Rendyl didn't quite grasp what Master meant.
“I need a new book, something old but new, something interesting but forgotten, something I could only get from here but shouldn’t have. Do you think you can do that one thing for me little birdy? Now go and don’t disappoint me.”
It seemed to her like it was easier said than done. Steal from their restricted floor when there were no stairs leading to it nor any feasible way to break in from the outside? And the order itself was pretty vague. 'Something' from a library encompassed practically the entirety of any possible subject. However, the Akeshan knew Drakus well enough to guess at what he might want in particular, so the Avian did what she did best in these sorts of commands: she would improvise.
First things first. Getting in.
It was obvious a beastman would never have the clout to get into the most secure library on the continent. That was resolved rather simply by tucking her wings into their grooves and throwing a cloak over her back and shoulders, reaching down to her ankles and wrapping around to drape across her arms. Her front was still visible, as she didn't want to be seen as a threat. Just another minor noble that had tagged along with a Lord. She admired it in the mirror of Lord Solaris's room, and smirked.
"I doubt there's an Akeshan alive that has been where I'm about to go…" she mused, flicking the cloak around her legs lightly. "Enough of this, time to get to work."
Rendyl strode out of the room and made her way out to the main hall. It was early morning, just in time for the meeting of the most powerful people of Croenia to begin, and that was what Rendyl wanted. She hoped anyone with enough sway to enter the major library would be in those talks, leaving the library empty for the time she needed.
The next challenge would be the gateway into the library. The woman approached the portal pad and waited a few heartbeats to see if it would react at all to her presence…
She lifted a hand and attempted to mimik what she imagined activating a gate would feel like.
She sighed and glanced around. She needed to risk asking for help. Rendyl did spot a single monk alone nearby, fiddling with something in his hands. She was too far away to see it, but it didn't matter to her. She walked over with a purpose in her stride, and lifted a hand to wave "Hail! I need a bit of assistance. Might you attend me please?"
Please? She's supposed to be a noble, why would she say please?
The monk slipped the object back into his robe and faced the woman, her armor and fancy cloak a mark of wealth "Yes? Of course, what can I help you with?"
"I have been sent here by my Lord to do some research. May I have you activate the portal to the major library?"
"I am sorry, ma'am. I cannot. Perhaps the minor library would do?"
"....Eh, no. See, I have already visited there, and they did not have what I seek. My Lord has requested knowledge on beastmen. We have a small outbreak among them and we don't want it to spread. If the old texts can tell us anything, it might help avoid a pandemic infecting us too."
The monk blinked at her, a little miffed. She was persistent. But he countered by asking "What Lord do you serve?"
"Lord Drakus of Solaris. We use beastmen in our construction work."
"...Ask a doctor in town. The major library is restricted."
"I already have, yesterday. But most of the doctors I spoke to didn't know anything about any epidemics. It affects the beastmen that have bloodlines from Ashket, which is why my Lord had the idea to try the old texts on their magic. Maybe there is mention of this disease."
This woman was not taking no for an answer was she? He sighed and bowed slightly "Very well, but I will accompany you. Do not wander off while inside, understood?"
Rendyl bowed her head back before she could catch herself, and quickly nodded "Of course. I would not want you to shirk your duty to protect this tower just for one person."
The pair walked back to the portal pad, and the monk stepped onto it, motioning Rendyl to follow him. When they were both standing still, the monk lifted a hand slightly, and Rendyl felt a sudden dizziness come over her as her world dissolved for what felt like a few seconds, only for the world to materialize around her, completely different to where she had been. Looking about in wonder, she knew she had made it to the major library.
The room was big by her standards. And almost all the space was taken up by bookcases in rows, broken up by aisles. Between the bookshelves however was a single table with a number of chairs around it, placed in a larger gap in the bookshelves. To one side of the room, a large window in the wall was their only indicator they weren't underground.
"You will sit here, and I will bring you books as you request." The monk strode forward ahead of Rendyl, leading her to the table. She was too shocked she had made it this far to hear him the first time, and she blinked as she looked back to the monk.
"Sit. I will bring books to you. You are not to go looking yourself." The monk repeated once he was sure the woman was listening. Rendyl nodded quickly and hurried forward, sitting in the offered chair and adjusting her cloak. The monk waited patiently for her first request, while Rendyl waited to be told what to do, the silence stretching out for several seconds before the monk offered "...what do you require first?"
Rendyl jumped slightly at the break of quiet, and replied with a slightly shaky "Ashket-born beastmen. None of the Akeshans born here in Croania have been infected, so we think it has something to do with their magic."
