Thursday, November 24, 2005

Twenty-fourth Day

Happy Thanksgiving! I managed to cram most of today's writing into the morning before the festivities began, and I'm pretty much caught up and on track right now, having just cleared 40,000 words. Tomorrow, though, Mom and I head up to Portland to visit Lacey, so we'll see how much more I get done this weekend. Only one week left!

Chapter 26

Gordon and Lucy listened at the inside of the door of the collections room, but heard nothing to indicate that the steward was still out there. His pounding and yelling had stopped.

"Maybe he went to get reinforcements," Gordon said, "or a spare key." There was a key hanging next to the door on the inside, which the steward had neglected to take with him. "We could try sneaking out now."

"Or maybe he's just waiting quietly," countered Lucy, "hoping we do just that so he can catch us by surprise."

"Right. But it's like the crown jewels of Scotland, isn't it? There's no way to tell without actually checking. And we can't just sit here forever. Sooner or later someone will get a key and come in after us."

"Why don't we look around for some weapons first? We should be able to find something useful in here, and then we can at least be armed before we try our luck."

"Good idea."

They prowled along a few rows of display tables, looking for anything suitable. Gordon found a jeweled scimitar that was probably intended as much for decoration as for battle, but seemed appropriately sharp nonetheless. Lucy found a long, thin dagger in a leather case, which she tucked into her belt, and also a small mace that must have been taken from an elfin warrior, since it was a very convenient size for her to swing easily. She had tucked the kitten inside her sweatshirt, and cradled it with one arm, leaving the other free to carry the mace. Gordon had found a suit of light leather armor, unfortunately too big for him, and taken from it a quiver of arrows. With the arrows emptied, he was able to put the hand in it and strap it to his back. The hand scrabbled around a bit, and clung to the edge of the quiver as though trying to peek out, but then seemed to understand and be content to stay where it was.

They looked around for Malcolm and saw that he had wandered off towards the back of the large room. They followed him back there and saw that he was sniffing curiously around what seemed to be a huge cage covered with a large burlap sheet. Gordon picked up a corner of the covering to peek underneath it. Inside was a gigantic, brown, furry creature, curled up and sleeping. They couldn't tell what it was. Malcolm gave a squeal of fear when he saw it, and the creature awoke, uncurling and swinging its two bear-like heads around to look at them. A row of spikes down its back unfolded and stood on end. It growled menacingly, and Gordon dropped the cover quickly, hoping it would just go back to sleep.

"What was that?!"

"Whatever it was, it's certainly scarier than the average bear. I wouldn't want to get into a row with it."

They collected Malcolm and went back up to the main door, after checking around to make sure there wasn't a back way out. They tried listening again, but the door was so thick that someone could have been talking just on the other side and they wouldn't have heard a thing. But then the question was answered for them, when the lock began clicking and turning from the other side.

The door was yanked open and the steward leapt into the room, only to have Lucy's mace brought down immediately on his head, sending him staggering to the floor. But he had brought guards as well as a key, and the first one clambered in over him, aiming a snarling grin full of fangs at Gordon. Gordon took a swipe with his scimitar, which only grazed one of the guard's arms, but pulled him up short in surprise. Another guard then shoved the first forward to charge into the room as well.

"Run!" Gordon shouted.

Malcolm was already yards ahead of them, and Gordon and Lucy barreled down the aisle after him, trying to pull down tables and cases behind them as they went. Some of these slowed their pursuers, though some the demons simply leapt over. Gordon realized that they were heading back towards the large cage with the two headed bear creature in it.

"Get behind the cage," he told Lucy, who was ahead of him. "Try and get Malcolm back there, too. Then help me get the cover off it."

She nodded as she ran, then grabbed an edge of the burlap cover as she passed the cage. They hauled the sheet off, sending light streaming into the cage and causing the beast to wake up with a snarl. Their pursuers looked surprised at this, but kept on after them, gaining now.

Gordon looked around quickly, saw the latch on the cage door, fumbled with it for a moment, then got it open. He pulled the door open, keeping himself behind it, as the beast clambered to its feet. The guards pulled up short, but were knocked forward again by the steward, who had recovered and was running along behind trying to keep up and hadn't noticed why everyone was stopping.

The creature gave an ear splitting roar from each of its two heads and lunged forward out of the cage and at the first things it saw, which were the guards and the steward. Gordon, Lucy and Malcolm cowered behind the cage and watched as it batted one of the guards aside with a gigantic paw, sending him crashing into a glass display case. The other managed to dodge and get a jab in at it with his sword, and the steward had picked up a battle axe from somewhere and was making clumsy swipes with it.

Gordon led the way, creeping out from behind the cage and under some tables to a parallel aisle a few rows over, and the others followed him. When they had put a little sideways distance between themselves and the melee, they stood up and started running back towards the door. One of the guards saw them and shouted, but couldn't turn to run without getting tackled by the bear monster. The creature had taken some severe wounds from the weapons already, though, and looked like it might not provide a distraction for must longer.

They got out the door and closed it behind them, not that it would slow anyone down once they started after them again, but it did feel better to close it. Malcolm nudged them off in the direction in which the corridor sloped slightly upwards, and they took off running. After the first turn or two, they began to hear running footsteps, shouts, and clanking armor behind them.

"They must have finished off the bear thingy," Gordon panted.

The turned another corner and collided full on with another armed guard coming out of a door. This one was squat and hairy, but still bigger than Gordon or Lucy, and wore a Viking style helmet. They were knocked backwards by the collision, though the guard barely stumbled.

"Well, well, what have we here, eh?" He picked up Gordon and Lucy each with a large hand around their shirt fronts. Then he called back over his shoulder. "This really is our lucky day, Vormas. They're just fallin' outta the skies for us today. Ha!"

Looking past the guard into the room he had come out of, Gordon could see an entire mess hall of demon soldiers, all perking up with interest, and some heading towards them already.

"Oh bollocks, now we're in for it."

But then Malcolm, who had not yet been caught, leapt up with a miniature Tyrannosaurus roar, and chomped his jaws down on the wrist holding Gordon. Even from a four foot tall dinosaur, a vicious bite is nothing to be trifled with, and the guard yelled in pain and anger, dropping both Gordon and Lucy to give Malcolm a clubbing blow to the head with his other hand.

All three fell to the floor, and Gordon and Lucy were up and running again as soon as they bounced back up. Malcolm left a nasty gash in the guard's calf before being kicked down the hall after him, then he too started running. But the alarm was raised now. The steward and the two guards from the collections room had caught up and were yelling at everyone to pursue the escaped prisoners, so now there was an entire horde of demon soldiers on their heels. Some were lagging behind the pack, struggling with armor that had been taken half off in the mess hall, but some with long legs were gaining rapidly. And this time there was no convenient bear monster to let loose to slow the pursuit. Gordon, Lucy and Malcolm ran for their lives.