Friday, April 07, 2006

 

the child, part 3, chapter 25 - 'chaos in the court'


All eyes in the courtroom were on Lucy as she leveled her sword at the seated judge. Rose in particular, her arms shackled before her, was so very pale and tense, hope mingled with apprehension on her weary face.

And then all the eyes that Lucy could see shifted to the door behind her, just as Linda murmured, 'Maybe not.'

Not good. Lucy started praying.

'Drop your sword,' demanded a gruff voice from behind her. No doubt a guard. The same one who had just thrust them into the courtroom? She wasn't sure.

Her sword never wavered.

'I said drop it!' the voice insisted.

'I think not,' Lucy replied.

A growl of rage erupted suddenly from behind Lucy, and at the same moment, Linda gave a gasp and began to cry out a warning, 'Lucy, watch ou...!' But it was the other sound that started at the very same time as well that concerned Lucy the most: a whistling sound. Not like a person whistling, but like something whistling through the...

Lucy jumped. Even before her brain had completely recognized the whistling as the sound of something heavy whooshing through the air towards her, she sprang away.

No, she didn't jump towards the judge to take that proud woman hostage - although admittedly the thought of grabbing the judge and pressing the blade of her sword to the woman's throat did occur to her. But no, Lucy shook off that thought and sprang instead toward her enchained friend Rose. 'Linda! Your key!' she cried as she reached Rose's side and spun to face the enemy at the door.

The very surprised guard was recovering his balance from swinging his club at full force and hitting only air. Others in the courtroom were beginning to stir to life now, some lifting their voices, some moving towards Lucy and Rose. Linda took a second to recover herself before running to her friends and fumbling to bring out her key.

Those keys. What marvelous things the Master had supplied them with! Keys able to open any lock in this fortress. Linda found hers quickly and set Rose free, then drew her own sword and joined Lucy en garde.

The clamor rose about them. Lucy's lips were moving, praying, even as she kept her eyes moving, appraising the situation. They could sure use some help here.

The judge was on her feet, banging the gavel with all her might. 'Security!' she screamed, 'arrest them!'

'That's what I was gonna do,' the guard growled. 'Just need a little back-up.' And he opened the door and left.

'Well!' sputtered the judge, and set to hammering once more with the gavel. Some of the other Committee members were attempting to surround the three women, but the two sharp swords were doing a nice job of keeping them all at bay.

'Move towards the door,' Lucy whispered to her companions. Nodding, they all three began to do just that.

'Stop them! They're getting away!' screeched the judge.

Some tried, but the edge of the blades kept turning them back. No one wanted to let them escape, but none of them wanted to get skewered either. This dangerous stuff was for the security guards!

The door was within reach now. Linda breathed a sigh of relief and reached out her empty hand towards the doorknob.

As the door burst open and a squad of guards stormed in.

~~~~~~~

Oh, and even better, right on their heels, a large and burly guard swaggered in, the sneer on his face showing that here was a man of rank. Looking round the room and taking in the outraged Committee members and the two women wielding swords, he curled his lip and said, 'What's this? A party? And me and my men not invited?'

'Arrest them!' the judge cried anew, all but breaking her gavel was her frenzied hammering.

'At once, my lady,' the officer bowed. With curt hand gestures he moved some of his men into position to take the three women. These guards too sneered, enjoying the prospect of disarming these silly women. One of the guards lifted his whip to lash at Lucy.

But in the closeness of the room, the whip first hit one of the Committee members behind him. There came a shriek from the woman he hit and still more shrieks from those around her.

'Arrest them!' screamed the judge.

'At once, my lady,' the officer repeated. Scowling at the guard whose whip had gone awry, he moved forward another set of guards, these wielding clubs.

Clubs. Shorter than the swords the women held, so the guards would need to move in close. Tensely, Lucy and Linda worked to hold the men at bay as the guards moved to encircle them. This was not good, not good. 'There's so many of them!' Linda whispered to Lucy.

'I know. Don't let them get behind us,' she replied.

But that was not easy, for the enemy was pressing on them so. Gradually the three of them were being maneuvered up against the wall, and then back into a corner. And once they were cornered, what would they do then?

Lucy was praying blindly now, so to speak, her mind focused on the skirmish around her as her spirit cried out to the Master for rescue. If not for herself, at least for Rose and for Linda! Even if I must die, let them go free! she thought.

As beside her, Linda was praying much the same thing. A guard shoved forward at her, his eyes as dead and cold as a wolf's. Instinctively - bless Forest for insisting on sword practice! - she brought her blade around, nicking his arm and sending his club scattering.

'Get them!' snarled the officer.

'Get him!' cried a pair of voices from the door. And, to everyone's amazement, two guards burst into the room and promptly tackled the officer.

