28 - Fye's Poor Dress

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Fye had always thought the idea of hell was silly. The priests said that God was love. There was nothing loving about torturing people forever in a fiery pit. Besides that, the Devil was God's enemy. Why would God employ the Devil to do God's torturing? If God wanted people tortured, why didn't he do it himself—or at least have an angel do it?

No, Fye didn't believe in hellfire. Today, though, she wished she did. Because Lord Reynolds deserved to go to hell.

The revelers collectively squished themselves into a mass at the far end of the room as the soldiers, led by Sir Antwerp, surged into the hall. Fye tried to slip past them, to find some alcove where she could hide and plan her next move—but it wasn't possible. Sir Antwerp himself gripped her arm in a gauntleted fist and shoved her back. Xander caught her before she fell, and as she righted herself, Sir Antwerp said in a low voice, "When this is over, you're mine."

"No," Xander said before Fye could choose an appropriately insulting reply. "When this is over, you're dead."

Antwerp smirked. "We'll see." He raised his voice and yelled at the crowd, "All of your friends and family whom you left in the camp are still alive—for now. They are under the watchful eye of Lord Reynolds' men." Fye's thoughts immediately went to Margaret. Yes, the woman was annoying, but Fye didn't want her to die. Rueben's daughters were out there, too. "Swear fealty to Lord Reynolds and become his vassals. No one needs to die today. It is, after all, a day of celebration."

Fye glanced at Sir Reuben; he always knew what to do. When she made eye contact with him, though, her stomach dropped. Sir Reuben... was afraid. Afraid like he had been on the knight when Sir Luca de Lombardi threatened to kill Lady Ayla. Now, he stood in front of his wife, hatred and fear mingling with pure anger.

"So, who will swear fealty first? Lord Reynolds is here to accept your oaths." Antwerp stepped aside to reveal the rat himself. Anger bombarded Fye. Of all the dishonorable, conniving pus-faced nitwits...

"Brother," Arken said as he stepped forward. "This is the act of a coward. Tell your men to stand down, and—"

"Coward, you say?" Reynolds snapped as his face did its magnificent color-changing thing. "I will have my land taken by no one, whether it be you, Lady Ayla, or anyone else. Swear your fealty to me, brother. Kneel."

One of the rules of the ball was that no one was to come armed; this was a celebration after a time of fighting. It was meant as a time of peace and fellowship. As the revelers gasped and fled from the surging throng of soldiers, though, Fye was glad that she didn't often obey rules. Her dagger, concealed under her dress, waited for her.

What should she do with it, though? She couldn't defeat two dozen armed men by herself. Yes, Sir Reuben, Xander, and Arken would help, but how many innocent people would die by the time they finished? One of the soldiers would surely run outside and tell his comrades to start slaughtering people out there. If she made one wrong move, there would be a bloodbath.

She needed a plan, and nothing was coming to her.

Arken did not kneel before Reynolds. He stood straight, the beau ideal of knightly pride and integrity. Pride and integrity, however, were no match for a sharpened blade. Reynolds nodded to Antwerp, who stepped forward, his sword gleaming in the hall's low light.

"Cease this immediately," Lady Ayla said as she stepped out from behind Reuben. Her voice didn't hold a hint of fear, but Fye could almost smell the worry radiating from her. Ayla's daughters' lives were at stake. The well-being of everyone in her fiefdom was at stake. "Lord Reynolds, you are being unreasonable. If I deemed you a man worthy of it, I would swear my fealty to you, but you are not worthy. Anyone who resorts to such underhanded tactics is no better than a common thief—indeed, you are worse than a common thief. You..."

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