January 16, 2017 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The address Elelakorra had given them turned out to be the floor below the first floor of a four-story stone building just outside the royal quarter. The entrance in the front of the building led to a very attractive stone staircase, down to a room with narrow but tall windows and nothing but a broad counter. The man behind the counter read over the note from the Voice and nodded, then headed through a thick bronze door to the back without a word.
He came back several minutes later with a large metal box, the size of a very large book, with two keyholes and a set of two keys. “This one’s yours, this one’s mine,” he explained, and handed Enrie one key. “Things go in here, I lock them in the vault. Only you and I together can get the box out. Here, touch the key thus.”
The key had a blue gem in the head, which glowed faintly. Aether, Enrie assumed, an assumption which seemed all the more likely after she touched the gem as ordered and it glowed a different hue of blue.
“Now we insert, and turn.” He showed her where the keys went in and used his, with an even darker blue gem, on the leftmost of the two key-slots. Enrie did as she was told and the box popped open.
It felt wrong and strange to be finally pulling out all of the originals, but they did, collating them carefully from Tesdes and Saydrie’s packs before slipping them into a pressboard folder and from there into the box.
“These vaults are proof against fire, flood, and earth-quake, although I won’t guarantee them against a volcano — except that the nearest volcano is seven days travel away, so it wouldn’t reach here without some help.” The man smiled at them. “Your papers are as safe here as anywhere in the Empire.”
“What about theft?” Korten asked. The man seemed to see Korten for the first time and bowed, shallowly but politely.
“They are more proof against theft than any of those other things. Without the dual keys, the box cannot be opened; once locked into the vault, the box cannot be removed without the keys; once the vault is locked, only I can open it and I, as it turns out, am theft-proof as well.” He smiled broadly at them. “Now, miss, let me show you where this is going, and we can lock it into place.”
The treaties were officially out of her hands. Enrie locked the door around the box with the man, and they left his office with her key tucked on a chain around her neck.