Day Fifty Eight (The Book)
Symond opened the door, revealing the dimly lit room beyond. The rest of the building had been exceptionally cold, the winter outside penetrating the stone walls, but the air within this room was musty and humid, and it caught him off guard as he took his first breath. Candles had burned themselves out along the wall. Symond took several careful steps into the room, his sword drawn and gleaming in the pale light reflected by the lantern held in his other hand. Traps had taken the lives of the rest of the members of his small party, but this room was the last, and he’d be damned if he didn’t check every corner before leaving.
The room’s walls were lined with shelves heavy with books, though several had collapsed over time and their contents were now scattered haphazardly on the floor. A heavy table sat in the middle of the room, its surface holding a globe, a massive book, and a variety of loose parchment. A lamp sat on one of the corners of the table as well, its flame long-since extinguished. Symond ignored the table for now, circling around the perimeter of the room, hunting for any kind of device that may trigger a trap. Half his party had died when a razor-thin string had been tripped and the entire floor of the room they were in fell away. Those outside the room, all four of them including Symond, had heard their screams grow distant before they abruptly fell silent.
Upon reaching a fork in the hallway they had split up, much more careful of hazards. Symond and his companion had found and disabled half a dozen traps before the sounds of steel on steel echoed through the halls. The pair arrived at the doorway just in time to see their companions run each other through with their blades. A deep-purple gem fell from the hand of one of slain men, but as Symond took a step toward forward it turned black and then evaporated in an ominous cloud.
The body of his last companion was already cooling outside the door of the room Symond now occupied, his back perforated with dozens of small darts fired from tubes concealed in the opposite wall. Symond drove thoughts of the danger from his mind, concentrating only on being careful and examining this one last room.
Rounding the table, Symond came to a stop as he encountered a body lying prone on the floor. It was wrapped in a mud-caked cloak, one arm outstretched and filled with ash. Symond could see now that the body had been a man, and also that the several arrows embedded in his back had been his undoing. This was somewhat curious, though, as the room was far too small to make shooting a man once with a bow and arrow practical, much less doing it four times. Symond set his lantern on the table and knelt by the body. Just to be absolutely certain, he removed one glove and held it to the man’s neck. There was no pulse, and the man’s skin was cold. The blood from the wounds on his back was dry, as well. It seemed like he’d been dead for some time, and yet he showed no signs of decay…
Symond rose from the body and turned toward the table. His eyes fell on the book pages illuminated by the light of his lantern. Each seemed to be headed by a date, with long notes and musings penned beneath it. Symond flipped back several pages; each followed the same pattern of dates and notes. He turned the book back to the page it had been on before, nearly blank except for the date at the top, hastily written and unclear.
There was a gleam at the corner of his eye, and Symond turned to face the globe that shared the table. It seemed to be ever-so-slowly rotating on its axis; the gleam had been the light from his lantern reflecting off one of the inscriptions on its surface. Carefully, he reached out to halt its rotation…