Great [Monster] Journey 26

RSanon Mar 29th, 2014 1,567 Never
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  1. The weight of slumber crushed down upon Galen the moment he made it back to his bed. Exhaustion sapped him of even the ability to keep his eyes open, as much as he would’ve liked to stay awake for Sybyll and Mino’s return. He had a few things to talk to them about after that chat with Seira. Though he had left in a huff, he learned something from her, both in her words and her blindness. But that would have to wait ‘till later, as his body demanded sleep.
  3. It passed quiet and dreamless, like he was riding a wave of thought that never came down until it hit the shore of wakefulness. His eyes snapped open as if they had never closed, but the atmosphere was nothing like the one he remembered before falling asleep. The dry air scraped against the back of his throat as he breathed it in. He had to hack to force the first breath down. Weak moonlight limped in through the window, the constant cloud cover obstructing it from view. An orange glow came from the streets outside, an alien sort of light that didn’t quite match torch or lantern. With a city full of succubi, Galen wouldn’t be surprised if it was magical. He shifted his attention to the rest of the room. His staff had been put back against the far wall by someone, and he was no longer alone. Sybyll was at his left, arms crossed as she watched him, and Mino was at his right, eyes closed and slumped into a strange form that fit her chair perfectly. It was like her back was bent to fit the chair like a puzzle piece. It could’ve been something she did naturally, or she just found it more comfortable. Either way, Galen couldn’t take his eyes off her until Sybyll said his name.
  5. “Are you well?”
  7. For some reason, her usual formality tugged at Galen like a black dot on fabric dyed white. “Yeah. I was really tired, but,” he said as he lifted his arm, curling his hand into a fist and opening it again, “I’m feeling better now.”
  9. “That is good. Did you see Seira while we were gone?”
  11. The question was not asked as an accusation, but it sure felt like one. Galen’s lips twitched back and forth before he answered, “Yes… how did you know?”
  13. “When I returned, there was a walking staff near your bed, and I went to check on Seira not long ago. She was… cranky.”
  15. Galen let a small smile out, but it died quickly. While hearing Sybyll describe Seira as ‘cranky’ was worth a chuckle, he couldn’t bring himself to do so, knowing he was the cause of that crankiness. “Sorry. I think I did that.”
  17. “Whatever caused Seira’s mood is between you and her. And besides, I believe I understand your eagerness to be out of the bed. I have been injured before, and the worst part of it all was the recovery. To be conscious and willing but unable is frustrating, to say the least.”
  19. Galen scooted up a bit, resting back on his elbows to get his upper body off the bed. “When was this?”
  21. “It happened many times during my younger years, some worse than others. As I grew older, I learned how to avoid such things.”
  23. He hadn’t forgotten what Cea had told him right before he left, to delve into Sybyll’s past as much as possible. This was a perfect time to ask more, assuming Sybyll was willing to answer. “Which time was the worst?”
  25. “Ah.” She looked away a moment. Her claw unconsciously covered up her inner thigh, right over than object Cea had told him about. Was he really getting so personal so soon? “Significant internal bleeding, and water in the lungs. I was bedridden for weeks.”
  27. Specific, but vague to what Galen had really been wanting. That’s about what he expected. “That must’ve been terrible. How’d it happen?”
  29. “I was caught in a flooding river.”
  31. Nothing more. This was definitely something she didn’t want to get into. Galen scrunched up his face. Oh well. Best not to push it. Maybe when they were out of this city and in a more comfortable setting. “How long was I asleep?”
  33. “It is not long ‘till dawn, so quite a while. Twelve hours, perhaps?” She looked up and down Galen’s body. “It appears to have done you well.”
  35. “Yeah. And I am ready to get out of this damn bed.”
  37. Just as he threw off the covers, though, the door opened and his doctor stepped in. Galen immediately frowned. It wasn’t that he wasn’t grateful for her help, but rather the way she looked down on him. Her tall, slender frame filled the doorway and her heels clopped against the floor as she entered. Those eyes found Galen right away, accompanied by a small smirk. He felt more like food than anything else. Maybe an animal, too.
