Victor found himself in a dark, musty wine cellar. He still had the scimitar the wolf knight had given him, but every other trace of the great hall was gone. Tall wooden racks, cradling hundreds of dusty wine bottles, spanned the walls. A small candle in each corner of the room cast a feeble light. Victor took a quick look about, and grabbed a bottle at random from the nearest rack. Tucking it gently under his left arm, and carrying his sword with his right, he stepped over a cherry red lollipop on the floor and climbed the stairs. The door at the top was cracked and dislocated, just as he had left it. He stepped through the open doorway then sidestepped out from behind the heavy curtains; he watched them sway back into place. As he made the long march across the ballroom dance floor, the click of his footsteps made a lonely sound.
Leaving the ballroom, Victor turned left up the hallway, stopped by the linen closet to tear off a third of a bedsheet, and then proceeded to the bathroom. He removed his shirt, and then spent twenty frustrating minutes trying to fashion the torn bedsheet into a sling for his left arm. He eventually got the shape and length of the sheet just right, and slipped his arm into the cotton cradle. After moving about and testing his arm at different angles, the pain in his shoulder flared, and he went back to the linen closet. He returned with a long strip of material, and began making a belt of sorts to clamp his left arm to his side. Lying on his back on the bathroom tiles, he tried and failed a dozen times to tie a decent knot one-handed, before finally getting it right. He stood and examined himself in the mirror: partially wrapped as he was, he looked like he had attempted a sexy mummy costume for Halloween. With his arm immobilised, he gave a nod more of acceptance than satisfaction, collected his wine and sword, and then left the bathroom.
He went back down the hall and into the bedroom, where he once more checked the map on the floor. Dragging the point of his scimitar along the floorboards, he traced his movements in the mansion. “Hmm. Okay, here’s the bedroom… the hall… the ballroom there. That makes this the door to the wine cellar,” he said, making a notch with the sword. “So, what’s that then?” He rubbed the sole of his shoe over a dark knot in the floor, then squatted for a closer look. The knot had a faded pen mark. “I think that’s supposed to be another door. I haven’t been to that one yet.” He clicked his teeth together as he studied the map. “Hang on—” he stood and moved around to view the map from another angle “—that door would open to… the courtyard. Ha! Been there, done that.” He made another notch. He tapped the sword on each room on the map. “Done… done… that was already cleared… that’s the pool room—done… If that’s right, then there’s only upstairs to go. I could make it out of here today! Just two rooms left.”
With an eager step he went down the hall and entered the fireplace room. Long shadows stretched from the armchairs by the fire to the far side of the room, where the staircase ascended to the mysterious upper floor of the mansion. Victor crossed the room, stopped and looked up the stairs, then turned and went through to the dining room. On the dining table was the platter of breakfast food, just as he had left it two hours ago, except now the food was a cold and soggy and speckled with congealed grease. He looked at the label on his wine bottle in his hand. “Pinot noir,” he read aloud, with atrocious mispronunciation, then set the bottle on the table. The hint of a smile slipped through his determined look. “That’ll make a nice victory drink,” he said. Tightening his grip on his sword, Victor took a deep breath and set a steely look in his eyes. He left the dining room and made his way up the stairs.
© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED