I kept telling myself there was no reason to be reckless about this. I made it over the wall without incident. I was well hidden in a shadowed corner of the garden trying to time the guards making their rounds without the luxury of a watch. I tried to gauge how late it was and how much more darkness I had left.
I am not patient by nature. I watched the pair of guards pass one more time, took a deep breath and made a crouching sprint for the trellis that climbed up the palace wall to the balcony where Muloot fell. I hoped to find Rand there, or at least be able to backtrack from there to his personal quarters where he hopefully slept like the dead, unguarded, and I could snatch my blaster and run like hell. I know, big stretch, but I was desperate.
I was a bit noisier then I hoped to be climbing the trellis, but luckily did not draw any attention from the guards. I made it to the balcony without incident. The room I was now familiar with was dimly lit and unoccupied. Now that I was here, I wondered if it was even conceivable I would be able to find Rand without running into a guard and getting myself recaptured. And, what would the future ruler of Alta III do with me when he found I didn’t return with his prospective bride in tow? You would think I would have thought this out before scaling the trellis, but as I said, I am a little impatient at times.
I tried to think of what I saw through doorways when Fatu and Salib walked me down the hall last time. I did remember one room that looked more masculine and palatial then the others. It did have a bed. If I was lucky, it was Rand’s room. I tiptoed to the door and slipped out into the hall. The carpet deadened by steps as I crept slowly forward. Everything seemed quiet. I paused outside the door to the room I thought was Rand’s. I put my ear up to it and listened. Was it too much to hope for a very loud snore from the other side?
I took a chance, opened the door slowly and squeezed in. I closed the door gently behind me and stood for a moment letting my eyes adjust to the dim light from a candle on a sideboard under a mirror. There was a lump under the covers. Whether it was the right lump was the million chit question.
Without taking a step I scanned the room for something recognizable. Something that would tell me for sure the lump was Rand. I spied it hanging from the corner of the mirror. It was his medallion. The one I saw him wear each time I was with him. Unless his father possessed one just like it, this had to be Rand. I moved a step or two closer and caught a glimpse of his belt with the dagger hanging from the bedpost at his head.
I crept forward and sure enough, ‘baby bear’ was fast asleep. I was in a good position to reach his knife. I slid it slowly out of the sheath. Standing here, he was lying facing me. I would feel better if I was behind him when I woke him, especially if he was sleeping with my blaster under his pillow like Fatu told me he did. I began to circle slowly around the bed to the other side.
As I reached the foot of the bed Aldobi-Rand stirred. I struck a crouched pose and held my breath. He turned over. Damn - just my luck. I waited for him to settle down into a deep sleep before I started to move back to where I just came from.
I stood still so long in the semi-crouched position at the foot of the bed, watching and waiting, my leg began to cramp. I slowly uncurled into a standing position with my back to the door.
I almost died of fright when someone grabbed me from behind with a firm grip over my mouth. I felt the tickle of breath exhaled on my left ear.
“Babe…” he whispered.
I was never happier to see someone in my whole life. I turned in Jake’s hold and in spite of our present danger threw my arms around him and gave him a big silent hug.
He extricated himself from my embrace and motioned for me to be quiet and follow him out.
I shook my head in silent pantomime, indicated my empty hip where my blaster usually rested and pointed at the sleeping Rand. ‘He has my blaster,’ I mouthed.
Jake gave me that huge Harcourt grin of his and pulling the robe he was wearing over his spacer suit back revealing my blaster hanging at his side along with his own.
I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.