Unfinished Symphony, page 7
His army scraped and slithered behind him and his laughter encouraged them on. His foolish brother. Does he know what he has done? Where he has brought her?
Abaddon walked out into the vast cavern and started towards the wooden bridge that straddled the two banks. He looked up as a roar echoed around the cavern.
“You cannot pass. Go back” the bear roared as it rose up to its full height.
“Fool” Abaddon whispered and spread his arms wide. “You dare to make demands of me?” he asked as his army spread out behind him.
The bear dropped down and roared revealing his sharp teeth as his paws scrapped the wooden bridge, leaving deep scars as his nails split the wood.
“You cannot pass” repeated the bear as his shoulders hunched forward ready to fight.
“I was not asking” Abaddon answered in a whisper that whistled through his broken teeth. He dropped to his knees with his arms still spread wide. His army scurried forward and he was enveloped by the foul creatures as they covered his body, their tiny claws finding purchase in his cloak. Only his face could be seen as the rest of his body was a mass of writhing moving things.
“Go” Abaddon whispered as he brought his hands together. The army poured forward as they rushed over the kneeling man and charged towards the bridge. Their shrill cries rising in excitement as the dark blanket of death spread like spilled coffee over the cave floor.
They poured forward onto the bridge. The bear roared as he met the black tide of teeth and claws, lashing out with his talons, teeth snapping and slicing the rats who were no match for his ferocious strength. But still, they advanced, climbing over the dead and bleeding bodies of their comrades. The bear backed off, he was losing ground. His defiant roar renewed his strength as he held the centre of the bridge.
He fought and he fought but still the dark tide washed onto the bridge and soon he began to tire. His limbs becoming heavy, his strikes slow and sluggish, and it was then he felt the first sting. His left leg erupted in a pulse of pain. His head twisted down and he bit the scorpion attached to his left leg, snapping it in two with his powerful jaws. A rat took advantage of his lapse of concentration and jumped onto his head, it sunk its teeth into his ear and its razor sharp teeth pierced his flesh. The bear roared in agony and swung his head trying to dislodge the rat. White hot pain began to erupt all over his body as more and more rats sunk their teeth into the bear; scorpion stings, filling him with poison, further draining his diminishing strength.
His roars soon became screams of agony and he began to change, his magic waning as the rats covered his body. Biting and tearing.
“Come” Abaddon whispered. The rats turned away from the meal and raced back towards their master leaving nothing but a pile of bones.
Abaddon walked across the bridge, he stopped alongside the childlike collection of bones. He knelt down and caressed the smooth white skull before pushing the small pile into the rushing water below. He stood and continued across the bridge, his army, hungry for more flesh followed closely at his heel.
Polly chased Archie’s fleeing shadow, she matched him stride for stride as they raced down through the underground labyrinth. Robin was racing ahead, his form constantly twisting and changing. Roars echoed and pushed them further on, faster. Then Polly began to slow as the proud roar of the bear began to change, becoming painful screams.
“Polly run” Archie shouted “there is nothing we can.”
Polly’s legs began to tire. She felt her strength failing. All around her yellow eyes peered out from the dark passageways that led off the main tunnel. She could hear them screech in anger as she ran past. Tiny shapes moved along the roof of the cave and the walls began to pulse. Polly screamed in horror as tiny shapes began to fall, floating down from the roof of the cave.
“Archie” she screamed as a scorpion landed on his shoulder. He swept it off with his hand and carried on running.
Bold rats began to emerge and nip at Polly’s ankle, trying to trip and slow her. She lost her footing and her arms reached out to cushion her fall. Pain exploded as her chin struck the floor, the flesh of her arms scraped raw as she slid along the ground. She raised her head; a scorpion advanced towards her. She froze; it was now only inches from her face as it raised its sting and prepared to strike. All around her tiny claws scrapped along the floor as the rats prepared to attack.
