Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Hunter Prince: The Unbarred Door

"Did you take the bar off?" Cyjar looked at the metal door, then at the thick steel bar that was leaning in the corner beside it.

"No," said Morius. "It was like that when I found it. You can see there's still dust all over it."

Cyjar nodded. Janiva rubbed her nose, then asked: "And how in the world did you find it?"

"I was in the kitchen, getting a snack, when Jonquil came by."

"Jonquil?" asked Janiva.

"He's the wine steward," answered Morius, "but I didn't know that at the time. I was in the kitchen, trying to find a snack, and he came marching through with about six other servants behind him. He was wearing a serving coat, but one that very finely cut, and ones following him were almost as nicely dressed."

Cyjar nodded at that. He and his friends were too young for wine; the most they were permitted was a single cup of hard cider at the feasts. Jonquil, though... Cyjar had seen his father consult with the man about courtly dinners and visiting dignitaries, and not all of the discussion had centered on wines. Jonquil wasn't a spy, exactly, but as a high-ranking servant who came from a noble family, he carried some unique insights on events and politics.

"It seemed like a good test of my magic," said Morius, "so I followed them. They came down here, past the pantries and into the wine cellar. I stayed out of the way, and none of them saw me." Morius' voice held a touch of pride at that. "So I could have followed them back up, but as they were working I noticed this door."

"You stayed because of a door?" asked Janiva.

"I stayed because of this door," Morius replied. "Look at it. Why is it here at all? The kitchens are on the ground floor, just behind the Great hall. The pantries are below them, in chambers carved out of the bedrock. The wine cellars are further down; they're almost caves. Wines are expensive, so they should be kept dark and cool and safe... so why is there another door here? And why does it open on a staircase leading even further down?"

Cyjar stepped forward and pulled the door open. As Morius had said, there was a short passage and then more steps, leading down. "So why did you bring us here?" he asked.

Morius hesitated. "I was afraid to explore it alone."

Janiva snorted. "That's not cowardice," she said. "That's just sense." She looked a Cyjar. "Well? Should we have a look?"

Cyjar felt himself smile. "I'll play if you will," he said, half-challenging. Knowing already how Janiva would respond to that (she was the daughter of the High Lord of the Western Marches, and in training to become a knight as a prerequisite to her inheritance) he turned and stepped through the door. He muttered a quick spell as he walked, calling a small, glowing light to float above his head. He could hear Morius and Janiva behind him.

He'd gone down sixteen steps when his light flickered and went out. The steps were regular, so he kept walking; but as he voiced the words to call back the light, his left foot found empty air and he tumbled forward.

The passage continued for three short paces, then turned downward. Cyjar set his foot on the first step and heard it creak. "Wood," he said.

Behind him, Janiva said: "Old wood."

...But Cyjar had already started down.

The stairs went down a long way, and they creaked with every step: his, and his friend's. He had just caught sight of the bottom, where dusty wood gave way to smooth stone, when something gave way with a loud crack. He stopped immediately, but it was already too late: the stairs were shifting under his feet, twisting and sinking down. Cyjar shifted his balance, and in the process lost his hold on his spell; the air above his head went dark. He had a brief moment to realize that the stairs were too dark, that one of his friends must have fumbled his or her spell also.

Then the last of the wood gave way beneath his feet, the last of the light went with it, and he was falling into the dark.

For a moment, Cyjar felt nothing but cold, paralyzing fear. Then he slammed into something hard, which pressed into his gut and squeezed the air from his lungs. A moment later something crashed into him from behind (or above) and the surface beneath him swayed alarmingly. Then there was another crash, and nothing but the sense that everything was falling in the darkness.


  1. Not exactly genre savvy, eh? `

  2. Eh, he's young and privileged and possibly a little overprotected.

  3. Though, the more I think about it, the more I think you're right. I've edited it to correct that, at least a bit.


Feel free to leave comments; it lets me know that people are actually reading my blog. Interesting tangents and topic drift just add flavor. Linking to your own stuff is fine, as long as it's at least loosely relevant. Be civil, and have fun!