Rat & Will Chapter 25: Rat to the Rescue
The next room was locked not only with the key, but a rusted padlock that matched no key on either ring. Rat considered picking it, but Will intervened for time. Three hard hits with the hilt of his sword were enough to break the lock into pieces that clattered across the stone floor. They looked about in worried silence, but no one seemed interested in investigating the noise. Finally Rat shared a look with Will and opened the door. Rat entered in a crouch, Will right behind her.
They found themselves inside yet another office. The room was dark, the only light filtering in from the hall outside. They slid to either side of the door, out of the light, listening hard and waiting for their eyes to adjust. A soft shuffling noise at the back of the room drew Rat’s attention and she found that she could just barely see that instead of desks or furniture, the floor was layered with rank hay and cuffs hung from the back wall, gleaming dully in the faint light.
Large frightened eyes peered out at them from under one of the sets of cuffs. When it seemed that they’d all just stare at each other forever, Rat sighed and spoke. “You alone?”
“I…I think so.” A quavery voice answered. “I think Bren be dead.”
“Well shit.” Rat pulled a match and a small candle stub from her coat and lit it, letting the glow illuminate the room. The large eyes belonged to a thin girl with stringy hair and torn, bloody clothing. The cuffs beside hers were empty, but on the other side, another girl was strung up. She didn’t move.
It was Will’s turn to sigh. He crept carefully over to the unmoving girl and rested a large hand on her face. Then he turned to Rat and the frightened girl, cold anger burning in his blue eyes, and shook his head.
“Cold.” Was all he said, barely above a whisper.
The girl began to weep. “I knew it when she didn’t wake. After he came the last time. She slept and wouldn’t wake.”
Rat curled her lip. “He who?”
The girl looked up at her with blank eyes. Rat held those eyes and murmured. “I’m going to get these cuffs open. You tell me all you know about the man who locked you in here.”
She nodded, a bit of the emptiness leaving her eyes. “Right. I…I can’t remember how I got here. Bren couldn’t either. She was here first though. And another girl, but I weren’t here long before they took her.”
“Alright.” Rat had pulled a thin tool from her coat lining and began to work at the lock of the first manacle. “Who took her? Guards? Men you knew?”
“No.” The girl shook her head. “They wore guard uniforms, but none of the men from the city actually work up here anymore.”
Rat snuck a look at her, then went back to concentrating on the lock. “So they were the Lord’s men? Did you see the Lord?” She heard the tiny click and watched with satisfaction as the first manacle fell open. The girl gasped with relief and pain as blood began flowing back into her limb.
“N…no. I don’t think so. A man in odd drapes came with guards twice. He poked at me and Bren. Cut us with an odd knife. Laughed. After, we felt tired and sick. And last time…” Her eyes rolled over towards her friend’s body. “Bren wouldn’t wake. I kicked her, but she wouldn’t wake!”
“Shh.” Will tried to sooth the girl. He’d crouched and was careful not to touch her. “Do you know how long you were here?”
“No.” The girl shook her head and dissolved into weeping. Rat sent Will an annoyed look, before making a hard jamming motion at the manacle. With a creak, it opened and the girl’s second hand dropped. When Rat stepped back, the weeping girl scooted towards her, making panicked noises. Confused, Rat tried to step back further. People never went towards her and away from Will. But no, as Will smiled gently and tried to comfort her, the weeping girl winced away from her very nice husband and scrambled closer to the not very nice at all Rat.
She huffed a sigh when the girl reached a trembling hand out and took it in her own. “You aren’t going to hurt me?”
“No.” Rat tried to look to Will for help, but he was busy trying to decide if he was amused by the strange turn of events or sad for the girl. No help there. She hunkered down so that they were at eye level. “No. We’re not going to hurt you. But we do have to keep going if we’re going to finish what we started here. And you won’t be safe with us.”
After a long struggle reflected in the girl’s eyes, she swallowed. “You’re going to kill him? The man in the drapes? Hurt him like he hurt Bren?”
Rat nodded. “We’re going to try.”
The girl considered that. Rat watched while her eyes dried and hardened. “Good. I want him dead.”
Rat approved. “Me too.” She held the light brown eyes. “Some people deserve worse than they ever get, but we’ll at least kill him if we can.” She hoped the girl got what she didn’t have the words to explain.
“It will be enough.” The eyes stayed firm on Rat’s.
This girl would live. Rat was sure of it. She smiled and the girl, unlike most people, didn’t flinch from the cold of it. Instead, she smiled back. “Alright. You need to leave here. Quietly as you can. Follow the bodies. We left plenty.”
Again, that smile. “Good. They all deserve it if they were here.”
“Right.” Rat stood and helped the girl to her feet. “You hear anything, you look for a dark corner and stay real quiet. You’ll get out on the walls just fine. That’s where we stopped killing, so be careful.”
The girl nodded. She turned towards Will, hesitated, then squared her shoulders and walked around him. He moved out of her way and they both watched her dig through a box neither had noticed by the wall. In the dim light of the dwindling candle, she found and tugged on a tunic and tattered skirt. Over it, she tied a scarf about her waist. When she pulled out two wicked looking daggers and slid them carefully into the scarf, Rat smiled.
This girl would definitely live.