~~~~~~~

Chaos. Screaming. Pandemonium. The officer bellowing, 'Get off me! Get them off me!' Most of the guards yelling the same orders at the pair of newcomers while trying to club them or whip them or grab them, and mostly managing to club and whip and grab the officer and each other. The Committee members were shrieking and quailing and trying to get out of the way (and not necessarily succeeding). And woven throughout the rest of the turmoil, the voices of the two mad guardsmen kept insisting, 'He ain't Major Tweeg! He's one of them! Don't you lot get it? He's an imposter!'

'Get them off me!' the major roared as the two continued to rain blow after blow upon him, not letting him up off the floor. It was amazing how much havoc just two guards could create. And yet it wasn't long before the whole room was a mad mess of guards tripping and stomping over one another. And gradually, one by one, even the guards who had been cornering Lucy and her companions were drawn off into the fray.

'He's an imposter, I'm telling you!' one or the other of the two mad guards went on yelling. 'Ain't you forgetting how they blinded the lot of our boys out there in the valley? They got some sort of power to cloud our minds, make us see things what ain't so. This ain't Major Tweeg! He's one of them!'

And now, though it was hard to tell at first, some of the rest of the guards began to change sides. More and more of them were trying to hold the major down, and less and less of them were trying to set him loose.

'You're all mad, the lot of you!' rumbled the one remaining guard who was still keeping Lucy and friends up against the wall. Turning, he growled at the three women, 'You're under arrest, so don't go nowhere.' And then he was wading into the brawl as well, bashing heads indiscriminately as he fought his way to the major's side.

Glancing first at Linda and then at Rose, Lucy whispered, 'Ok, let's go.' She sheathed her weapon and set out for the door, picking her way carefully round the knot of shouting men. Linda too put up her sword as she and Rose followed. To their relief, no one stopped them or even seemed to notice them as they made their way to the doorway and quietly left.

