Stairs

Castle of Crows – Part 14

The hall was empty when I slipped into it, and I grabbed onto the Fortuna coin once more as I tried to decide which way to go. Left felt luckier, though it was the way we’d come from, and I quietly crept down the hall. I continued on like that, holding onto the coin and letting it guide me, always following my first instinct.

Left, right, straight, left again, into that room, right, wait, and so on. Everything looked the same, and I didn’t know where I was, but I hadn’t been caught, and that was good enough for me. Sometimes when I went into a room I had to hide, and occasionally I’d hear more goblins speaking in whatever language they spoke, their voices gruff and scary, but disinterested as far as I could tell, which I figured meant they didn’t suspect that I was there.

Eventually, I made it to a stairwell, but that was where the coin seemed like it might not know where I was trying to go. Nixie had said that Aunt Pen was being held on the third floor, which meant going up, but the coin wanted me to go down instead. The stairs going down spiraled into a foreboding darkness that was improperly lit by hanging lanterns, and I was willing to bet that if Amos had a dungeon, it would be down those stairs. But that’s where the coin wanted me to go, and more than that, when I looked at the staircase going up, I felt like walking up those stairs would be a very bad idea, worse than anything else I could possibly do.

I sighed. “You sure about this?”

The coin sent another pulse of magic my way, and I nodded. “Okay then. Scary staircase of darkness it is.”

I carefully crept down the stairs, taking care not to let my footsteps sound against the stone. The staircase curled down and down and down, until all the little lanterns were gone and I had to feel my way along in total darkness. I thought about lighting a little fire to guide me, but that felt like a bad idea, so I decided against it. A light like that would be far too visible in darkness like this.

Eventually, the stairs ended, but I still couldn’t see anything. I could hear the echo of water dripping far away and the pitter patter of rats. I didn’t like this place, and for the moment I just sat silently, waiting to see if my eyes would adjust. The darkness seemed to lessen, and I could see the faint outline of a large room with several archways leading off into more darkness, but then I realized that I could only see that because someone had a light and was coming closer.

I scanned the room I was crouching just outside of, looking for a suitable corner to hide in. There were several large cabinets across from me, and I quickly moved towards them, slipping between them and then behind the one on the right, grinning at my luck. It had seemed like they were both flush against the wall from in front, but this one had just enough space between it and the wall for me to stand behind it.

I remained as silent as I could, listening as the footsteps of whoever was approaching came nearer, their dragging gait mixing with indecipherable grumbles that reminded me of the goblin guards I’d heard earlier.

Even as they grew closer I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I did determine that they had some kind of animal with them that almost sounded like a cat. It wasn’t until they reached the room with their almost cat that I realized they weren’t speaking English, at which point I felt kind of silly for trying to listen in at all.

Why had the Fortuna sent me here?

Focus. It seemed to say. Listen.

So I did, even though I couldn’t understand, and once again the Fortuna proved to be invaluable. Among the grumbling, harsh words of the goblin language was a name I knew, one I would have missed if I hadn’t been listening so closely.

The goblin and their almost cat made their way out of the room and back towards the stairs, but I knew why I was here now.

I wasn’t sure where she was yet, but somewhere down here was Lilith, and I was going to find her.