Chapter 23: A Meeting of Minds
Samuel dropped off the back of the wagon and waved to its driver as it pulled up to the eastern gate. The old man had been lucky to find a caravan of farmers fleeing down the King’s Road towards the city. Word had spread like wildfire about the Amorite attack. Samuel rushed through the gateway just as it started to close. Overhead he heard the watchmen’s alarm and pressed forward. Farmers and peasants from the surrounding countryside pushed past him to get behind the city’s walls. Samuel held his scroll tightly under his cloak as people jostled him to move faster.
“Leave your carts!” a guard yelled over the frantic crowd. “Move in an orderly fashion!”
Refugees lifted their small children above their heads and passed them on to strangers closer to the gates. The great wooden doors continued to close, and the mob became even more hysterical. Samuel pushed his way through to just within the walls and fell to his knees. Before him stood Balaam, waiting patiently.
“Balaam! You are a friendly face!” Samuel looked up at him.
The donkey leaned in and whispered, “You can see plain as day. I should’ve expected as much.”
Samuel propped himself up with Balaam’s help, then the two walked several steps away from the chaos of the crowd.
“Not until tonight, I assure you. But it’s a story best told elsewhere. I need to find Alex and the boy right away. Their lives are in jeopardy,” Samuel whispered to the donkey.
“I thought you knew that already,” Balaam replied. “You sent them into this madhouse, after all.”
“Them? Alexandra is already inside the city? Fool girl was supposed to have waited!”
“Yes, I’ve found she’s quite selective in following your advice. The boy, however, dutifully ignores it completely and ran us right into the city guard. Was that your plan all along?” Balaam tilted his head at Samuel.
“I thought he was an expendable agent, I gave him a blank note with my seal on it, something, that at the very least, would remind the king of the silence between us. It may have been too subtle a message.” Samuel ran his hand across his forehead. “Now it seems I’ve laid our last card too early on the table. That boy means more to us than I first thought.” Samuel turned his gaze back to Balaam.
“Quickly, where were they taken?”
“Last I saw they were being taken to the dungeon. We’d normally have little chance at them, but this evening is off. Half the city is running about in a panic. Terrors are haunting the graveyard. The guards have their hands full. We might be able to slip in.”
Samuel looked up at the watchmen and turned his head towards the distant western gate. A faint cry of battle echoed in the wind.
“A great many calamities are unfolding tonight, I fear. Let’s move swiftly,” Samuel said and hoisted himself onto Balaam’s back.