Books and Cooks
They followed a short hallway into a longer, but plain interior hallway which led to a few rooms in the monastery’s southern wing. Two doors hung half open on their hinges on the right side along with an archway at the far end, while two archways opened off on the left side of the room. In the center stood a weatherworn statue of a winged woman. The goddess Sarenrae. The roof above was broken by several gaping holes, and debris littered the floor in three big piles.
Santon and Fudin cautiously pushed open the first door on the right. They peered in for a moment.
“Library.” Fudin noted. Then he and Santon moved on to the next door.
Bree and Nes both ignored him and entered the remains of the ancient library. Hundreds of books littered the floor. Most appeared too damaged to touch without destroying them. Empty book shelves lined the walls and two ladders leaned up against the shelves. It stunk of musty, rotting paper and old leather filled. Bree and Nes sifted through the books and piles of paper, sighing each time something crumpled to dust at their touch.
“Found one.” Bree exclaimed. She picked up a multi-coloured, leather bound tome from the floor. It appeared completely undamaged. She smiled as she read the cover aloud. “Courts of Stone and Flame.” Bree had always loved books.
Nes peered at the book over her shoulder as she opened its cover. The pages glistened with an inner light, and the tight, red letters seemed alive upon the parchment.
Nes yanked the book from her hands. “I’ll take that.”
Bree scowled at him and turned. “Excuse me?”
“I think we both know which of us would get the most from this tome.”
Bree grabbed the book from his greedy, manicured hands. He lunged forward, to reclaim the book, but Bree, a full head and a half taller than Nes and much stronger, held the book in the air in one hand, and held him back, at arms length with the other.
“I found it.” she growled.
Nes jumped once, and then again, ineffectively trying to seize the book from Bree’s upraised hand. Bree smiled. The guy was a leaky keg.
Finally he frowned. “Fudin! Retrieve my possessions from this peasant!”
Bree scowled, but Fudin did not appear.
Bree and Nes looked back to the hallway with worry.
“Right,” Nes said stoically as he turned to the door. “I will read it after you, then, I suppose.”
Bree nodded, placed the book in her bag and followed Nes back out into the hallway.
It was silent.
Fudin and Santon stood at the next doorway, with Fudin’s ear pressed up against the door. He raised his hand, motioning Nes and Bree over. As they neared he backed up, without a word, and Santon kicked down the door, breaking it right off of its aged hinges and sending it flying into the room beyond. It was a large kitchen covered in a deep pile of broken glass, cutlery, pottery, jagged bone and sharp stone. A few familiar squeals sounded from within.
Bree shook her head, “Tipped tankard.”
Beside her, Nes groaned.
Fudin and Santon tore into the room and slipped on the unstable footing. The pugwampi cackled in glee.
Nes strode to the doorway and moved his hands in a few strange, precise gestures. “Vishayim vax voseth!” he cried, pointing into the room. A thin, golden beam shot out from his fingertip and struck one of the yipping pugwampi. It shrieked and burst into flame.
Fudin and Santon slowly crept to their feet as two other pugwampi took cover behind an overturned pot. A shrieking, howl sounded from behind Bree.
She turned to see a quartet of baboons leap out from the next room in a frenzy. They bared their teeth at her, obviously aggressive. She held her scimitar out menacingly as the encircled her. “Guys?” she called over her shoulder. “I could use a little help.”
Fudin and Santon cursed in pain.
“To the woman, Santon!” Nes cried. “Fudin, to me!”
Bree kept her eyes on the feral, snarling baboons. Santon stood beside her, broadsword drawn. Behind her, Nes intoned another spell and Fudin breathed lightning into the kitchen. The pugwampis yipped with excitement, but not pain.
Santon growled back at the baboons, and charged forward, swinging his sword in a wide stroke. The baboons on one side fell back, shrieking, from his blade, but the others closed in. Bree dashed in, behind Santon and sliced one of the baboons in the side. It screamed in protest, and flung itself at her. It’s filthy teeth scraped against her chain shirt, but she managed to twist out of its grip. Santon roared, thrust forward with his blade and impaled one of the baboons upon it. He kept swinging, flinging blood and the baboon corpse across the room. Bree cut one of the baboons in the shoulder and then slashed again, slicing it open. It shrieked, and the three remaining baboons backed up. They leaped forward together with a great scream. Santon swept his sword out in a wide arc, beheading two of them mid-leap, while Bree ducked nimbly under the third. She slashed out at it with her scimitar before it had time to regain its footing.
Arrows whizzed out of the kitchen.
Nes frowned. “Lashto vax bethnin! Priaptic!” A roaring fire poured forth from his hands, entered the kitchen and formed itself into a cube, filling up the entire room. The pugwampi within screamed, but Nes held his hands out still, pouring more flame into the room and shaping it with his will.
The screams subsided, and Nes withdrew the flames, lowering his arms. Various articles in the room continued to burn. He raised his open hands and closed them, snuffing all the flames in the room with a gesture.
Fudin clapped him on the back and Nes nodded, folding his sleeves back down over his hands carefully. He looked at Bree and Santon then grimaced in distaste.
They had become rather gore encrusted… Bree wiped baboon blood from her face. It was all Santon’s fault!
Nes opened his mouth to speak, but then clamped it shut again. Instead, he nodded at the room beyond.
Santon threw his arms around Bree’s shoulders. “Good job.” He wiped some blood off of her face and smeared it on the wall. “You’re a little sloppy though.”
“I’m sloppy? You’re the one who gave the hallway a new paint job!”
Fudin and Nes continued on, examining a mess hall with a collapsed roof, a group bedroom which reeked of fur and was obviously the baboon’s lair, and finally, a mostly intact dormitory. In the back of the final room, behind a toppled pair of bunks, was a stone door, sealed shut, with mold creeping out from its seams.
Bree eyed the doorway, with a sudden sense of foreboding.
Fudin and Santon moved the bunks out of the way. Santon stepped forward, pried the mold out of the creases of the door and pushing on it slightly.
“It’s not locked.”
“Wait.” Bree said. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Nes moved forward and eyed the mold. “It’s not dangerous.” he said with certainty. “It is in a strange configuration, surely,” he added, “and much more concentrated than would appear in the wild. But not harmful.”
Santon smiled. “So what are we waiting for?” Santon kicked down the door with a heave of his powerful leg. It swung open, showering the room with mold spores. A mold lined stairwell leading down, below the monastery, into the dark. “After you?” he asked Bree.
Bree shook her head. “I don’t think so.” A shiver ran up her spine. “Not this time.”