The garrison was just a few minutes south of the village where our secret meeting with the queen had taken place. I gained easy entry from my credentials and was escorted to the commander’s office. After waiting for a few minutes, a balding, middle aged man walked in and invited me to sit down.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Hurst?” Even with his initial question, I could tell from his tone and posture that I wasn’t going to get much out of the man, so I decided to be straight with him.
“I am here on behalf of her majesty,” I said, lowering my head in a sign of respect. “We have reason to believe that there is a group of Iberans being held here.”
The commander did not respond right away. He closed his eyes and ran one finger down the length of his nose. After an audible exhale, he looked at me with a slight frown and replied, “You do not have the clearance for such information.”
He had been careful with what he chose to say.The reason for my visit had deeper implications than simple military clearance. “Her majesty is not requesting any action be taken, and I believe her clearance is just fine.”
“I am aware of the queen’s clearance. You still do not have clearance yourself, and our orders have changed recently. With the current situation, information regarding enemy combatants is not to be leaked except to those with the highest clearance. The queen herself would have to come here, and I know that will not happen. So, I would suggest you return and make your report.”
He said nothing further and did not look at me again. After glancing down at his desk for a moment, he left the room promptly. I let a moment or two pass before I left myself. I tried following him, but he turned too many corners, losing me.
Deciding that I needed to report my progress, I made my way to the pigeon station right outside the garrison's walls. I wrote a short message on a piece of paper using the queen’s code. After sending the pigeon on its way, I returned to the village to eat a hasty dinner. I did not want to be away from the garrison longer than I needed to be. I returned and made camp on the edge of the forest, close enough to the garrison to keep a careful watch but far enough to remain practically invisible.
Several hours into the night, the sound of activity coming from the garrison stirred me from my drowsy state. I moved a little closer to get a better look, standing behind a huge tree. The only light in the area came from the torches of two guards. I could make out three hooded figures between them. They moved slowly, keeping the same distance between them the entire time. They've got them tied or chained, I thought.
I watched the group for a few minutes while I could still see the flicker of the torches. I had a good feeling about their final destination, but just to be sure I moved as stealthily as possible in their direction once they were far enough away. Once or twice I stepped on a twig, halting my pursuit. Thankfully, the sounds of the forest absorbed any sounds caused by a misstep.
Progress was slow, but my hunch was confirmed when I observed the group enter the dungeons under the palace from an exterior entrance. I contemplated the situation on my way back to my campsite, which didn't take nearly as long the second time around. There were no carrier pigeons trained for night duty at the garrison station, but I decided to send a second message with the first light of day.