By Moonlight

As he finished lunch, Grzhegorzh contemplated how he was going to get food to his friends. He could try to sneak out of the forge, but Ekaterina would probably notice him leave. Maybe he could visit them by night, like she suggested, but then how would he bring them food? He was not a thief, but he may have to turn into one in order to help his friends. He felt that Ekaterina might help him, but he could not be certain. He took a bar of red hot scrap metal over to the crank hammer. As he ran the bar under the hammerhead on the anvil, he dares to ask a burning question. “How should I get food for my friends?” he asks her, not even knowing where the food market was. Ekaterina does not look up from her anvil as she answers. “Finish three more bars, then you’ll receive your first payment. To get to the food market, go out the front door, take a left, pass two shops, then go down the alley on the right and you’ll come to an open air market. You will have to be quick, the scrap and wood haulers will be here in a few hours with the final haul of the day. If you want to follow them back to their barracks, then you will need to be here by then, and you will need to put away the wood and metal before you can follow them. If you mess up the bars, you will need to do them over and you will miss your opportunity.” He nodded and started the crank hammer. Slowly drawing it out and thinning it. Grzhegorzh was diligent, the first one was done within ten minutes. The next one was also simple. As he used the crank hammer, it took shape, a long, flat bar of metal, alloyed from layers of scrap. As he finished flattening the hot metal, he allowed it to cool in the air, rather than dunking it in oil as he saw Ekaterina do. The last piece was harder than the previous two. He slammed the crank hammer into it, but progress was slow. He wound up needing to put the metal back in the heat of the fire to get it warm enough to work again. He worked hard and he worked fast, trying to make good time so he would be able to help his friends. At last he was done, but it was too late. He placed the last bar on the supply bench just as his friends and the so called “commandos” returned with the scrap metal, and another group came with wood. Dutifully, he piled the scrap metal and then the lumber in their correct places. He still worked quickly, but he saw them move before he finished. As soon as he finished, he ran out of the forge, not even bothering to get approval from Ekaterina to follow them. It was a confusing place. The village was massive compared to where he had grown up, and more than once, he lost sight of his friends around a corner. He managed to catch sight of them just as they went out of sight again. Every time, he just barely caught sight of one of the stragglers, until finally he saw them disappear behind a wooded fence. Now he was lost. He searched for his way back to the forge, but did not know how to get back. He took wrong turns, and eventually night seemed fast approaching. He slumped in an alley and sat on the dirt. He felt a hand grip his shoulder and he jumped to his feet, afraid. He turned to face whoever had startled him, only to find, of all people, Konrad. “How are you still alive?” Konrad practically shouted with excitement. “I really don’t know.” Grzhegorzh replied with a laugh. “Well come on, I’m headed to market to sell some leather, why don’t I buy you some food there?” his old friend asked. “Maybe then we can figure out how you got here.” Grzhegorzh nodded and followed him. At the market, Konrad found a food stall and bought them some lunch. They discussed what had happened since he left, and how he wound up here, while they ate. Learning that Grzhegorzh needed to get back to the forge, Konrad agreed to lead him there once they had finished eating. On their way back, Konrad gave him something, a broken arrowhead from one of their hunts “straighten that out for me will you? I’ll pick it up next time I come by.” Grzhegorzh chuckled and accepted the task. When he returned to the forge, Ekaterina handed him his money. “You’ll need to make it back here by sunup, and be ready for a full day of work tomorrow.” She told him, before she went back to her work and left him to his own devices. Grzhegorzh carefully retraced his steps to the market. He bought smoked sausage, bread, cheese, cider, and a bag to store it all in, then he worked his way back to the prison complex by backroads and alleys, hoping that he could trust his feet to carry him back. He managed to find the palisade again, this time by accident, and he watched the guards patrol. This he remembered from hunting in his younger days. Observe your prey, then strike when they are unaware. He waited for the sun to go down, and approached the area by moonlight. It was hard to see, but the guards carried lanterns now, illuminating their positions rather easily against the black of the night. He waited for a patrol to pass and then he ran for the fence. He tried to scale it, but the vertical logs made it hard. Thanks to the callouses on his hands, and another experience in his youth, he was eventually able to haul himself over the spiked wooden fence, though he cut his leg open as he did. Grimacing, he used the arrowhead Konrad had given him earlier to cut the sleeves off of his shirt and tie them into a makeshift bandage around his leg. He limped to the first longhouse he saw, peering in through the open window to see if he could recognize anyone. The moon cast a pale light on the arm of one of the slaves, and revealed a tattoo. It was one of the commandos, they were scrap haulers like the monks. As quietly as he could, Grzhegorzh slid back the latch and opened the door.

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