The darkness came alive in a frenzy of snapping jaws and slashing claws. Polly, still frozen in place, watched a foot stamp down, squashing the scorpion flat. Broken from the spell she looked up and Archie reached down with his hand pulling her up to her feet. Robin, now clothed as a panther danced and snapped his powerful jaws, keeping the advancing horde at bay.
Archie and Polly began to run, tiny furry creatures with eyes of malice, excited by the chaos and smell of Polly’s blood began to rush out from the darkness. Archie and Polly lashed out with their feet as they ran. A dark shadow raced past, clearing a path, growling encouragement, driving them on.
Polly’s hand slipped from Archie, she began to tire. Her arms pumping, willing her on but her legs became heavy with each step. Each breath stung her throat and her chest was a ball of fire. She stumbled but somehow managed to stay on her feet. All around her was laughter as the rats watched her failing strength. She stumbled again and knew she didn’t have the will to continue. She fell forward and prepared herself for the hard shock of the floor.
She landed on something soft and spiky, hairs tickling her nose.
“Hold on tight Polly” growled the Pooka.
Polly wrapped her arms around Robin’s neck and felt the muscles taut as he snapped this way and that.
“Thank…you…Robin” she said in between gasps of breath as she rode his body up and down. Polly glanced down a long cave they passed, thousands and thousands of rats were pouring out of walls converging and forming into a giant undulating river of teeth and claws. The wave of rats rushed towards them, their tiny bodies crashing against the walls of the cave as they clambered over one another to get at the tasty prize.
Polly looked ahead the rats, like the scorpions, had begun to climb to the roof of the cave. They held on waiting for them to pass and then would drop, trying to catch them with their claws and teeth.
Archie danced from side to side as he ran forward and Robin raced to join him. The passageway began to grow and widen. It opened out before them, the vast army of rats began to thin and soon they were alone. Still, they ran on and on and soon they could hear the sound of water.
They left the passageway and entered into a vast chasm. Robin began to slow and Polly raised her head. The chasm seemed to split the earth as it towered above them.
Running down the centre of the wide gorge was a wild river. She looked all around, they were trapped and there was no way to cross the fast rushing water. Robin walked to the edge of the stone outcrop, the river was fifty feet wide. Polly felt all was lost. The skittish laughter reached her ears as the first of the rats appeared and realised they were trapped. More and more laughter, Polly turned to ask Archie what they could do.
He was stood with his back to her blocking the passageway. He was swinging his boots, with each kick he sent one or two rats sailing back down into the dark passage. While he was performing this strange murderous dance he reached into the folds of his coat and pulled out his violin. He started playing and soon the rats were held back by the music and unpredictable strikes of the dancing old man.
Archie began to back away from the entrance as he continued to play; the rats didn’t pursue him, the ones at the front forming a dam. The music keeping them from coming any closer.
“Young miss. I am afraid this is the end of my journey. Robin will keep you safe” Archie said as he continued to play. The music he played soothing and relaxing. Polly looked at the rats who swayed as if they were hypnotised. She wanted to shout and scream but somehow she knew that Archie was right. The music entered into her and she understood.
“Good bye Archie. Thank you” she said as a wave of sadness crept over her. She listened to her heart and didn’t block out the pain, she would remember this old man and all he had done. The music he played singing to her soul, making it right, the right degree of sadness, the right degree of hope.
“Polly hold tight” Robin growled. He turned and raced towards Archie “goodbye old man.”
Robin pulled up just before the dam of rats and Polly watched them, lost in a reverie of cool sewers and rotten food. Robin turned and faced the river. He scrapped his paws on the floor once, twice. Then he bolted, faster and faster he ran. Polly leaned forward, her hair billowing out behind her.
The edge of the riverbank came racing towards them and then they left the ground, flying through the air. Polly’s stomach muscles clenched as they went from climbing to falling. She felt her body pulling away from her as Robin dropped, the only thing keeping them together was Polly’s clenched first. She closed her eyes and started to scream. Then the wind was forced out of her as her stomach slammed into Robin’s back.
