It’s Very Rare for A Closet to Be Just A Closet
“I wonder,” said Owen, thinking, “if we should have taken a more subtle approach to this.”
Aria looked at him, then at the hole in the ground where the blacksmith’s forge had used to be. Owen had bought and given him a new forge to work out of so that he wouldn’t be out of work. “You think this now after we’ve dug a massive hole in the ground?”
“Yeah, well…” Owen shrugged. “Maybe if we’d left everything the way it was, the evil sorcerer would have come back and tried to do evil sorcery, then we could have just caught them.”
“Well,” said Aria, crossing her arms. “Yeah, I guess. But too late now.”
“Yeah, too late now.”
“Anyway, your squire is coming.”
Owen nodded, waving at Twig, who waved back as he joined them. His trousers were dry, but he trusted Aria’s observational skills. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, not sounding all that apologetic. “Some rich asshole bought half this street and blocked it off for some top-secret rich asshole thing, so I had to go the long way.”
“Yeah, rich people are the worst. Let’s go in the hole now. Grey Rain got impatient and went down there already.”
Twig nodded and he peered over the hole, sighing. He jumped right down, landing with an ‘ow.’ “Ow,” he complained. “That was farther than it looked.”
Owen slid in after him, landing easily if heavily, and Aria came behind them. The same tunnels as before were still here, but some of them had signs on them now. “We’ve mapped those two tunnels,” Aria said, pointing at two of them. “The one on the left is a dead end after two kilometres. The one on the right has three entrance points throughout the north end of the city. We’re still exploring the two.”
“No hints as to which one has a monster in it, I’m guessing?” Owen asked.
“No. Obviously there’s also the danger that the monster—which is almost definitely a higher demon—has already escaped and just fucked off somewhere,” Aria said, taking Owen down the fifth tunnel that led to the summoning room where they’d killed the golem.
“Yeah, given what I’ve heard about higher demons, that would be bad,” said Owen. Just about everything higher demons did was bad, so it was a safe bet. “But also given what I’ve heard about them, it probably wouldn’t have been quiet. How could it have escaped without anyone noticing?”
“Who the fuck knows what kind of powers higher demons have, honestly?” Aria shrugged in answer to her own question. “I mean, the centipede demon was one, and it could and did move around without leaving craters behind it.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” Owen muttered. “I don’t know, it felt like whatever was trapped in that room must have been pretty big. And even if I were a higher demon, I don’t think I’d be able to be subtle and quiet if I were trapped somewhere for hundreds of years and then suddenly escaped.”
“You’re not subtle or quiet anyway,” Aria reminded him.
That was a fair point, so Owen nodded, proceeding down the tunnel. “You know what I think?” Twig asked. “I think it’s confusing that they’re called higher demons when there are actual people called demons. That was really bad strategy on the Catechism’s part.”
“I mean, not really,” Owen said. “It was deliberate and it did what they wanted it to do.” Now that Owen was friends with demons, he felt bad about all the racist stories he’d liked about them growing up.
“Oh. So it was like, they built a system that pretended to be looking at facts, but the system was always designed to have one outcome?” Twig asked, thinking hard.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, that’s a bad system. I think we should call one of those groups something else.”
Owen rolled his eyes. “We’ll let the High Presbyter know tomorrow.” Owen told him. He and Gavin inevitably had to talk to Pauline Swiftheart for at least a few minutes after the weekly church service in the First Church, and Gavin was hoping that he could get her to support him at Aerchon’s trial next week.
“That ‘we’ had really better not include me,” Twig said, looking a little ashen.
The portal room was pretty much the same as before, but now it had some lamps in it and was full of people. Grey Rain was sniffing around the wall, looking like he was looking for something. There were some academy mages and some other people who Owen thought were Clan Vickn sorcerers and a tall woman with lots of necklaces on doing something over by some rocks. She was a wizard, Owen was pretty sure.
Cleo was crouched in front of a sigil she’d drawn a circle around. The circle was glowing a little bit, and she was concentrating hard. “I’m trying to restore the original spell,” she said when they approached, as if Owen was going to interrupt something that could probably collapse the whole cave around them. “So we can use it to call back and banish whatever was held here. There’s been no sign of it, but in my experience, higher demons don’t generally just go back to their realm peacefully.”
“Yeah, well it sounds like the realm they’re from kind of sucks,” Owen agreed, looking at the circle and recognizing it from one of the papers Cleo had made him look at before. “Okay, what can I do?”
“Literally nothing, I don’t know why any of you are even here.”
Owen looked at Aria, who shrugged. “I hated standing around waiting. I thought maybe if we came down to look around, something would happen.”
Owen didn’t need to see Cleo to know she was rolling her eyes. “That’s not how it works and you know it.”
“Yeah, but it would be cool if it did,” Twig said, looking around.
“Go away before I collapse the whole cave around you,” Cleo said, not at all patiently.
“Okay,” Aria said.
