“Did you find anything worth salvaging?” asked Izabela wistfully.
“I did find this.” Dmitrio took a small glass bottle from his pocket and handed it to her. Purple and pink swirls danced in the light. “It was in a pile of cloth. No idea what Erinn kept in it. Perfume, perhaps. I thought you might like something of hers.”
“This is beautiful! I wonder if I can recreate the effect.” Izabela held it up to the light and turned it over. “Lapis dust mixed with aetherium might act this way,” she mused. She set the bottle aside with a sigh. “I’ll sort it later. Did you figure out what Marta was looking for?”
“Yes. I found a small amber box sitting on the table with the lid twisted off. She never did learn to pick locks. Pity she damaged it so badly. The lip was cut in several places where she pried at it with a knife blade. Inside was a piece of blue velvet. It still held the impression of a key.”
“What sort of key? Are you sure it was a key?” asked Mal.
“A very ordinary key. Probably to something impervious to aetherium,” Dmitrio said absently as he sketched in his notebook. He traced the imprint in the velvet. “The key was heavy. Iron perhaps? Four teeth on the blade. Two on this side, one on that and a very short one that was pressed down into the velvet. There may have been more teeth on the top but I don’t see any marks on the box lid to suggest that. The head is very ornate. See the swirls? I would expect to find at least one gemstone set in the middle. See the round indent?”
“So we know what the key looks like. What does it unlock?” asked Teri.
“The lock would be large. A door or a trunk?” Dmitrio picked up the box and studied it. “Amber is rare. I wonder if it has the same origin as the key.”
Mal sorted through a pile of papers on the table that had been pushed aside. “Looks like old notes. I don’t recognize the handwriting. Erinn’s?” She handed a sheet to Dmitrio.
He nodded. “Looks like notes for some project she was working on.” The parchment was yellowed with age and very brittle. Tight handwriting in fading ink detailed ideas for a lock that used sound for a key. “Let’s take these with us. I doubt Marta would leave anything behind of use to her but I might find something of interest in them later.”
Mal found an oak stationary box and put the papers in it. “We should look for other rooms. No ancestor of yours would live without a workshop and at least one storeroom. And where’s the kitchen? Did she just magic in all her food?”
“Highly doubtful. The food would be heavily contaminated by aetherium,” said Dmitrio.
Teri pulled the mattress back down onto the bed. “Here’s a door. It appears to be a kitchen and workshop all in one. No traps here either.”
“So probably not another way into it,” said Mal. Her aetherium detector gauges swung around wildly. “There’s something in there.”
“I see vines and an overgrown herb garden,” said Teri. “Hand me your lantern. The plants are blocking the skylights.” He held the lantern high and entered the room slowly. He jumped as something lunged and snapped at him. He stumbled backwards over the edge of a rug.
Dmitrio steadied him, his hand coming to rest on Teri’s back as he overbalanced. “Easy. It’s just a flytrap.” A slight tremor in his voice gave away the calm of his words.
“There must be large flies down here,” grumbled Mal.
“Mousetrap?” asked Teri.
Dmitrio stepped past him. “Easy,” he murmured to the plant. He conjured a ball of light. The plant’s snapping flower followed the light up and back to the wall. Dmitrio left the ball hovering just out of its reach. Teri and Mal followed, staying to the far wall.
“I found more notes,” said Mal. “I’ll add them to your box. And here’s something you’ll want to look at now. Marta wrote in the margins of these.”
“Bring them. We can look them over once we’re back outside. Anything else?” The ball of light wavered and faded briefly. “We should hurry,” he added.
“Just some old pots and pans, dishes. Not sure what was used for cooking and what for alchemy,” said Teri. “Want any of it? Wait. Here’s something you’d be interested in.” Teri shoved some silver-orange rocks into his satchel.
Dmitrio’s head was pounding. “We need to go now.” The ball of light was fading fast.
Mal and Teri darted out of the room, pulling Dmitrio with them. The plant snapped at them, straining to reach them through the archway.
copyright 2015, all rights reserved, Kimberley Long-Ewing