The Lady in the Loft

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Haze

Prologue


It was a dark night in snowdrop village. One of the darkest, in fact, that they had seen in years. Geza, a young man of The Royal Guard, shivering, at his post. His eyes flittered about, nervously, through his helmet of white metal, and his hand, gripped the, twisted, hilt, of his sword, ready to pull it out of its dark, leather, sheath at a moment’s notice.

A hand laid firmly on his, iron clad, shoulder. In his attempt to draw sword, his hand slipped and, in his fright, he let the metal fall back into its sheath, leaving his fingers grasping at the, thin, cold, air.


“Are you alright, Geza?”


Geza breathed a sigh of relief. “Do you have to sneak up on me like that, Tané?” He irritated as he took his off  helmet. Tané took off his own, revealing a greying moustache, and concerned eyes. These eyes swept over Geza’s anxious form and into the blackness beyond. With an intake of breath his own hand snapped to his sword hilt.


“Yeah.” Geza agreed, turning back to the moors. “I feel it too. But, there ain’t nowt there.”


The shadow started creeping closer and Geza, once again, reached for metal, as the fire besides them began to flicker, and spark, dangerously.


The two comrades held their breaths in unspoken fear as the darkness drew closer. The Shadow swept across the fire lit floor towards the gates and the two guards backed into the entrance.


Tané drew his sword as the fire went out. Inches from them, the darkness stopped. It was a wall of complete blackness that smothered the area. “I’ve never felt anything like it.” Tané gasped as the weapon in his hand wilted. “It’s like it’s a living person, but it ain’t.”


Geza brought his hand away from the hilt of his sword and reached out into the darkness.


“That’s a bad idea, Geza.” Tané warned. “We don’t know what it is.”


Geza’s hand hesitated, then, with a look of determination on his young face, he reached a little further, touching the darkness, then his hand slipped into the darkness.


An unearthly scream filled the air. A scream filled with hatred, with anger, with frustration. Geza fell back and Tané caught him. Both of them fell to the floor in a heap of metal as guards came running from all posts.


The scream turned to laughter. Cold, deep, threatening, laughter, and the darkness began to retreat.


The throng of men, who had arrived on scene, stared in horror at the dark form that was shrinking rapidly into the form of a man. Black, against the moonlit night. But, even from this distance, they could see the purple of his eyes. Bright and dangerous. But then, like the darkness, he too vanished into the night, leaving a frightened silence, that was quickly filled with Tané’s cry for a medic as Geza slumped against him. Smoke rising from three fire lit scars that had appeared in the back of his hand.


Chapter 1

Rome



Like most houses in the great city of Evans. The house was well built and well cared for. As tall as the skyscrapers, but covering only a small amount of ground, with one room on each floor, and the ground floor simply serving as the greeting hall. Number seven amethyst way was, for all the world, as normal a house as graced the Evans streets. 


But for one difference. 


A little mouse. 


Stood, as he stood every morning, on the first step of the iron stairwell, he observed the mess that the children of the house had made in the early morning rush to get to school.


Cups of half finished drinks, from the kitchen one flight above him, sat on the table. A fine plate, made from amethyst pulled thin, lay in the centre, holding a few slices of, cold, uneaten, toast. One of the children had skipped breakfast.


Twitching his whiskers delightfully, the young mouse allowed himself a small smile before scampering up the tablecloth to help himself to breakfast.


Once he had finished brushing the crumbs off his fine coat, and whiskers, he set off on the search, the constant search that he and his family had continued throughout the generations. The young mouse had no hope inside of ever fulfilling the search, but he was bound to it nonetheless. So, with a small nod to himself, he left the house through a small hole where the walls met the floor, and sped onto the busy pavements of Evans. Ignoring the skyscrapers set either side of him, the young mouse followed the main path down to Rome, for every path, it was well known, led to Rome.


With his destination in mind, he ran past the strong buildings made from common metal, past the gardens thrust in every available space, past the benches were the humans sat, swapping the morning news, he headed straight for the centreplate of town, straight for Rome.


