Jaxen panted heavily, as he sprinted down the stairs of the clock tower. He had- he checked his pocket watch- three minutes to get out of here before it struck the eighth hour, and the bells blew out his ears. He'd heard the stories of the clock tower tinkers who didn't make it out in time. They never regained their hearing.
A bullet ricocheted off the metal beam next to him, narrowly missing his face. Then there was, of course, the guards following close behind him. They'd been on his tail ever since he'd taken the necklace, following him from the palace. The chunky stone pendant thumped against his chest as he wound his way down through the tower. If his sources were right, there was a door off of one of the landings a few more floors down. The door would take him to an abandoned spiral staircase that went all the way down into Imus. It was the only place he could think of where he'd truly be safe from her. The Queen. She would never step foot down there, and he doubted any of her mindless followers would either. Nobody in their right mind wanted to.
Jaxen paused for a brief moment, looking over his shoulder at the railing above. The thunderous footfalls of the three guards echoed throughout the tower, shaking the platform in a way that made him nervous to be beneath them. A crack of gunfire pierced the air, and Jaxen took that as a sign to keep moving. He checked the pocket watch. Two minutes. Picking up the pace, he scanned the area around him. He wasn't entirely sure what he was looking for. All he could find out was that the door was on the sixth, possibly seventh landing from the top of the tower.
The inside of his mask ran slick with sweat as he ran down another level. He was fairly certain this was the sixth floor, but he could have lost count. He wasn't sure. This level did seem promising. It had a suspension bridge running out from the main platform, extending to the other side of the tower. The sound of approaching footsteps urged him forward. The bridge wobbled under his feet, held onto the platform above by some worryingly small chains. Jaxen looked over his shoulder. One of the guards had come into view.
"Shit." He cursed under his breath.
Jaxen continued forward arms outstretched, trying to balance against the lurching ground beneath his feet. A jolt of movement sent Jaxen sprawling onto the ground, as the guard also stepped onto the bridge. Dangerously close to the edge, he peered over. Thankfully, there was another platform directly beneath him, leading straight to a door. He could hear the guards closing in behind him. He prayed to God that that door was the one he needed and rolled over the edge of the bridge. Jaxen gripped onto the side, as his body swung in the space beneath him. When he was sure he was straight above the platform below, he let go. His knees bore the brunt of his landing, but he ignored the pain, getting up and continuing to run.
Three thuds behind him told him the guards weren't far behind. He didn't dare look over his shoulder this time, keeping his focus on the door in front of him. Jaxen yanked on the handle when he reached the door. It didn't budge.
Jaxen took a few steps back. Taking a deep breath, he ran forward. Twisting his torso, he slammed his shoulder into the door. The door pushed open, and in the momentum, he followed it. A bullet whizzed past his ear, flying through the space he'd just been standing.
Jaxen looked behind him. The guards made no move towards him, lowering their guns. He didn't have time to question it, instead turning heel and running across the bridge. Already the light was getting darker, the exit bringing him out a few levels below the city. The bridge began to slope downward, curving slightly. Jaxen could just make out the spiral staircase disappearing into the inky darkness of Imus.
As Jaxen wound down the first of the curves of the stairs, a sound like thunder tore through the air. He looked up wildly but could see no lightning in the sky. He heard the noise again. It wasn't thunder, he realised. More like the strangled cry of a man. Jaxen slowed this time, searching for the source of the noise. Perched atop a spire not too far above him, a hunched winged figure was poised. He watched as the beast tilted it's head back, releasing its guttural screech. Launching itself from the building, it flew straight towards Jaxen. His blood chilled, and he forced himself to keep moving.
Jaxen's lungs were on fire, and his legs wobbled like jelly beneath him. He didn't know how long he could keep going for. Round and round he went, lower and lower he descended, somehow finding the strength to continue. Once in a while, he heard the beating of the beast's wings, the sound like metal slicing through air, and he would pick up the pace. Other than those moments he had no idea where the beast was.
Or what the beast was. Jaxen had never seen anything like it. Perhaps it was part of the Queen's plan he had overheard. It didn't matter. All that did was finding a way to be rid of it. There was almost no light left now, and he could barely see. The staircase began to creak and groan beneath his feet. Jaxen gripped the railing that lined the steps. He didn't have time to worry about it. Slowing for a moment, he looked out into the darkening sky. As far as he could see there was no sign of the beast. Maybe he'd lost it.
He kept moving, but at a much slower pace, as he tried to catch his breath. The steps creaked louder with each passing footfall until one resonated with a sharper snap. The metal gave way beneath him, his leg falling through. The torn metal sliced at his skin, and Jaxen was flung forward, cracking his head on the railing.
He lifted his head. His eyes ached, as he tried to steady his head and his vision swam, the world a blurred mess. Jaxen blinked. Everything remained blurry, and now little dots of purple and blue danced in the air before him. From somewhere nearby, he heard the call of the creature.
Jaxen clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth. He grabbed hold of the railing beside him. With a deep breath, he tried to pull his leg free. Hot pain stung through his leg, jolting through his body, and he slumped back down. He could hear the beast now. The beat of its wings. Like razor sharp metal being cut through the air. Gathering his strength, Jaxen let out a cry as he ripped his leg from the jagged metal that held it. The pain was extraordinary. Like nothing, he'd ever felt. Jaxen tried to ignore it. Scrambled to his feet, and tried to keep moving. The world swam again. Swirling tendrils of black snaked at the side of his vision.
"Must keep moving," Jaxen muttered through clenched teeth.
He tried to take a step forward. Immediately, his leg gave out, and he felt himself start to fall. His shoulder slammed into a step, and he started to slide down. He didn't have the strength left to get up. The beast was closer now. The sharp whine of metal grinding metal filled his ears. It was an ear-splitting sound, piercing his head. Why did the beast sound like that? Curiosity gave Jaxen the strength to twist slightly and look up at the creature. He wished he hadn't. The beast swiped at Jaxen, the curved talons protruding from what almost seemed like human feet, grabbing him and latching into the skin of his shoulders. He was yanked into the air.
His neck became heavy, and Jaxen hung his head looking at the darkness below him. He had no idea how far above Imus he was. If the beast dropped him, would he inevitably fall to his death? Just as he was about to close his eyes, giving up, a white light started to glow from his chest. The necklace? The light shone brighter, and a strangled gurgle came from the beast. The grip on Jaxen's shoulders began to loosen. He had to close his eyes now for the light had become blindingly bright. The stone against his chest started to burn. It singed his clothes, burning into his skin. The heat spread from his chest and into his shoulders. The beast screamed. It retracted his claws, and Jaxen screamed. Their cries mingled together in a discordant lament od pain, as both hurtled towards the ground. Soft material cushioned Jaxen's impact, before he rolled off and slammed into the ground, his world going black.
YOU ARE READING
Beasts of Steel and Bone *WATTYS WINNER*Science Fiction
When skin and bone are stolen, darkness uses wings of flesh and lead. ******** Beneath the vibrant city of Mallinasport, awash in the pollution is Imus, a commu...