This week’s Tale of Temptations of the Succubi Queen reveals that not even the Queen can do every single thing exactly right all of the time…
Temptations XXXVII – The Grotto – Part V
By TeraS and Thamior, Cyprusmage, and Darkwalker’s Shadow
Tera answered Tristan first, “The others cannot leave until their choices are made… Some will help in the defense of the library… Some will decide to leave… That is their right….” She looked in the direction from where they came from and said, “Once changed, for many they are part of this place… Others are sent back into their worlds with a new perspective on love and passion I hope…. For in the end that is the most important lesson of this place…. For those that are willing to take the lesson to heart…”
She walked from the waters and stepped on the shore, “There is nothing more important than the world that is created in love…. At least for most… Some are not that understanding… Come along John… You too Tristan… You need to see her too…”
Tera led them up a winding path that curved around the waters plunging off the waterfall until they came to the ledge where the statue stood. It was positioned so that her view was over the bay and into the waters beyond, a sun seemingly floating on the horizon far away. She was made of what looked like white marble. Her clothing was askew over her. She was in mid stride a look of concern on her face, frozen in time.
Tera sighed and then gently rubbed a hand along the frozen woman’s right arm as she said, “She was Pamela. She was once a woman looking for love in all the wrong places… She came to me and asked for help to find that love… I gave her the wish and she was happy…. Until she came home and found him dust in the middle of her home, a blue axe embedded in the floor in the middle of the pile of ash…”
Tera’s hand dropped away, “She wanted revenge on the one that destroyed what she had been given. Without my knowledge she searched for the source and found it. And she paid the price… I found out later that she had been infected with a creature that turned her to stone over time…. And her time ran out…”
She brushed tears from her eyes and then said, “She was my oldest, dearest friend and now she’s gone… I can’t bring her back… The creature is within her heart and has frozen her like this… If I try to break the transformation, the creature will explode her heart and she will die in pain…. I can’t do that to her… I hope that removing the threat that did this will destroy the creature within her…. I hope…”
Tera looked at John and Tristan and said, “This is how battles begin…. With the loss of one life… And many others have fallen since from this…”
The parasite Tera mentioned was unknown to him. A brief check of his memory brought up nothing. Even if he didknow what it is, there was little doubt that he could not succeed where Tera failed. Unless…
Focusing on the stone woman, he attempted to glimpse her pattern, and found a glimmer of hope. While her pattern lacked the vibrance of living tissue, it was not completely inert like stone. It was…some strange mixture, a state of flux between life and death. Tera was right; it was possible to save her.
But the threat of the parasite exploding from inside made extracting it highly difficult. Could he do it, perhaps? There were rituals for removing possession…and according to his Vision the creature was indeed a spirit. Class Four Corporeal Manifestation.
“Hmm,” he said slowly, still considering the possibilities, “Tricky…but do-able. Her spirit is still tethered to her physical body, so at least we can bring her back. But removing that parasite’ll take some work. I think…I think I can do it…if you don’t mind giving me access to some of the tomes in your library.”
Tristan remained silent as Tera provided the answer to his query. It was, he figured, the most satisfying answer he would probably get out of her. After that he held his tongue, following her obediently along the path until they reached the petrified woman above. It was a depressing sight, as those who had been placed under a petrification curse normally was. His hazel eyes softened slightly in the shadows of his hat as Tera explained the woman’s plight. The mistress of the library’s voice seemed to waver with emotion he had previously not seen from her, and the way she caressed the statue spoke volumes to the young hunter. In his first real moment of compassion towards their host, Tristan placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. It was rather bold of him to do so, but it felt like the right thing to do, and his hand did not linger. It was his silent condolences, and that was all. After that he watched as John took a closer look at the statue. The mage seemed more interested in fixing the woman here and now, but Tristan suspected they would need to find the owner of this blue axe before any curse could be broken…
“So…what is the source of this curse? Do you know the owner of this blue axe?” Tristan asked quietly.
Tera looked at John and said, “If we stop what caused this then we will have time to free her…. But…. And I regret this in ways I cannot express… We can’t spend what precious time there is left to us here when the treat remains waiting for the moment to strike….” She seemed to focus on something else for a moment and then said, “The others are not as yet ready for the search… If you wish to try you have some small time to you, but it is little and may be fruitless… But that is up to you John… It always has been….”
