The Sword of Paracelsus: Breakthrough, Part 3

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Once more Eny was reminded of Simon Brach and John Dee. Again she pictured them side by side, chipping away at the mortar and the stones. She put her ear to the wall and held her breath.

Tick, tick … chink, chink … tap, tap, TAP!

The sound was still there! On and on it went. And the longer it lasted, the louder it got. Soon her heart was pounding in time with its steady rhythm. She thought she could feel the stones vibrating. From time to time she imagined she could hear faint voices from droning behind the persistent patter. She felt certain that something wonderful was about to happen. And then, just as abruptly as it had begun, the noise stopped.

Minutes passed while Eny stood with her ear to the wall in the deepening gloom and silence. Drip, drip, drip went the trickle of water in the corner. Scribble, scrabble went the tiny feet scampering across over the floor.

When at last she felt sure that the sound had gone for good, she turned away from the wall. But she didn’t allow her heart to despair. Instead, she lifted her head and closed her eyes. In her mind’s eye, she pictured herself standing in the cool and dripping silence of the Cave of the Hands. With her inner ear she listened for the boom and hiss of the waves outside the cavern door. Then she raised the fiddle to her chin and began to play.

She began with an island air called “The Boatman.” Next came “The Wing of the Black Crow.” After that she launched into a set of reels, beginning with “Soldier’s Joy,” “Christmas Eve,” and “Last Night’s Fun.” Remembering the simple pleasures of long summer days in Santa Piedra, she played “The Dawning of the Day,” “The Lark in the Morning,” “Out on the Ocean,” and “The Ships Are Sailing.”

By now she was dancing and fiddling at the same time. From “The Flowing Tide” she went into “The Cliffs of Moher,” “The Butterfly,” and “The Kid on the Mountain.” She skipped across the cell as she played “The Joy of My Life” and “The Man Who Died and Rose Again.” She made the horsehair fly with “The Banks of the Allen” and “The Kesh Jig.” But just as she was about to shift into “Contentment is Wealth,” she heard something that made her drop her bow.

The noise had come back. And this time it was accompanied by another sound—the unmistakable skitter of a shower of sand and gravel.

Eny turned and peered at the wall. Had she imagined it? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. There could be no mistake about it now. One of the stone blocks was actually moving—shifting, sliding forward, protruding from the face of the wall. There was a loud tap! tap! followed by a bang! and a crack! And then, with a terrible crash! the stone dropped out of the wall and broke into a couple of pieces at her feet.

The instant it fell, several other stones around it broke loose and tumbled after it. Down they all came in an avalanche of such sudden force that Eny barely had time to jump out of the way. Dust and dirt flew everywhere, thickening the gloom in the shadowy chamber. She coughed, covered her mouth, closed her eyes, and turned her head away.

When at last she was able to look again, she was astonished to see a hand thrusting its way through the hole in the wall. Slowly and deliberately, the hand pushed several more stones aside, widening the aperture.

A moment later a face with blinking blue eyes and a thin mouth surrounded by a tangle of gray beard emerged through the opening. Then the mouth opened and a voice spoke.

“Hello,” it said. “My name is Izaak. John Izaak.”

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