Tessa slammed her hand down on the table. “How?”

Red hefted her sword. “I don’t know. But we have to try.”

“Try what?” Raphael asked as he entered the room, holding a sparkling blue stone in his left hand and a muffin in his right.

“We have to infiltrate the other castle and break out Ella.”

Raphael plunked down on a wooden chair, setting his stone on the table and taking a bite of the muffin before putting it down next to the stone. “There’s bound to be a back door somewhere,” he mumbled, swallowing his mouthful of food.

“That’s what I’m thinking.” Red spread a map across the table, and Raphael lifted his muffin and stone, placing them on top as paperweights.

Red pointed to the dungeons. “Ella’s there, but if we strike at noon, Hassan should be here, so we won’t have to worry about him.” She pointed to the study on the second floor. “There’s a small space here, an indent in the wall. It was meant as a secret passage once, it looks like, but it must’ve been blocked.” She traced a winding pathway throughout the castle with her finger, then tapped the space again. “When the guard goes downstairs to feed Ella, we squeeze in here, it’s in the staircase wall. I doubt the guard will notice us in the dark. He’ll have one candle, so we’ll be in shadow, and hard to spot if he’s not looking for anyone in an old secret blocked passageway.”

“So we go down the stairs after he leaves,” Tessa continued.

“Right,” Red confirmed. “If there’s a guard, we take him out.”

Tessa grinned wickedly. Unsheathing her stabbing knife, she speared the muffin on the tip.

“Hey!” Raphael protested. “That was my muffin!”

“How will we open the lock?” Tessa asked, ignoring Raphael’s protests.

“Your knife-tip should be small enough to slide inside,” Red answered. “Just wiggle it around and break stuff until it opens.”

Tessa nodded. “What’s the escape route?”

“Same way we came in,” Red explained. “Up the stairs, then behind this tapestry. There’s an entrance to the passage. We go down this corridor and there’s a dead end here, but if you kick out at the top of the wall a window should open to the outside.”

Raphael had abandoned the destroyed muffin and was now fiddling with his stone. “Any alarms?” he asked, looking up.

“Not that I know of,” Red replied. “They’re very lax with security – or my informant is lying. I’ll have you know he doesn’t lie.”

“That’s it, then.” Tessa stood up, sheathing her knife. “Tomorrow we go.”

Raphael stood with her and Red rolled up the map, tucking it into her satchel. “Tomorrow we go,” she echoed, and Raphael did the same.

“Tomorrow we go,” he repeated, clutching his stone. “Let’s hope Ella’s not dead by then.”

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