The story continues on, bringing more questions to be anwered…
But first, the Queen’s Darkness will appear…
Darkness is played by my dear friend Darkwalker’s Shadow and I love him for being there…
Temptations XXXIV – The Grotto – Part IV
By TeraS and Thamior, Cyprusmage, and Darkwalker’s Shadow
“We could be on the ground floor now,” said John with a grin, “Or the first floor, or the second, or the sub-basement that shouldn’t exist. Time and space are…malleable here. Her rules.”
John headed off down the aisle of books, expecting Tristan to be close behind. After mulling over his words, he realised that Tristan had the wrong outlook for this situation. Further explanation was called for.
“Tera’s…not evil, you know,” he said, “She’s not our enemy, as such. Be cautious around her, but treat her with respect and we should be just fine. We’re not here to fight. We’re here to find out what she wants with us…”
“Right…her rules,” Tristan repeated. Never a pleasant thought, knowing that you were playing by the rules of someone who might have less than… unbiased interests in the game.
“I understand she’s not strictly evil…but she clearly has an objective here. Until I learn otherwise, I have to assume that objective is something that’s not in my best interest…or yours either. I treat everyone with respect until they give me a reason not to…especially when they have the power that Tera is said to wield. That doesn’t mean I need to bow to her right away,” Tristan said, clarifying his own point.
As John & Tristan approached the spiral staircase, the door to the Director of Special Collections’ office opened and a tall, well-built man, with dark hair, silvered at the temples, walked out in front of them sipping from a large mug of hot chocolate.
Holding up his free hand, he addresses the pair… “One moment, gentlemen… I would have a word, if you wouldn’t mind…”
Looking at both of them in turn, he speaks in a full, ruch baritone – “John, you have been ‘invited” here for a reason, that reason is between you and Miss Tera… You, Tristan, have been “allowed” to continue into this sanctum after breaking in like a common criminal…”
Shaking his head, he turns and looks around the spiral staircase area, fondness in his eyes…
“Like any other library, this is a place of learning… A place for those who seek intimate knowledge of the world inside and outside themselves to discover things they could never learn otherwise… There are lessons here for everone… Allow me to give you your first lessons to contemplate… ”
As his eyes began to glow, dark mist began to grow around him as his form appeared to melt into shining black metal and then explode, growing to become a massive dragon of flowing black metal- his voice rumbling like thunder, becoming very familiar to Tristan –
“This place and these entities are under MY protection – any attempt to cause them harm will displease me greatly…”
The dragon’s voice took on a far more menacing tone- “You do not want to incur my wrath.”
John didn’t flinch. He hadn’t expected this newcomer to transform into a dragon, but his Vision showed him this man was of exceptional ability. Keeping his hands in his pockets, he gave a sidelong glance at Tristan before addressing the dragon.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, unusually calm, “We’re just gonna head up and speak to Tera. Once we’re done we’ll leave. I’ve already explained the house rules to my friend here.” He nodded towards Tristan, “So why don’t you just let us past and we’ll sort everything out. Oh and…I’d watch where you’re swinging that tail of yours. Wouldn’t want to knock any shelves over, would we?”
Tristan remained calm and collected as the middle aged looking man emerged from an office. Sipping hot chocolate? Clearly this wasn’t someone who just wandered into the library by chance. He was here by choice, probably a minion of Tera. And that meant he was playing by Tera’s rules. And if John was correct in what he said, Tera wasn’t overly fond of shows of force. This put Tristan a little bit more at ease, although he was still ready to act on a moment’s notice, only coming to a stop as the man held up his hand. Tristan listened patiently to his spiel, sighing a bit on the inside when he was called a ‘common criminal’. This guy was trying to push his buttons, but Tristan wasn’t about to bite.
But he almost did bite as the man seemed to morph into a metallic dragon. He recognized the voice from before though…the one he had heard when he first entered. It gave him pause, and he stalled on the course of action he had planned in his mind, remembering John’s advice. No action…there was no need to act rash. The dragon was large, as John was quick to point out, which gave the two young men the advantage of manueverability. All this allowed Tristan to remain calm as John stepped forward. He knew the rules better than the young hunter, so why not follow his lead?
