Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Into Thornwood || Chapter Eleven

By Becca

Chapter 11

                  “Through the third archway and the second door on the right.” Lucian’s voice came through distorted by the automaton. 
  Cecile reached out and turned the knob. At a squeaky meow she spun around, the cat trotted down the main stairs. 
                  “Well, hello you.” She smiled as it came and rubbed its head against her skirt. Reaching a hand under its chubby body, Cecile gathered the softness into her arms and at once it began to purr.                      
              “What is its name?” 
The cat didn’t flinch as the automaton stretched out and rubbed a metal finger between it’s ears.
 “Her name is Gypsum…she was mother’s.” 
Cecile laid her cheek against Gypsum’s fur and pushed the door open with her foot. She stepped into the imposing room, the automaton right behind her. 
A gorgeous stained glass window stretched from the floor to the low ceiling, saving the room from being completely unfriendly. A huge desk of dark wood occupied nearly a third of the room. Books and piles of papers covered the surface of the desk and spilled onto the floor. The walls were covered in shelves, holding boxes of various size, unfamiliar tools and more stacks of paper. A large iron hook hung from the ceiling, attached to a pulley. Directly beneath it was a trap door.
                  “There it is,” The automaton lingered in the entryway. “The mouth of the dungeon.” 
                  “A dungeon?” She turned around with raised eyebrows. “Truly?” 
                  “Well, that is what Mother and I used to call it. Some days father spent every waking moment down there, and it was easier to pretend that he was locked in a dungeon, then staying apart from us by his own choice.” 
                  A sympathizing look came over her face. 
                 “I know a bit of what that feels like.” She set the cat down, who promptly leaped up on the desk and sent a wave of papers sliding down, but Cecile didn’t notice, for she had pulled the up the hatch.  It opened to a black gaping hole in the study floor and an iron ladder was swallow by the darkness. 
                  “Oh my,” She gasped. “It looks as if that goes to the center of the earth!” 
                  Lucian's laughter crackled through the automaton, and it clicked the light on. She saw at once that it did not go to the center of the earth, but it still was far. Cecile glanced at Gypsum, who had settled on a fat volume and was basking in a square of violet sunlight. 
                  “Here it goes.” 
                   The rungs felt too thin as she held tightly and each step sent vibrations through the metal. As she descended, the air grew cool and damp. High above, the automaton leaned over the opening and called down. 
                  “There is a passage on your right that leads to the workshop.” 
                  Her foot struck solid ground and she unclasped her taunt hands. A row of lights hung from the curved stone, leading down a narrow hall. As she walked on through, the walls veered off and left her in the workshop, a cavernous room filled with inventions. 
                 Tools hung on the walls, and large contraptions were suspended from the ceiling. An automaton, nearly a twin of the one upstairs, lurked in the corner in an unsettlingly way. A long table ran the length of the space. With springs, gears, odd bits of metal, unfinished inventions and drawings scattered over the wood. Rising at the end of the room was a huge cabinet, filled with tiny, labeled drawers.
Cecile shrieked, for in the dim glow, she saw that she was not alone. 
An occupied chair was pulled up to the table, and a clothed skeleton sat, hunched over, arms sprawled out and face down. The stone wall pushed firmly against her as she backed away, covering her mouth to muffle another cry that rose in her throat. 
She had seen death before, but peaceful death, with pillows and doctors and tearful goodbyes. Not the bare, dried bones of this abandoned man. 
                  “Cecile?” Her name reverberated from the top of the ladder. “What happened? Are you alright?” 
She turned away from the dreadful sight. “I’m not hurt, I was just startled…Lucian, did you know there is a skeleton down here?” 
                  “A skeleton?”
Cecile forced her eyes back to the boney figure. “I am quite sure that’s what it is. Your father never experimented on people, did he?” 
                  “Of course not!” 
                  “And no one lived here besides you, your mother, and father?” The identity of this skeleton came to mind and a crackling moan from above told her that Lucian was thinking the same.
                  “Then he never left.” His words came slowly. “My father has been in the dungeon for all these years.” 
                  “I am so sorry Lucian, and of all the ways to find out-“ 
                   He interrupted her, “No, it’s all right. I think I knew somehow, or at least I should have suspected. He never would leave Thornwood. Now I guess he got what he wanted.” 
                  After a pause, he called down again. “Is the key there?”  
                  “Oh, dear,” She murmured. “It’s probably in his pocket.” Then raising her voice so he could hear, she said. “I’ll start looking.”
With a shiver she approached the skeleton and cringed at the thought of touching him. The clothes hung loose on the bones and she patted the pockets tentatively. All were empty. 
Cecile turned on the cabinet. It must be somewhere! She pulled each drawer out, rummaged through and shut with a bang; every one full, but none held the key. Sinking to her knees, she slammed the last drawer.
 Lucian said he searched the entire house, and having five years with nothing but wanting to  find freedom; surely he looked thoroughly. She stood and scanned the table, pushing aside the clutter, nothing. Desperately, she went all around the room, knocking and tapping at the stones. With all the secret doors in Thornwood, could there be a hiding place in the wall? There wasn’t.
Cecile climbed the ladder with a heavy heart.
                  “Lucian? I looked every where but did not find the key.” He didn’t respond, but then in the distance she heard shouting and the resonating sound of a gunshot.

