Copyright 2021-2022 J.B. Norman
Kat and Dunstana walk as close to the edge of the platform as they dare.
Before she tries to throw Dunstana, Kat takes her backpack and sets it down on the ground. It’ll be easier to get Dunstana across the pit without the extra weight.
“Ready?” Kat asks.
Captain Kid tightens her belt, adjusts her hat and nods.
“Ready!” she announces.
Kat picks up Dunstana and begins swinging her arms to practice the motion.
Once she is as confident as she’s likely to get, she swings her arms back for real. As she swings them forward, she lets go of Dunstana, sending her sailing through the air. Kat can hear her giggling gleefully again.
Kat, on the other hand, doesn’t feel much like giggling.
Her heart stops while Dunstana is airborne.
Visions of the Admiral’s swift and horrible vengeance flash through her mind. She does more desperate cursing in those few seconds than she likely has in the rest of her life up to that point. That isn’t exactly surprising.
She’s never been nearly this terrified.
She lets out a massive sigh of relief as Dunstana easily clears the pit and lands safely, if less than gracefully.
The worst that happens is that she tumbles to the ground and loses her hat in the process. Captain Kid picks herself up, dusts her hat off, puts it back on her head and waves triumphantly at Kat.
“That was fun!” she calls across the spike pit.
Fun isn’t the word Kat would use.
Not fun. Definitely not fun.
Dunstana reaches for the lever beside the door, but she is too short to get it without jumping.
She leaps up, grabs the lever and pulls it down. This causes the whole room to start shaking and to be filled with a loud metallic groaning. For a moment, Kat is worried that something else terrible is about to happen, but then a wide metal bridge begins to emerge from the far platform. It slowly stretches across the pit, groaning all the way, until it finally locks into place with a loud clang.
Kat is still shaking as she crosses the bridge, but has the presence of mind to take the backpack across with her.
She turns to Dunstana. “We are not doing anything like that ever again,” she declares, handing the backpack over to Dunstana. Her tone closes the door on any further discussion of the matter.
Dunstana may be a Captain, but Kat is still the older sister.
Before Dunstana can protest, Kat pushes the door open and steps through. They find themselves in another hallway, a hallway that is long, empty and pretty boring. There is a door at the far end. It looks like it is held in place by iron bars, like a prison.
Kat sighs wearily.
Why does Captain Fryte hate her?
Why do all his doors need to be locked, barred, and surrounded by traps?
Kat turns to Dunstana. “Be careful,” she instructs. “There are probably more traps.”
Dunstana nods. Every step she takes is slow, delicate, and tentative. She tests the ground with her toe before committing to the next step. Kat doesn’t think it will be very long before she gets bored or frustrated and just makes a run for the door.
And that’ll trigger another trap and then the hallway will be flooded with poison gas or acid or sharks and then Kat will use her last mortal breath to curse her sister.
Thankfully, and rather unexpectedly, they traverse the hallway without incident.
There is a small alcove in the wall to the right of the door. Inside the alcove is a pair of levers. There is no indication of what the levers do, giving Kat a bad feeling. Still, it seems safe to assume that one of the levers will open the door. But if only one opens the door, the other one probably does something awful.
“Stay here,” Kat tells Dunstana as she steps into the alcove. She stares at the levers, looking for some clue about which one will open the door.
She doesn’t find any of those clues. She’ll have to take a chance, then. At least there is only a fifty percent chance of something awful happening. She steps towards the levers and for no particular reason, pulls the one on the left.
The good news is that the iron bars blocking the hallway door lift up into ceiling. The bad news is that a similar set of iron bars come crashing down behind her, trapping her in the alcove.
“Oh dear,” she says as the bars settle into place. As frustrated as she is, she isn’t surprised in the least.
“Kat!” Dunstana exclaims, running towards the alcove. “You’re trapped!”
“Yeah. I noticed,” Kat replies.
“What do we do?” Dunstana asks frantically. “How do we get you out? What if you can’t get out?”
“Calm down,” Kat says, attempting to rein in her sister. “I’m going to try to get myself out of here.”
She starts by doing the obvious thing, flipping the lever that had gotten her into this mess back to its original position.
She tries the other lever.
Even less happens.
She turns back to Dunstana. “There might be a button, or a switch, or another lever that’ll get me out,” she muses. “I’ll look in here, you look around out there.”
Dunstana nods determinedly and starts looking around the hallway, popping in and out of Kat’s sight. As Captain Kid searches the hallway, Kat searches the alcove. There should be a release switch or something hidden in the alcove.
Kat looks and feels around the alcove, covering every inch of it several times over for any hint of something that betrays the presence of the release.
She doesn’t find it.
“Guh!” she curses in wordless frustration. In anger, she kicks the wall.
That only makes her foot hurt.
She slumps down to the floor and starts thinking about a new plan of action. She soon hears Dunstana’s footsteps come hurrying back.
“I found something!” Dunstana reports.
