By James P.
Winner – 2013 Creative Corners Contest – Stories
Chapter 37 of the story of Rook Knothorn.
Wildly the heavy wooden door to the dusty monastery swings open. The blizzard raging outside engulfs the room in a flurry of snow, sending papers and other debris, untouched for years, swirling into the air. A faun quickly jumps through the doorway, slamming the large door behind him. The room returns to normal, beams of sunlight and a couple stray snowflakes trickle down from the rafters, where the room has caved in. Taking a second to catch his breath, he leans against the door as a smile creeps a crossed his face. Those familiar to the Frontier would recognize the faun by the shepherds robe, flowing out from underneath the winter furs, to be that of the one once worn by Fritz the faun and now worn by Rook Knothorn.
After a moment, Rook turns, entering the main chamber of the lost monastery. A large statue stands at the far end of the room. Part man, part snake, made of jade, the looming figure representing a long forgotten god, or an unnamed hero to the monks that once lived here. Getting to the center of the room, he grabs an over turned table, flipping it upright, before removing the leather backpack and gently placing it on the flat surface. Rook begins rummaging through the bag as be begins to talk to himself.
“Months of studying and work… and no one is here to see me do it.” He mumbles.
Unwrapping a slate covered book from a sheet of linen, he places it on the table, flipping through until he lands on the page he was looking for. After a moment of emptying the contents of the bag, Rook stands with a complete alchemy lab in front of him. Slowly he gets to work, mixing various plants and grinding stones into powder, whisking each thing into the caldron. With a bit of flint, Rook starts a cooking fire under the small cast iron bowl. While the concoction boils, he stirs it with a wooden spoon. Gazing into the swirling mass, he once again continues his conversation with the ancient jade statue.
“A whole month at Mercy’s library in the Empire I spent to find this silly recipe. Kind of one of those single shot deals, but I think this is worth it. I’ll tell ya, you think you have seen it all till you go to an actual Hell dimension. Now I’ve seen… too much. The world is too cold like this, it lacks the light it once had… and well… I’m going to fix that… at least for me.
The gold liquid bubbles up for a moment, almost as if to agree.
“I have given up memories before. Sacrificed to the Fairy for the defense of Carreg Wynn, but this is kind of different. There, an all-powerful being took a piece of me as payment… not payment… more like energy to power a magical device. Here though… well it’s more like a purge idea. Bad memories, those are hard to get rid of. They borrow down and cling to your mind. That’s where alchemy and you, my fine snake friend, come into play.”
Letting the potion simmer, Rook looks up at the stone gaze of the snake-man statue.
“See I need to borrow your place here, this tomb will serve nicely to jail the wretched memories I plan to remove from myself. After digging through what must have been a book shelf of folklores of the Thunder Mountains, I stumbled on a story of the monks that once lived here. I guess they were having some problems with these harmful spirits of bad emotions or… something like that. Well to protect themselves, they coated the walls here with their own pure hearted blood. Thus, creatures of ill emotional intent can’t get in to this room. Sadly for them it turns out what was really causing all the bad mojo around here was… you over there.”
Rook never takes his eyes off the statue as he pours the potion from the bowl into a small vial, gently shaking it. For a moment an eerie green light illuminates the jade from within the smooth cut stone.
“I’m guessing they didn’t know that when they drew the barrier of blood on the walls, they were actually locking themselves in here with the meanest spirit of them all. Then again, that’s why I’m here. Seems to me, if your still here, I could leave a bad memory here and it should stay put too. Honestly you should thank me; I’m giving you a pretty fun, tortured, mentally deranged room-mate.”
With the last word leaving his mouth, Rook tips back the vial between his lips, swallowing the potion with one gulp. The jade statue pulsates with light. Small cracks break into the edges of the face and chest, with more of the green light pouring out from those points.
Rook closes his eyes and begins chanting. “Loom of the mind, cut the strings that rot. Loom of the mind, cut the strings that rot, Loom of the mind, cut the strings that…”
Before he can finish his sentence, Rook doubles over in pain. He yells out as he drops to his knees, holding his stomach. Black oil begins pouring from his ears, pooling on the floor in front of him. The echoing sound of a hiss fills the room as a large chunk of the statue falls, breaking into hundreds of pieces on the ground. Rook shakes his head as the last of the ichor seeps off his cheeks. Suddenly the black liquid starts moving, writhing towards the faun. Small oily tentacles protrude out, reaching for the body that was once its home. Quickly Rook stands on his hooves and with one motion grabs the slate covered book on the table and backpack, slinging it over his shoulder.
Looking down at the wiggling black goo mass, Rook says. “So long whatever you are. It must have been worth it seeing how much work I put in to get rid of you.”
With that the snake-man statue bursts into pieces. Large chunks of jade, scatter a crossed the monastery. A green smoke, in the form of a serpent, floats where the statue once was. Quick as lighting, Rook bolts of the door. Behind him he hears the serpent spirit scream something at him in a language he doesn’t understand and with a whoosh; Rook can feel the presence crossing the room in pursuit of him. Getting to the wooden door, Rook find the once hidden red symbols painted on the wood, now glow red, meaning the ward of this place is in full effect. Grabbing the handle, he swings the door open. Rook can almost feel the spirits breath on the back of his neck, the creature being only moments from snatching up the daring faun. He musters all his might into a final leap, jumping through the archway. Turning he smiles as he slams the door. The last thing Rook see through the slip in the door is the face of a quite angry snake spirit and the writhing black mass slither into the shadows. After a loud smack sound against the wood door, the room falls silent.
Outside, the blizzard has stopped. The mountain range once again is visible all the way to the horizon. Rook takes a large breath as the gazes out from the mountain top the monastery sits on.
“It’s a long trip home, and Chastity is going to kill me when I get back. Might as well get this over with I guess.”
The faun sighs and hangs his head low and he starts walking down the dirt path, back to the base of the mountain and back to the road leading home.