Chapter 4

Yssile burst through the smithy door,  There you are, you little imp!  When I get done with you …”

“Uh oh.”  Jamie slid down the back side of the roof and scrabbled to the farthest corner.  There was a large oak tree there he had mastered climbing almost as soon as he could walk.  He and it were old friends.  Leaning out, he caught a nearby limb and launched himself from the roof.  Clambering down through the branches, he hit the ground running.  He really hadn’t planned on being caught quite this soon, so his escape plan was a bit short on contingencies.  A glance behind found Yssile catching sight of him as she rounded the corner of the forge.  He put his head down and ran, angling for the chicken coop.  He had a slight chance of evasion if he could get there a step or two ahead of the furious girl.

Yssile had a speed advantage with her longer legs, but just as she reached to snatch the errant boy by the back of his tunic, he dropped and slid feet first through the small door into the coop.  She banged off the side of the small building in an abrupt stop.

“Tarsus’ blue balls, Jamie!  How’d you get through there?”

Stooping to look through the opening, Yssile was assaulted by an explosion of feathers and righteous avian indignation.  Startled, she threw herself back, unfortunately planting her bum on a small stone.  Ow!  Damn it!   She pulled the offending object from beneath her and in a pique, tossed it as far as she could.  That’s going to bruise.  I swear, I’m going to kill him! Sparing a moment to massage her sore bottom, she then scrambled back to the coop’s door.  Jamie stuck his tongue out at her before he dropped from a high small window.

“Ha!  That was good!” Jamie thought as he landed.  He spun, looking for the next progression in his escape.  Mama’s garden offered much-needed concealment in its tall corn and bush beans.  Its high fence was a bit of an obstacle, forcing him to enter by one of the paddock’s two gates.  Another minor problem was the fact that Mama didn’t like him to be in her garden.  He reasoned that Yssile would never think to look for him there.  Perfect.

His pursuer limped around the chicken coop, rubbing a sore backside and murmuring under her breath.  She stopped in confusion, her prey lost to sight.  Where in the hells did he go?  Yssile scanned the yard, discarding in turn the possibilities offered by each structure and feature.  Ah, the garden … he’d think that’s the last place I’d ever look.  While Kaliana’s prolific green thumb provided ample opportunities to hide, it also kept the hunted from seeing the hunter.  She dropped to a crouch and began a stealthy stalk.

Yssile targeted the garden’s far gate, careful to keep the thick greenery between herself and where Jamie had most likely gone to ground.  With his green tunic and deerskin trews, Jamie was difficult to see, but she was able to spy an occasional slight movement contrary to the breeze.  There!  Small, dirty fingers slid into view as her prey parted some bushy plants to search for her.  She adjusted her path the slightest bit to better use the concealment offered by Jamie’s own hiding place.  The gate latch offered some challenge to a soundless loosing as Kaliana had insisted it be sturdy enough to protect her treasured wards from the occasional inquisitive animal.  Yssile’s nimble fingers made short work of the task, allowing her to open the portal just enough to slip through, all the while keeping her eyes on the small patch of tan trouser she could see through the leafy rows.  Step by slow step, she crept closer to her quarry.  Tarsus’ blue balls!  She’d neglected to latch the gate behind her.  Her stomach flipped at the thought of having to face Kaliana and explain a chicken invasion.  Retracing her steps, she was careful to ensure the latch was secure.  Whew!

Jamie caught a hint of movement from the corner of his eye.  Surprised, he dropped to his belly and wriggled under a large tomato bush.  Peeking between the leaves, he watched as Yssile reversed her path to latch the gate.  I’m not caught yet.  Mama’s tomatoes had a very good year, the plants growing so close together that they formed an almost impenetrable wall … unless one was a small boy.

He grinned with an idea.  He mapped out several routes through the fragrant jungle, all of which would keep him hidden from Yssile.  Using her preoccupation with the gate to his advantage, he squirmed down the row as fast as he could.  He winced at the faint scuffing sound his elbows and knees made against the ground but there was no way he could keep that from happening.  If he moved any faster, Yssile would hear him; any slower and he wouldn’t be where he needed to be when he needed to be there.  Timing was critical and the thick leaves blocking his sight made things difficult enough.  Jamie hoped the sound of the plants rustling in the soft breeze would cover what little noise he was making.

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