She then focused her attention of Tristan and replied, “Thank you for your concern Tristan… I want her back… So much so… Someday she will be freed…. I promise that….” Tera sighed and then said, “There is several possibilities for the owner of the blue axe… The most obvious one is the Norse God Thor… Otherwise there are several Orcs and a few Weres that have used a similar weapon…”
Tera bit her lip and said in a soft voice, “The axe is in the special collections room….”
This woman, whoever she was, had information they needed. But as Tera said, time was not on their side, and he needed at least an hour to research the necessary ritual. There was, however, one high-risk option.
Reaching into his coat, John triggered a conjuration ritual, one he had prepared in advance. From inside his coat, he pulled out a rather large, black leather doctor’s bag. Setting it on the ground, he knelt down and opened it, pulling out what appeared to be a rather old and large pocket watch. It had been a gift from a friend, one that contained a powerful spell. The downside was, the spell was single-use only, and thus far he had abstained from using it. Saving it for when it would be needed. Now, he felt, was such a time. It crossed his mind that Tera could replicate the spell on her own, but he didn’t raise the issue.
“Tera,” he said, showing her the watch, “This contains a powerful time-dialation spell. I’m going to use this in the library to give myself the time I need to research an exorcism ritual. Do I have your permission?”
Tera sighed a bit at John’s request and then explained, “John…. There is a old tale that says you learn what you need to in the fullness of time…. Speeding up time here isn’t going to work for you…”
She cupped her hands together and then separated them revealing a glowing miniature version of the library to him. Tera explained, “This is the library as each reality and person individually sees it….”
Then the image changed into a blur of multiple images of the library. The windows changed, the bricks changed. The architecture changed. The library twisted upon itself and then untwisted again before the whole process began again.
Tera said calmly, “There are so many times and moments within the library that if you used a time spell within these walls you would speed up time… Yours as well… I don’t think you are prepared to lose twenty years of your life in an instant John… Save your spell for the right moment…”
Then she nodded in the direction they had come in, “You can always use the card catalog to find what you seek… Just be very very specific on what you want or you will be misdirected towards similar items that may not be exactly what you want…”
He thought this was the right moment. Regardless, he still had a chance at finding the necessary spell. Nodding to Tera, he ran off back to the main library, passing from the jungle scene to one of nothing but darkened shelves. His Vision was of little use at long range, but it allowed him a decent amount of clarity when choosing his direction in the short term. He found his way into what looked like an empty area, surrounded by aisles of bookshelves. Against one shelve was a large box with a hinged lid. Looking inside, he found several rows of index cards.
“Ookay…” he muttered, flicking through the cards. First he considered looking for ‘parasite’, then thought otherwise. Instead, he looked through the ‘S’ section until he found ‘Spirits’. A minute’s search later, and he had the index card for ‘Spirits, parasitic’. Glancing around him, he ran off down the aisles, looking for the right book.
He noticed, with his Vision, that the corridors of the library seemed to be changing, warping themselves around him. As he ran, he realised that the library was helping him find what he was looking for. When he noticed that warping slowing down, he stopped and looked around him. There, on the shelf to his left, was the book he was looking for. Mouthing a “thank you” to the library in general, he took the book from the shelf and ran off back where he came, feeling the library re-shape itself again to bring him closer to Tera. He could learn to like this place…
He flicked through the pages of the tome, and slowed his pace when he realised how old it was. The pages were wrinked in places, cracked in others, and they had all browned with age. Thankfully, the writing was still legible, and he could still make out some of the diagrams. There, on one page, was a rough image of what he’d seen inside that statue woman; a parasitic spirit, class four just as he’d thought. And detailed below were a few handy hints. A plan formed in his mind, and knowing what to do, he closed the book and quickly made his way back to Tera.
Arriving out of breath, he took a minute to calm down before speaking.
“OK…” he said, book held under one arm, “I need…a small birch log, about a foot long…and an empty jar.”
Can he do it?
We’ll see next week…