The Adventures of Loreane Part 2
Well, this has been forever, I wouldn't have thought I'd actually get back to it. I don't remember everything I planned to do with this and had to reread the first part actually so this is probably very different than it would have been had I gotten to writing it right away.
Trent, one of the old and scarred higher supervisors of the Grand Vault Library had quite the dilemma on his hands. One of his underlings had undergone a physical transformation and in their panic made a run for it. It wasn't unusual in the library's absurdly long history, but it wasn't all that common for the person to actually get clear of the walls. Loreane's clothes had been found here and there about the place, torn to shreds. At first he thought that maybe something had crawled out of the lower depths and gotten her, but a quick investigation showed that wasn't the case.
Right now he and a few other workers of the library were reviewing a crystal ball, replaying the events spied by one of the Watching Gems installed in the ceiling. There was some clearing of throats as they got to the part where the tall and absurdly curvy dark mage pushed herself on Loreane and the elf onto her own desk.
"We should...ah...speed through this..."
"Leave it," Trent grunted and everyone looked at him with some disgust. Let them think what they want, he wasn't really perving, he was just delaying the response as long as he could. Well, not entirely perving...
After she chased off the beautiful mage Loreane collapsed to her desk and reached over to her tea set. She missed the cup she had and accidentally grabbed a potion bottle of sickly green. Then she downed it. It was a clear accident, and the start of her growing transformation clearly scared the young woman. He thought a situation like this really deserved some leniency, maybe there was a way to reverse the potion, they couldn't be sure without some study.
"Paragraph four of section three," the spindly little ancient janitor behind him said.
"I don't have that code memorized, but I assume that's the section on using any transformative item or potion taken into the library's custody right? The one that says it's punishable by death?"
Trent scowled, fortunately his twisted, marred face made it hard to tell as he thought things over. He could not do anything like call off the hunt on this sort of thing. Administrators that deviated too much from the library's rules, the origins of which were strangely a complete mystery, had a really bad tendency to suffer fates worse than death. He liked Loreane and appreciated that she did very good work, but he just couldn't bring himself to face that for her. He couldn't even really throw any major wrenches into the operation. He would have to send someone out to track Loreane down, but he could undermine them just a little. The snooping dark mages and threat of missing artifacts would be enough of an excuse to short the search team a little manpower and the library never had very much to begin with. The turnover rate was unmatched. He couldn't outright save Loreane, but he might be able to give her a slight chance.
In her haste to gather a few items that might increase her odds of survival and flee the library Loreane had left a secret passage open. Throughout the hallway the shadows shifted unnaturally. Only a little at first, bending a little or casting in a slightly wrong direction. Then they started to elongate and grow in size, eventually converging on one point. Detaching from the items that cast them the shadows swirled about in a circle with flickers of purple until they congregated into a new shape, one of an extremely tall and exceedingly voluptuous woman. The shadowy, unsteady image of a woman walked down the hall and little points of purple light stood in for her eyes that shifted around as if to scan the hall.
Trinkets and scrolls she had not seen in any of her trips to the library in the flesh greeted Estella through the dim tunnel-vision her spell granted her shadow avatar. She had left a little rune of magic on the back of the elf's shirt just before the little librarian had so rudely refused her advances. Saying 'no' was one thing, but drawing an anti-magic knife was a bit much. She had expected for her shadow self to appear right behind that librarian elf, but they were nowhere to be seen. There were a few shreds of what might have been her clothes. Perhaps she'd had an unfortunate encounter with that explosive spell sitting on her desk? Estella's magical senses were strong enough that she could generally tell the purpose of a particular potion just by being in its general vicinity. The fate of the little bookworm wasn't a concern though and Estella started directing her shadowy projection to look for something a little more interesting in this hidden hallway. She had just caught sight of a display filled with all manner of seemingly unsorted things when suddenly a janitor turned the corner.
They had been moping the floor or whatever it is people of such a position do when they turned the corner. It looked like they spotted her shadowy projection, but this person didn't so much as flinch or blink in surprise. Estella felt some disbelief as she saw them sigh, turn to their cart and start going through their vials, bottles and bags. Estella started to direct her shadow projection past them to investigate the display when the janitor turned around with a bag and blew some sort of dust at her.
