Lords of Freedom 19


Lords of Freedom is an exciting new novel including adventure, realistic action, surprising insights, and a touch of romance. Enjoy a new chapter every week. Prior chapters can be found here.

Lords of Freedom—Chapter 19—Honbria 6

In the cramped, dingy cell Hon huddled on a splintered bench with her parents. In the middle of the previous night, guards had stormed their home and dragged them off to jail. No explanation had been offered, nor had any been surrendered upon heated demand from Sergio. Instead, he’d been soundly clouted with the butt end of a spear.

A bruised goose egg was visible at his hairline now, and he’d battled a searing headache the past several hours, in between nodding off. Neither Hon nor Loris wanted to risk him losing consciousness, even if sleep would give him relief from the pain, so they kept close watch, nudging him awake time and again as they tried to keep him alert and talking.

“This is because of the co-op,” Sergio sighed, for at least the dozenth time. “None of us knew those men were commissioned by the duke, but even if we had, it wouldn’t have made any difference. They identified me, and here we are, me and my two best girls.”

Sergio let his head droop. “I’m so sorry…”

“Don’t be,” Loris snapped, hugging him tightly. “You were doing something good, helping people who couldn’t help themselves. How did our city come to this?”

The cell door’s bolt rattled, bringing them all to wary attention. Would they be led into the courtroom now, to plead their case at last?

To Hon’s surprise, it was Charley in the doorway, the prison guard she’d met. He swept them all with his gaze, widening his eyes when he recognized her.

“Honbria? Is that you—Hon?”

She could only nod.

Charley closed his eyes a moment with a heavy sigh. “Come with me.”

She stood, but her mother yanked her back down. “Where are you taking her?”

“Come with me please, Honbria; let’s keep this as civilized as we can,” Charley said, ignoring Loris.

“What about us?” Sergio asked. “Take all of us wherever you’re going…keep us together at least.”

Again, Charley sighed and Hon noticed his hands clench into fists. His voice didn’t sound angry though, when he replied, “Sorry sir; I have my orders: Honbria only. The two of you are to remain here for now.”

Hon stood up; there wasn’t much of a choice. “My father is injured. Can someone examine him at least, if I come along?”

Charley frowned, as though she had any leverage at all on this. He shrugged though and said, “I’ll mention it.”

Hon hugged both her parents tightly a moment, then left the cell with Charley, jumping a bit when the door slammed and he threw the bolt back into place. He gave her a curt, apologetic nod; then led the way down the long corridor and out into the bright noonday sun. She blinked, squinting at the unaccustomed light.

“I’m sorry about this,” Charley muttered. “Please don’t try to run though. I’ll catch you, and then I’ll have to use manacles.”

Hon rolled her eyes. She’d been tensed to dash off, but realistically she’d never escape, not here, in the now that presented itself.

“Where are we going?” she asked instead.

“Not where are you taking me? Where are we going? Like we’re friends off to lunch?” he scoffed.

Hon paused. Charley sounded regretful, and her first impression of him had been a good one. She decided to play on that.

“We are friends, sort of, and I am hungry.”

Charley belted out a laugh but then sobered. “I don’t know what you did to get so far onto the duke’s bad side, but behave yourself with me, and I’ll do what I can to help you.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m one of the duke’s scribes. Perhaps this is all a big mistake,” she exclaimed, surprised to learn she was on Duke Grudo’s blacklist—that guilt by association would carry this far.

“It’s that, at the very least. Nevertheless, orders are orders,” Charley sighed.

There was a wagon waiting in front of the jail, and Charley motioned her into the back, whispering, “Sit back here till we’re on the road. Then you can move up front with me. I’ve got enough lunch for the both of us.”

She nodded and climbed aboard, shocked when he promptly clamped a manacle on her wrist and affixed its chain to one of the wagon rails. Indignant, thinking he’d duped her, she rattled the chain, opening her mouth to complain.

He pressed a finger to his lips. “This is all just for show, but you have to act the part.”

Brow creased, she slumped down into a sitting position. “My father…”

He waved her off. “I know. I’ll tell them at the gate. Someone will tend to him; don’t worry about that.”

True to his word, Charley gave orders at the gate for Sergio’s injury to be treated. He was of a higher rank, and the other guard saluted smartly to the order before dispatching another to see to the task. As well, once they were well on the road, he stopped the wagon and released Hon from the manacle.

Rubbing her wrist, she joined him on the wagon’s front bench. “You’re taking me to the prison, aren’t you?”

He nodded. “Get that basket there and dish out some lunch.”

She did, and they ate in silence for a while.

“Thank you—for the food, that is,” she said.

He shrugged. “It would certainly help if you weren’t so pleasant.”

“I could leap from the wagon and make a run for it if you’d like,” she teased.

“I’d actually let you go at this point. Trouble is, you couldn’t return to Merker; you’d be arrested again, and out here you’d die within a week…assuming you wouldn’t try for safe haven at the prison.”

She scoffed. “Give me a bow and some arrows, and I might surprise you.”

He cocked a brow. “Is that so? Well, truth be known, I must deliver you or it’ll be my neck on the chopping block. I meant what I said though: I’ll do what I can to look out for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she exclaimed in alarm. “Are they going to execute me—for being the daughter of the man behind the co-op? That’s crazy; I don’t believe you.”

Charley shook his head. “No execution; that was just a figure of speech. You have been flagged as an enemy of the state.”


“I don’t know any more than that.”

Hon sat in stunned silence, her mind in a whirl.

“I’ll try to find out though,” Charley said moments later. “This doesn’t seem right—maybe you’ve been mistaken for someone else.”

Hon nodded, although she knew that couldn’t be right. Duke Grudo knew precisely who she was. Also, as she thought about it, he wouldn’t take her father’s co-op operation out on her. She was a court asset; he’d be much more inclined to have her transcribe her parents’ trial. That sort of irony would be more to his liking. Besides, she’d been respectful and subservient to him, something he relished. Something more was in play here, but what?

As they approached the edge of town, Hon shuddered. For the first time in her life, she was genuinely frightened, facing something she could neither elude nor fight. Glancing over, she found solace in Charley’s burly form. She had one friend here and with that a ray of hope.

© Copyright 2017-2023 Gene Van Shaar

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