The spell broken, the small study had become a massive library. It wasn’t quite that the rest of the room was hidden. Rather, our minds were prevented from seeing it. From noticing it.
Rows, upon rows of shelves of books. The whole thing stretched back, filling the space to the wall. On the other end of the room were large windows, flooding the space with daylight.
I remember Marcellus and turn to our spirit friend. He isn’t as enamored with the reveal of the room as Lance and Con. Rather, his attention was focused on his own being. His body was stable, if translucent.
If pressed, I couldn’t explain what had happened to him. Some combination of the manner of his death and magical spells used to maintain his presence on this plane of existence.
“Marcellus, how are you feeling?”
He turns to me.
“I’m… I’m not sure. Based on your conversation, I didn’t expect to still be here after you destroyed the circle.”
“Understandable. I wish I could offer you any comfort, but I’ve no idea what was done to you. We’ll have to question your brother on his part in that later.”
Upon hearing us talking about him, Lance realizes his predicament. He tries to run, but his arm is immediately snatched up by Con.
“I don’t think so buddy!”
I point to the desk chair across from us, and Con understands. He takes Lance over as I reach into my bag and pull out some rope. We tie the boy to the chair, ensuring he can’t escape.
“Please! Let me go!”
I speak, informing him he’s still needed.
“Lance, you’re the only one who has any idea what is really going on. And you have much to answer for. You’re going to stay put until we have a better handle on things.”
Marcellus hangs his head, unable to look at his helpless brother. I do not blame him, as his condition is the direct result of Lance’s actions.
“Come, we must investigate the library. Marcellus, can you please help?”
He gives me a look of confusion.
“You’re more spirit than human now. You should be able to float and we need to figure out why this room was being hidden.”
He nods in understanding, and immediately starts to look through the shelves. Con checks the ropes again, ensuring Lance won’t be leaving, and then takes off running down the aisle of shelves.
“Please, let me leave.”
Lance’s voice is small. Sorrowful. Pleading. It almost breaks me.
“You know I cannot.”
The boy hangs his head, his body relaxing in his binds. He won’t be going anywhere.
“Branner! You better come see this!”
Con calls for me. Did he find something already? I leave Lance and rush down to the other end of the aisle of books. There, Con was staring at something off in the corner of the room.
Something hidden by the shelves from where I was in the front of the room. Something for which I was not prepared.
An altar. A demonic altar. A demonic altar encompassed in swirling demonic energy.
Whoever did this, is absolutely brilliant. I cannot merely dismantle the altar and expect the demon to be banished. The energy outside it is binding all the spells together and will react to any hostile force in kind. I…
I actually have no plan to dispel this. This kind of magic is far beyond anything I expected to be here.
“Branner? What is that?” Con never took his eyes off the altar.
“That is why things were hidden. This altar is what has bound the demon we fought earlier, to this house. And the dark energy that we all can feel is preventing me from ending all this right now.”
I can’t hold back. They must know the truth.
“Whoever did this may even be beyond my abilities. And judging from the amount of power coming from the altar, the demon is awfully close to obtaining his sacrifice. The daughter…”
“I remember her! I can’t believe I forgot.” Con exclaimed.
“Yes, now that you mention it, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard anyone mention her name. And she wasn’t outside the house to greet me when I first arrived, a fairly standard practice.”
“Well, that is due to her condition.” I jumped a little. Marcellus had joined us, silently coming behind me.
“Not too long after the demons were brought forth, Juliet Maladar came down with an illness, the like of which even Doctor Maladar couldn’t understand,” Marcellus spoke. A spirit looking very human. This had to be the most unnerving aspect of it all, though it would be better I not say such a thing.
“It may have been inflicted upon her by Lance’s demon. If the girl dies, the other demon cannot collect and would be banished. Assuming I’m right and the beasts are warring.”
I hate to interrupt my thought process piecing together more of the puzzle, but I needed to know what kind of demon Lance had brought forth.
My cohorts and I return to the front of the library where we left Lance. He did his best to avoid the gaze of Marcellus.
“Lance, where is the book you used to summon your demon?”
The boy looked ashamed, as he remembered his role in this mess. “I keep it under my pillow, in the servant’s quarters. I can take you there.”
“No, I have more I must do here. Take Con with you. Fetch it for me. If the Doctor tries to stop you, or harasses Con, just run past him. We have no time to abide social distractions.”
Con turns to me. I’m sure he’s incredulous at what I’ve suggested.
“Branner, you can’t be serious.”
“I’m afraid I am, my friend. I must find something here, and I cannot trust the boy to bring the book back himself. And I’ve no idea what the good doctor would do if he found you by himself.”
I put my hand on his shoulder.
“I’m trusting you.”
The two boys look at each other and understand the tone of my voice. Con walks over and released the ropes around Lance and the two leave the room.
“You try to bolt and I’ll make ya regret it,” Con says.
The door closes behind them and I set about my work, examining the newly revealed room, looking for signs of the enchantment previously placed upon it. Such a large and powerful spell must have used some form of physical conduit. If I can find it, I could maybe breach the dark energy around the altar.
“Mr. Branner, sir. I have to ask, why did you not ask Lance about who committed this heinous act?” Marcellus was following me, his freedom granted with the breaking of the ring of light.
“I already know. And if I want confirmation, I could ask you.”
I reach into my bag and pull out rope and a smooth stone. I hang the stone precariously on the rope and concentrate. The stone stays perfectly still.
Hmm, no chicken bones anywhere. That was a bit of a long shot. What could have been the item used?
“Me? I have no clue who summoned the other demon. I thought Lance had cursed this house.” Marcellus found he could float high up enough to look at the top of the shelves, and began examining another aisle from me.
“Yes, but in your current form, you possess a unique ability. You can see magical remnants. The trails of leftover power from spells and rituals. And since there is a powerful source of such energy in this room, I could have you compare to the other people in the manor.”
I put my tools away and decide to search by hand.
“I believe I understand, but then how do you know who our villain is?” Marcellus asks.
“That would take some explanation. Right now, I need to find something. I’m looking for an odd object. Something out of place here, that would act as a container for energy. There isn’t much that could do that. Precious metals, animal bones-”
“Yes! Where do you see that?” I run from my aisle toward his voice and looked about for the spirit.
“It is up here, on a shelf, hidden behind a book.”
I find him floating next to a strange little statue. I couldn’t quite tell if that was what we were looking for, but it did look out of place from the rest of the room.
“Excellent! Can you bring it down to me?”
“Well, I would, but my current form is less than useful on that matter.” Marcellus extends his hand, phasing through the entire shelf.