What dust may tell

Lianna arched an eyebrow, and stepped back slightly.

"I'm happy for you to try that key in the door," she said.  "But I and the druid will be standing a safe way away while you do."

"You suspect a trap?"

"I'm certain of it.  If you're going to the trouble of locking a door you don't leave a key where just anyone can find it."

"If I were doing this," said Mirko, thinking hard, "I would have the trap on the door set by turning the key in the lock.  Oh, wait. I'd have two traps on the door, one for those people who saw through the key..." he trailed off as he saw the looks on his companions' faces.

"You're not helping," said Venne, flatly, turning back to the door.  He knelt down by the lock and peered at it, being careful not to touch the plate or the surrounding frame.  He threw his cloak back away from his arms to free his movements, and a soft leather pouch appeared as if from nowhere in his hands.  He unrolled it silently, and removed something from it, too thin or small for Mirko to see what it was.

"Didn't Sir Wickhold say his men had been in the tower already?" Mirko said to Lianna.  She was tapping a foot, a hand resting on the hilt of her sword, scanning the forest around them in a slow, methodical manner.

"He did, but he didn't tell us how many of them, or how many came back alive.  He's been miserly with his words.  And that's not to say that someone hasn't come back after they've been in, seen the visitors have been, and set up an unwelcome for when they come back."

Venne stood up, his leather pouch disappearing as dextrously as it had appeared.  "The door's unlocked already," he said.  "And this key would never fit that lock either, it's too small.  It's for something else."

"Hold on to it then.  Druid, have your staff ready.  We don't know what's beyond that door."

Venne looked at the other two drawing their weapons, shrugged his cloak back around himself, and stood to the hinges side of the door.  Stretching an arm across to the latch he lifted it and pressed on the door, which slowly swung inwards.

"Silent, and I bet the Sir Wickhold's men never oiled the hinges."  Lianna waited.

"What are you waiting for?" said Mirko, keeping his voice down in case anyone was listening inside.

"Letting my eyes adjust," said Lianna.  "I can see shapes inside, I want to know what they are before we enter."

"Furniture?" said Venne loudly, letting a sarcasm tinge his word.  Lianna shook her head, and stepped cautiously forward holding the blade of her sword out ahead of her.

The first room of the tower was by Mirko's estimation about half of the floorspace and did indeed contain only furniture.  There was dust across the floor, mostly gone by the doorway, with clear footprints leading across to a door in the opposite wall.  A high, shuttered, window let in a few stray beams of light making it merely gloomy rather than dark, and allowed him to make out a wooden table and two chairs.  There was a wooden bucket against the wall to his left with a layer of dust in the bottom of it and a pile of rusty chains tangled up against the right-hand wall.

"Open the shutter," said Lianna.  "Let's see this place while we've still got light for it."

"None of us are tall enough to reach that," said Venne.  "Don't we have a torch between us?"

"I'm not wasting a torch when there's light to see by.  Stand on the druid's shoulders then and reach it that way, or use the table.  I don't much care."

"Give me a hand dragging this table over then," muttered Venne, and Mirko nodded.  The table was solid, heavy planks nailed to two tree stumps and they dragged more than they lifted, clearing another path through the dust.  The shutters opened easily, and their hinges screeched with disuse.

"I count three people going in, and only two coming out," said Lianna, gazing at the footprints in the dust in the half-light that now permeated the room.  "We'll need to see what's beyond that door, and if we can secure it if we're staying the night in here."

The End

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