Chapter XXV

The two had slept in their clothes, having brought nothing but a little money and the horses with them (despite Beatrix’s apparent need for finery), and so they wasted no time in slipping down the staircase into the pub area below. The soldiers had begun to hammer on the door with their bayonets. The customers in the bar were all wide eyed and terrified if they were sober, and dull eyed and bored if they weren’t. The landlord, a short and friendly man by the name of Herbert, hurried over to the door.
‘I’m coming!’ he shouted above the din. ‘If you break the door, you pay for it!’
Beatrix looked around desperately for an escape route – and was presented with one.

‘Through here!’ she grabbed Carla’s hand and dragged her through the bar and into the kitchen. The landlady, Rosa, was already there, ushering a young man and woman (who looked as ragged and scruffy as the rest of these peasants) through the back door, urgently pressing a loaf of bread into their hands.

‘Just take it, will you!’ she muttered.

‘I’m so sorry,’ the man was saying. ‘I never meant for this. I -’

But Rosa was having none of it. ‘Just get along with you, Jaques. We’ve pulled through worse than this before. The important thing is, you’re safe. Remember that. Now go!’

‘You have my deepest thanks,’ the man named Jaques said, before he and the woman disappeared through the door.

Rosa turned, and, seeing Beatrix and Carla, immediately said: ‘I’m sorry, but this area is off-limits. I apologise for this interruption – Herbert should get it fixed quickly.’ Her eyes flicked to the doorway, unsure of how much they had seen. But, evidently deciding them to be innocent, she ushered them back into the pub.

‘No, wait! You don’t understand!’ Beatrix began, but suddenly, the door gave way and the guardsmen poured into the pub. With raucous shouts, they turned over tables, smashing glasses and bottles, beating at people with the butts of their bayonets. This wasn’t how the guardsmen were supposed to behave! They were supposed to act with honour, to protect the citizens of Disnarta, not terrorise them!

What had happened to this simple ideal?

Carla was grabbed from behind with a scream, but Beatrix had no chance to help her before she too was pulled backwards.

The End

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