                  “What have you done to my sister?” Dax demanded, and pointed his gun at the automaton. “Tell me! For I will not miss the second time.” 
Frank appeared as he leaned over the banister, calling down to Dax in the main hall.
                  “I found her clothes, and the room she was kept in. But she is not here.”  
With a step closer Dax took aim, not trusting his shaking hands. “Tell me where she is!”  
Then that hated crackled came. 
                  “You cannot take Cecile from me.”  
His jaw clenched, eyes narrowed, finger slid over the trigger, and with one pull his bullet shot through the metal. His ears rang from the blast. Frank ran down the down the stairs. Despite the hole through it’s chest, the automaton appeared unharmed and began walking towards Dax.
                  “I cannot let you take her, if you would only listen to me-“
                  “No!” Frank approached the machine with a glowering rage. “You listen.”  He growled and pointed a finger at the glassy eyes. “You took someone we loved, and now we’re taking her back. I don’t care one bit about what you have to say; and seeing how you’re just a lump of metal, I don’t think you can do one thing about it. So for your own sake, just tell us where Cecile is.” 
                  “I’m right here!” Cecile’s voice shattered the moment and they turned to see her, eyes glistening with tears.
Her brave demeanor dissolved as she ran to Dax and began to cry. He pulled her shaking body into an embrace and kissed her cheek. “Everything is fine now Cecile, I’ll take you home.”
                  “You will do no such thing!” The automaton yelled and swung out his arm, aiming a powerful blow at the back of Dax’s head.
                  “Lucian, no!” 
Cecile saw the motion and tried to push her brother out of the way. They crashed to the floor, the gun knocked from Dax’s hand. He sat up, cradling Cecile’s limp body and a trickle of blood slipped down her cheek.  
                  “Oh no,” Dax moaned, “Not again.” 
Frank had a murderous look as he snatched the gun and leveled it at the automaton. “Get her out of here, Dax. I’ll take care this.” 
Dax tried to lift Cecile, but breath hissed through his teeth and he sank to the floor.  
                 “I can’t. Frank you have to. Give me the gun. ” 
                 The muzzle pressed against a glass circle.
                 “It hurt Cecile-“
                 “And the only way to help her now is to take her home.” 
                 Hesitatingly, Frank lowered his aim and at that moment the automaton sprang into action. Dax shouted a warning as it came after them with unexpected speed. Frank gathered Cecile into his arms before they rushed out the door. 
                 Dax howled at the jarring stone steps, but together, they made it down the stairs, across the lawn and finally reached the ladder. Frank carried Cecile over the rose covered wall and he laid her in the back of the wagon, resting her head on Dax’s lap. Frank jumped in and snapped the reigns. As the wagon jolted into motion, Cecile’s eyes fluttered.
“No, I can’t leave him-“ She murmured. 
                  “Hush now…” Dax stroked her hair. “You’ll be home soon” 
She stirred helplessly under his hand, and her eyelids closed heavily. 


  1. Oh, how creepy! Cecile sure is brave. I would never have been able to search through a creepy dungeon with a skeleton alone.
    Poor Lucian! Alone again. I can't wait to find out what happens next!

  2. OH MY!!!!!!!!!!! I can hardly wait for more!!!!!!!


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