Telling Tales 86
Plans and More Plans
The elite guards stood outside the various rooms of Ivan’s company, “To make sure you are well and safe,” the tsar had whispered to Ivan earlier, “for I fear that whatever happens to my daughters might come for you.”
The bramble-headed Tor scoffed. “He wants to make sure we can’t help you is all. Do you at least have permission to walk the halls?”
“I do, but the captain of the guard will accompany me,” said Ivan.
“Is it commanded that our windows must be shut?” asked Kou Ke in his soft voice. “If not, then our comrade Scrobarnach Armtha could manufacture her own guard. Eight of them, climbing on the battlements, could enter our rooms and take our places. An additional eight will stand guard with the palace guard. Should the tsar plan malice, we would, in fact, be protected. Should one check our beds for a sleeping figure, there would, in fact, be a figure lying there. In the meantime, we may escape from our rooms by the windows in order to assist Ivan.”
Ipiktokiyakovik looked from the window of the hallway to the ground. “It’s a long fall, should we lose our grip.”
Kou Ke nodded his agreement. “If I may proffer the services of yet another of our company, our comrade Juleidah’s command of dry winds may buoy us up should we lose our grip and cushion our bodies should we fall. As a further precaution, noble hunter with your sharp eyes, you could shoot an arrow lashed with rope to provide for steady handholds.”
“A most clever collection of suggestions,” agreed Haraka. “By those means, Ivan, you might enter into the princesses’ rooms from the outside after dark has fallen.”
“How will I know when they have fallen asleep?”
“Although I may be of assistance in that regard, I cannot hear everything all the time,” said Entendtout with a bow. “By which I mean, although I can hear any one thing, I cannot hear all things at once. If I am listening for the princesses, I may not help with the guards or the tsar.”
The first night went according to plan, and was nonetheless a resounding failure. Ivan and the captain walked the corridors of the castle. Ivan made sure to check in on each of his company, including the two princes, so that the captain would see them there in their rooms. When he reached Entendtout’s room last, just before midnight, the old man said, “It is late, Highness,” by which he meant not the hour, but that the princesses had already disappeared, for he could no longer hear the slightest noise from their room.
On the second night, Ivan and the captain stopped by at eleven, and Entendtout said, “It is not so late tonight.” Ivan took the captain to check on the princesses, but by the time the two men reached the room, they had vanished.
“We know when they leave, we have a plan to gain access to their room. How do we address the presence of the captain?” asked Ivan.
Kou Ke considered. “Perhaps our beggar friend Alexander, whom the tsar has required stay in the stables, could be of some assistance.”