Chapter IV.7 – The Wall of Books
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Pat's hands dropped his weapon on the floor.

 

“The books… hundreds of them! Oh, Kon’jar, take me, so many books…”

 

“Why are you suddenly shivering even worse than on the square?!”

 

Pat fell on his knees. He was utterly defeated.

 

“The books… save me… oh, the books…”

 

Joe and Irfan shared confused glances.

 

Though it was an impressive sight, Joe agreed. Shelves, all of them tall enough to reach the very ceiling, filled with countless written works of all sizes and kinds. Joseph felt completely overwhelmed. Not to an extent of the doctor on the floor, but enough to feel a crushing weight of his goal of learning about the world. For a moment.

 

Window was giving just enough light, enveloping the room in a bluish ambient. A fancy glass table in the form of an eight-point star and two chairs from the same material left no question as to who could live in this mansion.

 

As if it wasn’t obvious before, Joseph.

 

He saw a book and a strange kaleidoscopic sphere. It was sharp angled and made out of crystal. One that was very familiar to him. Joe stepped closer to the table.

 

“Hey, doc, what is this?” He grabbed the sphere.

 

Pat lifted his head from a floor, his eyes widened. Then he jerked his head, sprung up and coughed.

 

“This is, khm-khm, the Karnano. An expensive toy for expensive people. You turn it around to try and get a color you want, if you have a light source.”

 

“Will it sell well?”

 

“Probably… it costs a fortune back at the Capital.”

 

Joseph shrugged, then pushed it into Irfan’s hands, who was standing by his left side.

 

“You hold on to it.”

 

He received a baffled look, but hunter made no attempt to refuse.

 

Joseph picked up a book.

 

“'The Ways of The World', written by Owen Magnus.”

 

“Magnus?” Pat approached Joseph and inspected the book closely. “I know this name. Actually, most people in the Capital know his name.”

 

“Is he famous?”

 

Doctor chuckled.

 

“Oh, very. He is the headmaster of the University. University of Natural Laws And Conventional Logic. Place where Mages get their first drag through the mud in the adult world, if you understand.”

 

“I see. A Mage school, then.”

 

“Not just that, but you would be correct. It is also a home for aspiring scientists. Mostly the ones, whose interest lies with physical side of our world. As in, physical laws.”

 

“Should I take the book?”

 

Pat scratched the back of his head.

 

“That depends. Magnus writes research books, and they are mostly a chore to get through. Besides, we still have work to do. We can come back for it later, unless you want to carry it inside your backpack.”

 

A book was very heavy and very thick. Joseph was forced to admit that doctor had a very good point. While his backpack had more than enough space, the ammo, food and the weapon he found recently had already began to slow him down a bit. Just a bit, but that was enough to reconsider. So he put a book back.

 

“What made you so scared of the library?” He asked a doctor.

 

Pat’s eyes were looking away from Joe.

 

“Nothing, nothing… I just… books, Joe. Too many books.”

 

Doctor went ahead, without looking at his somewhat perturbed companion.

 

Irfan, meanwhile, was already on his way to the other side. Library was a part of the left wing, with a long corridor leading up to it from the stairs. Before the entrance to the library, there was another hall that was going right across the middle of the floor, to the right wing, with a door on the right-hand side of the hall.

 

If the room behind that door had windows in it, they would be facing the square.

 

They slowed down.

 

“Check it? Or visit another side first?”

 

Doctor ran his hand across the door. It left a long trail in the dust.

 

“Looks very rich. The wood intertwined with steel, forming images of beasts on the door… I bet a thousand Zinks that we have found the master bedroom. Every other door in this mansion has not received that kind of attention.”

 

“Speaks a lot about owners of this place…” Joseph studied the beasts. Snakes with dragon wings and chicken legs?

 

“What animal is that?”

 

Irfan put a hand on the back of his head.

 

“No idea... First time I see these.”

 

Doctor shrugged, also drawing a blank.

 

Joe pulled a handle.

 

The room greeted his arrival with burst of dust to his face and sharp smell of mold.

 

For a master bedroom, this room was smaller than expected. A canopy bed, a single wardrobe and a drawer, all on the same side. A table in the middle, near the front wall. A lantern on the table, with a stack of paper, filled with letters and numbers, all carefully organized on the left-hand side. With a couple of pencils.

 

Another door on the right side. The framed portrait of a brown-haired young man above the table, on the wall.

 

And three bodies on the floor.

 

Irfan took the lantern, turned a handle on the side a couple of times and put it back down. Like all lamps in this world, it began to slowly fill up with light.

 

Doctor took a list of paper from the top of the stack. As he continued reading it, his eyebrows were rising further and further up.

 

“This is a sales agreement. It doesn’t really say what they sell, or to whom… “A portion of shade”? To “Hollow merchant”? These are some very fishy names. Dumb too. But the sum is huge - almost 300000 for one sale.”

 

“That’s… a lot.” Even Irfan was shaken.

 

Joseph was looking through the other side of the table, when he noticed one item he was looking for a very long time.

 

“Oh, a watch.”

 

It was still working. Joe asked Pat to compare their time. They were a couple minutes apart.

 

“That’ll do. When you get to the ship, ask mechanics, if you want to adjust it.”

 

Joe nodded in agreement and put the watch away.

 

Irfan was crouching near one of the bodies.

 

“Looks undamaged from the outside. Strange… all others are burned. Has some armor on, but only on the left shoulder and chest…”

 

Joseph lifted up the lantern to provide better illumination. Three dead bodies were near the table, one closer to the bed and another two closer to his side.

