Kylin darted through the garden, keeping her feet on the narrow lines of dirt between the plants and the gravel walkways. All the days of playing hide and seek here had made her an expert at moving through it without a sound. It was just a precaution, though. The guards that walked the grounds at night didn’t walk the gardens. They stayed in the perimeter of the property along the protective wall.
Hunching down behind the three-foot-high, wrought iron fence, Kylin scanned the smooth expanse of grass on the other side while she caught her breath. The wall was a few dozen yards away.
“What now?” she whispered as Kaleb squatted beside her. “We probably can’t climb the wall, huh?”
He studied it for several minutes. “I could probably boost you up to climb over.”
“Yeah, but then how would you get out?”
He didn’t reply. Was he having second thoughts? She opened her mouth to ask, but he spoke first.
“Can we use magic?”
“Well…” She didn’t want to admit the truth, that she didn’t know any magic that could help, so she just kept silent.
A guard strolled into view in the distance. She wasn’t Daetani, but she was no less scary, dressed in a leather halter with matching boots that stretched all the way up to her knees. Above her breech cloth, a leather belt held her ginunting and a set of throwing knives at the ready. She strolled silently along the pale stone wall, her gaze roaming the periphery. Kylin and Kaleb ducked down under their cloaks to hide their faces, hoping to blend in with the shadowy bushes around them.
When the guard disappeared out of view, Kylin lifted her head and tossed her hood off. “It’ll be fifteen minutes before another guard comes through here. We gotta go now.” She straightened and stepped over the short garden fence. Kaleb’s footsteps rustled the grass behind her as they crossed the manicured lawn.
The protective wall was made of pale stones stacked ten feet high. She smoothed her hand over its surface, feeling for any bumpy places they could use to climb. The mortar between two stones crumbled beneath her fingertips. She paused and studied the spot. Gently, she extended her magic into it, willing the cracks in the mortar to grow and separate. Dust trickled down to the ground at her feet, making an indentation just large enough for her to slide her fingers into and grip the stone beneath.
“Help me,” she whispered.
“Help you what?”
“Make the wall climbable.”
For the first time ever, Kaleb didn’t hesitate as he lifted his hands between them, and Kylin was quick about removing his cuffs. She tossed her cloak open to tuck them into the pocket of her dress, but he grabbed them from her. Without a word, he stepped back and threw them as hard as he could over the wall. They flew so far, Kylin didn’t even hear them hit the ground.
“Now what do I do?” he asked, a wide grin stretching across his lips. She couldn’t help grinning too.
“Just crumble the mortar apart with your will,” she said. “Gently, like letting the air out of your lungs. If you push too hard, you could crack the wall and draw attention.”
Nodding, he squinted at the wall, his brow crinkling up with concentration. Kylin watched him do as she had done, directing him to stop when the indent was barely large enough for one of them to shove their toes into. Then she joined him, making the lower footholds and letting him make the higher ones.
“I think that’ll do it,” he said, stepping back a few minutes later. He scanned the yard in both directions, then looked at her. “Try it. I’ll catch you if you fall.”
Kylin took her sandals off and tossed them up and over the wall. Grabbing hold of the highest indent she could reach, she stuffed her toes into one of the lower ones and pulled herself up. Pain shot through her toes and fingers as she strained them with her weight, but determination pushed her up higher.
Before she knew it, she was high enough to grab the top of the wall. Grunting, she dragged herself up and swung her leg over it. As she sat up and looked back at Kaleb, her arms and legs were trembling with fatigue and her heart was pounding, but she could barely keep herself from squealing with triumph.
Movement drew her gaze. Another guard was coming. Her view of Kaleb was still obstructed by the garden, but she would see Kylin if she moved too quickly.
“Guard!” Kylin whispered as loudly as she dared.
Kaleb bolted for the garden. Kylin flattened herself along the top of the wall and rolled off the far side. She stretched down as far as her little arms could reach, and then she let go. Her bare feet struck the weedy dirt outside painfully and planted her on her butt. She jumped back up quickly, holding her breath and listening. She listened so long, she grew convinced that the guard had caught Kaleb. Surely he would’ve appeared at the top of the wall by now if she hadn’t.
Boy, they were in trouble now. Big trouble. But she couldn’t just leave him. She knelt and felt around in the dirt for her sandals. She would follow the wall around to the main gate and turn herself in.
Kylin’s gaze shot up to the top of the wall. There he was, motioning for her to move out of his way. She did, and he jumped down.
“Thank the gods,” she whispered as she threw her arms around him. “I thought that guard caught you.”
“Nah, I just waited a while to make sure she was good and gone.”
He reached inside his cloak for his boots and put them back on his feet. It took Kylin forever to find her sandals and get them on. Then they walked away together.