We last left Mike and Maybelle trapped in the engineering workshop with the enraged Queen Caliee at the doors. The queen is determined to not let Maybelle leave the keep and will stop at nothing to reach her goals.
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Maybelle grabbed Mike by the hand and pulled him toward the back of the workshop which was lined from the floor to the ceiling with shelves filled with thousands of odds and ends.
“It will take her a while to breach the door, even with the key you must know how to align the three levers before the gears will spin. I showed her how ages ago, with luck she won’t remember right away.” She lifted a thimble and frowned.
“Why would show her that?”
“She is the queen Mike. You don’t say no when your queen asks you for anything.”
“Well, I suppose that’s fair.”
Maybelle ducked under one of the lower shelves and shifted several of the items there. “There’s a hidden lever here somewhere, but it’s tricky to find.” She ducked into the next shelf and pointed Mike toward another. “Try in there, you’ll know it when you see it.”
Mike leaned into the shelf and instantly sneezed at the thick layer of dust sending a cloud into the air around his head. The pounding at the door had quieted and was replaced with the sounds of metal on wood. Mike could only assume that the queen had already found the key and had moved to figuring out the combination lock.
“Hurry Mike, if I know her at all its to know that she’s quick. If she sees the tunnel, our escape will be useless.”
Mike nodded and searched faster. He shifted a pile of bottle caps and looked behind a snail shell but found nothing. At the door the gears engaged and begin to turn. There were only seconds left before the queen and her guards burst through.
“Got it!” Maybelle gave a quiet cheer as she darted inside.
Mike dove into the inky blackness of the tunnel behind her and tugged the secret door shut just as the workshop door flew open. Shouts erupted along with the crash of chairs being toppled. Someone screamed.
Maybelle pushed at Mike in the narrow passage. He was reluctant to leave anyone to be hurt. “What about them? Will they be alright?
“My friends are strong, they can take care of themselves. Caliee might be tough at times but she’s no monster. They’ll be alright.”
Mike allowed Maybelle to guide him along the dark narrow tunnel. He couldn’t help but worry what was happening beyond the secret tunnel entrance. Only being able to hear the shouts and crashes made it worse. His imagination kept running to the worst possible outcome. In a way he was glad for the darkness, it made him seem braver for Maybelle’s sake than he was.
The tunnel seemed to stretch on forever. Darkness robbed Mike of any sense of time and Maybelle stayed quiet as they hurried along. The sounds of struggle grew quieter as they continued to move further away from the workshop and quite possible from the great tree itself.
At last ahead there was a shaft of bright light piercing the darkness. Maybelle turned back to Mike, lines of worry etched her face. “We’ve made it to the end. Let’s pray that there aren’t any other obstacles. The sooner we get away from here the better.”
In the dim light of the tunnel Mike stopped Maybelle. “Are you sure you want to do this? It’s not too late to turn back.”
She placed her hands in his. “Listen. I made my decision back when we spent the night talking up on the balcony. I’ve felt something with you that I thought was impossible for my heart to feel again. I can’t live in that place anymore and now I have defied the queen. She won’t forgive me for that, even if it is for a good cause. She won’t understand. I don’t think she can.”
She was so lovely, even with streaks of dirt across her face. Hearing her determination to be with him sparked within him a desperate need to kiss her. She felt it as well, her eyes closed halfway and she leaned forward.
Before their lips could touch there was a shout from the outside of the tunnel.
“How did she find us? I thought no one knew of this place.”
“It’s not her.” Maybelle’s face lightened into a smile and she scrambled up the steep dirt passage and out into the light. Mike followed close behind, squinting in the harsh sunlight.
Outside in a small clearing in the brush Maybelle was hugging one of the women he recognized from the workshop. They separated when Mike cleared his throat.
“Mike, this is Rachelle, she’s my second in command. She’s aided us in our escape.”
The other woman nodded before turning back to Maybelle.
“The other engineers are leading her to one dead-end after another. They sent me to tell you to stay here. Ben the bluejay will come soon and take you away from here. She won’t be able to follow you, even if she finds the passage or gets her hands on Ben you’ll be safe. The poor bird can’t remember one day to the next.” She glanced around nervously. “I must go before I am missed.”
The two women hugged again as the sound of flapping filled the clearing. Rachelle ran back into the cover of the brush as the bluebird landed.
The bird gave a happy chirp when he spotted Mike. “Why hello talking candy! Do you have a treat for me today?”
“I sure do Ben, but you’ll need to take me somewhere to get it.”
Without another word Ben grasped them both and took off into the air. Mike’s stomach lurched and twisted to be up high again but to his surprise he wasn’t half as scared as he’d been before. In Ben’s other claw Maybelle spread her arms wide like she was a bird herself. She smiled and laughed as Ben climbed higher into the sky.
To be continued…