Experiment #153

The Ugly Princess Part 5

Two long days of hard travel followed with Sir Doyle leading and Roddie alternately bringing up the rear and scouting ahead.

Galahad either whined or wept at every bounce of the horse for the motion made his wounds burn with pain. His pain seemed more pronounced or at least more vocalized when Roddie was away scouting and Sir Doyle was riding a bit ahead. Lilly suffered all of this with the grace of a true princess. And though Galahad’s cries for sympathy annoyed her, she did not hold them against him. Despite his many failings, she’d become fond of the young noble and knew that the wounds he suffered were because of her. And while he did try for sympathy at every turn he never tried to make her feel guilty, in fact if she tried to apologize he’d so strenuously object that she thought he’d reopen his wounds. And despite his obvious play for the crown she knew him well enough to tell that he cared for her in his own inept way. And although true love seemed out of the question on both sides, she did not doubt that she had found a life long friend.

That night, while Lilly changed Galahad’s bandages (For both Sir Doyle and Roddie would no longer have anything to do with that “whimpering fool”) Galahad said, “We’re going the wrong way.”

“Don’t be silly,” Lilly replied. “Sir Doyle knows the way.”

“If he does, he doesn’t seem to be following it.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“That Sir Doyle has far greater love for Lord Trapsfield than for you.”

“Don’t be jealous, Galahad. It doesn’t suite you.”

“Ask him then and see if he doesn’t turn us into prisoners.”

“No, now that we’ve found a friend I will not question his loyalty without cause.”

“But you’ll question mine?”

Galahad turned away from her.

Lilly finished binding his wounds. Then got up and went back to her resting place.

*

Though she did not doubt Sir Doyle’s loyalty, Galahad’s words gnawed at her, particularly her willingness to question him. Finally she resolved to ask Sir Doyle about their direction, surely there would be a reason for this road.

She came up next to Sir Doyle at a point where the forest had thickened and grown close to the road. “Sir Doyle,” she asked, “isn’t Count Riverton’s castle to the North? We seem to be going West.”

Sir Doyle turned to her then quickly looked away to avoid nausea.

“You have a keen eye, my lady. The roads between here and there are watched. We are striking out to the west to take a lesser known path. It’ll take a few extra days, but we should reach the castle in safety.”

“Halt!” Shouted a stern voice.

A blade went to Sir Doyle’s neck and a bag came over Lilly’s head. She heard Galahad shout before a sharp blow knocked her out.

***

Lilly awoke in a dank cell. Rats skittered about and fought over the dry bones of previous prisoners. A meal had been shoved in through a small space in the bottom of the door, but the rats had made quick work of whatever it had been.

She waited there for hours. At first she tried calling for the guards but after an hour of yelling even the strongest voice grows hoarse. Finally she started naming the rats just to give herself something to do.

When nothing happened and what little light the cell possessed waned she gathered up some moldy straw and made the best bed she could. Three weeks passed in this way including her birthday. Or so she thought it had passed, it was hard to tell day from night in this dungeon.

One night she was startled awake by a man picking her up and half throwing, half shoving her through the cell door. In the torchlit hallway she met another man who snapped chains on her hands and said, “Time to meet your maker, Princess.”

He laughed, but when she turned her face to him the laugh caught in his throat and he turned his head and puked. Rats immediately converged on the spot and the princess saw that the ten or so she’d named only made up a small portion of the rats in the dungeon.

“Now what’d you do that for?” The first man asked. He grabbed a torch and waived it at the squirming mass.

“Have you seen her face?” The second man asked. “She’s as awful as they say.”

The first man turned to look at her and when he saw her face he followed his fellow man and puked. This time on a squirming pile of rats.

Lilly looked away.

The rats were pouring out of every stone and crevice now. Very little of the floor could be seen for all the rats.

“Go on, let’s get her out of here before we all get eaten alive,” the first man said.

So it was that they rushed her out of the dungeon and so it was that Galahad, poor swordsman and healing invalid that he was, was able to ambush the group.

Galahad fell upon the man holding Lilly just as they exited the door to the dungeons. He then pushed the other man down the dungeon steps and bolted the door to prevent further escape.

“Galahad!” Lilly shouted and clumsily threw her shackled hands around him. Her tears turned from shame to joy.

“Shhhh!” Galahad said, then continued in a whisper, “We are far from safe. We must get out of here.”

“Yes, let us get to Count Riverton and the safety of his castle.”

“We’re already there.”

“What?” The joy and hope that had so recently mollified her ugliness drained from her face.

“Much has happened during your time in the dungeon.”

“What?”

“Suffice it to say that your list of friends seems to be and an ever-changing group.”

When she did not speak nor move to follow him he turned back to her. “Come, we must be out of here before he finds us.”

“Count Riverton?”

“No, Guile. Now try to keep up. We must get out of here.”

Lilly held up her shackles.

“Oh, right.”

Unfortunately the man in the dungeon seemed to be the one with the keys to Lilly’s shackles as they could not find them on the unconscious jailer still with them.

The scurrying noises they heard along with the lack of human noises made them loath to open the dungeon door. So under Lilly’s direction, Galahad removed the unconscious man’s coat and wrapped it around her manacles to silence their rustling. They headed down the corridor toward the courtyard and freedom.

They reached the courtyard without seeing another soul. “Ok,” Galahad said, “you just need to reach the river gate straight across. A boat is docked there. Get in and push off-”

“Wait, where are you going?”

“To make sure you can get away.”

Before she could say anything, he slipped away into the shadows.

She sent an annoyed look toward the shadows. “At least he’s got an idea of what to do this time,” she whispered to herself. Then she headed toward the river gate.

She met no resistance between the courtyard and the river gate. She scoffed at the lack of security until she almost tripped over a guard with an arrow in the grieve where his neck met his helmet.

Just then she heard Galahad cry out as if in pain. She turned back trying to think of how she might help him, but before she took a step, she heard men shouting and running toward the cry. She steeled her resolve and shuffled quickly through the river gate and out to where a boat lay tied up. She hopped in clumsily due to her shackles and untied the moorings as someone shouted “The Monster’s loose!” As she floated away down stream she knew in her heart they were referring to her.

To Be Continued…

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