“Koda’s Breath, this is Steward Gixx”
“I greet you like the sky greets the sea.”
“I’m sure you do.” Gixx eyed Koda’s Breath with a haughty indifference.
Ulfridda grimaced. Gixx’s attitude had always rubbed her the wrong way, even when he had been her student. Age had not mellowed the old asura, and it seemed now well suited to him. As a young scholar, however, it had gotten him rude titles from his fellow classmates. That however, had been many years ago and Ulfridda had explained to Koda’s Breath that any rudeness on Gixx’s part was best left ignored.
Gixx’s office was spacious but sparsely filled. In the centre of the room was a large desk, around which they now stood, and it seemed the only seat was an antique sofa against the back wall. Gixx was shuffling his papers and spoke without looking at them.
“We come to you to—” Koda’s Breath began. Gixx held up his hand for silence.
“Ulfridda has explained the situation. I believe there is a young scholar here who can help.” Gixx pressed down hard on a small button, and a bell rang in the distance. The door behind them opened, and a young asura walked into the room.
Koda’s Breath instantly recognised the asura from the hallway the day before. He entered the room sheepishly, eyes on his feet, as if caught by the headmaster and walked to the desk beside Koda’s Breath. He looked up and seeing him, flashed a grin, before looking down again. Ulfridda cleared her breath and the small asura looked at her.
“I am elder Ulfridda, of Hoelbrak.” She said, with a slight smile.
“Oh, um.. I am Alepe, of Rata Su—.”
“He is also the inventor of an ingenious elixir which mimics mesmer mind magic.” Gixx interrupted, before pointing at Ulfridda. “And she is a dear friend of mine, so we would greatly appreciate your help Alepe.”
“I will do whatever I can, Steward.” Alepe snapped to attention.
“Good. Well, I have papers to mark. I’ll be back in around an hour, please take your time discussing things here in my office.” Gixx picked up a pile of papers and left the room, slamming the door behind him as he went. After he left, Alepe gave an audible sigh of relief.
“Don’t mind him young one. He has a quick tongue but isn’t half as scary as he tries to be.” Ulfridda motioned for them to sit.
“We have travelled from Hoelbrak to seek some help.” Ulfridda explained. “This is Koda’s Breath, former Voice of the Spear of the Sea, and my apprentice. Around his neck is a shard of glacier ice from beyond the far Shiverpeaks which houses the mind of his Claw. They are struggling to occupy the same body, and I fear it’s driving his Claw mad.” Ulfridda looked at Koda’s Breath. “We need your help.”
“When I meditate, and my mind connects with Koda, Serene Wrath is given the opportunity to escape the shard. Because while I am conscious he has no access to the world around him, I fear he is slowly losing his touch with reality. He—he has harmed others as a result.” Koda’s Breath fell silent, and Ulfridda gave him a sympathetic look. A long moment of silence passed.
“So, little one, can your elixir help us?” Ulfridda asked Alepe.
Alepe thought a moment, running his small hand through his spiky hair. “My invention allows golems to mimic mesmer powers. I’m not sure how I can—aha!” A spark seemed to enter his eye and he talked excitedly. “But I may be able to retrofit a control crystal to work around the ice shard, it’s been done before, and that could cause a flux inversion though. No, it would still work with a tweak to the core matrices.”
“Little one, I do not understand you.” Koda’s Breath stopped Alepe mid sentence, and he looked the him straight in the face.
“I can make a golem to house his mind in.”
“Are you saying you can give my Claw a golem to move around in?” Koda’s Breath felt as if his heart would stop beating.
“I can do better. I can give him a body”.
Far below them, Orma had shed her disguise and walked through the restricted archives below the Durmand Priory with impunity. She had followed a high-ranking scholar through the fires in the kitchen to the archives far below and being careful to remain unseen, knocked the woman out and taken her form. She walked with purpose through the long rows of shelves, and waited. After a few hours the floor in the centre of the archives began to turn, and a winding staircase appeared. A squat man made of stone emerged from it, and, after conversing briefly with some of the scholars, turned to leave the archives. He approached her and smiled, and she smiled back.
“Henrietta, how is Jackson today? I didn’t see him at classes.”
Orma thought quickly. “He should have been there. I’ll ask him when I see him. You know how he can be.”
The dwarf smiled. “So true. Well, I’d best be off. Gixx and I have papers to mark, and you know how he is, even if I’m late.”
Orma laughed, and waved him goodbye, before silently descending the steps. She searched briefly and found the switch mechanism to open the staircase, and feeling safe she could make a quick escape, began searching through the basement.
Boxes and crates were piled haphazardly. There seemed no system to their arrangement, with small and large fit like a puzzle in every space they could possibly exist. She expanded her mind, calling upon her powers and searched the room visually and mentally for the bloodstone shards. The room hummed with magical potential, as many of the priceless artefacts held in the chamber were brimming with energy. In one corner however, behind a dusty and weather-worn tablet, the humming seemed almost deafening. There was a locked box, and Orma reached behind the tablet to grab it. Above the box was an ornate jar, sealed with wax and covered in sand. She carefully raised the two boxes and set them down on the floor.
“And what possible use could you have for those?” A gruff voice asked from behind her. She turned abruptly, knocking over the jar. Ogden Stonehealer flinched.
“I require them for some research.” Orma answered.
“You are not of the Priory, even though you wear Henrietta’s face. I despise liars, so I will ask you again. What use do you have for those?”
If there was anything Orma hated the most, it was being called a liar.
“Go eat raptor turds, rockbrain.” Orma spat at him.
“You made three mistakes. Firstly, your disguise only works partially on dwarves. Second, Henrietta’s son Jackson died years ago, so his presence in a lecture of mine would have been surprising indeed. Thirdly, swearing at me has now made me angry. Who do you work for?” Ogden started walking towards her.
“Come any closer and I’ll—Ill break this!” Orma picked up the jar that she had knocked over. Fear entered Ogden’s eyes.
“Break that and you put every life here in danger!” Ogden extended his arm and reached for the jar, and Orma held it above his head. He moved quickly, and delivered a punch to her gut. She doubled over and spat blood.
“I’ll come back when you’re all dead then.” Orma spoke with venom, and wiped the blood from her mouth, creating a long streak across her face. She raised the jar high and smashed it against the ground.
Blue and black energy swirled around the jar. The room filled with the stench of boiling flesh and an oily material began to flow outwards, creating a black pool. It stood still for a moment, before a figure rose upwards, unfurling its limbs and dripping with tar. Orma ran, leaving Ogden in the basement. She clutched the locked box to her chest and climbed the stairs, dropping her disguise completely and hurrying towards the exit of the Special Collections.
As she emerged from the secret entrance she slammed into Gixx, knocking his papers everywhere. He flew backwards and landed on his bottom, swearing loudly.
“What the—?” Gixx stared up at her.
“There is a champion tar elemental down in Special Collections. Ogden is there by himself.” Orma warned, before running past Gixx.
“Who—what?” Gixx was still stunned, and began to pick himself up off the floor.
“Get down there fast, or everybody here is going to die!” Orma called over her shoulder, and slipped into stealth, running to the dormitories to hand over the box to her mother. She placed the box in Ulfridda’s pack and, donning her hat, resumed her disguise as Melinda Fairchild. She walked out of the Priory, not a single scholar noticing her departure, as they had now been all rallied to action.
She turned and regarded the Priory as she crossed the front bridge, and quietly whispered to herself.
“Good luck, mother. This is the last favour I do for you.”