"You might want studies on beastman biology and kinesthetics." The monk walked off, leaving Rendyl to gaze up at the bookshelves, all of them full of various tomes of different colors and shapes. She had never seen anything quite like it…
The monk came back with a small selection and set them down in front of her. "You can read at the table. No books leave the room."
"Understood." Rendyl replied, and opened up one book titled 'What the wild things are', and got to reading with the monk hovering nearby. The book seemed to describe in detail that while each subspecies of Akeshan looked very similar, all of their functions differed. It continued with example after example of various bodily differences thanks to the type of animal they are most similar to, such as reproduction, digestion, visual, auditory, and the like.
She got lost in the book for nearly an hour, before finally setting it down after a page described a type of avian Akeshan actually laying eggs. "Nothing here on disease…"
Or much of anything based on reality. she thought to herself. She looked at the titles of the few other books the monk had brought her, and she shook her head.
"None of this will help…what about Akeshan poisons or rare beasts?"
"Rare beasts…" the monk was in full scholar mode as he walked off again, coming back with only one tome this time. He held it out to her. "Try this one."
Rendyl accepted the book and checked the title. 'Mythical and Magical Monsters'. She shrugged and opened it, a little curious despite herself. At the very least she could report her findings if she were unable to steal anything. She glanced over the index:
seraphim, sea monsters, dryads, nymphs…
She didn't spend too much time on this particular book, skimming through a few pages on each type. She was about to request a different one when a passage in the last section caught her attention. Nymphs, among other activities, could purify water without any tools.
"Purification without any help…?"
She delved deeper into the details on nymphs, and through a few more pages, told of people who encountered these creatures could manipulate water themselves. Rendyl's brow furrowed in curiosity "Transferrable powers? Now we are getting somewhere."
She spent the next twenty minutes discovering other beasts also had some powers they transferred on occasion, but as she read, no side effects seemed to be described.
"Nothing here, but there has got to be something similar. So this infection is only affecting Ashket born Akeshans, no livestock, humans, or Croenia born Akeshans...it might be a highly evolved strain specific to something just the Ashket bloodlines ha-"
It suddenly dawned on her. She whipped her head around to look up at the monk, somewhat startled by the sudden movement "Please, anything on Ashket magical rituals involving mating habits or offspring?"
Frustrated he had to spend his time babysitting a noble, his mood only worsened as she pried deeper..."We have very few texts on Ashket- especially the natives. I've given you basically everything."
"Then anything involving Akeshans and magic? I have a gut feeling about this, please! If I go back without looking under every rock, and this epidemic spreads to humans..."
"Mmh. Fine." The monk disappears into the shelves for a moment, then comes back with another book. This one seemed...different somehow. Old. Very old. "This one's written in an older dialect, so it'll take time to decipher its meaning."
"Then it is a good thing I can read and write. With you reading and translating, I can write, and perhaps we can finish before the day is out and prevent a catastrophe." Rendyl leaned over and tugged a few empty pages towards her she had been using to keep the occasional note.
The monk nodded reluctantly as he sat down into a spare seat, the pair got to work on transcribing the text into something more easily understood. Hours passed, each seemingly able to stay focused on a singular task if instructed…
"This word here, you sure its right?"
"Yes, though there might be a more accurate word…"
They kept going with minor exchanges, until at last, after Rendyl pestered him about another minor word, the monk huffs and shuts old tome with finality "I think that is enough. That is all we have on the subject. Now-" The monk stands and gestures for Rendyl to follow him "I will escort you out."
Rendyl couldn't hide her disappointment. She was just getting some good notes too…"Very well. Thank you for your time. I believe I have learned enough to chase a few possible options I didn't think of before."
The monk nodded once, and turned to take a step towards the portal pad…
He never took it.
The next thing Rendyl felt was the entire world lurching to the side, throwing both her and the monk into the air to slam against the wall. As darkness took her, she heard a sickening crunch beside her.
The woman slowly blinked her eyes, groggy and dazed. She was staring across the room, apparently standing …? No that wasn't right, she was pinned to the wall. She slowly looked around, and noted everything looked like it was forced into the w-
Blood was seeping across the wall, and it finally clicked in Rendyl's head: Somehow, the entire room was now tilted 90 degrees on its side. She pushed herself up into a sitting position, rubbing her head as she tried to gain her senses "By the tomes, this is worse than some of Master's sessions…"
Rendyl lifted her head to glance around again. The library shelves were in disarray, some laying flat against the new direction of down, others miraculously standing on end. One shelve sadly found itself slammed into the monk, the source of the blood. He had been crushed by the wood, his entire lower body flattened by the force of the impact. Above her, light down down from the window, now facing upward. Through it she could see only swirling grey clouds, or at least that's what they looked like to an Avian who didn't care very much at that moment.
