Chapters 1-5

The Castle at Exeter

Chapter 1

Once upon a time (877) in a land perhaps not so very far away lived a young page. His name was Immanuel. He lived with the knights in the vast East Bedford territory of Wessex. A servant to the skilled though aged warrior  Sir Edward, Immanuel felt that he had a good chance, nay even a great chance of becoming as able a warrior as he.

Immanuel lived in a small, enclosed village surrounding central great hall with knights in the pay of the good Emperor of the Islands, Alfred the Great. He longed to become a squire. The men who lived with him in the fortress kept him rather busy. It would rather improve the situation to leave once in a while and help them fight against the ever-present bandits terrorizing the nearby towns.

Moreover, the kingdom was at war despite the recent peace made with the Vikings. A Druid had amassed a great army and was terrorizing the surrounding countryside. It was rumored that he was one of the old druid kings, but at the time, he was limiting himself to merely the country of England. This caused some discomfort to the knights who had been entrusted by the king/emperor with a store of gold to be used in maintaining the nearby villages and keeping up the castle. This was of course in/the constant view of nearby bandits. The night after every battle when Immanuel had assisted his good master in disarmoring, Immanuel would take out his own sword and look at it. This was no ordinary sword, for it was keen, sharp, and strong and balanced. He had found it on the scene of a victorious battle when he had been helping to transport the injured. It did not look like one of their own swords so he had assumed that it had been thrown down by an opposing soldier in the act of fleeing and since, by the laws of that fortress in which they lived, every knight could keep booty as long as it was not a vital thing which had belonged to that great and evil wizard Drough. And so Immanuel had kept it. (tho’ in truth, the sword did not belong to him as he was not a knight). He was impatient to become a real knight, but he had kept this wonderful thing a secret, fearing that some other, stronger page (or squire) might try to take it from him. And so he had hidden it in the rafters of the Great Hall in which all the knights ate. The hall was dark, making the thatch difficult to see well. Up near the roof, there was an intermingling network of beams, (the architect had been an impressionist, not to mention a novice.) On this tress, then, a boy could easily clamber around, and he did.

Especially when he felt like hiding from people or during meals, when lots of chores were being handed out.

They were so high from the ground that nothing was easily visible but he had devised a way of climbing into the rafters – so when he felt like sacrificing a meal so that he could spy on people (which was seldom), or when he felt that he would like to be alone, he would climb up there and stay very still so as not to make any noise or attract attention, he would climb into the rafters from where he commanded a whole vast view of the Great Hall and the kitchen.

One day he was out walking alone in the forest, (for the knights were making merry over a recent victory and the lordgovernor of the castle had declared a holiday to be followed by much feasting). He had taken the sword down from its hiding place and wore it by his side in a sheath which he had made.

He was several miles from the castle when he had the strange sensation of being watched, though he hadn’t heard anything. He was pretty sure no one from the castle had followed him, but/so he turned and drew his sword.

There was nothing there. He looked up into the farthest branches of the trees and a huge snake dropped from a concealed place in the leaves and began coiling around him. He knew from his studies that this was a python and that he had very little time (perhaps two minutes) to escape from its grasp. He hacked at its head, but it pinned his elbow, creeping up from behind. As he struggled, he had the dim recollection that perhaps this was out of place.

“Of course it’s out of place!” he told himself, “How often am I attacked by a python!” The snake drew the loop tight. Immanuel had a strange dizzying, pleasurable sensation. Through the mists of all this, a thought suddenly came very clear to him,

“The sword hasn’t hurt it! Surely it ought to pierce the scales!” Suddenly the snake’s grip began to loosen , it quivered mightily several times (like a house which is about to fall in a hurricane) Then it slithered off. Immanuel fell on the grass, limply, and lost consciousness

When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was a man’s face. It was one of the knights from the castle. The knight helped him to his feet.

“Th-thanks,” he stammered, still numb with shock, “I’m ever indebted.”

“That is sure,” The man replied , “How did it occur? Do you frequently run into serpents?” They began to walk back.

“Why did you go walking alone?” he asked sternly, but quietly, “I prescript that henceforth, until you have become a man, you are never to go into the forest alone without a knight. You were not even armed!” Immanuel looked downward and the realization came to him: He had lost his sword. If it was at the clearing, then surely this man would have seen it. No, but where had it gone?…But it didn’t matter anyway, he was shamed, he would become a knight later than even the boys younger than he. Even they were allowed to go a short distance from the castle by themselves. He would never be allowed to go into war.

“How did you find me?” he asked after a long while.

“I went to summon you for the feast, and because Sir Edward, your master, needed you.“

In the cool darkness of the late evening, Immanuel felt the color rise to his face and ears.

“The ultimate failure,” He thought, “worse even than being found like a maiden in distress, grappling with a python while still armed, losing the fight, having to be rescued, and losing my sword in the process.” This was the depths. Now he would be seen as irresponsible and lazy to his master’s call as well as a foolish boy and a bad fighter. But as they neared the castle, his companion stopped.

“If I have your honor that you will not cross my rule and go into the forest, truly, I will not tell about the python.” Immanuel felt a warm shiver of amazement pass through his body. He was flabbergasted. “My honor,” he replied, holding out his hand. The knight shook it and continued ahead of him into the castle.

When he entered his master’s chambers, they seemed empty, but no, there by the window sat Sir Edward in a chair by the brightly lit fireplace.

“Where have you been, squire?” he asked in an even voice, but with a slight shine in his eyes. Immanuel told him about the serpent, the sword, and the opportune knight. When he had finished, his master looked thoughtful, and slightly grave.

“When,. and where, did you find this thing?” he asked when Immanuel had finished. “About nine months ago, at the tower we besieged.” he answered.

“Why do you think the sword did not kill the serpent?” He asked. Immanuel shrugged. “It was very sharp,” he answered, ”I would have thought that it would have wounded the snake, but I guess the scales were thick.”

“…and flexible,” the other murmured. “You may go, but do me one favor, if you ever see that sword or one like it again, tell me.” Immanuel nodded and left for the feast, though not feeling very festive.

