The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 13 - The Escape
After being told of Yuri's arrest, Zinovii quickly makes the decision to leave Udyn, fearing that the vizier means to arrest him, figure out a way to pin the raid on Vladykino on his master - the Grand Prince, or both. He directs his servitor Yushko to gather their things, while Anatoly is out getting supplies for their journey. Anatoly buys food and gear to protect them from the frequent downpours, while attempting to ascertain whether he is being watched. Finding no spies, he returns to Grigorii Nikonov's mansion. Immediately after, he rides out of the Nart quarter along with Zinovii and Yushko. Zinovii, despite feeling unwell, and the heavy rain, directs his servitors to proceed west and then to loop around to head to the fishing village of Shatkal. He fears they are being followed, and does not want to be seen by the nomads in the encampment outside the city, as he says they are in cahoots with the vizier. The group gets a little lost, but several hours later, does arrive at Shatkal. The gate is closed, but Anatoly opens it with ease, and leads his group toward the center of the village. Along the way, they are accosted by Ahmed and the rest of the rude fisher children. When they learn that Zinovii wants a place to stay for the night and is willing to pay handsomely, they lead the group to Erken's house. The elder questions them about where they are going, and Anatoly tells him that they are returning to Nor'. After accepting payment, sets the unexpected guests up in the main room, next to the stove,. He acts cold and distant, however, and soon withdraws to a side room, along with the rest of his family. Anatoly watches the house and the outside area, making sure that no one is being dispatched to report on their presence. ZInovii tells him that the following day, they should inquire Erken about getting a boat or a raft on which to cross the river. In the morning, Anatoly asks Erken about why he was relatively inhospitable, in contrast to the usual Kochmak ways. The elder seconds what Ahmed said earlier: roughly a sevenday ago, the village was visited by some Noriki travelers on route to Udyn, but after entertaining two of them and putting them up, one sneaked two more of their party at night into the house, and let them loose in Erken's larders. Since then, he has become wary of travelers, especially if they are Noriki and infidels.
* * *After leaving the antiquities shop at the docks along with Yaakov, Agapia quickly becomes distracted by a renewed attempt to locate a cauldron. She slips away from her companion and into an alley, and soon finds herself face-to-face with a young woman with kind eyes wearing a blue veil, who reminds her of icons depicting the Godbearer Kivi that are prominently displayed at the Holy Veil Monastery. The woman carries a snow-white lamb in her hands, and asks whether Agapia would like to feed it some ivy. After the girl enthusiastically agrees, the woman leads her to a barn, which she says is owned by good, altruistic people. While Agapia feeds and pets the lamb, Yara, the woman tells her that the ribbons she acquired at Yaakov's actually have wondrous powers, and her own blue ribbon grants eternal life. She also tells her a parable about a magical pot that cooks infinite amounts of porridge, and relates this to the mess of Agapia's present life at the monastery. She says that until she learns the magic word to get the pot to stop cooking, it might be best if Agapia did not return to the monastery, and instead try to help her new friends, who are in trouble. When Agapia asks who and why, the mysterious lady offers to take her to one of them.
* * *After being left by the vizier, Yuri weighs his options. He spends some time trying to see if he can fashion a tunnel to the opposite cell, though the darkness and the hardness of the wall make this a long-term project, at best. After he covers up signs of his digging later on in the day, he surprisingly receives another visit from the vizier. Ilyas ibn Umar has the guards take him out of his cell, and lead him up the stairs, and then out into the courtyard. As they round the hold to another tower, the vizier tells Yuri that there is someone he wants him to meet. Entering another tower through a side door, Yuri, the vizier, and the guards climb the spiral staircase to the very top. Here, he is led into a small, but richly decorated apartment. A young woman sits near the lone window, staring out into space. The vizier introduces her as Botagöz - the daughter of Amir Çengiz, and asks that Yuri hear her out. Botagöz dreamily tells him of her vision that she has seen the city destroyed by fire from above. After they take their leave of the princess, Ilyas asks Yuri whether he know understands why he has been imprisoned (and why the princess never smiles). Yuri thanks the vizier for the favor shown to him, but questions whether the princess' vision is a sufficient basis for not confronting Yaqub, considering she might be wrong. The vizier asserts that she has a proven track record as a seer. After taking Yuri back out into the courtyard, the vizier indicates Hegumen Mitrofan approaching them from another part of the compound. Ilyas ibn Umar says that he is prepared to release Yuri to the hegumen now that he has seen the reason why attacking Yaqub is something the vizier as a responsible official cannot countenance, provided that he swears on the hegumen's cross that he renounces his monster hunt. Mitrofan says that he is prepared to underwrite Yuri's promise with a vow of his own, and tells the young cossack to think of his other family members in captivity. But Yuri says he cannot make such a pledge with his Svetlana in the hands of a monster, and Mitrofan throws his hands up in desperation before walking away. The