It was time for some deliberations about the means of their departure. Star led the others to yet another small alcove which opened into a short tunnel.
“This is how the Ral entered,” she said. The door at the far end was a bit narrow, and the tunnel’s downwards slope might prove a problem considering the weight of the carts.
“Problem is,” Thilda reminded the other. “The trapdoor in front of where we came in.”
Maya began to walk up and down the rows of benches, stopping periodically.
“What if . . .” she began, “we build a bridge?”
“Bridge?” Thilda questioned.
“Yes, look here,” she said pointing to the long seating planks of the pews. “We can take a couple of these apart, and lay the boards over the trap.”
Thilda looked at several of the seats and shook her head in agreement. She then took out an arrow and drew an “X” on four of the pews. “I wish we had one of Seymour’s axes,” she said. “Star can you give me a hand? The marked ones look easiest to pull apart.”
The two women pulled the first of the benches onto its back, then they used Thilda’s knife and Star’s sword to begin to pry the boards apart at the joints. It was resistant at first, but after some effort the fastenings began to squeak and gave way.
Gwendolyn and Maya began to dismantle the second pew apart. In a little over a half an hour they had four sturdy planks to work with. Each was about a fifteen inches wide, and seven feet in length. This would easily span the four foot wide trapdoor.
It took four women to carry each board. The first was carefully laid to the right of the trap. Then one the opening was centered on the plank, it was slide into position. The mechanism instantly activated and the door dropped open once again revealing only darkness below. It then popped back into place, only to trigger again. The slamming noise of its process making an echo in the ten foot foyer.
“That is going to get annoying,” Thilda said bitterly. “Let’s finish this.”
The second board was brought into place this time from the left and the centre section of the trap was now covered. This muffled the banging a bit, but it was still a concern that someone or something might still be within the complex to respond to the racket.
The remaining two pieces of timber were pushed into place, and only a dull drumming from beneath them gave any indication of the danger below.
“Right then,” said Gwendolyn, “Shall we?”
The companions went and recovered the tumbrels, and wheeled then into the space between the entry alcoves. Gwendolyn went to open the wicket. Only to discover that it was too narrow for the carts to pass through.
“Damn,” she muttered. Then she said “All good.”
“Huh?” Thilda questioned.
“You know, we hadn’t considered that the wicket opens inwards,” she remarked. “It was going to wedge against the boards.”
“What can we do then?” Star asked.
“Actually it is okay,” Breena observed, as the reality hit her. “We need the main doors open to get the carts out, and they open outwards. Win, win.”
Just to be sure, Maya’s rat explored the main doors, and found them to be safe. Gwendolyn then worked the locks, and they clicked open with a rasping sound. The doors were far heavier that they expected, but they were able to force them open and drop the latch bolts into the sockets outside.
The afternoon sun was dazzling after so long in the dim interior. The carts were given a final check and the middle one was judged to be the lightest.
“Here we go then,” said Thilda as she pulled and Star pushed it onto the boards. It mounted the lip nicely, and the planks barely showed any play as they wheeled it over them and out into the sands.
It was then that they noticed that the mists had disappeared from around the temple. “A good sign, I hope,” Thilda mused. Just then there was a rumble as Gwendolyn and Breena brought the second cart over the makeshift bridge. Star returned to the building and soon she and Maya were readying the final load for the crossing. This time the boards showed a clear bend as the wheels passed over, but the momentum carried the cart outside, and the women rested against the wheels.
“Should we go get more stuff?” Thilda asked.
“Let’s see if we can carry this first,” Gwendolyn and Breena said almost in unison.
Gwendolyn adding, “Remember we can’t take the carts through the mountains.”
“Star, what will you do now?” Breena asked kindly.
“I have no home now,” she said reflectively. “May I stay with you?”
“Absolutely,” said Gwendolyn on behalf of the others. “You are a ‘Sister’ now.”
It was getting late, and they decided it would be best to go join Wil and Seymour before evening came.