The knocking at the door barely lasted a minute before a loud thump told me that someone had opened it, from the sounds, with a well placed kick. Loud footsteps followed, moving from room to room and I could hear voices.
"Spread out and find anyone who is here. You, go and gather any food and valuables. Let's make this trip worthwhile,' shouted a voice. From the sounds of it this man was the leader.
Sounds of smashing followed, and things falling. I tried not to think about the damage they were causing the house. Beside me Lucy gave a loud sob before bursting into tears. Carefully I picked her up and held her against me, in the hopes that by having her cry against her shoulder it would stifle the noise. Dominic was quiet, but I could feel from his presence that he was prickling with rage at what these people were doing. I only hoped he would stay put. He was no match for the men out there and I hoped he would not take his promise to look after the house too seriously, not now.
More smashing followed, and the footsteps seemed to get louder. It was almost as if the men were suddenly standing right above us, and I knew they had to be in the dining room. "There's no one here," one man said, as if relaying the information to a superior.
"Well keep looking. There's a lit fire in the hearth and a burning lantern in the kitchen. Have someone check the stables to see if their hiding there. They can't have gone far."
The footsteps seemed to recede, and I let out a silent breath of relief. And yet the banging and crashing seemed to carry on for several minutes. I was getting more and more worried that we would be discovered by the footsteps roaming room to room, clearly searching for us. All they had to do was look in the right place and they'd see the trapdoor and find us beneath is.
Some time passed with the shattering of glass, thumping footsteps and loud banging being all we heard. I shuddered to think what the house would look like, the house I had so loving looked after. Yet as long as my children and I were safe, the damage to the house would be nothing.
The voices returned all of a sudden, as if once more in the room with us. "Well?" asked the man who had appeared to be in charge.
"Nothing. Nobody in the stables, and they can't have run very far, not with us seeing them."
"They must have a bolt hole then," snapped the man. "But we don't have time to look for them. Gather what we have plundered and ready the men. We leave now."
One set of footsteps left the room, but the man in charge seemed to remain, roaming the room. I heard a shattering of class, and the spilling of liquid, before he gave a quiet laugh, then he too was gone, and our house was quiet.
I placed a hand on Dominic's arm, stilling him from going straight out the trapdoor. For all we knew the men were still watching the house, least we show ourselves on thinking they were gone. We had to wait. Time seemed to pass slowly and I could not tell if we had waited long enough. Our bolt hole beneath the trap door seemed to be getting warmer, and I started to have trouble to breath. Suddenly I became aware of the smell of burning filling the air.
Letting out a shout, I threw open the trapdoor, little Lucy still clutched in my arms. A wall of flames greeted me, and I let out a sob, knowing I had waited too long.