Monday, October 31, 2011

The Hagglesmith Rescue – Part III

Doctor Lobe, I Presume

The echo of twelve gongs of the clock reverberated throughout the tower and faded. At the top of the stairs on the third floor landing crouched Ishcandar, Lido, and the two Jeremies peering through the slit in the door that Ishcandar had ever so carefully and quietly cracked open using the skeleton key he has pilfered from Yakov. Behind them, at the bottom of the stairs holding the second floor door closed was Hermel. Next to him stood Johan holding a torch. The air was chilly, and there they all had a strange feeling about the tower though none of them could put their finger on exactly what it was.

In the large open chamber a tall lanky man wearing a white lab coat and gloves with long black hair flowing over his shoulders and a pot-marked face was passing beneath the glowing green crystals of an ornate chandelier hanging from the ceiling.  He was walking toward an enormous wooden table on which were stacks of books, papers and peculiar looking equipment consisting of glass tubes, flames, meters, dials and blinking lights, among other things. He held a candle in his left hand while reading the leather bound tome in his right arm. He had not noticed eight sets of eyes peering at him. Lido could barely make out the title of the book, but managed to read along the spine its red letters, “Radio Telemetry”, which though he could read, he could not quite comprehend.  Meanwhile Ishcandar was scanning the rest of the room looking for things to steal. His greedy eyes landed on a strange device on a desktop further beyond the table beneath the window that overlooked Dunn’s Brook three stories below. The device was a square wooden box with a metallic circular rod connected to the top. It was about twelve inches across and eight inches high, while the rod on which the metal circle rested was approximately six inches tall, and the metal circle itself had a diameter of twelve inches.  There were dials and knobs, meters, switches and lights on a side panel of the box. The circular metal bar appeared to be rotating slowly while red, blue and greens lights were blinking in slow unison. Ishcandar eyed the room from every angle to determine exactly how he might get to the box without Doctor Lobe noticing him. He could, he thought, either try to slip between the table and the wall, or he could try sneaking through the stacks of books and come out on the other side of the room near the desk. Either way appeared to him to be very risky. He needed a diversion; one that in fact never quite came.

Meanwhile, downstairs Hermel and Johan were listening at the door to the second level. Nothing stirred. Hermel contemplated hammering the door shut with an iron spike, but it seemed to him that this would make entirely too much noise. He tried the door handle, but found that it had locked behind them after they had entered the stairway. With nothing else to try they waited and listened at the door at the bottom of the stairs. The other party members had already entered the third story chamber and confronted the man, whom they presumed was Doctor Lobe.

Ischandar swung the door open, and said “Doctor Lobe, my good man!” and stepped into the room.

“Who are you?” said Doctor Lobe looking up from his book with an expression of mild surprise and annoyance.

“We are friends in need, Doctor. We have a a young man here whom we believe you know, and who happens to be quite ill,” replied Ishcandar, pulling Jeremy, who was still carrying Jeremeze, forward into the room.

“This boy needs your care,” said Lido.

“I see,” replied Doctor Lobe, looking over at the young boys squarely. “Hello Jeremy,” he said without emotion. “How did you get in here?” he asked of Ishcandar and Lido.

“The boy needed your help, and we came in with him to make sure that he got it,” replied Lido firmly.

“I see,” replied the Doctor. “Bring him here to the table then,” said the Doctor clearing a space on the large stone table before them. Jeremy put the boy on the table, and stepped aside as the Doctor came and took his pulse. He gave a brief assuring glance to the young lad laying there looking up at him. The Doctor gave the young fellow a thorough examination, and then announced with a sigh that he was quite damaged, and expressed some regret at this with a sigh.

The Inquisition Begins

“What caused the damage?” asked Lido.

The Doctor paused. He turned toward Lido, and then said with a calm voice, “I do not know precisely at the moment. I will need time to examine him properly. However, it looks as though, at the least, he has been poisoned.”

“When was the last time you saw him?” asked Ishcandar, trying not to sound overly inquisitive.

The Doctor paused again. After a moment he said, “I’m going to have to ask you people to leave now. I have a pressing schedule and a great deal of work to do. But I want thank you for bringing the boy. I will attend to him now.  You may go.”

Jeremy stared at the Doctor with a whistful look, hoping he would take notice of him, which he did not.

“Are you aware that the rest of the world thinks your dead?” asked Lido pointedly.

“Really,” replied the Doctor with a slightly mocking emphasis and a cryptic smile. “What the rest of the world thinks could not interest me less.”

