Locked Door

Castle of Crows – Part 5

The moment the sky went dark, Aunt Pen was grabbing us both and pulling us out of the room. I could hear howling from outside, followed by the familiar cawing of crows, and while the noises scared me, the panicked look on Aunt Pen’s face was what kept me from asking questions. Her face had lost all color, and as she pulled us through the halls and up the stairs she kept looking around like she expected something to jump out of the shadows at us.

When we got to the third floor, Aunt Pen started leading us down a very familiar hallway. It was where we’d first started looking for the passage to the tower, and when Aunt Pen stopped in front of that blank wall it occurred to me that she might not have been completely honest when she said she’d never found the passageways.

There was a crash behind us, and Macey and I turned to see a crow had crashed through a window down the hall. Before I could even try to identify him though, there was a scraping sound, and we turned again to see the stone wall opening up to reveal a staircase. Aunt Pen grabbed us and pushed us through the opening.

“Go upstairs, lock the door behind you, and stay there, no matter what you hear. I’ll come back to get you when it’s safe. Don’t open the door for anyone, I can open it from outside, so don’t open it yourselves. The curtains will be closed, do not open them, and don’t touch anything in the wood cabinet.”

“Aunt Pen—”

“Just go!” She cut me off, and then the stone door started to close again. As I watched her I saw a shadow moving through the broken window, but before I could warn her the door was closed. I might have stood there all night if Macey hadn’t been there to pull me out of it.

“Come on, she said we had to go upstairs,” Macey said, and I let her tug me along.

It was dark in the passage, and we ended up climbing the stairs mostly on all fours. We paused when we heard something slam into the wall behind us, big and loud and with enough force to shake dust loose from the ceiling. We went faster after that, following the stairs as they curved upwards until we bumped into a wooden door. It took us a moment to find the handle, in which time a steady pounding started up below us, but the door was unlocked and open a crack, so we got inside and shut it behind us a few seconds later.

The room we entered was lit by candles, and while Macey started flipping the various locks and deadbolts on the door, I took in our new surroundings. The room was small and circular, with one window, at least I assumed that was what was behind the curtains across the room. There was a small tea table in the center of the room, a large wooden cabinet on the left, and a bookcase on the right, next to a work table covered in strange things, including what seemed to be a cauldron. There was also a bird’s perch next to the window, but it was currently empty.

“Do you think Aunt Pen is alright?” Macey asked, voice small as she took in the room.

“Yeah, of course,” I said, trying to put a confidence into my voice that I didn’t really feel. “She’s an adult, so she knows what she’s doing. She’ll probably come get us by morning.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Macey said, taking a seat at the tea table. “What do you think is happening?”

Something slammed into the door, but it didn’t even budge. I moved away anyway, going to stand by Macey as whatever was on the other side tried to force its way through. “I don’t know, but I think the castle is under attack.”

The door didn’t even shake under the onslaught, which was reassuring, but we could hear heavy thuds against it every few seconds. The howling had started up again, though it seemed farther away now. When the thudding finally stopped it was even more worrying though. Whatever wanted in was still there, surely, but it had given up on brute force. Something scraped against the window behind us, though we couldn’t see anything through the curtains. There was an angry cawing from outside, and the sounds of a scuffle that moved away from the window, then silence again.

“Children?”

I froze at the sound of Aunt Pen’s voice on the other side of the door. It sounded like her, but it was off, somehow. Her tone had a sickly sweetness to it that I’d never heard from Aunt Pen before.

“Children, open the door please.” I turned to Macey and she rapidly shook her head.

“Aunt Pen said she could open the door herself,” she whispered to me, and I nodded, even as terror filled me. Whatever was out there, it was not our Aunt.

“Children, I said open the door!” The voice was angry now and sounded even less like Aunt Pen then before. “Do as I say, or there will be consequences!”

I took a seat across from Macey, and we sat in silence as the voice continued to demand entrance, switching between threats and pleas. It went on for what felt like hours before whatever it was finally gave up and went back to trying to break the door down.

Eventually, Macey and I fell into an exhausted sleep, doing our best to ignore the noises from outside the room. It was a long night.