“What were those things?” asked Emerson referring to the creatures they had seen climbing down the walls of the pit. He was bent double, trying to catch his breath after the long run through the tunnel. He realized that regardless of whatever those creatures had been, they could only have come from the circular opening marked ‘Dunsany’ he’d seen on his climb down from The Gangplank’s cellar.
Apparently having outrun the creatures, the Gangplankers were taking a breather, pausing at a small chamber where the tunnel doubled-back in a split. On the right was the tunnel through which they had just run. On the left a second tunnel with a slight upward slant.
“Tol’ja.” said Gilhooly with his whiskers twitching. “Der be fings down ‘ere.” he dropped his voice. “I ‘eard tales a de Dunsany kids.” The urchin gasped as if trying to suck the word ‘Dunsany’ back in like a piece of spaghetti, his hands coming to his mouth.
“Dunsany?” questioned Emerson, cocking his head to the side and casting a curious glance at Junie. She nodded back in recognition of Mumsy’s warning.
“No!” said Gilhooly with a hint of worry rising in his voice. “I never say dat word.”
“You just said it.” Emerson narrowed his eyes. “I heard you clearly say Dunsany.” Emerson placed an exaggerated emphasis on the last word.
“Dinna!” Little Gilhooly brought his hands up to his ears. “ain’t sposta say dat word again!.” the urchin looked quite distressed. “T’is bad luck to say dat word.”
“Dunsany, Dunsany, Dunsay!” said Emerson, shrugging his shoulders in a somewhat dismissive gesture to emphasize the lack of consequence. “See… nothing bad.”
“Bad luck or not,” interjected Lapis. “Whatever those things were, they don’t appear to have followed us.” The brother raised his hand to his chin in thought. “It’s almost as if they were afraid to pass on beyond those two Ionic pillars.”
“Doric.” muttered Emerson.
Lapis appeared to smirk at Emerson’s reaction. The priest glanced down casually when something on the floor of the tunnel caught his eye. He quickly took a couple of steps forward and crouched close to the ground. “Emerson, bring the lantern a little closer.” he called over, continuing to examine the ground. “Malus and Kaylee were here. You can clearly see two sets of footprints.” he said, indicating a pair of tracks leading towards the two tunnels. “They took the fork on the left.”
“That’s odd.” said Junie, “Why would they take the wrong tunnel? Malus is pretty good with directions.”
Lapis straightened up, then peered into the darkness of the tunnel on the left. He took a few steps up the gently sloping path before turning back. “Emerson.” he called. “Bring the lantern over.”
Emerson joined Lapis. As he came alongside the brother he noticed a rope, about six inches in length, sticking out from a hole in the wall just inside the start of the passage. “I wonder what would happen if I pulled that rope.” mused Emerson reaching over to give the rope a gentle tug. Suddenly a wrought iron grate fell from the ceiling barring Emerson and Lapis within the tunnel.
“Well done Sir Sir.” said Lapis dryly as he gave the grate a shake to test its strength. “It appears we will need to find another way out.”
“Tol’ja ya shouldn’a said Dunsany.” Gil said, then quickly threw his hands up to cover his mouth.
“What should we do, Em?” Junie asked, biting her lip and tentatively testing the iron grate for herself.
Emerson rubbed the back of his neck and appeared to be thinking. “Why don’t you and Gill carry on in the direction we were headed.” He nodded down the tunnel. “Maybe these two tunnels meet up again further along.” he cast a quick glance over his shoulder before turning to Junie again. “It looks like this one spirals to the left.” Emerson paused, staring deep into Junie’s eyes, concern marking lines upon his face. “Carry on for no more than ten minutes. If we don’t meet up by then, turn around. We’ll meet back here and try to figure something else out.”
“Em…” she said softly meeting and holding his gaze.
“Junie…” Emerson whispered leaning close to the bars.
“Here’s a sandwich.” she said reaching into her pack. “In case you get hungry.”
“Thanks.” he said, reaching through the bars and taking the sandwich wrapped in brown paper.
“And Em…” she whispered.
“Yes.” the word almost caught in his throat.
“Here’s one for Dominic.” she said, handing him a second.
Junie and Gill had been walking for about ten minutes and were about to turn back when they noticed an intersection up ahead.
“This is a good sign Gil.” she said to the urchin. “Maybe the two tunnels meet up again after all.” As they approached the intersection she and Gil noticed a light on the far wall indicating someone with a lantern was approaching from the right. Though they were not yet able to see who it was, they clearly heard two people approaching. She was about to call out when she noticed the shadows cast upon the wall by two approaching figures. Something was not right about them.
Quickly she turned the wick on her own lantern down to the faintest glow she could without extinguishing it. She then took Gill by the hand and led him to the side of the wall. There was a fissure in the wall just before the intersection into which the two of them could squeeze. She and Gil held their breath as the two approaching figures suddenly appeared. They were monstrosities! Naked except for a loincloth they were a deep olive green. Each creature stood about fifteen feet in height. They were bipedal though they each had four arms. They carried spears and when the creatures turned their heads to glanced to their left, she saw they had long curved tusks on either side of their elongated mouths.
Gil panicked, running from the crack in the wall and disappearing back down the tunnel in the direction from which he and Junie had just come. The two creatures began to pursue him. Junie was about to call out when a hand covered her mouth from behind and pulled her deeper into the fissure in the wall.