There was a soft snick and Venne stood up.  "Key's not for the door, but the lock's not tricky.  We're starting to lose the light though."  He gestured at the high windows, and Mirko realised that the light let in by them was getting greyer and weaker.

"But you've unlocked it anyway, so now we have to know what's on the other side," said Lianna.  "You should have pointed the light out first and let us decide as a group."

"You mean, let you decide."

"If you have a problem with my leadership you can leave now.  You have your schillings from the locker, I'll give the ones from the desk and that'll be your payoff.  We're together or we're not, and we're not fighting amongst ourselves."

Venne stared at her, his eyes bright in the deepening gloom, and then his shoulders slumped.  "Ok, I'm sorry," he said.  "I can lock it again just as easily."

"We'll check the other side first now it's open.  If anyone's there then they'll know we're here now."

Mirko thought that anyone on the other side would have heard them before Venne unlocked the door, but thought better of saying anything.  He hefted his staff, and dropped back into the guard position while Lianna drew her sword and gestured at Venne, her face clearly betraying her irritation.  Venne gripped the door handle and stepped back, pulling it open.

The room beyond the door had a flight of stone stairs running upwards, each massive step mortared into the walls of the tower, and weapon racks against the walls at the foot and around the wall that the door was in.  The racks were almost empty, just a rusty sword in one and a stringless bow in another. The dust was everywhere still, and there were no footprints in it this time; it was undisturbed.  Lianna sighed.

"I knew there had to be stairs somewhere," she said.  "Well, we'll have to hope that there's no-one up there.  The dust down here's undisturbed which is a good thing, even if it's not good enough.  We go back through, the watchmender locks the door again, and the druid can go fetch us some wood for a fire.  We can make a floorplan of this level now, and carry on in the morning when we have the light again."

Mirko left quickly to fetch the wood.  It sounded like Lianna was intending to lock them in for the night, and a little time away from her abrasive attitude and Venne's occasional sniping was a welcome break.  He crossed the clearing rapidly, and stopped just inside the edge of the forest, relaxing and letting the land seep back into his consciousness.  Wild things rustled and chirruped, something crept through the trees, hunting a little way off, and the green heartbeat of the forest itself thumped slowly, stolidly.  He felt through the landscape, seeing it as a kind of overlay in his vision, and found a fallen tree, a hole in the green and brown tapestry of the forest, and noted it.  Then he opened his eyes again and hurried to it.

He made three trips, stacking the wood beside the fireplace.  While he was on the second trip Lianna found a small hand axe with rust creeping along the blade and hacked the branches into smaller cords more suitable for burning.  On the third trip he added a couple of handfuls of Sprill to his bundle of wood, knowing that it burned with a lasting sweet fragrance.  By the time he got back it was nearly dark.  He dropped the wood by the fire and looked around for somewhere to sit.  The captain's chair had already been claimed by Lianna, so he brought the two chairs from the entrance room in, and sat down on one.  Venne struggled in behind him carrying the pile of rusted chains.

"They've got manacles attached," he gasped, sweat standing out on his forehead and glistening at his throat.  "And they're devil-heavy."

"They're irons," said Lianna sounding dismissive, her voice slightly muffled by her rummaging through her pack.  "They're supposed to keep prisoners still."  She pulled a tinderbox from her pack with a look of triumph on her face.

"They'll do to block the door then," said Venne.  I figured you'd not want me locking our exit without a key."

"Wonders will never cease, maybe we'll make men of you two yet."  Lianna bent to the task of lighting the fire, and Mirko wondered if the rest of the evening would go this way.

The End

38 comments about this story Feed