The Hall, however, was very festive–there were so many candles, you couldn’t see that it was night. The Great Hall was hung with tall red, gold, and white banners which were fastened near the high ceiling (domed in the center), and with decorations which the younger boys had made. All but a few chairs in the house had been brought down and several things which were not chairs had been brought down also to be used to this effect/in this office. Immanuel slid into an inconspicuous spot and immediately a trencher heaping with random food items/delicacies had been slid in front of him/passed down to him The man sitting next to him passed it. He looked at his table mates: on one side of him sat a shy younger boy who had just become a page; he would make no conversation, and of this Immanuel was glad. On his other side sat a knight who looked fairly well used to battle. Immanuel thought that it was strange that he would choose to sit down here with the younger boys, and then/when the knight turned to say something to him,

”Are there any more turnips left, do you know?” It was the knight who had rescued him in the forest. He looked not at all surprised to see Immanuel, though Immanuel was slightly surprised.

“They got drunk.” He said quietly/in an undertone to Immanuel, answering his unspoken question, as he motioned to further up the table “That’s why I’m over here.” Immanuel thought this even more slightly strange. He changed the subject.

“I’ve heard rumors….There’s another war! But no one will say there is. I’ve heard,” he said loosening up (/warming to his subject), “there’s the Great Wizard in the forest! Drough they say..” he stopped The knight had his finger to his lips

“Don’t say the name, even here; let them enjoy themselves; there is no looming war ” Immanuel felt slightly disappointed.

“Allow me to introduce myself:,” the knight continued, “Rolf, a knight in the king’s service.”

“Immanuel the page at yours.” Immanuel replied.

“You have a great honor to serve him, He was once in the emperors service.” Rolf told him

“I didn’t know that….Yes, a very great honor.” Immanuel said , “Look , they’re bringing in dessert.” A little while later, after some conversation Rolf said,

”Thank you indeed for this good discourse. I now depart to get some rest.” Immanuel fairly started,

“Well, if this didn’t beat all! Only the scouts, who had to get up early, ever went to bed (and with some grumbling) during a feast. Most others didn’t go to bed, if at all, until dawn.” (thought) This was yet another strange quality about this man. He considered following him to see which room he quartered in, but decided against this as the man would hear him coming up the stairs behind him and while nice enough, (he) probably appreciated his privacy.

Several routine weeks went by, (and then,) one morning a scout raced into the castle to the Lord of the castle’s chamber. When he came out, he announced

“Raiders, Must be six hundred, quartering by Drendhal. We are to mount up and take them to succor the village by the Lord‘s order.”

There was much rush, but in the midst of it Immanuel found that neither Rolf nor Sir Edward were going. There was something very strange about all this. All of the commanders and older knights would meet together and whisper over something, but you could tell that it was not the raiders which were bothering them; it was something else. But of course, they would not say that it was anything else. (The day of the departure came, and to his surprise, Immanuel had been asked by his master to pack some things for him. Even though Sir Edward would not be going to war, he had persuaded one of the captains to allow Immanuel to come so that he could have a chance to fight to earn honor. Immanuel could come,…on the condition that Oswald, one of the older squires, almost a knight, would watch out for him.

This was wonderful, “Even though Oswald is a stuck-up prig

Immanuel raced to retrieved his gear from his quarters when the call to get ready sounded, but returned to find that the army had already left and that Oswald, apparently without waiting for him, had gone with them. Returning from the gate, Immanuel saw that the commanders and older knights who had been in on the secret were nowhere to be found. ) He could only find the knights which had been left behind to guard the castle were still there. Feeling slightly nervous, and wholly disappointed, Immanuel climbed to his hiding place in the rafters and waited for something to happen. After about two hours something did. There was a hammering on the gates, but surprisingly, no shouts from the men on guard. Immanuel was about to climb down to help them–if they still lived–when he was suddenly glad that he hadn’t. A group of ragged, yet militarily disciplined men entered the great hall and began systematically searching it.

Chapter 2

Immanuel inched away from the middle of the rafters to a less visible spot. There were several cries from the kitchen and several other rooms and a tall strikingly well-dressed man with a cape entered the room with another. Immanuel recognized him as one of their scouts, though he was not dressed in the uniform of a scout, but like another one of the ragged men.

“You have done your work well,” the first said, “We have left far more men than the number you told them, and they shall be totally outnumbered and defeated, and thus I take this fortress and thus make friendship with Drough and win his favor.”

“Yes” said the other, “but has my lord no reward for such cunning?”

“The only cunning here is mine,” returned the leader, “and the only reward you will receive is the reward any traitor will receive from either side.” And thus saying, he stabbed the scout and killed him. He then walked lazily over to the banner bearing the lord of the castle’s insignia which hung down the back wall; and, cleaning his bloodstained sword on it, left the room by the door in the back wall. Immanuel sat shaking for a time, unable to move; he didn’t hear anyone coming. He climbed down from the rafters and went to the dead scout. He searched his clothing until he found a patch of his lord’s insignia and returned to the rafters just as a large group of raiders assembled in the room from all doors. The man in the cape entered the room. The ruffians were obviously waiting for something, or many things to eat. They stirred  impatiently until their leader finally raised his voice.

“We have won a great victory today,” he announced, (amid cheers) “and tomorrow the detachment of our forces will return victorious, but until then, we must keep what we have rightfully won. No one has survived to warn their army and let’s keep it that way. Hew down anyone you find. Take no prisoners.” (Here there was a dull roar of rejoicing among the ranks.)

The leader then proceeded to give out a long list of guard assignments with most of the numbers for each post being in the tens. (Immanuel nearly choked during the first ten seconds of this.) There was some unrest when he had finished doing this. He grazed the men with a hateful glare. The men pushed forward someone who probably wouldn’t have volunteered on his own. He stammered,

”W–we’s was wondering if we were to eat anything anytime soon, Lord Tiernan,” and he dove back into the crowed. Their leader frowned at this familiar usage of his name, but grudgingly relented, and, after raiding the stock rooms, they started to eat. Immanuel sat in the rafters and watched.

“Why didn’t I eat lunch?” he thought, “even we do not spend that much time–well, even Rolf doesn’t eat for so long.”

When the men had finally finished eating, drinking, smoking, telling stories, and fighting, some of them began to bed down in the great hall. Even from the rafters, Immanuel could hear the noise of their snoring and he began to wonder how anyonein the room could be asleep. At last, when all was still, he climbed down from the rafters and began to wade over the sleeping men. He was glad that they had drunk so much or else several people would have complained that their ears or legs or arms had been stepped on. (trampled) Immanuel grabbed a piece of bread from the table as dinner and headed for the door. Just then, a sentry peeked in. Immanuel dropped to the floor in a corner and began snoring. When all was clear, Immanuel got up, and, proceeding to a back gate, was suddenly glad he had heard all the men’s plans as to where, when, and how many men were stationed.

