We made our way through the tangle. Modern steel was one thing; it was blended with carbon and whatnot to be both strengthened and tamed. This was different. Cold cast iron was something else again. It was pure and old and had its own sort of power. No fae enjoyed being in its presence. It wasn’t actually dangerous, but it did tend to dispel glamor and weaken fae magic, two things our kind rely on. But wrought iron? Hand forged iron? That was worst of all. Smiths were the world’s first human magicians, even if most of them never knew it. What they put in the iron when they worked it, our kind recognized immediately even when the smiths did not. Old magic, it was, perhaps even as old as our own.
And the door to the coal mine was sealed with it.
“We’re going in there?” Aednat asked incredulously.
“If we can get it open,” I said.
“Normally, doors and walls are no problem for me. That thing? That’s a problem.” Mera crossed her arms. “Any ideas?”
None came immediately to mind. As for the door itself, ‘that thing,’ as Mera described it, was fairly accurate. It was basically a flat cage, with iron straps two inches wide and probably a good quarter-inch thick. There were massive hinges fastened to the rock and a bolt as thick as a man’s thumb, with a very old padlock binding the bolt to a thick iron ring on the side opposite the hinges, in the usual fashion of a door.
I took a closer look at the lock. It was rusty, of course, and likely hadn’t been open since the colliery had closed down, probably sometime early in the previous century. Fortunately it was of mild steel, not iron and forge slag. Cast iron was recalcitrant. You could break it if you were strong enough, but it would not bend. Steel, by contrast, could be reasoned with, and one couldn’t be a proper trickster without learning a thing or two about locks over the centuries. The Japanese once believed that anything which survived long enough could develop a soul and mind, of sorts. I knew it for a fact. The lock, while made of inanimate steel, was in a sense alive, and as such tended to have opinions.
This one was bored. I could tell.
“They left you all this time with nothing to do but hold onto a door. Hardly seems fair.”
Aednat spoke up behind me. “Nudd, who are you talking to?”
I gave the pair of them a quick glance. “The lock, of course. Please don’t interrupt.”
I could imagine Aednat and Mera giving each other the side eye at the tableau of me talking to a lock. No matter. Just as I wasn’t privy to the inner secrets of either the banshee or nightmare, this was pooka business, pooka understanding, and they could jolly well shut it until I was finished.