Chapter 2

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"What in the name of the Creator's dirty knickers was that?" Jo whispered, looking through one of the mill's small windows; they made it to the attic where they stored the wheat. Outside, people were running in all directions like little ants, trying to put the fire out, getting people away from the collapsing building. She checked on her grandmother, she didn't look hurt. But it was dark inside, and since the only light came from the burning inn, it wasn't easy to tell. She closed her eyes for a second: as long as they were fine, and together, nothing else mattered.

"I bet this pouch of coins those two men you talked to had something to do with it," Grandmother sat heavily on a sack of wheat.

"I'm not so sure. I saw a bunch of men in black armor trashing the place before we got out, but maybe the other two knew something about them, what do you think?" Jo looked outside again, she felt a pang of guilt for not being outside helping them out. Then she turned to Grandmother; she was serious, more than usual, Jo could almost hear her brain arranging her thoughts. 

"If I'm correct, and I think I am, it's very likely the men in black were after the same information those other two gentlemen were after. We need to leave the village, they'll probably think we died in the fire, at least for a while," she removed a piece of hay from her dress, then made a disgusted noise.

"I think you inhaled some smoke back there: you're not making any sense, grandma," Jo's tone condescending, but deep down she knew Grandmother most definitely knew something she didn't, and she wasn't a fan of the implications.

Someone opened the door of the mill and entered quietly, a faint creaking noise gave them away. Jo took her dagger out and waited in the shadows as the two pair of feet climbed up the steep wooden stairs, making clickety-clack noises of chainmail as they moved. Grandmother sat unmovable on her makeshift seat, deep in thought. Jo moved closer to the top of the stairs, hiding behind a pile of sacks, and as soon as one of the figures appeared she lunged at it with her dagger, but was promptly disarmed and immobilized by a strong arm.

"You're skilled, young lady, but it takes more than a dagger to bring down a seasoned knight," It was one of the travelers, the older one. His voice showed a hint of amusement. He let her go, softly this time, and gave her back the dagger. "I mean you no harm-- we," he brought the younger man closer "Mean you no harm"

"I knew it was you," Grandmother stood up from her sack. She didn't sound surprised or worried... maybe a little exasperated. She could hear recognition in her voice: was she expecting him?

"You two know each other, I take it?" Jo put her dagger back in her apron; she still didn't trust the newcomers, but if her grandmother seemed to be ok with them she'd give them the benefit of the doubt -- for the moment.

"In a sense," answered Grandmother, shrugging.

"We followed you, after the Niveans destroyed your inn," so those Niveans, whoever they were, were responsible for burning down their home and only income. They'd pay for it, she promised. "They were looking for you, as well."

"I know," said Grandma, dismissively. "As soon as I heard the news of the King's passing, I knew there would be trouble. Didn't think it'd be so soon, I had plans to leave next week," she talked with just a hint of annoyance, as if someone had changed their plans for an evening of tea and cookies.

"You what?" Jo passed from perplexed to being equally upset and surprised. "It would be great -- wonderful, even -- if someone took the time to explain things to me right now, I think you owe me as much? Who are these people, grandma? Why are we being hunted down by heavily armored men who burn old ladies' inns? A questionable choice to pass the time, if you ask me," Jo didn't like to be in the dark, why didn't her grandmother trust her with that little, insignificant, detail? She crossed her arms, angry and a bit hurt. "Anyone? Answers?" she kept her voice level, but she wanted to yell at them; the knights gave her hesitant looks, presumably expecting some signal from Grandmother, which finally came in the form of a short shake of her head. She took a deep breath and calmed herself down, they weren't going to talk.

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