The books sat on their shelves, perfectly aligned and wrapped in a blanket of dust earned from years of undisturbed slumber. It’d been a long time since anyone stepped through the front door of the Manor. Longer still since they visited where the books now rested and read the words so carefully inscribed on their pages. But tonight was different. Tonight there would be a Visitor.
The sun was only a few hours away from setting when it began. The rusty latch let out a loud pop! and the Manors mighty oak door, hinges groaning under the weight they carried, slowly opened. In slipped the Visitor, lantern in hand. Moving swiftly, he barred the door behind him, stole across the foyer, and began his ascent up what seemed to be an endlessly twisting staircase. Though it was the Visitors first time inside the Manor he knew exactly where to go. Hidden deep within the Archives he had discovered the long forgotten maps, faded but intact. Once he learned he would be the one to make the journey he had spent hours each day memorizing their every detail.
Months ago he never would’ve thought he’d be doing this. Of course that was when it all only seemed a story, a myth told in hushed tones. That was before he had accidentally found the proof. Before he knew that it was actually real and not just a whispered tale. Now he knew that he had to find it before anyone else did, either to protect it or destroy it. At that point he wasn’t sure which one it would be, just that he must do whatever was necessary to keep the others from finding it.
After spending what seemed like hours weaving his way through the labyrinth of the Manor, the Visitor arrived at the door he was looking for. It was rather small and ordinary looking but, nonetheless, he braced himself as he carefully slid the latch aside and pushed open the door.
A musty wave of air rushed out to greet the Visitor. For a moment he wondered if he had gotten lost and opened the wrong door. No, he had taken the exact path shown on the maps. This must be it. Much like the door, the room he was now standing in was rather small and ordinary looking. A heavy layer of dust covered everything, not that there was much to cover. A round table in the middle of a round room plus a couple of shelves on a wall, occupied by a dozen or two books.
It looked bigger on the map, thought the Visitor. Surely no one would leave something of such great importance in a room like this. There are far better places to be had in the Manor. Ah, but then again…no one would bother much with just a few measly books, now would they?
Raising his lantern up higher, he moved over to the books and began to scan across the titles etched upon their spines. None of them stood out or seemed of much importance. Perhaps it was just a small storage room with some dusty old books. But then he saw something as he turned to leave; a small glint of light perhaps, coming off one of the books. Pulling it from its place on the shelf, he blew the dust off and examined the spine more closely. There. Almost imperceptible, but definitely there. Disguised as part of a letter and embedded in the spine of the book was a small jewel. Great care had obviously been taken to ensure it was all but invisible to the casual passerby.
Sitting down in the one chair available, the Visitor placed his lantern and the book on the round table. Upon opening the book he saw on the first page a single word, very small and as though it was written in haste. It was from a very rare dialect of the Old Tongue. The Visitor had seen it only one other place. His hand trembled slightly at the thought and he began to carefully flip through the pages.
It wasn’t long before he heard the first thump from down below echo up through the empty halls. The sun had just dipped below the horizon and that was no doubt the Order downstairs, trying to get through the door he had barricaded shut. Time was running out. Thump. He began to rifle through the pages as fast as he could looking for something, anything. Thump, thump. Suddenly he stopped. Staring at the picture now in front of him, his mouth slowly began to open.
Boom! The Order had broken through the main door. He heard shouts and the sound of a dozen boots running up the stairs. They’d be here within minutes he knew, but he couldn’t tear himself away from the image before him. His eyes darted all around it as he took everything in, finally coming to a rest on the insignia in the corner.
“There’s no way…”, he murmured, “that symbol, that’s —”
The room’s small door burst open. Looking up, there was a brilliant flash of light and a piercing voice that sent shivers running through his entire body. It was a voice that the Visitor never thought he would hear, and had never wanted to hear, again.