Chapter 13 cont.

Kwado usually felt drained by the time they left the mine, ready to drop where he stood after a long day of labor. No such weariness ensorcelled him that evening. Adrenaline coursed through his system as they marched beneath sheets of pouring rain to the food tent. He did not think he could possibly stomach an ounce of food, but Hobb said it was best if they kept up the pretense.

“We could use the energy anyways, eh?” Hobb said, nudging Boram with a wink.

The gargoyle looked like he wanted to remove Hobb’s head from his shoulders and stick it on a pole. He grunted and nodded once then turned away.

“Maybe you shouldn’t antagonize him,” Kwado whispered.

“And miss out on the joy it brings me?” Hobb said. “I don’t think so.”

By the time Kwado stepped inside the food tent he was soaked from head to toe. They ate in relative silence, with the occasional chuckle from Hobb. Kwado wished the man would take this more seriously. If any guard noticed his odd behavior there little prison break could be over before it even had a chance to begin. A sharp wind howled through the quarry, pressing against the massive food tent in a moaning chill that sent shivers across Kwado’s wet skin. The tent leaned heavily to the east then settled back in place. This was no ordinary storm. Suddenly their brilliant escape plan seemed much more difficult.

They licked their fingers clean and left the food tent behind. The line to get sleeping sacks was a good deal shorter than usual. Most of the prisoners were taking their time in the food tent, none too eager to return to the torrential downpour that awaited them. Kwado caught a glimpse of the Hammer up ahead. What’s he doing out here? The stout warden leaned in close to the guard manning the rucksack pile. They exchanged words then both trained their eyes on Kwado’s companions.

“Think we might have some trouble,” Kwado said.

“What’s that?” Hobb asked.

Kwado motioned to the Hammer as discreetly as he could.

Hobb grunted. “Probably bragging about how he put me in my place earlier. Let the punter boast. Tomorrow we’ll be free from these sorry sons o’ whores.”

Kwado chewed his lip and looked around at their fellow inmates. Rain slid down their bent backs. The earlier excitement over the storm’s break was now whittled down to baleful looks at the muddy ground they would be sleeping in, already staining their shuffling feet. The prisoners just wanted to get their sacks and sleep. Kwado frowned as emptiness gnawed away at his heart. People underestimated such trivial things as exposure when they had a roof over their heads. The storm was an awful thing to endure. Some of these prisoners would not make it through the night.

When they reached the table, the Hammer was gone, but Kwado did not miss the strange look the guard handing out sacks gave them. His gaze was penetrating, cutting through Kwado with open accusation.


He knows!

Kwado quickly averted his gaze, searching for anything else to look at. When the prisoners in front of him moved out of the way, Kwado shuffled forward and grabbed a sack. He was already turning to flee to a sleeping spot when a hand shot out like a viper and seized his wrist. The guard tried to wrench his hand sideways and squeezed.

“None for you two,” he snarled below his wide-brimmed hat.

Kwado released the sack and bowed his head. So it was punishment the Hammer was doling out? He worked hard not to show his relief, keeping his head down and shoulders slumped as he moved to leave. The guard released his wrist and grinned, toothless and sadistic.

Hobb just shrugged and strolled past the sacks nonchalantly. The guard narrowed his eyes. Hobb caught up with Kwado with far too much pep in his step for a prisoner. Boram was fast behind them.

“You could’ve at least tried to pretend it bothered you,” Kwado said.

“Who cares about that lot?” Hobb said. “Let those donkeys wallow in it tomorrow when they’re getting whipped for letting us escape.”

“The troll’s right,” Boram said. “We’re not out of it yet. Stop going out of your way to draw attention or—”

Hobb stopped where he stood and spun around, nose to nose with the gargoyle. “Or what? You gonna teach me a lesson? Why don’t you go ahead and see how quick the guards are on you?”

Kwado pressed between them, nervously scanning the area for some sign of another guard. The beady-eyed sack guardian was preoccupied with the line of prisoners, already having forgotten the Hammer’s miscreants. No one else was out. Kwado did not blame them. If there was a tent he could go hide under at that moment, he would be there too.

“Don’t lose your heads,” he said gently, pushing his friends apart. “We have enough enemies without adding each other to the list.”

Boram was the first to bow out. “Aye, your wisdom rings my ears with truth as always.”

Hobb snorted and marched to their sleeping spot. It was going to be a long night.