"AUGH!" Estella was suddenly entirely back in her own body feeling like she'd just been struck by a charging armored horse.
"VISITORS, I AM REQUIRED TO INFORM YOU THAT ON ACCOUNT OF BREAKING THE RULES YOU ARE NOW ASKED TO VACATE THE PREMISES" the voice of the Library's spirit guardian boomed over the courtyard, then it continued only somewhat more quietly, "Also your cards are suspended for one month's time. Do not attempt to enter until the time has passed."
Estella and Saroth had retreated to the library's courtyard while whatever ruckus went on so they had a good view of the outer gate lighting up in supernatural fire and an enormous eye appearing above it.
"What? Come on! A MONTH?" Estella shouted up at the big round eye of blue fire.
"Them's the rules. Now vacate or be escorted from the premises by gargoyle."
“Do you know who I am?!” Estella was overcome with indignant rage, “You can not throw me out of your establishment with common gargoyles.”
“Come now Estella, there's no need to make a scene,” Saroth grabbed her upper arm and tried to pull her towards the exit.
Estella was pulled along for a few steps, her pointy, tall heels making it hard to get a good foothold, but when she pulled it off she wrenched free with a couple twists and started to march towards the image representing the guardian spirit. There were a pair of gargoyles gliding down from the upper ramparts of the library and starting to converge on the black mages. Estella summoned her dark magic power and formed a spear in her right hand. As one tried to drop down on her from above she raised her left hand straight up and unleashed a blast of power that took the stone creature entirely apart and left a rain of loose gravel around her. She turned with her spear and impaled it through the head of the other one which had been coming at her side from the ground. It surged forward, trying to use something close to a ton of stony weight to press forward and it started to move down Estella's magic spear. She dispersed the spell with violent power and the gargoyle exploded from the inside out.
“TWO MONTHS! You have only one more warning!”
Estella started to gather the power for a major attack spell to herself, but the strange spirit guarding the library must have sensed it.
“Oh twice in one day. I haven't had this kind of excitement in eons.”
The eye vanished and a giant red light replaced it and shot out at Estella. She sensed some danger in the attack and shifted her attack spell to a defensive one. The red bolt hit her black and violet protective dome and everything around her exploded. A half dozen trees including a truly expansive, proud old oak lay uprooted and on fire and she was in the center of a sixty foot crater, save for the fact that the ground about four feet around her in each direction was unharmed. It was certainly a respectable blow, but her defenses had held.
Estella was about to consider whether she wanted to keep fighting or not when Saroth's arms came around her midsection and arms and clamped down as he hefted her up and started leaving. Suddenly her mind was made up and she kicked and thrashed to get free.
“I CAN TAKE IT! LET ME GO! PUT ME DOWN THIS INSTANT!”
“I am really sorry about this. She really should know how to behave better. We'll be going now.”
“A reminder: Your suspension period is now three months. Any violations, which include appearing on the property will result in permanent expulsion. Oh, and I should tell you we make sure there isn't a chance for you to violate a permanent expulsion.”
“I understand, thanks for the explanation. Come along dear, let's not make any more of a scene,” he started walking as quickly as he could, Estella hadn't made coherent sense for a while, simply throwing out most of the curses and swear words she knew in a steady stream. Fortunately without her hands free to make the right motions it was most likely that most of them wouldn't actually be taking effect.
The doors opened automatically for them as he struggled to carry the violent black mage along. Even at 6'1” Estella was actually vastly stronger than nearly anyone would assume of her, so keeping her under control took literally superhuman strength, but yet he felt she wasn't actually fighting quite as hard as she could have. The doors slammed shut behind them with a very loud thud followed by the sound of obviously heavy locking mechanisms. He let her go and wasn't surprised when she whirled around and slapped him, though there was still a brief flash of stars.
“How dare you manhandle me like that! I hope you don't think you're getting anything from me for the next couple months at least!”
“Frankly Estella, I welcome the break. It's literally not possible for a male to keep up with your...preferences. I can't imagine you going all that long even.”
“That's a condition... I'd have it treated if I could stand the touch of light magic...” she huffed with agitation.
