Samuel had gotten so caught up in his reading he hadn't noticed that more than the requisite few hours had passed. When he looked outside and saw the sun setting he spoke.
"Oh, seems more than a few hours have passed. I'm sorry, I should have asked if you wanted me to leave well before now. So do you have any decision as to whether I should stay, go, or get someone else?" He asked as he gently closed the book.
Iris opened an eye. She had fallen asleep with her book. "Go. Stay. It doesn't matter to me. If it'll make you feel better making sure your patient doesn't die in the middle of the night, you can sleep here, I don't care. If you're leaving, lock the door on your way out. I'm tired. And..." she paused, putting the book on the side table. "Hn. It was nice of you to stay."
"You're welcome. Now get some rest, sorry to disturb your sleep." Samuel said simply with a smile before sticking his nose back into the book. He took the last part as a hint to stay. So with that he once again lost himself in the book he had been reading. A few minutes later Iris had fallen asleep and Samuel saw little non-personal reasons he would want to stick around. He unlocked the door before picking up his pile of books and walking back out, locking the door again behind him.
"Yes, this is the Ritual of the Mouth. Finding it was not difficult, it was guarded by several Wraiths which made it...problematic, but nothing we couldn't handle." He held up a sheet of parchment. "As for why we need these rituals, in case you didn't notice it's impossible to leave this valley as it is, and the swamp grows in size every year. We have perhaps a year, maybe two before it completely covers this entire valley. If it continues it's growth - and I have no reason to think it will not - it will likely consume the entire world in a matter of decades."
"Wisps...that's brilliant, Akivasha. I hadn't even thought of that. They've been sighted several times in the swamp. You'll need a way to lure them, something that would draw a child. And a way to contain them until you can shed their light on the Obelisk. I'll get to work making a flask. Try asking around the town for some candy, I think that should work."
He walked out to join the others in the group with the books still in hand.
"Iris is fine, she fell asleep. Evening Hassan, I found a bunch of religious texts. Hopefully one of these might help you. Also would you happen to have anything on medicine or the healing magic you said I had the ability to do earlier? I remember how to do some things, but others are still a mystery to me." He said as he entered the room
Hassan glanced at the books. "Hmm...Mit Dah Khadagah's pretty obscure, but nothing special...Holy Codices are practically on every bookshelf, surprised you'd find one in there, though. Dianetics..." He shuddered as he glanced at the title, then flung it across the room into the fire. "Lunatic. The Book of the Dead...let me see." He flipped it open, then his eyes glazed over. "Hieroglyphics on paper. What." He shut it. "Can't read it, sorry." He opened Akhin Doskhosas. "Yeah, read it." He flicked it into a pile. "The Old Gods...not even a religious text, just an over-wordy treatise on ancient religions."
"The Lords of Darkness..." He opened it, then slammed it shut again. "Okay. You definitely found something interesting in there." He made a gesture, a white rune appearing in the air. "Don't read this without protection. I'm pretty sure this text has been copied directly from the நோய் போர் இறப்பு பஞ்சம்." Hassan's voice shifted into a bizarre, inhuman tongue that Samuel couldn't help from recoil from. It felt wrong in his ears, like something that was never intended to be.
Hassan pointed up. "Don't know for sure, but check the library. The Borgovs have a pretty extensive collection. East Tower."
"Alright then, I may place these in there as well. Thank you Hassan." Samuel said before heading towards the towers. He decided to make a small detail first however, he had neglected to meet the little girl who also lived with them. He wouldn't stay very long, he just felt it impolite that he hadn't introduced himself yet. Soon enough he was standing in front of the door he could the little girl behind. He knocked on the door before speaking.
"Excuse me, may I come in?"
At least this time it was a real nightmare. I don't think I could handle another hallucination. Iris sat up in her bed, noticing that Samuel had gone. She lit the lamp beside her bed, burying her face in her hands. She needed something to do other than sleep at the moment, or else she would go crazy.
She put on her things and double checked that she had the Ritual of Blood and the journal page, then went to look for Hassan. She was partially surprised that he hadn't come looking for her yet, but figured that Rob had copied down what he needed.
