Lying before them in the smoky haze darkness, stood the archive building. As with all Celn colonial structures, it would have been the third constructed, after the Temple Mount, and the Fortress. The Archive was as important to Celn lands as was the Lighted Infantry. It was, in essence, the documentation of their accomplishment. It was the record of Celn progress. And to any Celn, progress was the continuation and growth of the Light’s magnificence. It was the destiny of all Celns collectively and the archive was the physical manifestation of it.
“Do you think Lady Orwellian will be waiting for us?” asked Frank. There was more than a hint of sarcasm.
“Something tells me Cleric of the Flame, that Mistress Orwellian has been waiting for us for some time.” Zy’an spoke matter of factly because he thought about it that way. He hadn’t been with Andril and Haryk and the others when they fought the hags on the isle, but he heard the story. They had barely escaped with their lives, and maybe not fully with their minds. That grueling battle had happened against one of the coven at a time, and they had the element of surprise on their side. This time, the wicked creature had years to plan and most assuredly had reinforcements, perhaps more than her two new partners she was assured to have manipulated in a new coven. By the looks of the murders and her gory handiwork the last few days, she had put her time to good use. The monk steadied his thoughts, and his breathing. But he knew, like the others, this night could have many different outcomes.
“Yeah, I’d guess she’s been rearranging the curtains for exactly ten years waiting for us,” said Areia. Her daggers were out, as she walked up the steps to the entrance. “I’m going to take serious issue if she hasn’t properly decorated the dance floor. Oh hey guys, I call first dance, and Thrak, you are going to have to fill in at the punch bowl!” Areia ran up the steps stealthily, as per typical she was utterly sarcastic. Her daggers were out glinting through the haze. Unlike Zy’an, she remembered what the insidious thing had tried to do to them, and to her. She had every intention of being the one to end the foul thing’s life, once and for all! She didn’t care if it was a trap. In fact, she welcomed it. This way, she was sure to come face to face with the wicked thing.
Thrak stood there and watched them file past. Each in their Ceillini disguise, and appropriate moustache. For his part, he was Vittorio, Vittorio Ceillini, and respectively he wore a long thin moustache that trailed beneath his jaw. “Why would anyone wait for another for ten years? Humans are just so strange,” he sighed. It had suddenly occurred to them all that Thrak may not have deduced yet who their enemy was this night. Areia in particular was excited about the idea of him seeing her again. Like she, Thrak had a bit of a temper, and boy did he hold a grudge.
But unless there was something else at play here, they knew what they were dealing with even if Thrak yet hadn’t. And they knew she had them right where she wanted them.
“Come along, my Ceillini Brother”, called Zy’an, disguised as Gorgio. “Let’s not keep our guest waiting any longer, shall we?”
“Which guest is that?” asked Thrak in Vittorio’s accent.
“Nevermind friend, it’s a surprise party anyway,” said Iricah. She stepped up towards the double doors of the archive, herself a Ceillini brother. Outside she stashed her bags behind a column, and withdrew her rapier.
“I’m a big fan of surprises,” said Zy’an, cracking his knuckles. Thrak took the hint and withdrew his magical axes. It didn’t look quite right, watching one of the Ceillini brothers do it, and he seemed off balance as well without his tail sticking out the back! Frank pushed to the front, shield at the ready, his magical mace clutched in his right hand. He had worn his armor and brought his shield, not willing to sacrifice that protection for their disguise and as he approached the archive, he was glad of it.
Forgot my library card. Areia pushed open the doors carefully and slunk inside and out of sight. Frank followed behind her, immediately hearing the deep drumming of machinery echoing from within each time the doors swung outward. He threw them wide open, while the others ran in around him!
Snap! Bang! Even before they were able to look around the vast archives main hall, chandeliers above them crashed down. One smashed atop Frank, who had walked in last, and if it were not for his shield taking most of the damage, and his thick plated armor, he would have been killed outright. The other fell upon Thrak. The lizardman collapsed under the debris of the shattered chandelier, and did not move.
“Thrak!” Shouted Iricah and she ran to his side. But Thrak did not respond. She ran her hands over several of his wounds, and sung in a low hum. The others watched, in disbelief that the massive warrior could have been felled in such a way. She, like the others, had never seen the warrior injured this bad. It had always been Thrak who had stood his ground, while others fell. Slowly, her words, and her healing had an effect on him and he stirred. Near him, Zy’an helped Frank from under the other broken chandelier.
Areia, cautious as always, investigated the twisted metal and the chain it had been attached too. This is no accident, keep your wits about you. She slunk off behind a bookcase full of scrolls, careful to keep an eye above her at where the other chandeliers were.
There were still many others, and the ceiling was high, nearly 80 feet high! On the far end was a magnificent spiral staircase, at the top of which was a landing. Books and shelves lined the hall and tables and chairs were scattered everywhere. There, above them somewhere out of sight of the staircase’s landing, drumming deep and ominous was a thrumming noise. Ba bum, ba bum, ba bum.
“That’s the printing press no doubt,” said Iricah. “The Inquiring Inquisitioner is pressed here.”
We were just about pressed here too. Came the all too solemn voice of Frank. He looked out of place, stalking through the hall, passing rows and rows of parchment and tomes, desks and tables. His armor clinking, his large tower shield held before him. Upon it, the golden dragon was ablaze, and his mace was held high at the ready.
There! Before me, there! Frank took off before anyone could stop him, running towards a hallway at the far end of the hall.
Frank! No! Stop! Cried Zy’an, but it was too late. Two more chandeliers came crashing down but somehow Frank dodged them, using his shield on the second, it just slid outwards and down, smashing a bookshelf to bits and pieces. Frank wouldn’t stop! Whatever he had seen had been more powerful than his own well being. They followed behind him as quickly as they could. Frank! Stop, now!
But he wouldn’t. Or maybe he couldn’t, for he made it to the end of the hall and rounded the corner, and disappeared out of sight.