Change-log: Changed Melina’s name to Carina. Feedback from several people said that the two were sometimes hard to differentiate. Also, Worked on the transition between the council session and having dinner with Jack and Carina (Formerly Melina) in chapter two.
“I’m not going to that butcher of a surgeon. It’s just a scratch. I’m going to lock you in your room, swim across the harbor and kill that fucking Santerson.” Carina was positively fuming. She stomped to the smallest of three chests at the foot of the bed, pulled out one of her nightshirts and tore it into strips. She deftly wound her hand in one, tied it off, and flexed her hand a little for Marianne. “See? Good as new.”
She searched the corpses, looking for any clues about where they came from. The taller man’s face was so badly mangled it was nearly inside out. The other was not a face she recognized. She stopped her searching, and said “You shouldn’t have done that. The Shindow will be coming now. And besides, there were only two of them. I could have handled them without your aid.”
“If you must know, I’ve warded this room. For the last two years after the attack, every chance I got, I added a tiny trickle to the ward. I finished it about a month ago. In this room, I am shielded from the prying thoughts of The Collective. If Algrind tries to kill my baby again, I will not be helpless this time.” Marianne looked fierce, standing there naked, her skin almost glowing from her recent use of magic. It reminded her of the glow she had when she was pregnant with Jack. As if a feeling of life, happiness, and wholeness was exuding from her pores. Carina was once again taken with her beauty and took a half second now that the immediate danger was over to enjoy the lustful thoughts before she got up.
“We need to get rid of these. How long will this strength last? Long enough for me to carry them up and throw them off the battlements?”
Marianne walked over and put her hand on Carina’s shoulder. “If you leave this room, you could be detected. It’ll take about five minutes to wear off. And you can’t go after Santerson. We don’t know that this was him.”
Carina’s eyes went wide, and in a display of emotion that would only be allowed in this room. Through clenched teeth, she hissed, “How could it not be him. He threatened me in the council meeting today. He was blatantly disrespectful to you. I should kill him just for that.”
“There were four other people in that room. They all saw the outburst. How many of them would want to replace Santerson as governor of The Village? There is just as much reason for one of them to want to frame him than there is for him to do it. For now, we must wait.”
“If you’re right, and I kill Santerson, the next one replaces him, and the assassination attempts stop. If you’re wrong and I kill Santerson, the assassination attempts stop. He’s a disrespectful pig of a man, and I’m sure he deserves to die for something.”
Marianne couldn’t fault the logic on those points. Killing the governor would make her life much easier. But the life of The Lady of the Keep wasn’t meant to be easy. Killing him wasn’t the right move, at least not yet. Not until she had facts. Adding more pressure to the situation, she had to have this all wrapped up before Arian came home, or he would handle it.
“Let’s put on their clothes,” Marianne said. “We’ll walk down to the docks and see if anyone is waiting. If there is, we can take him alive and question him.”
“You’re as crazy as I am,” Carina said, stripping the clothes off the first assassin. “I’ll take this guy, I’m taller.”
Marianne started stripping the other. By the time they were dressed in the bloody black clothes, it was safe to go out of the warded room. “Let’s go,” said Carina, worried that whoever might be waiting for the assassins would have left already. She slipped her own dagger into one boot, and the assassin’s dagger into the belt sheath.
“We have to hide the bodies, what if Jack wakes up and comes looking for us?”
Carina looked around the room for a second, “Under the bed?” She picked up the naked assassin’s foot and started dragging him towards the bed. When he was near enough, she sat on her butt and used her legs to push him under while Marianne dragged the second corpse.
“Next time someone sneaks into our room to kill us in our sleep, would you mind killing them with a little less bloodshed? The rugs are going to be ruined.”
“So sorry, my lady,” replied Carina kicking the second man under the bed. “You have three layers of rugs here. I’ll just roll that one up and put it under the bed too.”
Marianne could sense her grin, even without seeing her face, and knew the absurdity of what she’d said. “I mean, thanks for saving me and all. But, could you save me better next time?”
