It never ceases to amaze me that even the most grim of situations can be greatly improved by the business of having something practical to attend to. Searching for clues has become something of a favourite pastime of The Dean and he is currently engaging himself in this endeavour with cheerful aplomb. He has had some early success, I might add, with the discovery of switch that when pressed revealed the presence of some ineffective (yet very welcome) lighting.
The dungeons seem far less ominous when bathed in the grubby orange glow of synthetic lighting and parts of the rugged stonework is actually rather beautiful, in a rustic sort of way. There are some curiously shaped holes scattered about the walls which my logically thinking mind tells me that, at some point in history, may have been host to instruments of nefarious means. The fact they no longer remain is of little comfort.
I have lost sight of Professor Duke but can hear his manic humming further along the chamber. The Dean is strutting up and down a segment of wall, occasionally thumping a selected area with his fist. I dread to think to what purpose this serves, but he seems very intent in his work and is concentrating ferociously so I think it better not to ask.
There is a strange atmosphere down here, certainly. The undertone of residual sorrow from centuries before is tangible still but there is something far more recent hanging in the stilted air. I cannot quite put a finger on it but it is far less distressing than one might expect. Perhaps these dungeons have seen happier times since their more macabre heyday.
“AhaHA!” the triumphant cry from deep within the chamber must be the Professor. “Hey goodness! You won’t believe me if I tell you, but I’m going to tell you anyway: I think I’ve found something!!”
“Well done that man!” cries The Dean. “Come on, Deputy Head Porter, look lively!”
Increasing the pace of his strut significantly, The Dean heads towards the Professor and I trot obediently after him. There is a thumping in my chest and a ringing in my ears as the prospect of moving ever closer to the Grail fuels my fervour.
The Professor is crouched down in a little enclave within the walls, excitedly poking at something. He turns his face upwards to deliver a mega-watt victorious grin.
I move forward to take a peek, but am shoved unceremoniously out of the way by an over-enthusiastic Dean.
“Well! Bugger me!” The Dean exclaims.
“I’m sure you don’t mean that, Sir.”
Ignoring me, The Dean continues.
“Those there are clearly the same carvings we saw back in the cave at home!”
“Exactly right!” replies the Professor. “They are everywhere over these walls, can you believe.”
“That’s the symbol of the Wastell Templars,” I say, barely able to believe it. “They really did make it all the way to Chinon!”
“Yes, and get themselves captured,” remarks The Dean, bluntly.
“Then the Grail was definitely here!” the Professor squeals, doing what could be described as a small dance. “I’m so excited, I’m excited!”
“This is brilliant!” I reply. “Come on, keep looking.”
I turn on my heels to continue the search, when my foot connects with something sort of squishy. From beneath my boot, a hideous screech emerges and the squishy thing makes a sharp exit. I glance down to see an enormous rat careering off into the gloom beyond. Ick!
“Mind how you go, Deputy Head Porter,” scolds The Dean.
Suddenly, there sounds an almighty CRASH! , followed by the gentle tinkling of breaking glass. Eyebrows raised, we exchange curious glances and head together towards the noise. The sounds of our footsteps echoing darkly off the dungeon walls provides a suitably tense soundtrack.
“Well! Would you look at that?” exclaims Professor Duke. And then, “What is it, do you think?”
The scene before us is most unexpected. The rat, in making its escape from my boot, appears to have collided dramatically with what I recognise as a rather elaborate home-brewing set-up. Smashed demijohns lay despondently amongst tubes and bungs and a strong-smelling sticky liquid.
“No wonder the Curator is so particular about who comes down to the dungeons,” I say. “He seems to have a little moonshine venture going on down here!”
“The cheeky bugger,” says The Dean. “Perhaps that’s the real reason he has such a bad memory.”
Before further comment can be made, Professor Duke holds up a hand and hushes us into silence. His hearing must be remarkable as I cannot detect a thing. A finger to his lips and eyes wide, he indicates furiously towards the way we came.
And then I hear it.
Someone knows we are here.