©2022 Michael Raven
Trudging through the snow to the shed, Marcus’ fingers fumbled with far too many keys to find the right one. Most of the keys were useless, by design. He had made all of them himself with the key cutter he’d bought online. Each key was a corrupted copy of the real key to the shed, all designed to be imperfect copies to frustrate the casual snoop — all but three of the keys. One for the shed door itself, another for the concealed trap door within the shed, and the final one for the reinforced steel door within the dirt cellar underneath the trap door.
He’d not stopped there, either, for each tumbler was warded against tampering, leaving a nasty surprise for anyone attempting to bypass the keys Marcus carried. Furthermore, each working key required Words to bypass the wards. He had left nothing to chance — he couldn’t afford discovery of what he kept locked away underground. It wouldn’t end well for anyone, least of all for himself.
He found the first key as he reached the shed when it warmed to his touch. He slipped it into the lock, whispered his dweomercraft under breath. The lock turned, and he had no reason to suspect that it would not. His guests could hear him already, though he walked velvet soft and the door made no sound. Maybe they could sense him. There was still so much to learn about them.
Their howls might have been called animalistic, except there were no animals that made such noises and, even after all this time, the sounds made icy fingers crawl up his spine. He was not sure the sensation was not their work as well, but he had gotten good at masking his reaction.
“Feeding time,” he said in a voice little over a harsh whisper. It was enough, and the howls below reached a crescendo expressing fury and hunger. The sound made him smile. It meant his captives would cooperate after they satiated themselves on what he had brought for them to eat.
Marcus gestured and the used car salesman stumbled in to the shed, obedient for the glamor and the drugs, a stupid expression on his face. In his confused mind, the man thought he was going to bed Marcus’ daughter, one that did not exist.
Marcus thumbed through the keys again, waiting for the cooling sensation to tell him that he held the second key, the one for the trap door.