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The vault was cold. It was cold, but
not damp. Nestled safely underneath City Hall in
At the small of his back,
“Patience young one,” Ock replied sitting uncomfortably in a human-sized chair huddled over a desk.
Their Freedom Corps escort had
stepped away for a few minutes giving the duo a chance to relax their
disguises, but each did not fearing a lax attitude would spoil the deception.
“We are spending too much time
“I thought you said there was a secret passage down here to the outside?”
“There is. But I don’t know where it’s located.”
“Azuria was completely fooled by our masquerade. Does your control over your power wane so?”
“Hmm,” Ock said suddenly his attention still drawn to the ancient documents. “Do you know your true name?”
Ock put the documents down and
stared directly into the glowing green eyes of
“My name is Norman Salazar, I was born with it. That is my true name.”
Occam shook his head, “That is your human name; your true name is a secret. My human name is Ockham, or Ock. A true names selection is something of an enigma.”
“Shouldn’t yours be the same as your brother.”
“Our brother has his own name. We do not share it. Every living thing in the universe is different. We are the son’s of Grendel and are half-dragons. We are mystical beings and therefore were born with a true name.”
“You were born that way, not I.”
“The method of your birth is irrelevant. Your powers flow from your blood.”
“Well, knowing it would have helped. We could take time and determine—”
“No! We finish without it. I am too close to the truth.”
“Very well,” Ock said picking up the documents he was studying. “I am onto something, but there are pages missing.”
“Of course, it’s the collected works…”
Ock actually growled at the insolent response.
“Yah, what’d did you expect.” Norman spat back grabbing the sign-out clipboard. Looking down the list, he came upon several sheets that had been signed out earlier in the morning. “Here… some have been signed out. Are you sure they are necessary?”
“I believe so,” Ock said gently stacking each parchment upon the next.
With perfect timing, they heard the clicking of high heels on the tiled floor heading their way. Their guide had been a male, but recognizing the rhythm and the spacing of the footsteps, both easily guessed Azuria was approaching.
“Hello gentlemen,” Azuria smiled
beaming sincere happiness at the duo. Ock had told
Ock put on an equally heartfelt smile, stood up from the chair, and bowed low bringing his left hand over his chest. “Hello, my lady. I am happy that you have graced our sullen spirits with your inner radiance.”
“Oh,” she responded bring her hand up to her mouth and blushing.
“Alas, your welcomed company cannot not allay our quandary,” Ock said.
The sudden expression on her face
completely changed like the sun suddenly was snuffed out.
“Oh, no,” she gasped looking very concerned. “Anything I can help with?”
“Alas, pages are missing from the collected documents. Our endeavors seem to have been for naught.”
“Well, let me see here,” she said picking up the clipboard. “Ah, you must need the pages that were checked out this morning. One of the Freedom Corps agents checked them out… uh, Ex Libris.”
“Excellent, good Madam the hour may stand well and hold us fairly.”
“Well,” Azuria twirling a lock of her black hair trying to think of a solution, “Ex Libris was to meet with a private collector to verify the authenticity of some newly uncovered documents. I suppose it would be okay to meet her. You do not need to borrow them do you?”
“Nay, good Lady, we only request to view that which has been written. I would be honored to share my research with you when our quest is complete.”
“Well, I guess that’s okay then,” Azuria said feeling young and energetic from speaking to the half-dragon. She even shifted her weight to her toes momentarily her arms linked behind her. Ock had completely enraptured her and she looked like a giddy schoolgirl.
“Wonderful,” Ock said smiling his amber eyes returning the exuberance Azuria was feeling. “Where may we find this Lady From the Books, Ex Libris?”
“She is at the University in Croatoa”
“Thank you,” Ock said bowing very low to compensate for the height difference and grasping her hand. He bowed low ensuring his yellow horns did not impale their new friend and gently placed a kiss upon the back of her hand.
It was too late.
Azuria stepped back aghast, “What is going on here?”
Ock was also caught at the rare moment of not knowing what to say.
“Security!” Azuria yelled depressing a button on a beeper she carried on her belt.
