Monday, October 29, 2007

Chapter 8b: The Gate

He had never opened the portcullis before; that task belonged to brother Craige, who must have succumbed to the illness before the task could be done. If Brother Craige could open the gate, then he shouldn’t have a problem with it. He backed toward the wall, keeping the stumbling priests comfortably in view. Their lurching forms slowly advanced, but if he could find the gate mechanism he could still escape before they reached him.

He turned and immediately saw the wooden door, intricately carved in the likeness of his God, set into the support pillar of the gate. He pulled on the nose and lifted the door, shaking his head at his own sacrilege, exposing a plate-sized steel wheel with wooden handle at the top. This is going to be easier than I thought.

Holding the sword behind him to keep the priests at bay, he reached in and pushed the handle in a clockwise direction. The wheel didn’t move. He pushed the other way. The wheel still didn’t move. With wide eyes, he looked over his shoulder, making sure the priests were still a safe distance away. They shuffled toward him, but the priests still had a ways to go before they would become a threat. The Piet leaned the sword against the wall and grabbed the wheel handle with both hands. He pushed the wheel again, and it began to move, and the portcullis lifted an inch. Pushing the wheel took all of his not-so-considerable strength. It was a fight to get the wheel to turn even one revolution, but with sweat mixing with the constant drizzle, he kept turning the wheel until the portcullis sat a few feet off the ground; high enough for him to crawl beneath it.

He pulled his hand from the wheel and it spun backwards, lowering the portcullis. He dove into the box, grabbing the handle with both hands and stopping the wheel.

“Oh blessed Vaspar, aid your humble priest.” Though not completely true, it was a statement he mouthed whenever a project exasperated him, and this particular chore had him exasperated beyond measure.

With both hands in place, he lowered his head to his sleeve and tried to wipe some of the sweat and rain from his eyes. The damp sleeve didn’t help.

A splash erupted behind him. Piet Lithor’s neck crackled, twisting to look over his shoulder. Brother Rayne tottered thirty feet behind the panicked high priest. He couldn’t let go of the wheel to grab the sword so he swung his head back to the wheel, looking for a latching mechanism. His gaze darted all over the shadow-cloaked box, seeing nothing. Then he saw the dark line of a bar sitting flush against the side of the box. He let go of the wheel with one hand and slapped the bar down, wedging it against the handle. The portcullis dropped an inch before hanging in place.

Piet Lithor didn’t stop to congratulate himself. Driven by fear and necessity, he reached for the Sword of Tyrma and wheeled around to face the threat that stumbled toward him. The sword's blue glow erupted down the blade at Piet Lithor’s touch. He swung the artifact up, creating a barrier between himself and Brother Rayne, a blue arc of light like the afterimage of lightning it dissipated just as fast. Brother Rayne did as brother Foster had, turning his head aside and holding his hands up before his eyes as Piet Lithor backed toward the portcullis.

His back touched the gate and he squatted down, sword held protectively in front of him. The other priests were still advancing a short way behind brother Rayne as the Piet lay on the ground and scooted through the gate, mud and grit staining the front of his white morning gown.

Appalled at his filthy appearance, but wanting to get as far away from the sick priests as possible, Piet Lithor ran up the tree-lined road as fast as his tired body could carry him. Before he lost sight of his home, he looked back. The priests stood at the portcullis, hands reaching through the iron bars like prisoners asking for food. None of the mindless men had the sense to crawl under the portcullis. A half-hearted smile crossed his lips as he witnessed their ignorance.

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At October 31, 2007 9:52 AM , Blogger Jeff Parish said...

He's out...but where does he go now? dum...dum...dum!Kal online duping  

At October 31, 2007 10:25 AM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

Where indeed?

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