At the bottom of the stairs, Leon found the escape tunnel on his left, going south, and a huge set of double doors on his right. He smiled when he saw the runic circle still glowing brightly in the air about ten feet in front of the doors.
Leon jumped down the last few steps and ran straight to the runic circle. He reached his hand out, ready to channel his magic into the circle to activate it when a tiny bolt of lightning flashed between his fingers and the circle. It was no more serious than a static shock, but Leon still froze, as he felt the lightning magic circulate dozens of times through his body in less than a second. This lightning bolt then rushed back down his arm, out through his still outstretched hand, and back into the circle. The circle then gave off a golden flash of light and the doors began sliding open.
Xaphan was disturbed by the foreign magic from the runic circle and took a brief glance at what was happening with Leon. He saw the young mage still nervously standing still.
[Don’t worry about that. That was a deceptively powerful enchantment that confirmed your Bloodline. If it had found you to be an invader, you would likely be dead. Instead, it’s now opening those doors.]
Leon breathed a sigh of relief and began walking towards the doors, while Xaphan continued to watch out of curiosity.
[What exactly do you expect to find in there?]
[I’m not expecting much of anything. My father had told about a few things stored in the family Archives, but none are particularly important. I want to see if there are texts on House Raime’s magic or enchantments. Maybe there’s additional treasure down here, who knows?]
[Hmm. Well, watch yourself, there might be more traps within.]
[There are, but none that should affect me.] Leon smiled, having regained his confidence after the unexpected ID check.
The doors finished sliding into the wall, revealing a long well-lit corridor. Leon narrowed his eyes when he noticed the trapezoidal hall shape and the white fire burning in the lower corners. This looked like exactly the same architecture as the prison, though made of marble and stone rather than a shiny grey metal.
[Huh… Looks just like the prison…]
[Of course, it does. Both this place and the prison were built by the same clan, thus the similarities in architecture.] Xaphan said with some exasperation.
Leon hurried down the corridor. He didn’t have to go far to reach its end, where he found another, smaller door. This door opened on his approach, revealing an incredibly large library with hundreds of rows of bookshelves. The ceiling was an enormous dome, somewhat reminiscent of the control rooms from the prison, but rather than being covered in runes beyond counting, it was painted to look like the open sky. Set in the center was an enormous diamond, larger than Leon’s entire body, shining with golden light. At the ends of each bookshelf was a tree, though each tree was unique, with leaves in all the colors of the rainbow. The floor was made of sparkling black granite tiles.
Leon could only stare at the scene before him. With the palace above so thoroughly destroyed, he never would have guessed that something like this would have still existed!
He was pulled back to reality by the sounds of loud metallic footsteps. His hand went for his sword, while his head turned on a swivel to find the source of the noise. Several seconds later, he saw something that looked like moving bronze armor, with flashes of lightning noticeable between the gaps. Its face was featureless, and it was holding a broom. Leon relaxed a little when he saw it was only sweeping up the fallen leaves around the trees, but he still stared at it.
Xaphan spoke up, seeing that Leon didn’t know what this thing was. [A bronze golem. Looks to be inhabited by a lightning wisp, too. Built for basic labor, it poses no threat.]
Another bronze golem emerged from the shelves and walked in Leon’s direction. He could tell it was coming to him because it’s eyeless face seemed to be staring at him, and it walked with obvious purpose.
[And that?] Leon’s hand went to his sword again.
[That… I don’t know.]
Leon was about to draw his sword as it approached, but then, it spoke.
“Young Lord, welcome to the Archives. Is there anything in particular you wish to see today?” The bronze helmet that was its head gave its voice a very pleasant resonance, and Leon couldn’t detect any killing intent coming from it. He maintained his vigilance, but he released his sword and straightened himself up.
“Yes… But first, tell me what you are.”
“This one is the Librarian, built by Prince Nestor to manage these Archives.”
Xaphan recognized that name. [Prince Nestor was one of the Storm King’s sons.]
Leon smiled in gratitude, then addressed the Librarian again. “What all is contained within these Archives?”
“Records of history, culture, and magic can all be found here.”
“How about lightning magic? The power of the Thund… our Bloodline?”
“There are many Records of the clan’s lightning arts held here, including those written by the Honored Ancestor.”
“Show them to me.”
“Yes, Young Lord.” The Librarian turned and began walking down the central aisle of the Archives, and Leon hurried after it. As they were walking, something occurred to the young man.
“Are there any Records of other kinds of magic here? For instance, fire?”
“There are. Would Young Master like to see them as well?”
[What are you doing, Leon?]
[You said I could use fire, so what’s the harm in checking?]
[The harm? You have a demon of flame willing to share his power with you, and you look into other fire magic? Why don’t you just spit in my face!]
[Alright, alright!] The Librarian was still waiting for Leon’s response, so the young mage just mumbled never mind, and they proceeded onwards.
A few aisles later, the Librarian stopped and turned to Leon.
“This is where our lightning arts are recorded.”
Leon nodded, then said, “Which of them are the basics?”
“Those closest to the center are more basic and grow more advanced as they get closer to the walls.”
Leon smiled at the sight of the tall bookshelves filled with thousands of books. His excitement was dampened somewhat as he saw the many were copies, so there were only a few hundred books, but it was still far more than he expected.
“Are all these the clan arts?”
“Not all of them.”
“The clan arts are what I’m interested in.”
The Librarian bowed, then began walking through the aisle, gathering about half a dozen books. While it was doing this, Leon allowed his eyes to wander a bit, to take in the sight of the Archives. The longer he looked, the more details he noticed, such as the tiny diamonds fitted into the floor between tiles that glowed with white light, providing additional illumination where the artificial sun’s light didn’t reach.
But, as he let his mind relax, something occurred to him.
