He stood in the rubble of
the old tower, eyes closed. Had it only been five years since the defeat
of Rezo? Since he had stood here, defying the restored fragment of Shabranigdo
that Rezo had brought to life with the Philosopher’s Stone?
Memories flashed across his mind, the strength that Lina had shown that day. How her hair had gone totally white after the amount of magic she’d had to use. Secretly, he’d wondered if she’d dyed it back, or if the color had restored itself naturally. He’d never gotten up the courage to ask. It didn’t matter, anyway.
He opened his eyes and looked around. There should have been an entrance to the underground labs somewhere around here. He cast a searching spell, designed to weed out all but Rezo’s own private wards. Ah… there. A ward-glow in those rocks over there…
He moved across rubble, coming to a stop just in front of several large rocks. His lips twisted in a combination of irritation and wry humor. Trust Rezo to hide an entrance in the most obvious place. He called magic to him, lifting his hand high. Slamming his hand down into the ground, he released the spell. “Vigarthagaia!”
The magic followed the line from his hand to the rocks, splitting them into little more than rubble themselves. He had little patience, and before the dust could clear naturally, he cast a Diem Wing spell, forcibly clearing the dust and debris from the warded doors.
Walking up to the doors, he extended his hand, casting the appropriate dispel. Rezo had, of course, taught him the spells needed to gain access to any of the labs. He watched in grim satisfaction as the ward fell without resistance.
Unheld by spells, the doors fell inward, opening as if they had been recently oiled, and not lain shut for five years.
It was darker than Zelgadis’
phenomenally bad mood inside, and he cast a light spell hastily, lest something
that Rezo had left behind decide he was the evening’s snack.
For the most part, the room was as empty as Gourry’s head. This, under normal circumstances, was a good thing, but this wasn’t your average circumstance. Zelgadis was a man with a mission, and that mission was finding anything that Rezo might have left behind. Specifically the research journals that Eris had mentioned in the journal of hers that he had found in one of her not-so-well-hidden labs.
What he’d found so far was a large open room.
He walked up to the door at the end of the room and eyed it for a moment, looking for any hidden wards or traps that Rezo might have left. Finding none, he opened the door and stepped through it.
This room was closer to what
Zelgadis recalled; cluttered with the collections of various magical oddities
that Rezo had gathered in this area over the years. Books of all kinds
were scattered around, and Zelgadis had a fleeting moment’s worth of thought
at what price Lina might pay to have the opportunity to read some of them.
Absently, he gathered a few of them and stuck them in his cloak pockets
for review later. They might turn out useful. If for nothing else than
bribery material to get Lina to do something for him…
But he still hadn’t found any of the old journals, for none of these books had Rezo’s finely controlled handwriting. He trailed his fingers over a few more covers before a magic tingle caught his attention.
There was a trap door under his left foot.
And it was heavily warded with the kind of wards that just screamed out that they were protecting something worthwhile. Zelgadis had mentioned this fact to Rezo, but it had never made much of an impression on the Red Priest. And for this, at least once, Zelgadis was mildly thankful.
Bending down, he cast the sequence of spells required to dispel the wards, and reached down and opened the trap.
The air in the room revealed
was dank and stale, and for a moment, Zelgadis was tempted to just turn
around and forget that this room existed. But then, he reasoned, with as
heavily warded as this room was, there had to be something of interest
He called his light spell closer to him and moved carefully down the stairs into the dank little room. He located one of Rezo’s mechanical air movers and cranked the little motor, bringing it up to a decent speed before looking around to see what was in the room.
The air started to clear as he moved around, first stopping at a bookshelf and finding many of the old books that he himself had scribed. He shook his head at Rezo’s folly and continued to look around the room.
On the desk beside him was a browned leather-bound book, and his fingers lingered over it for a moment but something on the tables across the room caught his eye. Frowning, he left the leather-bound book on the desk and walked over to the table.
The headpiece that Eris had always worn was resting there. He’d last seen it on her when she’d gone to talk to Rezo the night she had left. He picked up the metal band, closing his eyes, seeing Eris running out of the lab in tears. She hadn’t been wearing it. Was it a gift then? From Rezo? He put it in an empty cloak pocket, considering.
He turned back to the desk, looking again to the leather-bound book, frowning. No, that couldn’t be Rezo’s writing. Rezo’s print was always finely controlled, finely formed. This writing looked like that of a madman. The letters were like child’s scribbles on the floor with chalk. He flipped page after page, eying the print, but not reading it. Only when he started to pay attention to the words did he realize with a start that this was indeed the work of Rezo’s hand.
He sat slowly, frowning in concentration as he started to make sense of the words.
…to my chagrin, nothing has controlled the fragment of Shabranigdo within me. I know now that my control is slipping, that all too soon it will not be my hand that moves this pencil across the page. I look at my writing, see the war within me begin to be lost. Can I only hope that Lina Inverse discovers the truth before it is too late…
He blinked, startled by the mention of Lina. Was this the last thing that Rezo had been writing? Before they had come? Before he had lost himself to Shabranigdo? Turning the page, he continued to read.
It is too late to tell them. Eris is gone, lost forever to me… my beautiful Eris, the angel that kept me sane for so long. How I wish that I had the power to contain the fragment… perhaps with the Philosopher’s Stone, at last I will be able to banish it from me and right the wrongs done.
Zelgadis paused in his reading. Rezo had loved Eris? Shaking his head in disbelief, he continued to decipher the childlike scrawl that was only getting worse by the word.
Lina Inverse comes to challenge me. Perhaps with her aid, the fragment can be banished. I know now that I am not strong enough to counter the fragment and cast the spells needed to banish the fragment of Shabranigdo now almost wild within me. I must make haste to write all I can before I lose myself completely. I have little doubts that they will destroy me if necessary. My knowledge must not be lost.
The handwriting shifted abruptly, the words clear, the print fine and neat, as if Rezo had deliberately penned each letter as clearly as he could. For a moment, Zelgadis found that he couldn’t read the words, but then they leapt clearly out to him, as if Rezo himself was standing there speaking them.
Should you ever find this
journal, Zelgadis… should you ever return to this place if I am destroyed
in what is to come… take heed to these words. Your cure… at least I can
right this wrong done so unjustly.
You must find a woman pure of heart and soul, who is in the service of Cepheid. At the full moon during the time when her powers are most weak, should she bless you with the gentleness of light, the hatred of Shabranigdo shall fall to the higher power of love.
Forgive me, Zelgadis. Forgive me.
Zelgadis shook. His cure,
right there, written in Rezo’s own hand. For a moment, he could think of
nothing more than the fact that he had found his cure. Amelia. She was
pure of heart and soul, sworn to Cepheid’s service! But then, the realization
of what Rezo had meant came crashing over him, and one phrase stuck cleanly
in his mind. The time when her powers are most weak.
A crimson hue spread across his cheeks. How in the nine Hells was he going to ask Amelia to do that??!