"Aaron!" Sophie’s breath came in great gulps. "Aaron!"
Aaron wiped the dirt from his hands. "What's going on?"
Sophie didn't know where to start. "I found something," she managed to say. "A door. And... and... come look."
"Are you mad?" asked her brother.
Sophie stopped short. Uncle was out in the fields and Aunt Bess was inside mending clothes. No, she wasn’t mad, she decided. Merely short on time. "Just come. Please."
Aaron glanced down at his potatoes, then at the top of the tree-lined hill in the distance. Soon, someone from the castle would be coming to take the king’s share of the crop. Aaron sighed, then nodded. "Fine, but hurry."
"I plan to." Sophie said. "Better leave your knife here. We’re headed to the forest."
Aaron stared hard at Sophie for a moment, then lay his knife down. The punishment against hunting in the king’s forest – and all the forests in England were the king’s forests – was harsh. Best not give the appearance that you could be hunting, in case a gameskeeper should be nearby.
"Lead on," said Aaron, anxious to get back to his work.
Sophie sprinted down the path she had found earlier that day.
"A deer trail?" asked Aaron as he loped behind her.
"Just wait," said Sophie. And then there it was: an earthen tunnel, slopping down. It was barely big enough for a person.
Aaron peered in and gasped, all thoughts of potatoes forgotten. At the bottom was a door, much larger and wider than any he had ever seen, and very heavy looking. He scanned the woods around him. Nothing but trees.
Sophie nodded to Aaron. Heart pounding, he pushed the door open. A smooth earth tunnel stretched forward as far as he could see. Torches lit the tunnel here and there, but still there was something awful about the silent, enclosed place.
Aaron stood aside. Sophie placed one foot into the tunnel. It made a dull, dead sound. Calm down, she told herself. It's only dirt. Then, by silent agreement, brother and sister headed in together.
The tunnel stretched for what seemed like forever. Both Aaron and Sophie almost turned back half a dozen times, but each refused to admit feeling scared to the other. Finally they reached a stone staircase. They gazed back. In the dim light, they could not see the tunnel entrance they had come from.
Aaron climbed the steep staircase first and found himself in a small, dimly lit room. He missed it the first time he looked the room over, but then the second time -- there! Another door? Yes. It was made of the same stone as the rest of the room, so it had been hard to see.
This door was also massive, but it moved just as easily and silently as the first. The siblings peered into the longest hall they had ever seen, or even imagined. It was all stone, except that one side had long arches facing into an inner courtyard. Soldiers marched up and down the hall, their armor formidable in the sunlight.
“What is this place?" Aaron whispered.
Sophie shook her head. "I'm not sure." But as she spoke, she realized she did know.
There was no time to talk about anything else. The door swung wide open and a guard they had not seen before yelled "Aha! Spies!"
"I wonder what the king will have to say about this," another guard sneered.
The king? Aaron looked at Sophie, horrified realization spreading across his face. They were inside the castle! Both of them had long dreamed about meeting the king, but not like this!