"Around town?" Akivasha paused. "General store would likely have some. Excellent idea. I'll head out to get some right away. In the meantime.. Does anyone have anything they need while I'm out?"
She looked around the room, expression mild. So strange that one so quiet and clearly sinister can actually be occasionally helpful. Perhaps she is trying to make up for her taciturn nature and near invisibility.
The door swung open and Toby stood there, staring at Samuel. He urfed, then stepped aside, allowing Samuel to enter.
"Hi! You're Samuel, right? Aunt Trina said you'd come to visit us." She hopped down from her bed/casket and walked over to him, holding out her hand to shake around his mid-thigh. "I'm Tanya, and this is my best friend Toby."
* * *
Hassan turned to Iris as she entered. "Ah, you've got the Ritual of Blood? May I take a look at it?"
Samuel kneeled down so he was eye level before shaking the girl's hand with a smile. He spoke with the girl as he would have anyone else in the castle.
"Well I figure it is only polite to introduce myself to my hosts. Seeing as I haven't really had the chance before I figured now was the perfect time. So, nice to meet you Tanya and Toby, I'm Samuel. So how did Katrina know I would eventually visit?"
Iris crossed her arms. "How do we now you aren't just going to use these rituals to summon the dark god, and not seal him? I glanced over the ritual... it seems to influence the reader to perform the ritual, not to counter it. Show me how you reverse the first ritual."
"She told us you'd come to stay with us at the Castle yesterday. I just guessed eventually you'd find your way here. Have you seen Miss Iris?"
* * *
Hassan glanced at her. "It's a pretty complicated procedure. But sure." He set the Ritual of the Mouth on the table, then a second set of parchment next to it. The second had a ritual on it that looked very similar, but had a few syllables altered. "The alteration process is pretty simplistic here - the Ritual of the Mouth has to work as intended to allow us access to the rest of the cave. But you see, you excise the 'I'a', challenge him instead of declaring, and so on. There's also tonal differences - to invert the effects, you must be less worshipful and more combative, combined with the syllabic changes."
"An excellent guess, and I have. Last I knew she was asleep in her room, but it has been a little while so she could be up and moving around. If you want me to I could look for her or tell her that you want to see her the next time her an I talk if you want. Though I am curious what Katrina said to clue you in on my wanting to meet you." He replied. He was actually rather glad he was meeting these two. Hopefully all of this wasn't simply a lie, everyone seemed to be rather nice.
"She didn't say much to me, just said you were an old friend of hers come to visit. I just knew you'd come to see me. I get hunches like that sometimes." She looked at his medkit. "What's in that box?"
"Medical supplies and something my old self got a minor addiction to. I wouldn't recommend getting even as minor an addiction as I seem to have to something." Samuel replied, a want to use the last of his cocaine crossed his mind but he suppressed it.
Hopefully I can get more soon. Or else I'll be dealing with withdrawal, and this really isn't the time for that. Though this is starting to make me think I really should see if I can't find a spell to get rid of these addictions.
"So what other hunches have you had? Perhaps if they pertain to the group I can confirm or deny them." He said.
"I see. have you actually done this ritual yet?" Iris glanced over the letters. They were the same as the other ritual, first indecipherable and then slowly making sense. "And what will you do with the rituals once you are done with them?" Hopefully everything will be destroyed after completion... no sense in reversing everything now only to have another person try to summon him again...
"Not yet, no. They have to all be done relatively close to each other, in the proper sequence. Once I finish this, the rituals will hopefully be rendered useless. If not, then I'll destroy them and the Book of Avuzahl. If destroying them is impossible, I'll load them into a chest and weight it down with rocks, then charter a ship to take me to a deep ocean trench. And then I'll dump the chest overboard, so that it'll never be found again."
* * * *
"I had a hunch that you and Iris and Aunt 'Trina were going to save the day!" Her face darkened. "I also had a hunch that your gnome friend was a bad man. You should be careful around him, I don't think he can be trusted."
She suddenly brightened. "So what's an addiction?"
