A Story of Treason
by Serina Subterfuge
Chapter 1: A Walk of Pride
"Get out," barked the bailiff as he opened the wagon's door. There crouched a young woman who quickly straightened up, showing no sign of fear or embarrassment. She held her head up high in a condescending manner, mimicking the nobilities she had to bow down to every single day. Well those days were long over. She stepped off the wagon, pretending it was a carriage, and stared at the crowd who came to see her. She walked down the pathway as if she was the Queen of England herself when she was just an "out-of-the-ordinary" peasant. She was calm and relaxed for someone who was about to be punished.
"To the stocks!" shouted the crowd. With a rough push from the bailiff, she was on her way. She walked gracefully, head still held up high.
"Hurry up!" growled a man.
"We haven't got all day!" hissed another.
It was amazing how these people not only acted like animals but they sounded like them too. She glared at the roaring crowd. For a second there, everyone was silent as they flinched and avoided her glare. She smirked. Her glare could silence even the most talkative person, and she knew it. With another contented smirk, she blew away a black strand of hair that had escaped from her braids.
Her little audience didn't know what to think of her. Before them glided a peasant made lower than them, but she seemed higher in so many ways. She knew something, and that gave her the upper hand. There she was, in her brown rags. There she was, in her not so fair complexion. There she was, in her pride. There were other far more beautiful women than her-she wasn't exactly the prettiest, and her appearance wasn't exactly a head turner-but there was something in her that was approachable, and in a way, beautiful.
Amidst all the commotion, she noticed a man who actually returned her glare. Very few people were courageous enough to do such a thing for her eyes pierced whoever was unfortunate enough to come across them. The man had no reaction whatsoever. He didn't even flinch. Among all the others, he was the only one standing still and the only one who appeared to be respectable. He wore a black town coat, together with a white shirt and black trousers that complemented his sleek raven black hair but contrasted his fair skin. He wore a black felt bowler on his head (or at least she thought it was felt) and to complete his attire, he wore white gloves and held an aristocrat walking stick. Probably a nobility, she thought. Probably a couple years older than her too. His eyes, unlike hers and anyone else's, were a rare pigment of blue-green. They were like her brown-green eyes-different. She couldn't recall seeing him around at all when she was sure she would never forget eyes like those.
Concentrate, she told herself, snapping back to what was at hand. She averted her gaze and familiarized herself with her surroundings. Her eyes wandered from street to street, searching for an opening in the rough crowd.
She was nowhere near her hometown. She missed the countryside. Over a month ago did she transfer to town, only to be captured by the corrupted bailiffs. She just had to escape. There was no justice in it all.
"Getting ideas now, are we?" whispered one of the many bailiffs surrounding the area. This one had a gruff voice. Then again, all of them had the same voice. He obviously saw her eyes linger for an escape. How inept of her.
"Face it Ms. Farrell, you can't escape this time," said the gruff voice.
She clenched her fists. If only her hands weren't tied behind her back... the bailiff would've been long unconscious from a punch that could have knocked out another thousand of him and his hands would've been the one tied behind his back. If only if she could dispose of the ropes that served as makeshift chains bounding her against her will. Relax, she repeated to herself all over again. No use losing your temper here. Think.
The prisoners that went through this kind of punishment didn't usually have to be tied up. The bailiff only decided to tie her up when she nearly escaped for about five times. This was about to be her sixth.
She was very agile. Not only was she gifted with speed but she was also very talented when it came to using her hands. Even if she was an uneducated peasant, she was very brilliant when it came to strategy. These traits were perfect for a magician...or a thief.
"I can't wait any longer," muttered the man to her right. He was the town's butcher who wasn't exactly a legend at aiming. She was surprised to even see him there for the "tomato-throwing" when he was known for missing his aim no matter what. He was either just unlucky or really untalented at the area of hurling. At the corner of her eye she saw a blur of red.
That butcher may be very unlucky today but this was most probably her day. Her lucky day. Not that she believed in luck.
So, she decided to close her eyes and duck. Pretty good decision. Because after that, everything else was unclear. Or at least it seemed unclear. For the rest, that is.
When she opened her eyes, she saw what she expected to happen.
The blur of red, as she anticipated, was a rotten tomato that was to be hurled at her when she was to be placed at the stocks. When she ducked, it ended up hitting someone else who in turn, hurled it back at the butcher.