They bobbed in the air and Polly opened her eyes. Two leathery wings protruded from Robin’s sides and they soared, gliding above the river. They came to rest on the far bank and Robin’s wings retracted into his back. The large beast, still with Polly on his back, prowled the bank.
Archie’s music could still be heard hypnotising the rats. Polly looked at the entrance to the cave where a shadow advanced, a dark silhouette against the black of the passageway. Abaddon was here.
Abaddon’s large boots walked across the army of rats. Crunching as he pushed down on his loyal subjects, sending them quietly to their death still entranced by the magical music.
The two brothers stood facing each other.
“Silence” Abaddon whispered and Archie’s song took on a strange squealing sound as one by one the strings on his violin snapped.
The sound of rats chattering replaced the sound of Archie’s music as they awoke from the strange spell Archie had weaved with his music.
“Silence” Abaddon whispered. All sound vanished. The rats stopped chattering. The wind held its breath. The river ceased to run. It was deafening, Polly felt like she needed to pop her ears. The silence went on and on, Polly was afraid to breathe, then she was afraid that she couldn’t breathe.
A slithering, scratching sound broke the silence and Polly took a shaky breath. She thought nothing could be as bad as the silence that stole her breath and then clambering over the pulsing rug of vermin clambered the fattest, ugliest creature she had ever seen.
Polly thought it was a rat but she had never seen one so big: It was the size of a small dog; its body was a patchwork of fur and pink skin; angry welts adorned the skin like cheap jewellery; fangs grew upwards from its lower jaw giving it an evil smile and it looked across at Polly with its one eye; its sharp claws scratching and its pink wormlike tail slithering.
The rat continued its slow journey and then came alongside Abaddon. It stood on its hind legs and Abaddon kneeled down and he whispered in the rat’s ear.
The rat screeched, and the tide of rats raced forward, swarming towards Archie. The rats swarmed up and over Archie who stood still. He never offered any resistance and then his loud voice filled the cavern as he started singing. He sang in a language unknown to Polly and he started to dance. The rats tried to flee away from his voice but the evil one eyed rat forced them on. Biting and nipping the smaller creatures.
Archie started laughing and then he turned; he was a yeti of brown fur and pink tails. He ran, diving into the river, taking the rats with him.
Abaddon’s and the rat’s laughter filled the air. Robin turned and raced out of the cavern. Polly hung on tight as tears stung her eyes.
His brother had become old and inept. He never even offered any resistance, resigned to his fate as he slipped into deaths warm embrace.
Abaddon looked across the river and watched the creature bound away with the girl, the swirls of her song trailing behind them. He knew with her guardian gone it would only be a matter of time. He turned to his loyal general and whispered his instructions.
Abaddon felt the rats swarming around his feet and racing down the side of the riverbank towards the water. The rats linked and pushed out over the water, climbing on top of each other, making a bridge for their master. Abaddon walked towards the bridge and started to cross, feeling the rats tiny bodies wiggling and wriggling beneath his feet. Step by step he was getting closer, closer to the song for which he searched.
The tunnel twisted and turned as they ran on and on. There was no other way, nowhere to hide. Polly buried her face into his dark fur, drying her tears. There was no time to weep. She could feel the muscles rolling under layers of fur and she could smell the damp heat coming from the Pooka as he bounded from wall to wall. Robin began to slow to a trot and then to a walk and then he stopped, it was a dead end. Polly climbed from his back and watched him transform.
Robin slumped to the floor, his back resting on a large stone and he buried his head in his hands as he began to weep. Each sob sent his ears flapping and Polly knelt down beside him, resting her hand on his shoulder. The Pooka removed his hands and peered at Polly, his large bulbous eyes were tinged with red and tears ran down his face.
Polly leaned back against the stone and felt hopeless. Archie was gone, she didn’t know where she was or what to do and they were stuck here. She closed her eyes and tried to think of anything, any way they could get out of here.
Thoughts tumbled and turned, becoming a kaleidoscope and she felt tiredness wash over her. Then, there was music. Sounds drifted into her dreams. She opened her eyes and looked up. Colours were drifting above her head rising out of the stone where they were resting. And music, all around there was music.
