table, even as she drew her sword, though the one on the left raised her hands carefully.
“Whoa, there! No need for that! I’m Alyss and this is Kempen. We’re part of Princess Dilys` escort; Captain Pritchett gave orders that we were to share the guard rotation with your people.”
That was an explanation, though not a completely convincing one. Silven might not have been told about such a development, but she hasn’t even heard rumors.
So she stepped forward through the narrow doorway, sword still raised and ready for trouble.
The two guards looked at one another, then back at her. No…they were not looking at her. They were looking behind her.
Silven realized what happened an instant later — but that was still an instant too late. The guards at the table were a distraction, meant to hold her attention. But other people have been pressed against the wall to either side of the door, where she couldn’t see them…
She was seized roughly from behind. A massive hand seized the wrist of her sword arm, pinching it with brutal strength. Her left arm was seized as well, and a hand was clamped tightly over your mouth. An instant later, she felt the prick of steel at her throat, and a voice hissed in your ear.
“Don’t move, or you’re dead. Let go of the sword. Now!”
Five minutes later Silven was trussed up next to the two guards in the holding cell. She also was stripped to her underwear and the third Nivvenite soldier was wearing her Parthian uniform.
A massive woman entered the room — it was the Black Viper! She gestured to the only soldier in Nivvenite uniform.
“You! Stay here and watch the prisoners. If any of them makes a sound, slay them all. The rest of you, come with me.”
The three women with her were now all wearing Parthian uniforms. The Viper paused, turning her back to the nearest one, placing her wrists behind her back.
“Let’s get this over with. Tie and gag me, then take me to the Captain.”
Four figures emerged from the basement; the Black Viper and three women in Parthian uniforms. Two of them were holding the Viper by her arms. Her wrists were bound behind her back, and she was gagged once again.
The guards marched her to the base of the south east tower where Captain Parwen was standing watch, one of them climbing the stairs and whispering in her ears. She remained there as Parwen climbed down.
Parwen led the Viper and her guards to the base of the south west tower. She joined the sentry at the top of the wall, who glanced down at the courtyard, curious as to why the Viper had been removed from her cell.
The commander shrugged. “I’m taking her to see Captain Pritchett. She wants to interrogate her. Why it couldn’t have waited until morning, I don’t know. But I just wanted to check on you first. Anything to report?”
“No, it’s been quiet,” the guard was curious, but had no reason to doubt her commander’s words.
Parwen nodded…then her left arm jutted out, pointing into the shadows outside the castle.
“Wait! Did you see that?”
The guard turned, squinting into the darkness.
“What? I can’t see…ugh!”
There was a dull thud as the blackjack in Parwen’s other hand struck the guard across the back of her head. The Captain caught her victim before she could fall, lowering her gently to the tower’s floor so that her armor didn’t clatter.
Below, the Viper shrugged off the rope loosely wrapped around her wrists, and climbed the stairs, her guards behind her.
The unconscious sentry was quickly stripped of her uniform, then bound and gagged. As the disguised Nivvenites worked, Parwen walked to one corner of the tower. She retrieved an item from the floor; a lantern, hooded so that its light will only be visible from one direction. She lit the lantern, and then held it over the tower`s wall, waving it back and forth three times. Then she straightened, turning to the Viper and speaking in a low voice.
“I’ve given the signal. I hope your people are in position, because if they aren’t, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”
In the middle of the night Olwina woke up; the wine from the dinner had passed her body and she had to go to the latrine. She sighed and headed towards the backyard; she still was wearing the dress and wanted to ask Captain Parwen to keep it for the next events.
As she was walking back, she noticed four dark figures moving towards the south east tower. Was it the guard shift change? Maybe, but why are they that many? To her utter surprise she recognized the huge stature of Black Viper. She seemed to be bound and gagged; why are they leading her round the courtyard in the night?
The whole group disappeared from her view by the south west tower. She waited a few minutes and then walked to the tower. There was a second surprise there. Black Viper was not tied up anymore. Olwina got quite confused. Did Captain Parwen release her secretly? She advised Olwina something else yesterday. She turned to Captain Parwen:
“What the hell is going on here? Why did you release Black Viper?”
“Captain Pritchett! I’d have thought you’d be sleeping, you’ve had a tiring day.”
She seemed surprised by Olwina’s appearance, but recovered quickly.
