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FOR the first time Nick examined the cracks between the massive stones. They were full of frozen snow.

His biceps were cracking with the strain of supporting his weight, he must find a foothold - and soon.

Winding the end of the sheet round one wrist, he let himself down to hang full stretch, brought up a trembling hand to take the knife from his mouth, and reached down as far as he could to drive it into a crack. He had to scrape away snow and ice before he could get a purchase and his shoulder was on fire by the time he had forced the blade in far enough. It bent, but took his weight and he gained momentary relief. The bitter cold was affecting his grip and his hands were beginning to slide.

The Great Lie by Myrrha Stanford-Smith The thought of the next step appalled him. He pressed closer to the tower for friction and let go of the sheet. There was a moment of weightlessness and then he had grasped the knife and swung across to the waterspout.

Spreadeagled, he sought with his foot for the top of the embrasure. It was free of frost and gave him a toehold.

His calf began to cramp and not thinking what lay below he freed one hand, found his dagger and drove it in as far over as he could reach. He was directly above the embrasure now and he almost shouted aloud - this one was barred across. He got both feet on the bar and the relief was such that he could let go of the spout, find another handhold and pull out the dagger.

The effort almost unbalanced him and he teetered dangerously before driving the point in further down. He stepped down the crossbars, cursing them now for preventing him climbing in. He stood on the sill, working out the next move. His hands were growing numb with cold, whatever he did it would have to be quick. He let himself down the bars and grasped the sill, sobbing with fear and effort, scrabbling for a foothold. He could find none, and fighting down panic he had no choice but to rely on his dagger again. Reaching down he drove it in and clung to it with both hands.

The Great Lie by Myrrha Stanford-Smith is published by Honno at PS8.99 > CONTINUES TOMORROW
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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