vizier, also disgusted, says that Yuri will then rot in the dungeon, and orders the guards to take him down again. When the guards take Yuri below again, he decides to take matters in hand. Before they close his cell door, he grabs at one of the guards' key ring, and uses shiv he made earlier, and attacks one of the spearmen, using the door to block against the second man. One shiv again two spears is not a fair fight, even for a hero like Yuri, but suddenly, a loud knocking noise issues from Karim's cell, the door flies open, and its occupant emerges. One of the guards engages him, but Karim begins to grab him, and the man withers before his eyes. The other man yells for help, and Yuri keeps him at bay until he also succumbs to the same fate. Yuri pulls the guards into the cells, strips them, and together with Karim, dons their armor. Karim digs through the guard's possessions, and when the two of them get to the ground level, Karim gestures to Yuri to follow along, mutters something under his breath, and Yuri turns into a misty cloud. Karim makes his way out of the citadel, and cloud Yuri follows suit, and floats over the wall. He follows Karim into a nearby yard. Yuri recoalesces into human form. The two have a conversation in which neither understands the other. Yuri thanks Karim for helping him escape, Karim hands him a cloak, and waves him off. Yuri leaves the compound, and heads toward the central souk, thinking that seeking out Berke is his best move at this point. He tries to keep to the sides of the street, but two guards moving in the opposite direction hail him. Yuri ignores them and starts moving away quickly, so they give chase. The pursuers seem determined, and are not even deterred when Yuri shoves some pushcarts in their way. When he hears voices approaching from a side-alley, he rounds a corner throws open a gate, and hides between it and some barrels. One voice, it turns out, belongs to Agapia. She step out in the way of the guards, interposes herself in the way of one, and tries to harangue the other one to stop. Inexplicably, the guards are distracted, and soon, a crowd begins to gather around them (some were the victims of Yuri's antics as he ran down the street). The guards soon manage to extricate themselves: one runs down the street, the other walks into (the wrong) house, and begins to look for the escapee. In the meantime, Agapia manages to locate Yuri, and the two of them slink away. As they walk, Agapia tells Yuri about her trip to the docks and her encounter with the mysterious lady with the lamb (who has inexplicably vanished), while Yuri relates the story of his escape. Yuri wants to find out what the other companions are up to, though he is wary about returning to the Nart Quarter. They approach the West Gate, and see that the guard presence here has been beefed up. The two decide to take a break up against a vacant section of wall, where Agapia touches Yuri's bruises, and a warmth settles over them. After expressing his amazement at his companion's talents, Yuri begins to formulate a plan. If the Nart Quarter is off limits, it makes sense to check in on Yaakov - the last person Agapia saw. He might also be able to read Yuri's mysterious note from Karim. The two of them make their way toward his compound, with Yuri pretending Agapia is his prisoner. Around the corner from the gate, Agapia hears to Kochmak voices, apparently discussing keeping an eye on the household. Yuri hangs back as she approaches them. The two guards - that is who they turn out to be, question who she is and what she is doing there. They tell her Yaakov has not returned. She says she is going to the woods, and one guard follows her to the East Gate. He soon catches sight of Yuri, and attempts to engage him in conversation. Yuri's lack of Kochmak creates difficulties, but the guard, eager to get back to the post he abandoned, tells Yuri to turn Agapia over to the guards at the gate, and takes his leave. As this gate is also watched, Yuri decides to return to his original plan - to seek out Berke. After arriving at the tavern, he asks Agapia to case the place out, and if Berke seems like he's amenable to a deal, to have him meet Yuri outside. Berke appears to play along, though two of his henchmen follow him to the door leading to the alley. Once outside, he is not surprised to see Yuri, and wonders only what took him so long to show up after setting the entire city on its ear. Yuri shows him the note, and Berke confirms that it's from Karim, whom he calls a friend. When Yuri asks for Berke's help to smuggle them out of town. Berke says he will do it as a favor to Karim, but not for free. Then he asks where Yuri wants to go. Agapia says that Zinovii, along with his entourage, has relocated to the fishing village, where he awaits the rest of the companions, so Yuri indicates that as the place he would like to go. At that point, Berke asks Yuri how much money he has. When Yuri's destitution becomes clear, Berke says he will hold Agapia for ransom until Yuri finds the money. Yuri objects, saying that he got into his present predicament because he is in the business of freeing people, not enslaving them, Berke says that if he doesn't pay, he'll simply have the hegumen redeem his niece. The cossack speculates about being able to escape through the tunnels, but Berke warns that they will not likely make it out, as there are many tunnels that are used by various agents, not just the Banu Tabar. He denies in passing that the Banu Tabar had anything to do with stealing holy water from the cemetery in the Nart Quarter, no matter what the vizier says. Ultimately, the agreement is struck, and soon, both Yuri and Agapia find themselves in Berke's basement, and being loaded into barrels. Soon, they are transported, probably toward the river, and loaded onto a water craft of some sort.