Rome stood, as wide as it was tall, made out of the glorious white metal, it beckoned to all on comers invitingly. Even at this early hour, it was thronging with people. Rome is one of those places that is never quiet, no matter the time of day, or night. It was never closed, and served as the centre of all human activity in Evans.


Ignoring the busy, glass, doorways, the little mouse scuttled into a drain and followed it through to the inside of Rome. Once in, he stopped to get his bearings.


Looking up he could see countless balconies, with elaborate fences carved on the edges. Past them, up higher, was a white metal beam, in mid air, holding up the glass roof that allowed the sun to, light the shops that lined every wall, and to feed the gardens that had been thrust in every available hole. A spiral staircase climbed to the balconies every twenty meters, all with elaborate designs on the ideas of the physical representation of time, whether that be, moons and stars, or the aging of humans, the growing of a tree, or the rusting of metal. Time was a well discussed concept of mankind.


As if to emphasise this point, the fountain, the centrepiece of Rome, was an accumulation of all these things, entwined together, pieces added over the centuries of it standing, said to be the very image of time itself. Sat on the edge of the fountains pool were young couples, watching the world go by. Twitching it’s whiskers in a smile, the little mouse scampered into the nearest garden. 


Chapter 2

The Wall


A young couple sat, peacefully, watching their reflections in the rippling water. Selen’s long blonde hair attracted plenty of jealous looks as Ray ran his slender fingers through it. Ray barely had any hair to speak off. He didn’t like washing it so he kept it short enough that he didn’t have to bother. His lanky figure leaned forward as he attempted to land a kiss on Selen’s face.

“Get out of it, Ray.” Selen snapped, pushing him off with her unusually strong hands.


“Come on, Sel. Nobody’s watching.” Ray moaned, looking hurt as he pulled himself out of the fountain, soaking wet.


“I couldn’t care less.” Selen said as calmly as she could manage. “I’ve already told you. I don’t want to yet.” Ray sighed and turned away from the water. Selen looked at him and smiled. “Besides, if you’re going to kiss me, I’d want you to do it somewhere special.”


“Like where?” Ray asked, a glimmer of hope in his young orange eyes.


“I don’t know. It’d have to be somewhere I’ve not been before.” Ray sighed, disappointed once more. “What?” Selen asked, almost laughing.


“Your parents are explorers, Sel.” He pointed out. “Where could I take you? You’ve seen the world.”


Selen smiled as she laid her head on his shoulder. “If you love me, the way you keep saying you do, Ray, you’ll find somewhere.”


Ray looked at her, letting his gaze travel from her soft blue eyes down, past her, well built, but still, highly feminine, body, down her long legs, encased in the, faded grey, tight fitting, jeans, and over her brand new trainers.


“I know a place.” He said in sudden determination, “and you’re going to love it.” He stood up, and took her hands in his, dragging her to her feet. “Come on.” He encouraged as she hesitated. “I know a place no-one has been to before.”


Intrigued, Selen got to her feet and followed him out of Rome and towards the ominous stone wall that stood but three streets away.


“Very funny, Ray.” Selen said humourlessly as they reached the metal barrier between the city and The Wall.


Ray stopped and looked back at her. “You don’t want to go?”


“Nobody goes near The Wall, Ray, not even my parents.”


“So you’ve never been there before. Go inside The Wall and we’ll have trod where no man has trod in centuries.”


“The Wall is a sacred place.” Selen reasoned. “We do not go near it.”


“Haven’t you ever wondered what’s on the other side?”


“That is beside the point.”


“Come on honey.” Ray began to plead. Selen snatched her hands away angrily.


“It is against the law!”


“How did it get here?” Ray asked turning back to the wall. Taller than any sky scraper it stood, both ends travelling off into the distance. The wall circled the entire planet splitting it into two halves. What was on the other side, nobody knew. “Did our ancestors make it? If so, what were they trying to keep out? Or keep in... Did God put it there?”


“If God put it there don’t you think it would be for a good reason, Ray?”


Ray looked back at her and smiled reassuringly. “Alright honey. You stay here.” He turned back to the barrier, “But, I’m way too interested now.” Spitting on both hands he grabbed hold of the fence and began to climb.


