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- A space, a cavity under earth, not a natural one, it's uneven rounded walls lined with with hardened clay. Single hole angled upwards beamed light trough a scratched and foggy glass. There was no furniture, just a rough alcove with straw on it. The straw was ground flat against the alcove barely giving any relief from the clay surface. Edge of the alcove was populated by several clay statues, their features sharp despite the quality of the yellowish clay. The statuettes depicted warriors, beasts and nude women. Largest of them being a particularly intricate statue of a nude woman with a long vase. She gazed into the sky with hopeful wonder. The loosely fit wooden door to the room opened without a sound on its rope hinges but when closed, the hand pulling the rope handle did not let go, and instead kept pulling until the rope bit the fingers and the clay frame cracked audibly. The pull slowly died down and the handle was let to rest. A speck of crumbled clay ran down the wall to the floor.
- A heavy exhale hissed in the bare room, an occasional snap or crackle of ragged breath and then ending with a sickly whimper. The boots of tightly woven roots rustled as they turned against the clay floor and were then removed. Wrappings around the forearms came loose and fell on the floor. The vase woman stared up at the man looming over her with wonder in her eyes. A gentle caress of a scarred hand lifted the statuette up. The angular, bony thumb gently traced her delicate features, hand holding her was covered in straight cuts, bumps, striations, blotches of discolouration. The cuts were not ragged, random or deep, they were deliberate. A cuts along the top of the fingers, a diamond cut at the knuckle, long line along the tendons and muscle to elbow. Some cuts were discoloured in moldy white or necrotic black, skin looked that of a sick man but it was pulled taught over the muscle, that, at points were deformed.
- The statuette was gently placed back with the others. The man laid down on the straw. New cuts along his back stung. He touched his side, it was wet. He sighed and sat up. He undid his waist sash and carefully removed his shirt to avoid the coarse fabric snag on any of the many, many scars on his body. The muscle under the cut skin bulged and veined in odd ways, some muscles criss-crossed in unnatural way, some looked as if ropes pulled to tension and sunk under the skin. The man reached for the leather satchel he had carried and pulled out a beautiful hand mirror marred with scratches and stains. The feminine mirror was an awkward fit for his hand but it worked. He aligned the mirror to see his back. A cut had opened. He put the mirror away and pulled out a needle and fine thread. He looked directly ahead and bent his shoulders into a ghastly angle and then began to add stitches to the on his back. The two arms seemed like limbs of a hideous spider creature as they carefully stitched him. His stubbled, scar pocked face reflected tired calmness. His messily cut black hair swayed gently with each stitch pull. The arms returned to front with a soft pop and crack. He kept staring at the wall until the final stitch was pulled and cut. The thread and needle was put away. He pulled his shirt back on and covered his forearms. He laid back down, and with a heavy sigh, fell asleep.
- Steps in the hall outside stirred Menron. Warden Pemeris had a limp. He could hear him rustle the note he was given. The warden stared at it for a moment, adjusted his glasses and then bellowed out, "Menron!". Menron stood up, adjusted his sash and picked up his satchel. Pemeris, watching the wrong door spun his head around when the door opened behind him. Pemeris was was old man, wearing a same black outfit adorned with the warden plate. He nodded, adjusted his glasses and glanced at the note. "You're needed in the second hall." Without acknowledging him, Menron walked past. Pemeris blew up in nervous anger. "Say something! Nod! You're not a goddamn golem." but Menron kept walking down the hallway. Pemeris spat after him. "Keep this up, you're not endearing yourself to anyone. You uppity whelp!" Pemeris crumbled the note and threw it after him.
- The rounded, tunnel like hallways and rooms of school were all covered in the same clay. Menron sleepwalked through all of it until he opened a side door of the second hall. The metal hinge of the door squeaked and then echoed in the empty domed hall. The old Master Akhalan was standing over the stone slab at the center of the dome, the a wailing patient laying on it. Akhalan's enormous braided white beard and his white clothes were spattered with blood. A faceless clay golem stood still on the other side of the slab, almost completely covered in blood. Menron strode to the slab and inspected the man on the slab. There were jagged pieces of broken glass sticking out of his body and a large gash across his abdomen. The color was already fading from the man's face.
- Akhalan's booming voice echoed across the room. "Well? Can you do anything?". Menron stuck two of his fingers into the gash and elicited a pained scream from the man. He carefully felt around the insides and then withdrew his hand. He looked Akhalan in the eyes and coughed before starting with a raspy voice.
- "Do I get the body if he dies?" Shot Menron and glanced at the whimpering man on the slab.
- Akhalan laughed and shook his head, "No."
- Menron shrugged. "I want library time." He unclasped his satchel and started laying out his equipment.
- "That's fine." Akhalan grumbled and turned to the golem, "Leave." The golem quickly made its way to one of the side doors. Akhalan then brushed his beard and watched intently as Menron laid out his things. Menron, feeling master Akhalan's eyes on his hands, stopped. He raised his head and stared at Akhalan pointedly. Akhalan raised his eyebrow.
- "I see you don't care much about this man." Menron responded and then began packing the things he had laid out on the slab.
- Akhalan began with an annoyed snarl, "You really think you're entitled to the scholarly protections." He grabbed Menron's head and shoved him backwards and began ranting with spittle flying from his mouth. "Those rules were written-by and written-for magi! Not for glorified servants!" The air grew cold, Menron could feel his hairs stand up as an arc of lightning buzzed across Akhalan's arm with and burned a spidery pattern on the white wraps covering them. Menron packed his things and then stared at him. It wasn't the first time he had threatened him, but Menron could feel sweat build on his skin and felt his heart beat against the cloth at his throat. Akhalan furrowed his brow in anger and stared him down.
- Menron coughed. "I will include these things in my grimoire, but for now I'd prefer scholarly secrecy." He wiped his bloody fingers and continued. "You will outlive me in any case, so why bother."
- Akhalan's furrowed brow relented and his scrunched up face relented. He pointed his index finger absent-mindedly behind him and a terrible arc or lightning jumped out it. The deafening crack of thunder echoed painfully in the hall. Menron fell against the stone slab and grabbed it in panic. Before his eyesight had even come back Akhalan announced with a calm tone. "Continue, scholar Menron". Menron barely heard the door close behind Akhalan.
- Menron, half blind and deaf, almost fell over from the disorientation as he stood up. He hurriedly began unpacking his satchel. He glanced over the stone slab and saw the smouldering hole in the floor. The strike had melted the clay itself, glowing bits of blackened sand ringed the small crater. How Akhalan had obtained such knowledge or even trained it, was beyond Menron.
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