Volume 4 – The Mosaic Tile

Welcome to the fourth part of All The Pieces.

After discovering the true source of the Cloud Marble, the Diamond Rivet and the potent, havoc-creating fragment, Tamsin waits to be told what she must do. As a committed Piece Finder (with a tattoo to prove it) she has pledged to help protect the meteorite, whatever it takes. Perhaps if she had known what this promise would require from her, she would have been less agreeable!

A talking rocking horse, an almost impossible task in the Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s cathedral, an ingenious solution to being in two places at once, and a death-defying, ten minute underwater swim (could you do that?!)… this is Tamsin’s most dangerous adventure yet.

 

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Sample chapter: How long can you hold your breath for?

Tamsin sat undisturbed on a bench with a view of the Dead Sea until sunset. She watched the other families leave, and noticed that a few mothers and fathers looked down at her wondering why a young girl was sitting on her own. She found an abandoned English novel, and although it was a bit too hard for her, it kept her occupied. Nobody questioned her.

At sunset she saw movement on the cliff beyond the Dead Sea. A dark figure had climbed up from the rocky shelf beyond. He must have swum from the fishing boat, and had probably used the same ladder to come ashore as Tamsin’s mother. Tamsin now walked around the Dead Sea and up onto the cliff, so that she could look down. She was wrong. The man had come ashore in a small dinghy. This was tied to a metal chain further along the shelf.

From her new position she could see all three men. They were waiting on the cliff, sledgehammers in hand. The few remaining visitors to the island probably thought that they were workmen.

Tamsin watched them tie a rope around a rock. It dangled down to the opening that allowed sea water to enter and refresh the Dead Sea. Leaning over the edge of the cliff, Tamsin saw the opening in more detail. Now she recognised it. This was the cave of her vision.

When all three men had descended to the cave the rope was taken down. Tamsin was not going to be able to use it herself. The only way for her to enter the channel was to approach it from the Dead Sea itself, and this meant swimming into the dark hole that had frightened her earlier. She walked back to the place where she and her family had sat when they arrived earlier in the day. Now she wished she was back in the apartment with them, having tea. She felt jealous of Tamsin2, who would be safe and happy, having taken her place. But Tamsin had started… and she must finish the job.

Tamsin stood facing the Dead Sea. The dark opening was getting harder to see. She strained her ears but could not hear the men.

She had to jump into the water and swim.

She jumped, still wearing all her clothes. The water was cooler now, but bearable. As she approached the opening a voice called to her from the side of the pool. Treading water, she looked around. It was Tomas!

“Hi Tamsin!” he called, “You are brave!”

“I can’t get in there,” replied Tamsin, getting straight to the point. She had no time for Tomas’s games.

“I know. You have to swim underwater to get into the true cave, where the meteorite is. How long can you hold your breath for?”

Tamsin knew this, because she had practised it.

“Forty seconds at most.”

“That’s not long enough. The channel is twisty and it will be dark. You’ll have to feel your way around.”

“So what do we do?”

“We time-freeze it. You’ll have your forty seconds, but they will last for five minutes. I’m outside so I can’t keep it frozen for too long. Too difficult.”

“OK. Do it!

Tamsin took some extra breaths, held it, and ducked her head into the dark water. She trusted Tomas to keep her safe.

swim

She could not tell if time was frozen or not under water. There were no clues, no people to watch or sounds to monitor. Tamsin swam as hard as she could, and after a short while her hands felt the edge of the channel. It was entirely underwater here; if she had tried to swim to the surface her head would have struck rock. There was no air.

She continued, using her feet to propel her and her hands to guide her. The sense of panic that builds up inside you when your breath begins to run out had not yet started. Tomas’s plan was working.

After another minute Tamsin got a little worried. The channel seemed to be going on forever. The water was completely black. Suddenly she felt desperate for air. The time-freeze was over! Yet still she was nowhere near the other end…

Tamsin swam faster, using her hands now instead of just her feet. Her head banged the side of the rock. She had to breathe! She had to!

She began to tumble in the water. Her eyes remained open. There, some ten metres ahead, the colour of the water seemed to lighten. There was an orange glow. The end! But she did not have the breath to get her that far. Why had Tomas broken the time freeze?       Losing consciousness now, Tamsin rolled and floated towards the lighter patch of water. Her feet flapped weakly, her arms continued do underwater breaststroke as best they could. Then her head broke through the surface and she tasted warm, moist air. Her lungs filled themselves hungrily. Her fingers grasped the edge of the rock. For a minute she could not see anything, as her vision was fogged by the lack of oxygen. But she knew she was alive, and she felt stronger with every passing second.

She could now survey the scene. One man stood over a hole in the ground. Two men heaved on a rope that was attached to a pulley. The pulley, fixed to a sturdy metal frame that must have been constructed some weeks before, hung over the hole in the ground, and the same rope descended from it into the darkness below. With each heave the rope moved up a few inches.

hammer

“Keep going!” ordered the man in charge.

