The first floor was basically a huge roundabout serving as a crossroad to countless passages; all of them looked so similar, that the whole place resembled more a maze than an old orphanage. In the back wall, an old gigantic fireplace stood as a silent witness of the horrors stories I had come to corroborate. Ash and soot gave the place the “untouched by time and the elements” characteristic of ancient and dreaded ruins remembered only by their ghost inhabitants. All passages were blocked by iron gates with intricate patterns. I searched for the skeleton key in my backpack. It was an ancient wrought-iron key that had been delivered to me anonymously inside an old yellowish parchment envelope with the Awen of the Three Rays of Light symbol sealed in black.
I thought it to be a hoax; as the rough textured and intricate design of the bow, led to a smoother shank, were a minuscule inscription read: “I turn around once, where there’s an end and no beginning, a space without a room.” I knew that in the Middle Ages, Europeans believed in the magic of keys and locks, and the power of iron to ward off evil and demonic spirits to get in through keyholes; but this was ridiculous! What was such a riddle supposed to mean? Why was it on a master key?
I sighed and took the nearest passage to my right – only for the sake of closeness and because it was better lit than the others. I found myself walking a serpentine corridor with old wooden doors evenly placed across the walls on both sides. All the doors exhibited the non-particularly well-fitting medieval plank-style, with its horizontal battens clinch-nailed across the standing boards. They hung on iron pintels set into the stonework.
Time to prove is this was just the pantomime of a wicked mind, or somebody really wanted me to find what had remained hidden in this place for centuries. To my surprise, the key had been designed to pass the wards of many different locks in the house. Doors opened to small dark rooms, some even containing small cots and broken chairs. Others were void except for the dizzying smell of mold and confinement. The dim light filtering through the small arched windows to the West of the building, shone on the stoned floor making the swirling dust mots look like a blurry hologram trying to come about.
It was almost dark when I finally decided to call it a day. I knew Robin would be outside waiting for me. She will not enter this “haunted fortress! She wasn’t superstitious, and usually a courageous partner, but the stories surrounding this place made it “beyond redeemable or worthy of the dangers.” She had clearly stated. I haven’t been spooked yet, but there was something lurking here, I could feel it and I was ready to leave myself. It had been a daunting and not very productive task.
I started to retrace my steps when I saw a wooded spiraled staircase at the end of an unusual small corridor for this side of the building. I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a look. As I climbed, the atmosphere seemed to chill with more than cold air. I kept looking over my shoulder and checking my spare flashlight to make sure it would work in case the one in my hand went dead. I found a four-clove shaped landing with a door in each “leaf”. Strange enough, the key was able to unlock more than one of the “forbidden doors” downstairs; but not here. What was more intriguing was the pattern in the door locks: the Awen of the Three Rays of Light.