Rough Steps is my take on this week’s writephoto–of a stairway, which as you can see is pretty rough-hewn.
My thanks go to KL Caley of New2Writing.com for continuing to keep us up to the mark with not only a prompt each week, but by reblogging and cataloguing our efforts for a round-up post on a Thursday morning.
I’ve been to places that looked a bit like this–especially watchtowers on the Spanish Coast. But I decided to come closer to home, and prove Chris the Story Reading Ape right when he said I’d have more stories about my Princelings. This is the second this year: the first was George and the Maiden, another writephoto that featured a tower! This story is just under 1000 words.
“And up here, we’re planning a balcony, overlooking the forest. Take care on the steps.”
Miles, formerly king of Castle Fortune, led Fred, formerly king of Castle Marsh, up the steps to where his new parapet was under construction.
Everyone thought the art of castle building was long gone, but many people, young and old, had come forward when a call for builders and stonemasons had gone out. First to feel the crack of the mason’s hammers had been Castle Forest, destroyed in the battles between Lord Colman and King Benson. Neither of them had survived even before the revolution.
Once partially restored, Castle Forest had become a Centre of Excellence for stonemasons. Fred and his brother George had quickly made use of their services for repairs to their own castle. But Miles had seen a vision of what his once-deserted castle could become.
Fred clambered up the rough steps, making full use of the angular stones on the sides to hold onto. “I had to get someone to explain what a parapet was. How did you unearth the idea?”
Miles shrugged as he turned to help Fred out of the winding stairwell onto the flat roof. “Just saw a picture and thought: safe landing.”
“But what if you overshoot? George has ended up in the reeds on several occasions.”
“Well, landing on this surface means you can pull up quicker than on the water, and I’ll have a great safety net to rig up at the sides, so you can catch a plane from whichever angle it arrives.”
Fred shook his head. “Amazing. How on earth did you think of that?”
“Oh, George thought of it.”
That explained a lot, Fred thought. His brother was an expert at flying, at designing flying machines, and apparently in getting them to land safely. How did he come up with these ideas?
“He’s always coming up with new ideas,” Miles continued. “But then it runs in the family, doesn’t it. Look at all the ideas you come up with for helping the country run smoothly.”
It was Fred’s turn to shrug. “Even greater view from up here than the west window,” he said, thinking back to the first days he’d spent at Castle Fortune, during the pirate rampages of 2011. He stared at the sky. The clouds were dark in the west, billowing up into cumulus clouds, and rushing in, growing fast. A sudden blast of wind pushed them along the flat surface. Miles grabbed at his coat, which was threatening to turn into a parachute.
“That’s coming in fast,” he shouted, since the wind whipped his words away.
“Yes!” Fred pulled his own coat around his body. “Maybe we should go down.”
They started for the stairwell they’d come up, now a good twenty yards away. Into the wind. As Fred battled against the force of it, Miles came up behind and linked arms, the better to keep them both going forward. Then hail spattered them, driving into their faces. Fred ducked his head down, protecting his eyes, which were screwed up against the wind anyway.
“Crikey! Where did this come from?” Miles shouted, and pressed forward towards the tower.
The wind dropped and they almost fell into the opening at the top of the stairs. The hail powered straight down, so they huddled inside the stairwell, with it streaking past the opening, and bouncing inside and down the steps.
Fred said nothing. His face was still screwed up, both eyes shut.
“Are you hurt?”
“Um, I’m just waiting for the pain to subside before I find out.”
The hail stopped as suddenly as it had come. Miles looked out, then got out of the shelter and looked around. Ice covered his parapet, granules of it gradually melting into a large lake. A lake which seemed to be flowing towards them.
“Oh no! Fred, grab the side of the stairs, there’s a flood of hailwater on its way.”
“Why would… Oh!” Fred grabbed the nearest rough block and stepped up onto the ledge above the stair itself. His eyes were open, although he was blinking rapidly to help restore his sight.
The water gushed past them, swirling as it hit the sides of the rough-hewn steps, and turning into a whirlpool as it found its ideal course to ground level. After nearly fifteen seconds, it stopped.
“Did it all drain down here?” Fred asked, a slight tremor in his voice.
Miles looked out. The sun was breaking through, and steam started twisting its tendrils off the rapidly warming surface. “I guess it did. I wonder who thought that would be a good idea?”
He looked down the stairwell. The water had dislodged several blocks, and now there were wide gaps between steps, and upended stones part-blocking the way. “I’m not sure we can get down this way. How are your eyes now?”
“Much better, thanks. Is this the only way up and down at present?”
“No, we have got a simple hatchway down to the old servants quarters. Let’s see if that’s okay.”
It was. They got down to the ground without further incident, and Fred’s eyes seemed completely recovered. “I think I must have got sand or chemical in them when I looked down and the hail kicked upwards.”
Later Miles reported the incident of the water rushing down the stairwell to the head mason.
“But why did you go that way, begging your pardon. It’s only some rough steps for emergency access and drainage as you saw. You were in real danger without the proper safety gear. The proper staircase for visitors and flyers is on the other side.” And he took Miles to inspect it.
Gazing at the lovely level staircase, the smooth plastered walls, and the neat door at the top, Miles decided he’d not mention it to Fred. The rough steps had nearly killed them.
© J M Pett 2021
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