The Sword of Paracelsus: Breakthrough, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

Eny opened her eyes and peered into the murk. So foggy and muddled was her brain that she no longer had any clear idea of what she’d been expecting her prison to be like. She only knew that what she saw before her now was far worse than anything she could have imagined.

Everything was dark and dismal. There was no window in the cell. The only light—a sickly, meager gray trickle—came from a small air hole high in the wall at the other end of the chamber. The air was dank and fetid, the floor wet and slimy. Every so often she heard tiny feet scrabbling over the stones. From somewhere in the corner came the sound of a slow drip, drip, drip.

Raising herself on one elbow, she sat up and leaned back against the wall. The dress! she thought, staring down into her own lap with a vague sense of repulsion and disgust. They didn’t even bother to take off the stupid dress!

Struggling to her feet, she slipped the linen gown off over her head. Immediately the cell began to spin. She had a dim memory of having been beaten. Perhaps that was why her brain was reeling. Slumping back into a sitting position, she leaned forward, closed her eyes, opened them again, and squealed with delight.

Her bolg was still attached to her belt!

The fools! she said to herself. The dear, sweet, wonderful idiots! Simon and Eochy were right! Fomorians are ‘none too smart!’  

A wild hope bounding within her, she opened the bag and rummaged around inside. No luck—the Feth Fiada was gone.

Then she remembered. The Morrigu has it. She took it on the isle of Ara. And I could have used that cloak to sneak out of here!

Fortunately—and this was no small consolation—the rest of her gear was still present and accounted for. The sling and the pouch of stones. The candles, the tinderbox, and the rope. The last of the oatcakes and raisins. Some spare clothing. Even the knife. Best of all, her fiddle remained safe and intact.

One by one Eny removed each of these items from the bag and spread them out on the floor in front of her. One by one she studied them, wondering if any of them might be used to engineer an escape.

The rope wasn’t likely to be of much help, she thought. Not without a window. If the door had a handle, she might have tried to force it open with some sort of a make-shift pulley or winch. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

She looked at the candles and the tinderbox. Well, at least she’d have light for a while. Until the candles burned out. Fire might be useful, too. If there were any fuel. Then again, fire could be dangerous.

Clothes. Eny shook her head. Good for keeping warm in a cold, damp place. Not much good for getting out.

The knife. Yes. Definitely. She remembered what Simon Brach had told them about his acquaintance with John Dee. She recalled how the two of them had tried to dig their way out of this very same dungeon with a couple of improvised chisels. It would take time, of course. Lots of time. Years, probably. She put the knife aside, resolved to revisit the idea.

Next she picked up the sling. Taking a smooth, round stone from the sack, she hefted it in the palm of her hand. Not much chance of knocking down walls with sling-stones. But suppose a guard were to come in? Hadn’t Simon escaped by overcoming his guard? Setting the stone firmly in the cradle-pouch, she got up on her knees, whirled the sling three times over her head, and let go. Whack! The stone struck the opposite wall and rebounded with a clatter.

Eny sighed. Weak, tired, sore, and sad, she fell back against the cold, stone wall. She reached into her bolg and ate a handful of raisins. Maybe the guard won’t come anyway. Maybe I’ll never get out of this place. Better stretch my food as far as I can.

That’s when her eye fell on the fiddle.

(To be continued …)