“That’s a bad idea, Ray.” Selen tried again. “Ray, I’ll call the law. I’ll tell your father. Are you even listening to me, Ray? RAY!”


Ray swung his legs over the top of the fence and began to climb down. “This is a sacred area, Sel.” He called as he climbed. “Do you really think the law is going to patrol it in search of random lovebirds having their first kiss?” She stared into Ray’s longing eyes as he set his feet on the floor on the other side of the barrier. “I’ll wait for you.” He said gently, then walked towards an old wooden door set into The Wall and, with a little effort, pushed it open.


Selen watched him walk away with a pounding heart. She couldn’t believe what she was about to do. Taking a deep breath, she placed her hands on the fence and began to climb the, cold, white, metal.


By the time she’d reached the other side her fear had turned to an undeniable excitement. She was at The Wall, reaching to the other side. She placed her hand on the wooden door and walked through. Somebody touched her face, and then she felt Ray’s smooth lips caress her cheek in the darkness. She moved back as she lifted a hand to her cheek.


“Ray.” She whispered.


“Don’t say anything.” He whispered back softly, than almost laughed as he looked around. “What do we do now?”


In the small light that was streaming through the half open door, Selen could see Ray, shaking with excitement, than realised in surprise that she was in exactly the same state.


“We’re in The Wall.” She hissed excitedly. “We may as well explore. You got a light?”


“You’re supposed to be the explorer.” Ray commented as he searched his pockets. “Aren’t you guys supposed to always be prepared for things like this?” with a grin, he pulled out a box of matches. Taking one out, he struck it, and a tiny flame lit up both their faces with a bright orange glow. Looking at the thick walls around them, they both began to laugh and the echoes laughed back.


“Look.” Selen pointed past Ray, but as he turned to see what it was she was pointing at he dropped the match in surprise. He then, quickly, stuck his burnt finger in his mouth as he tried to control his laughter. Once they had both regained control he lit another match and looked at the glass lamp on the wall. Selen picked it up. “I saw these in an old temple down in Arcane. Dad said they were at least two hundred years old.” She told Ray as she lifted the glass up. Ray quickly used his fast depleting match to light the wick and Selen placed the glass back over it.


“Cool.” He exclaimed as the glass magnified the light enabling them to see all four walls of the room inside The Wall. “This Wall must be at least ten times thicker than the scientists guess.”


Selen nodded in agreement as she looked around. “Where do you suppose that passageway leads?” she asked gesturing towards the corner.


“Who knows?” Ray smiled looking down it. “It could just travel the length of The Wall, but it may just...”


“It may just go through to the other side of The Wall.” Selen didn’t know why, but the thought frightened her. “Ray, let’s go back.”


“No way.” Ray replied looking up the path, “This may be the only chance we get.” Selen stayed where she was as her friend disappeared from view. “Come on, Sel. I need the light.”


Taking a deep breath, Selen plunged down the corridor, joining Ray further in.


Chapter 3

The First Step


“Look at the walls.” Ray fascinated. “Everywhere is so dusty. Was it like this in Arcane?”


“It was like this practically everywhere we went.” Selen replied quietly. “Ray, we shouldn’t be here. All the places my parents excavated or visited, they had to have written permission first.”


“Your point being.” Ray clearly wasn’t bothered.


“This is wrong! No matter which way you look at it. This Wall was put here for a reason.”


“Don’t you think the door into The Wall was put there for a reason too?” That stumped Selen and she fell silent. “Cheer up Sel. It’s your birthday, you’re supposed to be having fun?”


“I was having fun.” Selen replied quietly as the lamp brought some stairs into view. “You should have seen your face when you landed in the fountain.”


“Wow.” Ray stopped. “They must go on for, like, ever. Where do you think they go?”


“They probably lead to the top of The Wall eventually.”


“Way cool... Race you to the top.” Ray invited, then set off at a run, but something had caught Selen’s eye.


“Ray! Wait. No!”


Ray stopped with his shoulders hunched as he held his breath. The step he was stood on trembled beneath his feet, than they heard a soft click. Terrified, Ray didn’t move. A wall began to slide out of the wall at the bottom of the stairs, moving slowly across.