  39. The sound of her entrance woke Mino, who started in her chair, her back snapping back into the normal human shape and her hair tentacles squirming and wiggling about like disturbed snakes. She glanced to the doctor, then to Galen, and wrapped him up in a squeezing hug the moment she saw he was awake. The sudden assault made him squawk in surprise, much to the doctor’s and Sybyll’s amusement. He was only able to pry her off by assuring her he was okay.
  41. “It’s been approximately thirty-six hours since you were admitted here, Galen,” said the doctor, her smug stride taking her to the side of his bed. “And I believe you’ve gotten adequate rest for your injuries, but I need to check on you to make sure before we let you go.” She put her weight on one foot, shifting her stance to somehow appear even more snobbish than before. He suspected it was an effort to show off her curvaceous body--she certainly didn’t lack assets--but all it managed to do for Galen was annoy him. He considered fighting whatever ‘checks’ she wanted to do, but in the end decided against it. He just wanted this over with.
  43. “Please remove your shirt.”
  45. He glared at her, but said nothing, taking off his shirt in a plain and quick manner as possible. He didn’t miss her licking her lips, though.
  47. “Now lay back down and try not to move.”
  49. He plopped back down on the bed, staring at the ceiling, not trusting the succubus enough to close his eyes. Her hands were on him, smooth and slow at first, grazing over his stomach to apply pressure at specific points. They then moved upward, brushing up against his nipples maybe a bit slower than necessary, and checked his upper chest, neck, and sides as well. When she got to his left shoulder, she paused, her eyes narrowing the slightest amount, but she shook her head and removed her touch, much to Galen’s relief.
  51. If she’d lingered any longer, he wasn’t sure if he could control what was below the waist, and he did not want to give her the pleasure of having that effect on him.
  53. “You are fine. I detect no significant physical or magical harm lingering in your body.” She crossed her arms under her breasts, then shifted them upward. Subtlety was out the window at this point. “It’s been my pleasure attending to you. Please do not hesitate to come back to me should you need anything else.” With a wink, she spun on her heel and sauntered out the door, sure to sway her rear as she left.
  55. Yeah, you don’t need to worry about me coming back, though Galen. He hopped out of the bed, smiling as he gave a good, long stretch before diving into his morning routine. He’d missed out on it too many times already, no need to make his luck worse. While in the middle of a sitting stretch, he turned to Sybyll.
  57. “I’m guessing Seira isn’t ready to leave yet.”
  59. “Correct. She may be healing comparatively quickly, but her wounds were much more dire. I would say she’ll be ready to leave later today, at the earliest.”
  61. He nodded. “Then that gives us some time to start looking for what we came here for. We might even find what we need before Seira’s even out.” He got to his feet, rolling his head back and forth. “I’d like to get out of this city as soon as possible.”
  63. “I don’t like it here much, either,” mumbled Mino.
  65. Galen paused. Must be the heat, he figured. Slimes were naturally cool and found mostly near water. It would make sense an arid, burning place like Mallus would bug her. He walked over to where his swords were sitting up against the wall. Right next to the staff he’d used, in fact. A whimsical smile grew on his face when she saw the staff. He picked up his swords, but just as he was about to put them on, he stopped himself. Something had been bugging him for a while, starting back even before they got to Cea and Roy’s house. Slowly, he put his plain sword on the ground then wrapped Toneruth’s belt around his waist. He’d have to be quick about it; he didn’t want Sybyll thinking too hard, just reacting.
  67. In one swift movement, he swooped up the sword and tossed it right at Sybyll, saying, “Catch!”
  69. Mino gasped, but Sybyll’s reaction was much more mechanical. Her claw darted out without a moment’s hesitation, almost as if she’d expected it, her stance hardly even shifting to grab the sword out of the air. Her brow furrowed at Galen, asking why he’d do such a thing, but he never had to explain himself, simply crossing his arms with a smug grin. Mino’s second gasp told him she understood what had just happened, too.
  71. “Ah,” said Sybyll. Her hand holding the sword lowered, her eyes following it as it fell. “I should’ve noticed this sooner. I wonder why I didn’t…” She stared at the sword a moment longer, then offered it to Galen. “Do you wish it back?”