He was on the border of the woods when he remembered two things, three, actually. The first was that He had no horse. The second was that he would be walking without a horse, alone, unarmed through the dangerous forest, which he had promised Rolf to avoid.He decided to ignore any ,and all, of this and steal himself a horse. Unfortunately, as any person with brains, including he, knows, people prize their horses greatly and keep them under lock and key. But what about the traitor the leader killed? More than likely he went with the others originally, doubled back, dressed as one of the raiders so that he would not be killed on sight, and entered the castle through a back way, leaving his horse at the back entrance. Also more than likely, the leader had not told the men what he had done with the scout; and thus the horse, unless someone had seen it and moved it, was still there. Unfortunately, the that back entrance might also now be guarded.

Immanuel circled around to the back and found both guard and horse. He sneaked around behind the horse and pulled the single rather drowsy guard into a choke hold. After ten minutes of struggle, he had solved his first two problems: he had a horse and spear which the now unconscious guard had been forced to relinquish in the struggle. If you had a good horse, who needed more company? Besides, dangerous forests are much safer to ride through than to walk through. He mounted and vanished into the forest, riding in the general direction of where he thought Drendhal was located.

Perhaps his sense of direction was not all that good , Immanuel thought a few hours later. He had been riding toward what he thought was Drendhal, but the forest just kept getting more and more dense. Despite the fact that he had been avoiding roads, he was pretty sure that the forest got clearer around Drendhal. He was thinking these thoughts in a hopeful yet doubting way, when suddenly he came upon an old wooden tower. His mind went back to that day he had found the sword. Could it be the same one? It looked the same. No, of course not, we defeated them and there is now a garrison there,

“….or WAS a garrison there,” he thought shakily.

Suddenly his hoarse spooked and reared and ran off, leaving him on the ground with only a spear by a deserted tower.

It was not long before a not so friendly patrol found him. The lack of manners would not have worried him if he had known that these were men from his stronghold. However, he now knew just the opposite, and gave them as much trouble as he could before they finally knocked him out.

Immanuel came to tied up in a in a locked, empty room with only a metal rimmed table, and spiky metal chairs.

“Hoping I impale myself on them, most likely,” he thought, “The guy who owns this castle sure has a way of decorating.” But then the thought a came to him, “Hey, this is just like the scenarios they run the younger boys through in case they want to be spies. There’s something in here which will let me escape and unlock the door.” A few minutes later: “(Drat!) I was never much good with these kinds of puzzles.”

Then it came to him. He rubbed his hands raw against the sharp sides of the table, but he finally wore through the ropes on his hands. Having untied himself, he set about finding a way to unlock the door. He thrust a chair leg into the lock, forced it to open. In a moment, he was free.

Immanuel gingerly opened the door and looked out: The hall outside was empty. He grabbed what remained of the rope which had bound him and stepped through the doorway. (remembering to shut the door behind him) At one end of the long hallway the was the top of a flight of stairs, at the other end there was a glassless window and the hallway disappeared around a  corner. Immanuel ran toward the staircase, but as he approached it, he heard an echoing, heavy tread upon it. Turning around quickly, he fled around the corner, sank against a tapestried wall, and waited. Every breath he drew seemed especially heavy and quick until he was sure that he must be panting heavily. The tread grew louder and the sound of voices became audible.

“Watch the gate, Nolan, and if a messenger comes from the guerrillas, assure that we will…….‘Follow the plan to the letter and Coexist peacefully/ably.’ You may be sure, Nolan, that, if you do your work well, and I gain the store of gold, you will have a legion of men at the knight’s former castle.” The tread stopped as if at the top of the flight of stairs.

“Do not fail.”

There was then a rapid heavy tread down the stairs. The man at the top of the stairs paused as if listening for some minute sound, and continued his walk down the hallway. Immanuel started to panic; this man’s tread was quite light so as to hardly be heard and he seemed alert and (suspicious?). This part of the hall was shorter than the other part, and had a door at the end. Immanuel lunged at this door though being careful not to let his feet make a noise on the echoing wooden floor. But when he opened it, the hinges creaked loudly and unnaturally. Thus alerted, Immanuel drew up mid-leap. A large trapdoor had opened right on the thresh-hold in the otherwise uniform woodwork of the wooden floor at his disturbance of the door. Immanuel left the door open and in panic lunged for a door on the right, and, slipping inside, shut it quietly. He was sure that he had heard the soft footfalls quicken ever so much/softly and that the owner of these feet must now be at the corner. He turned and surveyed the room There was a large, rather gristly, tapestry on the right wall depicting a man being slain by a serpent. On the center of the back wall of the room hung an open wooden sword case. On the left side of the back wall there was a barred glassless window. Immanuel stopped, his back against the door, in amazement. Here was his wondrous sword! Here, in a wooden case in an enemy’s castle, the sword which he had lost that day in the woods was enshrined. He crossed to the case and seized the sword. Henceforth he would never be unarmed. But as he lifted the sword from its case, he heard a click. Running to the door, he discovered that it was locked. But it had not been a key in a (the) lock which he had heard, but merely a simple click of the door being locked without key. He raced to the window, through the bars he could see men preparing to depart to switch posts with the night watch (on the gate). That, at least was (to) his advantage, it would still be dark for a little while and so whomever had been in the hall couldn’t have seen him. But he trembled nonetheless, knowing that the man in the hall probably had a key which he would use if he did not find Immanuel in the pit. Immanuel ducked behind the long tapestry of the serpent as a way of hiding so that he could think. He cleared his mind, “There is no way out of here; he’ll probably come back any moment and then–” Images of tortures and cells filled his mind. “At any rate, I’m stuck here until I can figure a way out. Why did I run off randomly anyway?!” He flattened himself against the wall and pulled in his chest, (unconsciously) fitting his elbow into a hollow in the woodwork. Noiselessly the wall behind the tapestry slid back, and Immanuel, astonished and wondering, slipped inside. The wall slid back again with an almost inaudible click.

Chapter 3

Immanuel stood still for a moment in the darkness. Immanuel blinked; even standing just inside the concealed (room) no visible light came from any cracks in the sliding section of the wall. He was blind to all around him. Then his thought came back to him, “If this man is such a genius to make pits, sliding panels, and doors that lock when swords are removed from their casings; than he is probably smart enough to realize where I’ve am,” and so thinking, he stepped forward into the darkness and tumbled down a spiral staircase.

