​​Benoir shifted from foot to foot. “Well, when all you really want is a place to hide, it’s not bad.” He shone his torch around the area, lighting up the shelves. “It was a lot more useful my first couple years, before I found some of the other passages.”

Nilien gave the space another look. “Maybe there’s something interesting in a corner,” she offered. “Have you ever searched around down here?”

“Not more than enough to look for more doors,” he admitted. “I couldn’t find any, or any switches.”

“Well, let’s see.” She picked a corner and started looking around, only to be faced with even more spiderwebs. “It looks like they might have used this for more food storage? Or something. But who needs a secret room for food storage?”

“Well, maybe it was really expensive food? Or secret food? Magical food.” Benoir licked his lips. “I could stand a magical crumpet.”

“What, one that made you belch magic?”

“Or get really big or really small. You know, something out of the storybooks that doesn’t happen in real life.”

“That might be nice when trees are dropping on me,” Nilien admitted. She found a rag on one of the shelves and began pushing away the dust, more corralling it than removing it. After a moment, she pulled her hankie from her pocket and tied it over her nose and mouth. “There ought to be a spell for this.”

“Oh, I think there is, but- darn it, no. We learned it last year but I didn’t pay enough attention.”

“That’s all right. I can do a little dusting.” She moved things around as she encountered them: the dusty jar full of what looked like moving flowers, the old marbles, the textbooks from a bygone era. She arranged everything neatly on one shelf and vowed to herself to come back with some proper cleaning equipment – or someone who knew that cleaning spell – sometime when she had fewer pressing matters on her mind.

“Hey, look at this.” Benoir had been moving from shelf to shelf on the lower shelves, running his hands over them, presumably looking for another latch or lever. He held up a thin leather-bound book, tied up with a faded ribbon that might, at one point, have been red. “Wonder what it is?”

“Careful, it looks old.” Nilien untied the ribbon, only to have it break into three pieces in her hands.

“Careful,” Benoir teased, “it looks old.”

“Hush.” She was blushing, but the dim light of Benoir’s torch probably hid that fact. She opened the book much more carefully. “Oh, it’s a diary.” She peered at a date entry. “Well, I doubt they’re coming back for it. This was started over fifty years ago.“

“Well, maybe someone else came down here in search of snacks,” Benoir joked. “Do they say anything about any other passages?”

She closed the book carefully. “I’m going to have to look at it in proper light. But this place is definitely worth coming back to.”


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