We keep as close to the walls as possible while we make our way around the city. The sound of guards on the wall makes it apparent that we’ll have to use extra caution.
Since The Wizard is supposed to be the sole reason this city is safe, I’m guessing these guards aren’t a normal thing to find on the walls, meaning they must be out purely for the purpose of looking for us.
Griff seems to understand this as well, considering he’s moving as though he’s in a bad spy movie. I can almost hear him humming a theme song as he goes along his way.
We make it to the river without issue. The river itself, however, is a different situation. Griff turns from the river to look at me. He seems deflated.
“What’s up?” I ask in a whisper. I try to look hopeful.
“I don’t remember the river looking quite so big before.”
“Yeah?” I shrug. “It doesn’t look so bad.”
“Come on, kid. You and I both know we can’t just hop in there and swim into town. We’d be killed.”
“What do we do if we can’t go in this way?”
“I don’t know. I had put all my eggs into this basket. You got any ideas?”
“Well,” I offer, “we could try scaling the wall.”
“And put ourselves right in view of those stupid guards?”
“Not necessarily,” I shrug. “Maybe we could get up there while they’re scoping out a different part of the wall, you know, when they aren’t looking this way. The bricks seem like they should be pretty easy to climb up.”
“Seems a little too easy, kid. Aren’t these walls made to keep people from sneaking in?”
“Sorta,” I reply. “I think they were built more with an army in mind. I’m pretty sure spies weren’t all that normal of a thing back then, erm, now.”
“You going to take the blame if we get caught?”
“Sure, whatever. I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to keep you from getting executed, but if it makes you feel better, yes, I’ll take the blame for making a stupid decision.”
“After you,” Griff says, gesturing to the wall.
“Okay,” I shrug as I turn and put my hands up on the first deep groove between bricks I can reach. Rather effortlessly I pull myself up and find this is actually an easier climb than the one we had in the dungeon. Of course, this is about twice as high. And the wind is pulling against me.
Yet, the worst thing about this climb is the whining coming from below.
“Quit slipping, kid, you’re kicking all sorts of dust and crap in my face.”
“Sorry,” I say, hoping to appease his incessant bickering. If he doesn’t shut up, we’re sure to be heard by the guards as they make their rounds.
“You better be. This whole thing is your fault after all. I mean, if it weren’t for you, we’d be on the plane by now, heading toward–well, you know, heading toward the sky.”
I stop in my tracks, realizing he still hasn’t told me where we were going. “Wait a second, you keep talking about this plane ride, but you keep managing to avoid the question of where we were headed.”
“Come on, kid. Hurry up. My fingers are burning. If we don’t get to the top soon, I’m sure I’ll lose my—“
“Not until you tell me where we were supposed to be going,” I say, hoping he gives in easily because my fingers are also threatening to stop working. Not a fun prospect when you’re twenty feet above the ground.
“Nowhere. Forget about it.”
“Why are you being so mysterious? What’s so special about this trip?”
“Nothing, okay. It’s nothing.”
“If it’s nothing, you shouldn’t have a problem telling me.”
“Come on, kid. I can’t tell you, okay?”
“You’ve never kept secrets from me before. Why now?”
“I’ve kept plenty of secrets from you. You just don’t know about them because they’re secret. Now, let’s go already. I can’t hold on much longer and those guards will be heading back any second.”
“I can hold on all day,” I lie. “And I will keep holding on until you tell me where you were planning on taking me.”
“Dammit, Chelle, this is no time to play around. This is life and death!”
I say nothing.
“Fine, we were going to Spokane.”
Griff’s words ring through my mind as though he had hit me in the gut.
“You alright up there, kid?”
“You were taking me home?” I spit out in surprised anger.
“Look, kid. It’s not that I don’t want to keep you around, but, well, I mean, you’re fifteen, you know? Your parents deserve to know where you are. I couldn’t, in my right mind, keep you away from them for forever.”
“You were taking me home?” I repeat, tears forming in the corner of my eyes.
“I’m sorry, Chelle. I really am. I’ve got a lead on a sting overseas and there’s no way I could manage to get you onto an international flight without causing some major red flags to –“ Griff cuts himself off. I hear voices from the top of the wall.
“Have they a managed to find that lass and her master yet?”
“I’ve heard naught. ‘es been makin’ a lot o noise out at tha Minster yet.”
“Damnation. Tomorrow’s tribute’s bound to be worse than usual. I’ve already lost three nieces to his whimsy. I’m not even certain how I’ve managed to keep my own daughter.”
“Y’ know how ‘e feels abou’ flax-‘aired maidens.”
“My wife keeps reminding me it’s the cost of safety.”
“’A course, if folks is comin’ and causin’ trouble, mayhaps we is not as safe as we finks.”
“Aye. But I ain’t seen nothin’ t’ be worried about yet.”
“Me neither. A pint at Monkgate?”
Footsteps fade off into the distance. My fingers are numb. I feel the wall wanting to crumble under my weight. I quickly scale the rest of it and pull myself over the top before even looking to see if Griff had managed to keep his grip.
I lean against the opposite side of the wall and close my eyes while working to catch my breath. Griff’s voice sounds beside me.
“That was close, huh kid?”
I take another deep breath before I finally slap him across the face.
“Oh, come on, Chelle. You know it couldn’t last forever. You’re just a kid. I took you under my wing because I couldn’t let a pretty little thing like you get taken advantage of by some less honorable con, but you had to have known I was going to bring you home sooner or later.”
“I had just always hoped it would be more later than sooner.”
“Well, considering where we’re at, I think later is the only option left, if at all.”
“Yeah, I guess. Just, now that you mention it, I actually do kinda miss home a bit.”
“Then why the hell are you so mad about me wanting to take you home?”
“I don’t know. I guess I didn’t really realize how homesick I was until we got so far away from it. And besides, I was kinda hoping you would fight me if I ever told you I wanted to leave.”
“Oh, kid,” he says, wrapping his arm around my shoulder. “You have to know, you’re the best shill I’ve ever had.”
“Great, I’m glad I mean so much to you,” I say as I turn away from him.
“You know I don’t mean it like that. I love you, Chelle. These past few months have been amazing for me. I wouldn’t give them up for anything.”
“You know what I mean. You’re like a daughter to me. That’s why I know you have to go home.”
“Okay. So, we good then?”
“Yeah, we’re good.”
He pats me softly on the back and I reach in for a hug.
“Alright, well, now it’s time to get off our butts and go find us a bed before someone realizes who we are.”
“Great idea,” I agree.
Go to Chapter Nineteen