“Quick. In here.” Kale saw the inn and thanked the Lord for the timely hiding place. He grabbed his friend’s arm, pulling him towards the door.
Bram shook his head and pulled back. “I don’t think so, kid. Your folks would kill me themselves if I took you in there.”
Kale opened his mouth to argue, but the sound of heavy footsteps around the corner interrupted him. Bram obviously heard it, too, and decided that he’d rather risk the wrath of Kale’s parents than the men who were after them now. Without a sound, the two men ducked through the doorway and pressed themselves against the inside wall. Kale conscientiously slowed his breathing as the footsteps pounded past outside.
Bram was the first one to speak. “Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all, kid.”
“It’s never a bad idea,” a woman’s voice said. “Come join the fun, boys.”
Kale turned towards the voice, then quickly averted his eyes. The woman standing in the inner doorway was hardly dressed for company. Suddenly it dawned on him what kind of establishment they’d just entered. He turned quickly and smacked right into Bram.
“Slow down, kid,” Bram whispered. “The bigger danger’s still outside.”
Kale leaned closer and whispered back, “The gates will be closed soon. We have to get out or we’ll be stuck here for the night.”
“Is there a problem, boys?” the woman interrupted.
Kale’s face reddened and he dropped his gaze to study the dirt under his fingernails. “We were…uh…”
“We were hoping you wouldn’t mind some company this evening,” Bram said in a confident voice.
She laughed a low, throaty purr. “I already have company, but you’re welcome to join us.” Without waiting for a response, she walked back through the inner doorway, tossing a seductive glance over her shoulder.
Kale felt a shove from Bram and nearly tripped as he followed her. The inner room was decorated with gauzy fabrics and corded pillows. Sickly sweet incense filled the air and turned his stomach. Flickering candlelight illuminated the faces of two men lounging beside a low table, laughing and drinking from stout cups. Kale swallowed hard and tried to act confident. The adrenaline from their narrow escape melted into embarrassment and fear of this new predicament.
The woman draped herself on some cushions and gestured towards the space opposite the other men. “Have a seat,” she said, and then watched while they tacitly obeyed. She lifted a pitcher from the table and held it out towards Kale.
He shook his head and lowered his eyes again. He just couldn’t find anywhere safe to look.
One of the men put down his cup and wiped his sleeve across his mouth. “You boys thinking of spending the night?”
Thankfully, Bram answered. “We just stopped in to say hello. We won’t be staying long.”
“You’re not from around here.” It was the second man.
“Our family is passing through the area.”
The first man raised an eyebrow and studied the newcomers’ faces intently. Kale shifted in his seat, hoping the man’s scrutiny didn’t detect anything suspicious. He was immensely relieved when the man nudged his friend and they stood to leave.
“It seems we’ve taken up enough of Rae’s time,” he said. “She’s all yours, boys.”
The second man bowed to kiss Rae’s hand. “It’s been delightful shirking our duty, but I’m afraid we need to get back to work.” He stood abruptly and the two men left.
As soon as they were gone, Bram jumped to his feet. “Those men are royal guards, aren’t they?” he asked Rae, and cursed when she nodded. “They know who we are. We’ve got to leave right now.”
“I know who you are as well. You’re with the Chosen Ones,” Rae said.
Kale expected Bram to deny it, but he nodded. Kale and Rae stood at the same time. He waited for a cue from Bram as to how they were going to escape, but it was Rae who gave it to him.
“Follow me,” she said. “The gates are surely closed now, but you can hide here. If the guards return, I’ll cover for you.”
Bram was clearly suspicious. “Why?”
“I’ve heard of your people and the power of your God.”
At those words, Kale felt safe. He spoke for the first time since they’d arrived at the inn. “My name’s Kale.” He extended his hand in a gesture of trust.
Anita, this was a fun read. You really are good at setting up the details and emotions. I don't know if I am an odd reader, or what, but unlike your other comments, I knew the story as soon as the guards said 'Rae'. I was suspicious of the truth earlier. All in all, it is really neat to have the more human side to the Godly story.