Durazno sighed. His new traveling companion was a bit annoying. Sim was always going on about the glory of war. A day on the battlefield surrounded by the smells of burning flesh and the screams of the dying would probably fix that.
Thinking of battles made him remember his last battle. That one had been downright embarrassing. Captured by a girl that couldn’t have been more than thirteen years old and looked as if she had no experience on the field. At least he had escaped easily enough. But then he had gotten lost and somehow ended up in the middle of the woods with Sim.
“Stop.” Sim ordered suddenly.
“What is it?” Durazno sighed.
“Don’t you hear it? The noises in the underbrush?” Sim whispered.
Durazno listened. Somewhere in the bushes he heard a twig snap. He unsheathed his dagger and waited. A few seconds later, a human popped out of the bushes.
She looked had brown hair that came down just past her ears and looked no older than thirteen, and the last time Durazno had seen her she’d been on dragon back. She looked at him and screamed. Then she darted past the horses and ran ahead of them in a desperate dash.
“Quick! After her, Sim!” Durazno shouted. He kicked his horse into a gallop, closely followed by Sim.
While the girl was fast, her speed was no match for the horses’ legs. Soon they had drawn even with her. Durazno jumped from his horse and tackled her, landing in a roll. He twisted her arms behind her back and pulled a length of rope from his pocket and tied her wrists together.
“Who even is that?” Sim asked.
“An enemy. She is a Dragonfriend, and she recently captured me. Needless to say, I escaped.” Durazno explained.
“Why don’t you just kill her?” Sim asked, unconcerned.
“Good question. Why don’t I just kill you?” Durazno asked the girl.
“Because my name is Callen, daughter of Grabus, general of the Dragonfriend army.” The girl answered angrily. “And you can ransom me, kill me, or torture the information out of me. Whatever you want to do.”
“Daughter of the famous Grabus? Now isn’t this interesting?” Durazno mused. “But I thought his daughter’s name was Nessa.”
His words clearly hit a nerve. Callen’s jaw clenched, and her muscles tightened. Pure hatred burned behind her sky-blue eyes.
“Now someone looks angry.” Sim commented.
“You’re the other one I’ve heard whispers of. The shameful one.” Durazno smirked. The girl said nothing, all that happened was her eyes took on a faraway look. Well, that method clearly wouldn’t work this time.
“Toss her up on your horse and let’s go.” He ordered Sim.
They rode the rest of the day in uneventful silence. At nightfall they stopped and built a small fire. Durazno waited until Callen pretended to sleep before making his move.
“She’s faking.” He mouthed at Sim. Then aloud he said. “Since I’ve already told you everything about the escape route the princess had built through the wine cellar, I’ll tell you about the tunnel under the wall. Just in case you ever need to escape.”
“Go on, tell me!” Sim enthused, playing along.
“Well, from the outside, you go along the wall until you see the statue of the weeping woman. The wall there is covered with ivy, if you pull back the ivy, you’ll find a section of wall that’s a different color from the rest. You can pry that part away, and you get a tunnel. It’s only big enough for one person at a time to crawl through, but it’s still an effective escape route.” Durazno said.
“Now what?” Sim mouthed.
“We let her escape.” Durazno mouthed back. “She’ll run straight back to her father with that information. When his army marches through the tunnel, they’ll be picked off, one by one.”