The Long Chron – Online Edition – Chapter Twelve

The next few moments are a blur.  We are dragged downstairs to some dank dungeon underneath this house of God and are placed within shackles, bound to the wall and floor in a room smelling like vomit and defecation.  The screams of countless other people pierce our ears, causing us to recognize we are not alone.

“What the hell did you do?” Griff asks me, looking ragged from his battle with the old man.

How did that man manage to overwhelm us?  Could it have been just Wyllt, or was someone else involved?  Did The Wizard help?  I really don’t know.  All I know is one moment we were talking and the next we’re down here.

“I don’t know,” I shriek in response.  “I thought things were going well.  And then all of a sudden, he pulls out the sphere and—“ I stop midsentence.  My hand goes to my chest.  “He took it!”

“Of course he took it, kid.  Why have only one of those things when you can have two?”

“But he thinks they’re the same thing,” I argue.  “He thinks we stole it from him.”

“What the hell are you talking about?  Obviously we didn’t steal it from him.  He still had it in his hands.”

I pause briefly and consider what I’m about to say.  “I never thought I was going to have to do this.”

“Do what?”

“Explain basic concepts of time travel to someone.  Haven’t you ever seen any time travel movie ever?”

“Yeah, of course.  Tons of them.”

“Then you’ve, no doubt, heard them explain how it works, meaning that you should be fully capable of figuring out what’s going on.”

“You’d think so, eh?”

“Jeez.  They’re the same thing.  We just brought it from the future, you know, after he’s died and left it lying around somewhere.”

“That sounds needlessly complicated.”

“It doesn’t matter what it sounds like, it’s obviously what happened.  Unfortunately, what he thinks happened is that we stole it from him, or that we will steal it from him at some point in the future, so–”

“But he’s from the future, too, right?  Maybe he’s the guy from the antique shop?”

“No, definitely not the same guy.”

“I mean, maybe he’s the owner of the shop or something, or someone else stole it from him and then pawned it off or something or–”

“Whatever.” I pull against the chains in frustration.  “It really doesn’t matter right now.  Did you hear what he was talking about right before we got taken down here?  About the prophecy?”

“Kid, there was a lot going on, I’m not really sure what all was said.”

“The Wizard was talking about a prophecy, the same prophecy Geoffrey was talking about, I bet.  What if he thinks we’re the fulfillment of that prophecy, just like Geoffrey does?”

“Yeah?” Griff asks.  “So what?”

“What would you do if you had the person who you knew was going to kill you locked up in a cell in your basement?”

“Leave them to die or kill them myself, I guess,” Griff says before the truth finally dawns on him.  There’s a short pause before he finally continues.  “Right, so, first thing we need to do is get out of here.”

“Yeah, any ideas?”

“Of course.” Griff grins, brings his hands in front of him, and rubs his wrists.  It takes me a moment before I realize they are no longer bound together.  “I wouldn’t be a very good con man if I couldn’t break out of some simple handcuffs.”

“Then why haven’t you taught me how to do that?” I accuse.

“All in good time, kid.”  He begins working on his ankles with a small thin piece of metal of some sort.

“What is that?”

“Just a paperclip.  I’ve got them hidden all over myself just in case something like this happens.”

“Does this happen often?”

“Often enough to be precautious,” he laughs as his leg shackles fall to the floor beneath him.  “Give me your hands.”

I lift my wrists toward him and he gets to work on my bonds.  Within seconds, I feel them fall away and he starts on my feet.  “You’re really good at that,” I admire.  “Seriously, how come you haven’t taught me that trick yet?”

“Hey, I’ve gotta leave something out to keep me useful.  There,” he says.  I feel the bonds around my feet loosen and determine they are freed.  He stands up and looks around the room.  “So, next task: How do we get out of here?”

“Can’t you just pick the lock to the gate?”

“Not with a paperclip.”  He takes a quick glance at the padlock holding us in.  “That lock’s too heavy to pick with something so flimsy.  We’ll have to come up with something else.”

“Well, there aren’t any windows or anything down here,” I frown.  “Could we squeeze through the pipes or whatever they’re called?”

