“Look!” the younger of the two men called. “She’s right there!”
But it was too late for them to snatch her. She was already throwing herself on the narrow balcony and smashing her body into the window.
Glass cut into her cheek and shoulder. A particularly nasty shard had wedged itself nicely into her shoulder blade. It wasn’t too deep, just painful enough for her to quickly remedy the situation with a torn of bit of her sleeve as she abandoned the rest of her coat.
“Quick! She is in the other Tower!” the low voice told the others.
Lucy glanced around at the cold room. The walls were barren and painted in pale white.
There was no gas or oil lighting, merely muted candles. Along the middle of the strange tower was a large hole with rails. Yet as she approached, she looked down to find she was looking at well polished marble from the ground floor. Yet, something told her to glance up. Sure enough, there was a black spiraled stair way leading into darkness.
“Candle. . .candle. . .” Lucy muttered but soon realized there were no matches to be found.
Lucy took a breath. It was time. She took one step and was surprised to find green lanterns along the curling walls fluttered to life, guiding her path up. Relief flooded her as she kept a hand against the wall to steady herself. Lucy began to sing in her head one of her father’s Gaelic lullabies that comforted her when she was little. The familiar harmony of the memory made her shiver. The melody echoed on her silent lips as it reminded her of why was she here. Fear could not be her downfall. Not today.
Further and further up until she had entered the level just before she hit the roof. The room was much smaller than she expected – a grey bricked landing space with a single glass cabinet in the center of the room , rotating on mysterious hinges. Lucy looked to see a carefully carved circular ladder one could use to reach others that watched the girl close to the ceiling. The room itself wasn’t anything grand, but, then again, it didn’t need to be. Bottles of all shapes and sizes lined each shelf. They all had a different coloured liquid and some resembled objects such as trees, ships, and other odd things. Some were thick like cough syrup and others a whispering vapors. There was a label on every glass bottle with looping letters and dots in a language unknown to Lucy.
She knew time was limited, but the O’Rourke girl also felt overwhelmed by the vast array of possibilities.
“Don’t panic, Lucy,” she told herself. “Just think.”
She picked up her first bottle: a vial of bright green. The label looked like utter rubbish to her. Panic set in. Heavens, it wasn’t even a real language! Just loops, spirals and dots.
“Calm down,” she hissed, “you can do this.”
She closed her eyes. When she reopened them. . .it made sense. It was as if the circular language had rearranged itself into English letters the moment she turned away.
“Dragon’s Burn,” she read carefully.
Gradually, she went through the bottles. Nightshade’s Spear, White Mark, even Goblin’s Eye. So where was Stoneheart? A lump rose in Lucy’s throat. What if it wasn’t here? What if the cure didn’t exist?! Her eyes flashed from flask to flask until there came a glimmer from one on the far right.
The bottle was simple in shape but a pure reflective silver in colour, not unlike a mirror.
Lucy’s heart leapt, and she cried in delight. Her mother’s cure! She cradled the bottle close before sliding it into her breast pocket. She may have lost her coat, but Lucy planned ahead in case such a thing occurred.
“Now to get out of here,” she muttered. She had been lucky enough to escape the Top Hats for as long as she did. There was no need for her to press that luck much further.
Her eyes caught sight of what appeared to be the outline of a second door hidden in the wall.
“More secret doors. These men are more like foxes than Top Hats,” Lucy sighed.
Gradually, she made her way down the eerie glow green tunnel when the stone steps turned to carpet. Lucy leaned out of a narrow archway and came into a long stairway. Her eyes were suddenly stunned by the brightly lit hallway of chandeliers with a long red rug leading to a grand stairs. Statues of Greek heroes lined the way, posing as if in the middle of a terrible battle. Behind them were flags from countries all over the world. Lucy could only recognize a few from her studies but the rest fascinated her. As she walked forward, she glanced back to see the archway had vanished as if it never existed to start.
