Aah-oooooh! Aah-aah, aah-oooooh!
“What is that?” The sound is so close. Just outside the stone wall. The scratching and the scraping doesn’t stop either. Marshall doesn’t answer. He just stands and stares. Is he even listening? She reaches out to touch his arm and he swings around and moves her behind him.
“You need to stand back.”
“Stand back? Whatever for? Who is out there? Do you know who is getting us out of here?”
“Excellent. You are a man of your word it seems and your people are loyal to you. They have come for us.” She bends forward to look around him. He turns to face her.
The shadows on Marshall’s face blackens his already dark features. What is wrong with him. They are getting out of this tomb and it is almost…is he afraid? “Yes, well I know it must be my men, but I must warn you.”
“Warn me? About what?”
Aah-oooooh! Aah-aah, aah-oooooh! Scratch, scratch, scratch. Tsak, tsak.
“That!” Marshall’s tone definitely changes. He runs his fingers through his hair.
“Yes, what is that?”
“You really have no idea?”
Dirt and rocks fall in and roll toward her feet. Freedom is imminent. Beads of sweat line Marshall’s forehead. “My lord, whatever is the matter?”
“Listen. It is very important that whenever the way is clear you stay very close to me. Do you understand?”
“If you think to try and make this out to be more than what it is now that we may try and get out of here with no scandal.”
“What? No! You must listen to me. You heard what is out there. I am only trying to keep you safe.”
“If you will only tell me what it is.”
A large mound of dust and dirt puffs into the air and an oblong opening appears. Fresh air begins to cool the space before scrubbing sounds and muffled words follow.
“Behind me! Now, Delia!” Marshall doesn’t wait for her to react. He shoves her behind him once more before she can protest. The light from the lantern still allows some vision, but not much. Almond shaped, yellow eyes enter from the outside and float toward them in the darkness. Lips smack. It whines and sniffs on approach.
Delia’s heart pounds in her chest. The muscles of Marshall’s back tense. She leans against him for support. Can he feel the fear grip her?
The whine stops and the animal stands directly in front of them. Delia is afraid to look. She presses her face to Marshall’s shoulder. Marshall breaks the silence.
“Hey, boy how you doing?”
“Hey boy how you doing?” She steps back from Marshall at the same time the animal stands up on its hind legs and put its front two paws on Marshall’s shoulders. His height matches Marshall’s. The length of its body is covered in matted, black fur. Marshall doesn’t move, except for his lips. “Delia. Do. Not. Move.”
The animal does not like that command. It immediately looks right at her. She doesn’t move. It turns back to Marshall and proceeds to claim ownership of him. Wet dog kisses. Definitely not what she expects from this encounter. Not moving is no longer possible. She doubles over. Her laughter turns to a cough because of the dust still floating in the air. Marshall, unable to move, waves at her to stop.
“My lady, this animal is not predictable. You must contain yourself immediately.”
“I am sorry, my lord. But, do you know how absolutely silly you look laying there pinned to the ground by two paws of an oversize ‘whatever’ breed this is anyway?” Now the dog lays on top of him and glares those yellow eyes at her.
“I’m telling you, he may appear playful, but he is not. I have seen this dog maul a man to his death. There are few on the island that are not afraid of him.”
“How is it that he is still around. I mean if he is that dangerous and all and how did your men work while he was there outside and all?
“We shall soon find out I hope. I will need to get him to let me up so I can get over to try and talk to someone out there.” Marshall tries to sit up, but the weight of the animal holds him down.
“Let me try. What do you call him?”
“I don’t call him anything.”
“What do you mean? He’s not yours?”
“He definitely acts like he is yours. He is obviously protective of you.”
“He came on the same boat with me when I came over to the Island. He was much smaller then. I shared my food with him on the boat and when we got here, he followed me around a few days, but then he just took off on his own. I see him around. He is a wild dog and lives in the woods off the land. The locals think he’s some kind of protector because he seems to only like certain people. Others, he just will not choose to like. He is a very dangerous animal if he chooses against you.”
“And, you were afraid he wouldn’t like me?”
“Like I said, I have seen him maul a man to his death. I don’t know who he will like and who he will not. I don’t know what makes him threatened.”
“Well, I think it has to do with whether or not you’re afraid of them and they can tell you’re afraid. I’m just going to go over there to the entrance and try and see if I can talk to someone.”
“Lady Delia, I wouldn’t. Please. Just wait.”
“We can’t stay in here all night. I must. I think he’s perfectly content there with you. If he was going to attack me he would have.”
“Very well. Move slowly.”
Delia walks toward the entrance. The yellow eyes follow, but don’t move. A good sign. She bends down to see through the space the dog crawled through. Motion and movement, but nothing else.
“Hello? Can you hear me?” She wags her arm around in the space to get their attention.
“Hello? Miss?” A bent knee appears first then two eyes and a nose. Sidelong facial features of a man peer through the darkened opening.
“Yes, I am in here with Lord Marshall Daventry and that, animal that just crawled through here.”
“Is Lord Daventry alright? Sorry about the dog, my lady. There was nothing we could do. He would not be held back. It was him that found you. Good thing too because we were looking in the wrong place.”
Delia looks back at the dog sprawled full body on top of Marshall. Content. This dog must be their protector, not executioner. She turns back to the entrance.
“So, how are we to get out of here?”
“It looks as though you might have to crawl out the way the dog crawled in.”
“What? How in God’s name are we supposed to do that?”
“I believe we can help pull you through. You will need to come head first. You can see the dog is enormous. If he can come through, you should fit the same. The stone is too heavy, we can’t move it. You’ll have to try.”
Delia’s heart races. What if she gets stuck? What then? She can’t stay in here and the air is too warm.
The dog yawns behind her. “What are they saying? I can’t hear them.” Marshall’s voice is raspy. The weight of the dog must be stifling him.
“They want us to crawl out the way the dog came in. The stone is too heavy to move.”
“I feared as much. You have no choice. You go first and I will follow.”
“Will he let you go?”
“Don’t worry about me. You must go first. And, I would suggest removing your outer garments. It is a tight space and you will need to be as free of obstruction as possible to insure you fit easily.”
“Remove my outer garments? I will do no such thing!”
Yellow eyes narrow and a low growl emanates from the dark mound planted on Marshall’s chest.