In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Sixty Seven
BY AL BRUNO III
Saturday, December 4rd 1996
An expectant silence settled over Laurel House everyone seemed to want to stay in their rooms or keep to themselves. Warren stayed in the doorway for a long time shivering as he watched the snowfall fill in the footprints his sister and her protectors had left behind. When that was done he wandered into the library and started going through books at random searching for one word: Castellan. The pages of each of the book, no matter how old, obscure or bizarre, were brand new; the spines even crackled a little bit when you opened them.
Hao had been cautiously doling out information to him, Jack and the rest had been tightlipped as Hell. Whatever the Castellan of Laurel House was, whatever it meant, they didn't want him to know right away.
Which was odd when you considered how easily his lover had told him of her non-human heritage.
A creeping unease had settled in to the pit of Warren's stomach, the same unease he had felt during those final days of Tristam's reign of terror. It wasn't just the suspicion that something was wrong, it was the worry that things were go to even more wrong and that was why he knew he had to do something proactive.
Being proactive had resulted in him standing in the wine cellar at nearly three o'clock in the morning. He shivered despite his warm pajamas, slippers and bathrobe. This was just like that scene from the story about Beauty and the Beast where beauty had been told not to go into the beast's rooms but of course she had. How could she not?
Warren ran his hands along the chilly walls, occasionally pressing here and there. A few days ago he had walked into this place just a few minutes after Hao. His intentions had been honorable, horny but honorable, but he had been shocked to find that she wasn't there. There was no other way out of the maze of bottles, no other doors or stairways. That meant there was a secret passage somewhere in the room.
At the time he had dismissed it as another of the strange things about his new home and he had been preoccupied with getting his clothes back on before someone else wandered into the room.
For the fifth time be started rapping on the far most wall in search of a telltale hollow sound. By the third time at this he had started to feel foolish, now he was starting to be overcome with self-loathing. Why was be trying to play boy detective? Bitter experience had taught him he wasn't the stuff of heroes, he was just a guy with bad luck and limited options.
But I've got it good now, what am I worrying about?
Because he was waiting for the other shoe to drop? Because he couldn't relax and just enjoy the prospect of a lifetime Hao and an unlimited supply of ice cream?
No it wasn't that, it was that Laurel House was just too damn good to be true.
The part of the wall that suddenly gave way didn't seem any different from the others but Warren suddenly found himself standing at the mouth of a long, creepy looking stairway.
I guess all those years of D&D finally paid off.
Now what was he going to do? Going down there wasn't a very good idea but it was the only one he had. He started down the steps wishing he had a flashlight, or a candle. Warren started descending one hand on each side of the narrow stairway. There steps spiraled gently downwards as the air became warmer and warmer; the walls slowly became stone as though the wood of the walls was fossilizing around him. Worst of all was that he couldn't see a damn thing. He imagined himself having to descend this stairway forever and alone as punishment for looking a gift house in the mouth.
After what seemed an eternity of footsteps to nowhere pale flickers of illumination pricked at his light starved eyes. Warren began taking the steps two at a time and nearly tumbled down the steps in his excitement.
“Wow,” he said as he stepped into the wide chamber, braziers flickered with pale fire leaving shadows leaping along the dark marble walls. There was a thick stone door on the other side of the room and the sound of wind chimes filled the air.
This is all very Indiana Jones. Warren thought.
Now he really wanted to know what a Castellan did down here.
On the other hand he really didn't want to know.
Warren stepped forward waiting for something, anything to happen. When he reached the stone door it pushed open easily and Warren found himself in the Crucible of Damiea.