“So you did not do anything to make them believe you are dead,” asked Lido.

“I am working on my research, gentlemen… I hardly have interest in the rumors that may spill over from –”, he was saying when Ishcandar coughed quite deliberately and loudly the word “Hagglesmiths!” into his hands as if he'd sneezed.

The Doctor raised an eyebrow, but otherwise made no particular motion. While Lido scrutinized the Doctor's reaction carefully, Ishcandar then took a look around the room for anything that might be of interest… anything unusual. His eyes alighted on the small wooden desk on the other side of the room below the window on which was sitting the strange looking square box with the circular metal rod rotating above it. Several of the lights were blinking, now a little faster than before.  He considered how he might venture his way to it without attracting attention, but it seemed the Doctor’s hawk-like eyes would not allow for such a move.

Meanwhile, Lido pressed on with his line of questioning. “We have been sent to search for several friends of Jeremy’s ... you do remember him?” he began, but the Doctor said nothing, and so he continued, “And it seems that they were last seen in or around this Tower.  Do you have any knowledge of their whereabouts, sir?”

“I’m afraid I can not help you with that,” said the Doctor sternly.  He began to grow impatient. Ishcandar was edging his way next to the table, hoping to evade detection, on his way toward the desk with the strange device. Doctor Lobe gave him a withering glance and Ishcandar tried to look nonchalant as he sidled back to where he was.

Lido scanned the bookshelves hoping to read the names of any volumes. From what he could see all of them had scientific or medical titles. It was an impressive library. Lido was contemplating the idea that perhaps Doctor Lobe was not of this era in time, and was hoping to see evidence that might confirm his suspicion. After all, they had noticed that time seemed to be flowing somehow unusually fast, as they all felt somehow that it could not possibly have been midnight by that time. Surely only an hour or perhaps two had passed since they left the Guild Hall at 7pm?  But midnight?  Impossible, they thought.  The additional odd fact was that Jeremy had said earlier that he himself had also met the Doctor for the first and only time at the stroke of midnight on Dunn’s Bridge. However, since he could not place his finger on anything specific, he put thoughts aside for the moment.

Time Runs Short

“Perhaps he is a time traveler of some sort,” he whispered to Ishcandar, “but such knowledge won’t help us if he turns out to also be a cold blooded killer.  We’re inside the tower of a mad scientist of one sort or another, and maybe the ghost of a mad scientist at that!   Best to be careful, I should think.”

“If you can take his attention away from me for enough time, perhaps I can sneak behind him and make my way to the desk and carry off that gizmo over there,” whispered Ishcandar to Lido with a quick nod of the head in that direction.

“Gentlemen,” said the Doctor suddenly. “Time is running short. It would not be safe for you to remain here much longer.”

“Are you saying we are in danger?” asked Lido.

“Indeed, that is precisely what I am saying,” replied the Doctor, “and I suggest you leave immediately. I will take care of the boy, you need not worry.”

“Are you saying we are in danger from you? Or something else?” pressed Lido trying to obtain as much information as he could.

“The tower itself, frankly. Again, I must stress… there is little time left, you should depart,” replied the Doctor with a slight air of amusement that Lido found most disturbing. “I have warned you. I would heed that warning if I were you.”

“I suspect he knows what he is talking about,” whispered Lido to Ishcandar. “And thus far he has not said anything incriminating. By appearances thus far, he seems to be a trustworthy person. Perhaps we should heed his advice.”

“What is that over there?” Ishcandar suddenly asked Doctor Lobe pointing to the strange device on the desk below the window.

“That, my young Hobbit, is a Radio Frequency Triangulator,” replied the doctor as he turned his attention toward the device with considerable relish.

“What does it do?” asked Ishcandar.

“It triangulates radio frequencies, of course,” replied the doctor impatiently and with some disappointment in his voice.  It seemed these lads were not as bright as the Doctor might have hoped.

“Could you give us a demonstration?” asked Ishcandar.

“I’m afraid there is no time left for that now,” replied the Doctor.

“You keep saying that. But you’re here, we’re here… why is there not enough time?” asked Ishcandar.

“If you remain you will unfortunately discover the answer to your question,” replied the Doctor with a sigh.

“Well, what happens if you remain here?”

“I belong here,” the Doctor replied flatly.

“Is this tower going to go somewhere?” asked Lido as he looked around the chamber for any discernable changes.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” replied the Doctor firmly. “Now if you please, I highly recommend for you to depart now.”