The library in the basement of the University building in Croatoa was bustling, but quiet. It bustled with the numerous scents of ancient inks written on aged parchments. The odor of antiquity never smelled so good. Memories thickened the air from great swashbuckling adventures or the thrill and romance of true love. Plots to poison kings and plans to avenge wrongs lurked around every bookcase finding breath on every page. Chronicles of world events recorded for posterity and solutions to the fundamental questions all living beings asked lay buried in the cellulose chests of leather and parchment.
Here Isabelle Dubois was home among the rows of bookcases, like silent sentinels of history forgotten. The shelves captured the words spoken long ago by royalty, prophets, philosophers, wizards, and the gods themselves. Once polished shiny brass signs dulled with age and engraved with cryptic numbers of the Dewey Decimal System served like a global positioning system. Nothing in the world smelled better and comforted Izzy more than the various scents. Leather bound covers colored in antique tones of brown, yellow, green, and deep reds and accented with gold, black, and white inks were the walls of her chambers offering sanctuary from the outside world, the real world. For her though, this was the real world. It was from here where the source of her alter egos true powers flowed. Here was the hero known as Ex Libris.
Yawning deeply, Izzy stood up and stretched. Her chair scrapped against the black linoleum tiled floor sending echoes reverberating throughout the basement. It only proved she was down here by herself. Not really though, for the heavy contingent of Longbow accompanying her, because the pages she carried, were stationed throughout the campus. One her bodyguards was stationed in the basement with her, but he kept silent and out of sight. He could have been napping for all she knew. Whatever he was doing, if he kept silent that was fine.
She removed her glasses and rubbed
her eyes with one hand. She had been examining the authentic pages of Malleus
Mundi for a few hours now and felt the pangs of lunch approaching. The
documents in question lay neatly piled on a long wooden desk set up against the
furthermost location in the back of the basement. No windows to the outside
world were visible from her location surrounded by bookcases. Security was
paramount in the transportation of MAGI’s documents and the chance to determine
the authenticity of newfound lost pages was exciting. The owner of the
documents was still a mystery. The person had arrived in a limousine escorted
by members of the Hero Corps. The mercenaries proved to be worth every dime
allowing only the driver to bring a briefcase containing the pages. There was
more security in the immediate vicinity of the campus it rather seemed like
The soft yellow light from a small lamp on the table flickered briefly. Izzy grabbed the stiff wooden chair that reminded her of the schoolroom chairs of her youth. She forced herself to sit down, her lower back muscles complaining. Beside the documents in question lay a large magnifying glass imbedded with a LED light. The script of the written pages was as fascinating as to whatever mystical information the documents may actually contain. It could have been the recipe for a nice egg salad sandwich. It did not really matter. The Malleus Mundi had been written in several different languages, while much of it had been deciphered, there were several pages that were not.
Grabbing her pen containing the purple ink she took notes with, she once again reviewed her findings. She easily deciphered her script written precariously on the yellow legal pad. The parchment she studied itself was well made even by today’s standards. Excellent grade cotton mixed with what she thought was wood cellulose, but it could have been any plant material. There was also evidence of clay to improve clarity and readability. She was even sure rosin had been added for waterproofing. There still seemed to be other materials, but she had yet to identify the compounds.
The ancient handwriting itself was written in an ink that contained unidentified oils that lent itself to its durability. A couple of the pages even appeared to have been printed mechanically because of the perfect lettering. She doubted whether it could be true and gave credit to one of the many unknown authors whose original ideas made it into the final book. She knew there were several ways to make ink especially thousands of years ago and just about any medium could have been used from blood, soot, or even animal gelatin. The Malleus Mundi was truly an ancient marvel excluding any of the mystical trappings.
Izzy dove into the lettering, which consisted of rich and bold curves. She lost herself in the excitement of potential new discoveries. Holding the magnifying lens against one of the private collector’s pages, she recognized the same type of handwriting. If it were a forgery, then it of itself would be a work of art and valuable. The paper seemed to consist of similar materials and she carefully removed a strip of molecular bonding tape to remove a sample from one of the corners of the document. Setting the sample into a glass tube she produced from the pocket of her blue suit, she noticed someone had scribbled notes in the margins.
Time passed before she thought she heard something sliding to the floor with a thump. Reflexively she glanced down at the backpack resting against the leg of the table. It had not fallen. It was too late before should caught the footfalls behind her to the left.
“Pardon us, Lady From the Books.”
