So, Johann snores, but in a cute way that makes it so you don’t want to poke her until she turns over. We had quite the exuberant afternoon. Apparently her views of what constituted a line in the sand only included certain of the sacred rituals. Others were totally permissible. I worked within her parameters and we had a wonderful time. Things got a tad strange when the Cleaning Service showed up during one fervent moment, but it did what it always does and sat there purring. I had to make sure to move as far away as I could, and look the other way. That skull floating inside the goo kept looking at me.
By the time we woke from a much needed nap the water barrel was full once more. I would love to have this form of magic in the keep where the hobs were hanging out. Would make things simpler, that’s for sure. Which made me wonder how they were getting along. Which made me wonder how Liz was getting along. The whole thing spiraled into a morose bout of introspection that served no one. I was a man of action. I needed to stop dawdling and get to Bob.
But first, nourishment. We had sausages, cheese and bread to go with the water and I was sated in nearly all physical capacities. I discussed my predicament with Johann and she said she could lead me through the ruins and even run interference with Rufus if he got too cranky. She also said he had the power to reverse the spell on Alfred, as long as he didn’t get broken or anything. Then it would be ugly.
I filled my pack with food, and my water skin before we took off. Johann had her own pack which she loaded up. Then she took a big cut of meat about the size of my thigh and threw it out into the hall. She felt she owed it to the Cleaning Service for showing her the hidden chamber and keeping her safe. Seemed reasonable.
We hiked back the way I’d come in originally. Before we got to the main chamber, she opened a secret door on the right. It took us around the main entrance chamber with doors into various rooms. These were servant’s paths away from the eyes of their betters, which allowed them to fulfill their obligations unseen. Rufus had no interest in the lives of the ancient servants. He was into magical wards, seals, and glyphs and how the ancient civilization utilized them. This small twist of his ego allowed Johann to travel without being caught, which was good once she realized he had little use for her intellect. Of course, she had been trapped in the dormitory region for a few months and wasn’t sure if anything had changed in that time. So far, so good. She knew about three traps, which we avoided easily enough. She had cleared several rooms, finding bits of esoteric knowledge that kept her excited enough to remain here to study.
The thought of going back to a disgraced academic career held no appeal for her. And there was the matter of her family’s wealth which she had squandered. She needed to make some great discovery so she could return with dignity. A bit of treasure wouldn’t hurt, either. We made our way through twisty corridors for two hours and stopped to rest in the last room she had spent a lot of time in, researching the murals on the wall. They were fantasy, she assured me, depicting the mythology I had expounded about the ancient civilization she assured me never existed. There were samples of the writing we had in the monastery, in some of our oldest texts. I recognized the style, but not all the words. She tried to show me just how learned she was, but she mispronounced two words I knew from my studies, and misinterpreted another. I tried to explain to her the mistakes, and she laughed at me, asking me where my education had taken place. I didn’t want to give away the location of our monastery, so I talked about it in vague terms. She laughed even further and hugged me, patting me on my cheeks, making kissy faces. I was beginning to think that academia and Brother Durham would get along just fine. The condescension was very familiar.
I wrote down the phrases as I saw them, extrapolating this was once a district seat. I couldn’t gauge how far we were from the capital, however. One of the things I had not interpreted was the variation in measurements the ancients used. I had a strong understanding of rods, hands, spans, leagues, stones, etc. The ancients used things I interpret as qualo miters. I have no idea if that’s the correct translation, nor how far it is, but we are seven hundred of them from the capital. Sounds like a long way, regardless of measurement.
Johann said they were made up words and that there was no capital. She honestly believed this was the capital of this region, which is why Rufus wanted to study here, and why the dragon, Cassandra had moved in. We debated so long, we decided to rest here and eat. She wanted to explore one of the basic rituals and I told her we could, but only after I said my prayers. I can’t remember how long it has been since I said anything here about Kithri or Semaunzilla (may she show me the way to peace) but I pray to them every day. I just don’t always say something in this journal. Johann mentioned her belief that religion was for the weak minded, but I bit my tongue. I don’t think she’s ever met a true cleric before. Frankly, I’ve come to believe that Johann has lived a very sheltered life. She was a fast learner in some areas, but closed minded in others.
I know she did not intend to purposefully hurt my feelings, but the disdain was getting hard to take. I was the exception, of course, but everything she complained about seemed to match with my understanding of the world. Perhaps Rufus didn’t want her around because she was so judgy.
It even put me off my worship, if that makes any kind of sense. I’d thought to come back here and explore the ruins with her at some future date, after I had freed Bob, then the lizard folk. But now, I’m not sure I wanted to continue traveling with her. She would not stop trying to convince me how the things I believed in were childish and backward. You can imagine how nice that felt.
I was strongly debating just leaving her here. I went through the motions of the first ritual, which pleased her. She fell asleep soon after and I was gathering my things to go when a voice spoke in my head.
It was Beatrice, the mole, Johann’s cursed twin who resided above her left eyebrow.
Yes, she was really her own entity. Yes, I had been mistaken in my initial assessment. And I was utterly abashed by the things she told me.