The shadows from the sun were long and the light fading when the door creaked open. BA moved faster than Vic's eyes could follow, but he stopped in his tracks, eyes narrowed. "Clever buggers."
A small dark girl with big eyes stared at him in terror, clutching a heavy tray of food to her chest. Behind her, through the doorway, three guards had spears leveled toward the door. BA ground his teeth; the girl let out a yelp, dropped the tray of food and disappeared back through the doorway. Like the Cheshire cat, the only thing visible as the door closed were the grins of the guards as they tossed sleeping furs into the room.
"We can eat the fruit we know, but I wouldn't touch the rest of it," Vic warned.
BA grabbed a haunch of darkly roasted meat and bit off a chunk. "If I die, it'll be with meat in me. And I'll still kill Kobo and his guards before I go."
Vic shrugged and chose a piece of meat also, tearing a small piece off and chewing. "How much do you remember from Haggard's book?"
"Most of it," BA sniffed at one of the fruits and took a large bite, then spat it out. "Watch out for those yellow ones."
"Weren't they kept in a room with a dais?"
BA looked at the walls. "I think so. The one with the secret door?"
"The very one."
"There was a way to open it from this side, too, wasn't there?" BA splashed cold water on his face and neck, rinsed his mouth and spat a stream of water into the corner drain.
Vic removed a collapsible cup from his vest and handed it to BA, who used it to drink deeply from the tap. As he moved to put the stone cap back in place, Vic stopped him. "Let it run, BA. We'll need to fill the canteens."
The darkness was almost total now in the small room. BA sat down opposite the door. "We can't do anything if we can't see." A cool breeze blew in through the barred window accompanied by small insects flying into the room and buzzing around their heads.
"I know. Our guards are gone. I guess we have to wait until we're sure everyone is asleep." Vic sat next to him, rummaging in his pack.
"We still need light."
"I have lights."
"In the collar of my vest. LEDs with a small battery. I have a manual charger in one of the pockets."
"Why don't I have one of those vests?"
"You refused to wear it. Said it made me look like a wimp and you wouldn't be caught dead in it."
"Did not." BA grinned and buttoned a few shirt buttons. "It's getting colder. I guess the glacier makes the nights cold in the city. I'm going to get some shut-eye."
Vic started unfolding a compact silver space blanket from his pack. "Good plan. What do you think? About two hours?"
"Yeah." BA dug in his pack for his thermal blanket. "Why do you think they didn't take our packs?"
"Oh, they figure we can't get out and they'll get it all pretty soon anyway, I guess. Kobo took everything he immediately wanted."
"I suppose so. I wish I had my licorice twists." BA arranged some of the furs and covered himself with the space blanket and topped it with another fur. "Wake me in a few hours, Brother." He stuck his bare foot out from under the blankets and was almost instantly asleep.
Next part, next Wednesday.
Author commentary (if I have one)