When night has been unbroken by the chime of the clock-bells for some time, Seignor Lupus Crucious meets you all in Damocles' room, scratching at the doorframe quietly, almost demurely. He is a fey, delicate man, with features that seem almost boyish, though you know him to be in his twenties. He is dressed as a rich lordling might think a thief dresses—all in sable, though the black is embroidered heavily with thick golden fibers—the doublet must weigh something considerable. Knowing the inclination of the Crucious lineage, you can assume that the volume & weight are both artistic & practical, perhaps affording the young Seignor some protection shall it come to melee. At his waist he wears a sword as slender as a willow wand, & he carries black calf-skin gloves, which as he speaks he draws onto his hands. "We must be careful—my sisters are sure to be keeping an eye on you all. It is probably best for all of us to steal out at once, & hope they don't take notice of us. Still, if they do I'm sure they'll only suspect some sort of illicit rendezvous—Be sure not to dissuade them of that."
He cups his chin in a black gloved hand & with the other he listens at the door—until at some invisible signal he draws the bolts & quietly opens it, gesturing you all to follow him. Sneaking through the Baroni's manse at night is a disconcerting experience—there are many places, alcoves really, that are used as sleeping areas by some of the Rood people. They sleep quietly on the bare floor, with their kits beneath their head as pillows & their hands clasped around the swords, as if waiting to be called upon to draw them. Still, with Bedwin & Lupus taking the fore, you move like a haunting down the hallways—they quietly brush potentially noisy things from your path & show you the places to step to avoid a creak or a scuff. The corridors are dark, lit by lamps with the dimmest of lights, & before too long you follow Seignor Lupus into an offset closet filled with heavy fur coats which brush against you face. He draws a black band of cloth from a fold in his jacket presents it. "I will need to blindfold you from here. I mean you no ill-will, but it must be done. Who will come with me first?"
Seignor Lupus blindfolds you, one by one, & leads you softly by the hand. He takes Bedwin first, wrapping his face in the soft, black fabric & then opening a door in the back side of the winter fur's closet that you are in. He is gone a time, & returns, repeating. The path under your feet is a windy one—he leads you through several turns, has you duck your head at one point & crawl on your hands & knees at another. You go outside & then back in, the whole way guided almost entirely by his hand, with only a few whispered directions. Eventually, he brings you all to a small room & removes the blindfolds—the room is draped in drop cloths, concealing the purpose of the chamber, but it is big enough to house the five of you comfortably. Lupus goes over to one of the alcoves (for, much like the rest of the manor, this room too has walls inset with niches) & throws back a rug, & lifts up a round stone with a crowbar. He is stronger than his light frame would lead you to believe—wire y & lithe. "This way—down here." The well—for it is a well, abandoned & tucked away beneath a capstone—is not entirely dry, & the smell of algae & toads wafts out of it. The sides are slick with greenery. "We'll need to drop down, two at a time—or best I go second, since I know the way better, & I can avoid hitting whoever goes first. Then the rest of you can come down while I keep the way open."
The first step is a real dozy. In fact, it seems like Seignor Lupus is coaxing you to jump into darkness—you hang from the lip of stone, & drop! Due to a cunningly constructed optical illusion & the heavy shadows draping the well, you couldn't have hoped to find the ledge your feet are resting on without a great deal of looking—in fact, you don't know now if it stretches all the way around, like a rim, or if there is just the tiny bit under your feet-- & under Lupus', for he dangles & drops down as well, his capelet fluttering almost like moth wings. You see Balthazar shiver. Lupus does something quickly with his hands, dancing them like spiders in the cracks of the bricks. Two pieces of the wall unlock their teeth from each other & slide, rotating on a hinge, till they are swallowed by the wall. The opening is small—just big enough for a full grown man to crawl into. Lupus jumps up, turning slightly in the air to land sitting on it, & helps you in, one by one.
Inside, you find a modern ruin. There is a ledge, jutting into space, with a square hole in the middle making room for a ladder, & a round hole for a thick beam of timber—a ship's mast? Recessed into the walls are hundreds of cubbyholes, stacked full of water-damaged books, jars of demon-touched infants, animals taxidermied & then left to rot, strange containers whose contents have long since eaten through them, foul jellies & skittering cockroaches. A Cornucopia of oddity, all left to natural destruction. At the lip of each of the inset storage areas are carved, in pictoglyphic shorthand, what you presume is the contents of each chamber. Lupus speaks: "My father had this room built—the labyrinth maker must have been mad, or else my father's requests were. He had this buried here, & left to be forgotten, filled with my uncle's things. We can't take any of it—I'm sure my father would discover it & I don't think he would be very pleased. I don't think I would like that, nor would you. Still, we have all night here."