  73. “Nope, I’ve got one. Besides, you’ll need one now that you can actually use one, right?” He put his hands on his hips. “Just try not to kill anyone with it, okay?”
  75. “I will make a concentrated effort to avoid doing so.” She put the sword on, testing how it felt at her waist and adjusting it a few times before nodding in approval. “The weight isn’t quite what I’m used to, but I will be able to adjust. Is that--“
  77. The air was forced out of her lungs when Galen came charging in with a hug, wrapping his arms all the way around her and crushing her lizardman body as thoroughly as he could manage. Sybyll stood, stoic, staring at the top of Galen’s head from her height, blinking a few times before speaking.
  79. “You already gave me a hug, and I can assure you I am content with this change to my state. There is no need to comfort me.”
  81. “But THIS hug is real.”
  83. Sybyll had nothing to say back.
  85. “You can hug me back this time, you know.”
  87. She exhaled in something between a sigh and a huff, but her arms enveloped Galen all the same, if only for a moment.
  89. Satisfied, Galen released her, stepped back, and nodded, trying to keep his smile from running off with his face. He turned to Mino, finding her a quivering mess, her hands cupped together and touching her lips, legs shaking and hair twirling around whatever part of her body it could reach. His face creased with concern. “Mino?”
  91. “I’m so happy I could melt! No, really, I think my legs are losing form.” She swayed back and forth. “That was so precious.”
  93. “It was an accurate expression of feelings at an appropriate time, nothing more,” said Sybyll, walking straight past Galen and toward the door.
  95. Galen’s face burned red, his hand automatically going to the back of his head. “Heh, well, it just felt like the right thing to do.”
  97. Mino squealed over Galen’s reaction, hopping over to his side. “I’m ready to find what we came here for, now! Let’s go!”
  99. Sybyll held the door open for them as they paraded out the door, mumbling to herself as she closed it behind them.
  101. “I may start to tire of this place myself.”
  105. **
  109. Their destination loomed over them like a mountain, peak reaching toward the sky and blocking even the rising sun from view. It was strewn from rock just like every other building Galen had seen by some mysterious method, likely magical, which made a coherent structure. The surface glinted as if polished, unaffected by the constantly-swirling dust. Splotches of various shades of red peppered the walls, giving them a texture that was almost hypnotizing to behold. Galen swallowed, forcing himself to blink. His eyes just didn’t want to close.
  111. “Woah,” said Galen, his mouth hanging open.
  113. “I know, right? These buildings are incredible!” said Mino, gaping right along with him.
  115. “Such as everything in Mallus, it seems,” added Sybyll, keeping her attention on their surroundings more than the towering structure ahead.
  117. “So this is where we’ll find out how to break a seal, huh?” said Galen, turning back to Sybyll.
  119. “Yes, that is what I was told. This is the mage’s central resource center in Mallus. The hierarchy of mages make themselves available to public need and run operations here. If we cannot find the appropriate resource here, they will be able to direct us to one.”
  121. “I hope we find it here,” said Galen. He crossed his arms. “I don’t want to run around Mallus chasing something blindly.”
  123. “You have eyes, do you not?” asked Sybyll.
  125. “That’s not what--“ He let out an exasperated sigh. Was this the Sybyll he was going to have to deal with now? “Let’s go in.”
  127. They garnered a few looks going inside, Sybyll more than the other two. Succbi were scattered throughout the wide-open lobby that greeted them, some talking, some resting, others merely on their way elsewhere. They all looked business. Galen’s eyes were everywhere, as if the setting were a fading rainbow and he’d only have a moment to treasure it. Massive was the best word for about everything. Arches framed every doorway and colored the ceiling with interlocking designs. At the center of the lobby, they all met at a point, directly above where a counter and idle succubus awaited them.
  129. “It’s all so… big and… weird,” said Galen.
  131. “That is one way to put it,” said Sybyll. “I’ve seen similar architecture in the king’s dwelling, though if memory serves, not quite this impressive.”
  133. “You’ve been to the king’s castle?”
  135. “Twice. But trying to describe it would do it ill. Perhaps you will see it someday.”
