Shed No Tears
The brass bell, over the door, let out a small jingle. Bryna looked up from her workbench and greeted the customer with a smile. "Good evening, may I help you?"
"I hope so, Bryna."
The candle maker's eyes lit up. "Lord . . ." A glare from the customer caused her to pause. "I mean, Mellar, it's always a pleasure to see you."
"As it is you." As he talked, the smaller man walked through her little shop. He stopped at her display of scented candles. As he sniffed each different candle, he asked how she was doing.
"I'm doing well, thank you." Bryna reached around him and picked up one of her wax creations. She handed it to him. "I think your sister would like the scent of this one. It has many different oils in it. It should help her relax."
Mellar nodded. "Is Quinn still working at the Sailor's Rest?"
"Yes, he works in the kitchen . . . it's hard work but he likes Bartoff and it keeps him off the streets."
"You should send him to school."
"That cost money, Mellar. Only the rich kids go to school in Ishmar."
"I thought you said you were doing well . . ."
"We are. We pay our taxes, have food to eat, and the shop is paid for. The candle making business does not make you rich, but it's okay."
Mellar handed her back the candle she had given him and a couple more. "I'll take these."
Bryna wrapped the purchases in tissue and placed them in a small box. Mellar gave her a few coins. "You've given me too much." She tried to offer him back the change but he shook his head.
"Have a good night, Bryna."
"You too, Mellar. And you should bring your sister, sometime. I would like to meet her."
"My father wouldn't allow it, but maybe you can come and see her."
"Oh sure, me in a Lord's house . . . that will be the day zwoots will fly."
Mellar laughed and waved as he walked out to the waiting coach. Bryna smiled and went back to her workbench.
A moment later the door burst open.
"What did you forget, Mellar . . ."
However, it was not the small Lord that invaded her shop. It was Quinn, her younger brother. He slammed the heavy lock into place. "They're coming!"
"Who . . ."
"The city guards!"
"Why? What did you do?"
"Nothing, I swear to you. They were talking and didn't see me. I tried to leave but then . . . Bartoff told me to run . . . so I did." Quinn's eyes searched the room, desperately.
The cries she could hear told Bryna that her brother was telling the truth. She could not let them catch Quinn; he had to run . . . but where and how?
"Follow me," she told him, running into the kitchen. The first stop was the fireplace. Counting the bricks she found the right one and pulled it out to reveal a tiny cubbyhole. Reaching inside she removed a small velvet bag. She added the coins Mellar had given her. "Take this," she instructed. They had no back door, but there was another way out of the house. She pushed aside a throw rug and underneath laid the path to her brother's freedom . . . the cellar.
She tugged on the trap door; it would not lift up. Quinn added his strength and the rusty door opened.
"They will find me in here."
"You won't be in here." Bryna told him. She offered him a couple of candles. "Remember, back before Mom died, you and I dug that tunnel . . ."
"It's still there?"
"Yeah, I think it's still opened. At least it was two months ago." An armored fist pounded on the front door. "You must leave . . ."
"Come with me."
"I have done nothing wrong. I will delay the guards and then in a couple of days, join you at the cave we played in as children. We will leave Ishmar and the crazy priests behind."
"Go live with the spirits?"
"Perhaps, baby brother, but for now run!"
They embraced, as the pounding up front grew fiercer. Bryna could hear the angry shouts. Quinn nodded his head, then dropped down into the cellar. Bryna quickly closed the door and replaced the rug. She was walking back into the shop when the front door was kicked opened. Armored guards poured inside.
"Where is he?" One demanded.
"Hawke, hold her. The rest of you search this house . . . find the little street rat!"
The guardsmen tore through her house, destroying everything. Bryna could only watch as hours of work were smashed under armored feet. She turned to the one that held her. "Why are you doing this? What have I done to deserve this? I pay my taxes . . . why?!?"
"It's not you we want, my lady, but your brother. Tell us where he is."
"I don't know."
"You're lying!" The Captain shouted, advancing. His armored hand slapped her across the mouth. Bryna could taste blood.
"Sir!" Hawke placed himself between Bryna and his superior officer. "She is a citizen of Ishmar and has done nothing wrong. Your actions are uncalled for!"
Bryna was sure that her protector was about to have his head removed from his shoulders. Then another guard ran into the room.
"Sir, we found a cellar."
Bryna held her breath.
"But there was no one down there. I'm afraid the boy is not here."
"He's here but if he won't come out, then we'll just have to burn him out!"
A short time later Bryna watched as everything her mother and she had worked for went up in smoke. Hawke still held her but Bryna had already stopped struggling. Instead she searched the crowd, that had gathered, for her brother's face. What if the tunnel had collapsed, since the last time she had checked? He would have no way out from the smoke. Finally she spotted him on the roof of a building across the street. Their eyes met and then he was gone.
Bryna turned her attention back to the Captain who had struck her earlier. He was advancing toward her with a snarl on his face. "Where is he?" He shouted again.
"He's gone . . . he's left this damn town and will never return."
Another knight appeared. "We've found nothing, sir. What should we do now, search the town?"
"We would have to search every building and then we would still probably miss the little rat. No, we're done here."
"We're going to return empty handed?" A look of disbelief crossed the other's face.
"Oh no, I wouldn't dream of that. We have a prisoner for the High Priest."
"Why this little witch . . ."
"On what charge?" Bryna and Hawke demanded together. Bryna looked over her shoulder at her unlikely defender. His steel gray eyes were on his commander.
"Why high treason, of course."