Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chapter 19c: Shanai's Run II

"Come on, Ash!" she screamed down to him as she grabbed the next rung.

He glanced up at her with determined eyes and shook his head.

He's not coming. He has to come.

She stopped ascending and held her hand down to him. "No, Ash! Don't do this. I need you..."

His sword slashed down as the first of them slammed into him, cutting a deep gash from the woman's collar bone to her chest. Her left arm dropped as the tendons and bone became severed, but her right hand grabbed him by the back of the neck. He futilely pushed her hand only to be grabbed on his sword arm by a burly man.

"Climb, girl climb!" he screamed just before the burly man's teeth sank into his throat. His scream turned into a gurgling wail.

A hand swiped across her boot. With a roar, part fear and part frustration, she pulled herself up the ladder until she met the ceiling, where a trap door prevented her from going any further. Gods, don't let this door be locked. She pushed against the wooden door and sighed as it gave way.

Dust drifted down through the crack.

Shanai gave a last look below before climbing through the hatch. The three ghouls at the base of the ladder had given up on her and joined their comrades in their feast at the base of the wall of barrels, a pool of blood spread and smeared around their feet as they tore chunks of flesh from Ash's cooling corpse twenty feet below her.

She slammed the door shut, pulling the hasp over the catch before looking around for something to push through it. Planks of wood lay stacked on the far wall, opposite to a worktable littered with tools. Early morning moonlight shone through two windows, one facing the street and the other facing the alleyway - just below the sharp pitch of the roof. The floor was soft with sawdust. She ran to the table and fumbled through the tools, small metal hardware and sawdust until she grasped a long nail. She ran back to the hatch and shoved it through the door hasp.

That should keep them out. At least for now.

With the trap door secured she walked to the table and leaned back against it, palms flat on the its surface with her fingers curled around the edge, white knuckled. She stared at the wood sliver textured floor, taking several deep breaths.

I'm all alone now. A shiver ran up her spine as the thought worked its way through her. Ash could have made it. I would have helped. He didn't have to sacrifice himself for me. Shanai kept telling herself that as tears warped her vision and ran down the bridge of her nose, but she knew differently. The bite had made Ash too weak to climb the ladder, even with her help and he couldn't have gotten above the corpse's reach fast enough. It's all gonna go to waste, his sacrifice. I can't do this alone. I need...Marchas.

Thinking about her brother reminded her of the adventures they had shared, the bar fights they had lived through, the brushes with death that occasionally followed them.

This is different.

No, it's just another bar fight, another close call. Think, Shanai! There is a way out of this, you just have to think it through. Her brother's voice echoed through her mind, berating her in the dark workroom.

"Yeah, Marchas. I'm open to any suggestions." she whispered to the wooden planks across from her.

Well, I'm not gonna get out of here if I just sit and sulk. What would Marchas do in this situation? She smiled to herself and wiped a sweaty forearm across her eyes.

Treading lightly, trying to make as little noise as possible in the hope that the monsters below her would forget about her, she crept to the window facing the street. The pile of lumber lay stacked before the window, preventing her from getting closer than a few feet. She leaned forward with her hands on the top of the boards and looked down. Half a dozen people wobbled and limped through the streets, converging on the building.

I don't believe I will be going out through the front door any time soon.

She pushed herself upright and walked to the side window facing the alleyway and looked down. Two undead strolled between the narrow walkway between the buildings, one walking to the front and the other lumbering toward the back.

Across the alleyway a flat stone roof sat almost even with her feet, eight feet from her window. On the other side of that building sat another single story building with a matching flat roof.

If I can make it to the second building without attracting their attention I might be able to climb down and get out of this hot spot before they catch me, but can I make that jump. Can I make the jump without making any noise? The answer came instantly. Not likely.

She turned to look around the little attic workshop, checking for anything she could use. Her eyes fell on the planks. They were almost ten feet long, more than enough to bridge the gap. But will they support my weight. They had to.

Turning back to the window she flipped the brass catch securing the panes closed and pushed the window open. Damp early morning air blew in sending a fine layer of sawdust from the window seal to the floor. Shanai crept to the pile of lumber and hefted a plank, almost as wide as herself, to the window. Placing the end of the plank on the window seal she slid to the other end and pushed it out, using her weight to prevent it from tipping down lower than the far roof. The board groaned as it slid across the wood dusted surface. When only a foot of board remained in the room she gently pulled her weight from it and let the far end settle onto the roof. The board sat at a slightly downward angle, but not so steep that she couldn't crawl to the other roof.

Peering over the edge of the window she looked into the alley. The filthy hair of an undead waddled directly under her plank, while two more undead stumbled towards each end of the alleyway. They hadn't noticed her.

Taking a deep breath she grasped the sides of the plank and pulled herself onto the board. It bounced as she landed on top of it. An icy fist of fear squeezed her stomach and she gripped the edge of the plank as tight as she could. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the pulsing rhythm of her heartbeat as it pounded in her ears. The drumbeat of blood continued to count the time, time she knew that she didn't have. With another deep breath to calm herself she pulled herself down until she lay across the board and began pulling herself forward with closed eyes. Heights had always bothered her some, but laying across the board as it bounced with each pull of her arms filled her with an almost paralyzing vertigo. The only thing that kept her moving was knowing that she couldn't stop. If she didn't get across before they spotted her she would never be able to get to the second roof and escape.

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