William's Brother

“Warrior Will?” Arlis said, bemused. “Is he getting people to call him by his name now?”

Willow seemed to realise she might have spilled a little too much. A smart guard like Arlis could figure a lot out from one sentence if someone said too much. He could deduce that if Will needed a name then something had happened to his guard job, and we really didn’t need him to know that.

“What are you here for this time, girls? And who’s your friend?” he added, regarding me warily.

“That’s… Marie. She’s new, we’re just showing her the Immortal hotspots. The Archives are next on the list.”

She gave him a convincing smile and I stood with them, trying to look like I was Marie. Whoever Marie was. Likely she didn’t exist at all.

“Okay,” Arlis sighed, waving his long-fingered hand to the door. His build was deceptive. He wasn’t broad like Will, but he was lean with wiry muscles almost hidden by his guard shirt. The long fingers made his hands look slender and feminine but I had no doubt of the strength in them, otherwise he wouldn’t be appointed to the job.

I turned away and followed the others to the door. It was an unremarkable plain dark wood with a wooden knob which Willow twisted and pushed the door open.

We slipped inside and I closed the door behind us as I was the last one through. When I turned to face the room we were in I was surprised. The light was dim and I had already formed an impression of a small windowless room in my head; however this was a spacious square room with a window taking up most of the left wall, closed off by a heavy black curtain which looked like velvet. The walls were white and the floor uncarpeted pale wood. There was nothing at all in the room except for four sofas arranged in a perfect square dead centre on a silvery rug. There was a small rectangular glass table in the middle with a blue glass vase filled with white roses. It all seemed really odd - too formal, too angular, too precisely arranged. And too dark.

There were two more sets of doors leading out of this room, both carved double doors with what looked like Latin words painted on in calligraphy. Even in the dimness, the curlicued letters seemed to shine with their own luminescence.

“This way,” Meena instructed, striding around the seating area of the room to the doors behind it. She set both hands, palm forward, one on each door; I waited for her to push them but she didn’t. Then there was a subtle kind of pulse in the air, like a small electric shock, and I saw her tense her arms so that she wouldn’t pull them away. The pulse faded - if I had felt it in the air, how much stronger must it have been flowing directly into Meena? She dropped her hands and the doors clicked. She really did push them inwards this time.

“Another hand-print recognition security system?” I asked, remembering the one at the Downworld, which had glowed blue before admitting us.

“Nothing as advanced as that,” she smiled. “It’s not finger print recognition - it just registers your print and who you are before letting you in, so they know who was here when.”

I didn’t bother to ask who ‘they’ were as I followed them tentatively into the room beyond. I hadn’t expected much - in fact, I didn’t know what to expect at all - so I was surprised anyway when I found myself stood in a library.

Looking more closely, I realised that it wasn’t just books on the rows of metal-framed, glass-shelved cases. There were all manner of odd artefacts I couldn’t quite discern in the dusky gloom of the spacious room. There were three windows, small rectangles, at the very top of two of the four walls which allowed shafts of grey daylight in. I could see dust motes swirling magically in the light.

The End

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