Monday, December 20, 2010

Grimmer Fairy Tales-- Part the Sixth

An unexpected gust of wind whistled through the stale prison. The candles guttered and died, plunging them into unforgiving blackness. Catalena heard one of her companions whimper in terror, but her mind was focused on escape. They could not return the way they came, but surely there was another path out of this dreadful place. "Stay close to me. There must be another exit." Catalena's hushed command was heeded by her companions as the two other women held hands, staying as near to Catalena as they were able. She ran her hands along the stone walls to get her bearings, her eyes adjusting to the gloom. The breeze must have come from somewhere, she reasoned. Even in the pitiless dark there were faint slivers of alabaster rays in the distance. If light could escape then perhaps they could too. They were not six feet from their goal when the same chilling howl reverberated down the corridor behind them. It was closer this time...much closer. In a sheer flight of panic, Lady Heleni broke away, scurrying towards the oasis of light. Catalena warned her to stop, but the warning came too late. The young woman's screams nearly drowned out the metallic clang as the jaws of a rusty device snapped shut around her leg. Catalena knelt next to the device, straining for a better glimpse. "Heleni, stop struggling. You will only do further damage," Catalena advised. "What is this monstrous machine?" Lady Vivian queried as she made herself useful by consoling Lady Heleni as best she could. "An old animal trap. I have seen them used by hunters before," Catalena answered as she lightly ran her hand over the bloody metal. Her dexterous fingers finally found the metal toggle on the bottom of the center plate. She pushed the toggle down, yanking back on one side of the trap's jaws with all her might. The trap opened inch by painful inch. As soon as Lady Heleni's injured appendage was safely away, Catalena let the trap snap shut again. So focused on her task, it was only then did she hear the canine panting. Warm breath on the back of her neck sent a shiver down her spine. Still in a crouch, she carefully turned to face the horrid thing. A hulking wolf with forest green fur and thickly braided tail stood mere inches from her face. Dull maroon eyes glared an evil warning as the beast sized up its prey. "Vivian, help Heleni. Head towards the light. Go quickly," Catalena whispered. The women hobbled for what they could only hope was safety. Attracted to the flurry of motion, the wolf lunged, but Catalena grasped the heavy chain attached to the trap and swung the device with every ounce of strength. It struck the animal square across the chest, sending it reeling. The wolf recovered quickly, staring down its adversary standing between it and easier victims. Catalena fearlessly held her gaze on the predator's dead eyes. Her damnable curiosity placed them all in this position. She would rather die than let this wolf harm the others. "Catalena, the door was unlocked. Hurry," Vivian's frightened soprano squeaked in terror. Catalena swing the hefty trap at the beast again, distracting him with the motion while she sprinted for the door. The wolf snarled, razor teeth grazing against Catalena's back as she shoved herself and the others through the opening, kicking the metal door shut with an enormous clang. The wolf slammed against it, but the integrity of the door held. The animal snarled in frustration from the opposite side of the wall as the horrified women tumbled out from behind a dusty tapestry into the safety of a deserted hallway.

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