The elves and chimeras find a room filled with records and books, and learn that a prominent figure from the beginning of the war between Akalai and Lassania is someone very familiar to the main characters...
It wasn’t long before we found the staircase. We could still hear the creatures upstairs. There were corpses everywhere as well. All of them… still had some form of life attached to them through the invisible creatures. But the most movement we saw from the ones outside of that room was shrinking away from us when we approached. None of them were alive in the traditional sense.
Not until we found our way to the place where the scientists had kept their records.
There was a moving corpse… no, a creature like the ones we had fought earlier… no… it didn’t seem to be either. We didn’t even notice it until we were inside the room and it had, presumably, noticed us. But it didn’t care. It was wearing a torn white robe that was almost completely destroyed. This was… what had become of one of the scientists.
Snitch, Fayne, and Safiena all started to draw their weapons, but Sentinel stopped them. “Wait. It’s not aggressive. And… it might be filled with dust, like the rest.”
Fayne nodded, and he and his sister sheathed their weapons again. Snitch sneered at his brother, but obeyed.
“So many books on these shelves,” Harold whispered, looking over them. “Sentinel? Do you think that it is possible they may have records of every Chimera here?”
“Everyone that was born before we escaped, yes,” Sentinel said. “We know the path out now, so we can take them all out. I do know that most of us elder Chimeras have full binders’ worth of information, though none of us know how the scientists referred to us.”
Harold nodded. The creature in the room ignored us completely, shambling to a corner and lying down, face against the ground. Storm, Valla, and I watched it for more than a few moments.
“...Is it bad that I can’t feel bad for it?” Storm growled. I shrugged.
“Assuming that the robe belonged to it, no.”
“Were the people who wore those robes the scientists?” Valla asked, keeping her voice low.
“Yeah,” I said, turning to her. “It seems like the dust is doing to them what they did to us. Seems pretty fitting if you ask me…”
Valla nodded, but sighed. “I… can’t help but wonder why they were doing it, though. Nothing can excuse their actions. Ever. But the optimist in me wants to believe they weren’t all doing it out of hatred…”
“Of course,” Scout said, seeming to appear behind us suddenly. He put his good hand on Valla’s shoulder. “When the dungeon was around, I kept track of which ones were just there to have a job, and were more likely to show some sympathy. Even some of the scientists disapproved of many things that happened, though we only ever heard of it from the guards talking about the ones who left.”
“Wow…” Valla said, shaking her head. “I’m sorry… I have no right to feel bad for them.”
“You’re fine,” Scout said with a smile. “You have a different perspective than us. That’s all. It’s fine to feel bad for them, as long as you understand that what they did was something that we, the victims, have every right to never forgive them for.”
“Of course,” Valla said with a nod. “Thanks, Scout.”
I smiled at him, and he turned to face the rest of the group. Safiena and Fayne were close by, looking at a book.
“The temple isn’t as powerful in Lassania as it is in Akalai, though,” Safiena said, shaking her head. “Why would the scientists have kept a book from the temple like this?”
“Wait, what?” Valla overheard that and suddenly went towards them. Fayne and Safiena looked up at her, and Safiena held the book out to her.
“It’s a really old book,” Fayne said. “One of the first books the Temple ever published regarding the town of Sinaif and the sorcerers it houses.”
“It’s full of inaccurate information, then?” Valla asked. Fayne nodded, but Safiena rolled her eyes.
“There might be some problems with it, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong about Sinaif, Valla. The sorcerers are some of the most dangerous people on this planet.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Valla admitted. “But I have a hard time believing the Temple in regards to Sinaif and the whole continent. Believers aren’t allowed to go there. How did they get their information?”
“By blessing Inquisitors who go to the continent themselves, of course,” Safiena said, sounding mildly offended.
“Oh, yes, of course,” Valla growled, shoving the book back towards Safiena. “Please, forgive me for having doubts about the legitimacy of information gathered by people who are already convinced that they need to torture and kill people to force a society to bend itself around their norms.”
Safiena took the book back with a glare, the sarcasm in Valla’s voice not lost on her at all. I thought about stepping in, but around that same time, Harold was pulling out one of the records, his eyes lighting up.
“No way…” he said, brushing off the cover. “No… Why would this be here?”
“What is it?” Sentinel asked. However, when he looked at the cover, his face dropped. Safiena, Fayne, and Valla all turned towards them. Nayila was already standing next to Harold, but read the cover, and gasped.
“What?! ‘The Whorish Queen’?” Nayila asked, opening the cover. “Who--did that queen of Lassania end up here?!”
Scout’s face took on an expression of anger that I had never seen before, but he stayed silent. Valla rushed over to where the other elves were, and looked at the book.
“The Record Copy of the Tests and Experiments performed on the Adulteress Wife of King Rakail,” Harold read out loud. “Sentinel! Were you aware of this?”
There was a very long moment of silence as the elves looked up at Sentinel quickly and excitedly, but all of their expressions went to a silent embarrassment as they took in the silence. His face was grave, and he slowly nodded, looking pointedly at the elves. They began to look at each other, all of them feeling the awkwardness in the air. Safiena began to quietly move to look at the record herself, but Fayne just glanced at me, then Storm, then Scout.
Harold slowly turned the page, and then his face went pale. “...I see,” he said. Slowly, the other elves looked at the page, and an understanding came over them. Valla looked up at me, then back at the page.
“...Is that drawing of Shadowforth?” Safiena asked, her voice sounding strained. “Was… she the Adulteress Queen all along?”
I felt a flare of dark magic not unlike mine from Scout as he hissed loudly. His voice came out as a booming roar that immediately made every elf shrink in fear. “If anyone else calls her that, I will personally throw you out of here and make sure she knows exactly how fucking disrespectful you were!”
Valla pushed the record closed. “Let Shadowforth decide if it needs to be read,” she said, putting the record on the stack of other records without any of the other elves interfering.
“She has abandoned a past that she never cared for or chose,” Sentinel said, standing tall and looking down at the elves. “Every elder chimera has something that they did, or something that happened, that put them here. None of us are the same people we were when they happened, however. Keep that in mind. Shadowforth is Shadowforth, and she is one of the most valuable members of our society.”
Valla and Harold nodded. The other elves were stunned, but also nodded, pointedly looking away from everyone else. Valla walked away from the records, and stood next to Storm and I, looking at the creature again.
I turned to her, and put my hand on her shoulder. She leaned up against me, putting her head against my side.
“Is… that why Snitch treats your mother the way he does?”
I took a deep breath. “I… actually don’t know. I think so, though. She doesn’t talk about it much. All I knew was that her husband was the leader of Lassania, and that she never really got a chance to make her own choices until she was in the dungeon.” She had sometimes told us stories about her old life, but none of them had been in such clear terms. I had never known my mother as a queen; it had never even occurred to me that she might have been. All I knew was that she always told us that her life before the dungeon was like the dust; it looked beautiful until you knew how much pain it caused. Even when the elves had arrived, with their talk of their royalty and nobility… I hadn’t connected it to my mother at all. It had all felt too distant and foreign. But, at the same time, it… did make the way people looked at her sometimes, with suspicion and bitterness, make more sense. Even though it was completely unjustified...
Valla nodded. “Yeah.” She looked up at me. “I just… don’t know what to say.”
I shrugged. “Maybe it would be best to talk later, then.”
We all began to take out the record books and take them back to the entrance. The creature in the corner didn’t move for the entire time. I didn’t even know if it could hear or see us, even though it seemed to be aware of at least some of our presences. Its ears and eyes were invisible under scars and burns, or what looked like scars and burns...