1824: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 92:
It was less than an hour before Ruy turned up. "I see you hope to hide, Frank," he said, dispensing with the pleasantries. His face was stern, and the effect over the rough traveling gear he was wearing in place of his usual peacock finery was more than a little scary. No-one would think he was anything but a tough customer any other time, but dressed for a fight, he looked like a battle waiting to happen. The elegant rapier had been replaced with a much heavier weapon, he had a pair of downtime-made revolvers thrust through his waist-sash, two knives in each boot-top and there were metal reinforcements glinting from the gauntlets he had tucked in to his sword belt. There was also a small arsenal of lethal hardware neatly stowed around his horse's saddle.
He paused to look around the place. "Most sensible. I think that if it comes to a sack, you will likely be overlooked." Another fierce glare at the preparations still under way. "And your defensive works, within the limits you are under, are also practical and sensible. If misfortune should strike, you will buy time for many to escape. You have made preparations in the cellar?"
Frank nodded. "And we've cut through to the place out back and either side. It's vacant, mostly falling down inside. We can get out that way if we have to."
"Good," Ruy said. "More sensible still would be to bring your people out of the city. We aim to make a temporary place of safety, a refugee camp, on the outskirts of the city. You should come there, Frank. The army is a few hours away, if their commander knows his trade, but in that time you may cover far more distance than a marching army can." Something on his face seemed to have trouble with the words.
"I know it's sensible, Ruy. And believe me, I've tried to figure a way to get people out. It's just not something we can do." Which wasn't quite true. If it was just a case of finding enough handcarts and such to carry those who couldn't walk, and enough provisions, Frank reckoned he could probably organize a pretty fair refugee column. And an army that had to cover every mile on foot or horseback, and had to work to kill people, wasn't going to be massacring refugees. And they had enough people to make sure they wouldn't be casually robbed. The problem wasn't practical. It was that if he ran now, the Committee in Rome was finished. And, come right to it, Frank would have to spend the rest of his life not liking himself a whole lot.
Ruy nodded in turn. "I understand. Honor and duty compels you, just as duty compels that I should obey the order to ask. Your wife?"
Frank couldn't help rolling his eyes heavenward. "She feels the same way. Won't go. I tried."
Ruy's face was somber for a moment. Reflective even, seemingly lost in memory for a moment. "The best ones are ever thus, Frank," he said, and Frank wondered, for a moment, what story lay behind that remark. Ruy, in a sure sign that he was minded for serious business today, didn't go on to tell it. Or launch into some improbable—and hilarious—fiction.
Still, Frank had managed to find a few minutes to be ready for this. "Can I ask a favor, Ruy?"
"I am at your service to whatever extent my duties permit, Frank," he said. And not the usual flowery declamation of his public persona, either.
Frank realized that he'd just heard a man lay down his name's word on something, and mean it. That was good. He pulled out a small bundle of letters, scribbled on mismatched bits of paper, hastily sealed with candlewax and tied up with string. "I think we're probably going to be okay," he said, "but if things go badly wrong…"
Ruy nodded, and took the packet. "I will see your letters delivered. I shall return to the embassy now; our own convoy will be ready to leave soon. We are heading east into the countryside, there are villages there where we can find shelter and a defensible position until Rome is once more secure. I wish you good fortune, and a long life, Frank."
After that, there was little to do save wait.