A narrow metal construction descended the immense glass face of the west wing of the hothouse, its surface sculptured with intricate folds and delicate engravings. The proud work of art of one of the city’s most well known artists. It supported a spiral stairway that wound in ordered metallic curves between the twisted branches and the heavy hanging leaves to the dense jungle below. Jake moved out cautiously onto the stair head, its glass surface slick with condensation. Hot up-draughts rose to meet him bringing with them the sweet, sickly smell of exotic flowers. Gripping the handrail tight, he took a hesitant step downwards, his feet uncertain on the slippery surface. Brilliant coloured birds squawked from amongst the fleshy leaves below, the most adventurous of them flitting up to peek at him then diving back into the cover of the leaves. As he took a further faltering step, his bare feet slipped on the dripping glass and he lurched forward. Loosing his balance, he tumbled over the low railing and fell headlong towards the steaming jungle below. After a moment’s terror, he instinctively stretched out his wings breaking his fall, and then glided in tight circles around the spiral stairway admiring the rainbow-coloured reflections from the tiny water droplets that hung from the leaves and branches. He penetrated the steamy jungle and came to rest on a narrow shingle path next to a small pond on which floated a family of water lilies. He folded his wings and shifted nervously from one foot to another to get his balance. All his senses were on alert. Instinct told him there was danger nearby. Swivelling his head left and right he could see nothing of concern. Then he glanced up in front of him only to find himself looking into the piercing eyes of a giant eagle towering over him.
The Keeper’s Daughter is the second book of The Storyteller’s Quest by Alan McCluskey.