114. Under Lock And Key

Stellia can no longer tell how long Frithil has been trying to manipulate the lock with Nevynne’s hairpin.

Only one thing is certain: the little bit of light that filters through the keyhole has grown dimmer. It is getting hard to believe that the friar will manage to open the door anytime soon, if ever.

Nevynne, too, seems to have grown pessimistic. “What are our chances of sneaking back into the hallway, and finding our way out of the Sundrance at night?”

“Not good,” Frithil says. “To reach the wall outside this door, we would have to pass through many well-lit areas.”

Stellia hears a snapping sound. Something falls to the stone floor.

“Oh, no.”

“What is it?”

“The hairpin,” Frithil mutters. “I am sorry.”

“Give it to me,” Nevynne sighs. “I don’t think you would have accomplished much more with it, anyway.”

“What else can we try?” Stellia asks.

“I don’t know,” Frithil says. “We’ve nothing else that could serve as a pick.”

“Then we must take our chances going through the Sundrance,” Nevynne says. “However slim they may be.”

Stellia can faintly make out Frithil’s long skull in front of the keyhole. He nods slowly. “We’ll wait here until it is dark outside. Then we make our way back to the hallway.”

“Let me have a look,” Stellia says, and kneels beside Frithil to peer into the keyhole.

She hears Nevynne scoff. “What do you think you can do?”

Stellia does not answer. She merely feels an urge to see something besides the darkness that has enveloped her for the past several hours. What she sees through the keyhole is not much of a view: close by, a tangle of yew branches. A little further off, an ancient wall, nearly invisible under its shaggy cover of ivy. It is maddening to be trapped like this, mere inches away from freedom, from escape, from—

“Wait,” she murmurs.

“What is it?” Frithil asks.

“You said the friars who built this passage, and this door, did so to have a means of fleeing attackers invading the Sundrance.”

“That is so, to the best of my knowledge.”

“Then what good would it have done them, to come this way only to end up locked in just as we are now?”

“But they would not have been locked in,” Frithil says. “They would have had the key, and made their way out, and over the wall.”

“And the key, where would they have gotten it from?”

“What an odd question. From wherever it was hidden inside the Sundrance, of course. Perhaps it was kept on a particular person, to be at hand in the case of need.”

“That sounds like a bad idea to me,” Nevynne says. “What if this key warden were unable to make his way to the passage during an attack, or was captured or slain?”

“Exactly,” Stellia says. “It would not have been wise to keep the key someplace far from this door. If enemies invaded the Sundrance, such a hiding place could easily have become unreachable.”

“My word,” Frithil exclaims. “You don’t think—”

“There is only one place where the key would be safe as well as secret, and at hand in case of need,” Stellia says. “Right here, near the very door it unlocks!”

NEXT: Salvation

 

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