Venne worked at the lock, sitting back on his haunches twice with a puzzled look on his face before there was a snick of the lock sliding back. He stood up again, still frowning, and laid a hand on the door-knob.
"What is it?" said Mirko, stood a pace behind Lianna, his staff readied.
"The strangest thing," said Venne, his eyes distant, "I could have sworn that something kept..." his voice drifted off, and then he stiffened, pulling himself back together. "I could have sworn that I had that lock twice, but each time I'd missed something."
"Open the door then," said Lianna, speaking over Mirko who'd been about to ask Venne what he'd originally been going to say. Venne's hand tightened, turning the knob, and then he and the door moved in a graceful arc, revealing the room beyond.
"...more junk," said Lianna lowering her sword and moving forward. "Dust is undisturbed again, I think this part of the tower has been disused for a while now. The guards wouldn't come back here much, maybe they were told to stop anyone else doing so too."
She was looking at a tripod with a mounting on top, a box with what looked to Mirko like a broken telescope poking out of it, and some glass discs stacked against the wall. Dust still covered everything, but did not conceal the heavy grooves in the floor that stretched over to the window, this being the first window in the tower they'd seen that was at waist height.
"Something was thrown out of the window, too," she said, stepping into the room.
As her foot crossed the threshold Mirko felt a sudden surge of energy pouring into the new room. It tingled through his body, seeming to pour down from the ceiling, and tiny, multi-coloured lights sparkled in his vision. Then there was a tight, constricting feeling, and as he reached for his druidic powers he got a fleeting glimpse of something vast and green, a sense of depth that went on and on, and a jagged moment of pain. Something coalesced beyond him in the room with Lianna, and something else seemed to burst in his head. All he could see was leaves, falling down and whirling around as though caught in a storm, and a strong scent of lavender filled his nostrils. He stumbled, falling to his knees, his hands flung out in front of him to break his fall.
Lianna had stopped and was staring at the room in front of her. Something under the dust was moving, several somethings in fact. They scuttered like mice or rats, a shuffling noise seeming to echo from the walls. Then as something thumped behind her the dust swirled upwards, rising like an inverted tornado, and the scuffling shuffling things were revealed as yellowed bones. They reassembled themselves, clicking and clacking together, into a short, humanoid skeleton with burning points of green in the eye-sockets. The dust fell to the floor as suddenly as it had risen, and the skeletal thing took a hesitant step towards her.
Venne saw Mirko fall, though could see no reason why, and then turned and saw the skeletal thing construct itself out of seemingly nowhere. He looked back at Mirko, who was clutching at the floor and breathing heavily, sweat standing out on his brow, and then at Lianna who was waiting for the skeleton to get within range of her sword. He lifted his foot, undecided whether to flee or stay.
As the skeleton moved it gained confidence, and, Lianna noted with horror, wasn't done forming yet. Something was starting to grow over its bones, something brown and bark-like, and at the ends of the joints small, twiggy tendrils were seeking each other out. Making a quick decision she stepped forward in a neat lunge, her sword swinging in an upward arc. It missed the bones, but caught on some of the tendrils. They resisted, but the momentum behind the swing pulled it on through and the tendrils ripped, the skeleton's shoulder wobbling as it lost stability. Lianna took a half-step backwards as the thing still came on, and reversed her stroke, aiming for the skull.
A dagger appeared in Venne's hand from a hidden pocket in the sleeve of his cloak. Still he hesitated, caught between running and fighting.
Pressure beat on the inside of Mirko's skull, a throbbing that made his eyes pulse in their sockets and left a dull drumming in his ears. His body shook as the energy continued to pour through the room and seek him out as lightning seeks out a metal conductor. Odd organic shapes formed and broke again in his mind as something primeval tried to understand him. And, Mirko suddenly realised, as he tried to understand it.
Lianna's sword sliced through more tendrils, but they grew out faster now, tying back together within seconds of her separating them. Slowly she was pushed back one step, then another, and then another. She risked a glance over her shoulder, making sure that she was heading to the doorway, and saw Mirko shaking on all fours on the floor; Venne was nowhere to be seen. She turned back, and pressed an attack against the skeleton, pushing it back a step and chipping its upper arm bones, but then a moment later she was losing ground again.
Venne's hand tightened on the dagger as he made his decision.
Blood suddenly poured from Mirko's nose, splattering quietly on the dusty floor.