Gixx did not come out to greet them when they arrived. The scholars of the priory did not even notice Koda’s Breath, Ulfridda and Melinda until Korr and Ounce climbed the stairs and entered their stone halls. He ducked around hanging chandeliers, and Ounce darted amongst the many floating tablets that lined the walls. The Scholars kept their distance, whispering amongst each other quietly.
“This doesn’t make you uncomfortable?” Ulfridda asked Koda’s Breath quietly.
“I am used to crowds. I lead the Spear and regularly addressed an audience”.
“You were a leader in a past life then kodan?” Melinda asked over her shoulder.
“I was the Voice of a sanctuary.”
“This is a little different to kissing babies though” Melinda paused, and fell in line with Ulfridda.
They had not spoken since they had left Pinion Pass, but walked side by side now as they strolled down the main hall to the central chamber. Melinda looked up, and said something softly to Ulfridda, who nodded in reply. The air around Melinda seemed to shimmer, but Koda’s Breath thought it a trick of the dim Priory light.
They were approached by a young woman. “My name is Darla. I am the dormitory manager here. Gixx organised that you have the private wing, but I must ask you to not wander the halls here, nor enter any of the other dormitories. Come, I’ll show you to your room.”
They made their way down a set of stairs from the archive hall, and passed several lecture theatres before coming to the dormitory wing. They took a sharp right, past some young novices, who scuttled back into their rooms, and Darla produced a large iron key. She placed it into a small hole in the wall, and with a faint groan, a wooden handle moved from between two wall panels. She grasped it tightly and swung the door open.
The room was spacious, but cold. The hearth in the corner lay unlit, and Darla moved across the room to fetch the tinderbox. Ulfridda clicked her fingers and the hearth burst into flames. Darla gave her a stern look, but said nothing. The beds were freshly made, and there was even a cot in the corner for Ounce.
“The commodes are to the left of the female dormitories. Dinner will be at seven o’clock, sharp. Elder Ulfridda, you have been requested in Gixx’s office in five minutes. The rest of you please stay here until dinner.” and with that, Darla turned on her heel, and left them.
“This place feels small.” Korr complained.
“It is warm and dry, which is better than we have had recently” Koda’s Breath looked at Ulfridda. “Why does Gixx want to see you?”
“To catch up, probably.” Ulfridda waved the question away. “I’ll discuss our situation with him and see if he can find a solution.”
“Thank you Elder.”
Ulfridda smiled, and left the room. Korr and Ounce played in the corner, and Koda’s Breath was left with Melinda.
“Where do your adventures take you from here?” Koda’s Breath asked.
“I do not know. I did not expect Gixx to wish me to stay. Ulfridda told me she wanted me to stick around a little while longer.”
“Does she plan to leave soon?” Korr asked.
“I do not know. You have been travelling with her a while, what do you think?”
“Ulfridda is not good at revealing her plans. She has our best wishes at heart, though.” Koda’s Breath defended her. “She has spent many years alone, and I suspect has not made it a habit to share.”
“People who spend lots of time alone usually do so for a reason, kodan” Melinda smiled.
“You seem to know her better than you claim, guide. Are you sure you’ve not met her preiviously?”
“Possibly, but not in a capacity I’d remember.” Melinda unpacked her bags, and stretched out on the bed. “Couple of hours until dinner, I reckon I’ve earnt a nap.” She rolled over and pulled her odd fur cap over her eyes.
“I’m going to teach Ounce a few tricks.” Korr said, before turning his attention back to the young snow leopard cub.
Koda’s Breath stood and unpacked his bag. He felt an unease, without beign able to rest and meditate, and found himself wishing to explore the Priory. Although Darla had requested they stay, he opened the door and strode down the corridor, before being swept up in a wave of novices as the left their lectures. Students of all races walked the halls, talking excitedly, carrying books and objects as they went. Koda’s Breath pushed his way to the edge, where he found a small nook, and huddled into it. Almost as soon as it had started, the novices disappeared into various rooms, and he found himself alone again.
He emerged from his nook and continued walking down the hallway.
“E-Excuse me!” a small voice called from behind him. He turned and saw a small asura running towards him.
“Sorry. I’m lost. Do you know which way the dormitories are?” The asura was short, but his spiky hair made him look much taller. His ears were small, and his eyes large, and he wore asuran armour, which pulsed a warm blue glow.
“They are to the left of the library.” Koda’s Breath answered.
“Thank you friend. I think I could wander these hallways for months.” He smiled, and scurried off.
Across the priory, Ulfridda entered Gixx’s office without being announced.
“Ah, Ulfridda. Good to see you. I trust the journey was pleasant?”
“It was mostly uneventful. How have you been?”
“I have been well. The dragons have been taking all of my time recently.”
“I heard the pact was pushing further to the west.”
“Mm” Gixx shuffled a few papers and put his pen down. “Please sit.”
Ulfridda sat down rigid in a large armchair, and Gixx walked out from behind his desk to sit next to her, He uncorked a bottle of Ascalonian wine, and offered a glass to Ulfridda. She took the glass and sipped.
“Gixx, this is not a pleasure visit.”
“Ulfridda, it never is with you. What can I do for you?”
“One of my charges, the kodan, has another kodan’s mind in a shard of ice around his neck. They are struggling to occupy the same body. I need a method to allow the second mind to occupy some physical form. That is the main problem.”
“And what else?”
“I had hoped, as a favour, I could request something else from you.”
“Get to the point old woman.” Gixx snapped.
“I need some bloodstone shards, Gixx. I know you have plenty in supply.”
“What on earth could you need—oh” Gixx realised why she was asking, and paused a long moment. He sipped his wine, then looked at her in the eye. “I cannot condone the use of bloodstone magic in that way. There is no other method?”
“I haven’t the raw power to thaw him, Gixx. I cast that spell in a fit of rage and despair so deep I could never repeat it.”
“Magic like that does not react well with bloodstones, Ulfridda. Powerful magic can warp their intended use.”
“I will be careful. The giant, Korr, can absorb magic. I believe he can protect me if things go south.”
“Even so. If this war against Mordremoth goes badly, we will need all the bloodstone magic we can use. I can help you with your first problem, but I will not give you any bloodstone shards.”
“I understand. Thank you anyway, Steward. How is Jeppa? And Hronk?”
“They’re well. Jeppa is first in her class in Rata Sum, and Hronk does well in his own way.”
“I’m glad to hear.” Ulfridda smiled.
“And your children? Hinrik has been well?” Gixx poured her another glass.
“As well as can be.” Ulfridda smiled, and sipped her wine.
“And have you patched things up with Orma?”
“I doubt we will ever see eye-to-eye, but I saw her recently. She has joined an organisation called Modus Sceleris.”
“Oh them. Yes, they are a nasty lot. They believe that in this world, honesty is not a value that will keep you alive.”
“What a warped worldview.” Ulfridda finished her wine, and stood.
“Quite. Your party will join us all at dinner I hope? Roasted raptors tonight I’m told.”
“I would not miss it.” Ulfridda bent down and gave the steward a brief hug.
“You’ll find a way to save him Ulfridda. Have patience”.
Ulfridda walked away, leaving his office. Under her breath, she said, “I’m sorry Gixx. But I need those shards.”