26. Just Another Creepy Mansion

From the outside the old mansion looked broken down.  The wood siding was nervous with termite invasion, while most
of window shutters were hanging by a single hinge, squeaking in the wind.  That didn’t really seem to matter all that
much because several of the windows were little more than fractions of shattered glass.  Musty velvet curtains hung
heavily to obscure curious outsiders even where the windows failed in their brittle piles.  The depression of the mansion
felt physical as though it had two giant sagging shoulders sad for the rusty gate outside, and the dead leaves that
littered the front steps.  The sadness was complete by overgrown unkempt bushes manifesting the lawn and crawling up
the front of the miserable structure.

Princess Rosella shivered a little as she gingerly made her way up the walk, crunching leaves under her heels as they
clicked up the stone path.  Even while the sun was in its late afternoon descent, the air in Tamir was warm and
engaging, but when her hand wrapped around the rusty doorknob of the house, it felt cold.  Rosella shook her head of
the nonsense ghost stories that were beginning to take form inside her pretty little head.  They were tales of ghosts and
goblins that her father would tell her when she was just a little princess and refused to go to bed.  She would jump into
her lush royal bed quicker than a jackrabbit and pull the safety of blankets over her blonde head, dropping them just
enough for her wide blue eyes to keep watch over her room for invaders of the dark.  While barely a young woman now,
Rosella resolutely turned the cold rusty knob and gave the door a confident push.  The hinges creaked from nonuse
while a gaggle of dead leaves blew inside from the wind across the wooden floors like nails of an excited dog returning
from outside to the side of his master.  Said master it would appear was long dead, leaving the great mansion to
cobwebs and dust.  While the décor was revolting and downright icky to the pampered princess, she realized that her
quest at hand took precedence.  She hoped this old mansion would hold something that might prove helpful in her
retrieving Cupid’s bow from the clutches of the mummy’s crypt.  The ticking grandfather clock only seemed to press the
urgency of her quest.  Goodness knows what Lolotte was doing to Genesta and her fairies!  And Edgar.  What of Edgar
and his recent descent into evil?  The questions were heavy locks hanging around Rosella’s heart threatening her
collapse if she pondered too long on the subject, so she combed the mansion room by room searching for clues that
might aid her in saving Tamir.

After fruitlessly searching the kitchen and bedrooms, Rosella found herself sitting on a musty couch in the den, trying
hard to remember what it was that she was missing from her previous visit to the mansion.  She had been everywhere in
the house and had still come up with absolutely nothing of worth.  In fact the search itself only seemed to unearth
scattering bugs that caused the petite young lady to scream in terror.  She sat with her elbows in her lap, hands holding
the flow of her loose blonde hair from her delicate face, thinking, thinking.  It was then that Rosella sat up straight
closing her eyes as she realized what it was that she had forgotten about the mysterious mansion.  Opening her eyes,
she slowly twisted around on the couch to look at a painting that hung on the wall over the fireplace behind the couch.  
The art itself was nothing of repute, rather the curious gaze of the woman depicted.  Her eyes were looking off to the
side, as if something in the room.  Rosella followed the line of sight to a barren stone brick wall across the room.  
Rosella hopped up from the couch remembering there had been something there before.  There had been a doorway!  
Dusting off her skirt repulsively from the film picked up from the old cushions, the princess traced her soft hands over
the cool stone bricks.  There was a door here, she knew it, just couldn’t see it.  Determined not to give up, she traced
every inch of the wall, until her dainty nails dragged over something brittle.  There appeared to be a tiny nook in the wall’
s design that had been caked up with dirt.  Wrinkling her nose, Rosella scratched the dirt away, using her lovely
manicured nails with a sigh of lament.  When she was satisfied that most of the dirt had been cleared out, she bent down
squinting her eyes in the low light of the room to peer into the small nook.  Her discovery appeared to be a hidden
keyhole.  And where there was a keyhole there most certainly was a door.

The young princess’s spirits soared high for but a moment of success.  The terrible question now was: where is the key
to the secret door?  She knew that Lolotte must have sealed something behind the wall, and if so, the key would be
somewhere else in Tamir.  If Rosella wanted to save Genesta and her fairies, she would have to find the mansion’s
parlor key.  Where should she search next?