"Great Lux!" is all Lupus can say for the first hour or so, as he clambors from cubbyhole to cubbyhole. The niches are just big enough to uncomfortably fit an adult human; Bedwin fits rather comfortably, Lorelai a little less so, then akwkward, skinny Balthazar, the elfin Lupus & finally Damocles, crouched into a bundle. "These things seems otherworldly-- you'll have to forgive me. I learned of this library long ago, when I was but a boy-- I followed my father, in one of his melancholy moods, to this place, but never dared return. But look at all this wonder! These things can't possibly be from urth-- & this! Like a man but unlike him to! Is it just me, or does this furry worm bear a human face? Tongues curling with in it?" Lupus flips through the moldy, wrecked books. "& here, listen to this:
"The intaglio of the upper part of the continent-- near Malake, & Englezark, & across the Gap too-- are petroglyphs or so it is supposed. Once they were assumed to be burial mounds but I think I have safely disproven that. Geoglyphs, then. Communications with God, or gods, or..." Lupus clears his throat, "It is obscured here, damaged from the water...let me skip ahead...here we are-- Or are they petrosomatoglyphs? There is the real rub, for if they are not symbols or words to communicate with the demiurge entities, mayhap they are the form of those deities, impressed in the urth? Shapes of the transfirmament born here on Urth through some subtle alchemy? The ley at work in stone & dirt?..." Here Lupus interupts himself, his speaking voice breaking from his reading. "It goes on & on like this!" His excitement is almost palpable.
Damocles pauses, somewhat startled, as something tumbles from a niche, behind him. Whirling to examine it reveals a book with the title "HELLIONS & THE SCARS OF LUX." The book is tattered & moldy as almost all the books here are, damaged by the trickling groundwater, but additionally this book seems to be burned, as if it were left open & by some accident or misadventure hot coals were dumped on its steepled pages.
"THE ce[ ]al tenents espoused [ ] hellions, & their various allies & do[ ]ons, are directly the teaching of the Worms. If the Lineage t[ ]ries are held to be the case, then the H[ ]ns are most certainly the inheritors of the D[ ]."
"Seven times s[ ]n & seven is [ ]r number; that is the conjecture of s[ ]rs regar[ ]g the Great Worms & I am not opposed to it. If Seven if the number of the [ ]gon then the number of the Hellions is sixe, & then t[ ]fore sixe times sixe & sixe. Though their virtue[ ]are sevenfold; they are Patience, Gusto, Po[ ]sion, Ambition, Epicure, Pride, & Righ[ ]usness, though I have heard them called by other names."
Giving more time & attention to the burnt book in his lap, Damocles finds there to be a strange fascination in the writing, almost as though the scribe (or author-- you can't be sure) held some kind of spellcraft. You don't feel ill effected, or ill affected, by it, but rather drawn in, as though the mangled words were trying to communicate something to you & you alone in the world.
"Sixe is the nu[ ]r of the Hellions though they dwell u[ ] the sunne Luxe whose n[ ]er is nine. N[ ] are their cities of black fire & iron, nine are their veils & shrouds rent with terrible contracts. They wait upon the su[ ]for they are God's crea[ ], they say, & his agents in hidden places. They are fire [ ] darkness, whips & flaming[ ]words which were lent to them by the Host. [ ]e are more fierce without the firmament lest perhaps the [ ]zotz or the E[ ]dura.
"The Wur[ ] hold claim that Man is empty & must [ ]me full, as a vessel is empty until full. So says the B[ ]n too. The Hellions say one f[ ]her, that Man is empty, that many are em[ ]. They say too that the vess[ ]be cracked, that is passage betw[ ]n this world & the other world the Wurms teach is True. So the Hellions are full of fire, not [ ] or sand, they say, & when they are crac[ ] out forth pours the light of the fire, & they are not dim[ ]hed; were they filled with water they would s[ ]ill & empty or anything else bes[ ]s."
The text goes on & on, besides, like this. There are other books on topics you guess to be related nearby. You see a book you recognize-- Bedwin picked it up somewhere or other-- "Kulten de Vermis et Dracul et Serpentis" & more besides. There is a book penned in a number of different inks-- a woman's handwriting in red ink, a ambigious hand in blue ink, a heavy, deeply cut man's handwriting in black-- called "Z." Shoved in the same niche are a number of glossy paintings; the substance they are on is shiny, flexible, clear. Like a leaf of glass. The images-- strange Suns-- seem almost etched out of light.
