Victor crawled out from behind the curtains and took the candlestick back over to the table, where he took a minute to catch his breath. He walked to the spot along the wall he figured the door was, and lifted the curtain from the bottom, stepping back and raising it until he could see the door. He took a wide step to the right, and then made a tiny adjustment left, lining himself up directly in front of it. He stepped back, still holding the curtain base, until its angle had him reaching out overhead. He let the curtain drop back into place—while keeping his eyes fixed on where the door was, now concealed behind the wavy fabric. Two more steps back… unblinking eyes riveted to the target… a long, deep breath, in and out… and then he charged.
His steps thumped the floorboards as he ran, leading with his left shoulder. He leaned forward and tucked his arm against his side; the soft, flowing curtains whooshed and wrapped around him for a delicate split-second before the collision of flesh and bone against solid timber jarred his whole body and rattled his brain like dice shaken in a cup. The door cracked and groaned, and the bottom hinge gave a short metallic shriek; the entire panel fell forward at an angle, with Victor collapsed on top.
He rolled onto his back and laid there on the displaced door, grimacing in pain and clutching his shoulder. The flap of curtain he had dragged with him into the room slid down over him and swung, unharmed, through the doorway and back into position. After a minute, the gasping in Victor’s breath disappeared and the spinning sensation in his head came to a stop. He exhaled slowly, staring up at the faint purple light washing the stony ceiling. The light seemed to pulse. Victor sat up with a wince, and put his hand to his side, where he had bruised his ribs falling down the stairs the previous night. “Ah, damn it,” he groaned, and cradled his arm against his side. “That’s not good.” He took a steadying breath and the raised himself to his feet.
The door had opened (with extreme reluctance) into a tight square space; the only opening was to the left, where deep stone steps made a sharp decline. Victor followed the steps. As he descended into to the mansion’s basement level, he saw to his right a great hall, thirty metres wide and at least fifty long, with walls and floor of giant stone blocks. Mighty columns towered in two lines, running the length of the hall on either side. Between the columns stood suits of armour like statues, and in the centre of the floor ran a wide glistening path, leading to a tall throne at the far end. Bright purple light filled the near end of the hall, and cast its colour in between long shadows to the farthest walls.
At the bottom of the steps, Victor stopped and scanned the fantastic sight; his eyes widened when he turned to his right. In the corner of the hall, the source of the purple light shone like a mesmerising star. He walked toward it, shielding his eyes as he got closer. There was a gentle whirring, and a chill in the air. He stopped and squinted up at the four-metre high lava lamp. Huge violet blobs, and bubbles the size of beach balls, floated and sank, crashed in gooey explosions, stretched and snapped and dripped like neon honey. Victor stood and watched for five minutes, before a friendly voice startled him. “Oh, hello there,” it said.
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