He tumbled a dozen shallow steps before he finally came to his senses and grabbed the central wooden beam of the staircase and stopped. His back hurt.  He stood up anyway and let his eyes adjust to the darkness. After felling with many cracks  and thumps in that muffled room and as he sat stunned in the darkness, he thought that he heard a noise. It was a slight shifting noise as from clothing when a person stands up. Immanuel had a faint uncomfortable feeling of de ja vu, but he did not know why, or rather from where. All the same, he felt it best to continue down the staircase.

His steps echoed down/up that long winding cylinder of the stair stone. He figured that he must be pretty near to the bottom of the stair, when he thought he felt something brush his arm.

“Must’ve been a fly.”

he thought brushing the place. But in that instance he had a familiar feeling of being followed, and, while he knew that here, it was possible, he felt it far more likely that the feeling sprang from the presence of the thing who had alerted it last time: that is, the python. Fearful, he quickened his pace, and in so doing, tripped. He winced as he fell, knowing that if he hit his head, the snake would either be the least of his concerns or, if he survived, more of a concern, as getting away from it would be vastly harder. He fell perhaps two feet. At the bottom of the stair, he stood up. He had brushed something in his fall, and now had a pretty good idea of how he had tripped and where it lay.

But here, he ran into a hitch, for though he may know where the snake was, he had no way of escaping it; for the stairs ended in a dark room, not even that really, only the about ten feet from the end of the stairs stood a wall.

“And here no doubt,” Immanuel thought despondently (hopelessly), “the snake will (would) be in it’s element. It probably knows the exact shape of this wall.” Immanuel drew his sword. But remembering it’s effects on this snake last time he ran into the space under the stairs, hoping that here the snake would have less room to operate. He was wrong. The snake approached without (pause). Suddenly, here, about to be compressed by an anaconda, he (again) got the feeling that this was somehow out of place. But this time his head was clear, the mind numbing panic had dissolved into a brain (racking?) period.

“Of course, anaconda’s don’t live in this part of the world,” Immanuel felt like shouting his thought. “So there’s only one. How’d it get in here? Unless someone left it in here, there has to be a door down here somewhere. The stairs can’t just lead to nowhere. The snake couldn’t have opened the door upstairs!.” (Here unfortunately, he was wrong. The snake could open the door, but being a lazy yet clever snake, it had found another way in.)The snake wrenched the sword from his grip. He sank back as far as he could. Feeling around the back of the stairs in a desperate hope as the snake advanced, he braced himself on the wooden center beam, and fell through the floor.

He fell, but not necessarily into a better place. Indeed, if some things had been otherwise (such as if half the guard had not had their judgment fogged by drinking off in the mess hall,) things would have been quite different. However/Nevertheless, as it was, he was still in deep trouble. Immanuel sat up rubbing his head after falling onto the stone floor of the guardhouse. He looked up into the face of someone who was knelt over him. Something was wrong. Why was Rolf in the enemy’s castle? The traitor! He was probably spying on the army! “Roooo—!” he began to yell, but the man had clamped his mouth shut with fingers of iron. Immanuel fiercely attempted to bite the man’s palm and succeeded only in bloodying his own tongue.

“Be quiet or they’ll find us here” he said between gritted teeth although truthfully it was somewhat of a surprise for boy they had missed this afternoon to come falling through the ceiling.

Immanuel’s eyes cleared, and he saw he was in a guard house, well lit with the early morning sun streaming in through a single window. He realized his bearings in an a minute. The guard house was set into the perpendicular wall to the room with the sword and beyond the westward window sat the small west gate. In the meanwhile, Rolf was dealing with his own problems. He stood in the center of the room holding Immanuel’s shoulders still a bit dazed wondering what on earth he was to do with him. Immanuel suddenly spun around to face him.

“What are you doing?” he whispered fiercely pulling at his sword.

Rolf had, however, got a hold of himself and ignoring the outburst said in a low voice, “Has he seen you?”

“Who on earth?”

Rolf sucked in air, “Drough, for heavens sakes, Drough!”

“I don’t….eeh, probably he knows all the same.” Immanuel conceded remembering the footsteps in the hall and how the sword had been rigged.

Rolf ran to the wall and pulled down a tunic with the wizard’s heraldry (a blue/green serpent on a silver background/ over sable ) and a helmet. Pushing these things into Immanuel’s hands he pulled him toward the door. “Run! Along the side of the wall–that way–until you get to a gate , if ever you can, open the gate and get out what ever happens–” He pushed Immanuel out “You’ve seen me, tell them ‘all goes well.’” and Immanuel was gone, sprinting along the inside of the wall, “Though he would be lucky if he didn’t get caught again,” Rolf thought, “but then,“ he reflected, “there’s more chance of my being strangled by the wizard’s snake than of his getting captured” he turned toward the bench along the wall for his gear when suddenly a scraping sound came from the direction of the door. The lock on the door clicked.uh oh.”

Immanuel bolted along unsteadily trying to fix his helmet on without a coif when he suddenly tripped. He pulled himself up and looked around: ahead the grass merged with a paved path which ran along the edge an abruptly beginning strip of manicured trees and bushes. Immanuel launched himself forward onto this arched walkway, but in a minute, he was darting into the bushes. A sentry was pacing down the covered path. Immanuel might have stayed and tried to look normal, but a tunic and a helmet would by no means make him blend in, or for that matter, explain why he wasn’t at an assigned post. Being awkwardly unused to the terrain, Immanuel could not, unfortunately, hide the brief rustle of branches; and the sentry heard it right away. Running over to the wall, the man at first spotted a patch of silver amongst the new spring leaves of the green bush. Then he was able to make out the shape of a teenage boy in his master’s livery wearing a long brown tunic. This did not explain, what business the young man had hiding in bushes. He leapt forward at the boy and attempted to grab him by the back of his collar, but already Immanuel was making for the covered walk on the side of the castle where several lances where leaned up against the wall. This strip of grass was isolated from the rest of the garden by walls. The covered walkway ran through the wall and further along the outside defenses. Immanuel hadn’t noticed the dividing walls as he had rushed along the path and was now in a bit of a jam as the man ran quickly to covered the far bit of the path leading into other courtyards which Immanuel gathered to be gardens. Immanuel, however, directly saw the disadvantages of this course as there were probably more alert guards such as this one, who would more than likely catch him if he ran off with this pursuer (at his heels) sounding the hue and cry at his heels. For this reason, he did not even attempt to escape one way or the other (as where he had come from was even worse for the amount of guards) but stopped short of the wall; the man had not alerted anyone yet, and he wanted to keep it that way. There were several lances leaning up against the wall which had probably been employed in the practice of jousting in the garden, but Immanuel saw a whole new/another use for them. He lifted one up and, smashing the excess point of the unwieldy end off, he turned to face the guard. The guard, contrastingly, did not see any danger in Immanuel’s form and attempted to calm him down.

