That being said, I'm back! Pretty simple premise this week, the challenge was to mash together two fiction genres, I took a look at the list and thought back to this group and decided it would be fun to use them again. (As always, please read that first if you aren't familiar with this cast...and totally not to boost my page views.)
This is actually the product of two weeks worth of pecking at the keyboard...again, kinda fell out of practice.
The Rusty Nail
The tavern’s sign swung in the rain, water sheeting off the wood. A cloaked figure ducked inside, shutting the door behind them.
Tossing back the hood revealed a young woman who shook off the rain before making her way through the room.
She wove a quick path between the tables, avoiding the roaring hearth where a few patrons were huddled over their drinks. She settled into a seat in a shadowed corner where a group of four waited.
A rugged man with the scruff of a beard shadowing his face. A young woman who sat with a noble posture despite the plain cut of her robes. A man with his head pillowed in his arms, moaning occasionally. And a young man leaning back in his chair, tuning the strings of his lute.
“It’s quiet,” Sera said as she took the steaming mug Flynt passed her. “Not many are out in this rain but everyone is gossiping about the death of the queen, no offence my Lady.”
Queen Valentina, or now simply ‘Tina’, acknowledged Sera’s apology with a nod. Her golden hair darkened to a dirty brown and tied back in a loose braid doing a great deal to disguise her, she motioned Sera to continue.
“There are no rumors then that we have entered the city?” She asked.
“No my Lady, but we should be careful,“ Sera said. "Getting close to Duke Weston will be its own challenge."
"Indeed, you're still rather recognizable Tina," Flynt grinned. "What do you remember of the Weston’s manor?"
Valentina frowned at Flynt's tone, "Not much of value I fear. I did not have reason to study his security. I know the layout of the building, but not much else."
"I can go watch the guards, find out their routine?” Sera suggested, “It’ll take time but-."
Gibson looked up from the table, "I know their routine."
"How do you know their routine?" Sera asked.
"I was drinking with them last night," Gibson winced at the light. "We were playing dice and I got them talking about the manor."
"You're terrible at dice." Sera said.
"Which is exactly why they kept talking, and drinking," Gibson smirked. "They were complaining about having to take extra shifts, seems the Duke is getting paranoid."
"That'll make sneaking in difficult," Flynt frowned. "We could try scaling the wall during a shift change. But with five of us-."
Tristan interrupted with the strum of a low chord, "I believe we're overthinking this." He turned towards Valentina, "Tell me Majesty, how's your singing voice?"
"This is a terrible plan." Sera muttered as she crept through the halls of the manor.
"So you've said, repeatedly. Now be quiet." Flynt whispered.
They made their way down the halls until they found set of double doors marked with a gold inlay around the frame.
“This is it,” Flynt said as he pulled on the latch but the doors didn’t move.
“Move aside,” Sera tugged a pair of picks from her sleeve. “Keep an eye out.”
Flynt stepped back to give her space, sweeping his gaze back and forth in the shadowed hallway. “Make it quick, we’re on a schedule here.” He whispered.
Sera ignored him, twisting the lockpicks around the tumblers until she was met with a satisfying click. Sliding the doors open she ducked inside, pulling Flynt along behind her.
“Sera and Flynt will sneak in to the manor through the back gardens,” Tristan pointed at the rough sketch Valentina and Sera had produced. “Lady Valentina and I will provide a distraction here, in the courtyard. Gibson, once you hear the signal you’ll stage the ‘attack’.”
Gibson knelt in the shadows of a nearby alley, keeping the manor wall in view as he finished readying his arsenal.
Tying the last of the sulfur and saltpeter packets to his arrows, he lit a small candle and hid the light behind a barrel, shielding it from the view of any patrolling guards.
When Queen Valentina’s voice began drifting across the night breeze, Gibson lit the first of the fuses and shot the arrow into the dark sky.
The bright explosion of color was almost as satisfying as the clamor of alarm bells.
“Once the Duke thinks he’s under attack he’ll retreat to his chambers. Gibson will keep the guards busy with more distractions, while you and I sneak away in the confusion.”
The moment the first arrow detonated in a burst of light that cast the courtyard in sharp relief, Tristan dropped his lute, letting it swing back behind him. He grabbed Valentina’s hand as the guards all ran to secure the manor gates.
“Come Majesty, we don’t have much time.”
Valentina fell into step beside him as they ran to an unmanned doorway. Ducking inside they found themselves in the servant’s quarters.
“This way.” Valentina took the lead, “The kitchen should be down this hall.”
As they ran down the hall Sera stepped out from behind a corner, “Come on, quick!”
“Flynt will secure the Duke’s chambers while Sera comes and leads us back.”
Flynt stood in a corner of the room, hidden behind the door as the Duke stumbled inside.
“Find them!” He shouted. “We’re under attack you fools! Get out there and do your jobs!”
The portly man slammed the door and turned the lock, as he turned away Flynt slid out from the shadows and grabbed hold of him. Locking the man’s arms to keep him still and pressing a handkerchief over the Duke’s mouth to keep him silent.
“Just relax, your Lordship, we’re not going to hurt you.” Flynt said, turning the man to face the back of the room.
The not-so-secret servant door slid open, revealing Sera, Tristan and Valentina. Valentina had donned her crown and looked down her nose at the Duke.
“Duke Emrys of Westboro, I am disappointed you did not recognize me in the courtyard.” She settled herself in the chair at the Duke’s desk, lacing her fingers in her lap she leaned forward and said, “I believe we need to have a discussion about your allegiance to the crown.”