“Bars,” Griff says absentmindedly.  He seems more focused on scrounging around in the corners, “and no.  There’s no chance we’re fitting through those.  However, based on how the walls in here look like they were dug out a lot earlier than the walls out there, and how the ceiling in here is a whole lot taller, I’d be willing to bet this room began its life being an oubliette.  Which means—Ah!” he exclaims.

He’s found a chair hiding in a dark corner.  He presses the chair against the wall and climbs onto it.  “That means there’s probably a hatch somewhere up here we can use to push through into the church.”  He begins feeling around on the wall above him.

“But wouldn’t that be up on the ceiling, not on the wall?”

“Yeah, but as you can clearly see, even in this dark room, the ceiling’s much too high for either of us to reach.  However, there is a little known fact about oubliettes, which is that there was always a secret way out.  Dungeon keepers would place a series of indentations within the walls of these things, just in case they ever found themselves at the bottom of the pit.”

He steps down off the chair and moves it to the right three steps and climbs back on, continuing his search.  “They’d have the first indents about eight feet up so people wouldn’t find them accidentally.”

“How do you know so much about dungeons?”

“My teacher was very thorough in her lessons about escaping.”

“You know, you’ve never really told me all that much about who taught you.  Seems like she was really thorough.”

“She was.”  He steps off the chair and moves it again.

“And she was a woman?  Isn’t that weird for this business?”

“Maybe.  I don’t know.  She taught me everything she knew.  And for what she didn’t know, she took me to the people who did.”

“Must have been a pretty special woman,” I egg him on, hoping he’d tell me more about her.

“She was,” he agrees, again stepping off the chair and repeating the process.

“So,” I begin, giving up on learning about his master, “since you think this Wizard guy is a con man too, don’t you think he’d know enough about dungeons and be aware of the secret exit?”

“No.  That guy’s obviously completely insane.  Did you notice how confused he seemed about the whole Dorothy thing?  I think the guy has somehow fooled himself into thinking he’s really some great wizard dude and doesn’t even realize he’s ripping off MGM.  I’m actually starting to think he might just really be a kook who accidentally made good.”

“I’m still not entirely certain why you—“

“Yes!” Griff cuts me off.  “I knew I’d find it!”  He climbs up the wall, looking like Spiderman with how easily he scales it.  In a matter of seconds, he’s at the ceiling and hitting at something above his head.

“You find the hatch?”

“Yeah,” Griff shouts down.  “Of course I did.  Thing is, it’s hella old and obviously rusted shut, not to mention probably has something on top of it to keep it from being visible.”

“What does that mean?”

“That means we need some way to apply a great deal of force against this thing to get it open.”  He climbs back down and is out of breath when he reaches my side.

“Any ideas?”

“On how to apply a great deal of force against a hatch fifteen feet above the ground?” Griff summarizes.  “Well, I guess if you had some sort of cherry picker or something.”

“Sorry,” I give a sad smile at his joke, “fresh out.”

“Damn,” Griff mutters under his breath.  “If only I could reverse the hinge, I could get the door to open the other way.  Maybe we’d get lucky and whatever’s on top of it would just fall through.”

“Couldn’t you just remove the pins from the hinge?”

Griff looks at me like I had just said the stupidest thing in the world before a look of recognition comes across his face.  “Actually, that’s not a bad idea.”

He climbs back up the wall and I hear him cursing at himself several times before he finally makes his way back down beside me.

“How small are your hands, kid?”

“I don’t know, normal amount of small, I guess.”

“The hinges are on the bottom side of the gate, meaning it opens inward like we want it to.  The bolt that keeps it shut, which I had mistaken for the hinge, is on the other side.  The only problem is that there’s almost no clearance between the gate and whatever’s on top of it.  My ham hands are too fat to get in there and do anything worthwhile.”

“And you think mine might fit?”

“Maybe.”

“Okay, what do I do?”

“Climb on the chair there and feel the wall.  You should notice some rather deep cuts in it.”

“Okay.”  I get on the chair and feel at the wall.  “Alright, yeah, I think I found them.”

“Alright, so, those work like a ladder all the way to the top.”

“Okay,” I say, feeling uncertain about this whole process.  I pull myself up and find that the indents, although not as big as I’d like for this process, are actually a lot better than I had expected.  Cautiously, I make my way toward the ceiling.  My fingers ache because of how I have to arch them to pull myself upward.  I’m not sure how Griff did this so easily.  It’s hard work.

