At the rear of the castle sat an enclosed staircase that few used. Guarded by a frame of cool wood (and often locked, though all servants had access through their traditional key-sets), the hall contained one bare window, followed by the flight of greyish brick, spiralling into an unknown final floor. Even the mere act of traversing the servant corridors to get to it made the staircase something of a disused access point.
Yet, access point it was, once one trekked through the ‘least hospitable’ areas of work. One which Percy crept towards with her breath barely in her lungs. At least this time she was not attacking the system from the inside. Not quite. Percy tiptoed through the corridors. In this dawn, little light filtered through the small windows of the lower levels of the castle, but silence wrapped a false sense of safety over the empty rooms.
Indeed, most members of staff, robot and flesh, were either occupied with the hunt for Elenia—a hunt that Percy wished she were journeying now she knew where’d the girl had been—or they were acting as additional guard for the King and Queen, Elenia's mother. As to her own mother…Percy trusted her to stay in her quarters unless they'd dismissed her. With the castle on high alert these days, she'd not be looking for Percy. A servant was either a captured soul or a fled girl.
Or her mother thought she was in her quarters.
Percy quickly unlocked the door to the staircase, let herself through, and locked the door from the other side. Even a door creeping open might suggest to an open-eyed servant that someone was down in the castle’s dungeons.
For that was what they were. Dungeons. The last place anybody ever wanted to be in a Monarchy. A shiver wracked its way down her spine, and for the second time, Percy wished Lorden hadn’t ordered her to do this operation on her own. Hadn’t that been what had got her kidnapped the first time? Sickness bloomed in her stomach—for a moment, she collapsed against the staircase wall.
“I can do this,” she told herself. Taking breaths of the air that tasted of stale biscuits crossed with forests, she tiptoed down the stairs until she met a second door, this one made out of rough wood, and hardly as filed or polished as the one above.
Then she pushed it open.
The word 'dungeons' conjured up the dungeons of legend and the kind of place Percy had been cooped up in when she'd been kidnapped by the underground.
Suffice to say, the dungeons of D6's reigning castle mismatched any legend or pauper's reality.
For starters, they were comprised of the same steel as the servants' quarters – it glinted from the ceilings and the windows and a knot grew in Percy's throat.
"I hope Lorden knows what he's asking me to do." And he was not just lollygagging with Whitney in her bedroom.
Secondly, when the Monarchy used the term 'dungeons', they clearly hadn't grasped the average use of a dungeon. This had been reconstructed into a storage room.
No wonder it was the end of the castle. Percy held her steps still, and concentrated on the silence. Apart from the non-existent drops of water sliding down the walls, she wasn't sure what exactly her ears were straining for.
Signs of life? Echos of…the past?
Nor did she understand what made her think such a wild thought. Satisfied that nobody else haunted here, she turned back to the task at hand. And what an awful task!
Her stomach did a backflip, and almost dropped out of her altogether. How was she supposed to find the tunnel exit-entrance in all of this mess? Sure, she and Lorden had had to tweak the plan a bit since last time, but neither of them had factored in the said dungeon being a turmoil of odds and ends, documents and screens, and royal levs in disrepair.
She ran her hands through her hair. Well, Percy hardly had any option but to make her way through and hope the passageway hadn't been blocked up by the royal detritus.