Friday, February 03, 2006

Chapter the Twenty-first: The Locked Door

Their first stop on the next floor was the Great Hall. Hermann opened the heavy oaken doors, brushed aside the red velvet curtains, and bowed our touring trio into the Hall.

“Thumnet’s chef d’oeuvre, Gentlemen, the Great Hall. You will notice the careful balance between the windows, the pillars, and the movable pieces. See how the rich blues in the window borders are picked up by the blue-veined marble of the free-standing pedestals which support the great candelabra.”

For all his practice in sums, Jonathan could not begin to count the candles which surmounted the gold candelabra that lined the entire room.

“The red of the throne canopy also helps unite the ensemble as it is repeated in the curtains at each entrance and in the seals of Gorcester and Chlougheign which alternate in the lancets of the forty-two upper windows. The throne itself dates back to the coronation of Mirksel the Unconquerable, second thane of the Isenwild. You can see the primitive geometric patterns in its carving which reflect the early periods of Isen artistry. Thumnet the Ambitious had it moved from the old homestead three miles north of the Gardens when he had the Timnel built. But you’re probably waiting for the Timnel Tower itself.”

“Oh yes,” Scramble enthused. Hermann did not notice the chipmunk’s sarcastic edge.

“Right this way, please.”

They only stopped to see the first two residences on that floor. “The rest,” Hermann explained, “are similar, although done in other colors and motifs inspired by the Gardens themselves.” Upon reaching the end of the long hallway, they came to another set of stairs which spiraled up to the great Timnel which loaned its name to the entire structure. As they passed one of the narrow windows in the staircase, Hermann pointed out the foundation stones of the eighth-century pigshed which lay behind the main buildings and was preserved in honor of Bokbashi the Pigkeeper, legendary founder of the ruling house of Isenwild, who defended the shed from the Figshevels of the South, then avenged their unwarranted attack by gathering a small band of woodsmen and herders, then conquering all twenty Figshevel villages, thus establishing the realm of the Isenwild.

After the third seemingly endless flight of winding steps, the foursome paused to rest upon a landing opposite a heavy wooden door, reinforced with iron bands, bolted and secured with an impressive lock. This was the first room they had seen in the entire castle that was locked and bolted. Jonathan decided that a touring visitor had every reason to ask questions about a building, so he assumed his curious-little-boy voice and addressed the gnord.

“What’s in that room, pray?”

Hermann raised one of his impressive green brows, stopped fingering the key about his neck (as he had been doing mindlessly until Jonathan’s question), and replied evenly, “Oh, nothing really. It’s just an old storage room full of dusty artifacts which we haven’t gotten around to sorting.” No matter how casually Hermann put this, his tour guide’s voice had briefly vanished and Jonathan decided this might be the place he would have to visit before the day was over.

They resumed their ascent, finally gaining access to the viewing balcony which surrounded the spire of the Timnel. The sight was breathtaking. From this vantage point they could see the Gardens of Isapher in every direction, the vast Wolmsley Wood to the east, with mountains rising behind it, and the shining Mithermere to the west. The enchanted flowers, it seemed, were always in bloom and autumn seemed not to have blighted the vernal freshness of the Gardens. Even Hermann was finally silent, knowing that words could not add to the beauty and magic of the moment.

(“Thank goodness,” thought Fulsome. “If I have to hear one more word about Thumnet Thingummy, I may leap to my death just for the peace and quiet.”)

“And there you have it, Gentlemen. Timnel Tower, pride of all the thanes of Isenwild. If you lean on the parapets and look up, you can just see the golden needle of the tower roof above you. Careful, friends, you don’t want to lean too far. Stunning, isn’t it? Of course, there is so much more to see and talk about. Plans had been made for expanding the north wing and renovating the chapel. Alas, they were cut short when the plague struck two years ago, and Lady Isapheria met her sudden and tragic end, leaving no heir.”


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