The Hermel Gambit

Meanwhile, downstairs Hermel told Johan to stay at the door while ascended to the top of the stairs. Johan took a wide-eyed look and replied that he would much prefer to accompany him and followed behind. When they got to the top they could hear the tail end of the conversation in the chamber outside the door. He was curious as to why the Doctor was suggesting that there was little time and that everyone should leave.

“Did the Hagglesmiths ever find out why it is unsafe in the Tower?” asked Lido pointedly.

The Doctor gave him a stony look, finally seeming to have come to the end of his patience, and said simply, “I told you, I can not help you with that. And who is that?” asked the Doctor pointing to Hermel who had just stepped through the door.

“Hi, I am Hermel. What’s going on?” he replied reaching out his hand to shake Doctor Lobe's hand. The doctor veered away, and so Hermel's hand only brushed his lab coat instead.  It was solid enough, he thought, putting to rest the idea that the man might in fact be a ghost.   He was not.

“The Doctor was about to answer my question as to whether or not the Hagglesmiths found out why the Tower is so dangerous,” said Lido to Hermel.

“As I said earlier, my inquisitive Hobbit, I can not help you with that,” replied the Doctor with a stony glare.

“Before we go,” said Ishcandar, “would you tell us what you intend to use the Radio Frequency Triangulator for?”

“I don’t have an exact plan for it at the moment. I am studying the device. It is quite fascinating,” replied the Doctor, again shifting his attention across the room to the device with keen interest. The lights on its front panel were rapidly blinking blue, red and green.

“It’s not yours? Where did you get it?” asked Ishcandar.

“That is none of your business,” said the Doctor sternly.

“How much would it cost for me to buy it?” asked Ishcandar.

“I don’t know yet. I am not finished conducting my research,” said the Doctor.

“Why are children are missing around here?” asked Hermel.

“I can’t say,” replied the Doctor, taken momentarily by surprise. Meanwhile, Ishcandar began to make his way toward the library stacks.

“I wouldn’t go there, if I were you,” said the Doctor to Ishcandar as soon as he noticed his movements.

“I can’t read a book?” asked Ishcandar innocently.

“This is a private Library. The answer is no. You can not,” replied the Doctor.

“Doctor Lobe, are you aware that you are dead?” asked Hermel.

“I can assure you I’m not dead,” replied the Doctor again losing patience.

“Well, so you say. But we have it on good authority that you are dead,” answered Hermel matter of factly.

“I can assure you that I’m a better authority on whether or not I’m alive than anyone else,” replied the Doctor dismissively.

“Do you know Rothmon?” asked Ishcandar.

“I hate to repeat myself again, but you are almost out of time. Please leave now,” said the Doctor pointing to the door.

“What time is it?” asked Lido.

“Time for you to leave,” answered the Doctor with a grave tone pointing an open hand toward the door.

“How much time do we have left?” asked Ishcandar, now glancing around the chamber looking for any changes that would suggest what the tower might have in store for them.

“When the time is right, you will know,” replied the Doctor cryptically with a subtle smile.

“This doctor is a riddle within a riddle,” said Ishcandar to Lido and Hermel.

“I will stay here, and you guys go fetch Mythander and bring him here,” said Hermel suddenly launching a new tactic.

“Oh Mythander, certainly. Perfect. He will be able to sort this out,” said Lido, going along with the ruse.  There was, of course, no Mythander.  Hermel made him up on the spot.

“Yes, and he knows quite a lot about Radio Frequencies and Triangulations,” added Ishcandar taking a swig from his brandy bottle, and suddenly feeling quite a bit in better spirits.

“I find it very strange that you do not want to help us find missing children,” said Hermel to Doctor Lobe emphatically. “I find it very strange that the authorities think you are dead. I find it all very strange, sir.”

“It is no concern of mine what you find strange,” replied the Doctor coolly.

“It will be your concern when the authorities come knocking on your door. You will have to deal with that,” answered Hermel. For the first time the Doctor seemed nonplussed.  He glanced around the room nervously.

“Ok, you guys go, and I’ll stay here with the Doctor until you return with Mythander,” said Hermel, and then turning to Doctor Lobe added, “Unless you are willing to help us find lost children… you don’t have any objection to finding lost children do you?”

“There is no time left for that now,” answered the Doctor who was continuing to look around the chamber nervously. Had anyone noticed that the green chandelier hanging from the ceiling had grown a bit brighter, no one mentioned.  “For the last time, I must insist you people leave at once. If you don’t, I can not be held responsible for the consequences.”

