“This one too?” asked Maxi.
Nikita shuddered and replied, “Yes, just like the others.”
They stood before a drab metal door at the end of a stone corridor, seven levels below the lobby.
“Stand back,” said Maxi quietly as she took out her lockpick set. After a moment or so a soft click was heard and the door folded into the wall.
“That was quick.”
“Well, there are sigils inscribed on the lintel but none of that is working right now so it was easier than it should have been.”
“But they will go off if time restarts?”
“When time restarts.”
Maxi looked at her ghostly companion.
“Why does this worry you so much? This didn’t affect spirits.”
“It did. We have no purpose without the living. Who are we supposed to haunt?”
Maxi laughed which earned her a sharp look from Nikita.
“Sorry, it’s a little funny.”
“It’s not! It’s…”
Nikita snapped her fingers while struggling to find the right word.
“I was going to say tragic but that’s just dramatic. Dammit.”
“It is funny.”
They both laughed at that, their mirth echoing down the corridor.
“I’m going to take a look down the passage,” said Maxi after they spend all their mirth.
“Okay, I’ll wait for you here.”
Maxi moved down the passage quietly. No one was there to hear her and the laughing fit she just enjoyed would’ve been a giveaway but she did it instinctively. About one hundred meters in it ended in a stone staircase that climbed up. At the top, a short corridor led to a wrought iron gate on street level. Through the gate, she could see a wall of ghosts across the rue. She quietly made her way back.
“They’re there too,” said Nikita.
“Not a surprise,” said Maxi with a shrug.
“There was one more door I wanted to check out.”
On the lowest level, just below the area where they found barred cells, there was a large square room. It was completely devoid of furniture or ornamentation save for the far wall that was inscribed with a vast geometric pattern of symbols, glyphs, sigils, and runes.
“That looks… dangerous,” observed Nikita.
“You’re not wrong.”
Maxi walked up and examined it. Nikita stayed at the doorway.
“It can’t activate.”
“Is there any ierósium?”
Nikita slowly glided into the room.
“Are you certain?” asked Maxi.
“Yes. Yes, I only have existential dread.”
“Funny. Check out the wall.”
The spirit moved next to Maxi.
“That’s a lot of symbols. Can you read it?” asked Nikita.
“Some of it. If I had to guess, it’s an elaborate lock.”
“Plus, dangerous hexes.”
“What is behind it?”
“Many valuable things,” Maxi said with a gleam in her eye.
“Try to focus.”
“Can you open it?”
“No. It’s not mechanical. It’s an arcane lock and since all that isn’t working, it will stay sealed.”
“That might be for the best.”
“But you could…”, began Maxi.
“What?” interrupted Nikita.
“Just float through it.”
“How thick it is?”
“I have no idea.”
“That’s a problem.”
“Why? Just come back if you don’t find anything.”
“It doesn’t work like that. All spirits can pass through solid objects but if we go too far we can get lost.”
“Yes. We can lose our sense of direction and might never be seen again.”
“Okay, I have an idea. How long did it take you to move from the door? Count it off.”
Nikita did it in six.
“Just go straight for six, and if you don’t come out the other side, turn around and come back.”
She sighed then replied, “Okay, I’ll try it.”
“This will work.”
“If it doesn’t, I’ll haunt you so hard.”
Maxi suppressed the urge to remind her if it didn’t work she would be unable to do that. “Right, here I go.”
And with that, Nikita moved through the wall and began to count. One. Two. Three. Four, and suddenly she found herself floating above a circular pit, about ten meters wide.
With relief, she zoomed back to Maxi and said, “Big pit, going down, I’m going to check it out.”
Maxi applauded and Nikita returned to the pit. There was a brass spiral rail that curved down as she descended. When she reached the bottom there was a metal and wood platform attached to the rails. A lift of some sort.
From there spread out a sea of free-standing doors, each had a copper plate with a raised symbol, a caldron, a book, a bundle of sticks, and so on. She took a deep breath, despite the inability to breathe, and stuck her head through one.
On the other side was the back of the door. Disappointing but it made sense if these were made with the same sort of occult methods. Maybe time to go back.
She shared what she learned with Maxi as they returned to the lobby. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, Maxi had read about this sort set up, though she admitted that she had never seen one and that it was thought to be purely theoretical.
As they joined the others, Maxi began, “Good news, there are a number of secret exits.”
“Bad news is there are ghosts at each one,” added Nikita who wished she had been the one to offer the good news.
Arpin held up an unfolded letter.
“The Repairperson had contacted us.”
“What did she say?” asked Maxi and Nikita simultaneously.