She had more pressing worries. First things first, she was stranded. The portal pad looking very ominous with a black swirling vortex to replace it. Any sailor knew that when you are stranded, you find food and water to last the day, then explore your surroundings. Rendyl employed this tactic without thinking, crawling over towards the monk.
She knew from her time in a port town how much blood was fatal for an average human, and the monk was certainly past that point. She avoided the pool, and quickly assessed his person. Not a whole lot was reachable with the bookshelf on him, so she looked around for a minute, searching and finding a chunk of broken shelf, before shoving it under the wood covering the monk and prying it up and across from his body. Then with an ease most would find distasteful, she riffled through the monk's robes, uncovering a single waterskin, a ration of bread, and a stopwatch.
Having not seen any sort of satchel before, she decided it didn't matter to hide herself any longer. The Avian tugged her cloak off and made a makeshift bag to carry the items in, then with a final nod and short prayer for the monk she never learned the name of, she closed his eyes and stood.
"Now…lets see, most likely if the library is in this state, and no one has come looking, I doubt anyone will be here anytime soon…"
She looked about slowly as she spoke to herself, thinking aloud to help focus her thoughts "Master will need me, but he is not helpless. He will want me to take advantage of my situation and complete the task he set me. Steal something old but new…"
Rendyl started digging through the books scattered about, taking the time to hunt for that old leather book where any normal person would be trying to find a way out. Slavery does strange things to the mind.
Nearly an hour later, she had found both that stupid old book, along with the notebook she had been translating into, and lastly the one describing all the monsters of Ashket. Rendyl quickly stored these in her cloak-bag, and grabbing a smaller chunk of wood she could use as a weapon, threw her cloak over her shoulder and looked back at the portal, the swirling vortex taunting her with each black shadow she imagined hiding inside...
She looked up at the window, now her only safe means of escape. Some would call it impossible. They never had wings.
Rensyl walked over to a standing bookcase and flapped her wings lightly, loosening them up before crouching down, eyes upward as her mind judged the distance, then launched upward at a slight angle. The maneuver would only cost a single heavy flap of her wings, and by judging correctly she alighted perfectly on the top. Now she looked up again, noticing that a few of the smaller bookshelves that had held a more central point in between the others had been bolted down to the floor, undoubtedly to prevent a catastrophic collapse of all the shelving if one tipped over. It was a boon. She never would've had a chance of getting to that window without them.
Someone out there likes me.
She repeated her launch, zipping through the air and grappling onto the shelving unit's side, but not staying in place. Rendyl launched off again in quick succession towards the top of the bookshelf, and with a few more similar hops, was pressing a hand against the window.
"Surprised it's intact." Rendyl muttered, and smacked the glass with her club. The shattered pieces fell past her as she held her head away from the impact site, waiting until the tinkling stopped next to her before breaking a few last bits off with the wood in her hand. It was almost gratifying, breaking something like this window, since it was most likely older than her. She gripped the edge of the new opening and allowed herself to dangle, lifting her wings up...and thrusting down firmly, the result being her body streamlined as it leapt through and onto the top of the large box that was the major library.
"Next time, I'm going to ask for lighter armor." She panted, the exertion on her wings being more than what she was used to on an average day. The Avian pushed herself to stand and adjust the cloak-sack tied to her neck, then picked the club back up before walking towards the edge of the building look down.
Birds aren't afraid of heights. But never had Rendyl been so high up before. The entire tower and surrounding area looked like it was enclosed in a bubble...the world's very existence warped. The tower itself looked like a child had come and rearranged all the rooms like building blocks. But gravity still felt like normal to her, and as she gazed down, she was already imagining the pain her back and wing muscles were going to feel at the bottom…
Nothing for it. So without taking more time to think, Rendyl took a few steps back and ran towards the edge, diving off and allowing herself to be pulled northward for several seconds in a freedive, before letting her wings open evenly to catch the air and bring her into a controlled swoop. Anyone who looked up could see her silhouette against the sky as she angled to swoop downward and around the tower, hugging it to avoid touching the mysterious edge of the grey bubble they were in.
Rendyl was unconsciously whining softly as her muscles started to burn from the strain. But she still had some ways to go.
Come on, hold on a little longer…
She willed herself, but despite her best desire to stay in the air, her wing faltered, folding in on itself for a second and sent her into a spin. The world swirled as Rendyl forced her wing to obey, and just in time too as the ground rushed up to meet her. She was able to avoid smacking the ground headfirst, instead slamming down with her armored chest and legs before her momentum sent her rolling, wings flopping around and wrapping around her until at last she came to a stop on the gravel, panting heavily, her bundle laying off a short distance away, thankfully still tied together. The piece of wood was gone, but Rendyl didn't care...
She was out.