Near the fireplace archway of the Great Hall, there was a small corridor winding between a number of important rooms, including the Pool, the Archives and the Armory, a vast room that stretched with rows and rows of weapons and ammunition. However, this corridor did not open into any of these rooms. Instead, it ended in a small rectangular room that looked like a janitor’s closet, with mops and a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Hidden behind the mops and brooms was another door – the only entrance to the Library Tower.
This structure reached up through four floors of the Great Hall territory, but besides the one hidden entrance it remained isolated. A staircase curved up the centre of the tower, while each hardwood floor was strewn with ornate carpets matching the deep tones of upholstered armchairs and couches. The walls were lined with wooden shelves, filled with a copy of every book known in the Realm. On the third floor, rested a large granite-topped desk, covered in maps, old volumes and rolls of paper.
The young man sitting at the desk had skin that was almost papery white and his grey eyes were almost as dark as the granite. Although he had been working for hours, his appearance was perfect. Every line of his clothes and hair seemed sharp enough to slice open the apples that lay in a bowl in front of him.
Jon picked up one of the apples, grimacing at the first bite. The fruit from this bowl were always slightly overripe, the flesh turning to mush beneath his teeth. A few drops of juice sprayed the page in front of him and he wiped it carefully, throwing the apple into the garbage can. The apple was gone before he was finished reading the next paper. Jon took a few careful notes, then made a short list of his next actions. Events so far were going even better than he had expected.
A good day. I’m ready for May’s delightful cooking.
Jon’s smile was happy, excited, ambitious, powerful… anything, but kind or innocent.
“Hello beautiful,” Don said, turning around and catching Cynthia about the waist. “I’m a pretty door-slammer am I?”
He kissed Cynthia as she began to nod. “What are you then, Cynthia?”
Cynthia’s mouth opened in surprise as Don spun her against the wall. Her legs buckled and she fell awkwardly at his feet. Don crouched down, dangling the button in front of her face.
“See this? This is not a key. You cut the wrong cord! Are you trying to make me look like a fool?”
As Cynthia trembled, the beam of his flashlight gave out and they were plunged into darkness. Don swore, stumbling backward and almost falling down the ladder. A light shone across his face, blinding him as he heard Cynthia’s cold voice.
“Don’t try that again.”
The light moved to the rungs of the ladder. “Let’s get that key then,” Cynthia said. “The boy won’t be going anywhere.”
Don smiled, leading the way down the ladder in silence.
I love this woman. Ron or Jon are putty next to Cynthia.
A moment later, Don and Cynthia stood on a mirrored floor, the flashlight filling a small, empty room.
“Where did they go?” asked Cynthia. “I thought you had the only keys to get in and out.”
Betty and Sam had been walking through the passageway for a long time. They clung to each other as the moved through the darkness, stumbling as the floor changed from one surface to another. Their footsteps echoes as if on polished marble, then the sound disappeared as they moved over carpet before stumbling on rough cobblestones, slick with moisture. At one point the passage narrowed and they found themselves crawling over a strange loose substance that coated their hands.
“What is this?” Sam whispered.
“It’s dust,” Betty told him with all the authority of her extra one and a half years. Just lots of dust all piled up.”
“But dust isn’t cold like this,” Sam objected.
“What do you – shhh“ Betty hissed suddenly. “I think I see light!”
The children crawled forward cautiously as the light grew stronger and stronger. The passage opened into a brightly lit room filled with brightly painted furniture and counters with glass cases over them.
“Should we go in?” asked Betty.
Sam nodded and stood up, brushing the brown substance of his hands and knees. Then he gasped in surprise. “Look Betty!”
They looked in wonder at the counters stretching on and on, each one displaying tubs of every imaginable flavour of icecream.