“Yeah?” Kat asks eagerly.
“There’s a thing on the ceiling,” Dunstana explains. “I think it might be a switch.”
Kat nods. “It’s worth a try. Hit the switch and see what happens.”
Of course, it might be another trap that’ll drop Dunstana into the ocean or catapult her into the sun. Or it could be the release switch. There’s a risk, but Kat doesn’t have much of a choice. At least she’ll be safe from the Admiral now if something happens to Dunstana.
“But I can’t reach it,” Captain Kid continues. “It’s all the way on the ceiling.”
“You have a gun.”
Captain Kid’s face lights up. “I do! I’ll be right back!” Brandishing her cork gun, she speeds off out of Kat’s sight.
For a while, Kat can’t tell what is happening, trapped as she is in the alcove. All she knows for sure is that she is still stuck.
A wave of fear flashes through Kat when she hears a loud exclamation of “Ow!” from Captain Kid.
Kat tries to get her head far enough through the bars blocking the alcove to check on her sister. “Dunstana! What happened? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Dunstana calls back. “One of the corks came back down and hit my head. But I’ve almost got it.”
“Be careful,” Kat urges.
A little while later, Kat hears her sister’s voice again. She’s excited.
“I got it!”
Kat waits for something to happen. She’s just about to start cursing when the bars keeping her trapped begin to retreat into the ceiling. They get stuck about halfway up.
“Typical,” Kat sighs as she ducks under the bars.
Unfortunately, she underestimates her space and her tallness inconveniently places her forehead on a collision course with the bars.
The clanging sound of her head impacting the metal echoes through the room.
Dunstana comes running excitedly towards her as Kat rubs her wounded forehead.
“I did it!” she announces again, her voice equal parts pride and excitement.
“You sure did,” Kat agrees, holding out her hand for a congratulatory high-five. “Let’s keep going.”
Kat flings the door open and steps through, wondering what devious traps Captain Fryte has devised for this next room to deviously kill her The room on the other side is large with a high, vaulted ceiling. The other rooms they’ve passed through by this point have been carved right into the stone of the cavern.
This one, though, has walls made of large stone blocks. Kat can’t tell what kind of stone it is, but it looks pretty nice. This room is better-lit than the others. Large circular windows high up on the walls let in beams of light from outside. At the far end of the room is a large pair of stone doors. They have something written on them, but Kat can’t tell what at this distance.
The doors are a strange grey and purple stone that Kat doesn’t recognise. Midway up the door, a scary-looking eye is carved into the stone — Kat remembers hearing somewhere that Captain Fryte’s emblem was an eye like that. The doors are too big and heavy for her to open. But even if she could have, there still aren’t any obvious handholds to open them with.
The only possible clue is the cryptic message engraved on the doors:
Just beyond, Fryte’s gold is waiting.
But doors of stone yield not to strength.
You’ll go no further, unless you know the secret
And speak the hidden word that opens the door:
In This Secret Place Await Shining, Splendid
Wonders, Outwitted Rascals Denied.
Kat reads and re-reads the message. She can’t make much — which is to say, any — sense of it. But then again, she’s never been one for poetry. She’s especially confounded by those last lines.
The rest, at least, is easy enough to figure out. There’s some kind of password she needs to say to open the door. Even so, there’s no indication of what the password might be.
She turns to Captain Kid. “Anything?”
Dunstana shakes her head. “I bet the password is going to be something weird,” she offers.
“That’s not much help,” Kat mutters as she goes back to glowering at the door.
As she stares at the words, slowly repeating each word to herself, she begins to wonder if it wouldn’t be easy to just go through her entire vocabulary in alphabetic order until she finds the word that will get the door to open.
She gets ready to work her way from ‘aardvark’ down to ‘zoology.’
“Why do you think the first letters in the last sentence are all capitals?” Dunstana asks. “It’s the only part of the message like that.”
“Oh,” Kat says, her eyes drawn to the letters at her sister’s words, causing a previously-inactive part of her brain to lurching into gear. “Wow.”
Thanks to Dunstana’s observation, Kat has figured out Captain Fryte’s riddle. But she almost wishes she hadn’t.
As it turns out, Captain Fryte wasn’t nearly as clever as she’s been giving him credit for.
Dunstana looks back and forth between Kat and the door. “What?” she asks. “Did I help?”
“Yeah,” Kat answers, still shaking her head at the ridiculousness of the situation. “Read all the capital letters in that last sentence and look at what they spell.
Dunstana’s gaze follows her sister’s pointing finger and examines each of the letter, spelling out the solution to Captain Fryte’s riddle:
I T S P A S S W O R D.
The little pirate’s face lights up as she reads the secret message. “Kat! You did it!”
“There’s only way to be sure,” Kat says. She looks up at the colossal stone doors and clears her throat.
“Password,” she says.
For a brief moment, nothing happens. Doubts are beginning to fill Kat’s mind when the doors slowly and soundlessly open inward.
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