Howl of the Carrion King – Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Twenty-nine
The House of Life

All around her was movement.

Nes extolled the many wonders of the ancient Nethysian wizards. He had discovered a few dried up potions upon the stone shelves and was mixing them with water. “Even after all this time, they still contain their potency!”

Fudin was creeping around the edges of the room, keeping an eye out for danger.

Santon was digging through the filthy nest, pulling out coins and bits of jewelry.

A broken archway repeatedly rebuilt itself, and then fell back into decay. A silt filled goblet danced about the room atop a faded clay tray, offering itself to each of them in turn.

Bree ignored it all. She simply sat there, on the floor, with Tempest in her lap. She couldn’t believe her luck. She had repeatedly had her prayers answered. She could funnel divine power from Cayden Cailean into healing magic. And now she had been granted Tempest. A holy weapon. But, why all this, for an orphan girl? Had her luck finally turned? Was she meant for great things? Surely there were others more worthy! More in need. Others stronger and more devoted.

Bree sighed. She couldn’t begin to fathom the whims and goals of her beloved god. She didn’t know why he had chosen to bless her. She couldn’t imagine what made her special or what had caused him to guide her life in such an intimate way.

Eventually, she smiled. The reason didn’t matter. She was a favoured soul, truly blessed by her god.

“It’s time to go, Bree.” Santon said.

“Yes,” she said, “it is.” She stood, drew Tempest and walked confidently into the next room.

It reeked of dust and looked like a disaster had struck it. Slate-topped tables lay broken and overturned, cedar-wood chairs lay splintered and broken, and scroll shelves lay toppled and smashed. Shreds of papyrus littered the floor, almost a hand-height deep in places. It was some kind of library or scriptorium, laid to waste.

“This was the Per Ankh,” Nes said sadly. “The temple’s House of Life. Holy scripts were copied, written and stored here.”

Bree frowned. Repour that. It was a holy library, laid to waste.

Nes crouched down and picked up a piece of shredded paper. “The lore held within her was invaluable.”

Santon shrugged. “Your mourning won’t make a difference.”

Nes nodded.

Bree walked through the room cautiously. A massive basalt plaque dominated the far wall. It was covered in images of the god-king Nethys on the deck of a river barge. Inscriptions in a language she didn’t recognize traced the outline of the plaque. Bree saw no other exit from the room. “Is this it?” she asked.

Fudin cocked his head to the side and walked to the plaque with his arm outreached. He traced its edges carefully. “No. This is a gateway, though I know not how to breach it.”

Bree walked up to it, and felt along the edges as Fudin had. She didn’t see or feel anything out of place. She sighed. Did he see more than others, or did she see less than others?

Nes stepped forward and began forming arcane symbols with his hands. “Halavim hanavim habiqavim. Kaleem iban halkwan!” he shouted. His eyes took on a now familiar glow. He eyed the plaque for a minute, concentrating upon it.

Eventually he blinked and smiled.

“Prashtay vax sayid!” he cried, moving his hands in strange motions. A small ball of roaring flame formed in his hands. He raised his arm and threw it at the plaque. It struck the stone and dissipated in a flash, causing no harm.

One after another all the eyes upon the plaque lit up in a fiery light. When they were brilliantly bright the plaque slowly began to creep up into the ceiling letting a few stray wisps of a strange, swirling blue mist escape from below. The temple’s ancient magics moved the stone slab achingly slowly, but after a few minutes there was enough room to duck through.

Bree smiled, excited to be moving again. She did not know what purpose her god was readying her for. Perhaps she would never know. It could come and go, passing her by with subtlety or insignificance. It could lay a decade down the road, or a year. Or it could lay just on the other side of the portal. Was it happening even now?

Whatever it was and whenever it came, Bree would be ready. She would be worthy. He would not find her lacking. She would make Cayden Cailean proud.

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