The sun set and things ran perfectly to plan. The streets were almost deserted, it being a chilly evening, and they soon were behind the annex of the Old Hall. Dennis kept an eye out, as Gwendolyn worked the old lock, which was resistant owing to rust and cobwebs. She soon had it opened however.
The three quietly entered the annex, and closed the door behind them, Dennis first putting a wad of twine into the bolthole to keep it from clicking shut. They stood in a large empty room, all the furniture had been removed, and only a few faded murals could be made out on the walls once they lit their candle lanterns.
The headed towards the old Guild chamber and closed the screens over their lamps before opening the door to the passageway. It too was empty apart from a few tarnished sconces and wasted candle ends. The build up of spiders’ web and dust indicated that it had been visited for some time.
They then entered the main chamber. The long wooden benches on the side walls were still in place, and the raised platform where the lectern had once stood, was vacant, except for some worn dusty carpet.
Thilda stepped onto the platform and began tapping her foot in various places. Sure enough directly beneath where the speaker’s stand had been there was a hollow echo. Gwendolyn held both lanterns as the others rolled the carpet aside. There is was, a trapdoor with an inset iron ring and a small keyhole above the ring.
Gwendolyn handed the lantern to Thilda and told Dennis to keep watch, as she knelt down to examine the metal work. The ring was set to be flush with the surface of the door, and had only a small gap around its edge for someone to attempt to slide a finger to raise it. The lock too seemed simple enough, a plain iron key plate, with an hourglass shaped opening. She had seen one like this before, and knew that it had to be turned in the right sequence, either top then bottom, or bottom then top.
“Well, fifty/fifty seems fair enough,” she thought aloud.
“Off to work then,” she said to her companions. She leaned close, then tied a handkerchief around her mouth and nose, “just in case.” She then took a fine metal strip from the lock kit, and very gently slide it along the entire parameter of the hatch. It went in smoothly, and as she worked it around, not a single obstruction or spring seemed to be present.
“So far, so good,” she muttered as she dabbed her brow with a second handkerchief.
“Thilda, my lovely, can you bring the light a little closer, but not too close.”
She then picked out another thin metal strip, this one with a slight “L” hook at it end to slide between the iron ring and its niche. As she looped the ring, and delicately pulled it upwards, the sound of a spring popping could be heard, and four needles, one in each cardinal directly, sprung from the inset lip towards the ring.
“That would have been nasty,” Gwendolyn said, throwing a smile at Thilda.
She again wiped sweat from her forehead, and raised the ring to ninety degrees, securing it with the “L” shaped strip.
“Okay, Dennis take the lantern, and Thilda you take watch.” Dennis stepped forward, and held the light well above Gwendolyn’s head.
She next took out two wooden dowels which had been coated with a thin layer of wax. “Dennis, top or bottom?”
“Bottom,” he replied, so she eased the first dowel into the top triangular hole.
She gave very gentle pressure, being sure not to turn the dowel in the least. She then withdrew it and examined the indents in the wax. She again wiped her brow, and carried out the same procedure on the bottom opening.
“Looks good,” she announced, and took out a pair of round tapered rods. She again started at the top, and after about three minutes heard, what to her was, a satisfying click. She then set to work on the second hole. It too gave way and there was a slight lessening of tension on the ring, enough for the “L” to quiver.
“Dennis, your turn,” she said, and stood and backed away.
He put on a heavy leather glove, and grabbed hold of the ring, giving it a steady pull. The trapdoor squeaked open.
Dennis then held a lamp over the opening, and a stone stairway was visible below. He saw this as a positive, as stone was harder to set a trap on than wood.
The others joined him and they began to descend, Dennis first, then Thilda, and finally Gwendolyn. As she stepped into the opening Gwendolyn placed a wad of twine into the lock mechanism.