The scent of aging wood and excessive flora assaulted his sense of smell. The hidden library never seemed to change in terms of atmosphere. There was always an air of antiquity that ironically would never get old. The wealth of knowledge that surrounded him served only to show how long he had been around, and even further, how long others had been around before him. The gifts granted him by the Gods as Warden still surpassed all he could have dreamed before. Aegon contributed the best he could with how much was given to him once he ascended, but it seemed he could never quite transcribe everything. It was as if he had access to the heavens themselves but he was unable to put their knowledge into tomes in order for people to experience. It was his assumption that it was by design.
“You’ve been looking at the shelves down here like they’re going to do tricks.”
There was no mistaking her voice as she approached. Only one person ever knew where to find him and when.
“Perhaps they will. Who knows what this place is capable of…?”
His sarcasm reached beyond what most others ever witnessed. The same could be said for the humor. She was the only one since Gersemi to bring a smile to his face.
“If they were to do tricks then you would have witnessed as much by now….”
She smirked at his idle observation. When he turned to face her, the half smile remained, but she was frozen in place as though she were a statue. Aegon waved a hand in front of her face to provoke a reaction before realizing what was going on.
“Is this your idea of fun?” He asked as he turned to look for the culprit
“Sometimes, but not particularly in this case.”
The man in the black hood was standing there. He always had an ominous presence. Eyes like glowing garnets were set deep within his bony face and it was as though there was only ever enough light to expose his mouth. A ghoulish but familiar grin was enough to unsettle most.
“Very well then, what ominous foreshadowing do you have for me this time? You never seem to show unless there is something wrong,” Aegon finally replied.
“So presumptuous, Warden. It just so happens that you are correct this time.”
“While I appreciate the hospitality I cannot help but wonder what you get out of bringing me these tidings.”
The hooded figure stepped forward and slowly circled the Warden and his cohort. It was as though he floated rather than walked with such a seamless gait. Aegon could see his eyes flash over the woman between them now while he continued to make a full arc.
“You are best served not asking what I may gain but focusing more on what you wish not to lose, Dr. Alexander.”
A bit of anger rose inside of Aegon. Between his implications and the use of a name that had been all but lost to such a long past, tensions began to rise. His mind was set only on the thought of losing someone else to the perils of Loka. In an attempt to maintain composure he stifled the emotions until he knew more.
“You have a curious way of carrying on conversations, old friend.”
“If it were not for the intrigue then what flavor would there be in such an exchange?”
“My patience is running thin, seer. We agreed to work together. I never said I would stand to be led around by riddles.”
Aegon was careful to keep his tone level. Despite that he did not bow to this man, he knew it would likely mean his own end if he pushed too hard. The seer finally made a full circle and stood idle for a moment, still grinning faintly.
“In time, you should expect to encounter a new foe. It will likely not be nearly as hazardous as those you’ve already faced, but these are not to be trifled with. You have already seen that the creatures here are unlike any you’ve faced before… Now you must be prepared for the people.”
“We are always ready. The Lokans will never stray from any evil that could threaten us.”
“I thought you might say that. In any case, you have your tidings.”
He turned and began hovering away. The Warden thought for a moment to stop him and ask more but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to actually know more. Sometimes it was best not to know every detail of one’s fate.
“Aegon...what is it?”
That voice again. He blinked and the seer was gone. All that remained was her and he was enveloped by the change in atmosphere. He smiled and turned to look at her. She seemed to not even realize that anything had just transpired. Yes, sometimes it was best not to know every detail.
“Nothing,” he said softly.
She reached up and turned his face so that their eyes met more directly. She glared at him as though trying to understand a perplexing mystery. It had to be evident that he had gone from content to troubled in mere seconds. He was sure that it seethed from his expression, from the ruby eyes that now stared deeply into sapphires that rendered him helpless every time she looked at him.
There was no further question that followed. She gave no objection to his response. There was only a silent exchange for a moment that seemed an eternity. In that short time it was though an entire conversation passed. She understood enough to know that he had to leave and that he would not tell her everything, not because he did not want to, but because it would ultimately protect her. She took another step and opened her arms while Aegon did the same. While standing there, embracing one another, she whispered to him.
“Go. Do what needs to be done. I will be here when you are finished.”
She could barely feel him nod but it was enough. In another blink of an eye, he was gone.
The sound of a fire crackling in the hearth was a welcomed sound. Flames always seemed to remind him of times when he reveled in glory and battle. The thought was only temporary though. That life was long gone and there were far more pressing matters at the forefront of his mind. Aegon looked around the cabin. It took only a second more before a familiar face came around the corner from the kitchen. The look on his face wasn’t necessarily surprise but it was obvious he did not expect the visit.
“Well, fancy that. A real-life Warden.”
Cryptite smiled which only prompted the same from his visitor. Closing the gap between them they both extended their hands to shake that turned into a half hug like relatives who had not seen one another in some time.
“I know. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. Try to contain your excitement,” Aegon said.
That prompted a chuckle while they both took a seat before the fire. There were glasses and a decanter on the table already. Neither of them wasted any time before pouring a few ounces and raising a glass. It was already assumed that they might need it which was an unfortunate circumstance when either visited the other. One short story followed another while they exchanged pleasantries until finally, business reared its ugly head.
“Well, let’s hear it. I enjoy the company and visit but we both know there’s more,” Cryptite said.
“You remember the man in the black robes? The seer?”
Cryptite only nodded, not addressing the man for who he really was even to confirm that he understood particularly who was being referenced.
“He came to visit, this time at the Library… Time stood still as though were were in a rift.”
The former Warden stopped in the middle of a drink when he heard that. The brooding old man in robes was known for unexpected visits but never so far as to intrude on someone’s personal quarters or affairs.
“Well then, it must have been a pretty important bit of news.”
“That it was, but when isn’t it with him, I suppose.” Aegon finished the last glass he had poured, setting it down on the table next to the decanter. “It seems we were right when we first arrived here. The creatures aren’t the only things we have to worry about.”
Cryptite also emptied his glass and sat it down, both of them now leaning forward in their chairs and speaking low as though someone might hear.
“Are you saying what I think you are?”
“Yes,” Aegon said with a nod.
“I don’t know. He only confirmed the suspicion.” Aegon stared at a knot in the wooden table between them while Cryptite hung his head in contemplation. “All I know is now we’re facing a new problem. The Slicers in Aladra aren’t the only people.”
“And according to ‘the hood, this is going to be a bad thing for everyone.” Cryptite was only met with a nod in answer. “I see, and you’re telling me because…”
“You are still of the Vanir. Worst case scenario, we may need their help.”
“We both know that’s a stretch after everything that’s happened.” Cryptite shook his head slightly with an uncertain look on his face.
“I know, but the odds are more in your favor than mine…” Aegon said.
It took a moment but the look of realization was apparent when he pieced it together. They would need to call on Freyjia….