Chapter Twenty-Five: Ashe
Sure, he wasn’t much for conspiracy theories, but it was clear that RL was more than just an old myth. They’d apparently had their hands in almost everything at one point in time—crop production, taxes, religion—and quite openly. So why didn’t his history books mention them at all?
The whole thing smelled like five day old fish and rotten cabbage.
He glanced over his shoulder at Tibo. His lover was still agitated, but then again, Tibo was often worked up over something or another. It was one of the things about him that Rolly found endearing.
The goblin was staring at Nootau and trying not to be obvious about it.
Rolly shook his head. Tibo had gotten himself stuck in a guilt loop.
He’d seen it before, when Tibo had done something boneheaded without thinking it through, and then been so embarrassed about it that he couldn’t figure out how to apologize.
Rolly had learned the hard way just to let Tibo be. He’d figure it out his own way, in his own time, and the less Rolly meddled, the better. At least if he didn’t want to have his head handed to him.
“This is interesting.” Aegeus had his finger on the center of one of the pages he’d been flipping through. Rolly and Edwige crowded around to see what he’d found. “It’s a list of places where RL had influence or a presence of some sort. Look.”
“Schloss Rotlich,” Rolly read, scratching his chin. “Not a coincidence, surely. They couldn’t still be active, after all these years?”
Aegeus sank back into his chair. “Maybe?”
Rolly stared at the merman for a long time, and then nodded. He was getting to really like Aegeus. The Being was very level headed. He thought before he acted, but Rolly got the feeling he wasn’t afraid of anything. “So what are they? Some sort of criminal syndicate?”
Edwige shook her head. “We don’t know anything yet. We can’t even be sure if these people—assuming they still exist—are the ones we’re up against.”
Rolly nodded. “She’s right. At the moment, it’s all just guesswork.”
Rolly sized the two of them up. “Can I ask you a question?”
Edwige nodded. “If you’ll return the favor.”
“Fair enough. How did you three get involved in this mess?”
Aegeus looked at Edwige, who nodded. “We’re part of the Underground. We help unregistered skinwalkers.”
Rolly nodded. “I’ve heard of it.” He glanced over at Nootau. The Being was asleep in the wingback chair, his feet splayed out onto the rug, snoring softly. He didn’t look dangerous.
“Nootau lost his best friend,” Edwidge explained. “They killed him because he found out they were selling walkers for their parts, like animals.” She shuddered. “When he found us, he… needed us. And we—”
“We found out we needed him too.” Aegeus put his hand over Edwige’s.
Rolly nodded. They made a good team.
“And you?” Edwige’s eyes glittered.
“Tibo was out for a ramble one night and witnessed the murder of a little goblin girl."
Edwige put a hand to her mouth.
“The little bugger took it hard. He may look tough, but there’s a soft heart under all the storm and thunder. And he gets things stuck between his teeth and won’t let go. He found out the girl, Shandi, was doing magical research, highly advanced magical theory. The trail led my Tibo and then me to London, and then here.” He looked back at Tibo. The goblin was staring at his hands as if he had to memorize every green line and crevice. “He’s a good bloke. Rough edges, gooey center.”
Edwidge put her hand out to him, touching his shoulder. “He walks with pain in his bones. I’m not sure even you are strong enough to pull it out of him.”
You might be right. “I better check on him.” He excused himself and went to Tibo. He knelt in front of the big chair and took Tibo’s hands in one of his own. “You okay over here?”
Tibo wouldn’t meet his gaze. “She thinks I should apologize.”
Rolly laughed. “You’ll come around to it in your own good time. Nobody tells Tibo Glent what to do, right?” Although he’d done so many times, to little effect.
Tibo looked up at him and the barest whisper of a smile played across his lips. “I—”
“We’ve got to go.” Aegeus appeared over his shoulder, looking worried.
“What happened?” Rolly asked, looking around.
“Guards outside the windows. Edwige went to check the hall.”
She was back in a moment. “There’s some kind of commotion outside. We’re not safe here, anymore.”
“There’s a back door over behind the history section,” Tibo said, pointing. “We saw it earlier when we were exploring.”
“Back door it is, then,” Rolly said. “We’ll grab the boys in the dragon section and clear out of here. If we have a mite bit of luck, we might even manage it before the guards show up.”
Ashe scanned the shelves looking for anything of note. There was the usual fare—“The Care and Feeding of Your Dragon”, “Divers, an Illustrated History”, “Jennys and Drakes: How to Tell a Dragon’s Sex”.
Most of them were simply too new to have anything of interest about Rubrum Lux.
His broken wing ached dully. The pain meds helped, but it would be days before even his fast healing allowed him to draw it back inside himself.
Jaxx searched the next bay. He rubbed his jaw absently.
“Yeah, your new dragon rider friend has a mean left hook.”
“I heard that,” Mal said from the other side of the shelf.
“Is it just me, or does this place have a lot of books on dragons for a private library?” Ashe asked as he picked through another shelf.
“They do have a dragon hangar out back,” Mal’s voice pointed out.
“And a whole secret dragon research program, apparently.” Jaxx shot him a grin.
“Yeah, well, when you put it that way…” he stopped. Wedged in-between “Dragon Dragon Dragon” and “The History of Dragonkind 1224-1673” was a thin black leather-bound volume with no title. He eased it out of its tight space and laid it on an empty shelf. “Guys…”
Jaxx came to look over his shoulder. “Is that dragonhide?”
Mal and Kaden appeared from around the shelves. “Let me see,” the dragon rider said. He held it up to the light. “Yup. It’s from a Ryu, if I don’t miss the mark. Their hides are well oiled to repel water, and will last a long time if it’s cured properly. Not that we use dragons that way, anymore.”
He opened it up. The whole thing was in German, written in longhand.
“I think it’s a journal.” Ashe pointed at the date on top of the first page. “It looks like it’s a couple hundred years old.” He paged carefully through it.
“Look there.” In the midst of the German handwriting, Rubrum Lux was clearly written.
“We really need to find someone who speaks German,” Ashe said, closing the book.
Rolly popped his head around the corner, followed by the others. “There you are. Time to move buckos, or we’re in for a quare load of trouble.”
“What happened?” Ashe asked.
“Guards are coming. There’s a back door, but we need to move our arses.” He led them out of the stacks and toward another door at the back of the library.
Ashe took Jaxx’s hand, tucking the journal under his arm, and followed their new companions.
There was no time to apply for a library card, after all.