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The Rats in the Walls


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His words were all there was to punctuate the suffocating blackness yet he couldn’t be sure if he was speaking aloud or merely hearing his own voice inside his head.

Where am I? WHERE AM I?  Days, or weeks? So thirsty! SO THIRSTY! Is this a TEST? A test—of course. It is BROTHER LAPIS! I know it. HE is testing me. Brother Lapis is testing me. He wants to know if I am a worthy tool of the Builder. THAT’S IT! I’m devout. I’m DEVOUT! Surely I’ve passed. BROTHER LAPIS, I HAVE PASSED YOUR TEST, YOU CAN COME NOW! Unless I’ve failed. Have I failed? Have I failed the test, Brother? OH SWEET BUILDER, LEVEL BE THY PLANE. SEND ME INTO THE EMBRACE OF YOUR APPRENTICES QUICKLY. QUICKLY! A ‘sacrificial virgin’ the creature called me. No. no, no, no, NO!  Brother Lapis would NOT sacrifice ME. Wait, what was that sound? The creature, is it coming back for me? I just have to hold out a little LONGER. Yes—just a little longer… Something bumped into me—something soft and plump. It must have been the rats; the viscous, gelatinous, ravenous army that feast on the dead and the living. . .  Blessed Builder why are they so huge what are they rats can’t grow that large can they WHY IS NO ONE COMING? Where are my brothers? Where are my sisters? Where is Brother Lapis? Where is Brother Sevas? Where is Sister Loxley? Where is Brother Rudyard? Where is Sister Foscari? Where are the Fathers? How can they allow this? Where are all the students? Where is my mother? MOTHER SAVE ME!  Where am I? WHERE AM I? WHERE AM I? Days or weeks? So thirsty. SO THIRSTY… The rats… SAVE ME BUILDER THE RATS ARE COMING!



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  1. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 16, 2015

    Brother Sevas bowed his head and pulled his cowl a little more snugly about his neck. It was still August but he felt an an autumn-like chill blowing through the city this evening. The church was empty save for he and Brother Lapis. Attendance at the church had been waning for years. No one comes.

    Brother Sevas regarded Brother Lapis, singing Compline for Lucius. His voice was gruff, harsh from overuse, plowing through off key lines with the confidence of a professionally trained, well seasoned opera star. Their punishment was to sing the full service every night for the week, or until Lucius was found. It had been four days now. No one is found alive after four days.

    Poor young Lucius. It would fall to he and Sister Foscari to make the trip to north to Port Hoffsin for the difficult task of informing the young man’s family. They were poor, that much Sevas knew. Lucius had been dutifully sending them his allowance each month.

    Brother Lapis was reaching the end, the final notes echoing through the galleries of the cathedral. He would sing the Nocturne next. Such stamina should only be the stuff of legend, Sevas thought to himself. He pulled his robe around him and tried to get more comfortable on his bench. He closed his eyes, lulled by the less familiar opening phrases of the Nocturne service. He assumed he had nodded off when he heard the voice break and stop before the service had reached the end.

    Lapis spoke silently, his eyes fixed on the large stained glass behind the altar, depicting a floating man carrying a hammer in each hand. It reflected the lamplight from within the church.

    Sevas sat up and looked at Lapis curiously. There was a calmness about him that was not characteristic of Brother Lapis at all.  

    “Rafael,” Lapis said, addressing Brother Sevas. “What was your name?”

    “What?” said Sevas, wondering if he had heard correctly.

    Lapis turned to Sevas, a puzzled look on his face. “I don’t think you ever told the name you had before you joined the Order.”

    “Randall Toft,” Sevas said slowly. “Why?”

    “I don’t know.” Lapis said, still puzzled.

    The two men considered each other in the airy silence of the cathedral. Suddenly, Sevas sprang to his feet. “I know where he is!” he exclaimed. Taking a candelabrum from the stand, he ran to the passage leading to the lower levels. Brother Lapis took a lantern and hastened to follow.