“I know, and I don't think getting thrown out for a while is worth a fight. Say, Estella, don't you have a ball to get ready for?”
“That's still a couple days off yet, but I suppose I really shouldn't let this place get to me. I should find a dress that's a little more in high fashion anyway.”
Twiara was tall and graceful, endowed with enough magic that she was surrounded with a continuous halo of soft light magic, the sort of elf that caused humans to ascribe phrases like 'otherworldly beauty' to the species, and though they'd been friends she'd always left Loreane feeling short and mousey looking in comparison. That was no longer the case, as the potion had pushed Lorean's proportions up to the point she was taller, but now she felt awkwardly hulking in comparison as she looked down at the absurdly graceful and elegant entity she'd shown up on the front door of.
“Yes? What can I do for...oh my...is that...actually you Loreane?”
“Yeah, it's me Twi,” Loreane hugged the cape she had on closer around herself, trying to draw in her monstrously bulging shoulders as much as she could. She'd tried stealing and then buying some clothes, but it was hard to find anything that wasn't stretched to near its limits just fitting her overly large frame now, so she'd taken the cape and used it to hide as much of herself as she could before leaving to a Journey Gate.
“I assume you had a bad run-in with a transformation artifact or spell, do come in a while,” Twiara turned around and walked into her house leaving the door open.
Loreane didn't quite have to lean down, but she felt like she should shift sideways a bit to fit herself through the doorway without potentially smacking into the door's frame. Fashioned with natural magic, most of the house looked like it had been grown and the stairs to upper floors were gentle, partial spirals composed of interlocking vines. Doors however, were hard to make without a hinge so that part stood out as an artificial oddity in the place.
“Why don't you have some tea while you tell me what happened and why you came to me,” Twiara poured out some tea and brought a pot over to her table with very proper and hospitable manners.
Loreane roughly recounted the events of a few days back in the library while leaving out her near seduction by human black mage, and her flight from the library out into the backwoods and her running battle with raiding orcs throughout the night. How she desperately searched for clothes and anything she could use before making her way to one of the Journeying Gates and making a few jumps before settling on returning to the woods that their town was located through and in.
“It was clearly an accident...why would that possibly carry a death penalty?”
“Who knows? Everyone who's ever tried to reform the Library into something a little more sane has ended up suffering terrible demises, if they're lucky.”
“A terrible demise is lucky?”
“Relatively, the unlucky ones end up in frozen but aware states, unable to move or speak, but aware of everything going on around them, or more openly painful eternal torments...”
“The place sounds dreadful.”
“You have no idea.”
“You should have never accepted the position.”
“I can see that now, thank you.”
“What exactly is this potion anyway? Any thoughts on how to undo it?”
Loreane told her about the potion's effects, how it increased muscle mass and strength, greatly improved durability and stamina but left the affected individual with a powerful need to punch monsters and such to death.
“What sense does that make?”
“It's a simple fool's idea of a hero. Big and strong and slayer of the dangerous.”
“I see...leave it to a human male I suppose. Why here though? I imagine you must think I can help you with something, but I'm not an expert in trasmorphic matters.”
“But you do magic fashion. I know the Library is going to send someone out to try and kill me.”
“And you came here,” Twiara let enough humor into her tone that Loreane knew she wasn't that angry.
“It shouldn't take long, and if you rat me out right off the bat, they won't hurt you. They won't care that you helped me so long as you don't try and hide or cover for me. I think you might like the chance to work with some of it, these are golden scales of an invulnerable creature. Well, invulnerable to external harm, it eventually succumed to time.”
“Oh that could be interesting. You're hoping it can act as armor so they can't kill you so easily?”
“Pretty much, but I could not gather a lot of it. I hope to make it something wearable because it has an extremely powerful innate stone skin spell, but it has to be up against the skin,” Loreane explained as she laid out the scraps of golden scales she'd found.
“Hmm, this really isn't much.”
“Enough for an armband or something.”
“Well, if this is invulnerable and it makes you the next best thing...I think you might want to consider modesty.”
“I could have made a stylish set out of this with your old frame, but as you are now, I think I can just pull off the bare minimum coverage...of, you know.”
