Fancy's Story by Fred Cartan

Chapter Nine
The Rescue

When Fancy opened her eyes, it was morning. Something had awakened her. She sniffed. There was a faint smell of hot metal and buring oil. She sat up and looked about. She saw nothing but a cloudy sky. She could hear and smell the sea. Then she heard something else, a grinding noise.

She looked down. The pool of water she remembered from last night was now gone. She saw a movement. The rocks at the bottom of the pit were being moved aside. She could see nothing until finally, a hand reached out from behind the top of the rocks and rolled a large rock out onto the sand.

Fancy stood quiet, watching this happen, almost to scared to move. Was it help or someone come to kill her? Finally a few more rocks at the top of the pile were moved aside and a tall dog clad in a wet, mudstained coat pulled himself out. He set a lantern down on he sand. Fancy could only see his back and could not recognize him. He turned about, and Fancy gave a faint yelp.

It was Singlefoot. He stepped over to her and held her for a minute. "Thank heaven we found you in time," he said. After asking her if she could move, he said that they would have to leave immediately and told her to follow him back down behind the pile of rocks. He picked up his lantern and climbed down into a gap under the rocks.

She stiffly climbed down behind him and found herself in a narrow rocky tunnel with sea water sloshing back and forth across its bottom. The floor of the passage was rough and rocky and the shellfish and seaweed on the rocks made and the limited light from the lanern made travel difficult.

"Hurry," Singlefoot said. "We'll have to be out of this tunnel before the tide rises any more or we'll drown." Fancy could see a glow of light from the direction of the sea. Singlefoot half carried her, half led her through the tunnel. At a low spot they were forced to wade through water up to Fancy's waist. Finally they came out of a crevasse onto the sea shore and climbed up and across a shingly beach and then up and around a rocky slope to the top of the cliff.

As they climbed over the top of the cliff and rounded a corner, Fancy gave a little scream. There in front of them were the Dark Dog and his servant, both with curved swords on their belts.

Singlefoot laughed a bit at her surprise and hugged her to calm her fears. "Don't be afraid. These are friends and only want to help. I'll explain later," he said. They helped her climb around the few remaining rocks and across the meadow to where their horses were picketed near the pit. They produced a blanket and wrapped her in it. Singlefoot rummaged in his pack and produced a sandwich and a flask of lukewarm tea.

Fancy leaned back against a rock, and eagerly consumed the sandwich and tea. She looked out at the sea and up at the sky and felt herself just starting to relax. After the cold and stress of the pit, the warmth of the blanket and tea felt wonderful.

Singlefoot told her, "When we first arrived and saw you in the pit, we sent for a carriage. It should be here soon. Just try to relax until it arrives." He was right, and in about twenty minutes they could see the carriage coming across the meadow from the direction of the coast road. It soon arrived and they put Fancy in it and started.

When they arrived, Crossbark was there, and after a worried greeting, he asked a few questions about her fall and then gave her a quick examination. He then looked up and smiled. "She has no serious injuries," he told them. "She only has a few scratches and bruises. What she needs now is only a warm bath and rest."

Fancy had some hot soup while Cider and Claret prepared the bath. They both bustled about and got her upstairs, washed and into bed. Before she dropped off to sleep, she asked about Comely. "She is ill," they said. "Natasha and Frowly Snarf are watching her." She asked about Singlefoot. "He'll be back tomorow when you are awake and feel better and he said that he would explain all that had happened."

She awoke to morning light. Claret, who had been periodically checking on her came into the bedroom. "You've slept through a day and the night and we are all happy to see you looking better," she said. Thinking about this, she decided she did feel better and hungry as well.

She quickly dressed and went down to get some food. Cider had a massive breakfast ready and bustled about until she had eaten it all. Fancy felt even better with some food in her stomach. About this time, Singlefoot and the Dark Dog arrived in Singlefoot's carriage, Goodbone having sent them a message that she was awake and well.

Both declined Fancy's offer of breakfast but said the would settle for a snack. They all went into the library and took chairs. Cider brought the visitors some cakes and tea. Fancy waited for Singlefoot's explanations. Singlefoot, now his usual relaxed self, settled himself on a sofa and put his feet up on a stool and began.

He started with an introduction. "This is 'Dark Dog'," he said, smiling at the name. "He is a friend and business associate of your father. I'll let him explain how he happened to help find you."

Dark Dog began. "Fancy, I had intended to come to see you because I had learned from Singlefoot of the worry that I had caused you and I wished to quiet your fears. Singlefoot said that he would talk to you first and assure you of my good intentions. Unfortunately he arrived at Hoarhound house shortly after you had left to go riding."

Singlefoot continued. "Since you were expected back soon I decided to wait for your return. I had just settled down in the library passing the time in a discussion with Natasha when Comely returned. She was all distraught, saying in an incoherent fashion that she and Fancy had become separated. She then left with Natasha to go to her room. You can imagine that I was starting to be worried.

"In about an hour, Fancy's horse returned alone with saddle and bridle intact. The hostler, Brownfoot, immediately alarmed the house and after talking to Goodbone and the staff, we thought it was time to start a search. It was getting late and the night would likely be cold. Goodbone immediately sent messages to the neighboring estates for riders to help in the search. They could not arrive in time to make more than a short search before darkness. They would be more useful if she had not been found by morning.