Bedwin & Balthazar find themselves bumping into each other, as they follow the bizarre & non-systematic organization scheme-- so when Bedwin asks for Balthazar's help, it is only natural that the start pooling their efforts. Here are some of the legible excerpts from Adelard's diaries. The books are sodden, ruined with the groundwater seeping into the place; green with mold, golden with drying parchment, crimson with mineral damage. Neither Bedwin nor Balthazar has any reason to suspect the library of being encoded. It seems the overweening pride of Adelard was such that he didn't bother to go through any extraordinary security measures, or if he did, they were dealt with by the Baroni in some way. Or are perhaps a curse. Regardless, you don't think it is a code so much as, like many diarists, he simply took knowledge he had to be self-evident, while it was most emphatically not. Still, Balthazar follows liner notes & in a stroke of genius he finds his bloody hand fumbling in a niche, almost as though it has decoded Baroni Corvulus Crucius' scheme of storage & labeling. Within the boxes are contraption of glass & steel, sharp as a beak, but dirty & long gone rotten. Balthar's jewel seethes in his pocket, roiling like the black seas of COBOL.
"I saw a man's tombstone in my dreams. Upon it was written something to this effect-- if you could commit any crime, knowing you could get away with it, what would it be?"
"I love my work-- how can they catch me now? No, there is a jolly old joke; they say I am a Carnie now, & I can't wait to start again. I tried to save some of that lovely red in a mason jar, but it turned to glue too fast-- I'll need to work on that. To work again. The last one squealed straight off & I had to work quick & hardly got any souvenirs. I ate the other half of the preserved liver now, & will have to go out again soon. How lovely to have such a dainty dish awaiting me. Might nip out of town to see what ho. Late now, & tired."
"All along it has been in front of all the world's face. The Praxis says as much: The Blood Is Life."
"What is Lux Invictus is not one great Engine, a device for—for what? That purpose escapes me. Still, it is a Great Work that shames the Alchemists. A stable network, a cabal that even Karnak would have to be impressed by. Such tremendous bloodletting! It is no accident that only the Pontifex is given the power of human sacrifice. So I will be a pontiff in my own right. I give unto myself Authority."
"My sister's husband is a damn wretched fool. For all his talk of nobility, he is a man, flawed & unwilling to perform any act of Will. He cannot stop me, for that simple reason."
"Xenobia has been my only comfort. She alone understands, though what pagan magics the bushmen have! I will scour my name from the world as she has, & we will become more like god. Gods & goddesses-- or The God & The Goddess. She will be within her every demon & horror & will birth a world worthy of us; & I will be, alone, the True Human. As I see written in the Astral! Only I am. I Am."
"My astrology is cunningly wrought-- my time in Malake well spent. In those observatories I tracked my guesses, my estimations...my calculus. Before the wreckage of their World comes I will go to it, & master it. I will make a path of passage."
"Though it is easy enough to find sanguis here, & abroad, I find myself wishing for Karnak's Hummingbird. It is a project I should set for myself; to find or create one."
"I am more sure than ever that the philosophers are damned fools. There is no invisible spirit; again, the Church is proven wiser than I thought in all my youth. No, there is no soul. Or rather, there IS. The Blood Is Life. & so I take from those who have no use for theirs. I will make great use of it! I am Pure & my Name is Secret & Manifold & I am the Master of the Lightning."
There are many, many more personal diaries & effects, as well as accumulated belongings & books. Is there anything else you want to search for, or any of these hints you wish to follow up on, or would you like to keep searching for more of the same? Doubling your efforts by working together seems to be helpful. You cast about, in some of the niches with strange pickled creatures, in faded, water-colour-dipped-&-ruined bestiaries, but you can find only the most fleeting, bare bones mention of manticores-- the kind of thing you would expect, but no real insight. You search for topical subjects, ransacking the diaries, piling them on the table before your & thumbing through the pages, careful not to tear them free of the sodden leather bindings & disintegrating threading. The diaries only come up to around five years ago—they must have been sealed in here that long. Whatever is occurring now is recent-- you can determine that there are no long standing grudges between Adelard & either the old, now murdered doge Fleance the Greater & or the new doge, Young Fleance. Nor is there any relationship that Adelard talks about involving Baroni Corvulus Crucious & any of the doges.
In his surreptitious investigation-- sneaking peaks at entries marked by the thumb of his alien hand, or tucked away for later when Bedwin is enmeshed in a passage-- Balthazar runs across a few entries about Adelard's practices, & how they may or may not differentiate from his own. In a book too he finds a glossy card of clear, flexible paper with an image of a statue of a bat etched into it, almost as a series of stencils made of light.
"Xenobia's rites possess more efficacy than I initially gave her credit for; she has caught the attention of one of the Bat-things. I saw an idol of such a creature in the Graver's Union back in the Combine (where I took the book "Z" from). There it was called the Camazotz of Pandemonium, so I will call it thus now. It is about—it is in the clouds, in the sky, but below the firmament! It is here."
