At 7 he was out on patrol hoping the day would be normal and hoping too that he would not be spending time with the king. Now that he knew what the man planned for them, a building rage that boiled slowly waiting for an occasion for release, made him hesitant to be anywhere near the king.
They had lunch in the same dinner as the first day. Then the afternoon passed and he was home with Margaret. The expected storm had not yet begun. He was told it started later each day, which he imagined was due to the ring world’s rotation. The same storm might actually, moved across the entire surface followed by other storms so every inch of ground received proper moisture consistently.
Margaret was in the kitchen. “Hi,” she said and turned her head for a kiss. He obliged, and wrapped his arms around her from behind.
“How was everything here today?” He asked.
“Quiet thankfully. He heard people walking in the connecting hallway outside the front door, but no one stopped here.”
He breathed a quiet sigh of relief, kissed her again and went to shower and change. When he returned, she had arranged everything on the table for dinner. Which was when he realized he was quite famished.
“This stew is perfect,” He told her wiping his mouth with one of the cloth napkins they’d found in a pantry area. He pushed the chair back and stood. As he did there was a loud knocking at the front door.
Margaret’s eyes went wide with a look of surprised horror. “Who is that?” Her voice was low and nervous.
“I’ll find out. You might want to go into the bathroom just in case it’s trouble.” He waited until she had, and then went and flipped on the camera, which displayed the scene in the hallway. Stanton resisted the urge to take a step back when he spied a woman dressed in armor that covered her upper chest, and shoulders. She had armored sleeves from the wrists to the elbows. The upper body armor connected in back to more from the waist down to her knees. From there to her feet she was uncovered. The armor was layered metal leaves from small over her breasts, to large over her hips and around. There was a collar up behind her neck, and a quiver of arrows hung over her left shoulder. In her right hand she held a strung bow. And then he saw that three of her left fingers had flexible guards over them to protect her from the three arrows she held loosely, but would be easily notched and fired in a mere second or two.
What had made him want to take a step back was none of that as much as it was the horns that grew from just above both sides of her forehead, curving back and inward at the top where both had two points.
What the hell are you?He thought and recalled the hand he’d seen through the opening in the boulders beyond the smaller of the two arches in the portal he planned to use as an escape.
The woman had short golden hair and bright gold-brown eyes that stared at the door and viewing portal with a look of growing impatience.
After a slow deep breath, he opened the door wide. She entered as if she lived with them, and turned in the middle of the living room to face him again.
She spoke was an odd but attractive accent that made understanding her require concentrated effort. “You and your woman must come with me now. The man you know as William requested I assist and now is the only time I can do so for the gateway will seal when the storm lightning illuminates around it. William said to tell you the storm cycle accelerates as each night passes. So there is little time tonight and much less the nights after until in three nights the storm cycle ends.”
He thought about it for maybe thirty seconds, nodded and went for Margaret.
“Who is that?” she asked sounding frightened.
“A woman warrior sent here by William. She will guide us through the portal.”
“But I thought that was for tomorrow night?” She sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood. Her pregnancy was more visible than when she stood in full daylight.
“William claims that the storms are moving faster then I wes told so the window to escape tomorrow night will be only a hour or two. Tonight we have four to five hours.” He watched her dress and when she finished she pointed to the large carry pack filled with clothing.
“I’ll grab the food,” she said and left after donning boots.
Five minutes later, they were outside where he discovered three saddled horses. The warrior was on a silver one that had a white mane and tail. Stanton helped Margaret onto a black mare, and took a slightly larger stallion that had a reddish coat, mane, and tail.
He expected noise from the horses’ shoes, but they were silent. A quick glance at the warrior’s horse showed him that the hooves were covered in some type of boots.
As they cleared the central part of the town, the horses began galloping as if directed by the warrior’s horse. They moved like shadows past two watchtowers. No one seemed to notice or if they did they didn’t react.
Thirty minutes later they stopped at the bottom of the broken and dislodged steps. The warrior looked at me and said, “William told you how to activate the gate from this side?”
“He did.” He swung his leg over the horse and walked carefully up the steps recalling what William told him: At the top of the second tier of steps to the left at shoulder height is hand-sized opening. Reach into and when you feel a key shaped stone, pull it and turn it to the right twice and then the left once. Move quickly, and you will hear a rumble and grinding of stones. The boulders in the small archway will rolled to both sides. Escape then.
The stairs were wet and slippery. He fell to one knee, grunting with the pain, pulled up and found the opening. Carefully, he slipped his hand into it, felt the key shaped stone, pulled it and turned as instructed.
Immediately he heard a low rumbling and then grinding stones. He raced down the steps, turned and watched as all of the broken damaged stairway part reassembled into one well-crafted staircase made from what looked like grey granite.
After getting back on his horse, he followed the warrior and Margaret up the steps. As they reached the top, the two arches opened completely. They passed through. Behind, from below the elaborate stone staircase he heard a male voice shout, “Stop Stanton or we will kill your woman.”
He turned as he cleared the inner portal and waved. “Good knowing you.”
The warrior notched three arrows and fired them through the portal. He watched as each arrow landed in the chest of a different man.
After that he didn’t think anything else might happen, but then heard Margaret scream at the same time the portals closed.
He jumped off his horse in time to catch Margaret as she slid lifelessly to the ground. She wasn’t dead, but was bleeding again profusely. Whatever they’d done which he thought was plant some device under her flesh while she was imprisoned after he left her on the first day of captivity, had exploded and tore most of her left leg off just above the knee.