Izzy nearly jumped out of the chair. She instantly turned around and noticed not one, but two visitors. “Oh, you startled me.”
“My colleague and I apologize and beg your forgiveness,” Ock said bowing low.
“That’s okay,” Izzy said rising to
her feet surprised someone knew the origin of her alter ego’s name. She
immediately recognized the tall yellow horned person as Occam’s Razar. His
exploits were well known to the citizens of Paragon. A half-dragon returned to
life after being frozen at the
Ock kept his right arm hidden safely underneath the shoulder cape and kept his gloved hand crossing over his chest. “I am…”
“The son of Grendel,” Izzy piped up. She was fascinated about the drake’s history, specifically how it related to the tale of Beowulf. Apparently, the tale was about Occam’s Razar’s dragon father, originating some tens of thousands of years ago or more. The story had been passed down through the oral traditions of the earliest of humans. The first known written account found it circa 1000 AD. How it would have changed through all the oral narrations would explain a lot about the story’s perceived origin. Only in her dreams could she hope to run into the ancient hero to talk about his history. This plain dull Saturday was really shaping up to be quite a day. First, she was able to study ancient parchments, and then meet someone probably even older than the words written on the very same documents.
“Ah, my reputation precedes me then. Allow me to introduce PhoenixHawk.”
Izzy curtsied not sure about the formalities being exchanged, “I am Ex Libris.”
Ock smiled friendly and Izzy reflected the smile back sincerely. “It is with great pleasure that we find you. Azuria informed us you were here.”
“Oh,” Izzy said, “You saw her this morning?”
Fine? Izzy thought. What an odd response. Why wouldn’t she be fine?
“We require the documents you signed out of the vault,” Ock said getting to the point.
“Well… I can’t just give them too you.”
“No, no, I just need to view them for some research I am doing. It really won’t take much time at all.”
“Ah,” Izzy responded. For a moment, she started worry. Something just felt wrong about this encounter. Grabbing the chair, she motioned to the drake allowing him access. If he tried to make a run for it, she was not sure what exactly she would do.
Ock shifted his eyesight to that of the mystical realms and began deciphering the multidimensional pages of the Malleus Mundi. The information he was looking for was here. Finally, the fragments could be assembled into a workable invocation.
Izzy noticed Ock’s vision and began
querying him on the documents. He even went as far as to confirm the pages in
question were indeed from the original book.
“Fascinating,” Izzy exclaimed drawing a hearty laugh from Ock sounding much like mythical Santa Claus.
It seemed to
How cliché, he thought, true love at first sight.
The sounds of footsteps racing
across the floor above them were heard. Shouting soon followed snapping
“Damn, time to go Ock,”
“Ah ha,” Izzy exclaimed snapping her hand forward knocking Ock’s shoulder cape aside revealing a non-robotic arm. “You’re not Occam’s Razar!”
“Close enough,” Ock said getting to his feet.
“I do apologize for the deception,” Ock said remaining calm. “It is the utmost importance I can assure you.”
“What is this about?” Izzy asked directing her question to Ock who seemed more open. “I won’t let you take the documents.”
“Ock, time to go,”
“I can’t allow you to leave,” Izzy ordered.
“Please,” he said, “I don’t really want to hurt you. I am trying to recover lost memories. It is very important to me, and I guarantee, we will not be taken captive.”
Izzy had been summoning her mind control powers, but relaxed. She did know about vague lost memories herself. The nightmares that sprang from that unknown void were terrible and she could sympathize with this… villain. She did not know who they were, but she would find out.
“Mu books?” Izzy questioned her interest piqued. She could not be bribed, could she? The card was tempting; hanging like it was in the villains out stretched hand. Taking a bribe was wrong, making her culpable. Wasn’t it? Reaching out to take the card, it slipped from her grasp.
“I can’t--” the two villains were gone. She had not even heard them move. The card and simple Arial font and said:
Out Source Incorporated
Have Thugs. Will Travel.
“By the way Bookworm,” she heard
Bookworm indeed, Izzy thought running from out of the rows of bookshelves. The pair was already racing up the stairs. She heard more shouts and the breaking of glass.
“Best I go free, Azuria then,” she said to herself. The walk up the stairs had her facing the dilemma of whether or not she just took a bribe.