He snapped out of his gloomful thoughts when a servant came yelling, “Help! Help! Bring the travelers!” One of the guards caught the boy when he rushed through the door.
“What is it?” the reeve asked.
“The Duchess of Fermont, Mister. Her chamber… I…” He coughed, out of breath. “There is… something vile in the room.”
Kayla turned towards the sergeant in charge of the detachment that surrounded them. “Nobody touches my horse!” she yelled before she ran up the stairs that led to the entrance. Toikem grabbed a spike and a hammer in his saddlebags and followed.
“Go!” the reeve told the boy with anger. The servant led the way to the second floor. The siblings probably would have found the room anyway; the Duchess shrilled at the top of her lungs.
Fear kept the domestic from entering the room. Wisdom would have done the same. There was a foul smell about it.
“Floor’s rotten,” Kayla warned her brother.
He slowed down and entered the room after her. The wooden planks were soft and threatened to give way at each step. The Duchess lay on her back, on the floor, kicking and screaming. She was red-faced and her large white undergarments where stained with blood. In the corner of the room, a wide-eyed girl – probably a servant – stared at the noble woman in awe while cuts appeared on her naked arms.
Toikem managed to find the main beam and followed it. His stature and armor made him heavier than Kayla and he didn’t want to fall through. He kneeled and held the nail in place. With a single hit, he drove the spike halfway in the rotten wood. The copper vibrated furiously, as though it tried to release itself from the beam. Toikem struck again and the floor started undulating.
“What are you doing?” Kayla yelled as she almost lost her footing.
“There’s something wrong…” He hammered the spike once more and tensed when the wood subsided. He could feel the vibration in the air now. It made him queasy, as though it stirred his innards.
“No shit!” Kayla retorted. She had put her arms around the duchess and dragged her towards the door. The floor failed beneath her feet, but she whirled, catlike and found her balance. The noble woman suddenly stopped screaming. Blood erupted from her mouth.
The boy that had led them to the room moved in to help Kayla. A large gash appeared on his face and he froze. He fell flat on his face. The planks bulged under his weight and cracked.
“Kayla!” Toikem called as he saw the floor swallow his sister.
The spike suddenly jumped free. When he grabbed it again, it was warm. The servant girl moaned in the corner of the room and he knew he didn’t have time to figure it out. He crouched, ready to jump. He knew he wouldn’t be able to reach her any other way.
“Listen carefully,” he told her. “You have to get out of the room.” He pointed at the door. “You’re slim, you might get there.”
She shook her head, her eyes still wide with terror. “I don’t want to fall.”
“Kayla!” Toikem shouted again.
“I’m fine!” she called back from below.
“Stay by the door!” he warned her before he leaped.
His legs went through the wood like it was thin ice. His gauntlets wrapped around the girls clothes and he dragged her in his fall. The only way to survive was to get out.