“Yes, my lady. I will consider the rugs the next time two armed assassins break into your room in the middle of the night and try to kill us in our sleep.”
“Thank you.” Both of them broke down into giggles for a second before regaining their composure. “Ready?”
“I guess. Would my lady allow me the pleasure of going first? If they see your juicy ass swaying as you walk, they’ll know for sure you’re not a man.” Carina moved to spank Marianne on the behind as they headed towards the door. At the last second, she stopped her hand, ending her swing abruptly. Marianne had passed under the doorway. The two of them were no longer equals in love, they were now in the keep, and Marianne was the noblewoman.
Carina instead moved in front of her charge, and descended the stairs rapidly. At the bottom, they stopped before opening the huge wooden door that led out onto the docks. “What if he went out the keep and headed south,” Marianne whispered.
“This was your plan, my lady. But they had to come by boat. No one in the keep would make an attempt on your life. This is the right guess.” Carina lifted the stout ironwood log that sealed the door to the docks at night and set it in it’s cradle on the wall. There was a fresh torch on the wall for the next day, the stairs were dark even in full sun. Directly under the torch was a large lever, cocked at a rakish angle against the floor. It was chained in place with a heavy chain welded to a plate set into the heavy stone floor. Every man, woman, and child in the keep knew that if you hit that lever hard enough to break it, it would spring forward, starting a chain reaction that released the docks from the cliff face and sent them and everyone standing on them sinking to the depths of the strait.
Many hearty swimmers had tried, but no one had successfully reached the bottom of the harbor. One man made seven hundred feet of rope, tied the heaviest stone he could haul to one end and threw it overboard. The reports said that somehow as the stone sank he got his foot tangled in the end of the rope. At the seven hundred foot mark, he was pulled overboard and never seen again.
Tilwin’s grandfather had strung steel chains underwater, spanning the distance between the two islands. Out in the middle of the harbor, the chains were eighty feet deep, well past the draft of any ship in The Strait. Ships sailing into port dragged a special anchor at that depth until they hooked the chain, which held the vessels in place until the barges came out to load or unload them. In the swift moving current of the strait, Rock Tail Harbor was one of the few places of flat water. The current ran up either side of the island chain, creating a calm eddy between each. Parents from all parts of The Rock Tail islands taught there children to swim in the harbor.
Carina took a deep breath. “Stay back in the doorway for a moment, please my lady. I’ll make sure the docks are clear.” She pushed the heavy ironwood door open and peered out into the darkness before stepping out onto the dock.
“It be done then?” a voice asked out of the darkness.
With a speed no one would have guessed, Carina was on the man, dagger to his neck, holding his arm behind his back. “Yes it’s done,” she said, driving him into the keep.
The man shouted at the top of his lungs, “Make way! We are undone! Foiled! Make way!” Carina smashed the pommel of her dagger into his nose, causing blood to flow from both nostrils.
“Shut your hole,” she growled at him. “Or I’ll cut your nose off next time.”
Out in the harbor, torches were lit on a strange looking sailing vessel. The dock-master came running out of his berth, a small one-room cottage carved into the rock-face level with the docks.
“Master Ongari,” called Marianne. “I am Lady Tilwin. Two men tried to assassinate me from that ship. See that it doesn’t leave the harbor.” The man stopped, staring at Lady Marianne.
After a second to gather his wits, he stammered, “My lady, are you alright?”
“Ongari!” Marianne ordered. “See to it that that ship doesn’t leave. Capture any hands that try to come ashore, and let the current take the rest.” There was a tone to her voice that made this a command rather than a request.
The dock master immediately ran to a large bell and rang it three times. Three huge gongs sounded, echoing off the cliff walls, back and forth across the harbor. Seconds later, Marianne heard the sounds of men barking orders eighty feet above. In the harbor, the ship was raising sails. Loud scraping from above, followed by huge, thunderous booms of the harbor guns firing. Twenty two guns fired on the ship. Within one minute, a full squadron of Arian’s elite shore-guard were on the dock.
