In a blind panic, Stoni reached for the unlocked chest. She felt for the lid but it was already gone.
The contents of the chest shot upward, knocking her hand away. She heard some solid items bounce off the shelves, and one object hit something metal right in front of her.
Something heavy impacted her hand from above, forcing it down. She realised it was the lid falling. The thing that had bounced off it landed by her feet. She grabbed at it and her fingers made contact. As her grip closed around the small metal box, something tried to wrench it away. She moved with it and held firm, pulling it to her chest.
Bottles began to explode around her. She lowered her head and lurched away from where she thought the chest was.
Forces pummeled her body and glass tore at her clothes. She staggered onward, ran into a shelf, and turned to continue moving in a new direction. Her good eye see nothing and her ears were overcome by the sound of shattering glass. Her bad eye continued to show her meaningless nonsense.
Two random left turns later, she found herself in what seemed to be another long aisle. Whole bottles were hitting her body, and she had to hold the box she'd taken in front of her face to fend off cranial damage. The worst moment was when she tripped on something unseen and put her knee down hard on a shard of glass. Her scream of intense pain aggravated her previously wounded nose, though that seemed minor compared to the intense pain of the new wound. She forced herself to rise and limped carefully forward. While the pain was muted to a tolerable level, her mind was screaming in panic from the lack of ability to determine whether the glass was still in her knee and how deep it really was.
Her forehead bumped against something hard in front of her. Her heart began to sink as she realised she'd reached another dead end. But as she pushed her skin against the cold smoothness, she realised it wasn't a wall of stone. It was a curved bar of metal. It was the rung of a ladder!
There was no way she could get up while holding the box she'd taken, and she was profoundly unwilling to leave it behind. It seemed fairly light and proved flat enough to slip under her coat, but big enough not to fall out. That left her hand free to feel for the rungs above while she tried to keep her balance in spite of the invisible onslaught of heavy and sharp objects. She was close enough to the wall that her face was protected from the worst of it. Almost overcome by terror, she clawed and pushed her way upward until she hit her head on the trapdoor.
She nearly fell from the blow to her head. She nearly let go from the blow to her hope.
I should be out! I left that open! I need to be out! Come on Stoni, you can do this, think! You just need to get the key off your shoe... without falling off the ladder. And before you get completely shredded by glass!
Her planned maneuver proved almost impossible with a single arm and hand under her control. The solution she found was to pull herself up enough that she could squeeze her legs down behind a couple of the rungs. That let her hold herself up while facing the wall and freeing her hand. It was rather uncomfortable, but it beat the other idea she'd discarded, which was to try hooking her chin over the top rung.
Her unseen foe did not seem to be able to see her in the dark, and failed to stop her from retrieving the key. It almost made her drop it by chance, but she kept her grip even as her hand throbbed from being pummeled by a full wine bottle. She desparately hoped there weren't many of those left, though the broken pieces were a serious threat too.
After some more perilous maneuvering and fumbling in the dark, she inserted the key correctly and turned it. As she pushed up on the trapdoor, the onslaught of glass halted.
I hope that's a good sign, but I have a feeling it's not!
Stoni shoved upon the door as hard as she could, which was severely reduced by her positioning. It swung up and over, letting a faint hint of starlight down. As she evaluated the distance to the opening, she noticed something was missing. No rope was tied to the top rung. She felt something wasn't right, but escape was more important than pondering minor details. The rope might have only been in her way, she guessed for a fleeting moment.
The trapdoor started to swing closed, pushed by an unseen force. Stoni panicked at the mental image of being plunged into darkness again, of the key falling out and being lost forever, or of her hand being broken trying to stop the heavy chunk of falling wood.
A desparate concept appeared half-formed in her mind, and she moved without stopping to evaluate it. She only had a moment, and she used it. The trapdoor crashed down on the metal box. She pushed up with the box, forcing the trapdoor open again. "Is this what you want?" she shouted, holding the box over her head by what felt like a handle.
The box tried pulling away from her, but her hand was hooked over the handle too well. She was lifted bodily out of the cellar, scraping her legs against the side of the hole. For a tense moment she feared falling back down to her death, but instead she was bluntly punched sideways. She landed on something wooden with a musical crash.
This isn't the pantry! How am I in the entertainment room? Oh, this is a different trapdoor!
The realisation hit her moments before three brass instruments of increasing size and weight. She could see just enough from the starlight to use her box as a shield. Almost every nerve in Granny V's body screamed mutely at her as she picked herself up and fled.
She stopped in the loungeroom, which held the best available source of light. The books might be a source of ammunition for her invisible assailant, but she figured paper couldn't be as bad as glass. She appreciated the warmth of the fire, and tried to ignore the damage and blood the light revealed. Her attention was resoved for the box. She saw that it was more of a case than a box, with rounded edges and corners. It was held shut by a clasp on the handle which had to be slid sideways. She had to hold the case between her knees to hold it steady.
A couple of books sprang at her, but they hardly seemed to be trying compared to the bottles. She was more angry than afraid and tried to ignore them and those that followed. At last she got the case open and could see inside. "This had better be worth it!"
The interior was lined with soft fabric. Nestled in depressions in the fabric sat eight dark rings. Each glowed with a sickly purple light.
The cascade of books stopped.
Stoni realised the invisible attacker was changing targets. It was going to try to take the rings. That was enough to decide her next move. She slipped the rings onto her fingers, putting one on each.
"Obscure all rings!"
Stoni stood, leaving the box on the floor. "Fine, you can have the box if you really want it," she said with fake resignation.
The box flopped around weakly.
"Looking for something?" she taunted. She waved her good hand in front of her, and then reached across to wave the other hand around, showing that she wasn't holding anything. "I don't know if you can understand me, or how well you can really see me, but... Oooh-er!" A wave of dizziness cut her off and she sat down suddenly. "Guess I've been losing a lot of blood. Um, ALI, how am I doing?"
"That doesn't sound great. Better patch myself up. Think I left that roll of adhesive bandage stuff in the pantry. Not going up... stairs like this." She began crawling back to the kitchen.
The phantom attacker arrived ahead of her. A cake tumbled off the bench, spreading frosting and crumbs across the floor.
"Now that's just petty."
Something Stoni couldn't see started scraping at the frosting. Lines formed and connected into symbols. When reversed, the symbols made words.
OR DIE FOREVER
Stoni shook her head. "You don't scare me any more. I don't know if it's the light, or you simply ran out of power, or it's something else, but..." She paused her rant to catch her breath, and looked around to see if the bandage roll was in sight. "You're clearly weaker than before. And even if you can kill me once, it won't do you any good. So you might as well give up." She was quite pleased with herself for composing and performing that defiant speech, especially given the circumstances.
Though I expect no one ever gave a defiant speech under good circumstances.
Something crashed through the nearest kitchen window and nailed her in the side of the head. Before she had a chance to consider what had happened, she was gone.
"It had better be over this time!"