"Why do we need to rescue this girl?" asked Eadward.
"We can not leave her to Sucat," said Hyd. "He told me he raped her after they had married and that he enjoyed hurting her."
"If they are married, there is nothing you can do."
"I can't leave her. I think she was trying to escape when I ran into her in the laundry shed. It's my fault she was caught."
"Do you even know her name?"
"What do names have to do with anything? Let's get her and go."
"Where is she being held?" asked John. He sat patiently on his horse. He was used to these kinds of escapades that Hyd and Eadward got themselves into. He just wanted to know what the plan was going to be. His stomach was grumbling. He hadn’t eaten since morning, being called from his woman’s bed by Eadward’s need to rescue his brother. John and Stephan were close friends with Hyd and Eadward. They all grew up together on Hyd’s father’s estates. He had never known a titled man who willing embraced his illegitimate brother the way Hyd did. Hyd even had Eadward’s mother running his household.
Eadward looked at Hyd.
"You don't even know where she is, do you?"
"Well, not exactly."
“So how do we find her?” Eadward didn’t bother to argue with Hyd. Eadward wanted to find the girl too. Both he and Hyd liked rescuing people in trouble but they especially liked taking things or people from their cousin Sucat, Baron Briefadel, just to add piss to his pot. Sucat had never acknowledged Eadward as a family member, so of course Eadward could not like, let alone love Sucat the way he did Hyd, but Sucat’s cruelty and constant trying to get the better of everyone made Eadward hate him. He would do whatever he could to mess up Sucat’s plans.
“Would he not keep his new bride in his rooms?” said Stephan. “At least for tonight while guests and strangers were about to witness the proceedings.” Stephan liked a bit of mischief too. His wife liked a good story when he finally got home. She didn’t care much if he went off on his adventures. He brought home enough gold to keep her happy, they got on well when in bed and the rest of the time they left each other to their own devices.
“A good point, Stephan,” said Hyd. “See, Eadward, already our plan begins to take shape. We have a place to look. Let us proceed.”
“Hyd you are in no shape to go a-rescuing,” said Eadward. “You can barely stay on your horse.”
“I must go. She has never seen any of you before, but she has seen me.”
“Is this girl someone you know?”
“When did she see you, then?”
“She saw me when I was arrested.”
“That aught to give her a sense of confidence in us then.” Eadward took the reins of his horse. “Let’s find a place to hide the horses while we go get your girl. Then we’ll go in through the kitchens and find a way up to the master’s rooms. Let’s hope the revelers are drunk enough to cover us as we make our rescue.”
Hyd groaned as he lifted his leg to get off of his horse. Eadward, John and Stephan looked on with smiles as Hyd fell to the ground. Hyd thought he even heard some snickers from the trussed up soldiers and their doxy. The laughter hurt more than the actual injuries.
They led their horses around the back of the hall and tied them to a post they found by the back entrance to the kitchens.
It was decided that Stephan would go in first since he had a certain way with women. They all seemed to love him on sight. He entered the kitchens. Hyd, Eadward and John waited by the entrance. It wasn’t long before Stephan was poking his head out of the door and waving a quail leg at John.
“Hungry? Betsy has some good victuals in here waiting to be savored.”
Stephan ducked back in not waiting for them to join him. They were right behind him. Upon entering they were surrounded by scullery maids and under cooks and Cook. The women stood looking at the men as if they had never seen any before. They were given meat and drink, stewed apples and fresh bread dripping with sweet cream.
“What’s going on?” John asked. He was having a hard time talking properly because he had so much food stuffed in his mouth.
“They are just happy to be around some men who are not trying to grope them all of the time,” said Stephan.
“I wish my stomach didn’t hurt so much,” said Hyd. “This food is really good.” He smiled at Cook who came over to him and touched his ribs. He flinched and let out a yelp.
“Take off your shirt, sir and I will bind you,” said Cook. “I have been treating ailments most of my life.”