"I was about to go talk to Comely when Frowly Snarf, appalled, came to me. He said he was afraid that something dreadful had happened to Fancy. He explained that his mother, Comely, had gotten up out of bed and talking wildly, had told him that Hoarhound House was now his, as it should rightfully have been. He said that she seemed unsteady and her speech was broken and at times, incoherent.

"He and Natasha calmed her and they put her back in bed and then they both tried to question her. According to Frowly Snarf, her speech became increasing incoherent and she seemed feverish, but as they continued to question her all they could understand was a rambling statement that Fancy was imprisoned somewhere and would never return, because the sea monsters would dispose of her.

"Frowly Snarf said that Comely then became completely incoherent and collapsed into unconsciousness. Natasha stayed with her and planned to question her when she regained consciousness. Meanwhile I sat down with Frowly Snarf, Goodbone and the staff to see if they could suggest where Comely and Fancy might have gone. Other than the general direction, towards the sea, we could not determine anything further.

"By the time the first riders from the surrounding estates had arrived, the day was nearly gone, but I sent them out to search the nearby routes that Fancy was known to ride. Shortly, it became dark, and the riders began to return without success. I asked them to return in the morning and was wracking my brain to determine where we should search next.

"About this time, Dark Dog and his servant arrived. Dark Dog explained that he had heard of the earlier attempt on Fancy's life and had requested his manservant to follow her at a distance whenever she left Hoarhound House and to protect her from any harm that should appear. He had heard of the search for Fancy and after talking with his servant, they had come to give what help they could.

The servant explained that he had followed Fancy and Comely out towards the sea but had lost track of them because he was unfamiliar with the country and on foot and they were riding away from him. With the assistance of Dark Dog, his servant, and a map, I tried to establish where Fancy and Comely had been when the manservant had lost sight of them.

"We then asked for Natasha, who was watching Comely, to see if she had recovered consciousness or had said anything that could help. Natasha came and said that Comely was still incoherent, wandering in and out of the edge of consciousness. She said that when she had again questioned Comely about you, Fancy, she only mumbled in an confused fashion, saying that the Devil had you now and you couldn't return.

"About that time it occured to me where you possibly might be. As you know, I used to do much riding in the area when I was younger and was familiar with the area. I suspected she was in the so called Devil's Kennel, a pit near the sea left from an abortive tin mining attempt. Comely, who was a great rider and had been brought up in the area, would surely know of it. If you were in it, Fancy, we would have to get you out soon because the tide flowed into the pit and the exposure to the water and the cold air would endanger you.

"It was past midnight and I decided we should take blankets and ropes and ride immediately to the Devil's Kennel on the chance that she was there. I told the others that there was a tunnel leading from the beach to the pit that was exposed during low tide, and that they could use it to reach her if she were there. Goodbone said he would send the riders from the local estates to the area when they arrived again in the morning to come help in the search if we didn't find her in the Devil's Kennel.

"We decided to start off immediately in order to be there when morning, and low tide, came. The Dark Dog and his servant offered to come with me, and with horses furnished from Hoarhound House stables, we started off, riding as fast as we could through the darkness.

"We arrived in the area just before dawn, but I couldn't find the Kennel immediately. It had been many years since I had last been there. By the time dawn arrived, and we were able to find the Devil's Kennel, it was an hour or so past dawn.

"When we found the pit, at first we could see nothing. But then the manservant, who was on another side of the pit, called out that he could see someone in a niche in the pit wall. We called, but he said the figure didn't move. I walked around to look and it did appear to be you.

"I asked Dark Dog and his servant to watch from the top of the pit in case you or whoever it was could hear them. I told them that I would go to the beach and try to get into the pit through the tunnel if the rising tide hadn't blocked it. Luckily we had brought a lantern, which I lighted and headed towards the beach.

"Just as I started, the first of the riders arrived. Dark Dog immediately sent him to Hoarhound House to fetch a carriage and more blankets, and to notify the other riders that she had been found.

"I climbed down to the foot of the cliff and after a short search found the tunnel leading up into the pit. The tide was low but it was rising and I had to climb through shallow pools and rocks made slippery by seaweed. It was dark in the tunnel and the footing was slippery. I almost fell once or twice. When I reached the pit bottom I found some rocks had fallen and blocked the entrance into the pit. It took me a while to move them aside and open a way up into the pit.

"I was so pleased to reach the pit and find you conscious, that I didn't think how my appearance would alarm you.

"Now about this time, acording to Goodbone, Crossbark arrived at Hourhound house. He was apprised of the situation and after examining Comely, and talking with Natasha, he asked Natasha, Frowly Snarf, Goodbone and Cider to join him. He told them Comely had dropped too far into insanity to recover. He told them she would recover consciousness, he feared, but not her full sanity. He suggested that they should send her to a private asylum run by the Sisters of Irrational Hope, who would give her compassionate care."

Singlefoot then turned to the Dark Dog and said, "Perhaps you would like to explain how you came to be here."