Owen shrugged, turned around with her. “Let’s go get lunch. Maybe we can come back later and…”
Red Wolf! Red Wolf! Grey Rain came bounding over, hopping in place, excited. I smelled something over here! I don’t know what it is but it seems really weird!
Okay, said Owen, following him. What is it?
“What’s going on?” Aria asked.
“Grey Rain says he found something,” said Twig, whose sign had gotten better pretty fast.
Grey Rain led them over to a spot in the cave wall that looked just like all the other spots, but he crouched down, underneath all the spellwork on the walls, and pointed at the stone. Right here! he said. I can smell water and air!
Owen frowned, put his hand on the rock. It felt like a rock to him. “He says there’s something behind this,” Owen said.
“Well.” Aria drew her axe, and Owen, Twig and Grey Rain all stepped back. “Let’s see about that.” She brought it down, colliding with the stone with a clang that resounded through the cave. “Huh.”
The stone wasn’t even chipped. Owen crossed his arms. “Well, that’s not normal stone.”
“What in blazes are you four doing over here?” asked the woman with all the necklaces, coming over angrily. “We’re trying to work and you’re making an ungodly racket.”
Owen pointed at the stone. “There’s a magical stone here.”
The woman sighed rather dramatically. “The whole room is brimming with magic, one stone among many isn’t that…oh.”
“Oh?” asked Owen, who was pretty sure he was hearing the ‘oh’ that people said when they were too busy to say ‘you were right, Owen.’
“There does appear to be a ward here,” the woman said, crouching to put her hand on it.
What’s she doing? What did she say? Grey Rain asked, tail wagging.
There’s magic there, Owen told him.
There was a snap and the stone cracked, and the woman scowled, pulling something out of a giant sleeve and touching it to the rock. Light flashed and when their vision cleared, there was a tunnel carved into the stone. “That was very well hidden,” she muttered. “Kudos to you for finding it.”
“Grey Rain found it,” Owen said, peering inside. It was too narrow for him to get inside. He looked at Twig.
Who sighed immediately. “You’re going to make me go in there, aren’t you?”
“It’s what you get for being short,” Owen explained. “Take Grey Rain with you, see where it leads.” To Grey Rain, he said I want you and Axe Hound to go find out where this goes. If it starts to get smaller, come back before you get stuck.
Okay! Grey Rain said, getting down on his hands and knees and taking a breath. He started to transform, but only his rear end, his legs shortening and getting wolf-like, all that length ending up in his tail. Then he scampered right into the tunnel on hands and paws.
“Well, at least I know it’s safe,” Twig muttered, getting down as well. Grey Rain’s tail thwapped him in the face. “Since you wouldn’t have sent him in if you thought it was dangerous.”
Owen kicked Twig gently. “I wouldn’t have sent you in if I thought it was dangerous either.”
Twig scurried into the tunnel, quickly disappearing into the dark.
“Sorry,” said Owen, to the woman. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“I am Celestina Matribar,” she said with a grim nod. “I must return to work. Let me know the result of your investigation.”
“Sure thing,” said Owen, watching her go. “Friend of Cleo’s?” he asked Aria.
“She’s Three Hills’s pre-eminent wizard,” Aria said. “Which you should know, being a rich person.”
“Well, not all rich people know each other,” Owen countered.
“They literally do, that’s how they rule the world.”
Owen didn’t really think he was suited to ruling the world, but Gavin would be pretty good at it. He thought about it for a bit while they waited for Grey Rain and Twig to come back and in the ended decided that out of everyone he knew, probably Greg was best suited to ruling the world, and of course he’d never want to do it, so probably Owen would just suggest that he and Gavin didn’t take over the world until Greg was ready to inherit it.
It was about twenty minutes before the boys came back. The tunnel goes to that big church you always make us go to!
Owen blinked, The First Church?
I’m pretty sure there were other churches before it but sure!
“That and,” Twig said, stumbling as he tried to sign and talk at the same time, which to be fair was hard. “And it’s not just the church, Owen. You know how in fancy art about the Catechism it’s always big round rooms with lots of people having meetings?”
“The tunnel comes out in the Chamber of the Overseers?” Aria asked. “That’s…”
“No, it comes out in a closet,” Twig interrupted. “I was hoping it would come out in that room since it’s so fancy and dramatic and would also basically prove that there was a Catechism conspiracy to destroy the world, but actually it was just a closet that anyone could have used, so that sucks.”
It did, Owen thought, looking at Aria. But it also meant that it was more likely to be someone who spent a lot of time in the church. And that meant he was going to have to talk to the High Presbyter about something even more serious than demon naming conventions.
2 thoughts on “Dragon, 110”
Hi. I just noticed that the ‘chronological’ page (most recent) has not been updated in a while
Thank you for that heads up! I often forget to update that page, haha. I think everything is current now, but if you see anything else that isn’t please let me know and I’ll get it updated asap!