“But you are responsible,” said Hermel.

“No, I’m not,” replied the Doctor, once again assuming his wry smile briefly. “I have warned you several times to leave. You are trespassing on private property. What befalls you therefore is not my responsibility. I am quite certain that the law will agree with me.”

The slight amusement shown on the face of Doctor Lobe gave them all pause. He seemed to know something that they didn’t know, and his attitude about it was more disturbing to them than anything else.

Hermel began to channel his inner life force into a skill he had learned recently at the Guild… Danger Sense. It is a mystical ability that allows him to sense the direction in which dangerous thoughts are manifesting. He felt a vague sense of danger all around them. Another sense of danger below them. And a sense of danger on the other side of the book cases, which was the area of the chamber out of view. It was these factors that lead him to conclude that perhaps the Doctor was right, and it was probably a good idea to leave after all. Interestingly, he noted, he did not get any sense of danger from Doctor Lobe himself.

“Oh boy,” he said. “If I stay here will I die?”

“Not necessarily,” said the Doctor.

“Will I regret it?” he asked.

“Most definitely, I'm sure,” said the Doctor.

“Forever?” asked Hermel with a quiver in his voice.

“Until you die.”

“How long will that be?”

“I can not say,” said the Doctor raising an eyebrow. “You are very nearly out of time.”

The Hasty Departure

“Did you find out what happens when time runs out?” asked Lido.

“Yes. Yes I did,” replied the Doctor who at that moment took on a distant look that conveyed something of horror and deep curiosity.

“Ok! That’s good enough for me! I think we should leave now, friends,” concluded Lido suddenly.

As the two Hobbits turned to leave, and Hermel eyed the book stacks planning a desperate and probably stupid move, Jeremy spoke up for the first time.

“Doctor Lobe, can’t I be your assistant now?”

“No, Jeremy, not now,” replied the Doctor as he held his hand out toward the door. “It’s time for you to go.”

Jeremy was crushed.  His hope was to stay as Doctor Lobe's assistant so that he could make sure that Jeremeze was healed and made whole.  Lido saw his expression and returned quickly, took him by the hand, and offered consoling words to the effect that Doctor Lobe would take good care of Jeremeze, and that it truly was time to leave.  Jeremy followed him reluctantly, turning to look behind him one last time at his twin laying on the table.  And with this, the Hobbits and Jeremy exited the room, Ishcandar taking a final longing look towards the Radio Frequency Triangulator on the desk, noting that the lights were blinking in a rapid fire red, blue and green blur.

As they left the chamber, Hermel made a quick sudden dash for the bookcases. He wanted to see what the source of the danger was on the other side, thinking that this would lead him to understand who was behind Doctor Lobe’s activities. The books on the shelves whizzed past as he ran, and finally he came to the end of the row and stopped before peering around the corner of the bookcase. There he saw standing just off to the side, Yakov in his white lab coat. He seemed to have stepped off of a five sided metal plate on the floor that Hermel glimpsed as a purple curtain drew closed concealing it from view. Yakov immediately noticed Hermel and began to walk brisky toward him, his hunch back rolling along as he heaved his body forward erratically. That was enough for Hermel. He cut and ran back the way he came, wished the Doctor a nice day, and ran through the door and down the stairs. Everyone was clustered at the bottom waiting for him, and he only said that he was being chased by Yakov to inspire Ishcandar to use the key to open the door and get them into the empty chamber on the second floor. Hermel still felt danger below them, and around them, and above them now. He suggested they try their luck downstairs. So they ran to the next door, Ishcandar opened it with the key, and they ran down another flight of stairs.

At the door on the first floor of the tower they stopped again.  It was locked. Hermel listened at the door, as did the others, but they heard nothing. Ishcandar used the key and the cracked the door open. Inside this chamber on the otherwise empty floor they saw several red toads, about the size of a man’s fist with long curved yellow tusks, rows of orange spots down their spiny backs, and pairs of yellowish eyes. Hermel was only just able to throw his shield in front of himself when the closest toad leaped.  It landed with a splat on the shield’s face, and as it slid down it belched a sulfurous plume of black smoke. They stepped back into the room, and closed the door to a crack again. Hermel counted five such toads on the floor of the room, and estimated there were more along the walls, and so they decided that this way was too dangerous to risk. That left the last way open to them; a flight of stairs going down into darkness...

