Devils in the White City

The Library (Part Two)

Undeterred the Rogue slit both of their throats and the warriors stripped them of their Armour, noting a dark hue to the skin it had once shielded while the monk Tafkap tried in vain to save as many books as he could. Regrouping the party realized that there were only doors like the one they entered, leading out to the street, and not the staircase that they had expected. Beside the books there was only one feature of note in the room, an Archway inscribed with the words “Knowledge is the Key.” Tafkap and the Rogue walked through the Archway to no avail, they studied it up close, trying to discern its use. The Warrior simply picked a book up of the shelf and flung it across the room, right through the Arch but not out the other side. He grabbed another text and strode through, appearing high up in the tower. With a shrug the others did the same.

“The scribes room,” Jurado uttered upon entering the small chamber in which you appeared, a study containing twelve desks and a large statue of a Dragon mid-stride with a button before it. While the party stared worryingly at the Dragon Tafkap wandered over to one of the desks, waving his arms strangely. All of a sudden, out of nowhere two voices Could be heard:

“What happened? The wave… we were dead for sure.”
“It worked. I had forgotten I even invented the thing, but it worked…in a way.”
“So you stopped it, sir? You saved us?”
“Saved? No. I merely stalled it. The Wave will come again, soon, we’ve only minutes.”
“We have to warn people. Helena, she was on her way here.”
“We havn’t the time, though ironically we have all the time in the world.”
“Sir?”
“My boy, this is not going to be pleasant. I’m sorry you had to be here to go through this, but I’m glad you’re with me. I’ll need your bravery and patience.”

“What was that?” You asked. “I don’t know,” said Jurado, “A ghost of some sort, but not that of a person. The ghost of a place, or a time now lost. An echo of the extinct.” The Rogue shrugs, walks over to the dragon and jumps up onto it, standing on the button. There is a rumble in the distance, the clanking of machinery and then a green rune appears in the air. “It resembles a ten,” Tafkap the monk announces. The rune changes. “Now a nine.” You grab your books and run out of there leaving the room empty once again. A quick headcount in the hall reveals that you are one short. The Mage, now invisible, leans back onto one of the desks and watches the Rune’s count down. When they hit zero the statue shakes, its paw lowers and the tail rises up to reach the ceiling, the scales making it like a ladder.

You make your way back through the arch and though there is no sign of the Mage anywhere you spot the dragon’s tail and climb up. The next room is empty of life: there are a few desks, cabinets of reagents and bookcases line all the walls bar one, which is clear except for a spiral mural made from a single row of tiles in alternating colours. Tafkap spots another aura here and goes to open it but the Warrior beats him there, licking the light energy. It spreads to reveal two translucent figures: an ancient seeming mage and his young apprentice with his distinctive Antler staff. The pair are mid-conversation:

“Bhaal’s eyes! I thought we had it that time. I really thought we had it that time.”
“Hmmm, I fear that we won’t ever be able to stop this. We have too little to work with. Too little time. Once the spell is active there’s no stopping it and the casting occurred too far back. We had to try, but i’m tired my boy.”
“You can’t say that. You can’t give up. She’s out there somewhere.”
“She is. Stuck out there until we stop this. Look, the City is lost but the world needn’t be. I have an idea, a terrible idea. We’ll die, many will die, but she may live. Life will live. It’s our only option.”

A ladder rests in the corner and when the echo ceases you take it up to see the Mage being held by a woman in ragged robes and ripped hair. “I’ve not seen you before. You’re new. Not the same again and again. Not him but not him, not the him that’s not really here. You’re here, you’re real, so don’t move, don’t talk. Stay still or you’ll bring them.” The Warrior walks over to her and swings a punch which she dodges, enough of a distraction for the Bard to tackle her to the ground.

The Mage, shaken, walks over to the now restrained woman and enters her mind. The thoughts there are scattered, impressionistic. She see’s the room they’re in, a quaint bedroom with a single desk, a single bed, an archwindow and a small golden birdcage all that adorns it. She see’s the woman spending day after day in here, trapped, unable to go any further. She see’s the woman working her way through the other rooms of the tower. See’s her walking the streets of the city, completely abandoned. See’s her waking to watch the barrier drop. See’s her sleeping as the stars come and go. See’s a flash of the woman walking towards the city, witnessing the wave of light and the crash against the barrier. The woman wakes up, struggles out from under the Bard and climbs down the ladder. The warrior hefts his book after her then scans the room.

Tafkap triggers another echo, the old mage sitting at his desk, holding a small glass orb. “Though I owe it my life this was my worst invention. It doesn’t save, it tortures. Doesn’t stop death, it elongates it. To die and die again…how many times now? But it will all be over soon. We’ll close the loop, seal the wound and set things back in motion. Here, take this upstairs while I begin raising the barrier. I need to concentrate and can’t bear the sight of it.” The figure hands the orb away, then disappears himself. The others are all drawn towards the desk and the large book that lies on it, pages and pages filled with the most complex magic, but the Bard and the Warrior see nothing of interest there.

The Bard instead heads to the birdcage, inspecting the Sparrows frozen there mid-flight, like the figures in the Tavern were. He tries to touch one, but on contact it evaporates into a puff of feathers. The feathers fall to the floor of the cage, onto the bed, the windowsill and strangely some settle on the air just outside the window. The Warrior, without hesitation, climbs to the sill and steps off the edge. Then, levitating there above the City he calls to the Party and they join him in climbing the invisible staircase that spirals around the tower.

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Viginti

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