  2. Brother Lucius Brother Lucius August 16, 2015

    Scratching, SCRATCHING! They will break soon through—the rats in the walls; they will find me, so many of them; they will bury me in their bodies. I will not be saved. Soon. Soon it will be over. So hungry, how many days has it been? They are close now.  Oh rats; you slithering, scurrying rats whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon rats that race behind the stones of this room and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known; the rats they can never hear; the rats, the rats in the walls. Come rats! Lucius is ready for you! Sup on me and I will sup on you …

  3. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 16, 2015

    Brother Sevas lead Brother Lapis through a row of iron gated cells that lined a narrow hallway in the lowest level of the cathedral. He chattered anxiously as they made their way to ward off the shadows their small candles were throwing on the damp stone walls. “Why didn’t I think of this when we were down here before? Eh? Anyone who was a schoolboy in my day would know about it. It was just before my first summer. An upperclassman dragged me down here and double stripscrew dared me, so I had to do it, you know.”

    Sevas turned a corner, counted the cells on his left until he found the right one. The door was ajar, he opened it further to allow his bulk through. Lapis held his lantern around the room to examine it, finding nothing out of the ordinary.

    “Give me your dagger, Lapis,” Sevas said. Lapis passed his dagger handle first, then Sevas crouched at the base of the wall and started working on a group of stones set into the wall. “I was terrified, let me tell you. He pulled these stones out of the wall here, and told me to go through and carve my old name into the wall. Bastard pushed me through and sealed me in of course, all I had was my stub of a candle and my pen knife. I beat on the walls and yelled as loud as I could, heavens I think I even wet myself! They let me out eventually, of course. And you know I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to return the favor to someone!”

    Lapis grunted, noting the hole that Sevas had made in the wall.

    “Apparently this cell was constructed to allow certain prisoners escape without anyone noticing. Who knows what sort of intrigues the church was involved with back then. Story goes that this passage goes down to the sewers, where they’d arrange someone to meet you in a boat and take you far away. Heh.”

    “That’s all very fascinating, but where is Lucius?” Lapis demanded.

    Sevas pointed through the dark hole in the wall. “Through there. I’m afraid I’ve gotten too large to wriggle through there now, old boy.” Here Sevas looked at Lapis expectantly.

    Lapis unbuttoned the long opening of his cassock and tossed it aside to allow himself more freedom of movement before approaching the breach in the wall. He pushed his lantern in before him before disappearing himself.

    “Lucius!” Sevas heard Lapis calling from within the tunnel. Silence stretched seconds to minutes. Then Lapis calling back to him. “You’re right. There’s names carved all over the walls.

    He heard some muffled sounds, then Lapis again: “I found him!”

    Sevas crouched down to stick his head through the hole to hear better. “How is he?” the large man called anxiously. Shuffling sounds came from hidden cell ahead, and the light flickered as Lapis moved his position. Finally, Lapis’ voice came back.

    “He’s alive!”

  4. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis August 16, 2015

    It had taken some doing to get Lucius out of the secret tunnel, but once he was close enough to the opening for Sevas to be able to reach him, the larger man was able to pull him through with relative ease. Lapis took up his lantern and examined the prison where Lucius had spent the last four days.

    “He’s weak. It’s going to take both of us to get him up the stairs,” Sevas called through the hole to Lapis.

    “Yes, I know. I don’t plan on coming back here to take another look around.” Lapis had a hunch. He swept the light from his lantern across the walls, searching for the name that would connect this place to the author of the journal he had taken from the Red Dragon. The pool of light on the wall paused. There it was. TOBY BUTTERFIELD.

    Lapis twisted himself back around in the cramped space to prepare to leave. He looked down the passageway, noting how the tunnel dropped sharply downward. That was going to have to be sealed. That was the way by which the mad poet Tobias, who had long ago been Toby Butterfield, had gone back to his brothers in Dunsany.

    And if what Tobias had written in his journal held any truth at all, they intended to return.

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