"Knight was... interesting to talk to," said Judgment. "Laconic."
WHAT KNIGHT OF SWORDS HAD TO SAY ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS
On the phone lines:
"Broken. Gonna go up with Nine and fix 'em. We don't get a lotta calls, anyway."
On roof access:
"Big trapdoor at the top of the northwest staircase. It's pretty obvious if you look."
On the electrical systems in the castle:
"The alarms are on their own generator, and only the security company's got a key to that. Nobody's gonna mess with their power. But everything else is on main power, and power surges play hell with my PC here. Had to get a power strip with a backup battery to keep it from gettin' shut off."
On the theft from the kitchen:
"Scissors? No idea."
On the other staff:
"I get along okay with Nine, King, and Temperance. Don't know the others very well. King's definitely harmless - no way he's involved in any funny business. If anything happened, he wouldn't be a culprit."
On the security room keypad:
"Nah, I haven't shared the combo with anyone else."
On secret passages:
"I know this place like the back of my hand, and I've looked. No secret passages in this Castle."
On the guests:
"Hmmm... I know Seven of Cups pretty well. She loves astrology and astronomy and stuff. Meteor shower tonight; we're gonna watch from her room."
"I heard High Priestess has some kind of puzzle for us at dinner. She weirds me out."
"Magician's got a great head for electronics. Sometimes we talk about that stuff; he's made all kinds of little gadgets. Actually, he probably knows more about microelectronics than I do, and that's saying a lot."
Nodding at the latest pieces of interview data, I walked out to the courtyard to investigate. Meanwhile, Judgment made his way up to the Driftwood Room to question Knight about the phone lines, the electronics, and the staff and guests.
The courtyard lay between the outer walls and gatehouse and the inside of the Castle. Paved in gray cobblestones, it was sparse, decorated only with solemn statues and grotesque gargoyles. Some held books; others held staves or swords. One wore in a mask and a witch's cap, and had the following piece of doggerel set in stone tiles on its pedestal:
ACT WHEN IN DOUBT -
HUNT THE PROOF OUT.
I puzzled over this a little, then turned my attention to the walls. I could hear the pounding on the ocean cliffs just beyond the west wall, which was far too high to scale, and looked rather treacherous. The gatehouse was likewise well-fortified; the sign by the great metal gates stated that Castle was open from 10 AM to 6 PM - plenty of time for all the guests to arrive, but nobody could entering or leaving this keep while those gates were closed - the walls were sheer, the cliffs were uninviting, and the metal was sturdy and topped with formidable spikes.
Overhead, the windows of the Castle glinted in the afternoon sun. The tape I had laid on the Electricity Closet window was not at all visible from this side, and I walked around the house checking all of the other ground floor windows one by one. Apparently, the Castle had met its quota of broken locks and latches, as every one that I could reach was locked. Of course, there was no way to check the ones that faced the cliffs from the outside, or the ones on the upper stories, but the walls seemed impossible to scale, at least without a ladder. Which also raised to mind the question of how anyone got up to the roof to raise and lower the castle's flag and maintain the power and phone lines - I didn't see any passage to the rooftop on the map I was given, but perhaps there was an error and one of the tower stairs went up further.
I glanced into the garden and saw a man - King, presumably - at work cutting roses at the entrance to the hedge maze. Searching in there would be more trouble than it was worth, so I stuck to the courtyard and walls when probing for secret passages. And after a thorough sweep, I finally found something worthwhile. The statue of the witch had a small, nearly undetectable keyhole set into its robes at chest height. I couldn't do anything with it at the moment, I knew, but someone was hiding something there.
Satisfied that I'd gleaned everything I could from the courtyard, I returned to meet up with Judgment once more.
(Wow. It's getting hard to keep writing steadily with all this thesis work/teaching! I hope I haven't lost everyone.)
Saturday, 2:32 PM
I met up with Judgment once more, who had gleaned some interesting tidbits from the Page of Swords.
WHAT THE PAGE HAD TO SAY ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS:
On the Queen:
"She's a secretive lady, but very nice!"
On her mother:
"Oh, you heard about that? Yes, my mother's very ill... yes, money would help her get better treatment - but we manage somehow."
"She's like a second mother to us here, I think! Aside from keeping the books, she manages a lot of the little personal problems we have... when I caught fever, she took care of me, you know."
"King's a nice guy, but he... um... sleeps too much on the job."
"He can be very brusque sometimes, but don't let that put you off at all! He's a good person deep down. But he works too hard."
"I barely know him, but he and Ten are like siblings. They definitely wouldn't hide anything from each other. Whatever one does, the other knows about."
"He's very into his electronics and things, but I wish he'd fix the phones. They haven't worked for a week!"
"Ah... she and Strength had a bad argument. The kitchen door lock's been broken for a few days, and Strength thinks she and Nine are holding up on getting it fixed because - because of some kind of grudge! This one time, you see, Strength forgot about Ten's peanut allergy...
But I don't think that either of them are stalling, I think they're just she has against him because of that ONE time he forgot about her peanut allergy... but I don't think that's what's going on. And it's probably just that Knight and Nine haven't gotten around to getting a new lock and key. These locks are very fancy, you know, pretty much impossible to pick, Nine says."
On the theft:
"I don't know how it happened! A nice pair of scissors that Strength uses for cutting meat got stolen, and I have no idea who did it. Or why..."
On the guests:
"Some of them have visited before, but some are new to me! I've never met the Emperor, and it's been years since Eight of Coins has managed the trip here, with his bad health... but Five of Wands was here last year, and the High Priestess was with him."