Midnight Escape

Babur lay in his bed and trembled. It was dark and he knew it was very late at night, but the noise outside the palace made it sound like midday. Angry shouting. Clamour. Screams. He could smell smoke, too. Could see the flicker of shadow flames if he looked up at the ceiling above his windows.

He didn’t know what was happening but he knew it wasn’t good.

Then he heard footsteps, running. Fainter but getting nearer as they climbed the stairs and then the runner burst into his room. Aino, his nurse.

“Babur! Get up!” she hissed. “Dress.”

“What’s happening?” Babur asked, even as he obeyed the commands. When Aino’s voice took on that particular tone, he’d learned to do as he was bidden.

“The rebels are here.”

Babur froze at the mention of the rebels. He didn’t know what they were rebelling against but he knew that they were dangerous.


Babur started to move again, but frightened fingers struggled with the ties and clasps of his robe and in the end Aino batted his hands away to fasten them. As she finished, to Babur’s surprise, his mother appeared in the doorway.

“Is he ready?” she asked.

“Just,” said Aino. “It’s time?”

His mother nodded. “Get him away from here, Aino. I don’t think the palace gates will hold much longer.”

A strange look crossed Aino’s face at this pronouncement. “Come away too. You don’t need to–“

“I do,” said his mother firmly. “You know I do. Just…” She stopped. And then she did something very strange indeed. She stepped into Babur’s room, crouched down and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him and he felt something wet against his neck. She was crying. “Live well, Babur. Live well and strong and be safe.”

Then his mother released him and stepped back.

“Aino, you have your instructions. Go now.”

Babur thought Aino would say something else, but she didn’t. Instead she nodded and gestured towards the servant’s stairs. “This way, Babur.”

Knowing better than to argue, Babur followed. At the top, some instinct made him look back. His mother was there, behind them. Watching them. Not even trying to hide her tears. And in that moment, Babur knew he would never see her again.