"Well an addiction is something that I begin to have physical problems if I go without. I don't need it to live, but my body has come to want it so much that if I deny it it actually makes life harder for me. I'm hoping once this is over I may begin to work through them or at least maybe begin to ween myself off of the substance I'm addicted to." Samuel replied before thinking a bit.
"Well I hope you hunch is correct in the first part. As for Theo, mt gnome friend as you called him, he doesn't seem like a particularly bad man. Loose of morals and very suspicious yet but considering our situation at least his suspicion makes sense. From the sound of it he wasn't a very trusting man even before this all happened."
"Oh." Tanya nodded. "Like blood?" She smiled at him.
* * * * *
As day turned to night, the doors swung open and Katrina entered the castle, fire in her eyes. "That Faerie bitch is lying to me. Every time I bring up the subject of the Rituals she says she has no idea where they are but I can see it in her eyes that she's holding something back."
Hassan gave her the information they had retrieved.
"Damn it. Morrigan should know this. Baba Yaga's here, in the valley...at the Hangman's Tree. I'd lay good money she has the Ritual."
"Something like that. Except in your case you do actually need it to survive as you are. For me if I stopped using what I was addicted to it would be as if I got sick for time. I would eventually get better. But yes, blood is close to it." Samuel said smiling back. He wasn't disturbed by the talk of blood, she was a vampire after all. He figured if she were also going to attempt to attack him she would have already. A thought occurred to him.
"You know, I need to go to another tower to see if I can possibly find any books on medical magic. The work would go by quicker if I had some help. I'd like to also continue talking to you, and I'm sure you must get a little bored in your room. Perhaps you might like to go with me and see if you can help me find some books and possibly find some you might like as well. Of course your friend and protector can come along." He offered. He did need to try and find some books on medicine and magic so that he might regain a little bit more of his old life. Though the girl did seem nice and wanted to continue talking to her.
Iris looked up at the angry Katrina who stormed in. Morrigan hmm? "Maybe if you stopped referring to her as a bitch you would get somewhere." she mentioned offhandedly, seemingly content to watch Hassan work. "The Ritual of Bone being a bit hard to find hm? Maybe I'll go find someone to take out there, look around myself."
Rob had heard the door open and started heading to the source of the noise. "Ah, good to see everyone is gathering all in one spot. If I had known this earlier, my notes could have waited. Now then, what have I missed? How goes the search for the remaining rituals?"
"Rob." Katrina smiled and kissed him, then stepped back and put her hands on the table. "With this piece of data, I think we can conclude where the last four rituals are. Gregor I'm still not sure about, but..."
Katrina reached into her cloak and withdrew a cloth map, spreading it across the table. "The Hangman's Tree is here, on the southeast side of the valley. Not too far from the swamp. The Obelisk is here, directly in front of the Cave. And the Mad Monk's tomb is somewhere within the western reaches of the swamp. By my calculations, it's here." She pointed at a spot near the edge of the mountains.
"As for Gregor, I've never seen him, but I have noticed a place where there is an unusually high concentration of magical energies, here." She pointed at a spot just north of the Mordavian lake. "I suspect Gregor or his remains are somewhere in that vicinity, possibly concealed by magic. Given that I suspect Gregor is dead - or more specifically, undead - I think we should be able to locate him if we head out there during the night."
Katrina glanced between them in turn. "Much as I want to get out of this valley as fast as possible, splitting up doesn't seem wise to me. However, we might be able to retrieve the rituals from the Obelisk and Baba Yaga without bloodshed, so we could send two groups out to handle that as soon as possible, then deal with Gregor tonight and the Mad Monk's Tomb in the morning. Rob, Iris, thoughts?"
* * * * *
Tanya nodded. "Alright! It's not quite night yet, but it's dark enough from the storms, so let's go."
Samuel picked up the small pile of books he had placed by the door before he Tanya, and the rather large thing that was with her continued to the correct tower. When he got there he placed the texts on the table before looking over the library.
"Well hopefully this won't take too long. If you see anything that might be of interest I'd be glad to carry it back to your room for you as well since you decided to help me. So what do you two end up doing most of the time?" Samuel said as he began to comb the shelves looking for anything that might relate to medicine or magical healing.