“Put it down Puppy, I could easily kill you, but Master Drough might not be so glad. I want a word with you.” the man urged.

“Say it now unless you’re afraid. If you meant no harm to me you could have dispensed with lunging at me.” Immanuel rejoined.

The man laughed, “Indeed,” He smiled, ”But I mean to do nothing to you other than return you to the kitchen where you belong…unless that is not where you have come from.” he mused, another idea coming to him.

“You might explain your own origins before editorializing on mine; but I say again, ask it of me now or I will not wait.” Immanuel persisted.

The man, now fully sure of his hypothesis, replied, “Surely, I would, had you answered me in more polite phrasing. I do, however, now have more in mind for you than that.” and he rushed at him sword out, Fortunately for Immanuel, the lance was made out of a fire-hardened, treated wood and he deflected the sword and swung with all his might at the man’s elbow, missed, and sent a ringing blow across his knuckles, upon which juncture, the sentry dropped his sword. Immanuel moved to cover the sword and sheathed it. In doing so, he had inadvertently left the wall with the lances unguarded and now, besides having a short knife sheathed at his side, his opponent had a quarterstaff. By the look of things, he was also well skilled in using one and bore down on Immanuel, who was losing strength to hold him off, hard. Why are you afraid of me?” the man said, “I ask again, From where do you come? Who are you with? Is that your master we vanquished outside the walls of the north gate?”

Immanuel hesitated a moment, but realized that this was all too soon after seeing Rolf, calm and assured of his mission for things to be going wrong quite yet. Unfortunately, this hesitant moment was just what the Drough’s soldier had been hoping to trigger, and before Immanuel had yet recovered, he had swung at Immanuel‘s side hard. Immanuel felt sick and nauseous as the stick hit hard. He recovered soon; but he now realized that the man was now in the act of edging him closer and closer to the blank outer stockade-type wall of the garden where he might be trapped. (But here Immanuel here also had the advantage being smaller and able to more easily dodge through the bushes and underbrush which lay against the tower walls.) The object of quarterstaff fighting is to beat your opponent up so much that he surrenders or else knock him/off balance him over or trap him against a wall or table (obstacle). Immanuel, being smaller had better/could more easily maneuver and perform the latter of these objects; while the soldier, being much stronger and taller was more skilled in the former (although, he also, being strong, could trap Immanuel against the stonework of the wall) So Immanuel did not particularly try to resist this action both for this reason and because he couldn’t. Unfortunately, Immanuel was getting far more winded from his bruised side than his opponent was from getting nearly off-balanced several times. They were nearly at the wall. Immanuel dodged back and forth, trying to overbalance his opponent and at the same time not be the one to end up with his back against the wall. He watched his opponent anxiously, for though a sword would do little against a quarterstaff, an accurately thrown knife would probably kill him. The sound of the staffs was so that Immanuel was worried of the other guards’ investigating. (In fact, he had less reason to worry than he thought. The reason that nobody immediately investigated was that everyone was far too busy to worry about the noise of fighting in the garden. The man leaned forward toward the wall so that he over-shadowed Immanuel who stooped with his back to the wall. Then, he struck, quickly; but, Immanuel, who had leaned there moments before, seemingly helpless to move, had sunk down so that the blow fell not on his head, but on the stone wall, which sent ringing vibrations down the staff to the man’s knuckles. The man cursed and leant toward Immanuel who was now trapped between the stem of a small tree and his antagonist. In doing so, provincially for Immanuel, he stepped on a dewy part of grass and momentarily lost balance. This, moment of uncertainty was enough, however for Immanuel, drawing the sword he had taken from this man earlier, to leap up and poise it at the man’s throat. The sentry didn’t move, but Immanuel knew that he would in a minute dodge and escape or else send a cry up. He had to do something quickly, but he was adverse to—Then the worst happened. The man, unabated, sent up a loud cry of, “Hoy, come quickly, invader in th–” Immanuel hit him quickly over the head with his quarterstaff. But the harm had been done: footfalls echoed loudly down the stone path. Immanuel threw away the staff and hurled himself into the next garden over. He looked around briefly; this garden was similar to the other one but with a door into the castle by the path and a well in the center. He ran forward. A moment later, the owners of those footfalls had reached the garden.

Chapter 4

Rolf turned toward the doorway and pulled at the knob: nothing. He leaped across the guardhouse floor to the window. Covering the arrow ports in heavy iron bars was a thick pane of glass. He was completely isolated. For security reasons, the guard house did not connect to the main body of the tower, but he wouldn’t be very safe even if it did. They’d be waiting for him outside the door in all probability even it did exist. His mind rushed back to the real locked door. Surveying it, he could see that it was made out of very thick strong–No, that would be no good, but—He glanced to the ceiling, the passage Immanuel had come through was now closed ,