“I’m not releasing the Viper. I’m simply taking her up here so she can stretch for a few minutes. And we’re on top of the tower because I know that she won’t seek to escape from up here. The only way down would be to jump, and…well, you can see how that would end…”
She leaned back against the edge of the battlements, gesturing down over the side, as if inviting Olwina to take a look.
Olwina shrugged and almost left for the barracks when she decided otherwise. She climbed up the stairs and looked over the battlements.
“I know; it definitely is high but …”, she noticed dark shadows approaching the castle. “What is going on?”
She turned back and spotted the guard on the floor. At the same moment Black Viper grabbed her arms and forced them behind her back. Another soldier pressed a cloth into her mouth to silence her. Parwen took two pieces of rope and tied Olwina’s arms into a tight boxtie before Olwina was able to react.
All of sudden Olwina felt a massive guilt. She failed at her mission and due to her carelessness the Princess was in danger. She wished she would be dead.
An abrupt feeling of responsibility for the disaster hit her mind and she tried to jump down from the tower; however, her skirt prevented her from climbing over the battlements and the soldiers were still holding her.
“No, Captain. You don’t get to escape that way. It’s too easy. Bind her legs so she can’t try that again.” Black Viper grinned.
Rough hands forced her to the stone floor of the tower room, and her feet, ankles, and knees were tightly bound with ropes.
Once she was secured, Captain Parwen stood over her as the Viper and the Nivvenites walked to the balcony. The tips of a pair of scaling ladders were eased soundlessly against the walls, and, one by one, Nivvenite soldiers began to climb over the walls.
They were completely unarmored, and dressed in lightweight black clothing, complete with masks that left only their eyes exposed. Their shoes were made of soft fabric to ensure they can move silently. They seemed to be very lightly armed — Olwina spied curved daggers and short, wooden clubs, but no larger weapons. Each of the figures carried a black bag at her waist.
The Viper spoke to the first one to reach the top — the leader, presumably — in low tones.
“There will be two sentries on the towers at the far end of the castle. Deal with them first — quietly. Then you can move against the rest of the garrison; they should be sleeping.”
Parwen stepped forward.
“Captain Pritchett’s troops are quartered in the barrack near the gate — you can use the windows on the ground floor to gain entry.”
The Viper waved her arm, and small bands of Nivvenites began disappearing into the shadows, heading to fulfill their assignments.
The Viper spoke to the leader a moment longer.
“Once the garrison is dealt with, we’ll move against the manor house — the Princess is there, and she should have no one but servants to protect her.”
Olwina clenched her fists in utter frustration but she was totally helpless.
Beca awoke in the night; there was a strange noise in the castle. She stood up and walked slowly out of her chamber. The corridor was dark and quiet and she couldn’t hear anything now; it would be better to go back to bed.
All of sudden she heard the noise again. It was coming from outside. Beca sneaked to the window and looked outside. Dark shadows could be seen moving across the courtyard. Who were they? She watched more closely and could recognize warriors in black costumes. She got the message instantly; the castle was being attacked!
First of all she had to wake up the Princess; maybe they could hide or escape in time. Beca hurried up to her chamber and shook her shoulders:
“Your Majesty, wake up. Enemies are here!”
They dressed up quickly and hurried to the hallway. There had to be a hideout here. Unfortunately Beca heard voices from downstairs and she realized they were trapped on the upper floor. Nevertheless there had to be an option! She tried to open several doors until she found a narrow stairwell:
“Your Majesty, let’s go downstairs.”
Dilys followed her. The stairwell led to the back wing where the servants were housed.
Fortunately the enemies were not to be seen here. Anyway they have to hurry up. There was a workshop behind the first door. Some rolls of fabric and unfinished dresses could be seen in the darkness.
A sudden idea hit Beca’s mind. The soldiers wouldn’t kill them probably; they would get tied up. There had to be some tools in the tailor workshop. She hurried up to a table and found a pair of scissors and two small knives. They would be handy if they tried to escape. She hid a small knife into her shoe and the scissors under her dress. When finished, she came back to the corridor and turned to the Princess:
“Your Majesty, hide this knife, we can use it later to escape.”
Dilys looked at Beca at the first moment and tried to understand what she was saying, but a moment later she realized Beca was right. DIlys took the knife and hid it in an inner pocket of her skirt. Unfortunately her shoes were not appropriate to hide anything.
