The mission isn’t going exactly as Wil had hoped. He’s already lost a few men and he still hasn’t found Aurialonus. However, they have rescued the royal family and Wil got to have a cool knife fight. Things are looking up. Now, if he could simply find the wretched dictator, he’d be happy.
Wil looked around for Emory and didn’t see him. Ben didn’t appear alarmed, so he waited. Emory came back a few moments later, smiling smugly. A whispered conference with the king, who smiled and nodded, and the grin widened. He trotted up to Wil.
“Royal stables to the south. Twenty-five thoroughbred horses, all saddled by the grooms. They are still loyal to the family and as soon as I explained what we were doing, they were happy to help. The guards there are no longer a problem.”
He chuckled remembering the short, brutal battle that had taken place. Pitchforks and riding crops made formidable weapons in the right hands.
“Can all of them ride?” Wil asked hopefully.
Emory nodded, “Yes, sir. The king confirmed it.”
“Get them out of here. Ben, you’re with me. We’ve got to find Aurialonus.”
Ben’s lips snapped shut on his comments, knowing it would be pointless to interject common sense. He gestured for the others to leave.
“Contact base camp when you get off the palace grounds. They’ll meet you,” Ben told Lance.
“Good luck,” Emory said, suddenly worried. He looked as if he wanted to speak to Wil, but there was no time for him to find the right words.
Later, he promised himself, he would talk to Wil and try to explain. If there was a later. Sighing inwardly, he squared his shoulders and took point, leading the way to the stables across the gardens. The men in the garden were still out, but the gas would last only another ten to fifteen minutes. They hustled along, careful where they trod, even a gassed man would wake if someone fell on him.
Wil and Ben exchanged a look, which in Wil’s case could have meant anything. Ben’s was one of puzzlement. Aurialonus had never been the main objective, but Wil was determined. Probably his bizarre code of ethics again.
“How do you propose to find the lunatic? He could be anywhere.”
“He’s still here.”
“How do you know?”
Wil shrugged, moving his weapon to the other hand as he drew a cheroot from his shirt pocket and lit it. “Matter of pride. He’d never give up when he’s come so far. To him, the palace represents power. Even without hostages, he considers himself as King. He’ll stay.”
“What a putz.”
“Yeah, well no one said he was smart.”
They were picking their way across the ballroom; empty save for dead bodies. They had no light, but each man moved with confidence in the dark.
“Got to be a safe room somewhere, a bolt hole,” Wil wended his way toward the servants stairway at the back of the house. There was a veritable warren of these, he knew since the blue-prints of the castle were feeding through his cybereye.