"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Bee whispered to herself. How could she forget something so obvious?
Sure now she had a bunch of powders and magical substances in bags brimming with possibilities. If mixed together, they could heal her leg. Maybe even help fend off demons. However, she forgot the most essential part of making that possible. The part that actually made this random assortment of things magical. How could she know how much to mix?
Alchemy required precise proportions, both in volume and weight. Nothing in this library had nearly tight enough tolerances to measure what she needed.
She sighed. Still, the trip hadn't been a complete bust. The basic demon repellent, at least, was a very forgiving recipe. It was one part standard salt and two parts powdered horse hairs. It would still be effective with 10% inaccuracy in either direction or so, the book said.
Lining up a mostly even pile of powdered horse hairs, Bee then laid down a line of salt similar in width to the length of the horse hair line. She swept them into a bag and shook them up. It said to mix thoroughly, but Bee thought it still looked like ordinary powder. She hoped it worked. At least now Bee would have some protection. Because now she would be venturing out again. Bee needed a scale, test tubes, and water at a minimum to make this work. So she needed to get into one of the research rooms and the kitchen. She might as well grab food while she was already there.
With a little more confidence, Bee headed out again. It was perhaps false confidence, as the previous trip had gone without a hitch. Still, when she opened the door to leave the library, her heart wasn't racing half as fast this time. Just like last time, the office room was clear. Tiptoeing out, she stuck her head out of the door. Looking in both directions, Bee saw no movement in the hallways either. As Bee moved down the hall to the research rooms, she relaxed even more. The place was quiet.
It didn’t take Bee long to hobble down to the door she was looking for. In the lesser research room, she knew there would be supplies for what she needed to do. It was one of the rooms she was allowed to clean. They called it a research room, but it was more for resource harvesting. The room housed the lowest demons that produced valuable materials. The more experienced apprentices would gather all the valuable stuff, then Bee was let in to clean everything so that the new things deposited would be fresh. As she was working, she had to be careful of the symbols and circles surrounding the cages. Now Bee knew why. Well, she always could guess. What they told her was. "Only touch the chalk if you want to die." Or, "if you value your life, don’t disturb the salt." So she figured, okay, the powders are magical, and I won’t mess with them. I can scrub the floors, but don’t mess with the magic. Sure, that was simple.
Apparently, that wasn’t quite the issue. Many of these, Bee recognized from her reading. They were dampening fields that took a while to take effect and weakened the magic within. If she had disturbed the protections, it would have taken a couple of days for these beasts to slowly wake up. Once awake, they could have started to use their magic to get out of the cages.
So when Bee saw the door to the room was left open, she started to get concerned. By the time she stepped in, she really began to panic. The first thing she noticed was that the floor was more visible than she was used to. It took a second for it to set in, but when it did, Bee's heart rate exceeded all previous records. Looking around in panic, she scanned the cages. They were, for the most part, empty. She took a few quick and panicked breaths, trying to calm herself.
Trying to control her breathing, Bee continued on high alert but realized she needed to move quickly. Examining the cages as she moved into the room, she gave the still-occupied ones a wide berth. A few cages were empty. From her previous experience with this room, every one of them should be full. She quickly moved to some counters with cabinets on the far side. Rummaging around, she found what she was looking for. Grabbing a scale and some measuring equipment, she stuffed them into the bag she had brought with her. While realizing the need for speed, she also realized she might need to do some more research on what she was up against. Quickly she took a second to read the nameplates on each of the cages without occupants. She hoped to be able to find information on them in the library. It would give her a better idea of what danger she was in.
Now aware that there were more things to be careful about than just Void, Bee scurried away as fast as her hat stand cane would allow her. She still needed to grab the supplies and water if she wanted to have any chance of getting there. But it seemed less likely that she would be able to escape without being discovered. Abandoning stealth Bee moved as fast as she could toward the kitchen. While in transit, she kept a sharp eye and ear out but didn't notice anything amiss. Seeing that she knew nothing about these creatures, she wasn't sure what to look for. Anything strange or out of place would have caught her eye.
Against all odds, she still managed to make it all the way to the kitchen without incident. When she got to the kitchen, it looked much different than she remembered. It was strangely spotless like it had been cleaned recently. There also was surprisingly little odor for a room filled with food sitting out for a week. It was unlikely that it had been cleaned after breakfast when everyone fled, and the half-cleaned plates of food on the counter confirmed her suspicions.
Despite the changes in the kitchen, the pantry still had some food in it. Bee stuffed whatever looked least tainted by pests into her bag. Her now empty wineskin was filled with water from one of the basins. She took a quick look to see if she could find another water container. It would be nice to take more water with her, but she had no luck. On her way out, Bee reached over and grabbed a meat cleaver hanging on a hook above the counter. She hoped that she would not need it. Even though it made Bee feel better, she wasn’t even sure how effective it would be against demons. But it would be a better weapon than her late broomstick. Having accomplished her goals, she began to awkwardly limp as fast as she could back to the safety of the library.
As I explored, I found that the previously closed doors tended to lead to rooms that didn't need the same amount of cleaning as the more extreme cases. That's not to say they didn't need some attention. After all, they definitely hadn't been cleaned in at least a week. But still, as I explored and categorized rooms, I found that some fell into the schedule of once a week. Whereas others, like those that had cages, would continually produce more filth than just dust and were slated to be cleaned more often.
Truly, I had no idea how large this place was. It seemed like every time I would find a new door to open, it would lead to entirely other wings of the castle. And that wasn't even counting all the staircases I couldn't traverse. I really needed to see if I could find that nice human; I'm sure they'd be willing to help me out. Having finished my exploration for today, I went to clean the rooms that needed daily attention.
There are many things I appreciated about exploring. I enjoyed finding new ways I could help. And each room, for instance, was a new challenge. With all the new stimuli, I could feel myself becoming more efficient. I felt faster, quicker, stronger, and most of all, I became better at planning and executing my duties quickly. That was all nice. But truthfully, my favorite part was a bit more self-indulgent. The designers of this castle really had an eye for beauty. The workmanship was exquisite, and the execution was perfect. Each set of rooms unveiled another masterpiece. Every joint on the floor was set with care, and every color was intentionally chosen. The floors matched the purpose of each room in durability, color, traction, and every other quality I could think of.
There were also things I normally wasn't aware of. Now that my domain extended slightly in the vertical plane, I started paying attention to things I previously hadn't. For example, who would have thought baseboards would be such an essential piece to the aesthetic of a room. Choosing the correct edging for a floor seemed to be maybe 20% of the impact the floor had. And sometimes, there are even fancy styles of trim. They would extend several feet up and make the walls almost as fascinating to look at as the floor, I might say. Well, maybe not quite so fascinating. But it was close.
Another consequence of my upward attention was that I started to take a little more notice of furniture. Previously, I had always noticed furniture. Of course, how could you not? But now I consider more than just the footprint or its impact on my cleaning route. When considering the different types of chairs, you might have an armchair that takes up the entire square it sits on. Or you might have one with four posts that had a base high enough to allow me to clean underneath without much trouble. Either one is fine. One is within my abilities to take care of, whereas the other allows filth to build up underneath it. Though it is hidden and requires a human to help put it away. Now, however, I was looking at the color and the design. I noticed things like how I liked the seat fabric's color and pattern. Really, there were so many things I had missed previously that I wished I had started looking up earlier.
One day I would love to meet whoever designed this masterpiece. I would like to thank them for opening my sensory array beyond the floor. My great joy did come from doing my job and serving my humans, but it wasn't my only pleasure. While I lived to establish order and cleanliness, I could appreciate the small things too.
There were, of course, a few design choices I disagreed with or maybe just questioned. For example, well, I really like the use of accent rugs. But in some cases, I feel like whoever designed this didn't know how to lay a fully carpeted room. Don't get me wrong, I really do prefer hardwood over carpet. It's much more functional and easier to maintain, but a good carpeted room has its perks too. I know my humans are sensitive to hot or cold, and stepping on a carpet in the morning seems like something that gives them such joy. It's a shame that none of the bedrooms here had carpet.
I had begun to become efficient enough that I was able to have these thoughts while I worked. In order to execute my plan, I no longer required 95% of my concentration. I could get away with only giving it 70% to 80% and using my remaining concentration to plan ahead, increasing my efficiency. That was why I finished my exploration a little bit early and had a chance to return to see if there was anything else I could do to help the kitchen. Despite my best efforts, it wasn't up to my standards. A nasty smell of rotten food lingered. No matter how much air I pumped through my dust filter, I couldn't get it up to my standards.
Coming back from one of the far wings, I made my way toward the kitchen. Even though I had captured that one mess maker, it still seemed to attract more filth. I was starting to think that the mess maker I apprehended wasn't the only one. In fact, many rooms had no reason to be accumulating more filth and were doing so anyways. And maybe I was being paranoid, but sometimes I would see flashes in the edge of my sensor range. It was as though something moving fast was there, perhaps something small and sometimes furry.
I wasn't too concerned. Maybe these humans kept a cat. Cats didn't really like me. But that's okay; I wasn't their biggest fan, either.
All thoughts of cats and proper floor choices left my head as I saw the one human who seemed to have remained in the castle with me. It was not too dissimilar to a situation I had seen previously. Again, it looked like she was in a sticky situation with a mess maker. This time she didn't seem to be aware of it, though. She moved awkwardly from the kitchen, leaning on a large pole towards the room where we first met. However, she was being tailed by a small squat little furry thing. It looked like one of my small humans but shorter, with longer arms covered in black fur and long fangs. It crept quietly behind her. She kept looking around, but it was quick enough to stay in her blind spot whenever she did.
Eager to come to assist my human friend, I beeped loudly, trying to get her attention. Her head whipped around, and her eyes landed on me. In a stroke of bad luck, her gaze went right over the mess maker. I beeped again, insistently hoping that she would pick up on the hint, but instead, she turned as white as a linoleum floor. It wasn't until the mess maker screamed that she even thought to look down.