Light poured onto the landing from the room at the top of the tower. The entire room was filled with everything a little girl could ever desire. Curtains hung from the ceiling to the floor. Plush rugs covered the floor. Extravagant dresses littered the floor, clumped in disarray. Cushions and chairs were placed in inviting clumps around the room. Most noticeable was the abundance of light. Thousands of small candles lit the magnificent fairytale room, giving off the illusion of daytime in the beautiful room. There was only one thing missing -- windows.
"Hello?" the small voice came again. It sounded a little nervous -- definitely scared.
"Hello," answered Dru in a soothing voice. She edged into the room, skirting the trio of dolls lying on the floor. She moved towards the small intake of breath that could be heard. As she stepped over scattered toys she began to make out a small, pale face staring at her from underneath a blanket, crumpled on a bed. A light canopy hung around the bed further limiting Dru's vision. She made out two wide brown eyes tracking her progress across the room.
"I'm Druidanna," she did a clumsy curtsy as best she could in her men's clothes, "I am very pleased to meet you, Your Highness."
"What do you want?" came the little voice. It sounded a little less scared this time.
"We've come to rescue you! See. I've brought some friends with me," Dru motioned for the men to come further into the light. Westin came first with Will coming in just a little behind him. The wide brown eyes followed Dru's hand gesture to stare solemnly at the Westin and Will, who looked a little perturbed.
"But I'm scared. What if uncle catches us? He is really mean and will prison us up," the little girl's voice was stronger now.
"We have to leave now. And we're going to play a game too! We're going to pretend spies and thieves," Dru stopped, "Well, some of us will pretend…"
"Do you want to bring some dollies or toys with you?" Westin asked, finding his voice.
"No, I don't need any toys. I'm a big girl. My name is Mouse, by the way," the girl answered matter-of-factly. She acted very much the part of a little girl who wanted to be all grown up, "But I want clothes like hers," Mouse pointed at Dru.
"Oh, dear. Look who has another admirer! You'll have to fight for her now, lad," Will whispered in Westin's ear. Westin batted at Will's face, catching the tip of his nose.
"Let's go. Before someone wakes up," Dru grabbed a dark purple dress off the floor and quickly pulled it over Mouse's white nightdress, "Better camouflage," she explained.
"I'm six," Mouse added indignantly as Westin scooped her up in his arms, "I can walk by myself. I want to walk by myself."
"Plenty of time for that later, darling. We have a long way to go," William Black chuckled.
"Doors and frames! You're holding me too tight," Mouse squealed as Westin hoisted her over his back awkwardly.
"Well, I think you should be quiet now… unless you want Black to carry you…which would be unwise I think. He's kind of dirty." Dru giggled at Westin's reference to Will's cleanliness. Mouse was quiet though.
The trio plus Mouse headed back down the stairs. As they trod carefully down the stairs, Dru elbowed Will in the back. He looked back at her. She held a finger to her lips.
"Stop muttering," she whispered.
"I'm not," Bonney William was flabbergasted that she would even think that he was. They both stopped as the both realized what that meant exactly. Westin bumped into Dru's back as they all came to a stop on the winding stairs. Small voices could be heard farther down. Plans were flicking through Dru's head. They couldn't claim to be lost. They had the princess. They obviously weren't her nurses. They couldn't hide. The narrow stairwell was solidly built and had no windows or inlets. They would have to make a run for it.
Obviously, Will had come to the same conclusion as he looked back at her and mimed running. Westin shook his head violently and pointed to his young charge. Dru shrugged. It was their only option. They slowly started down the stairs again, as quietly as possible. The voices got steadily louder. They were arguing.
"We have to do it. His orders," one voice was obviously pro-action.
The other was much more conservative, "We should talk to him again. He might change his mind. He's had an awful lot of wine to drink tonight. Maybe he's not thinking straight." A deep breath followed the sound of a sword being drawn, "I suppose it's better this way. Just get all this ugly business over with. This wasn't his original plan though. He was supposed to marry her."
"Robert, just be rational. It's not that big of a deal. We just go through with this. Collect our payment while he's still inebriated and leave. Then we can get on the road and start over. This was a bad idea in the first place. You're right. We should just finish this business and move on."
"I suppose you're right Tom."
The conversation ended as the footsteps continued at a steady pace up the stairs. They were just around the corner when Will gave the signal. He dashed down the stairs, Dru close on his tail. They caught Robert and Tom off guard, nearly bowling the two henchmen over as they ran full tilt down the spiral steps. Westin hoped the suspicious characters' brains were sufficiently addled from the impact with Dru and Will as he increased his pace down the stairs. Following as close as he could to Druidanna and William, he jogged at a slow pace down the stairs stepping over Robert and Tom, sitting on stairs. As he passed, Robert grabbed his ankle, causing Westin to stumble. Mouse, who had been quiet up to this point, let out a shrill squeak, as she was jolted, almost falling from her precarious perch.
