Dark Days Ahead, Part 6

Part 6, in which Alexander must escape from Braun…

Alexander strained at the ropes that bound his wrists over his head.  He knew that he could work the knots loose.  The question was: Could he get free before Lucas and Braun returned to kill him?  He heard a click and froze, his gaze going to the door of the bedroom.

His eyes widened when a panel on the far wall swung inward instead.  Missy peered into the room, her blue eyes wide.  “When you didn’t come, I was afraid they’d caught you,” she breathed.  She ran to his side on her toes, not making a sound.

She tugged at the ropes on his wrists and the cut them with a small knife.  Alexander wasn’t even certain where the knife had come from.  Had she hidden it up her sleeve?

Once his wrists were free, Alexander took the knife and cut his ankles free as well.  Then, he got off the bed and grabbed his bag.  “There’s not much time,” he breathed, catching Missy’s hand in his own.  “We need to get out of here.”

“I’ll show you the way,” Missy said, nodding.  She drew him back to the panel and Alexander found that it lead to a hidden staircase.  As she tugged the panel closed, the passage was plunged into darkness.  Then, light glowed to life.

Alexander blinked at the lantern that Missy held in her hand.  “Follow me,” she said.  Her voice was a raspy whisper.  She turned and moved down the steps, hardly making a sound in spite of her hard soled shoes.  Alexander followed, struggling to keep his own steps as quiet as hers.

His heart was hammering in his chest and his blood was thundering through his ears when they exited the passage.  Alexander glanced around and saw the barn, where Gambit had been stabled.

“I saddled your horse,” Missy said, drawing him towards the building.  She glanced towards the horizon and shook her head.  “We need to hurry, Alex.”

He nodded once and then tensed when he heard a cry of anger echo through the trees.  Braun had found him missing.  Alexander stifled a whimper and quickened his steps.  Once he was in the stable, he went directly to Gambit.

Just as she had said, the chestnut was saddled and waiting for him.  He stamped his foot anxiously as Alexander secured his bag to the saddle horn.  Alexander turned to Missy and caught her hands in his own.  “Come with me,” he said, his voice breathless.  “Please, I can’t leave you here.  They’ll surely know that it was you who helped me escape!”

Missy smiled and then kissed him on the cheek.  He wrapped his arms around her and covered her mouth with his own.  He moaned as she let him draw her into the passionate kiss.  Then, she was pushing him away.  “They won’t hurt me,” she promised.  “You need to hurry, Alex.  Get away from here before the moon rises and it’s too late!”

He hesitated for only a moment longer.  Then, he swung into the saddle of his horse.  Wheeling the animal around, he looked at her.  “Will I see you again?” he breathed.

A smile touched her lips and Missy nodded.  “Count on it,” she said.  Then, she made a shooing motion.  “Now, go!  Hurry!  Don’t let Braun catch you!”

Nodding once, Alexander kicked Gambit’s flanks.  The animal whinnied and then they were on their way out of the stable.  Alexander didn’t dare look back.  Instead, he focused on getting back to the long road that led up to the house.

In front of him, he could see a light on the horizon.  The moon, full and bright, was pushing upward.  Alexander held his breath and leaned down low over Gambit’s back, silently willing the horse to run faster.

Behind him, Alexander could hear the thunder of hooves and the clatter of a carriage on the road.  Braun was chasing him.  Tears stung his eyes and he kicked Gambit’s flanks once again.  They had just passed the gate when Alexander felt a stinging pain in his side.  He gasped, one hand pressing against the place where he felt the worst of the pain.

Gambit slowed, then, reacting to the distress of his rider.  Alexander couldn’t find his voice to protest and tell the animal to hurry.  He couldn’t find the strength to force the animal back into a run.  Instead, he struggled to breathe as he leaned across Gambit’s back and neck.

He whimpered when he felt the presence of another rider coming up alongside of them.  As soon as the intruder caught Gambit’s reins, the horse stopped.  Alexander groaned and slipped out of the saddle, crumbling to the ground.

For a moment, he lay there, panting heavily and blinking to clear his vision.  Then, he saw Lucas and Braun leaning over him.  Braun smiled faintly and Alexander shivered as fear swept through him.

Somewhere, seemingly far away, Alexander heard a high, firm voice call out the man’s name.  “You’re too late, Mr. Braun,” Missy said.  “Look to the horizon!”

As Braun and Lucas did as she’d said, Alexander turned his head to do the same.  The moon had risen.  The round, glowing disk was standing above the horizon.  Hearing a growl, Alexander looked away from the pale circle of light.

“Next time, little one,” Braun said, catching his chin.  “You won’t be so lucky!”  Then, Alexander’s strength failed and he was tumbling into a dark, endless pit.

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