Part 4 – Veiled in Lies

I rushed down the hall just as I heard the doors being thrown open. As much as I wanted to warn Empariver, I’d be caught along with them. I headed towards the back, past the man who’d insulted me and turned the corner. If the back wasn’t surrounded, then there was a chance of getting help. Forget the Commons Guard, they were done. We needed the Yusarde Guard. 

Upon entering the back, I heard footsteps, dozens of them. I turned around and headed for Father’s office. En route,  I dashed into a room as five men ran passed by. I let out a relieved sigh and looked out again. I moved to the door when I was suddenly aware of another presence. I grabbed the closest thing, which was a knife, and then whipped around. My weapon was just an inch from someone’s neck.

“Who are you?” I asked and there was no answer.  Then, with astonishing speed, the stranger knocked the knife out of my hand and came into the light.  

He was tall, with raven black hair and dark olive skin.  But what struck me the most were his striking blue eyes. In fact, his gaze was so intense that I felt frozen.  I tried to speak, but no words would come. Instead, I watched as he approached.

“You are in no danger from me.  Please don’t be afraid,” he said and his demeanor was one of trying to calm someone.

“Who are you?” I demanded. He didn’t answer my question but said, “What are you doing here?”  

He lit a lamp and I examined the room. I thought for a second and realized this was Hiarch Constantine’s office.

“I- uh….” I stammered. This was terribly improper. “What are you doing here?” I countered and then looked up as I heard more footsteps. The stranger held a finger to his lips and drew a sword.  I stepped aside and heard the footsteps stop right outside the door. The door burst open and the stranger instantly dispatched them. Two large men collapsed to the ground. The man stepped over the bodies and checked the perimeter. Cautiously, I followed and saw that the place was clear, for now. 

“I’m Malcolm, by the way,” the stranger said.

“Syrena.” 

“Nice to meet you,” he said and started off in the direction of Father’s office. Following closely, I managed to keep ahead of much of the trouble. While we turned the corner I asked, “What were you doing in a hiarch’s office?” 

“Looking for something.  Hiarch Constantine and I know each other,” he replied and dispatched another man. We approached one of the main halls and we stopped behind a corner. There was one straggler standing by the door, a sword in hand. 

“I’ll take care of him, you get some help,” Malcolm ordered and started for the straggler. Okay, no argument. I ran past him to the office and opened the door. Fortunately, it was empty. I looked to the window and heard the clash of swords.  Running to it, I started to open it. It wouldn’t budge.

“Blast!” I hissed and looked for the problem. 

The locks, I thought, and went at it. The door opened behind me and I saw Malcolm. He dragged in the unconscious man and shut the door behind him.

“You’d better hurry because they probably heard that.” He then pushed the desk in front of the door. I ignored him and was almost ready when I discovered that one of the locks was jammed. Panic seized my heart as I pulled on it. “It won’t budge.” I said and heard someone coming, this time more than one.

“Kill anyone you see!” I heard a shout and my blood ran cold.

“Hurry!” Malcolm held his sword towards the door.

“I’m hurrying, but it’s jammed!” I retorted as quietly as I could. Seeing there was progress, he pulled me aside and started at it himself. I rolled my eyes, yea, man strength was going to fix it. He had no luck, and turned around.

“Is there a key or something?” I shook my head and looked at the door. Any moment now  they were going to come. I searched the room desperately, but couldn’t find anything. I started to the floor, sweeping away sheets of parchment and felt for anything sharp. 

I heard the handle on the door rattle and I knew we were almost out of time. “The window?” I didn’t glance up. Malcolm grunted back, “Nothing.”  I jumped as someone smashed against the door. I was at the edge of the room now and I’d found nothing.

“Blast!” I cursed and looked around hopelessly. “There’s no-” I started and then noticed something. I bent back down and felt the floor. There was a small gap between the stones. It couldn’t be. 

“Malcolm, there’s a tunnel!” I flipped the carpet over and shoved the slab of stone over. A dark  hole widened and I saw steps.

“Get down then.” Malcolm waited as I quickly started down. I couldn’t see anything ahead and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Father had a secret tunnel beneath his office.  I heard Malcolm flip the rug over and slide the stone over. The tunnel was completely dark now and I couldn’t even see my hand before my eyes.

“Use the walls,” Malcolm said behind me. I stretched out my hands on either side and immediately felt cold stone.  Slowly but steadily, we traveled through the tunnel and after a few moments I felt the floor slope upwards. As I stepped upward there was a squeak and I nearly screamed. I darted forward and breathed heavily. I hated those blasted creatures! 

“There’s light.” I looked at a small ray of light that fell through something like a stone door. I reached it and slowly pushed it aside. Daylight flooded my vision and temporarily blinded me. I blinked and looked around for trouble.  Malcolm emerged from the tunnel shortly and checked the grounds. We were at the back of the Preemphis building, in the gardens. Malcolm moved the stone back and I realized the door was a shrine. At the back of my mind I was still suspicious as to why there was a tunnel.  

“The back looks mostly deserted.  I think we can sneak through the north gate.” I motioned to the left of us and ducked behind a row of trees. The grounds were practically quiet and I wondered if it was really this easy. From this point, we were just a few yards from the gate. Glancing one more time, I dashed for it. We were nearly there when I heard Malcolm grunt. I looked behind to see a large man pinning him to the ground. I stopped but Malcolm shouted, “Go!” I hesitated for just a second, but then ran. Through the gates and into an alley I ran. Guilt pierced me like a knife at leaving him, but the only way to help him now was to get help.

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