"The more I discover about the camazotz's claims, the more I doubt them-- or at least, the scope of them. The Inheritance Theory does not hold-- that is, it does not hold that the Dragons begat the Vampires, if the Dragons also begat the Hellions. Unless one is a subset of the other. No-- I think the Camazotz belong to an older darkness, a Hungry Darkness. If there are woods that are the heirs of ancient forests, copses where trees as old as the World Ash grow, then perhaps the Spectral Gloom is the similarly small legacy of this Greater Darkness."
"The three of us, Man-God, Demon-Goddess, & Bat-Thing-- we have done & seen much. How charming the works of Lux & Karnak; how they pale besides the very black tar hearts of the Camazotz. The seat of life, pitch & sticky."
"The manipulation of the Wreck will not be easy; the tools of Karnak are not at hand. The Chosen & The Hummingbird of the Sun Kings & The Makers of Moons. Still, without the Hummingbird the syringe may suffice, & without the Chosen it may be that the Prima Materia drawn forth from the Astral Self will provide the necessary interface. Still, it will be the sole perfect place to perfect the sole creature-- myself."
"Lacaenae off the Stitched Monks started it. Our father brought her to tutor Carmilla & I but I wasn't having it. Oh, but I wonder now how much is due to her machinations? I was not one for studies—our fencing lessons I excelled at, but besides that I spent my time besotted with drink. Now I do not even drink...wine. Lacaenae, oh, the young lusts she stirred up in me, wearing her habit low. I could see the scar snake between her breasts down to her belly when she leaned over to explain some foolish minutia to Carmilla. So I began to attend her lectures in earnest & soon despite myself I found myself being book learned. Did she use her body to entice me to her teachings? It may be so, or mayhap the folly of youth is in it, & I saw what I wanted. Her cut-upon flesh will always remain an ember in my loins!
I remained her pupil long after my sister's interest had waned. As Lacaenae of the Stitched Monks drew me into her. My fascination was never spent within her-- but I never ceased to wish it would be so. I think it was Lacaenae who first opened my eyes to the simple, truest thing in all the Praxis-- the Blood Is Life. Bloodletting-- first it was bloodletting, & she said it was for Lux. She looked up when she said it, up into the sun. I don't know now if she meant it-- if she were devout to her God or if the words were empty upon her crimson lips-- but it was in bloodletting that I first saw the power that is life. I watched her drag a thread studded with thorns through a hole in her tongue. I watch her still in my dreams, wet in my sheets. It was Lacaenae who first Suspended me. The hooks went in through the skin of my back, & as my Body hung there, what is Adelard, what is Myself, departed. I peered into starlight, & knew that I was Alone-- blessedly Alone-- in the whole of Creation. I felt my blood drip out of my wounds, pool in the secret crevices of my body. Only my blood. I felt only my blood.
It is because of Lacaenae that I go now to the Wreck to make myself a God of Forever. It is the wound that wound itself town from the keys of her collar, the scar between her bosom, the cut upon her belly. It is the Life & the Power. I will do as the Camazotz urges me; I will take from myself, & by subtracting, I will make myself Great. Heartless & cruel like God & the Karnak & the Vampire. I will be free of any Stain or Judgement."
Balthazar, pacing, hands darting against each other, one doing here, fluttering like a white moth, the other going there, fingers waggling like some great red crab. Searching through Adelard's diary looking for something more on Malake, some refined explanation of these observatories & aeries. He comes across something altogether different.
"I cannot return to the City of Mirrors-- it is too risky, to risky for your old boy. No, boss Fleance may be a dolt, & I may sneak & get to work, lovely work, under his long nose & whiskers, but there is something else there. In the deeps. Waiting in the cold, slimey sea weed the grows in the sunless tunnels. The real master of Malake. One of the Drowned. He will snap me up with his jaws or his catspaws, sooner or later, if I dance upon that grave. Oh the trail there has gone cold; no more lovely ladies for your boy. Steer clear unless I have an army of swords below me & around me; though they will not save me by strength of arms a dozen fighting men may slake his thirsts. The way a dozen ladies lovely may slake my own. Oh but they never will. I'll not be slaked!"
You page through the scribbles, finding one with a glass model set atop it as a paperweight. It is purple & blue & red & you can almost feel it beating in your hands thanks to the artistic mastery of the crafter. Below it, two pages are folded open, & the spine of the book is broken & creased-- clearly, the two pictures were the most consulted thing in this book. Besides them, the book is full of ink on sepia pages, showing the human body in various forms of mutilation-- eviscerated, skinned, sawn in half.
Eventually all of Lorelai's idle thumbing pays off & her instincts are proven correct. There amidst all the moldy, blue-green spotted covers, all the decaying glue & thread, the melting words that are so much scribbling to her eyes, she finds a book & as she moves the decrepit pages aside, she finds some twenty in a cavity, occupied by a heavy golden idol with a leering batface. Seeking around in the same niche, you find stuffed in a corner made by two bricks a woolen bit of fluff, stuffed full of goosefeathers long gone to mold & rot.