The Stumpwork Robe (The Chronicles of Eirie 1)

The Stumpwork Robe (The Chronicles of Eirie 1) by Prue Batten

Book: The Stumpwork Robe (The Chronicles of Eirie 1) by Prue Batten Read Free Book Online
Authors: Prue Batten
Tags: Fiction - Fantasy
rain is wet.’
    ‘Ah, but pet,’ he would reply running a hand through her damp, frizzled hair. ‘Mizzle-drizzle seeps and sighs right into the very skin. Until it makes one puckered and wrinkled as a dried out old prune.’
    The drizzle on the Barrow Hills had become determined, fogging the landscape with a wet wash. The first drop of something heavier hit Ana’s forehead and she decided to shelter for the moment in the tower. Her hand reached for the wrought knob of the old door but as she grasped it, a singular puff of wind slid past dragging wetness and damp with it and blowing open the growling door. She jerked her fingers back and stood tentatively surveying the glum shadows. But the windswept rain pushed her further through the entrance, her footsteps echoing around an interior that cloaked her in shadow as shafts of unwilling grey daylight squeezed through arrow slits in the walls. She negotiated her way across a stone and beam-strewn floor, shrieking as a rat scampered past her feet and her face brushed some lacy, sticky web. Backing away, feet disturbing a cloud of dust and shards of stone, she located a stair clinging with determination to the weeping walls and began to climb. Another cobweb brushed her face, a spider sliding away to the other side of the web to glare at her. Ana jumped up two steps to get away from it, her heart racketing like a moth’s wings against glass.
    A sound ground out faintly from above and the moth’s wings froze. ‘Hallo... who’s there?’ she called.
    A crushing noise filled the tower subfusc, as though wheat were being crushed by a quern. ‘HALLO!’ she called again, louder. The grinding stopped momentarily and then started again almost above her head. She could imagine a pair of hands rolling the round stone back and forth, back and forth over the grain as it lay in its shallow bowl, an ivory flour dusting the bowl. She jumped up the steps and rounded a corner of the tower as the milling noise continued, looking above rather than at her feet and failing to notice one complete step had crumbled so that she fell, cracking her shins. Swearing and rubbing her leg, she rounded the next bend. Reason told her this dark, crumbling tower was no place to pursue idle curiosity; dim light and damp air were hardly the stuff of interest but she was curious and neglected to remember her father's advice. 'Ana,' he had said, 'curiosity is ever a mortals' downfall. Beware the eldritch.'
    The milling now was as loud as if she were in the presence of a dozen bakers’ wives as they patiently ground millet or wheat. Despite the precarious nature of the tower, Ana’s head filled with the delights of fresh flour and hot bread, blotting out caution as her stomach grumbled. When she placed her hand on the door timbers she felt the vibrations of grinding through her fingers. She called again in the vain hope she could talk, pass the time of day, maybe have breakfast as the rain continued outside. ‘Hallo there, can you hear me?’
    The vibrations continued.
    The handle to the door in front of her was curiously wrought to represent a hand bunched into a fist and in the weak drizzle-filled light slanting through the arrow slits, it glistened dully with the patina of aged bronze. Her hand reached forward and she grasped the knob.
    ‘DON’T, ANA! DON’T TOUCH!’
    But too late… the bunched metal fist sprang open and cold fingers grasped her hand. The cramped, tumbled room echoed with a scream as the latch clicked and the door began to move outwards allowing a chink of oyster light to slide through.
    ‘HELP! HELP ME!’ The momentum of the opening door dragged Ana to a sheer drop some hundred or more precipitous feet off the wet ground outside. She glanced down in terror, toes gripping the floor, feet sliding and leaving a trail behind in the dust as she glimpsed the glistening saw-toothed stones lying where they had landed as they crashed from the decrepit building. Spread-eagled across the

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