Shrey was tired, but he wouldn’t let it show. He was pleased that Gerrod was the one digging, not he. He was too old for digging in the dirt. Instead he busied himself digging into the past, into his memory of this place, this secret place of his own design.
Shrey looked around and took stock of what he had to work with. This hidden mountain valley, at the base of a cliff, contained everything he would need to forge misshapen lumps of raw material into steel, and—ultimately—someone’s pain. Literally and metaphorically. Because the material he saw before him currently was very raw. The boy wasn’t completely hopeless, his desire was as strong as ever, but the apprentice had yet to cross that first line of understanding. He was still just…following.
And follow he had. From that clearing outside the city all the way to this place, which lived on nobody’s map. The journey hadn’t been easy. The trail was unmarked, hidden, and difficult to traverse. Gerrod had endured the trek without complaint, although Shrey could tell he wanted to complain. It was plain in every last step toward the end, every weary, plodding step. The boy was exhausted. Yet here he was, continuing to dig. At the old swordsman’s direction the pupil had taken up his shovel and started his work without even asking for rest.
Shrey hadn’t been here in…a long time. Much too long for him to fell like counting the years, but not long enough that he didn’t recall how to open the door. He hoped. There was always a chance some detail had escaped him, some marker that he missed which caused him to locate the door incorrectly.
So he hadn’t made a mistake after all.
When the shovel hit bottom, or at least bottom enough, Gerrod stopped digging and retrieved what he’d hit. A small wooden chest, no larger than a watermelon. There wasn’t a lock, but merely a small latch Shrey opened with barely a thought. Within, upon a small padded square of velvet, was an exquisitely-crafted key. The master swordsman took the key and turned thoughtfully to the nearby cliff face.
“Now. Where did I leave that keyhole?”
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