You Never Know What You’ll Find Exploring Old Buildings
“Magic is less interesting than I thought it would be.”
Ariel gave Edwin an unreadable look, running her hands up a pillar. “Watching buildings fall over is more interesting than making sure they don’t, but I’d still rather they didn’t, wouldn’t you?”
“I guess.” Edwin hooked his thumbs in his belt and looked up the length of the pillar, at the high ceiling it was holding up. It would definitely be bad if that were to fall.
When Ariel had asked him to come on a walk, he hadn’t expected she’d take him to the First Church of the Blessed so she could poke at the architecture. But here they were. “What do you think is going to knock this building down, anyway?”
“Nothing, hopefully.” Ariel flashed Edwin a smile. “There’s a lot of magic in this structure. Some of it is there to keep it solid.”
The cathedral just looked like a church to Edwin, but bigger than usual. “Some of it?” he asked, watching Ariel’s hands on the pillar. “Not all?”
“Most of it is shields and that sort of thing.” Ariel frowned, pulled her hands away. “I guess they figured the church might get attacked someday when they were building it, so they put all these protections into the building. My guess is the priests probably don’t even realize that a lot of it is there.”
“You could ask them.” There were lots of priests around, seeing as this was the main church of the entire Catechism. There were actually a lot of people around, just looking at the church, it seemed. Edwin hadn’t known that people were just allowed to come here.
“I could, but priests are so dreary.” Ariel moved away from the pillar she’d been examining. “They’ll try to tell me that angels helped build this place or something.”
Edwin followed after her, thinking that was probably a bit silly, even for a priest. “I don’t think they’d tell you that. You don’t think they know the history of their own church?”
“Do you know the history of your fortress, Edwin?”
“It was built by the third knight commander, Preston the Architect,” Edwin told her, maybe a tad defensive. “When the order got too big to house inside the old castle. It took them six years to build and bankrupted the order, and they had to get a loan from King Hubert the Third so they could pay everyone.”
“I’m surprised they teach you that stuff.”
“They don’t, really. I read it in a book.” Erik had made him read it in a book.
“And did that book tell you about the spells of protection carved into the fortress?”
Edwin frowned. “There aren’t any.”
“Of course there are. All the important buildings in the capital are protected with magic. The spells on your fortress are pretty serious, I hear. But I can’t get permission to come in and look at them.” Ariel had come to a wall and was running her hands along that now, underneath a mural of some saints that Edwin found a little hard to look at.
“They’re not just going to let you come in and wander around.”
“Fair enough.” Ariel shrugged one shoulder. Edwin wondered if she was doing magic with her hands like that, or if she was just looking for it in the walls. “They probably also don’t tell you that the fortress is built over a much older structure, do they?”
No, they didn’t. Edwin cocked his head as Ariel got to a sconce and just stuck her hands in it, ignoring the candelabra that was there. “What kind of structure?”
Ariel turned at him, showing teeth. “A temple.”
Edwin felt strangely cold at that, even in the heat. “A church?”
“No, a temple. From before the time of the Catechism. I wonder why Preston the Architect decided to put the fortress there. Do you think he knew what used to be there?”
Edwin rubbed his arms to get some blood flowing. “How should I know?”
“My guess is he didn’t.” Ariel turned away from Edwin and back to her inspection of the sconce. She’d found a little gap in the bricks and stuck her hand in it like it wasn’t a big deal. “Just like High Presbyter Andrea the Gifted probably didn’t know that the site she picked to build this cathedral was over a mausoleum. That one’s common knowledge these days; they were digging in the basement ten years ago and found a bunch of old tombs and even some fossilized skeletons inside.”
“What’d they do?”
“Left them there and sealed it up. Not much they can do and it’s a sin to disturb the dead if you can avoid it, right?”
“So there was a town here before the capital was built, then?” Edwin asked, looking down at the floor. He wasn’t sure how he felt about there being a bunch of skeletons under there. Skeletons kind of wigged him out. He was always a little bit worried they were going to start moving.
“Yeah, seems like. Archeologists say the castle was probably built over the town’s gate. It’s funny though, the oldest maps we have don’t show one, though it seems like there might have once been a road heading here. Which means it was already gone even before the time of the Catechism.”
“That’s really interesting.” This was a lot more interesting to Edwin than most history he’d been forced to learn. That there had been a whole other city here, totally different from the one they had now, before the Catechism had even existed, which meant before the kingdom or anything had existed, was amazing. “What about the academy?” He asked, looking around, even though all there was to see here was painted marble and lots of pews. “What used to be there?”
“A square, we think. Not too interesting, though it does seem like the main tower is built over what was probably a statue or some sort of big standing stone. A signpost or a memorial, or something like that.”
“I wonder what happened to the old city.”
“Me too. What the fuck.”
Ariel’s hand, Edwin saw, had disappeared past her wrist. She yanked it back as she spoke, and as Edwin watched, the red head of some mandibled insect followed, skittering out after her on legs after legs.
A centipede, Edwin realized a moment later, but way too big. “Holy shit.” Ariel’s hand was bleeding. “Did it bite you?”
“A little, but I’ll be fine. No way that thing’s supposed to be here.”
“Yeah.” Edwin reached out before the centipede could retreat and, swallowing his revulsion, grabbed it by the head, careful of the mandibles.
“It’s fine.” He pulled, gently enough to get it loose without killing it, and the centipede wriggled out of the hole. It was longer than Edwin’s arm by the time he got it all the way out. Ariel moved the candelabra out of the way and once Edwin had the whole thing out, it was thrashing around so much that he dropped it on the floor.
A lot of people had noticed them now, and noises of alarm were going through the people. Edwin reached for his sword, not trusting his boot to do the job on that thing.
“I got it,” Ariel said, raising her hand and shooting a ball of white fire at the centipede with a flash that lit up the cathedral for a second, and left the thing without a head. Its body writhed around on the floor for a minute or two before finally coming to a stop. Edwin kind of wanted to be sick, but made himself watch the centipede until he was sure it was dead. There was something about it that made Edwin need to make sure that it was dead.
“That was really gross,” he said, once he was sure. A bunch of people had gathered around them and were muttering to one another.
“Yeah.” Ariel crossed her arms, looking down at it, then back at the wall, and the hole from which it had come. “Guess we’re going to talk to some priests after all.”