Chapter Thirty: Tibo
“So do we do the too-stupid-to-live horror movie thing and yell hello or some shit?” Tibo whispered, crowding close.
Rolly shook his head, examining the monitoring station. Screens, keypads, switches and toggles--he didn’t know what the fecking hells any of it was. There was an intercom above the desk with several buttons, one of them labeled Herr Verwalter.
“That’s administrator.” Rolly pointed. “Probably our Mr. Delgavelac.”
Just as Tibo opened his mouth to answer, the intercom crackled to life.
“Come upstairs, boys,” a soft, ancient voice spoke through the plate. The accent was that of someone international, a goblin who had lived so many places that his origin was difficult to pinpoint. “Up to the top. I would come to greet you but there are only so many times a day these ancient knees will manage those steps.”
“Ser Delgavelac?” Tibo craned his neck to speak to the intercom high on the wall. “Are we safe here?”
There was a moment of silence so long, Rolly thought their host had switched off the intercom.
Then, “Safety is a relative thing, my boy. We are far safer than those poor darlings shooting outside. Come up, come up. We have things to talk about.”
Tibo shrugged and took Rolly’s hand. They climbed.
The second floor appeared to be a workspace with desks and computers dotting the room, but again, it was unpopulated. The only exterior light came from ancient arrow-slit windows and the few desk lights still burning here and there gave the space an eerie feel as if there had been occupants that some eldritch and terrible thing had swallowed up. The third floor was broken into smaller rooms with doors, so these must have been the domain of higher level employees. All the doors were open. All the offices empty.
At the top of the stairs, their way was blocked by a massive iron-bound wooden door. Tibo lifted his hand to knock just as the door opened with an ominous creak and some huffing and puffing.
The huffing came from a bent and wrinkled ancient goblin as he tried to wrestle the door open. He smiled and tapped his griffin-handled cane against the wood. “That gets more difficult every year. Come in, boys, come in. I’ve just made tea. You look like you’ve been through a war zone. Heh. I suppose you have.”
“Ser Delgavelac?” Tibo hesitated, shifting from foot to foot, his voice softer and more respectful than Rolly had ever heard.
“Chumin,” the elder goblin said as he clomped back into the room, leaning heavily on his cane. “Call me Chumin.”
“Yes, sir.” Rolly nudged Tibo into the room. “Should we close the door again?”
“If you would, Rolly. That would be very kind of you.” Chumin bustled about at an ornate, baroque-style side board with the makings of tea. “We are, to answer young Tiborishandelac’s question, as safe as we can be right now. There are many things that have simmered under the surface for too long. You see the result.”
The room in which they found themselves was richly appointed in dark wood and expensive fabrics. Rolly’s boots sank into the deep red carpet and he gratefully collapsed into one of the overstuffed armchairs in front of the mahogany desk large enough for hedgehogs to hold a hockey game.
Up here, there was an actual window, a bow window set into the curve of the tower with a cushioned seat. A book lay open on the velvet as if it had just been abandoned, though the view would have posed a distraction to any reader. The lake stretched out before them with its dark woods, a beautiful picturesque sight.
“This is lovely, sir,” Rolly ventured as he motioned for Tibo to sit. “You’re certain we’re not endangering you? Everyone seems to have deserted.”
Chumin nodded and hummed a bit as he set everything on a tray with meticulous patience. “There are plans in place for emergencies. My staff has been evacuated. Procedures, you know. I stay here because I am a stubborn old spider in my nest and the keep has stood this long. It will stand a little longer.”
Tibo leaped up to take the fully laden tray, still mute and wide-eyed, and unaccountably polite.
“Thank you, Tiborishandelac. Such a good boy.” Chumin waved a hand at the desk to indicate where the tray should go and stumped over with his cane to take the leather chair behind the desk, one suited to his size and frame rather than some overbearing enormous thing that would have swallowed him whole. “Also very quiet.”
Rolly chuckled and took the offered tea, which smelled heavenly. He hadn’t realized how thirsty he was and how much his throat hurt. “He isn’t normally, sir.”
“I just--” Tibo shot him an exasperated, pleading look. “I’ve never met a goblin so old before.”
Chumin laughed, a dry, kekking sound, while he took his own cup and a dainty little golden cake. “I do forget how refreshingly honest American goblins can be. I can hardly deny it though. I am very old and have survived everyone I knew when I was your age.”
There was something in the way he said it… Rolly shook his head, not up to shades of meaning.
“So. Tell me what happened that has you running to me. I know in general, of course. You were here to be debriefed, to make your statements, and opposing factions used it as an opportunity to strike and try to gain all for themselves. But if you are here, Akemi has lost control. At least temporarily. Tell me.”
They sipped tea and ate tiny, perfect cakes while they told the Administrator of Transportation what had occurred underground and Pel’s admonition of where to run. By some silent agreement, they didn’t tell everything, just stuck to what had actually happened in the room and their flight afterward.
“I think the whole kerfuffle took more out of me than I thought.” Rolly put his teacup on the desk and ran a hand over his face. “I’m absolutely knackered.”
“Quite all right, my dear,” Chumin said, watching him closely. “You’re more than welcome to take a little nap.”
The room pitched and spun under Rolly. He gripped the arm of the chair, trying to get up. “What did you do, you dried up little bugger?” he wheezed out before Chumin’s calm, smiling face spiraled away into the dark and he felt himself falling.