  137. “I hope so.” Galen went back to staring at the ceiling. When they finally made it to the counter, Galen almost ran into it he was so absorbed in the scenery. Sybyll had to yank his shoulder back to snap him out of it.
  139. “Sorry,” he said, sheepishly grinning at Sybyll.
  141. The succubus behind the counter spoke up. “Welcome to the Communion of Magic. Do you have a need?”
  143. Galen expected a wink, or a sly smile, or some sort of seductive whisper, but the succubus seemed wholeheartedly interested in helping them find what they needed and nothing more.
  145. “Uh, yeah. We’re trying to find out how to break a powerful seal. Do you guys do that?”
  147. She chuckled. “’We’ do indeed do that, and in a hundred different ways. Do you have any more precise information? There are many types of seals.”
  149. “I, uh…” Maybe coming here without Seira wasn’t the best idea. She knew more about the seal than any of them. “All I know is that it’s on the mons--a castle. And it’s strong.” Best not tell them exactly where the seal is--they were monsters, anyways, so that technically meant they were under the monster lord’s rule. They might not be so interested in helping Galen’s little group overthrow their leader.
  151. “So a localized, immobile barrier seal. Hmm.” The succubus leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms and looking away a moment before sitting back up. “You will want to speak with Ahdria, assuming this seal is truly as strong as you say. She’s two flights up on the south wing.” She pointed in the direction they would need to go. “If I may offer some counsel: you appear to be very new to this, and you’re taking on a significant challenge. Perhaps you will want to reconsider the means by which you achieve your goal?”
  153. Galen’s brow creased. “What do you mean?”
  155. Her face shone an innocent smile. “You’re requesting help taking down a powerful seal to keep unwanted people and monsters out of a castle. How many people or monsters have castles, I wonder? How many of them have the means to place such a seal? It’s none of my business, I know, but I can’t help but think there’s an easier… a less dangerous way to go about your mission?”
  157. “Ah.” He didn’t have anything to say to that; she was absolutely right. But he’d already accepted the consequences of his goals. A reminder like this wasn’t going to stop him. “I know what you mean, but my only path is forward.”
  159. “Of course. I was only offering advice. Good luck.” She gave a friendly wave and shifted her attention back to whatever work she’d been attending before.
  161. The group had gotten out of earshot of the friendly succubus before Sybyll spoke up.
  163. “Are you positive you are ready to face this challenge? It is as the succubus said: this is difficult, and there may be a simpler way.”
  165. “Maybe, but I trust Seira. If there was a simpler way, a better way to do this, she would’ve tried that first.”
  167. “Very well.”
  169. He could tell from her tone that wasn’t all she wanted to say, but she kept the rest to herself. He might have to ask her about it later, maybe when Seira was back on her feet and he could get more out of her about this seal and visiting--well, storming--the monster lord’s castle directly. From Seira’s story, it sounded like the natural way for her to get her place back was to invade the castle, but right now all she had was a lizardman, a young man, and a slime. Medusuub had an insider and a much more considerable force. Looking at numbers alone, this was already doomed to fail. He shook his head. Worry about that stuff later, he thought. Right now he had a task to complete.
  171. The building continued to amaze as he walked through it. Seeing a building with a second floor in Fullsburg was one thing, but this place had four, and this Ahdria’s room was on the third! Mino did even less than Galen to keep her excitement in order, buzzing around the place like a fly trapped in a jar, staring at and touching the walls, leaping up toward the ceiling, shoving her nose on the floor like it might look different from point-blank.
  173. “Is this how you treat everything new and interesting?” he asked.
  175. “Maybe,” she said with a grin. “But you gotta agree this place is really neat!”
  177. Galen sighed in an attempt to look the mature one, but he couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. “Yes, it is. Makes me wonder how they made it--besides just the general ‘magic’ explanation.”
  179. “Yeah. I wish I knew more about magic. Stuff like this is so interesting.”
  181. After a short search, the three found Ahdria’s room. It stood at the end of the hallway with double-doors leading in instead of a single door like all the other rooms. She must’ve been more important than the average succubus. Galen grabbed the doorhandle, took a deep breath, and pulled.
