Illustration by Syreene
My curiousity is definitely piqued from Ef Utan and Gimras’ stories about these stairs that take you all over the planes. I whisper a quick prayer to Lenata’s travelling god that we don’t get lost, and step through the door…
…to see a staircase that for some reason reminds me of our time in Borovia. I look around to see at least fifteen feet of gothic black stone decorated with wicked looking blades as the staircase winds up and down out of our sight.
“You have to love the Lady’s sense of style,” Ef Utan remarks dryly. “The way the staircase looks will change, however, depending on what area we are close to. Which begs the question… which way shall we go?”
“Um…uh…how about we flip a coin?” I suggest cheerfully to try and cover up my awe and inexperience. “Heads we go up, Tails we go down.” Ef Utan nods, and with a flick of his wrist flips a silver coin into the air. My tail twitches as I resist the urge to snatch it.
With a quick grab he slaps it into his palm and reveals the coin. “Up it is.” I glance up the neverending stairs and take a deep breath before we begin our climb.
Eventually the gothic stairs become less imposing and give way to a more simple style of sturdy wood. Well… most of it is sturdy anyway. There was a spot or two where the wood was looking a bit questionable, so I had to go across first to tell Ef Utan where best to step. My shoulder still aches at times when we walk the rain-drenched streets of Sigil… I do not look forward to having to catch Ef Utan again with all that armor.
We finally come to another door that is quite beautiful; it’s framed by white marble pillars and made from a rich dark wood that just makes me want to run my hands across it. “This looks nice,” I say with a nod of my head towards the door. “Care to give it a go?”
Ef Utan smiles and gestures towards the door with a wave of his hand. I rub my hands together excitedly and crack open the door to see something that once again makes me believe that the farther I run from home, the closer I seem to get to it.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I mutter to myself. “There’s a bunch of what look like Mulhorandi soldiers fighting some guys in togas in a library in there!” I say to Ef Utan in amazement.
“A library, you say?” Ef Utan asks curiously as he rubs his chin. “Maybe we should help whomever the library belongs to… you never know what kind of useful information they might have.”
“I like the way you think, my friend…let me see if I can figure out who owns the place.” I say as we sneak through the door and I disappear from view with the help of my ring.
Eventually I manage to weave through the fight and find what look like a pair of scholarly types in togas hiding in fear behind some books. I wonder if they speak Helenic? Here’s hoping those ancient language books I’d been reading in the Seeker’s Library will prove useful.
“Do not fear, my friends,” I whisper. “As fellow protectors of knowledge, we seek to help those of this library.”
One of the men nearly bowls the other one over as he scoots back in fear. “Who are you? What are you?” he answers shakily in Helenic.
Ah, good. Now think, Kenari… what were their gods again?
“The great goddess Athena, guardian of wisdom and battle, has heard your prayers and sent us to aid you in the protection of this library,” I bluff. Let them think what they will… better than trying to have to explain my appearance to them.
“Then please, save us from the Osirans!” the other man begs desperately.
“That’s all I needed to hear, my friend.” I say and carefully sneak my way back to Ef Utan, with my tail just missing a trim by inches.
“The Osirans who look like people from Gheldaneth are the invading force here,” I tell him.
“Got it,” he says as he draws his sword. “Are you going to have any problem with this?”
I smile as I draw my guns, as this is a good a chance as any to take out some childhood frustration. “No… no problem at all.” Sure, they’re not actually Mulhorandi… but damn it, they’re close enough. I junp out from the door way with my guns drawn as I spew insults in a language I hope they understand, but I don’t feel the satisfying kick of the guns as they fire; I just get a small ‘click’ and nothing.
“What do you mean, guns don’t work?” I throw my guns down and snarl in frustration as Ef Utan leaps into battle with his sword. “Guess I’ll have to do this the old fashioned way,” I say to myself as I strap on my claws.
With a roar I leap into the fray, my strange appearance yet familiar tattoos hopefully catching them off guard. With any luck, maybe they’ll think I’m a vengeful avatar of Bast or something. Before too long the battle ends and with the help of the other soldiers we manage to take out the Osirans in the library. I start to rifle through their things when Ef Utan nudges me and nods towards the remaining soldiers.
“Maybe that should wait till after you explain things to them,” he whispers.
Silly me, I have to fight my natural urges, sometimes. I smile in chagrin and wipe my claw off on one of the Osiran’s skirts before extending an open hand to the surviving soldiers. “Peace be with you, my friends, for we mean no harm. My friends and I were just passing through and thought it would be a travesty if a library such as this fell to the spoils of war. Pray tell, what library is this, that we may speak of this struggle to others?”
“You are in the Great Library of Zandria in Nova Roma, strangers, and I am saddened to say that you are now cursed like the rest of us,” one of the soldiers answers.
I gulp and try to keep a smile on my face as Ef Utan looks at me questioningly. “Cursed… why whatever do you mean?”
“Those blasted Set and Osiris followers had their gods curse us with a plague of boils and bleeding from the eyes!” one of the soldiers said angrily. “They all deserved their fate, so thank you for your help.”
Goddess save us… a plague? I back up towards the door as innocently as I can and tug on Ef Utan’s arm as I whisper, “We need to get out of here…now.”
“It truly saddens me, my friends, they would do such a thing. Rest assured, we will do our best to aid you in a search for a cure when we return home.”
“I don’t understand,” the first soldier asks, “how are you going to get home that way?”
“Bye-bye!” I say with a wave as we leave through the door and back to the Everclimb. As soon as we close the door behind us I sigh and slide down the door to sit on the stairs. “Ok… Sigil is looking awfully good right now.”
“What was that all about?” Ef Utan asks in frustation.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever read about the Gods of Mulhorand, Ef…but they seem to have a thing for cursing people with plagues…” I joke weakly. “What do you say we go meet up with everbody at the temple, now?”
Ef Utan rolls his eyes and sighs. “Yeah… probably a very good idea.”
We make our way back down the stairs a little quicker than when we came up. When we get to the spot of weakened wooden stairs, however, I can’t help but notice that it’s creaking even after we’ve passed it. As nonchalantly as possible I take out my handy-dandy pipe and light it with my sparker. Ef Utan shakes his head and continues on, until I quickly turn and puff the smoke behind me.
Suddenly the space behind us coughs and the air shimmers to reveal a strange yet beautiful creature that reminds me of the intimidating winged serpent I met once. This one looks a lot better from the waist up, however, as the tail forms into the top half of a woman instead of an angry snake.
Thankfully Ef Utan is more used to this kind of thing than I as he unbuckles his scabbard and rests his hand on the hilt of his sword. “Can we help you?”
“I am Laresca of the Lillend, travellers, and we guard the Everclimb. I mean you no harm… I was just curious to see who everyone was talking about at the World Serpent Inn.”
“We are just heading back to Sigil for healing, Laresca. Please inform any other travellers that the world past the door we left is suffering from a plague,” Ef Utan informs her.
“Thank you, travellers. May your healing be swift and true.”
We wave goodbye and head back down to the door to Sigil so that we can get to the Temple of Celestian to get checked out by the clerics. I can’t get over what the Lillend said, though. I wonder what they’re saying about us at the World Serpent Inn? Perhaps we should head there for a drink again… though I’ll let someone else order from that snake-bearded bartender.