WE PRESENT YOU WITH THE FRONT-DOOR KEY

by Tari Gwaemir
"The first door she ever opened..."

The first door she ever opened was to the Floating Market, where people greeted her with shuffling bows while she wandered freely through the booths and stalls. She found a lovely string of beads--made from the gallstones of gargoyles from Notre-Dame, claimed the old woman who let her try it on--and was about to barter a favor for it when she was swept up and away by a strong arm around her waist.

"Let me down!" she shouted while kicking and clawing wildly.

"Easy there, my lady. Your father asked me to come looking for you." The stranger set her down but kept a firm grip on her wrist to stop her from running away. "You're a bit too young to wander around the Market on your own."

She looked up into a white grin in a dark face. "Who are you?"

"They call me the Marquis de Carabas." He gave her a gallant bow. "Can you find your way home from here?"

"Of course," she answered scornfully. "But what about my beads?"

The Marquis laughed. "Those gargoyle stones were hardly worth a favor from the House of Arch, my lady. I can show you far more wonderful things for sale."

"Really? Like what?"

He leaned in as if to confide a secret, and she stood on tiptoe to hear his whisper. "You would owe me a very large favor, Lady Door. Are you certain that you could afford it?"

She drew back, her face thoughtful. "I must think about it."

"Wise answer. Now back you go." He sent her off with a push, and she opened a door back to home.

END

Neverwhere belongs to Neil Gaiman.

Written for 31_days theme exchange 2006, from the theme list compiled by Sophia (sophiap).

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