The Dragon's Kiss -
Chapter 17 - SEVENTEEN: An Attempt To Sneak Out
"Mmph!" Kel stifled a yelp as she crashed into the hedge below her balcony. The unexpectedly sharp branches pricked her skin as she climbed out, causing her to wince.
Once free of the ruthless bush, she pressed herself low to the ground, eyeing her surroundings. With no patrols in sight, she rushed stealthily toward the opposite end of the building.
As she had anticipated earlier, getting to the other side was no problem, but she had no idea which room was Barclay's. There were two balconies on the second story and three ground level windows to choose from.
Precious time ticked by as she considered her options.
"Where are you, Barclay?" she hissed. She had foreseen this issue, but was frustrated nonetheless. Perhaps her 'I'll figure it out when I get there' tactic was a mistake after all.
A faint glow moving through the garden suddenly caught her attention. The guards!
Ok think, Kel, she told herself, settling deeper into the grass in front of the hedge. Since contact between Barclay and Kel was forbidden, it would make sense to put him on a different floor. It was also likely that he was stationed far away from the building entrance to limit any escape attempts.
The only room that fit both conditions was the window third from the left. It was on the first floor and the farthest from the door.
As the lamp light drew closer, Kel reached up and tapped three times on the window. She held her breath, waiting for a response. If this wasn't Barclay's room, but a guard or servant's, she was done for. Even if she managed to get away, there wasn't time to avoid the approaching patrol anyway.
Just as she thought her heart was beginning to burst from vigorous pounding, the glass pane of the window creaked open.
Kel jumped up to see if the opener was friend or foe. To her surprise, an arm immediately shot out and dragged her through the opening.
Once inside the room, the person held Kel from behind, pulling her close against their body. Her heart sank as she felt the thin frame against her back. It definitely wasn't Barclay's stocky build. Even the arm around her waist was too lean to belong to her comrade.
Was it a guard?
She opened her mouth, but the person's hand clamped tightly over her lips before she could speak.
"Your comrade is in the room to the right," the person hissed near her ear.
With that information, the arms around her loosened. She whipped around, but her captor was already gone. As quickly as they'd pulled Kel into the room, the mysterious figure had disappeared somewhere out in the garden.
Kel hesitantly poked her head out the window, wondering where the strange person had gone. She squinted into the darkness for a few seconds before gasping in alarm as she heard approaching voices. It was the patrol.
Quickly and quietly, she pulled the window closed and sat back against the wall beneath it. She watched anxiously as a hazy orange glow filled the room and then slowly receded as the patrol passed by.
Kel let out a sigh of relief. She'd made it this far; now all that was left was sneaking into the next room. There was no reason to trust the words of the suspicious figure, but she also had no reason to doubt them either.
She tiptoed to the door of the room and gingerly turned the handle. Flinching at the slight creak, she pulled it open.
The hallway was pitch black. Not even a single candle was lit.
It was unnerving to think she couldn't see any of her surroundings but extremely comforting that she would be safely hidden away in the darkness.
She scurried out into the hall, running her fingertips along the cold stone wall to guide her. In less than ten steps, her fingers brushed against a woody texture.
"This must be it," she whispered, grasping for the handle. She finally caught hold of it and quickly slipped through the door.
Thanks to the moonlight filtering through the window, the room was somewhat illuminated. In the gray light, Kel could make out simple furnishings, similar to those in her own room. Her pattered nervously as she caught sight of a large mound on top of the bed.
She approached the bed cautiously, and tapped the mound.
"Barclay," she whispered, "It's me."
With a groan, the mound shifted and Barclay's familiar face popped out of the blankets. He rubbed his forehead, squinting in the dim light. His eyes widened when they landed on Kel.
"P-princess!" he stuttered, quickly glancing around the room.
"It's fine, sir," Kel replied, laying a hand on the man's shoulder, "we're alone."
With a heavy sigh, Barclay shrugged off her gesture and gave her a serious look. "You shouldn't be here."
"I know, but-"
"You could get both of us killed!" the man hissed more forcefully.
Kel stepped back, shocked at Barclay's hostility. She dropped her gaze and let out a sigh of her own.
"We're going to die anyway," she breathed. i𝐧𝓃𝒓𝒆𝑎𝙙. 𝘤𝘰𝚖
"Don't talk like that," came Barclay's stern reply.
"It's true," Kel protested. "I came here so we can find a way to get out of this mess!"
"Keliyah." Barclay's tone softened. "Do you trust me?"
What kind of question was that? He was the only person in this entire empire she could trust.
"Of course," Kel responded. "But ho-"
"Good. Now go back." Barclay cut her off, nodding toward the window. "You should have ten minutes before another patrol comes through.
Kel was too upset at his demanding her to leave to even question how a sleeping man could possibly know a patrol had already passed by.
"…Fine," she said finally, turning toward the window. Naturally, Barclay would be wary of being caught together, but this was too much. He could at least let her know what was going through his mind.
She huffed as she placed a hand on the dewy glass. Out of everyone she'd ever known, this man was the only one who truly had her back. She had no right to question him now.
"I trust you," she relented, pushing the window open.
"One more thing, Keliyah."
Kel turned back toward the bed. "What is it?"
"Avoid the patrol at all costs," Barclay answered solemnly. "They have poison-tipped weapons, and they will stab before for asking questions."
Kel shuddered. "What kind of poison?"
Barclay just glanced away and nodded for her to go. They both knew but were too afraid to even mention the poison. Serin was infamous for that nasty venom—the poison worse than any other torture.
"I'll be careful," Kel gulped, ducking out the window.
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