Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
I am running out of darkness. I have wasted too much time between sneaking into the city and tracking the guards. I am at the point of no return so I forge onward deciphering the directions I had been given.
The city is so foreign to me slowing my progress so I hasten my footsteps. Caution is traded for distance. Sticking to alleys and shadows I skirt the main streets in search of the High Prophet’s house.
Annaliese had briefly described it to me when we first met so as I came to every cross street I would stop and look up and down the streets. She told me it was the biggest house in the city. House she had told me, not building, that coupled with the guard’s directions eliminated a lot of what I continue to pass on my journey.
At one such street crossing I look one way then the other. The street runs for a couple of blocks and behind the buildings at the end I spot a roof and upper windows that can only belong to a large house.
My excitement gives me a renewed energy and I advance hastily and step out of the mouth of the alley. Something strikes across my face and sends me flying back. Shaking my head to clear it I watch through blurred eyes as a group of men walk into the alley after me.
One of the men squats down beside me and raises his arm to remove my hood. The man’s words penetrate the ringing in my head.
“Sorry.” Marcus apologizes. “You startled us when you stepped around the corner.” “We were notified when you entered the city but then you disappeared so we set out to find you.”
I rub my jaw staring into Marcus’ face. My own eyes still tearing from the blow.
“I don’t understand.” I start. “We were certain you had been captured when you diverted the guards from us back at the mine wall.”
Marcus shakes his head. “It’s a long story, one for another time. I can only presume that if you are foolish enough to return to the city you must have a good reason.”
“Annaliese. I came back to help her.” I explain.
Marcus shakes his head. “When I heard you had returned I figured she was the reason that’s why we were in this part of the city searching for you.”
“What are your plans?” He asked.
I shrug my shoulders. “I hoped to sneak into to her father’s house and slip her out without any one knowing.”
Marcus looked at me thoughtfully. “That is not much of a plan.” He stands up and offers me his hand. Getting to my feet I dust my self off, I stall still not knowing how to react.
Changing the subject I look past him at the men with him. All of the men including Marcus are dressed in guard’s uniforms. Something must be going on for a group this size to be roaming the streets during curfew.
“What’s happening?” I motion to his men. “Why risk being discovered?”
His face darkens and he lowers his head. “Annaliese is to be tried tomorrow for helping you escape. Nobody expects the trial to last long and then they will sentence her to work the mines.” He explains. “We are going to try to stop the trial.”
“How?” I ask puzzled. “You don’t have very many men.”
“More than you think.” He raises his head. “Annaliese is very well liked in the city. She has spent her time roaming the city helping out those in trouble.” He smiles at the thought. “She has become very popular and a lot of the people are shocked that her own father would punish her.”
I struggle with my own thoughts in search of a response. I am wracked with guilt because the trouble she is in is because of me.
“I will turn myself in, trade my freedom for hers.” I decide out loud. “I can make a deal with the Prophets.”
“That won’t happen. The Prophets won’t bargain. Their control over the city is fragile at best. If they appear to soften their stand it would bring their authority into question.”
I kick at the dirt in frustration. “Then we will have to storm the palace and release her, what other option do we have?”
“We will never get close. The palace is under heavy guard by the Prophet’s men. Several of the guards are sympathetic to her plight but the ones guarding the palace are the most trusted. They are selected for their loyalty and are rewarded well.”
“Then what do we do?” My voice rising as panic sets in. I worry that the hour is late and the lights of the city will surely be brightening soon, people will leave their homes to start of the new day. How will we have any chance with so many more obstacles in the way of our already impossible task?
“Where will her trial be held and how many guards will be there?” I ask Marcus searching for some sliver of hope. An idea worms its way into my head that seems crazy even to me but under the circumstances crazy may be what we need.
"The trial will be held on the palace steps.” Marcus eyes me suspiciously. “A set of palace guards accompany the Prophets during these fiascos with several more squads standing ready in the street watching over the crowds.” Squatting down he draws a rough layout in the dust of the street and palace to demonstrate. Twisting his head he peers back up at me.
“Why. What are you thinking?”
Standing amongst the group of men I grasp at straws struggling to string random thoughts together in the form of a plan. The words tumble out of my mouth as I think out loud. The variables are many and the time is short. Marcus picks up on my train of thought and together we arrive at possible plan of attack.
Marcus informs me that there are more insurgents he can call on to assist. We decide that I will lead a small mob to the trial and try to delay the proceedings. He has his own preparations to complete but will send others to aid in our task.
“The trial will take place on the steps of the palace at first light. Wait here until the crowds gather. That should give me time to alert other sympathisers and have them meet you here before you leave for the palace.” Marcus instructs as he selects a few of the men in the group to stay with me, the remainder will leave with him.
He takes me aside to talk. “The resentment factor in this city is running high right now. A lot of the city people object to the Prophets and Annaliese’s trial. Although most will be sympathetic, others even if they have come to despise the Prophets are too afraid to act and out of fear will rail against us.” He warns. “Careful of who you turn your back on in trust.” He pats my shoulder and walks out of the alley.
Four men stay with me. We crouch in the shadows of the alley and bide our time. The last remaining hours of dark pass as we wait for the city lights to brighten. Stragglers sent by Marcus appear out of the darkened streets to bolster our small band.
By the time the city is about to wake our little gathering is a mere fifteen people strong. A few of us have military robes and rifles, the rest are simply garbed in their normal robes.
The city is bathed in daylight. A bell sounds throughout the streets. One of Marcus’ men interrupts my thoughts and nods toward the palace.
I search the faces of the small group assembled around me. Faces are scared and nervous. I step in front as we leave the sanctuary of the alley toward the palace steps.
Annaliese’s trial is about to start.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.