“Ray, come back down!” Selen screamed. 


He still didn’t move.


“Ray! You have to come back down now!”


Something in Ray clicked, as to what was happening and he started to dash back down. Selen dropped the lamp and ran forward to brace the moving wall. 


As Ray ran towards her she placed an arm between the wall and the new wall and pushed. But to no avail. Ray joined her and placed his own arm in the rapidly shrinking gap. The pushing got more and more desperate then, as the gap got too small for their arms, they began to pull.


Selen called her friends name fearfully as he called hers in panic.


Then the door shut.


Selen pounded her fists against the wall in frustration. “Ray!” From the other side Ray called back, but neither could hear the other.


Selen started to cry as she pounded her reddening fists against the stone wall. Sobs catching in her throat, she rested her forehead against the wall and slid to her knees. The torch behind her flickered and went out, plunging her into darkness.


Selen turned to face where it was, drawing her legs from under her and resting her back against the stone.


“I’ve got to get help.” She said to the darkness. “I’m so dead.” She added, realising she had to go and tell people that they’d been in The Wall. She got to her feet using the wall as a support and part of it gave way under her hand. She gasped and backed off as another part of the wall nearby began to move. A faint purple light shone through as the door came to a halt.


“Don’t do it, Sel.” She said to herself in a singsong voice. “Just go tell everyone what happened and face the consequences. It’s your own flipping fault you’re in this mess after all.”


Selen heaved a sigh and looked at the door that had caught Ray before stepping into the narrow purple corridor.


Chapter 4

Flitz


Ray sat miserably on the bottom step, looking at the wall that had cut him off.

“Well, this has turned out to be a fine day, I must say.” He told it angrily. “I don’t know what I was thinking coming in here. I must have been mad! Why didn’t I listen to Selen?” He paused his ranting as he started at the stone wall accusingly. “She’s bound to have gone for help. My father’s going to skin me alive when he finds out.”


As he continued his cursing a pale purple light began to shine around him. It was a few moments before he realised the light was coming from the walls themselves. He could now see a landing further up the stairs, but he remained where he was.


“I know there may be a way out up there,” He muttered. “But there also may not be. Besides that, the moment I head up to find out, you can guarantee Selen will show up with The Law... I am so grounded.” He turned back to the wall that had locked him in, the accusing look back on his face. “It’s your fault. Enticing me over with your mysterious looks. If you had been more forward about what you are...”


He cut off. A noise, like the pattering of tiny feet, had drawn his attention to the next landing. He stared for a minute then sighed.


“I hope Selen doesn’t take too long. My mind’s already playing tricks on me.” He turned back to the wall, then looked quickly back up the stairs as he heard the noise a second time.


“Hello?” He called out uncertainly. A shadow moved and he stood up. Straining his eyes to see further, he called out again. “Is there anyone there?” 


Afraid, but determined, he started to climb the stairs.


“Listen. I’m sorry if I’m trespassing. It wasn’t completely intentional. You see, I came here with my girlfriend, and when I stood on the trick step, we kind ‘a got separated. So, I’m a little trapped. She’s gone to get help, but, if you know the way out I would be very grateful... Is there even anyone up there?”


No one answered, but, the shadow he’d been watching moved. Ray took as cautionary step backwards as the shadow began to run along the ceiling.


Ray searched wildly about him for the source of the shadow and yelled in surprise as two tiny eyes appeared in front of him. Taking another step back he tripped over his own foot and toppled back down the few stairs he had climbed, slamming back into the wall.


Rubbing his head ruefully, and blinking the stars from his eyes, Ray looked back towards the stairs.


A, tiny, black, monkey dropped down from the ceiling and ran towards him, stopping at his foot and placing a tiny hand on his trainer. Then, after a slight pause, he pounced on top of the shoe and clambered up to his chest where he sat, staring at Rays face with a puzzled, but clearly amused, expression.


“A monkey?” Ray laughed. “It’s only a monkey?!”


“That’s right.” The monkey agreed nodding its head. “I’m just a harmless monkey, nothing to be afraid off.”


Ray cried out in shock, and whacked the small monkey from his chest