Roderick Gordon: Deeper

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Roderick Gordon Deeper
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    Chicken House
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    Фэнтези / на английском языке
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    190529462X, 978-1905294626
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Deeper: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The Tunnels adventure is far from over for Will Burrows. In his quest to find his father, Will is plunged even deeper underground. And as if things weren't bad enough already, he stumbles across a Styx plot with terrible implications for the world aboe. And a sister who isn't finished yet…

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Roderick Gordon, Brian Williams


"And I listened, and I heard

Hammers beating, night and day,

In the palace newly reared,

Beating it to dust and clay:

Other hammers, muffled hammers,

Silent hammers of decay."

— Ralph Hodgson (1871–1962) From The Hammers

Part One

Breaking Cover


With a hiss and a clunk, the doors whisked shut, depositing the woman by the bus stop. Apparently indifferent to the whipping wind and the pelting rain, she stood watching as the vehicle rumbled into motion again, grinding the gears as it wound its way laboriously down the hill. Only when it finally vanished from sight behind the briar hedges did she turn to gaze at the grassy slopes that rose on either side of the road. Through the downpour they seemed to fade into the washed-out gray of the sky itself, so that it was difficult to tell where the one started and the other finished.

Clutching her coat tightly at the neck, she set off, stepping over the pools of rainwater in the crumbling asphalt at the edge of the road. Although the place was deserted, there was a watchfulness about her as she scanned the road ahead and occasionally glanced back over her shoulder. There was nothing particularly furtive about this — any young woman in a similarly isolated spot might have taken the same care.

Her appearance offered little clue as to who she was. The wind constantly flurried her brown hair across her wide-jawed face, obscuring her features in an ever-shifting veil, and her clothing was unremarkable. If anyone had happened by, they would most likely have taken her to be a local, perhaps on her way home to her family.

The truth couldn't have been more different.

She was Sarah Jerome, an escaped Colonist who was on the run for her life.

Walking a little farther along, she suddenly strode up the verge and hurled herself through a parting in the briar hedge-row. She alighted in a small hollow on the other side and, keeping low, spun around so she had a clear view of the road. Here she remained for a full five minutes, listening and watching and animal-alert. But other than the beat of the rain and the bluster of the wind in her ears, there was nothing.

She was truly alone.

She knotted a scarf over her head, then scrambled from the hollow. Moving quickly away from the road, she crossed the field before her in the lee of a loose stone wall. Then she climbed a steep incline, maintaining a fast pace as she reached the crest of the hill. Here, silhouetted against the sky, Sarah knew she was exposed and wasted no time in continuing down the other side, into the valley that opened out before her.

All around, the wind, channeled by the contours, was driving the rain into confused, twisting vortices, like diminutive hurricanes. And through this, something jarred, something registered in the corner of her eye. She froze, turning to catch a brief glimpse of the pale form.

A chill shot down her spine.

The movement didn't belong to the sway of the heathers or the beat of the grasses… It had a different rhythm to it.

She fixed her eyes on the spot until she saw what it was. There, on the valley side, a young lamb came fully into view, prancing a chaotic gambol between the tussocks of fescue. As she watched, it suddenly bolted behind a copse of stunted trees, as if frightened. Sarah's nerves jangled. What had driven it away? Was there somebody else close by — another human being? Sarah tensed, then relaxed as she saw the lamb emerge into the open once again, this time escorted by its mother, who chewed vacantly as the youngster began to nuzzle her flank.

It was a false alarm, but there was little hint of relief, or of amusement, in Sarah's face. Her eyes didn't stay on the lamb as it began to scamper around again, its fleece fresh as virgin cotton wool, in marked contrast to its mother's coarse, mud-streaked coat. There was no room for such diversions in Sarah's life, not now, not ever. She was already checking the opposite side of the valley, scouting it for anything that didn't fit.

Then she was off again, picking her way through the Celtic stillness of the lush green vegetation and over the smooth slabs of stone, until she came to a stream nestled in the crook of the valley. Without a moment's hesitation, she strode straight into the crystal clear waters, altering her course to that of the stream and sometimes using the moss-covered rocks as stepping stones when they afforded her a faster means through it.

As the level of the water rose, threatening to seep in over the tops of her shoes, she hopped back onto the bank, which was carpeted with a springy green pad of sheep-cropped grass. Still she maintained the same unrelenting pace and, before long, a rusted wire fence came into view, then the raised farm track that she knew ran behind it.

She spotted what she'd come for: Where the farm track intersected the stream there stood a crude stone bridge, its sides crumbling and badly in need of repair. Her course beside the stream was taking her straight toward it, and she broke into a trot in her haste to get there. Within minutes she had arrived at her destination.

Ducking under the bridge, she paused to wipe the moisture from her eyes. Then she crossed to the other side, where she held completely still as she studied the horizon. The evening was drawing in and the rose-tinged glow of newly lit streetlamps was just beginning to filter through a screen of oak trees, which hid all but the tip of the church steeple in the distant village.

She returned to a point halfway along the underside of the bridge, stooping as her hair snagged on the rough stone above. She located an irregular block of granite, which was slightly proud of the surface. With both hands, she began to pry it free. It was the size and weight of several house bricks, and she grunted with the effort as she bent to place it on the ground by her feet.

Straightening up, she peered into the void, then inserted her arm all the way to her shoulder and groped around inside. Her face pressed against the stonework, she found a chain, which she tried to pull down on. It was stuck fast. Tug as she might, she couldn’t move it. She swore and, taking a deep breath, braced herself for another attempt. This time it gave.

For a second, nothing happened as she continued to pull one-handed on the chain. Then she heard a sound like distant thunder emanating from deep within the bridge.

Before her, hitherto invisible joints broke open with a spray of mortar dust and dried lichen, and an uneven, door-sized hole opened before her as a section of the wall lifted back, then up. After a final thud that made the whole bridge quake, all was silent again except for the gurgle of the stream and the patter of rain.

Stepping into the gloomy interior, she took a small key-ring flashlight from her coat pocket and switched it on. The dim circle of light revealed she was in a chamber some fifty feet square, with a ceiling that was sufficiently high to allow her to stand upright. She glanced around, registering the dust motes as they drifted lazily through the air, and the cobwebs, as thick as rotted tapestries, which festooned the tops of the walls.

It had been built by Sarah's great-great-grandfather in the year before he'd taken his family underground for a new life in the Colony. A master stonemason by trade, he'd drawn on all his skills to conceal the chamber within the crumbling and dilapidated bridge, intentionally choosing a site miles from anywhere on the seldom-used farm track. And as to why exactly he'd gone to all this trouble, neither of Sarah's parents had been able to provide any answers. But whatever its original purpose, this was one of the very few places she felt truly safe. Nobody, she believed, would ever find her here. She pulled off her scarf and shook her hair free.

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