Oddities in the Basement

Having decided that attempting to exit through the Tower’s front door would be too dangerous, the party ventured down the flight of stairs to the basement level.  There they found an octagonal stone walled room lit by a gas lantern on the north wall.  The door clicked shut behind them.

“This is where I came with the Hagglesmiths before they were captured,” said Jeremy.  “The tunnel is straight ahead.  If you turn the dial on that lamp it will open the sliding door.”

Since he knew the way to open the secret panel they didn’t delay.  Hermel went to the unlit lantern on the south wall and turned it clockwise as Jeremy instructed.  Sure enough there was a click, and a panel of stone slid sideways to reveal a tunnel.  The tunnel was dark. 

In the meantime Ishcandar and Lido checked the room for any items of interest, and what they found were a set of crates neatly stacked on the floor.  Ishcandar opened one with his handy crowbar and pulling away the straw stuffing found inside sets of components that looked like parts of machines of some kind.   He could not tell what they were, or what they could possibly be used for, but he grabbed as many as would fit in his backpack and stuffed them in.  Lido meanwhile was looking around for anything else of interest, but the only objects in the room were the crates.

Having finished there, they decided to continue into the tunnel in the hopes that they would finally be able to locate the Hagglesmiths, now that they were actually on their trail.  Lido, with his map making skills was able to ascertain that the tunnel ahead should in all likelihood lead into the basement of the Five Crows Tavern across the street from the Bridge.  He also decided it would be wise to check for traps along the way down the dark tunnel, and indeed within ten feet of the door he located what looked to be another gas lantern trigger.  He began to notice that some of the gas lantern fixtures were worn on the bottom side, which he now took as an indicator that they were in fact triggers of some sort.  They decided to try it.

Onward into Darkness

Uncertain whether or not the lantern would trigger a trap or a secret door, Hermel motioned for the others to move further down the tunnel while he tried the trigger.  It turned, there was a click, and another panel of stone slid to the side on the opposite side of the corridor from the lantern.   Hermel, surprised, quickly turned and threw his shield up on that side, however, the door opened onto a long dark corridor in which there was nothing but silence.   After a few moments everyone began to breath again.

The group had a protracted discussion as to all of the factors involved thus far, including their primary goal which was to find the Hagglesmiths, as well as their secondary goal to discover and map the underground tunnels beneath Dunn’s Bridge.  They decided to explore the long corridor.   To safeguard their way of retreat Hermel thought it would be wise to take some crates from the Tower’s basement room and block the secret door with them so it would remain open.  However, when he turned around to reenter the room he got a strange feeling that all was not right somehow.  The room seemed oddly shifted in a very peculiar way as though everything in it, the walls, the light, the crates, even the air itself were somehow being very slowly twisted into a kind of bizarre multi-dimensional vortex.  On top of that odd impression, he noticed that the light in the room had become a shade of blue that signified something was happening there that stopped him in his tracks. As he looked the strange twisting continued to deepen, and he began to feel a sense of nausea.   As soon as he felt that he turned away with a sudden twist, and waked the ten feet or so back to where the party was crouching at the head of the newly opened long corridor peering into the darkness.

“I think we should leave the Tower room alone,” said Hermel quietly.   Since he could not articulate what had happened to the basement room, nor was he sure he hadn’t imagined it somehow, he simply said that something odd was happening there, and they left it at that. 

The Lido bravely crept down the long stone corridor alone, having been selected to scout it out in advance of the rest of the party.  Silently as possible he slinked along by the flickering light of his torch, poking the wall stones for any hint of traps, and went on for eighty feet at which point he stopped in front of a large stone archway.  This was sealed off by a huge iron gate whose bars extended from floor to ceiling, beyond which he saw a narrow landing with stairs going down to the left, and beyond that cavernous darkness.  To the right, however, there was an open section of corridor that lead to a stairway going down another twenty feet.  He examined the gate, on which he found a very old style lock, very sturdy, which sealed the gate shut.  Lido decided to go back and bring Ishcandar, who had the key he’d pilfered from Yakov which had opened all the doors in the tower thus far.  However, this lock it would not open, and despite his best efforts at lock picking, he could not open it.  To the right, however, there was the flight of stairs going down leading into another corridor.  So the two Hobbit heroes crept down the stairs and to the edge of the T-Section.   Johan, who was deeply curious for his own reasons, had also followed behind at a discrete distance. 