 

Just as Irfan said, one of them had a couple of pieces of armor on. Another body was encased in full set. It had a huge shoulder pad and a weird looking helmet, almost flat on its very top.

 

Joseph chuckled, as he realised what that helmet was reminding him of - an oyster mushroom.

 

And the third person was curled up, clutching a book, covered with weathered skin, to its chest. A set of keys on a ring were lying near dead body’s leg.

 

Quest item found: Set of keys!

 

Too bad the only reward were the keys themselves. Arid hunter picked them up.

 

“You think this is it?”

 

Neither of them could be sure. Doctor leaned closer to inspect.

 

“We’d have to try it. It is the only key to progress we have found this far.”

 

“Key, huh… Should we move out then?”

 

Irfan stepped up to the window in the room to look outside. He wasn’t saying anything, so Joseph turned to Pat instead. The doctor scratched his short beard.

 

“We definitely should… but maybe there is something else inside this building. We haven’t been thorough, and there is the rest of the third floor. No signs of what happened here. Only this deadly black smoke, damage from explosions and a presence of something that has claws, presumably. We can’t even tell if it all happened at the same time. The forest, or something among the woods is powerful enough to toss trees around and form a wall, deliberately.”

 

“So we should take our time? What is something happens during a night?”

 

Pat sharply inhaled.

 

“Then we pray that it is something killable and we are lucky enough to finish the task. Which is one statement I am not confident about anymore.”

 

Joe nodded. Arid was still staring at the window when Joseph called him.

 

“Something is up? Irfan?”

 

Hunter didn’t answer. His eyes were focused, his expression was intense. Then he jerked his body, shook his head and answered.

 

“No, no… Just imagining things… I’ll go open the shack. Be right back.”

 

“Wha-?!” Joseph didn’t even have the time to say anything, as the hunter swiftly rushed by him and disappeared in a second behind the door frame.

 

Pat also glanced outside.

 

“I see absolutely nothing in this dusk light. Even brick building is just barely out there.”

 

What could have he seen then?.. Joseph was contemplating giving a chase, but once again his thoughts were interrupted by the doctor, who was trying to remove the book from the clutches of the dead.

 

“Curses… it’s stuck… for good… hold on Joe, I got this… just give me a minute…”

 

Struggling doctor sat down on the floor to catch his breath. Joseph crouched near the half-armored body.

 

Where is the rest of the armor? It wasn’t put on very tightly either - when he touched one piece, it was dangling around loosely. Sure, this body was old and dry, but two straps weren’t tied at all, which made him think that they were dressing up in a hurry.

 

He untied the left arm. The piece was made out of very dark purplish alloy. The colors were changing when he put the armor piece close to the lantern, from bluish to full black. It was similar to colored deflective glass, except he could tell that his fingers were holding something cold and metallic.

 

Armor had barely any weight in comparison to any alloy or metal Joseph ever knew. He tossed it up in the air without much effort, and it almost touched the ceiling of at least three metres tall room. He caught it without any issues either.

 

It seemed to have some sort of padding on inside. What it for lessening the impact of the force, perhaps?

 

What is this, a legendary glass armor? It defies anything I know about protection and medieval blacksmithing… not like I know a lot, but still.

 

But he wasn’t picky, and situation was weird enough. Not like he wanted to touch this husk of dead body, but it all was for a good cause. Namely, additional protection for himself. So he pulled his sleeves over his wrists and reached for the chest piece.

 

Pat finally managed to pry the book away from remains. It made a crunching agonizing sound, but victory was in his hands. He dusted it off, carefully opening the first page.

 

“A journal, it seems. I see no name of the author, just collection of notes, dated almost four and a half years ago. There is a signature in a corner, it says… something like “fex”. This handwriting is atrocious! I can barely understand it, so it might take some time for me to decipher.”

 

He turned to his teammate, who was just finishing strapping the left arm piece to his own hand.

 

“Already robbing the dead, I see. And here I was thinking you were a gentle and noble soul.”

 

“Never in the millennia would I ever believe that such thought has crossed your mind, doc. Besides, it wasn’t me who forcefully took a book out of hands, that clearly treasured it before the ultimate demise.”

 

Pat chuckled.

 

“Using longer sentences now to impress me? I only did it for some information, and you know it. You would have done it yourself.”

 

“You got me there. Again. Damn it, I’m losing more and more arguments to you, I need to step up.”

 

Doctor only grinned in response.

 

“Don’t pick a fight you can’t win. I think I shall return to the library and try to figure out what is written in here.”

 

“Hold on a second, Pat. Do you see anything near a shack? Your sight should be pretty good. Irfan is not back yet, something is up, I’m sure of it.”

 

Doctor got the spyglass from his pocket and opened it.

 

“I can't see a thing in this light, it’s too late… I see a silhouette of the shack… Can’t even figure out if it’s opened… looks like the entrance has a gap… No, no chance. Looks like it’s open… somewhat, but we’d have to go down and check ourselves.”

 

He put the spyglass back.

 

“What’s the plan, then? We go together or split? If door is opened, then Irfan reached the shack, but if he is not back yet…”

 

Pat took the lantern from the table.

 

“I… I don’t know. You’d need a light source if you plan to go alone, because I am of no help for you in a fight.”

 

“You know how to point a barrel and pull a trigger, should be enough?”

 

Doctor was still hesitating, but slowly nodded. He went ahead, while Joseph stayed behind, to glance around the room one last time.

 

It was a mistake.

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