“Bugger!” she murmured and began to creep up the hall as carefully and quietly as she could. Lucy’s watched as the stairway opened up to a echoing hall with painted dragons along the ceiling. She found a pair of windows and saw they lead to what could only be another area. She signed and made her way through two double doors that lined one of the walls, realizing she had absolutely no idea where the entrance would be.
In the new corridor, she found hundreds of portraits of every current Top Hats throughout the world. They ran up the high walls to the tall spider webs ceiling. One painting in the center was covered by a white sheet, clearly not yet complete. As she passed it, she felt a uncanny whisper of her mother’s name mixed with the smell of oil paint. She stopped and looked at the mysterious piece, her fingers reaching at its veil. That’s when she heard a door behind her, one she had stupidly disregarded, open.
“I can’t figure it out,” Marley said as his dark curls bounced in aggravation. He threw his hands into the air. “We have people in the basement, others searching the dormitories. We have them upstairs and outside with Vaan too.”
Lucy gaped as shock petrified her to her spot in the middle of the hallway.
“Come on Marley,” Sebastian told his blue-eyed friend. “If she isn’t in the tunnels, upstairs, or outside then she must be right under our-” Sebastian stopped, his eyes widening as he realized who was in front of him.
Time stood still as the twins took in the sight of the other: Sebastian, with his disarrayed button up and singed pants and Lucy in her battered attire with a bloody shoulder. Both in disbelief. Both unmoving – but only for just a moment. And then time began once more.
“Master Lewis!” Marley shouted.
And the race began.
Lucy turned and took off, knowing very well that her life depended on it. Fire shot over her head.
“Stop!” Sebastian yelled at Marley. “Don’t hurt her!”
Lucy zigzagged down to the stairs as the boys pursued.
“Why?!” Marley growled back.
“She’s my sister!” Sebastian snapped.
Warm pains pricked her heart. He remembered; she hadn’t been tossed aside like some piece of rubbish into the river.
“Focus, boys!” The Top Hat, Lewis, had easily caught up. He was clearly well versed in giving chase.
Through the next hall, more flashes of fantastical figures and grand gargoyles watching the scene in silent amusement. She burst through the next double doors, her chest on fire. She panicked, finding herself in another arena of sorts. She sprinted through as more Top Hats entered from side doors. Their surprise worked to her advantage as she made her way to the other side. Yet as she came into the Central Hall, two more Top Hats came from the opposite side. Lewis began to yell at them to secure the doors. Lucy swore as she spun quick on her heels. Then she found familiar tapestries and grand front doors. Her last hope. . .until it was crushed by the entrance of two Top Hat guards.
Lucy screamed in unexpected fright before she turned to the open the archway. Hero’s Hall. It was her only option left. She descended down the stairs, searching for any exit. This room had the highest ceiling of anything she had ever seen, each arch painted in gold and silver. The ceiling was decorated as an extension of the night sky a long line of ever-moving crystal chandeliers spreading its light across the marble floor like shooting stars. Lucy could hard keep her feet moving as her eyes looked closer. Even the darkest navy stroke had a comfort – it was in every precisely placed star. She cried out in joy seeing were two more sets of double doors on her floor and three at the top of the dual staircase that met at a top balcony to overlook the Hall.
Lucy had to pick a door. She started to make her way to the staircases, when the doors at the top began to open. Top Hats and apprentices poured in, like ink spilling onto paper.
Lucy turned to find the exits of two of the passages opening. She took off toward the door on the left as her brother, Marley and Lewis entered.
Yet as her fingers touched the door knob, it opened. Before her stood the Top Hat covered by his scarf, glasses and hat.
For a moment the light glinted off the left lens and Lucy caught a glimpse of a yellow eye with a slit pupil. A chilling sight, that broke her confidence immediately.
She shrieked and rushed back into the middle of the huge ballroom; in the middle of her catastrophic mess.
Lucy’s luck had just run out.
©2016 E. M. Vick