She grabbed his hand. That was not what he was expecting, though in retrospect he ought to have.
Edthwin, not being a stupid man, followed where she led. The fort was in flames, after all, and there was cannon fire in the distance.
She picked an old well house and paused, clearly just for a moment.
“Okay, you need to do exactly as I say for the next-“
“I’m your bodyguard, you know.”
“I know, and you make a very good steward. That being said, we need to run, now.”
Edthwin gave up. His captain, his mother, and his aunt had all warned him. She was a stiletto in politics, not a rapier, but in her free time she was all muddy knees, scraped palms, and strange instructions to Edthwin.
He ran. She ran – that is, Princess Geniana ran. Cannons fired. What was left of the fort fell.
Edthwin swallowed. “They mean to kill me,” he whispered. They were using an ancient tree and an older wall as something like shelter. “%No,” he corrected himself, before she could. “They mean to kill you. I’d be collateral damage.”
Geniana patted his cheek. “I knew you were smart. Now, how much can you carry?”
From his princess, it wasn’t even a strange ⁰question. “About a quarter of my weight, your highness.”
“Good. We’re going to stock up.”
She took him at his word on his carrying load, but he noticed she didn’t short herself much either.
They carried on with a brutal pace, pausing only near sundown. Edthwin wasn’t sure if he sat down if he’d ever get up again, so he leaned his hip against a tree.
“Look,” he tried again. They hadn’t heard cannon fire in over an hour. “Look, I’m your bodyguard and I don’t see why you keep on flipping those roles.”
He ducked as a knife flew past his ear. Just behind him, someone grunted. Geniana strode past him before he could react; Edthwin had heard that snap before, but never so close.
She pulled a folding shovel from her pack and handed it to Edthwin. While he dug, not looking forward to this task, she gathered rocks.
It took her a while to speak.
” You were trained for the military. ” She seemed to be picking each word with care. “…I…wasn’t.”