Monday, 12 March 2012

Below the library

"Shay will," said Annejecta, gesturing to the man who had earlier snorted.  He looked towards Tomaz, sneering.  "He has had some experience with this kind of thing before."  Her voice was a little hesitant, as though she was repeating something she'd been told to say, but she finished her sentence confidently.
"Very good," said Tomaz.  "If you'll allow me to collect a small box, I'll escort to where we need to go."
"Sure," said the bearded man who'd picked him up.  "Why would we care what you collect?"  As he spoke, Shay spoke over him, his voice not quite drowning him out.  "Why do we have to go somewhere?"
Tomaz paused, looking from one to the other, and then bent down and opened a drawer in his desk.  Reaching inside, he moved some leather document tubes to one side and slid back a sliver of wood in the side of the drawer.  He wiggled his finger into the crack that formed, and slid the drawer back and forth until he found a dimple, which he then pressed hard.  A hidden drawer popped open with a click at the base of the stack of drawers, and he reset the drawer he'd had open and removed a small, thin box from the hidden drawer.  His pushed the drawer closed, and it snicked shut.
"I thought you might not like it if I just started playing with hidden catches if I didn't tell you what I was doing first," he said to the bearded man, who just grunted.  Then Tomaz turned to Annejecta again, and said,
"Are you sure that Shay is your choice?"
"Yes," said Annejecta, laying a hand on Shay's chest as he took half a step forward.  Tomaz noticed now that the man was wrapped completely in a dark-green cloak from his shoulders to his ankles, with even his arms bound inside.  Even so, as he'd moved forwards the cloak had moved suggestively, giving the impression that there might be more than a just a human torso hidden beneath it.  "Shay knows what he's doing, but he doesn't know much about the Library."
"I see," said Tomaz.  "Do you want to explain it to him then?"
"Not really," said Annejecta.  "You could do it more quickly."
"Well one of you could explain what you're talking about," said Shay, his voice a little too loud for the room, and his shoulders flexing and squaring beneath the cloak.  "Before I lose my temper or anything, you know?"
"This way," said Tomaz, carrying the box from the hidden drawer in one hand.  It was about as wide as his palm and as long as his forearm.  He ignored the door that the group must have come in by and walked over to a wooden frame painted with woodland scenes that was intended as a screen for people to get changed behind.  It was a little out of place in his office, but he liked the images on it, and it concealed the other door.  He drew the screen aside, and the other four all stared at a blank white wall.
"Down," said Tomaz, gently, pointing at the floor, where the carpet appeared to be sagging.  "Could one of you give me a hand?"
Tomaz and Shay pulled the carpet back together revealing an open square and a flight of stairs going down.
"The books on the Hinterlands," said Tomaz, leading the way down in the shadows, "fall into the realm of Paimon; partly because some of his religions arose and spread out from there, but also because the largest city, historically speaking, of the Hinterlands was Halespar.  We need a point of entry for Paimon, and that is down here."
"That doesn't explain anything," said Shay.  He was third in the procession coming down the stairs.  Looking around him, as the shadows darkened, he could see a brick wall to his left, but an empty space to his right that seemed to suck all the light away.  The stairs underfoot were old stone, with well worn indentations in the middle from the passage of many feet, white at the edges and shades of grey everywhere else.  In front of him was Barrus, the bearded man and then Tomaz, and behind him was Annejecta and their fourth companion.
"It explains enough," said Tomaz.  "Have you invoked Paimon before?"  His voice was echoing oddly now, and the shadows were distorting oddly as a light from below started to become apparent.  The light from the gap at the top already seemed pale and drained of life.
"Not Paimon, no."  Shay thought about saying more and decided against it.
"Are you aware of Paimon?" Tomaz didn't seem to have noticed Shay's hesitation.
"I've heard a little about him," said Shay, trying to sound like he was holding back a lot of what he knew.  "I didn't know he was associated with Halespar though."
"Really?"  Tomaz sounded genuinely surprised, and Shay realised that he'd probably made a mistake.  "Oh well.  Paimon's manifestation is dignity."
"Huh?"  Shay was pretty certain that that was a mistake as well, but Annejecta spoke next before he could cover it up.
"And dignity can be found only underground, I take it?"
"No, not at all."  Tomaz reached the foot of the stairs and stepped off to one side, allowing the rest room to descend.  They were in a small, roughly circular with six holes in the wall.  The stairs curved down following the walls round, and Shay only realised there were six when he spotted the last one underneath the stairs themselves.  The floor of the room was covered in a slippery green moss that was glowing faintly; wherever they trod and crushed the moss the light increased and became yellowish.  More light seemed to filter through from some the holes, and when they looked at them, only one was unbarred.  The other five all had iron bars running from floor to ceiling blocking any passage.
"Stand here," said Tomaz, indicating a spot in front of one of the barred tunnels.  As Shay took his place he saw that in the middle of their height the bars twisted and writhed against one another, forming a sigil.  Four curves like waves folding over themselves formed the top, and three uprights descended to a cross bar, terminating in a single and then a second set carried on down almost to a second crossbar.  The second set also terminated in a circle.  Curved lines then formed the outside of the figure.  The whole thing seemed like a bizarre kind of filigree crown.
"This is where we will invoke Paimon," said Tomaz, opening the box.

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