“Gold scale underwear? Really? Why is it you're thinking that?”
“You expect to get into battles don't you? From what you've said about this potion, you really want to go out and fight griffins and dragons, right?”
“Uh-huh...” Loreane mumbled and blushed.
“And you're going to be pursued, yes? So you'll be in fights, and it looks like you have a hard time finding clothes that fit. If you go into battle with the clothes you have on now, you'll tear out of them yourself without any need of your opponent doing damage.”
“I...guess that's true...I hadn't thought about that...”
“So you can wear other clothes on top of it, and if some nasty creature burns them off you or anything, you'll have your bare minimum modesty intact while you look for new clothes.”
“I can see your point, but...but...”
“You won't have to strip for fitting right off, but yes that's going to be a thing.”
“Oh, one more thing Twi. Could you look over these trinkets and bits of jewelry I nabbed while you're at it? I want to figure out which ones might be the most useful to me. Just don't keep any of them, the library will want to recover as many as possible. I'm thinking I can give them the ones that aren't useful back, preferably in some way that buys me a little time.”
“Alright, I'll have a look through it all. Though, mind if I ask something, Lore?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“Just how strong? Like within normal bounds, or supernaturally? It might help with deciding how much you need any strength amplifiers.”
Loreane undid her belt and grabbed the bucke on it in each hand, she twisted and the metal gave way with little resistance as she twisted one side right around. It seemed to come easier than the last time she'd mangled a buckle, and it didn't hurt her hands quite so much, so it seemed that the potion might still be building in power.
“Supernaturally then,” Twiara only looked shocked for about half a second before her calm response.
“Oh elder gods this is going to ride up like whichever hell is the worst one...” Loreane groaned at the minimal bits of magical scale armor as she tried to shift the minimalist bottom.
“It probably won't be so bad. If this can really armor your skin to the point you can break weapons on it, then don't you figure it's not going to let your clothes dig into it either?”
“I guess that makes some logical sense, but still...I'm practically naked...”
“It's only you and I here Lore, you really shouldn't be so flustered. Anyway, I think you'd make for quite the interesting anatomical study subject. Nearly everything in your muscular systems is pretty well defined and swells quite a bit when in use, seeing you in action would be pretty useful for people learning how it all connects I imagine.”
“I think you're taking this more in stride than I am...it's hard for me to not think I've been turned into a freak or monster or something.”
“I suppose it's because it didn't happen to me, imagine how it'd change my life around. I try not to brag, but I do very nearly fill out the checklist for idealized elven beauty, don't I?”
Loreane mumbled a slightly annoyed affirmation.
“These bits of jewelry you see connecting parts of your outfit are generalized spell enhancers. They should actually help with the strength and stone skin spells you're already assisted by. I slightly underestimated your circumference so I had to add some things, don't worry they're connected to the scales in a way they should be under their invulnerable influence until you say the spell to disengage them so you can unlatch them, for bathing or whatever.”
“What about the other stuff?”
“A lot of it is pretty specialized unfortunately, only good for people with particular magic talents.”
“Shoot. I really wasn't looking at what I was grabbing...”
“Out of what's left, the most powerful items are these two bracelets by far, and they should compliment your enhanced abilities well. Though, you probably shouldn't have either of them touching your skin directly. We'll get some wraps or gloves to put over your wrists,” Twiara started digging through her fabric supplies for just that.
“What do they do?” Loreane felt like she should probably remember, she had helped file away a lot of these things, but she lacked a very strong magical sense and she'd always been more interested in the powders, poisons, and potions anyway.
“One of them is supposed to enhance your reflexes once you've realized you're in danger. I imagine it'll be quite shocking to see someone of your...I'm sorry, but, mass, move much quicker than one would expect. The other one helps speed up muscle memory. If you choose to learn a fighting style or how to use a sword, it should cut down the learning time at least in half.”
“That still means a year or better of training assuming I can even find a teacher.”
“You'll still make for quite the prodigal student, most items like that only work to the extent they cut off 5 or 10 percent of the learning time.”
“It's not the worst, but I really rather wish one had come with a lightning bolt or shrouding spell...something more in your face with the magic. As it stands, my only talent is going to be for a melee type of brawl.”
