They rode their horses hard towards Willowsdale, skirting around the village they followed Leon to the tower. It was tall, crumbling and swarming with bandits. Having left their horses near the village, so not to draw any attention, they crept forward and hid behind some rocks.
"I can't see a single area that isn't being watched" Arthur whispered.
"That's because there isn't one, they’ve got every corner of it covered" Ira whispered back. "Arthur isn't this an old watchtower belonging to Camelot?" She asked.
"Didn't all the towers have a secret tunnel to allow a messenger out if they were under siege?" Arthur looked across at her confused.
"Yes. How did you know?"
"Uh...doesn't matter, can't we use it to sneak in?" There was silence as both Arthur and Leon thought through her suggestion.
"It would allow us to get in undetected" he allowed, "but they are bound to know about them and have some sort of watch on them."
"The watches will change though" Leon said, "if we know the times they change then we could get past them." They fell silent as two bandits started to walk towards them, crouching further behind the rocks they watched them pass.
"Could we perhaps continue planning at a much safer distance" Ira suggested.
"Why? Scared?" Leon smirked.
"Not at all, just don't see the point of getting caught before we have a plan" she retorted. They walked in silence back to the horses, occasionally Arthur caught Leon and Ira glaring at each other.
"Right that's it" he stopped suddenly, "what is the matter with both of you?" He asked angrily.
"Nothing" they both replied through gritted teeth.
"Well I can tell it's something because, Leon you are a terrible liar and Ira...ok I can't actually tell if you're lying but the way you are behaving is giving it away." They both stayed silent so he continued his rant, "we are here to rescue our friends, which means we have to work together, and we can't work together if you two behave like children" he paused, "so...so sort it out" he started walking again. Leon and Ira watched him walk past them then followed, not speaking a word to each other.
When they neared the village again, she had overheard someone call it Ash hall or something similar, they tried to work out a plan, but apart from the one she had suggested earlier nothing was coming to mind. Leaning against a tree Ira ignored whatever Arthur and Leon were saying and watched the activities within the village, until two familiar figures caught her eye.
"Hey, hey you two" she called back to Arthur and Leon, "come here."
"What is it?" Arthur asked, she pointed the two figures out.
"What about them?" Leon said.
"They're the two that we saw leaving the tower" she answered.
"How can that help us?"
"Couldn't we question them about the watch changes?"
"Are we even going with that plan?" Leon asked Arthur.
"Well it is the only one we've got so far and it could work quite well. Even if we don’t knowing when they change will be quite useful," they watched as the two figures entered a building. "Where are they going?"
"By the looks of it the tavern" Leon answered.
"Good" Ira muttered.
"How is that good?"
"Alcohol" she replied with a slight grin, "nothing gets anyone talking better than alcohol."
"So it's settled" Arthur said, "two of us will go into the tavern and get the bandits talking, find out about the watch changes so we can work out the rest of the plan," both Leon and Ira nodded.
"So Arthur and I will go, Ira you stay here and watch the horses."
"What? No way, for a start Arthur will be recognised and secondly you can't just stroll into a tavern wearing armour, bright red capes and expect people to tell you what you want."
"We can take the armour off and wear cloaks" Ira was shaking her head.
"Arthur will still be recognised, and because you came and saved a village, people will be looking out for you, I'll go it'll be less conspicuous." Arthur looked uneasy.
"You shouldn't go on your own, at least take Leon with you if things go wrong" he said, Leon looked as if he was about to argue, "that's an order" he added on.
They were sitting at the bar with their hoods pulled up, Ira was drinking, Leon had a drink but hadn't touched it since they sat down. Ira put her mug back down and looked across to Leons.
"You gonna drink that?" She asked, Leon shook his head and pushed the mug towards her, she took it and asked, "I know you're strict but I didn't think you would be one to turn down a drink, or at least that was the impression I got last time I was in Camelot," the only reply she got was a shrug and a noise that wasn't quite a grunt. She looked across at the two men they were watching, they were still deep in conversation with a group of people.
"Stop staring at them or they’ll notice. Besides they'll be there for a while. So come on why turn down a good chance to drink?" There was a pause, "ok not going to answer that, how about why do you have a problem with me? You can't still be holding a grudge from when I knocked you out, so what is it?" Finally getting his attention Leon turned to face her.
"I don't have a problem with you" he said.
"Well you could've fooled me, is it the fact that I'm of a lower birth than you?" Leon turned slightly red.
"No" he answered.
"I don't want to talk about this now" he said firmly, "can we just focus on what we need to do."
"Alright, no need to get so stressy, just trying to start a bit of a conversation with you, got nothing else to do" she muttered into her mug, Leon sighed.
"I'm not drinking because I can't" Iras eyebrows rose slightly, "I've never been able to, I get too nervous, I know I can't miss anything and I'm worried if I do drink, I'll miss something" he admitted quickly. She nodded in reply and then nudged him. Looking over he saw one of the bandits get up and make his way across to the bar. He leant against the bar about two seats away from them. Ira seizing the chance to get him talking, nodded to him.
