Hurst: Practiced Resolve

The man who identified himself as Stephen Field was anxious, but he kept quiet as we moved through the halls of the garrison. I chose an unoccupied room, closing the door behind us. After taking a calming breath, I whispered, “Keep your voice down. There could be eavesdroppers around any corner.”

“Who are you?” Stephen asked, his expression beginning to soften.

“Like I said, I’m a friend,” I replied. “But, I need to know who you are.”

“I’m Stephen Field, sir.” His response was flawless, though I still felt it was practiced. I decided to be straight with him.

“I don’t believe that is your real name.” Despite my frank statement, Stephen’s expression did not falter. This one has some tough resolve, I thought, so I pressed him further. “This garrison is not the best place to be if you happen to be Iberan or an Iberan sympathizer.” A small shift in his eyebrows was the only crack in his resolve, but it was enough to tell me that I was heading in the right direction.

“My guess is you’re Iberan, and I would further surmise that you haven’t been in Handrin very long.”

“How would you know that, sir?” he asked, his expression returning to the practiced resolve.

“If you were a sympathizer, you would know to stay away from this garrison.” I lowered my eyes, continuing to brainstorm, “I’ve been keeping watch of the area. Either you are better at hiding your tracks than I am at finding them, or you have just arrived.” Looking back into his eyes, I stated with a pointed finger, “And, if you have just arrived, this is reconnaissance … for a rescue mission.”

There was another shift in his eyebrows. I smiled. “A friendly tip: your eyebrows betray you. However, you have amazing resolve. I’ll give you that.”

“Who are you?” Stephen asked.

I decided it was time to divulge a little more. “My name is Angel Hurst. I report directly to the queen.”

“The queen of Handrin?” His question was answered with a nod. “I heard you mention the queen with the other guy, but I didn’t know what to think of it.”

“What is your name?” I asked.

After a long stare, he answered, “Sebastian Ford.” I dropped my eyes from his stare, opening my mouth to say something but closed it back.

Looking back at him, I said, “You’re Alexandra’s brother.”

“Where’s my sister?” Sebastian raised his voice, but remembering where we were, he controlled it from becoming an all out yell. He couldn’t control his actions as well, for he grabbed me by the neck. When I tried to say something but was unable to form actual words, he eased his grip, eventually letting go all together.

Rubbing my sore neck, I said, “She is not here. That I know for sure.”

Sebastian pulled a hidden dagger from under his tunic and pointed it at me. “Talk!”

Because I knew who I was speaking with, I decided to tell the truth. “Eliza has been kidnapped by a supporter of the king. I was sent here to find a certain Jon Tilman, but all I can find are sympathizers.”

Sebastian lowered the dagger slightly, smiling. When I asked why he smiled, he replied, “I know Jon Tilman … under a different name, though. What about Alexandra?” He raised the dagger to its former position.

“The last time I saw her she was with the queen. They were headed to go check on Eliza, who is probably being held in the dungeons under the palace, unless they know her true identity.”

“Then, that is where I will go,” Sebastian stated with as much resolve as he had when keeping his identity secret.

“That was two days ago. I’ve sent a note by pigeon to the queen, but she has not replied. I would not recommend storming the palace, and going into the dungeons is out of the question.”

“Why?”

“Because the tunnels under the palace are almost as old as the land of Handrin itself. There is no organization. They twist in and out of each other. You would either get lost, captured or killed.”

“I don’t know if I trust you, Mr. Hurst,” Sebastian said, “but what do you recommend?”

“Well, we probably shouldn’t stay here. There’s no guarantee I will receive a message with instructions. However, I wouldn’t worry about Alexandra, either. She’s under the protection of the queen, which is probably even better than yours at the moment.” I placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. The dagger was still pointed in my direction but had been lowered some.

“Eliza is safe at the moment as well,” I continued. “The ones in most danger are probably Tilman’s group. I believe they have been taken to the dungeons.”

“But, you said going to the dungeons was out of the question.”

“True,” I replied, lowering my hand from his shoulder. “With my help, the chances of success would be slightly higher, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If we tried anything, the smaller the party … the better.”

The End

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