“I'm sure you'll be able to smash anyone that bothers you,” Twiara came back with a set of leather fingerless gloves.
They had to slit them open a bit at the backside to get them to fit over Loreane's bulky forearms, but they were able to get them on and the bracelets over them with some further tweaking.
“There, ready to kick bum and pilfer names I wager.”
“I think I'd die of embarrassment first... whether from the nigh nudity, or your purposeful butchering of common phrases, I'm not sure.”
“Oh, we need to speak about payment Lore.”
“Uh, right... I don't have that much, but...”
“No, I tease. If your life is really in danger, then I can take the loss this time. You came with most of the materials and it was not that much labor. Just, don't come back expecting a freebie next time, alright?”
“Definitely a deal. Thank you Twi, I'll just get my clothes on and get going. I'm sorry I can't stay socially a while. I'm going to the southern Journey Gates, so if anyone from the library shows up, you can tell them that much. I don't even know what territory I'm heading for just yet.”
“Take care, Lore, I hope this blows over and you can come back.”
Loreane gathered her stuff, put her clothes back on and set the unused magical items into a bag, and headed out the door to endure public transportation and hopefully become harder to find.
The Journey Gates were each enormous stone rings connected by something like pillars to a round stone slab, set into stone platforms so that they stood upright, the uppermost part of the ring ending up around ten feet overhead. When the magic was inert they were basically just large, strange stone works. With their spells active, they acted as a portal to some other part of the world, sometimes quite far, though longer trips were usually achieved with multiple portals. The terminal here housed a bit over a dozen of them and all sorts of merchants and travelers were lined up to use them. Elves, humans, even dwarves and the odd civilized goblin or troll made it quite the diverse crowd.
Loreane found she was looking around nervously and getting ever more paranoid. The Library's greatest, most powerful enforcers made a point of looking like normal, everyday janitors as they patrolled the library and made sure no ancient artifacts of doom or demonic forces escaped. It gave them the ability to go out and blend in nearly anywhere when they had to leave it, as the people paid to clean up after everyone else used similar tools and were similarly ignored wherever one went. She'd seen one or two here and was dearly afraid she was going to be taken out before the line let her get to the portal. To her fortune and slight surprise, it seemed every janitor she'd seen about the place was just what they appeared to be, however, the Library had more than one kind of tracker.
Three howls, enforcing each other with their simultaneous release, drowned out every bit of chatter, wagon squeak, and strange swishy noise of the gates as they enveloped the area. Everyone cringed and looked around in fear though Loreane thought she might be the only one there who knew for sure what the source of the noise was. One of the Library's Cerberus hell hounds starting to alight with unnatural blue flame and was starting to charge at her. Unfortunately there was a fair amount of crowd in the way however hard it was now trying to not be in the way anymore.
The approximately horse-sized spectral animal needed some time to accelerate to its top speed, but once it did nothing on two legs had any hope of outrunning it. On the plus side, the line was finally moving at a respectable clip and Loreane pushed through to the portal. One second and a quick rush of nausea later she was in another terminal many miles away. She frantically looked around for anything she might use as a weapon, well one a freaking hell hound would care about... and was coming up nil. It would be here in a few seconds, she didn't have long. Only one thing seemed like it might have the weight to stop it, but...it was too ridiculous.
Still, feeling she was without a choice Loreane jumped with her full strength and had intended to break out into a run, but surprising herself she launched into the air far enough to actually land by the next gate. She pushed through the line and gripped the edge and tried to pull it out. Her muscles strained and her shirt ripped apart at the shoulders as she strained, and to her surprise the gate shifted in its base. Behind her there was a snarl and a series of snaps and she knew the hell hound had jumped through the portal she'd just come through. Throwing all her weight and new strength into it she sent the multi-ton circle and ring rolling at the opening of the other. Loreane stared at the rolling ring in shock even as the hell hound dodged to the side. She supposed the potion must have worked even better for her than it had its original user, though some of it might be the amplifiers...
