Ercila knew of the trap door to the bakery. She wasn’t sure if the smitty had nailed it shut again, but it was worth a shot. She rode her horse into the cave, smiling when she thought about the gold she’d gotten for her last caper. She patted the animal’s neck and slid down off his bare back, then tied the reins around the stairs.
She was happy to find the trap door still open, but she could also hear footsteps above her. Sitting very quietly, she waited a long time until the baker finally left, slamming the front door behind her. Then Ercila pushed open the door and crawled out. She kept low to the floor to avoid being seen through the window, and snuck out the back door and up the grassy hill to the castle.
The guards were fidgety after the explosion at the tower, but they hardly gave the little gypsy girl a second look. She gave a small coin to the lady at the fruit stand and took an apple, sinking her teeth into it and letting the juice run down her chin.
As a small group of people moved towards the throne room for some kind of gathering, she mixed in with them and soon ducked down a hallway. Slipping in and out of rooms and hiding behind doors, she finally found a trap door that led her downstairs to a room filled with provisions – grain, apples, flour. Big barrels and boxes lined the walls and she sniffed at them, but found nothing to hold her interest except a bottle of rum.
She went down one more flight and her mouth opened wide as she surveyed the prison. She was surprised the priest had not been kept here. Then she snuck back up – just in time to run into one of the scullery maids.
“What are you doing here, you little tramp!” the woman yelled.
Ercila turned to run away but a guard stepped in front of her and caught her arm. As he did so, she was forced to drop the rum. The container broke and spilled on the floor.
“Thieves! All of them!” The woman screamed.
“Please, sir, please let me go! I didn’t do anything! It’s just rum! I’ll pay for it, see?” She pulled out a few shillings and offered them.
Grunting, the man took the coins and loosened his grip just enough for Ercila to yank herself free and run full tilt out of the building. He didn’t bother to chase her.
A few minutes later she was outside the castle wall. She crawled up the grass and looked into the windows, working her way around the building until she spotted the armory.
She smiled. Now, that information was worth some gold, she thought. She slipped back to the baker and down into the caves, slid onto her horse and galloped away for South March.