  183. The door didn’t budge.
  185. He narrowed his eyes in confusion and pulled again. Nothing. He tried wiggling the door, assuming it was stuck, but that didn’t help at all. His attempts had almost become fervent when he heard someone call from inside, a dry voice that acknowledged and shrugged off Galen’s presence all at once.
  187. “It’s push, not pull.”
  189. He froze then gradually pushed the door open, very much hoping his blush would blend in with all the red around him. An rustic room greeted him, his eyes automatically going to the ceiling to trace several pillars that contoured to the walls and ceiling in a gentle curve. He spotted the first wood he’d seen in the building, towering bookshelves stuffed with all sorts of tomes. The room actually had stairs leading to another level of bookshelves against the back wall. There wasn’t an empty spot on them. Each book stood up straight, unblemished and orderly, clearly handled with care. A distinctive scent barreled up his nostrils. He guessed it was the smell the pulp of fresh paper, something he’d heard about but was experiencing for the first time just now. Behind the bookshelves, a window spilled natural light into the room, a dusty orange that made the wood seem to glow.
  191. In the center of room a succubus sat behind a circular desk, neat stacks of parchment, scrolls and quills covering most of the desk. The succubus wore glasses with a thin black rim, a design Galen had never seen before, but said as much about her personality as her thin-lipped appraisal of him. Those piercing eyes cut straight through him. Hair almost down to her waist was bundled up in a ponytail behind her, kept tucked between her receded wings. Unlike most of the succubi Galen had seen in Mallus, this one worse more conservative clothing, showing no skin below her neck but for her hands.
  193. He tried meeting eyes with her, but her stare was so cold he feared he might freeze on the spot.
  195. She clicked her tongue against her lips. “What might bring a human boy to me? Don’t tell me you’re another joke present from Artifacts and Enchanting. I told them if they’re going poke fun, they should at least send an older one. I’ve never been into the adolescents.”
  197. “Um, hello to you, too,” said Galen, filing in to allow Sybyll and Mino in as well. The succubus, likely Ahdria, gave them similar inspections, taking her time on Sybyll before turning back to Galen.
  199. “I heard lizardmen didn’t roam this continent any more. Where is she from?”
  201. “She, well, this is, um,” Galen stumbled over his tongue, stuck between an introduction, an explanation, and trying to figure out exactly how much he should keep to himself.
  203. She leaned back in her chair, her brow creasing. “I’m not familiar with ‘she-well-this-is-um’. Are you sure you and I speak the same language?”
  205. “Yes!” It wasn’t much, but he could at least answer that question.
  207. “That is good to know. Now where is she from?”
  209. Sybyll stepped forward, not giving Galen a chance to make a fool of himself again. “I am Sybyll, and I hail from the Green Wastes, north of Fullsburg.”
  211. “I am relieved one of you can speak properly. But the lizardmen have not inhabited that area for nearly four hundred years. Did you not leave with them? How old are you?”
  213. “I did not leave with them, and my age is something I wish to keep to myself. I am old, if that is what you are wondering.” Sybyll matched Adhria stare for stare, glare for glare. Galen could feel the air between them freeze.
  215. “And why are you with this boy?” Ahdria didn’t miss a beat.
  217. “Duty.”
  219. “It seems there is one thing constant over all races and species, then.” Ahdria closed the book she’d been reading and removed her glasses. “Now, I ask again, what might have brought you to me?”
  221. Her attention landed solely on Galen again. He pulled at his collar and did his best to talk without his voice cracking.
  223. “I was wondering if, uhh, you could tell us how to break a seal.”
  225. She leaned forward, placing her elbows on the desk and rested her head atop her clasped hands. “And what sort of seal are you intending to break?”
  227. “A, uhh…” What was it that succubus at the desk had called it?
  229. “Localized immobile barrier seal,” interjected Mino.
  231. “Not interested,” said Ahdria. “Please excuse yourselves from the room.” She went back to her book as if Galen and his companions had never existed.
  233. It took Galen a moment realize she was serious. “Wait! What do you mean, ‘not interested’? We came a long ways to find out how to break a seal, and I’m not giving up just because you’re not interested!”
