Nahlia’s Journal 4

Julian looked me right in the face, lying atop her in that dusty hallway. “Good catch,” was all she said. But after that she let Llaren and I go first.

When we finally made it to the study (two spike pits, a bear trap, and three poison darts later) the whole group was ready to get the books and be done with it.

The study was musty, covered in cobwebs and freezing. It felt like a tomb. Bookshelves lined the walls, full of ancient and arcane volumes that even I wanted to take a peek at. The far side of the room contained a wooden desk, and behind it sat a skeleton in kingly garb. The skeleton’s outstretched hands rested atop an enormous leather bound tome, the jewel of this collection. No doubt the remains belonged to the former owner of the keep, still watching over his books even in death.

Llaren and I quickly checked the room for traps. Finding none, we gestured for the mages to enter and take what they needed. Still, something didn’t feel right. Why wouldn’t the owner of the keep have some last line of defense for his personal library?

I locked eyes with Julian, who was still cautiously investigating the bookshelves. We looked over to the desk, where one of the newer adepts was attempting to pry the tome out of the bony clutch of the skeleton.

“Put that down, you fool!” Julian shouted.

It was too late. The skeleton sprang to life, a sinister glow emanating from its ghastly eye sockets. The adept shrieked and tried to run, but the skeleton latched onto her wrist. Before Llaren or I could react, Julian fired off a blast of magicka, rattling the skeleton’s jaw and loosening its grip on the adept.

She left the book where it was and retreated to the other side of the room. “Votary, we could use a portal,” Julian said to me.

“But what about the books? We’ve come so far!” I said.

“They don’t matter. I want my adepts out of here, safely.” Julian’s eyes blazed as she sent another bolt of magic to the skeleton, who was beginning to summon a fireball in its bony fingers.

I had to respect that. The portal came easily to me. The adepts retreated, some of them clutching tomes they managed to grab on the way out. Finally, it was just Llaren, Julian, and I.

“Let’s go,” Llaren said. But Julian hesitated. I could tell she hated the idea of leaving empty-handed. I did, too.

“Wait,” Julian said. She looked at me.

“What are you doing?” Llaren shouted as he ducked an oncoming fireball.

“Just go!” I said to him. I saw that Llaren wanted to argue, but years of fighting together had built a trust between us that was hard to break. Despite his reservations, he did as I asked, leaping into the portal without a backward glance.

Julian was already summoning up a spell, her face a mask of concentration. “Are you ready?” she asked.
I nodded.

Without another word, Julian launched a massive blast of elemental energy at the skeleton, knocking it back off its feet. As she did so, I lunged forward and covered the last few feet to the desk, snatching the ancient tome before the skeleton could recover its balance. Julian was already disappearing through the portal as I turned back, and I hurled the book through first before leaping in myself and closing the portal.

I came back a little singed, but I can’t remember the last time such a grin cracked my face. It must’ve been contagious, because even Julian burst out laughing at the sight of me. Working with her might not be so bad, after all!

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