The room was thrown into utter chaos, with men and women running about like chickens with their heads cut off. Raven stood rooted to the spot with her eyes searching the room fervently for the source of the disruption.
Soldiers wearing a crest that most certainly did not belong to the royal family were marching through the doors. Their words were drawn, though blood had yet to be shed. A man walked among them, one who wore no mark or armor and she could only assume that he was the leader of their little rebellion. For surely that’s what it must be, a rebellion of sorts. That is what she told herself, but she had a sinking feeling that it was much more than that.
Suddenly, an arm was around her and she was being pulled away from the intruders. Her first instinct was to harm her attacker, but with a jerk of her head, she saw that it was Maxim. A part of her still held onto the shock that she had robbed from the prince and had not even known it. But she quickly pushed it away for a later day, because there was something much bigger that needed her attention.
“What is going on? What are you doing? Let me go,” Raven instructed him as once, trying to escape his strong grasp but failing. She may be crafty and good with a sword, but her strength was certainly no match for a man of his strength.
“Do not fight me, we have to get out of here now. That man, Christoph, is not here with good deeds on his mind. I have to get my sister and myself out of here and I will not leave you behind,” he said, continuing to pull her along. Anne was close by his side, her eyes wide and filled with fear. She whispered something about her fiance, but Maxim shook his head. “We cannot stop now, not even for him.”
“How do you intend to escape? There are sure to be guards at the main entrances and you will not be allowed to leave. Here, let me go and I will show you a way out.” The weight of his arm subsided and Raven quickly made her way through the throng of people, letting them follow her lead.
It seemed that the soldiers had come through most entrances, but she hastily noted that none stepped from the doorway she had entered at. With only a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure they were close behind, she quickly made her way to the door. The screaming ladies and shouting men made for an excellent diversion and they left the room without being spotted.
“Quick, this way.” She motioned them forward and moved swiftly down the corridor, the sounds of terror following them. The tapestry sat undisturbed, but she was certain that at least one or two those she’d come with were already in the tunnels. Her thoughts flickered to Ian and her father and she hoped that they would not be caught up in the chaos searching for her. “Through here.”
“What is this?” asked Anne as the entrance to the tunnels was revealed. Raven did not answer and instead ushered her inside, then shuffled inside after with Maxim following close behind. The drape was dropped and they were shrouded in near darkness. “Brother, I’m scared.”
“Do not speak, the sound echos and the soldiers may hear. Now walk,” she instructed, pushing her down the tunnel. The princess made a noise in her throat, but followed the thief, reaching out to take her brothers arm.
The trio moved at a slow pace through the tunnels, Anne constantly tripping on her extravagant dress. Raven thought that they might never escape the castle when the distant silver light of the moon passing through the vines met her eyes. She pushed on, beckoning to her companions to move quickly. As she pushed her way out of the tunnel, she was greeted by cold chill of a blade at her throat.
“Dear God, get that thing away from my Clarence! I would as soon trust you with a sword as I would Annaleigh with one,” she barked, pushing the dulled blade from her throat. The boy, who was only a couple of years older than she was, sneared at her and sheathed his weapon. His gaze inspected her companions.
“Who are these two and why have you brought them? Going soft on us, eh Raven girl?” he cackled, though his eyes were narrow. She rolled her eyes and ignored him, instead counting the number of her friends that had escaped.
Three were missing, but her father and Ian were among the ones to have returned. She stepped up to her father and saw the look of relief that passed over his features. Then he spotted the prince and princess and raised his eyebrows.
“The royal children, why?”
“They needed to leave. That man, whoever he is, would have either killed them or done something equally unpleasant. Will you scold me for risking my life to save our future king?” Her tone was challenging, though inside her nerves constricted and she worried for his reply. Would he disapprove her what she had done?
Hector was silent for a moment, assessing. Finally he looked away from her companions and met her gaze. “No, I suppose not. That is to say, I do not condone acting so foolishly either. If you had been seen by a soldier helping to free them, then you would have been struck down instantly,” he said, frowning. Shaking his head, he turned away from her and spoke to the others. “We do not have time to wait for those left inside. If they are able to escape, then they will find their way back to camp. Come now and let us get far away from here before we are found.”
One of the other girls, Annaleigh, pulled their cloaks from behind a shrub and Raven took hers, throwing it around her shoulders. Immediately she felt safer as she drew up her hood, shrouding her face in darkness. She took up two more cloaks and through them to Maxim and Anne.
“It is unlikely that our friends will return and you must be hidden from prying eyes,” she explained as they slipped the cloaks on and drew up the hoods. “Now come and remain as quiet as possible.” She turned and began walking into the trees, assuming they would fall into step behind her. As she joined the group, a cloaked figure stepped up beside her and she knew at once who it was.
“When I did not see you, I was worried that you had gotten straddled amongst the crowd. I was worried that you would not make it out,” Ian spoke, his hand reaching out and finding hers. Though she couldn’t say why, she suddenly felt embarrassed about doing something so intimate in front of Maxim. But she did not pull away, instead taking a step closer to him. Perhaps their nearness would hide their entwined hands. “Are you okay.
“Yes,” she said, turning her head toward the prince. Though she could not see his eyes under the hood, she knew that he was looking at her, that he knew she was holding Ians hand. But why should she care, she asked herself, turning to face forward once more. He was a prince and she was just a lowly thief, it was not as if she could ever love him. “I’m okay.”