The Rogue Knight Page 63

“I know your faces,” Secha said. “They wanted help spotting you. I wasn’t privy to the full extent of their scheme. This hasn’t been pleasant. I’m a prisoner.”

“Time is against us,” Oster reminded everyone.

“Let’s keep checking,” Mira decided. “Leave her. She’s not important.”

They backed out of the room, and Oster closed the door.

“She broke her vow,” Joe pointed out. “She could still cause trouble.”

“We have bigger problems right now,” Mira said, hustling down the stairs.

“This next door is where we put the guards who surrendered,” Oster said. “There’s just one more.”

He tried a couple of keys before opening the final iron door to reveal an older man with messy white hair and weary eyes. He sat on the edge of a simple cot. One leg was missing halfway past his thigh. The other ended just below the knee.

“Mutiny?” the man asked curiously.

“I don’t know this man,” Oster said.

Mira stepped closer. “Who are you?”

The prisoner leaned forward, eyes narrowing. “It can’t be.”

“Excuse me?” Mira said.

“Miracle?” he asked.

“How do you know me?”

“I was a boy when we knew each other,” he said. “I was a bit younger than you. I’m Reginald Waters.”

“Reggie?” she gasped. “Yes, I see it now. What happened to you?”

“I had charge over Honor for years,” he said. “Not at first. She has been in my care the last five decades. Until I failed her.”

“When?” Mira asked. “How?”

“Not long ago,” he said. “Weeks, not months.”

“Her star was in the sky,” Mira said.

“It appeared the day she was taken from me,” Reginald said. “I had a way to contact your mother. I informed her I had lost my Honor.”

“Is Nori all right?” Mira asked. “Where is she? We’ll help her.”

“I’m not sure anyone can help her,” Reginald said. “She was seized by men loyal to Trillian.”

“The torivor?” Dalton exclaimed, eyes bulging.

“Who?” Cole asked. Dalton clearly knew enough about this Trillian person to be afraid, but Cole had never heard the name.

“The caged demon,” Oster said grimly. “The bane of Elloweer. Trillian the torivor.”

“His men cut me down,” Reginald said. “They left me to die and took her to him. Enforcers were on our trail at the time. They found me and stanched my wounds. Brought me here. Several days later her star went out.”

Cole tried not to stare at Reginald’s maimed legs. The man didn’t look frail, but he was definitely old. Perhaps in his younger days he would have won the fight.

Oster crossed to a window. Craning his neck, he leaned against the bars. “The gates are breeched,” he reported.

“Come with us,” Mira said to Reginald. “The castle is under attack. We have a chance to flee.”

“I can weave a tight seeming,” Reginald said. “But changing these stumps into legs is beyond me. Go. Get the word out about your sister.”

“Can we carry him?” Mira asked.

“Go!” Reginald demanded. “Leave the door open, and I’ll manage. I’ve failed one princess. I won’t risk slowing you. It’s not negotiable. Run!”

“Time grows short,” Oster warned.

“All right,” Mira said. “Thank you, Reggie. Take care.”

“I’ll leave the doors open at the base of the tower,” Oster said. He exited the room and started down the stairs. The others followed.

Chapter 25

ESCAPE

Cole focused on descending the stairs as quickly as he could without tripping. Ahead of him, Sultan raced down two steps at a time, toting Brady over one shoulder.

“Why are we running?” Brady asked, looking up at Cole.

“It’s good exercise,” Cole told him.

Brady looked doubtful. “I think the bad guys found me.”

“We’ll be okay,” Sultan assured him as they jounced downward. “We’ll get away.”

They reached the iron door at the base of the tower. A bulky knight stood guard there, holding a large flanged mace. Several broken bodies lay scattered around the hall.

“Which way?” Minimus asked the knight.

He pointed down the hall with two fingers. From the other direction Cole heard fighting.

“That will work,” Oster said hurriedly. “Follow me.”

Unlike the men who rode with the Rogue Knight, Oster did not wear a full suit of armor. He had a long shirt with metal scales, a helmet, and leather guards on his arms and legs. As Oster jogged in the lead, Cole could tell the armor weighed him down enough to make running a chore. Minimus trotted beside Cole, but despite his complete shell of solid armor, the Halfknight moved as if unburdened.

They raced down the hall, turned a corner, went through a door, then rushed down some steps. At the bottom they charged along another hall toward a T intersection. Composed of dark stone blocks, the corridors all looked the same to Cole. He knew they were a few floors above ground level, but otherwise he felt completely disoriented.

As they passed a window, Cole glimpsed two knights out in the courtyard pressed by attackers on all sides. Bodies had piled up around them. Most of the attackers wore the uniforms of Merriston guardsmen.

Oster turned left at the T, then stopped short and raced the other way. When Cole reached the intersection, he found they had run into a large group of legionnaires. Cole sprinted with everything he had as the legionnaires gave chase.

Up ahead, where the hall elbowed, the Rogue Knight ran into view with three other knights. They charged down the hall past Cole toward the legionnaires. Glancing back, Cole saw the legionnaires jostle to a halt. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the four knights filled the hall, weapons drawn, blocking the way. Cole followed Oster around the corner and lost sight of them.

“Nice work,” Sultan told Skye.

“Won’t hold them long,” she replied.

Only then did Cole realize that the Rogue Knight and his three companions had been illusions. That made more sense. The timing had been unbelievably lucky!

Oster led them down branching hallways, some narrow, others wide. While the others ran hard, Twitch hopped and fluttered. They hurried through a dining room with long tables and into a corridor on the far side. Around the next corner they ran into several oncoming guardsmen with crossbows. As the men took aim, a stone wall appeared, blocking them from view. Doubling back, Cole crouched and weaved as quarrels clacked against the wall beyond him. At least the crossbowmen couldn’t see their targets.

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