“But with the right leverage….” Rolf glanced around the guard house, seized a spear, and, jamming its point into the slight crack that remained there, leaping into the air delivered a powerful kick to its stem. The stick bent for a minute almost to the point of breaking, but it suddenly bounced back violently and the door fell down. Rolf ducked to avoid the door as the spear clattered to the floor. Then, after another quick glance around the gatehouse, he jumped up into the trapdoor, using his hands to steady himself on the edge of the hole. A moment later, the door snapped to, and he heard a slight noise as of cloth sliding down cobbles. Standing up, Rolf stiffened. He hadn‘t forgotten the queer fix he had found Immanuel in recently. He did not, however, have much time to mull over this and he now felt a loose loop beginning to encircle his ankles. He leaped up and deliberately plunged quickly down; he felt a hard moving surface under his boot, as of plate metal, a moment before he landed. He drew his sword and bashed down at what he could see as the serpent’s head with it as he gained his night vision. There was a slight moan, but the snake now redoubled its speed toward him. With equal rapidity, he unsung his shield from his back and stepping deftly round, bashed the side of its head as close as he could get to the back of its head. Unchecked it lunged forward, its jaws stretched wide. A moment before it had reached him, he swung his shield forward, so that it was firmly lodged between the beast’s teeth. As it struggled to free itself Rolf hit it, again and again, but to his surprise, he found that he could not sever it from its head, but only stun it–at least not with this sword, one of the lord’squality swords might be another matter, but– There was no time: the snake might not stun as easily as one would suspect. Rolf ran up the stairs. There was a wall at the end of the stairs, “What? That wasn’t right.” His foot nudged something and he bent to pick it up. It was a sword, a large sword and he remembered Immanuel, “But where, and why–” By the feel of the thing, it was undoubtedly Drough’s and probably had magic spells on it–still, it was a bargaining chip if things didn’t go well. But why hadn’t Immanuel picked it up…unless he had dropped it, it was also possible that he had been cautious enough not to pick it up. But either way, why would he do that, unless he had it in the first place and that was why the snake had attacked him, or had seen it before. But there were holes in either theory. “Why was he unarmed when I found him then, but yet how did he know not to touch it unless he had had it already?” Either way, Immanuel had seen it before and was probably in a little more danger for knowing about it. Rolf hurriedly stuck it in his belt and turned to study the wall. Feeling over it, he could now see that there was a door outlined by slight cracks and that it moved by a track on the ceiling. He pulled at the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Obviously, Drough had gone to a few more pains with this door than the other, “But wait minute…,” he thought, his hands brushing a slight unevenness in the ceiling. He pushed hard at the new set of cracks which had now appeared under his hand. The door in the ceiling gave slightly, but not enough. He dug in a pouch on his belt. “Was it?…Yes!” He pulled out a small pouch of grease used in oiling bows and shining things. He hurriedly smeared it liberally into the cracks, and pushed; if the snake wasn’t out properly, he would soon have even more to worry about. Hesitant because of his precarious balance on the stair, but now desperate, he moved into a mid-air kick with all the muscle he now had; and popped the door open. Pulling himself over the threshold, he now saw that he was in the attic of the tower. It was burning hot under the slate. He was in a long section of the attic divided by a wall which ran the length of the attic with the roof slanting down on one side, so that Rolf, being tall, had to stoop. As he picked his way over the rafters, he saw that he could now look fifteen feet down into rooms through gaps in the beams. Below him was a room with a sword case and a tapestry, further on he could see a dark apartment with rooms having windows which looked out to an eastern courtyard and a western gate. It was Drough’s stratagem rooms. Rolf, not having the fancy to run into Drough, leapt down into the room directly below him. “After all, Immanuel had probably come through these rooms (though Rolf couldn’t imagine how he had gotten to them), and though Immanuel had been seen by Drough, he hadn’t been caught here,” he though as he landed “On second thought, that might not have been a good idea,” Rolf thought, trying the door. He went to the tapestry, and feeling around, found the release catch for the panel. That was an assurance that he could have come from here, at least. Rolf began to examine the room, glancing briefly out the window to assure that there was no undue action or suspicion “Still, locking me in there hadn’t been an accident,” He noted heading for the sword case, the only obvious remaining escape trigger. Noting bits of metal that retracted except when the sword was removed from it’s case, he yanked it from the wall. Beneath was a deep indention in the stone which made it seem as though the sword case was set into the wall. Inside this hollow was a veritable network of wooden bolts/bars. Rolf let out a breath. “Drough didn’t rely solely on his magic. Ohhhh noooo, not by a long shot.” Rolf stared at the wooden bolts and string and his eyes rested on one which seemed to have be missing/ require a trigger It looked as though removing the sword from the sword case would supply that if a certain bar was pressed forward and the case replaced. No, that was too obvious. Indeed it was; Rolf now saw it was indirectly connected to a partially obscured detonator/flint and steel packed all around with dynamite. He began to get nervous. But then he saw in the top left corner, directly above the detonator, two unconnected opposite bolts of wood . He pushed them together and the lock immediately snapped open. He ran to the door, cracked it open, and fixing the sword case back to the wall, ran out and shut the door. The lock on the door almost immediately snapped shut. Footfalls in the hall. Rolf instinctively ran for a door slightly on his left, on the other side of the hallway. He slipped inside and shut it gently. But then, to his horror, found that the footfalls had stopped at his door and a key was turning……

Keane! Hold him off!The men had reached him.

“They’ve escaped. Come on; Lord Drough will have our heads.” The men turned back the way they had come.

“He’s not here, “ a voice echoed down to Immanuel in a moment. “You go that way; I’ll return this, if he’s here we’ll find him. We’ll get Keane later.”

In a few seconds, Immanuel climbed shakily up a the rope and climbed out of the well. He took a minute to recover himself and ran off down the path. He used more caution this try and in time had arrived at a knot of men near the gate. His heart sank; there was a crowd of men fifteen deep in the least places around the gate. Someone on the outer edge spotted him and taking hold of the back of his shirt, pulled at him roughly,

“You, boy, give Sir Kenelm his arrows. You’ve kept him waiting long.” he pointed to the midst of the throng, “he stands there. Hurry.” Immanuel stumbled forward until he was hidden from view among the soldiers and stopped. He ripped a strip from the tunic he was wearing and, pricking his finger wrote in blood,

Rolf is well, cont., ’nuel let gate.” He then attached it to the/a knife he’d persuaded Sir Edward to let him carry yesterday, and flung it, still in sheath, over the wall, “That ought’a get their attention,” he grinned. Unfortunately (though not unlikely) a moment after he’d thrown the knife (and before he’d had the chance to “let gate”). The man next to him, who had been quietly watching him throwthe knife, grabbed him by thehair on the back of his neck.

“Hey, Larkin, help me with this!” He called out jovially.

“What on earth are you doing?” Immanuel protested, “I’m Kenelm’s boy! He needs his arrows.”

“What arrows?” his captor smirked back, “You and I both know you had no business throwing things, especially signals, over the gate,” he paused, “Hey Kenelm!” he shouted, “where’s your squire?”

“With me, the blighter took long enough,” (Here there was the sound of a boy’s squeal as if a boy had just gotten his ear twisted.)

“You see, young ’blighter’,” (here he imitated Kenelm’s practice of twisting ears.) “your place has already been filled.” he said as Larkin arrived.

“Girvin,” said the man, nodding to the other and eyeing Immanuel, “C’mon,” Larkin said whipping out a gag.