The Dragon’s head turned and looked at John – and laughed lightly “Young mage, you have nerve, if not wisdom…All here is under my protection “- the dragon’s tail passes like mist through pillars and bookcases to tap him solidly in the chest – ” would you not think precautions would be taken?”
The Dragon then turned to look at Tristan- “Young Hunter… I know of your family – It has a long and distinguished history, eliminating those creatures of pure evil that would seek to feed upon or destroy any mortals they come across… ” The Dragon’s form melted to that of the tall man once more – ” but lost to the ages was the knowledge of true evil and perceived evil. Too many hunters in recent centuries were blinded by the true evil and hunted the perceived evil. “
He takes a sip of his hot chocolate before he continues- “Neither of you are the normal sort of visitor that Tera invites to study here, I’ve met most of them… but the warning stands… ” His dark steely gaze boring directly into Tristan’s eyes – ” I am aware you know the rules, however, if you should ultimately decide to harm Tera or any of those who serve her now – I shall be … displeased…”
Turning back to John – “By the way, She’s not where you saw her last… take the stairs up to the next level the go into the great room on the right…” he smiles slightly “We call it ‘The Grotto’ – when you see it ,you’ll understand why..”
He then looks up at the ceiling… “She’s waiting for you there, now… Go on…” Then to Tristan – “Another friendly warning – ” smiling warmly ” Tera can be the most amazing friend you will ever have… If you have the heart for it…”
Tristan held his tongue. He found himself to be doing this far too often for his own liking. He was, by nature, a sarcastic young man in his every day life. He had a dry sense of humor that most would find somewhat insulting if they didn’t realize he was just overly cynical. It was certainly something he had to keep in check when speaking to superiors or those who didn’t know him well. Tristan categorized this man as the latter…and quite probably the former, although he wouldn’t readily admit it. And this…dragon man…left him so many opens for quips and comments. But still, much as he had earlier, Tristan restrained himself, although it was becoming increasingly harder to do so.
He couldn’t happen but laugh and smirk, on the inside of course, when the man directed his warning directly towards him. It wasn’t that hard to imagine, though, that the young hunter would be the first to act, before the mage. John had a better temper for the dimensional games that were being played…he dealt more with the abstract. Tristan was more hands on…that was how he had been taught.
“Thank you,” Tristan said sincerely before stepping forward to the staircase, knowing that John was behind him. He took earnest steps up the stairs, not delaying at all as the reached the next floor and made a straight path for the grand chamber that opened up on the right side of them…
As Tristan and John cleared the top of the stairs, the second floor of the library opened up into an area even more massive than the first. Directly ahead was the cartography center, featuring a shimmering, slowly rotating globe.. To the left was the exhibition room, currently featuring a large display of medieval arms and armor- in what appeared to be simulated combat. Directly behind was a darkened room labeled “Special Collections” – to John’s eye it was wrapped in layer upon layer of interwoven protections. Finally, to the right, a massive sunroom, with a central fountain, lush vegetation, comfortable seating and – the Dragon…
Smiling, he motions to the two young men – “Come along, Gentlemen, right this way…” He then turns and walks towards the very back of the sunroom, past the massive fern trees and potted palms, the tranquil fountain and the warm, soft benches, to a large mahogany door set in the far wall. A large brass and gold plaque upon the door reads “The Grotto”.
The Dragon smiles and moves a clawed hand towards them. He opened his hand revealing a gold key with a red ribbon tied to the handle…
“This door will take you to Miss Tera, Enter whenever you’re ready…” – he then handed the key to John. A moment later and his wings spread wide and he lifted into the air silently. He turned to the area above the door and with a single sweep of his wings drove towards the ceiling above the door, vanishing into nothingness as his body touched the surface there leaving them alone in the room with the key and the waiting door…
We arrive at the Grotto…