“It’s the angels Miss Polly” Robin whispered, his red eyes shining and his mouth turned up in a smile transforming his wretched appearance.
They stood and Polly realised that it was a well that they had been resting against.
“They are coming from there” Polly said pointing.
“That’s the Well-of-sorrows miss and the angels have come.”
The colours above them began to swirl along with the music, they began to merge and patterns could be seen. Clouds, trees, birds that flew across the cavern. They watched eyes wide as the colours seemed to solidify. They stretched and tendrils reached towards the floor. They began to take on the shape of a person, a woman. The image became clearer and Polly felt her breath catch as the colours became the likeness of her mother.
Polly ran forward, she felt the colours wrap around her, lifting her off the floor and into the sky. Splashes of colour burst all over her face as kisses peppered her cheeks.
“There, there my sweet pumpkin” her mother whispered in her ear as she swept her up and around the cavern on wings of music. “Polly you must be strong, all is not lost. You have come so far my sweet child and I am so proud of you. Your journey is nearly over but you don’t have much time, he isn’t far behind. Polly you must go, I will do all I can to delay him. Remember I love you and I will always be there for you, always. I promise.”
“Please don’t go, not again. I miss you” Polly said as her feet came to rest on the floor of the cave. Her mother knelt down in front of her.
“You must be strong Polly. You’re such a brave girl, much braver than me. I’ll never leave you again.” Polly’s mother rested her hand on Polly’s chest, just above her heart. “I’ll always be here, in your heart. Now you must go, he is coming.”
“Please don’t leave me again” Polly said as tears began to run down her face. She watched as globules of colour formed in the corner of her mother’s eyes. They grew and as her mother blinked they were set free to run down her cheeks, leaving rainbow trails. Her substance began to run as she evaporated; the colours began to swirl around Polly’s feet and retreated back down into the well.
“Err Polly, where are you going?” asked Robin.
“You heard my mother. We can’t give up. Let’s go, there must be another way out of here.”
“There is Polly, but it’s not that aways”
Polly stopped and looked at Robin. He smiled and hooked his thumb back over his shoulder towards the well.
“I’m afraid it’s this way. I think your mother is meaning for us to climb down. I don’t even think I can help you, it’s too skinny for me to flap me wings.” Robin jammed his hands in his pocket and swung his foot out in front of him, kicking at a loose stone. “I ain’t much good am I young miss?”
“Of course you are Robin and I don’t suppose it was meant to be easy.”
Polly walked over to the well and looked over the lip, bumping her head on the bucket that swung above the hole, she couldn’t see the bottom. She blew out her cheeks as she exhaled, as if dispelling the air would make her lighter and the task ahead easier. The walls were uneven, there was plenty to hold onto and she had always been a good climber. Polly turned and rested her bottom on the lip of the well, she swung her legs out over the side. They dangled, two exclamations in a circle of black.
“See you at the bottom miss Polly.” Robin jumped up onto the lip of the well. Polly shuddered as two sets of arms sprouted out from his body finishing in soft black pads. Dark coarse hair covered his body like a wave and his legs shrunk. She watched the giant spider scramble out over the top of the well and climb down face first.
Polly waited until Robin was well out of sight, she didn’t want to be anywhere near that thing. Her hands gripped the edge and her feet scrambled trying to find purchase. She dug the front of her foot into the tiny gaps and started to climb down. Hand, foot, hand, foot, as she descended into the gloom.
Her arms and legs began to tire. She stopped, resting on the side of the well. Her arms started to shake and her left foot searched below her for a shelf to rest on. Her foot found a small corner to take her weight, she moved her arms and all her weight was on the thin ledge. She felt it crumble, her foot scrapped against the rock face as she tried to find purchase. Her hands grasped at the rock face, her nails splintering as they tried to dig in. Her body came away and she started to fall back. Slowly she dropped as the air cushioned her fall.