Guess were I stole that from (sincerest apologies to originators; don’t sue)

Chapter 5

Rolf held his breath. The door clicked, and the almost inaudible footfalls moved off. He waited a minute and tried the door. Locked. By this time it was impossible to ignore that Drough was onto him. Rolf acknowledged the fact and put it aside. The room he was in was small and dim with a high ceiling like the rest of the castle and no windows. It was empty except for a small rug. Rolf grabbed the rug and turned back toward the door. He looked in the key hole. It was dark. Rolf smiled.

Had Drough really fallen prey to the oldest mistake in the book? He pushed the rug under the door and poked the key out with the point of his sword. It thumped on the mat. “Or at least that’s what should have happened,” Rolf thought ruefully, “now, I’ve probably jammed the door so that it won’t open anyway.” He looked up. Through the rafters, he could see that other half/side of the attic passage he’d just been in. He leaped up and his hand just brushed the lowest beam. After a few more tries, he decided that it was hopeless. His eye rested on the carpet “Probablystill hopeless, but….but there was the chance….” He pulled the heavy rug up and tossed it into the air. It hit the rafters and fell to the floor with a soft thump. Rolf seized it up and spun it up again. If he could only get a hand hold… Minutes later Rolf was picking his way across the rafters. This time, there were no walls between the rafter of the rooms and no extra boards to expedite crossing. In fact, some of them were–Craaaak–Rolf skipped to another. In fact there was no evidence at all that Drough even frequented the these beams. Hopefully, Drough had forgotten to rig this side of the rafters, and anyway, Rolf couldn’t fail. “The fact that they hadn’t enough men to take the castle in the conventional way, or even to guard their ownwas the very reason he was here.” Rolf ran down the stairs with the others. Commanding respect in his character as Nolan, if Immanuel had failed, Nolan could order them to open the gate. Unless word had gotten out…

He ran out the main entrance onto the lawn. If he had turned, he might have seen two men/Girvin and Lankin pulling a young, gagged, struggling prisoner up the steps. Alas, Immanuel was, for now at least, lost to him as he surveyed the gate.

“Mosaed!” His second-in-command emerged from the crowd and ran toward him.

“Yes sa`?” At least he had not been informed of Drough‘s suspicions.

“They’re doing it poorly, tell them to reformate and open the gate to attack.”

“But sir, they’re ramming the gate, and Drough told us on pain of death that no one was to…”

“I say it fall back and charge. I have new orders. And Mosaed…,” He said looking at his loyal officer’s face I would like for you to accompany the men starting out with the message for the knight’s former castle.”

“Do you not need me?”

“The message is more vitally important.”

“Yes, Sir”

At least there he would be safe temporarily,” Rolf thought as his aide hurried away. “He wasn’t a bad sort really.” A small group of men approached. Mosaed had delivered his orders, “That was quick.” Kenelm was among them.

“Are you mad, Nolan!” he stormed, “Drough told us not to move” Inwardly amused, Rolf pulled himself to his full height,

“I am the second-in-command/lieutenant to Drough! I follow his orders! Are you willing to obey me?”

A few minutes later, the men had obediently formed, and Rolf, not willing to trust his ability to perform this charade much longer, yelled, “Ready…..Set…..CHHAARRGGEE!” at the same time grinding the wheel on the gate open. He glanced back as the men poured out through the gates. At least this time they’d (kings men) have a fighting chance, better than otherwise, especially if they had fallen into this plot specially formulated by Drough. He turned back toward the steps ready to find Immanuel and then leave. His heart stopped and his chest grew tight. There on the steps stood Drough himself, disdainfully overlooking the battle. Rolf had no idea how long he had stood there, but it was probably long enough, especially in addition to what he might know. Rolf sucked in a breath, saluted Drough and did the only thing he felt he could, plunging out the gates and into the fray.

The air around him was hot and clangorous. Rolf sprinted, dodging toward the opposite side, which was in return charging toward the gates of Drough’s fortress. Ahead, he spotted a knot of warriors leading the charge.

“Walter!” Walter, the commander of the lord’s army, spun around and nearly took Rolf’s head off. “Wait! Have you heard anything from Immanuel,” Rolf shouted, blocking his intended blow.

“Yes! Where is he? Why are you here. It could compromise–”

“You’re winning pretty well here,” Rolf interrupted, “and anyway, I couldn’t help it, I think he might be on to me.” Walter frowned icily,

“This will undo it–I–” He spun around and hit a man who had been sneaking up on him from the rear.

“Form a party, we’ll find Drough or Immanuel either way. If I just get my hands on Oswald for not keeping an eye on him–” Rolf and he swung forward into the confusion.

Rolf and his band had disguised themselves in the serpent tunics of Drough as a precaution and were canvassing the castle for Drough’s prisoners. On the main stairway, after searching the dungeon, Rolf caught in, a confusion of freed prisoners, a short man up by the collar.

“Girvin! Where is Drough!”

“I don’t know, Sir! Really couldn’t say,” he smiled adversely. Rolf gripped his collar even more tightly,

“I am on official business, Girvin, where is Drough?”

“No doubt,” Girvin responded, glancing at his troops clean uniforms, “He is upstairs in his war room, but engaged.”

No doubt,” Rolf murmured pushing past the know-it-all (If he had know Girvin’s part in Drough’s, “engagement” he would have done more than push) However, he had more things on his mind than Girvin’s suspicions or even his hints, and he pushed forward up the stairs. The room at the end of the hall. “The room at the hall,” he thought dryly, the hall he’d been in twice already today. he smiled tiredly, “Hopefully, Drough won’t be too hard to take,” he thought, “but then, that was a contradiction in terms,” he sighed.

He mounted the stairs and turned the first corner. “With any luck, Girvin had been telling the truth and they wouldn’t have to scour the castle. Of course, from the point Girvin made of Drough’s “engagement” there would likely be a much nastier surprise waiting for them,” Rolf thought as he rounded the final corner and headed straight for Drough’s stratagem room.

Opening the door, he realized that Drough had prepared a surprise–beginning with the trapdoor sitting in the thresholdof the door. He steadied himself.

He looked up, his feet still planted firmly on the floor in front of the threshold.

Drough stood on the right hand side of the room near another open door. He smiled patronizingly.

“Why hello, ’Nolan,’” he said stepping toward them from the door to the room beyond. “How niceof you to come to me.”

“I’ve come awaiting further orders,” Rolf told him, on the off-chance that Drough wasn’t totally convinced of his spying.

“No doubt.” Drough replied, still smiling. “Unfortunately for you, I too have leverage. And mine isn’t near so degrading as being followed around by cowards who don’t know anything about disguise,” he added glancing at the men in the spotless uniforms they had found in Drough’s castle. He smiled once more and stepped into the room beyond.