The hell hound launched into its fiery attack again and Loreane looked around for something else. There was a merchant's cart, full of watermelons, big enough to need towing by beast of burden but not currently tied to one. She lifted it overhead with ease and waited for the charging hound to get close enough and smashed it down on its three heads. The entire wagon shattered apart and watermelons went rolling every which way as the monstrous dog was slammed chins first into the paved ground. She felt a split second of triumph, but the blue blaze around the beast flared brighter and it got back up immediately. Great, she'd only made it angrier...
She punched the nearest head to her right hand in a panic and took off running. She took a jump and landed next to the platform of the next gate. This time she knew she was strong enough to rip it out and did it quickly, though her shirt tore across her upper arms this time. She twisted about and wielded the massive stone like an over sized throwing discus. The impact was impressive, it had taken long enough that the monster had built up speed and leaped into the air with intent of coming down on her, but the tons of stone knocked it back even as it shattered apart on the underworld creature. There was some tumbling for a while and she cringed a little as people had a hard time getting away from stone shrapnel. The monstrous underworld dog went down with a whimper, but she felt like she didn't trust it and started to edge away towards the next portal. It was a good thing she didn't go up to it or poke it or anything irrational like that because it got up snarling and panting heavily. Loreane ran over to the next portal and found herself staring at rock.
“You think you're getting out of here with that much damage done?” the attendant looked very annoyed.
“You feel like your security can stop me or that thing? If you let me go, it'll follow.”
They seemed to think it over before answering, “Fee.”
'Oh for crying out loud...' Loreane fished around for her money and felt bits of her sleeves start to slough off and away. She grabbed hastily and just gave the attendant what her hand came up with.
“Don't bother with the change, just open the gate!”
They waved their hand over a little gemstone and with a swishing noise the view of what seemed to be a stone wall changed into a calm, pleasant little vista. Nothing exciting looking there, heck it was probably a one-gate only little backwoods place. Though, really, that did fit with her needs pretty well, so she hopped through.
She felt a little bad for her lie, but she really didn't want to keep fighting with a nigh-immortal guardian monster from the underworld so she turned around right away. She thought it might hurt, but the scale armor did its job and the outer stone ring smashed apart under her fist with little discomfort. She went to the other side of the ring and smashed it apart too, then to the back and she kicked it until the structure snapped apart and what was left crashed into the ground. There were a few people around and she was getting some stares.
“I'm sorry about that, I'm sure it'll be awful for visiting relatives and the local economy for a while, but in the short term, there won't be any raging hellfire beasts rampaging through your nice little town, I hope you can appreciate that,” Loreane put a hand behind her head for the first part of the conversation, but found both hands traveling to cover her face as she kept talking.
Confusion seemed to be the dominant response, probably people were still processing what had just happened. She decided that while she wasn't likely in any danger from random villagers in the boondocks of the world, she'd still rather not be here when confusion turned to outrage. She ran off as far as she could and walked for most of the day after that. She'd been a librarian-slash-dangerous waste disposal worker for a long time, she didn't imagine she'd have the stamina for it, but it seemed these magic muscles were for more than just lifting things. She had a long time to think about her next move and the fact she'd lost most of her money overpaying for a warp gate in a panic. Her two selves spent a lot of time arguing over whether or not she could have realistically simply defeated the Cerberus.
It was late in the afternoon when she saw smoke and heard some distant commotion. Once she got close enough to see what was going on she felt quite a few things. There was some rag-tag band of thugs rounding people up, putting them in shackles and burning homes down. Even in a backwoods like this, it seemed insane that slavers would operate so close to any place with a gate. Then again, maybe she'd traveled further than she thought...she was still used to her old size and pace after all. She also felt a bit ill that any sentient species would do that sort of thing, especially to its own kind as this was an act of human on human violence. Her upbringing told her to ignore the situation, humans were just prone to violence, always fighting and committing crimes and burning down their own civilizations. The potion's warlike call to battle was there too, but it found an unusual ally in her business sense.
It depended on a few things, the first and most pressing was the question of whether or not her new found power would be enough to let her defeat this brutal lot... but if she did... surely it wouldn't be too much to ask for a little money? At the bare minimum, food for a while... if it went well, maybe she could even take to being a mercenary, to pay for her life on the run. Well, only one way to find out.