*Continued from Uncharted, Part III
The beast is a familiar one. Spyglass has seen it many times before. It spoke to her once, even as it stuffed its maw with the flesh and tissue of Leonard Cayce. Spyglass hadn't known it at the time, but Leonard was once a candidate to be Compass. Not that it mattered. The image of his devouring sort of ended any speculation that the current Compass could be replaced.
Its wings aren't feathered, but scaled. At least they look scaled, for even during Reception, Spyglass is too afraid to take a closer look. Some of these Tunnelers are reported to be psychic, after all. Proximity in dreams may be as dangerous as proximity in body. Though young, Spyglass has never been one for taking unnecessary risk.
She remembers what it said to her: "You will understand my tongue." The obvious interpretations were clear, given Leonard's body as a meal and the fact that it communicated in English, but Sextant assured her that neither was what it meant. Spyglass has taken to calling it Krueger - after the horror film antagonist - and often finds herself combating it in her own dreamworlds.
Its fingers, like its film counterpart, are blades. Its skin, depending on the angle, appears charred. But there the similarities end, for there is nothing human about this Krueger. Its mouth is tentacled, replete with toothed suckers like a giant squid and barbed tips like stingers on scorpions. And its eyes... not terrifying in their appearance... but terrifying in that they always seem to be looking at her, whether during Reception or dream.
It finishes killing someone. She's not sure who... or what gender... but that's not what terrifies her this time. What terrifies her is that it speaks to her again...
Compass is in a bad mood. It's enough that he has to ask the Librarian for some assistance; it's worse that Marianne tags along. Yes, she's kinda cute and, he must admit, her voice has a lusciously sultry tone to it, but the fact that she has a boyfriend obviates any dirty thoughts for her body that Compass might have. He may be a jerk, but he's got scruples.
Thankfully, he's either walking too fast or has too intense an expression on his face for Marianne to try to make smalltalk. She just follows him through the Karl Moser-designed manor, taking turns staring at him and glancing at some of the paintings and artifacts on display throughout. She's never actually been to the Library and doesn't know where it is, but when Compass pauses in front of a large set of oak double doors, inhales, then exhales, she knows they've arrived.
Compass pushes open the doors, as quickly as their weight will allow, and without even knowing if the Librarian is inside, calls out.
"You get those numbers I asked for?"
The Librarian appears behind a stack of shelves in the northwest corner. She fumes subtly. "I'm a librarian, Compass. Not a researcher. You may get them yourself."
"You gave them to Clock. He lost them. I need them."
"I did the work once. I need not do it again."
Compass secretly wishes the Librarian were a man. He'd love to break her jaw. "He said you pulled them up on your computer. How hard would it be to, I don't know, just bring them up again?"
The Librarian returns to whatever it is she was doing. Compass' expression makes Marianne wonder if he's going to beat the old woman to death with a heavy book. That there's a dictionary on a reading lectern a few feet from where Compass currently stands makes Marianne worry.
"You do realize we're in the middle of something important, don't you?" Compass asks, a final polite gesture before, no doubt, things get ugly.
The Librarian continues her work as if neither Compass nor Marianne are in the room.
"Fine, bitch. I'll check Clock's office again." Compass bolts out, brushing by Marianne. How an order so seemingly dysfunctional manages to save the world on a near-daily basis is beyond her.
After Marianne is gone, the Librarian walks to the lectern and brushes her fingers on the dictionary. It's a vintage American Webster's, dated 1900. She flips through the pages with her eyes closed, blindly pointing at a random word. Petulant. Insolent or rude in speech or behavior. The Librarian laughs and takes a closer look. The preceding word is petunia. She laughs again.
"That'll do nicely." Closing the dictionary, she returns to the shelves.
The four men and two women standing before Cardinal Grant are obviously soldiers. Elite ones, at that. Their leader, a man who identified himself only as Corporal, holds out a hand. In his palm, innocently placed, are two white tablets.
"I cannot commit suicide. Such an act would consign me to Hell."
"The alternative is painful, Cardinal," Corporal replies.
"God would never forgive me."
"I don't believe in your god. I couldn't care less."
"Child." It is a defiant tone with which Cardinal Grant speaks. He looks at the other five soldiers. "Children. It matters not what you believe. Only what He believes."
Corporal fights back a smile. Despite appearances, he doesn't enjoy this part of his work, and it's merely a nervous reaction. The Phalanx Nautikos were formed to combat the Tunnelers, not conduct assassinations. The unfortunate revelation that several species of Tunnelers were telepathic made the secrecy of the Order of Navigators tantamount to the survival of the Human race. The survival of Earth, as well, for that matter. Given the incident of 1489, in which Martin Truchseß von Wetzhausen - then the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights - was almost compromised by the Tunnelers a second time, the tradition of assassinating those outside of the order who knew of the order began.
"He believes, Cardinal," Corporal begins, replacing his almost-smile with as grim a look as possible, "that if you do not consume these pills, you will suffer worse pain than your Lord and Savior did at Golgotha."
Corporal lets that sink in, then continues in a softer tone. "I can assure you that your god does not wish that upon you."
The Cardinal looks into Corporal's eyes and takes a breath. Regardless of choice, it is time for belief to be tested.
Clock sits across from Sextant, who is currently regaling Clock with tales of Derartu Kebede, the Ethiopian princess who was Clock prior to his own predecessor. It is obvious that, despite all that Kebede instructed Sextant, Sextant wanted nothing more than to bed her. It is also obvious that Sextant never did.
A buzzing noise interrupts Sextant's story and Clock reaches into his pocket, retrieving his cellular phone. He answers it, slowly nods, and hangs up.
Sextant frowns. Both men's curiosities try to determine if the pills were taken, but both men have too much respect for Cardinal Grant to ever ask. Besides, if God is real, they'll find out soon enough.
*Continued in Uncharted, Part V
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