The stones of the keep were cold underfoot, chill enough that the feel of them soaked up through the soles of her shoes to leave her feet starting to tingle and numb as she slipped quietly through the hallways and passages. The whole keep seemed to seep cold more than insulate from the bitter weather outside, even when the weather turned warm the old stones would cling to the cold with a bitter grip until well into the planting months.
Matri pulled her woollen cloak more firmly about her, frowning at a singe mark along one hem she’d not noticed before donning it that day, she knew Mistress Singer would be wroth with her over yet another item needing repair. She sighed quietly to herself and picked at the scorched section, catching a faint scent of hermeticus vitae that still lingered, she made a note to remember to investigate that later; as far as she was aware the unguent had no such disastrous effects normally, but perhaps the extended interaction with the wool had allowed a latent corrosive aspect to come to the fore.
She was still putting together the ratios needed to blend a new batch of hermeticus when she came to the door. It was not a splendid or magnificent thing; many of the doors on lower levels where the Court resided were far more impressive with their gilt inlays and carvings of fantastic beasts. This door was plain, made of a deep, dark wood that seemed to harbour a red hue if one looked closely. Of course in these higher parts of the keep the few torches that burnt struggled valiantly to keep the gloom at bay, so the door tended to be wreathed in shadows and a neglected coating of dust about the edges.
The one adornment was a large handle, all swirls and twists of ivy worked in brass. As ever she tried the handle, and as ever before it rattled and clunked but did not budge.
Darting a look down each corridor Matri plucked a small vial from her sleeve and knelt to inspect the lock. Wedging a small filter into the contraption she uncorked the vial, a noxious scent bringing tears to her eyes, she delicately dripped the liquid down the filter drop by careful drop.
It made no sound as it ran down the filter, though Matri could smell the corroded metal even from the specially treated device. She suppressed a proud smile at her latest work as it slowly dripped into the lock. Drawing the filter out she placed it securely in a small iron case, one already heavily marked inside from similar use, and turned to watch the lock with an intent gaze.
She watched with some small amount of anticipation as slowly a curl of vapour began to twist into the air. She covered her nose and mouth with a cloth and, judging her alchemia to have had enough time, gave the hand a firm twist.
The locking mechanism gave a loud clunk and stayed firmly latched.
Frowning she twisted the handle again and rattled the door against the lock that, by all rights, should have been a half melted mess by this stage. It remained as solid and impervious as the day it had been set in place. Meanwhile the iron case at her feet was already sending up the scent of corroding metal.
She got to her feet and sighed as she packed away her case and the empty bottle, a failed experiment; evidently while the lock appeared to be made of the same brass as the handle the inner workings were of some foreign substance. She would need to return to her work room and try to discover what it may be.
All of a sudden with a sharp stab of pain a frantic voice ripped through her mind, “DANGER!” it squeaked loudly and in the moment of fright and panic Matri thought the pain was from the words themselves. As the moment subsided her mind worked the information through and the needle sharp teeth clinging to her ankle was identified as the true source.
With a pained yelp she shook the small weasel from her ankle, bending down to try to swat the creature away as it danced sideways nimbly avoiding her.
“Danger, danger, danger!” is chattered in her mind in a merry sing song tone as it leapt about her feet in a war dance.
Matri frowned at the little beast, “from you?” she asked in a weary tone.
“No!” it squeaked happily and darted forward at her toes to nip, “from the dusted one.”
Realisation dawned as Matri glanced down the corridor and heard the short, sharp footsteps that could only belong to the keep’s Lore Master. With a moment of panic she turned and, unthinking, twisted the handle to the door at her back. Without a complaint the door swung quietly open as though it were never locked.