"I can go see if I can find Baba Yaga with Samuel and perhaps Rob. I think you and Akivasha would be better with the Obelisk, since you seem the most magically inclined... it sounds like a good idea I suppose, especially if we go while it's still..." She looked outside, frowning. "While I think it's still day."
Fetching candy in any civilized town should be little issue, even in one as isolated as Mordavia. Confections were a good way of distracting oneself from the biding threat around them. A pity that Akivasha had nothing of a sweet tooth as she departed the castle for the general store.
If all went well, she would return shortly afterwards with a bag of candy, unknowingly appropriate for the time of year. Ideally she'd be back in time for the discussion of further plans.
As the others began considering splitting into teams, she spoke up, "The Obelisk that our smaller friend was poking at earlier, yes? That's doable. I need to head to the swamp anyway. That much is settled, at least. I hope the corpse-lights are out during the day.. though perhaps that won't matter given the cloud cover over the marsh."
"The sun has gone down anyway. The Wisps will likely be out already."
Hassan left the room briefly and returned with a jar. "I treated this glass to contain spectres. Put the candy in the jar, then when the wisps have swarmed inside, close it and you should be able to use them. Just open it up once you've retrieved the ritual to release them."
Katrina glanced around. "Where are the others, anyway?" She raised her hand to her throat, her voice gaining an echoing quality despite seeming no louder. "Samuel, Gomik, Theodore, meet us in the entry hall. We have work to be done." Her voice echoed through the castle.
* * * * *
"That's Aunt 'Trina's Spooky Voice! Sounds like she wants you, Samuel."
"So it would seem. Guess that means I will have to continue my search later. I trust you can find your own way back, since it seems I'm needed. A pleasure meeting you, hopefully we will meet again soon." Samuel said before heading out. Soon enough he was walking into the main hall.
"You needed me?" He asked as he walked in.
Iris gestured for him to come over. "It seems that we are going to split up to get a few rituals. The ritual of Breath, back at the obelisk we encountered at the mouth of the cave, and the ritual of Bone, which is at the Hangman's Tree with some person called Baba Yaga. Do you have a preference?" She played with her nails for a second. "I'm going to see this tree."
Gomik poked his head out of a pile of spider junk that he had been working on. It did not look like anything at the current moment, but he was just waiting for something to inspire him. He heard Katrina call for everyone to meet down in the hall, and he took a few important bits of machinery he had been working on and placed them in his bag, carefully sliding it over his shoulder and heading down to meet every one else. He walked in with a grin on his face, he looked dirtier than usual, and smelled of machinery and oil. He walked closer and said "So what is to be done?" in a normal tone, wondering why he had been called away from his works.
"Well I don't know much about either, so not really. I'm sure some groups have been picked in the time we've been gone. If not I'll fall into line with whatever the group happens to decide." Samuel replied as he joined the group.
"Alright, let's get going. The sooner we get this done, the better. Mordavian nights haven't gotten any safer." Katrina finished belting on a thin-bladed sword. "I'll head for the Hangman's Tree. If worse comes to worse, I can buy you time to escape. Hopefully that won't happen. Baba Yaga is a dangerous foe, but tractable. She'll probably demand an offering in exchange for the Ritual. Last time I had to deal with her, she demanded an offering of..." Katrina shuddered and turned a little green. "Human blood mixed with bog muck. I don't even want to know."
Katrina headed for the door, the two groups close behind her.
"Sounds gross. Maybe we should have brought along some of that rotten blood wine to give her." Iris thought out loud. "So Katrina, I heard you adopted Tanya." she joked. "Where did her bodyguard come into the equation?" She had already made up her mind to go to the Hangman's Tree, if only because it would prove to be more interesting than the Obelisk. And hopefully the tactless gnome will be going in the opposite direction. It wouldn't be nice to have him run his mouth in front of this 'Baba Yaga'...
"Hopefully we can get through this quickly." Samuel said as the group he was a part of moved towards the obelisk.
"At least we already no what to do." He continued.