I expected to lie awake for a long time but my body failed me. I did not even undress but merely sat upon the bed that had been assigned for my use only to find myself waking up several hours later. The house lay unnaturally quiet around me. For some unfathomable reason I began to fear in earnest and jumped up to find that I was missing one of my slippers necessitating a brief, panicked search which I finally gave up in frustration so that I could run out of the room.
All was silent in the Sheriff’s quarters. Not even the food from the night before had been picked up and removed which was totally unlike the normally efficient staff of the Hall. The small hairs on the back of my neck danced in reaction to my feelings. I did not feel at all myself and this only added to my confusion.
My fang was still in place thank all that is Holy and I carefully picked my way over to Nat’s bedroom. I carefully opened the door, unsure at what I would find but he still lay abed and asleep. I nearly collapsed in relief and went over to him but when I tried to rouse him he would not awaken. My nightmare returned and briefly across my mind danced memories of my family during the Plague. But unlike our family, his pulse was strong, his breathing steady; he simply would not wake up. His breath, when I bent to smell it was sour; but I could not tell if it were due to poison or not.
I quickly rushed to the other rooms in this suite and found that the Elders were likewise incapacitated. I worried briefly because of their age but had to put it aside when I ran to the Sheriff’s room only to find one of the bed pillows stained red with blood that was still tacky with freshness. I discovered more blood upon the floor as my stocking foot slipped in a small pool of it. The blood was not a bright red as it would have been if it had been from an artery but it was still no small amount.
It was at that moment that an injured Ronald Nealy ran into the room and stopped short when he saw me. Then it was his turn to nearly collapse in relief. “I thought they had taken you.”
“Who? And … and where is the Sheriff?”
“Daren is fine. Damnably hardheaded. Survived an assassination if you can believe that. Escaped and drew off the attackers before locking these chambers. It took me forever to pass and enter herein. Right now he’s protecting the family. They’ve been able to keep them out of the Hall, but not for much longer. He sent me to fetch everyone to safety. Had no idea everyone was unconscious. Why aren’t you?”
“I have no idea. I do not always react to potions in the same way others do. We will need help to move …”
“No! My duty is to you first.”
But before I could forestall him, Ronald Nealy had thrown me over his shoulder and was rushing down the winding stairs and then out a side door and away from the Hall. “Stop! Oh Stop! You …”
“No time Widow. My orders were to get you away from the Hall before more damage can be done and it is worth more than my life to disobey the order.”
He began jogging and it took most of my concentration not to vomit down the man’s back. When he finally swung me down I found that we were some distance away from the Hall and near what appeared to be a break in the Compound Wall.
“Up you go Widow,” he said as he tossed me upon a sprightly roan mare.
“Wait. This is all so precipitous. Where is Nanny? I would prefer if we are to do this that …”
“Your nag ran off. You’ll have to make do with this one. Your gear has already been strapped on. Now enough.”
“But who …”
“Borderlanders. They’ve attacked the Hall en mass.”
Shock silenced me. Such an attack had not taken place in my lifetime. “What do they want?”
“You Widow. They said they will kill the entire family and every servant to get you starting with the babe in Mrs. Linder’s belly. The only way to save everyone is to get you away.”
“This … this is asinine! And insane. And it must stop. Now. Let me go so that I may communicate with the Borderlanders. There has to be some among them with a sense of self preservation.”
And summarily I found myself unconscious once again.