Chapter VIII: The Chase

“Oi, oi!  You didn’t need to throw that quite as hard, Marley!” a painfully familiar voiced called from the broken window.  It may have become deeper but there was no mistaking it.

“Sebastian,” Lucy bit her lip as her jittery legs stumbled at the sound of his voice.

“Bloody hell, mate, I’m sorry,” the boy, Marley, apologized.

“Let me take a look,” echoed the voice of the blonde Top Hat Lucy had seen with Sebastian earlier.

“Oh God!” she huffed, picking up the pace, turning the corner just in time.

“Well, hello there.  What do we have here?” asked the distancing voice.

Lucy’s eyes snapped to her body.  Something had fallen.

Boots?  Check.  Headband? Check.  Scarf?  Oh bloody hell.

“It’s a scarf, sir,” replied Marley.

Lucy looked at the large hall she had just ended.  There wasn’t time to look for danger anymore.

“I’m so dead,” she cried as she raced to the center of the hall and took a sharp right through another door.  Closing the doors behind her, she turned and silenced a shriek.

The room was lined with eerily realistic portraits of the current Top Hats.   The paintings reached up as symbols of the knighthood they swore to mankind.  Even the curved ceiling had a handful of them looking down upon her.  The lanterns cast various overlapping shadows from each gold frame.

“Oi,” she groaned, pulling herself together.  She didn’t have time for anymore scares.  The Tower had been put on alert.  She had to find the medicine and get out of there – now!

Lucy snuck out the nearby door and dodged to the nearby staircase.  Panting, she ran herself up the steps.  Clumsiness was not an option! From the top of the turning stairs came the shouts of men and boys.

“Down here, I bet!” came a muffled yell.

“She couldn’t have gotten too far!” another added.

Lucy’s eyes darted around the simple attic passageway.  There had to be somewhere to go!  At the top of the winding stairs, her eyes found a door disguised within the old grey stone tunnel walls.  Now on tip toes, Lucy bounced towards it and tugged it open.  She grimaced as it screeched protest.

Lucy looked down the hole of a narrow tunnel and smaller ladder.  Below she could hardly make out anything as the darkness swallowed it whole.  Lucy took a deep breath as she descended. When Lucy got to the bottom, her feet gently stepped onto stone.  Her heart was racing but she found some comfort in the strangely warm walls resting against her fingers.  The passage suddenly turned left, and her eyes rejoiced at the sight of orange flickering light ahead.  As she approached the corridor split two ways.  One had high wood arches with gold dragons carved along each side. The other was lower and dark with a heavy door pulled shut. Either path was clearly ill illuminated as the light came from a pair of faulty gas light.  Lucy sighed before lowered herself down to the grow and catching sight of a sliver moonlight teasing under the dark wooden door.  Lucy took in a breath and carefully opened the way to the right, tucking herself away from sight.

The study she happened  upon was still shroud in enough shadows, the moon being her only of some help of light.  She felt hesitation try to creep in as she reached for a nearby candle and match.  She quickly revealed a mess of books and papers.  She had never seen so many volumes in her life! Thousands were on double-booked shelves, hundreds in columns or scattered on a small arrangement of desks.  She leaned and found an even large amount of chaos in the adjoining room.  She could even make out a silver ladder against the walls.  Could these have the answers she sought?

Carefully she reached out to touch the hardcover of one of the dark emerald books, afraid they might nip at her fingertips.  The letters looped together in a complex pattern of dots and spirals.

“Dragon’s Law. . .”she whispered when a pounding came at the door.

“Vaan! Vaan! Are you there?!”

Lucy swore under her breath and flew to the nearby window.   She blew out the candle and tossed in onto of desk.  She turned back to the window and managed to open it, squeezing her way out onto the ledge.  Her eyes flickered around her.  Looking about her she realized this ledge was very much like the previous and the drop just as chilling.  This time, however, there was no rope to steady her hands.  In fact, the only thing she could find potential in was a nearby balcony of the looming Victorian Tower.  Her heart jumped in her throat as she clung to whatever edge she could find.  Gradually, she curved her way along the side of the building inch by inch.

“Vaan?” The door opened just as she eyed the distance between the tower and her feet.

Lucy’s heart raced as she proceeded to look down once more.  Her body would make quite the mark on the ground if she were to fall. . .

Instantly, Lucy gripped harder onto the intricately designed outer wall, here part of the Gothic stone crack under her palm.

“Not here,” Lucy heard the man remark as she inched away from the window.  Her eyes snapped over to the nearby small balcony.   Its curled iron cast bars dared her to do it – dared her to try to a leap of faith.

“Did you hear?  It’s probably a girl in the Tower,” the man’s partner told him.

“Are you certain?  A Lady perhaps?”

“Couldn’t be.  They don’t wear such improper things,”  his companion teased. “They tend to be women ‘of class’.”

“Well, what if they were in disguise? Snoopin’ about an’ such.”

“What are you fools doing in my room?” asked a cool articulated voice.  Even Lucy felt her heart freeze over for a moment.  That was the voice of someone who was not to be taken lightly.

“Keep going,” she pressed herself.  “Just keep going.” Her fingers began to creep along, trying to brush closer as her blood pumped to steady her feet.

“Did you even think to check the windows?” she heard the authoritative man ask.

In that moment, she knew she was trapped between two options: to be found and stuck on a building ledge closely within their grasp. . .or jump.  Yes, she would be discovered but she would still have a slim chance of escaping.  She could also miss and simply fall to her death.  Such lovely options coloured her thoughts until finally –

Mum. . .

She had no choice. As the windows were thrown open, she leapt, praying her hands would find the bars – begging her fingers to reach just close enough.

They did.

©2016 E. M. Vick

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