Arian Tilwin called these men The Hand. They were the best of the best in hand-to-hand fighting of all his men. Dressed in black linen shirts topped with black leather vests and bristling with weapons, each man wore close-cropped hair under a hardened leather helm and had a long spear in hand. Four of the men surrounded Lady Tilwin protectively, while the other twenty-one fanned out across the docks, ready to spear or capture any man who approached from the water.
Carina handed her prisoner to one of them. “Captain Harkan. This man and two others tried to kill my lady and myself. We must go to Master Jack now, he’ll have heard the guns and will need his mother. Find out who ordered the assassination, and report to me the second you know, regardless of the hour.”
Captain Harkan looked questioningly at Lady Marianne. “Do as she says, Captain. In the area of my security, she stands paramount.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said to Carina. “Thank you for protecting Lady Tilwin. You have earned the respect of The Hand yet again, Miss Carina.”
“You’ll have mine when you report to interrogation results to me. Be quick about it Captain. Time is short. Also, when this mess is cleaned up, there are two corpses under my ladies bed, and a rug that will need a thorough cleaning. Would you see to it that the mess is taken care of? It wouldn’t do for young Master Tilwin to find corpses under his mother’s bed.”
Once again the captain looked at Marianne. “As she said, Captain. It wouldn’t do.”
“Yes, my lady,” he replied, saluting both Carina and Lady Tilwin.
Screams from the harbor reached Marianne’s ears as she ducked into the hallway and dashed up the stairs to her little boy. She found him in his room. His window was standing open, and he was looking down at the harbor. The ship was nowhere to be seen. She grabbed her son and pulled him tight against her. “I’m so sorry we weren’t here when you woke.”
Jack looked up at her and said, “Were they bad men, Mommy? Why did Master Ongari order the guns?”
“Yes, they were bad men, my darling boy. They wanted to hurt The Keep, but Carina and Mommy stopped them, and Master Ongari sank their ship. Carina was so amazing!” Marianne looked down at her son and squeezed him one more time before letting him return to the window.
Standing with his head halfway out the window, he said, “Thank you, Cari, for saving The Keep. Daddy would be proud, and I am happy that you and Mommy are alright.” He turned his head towards them enough that they could see a smile crossed his lips in the moonlight. “You always keep us safe, Cari.”
“That’s because I love you, your mommy, and your daddy with all that I am, little Lord Jack. You are my whole life, and nothing will ever happen to you if I am able to stop it.” The small boy smiled even brighter, his eyes shining bright blue in the pale light.
The three of them hugged and talked about nonsense until Marianne heard men come to remove the bodies from her room down the hall. Then she tucked her little boy back into bed, closed his window, and kissed his forehead. “Sleep well, and I will see you in the morning. I love you.”
Carina kissed his forehead as well. “I love you too,” she said, walking out of the room. Jack held up his three fingers, the salute the two of them returned. Jack was asleep within fifteen seconds of his door closing. Less than ten minutes later, Carina and Marianne were washed down, and asleep, Carina’s arm draped protectively over the woman she loved more than life itself.
About the Author
Kirk Allmond started writing the first bestselling What Zombies Fear novel in 2010 as an online story as part of his website The Zombie Preparedness Initiative. When the idea to write a novel struck him, he took his own “Zombie Apocalypse” plan and turned it into a story. That story has now spawned six novels and two short stories, and is showing no sign of letting up.
When he’s not writing or talking about zombies, the Michigan born writer holds firmly to the southern roots of his family. He grew up in Chicago IL, and Roswell, GA. Kirk has an amazing little boy who was born in 2007, who is the basis for the character Max in his novels. His time growing up in the south with his grandparents taught him the value and skills to live off the land. He is an avid outdoorsman, loves hunting, fishing and backpacking. When he’s not honing his survival skills, Allmond is often found sitting at a role-playing game table, either as the GM of his own Zombie Apocalypse role playing game or as a participant in games run by one of the members of Grown as Gamers, the premier podcast for all things geek and pop culture.