Now all they needed was to get out of the Day Room as well.

~~~~~~~

Linda closed the courtroom door softly behind them and turned to find that they were being stared at. Every woman in the immediate vicinity of the courtroom was on her feet, eyes wide, gazing at the three of them. And for a moment, they three stared back.

And then Rose smiled brightly. 'Good day, my dears,' she called out warmly. 'Isn't it a lovely morning?'

Now whispers broke out round about them as Rose said genially to her companions, 'After you, my dears.' Nodding cordially to the Day Room ladies, Rose guided Lucy and Linda through their midst, heading for the door to freedom that seemed impossibly far away. Smiling and nodding, nodding and smiling, Rose escorted her friends along through the room.

They kept moving. No one here attempted to stop them - or not yet, anyway. The women they walked by merely watched them, pie-eyed, while constantly whispering amongst themselves. Not the quietest whispering in the world, for Linda heard a great deal of it very plainly as she and her companions pressed on.

'Who can they be?'

'...came from the Committee's room...'

'Sh! No one really knows if that's where the Committee...'

'But why were they there? Were they being censured, or commended?'

'Yes, are they friend or foe? Should we stop them?'

'But what if we stop them and it turns out the Committee had invited them to tea? One could find herself in very great trouble, you know...'

And so all the standing women backed off and allowed them to pass. Thank you, Master. But, oh, they weren't out of the Day Room yet. Now they came among the ladies who were still sitting at the tables, all happily gossiping away, not a clue among them that anything untoward was going on. Table after table they passed, brunches and socials and planning committees and all. A few of these glanced up at them as they walked by. But no one stopped them.

Yet.

'Why, Ginger!' called a voice.

Uh oh.

'Ginger, surely that's never you,' said a particularly regal dowager, all dripping with jewels. 'Wearing such a dreadfully tacky frock? Why, I could never imagine you ever been caught dead in such an insipid dress as that!'

Rose smiled wanly and kept going.

Then came another voice, this one much worse, for it declared, 'But that's Carol! Didn't we just see her arrested and taken away by Security?'

Lucy was leaning forward to whisper to her companions that they'd better be hurrying along - when abruptly things got utterly dreadful. For behind them came the crash of a door being flung violently open, and with it a gruff voice bellowing out, 'You morons! You're letting them get away. After them!'

Lucy immediately condensed what she had been about to say down to a single word: 'Run!'

And they did. Lucy, in the rear, grabbed the nearest table and knocked it over, sending the prim ladies seated at it into hysteria. Ladylike yelps filled the air as Linda began tipping over tables as well. Not that any of the outraged Day Room ladies made any physical attempts to stop the three fugitives. Why, heroics such as that might result in someone ruining her dress, or mussing her hair, or breaking her nails! Oh no - horrified screeches of 'Security!' were more their speed - and they certainly screeched that word a lot.

Security, for their part, were doing their best to bulldoze through the maze of tables, knocking quite a few of them over themselves. The blare of their major's voice egged them on. 'After them! Cut 'em off! Get 'em!' he roared for all the room to hear. The whole room also heard him as he turned and rumbled at the hapless guards who had tackled him, 'As for you two braindead a...' And the noun he used there to describe the pair was such a shock to the sensibilities of the Day Room ladies that at least four of them promptly fainted, 'I'll deal with you later,' he finished. 'The rest of you lazy butts - get 'em!'

Lucy, Linda, and Rose were nearing the door now. Praying that, please, let there be no one out there, Linda wrenched the door open and shoved Rose through. Lucy charged out right on their heels and shouldered the door shut again, just in time to hear Linda cry, 'Hey!'

For it seems there was someone out there - two someones, both of them sprinting for all they were worth for the back door of the fortress. And no guards on that door? Why was that?

Linda grabbed Lucy's arm and pointed. 'Isn't that Starr?' she said.

'Never mind that now. Just go!' Lucy hissed. And the three of them pelted after the other two who had already reached the outside door and thrown it open. Raw daylight spilled in, threatening to blind them all. But they all kept running, the trio from the Day Room not five steps behind the others. They hit the door even before it had time to close again. Squinting into the sunglare, the three stumbled forth.

Strange. Even if that had been Starr - and it certainly had looked like her - where was she now? She and the short man with her surely couldn't have vanished so quickly. And yet Lucy, Linda, and Rose saw no one...

'This way!' a voice called to them. A figure now caught their eyes, standing in the sunlight, gesturing to them.

'Oh, it's Morgen,' said Linda in delight, and the three hurried over to him. He led them quickly away from the fortress and off toward the mountain. But though the three peppered him with questions about whether that had been Starr and where she might be now, he gave them no answers.

All the way to the mountain Lucy and Linda kept looking back, watching for their friend. When they reached the foot of the mountain with no sight of her, they were concerned. When they followed Morgen up the mountain side and still could not spy her on the plain behind them, they were troubled. And when they reached the cave itself and found only Joy and Talitha there - well, now they were getting downright anxious. Had they really seen Starr at all? Maybe they hadn't. 'Maybe,' said Linda, 'it was just my imagination. Or someone else.' Though she couldn't think who else she could have seen and mistaken for Starr...

And then the ivy curtain parted and in they came. Starr, and a man she soon introduced as Nat. What a relief!

Everyone's natural question of where Stone was, though - that question Starr was not prepared to answer yet. Not yet, no. And she went to stand in the entrance of the cave, peering out.

Not yet.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

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