There were many secret passages in the royal castle at Parseil, and Volont knew them all.
Presently, he was using the one closest to the great hall: a narrow passage hidden behind one of the massive dragon statues in the alcoves that lined the southern hall. All these statues were granite, save for one which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be hollow and with a hinge at the base of its wings; this is where a person could open the dragon and step inside it and on to a spiral staircase. It was not, Volont always opined, very difficult to find; the real measure against sneaking spies was underneath, in the tunnels themselves. There were many of them, cris-crossing and intersecting and sometimes going in pointless loops that ended where one began, and all the exits were either painfully similar to the walls or otherwise baffling to open. It wasn't hard entering the tunnels; getting out was another thing entirely.
Volont took a decisive turn at an intersection and found himself facing another spiral staircase. He took the steps two at a time, then paused midway up the stairs, tapped a wooden panel exactly twice, and waited. The adjacent panel slid open noiselessly, and he climbed into the hole that appeared.
On the other side of the panel was a room as different from the dark, dank passages as a birdsong is to a lion's roar. The walls were covered with elaborate tapestries, so that Volont had to push one aside to make his entrance; the bed had a violet canopy and curtains, and a large carved chest sat against a wall, its contents strewn about the floor. Some of them, Volont recognised. There was a particular gown, of perfectly bleached white silk, with fine lace lining its neckline and sleeves, gold thread embroidery, and a purple satin sash, that lay across the floor atop a pile of similar garb, that he remembered particularly well. He turned to the gown's owner and asked:
"Milady is not taking that?" he pointed to the gown.
The Queen Suvria, a creature far too young and timid to truly be Queen, nodded wordlessly. Volont had always thought Suvria was too much a girl to be a King's wife, much less in a country as seething with turmoil as Terli. She had the wide-eyed fear of a child rent from her dolls and thrust into a world of intrigue and politics, and to Volont this was as agreeable as pouring a bucket of lard into a cask of fine wine.
"Impossible to sell, anyway," Volont continued cheerfully. "Too many people know your wedding gown by sight. But you can take it to tear apart into other clothing, you know."
"No," the girl refused. "I wish to leave it."
A pause. Then, Volont shrugged. "As you wish," he conceded. He gave the silk dress another regretful glance. It was a stark contrast with the coarser dress Suvria now wore, and her hair, let down and loose and without her gold coronet, seemed to suit her face much better. "Perhaps an apopemptic song, to the dress, to bid it farewell?"
Suvria tilted her head to look at him directly. "None such thing," her voice was soft but adamant.
"Come on, then," Volont said. He walked over to one side of the room, picked up a bundle, and slung it over his shoulder. "Would that be all you packed?"
Suvria nodded again.
"Jolly good," Volont pushed the tapestry aside to reveal the hole beneath. "Let's go, then. If you please?"
The young woman hesitated, but it was only for a moment. She steeled herself, marched over, and descended into the hole. Volont followed her, and the tapestry fell back into place. There was a little click, and then nothing else.
An omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles.