Chapter 12: Out of Place
Looking at the space where Alexander had been, Seraph internally reprimanded himself. This had been sloppier than he intended and would likely case complications down the line. The execution had been clumsy at that, all because he caused far too much noise by trying to check for a mimic that wasn’t there. Mistake or not, it had likely woken Alexander up, unless Alexander had only pretended to nod off to sleep. It was possible, Seraph’s senses in this body were not without flaws, they could be fooled.
Thankfully though he had been able to salvage things quickly by sending Alexander on to the next phase when he forcefully activated the tokens, the mechanic was not difficult, simply a matter of will, one couldn’t not without active intent active the tokens, it was a failsafe to protect the new and uniatited, but as Seraph had done, their were still a few ways to abuse it. As for Alexander, his purpose is unclear, and though the man might not have been a genius or an expert fighter, but he did show promise, Seraph preferred not having to take his life. He was no necromancer, the dead didn’t yet serve him.
That said, if Alexander had woken up or only pretended to be, it was possible that Erin or his father had heard the noise he made from slamming the boxes and would come to investigate or investigate Alexanders absence. He was prepared, he had a story prepared if needed, Alexander was after all an oddity.
He moved silently to the doorway careful to not make another sound and peered out, he couldn’t see them sleeping from where he stood but he could hear them. The sounds of soft sleep from Erin, and from Paul loud snoring. They were asleep, he still had time before they would wake up to keep searching.
He quickly but careful to not drop any gathered up the remaining tokens from inside the box and stashed them in his pockets. He reached out to grab the helmet and stopped himself as he realized something. He lowered himself to the floor and pulled a small metal washer from one of the corners of the medical bed. Without looking at it closely, it resembled one of the tokens. He quickly stashed it in his pocket, stood up and shook the dust off of him and grabbed the helmet and left the room.
He smiled as he left the room behind, giving it one last look before he went to make sure he grabbed everything. He had enough tokens for 2 people to move on to the next stage, and if he knew anything about his father, it was that his father would refuse to move on if anyone was left behind. He patted the small washer in his pocket, an insurance policy if needed.
There was only 1 room left to check, the Principal's Office, and as he crept down the hall as quietly as he could, he noticed Erin still clutched off asleep beneath the counter and Paul snoring loudly spread out on the floor. On a level Seraph knew he was breaking his purpose of guardian them in their sleep, but had no reservations about it, this was an opportunity to explore uninterrupted without having to explain why he knew things, or lie as questions were asked that he wasn’t prepared or interested in answering.
He gently turned the bronzed doorknob and pushed the door forward, careful to try and keep it from making too loud noise and possible waking one of them up. Unlike the general office space were Erin and Paul were sleeping, the principal's office was meticulously clean and manicured, as if someone, or something had been there recently, there was no other explanation It had the faint look, feel, and smell of having had somebody inside it recently, but except for the footsteps of his group, there was no evidence that anyone else had even been here. The dust outside the office was more evidence that no one had been inside for years if not decades.
“Yeah” He thought as he gave the room a quick glance. The cleanliness was definite proof that this was the room he needed to dig through to find whatever it was he needed to find. He pushed the papers on the desk aside and laid the helmet he had been carrying down. He wouldn’t be able to wear it anyways until he got it identified and he needed his hands free to search the room. But as he laid it down, he realized it was no longer giving off its previous blue hue of dim light, which meant it had been identified. He looked at it closer.
(Notification: Helmet of the Hometown Hero - So long as you possess greater strength and agility than other members of your party, you will be viewed as the leader of the group by non-members in the immediate vicinity.)
He grimaced. A useless bonus, at least for him, for now. He had hoped for buffs rather than bluffs. His had never been the way of the illusionist or bard. What he did not gain through loyalty, he took through force. He would pawn it at first opportunity or toss it if it was too inconvenient.
But this was not a revelation without merit. It was interesting that it had been identified, and the only way it could have been identified was if somebody on his team had done so and he had already seen Paul’s special ability and he had seen Erin’s ability, which left Alexander. At some point during their encounter Alexander must have used an ability. An ability that he had previously refused to disclose, an ability that allowed him to identify items. Likely a non-combat ability, which was likely why he refused to disclose it before, the man was not just a fool, he was insecure too.
To an extent, their was little Alexander could have done to make himself less of a fool in Seraph’s eyes. The man had attempted to coerce him, and ultimately Seraph would ensure he paid a high price for that. Within the dungeon the only thing that mattered was strength and the application of power. The dangerous nature of the dungeon cared little for anything else.
Seraph dismissed the thoughts from his head. He needed to focus on the task at hand. He needed to focus on looking through the office. He grabbed the stack of papers he had pushed aside when he laid the helmet down, careful to avoid knocking over the computer, and quickly riffed through them catching bits and pieces of the text. He found nothing of importance, maintenance reports, old service authorizations, class progress reports, and budget line items.
An old photograph on the corner of the desk caught his eye and he picked up the frame to look at it. It showed a man in a crisp suit holding a woman in his arms, likely his wife, but his face and hers had been torn out, but like everything else in the room, the frame was not marred by fingers, grim, age, or dust. A burst of adrenal pushed through Seraph’s body. He knew they were not alone in here and this was proof though he didn’t know how whatever or whoever it was could move without leaving tracks.
He ran quickly to the door, his heart pounding and quickly settled himself once he saw that the door was still barricaded, Paul was still sleeping, as was Erin. He promised at the least he would pay more attention to their safety and not completely ignore being aware of what was going on outside of the office.
He knew he was missing something still. The poster of Einstein on the wall didn’t seem that relevant, neither did the complete collection of Encyclopedia Britannica. He moved around to the other side of the desk looking for other drawers and saw only an empty steel cubby belt into the interior of the desk, save for a short stack of post it notes that was almost depleted, an obvious sign of extensive use. Besides the cubby he saw a long cord trailing down. “The computer, of course.”
He had forgotten the importance of computers, it had been a long time since he had needed one. He had sat down in the chair and after looking for a second to find the power button, turned it on.
(NOTIFICATION: You lack the requisite intelligence to use this terminal, requires 8 INT.)
(NOTIFICATION: You lack the requisite skill to use this terminal “Tech Savy” or “Computer Literate”.)
Irritated he dismissed the prompts and turned the computer off, there would be other ways to solve this. He needed to find something out of place, something that didn’t belong. He looked at the bookshelf again, going shelf by shelf, and finally on the top was a white 3-ring binder with post it notes sticking out of the sides. He reached up and grabbed it, pulling it down and laying it out on the desk.
The cover was beat up, partially torn, and covered in greasy handprints. The opposite of the room, it read across the top “Findings from the Miamsas Edge - A Case Study by Reverend” and the top corner bore a mark that was secret to many but well known to Seraph. Three slash marks in each direction, the mark of Carrion Crow, the guild he had founded, the guild he had lead into the abyss of the final floor, the Locum Malificar.