After a few more pulls an object appeared at the top of the hole – a metal pincer clasped around a spherical rock. Tamsin recognised the rock. It was as though her vision was now repeating itself.

To her left a fourth man entered the cave. He held a boy by the neck – Tomas! He had been captured. He wriggled and struggled but could not release himself.

“Found this spy!” shouted the man.

“Tie him up. He could be one of them. Has he got a tattoo?” said the leader.

“Let’s have a look.” The man examined Tomas’ arms, then smiled and said, “Oh yes. A nice one. What is it boy?”

“Nothing.”

The man struck him. “Tell me boy!”

“A rivet.”

“Ah. The rivet. I’ve heard about that one,” said the leader, but he did not have time to ask more questions. His attention was focussed on the stone. “Put him in the corner. Let’s get this job done, and finish off what they should have done hundreds of years ago.”

Tomas was thrown to one side. He rolled over, and Tamsin found herself staring up at the back of his head.

The pincers were pulled to one side and released, leaving the meteorite to fall onto the ground with a thump. The men lost no time, and started hammering at the it.

Tamsin touched Tomas’ hair. There was blood on his cheek where he had landed on a sharp stone. He turned around slowly. He didn’t want to attract attention.

“You made it!” he said, overjoyed.

“Only just. I ran out of air.”

“Sorry. The time freeze stopped when they grabbed me. I didn’t see him coming, I couldn’t keep my concentration.”

“Never mind, I’m OK. What do we do?”

“You’ve done the hard part. Just throw the tile at the rock. It will set off a mini-quake. If these men start to split the stone there will be another huge disaster. The worst. We can’t let that happen.”

“I just throw it?”

“Yes!”

“Help me get out of the water. I’m cold.”

“Not yet. Give me the tile. But don’t drop it.” said Tomas.

Tamsin reached into her pocket, which was zipped. The water made this difficult, but she managed to find it and hold it up to Tomas.

“You do it,” suggested Tamsin.

“No. It must be you. Look, it’s glowing, it’s shaking. It knows it’s nearly home!”

“Help me out of the water!”

Tomas put the tile in his own pocket and reached down to help Tamsin. She struggled out of the water and flopped down onto the hard ground, still exhausted from the underwater swim. Once she had shaken off the water from her clothes and swept the hair out of her eyes, she knelt before Tomas and held out her hand,

“Give it to me then. It’s time to stop this.”

An ear-splitting bang caused her to turn round. A new crack had appeared in the stone, under the onslaught of repeated hammer blows. Tamsin took the tile and crawled to within a few metres of the meteorite. It should be easy, she thought, because once she had thrown it the Mosaic Tile should fly towards the meteorite as though attracted by a strong magnet.

She was just about to throw it when the ground moved beneath her knees. The solid ground seemed to be turning to sand. She lost her balance and rolled over…and she couldn’t help screaming! The Stone Splitters heard her. One of them threw down his sledgehammer and ran over. With a powerful arm he picked her up by her hair,

“Another one. Another kid. Why do they get kids to do their dirty work? Too late missy! Just a few more strikes! Now…get away!”

He readied himself to throw her in the direction of Tomas. But they were all distracted by a sudden change. The dark cave lit up, the walls glowed pink, and a squat pillar of pink mist appeared halfway between the meteorite and Tamsin (who was still in the hands of her assailant).  The mist swirled and began to form a shape… a human shape… that of an even younger child. Tamsin stared hard, and began to recognise the shape of the head. It was Jake!

“Quick, throw it to me!” he shouted, once his mouth had been formed.

Tamsin lobbed the Mosaic Tile in his direction. He caught it, and immediately threw it at the meteorite.

“NOOOOOOO….” shouted the head Stone Splitter. The Mosaic Tile landed on the meteorite, glowed red for an instant, and became a part of it. The rumblings in the ground that had been building up grew more intense. Now the earth really shook. All the Stone Splitters fell over. Tamsin was released, and she rolled towards Tomas. Jake turned, smiled, and disappeared into mist as quickly as he had appeared. Tomas and Tamsin slipped back into the water.

“This time we’ll swim together,” said Tomas, “And I promise you won’t run out of time. I can time-freeze and swim at the same time, I’m sure I can.”

They left the cave, and a few minutes later were back in the Dead Sea. Rocks trembled all around them, but they were safe. The mini-earthquake seemed to be limited to the cave. Tamsin and Tomas scrambled up a path to the top of the cliff. They saw the Stone Splitters’ boat at anchor, but it was rocking violently. The quake was causing the waves to build up, and soon the boat began to break up as it was thrown against the rocks. The Stone Splitters had managed to escape from the cave, but they could not reach their boat. Tamsin did not want to think about what happened to them.

The two friends turned away and tried to work out how to get off the island.

 

– – –

Coming soon, the final volume – The Spot And The Spiral; it’s going cosmic…

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