Chapter 37 - An Opportune Moment (BONUS!!!)

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Kastali Dun

Eagle watched the busy city street from his shadowy position. City inhabitants went to and fro on business. Some engaged in jovial chitchat while others took to their errands with bowed heads or intent expressions. No one spared him a moment's notice. Had they done so, they would have seen a man hiding against a shadowy wall. He stood beneath the eves of one of Kastali Dun's many wealthy city homes. His wide-brimmed hat was pulled low to shadow his face while his arms crossed with bored impatience. He often spent time here. It was a good lookout to watch those entering and exiting the castle because it was one of two streets leading to the main portcullis.

Today had been another uneventful day. While he had taken many mental notes, nothing important had happened. He was just about to abandon his watch for other business, when he did a double take of several passersby. His gaze narrowed for a brief moment before his jaw dropped.

"It cannot be!" he whispered to himself before pushing away from the wall. He didn't believe his eyes as he trailed behind the new sight he pursued. It was her—he was certain of that—though he could not explain how he had been so lucky. Lady Claire, dressed in burgundy, hair done up elegantly, was making her way hastily down the lane and away from the keep. She had not come from the keep's main entrance as the others had. He was sure of it. But he had no explanation otherwise.

As he followed, he glanced about looking for her entourage. There was no one. She was entirely alone. That was surprising indeed! He knew immediately that she must have snuck away from the keep. Obligations forgotten, he trailed after her, keeping a close eye on her movements. It did not appear that she knew where she was going. Furthermore, her movements were agitated: her arms were crossed and her muscles tense and jerky.

What was she doing in the city unprotected? He had gained entry to the keep more than once, usually under various disguises. Even within the castle's confines, Claire was difficult to obtain. She was the second most protected person in the keep. Unbeknownst to her, King Talon had many guards keeping an eye on her movements throughout the fortress.

How had she escaped its confines? The answer was beyond him. He dared not question it. He knew better than to forgo an opportunity like this one.

He continued to tail her. For a while she merely walked—on and on. Then it became clear that she had no destination in mind. His luck was growing; then his luck hit its height. She got lost, even if she didn't realize it immediately.

Claire made her way farther and farther from the keep; Eagle's excitement heightened. Silently, he urged her onward. The closer they went to his base of operations, the easier it would be to capture her.

Claire dodged down a side street and stopped. He too halted to hide just around the corner, peeking out to watch her activity. Now he was certain that she knew she was lost. She began to glance about in clear confusion.

He thanked the gods that today was a rest day. Most of the city's inhabitants were at the dockyard market. The narrow lane she stood in was fully deserted and partially in shadow from the towering buildings. Ever so silently, he picked up a large rock from a nearby ditch. He needed to be ready to strike if the moment presented itself.

A moment later Claire continued along the alleyway, this time more rushed in her movements. Perhaps her intuition was kicking in. Perhaps she realized she was being followed. If that was the case, he needed to act fast.

Excitement pumped through his body. He crept forward silently. Down another street she went in an effort to find the main road again. What she likely did not know, was that unless one kept to the main thoroughfares, the smaller streets of Kastali Dun were like a maze. One could get lost for hours just as he had many times during his first days in the capital. He had used those opportunities to become intimately acquainted with the city. He knew exactly where they were.

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