Norr clamped the tongs over a burning log and jerked it free from the charcoal. Bietter helped her drape a blanket around it. She pressed the blackening, smoking bundle against the crack of the door.
“Get the candlestick, Bietter.”
She heard brass scrape on the table, and then felt his sudden warmth at her back. She didn’t know if she felt his heartbeat or hers. That was his bloody drool on her shoulder; the moment was imperfectly romantic, and perhaps her last thought was that for them it was very appropriate.
The door burst open.
Two watchmen raced through the eye-stinging black haze, and a third one came in and did what he wasn’t supposed to--he looked right. Norr swung the stick right between his eyes, and Bietter pushed them both through the closing door and slammed it shut after them. She drove home the makeshift prisoner’s bolt, and not even a breath later, felt the whole wall rattle.
Bietter started to run, but Norr caught his shoulder. As hoarse shouts boomed, as the door rattled, she crossed the hall and opened the door.
A monk was already looking up from his studies, and now he saw Bietter’s smeared bloody jaw his face drained and he started to scream. There was a lot of screaming going on. Norr had to do something about that.
The monk saw where she was looking, looked down at his own knife on the table. Then he leapt for it, just as Norr did. He got his fingers around the handle; she got hers over his wrist. The point lunged for her stomach and she just twisted it short.
Bietter slammed the door shut, but before he did, Norr knew she heard boots on stair. The monk kicked her, yanked at his hands, but Bietter was running now and stuffed his fingers into the monk’s opening mouth, his other hand on the monk’s throat, and squeezed. Norr felt the knife tremble. The point grazed her, shook around her stomach and kidneys like the claw of a gourmand wolf.
Then the monk let go, and Norr ripped up the knife and put the point under his nose. She looked at Bietter, and Bietter, who was shaking and red-faced even where he wasn’t bloodied, slackened.
Norr met the monk’s eyes, reached out a single finger and put it against his lips.
Outside a bolt ground in its housings.
Men shouted. Men cursed.
Norr didn’t have time to listen to this. She passed the knife to Bietter and threw the lid on a wooden tower in the corner. A soiled robe was crumpled at the bottom; she pulled it out, threw it over her shoulder. Too large. Didn’t matter. She cinched it and looked for another, but there wasn’t a spare to be seen.
Norr pointed to Bietter. She pointed to the monk. The monk whimpered.
“Fertsch?” she whispered, when Bietter had finished donning the man’s ill-fitting garment and hood. Hoarse shouting still came through the door. The monk’s eyes flicked to the door, but he shook his head. Norr pointed at the monk, the chair, and the knife, and covered her mouth. He nodded.
“We better try our way out,” she said to Bietter, “before he stops panicking.”
Bietter put his hand on the door. There were definitely sounds outside--cursing, thumping. He looked at her before he opened it.
Nobody in the hall--that would have been loud and instant. But in the room across, two guards bent over the bed. Their stunned friend sat on it, his head obstructed by his caregivers. Bietter ducked out and Norr rushed as quietly as she could after him--but she had to slow, right in the middle of the hall, to close the door after them.
They walked quietly for a few steps, and by the time they hit the steep stairwell they were going far too fast, half-running half-falling down the stone stairs three at a time. Upstairs their monk cried out at last, and the shouting and thundering of boots started all over again, not too distantly. Norr pulled Bietter off at the next landing. This might be the ground level, yes? The windows were at the ceiling, and all she could see through them was sky.
At the end of the hall was three doors. Which way was the front? That way--which was the back? She took the last door--and four monks looked up from their reading.
Norr breathed. Bietter squeezed her shoulder.
The monks looked back at their books.
She and Bietter started walking. All she could hear was their footsteps on the stone. Then, the echoes of shouting and running came through the door, and the monks looked back up at it again. She resisted the urge to run--and then one of the monks called after them, and she tore off with Bietter clattering after her. They hit the door at the end and burst through a kitchen, through hanging garlic and a yelling cook, through another door, to a room of shelves and jars and darkness, to another room, full of hanging meat…
The boots and shouts were coming fast. But--there was a door. Norr opened it, and sunlight on snow blinded her. The back court. Garbage, barrel-staves. And there--a wooden gate for carts to come in and out of.
She couldn’t reach the bolt, but Bietter could. He unlocked the gate just as the pantry door right behind them slammed open, and as guards leapt down at them, Norr yanked Bietter forward and to a steep and empty road. They tore their robes from their shoulders and dove into the first alley they came to. Then they just ran. They ran until their lungs were cold and flat as ice on a lake.