The butcher, who (as everyone now knows) wasn't very good at aiming, decided to get even with the man. Not a very wise decision. He threw it at the man but ended up hitting the bailiff. For defense, the butcher kept throwing tomatoes and soon, everyone else was throwing and hurling tomatoes everywhere. Ms. Farrell on the other hand, continued to push her way past the crowd. It was more of crawling though-crawling without the aid of her arms and hands.
She decided to crouch all the way to avoid the confused peasants (who thought the hurling of tomatoes was some game), the enraged bailiffs, and of course, the tomatoes. She needed to go somewhere far. All throughout England, everyone knew her as the only female convict brave enough to actually steal from the Queen. How could anyone not recognize her when the bailiffs made sure everyone knew? She may escape now but she will always be captured again later. The best thing to do was to run. The question was how? With these ropes tied to her feet and her hands tied behind her back, the only thing she could do was to walk and crawl flat on her stomach. The officers would catch her even before she reached the corner of the street.
If only she could find something sharp to cut the ropes with. Just a little ahead of her did she see a glint of silver. An axe! What it was doing there and who owned it, she didn't know. She didn't really care either. She just had to get to it. She made her way past the crowd, crawling inch by inch. A stout man with feet the size of a loaf of bread nearly ran over her a couple of times. If it wasn't for her agility, she would've been squashed right there and then. She fell a dozen times before she had reached the axe, and she had to dodge and push people a couple of times while she was at it.
Struggling to get up, she reached for the weapon, her hands till tied to her back. A dark figure unexpectedly stepped on the axe, stopping her from taking it. The shadow that belonged to that dark figure cloaked her in darkness and gloom. She looked up. It was the bailiff.
"What are you up to now?" he asked. His voice was so calm it felt so eerie. Calm, eerie, and a little bit grisly. He roughly pulled her up as he held her tightly by her arm. He was about to bring her to the wagon (more of push her) when a fist just knocked him out cold.
Someone had knocked him out, and in all the commotion, no one noticed the unconscious bailiff. All but one. Shocked, she looked away from the bailiff and noticed the newcomer, the man she had distinguished earlier. The one with the deep-set blue-green eyes. What did he want? No one would just knock out an officer without a good enough reason.
"Better not to talk to strangers," she muttered, rolling her eyes. She stooped down to the axe and rubbed the ropes to blade. It was difficult especially when her hands were tied with thick ropes behind her back. One false brush and she could injure herself.
"Let me help," muttered the stranger as he picked up the axe.
"I think I can handle it." She gave him a cold stare and expected him to look away. He didn't, and it startled her. Instead, he returned a colder look. She shivered.
"You may think you can, but I know you can't."
"Oh, really now. Put the axe down," she said. "Watch."
She rubbed the rope against the sharp steel in such a way that the quick movement combined with extraordinary timing cut the ropes faster than expected.
"You couldn't have escaped without me. You might be forgetting that I just knocked out an officer. So, in a way, you still needed help," he muttered.
Great, she thought. We're both mutterers.
"I suppose you will want something then in return?" she inquired as she grabbed the axe and quickly sliced the ropes bounding her feet.
"Meet me this evening in the old, abandoned cottage near the stream," was his response. "I need your assistance." He offered his hand to pull her up.
"Great!" she said sarcastically, ignoring the hand and quickly standing up, brushing the dirt off her brown peasant dress. "Another mission..." She was practically sick of those things people called "missions". The last "mission" she encountered led her into this mess in the first place.
"Not another mission. Another chance."
"Another chance?" Now that was something unexpectedly new.
Another bailiff was making his way towards her, pushing everyone unlucky enough to get in his way. By the look on his face, she could tell that he was furious. Anger was written all over his face. She could tell by the color of his face. Crimson.
"You have to hurry. There isn't that much time."
She faced the advancing bailiff. He was very close now. She didn't have to hurry. Not
right now. They would never catch her again anyway.
As she turned her back, a tomato whizzed past by her, followed by about a hundred more. She looked back and saw the officer all covered with tomatoes.
She smiled. He looked good in red.
"I think I have a lot of time," she said smugly as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Next to them, the unconscious bailiff stirred. It was just a matter of time until he was fully conscious.
"Not anymore... I suggest you run."
Without asking another question, she ran. She ran as fast as her feet could carry her, leaving all the commotion behind her, determined but confused. There were a lot of questions running, just like she was running, through her mind. One of which was, should I trust that stranger and go?