Continued from 13/366 – Conversations (Cont.)
Morn walked toward the graveyard down the road with a purpose, but it didn’t stop his mind from wandering. He wondered if his father was now included with the zombies outside the walls, and what he was going to do now that he was alone. He thought about the house, and whether or not he would be able to continue living there without either of his parents.
As Morn approached the gate, the guards opened the door and stepped aside as though he were expected. He thought about asking why they weren’t stopping him but decided it was better to reach Master Scaine without more trouble than necessary. He walked straight down the path, looking over to his mother’s gravestone on his way past.
At least they are together now, Morn thought, Dad wasn’t the same after she died. Neither of us was.
The iron gate to the monastery was ajar, which gave Morn a moment of hesitation. He had never seen the gate simply open without a monk or initiate standing closeby, and even then, he couldn’t recall it ever being left open.
“Hello?” he called through the door.
A few moments passed, and an initiate appeared at the entrance, no emotion on her face.
“You can come in,” she said, stepping out and to the side.
“What’s going on?” Morn asked. “Why is no one stopping me?”
“You’ll have to ask Master Scaine. The instructions are to allow you passage through to him regardless of the time you arrive,” she replied. “Would you like to speak to him?”
“Th-That’s why I’m here, actually,” Morn stammered, unsure of what to make of all this.
“Would you prefer me to show you the way, or would you like to go alone?” she asked as though Morn knew the monastery.
“I would like you to show me,” he said, the sentence ended more like a question than he liked.
“Very well. Follow me, please,” she replied, turning and walking through the door.
Morn followed the initiate through the maze and down the stairs into the strange pillar room. She led him with a peculiar precision through the obstacles to another door that led further into the depths of the monastery.
The next floor opened into a massive space that, best Morn could tell, was covered in mirrors. He got dizzy when he looked down at the floor and was greeted by an infinite number of himself staring curiously back at him.
“Don’t hesitate in this room, please. It wouldn’t be safe for you,” the initiate said, continuing her walk at a brisk pace across the room.
Morn felt out of place in his linen clothes and shoes following behind the robed monk. He felt like the world was off-balance somehow, as though it didn’t make sense anymore. How could such a place exist beneath the quiet and, until recently, uneventful town? Other than his own breathing, there was no sound in the room since the initiate had spoken to him. He couldn’t hear his shoes against what felt like glass beneath his feet. He considered trying to stomp but thought better of it in case it was actually glass.
They reached an arch on the far side of the room and proceeded through into a long carved hall lit by torches. The stone was different here than it was at the surface. Every bit he had passed so far had been a light color, but this stone was the blackest he had ever seen. If not for the torches, he would have assumed that he was being tested again.
“His study is just up here,” the initiate said as they rounded a corner.
The hall widened significantly after the turn, becoming about forty feet by Morn’s best guess. Lining either side of the hall stood massive stone creatures with forms and faces that would haunt Morn’s dreams for a long time.
“What are these things?” Morn asked before he could stop himself. “They are hideous.
“These are the unmentionables. They are the fallen foes of past attempts to infiltrate the monastery. They stand as a reminder to any and all creatures that would seek tutilage here for nefarious purposes,” the initiate replied, stopping next to one of the more sinister looking creatures. She motioned for a door behind the beast, “Here is the Master’s study. You can open the door and walk in, he knows you’re here already.”
With that, she walked off and vanished into the shadows of the hall. It occurred to Morn at that moment, he hadn’t seen a single monk or initiate other than the one that escorted him since he entered. His eyes drifted to the stone form on his left and was startled when the eyes shifted to look at him. In a mild panic, he rushed forward through the door where Master Scaine sat behind a plain-looking desk covered in books.
“Morn! I was wondering how long you would spend out there in the hall,” he said, the faintest smile on his face. “What brings you to my study?”
“I’ve been thinking about everything that happened, and I have some questions,” Morn said, stepping forward.
“Sit down, and we’ll talk.” The Master motioned for a chair opposite him. “Would you like something to eat or drink? You still look a bit pale.”
“No, thank you,” Morn replied, “My mind is moving too fast for me to eat right now.”
“I can understand that sentiment,” Master Scaine replied. “In that case, what’s on your mind?”
“I was wondering what the origins of the town were?” Morn asked. “I know the monastery was founded here from the history books in the town, but who built it?”
“That, truly, is a great question,” Master Scaine said, a broad smile spreading across his face. “The truth is, we have no idea.”
“You don’t know who built all this? But you spent centuries here before the town was built. Someone has to know where it came from,” Morn said, feeling a surge of panic he couldn’t explain.
“Calm down, I assure you what we’ve discovered here is safe. In the end, it is the center of the town, and we guard it alongside the guards. Why the sudden interest in the monastery? Are you considering asking to join?” Master Scaine asked.
Morn thought for a moment before shaking his head, “I don’t think so. At least, not yet. Jaque was telling me that he was working with the wizards to repair the statue, but the school of magic doesn’t line up with anything he is aware of in necromancy.”
“Jaque is a very bright student,” Master Scaine said, “and not wrong about that. What we know of the enchantments, however limited, is that the zombies don’t come from the wall. They come from much deeper in the monastery.”
“Deeper?” Morn repeated.
“Much, yes. This structure, however old it is, is thousands of feet deep. We have no idea how it was possible to build something like this. Mostly, we monks stay in the upper twenty or so floors, but there are hundreds. Many are trapped, and others are more complicated.” Master Scaine rubbed his chin, “Why do you want to know where the zombies come from anyway?”
“I don’t know,” Morn said. It came out fast enough that he knew it was the truth. There were many other perfectly logical reasons for him to want to know. Celeste wanted to know. Jaque wanted to know. Somewhere deep inside himself, he did actually want to know.
“Do you want to take a walk with me?” Master Scaine asked. “I like to stretch my legs while I’m running ideas through my head.”
Morn nodded before he thought about it. “Can I ask another question?”
“Always,” Master Scaine said as he rose from his chair.
“What’s going to happen to me now?” Morn asked.
“Nothing, you’re safe here. Why do you ask?” he replied.
“Not here. Up there.” Morn pointed at the ceiling. “My dad died. My mother died years ago. I’m alone now.”
“You’re hardly alone, Morn. You have friends and me to be with you. But as for your house and education, orphans fall under the care of the mayor.” Master Scaine said.
Orphan, Morn thought, I’m an orphan now.
Continued 15/366 – Master Scaine (Cont.)