Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chapter 24

Gordon and Lucy crept to the door of the cathedral, which was open a slight crack, and peered out. A cold stone corridor peered back in at them, lined with torches. Then they heard the tread of heavy feet coming around a bend in the hall, and they pulled back behind the door. It sounded like two guards on patrol. Their weapons and hodge-podge armor clanked as they talked.

"What do ye reckon the Master'll do with his new prisoner, eh? Captain Bratch seemed to think he was an important one, but buggered if I know why."

"Thiss iss the one whose hand he took, of coursse."

"What one?"

"Two weekss ago. He bragged about it for dayss. Very proud of it."

"Huh. I didn't hear anything of it."

"That iss because you have no connectionss in the court to tell you the newss." The hissing guard seemed to be gloating in his sophistication over the gruff one. "You need to be part of… Ssssociety to learn these things."

"So tell me about it already!"

"The hand iss hiss favorite trophy from the Other Ssside, and the Master planned to use it as bait. It iss very difficult to get trophiess from there, sso now that a human being hass come to him, I expect he will…"

The voices faded with the clop of the soldiers' footsteps as they disappeared down the hall. Gordon and Lucy looked at each other.

"Do you have any idea what's going on?" Lucy whispered.

"Not much. But wherever we are, I'm pretty sure this isn't St. Andrew's anymore. Did you manage a peek through the door? Those weren't regular soldiers. They were monsters."

Lucy shuddered. "And it sounds like someone else is here, too. I mean, maybe someone else like us. Trapped here or something."

"Yeah." Gordon looked out the door again. "Though at least we're not trapped here. Yet."

"We just don't know where we are or how to get out."

"Right. Could be worse."

Then Gordon jumped as he felt a movement in his hand. He looked down and saw that Ixy was twitching again. He grabbed her tightly, expecting her to try to run away, but she seemed only to be twitching.

"Is she possessed again?" Lucy asked.

"I don't know. Maybe partly?"

"She seems to want to go somewhere. Like that direction, down the hall." Lucy pointed to the right, and Ixy's twitches did seem to be generally in that direction. "Maybe she's trying to tell us something?"

They slipped out into the hallway and moved a few steps to the right. Ixy seemed to relax a bit. Then Gordon tried moving back to the left, and the twitching started up, more energetically.

"Yep. She definitely seems to want to go this direction," Gordon said. "Think we should follow?"

"Do we have a better plan?"

They shrugged at each other and moved off down the corridor. At the first juncture they came to, they paused to look cautiously down the crossing hall. When they saw no one was coming, Gordon held Ixy out in his hand again and she jerked slightly, toppling over on her left side. They went to the left.

After several minutes of this, they found themselves facing a small wooden door in a dark little side corridor. It had the name "Malcolm" carved on a little block of wood just above it. They had tried continuing along but Ixy was definitely indicating this particular door. Carefully, Gordon and Lucy eased it open.

Inside they saw the small Tyrannosaurus Rex that they had seen an image of before, when they had commanded their demon to reveal himself. He really was as small as he had looked back in that cloud of smoke, no more than four feet high. He whirled around at them in surprise, and then looked as though he didn't know whether to charge them or to cower in a corner, so he sort of wobbled confusedly in place.

And then Ixy seemed to fly out of Gordon's hand, straight at the demon, who gaped at her in shock. There was a blinding flash of light, and when Gordon and Lucy opened their eyes again, the demon was laying stunned on the floor, and Ixy was nowhere to be seen. They approached the little dinosaur figure carefully as it stirred and moaned groggily.

It sat up and gazed blearily over at Gordon, then seemed to suddenly recognize him and began nuzzling him and bumping him affectionately with his head.

"Well, this is certainly odd," Gordon said, gingerly patting the demon on the head. Lucy laughed.

"It does seem to like you, though. So do you think we should call it Ixy or Malcolm?"

"I don't know what just happened here, but I'd have a hard time calling something like this Ixy."

"Then the name over the door it is. Good boy, Malcolm." She scratched the back of its head, around where she thought its ear holes might be. He gurgled a little in what might have been a dinosaurian purr.

"Okay, so we seem to have ourselves a pet dinosaur. Now what?"

As if in answer, Malcolm scurried over to the door and looked back at them expectantly.

"It appears," Lucy said, "as though we can just keep following her. Him. It. Whatever."

So they did. The literal following was rather easier than deciphering a stuffed animal's twitches. They followed more corridors, twisting and turning downward. They passed no windows, and eventually they thought they must be far below ground level, but it was hard to tell with the outside reference point so far behind them.

