Chapter 7

Written by: Joe Labrum
Fawkes slumped holding his sides.  The stale air hung in the crypt and was suffocating. Catching his breath, he returned to fetch another eighty-kilo keg from the small wagon the men used to transport the explosives from the carriage parked in the alley. He thought better of lifting the weight  and stepped aside for one of the younger servants. The passage they constructed through the cellar of house they had purchased wasn’t large enough to permit two men carrying the heavy barrels to pass. But with the use of the cart that was constructed for this task, two barrels at a time could be transported to the staging area. 
It had been a tedious job that required the utmost care. The slightest mistake would have meant more than mere failure. Each man was well-aware of the consequence of being discovered. Punishment for treason was not just death but the most gruesome disgracing death one could imagine, having one’s body quartered and dispersed to the four corners of the Kingdom. The thought of that punishment weighed heavier on the men than a premature detonation. In that event all would be over with nothing left to worry about. 
Lord Fawkes had been in the undercroft at least a dozen times planning the mission. He made detailed drawings of position of the massive columns that supported the Parliament chamber and overlaid the layout of the parliament chamber. During his visits he had never once been disturbed and felt quite free to conduct his business without interference. The thickness of dust on the floor, the cobwebs, the general appearance of abandonment added to that confidence but, just the same, he maintained vigilance as he supervised the laying of the kegs of gunpowder. As an added attempt to avoid suspicion if discovered, the barrels were not hidden but simply stacked in plain view near the center of the main chamber between two support columns, a place, as it turned out, determined to produce the most casualties. The hope was if someone happened to spot them stored in the shadows of the dungeon it would not cause alarm. Perhaps they would be mistaken for the innocent storage of wine casks. 
With the explosives in place there was little left to do but wait. Fawkes assumed the responsibility to guard and, when the time was right, to light the fuse. Still one thing needed doing to prepare. He carefully removed the bung from one of the kegs and filled a large leather pouch with powder, then re-sealed it. In the dim light from the few small windows along the top of the wall he poured a trail of gunpowder over and around the stacked barrels and out through the passageway through the cellar of the house to the far wall near the door to the outside. He returned to the barrels to watch and wait for the signal but then suddenly, he heard the sound of rusty hinges and footsteps.

Comments

Joe, what a brilliant chapter. You've cleverly brought the story right back to its original thread and the ending leaves an air of mystery which is great. That is page turner stuff.
Thank you this is a great story, as those based in true history usually are. I enjoyed writing the chapter.
This chapter is written with care and attention. It really shows what proper research does to a story like this. In history, there is so much information for a writer to 'go to town' on something like this. Joe has obviously spent quite a time on his chapter and it really does stand out as a model for others to follow. What really captures the imagination is the way Joe has written in the tension which comes to a head at the conclusion. I think this really sets the chapter alight and the stage is set for an unforgettable climax. Well done, Joe. Great work.
We're back to the meat of it; while other characters talk away their hours idly in the garden, the sweaty work of manhandling large barrels below goes on.

I echo Ray's observation that you've heightened tension by opening the cask and spreading powder trails; this tale, like the story of the Titanic's final hours, holds us tranformed even when we know the ending.

However, I don't think Fawkes would have made powder trails until the last possible minute - particularly in a locale like this one. The undercroft of the houses of Parliament is close to river level; it would be damp down there. Powder wouldn't keep its efficacy for long. But even in the driest place, I don't believe scoundrels who had to hang about waiting for the hour to act would want any naked powder in their midst. That stuff was highly flammable; men who worked in magazines in that era wore special slippers to reduce the risk of a spark.

You've kept the tone and setting of your chapter in line with preceding ones. Well done. In general, this yarn's parts read well together, a credit to all who have contributed. Thanks Joe.
Thank you Ant for the very thoughtful crit. On retrospect I think you are correct about the powder trail scene and can think of how I wish I would have written it. Thanks again.