The shadows danced in the flickering torch light, my trembling hands pressing lightly against the smooth stone wall as I observed my surroundings coolly.
The cobbled hallway stretched on and the torches that were mounted every dozen feet or so did little to help my vision penetrate the dim light.
Every step I took was attempted with the utmost secrecy as I made my way in the direction of the college’s magical archives.
As I rounded the corner, the sounds of hushed voices fluttered in the air. Instinctively, I felt every muscle in my body tense. Standing stalk still, I forced myself to hide away into one of the hall’s many narrow classroom doorways.
“You must search for Malik! He cannot be allowed to perform the ritual!” A whispering voice spoke as an assortment of footsteps seemed to join it. “It’s your fault he can even accomplish this in the first place.” Another voice answered; this one sounded effeminate, angry and annoyed.
It could have been one of the many professors that lectured here but it was too difficult to tell at this distance. Tilting my head away from the whispers, I had to remind myself to not idly waste time. Pushing out from my dark shelter, I turned and double backed the way I came searching for a detour.
The voices and footsteps were echoing out from the far corner down the hall and they were all too close for comfort.
Years of preparation were in danger of being destroyed! I had spent so many days and nights secreting the materials in and out of the archives that were usually reserved for only the most accomplished of scholars.
My eager and apparent innocent demeanor had earned me the title of the assistant to the curator and I had taken every advantage it afforded me to delve into the taboo secrets that were forbidden by law.
Blood rites, conjuration and divination into the outer planes were a few of the many subjects I had conspired to learn under my instructor’s complacent watch.
Reminding myself of the task at hand, I realized that the large wooden double doors of the archives had just come into view. I quietly padded down the last steps of the northern most stairway towards the doors.
It seemed no one had even searched down here yet in the archives themselves. My pursuers must have assumed that I would attempt the rituals away from the college grounds to avoid their interference.
‘They think too little of me.’ I thought to myself, a smug smile growing on my face as I reached for the wooden doors’ iron handles. My reach faltered as I realized my hands were trembling. It was difficult at this point to tell if it was from fear or excitement.
Shaking the thoughts away, I resumed pushing heavy oak doors open. They swung easily; the archives left unlocked by a ‘certain someone’ earlier in the evening when they watched the Curator leave for the night.
The doors were truly a testament of the craftsmen who balanced them delicately on their hinges in the year’s past. The very same hinges that squealed loudly in detest to their late-night use.
Surprise shot through me as I sharply turned to look over my shoulder at the staircase.
I forgot to grease the bloody hinges!
The yawning silence that followed went uninterrupted for a brief few moments. Relief flooded through my mind as I exhaled a breath that had somehow found itself stuck in my chest.
Grinding my teeth in frustration, the doors closed with similar argument as I shut them.
This time however, I swung them quickly to cut the noise down as I crossed into the threshold of the room. Hustling over to the nearest bookshelf by the door, I reached behind it into the tight space between the wall and the shelf.
The object I was searching for was still there. A hard beam made of yew that I had stashed away days previously. I had it cut by the village woodsman to a very specific size weeks ago. A size that with some clever positioning would work well as a barricade.
Awkwardly pushing the beam into the frame of the door, I grunted with exertion as I delivered some small applications of brute force to ensure it was thoroughly lodged across the entry way.
Satisfaction grew in my heart as I turned away to face the grandeur of the college’s archives.