"Hey you all. Stop. In the name of the Royal Guard, I demand that you halt," Robert shouted in the semi-darkness.
"Who are you? What is your business here? What've you got there on your shoulder?" Tom had gathered his senses enough to begin questioning the hapless Westin. If only he had been just a little faster or a little closer behind Dru. He took a deep breath preparing to speak a hastily conspired lie. What was he going to say?
Out of nowhere came a fist…that opened up and slapped Robert in the face. Westin looked over in surprise. Dru had just slapped Robert and was now holding her hand tenderly. Robert let go of Westin with a surprised shout causing Tom to look around frantically. Catching sight of Dru nursing her fingers, he reached out to grab her. But Westin stepped on his hand. After hearing a satisfied crunch, Westin nudged Dru with his knee and began heading down the stairs again. Dru followed closely, reaching out every so often with her hands to push and claw the approaching henchmen. William waited pressed against a wall a few yards down.
All of a sudden, Dru let out a shriek, as Westin heard a sword being drawn from its sheath. William leapt into action next to him. He rushed back up the stairs where Dru was obviously scared witless by the henchmen who had just remembered that they had swords with them. Will grabbed the Dru and spun her around so she was facing down the stairs. He pushed her slightly, signaling to head down. At the same time, he drew a short dagger from his pocket. Since he was fighting from below the other two, he knew he was at a disadvantage. But, he figured his skills as a thief and underhanded fighter would come in handy today. His unexpected jabs to the stomach and legs caught Robert and Tom off guard. Since Will had been hiding below them, they hadn't even noticed him, lurking in the shadows.
"They've got the princess! We can't let them get away," Robert shouted at Tom as they dodged William's swift jabs, "We will be dead people."
They tried to make headway back down the stairs. They met with the opposition of Will and his fierce, sporadic jabs. His offensive language presented a small problem as well. The henchmen had never heard such language and could not imagine what villain could possibly be in possession of such fearsome vocabulary.
Will eventually began losing ground. He was growing tired, especially since he was fighting an uphill battle, literally. He began stumbling down the steps below him, but by this time Westin and Dru had reached the bottom of the stairs and were running as best as their small load permitted them. No one save the two henchmen otherwise occupied on the stairs had noticed the disruption, giving Dru and Westin plenty of time to carry young Mouse a good way down the hallway before the fighting trio burst out of the stairwell and began moving down the passage. Will gave up and began to run, followed closely by Robert and Tom.
All of a sudden, Will reached up and pulled down a tapestry adorning the cold stonewall. His haphazard timing turned out perfectly as the tapestry fell down upon the heads of the enemies. They collapsed under the heavy weight of the needlework. Will sprinted faster to catch up with the slower moving Dru and Westin, and, together, they left the castle, running out onto the grounds and into the darkness.
Safety reached at last, Westin set Mouse down on the ground and collapsed. Dru fell down next to him, leaving Will standing up, clutching a tree for balance. Exhaustion had long since overrun the adrenaline of the rescue.
"Where are we going now? We can't stay here. Uncle comes out here every single day," Mouse said.
"Shh…be quiet. Your voice hurts my ears," muttered a barely coherent Will, "I think I'm dying. Just so you all know… it's your fault too. Your forsaken mission was terrible for my health."
"Sorry Will. I think that a good meal will cure… perhaps some alcohol," Dru promised, "Now, how do we get out of here?"
"My puppy escaped through a hole over there. I wanted to save it but Peter said it was better out there," Mouse's lip trembled, "I miss Peter. I love Peter."
"Pete? You'll see him again. He's our friend. Come on Mouse. Let's take you home now," Dru hoisted herself up off the ground.
Safely at the Calettin household again, the group sat around the fireplace. Mouse sat in Pete's lap and Dru sat next to Westin. Will had spread himself across the lush rug on the ground. He looked unconscious.
"So… we'll be leaving tomorrow. We must continue our… journey," Dru said, breaking the silence, "Bright and early would be best. I expect there will be some uproar concerning the princess."
Westin nodded in agreement. Of course he agreed with her.
"I think that you should take Mouse with you," began Pete, "I mean I'm going to have to lay low for a few… years. I don't want Mouse to have to go through that. Will you take her? She loves you already -- especially Druidanna."
"Of course we'll take her with us! I'd be delighted," Dru perked up immediately, stealing a glance at the little girl sleeping soundly.
"I suppose we could," Westin did not sound so convinced.
"Westin, you know you want to," Dru said. That finished it. Dru wanted Mouse to come. Mouse would be coming with them.