"Afternoon" she greeted, he nodded back. As the barmaid brought over his drink he reached into his pocket and cursed, the barmaid not handing over the drink waited for his money. "Here" Ira said handing over a coin, taking it the barmaid put down the mug and walked away. The bandit looked across at them.
"I suppose I owe you thanks," thankfully he had already drunk quite a lot already and was in a chatty mood.
"I'm in a generous mood" she replied casually, "so you local?" She asked, the man shrugged.
"Fairly, I'm down at the watchtower, you?"
"Just travellers passing through, aren’t they owned by the king?"
"Yeah, king doesn’t use it anymore, it’s abandoned and it's our hideout" he claimed proudly.
“Not sure he’d be too happy with you using it.”
“We don’t care” he said before adding quietly, "we won't have much need for it much longer."
"Oh, why's that?"
"We're about to get paid a hefty sum on some ransoms" Ira laughed.
"Yeah, sure you are" the bandit looked slightly taken back.
"We are" he exclaimed, "from the king no less, we got a couple of his knights in our cells" he nodded.
"And they're underground? Well guarded? You know what Camelot knights are like," the bandit laughed.
“Not a fan of them either, I take it?”
“Can’t stand them, if you want my opinion they’re all rich arrogant idiots with not a brain between the lot of them.”
"Well they have no chance of getting out, they're underground in the lowest cells. At least four of us on watch down there at any one time, more throughout the halls, on lookout all over the place, the trick is to keep them changing so they are alert, for example we change every twenty minutes." Ira was just about to reply when she noticed he was starting to look at Leon with a mistrustful expression. “What’s the matter with him?” Leon had kept his hood down as far as it would go.
“What about him?”
“Not very chatty is he?”
“He’s a mute” she replied thinking quickly, he still didn’t look convinced so she finished her drink and stood up. Leon thankfully copied her without saying anything.
“Where you going?”
“None of your business” she answered walking past him toward the door, Leon tried to follow but he held out an arm and stopped him, pushing him back next to the bar. She noticed that his friend had sensed something was wrong and had started walking over towards them. Leon caught her eye from under his hood, she looked quickly toward the door that was to one side behind him. Would he understand? She thought. She was trying to tell him to make a run for it.
“Who are you?” the bandit, who had just walked over, asked.
“I said we are just travellers, we don’t want any trouble” Ira answered for him, keeping up the pretence that he was a mute.
“We weren’t talking to you.”
“Well you won’t get an answer from him.”
“I think we will.”
“You must be stupid then. Not really surprising to be honest, all bandits are pretty stupid.” She was trying to buy them more time but she knew she was winding them up in the process. She indicated toward the door yet again, but he still didn’t get it. He honesty wasn’t thinking about fighting them was he? Getting fed up one of the bandits roughly pulled down his hood. His hand immediately went to his side where his sword should have been. Would have been had he not taken it off because it was too noticeable. The bandits didn’t say anything, had they gotten away with it? She thought, it’s not obvious he’s a knight. The only way they would know is if they recognised him from the village. They were staring at him, she kept a hand on the hilt of her sword under her cloak. She could see Leons eyes constantly switching between the two of them. Suddenly they grabbed the front of his shirt and pushed him up against the wall, taking out a knife in the process.
“I remember you” he whispered holding the knife to his throat. Ira had to hand it to him, Leon didn’t even flinch. “You’re a knight, and worse a knight of Camelot.” A large shape moved out from behind the bar.
“You better not be making trouble in my bar,” the gruff voice cut across all the conversations in the room. The bandit turned around, ready to deal with the person that had interfered. Realising who it was and taking into account how large he was the bandit smiled.
“Not at all” he said removing the knife begrudgingly from Leons’ throat. “We were just about to leave.” The barman narrowed his eyes. Quickly grabbing Leon the bandit dragged him outside. Ira made to follow them but the other bandit stopped her. Before he could say anything she elbowed him in the head, he fell back and knocked himself out on the bar. She quickly ran outside to see Leon dodge another punch which he returned quickly sending the bandit staggering backwards. She watched the fight for a few minutes, she noticed they were both evenly matched. She watched Leon get tripped over. Knowing they didn’t have much time she picked up a plank of wood and strode over to the bandit. Unfortunately he saw her lift it up and managed to dodge it whilst knocking it out of her hand. Leaving Leon on the ground he grabbed the fallen plank and turned on her. She drew her sword and faced him. He was good at hand to hand combat but he couldn’t fight with a sword to save his life. Dodging around him she tripped him up and brought the hilt of her sword crashing down across his head. He collapsed to the ground. Walking over to Leon she offered him her hand, taking it he stood up.
“Not bad” he said, Iras’ eyebrows rose.
“Not bad?” Leon shrugged and grinned slightly.
“You proved you’re not a bad swordsman, swordswoman?” he corrected himself slightly unsure.
“I proved that back in Camelot” Leon didn’t say anything but laughed slightly. “Anyway,” she continued, “what are we going to do with them? We can’t let them get back to the watchtower.”
“We’ll tie them up” Leon answered moving toward the door. A few moments later he returned dragging the bandit behind him. They made quick work of tying them up and made their way back to Arthur.