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"Hurry up! Come on!" Naerl said, tugging her brother's arm to try and get him moving faster.
"Naerl, I'm sure whatever you found isn't going to disappear in the extra moment it takes to walk there like a civilized person." Horion said, gently chiding his little sister. He was older by almost a decade, and with their mother gone and their father often locked away with his studies Horion was as much partent as sibling at times.
"Don't be such a grown up!" Naerl yelled over her shoulder as she broke away and scampered across the lawn. She stopped at the thickly overgrown hedge that marked the end of the lawn itself and, as far as Horion knew, the edge of the manor house's grounds. "I found a thin spot and you won't believe what's inside!"
Horion frowned, he began to wonder just what Naerl had found. He thought back to when he was her age, seven years old, and always crawling about in the wilds outside the small house they'd lived in before their mother had died. Strange rocks, curious insects, and secret spaces had consumed his carefree life then.
That had ended little more than a year later when Naerl had been born and their mother had gotten sick. At last their father had won out and brought the family to his family's manor house with the hope that the nearby city would yield up a healer with sufficient skill to save his wife from the sickness.
That hope had proven to be in vain, and Horion had lost both parents. His mother dead, and his father now engrossed in his studies of who knows what. Horion and Naerl had been raised by relatives and nannies, and Horion had gone from a curious and excited child to a reserved and serious premature adult.
"This way!" Naerl cried, bringing Horion's attention back to the hedge. There was indeed a thin spot, and by the looks it may once have been an intentional opening. Nearl was small enough to crawl through the thinnest part near the ground, leaving Horion to push his way through, the branches scratching and clawing at his robes.
Beyond the hedge he took a moment to straighten his clothing before realizing that instead of an overgrown wilderness he was standing in what seemed a carefully constructed clearing. "It's a maze!" Naerl breathed excitedly, "And I found the center. You won't believe what's in the middle! C'mon!"
Naerl grabbed his hand and tugged and this time Horion found himself following her as fast as she was going. The maze was a blur of carefully trimmed hedgerows. wild and unkempt but still navigable. Horion quickly lost his bearings to a seemingly endless parade of left and right turns. Pulled along in Naerl's wake he could only follow and hope that she knew her way.
Suddenly the narrow and winding maze fell away into a large clearing nearly ten paces across. The ground was covered in low crawling ivy and dead brown leaves except in the middle where a portion had been cleared. An arrangement of concentric circles of stone around a central disc. Naerl pulled up at it's edge and pointed, "What is it?"
Horion stared at it for a long moment. What indeed, he thought to himself. "Let's me see." He bent down and touched one of the outermost stones. At his touch a glyph formed in glowing energy upon the surface and Horion drew his hand back so quickly that he fell backward, leaving Naerl giggling. "It's a rune, but ... it can't possibly be."
He moved forward on his knees and reached out for one of the inner rings, touching a stone there which also displayed a glowing glyph at his touch. The second glyph lasted only a moment before fading. Horion saw that both glyphs were now faded and he swallowed hard, "It's a rune lock, like on father's study door."
Naerl looked at the vast lock and then at Horion, "But daddy's lock only has eight runes!"
Horion nodded, "And this one must have nearly a thousand." He looked at Naerl, "What could possibly be so important as to be locked behind a thousand rune lock?"