A Silent Game of Spies

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She eyed the cow. Who knew that cows snored? Every time Shadow nearly fell asleep, something in this dreaded barn made a noise. She was just not a farm girl, that much was clear.

In all honesty, the barn was shelter from the rain, and, were it not for the animals, the steady pitty-pat of rain on the roof would have lulled Shadow to sleep. However, the roosting hens reshuffled themselves occasionally and that bloody rooster nearly found himself roasting on a spit, cocky little monster. She’d shooed him away several times, so now he glared at her from the other side of the barn.

Shadow would sneak out before dawn, with a few eggs, of course. As best as she could tell, she still had about a week of travel, if by foot, to Port Stanton. She’d lifted a few silvers, a few coppers, and a bronze for her trip before she left HarCourt, for she didn’t know how much a trip aboard a ship would cost, but she hoped she had enough.

Since HarCourt, Shadow had gotten the occasional wagon ride, by permission and sometimes hidden among its goods, under the canvas covers. Those were the easiest – she just rolled off stealthily as the wagon turned into a village or town. Riding was the best alternative, for the soles of Shadow’s shoes were starting to thin. They weren’t meant for long-distance walking, after all.

Upon occasion, when asked for her name, Shadow had a few identities constructed, just so people wouldn’t remember the same girl all the way down the same route, if inquiries arose. At first, she used the name Lynza, just for old times’ sake, since she and The Shrew bore each other such deep love and devotion.

But then, Shadow felt a pang of conscience, for she didn’t actually want The Shrew to get in trouble, should anyone question local villagers and make the connection. Lynza may be a bitch, but she didn’t deserve Drury’s wrath. No one did.

So Shadow changed her stories around. If she didn’t like the looks of the people speaking to her, then she was Mitzie, on her way home from visiting her Auntie, who’d died of the fever. And Shadow would cough or sniffle a bit. That sent people scurrying off hastily enough. Other times, she was Salla, off to visit her cousins for the first time. Most times, no one asked, or else they talked more about themselves.

Shadow snagged a donkey once, which had turned out to be more trouble than he was worth, for he started hobbling not three hours after she’d taken him, and Shadow had wound up leading him. The irony was not lost on her – a shadow leading an ass instead of trailing behind it. She’d finally left the poor beast in a village where someone would know what to with him.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time Shadow had been in the immediate vicinity of an ass, but she’d take the donkey rather than Drury any time.

Shadow wondered often what had become of Rilstrom, whether he made it back to Shaw safely. For in a number of villages, Wanted signs of him were posted on poles, with drawings of him and his name beneath. Obviously Drury’s men.

So whenever Shadow saw these Wanted signs, she waited until she wasn’t being observed, then cut the Prince’s name off the papers with her knife. Next, with a piece of charcoal, she wrote, “Lord Drury” and added to the sketches a bit to liken the pictures more to Drury’s appearance.

Probably by now, if King Reaghann was true to his word, Drury was no longer at HarCourt. It didn’t matter, for Shadow was free of him. As soon as she set foot on a ship at Port Stanton, she would be gone from the East altogether. Shadow felt certain that wherever Drury went, he would still stay somewhere in the East, whatever country he reemerged in.

Shadow had no ties to any country, be it the Eastern Alliance or somewhere West, but she thought warming her toes in the sand of some sunny beach of a Coastal Country sounded wonderful after hiding behind the miserable, cold, stone walls all this time….

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