They had to get out of this wing and particularly far away from the workshop. It would be suspicious when the enemies found them there:
“Beca, let’s leave this wing as soon as possible. We mustn’t be found here.”
They hurried up to the far end of the corridor. There was a door there, probably the servants` entrance. They opened it and stepped out of the manor. They were in the back part of the courtyard, near the stables.
However there was no way to escape from there, they had to cross the whole courtyard. Dilys collected her courage and decided to step forward:
“Beca, let’s go. We can’t escape just now and I want to behave like a Princess and not hide in the shadows like a fugitive.”
Dilys raised her head proudly and began walking forward, toward the center of the courtyard. At least it would be possible to meet what was coming with dignity. It was better than being dragged, screaming, from a hiding place like a terrified servant-girl. Beca, with little choice, followed at her mistress’ heels.
They were noticed near the front of the manor house. A half-dozen of the black-clad soldiers rushed toward them, several of them seizing you by the arms. One of them, seemingly the leader, glared at them through her mask.
“Who are you! What are your names! Quickly!”
“I’m the princess Dilys,” Dilys answered courageously.
The woman’s eyes lit up with pleasure when Dilys announced her identity. She gave a quick gesture to her troops.
“Bind them! I’ll inform the Lieutenant!”
Their wrists were quickly bound behind their backs, the knots drawn tight. Longer ropes were used to secure their arms to their sides. As the captors finished tying them up, their leader returned, another woman at her heels.
She let out a sigh of relief when informed that Dilys had been captured, pointing toward the back of the tower.
“Good work! We’ll take them to the Black Viper, she’ll be at the top of that tower.”
Dilys held still while her wrists and arms were tied. The feeling of helplessness was quite terrible; she’s never experienced it. She realized she couldn’t do anything to defend herself and had to endure even a bad treatment.
As the Nivvenites were dragging them through the courtyard, she was looking around. The courtyard was full of enemies; she didn’t see any of Parthian soldiers. They had probably been defeated. However she was shocked on the tower top. It was not her bodyguard who shocked her, it was Captain Parwen. Dilys realized she was involved in this devilish plot. How was it possible? Dilys couldn’t understand how she could become a traitor.
When the warriors dragged them to the tower base, Beca had to protest: “Wait, it’s difficult to climb up the stairs with tied hands. I step onto my skirt.”
One of the soldiers opened her mouth to scold her, but she nodded then and helped her, while the other one held the skirt of the Princess.
As they reached the top of the tower, they saw the massive form of the Black Viper. She was standing quietly, her arms folded and an expression of triumph on her face. Three women in Parthian uniforms — including Captain Parwen — stood beside her, but despite the fact that they were armed, they seemed to be deferring to her.
Dilys looked around and spied Captain Pritchett. She was lying on the flagstones a few feet away, bound hand and foot, a gag tied with brutal tightness over her mouth.
The officer saluted the Viper, and Dilys with Beca were dragged forward:
“My lady! This is Princess Dilys and her handmaiden.”
The Viper turned a menacing smile toward Dilys.
“Greetings, Princess. I hope you`re enjoying your stay at the castle.”
“Sure, I’m enjoying my stay and I would enjoy it much more if your huge gorilla-like stature didn’t block my view.”
“Enjoy your little jibes while you can, Princess. Soon you’ll be nothing more than an ornament in a slave camp in Nivven.”
Viper gestured at the soldiers “We’ll make preparations to depart in the morning. In the meantime, return the Princess and her maid to her chambers. I’m sure they’re both very tired. Silence them and make sure that their night is not a comfortable one."
Coarse, wadded rags were stuffed into their mouths, and strips of cloth were tied tightly between their teeth to prevent them from spitting them out. Wide strips of linen fabric are then bound over their mouths, covering everything beneath their noses.
The soldiers grabbed Dilys and Beca at their arms and escorted them back down the stairs and to Dilys’ chamber.
The bed that Dilys had been sleeping in was a massive, canopied affair, with tall wooden posts at each corner. When they reached the bedroom, the two of them were made to stand with their back to the posts at the foot of the bed. The Nivvenite soldiers then bound Dilys and Beca to the posts with a ridiculous amount of rope. By the time they finished, the captives were both trussed from head to toe, only the ropes keeping them upright.
The leader of your guards let out a cruel laugh.
“Have a pleasant night, ladies!”