‘He must be here somewhere,’ Rhea muttered.
They’d been going down a spiral staircase for nigh on ten minutes now, with still no sign of it ever ending.
‘This is useless,’ Larkey began to say, but Rhea cut her off with a quick gesture.
‘Shush,’ she whispered. ‘I can hear something.’
Sure enough, through the thick walls came a noise, not far below them. The murmur of voices? The grate of a key in a lock?
‘What is it?’ hissed Larkey.
Rhea shook her head. ‘I don’t know. But we’re about to find out.’
They descended the last few steps in silence, straining their ears for any noise, checking for any sign that they were about to be attacked. Finally, they reached the bottom. A large wooden door stood slightly ajar, light spilling out from underneath it, flickering like flames.
The voices were much louder now, and the girls could make out whole words, but they couldn’t be strung together into sentences because of the thickness of the wood and the whispers at which the voices spoke.
‘Twist it... Too far... Not now... Nearly... Shush!’
Rhea peered through the keyhole in the door, and suddenly the scene made sense.
She was looking into the cells of the fortress. A sleeping guardsman (most likely drunk from the sound of his snores and the empty wine bottles beside him) lounged on a stool. A torch burned in a bracket above him. Of the three cells, two stood empty, but the third held one, two, three, four-
Rhea instantly cursed herself. She’d spoken too loudly! A quick glance back to the guardsman told her that her fear had been realised. No, he wasn’t awake.
But he had company.