Finally they came to another door, this one much larger and more imposing than Malcolm's had been, and displaying a very meaningful looking lock. Malcolm gazed up at the locked door and seemed to heave a little sigh.

"Alright, another door," said Gordon. "This time I expect we'll find a dragon inside, get another flash of light, and then go around with an even bigger, stranger pet. I wonder how far we can keep trading up?"

"Very funny."

Then the lock gave a loud, solid click, and the door began to swing open from the inside. Malcolm started up in alarm, and all three hurriedly ducked behind an adjacent corner. A dark, lumpy figure came out, only slightly taller than Gordon or Lucy, but much stockier and hairier. It was pushing a small cart that seemed to contain bits of debris and trash.

Suddenly Malcolm darted out from behind their corner, took a few running strides and leapt on top of the steward, hitting him squarely in the back and knocking him to the floor. The steward hollered angrily and tried to heave himself up, but Malcolm jumped on him again, giving an extra little kick for good measure. Malcolm made a frantic motion with his head at Gordon and Lucy, indicating the open door, then was thrown off by the stewards struggles. All three dashed for the door, and Gordon grabbed a hold of the inside handle and heaved at it. The steward had by this time gotten to his feet and turned around to see them. He charged after them, but the door swung slowly shut and closed and locked just before he could reach it.

The door was so thick that they could barely hear the shouts from the other side, though it did tremble slightly from the pounding it was getting. Gordon and Lucy looked at it nervously, but it seemed pretty solid, so it would probably hold up alright. Malcolm on the other hand was already bouncing up and down in excitement.

"Alright, then," Gordon said to him. "What's so important here that we need to see?"

"Any number of things, it looks like," Lucy said, already looking around the vast room.

The room was filled with orderly rows of tables, chests and cages, and seemed to contain all sorts of things. On the nearest table was a display case showing a variety of jewels in many strange shapes and colors. A shelf next to it held several ancient looking books with gilded edges and faded leather covers. In the next row over, a bizarre creature squawked at them from its cage. It had no legs or arms, but only a very prehensile tail, with which it flung itself around between the branches and the bars.

Malcolm was hopping down another row, looking back expectantly at Gordon and Lucy, so they followed him, marveling at the ornamented daggers and the strangely patterned hides of unknown animals that they passed. Then they came to a stop in front of a small cage, from which emitted a tiny, pitiful mewing sound.

"It's a kitten!" Lucy exclaimed. "Oh, the poor little thing!"

Malcolm held back a little, looking sorrowfully at the kitten as Lucy reached into the cage to pick it up. It was cold and scared, and it huddled close to her chest when she brought it out.

"Well, that was very nice of Malcolm to want to come rescue it, I suppose," Gordon said. "But now we've got a dinosaur and a cat. Mum is going to have a fit if I bring home a whole menagerie." Then he noticed something else. "Hey, what's this?"

They peered into the adjacent glass enclosure. Inside was a human hand and forearm, rounded off neatly just before its nonexistent elbow.

"That must be the hand we heard those guards talking about," Lucy said. Then she gasped. "It's moving!"

The hand was indeed moving. It tapped its fingers as if bored or absent minded, then idly stroked a piece of rabbit fur that lay next to it. Then it pulled itself a little way along the floor with its fingers, and grabbed a small rubber ball to squeeze.

"Wow, that is creepy," said Gordon. "Kind of awesome, actually, but still really creepy."

"What should we do about it? It has to get back to its owner, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess so. But how are we supposed to do that?"

"I don't know, but we'd better start by getting it out of here at least. Can you open the case?"

They found the latch on the outside an opened it easily. The hand turned to face them, or to aim itself with fingers in their direction anyway, seeing as how it had no face. Gordon started to reach in, but hesitated.

"This is really weird," he said. "How am I supposed to do this? Do you think it even wants to be taken?" Then to the hand, "Um, hi. I'm Gordon. We'd like to help you, if that's alright."

The hand rotated so that it's thumb pointed up and the fingers extended in a friendly sort of way. Hoping he was doing the right thing, Gordon gripped it with his own hand and gave it a brief handshake, which it returned. Feeling a bit reassured now, he pulled it out of its cage, supporting the forearm with his other hand.

"Okay. Midget dinosaur – check. Baby kitten – check. Disembodied hand – check. Complete insanity – I think I'm nearly there, how about you, Lucy?"

"No time for going insane now. Let's just figure out how to get out of here."


At 4:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Graham!

Searching for "dinosaurian feet pounding" I was put to this page and I had to read till to the end! Where is the rest of the story? Greetings from Zürich, Thomi


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