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A Narrow Escape

Another cannonball struck. The ground shuddered under their feet, vibrations ran through their bones. They staggered and almost fell.
A slow grinding sound followed the echoes of the impact. They looked and saw that a great hole had opened up in the stone, twenty steps below.
‘The kitchens!’ cried Margid. ‘The roof’s collapsed!’
Hooley Dan was already racing towards the disaster. Clouds of white dust billowed from the hole. Inside were chunks of stone tilted at crazy angles.
A woman scrambled out from the debris, her dust-white face unrecognisable. ‘Channie’s still inside!’
He jumped down into the hole.
‘Channie? Where are you?’
No reply. He clambered over and around the chunks of stone. Pots and saucepans lay scattered in the gloom. He could smell fried onions, bacon and tomatoes.
Behind him, Margid and Nate were calling too. They had jumped down and fanned out to spread the search.
‘Channie! Channie!’
A faint moan came from under three great blocks of stone that balanced against one another like a pyramid. He wriggled in beneath and saw Channie lying helpless. Her leg was trapped under a kitchen stove that had been tipped over and crushed by one of the blocks of stone. He squatted and took a grip on the stove.
‘Pull out when I lift,’ he ordered.
He heaved with all the strength of his arms. He couldn’t stand because the blocks angled too close above his shoulders. But he managed to lift the stove far enough for Channie to free her leg.
Then another cannonball arrived.
Hooley Dan didn’t hear the impact, only the sound of the pyramid collapsing over his head. He flung himself flat to the ground. Channie screamed as the massive weight came rushing down on top of them.
There was a terrible crunch.
The sound of crushed bones? He flexed his limbs and found himself uninjured.
He rolled over and looked up. The blocks had ground to a halt just centimetres above them.
He grabbed Channie by the hand. ‘Can you crawl now?’
She nodded and they slithered out from under the pyramid that had almost been their tomb. She still couldn’t stand, so he picked her up in his arms and carried her across the debris. Nate and Margid helped lift her out of the hole. In another minute, they were all standing on the steps again.


1. Escape!


2. Under Siege


3. Race to the Ruins


4. The Heavy Crown

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Richard Harland.