I make it to the top and look above me.  Although there’s a little bit of light shining through from above, it’s not enough to illuminate what I’m supposed to be working on.  I look down at Griff.

“What now?”

“Do you see the grate above you?”

“No.”

“Okay, well, there’s a grate above you.  You should be able to feel it.”

I reach my hand above my head and feel around.  Directly above my head I feel a rusty grating.  “Found it.”

“Perfect.  Now, if you reach through the grating and feel toward the wall, you should find a pretty simple latch bolt.”  I have already placed my hand through the grate and feel the bolt before he even mentions it.  I pull on the bolt and begin to slide it open until Griff says abruptly, “but don’t open it yet!”

“Oh,” I say, startled.  “Why?”

“Because, kid, it’s pretty obvious there’s something on top of that there grating.  We don’t know if it’ll fall right down on that pretty head of yours when you open it.”

“Okay, so what do I do?”

“Outside of something crazy like trying to hang from the grate when it swings open, which I’m not even sure would be any better, I don’t think there’s anything to do except be quick.  Keep yourself close to the wall, and pray for the best.”

“Okay.”  I take a deep breath.  I press my body against the wall, fingers in agony from the attempt.  Trembling with fear, I put my right hand through the grate once again and finish sliding the latch through the bolt.

The grate gives way almost immediately, giving me no time to bring my free hand back to the wall before a series of bulky items start falling through.  The weight against my arm causes me to lose my grip.  The world blurs around me and I feel myself make contact, although much softer than I would have expected for such a fall.  A loud clattering of noise happens all around.

I open my eyes and find myself face to face with Griff, who cringes in pain as he opens his.  He had caught me!

“You alright, kid?”

“Yeah.”  I stand and survey the damage behind us.  It looks like the area directly above the grate was being used to store the stone busts of forgotten saints.  Dozens of broken marble faces look up at me through the dust cloud they had kicked up.  “You?”

Griff grunts while pulling himself to his feet.  “Nothing that won’t heal itself,” he answers with a forced grin.  “Someone’s bound to have heard that.  Let’s get out of here.”  He gestures to the wall.  “After you, kid.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” I say and follow his direction.  I’m halfway up the wall before he even gets onto the chair.

 

Once at the top, I peek through the open grating carefully.  I can’t see much outside of the rest of the pile of discarded sculptures, but it doesn’t sound like anyone has decided to come this way yet.  I pull myself out of the hole, accidentally kicking the head of some bearded man of marble down to the dungeon below.

“Sorry,” I whisper to Griff.  He doesn’t answer, but his head appears through the hole shortly after.  His hand reaches up, looking for assistance in getting out.  I clear some space around the pit to give me room for a foothold and grab his hand.  In one swift movement, he’s on solid ground behind me.

“Alright kid, we’ve gotta get out of here quickly and quietly.  Capiche?”

I find myself drawn in by the extravagance of this new room.  The circular hall we’ve entered seems to jut just off the main building.  Above us is a beautiful vaulted ceiling, all covered in stained glass windows, just like the rest of the cathedral.  The light entering the room through them makes it all that much more of a sight to behold.

Then I catch sight of another addition to the room.  Hiding within all of the stone work, on columns, corners, and window sills, are some of the most disturbing renditions of faces I’ve ever seen.  They stare back at me from their granite prisons, some laughing, some frightened, all creepy.

“Wake up already, kid.  Let’s go!” Griff yells at me through a whisper from the only exit the room has.

I shake myself awake and follow behind him, “Sorry,” is all I say in response.

We head down a short hallway which breaks to the left.  Griff stops at the corner and holds a hand up to stop me.  I pause at his side and see the terror in his eyes.  Then I hear footsteps.

“You incompetent fool!” I hear the voice of The Wizard angrily shouting.  “How could you possibly have not heard that?  I believe it came from the storage room.  Hurry!”

“You think he’s coming in here?” I ask, already certain of the answer and looking around for another exit, but coming up empty-handed.

Griff doesn’t even respond with a look.  He runs back into the room we had just exited.  I follow but see that it is useless.  Even the windows in this room are too high for us to reach.

