Change of Plans

"You could have gone back for your things, Miss Murphy." Zane was talking while working, packing food Oriana had pointed out to him. He had been disallowed from touching any of her personal belongings. "You're not the one in danger."

"Dat don't matter. I don't need dem if I ain't goin' ta school, an' if Ori's in danger, I'm comin' wit' her. End of story."

Oriana looked up from her own packing to see Wrench still avoiding her eyes in spite of her protective tone. She looked back down, frown deepening. "You still haven't told me why I'm even in danger, Zane."

"Because as it turns out, sending a letter with your whereabouts to your mother when she's being watched by the people who want to capture you isn't exactly the brightest idea." Zane's mouth moved quicker and quicker as he spoke, until he was nearly tripping over his words. He stopped what he was doing and took a deep breath as Oriana looked up at him with an eyebrow raised.

"Sorry, sorry," he said. "It's just that I've expended a lot of energy and resources trying to keep you safe and I still couldn't manage it. Why didn't I think to watch the mail..."

Oriana was silent for a moment, her packing suddenly ignored. "They were watching my mom?"

"Yes, and with surprising tenacity. I suppose with the monarchy pressuring them to find you, they had no choice. Not with the men that were following you from Owvry dead." Zane finished packing his bag, secured the straps, and slung it onto his back. His slight frame visibly slumped under the weight.

"Dead? What are you talking about?"

"Look, I promise you I will explain everything, but not now. We really need to go. I have a carriage lined up to take us to Eastdale and we need to catch it before they start watching the city gates. They can't be far behind me."

"Eastdale? You said they were watching my mother, right? What did they do with her now that they know where I am?" Oriana was stuffing clothes messily into her pack, not looking at what she was doing even as she began moving faster.

" That's a horrible line of thought. Don't even consider it. Absolutely not."

"What. Did. They. Do," Oriana demanded, slamming innocent items of clothing into her bag to punctuate each word.

Zane remained silent, mulling the situation over in his head. 

"Tell me!" Oriana shouted. Wrench looked up from her own pack, alarmed.

"Nothing..." he said, struggling with his thoughts. The rest of them burst out with an explosive breath. "...yet. When they hear you've escaped, they'll almost certainly detain her and set a trap for you at your former home. Because they will know you'll want to try to find her. Which means, as I said already, you shouldn't even consider it."

"Are you kidding me?!" Oriana slapped her bag closed and put it on. She grabbed her bow and quiver from the wall and rounded on Zane. "She's my mom! What else am I supposed to do?"

"They... may just lose interest in her when you don't materialize. I doubt they would try to use her incarceration to draw you out without knowing where to deliver the message. It would be illegal, and even your most zealous pursuers are unlikely to hold her for long without cause. For the time being they can claim they're doing it for her protection—and may even believe it's true—but that will not work indefinitely. Your letter is proof she didn't collude in your escape."

"So I'm supposed to be okay with this because of a bunch of maybes and mights?"

"I don't think I ever said maybe or m... Er. No. I suppose not."

"So what are we going to do?"

"Well when we get to Eastdale I can..." He trailed off as the look on Oriana's face became impressively more murderous. "...we're going to go back to Mardok," he conceded, slumping further than the weight of the pack alone could account for.

"Good," Oriana said, and her expression softened a little. "You may be a little clueless, but I appreciate you trying to protect me. Even if I don't really understand how."

Zane opened the window nearby and whistled. After a moment, there was a thump on the side of the building and a young boy with a crimson eyepatch pulled himself up into view. Zane whispered something to the boy, who nodded and dropped down from the window again.

"Well, we'll have time for me to explain the details on our way to the carriage. I've just sent word that it will be headed in a different direction than originally planned."

Oriana watched as Wrench finished her own packing, grabbing her trademark gigantic pipe wrench from on top of a chest that carried her tools. Then all three of them headed to the door.

"Your story can wait," Oriana told Zane, before shooting Wrench a weak smile. "I have some explaining of my own to do first."

The End

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