Holy Gods! The lock popped!
Carmen dropped the lock picks. She worked the thin, rough edge of the barely cracked open, dark wood door. Her fingers, used to more delicate work, ached. Inch by inch–have to get in–it opened just enough. Scraping herself badly on the wood, she wiggled through, and forced it shut behind her.
I can always buy more tools, but can’t unkill myself if the temple guards best Ragan and Kelmer. She tried not to think of the men fighting in the outer room. “I’ll let them in if they call out.” Her brow knotted. Her conscious called her a liar. Carmen patted her back-up tools and, trying to ignore the sting of betraying her remaining friends, she kept her shoulder pressed into the deep grooves of the door—oak and smoke?—and flicked the switch to drop the latch. Why does it smell like smoke?
Forced pounded into the door.
Like when she had twisted to avoid the minotaur’s sharp, old-blood stained horns only to have its wide, flat head plow into her sternum, Carmen flew away. She gripped at the snapping pain in her shoulder. Reflexes tucked her head, rolled her, and put her back on her feet facing the door to see the new horror chasing her.
Decades of dust puffed from the oak. Amazingly, it held.
She groaned. What in Kolity hit the door? The cloud leant a holy air to the wood. “Dear Gods of Oak, save this soul.” She stifled a moan, scrambled to it, and managed to get the crossbeam to engage. An angry wail screamed down the hall. She jumped back.
Another slam rung against the wood.
Another puff of dust filled the air. This one lighter, as though the door could yawn at whatever was trying to break it down.
Her gaze went to the white-steel hinges. They didn’t even rattle. Xul’s—the group’s Jack of all languages, master of none, not even his own—translation of the script on the map came back to her. “And the door of brimm-oak, before the three statues, leads to the treasure.” Ready to see what most of the party had died for, Carmen turned.
The large statues, set in platemail of their age, stood sentry around a smaller door, a door like the one behind her, one they could never enter. The statues… They’re looking at me and—impossible—breathing!
© Ezekiel James Boston