“I’ve got an idea, keep on me,” he yells quietly and quickly bolts back into the hallway.  I’m hot on his heels.  I hadn’t noticed the giant window treatments in the room, one of which Griff climbs behind, pulling me in with him.

The echoing footsteps enter the hallway and I find myself concerned that the fabric is still shuddering from us climbing behind it.  The Wizard continues muttering insults at his elderly companion.

“If another one of your pets has managed to get within the cathedral and cause trouble I’ll—“ The Wizard cuts himself off while standing somewhere directly in front of us.  A pause which seems to last forever hangs in the air until suddenly his voice screams out and he bolts toward the vaulted room.  “What the hell has your dumb beast done now?”

Just as we hear him run away, Griff pulls my arm and we slip out from our hiding place, running in the opposite direction and reentering the cathedral.

“Haven’t I told you how priceless these artifacts are on countless occasions?  How am I possibly supposed to gain a profit off them if–What is this hole?”

His voice fades off into the distance as we run quietly through the rest of the building, finding an exit directly opposite where we had entered.  We are at the door when we hear The Wizard scream out in anger as he comes to understand what has happened.  Griff pushes on the door and finds it unlocked.  We exit into the street to a wide cobblestoned walkway completely devoid of people, although lined with what looks to be residential buildings.

Griff takes us left along the exterior of the cathedral, onto a shaded roadway crowded with people.  Their attention turns to us as we push our way into the midst of them.  We slow our speed as we near the center of activity, hoping that in doing so we will be able to blend in.  I keep my eyes toward where we entered to ensure The Wizard doesn’t follow.  I look to Griff who also has his eye in the same direction.

“I thought that might happen,” he says with a sigh of relief.

“What’s that?”

“From the looks of that fake beard and cheap poly-blend robe, I can’t imagine he wants too many of those peasants getting close to him.  Would hurt his ruse.”

“So, he’s just going to let us go?”

“Doubtful,” Griff shrugs just as the cathedral’s bells start ringing.

The peasants around us all look simultaneously to the cathedral belfry in reverence.  They drop what they’re holding and rush toward the church courtyard.

“What do we do?” I ask Griff in a panic.

“Well, if we stay out in the open, he’s sure to find us.  That’s probably what he’s hoping for.”

“Okay, so we go with the crowd?”

“And be right in front of the cathedral where he can force us to come forward and be executed like everyone else?  I don’t think so.”

“So?” I ask, the panic rising in my voice.

“Geoffrey’s?” Griff shrugs.

“That’s all the way on the other side of town.  There’s no chance we’ll make it before the crowd gets to the church.  If you’re right and he’s just looking to get us out here on our own, that’s hardly a good idea.”

“You’re right,” Griff agrees as he looks around through the rapidly clearing street.  “Well, there’s definitely one thing we can’t keep doing.”

“What’s that?”

“Standing out here in the middle of the street.  Come on.”  Griff grabs my hand and we run in opposition to the people who are trying to make their way toward the church.  Scowls and frightened looks pass us by as we push through them.  Many of them work to make sure that our attempt to clear the horde is not easy.

On the left I spy an alleyway and pull Griff into it with me.  The corridor is narrow, with walls on both sides of us.  If The Wizard is going to send people out searching for us, this is probably not where we want to be.  The alley curves to the left at the end, which I quickly realize is directing us right back toward the cathedral.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Griff asks me angrily as he spins on his heel and pulls me back out of the alley.

Two imposing men holding hatchets appear at the alley’s exit.  We skid to a stop and spin on our heels.  As soon as we reach the bend in the alley, we see the other exit has been covered by similarly large men holding similarly frightening instruments of injury.

Behind us is a building with a large, closed, wooden gate.  Without a word, Griff boosts me up into the small gap between it and stone archway above.  Within seconds I squeeze into the open area on the other side and frantically search for a way to open it to save Griff.

A heavy bar is placed across the doors, locking them shut.  Griff shouts at me from the opposite side as I attempt to lift the wooden lock.  I place my shoulder underneath it and push with as much power as I can muster.  It doesn’t budge.  Again I press against it.  This time it gives way almost as if it wasn’t there.  I’m pulled backward as the doors fly open and suddenly realize I’m being assisted by yet another large beast of a man as Griff enters the courtyard and closes the doors behind him.

Go to Chapter Thirteen

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