There wasn't much of note on the ground floor of the mysterious tower, only washed-out paintings and hieroglyphics present on the wall, which led him to approach the curving stairs that led up to the next floor.
"You sure about this, 'Milio?" Blimpo asked, hesitantly following him up the stairs.
It was definitely a sign of something being creepy beyond just superficial means if the elven tinkerer himself presented doubts that bypassed his incredible curiosity, so signs of worry weren't merely rejected by Emilio.
He nodded, "Adam told me to come here, and Adam is on our side–I think. If I can get help from this, then I'll take it."
"Yeah, that makes sense," Blimpo agreed, swallowing his hesitations.
Arriving upon the next floor of the nebulous tower, he found himself entering quite the questionable room as he stepped in, looking around curiously as what was stored there: tanks filled with unknown, gray liquid, and inside of it were inhuman creatures that certainly piqued his curiosity.
"What's all of this…?" He quietly questioned.
There were almost countless amounts of these creature-containing tubes that stored the creatures, expanding into a vast chamber of skin-crawling intrigue.
"Woah! Totally weird…Totally awesome," Blimpo remarked in interest, placing his hands up against one of the tubes as he looked closely.
"I don't know if 'awesome' is the word I'd use, but yeah," he said, inspecting the room as well.
It was hard to even decipher just what some of the dormant creatures were, but they were most certainly "alive", at least in the way that made most sense for those that were already dead. Peering closer at one of the peculiar tubes, he found what looked like a goblin with claws and fangs, padded with fur and a snout to boot.
A goblin and…a wolf mix? What the hell is going on here? He questioned.
There wasn't really any part of him that wanted to find out what sort of creature an amalgamation like that would turn out to be, though it was clear his sentiment wasn't shared by his elven companion. Blimpo repeatedly poked and tapped on the glass tubes that held various experiments, almost as if trying to wake up the slumbering horrors.
"If you cause any of these things to break loose, I'm not helping you out," he sighed.
"Don't worry, ha-ha. It seems to me like they're put into some sort of artificial hibernation–sorta, like totally asleep," Blimpo assured him.
"If you say so," he replied.
It was an unsettling existence; the tubes of amalgamations, though it wasn't anything surprising considering the nature of the very realm he occupied. Nonetheless, it didn't make him very excited to meet the figure that the Primordial guided him to.
"Come on, let's keep moving," he led the way.
"Sure," Blimpo nodded.
The next set of stairs led to another floor, which just about anything would be a more comforting scenery than the dormant creatures. It wasn't as though the tower was silent; there was a slight hum in the air, seeming to originate from the mana-empowered torches and tubes that held the creatures of the previous floor.
"...Hm," he arrived at the next floor.
The sight before him was definitely surprising, to say the least; it was an archive, or more apparently to him, a vast library that shelves as tall as buildings, stretching far and wide, filled with countless books that were all perplexing in appearance. Each of the books that housed the enormous shelves seemed to bear a slight, emerald glow as if inlaid with mystical energy.
"Woah," Blimpo remarked.
"'Woah' is right," he agreed.
Even the air itself spoke of how ancient and engulfed in archaic forces the emerald library was; he couldn't help but curiously walk between the aisles of colossal bookshelves, looking up as books could be seen as high up as he could view.
"What do you think these books are? I mean, there's an endless amount of them," Blimpo asked.
"No idea, but–"
"These books are not for reading."
Before he could even answer, they were both interrupted in their conversation as a presence made itself known with words emitted by a feminine voice. The sudden existence of another being instinctively brought Emilio's hand to the handle of his sheathed sword, standing ready.
It wasn't something neither him nor Blimpo noticed until just then; a rolling ladder that moved along the colossal shelves moved closer, lowering itself from the towering height it stood as the speaker revealed themself.
–A woman, dressed in a black dress that ended in a long, silver flair with illustrious, silken hair of the same, platinum shade stood on the ladder, holding one of the subtly glowing books. Though she seemed human at a glance, through her snow-white skin and maidenly appearance, there was undoubtedly nothing human about those eyes of hers that had the cosmos inlaid within them.
"Who're…?" He began to ask.
"You're Emilio Dragonheart, and behind you is the elf named Blimpo…Yes, the Progenitor did inform me you two would be arriving at my archive," the woman said, stepping down from the ladder as her somber, black dress swayed, "I am the Curator of Souls, Hecate."
It was as the silver-haired woman of smooth, blemish-free skin greeted him directly, stepping in front of him without an ounce of fear in those timeless eyes despite his on-guard stance, that he realized just what sort of being she was.
She's…huge, he thought.
The one who named herself "Hecate" towered over him by nearly double his height despite her initially lithe appearance, prompting him to gulp as he moved his hand from his sword.
"Curator of Souls…Yeah, Adam told me to come find you," he explained, finding it difficult to look eye-to-eye with the woman while speaking, "...He mentioned something about finding 'familiar allies' from you."
For a moment, she merely looked down at him with her inhuman eyes before turning towards the bookshelf, placing the book she held into its proper place as she responded, "I was told such as well, yes."
"So, you'll help us?" He asked.
"I have no care for your wish to leave the After, Emilio Dragonheart," Hecate told him, "However, to your fortune, Adam and I our kindred spirits in one regard; we both possess an insatiable thirst for knowledge–each and every strand of it. That's why I am interested to see if you can pull it off; escaping the After, that is."
"Then that means…?"
Hecate almost seemed annoyed as he continued to press for a straight answer, intercepting his words almost immediately, "Yes, I will assist you, Emilio Draognheart. However, my aide does not come without effort on your part.
"What do you mean?" He asked.
While they spoke, Blimpo remained silent, certainly intrigued by the very existence of the archive and the woman who oversaw it; Hecate continued organizing the bookshelves, using the magically extending ladder to do so while speaking.
"All of these books that you see around you–these are not pages that are read by the eyes of mortals," Hecate explained, "Each of these books is a Soul's Mark; the history of that soul, who they are, and an anchor."
"Yes; it's with these books that you can summon the soul inscribed within it, no matter where they may exist within the boundless reaches of the After," Hecate told him, "This is how I will assist you; the souls of those you've known, who have passed to the After…I will allow you to call upon them in this journey."
Such words brought him still for a minute as he processed what was being told to him, but little by little, his mind wrapped around it, realizing just what was being offered to him.
"Souls I've known? You don't mean…" He began to say.
"It's exactly as you believe; those you once knew can help you once more on this journey. However, this is not something that will come easy," Hecate said.
The tall, silver-haired woman ran her lithe fingertips along the spine of one of the dormant books, seeming to look at each soul-containing book with a look of kindness.
"You will need to find the books containing the souls of those you wish to have aid you. I will not aid you in this endeavor," Hecate said.
Blimpo spoke up for the first time, seeming to only be able to stay silent for so long, "Hey! Why not?! You said you'd help us out, right?! This library is enormous–there's no way we'd–"
"Silence," Hecate glared at the elven man.
That single word was infused with some sort of ancient magecraft, forcing Blimpo to abide by it as no sounds could escape his lips in protest.
Emilio was surprised to see this, though it was only a temporary effect as Blimpo sighed out after a few seconds, regaining his breath.
"I am not neglecting to aid you out of spite; there is a reason you must do this yourselves," Hecate told them both, "The souls anchored into these books–their history, essence, and desires–it is necessary for the one who seeks their aid to discover them for themselves. An insufficient will can only result in an endless search; it is a curse bestowed upon me–a binding spell that prevents me from searching for books for others."
Use arrow keys (or A / D) to PREV/NEXT chapter