“Is it safe?” Laura asked as the sound of footsteps faded away.
Laura giggled in the darkness. Bryony could feel cold sweat beading on her skin. Something was tickling the back of her neck and she rubbed at the skin with trembling fingers. Jimmy opened the door and peeked out.
“Looks to be.”
“Good. Can we get out of here then? I can’t breathe.”
Jimmy stepped out of the empty cupboard and in the dim light Bryony could just make out the thin threads of old cobwebs. She shuddered and stepped out into the cold, night air, stroking her now sore neck. Laura followed and Jimmy closed the door behind them.
“It’s spooky,” Laura giggled.
Night had come while they were hiding. They were sheltered beneath a square corridor which surrounded an open, lawned courtyard. Bryony could just make out the stars but she daren’t move for a better look. Surrounding them were windows. Some of them had lights on but most were dark. She fully expected to see gaunt, pale faces looking out of them.
Bryony began to shiver and tried to remember why she had agreed to this. If they got caught, they would be in big trouble. Not just getting a warning from the police trouble. No, if they got caught Bryony was pretty sure this was going to jail trouble. She wondered if it was too late to just go home.
“There’ll be security guards,” she said. Jimmy grabbed Laura’s hand and led her towards the edge of the path and looked up the windows that surrounded them.
“Jimmy,” Bryony hissed. “You’ll be seen.”
“You worry too much,” Jimmy replied without even looking back.
“You don’t worry enough,” Bryony mumbled. She looked imploringly at Laura.
“Oh come on, Bri, where’s your sense of adventure?”
Bryony sagged and followed Jimmy and Laura as they moved around the centre courtyard. Her eyes flicked from window to window, searched every shadow, studied the closed and presumably locked front doors. She couldn’t see anyone, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there.
“I think we should leave,” she whispered. Jimmy shook his head.
“We’re here now. We might as well make the most of it.”
“What are you expecting to do?” Bryony said, her voice a little too loud. “Go and jump on the king’s bed? Let’s just get out of here.”
“I want to go too.”
Jimmy looked between Laura and Bryony and exhaled loudly.
“You’re both cowards.”
Bryony stopped herself from swinging a fist at him. She pushed past him, dragging Laura behind her, and walked down the path.
“And how are you planning on getting out?” Jimmy hissed. Bryony slowed to a stop.
“And what do you suggest?”
Laura shook her head.
“The abbey scares me.”
“It’s our only route out of here.”
“I mean, why look after the house but not rebuild the abbey?” Laura asked, leaning closer to Bryony. She had a point. Bryony had never understood how the royal family could maintain such a large, immaculate house but allow the abbey to fall to ruin.
Before Jimmy or Bryony could answer, a bright light shone at the end of the path. Instinctively, the three threw themselves against the wall. The light danced and music began to play.
“What’s that?” Byrony hissed.
“It’s beautiful,” Laura said and began to walk towards the light.
“Laura. No.” Bryony grabbed hold of her friend and held her back.
“What is it?”
“They’re having a party or something, that’s all. We need to leave.”
“It’s coming from the abbey.” Jimmy pointed out.
Bryony studied the dancing light at the end of the path as it turned from a rosy pink to a soft blue. Jimmy pushed past, breaking Bryony’s grip on Laura, and approached the light. He walked into the corner, through the narrow corridor and disappeared from view.
“Jimmy,” Bryony hissed. Laura followed him and soon Bryony stood alone, listening to her heart pounding.
She approached the light and stepped into the narrow corridor that led down to the abbey ruins.
“Laura? Jimmy?” There was no answer. A door slammed shut behind her. Bryony spun round, palms on the wooden door, her breath coming heavy.
A high pitched noise made her turn, planting her back against the door. A person hovered in front of her. A person, no bigger than her index finger, with two arms and two legs and a face with a big smile and four silvery wings, wearing straps of blue cloth across her modesty. It looked like silk. The creature’s eyes were blue and too big for her head. Bryony held her breath.
The tiny figure held out a hand to her. Bryony stared at it with wide eyes. The creature gripped Bryony’s top and with surprising strength pulled her down towards the abbey.
The ruined structure was bathed in light and all around tiny creatures zipped around in the air, leaving coloured light in trails behind them. Bryony gawped up at them. She flinched as one flew past her ear and her gaze was dragged down. Down, to the two dark figures lying in the dirt. Both were face down and motionless.
Byrony stared at the bodies of her friends and then up at the tiny creature who still gripped her top, smiling at her with razor sharp teeth. She wanted to scream and opened her mouth but no sound came out. She stepped back as hundreds of the tiny creatures began to swarm around her. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t breathe. Playful music and the humming of wings pounded in her ears and flashes of colour danced before her eyes.