* * *Alden and Lokan return to the Holy Veil Monastery to collect their things, as they promised. While packing up, they meet Hegumen Mitrofan, who tells them that he has just returned from the citadel. He went there to try to get Yuri released, but the pigheaded cossack would not swear off the fool mission to kill Yaqub, so the vizier, who seemed ready to release him to Mitrofan, has thrown him back in the dungeon. Getting Yuri released is now a lost cause, he tells them, and if they know what's good for them, they will just leave town. To make matters worse, the vizier's men have come and taken Yuri's horse. Meanwhile, Yaakov also shows up. Though he is out of place at the monastery, he informs tells them that he was waiting for them to show at the docks, and when he failed to find them, he went shopping with Agapia, and soon lost her as well. Despite Mitrofan's warning, Lokan feels that they need to find a way to release Yuri, especially now that they have money which they might use as a bribe. The three companions head for the West Gate, where they are immediately surrounded by guards, who place them under arrest. None of the three offers any resistance, so they are led to the citadel, and put on the carpet before the vizier. After questioning them about why they were heading to the city, Ilyas ibn Umar informs them that Yuri has escaped, and accuses them of being his accomplices. All three deny this, and say they have no idea where Yuri might have gone. The vizier does not seem to accept their explanations, and says that since they will not tell him the truth the easy way, he will extract it by other means. He then has guards throw them in the dungeon - Lokan, apparently, ends up in Yuri's cell. Then, one by one, the companions are interrogated separately. The vizier leans on them, saying that the others have already told them the truth about their connivance in trying to spring Yuri. All three hold firm, however, and say that they would not have openly come into the main city if they wished to do its rulers any harm. Then, the vizier begins to engage in enhanced interrogation. Both Lokan and Yaakov are subjected to the removal of finger nails. Lokan, who is used to being tortured, begs for the same treatment, but is denied. After the first round of nail extraction, Ilyas ibn Umar, surprisingly, has all the prisoners brought up, and then tells them they are being released. He apologizes for the rough treatment, but says that as the person in charge of the city's security, he sometimes has to use harsh methods to keep the city safe. He even offers some monetary compensation for the mistreatment, but then makes all three companions swear that they were not trying to break Yuri out, and that they will not help him henceforth. He sternly tells all three companions that they ought to home, and then has his soldiers lead them to the citadel gate. Feeling like they dodged a crossbow bolt, the three companions decide to hold a celebration before figuring out what the next move ought to be. They return to the Nart Quarter, and, being unable to return to the monastery, go to the tavern they have frequented, and ask around about a hostel. Here they buy rest and shelter for the night in the common room, and order a round of drinks. When the proprietor asks them if they are interested in companionship for the night, and all three agree. While the owner is out fetching his nieces, Yaakov attends to his wound, as well as Lokan's. When the girls appear, Lokan asks if they are clean, and the owner insists that they are, acting a bit offended at the question. Yaakov, being a medical man, is not so sure, so he inspects them, and confirms that this is so, deciding to keep the redhead for himself. Alden suddenly loses interest, and slinks off to sleep in a loft by himself, but two of the nieces find him there later, and snuggle up. All three wake the following morning, dry, rested and safe. Whatever troubles they must face await them on this day, or perhaps other days to come.
- Food and three wide-brimmed hats (Anatoly's party)
- A rest for the night in Shatkal (Anatoly's party)
- A lamb to pet (Agapia)
- Revelation (to Agapia) that her ribbons possess magical powers
- A suit of lamellar armor, a spear, a shield, and a shishak helmet (Yuri)
- A cloak (Yuri)
- Escape from town in barrels (Agapia and Yuri)
- Restitution for torture (Lokan, Yaakov and Alden)
- Beer, shelter, and companionship for the night (Lokan, Yaakov and Alden)
- Anatoly gets Zinovii to Shatkal
- Yuri escapes from the dungeon with Karim's help, and convinces Berke to smuggle him and Agapia out of town
- Lokan, Alden and Yaakov persuade the vizier of their truthfulness, and he lets them go, with recompense