‘If the Librarian was built by Prince Nestor, then surely it would know what my ancestor is. If that’s the case, then how did the Thunder Kings and the Archdukes after them forget?’
The Librarian soon returned with the books, each roughly as thick as a finger. The golem even retrieved a leather bag to carry them in from a drawer underneath one of the many tables that ran down the center aisle.
“These books comprise the entire foundation for the clan’s lightning arts. Is there anything else Young Lord requires?”
Leon took a moment to look at the books before responding. He immediately recognized one of them, as he had a copy back in his pack in the inn. He gave that book back to the Librarian who accepted it with a bow, while he packed away the other five in the leather bag.
“There is something I’d like to ask you, Librarian.”
“How may I assist Young Lord?”
“First off, you can call me Leon rather than Young Lord, and secondly, I want to know what you know of the Honored Ancestor.”
“Regretfully, this one’s knowledge of the Honored Ancestor is lacking, all this one knows is that the Honored Ancestor was the Thunderbird and exists within all the Awakened within the clan.”
“You don’t know anything more?” Leon was both happy at having some confirmation that he didn’t make his unchangeable mana glyph in error, but also disappointment at the lack of other information.
“Prince Nestor built this one to maintain these Archives. Knowledge of the Honored Ancestor was not considered crucial to this one’s task, thus it was never taught.”
“Is there anything in these Archives that contains additional knowledge of the Thunderbird?”
“Not within the Main Archives.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing within the Main Archives, but what lies beyond the Sealed Door is unknown to this one.”
“What is this Sealed Door?” Leon asked, narrowing his eyes.
“This one will show Leon.”
The Librarian began walking, and Leon followed. A few minutes later, they arrived in a small alcove of the Archives that couldn’t be seen from the entrance. Within this alcove was a door with the same trapezoidal shape that Leon was growing familiar with. The door was made of completely featureless stone, with no visible way to open it.
“You don’t know what’s on the other side?”
“How about a way to open it?”
“Really? You don’t know?”
“This one was deactivated before its construction. The instructions to open it were not left behind.”
“Why were you deactivated?”
Leon frowned. He wasn’t very surprised at that answer, but it still left him unsatisfied. He supposed the masters of the golems wouldn’t have told them the reason for deactivation since it would’ve hardly mattered if they did or not.
“This one remained deactivated for seventy-nine thousand eight hundred and nineteen years before reactivation fourteen years and seven months ago when the palace above was destroyed. This one did its duty protecting and maintaining these Archives, but it has not discovered a way to open the Sealed Door in that time.”
Leon’s frown grew deeper, though this did explain why his clan forgot its own ancestor. The Thunderbird never spoke to them, and they couldn’t ask the golem either.
He walked up to the door to examine it. There was nothing much to say about it, as he couldn’t sense any magic coming from it and there was nothing written on it either.
[Xaphan? Any thoughts on this door?]
[Hmmm… Try channeling some of your magic within it. There may be internal enchantments that can’t be sensed, or perhaps an internal lock that will open it when the proper magic is applied.]
Leon followed Xaphan’s instructions and placed his hand on the door. He pushed some of his magic within, and to his surprise, it vanished! As soon as his magic came into contact with the stone, it completely disappeared, like tossing a pebble into the ocean. He frowned again and stepped back. There wasn’t much he could glean from this door without more magic. He’d already resolved to return to these Archives when he was stronger, if only for the next books on his clan’s magic, and he would keep this door in mind when he did. There was something beyond that was of great importance, he was certain of that.
Suddenly, the lightning within the Librarian flashed red, startling Leon enough that his hands flew to his sword.
“Alert! This one has detected intruders in the palace estate approaching the entrance of the Archives!”
Leon’s heart almost stopped. The only ‘intruders’ he could think of were the guards that watched over the estate.
‘Did I accidentally trip an alarm enchantment? Are they even here for me? Maybe it's just a standard patrol… But the door in the private training area is still open!’
Leon didn’t know who these ‘intruders’ were for sure, or even if their path would bring them here, but he decided not to take a chance.
“Librarian! I’m leaving now, lock the doors behind me!”
The Librarian bowed in response, and Leon took off running back to the entrance. The doors to the Archives had closed behind him when he had entered, but now they slid back into the walls on his rapid approach. He didn’t even wait for them to fully open and squeezed through as soon as there was enough room for him to fit. He stopped just long enough to make sure the doors were closing behind him, then he sprinted back up the stairs.
For a moment, he entertained the idea of trying to close the door in the training area from inside, then using the hidden tunnel to return to the city, but a cursory glance showed him that the tunnel had collapsed a few hundred feet in. He picked up the pace as much as he could, and very soon he found himself almost flying back into the private training area. His eyes darted around, searching for the way to close the door when he noticed a runic circle hovering in the air by what was left of the residence. He immediately ran over and activated it, hoping that his assumption was right.
Fortunately, it was, and the door soon closed, sealing up the stairway that led down to the Archives. Leon didn’t get a moment to catch his breath, though, as the door didn’t close silently.
“Hey! I heard something from over there!”
Leon heard the sounds of approaching guards, and he knew they were guards for no one else would be so loud and obvious if they were breaking Teira’s biggest taboo.
The Archduke’s residence was right at the edge of the forest that covered the rest of the estate, so that was where Leon sought refuge. His figure vanished into the trees just as several guards rounded the corner of the residence’s ruins to investigate the training courtyard.
Leon’s hunting instincts kicked in, and he slowed down, moving with the utmost care. He spared no glances back and kept moving silently, sticking to the shadows.
He sighed. He could hear other guards swarming over the rest of the ruins. This would make returning to the tunnel he used to come here and leaving undetected very difficult. Regardless, there was little other choice, so he began circling back around through the forest towards the late Alexander’s former residence.
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