Pat, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, awakes to find herself bound.
|Pat’s head throbbed as she slowly regained consciousness. She tried to raise her hand to feel the back of her head, but the coarse rope bindings bit into her wrists, keeping her hands at her waist behind her. “What happened?” she whispered hoarsely as she tried to get her bearings and figure out what she could remember last. She had been bending over crates in the waterfront warehouse with a notebook, taking inventory. It was one of the tasks that her mother, who had dreams of marrying Pat off to a minor noble as the next step in the plan to raise the Calahan family’s social status, consider ladylike enough to allow her daughter to do. Mistress Renata Calahan would have insisted that her daughter take a couple bodyguards with her while doing it, however.
“Well, Mom. I guess this proves you right for once,” Pat quietly lamented. “It might have saved me a headache at the very least.” She wondered who had snuck up on her and knocked her unconscious. She wondered if her kidnappers were seeking ransom, vengeance on her father, or leverage to force Dominic Calahan to surrender some part of his share in the city trade. Her family had spent years building the connections necessary to become one of the most affluent and influential merchant families in the region, and there was no shortage of unscrupulous people looking to undermine or exploit that money and power for their own ends.
Pat finally opened her eyes and waited for them to adjust to the near-total darkness. The only light in the entire cave -- the faint odor of dried bat droppings and uneven ground beneath her had been enough to deduce that she was in one -- came in from the small entrance several feet away. The shadows danced, suggesting that there was a fire just outside that entrance. The occasional murmur of human conversation suggested that her captors had set guards by that fire. “So much for running away unnoticed,” she huffed. “Guess I better find the means to fight my way out in addition to cutting these damn ropes.”
She spotted a metallic glint that was a couple feet further away from her captors. She slowly scooted her way toward it, stopping every couple inches to make sure the sounds of her body scraping across the stone floor of the cave didn’t alert her guards. They seemed to remain oblivious to anything she was doing. She figured they probably expected her to lay where they left her, crying and praying that her father would convince the city guards to come looking for her and rescue her.
“Not this merchant daughter,” she chuckled to herself. “If those fools wanted a helpless damsel for their schemes, they should have taken Mother instead.” The thought amused her, despite knowing that Mistress Calahan always had at least four bodyguards with her and any attempt to snatch her was sure to either fail or end up costing the would-be kidnappers more trouble than whatever payout they hoped for was worth.
She stifled a shout of triumph when she reached the source of the glint and discovered it was a knife. It must have been months or years since it was last properly sharpened, but it felt to Pat as if it had enough of a blade to cut through her bonds. Provided she had a few minutes before anyone discovered her. She strained to hear her captors. She couldn’t make out the few scattered words she could hear, but their tones made it seem like they were quite content to keep warming themselves by the fire for the foreseeable future. Satisfied, she managed to get the knife into her hands and began sawing at the coarse fibers of the rope at her wrists.
Her efforts were indelicate and she scratched herself more than once, but she merely grimaced and worked on. She reckoned a little blood was a small price for her freedom. After about three minutes, the bonds at her wrist slackened and she was able to untangle herself. Now that she could see what she was doing, cutting through the rope that held her ankles together was fairly easy. Once free, she rubbed at her wrists and ankles, making sure the blood circulated well there. She looked around the cave again, looking for anything she might use against her captors. There were at least two of them and while she could give them one hell of a fight with just the knife, she hoped to be a little better armed. She found a pile of discarded equipment and crouched as she tried to sort through it silently.
After a few moments, she picked up a battered sword and shield. She wasn’t properly trained with either, but hoped that she could use them to good effect. It was pretty clear by the state of the weapons and armor that her captors weren’t maintaining them. She hoped that meant they weren’t properly trained to use them, either. She hoped that that fact, combined with the fact that she was about to surprise them, would swing things in her favor.
She froze as she picked up the shield. It had the Calahan mark on it. This equipment belonged to her family’s private guards. “What’s going on here?” she mused.
Just then, she heard a new voice join the group outside. This voice was harsh and sounded as if it belonged to a woman. It sounded familiar. “No. It can’t be,” Pat muttered in disbelief. She crept as close to the cave entrance as she could while remaining covered in shadows.
“What are all three of you doing out here?” her mother asked tersely. “Why aren’t any of you in there watching Patricia?”
“It’s not like she’s going to go anywhere. We tied her up good and tight,” a man with a gravelly voice responded.
“You Idiot! This is my daughter, you’re talking about. She’s not your typical middle-born girl. She isn’t going to lay there and cry while others decide her fate for her. You could have put my deal with Baron Henderson at risk if she escaped.”
Pat cursed under her breath. Her mother was about to order some men into the cave. Her chance to overwhelm them with a surprise attack and flee had just evaporated. It was time for a new plan. She just hoped she came up with one soon. She stepped out of the cave. “You’re right Mother. I’m not that kind of girl, despite your attempts to force me into being one. Now what’s this about you making deals with one of Father’s biggest enemies?”