I couldn't sleep last night... for reasons I won't go into.
Nearing three hours past midnight, Alexander sat up in bed. He knew the guards outside his door would change soon, and that was what he'd been waiting for.
Without a sound, he slipped from beneath the thick coverings of his four-poster bed. He parted the hangings to get used to the faint light given off by the half-moon. On silent feet, he walked to his wardrobe and quietly dressed. He strapped on his sword that he’d taken from the armory the previous day, as well as two small daggers. From behind his hanging tunics he drew a large satchel. He held it for a moment, remembering when he’d packed it two weeks ago. It held his sturdiest clothing, flint and steel, and a note he’d written for his parents. He pulled this out and re-read it to be sure he’d said all he wanted to.
Footsteps outside his door alerted him to the changing of his guard. He hastily put on his sturdy boots and cloak, before making sure to leave the note on a table near the fireplace. Turning to the window, his knee hit another table and he cursed.
“Your highness?” came a voice from the corridor. “Are you alright?”
Alexander sighed. Trying to make himself sound sleepy, he said, “Yes, I… I’m fine. Just a bad, er… bad dream?”
He cringed. He knew he was a bad liar.
“Do you require assistance?” a guard asked.
“No, thank you though.” He yawned dramatically. “I’ll be going back to sleep now.”
“Very well, goodnight Sire.”
Alexander let his shoulders slump. He looked down at the offending table and rolled his eyes.
Moving with more care now, he returned to his bed and removed from beneath it a sturdy rope. He’d been hiding it there for months, just waiting for this opportunity. He sighed again at his foolishness for nearly ruining his chance.
He tied one end of the rope to the decorative iron built into the hearth. Though he had before, he tested his weight to be sure it would hold him. Satisfied, he threw the rest of the rope out the north-west window of his room that faced away from the rest of the castle and city. He looked down to double check the length, and saw that it reached the ground four stories below. He smiled to himself that his plan was working so well.
“I’m going with you.”
Alexander jumped slightly at the familiar quiet voice. He leaned back inside and looked down.
His brown and black striped cat had spoken to him, as he often did.
“Channer, we’ve discussed this already,” Alexander whispered. “We decided you need to stay.”
Channer jumped onto the window ledge and sat. “You decided. I agreed to nothing. Therefore, I’m coming with you.”
Alexander sighed. There was no arguing with a determined cat – especially one who regularly sharpened his claws.
“Alright, but in the pack for the climb, and if you can’t keep up you’re on your own.”
“Please, human,” Channer scoffed. “I was born to live in the outdoors. It’s you I’m worried about.”
“Oh, just get in the bag,” Alexander hissed, holding it open.
Channer slinked into the leather and curled up next to one of the tunics. Alexander listened for the guards outside and heard them chatting about the most recent addition to the household staff. Convinced they were occupied he swung himself out of the window and began his descent.
Avoiding other windows as much as possible, he finally made it to the ground. He looked around and began walking west, making sure he wasn’t being watched.
“Can I come out of here?” Channer whined.
Alexander paused to open the bag and said, “No, we’re not out yet. Now hush.”
He crept, staying close to the castle’s granite exterior. Finally, he reached a sewage gutter, and followed it to the city’s outer wall. The drain flowed through a small grate in the thick fortification. Hanging next to it was another rope, held by a hook from the top of the wall. Alexander smiled. After making sure no guards were in sight, he climbed.
At the top, he carefully moved the hook and rope to the outside edge and climbed down. Once on solid ground he heard a whinny. He turned to see his horse and man-servant hiding in the trees a hundred yards away. He pulled up his cloak hood and ran to them.
“Thank you, Ed,” Alexander said, huffing from his exertion.
“My pleasure, sir,” he replied.
“Now, I order you to tell my parents that I forced you to help me escape. You feared for your life and mine, and tried to dissuade me every step of the way; is that clear?”
Ed raised an eyebrow at this. Then one side of his mouth curved upward and he bowed saying, “Yes, your highness.”
Alexander smiled as he let Channer out of the bag and emptied the satchel’s contents into the horse’s saddle pack.
“Food for two weeks in there,” Ed told him, pointing at the pack. “That’s all I could manage, but it should get you to the coast if you’re careful.”
The prince nodded, refusing to give the information he knew Ed was fishing for. Feeling a knot of excitement in his chest, he turned to Ed and extended a hand.
“Perhaps we shall meet again?”
“Perhaps,” Ed said, and shook the prince’s hand with a grin. “I still don’t know why you won’t marry the Vanden girl, but I guess I’m not the prince.” He shrugged.
Alexander fought back a smile and said, “You’d understand if you were in my place, I promise.”
Ed shrugged, then simply said, “Perhaps.”
They both laughed quietly, and Alexander mounted his horse, and Channer hopped up to sit behind him. Ed approached once more and said, “Listen, Lex. I don’t know where you’re going, and I don’t presume to ask. You just be careful, alright?”
Alexander smiled confidently, as a prince should, and said, "Of course I will be." Then his insides began to squirm at his next lie: "I always am.” With this he dug his heels into the charger’s sides, and rode into the forest.
Thoughts? Happy Wednesday ;-)