  235. She didn’t even look up from her book. “Good for you. Your journey has nothing to do with me. Do not put your burdens and hardships on me as though it is my responsibility to set them right. Best of luck in your search.”  She was excellent at making abundantly insincere statements.
  237. “Can you at least tell us why you’re not interested?”
  239. “Because people or monsters looking to break such seals are usually thieves or worse. There are no ‘abandoned’ barrier seals such as you seek, which means someone put this seal you wish to break there on purpose, likely to prevent people like you from getting past it. I have no desire to involve myself in such things.” She took a quill, scratched a few things down in the book, and continued reading.
  241. Once again, Galen found himself without an answer. She wasn’t wrong, and explaining their justification likely wouldn’t get her to budge. In fact, it might land them in deeper trouble. “Is there any way we can change your mind?”
  243. “There is always a way to change someone’s mind. In this particular case, however, I highly doubt you have the means to change mine.”
  245. “Just tell me what I need to do.”
  247. She finally looked up from her book. “So eager to please. If only all men were like you.” Her eyes narrowed, considering the offer. “Do you know why I have such a library in my room? Why I work with so many texts?”
  249. “No.” How would he know that?
  251. “The magic of breaking seals is first and foremost one of information. There are thousands of ways create a seal, and the appropriate method of breaking one must match how it was created. That means, in order to be as proficient in the area of magic as I am, one must know these methods and keep up with new ones as they are developed. Most of my time is not spent attending to seals, but rather cataloging and recording.” The quill made a slight click as the sharp point hit the desk when Ahdria set it aside. “Also, I enjoy books.”
  253. Galen nodded, unsure of what sort of reaction she wanted.
  255. “I am not merely the master of seals here, but the head of archiving and cataloging. The Communion of Magic has a specific title for these things of which I do not care for, but those are my duties. Do you wish to change my mind? Offer me something of greater values than my principles. I enjoy the esoteric, the undiscovered, the old and lost. Give me something of such wonder I can fill volumes of its details. A spell, an artifact, a lost city, I care not for the device, just give me something new and unique.” Leaning back in her chair, Ahdria smirked. “I would hope I do not need to tell you how in-depth and exhaustive the libraries here are. I have no hope you might offer me something not already in them.” She pointed behind her to the bookshelves. “This is merely a small sample. The texts I use most often. So, do you have something to offer?”
  257. “Yes.” For once, Galen got to smile back.
  259. Ahdria’s smirk grew as she laughed. “Truly? You’re even more ignorant than I thought. Whatever it is--“
  261. “Toneruth.”
  263. In the enveloping silence, Galen took a moment to thoroughly appreciate the chance to interrupt her and the slowly raising eyebrow on her face.
  265. “I told you when you first entered, if you were a joke from--“
  267. “It’s not a joke. I have it. Right here.”
  269. He would seriously pay to be able to keep cutting her off. Never did he think something so simple give him so much pleasure.
  271. “I’ll decide that. Give it here.” She held out a hand, impatience seeping into her voice.
  273. “Oh, now you want something from me? I thought you weren’t interested a moment ago?”
  275. Her withering response cut right through Galen’s smarm. “I’m not here for pissing contests and petty insults. Show it or leave.”
  277. He rolled his eyes, wishing he could continue, but unwilling to push his luck. He pulled the sword, sheath and all, off his belt and walked up to the desk. “Careful, it burns monsters that touch it.”
  279. She locked eyes with him. “I can stand a little heat.”
  281. He extended Toneruth, but just before he could drop it into Ahdria’s hand, the door burst open. Seira came spilling in, her severe face evaporating into surprise when she saw Galen, then erupting into pure bewilderment after seeing Ahdria. Ahdria had a much more dulled reaction, though the curiously on her face twisting into that cocky smirk Galen had seen just moments before did not give him high hopes as for what was about to happen.
  283. Ahdria withdrew the hand that was about to take Toneruth. A single finger rose, directed at Seira, Ahdria’s dark eyes and frigid gaze following it.
  285. “This makes much more sense with you in the picture, Seira Khertaleon.”
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