When she opened her eyes the first thing she saw was the wooden timbers of the upper deck. They were higher than she remembered, and bright and clean and new. Her ship was darker below deck, and not so clean. There was fire, and men trying to kill her, to stop her. She blinked, twice and the scene resolved itself in her mind. This wasn’t the boat she escaped on. That was a roof. This was a building. Had she made is so far inland?
Lydia propped herself up on her elbows and looked around. She lay on a blanket on a long wooden bench. Another bench ran parallel to her own almost the full width of the room. Next to each of them were two smaller benches for sitting on.
She didn’t feel any pain, but it was hard to move quickly. She had been laying still for a long time. She was wounded, judging by the light bandages she wore. They were clean. Her wounds were not severe or the bandages were changed often. Both were good signs.
Lydia sat up slowly and swung her legs over the side of the bench. There was a door in front of her. Would it be locked? It seemed unlikely given the care she had received.
She slid carefully off the table, putting the weight onto her feet slowly, just in case. Her legs wobbled with her first step but otherwise she felt good. She stretched and flexed fingers and toes. She took the bandages off one by one and left them on her makeshift bed. She had been cut but they were healing well. Even the scarring would be light if there was any.
She smiled at that. They had tried to kill her but she had killed them. The message was safe.
She flung the blanket from the table. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t on her person. There! Her things were at the back. She dug through them frantically. There was the oilskin, here crumbs of wax, but no tube.
She turned to face the door, her hands gripping tightly gripping the edge of the table. Had they read it? Did they know? Were they coming for her now? She searched for a knife and quickly withdrew it from her sheath. But she was still alive. They either had not read it yet, or they were friends. She put the knife back.
Lydia forced herself to slow down, to consider the options. They found the tube because the wax seal was broken. But she was still alive. Was this town loyal to the crown? What town was this anyway?
She edged her way to the window to avoid being seen and looked outside. This was only a village, not a town. She cracked open the door. That noise, was it the sea? And it was just past noon. This must be one of the coastal villages. Maybe Mudsea, or Ashdown, or Fisher point. How far south had she travelled before they caught her?
Where was the scroll!
The light by the window changed. Someone was outside. Lydia carefully shut the door and crept back to the window. Outside was a woman with long, straight dark hair and an older, stockier man. They were talking. It was hard to hear what they were saying and Lydia only caught a few words. One got her attention immediately. How did they know about Morrigan? Who was Bronwyn? And they mentioned the capital city-state, Lorin. Lydia’s jaw clenched. If what she just heard was true, and why would they lie, they didn’t know she was listening, these people couldn’t be trusted after all.
The pair ended their conversation. The man walked away, but the woman was walking around the building and heading for the door.
Lydia snatched up her things and pulled out a knife.
Sophia pushed open the door and froze.
“Marshall! Marshall!” she shouted.
Eric ran to her at once. “What’s wrong? Is she awake?” Sophia pointed at the bed. Eric stepped into the room. The bed was empty save for a pile of bandages, everything they had taken from the woman had gone from the table and there were knife marks in the window-frame where it had been levered open.
They heard shouting and screaming outside, and both ran to investigate. One of the travelling merchants of the province lay sprawled on the road. His horse was already thundering away from the village. They were close enough to see the rider brandish a knife and cut the saddlebags free. Then she was gone, leaving only a rising cloud of dust from the dry road.
“She’s awake, then?” said the Marshall.