Lido carefully searched for any sign of traps at the bottom of the stairs.  He saw none.  The two Hobbits quickly poked their heads around the corners of the corridor glancing rapidly in both directions and then pulled back.  To the left Lido saw a pair of ornately carved wooden double doors, which were closed.   To the right Ishcandar saw a long corridor vanishing off into darkness.  The doors, thought Lido, looked vaguely familiar. 

“Those doors… they look familiar to me,” he whispered to Ishcandar, who suddenly recognized them as the very same doors that they’d seen in the secret study that Bernie had lead them into from the sewers the day before. 

A Most Unpleasant Surprise

“Ah, yes, of course,” replied Lido after Ishcandar explained.  They crept forward carefully, scanning for traps at each step, and within a few moments found that Yakov’s key opened the doors.  They were not surprised.  Into the room they ventured, while Johan stood guarding the doorway.  They found that the elegant little study had been put back in order, and the desk was returned to it’s original place, and the cabinets had their bottles of liquor returned to them.   It was as if they’d never disheveled the room to begin with.   Ishcandar went to the desk to inspect it and found that even the drawer that he’d smashed open with his crowbar had been expertly repaired so that it looked brand new.   He was a little surprised.  He thought he might take another peek inside, and so he fiddled with the lock and pulled the drawer open.  There was a sudden ‘ting’ sound and he felt a quick prick on his right forefinger.  A needle had pierced it.  He shouted and fell backwards.  He watched in horror as his finger began to turn black, and excruciating pain seared up to his elbow.  

Johan leapt to his side.  Within moments, however, Johan with his mystical healing art was able to stay the poison so that it ceased to spread further.  His finger remained black, but the pain was gone.  

“A most unpleasant surprise!” he said as he stood up.  “I could certainly use a drink, I should say!” as Johan guided the young Hobbit toward the doorway.

Lido, who was never one to deny his friend his due, went to the cabinet and opened the glass doors.  He looked over the various bottles, of which there were plenty, and decided that the closest one, a fine brandy, would do nicely, and pulled it off the shelf.  It was, however, attached to a string, which once pulled tipped over another bottle, which began to pour a clear and potent alcohol onto the large ornately woven red and gold carpet that Lido was standing on.  At the same moment a small flair ignited and dropped a lit match at the base of the cabinet.  There was an explosion of yellow fire, and Lido found himself enveloped in flames, along with the entire area of carpet he was standing on.   Not one to dawdle under such circumstances he leapt away from the cabinet, off the rug, and onto the stone floor of the corridor where Johan and Ishcandar were standing.  The doors to the room suddenly snapped shut just as he leapt through in the very nick of time.  There was a click as the double doors locked shut.   Had he not moved immediately Lido would have undoubtedly been trapped inside the flaming chamber.  The three adventurers managed to smother the flames, and though his cloths and hair were burned, with Johan’s help he did not sustain any significant injury.   It was a very good thing to have a mystic healer along, thought Lido to himself as he thanked Johan profusely.

They watched as the double doors began to smoke, and decided there was little point in remaining, and so they began to head back the way they came.  Ishcandar, however, was too curious about what was at the farther end of the dark corridor ahead, and so while the other two ascended the stairs he quickly and quietly trotted down the long corridor to find that it ended after eighty feet in two large red double doors with bronze studs riveted into its heavy wooden cross beams.  Above the door there was a red sign with gold lettering that read “Five Animals Hall”.   He listened at the door and from the other side he could hear the sounds of grunting and panting.  Perhaps it was men training, he thought.  He was unwilling to try the door to find out, and so he trotted back the way he came, and brought his report to the others who had reached Hermel and Jeremy at the entrance to the secret corridor.

The Last Resort

At this point they felt there was only one way to go, and that was forward toward the secret panel that Jeremy said was at the far end of the corridor they were standing in.  There would be another gas lantern, which would open the secret door into the room where the Hagglesmiths had been captured a day ago.  Hermel took a final glance at the Tower basement room’s open doorway, and it still had the same strange blue tinge as they went in the opposite direction.  They got to the far end of the corridor, and sure enough there was another gas lamp on the wall, and when they turned it there was a small click and a stone door cracked open.  Lido held it so that it would not open all the way and peered into a large square room ahead.

In that room they saw three men sitting at a table playing cards.  It was a basement cellar, stocked with kegs of beer, cases of wine on shelves, and a case of liquers along the far wall.  Huddled together on the floor were several children bound hand and foot with scarves tied over their mouths.  None of them were moving and all of them had their eyes closed. 

“The Hagglesmiths!” whispered Jeremy.

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