Ch. 15.2 —
“Come on, Franklin, I just want to talk to him,” said Eli. “See, no weapons. No rope to escape with. It isn’t as if he can do anything stuck in that room. Are you really going to deny him company for a whole year?”
“Your reputation proceeds you, Sire.”
Eli laughed quietly. “I’ll take that as a compliment. Now, please, open the door.”
“Very well. But I expect you to be a good influence on your brother.”
“Franklin, I’m hurt. I’ve always been the very best influence on my brother. I’ve been looking out for his interests since he was a baby.”
“Forgive me for saying so, Sire, but it seems as though most of the scrapes he gets into are from your instigation.” There was a pause. “Oh, very well.”
A key turned in the lock.
Ezra leaped to his feet and crossed the room. Franklin had a sour expression on his face as he opened the door and let Eli into the room.
Franklin looked at Ezra. “No tricks, Sire.”
“You have one hour.”
“I’ll knock when I’m done visiting,” said Eli.
Franklin locked them in. For a moment they just stood there grinning at each other. Then Ezra ran to his brother and hugged him.
“Get me out of here, Eli. Use one of your wishes.”
Eli shook his head. “I can’t. I’ve only got two left. I wasted the first one turning a cockroach into a cat. If I’d been thinking clearer, I could have thought of something else. I need to save the remaining two wishes for a life or death situation.”
“This is life or death. If I have to deal with Franklin much longer, I’m going to murder him.”
Eli laughed. “He is a stuffed shirt, isn’t he?”
Then Eli sobered. He crouched down, looked Ezra in the eyes, and spoke in a low voice that wouldn’t carry past the door. “Ezra, I can’t stand the thought of you being a prisoner for a year – or longer. Father will find a way to make it permanent. He’s so paranoid that someone is going to kill you. But you and I both know that a person can’t thrive in captivity. So I’m going to show you a great secret.”
Ezra bounced up and down. “Great!”
Eli held up a warning hand. “You can’t tell anyone about this. You can’t show anyone. And you certainly can’t abuse it. A secret doesn’t remain a secret very long in this castle unless you keep your wits about you.”
Ezra put his hand over his heart. “I promise. Now what is it?”
Eli stood and put his hands on Ezra’s shoulders, then turned him around. “What do you see?”
“I see the tapestry.”
“Come on, use that magic eye of yours. What else do you see?”
Ezra stared at the large tapestry –a worn, embroidered work from some long-forgotten lady who had lived in this room. The colors were so faded it was hard to tell what the original subject had been. Some kind of building. A barn, perhaps, with trees behind it, and a human figure in the foreground. The tapestry hung from loops that ran through a wooden pole attached to the stone wall near the ceiling, and fell to the floor. The more he looked at it, the more he was sure that there was something strange about the picture. The outline of the barn seemed to take on three dimensional qualities.
Ezra gasped. He ran forward and pulled the tapestry away from the wall and looked behind it.
There was a door in the wall. He pushed on the smooth hard wood. It opened quietly, and a rush of stale, dusty air washed past him.
“Awesome!” Ezra tried to go through, but Eli held him in place.
“It connects with the other secret passages in the castle, including the one I showed you.”
Ezra looked up at his brother, dizzy with hope. “You mean there’s more?”
“How else do you think I’ve been guarding you all these years? Now that I’m leaving, you’re going to have to ask the ghosts to help you and give you warning.”
“How did you know…”
“Sometimes the servants see you talking to the air. You’re going to have to be more careful. Some of them are quite sharp. Not Franklin, obviously. That’s why I encouraged Father to assign him as your bodyguard.”
“Oh.” That was just one more reason to be grateful to his brother.
“You’ll find your way around the castle soon enough, but remember the time. You have to be in your room when Franklin opens the door to let you out in the morning. Since he falls asleep on his chair outside the door fairly soon after sitting down, he shouldn’t be a problem. But keep the hinges oiled.”
Ezra wanted to dance and sing at the top of his lungs. “Thank you so much. Now let’s go!”
When Franklin came in a half hour later to fetch Eli, he and his brother were both sitting at the table, with their hands folded and looking properly mournful.