While the other three ate their fill, Hyd took Cook up on her offer. It might mean the difference between getting caught and getting safely away. Cook had one of the sculleries rip up cotton toweling into strips that Cook wound around his ribs. She bound him up tight making it a bit hard for him to breath deeply but the pain lessened a lot.
By the time she was done, the others had finished eating. Stephan was off to the side talking to one of the housemaids. She was smiling at him like he was her long lost love. He stroked her cheek and gave her a chaste peck on the cheek, then joined John, Eadward and Hyd.
“The girl, Ranee is her name, by the way, is in Sucat’s chambers. He has her locked in and the doors are guarded by two very sober soldiers. Sindee says there is a back stair to the upper floors just behind the pantry. It leads first to the privy, which she says has a secret door into Sucat’s private bed chamber. Sindee says it is never guarded because only the sculleries use it as a short cut when carrying out the ashes when cleaning the fire places. Sucat doesn’t even know it’s there. The help does not carry for their master. He is harsh with them. They like to make life difficult for him, too.”
“We will not get them more involved than they are now,” said Hyd. “Once we are shown this door, no one is to be around us so he can not blame them.”
The four men pulled their knives for weapons.
“Sindee, can you show us the way?” said Stephan.
The house maid led the way up the back stairs. They moved quietly up the steps in single file with the young dark haired girl holding her skirts so she would not trip and fall. When they reached the top they entered the hall door to the privy. The privy seats, four in all, ran along the outside wall of the room, the chutes emptying out over a half moat. To the left of the seats were shelves where Sucat’s tunics and leggings were stored, the smell from the privy protecting the cloth from moths.
Next to the shelves, they could just make out the lines of the secret door. Sindee showed them how to press on the door so it would open. Stephan kissed her on the forehead and sent her back down to the kitchens. They popped open the door and entered Sucat’s bed chamber.
Ranee stood over by the main door to the room with a ceramic jug raised to throw but she had expected men to enter from the front door and not from a side wall.
She lowered the jug but did not move or speak. She just stared at the four large men who invaded what little space and peace of mind she had left.
Hyd moved forward and she recognized him as the man who was accused of raping her.
“Have they let you go?”
“Not willingly,” said Hyd. “Come, we must leave this place, quickly and quietly.”
“No,” she said and moved back a step.
“You do not want to leave this place?”
“Yes, you do not want to leave or yes, you want to stay?”
“What are you two saying?” asked Eadward. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. Just dress and gather your belongings. We are leaving.”
“These are my only clothes and I have no belongings.”
Stephan ducked back into the privy and came back with a tunic and leggings. He walked over to Ranee and handed her the clothing.
“Put these on quickly,” he said. “We must be off before anyone comes looking for you.”
She did not ask for the men to turn around. After what she had already been through, she had no more modesty left. She pulled the leggings on under her sleeping gown. She turned around and pulled the gown off over her head and replaced it with a soft wool tunic brushed into a smooth cream color.
She found a pair of light boots warming by the hearth. They were a bit long but they would protect the soles of her feet. She had no idea where she was going but any place was better than here.
Hyd went over to the hearth mantel, lifted something from its surface and placed it in the pouch at his waste.
“Are we ready, children?” asked Hyd. “Well, ready or not, we must be off.”
They all went back out the privy’s secret door, Ranee in the middle of the line: John, Stephan, Ranee, Hyd and Eadward. Eadward closed the door quietly and followed the rest of his group into the hall. They made it into the kitchens without incidence.
They stopped long enough to take the bread and cheese Cook had wrapped up for them. Cook also gave Ranee some roasted meat since Ranee had not eaten since yesterday. They went to the back door to the kitchen to leave, exiting in the same order that they left the bed chamber, Eadward last in line as before.
“Well, if it isn’t the pretender to the family.”
Eadward turned around to the voice of Sucat.
“Cousin,” said Eadward, adding a pronounced sneer to the word.
“Do not call me that.” Sucat screamed, spittle flying from his mouth and rolling down his chin.