Chapter XXVII

But it never came.

At least, not to her.

There was a coughing noise, and then suddenly, a heavy weight fell onto her, knocking the breath from her. She didn’t understand what it was until blood dripped beside her nose.

‘There you go,’ came an unfamiliar voice, and two pairs of hands helped to pull the body of the guardsman off her, what looked like a cheese knife protruding from his back. Beatrix, in no state to do anything save shake and feel pale, and perhaps faint if she was in the mood, didn’t realise who her rescuers were for a few minutes, until she recognised them as the man, Jaques, and his female companion.

‘Th-thank you,’ she murmured gratefully.

‘Don’t thank us,’ Jaques smiled. ‘It was Rosa who killed him for you. She's surprisingly handy with a kitchen knife.’

Beatrix felt suddenly sick, and the world spun for a few moments while Jaques and the woman helped her to sit down and breathe deeply.

‘You’ve had a shock. Don’t you worry about it.’

‘What’s happened – where are all the guardsmen?’ Beatrix finally asked.

Jaques just laughed. ‘Oh, them. They’re in no position to do very much at all anymore.’

‘You killed them?’

‘Oh, not all of them. Some of them are just knocked out or wounded. Just so long as they can’t go around arresting us, I don’t mind how I achieve it.’

Beatrix shivered involuntarily. This cut-throat world beyond the castle walls was not at all how she’d imagined it would be. She was miles out of her depth, clinging on to what driftwood she had left, desperately hoping that a kindly current would take her someplace she wanted to be.

It seemed an unlikely hope.

The End

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