“Stay, ” Rolf cautioned his men.

“As you see,” Drough continued returning from the room dragging a chair and glancing at Rolf’s men, “I have a few more strategies than Sir Rolf here does.–Including a back-up plan,” here he glanced down at Immanuel, who was tied securely to the chair.

“Why try to bend me with him? I do not know him,” Rolf lied.

“You cannot deceive me,” Drough countered, holding up the patch of insignia on the sword belt Immanuel had taken from the dead scout intending to prove his guilt, “Didn’t you think that I would notice when you spent more time ‘spying’ on the knights than you actually accounted for?” he continued, “Did you think that you could actually fool me? If so, you are a larger fool than I had thought possible.”

“Perhaps. But you’ve left your back uncovered at several points,” Rolf replied

“Have I really?” he motioned to Immanuel. “I might say much the same to you. Pull back your forces or things will become most unpleasant for all of us.”

From the corner of his eye, Immanuel saw the anaconda slithering down through a air shaft into the next room.

Rolf laughed. Immanuel didn’t think it a very nice laugh, “Why?” Rolf asked

“Well, because, as you know, your village has been taken by raiders. Or did you tell them that?” He added, glancing once again at Rolf‘s band. “You have nowhere to go, and I can just call my allies (Whose capture of your castle I arranged) to come and get me.

Rolf grinned “I don‘t think you‘ll find them allies anymore after they hear what I told your delegates to say. At any rate, I don’t think we have much to worry about; whoever heard of pulling back a force because a small boy was inside the tower they had sieged and defeated. We’re strong enough to take our great hall back.. And, unfortunately for you,” Rolf continued, as Immanuel felt a serpentine scale on his ankle, “I have ‘leverage’ which might prove more valuable than the boy,” and here he pulled out the large sword Immanuel had found in the castle and was astounded to perceive it here.

“Ah, I was wondering where that had gotten to. I thought the boy might be lying. I have a bargain. Give me the sword and allow me ten minutes alone and you may have the boy and come in to take me. Or I could kill the boy. “ he conceded.

“Not before I dropped the Sword,” Rolf countered, motioning to the open trapdoor where the wind echoed far below.

“Would you care to try that?” Drough smiled.

“What’s the use? Kill him and I’ll drop the Sword anyway,” Rolf countered

“Ah, then,” Drough replied, ”Do we have an accord?”

Rolf dipped his head.

“Free him,” Drough motioned to the not-too-delighted anaconda to have prey stolen from it now thrice in a row. It loosened it’s coils round Immanuel grudgingly, and Drough lowered the knife and cut Immanuel free.

As soon as Immanuel had reached them, Rolf tossed the sword over.

“It wouldn’t have helped you anyway,” Drough said in a consoling voice. “It can hurt neither me nor my men. And mind you, leave me alone. I don’t like eavesdroppers and won’t be responsible for my actions toward them.”

Rolf frowned, but nodded; and led them to the top of the stairs. Walter was there looking peevish and began to count out the minutes when he heard the news.

“Ten.” Walter stated.

Rolf looked up and stopped pacing.

“Men, ready your weapons. Hopefully, he won’t be too much trouble but… Oswald and Kasey, watch the door. Immanuel, you.–”

Rolf looked around. Immanuel was in the outer regions of the group closest to the door, ready and alert.

Fine,” Rolf said, “You come with me. And stay with me.”

In a few minutes, Rolf was at the door, toying with the lock. “What has he–?” Rolf slammed himself against the door hard. “Ram it.”

Rolf stepped through the now empty doorway and saw the source of their problem. The trapdoor was propped open. He announced picking up a bit of broken chair leg.

“Than why wouldn’t the door open,” asked Kasey from the hall, “if the trapdoor opens when the door does?”

“He must have found some way to reverse it,” Rolf answered, getting up to examine the hinges of the door, “When we rammed the door, the device broke and there’s no way to open it but manually now. He knew exactly what he was doing,” Rolf whistled.

He broke aside for a council with Walter. “I propose that several of us go down,–assuming the door can be opened, and the rest stay here on the chance it’s a decoy and he’s hiding up here somewhere. Unless the door can’t be opened, it would be inefficient and fruitless to look for where this trapdoor comes out, which could take hours.”

“A clever device,” Walter commented, “that can be used to dispose of enemies with a fall that kills them and yet can be used as an escape route if a man is lowered down. Brilliant.”

“He is,” Rolf said.

Several men where huddled on the floor already, trying to find the invisible cracks on the floor with their fingers. Rolf stepped over, knelt down, and waving them aside brought out the familiar small pouch of goose grease. He huddled over the floor, and smeared it liberally over the possible areas. Then, sitting back, he brought out a cloth and wiped the floor. An uncertain line of brown showed among the gray stones where the crack lay. Rolf dug in his belt again, and this time came out with a little sand. He sprinkled this over the floor and kicked the excess aside again. There, standing clearly out against the dirty gray stones, was a white line, indicating the exact location of the trap door. Rolf smeared more grease on and they set wedges in and pulled. In a few minutes, a thick stone door was up and Walter was again looking at his watch.

“He’s had fourteen minutes and thirty seconds now to escape. ’Better move quickly.”

Rolf nodded and grabbed the/a rope that had been braced, pulling to check its stability. He felt a resistance on the lower end of the rope and glanced to his left.


“I’ve seen him as much as they have, if not more, besides, you said to stay with you.”

Rolf closed his eyes. How determined could one kid get? Pretty determined.”

He opened them. “Fine, but stay close. And don’t run off without saying anything.” He waved Immanuel aside and nodding to Walter, he slid down the rope.

He was startled, on reaching the bottom of the rope, to slide into a pool of water. He couldn’t feel the bottom and had no idea how deep it was. The chamber around him was pitch black. He filled his lungs with air and let go of the rope. He stood knee-high in water and could have laughed if what he had to do wasn’t so urgent.

“All clear.“ He whispered up the rope, “Send Immanuel, Mentor, and Lamar down too.”

A moment later, Immanuel stood beside him, holding his breath because of the cold water as he (Rolf) gazed up at Lamar and Mentor’s descending forms.

Guess what dear reader, He doesn’t find one. Arrogant, evil Drough forgot all about the other side of the staircase, or at least as far as Rolf is concerned (Or for all I know of for that matter) [but you’re not supposed to know that]

Chapters 6-10