Child of the Serpent, Pt IX

As they walked, Derryn stole glimpses of some of the small rooms along the hallway– mostly sleeping quarters, though she saw what appeared to be small studies every now and then, with figures hunched over simple writing desks. None of the figures looked up to mark the group’s passing, instead engrossed in the ink and parchment before them. They passed by a few others in the hallway, some clothed in garb not unlike that of the farmers Derryn delivered wool to, others in simple gray tunics with twisting, elegant embroidery at the hem. Each person nodded, and even smiled when they met Derryn’s eyes. If they seemed surprised to see them there, they made no sign of it. A few that recognized Gran smiled more broadly and bowed their heads respectfully as they passed. “Gran, did you know all of these people?” Derryn whispered, trying to avoid meeting the eyes of the strange, smiling folk. “Some of them, yes. Some I worked with, some I taught. I was part of this family for a long time, you see.” Derryn tried to quell another flare up of pain and remained silent. The family she kept secret for years, the bitter voice in her mind whispered.

Sorren stopped at the threshold of a room slightly larger than the modest chambers they had passed before and cleared his throat respectfully. “Memnos Rinn, you have visitors”, he announced through the open door.

“Memnos?” Came a disgusted voice within the room, “Why the formality? Gods, don’t tell me it’s someone important…why the blazes—” The voice stopped as a man appeared in the doorway. He was a few inches taller than Sorren, and a full head taller than Derryn, with hair nearly as silvered as Gran’s, but with a few shocks of brown still stubbornly holding on. An untrimmed beard mostly hid his expression of surprise, but his pale blue eyes betrayed him. He seemed contradictorily youthful and ancient. Years of experience was reflected in the lines of his face, certainly, but the way he carried himself suggested he could outrun a horse, if he wanted to.

“Renata!” The man broke into a smile, “I had hoped I’d see you in these halls again someday!”

“It’s good to see you, Rinn” Gran replied, her smile matching his. “Though our visit wasn’t intended as a homecoming…a matter of concern brought me back.” She gently released her hold on Derryn’s arm to introduce her, “This is my granddaughter, Derryn. Anise was her mother.” Sorrow slowly replaced the joy in Rinn’s eyes as he extended a hand in greeting. “Welcome, Derryn. Your mother was well-loved by her fellow Scribes, and you are most welcome here.” Derryn hesitated for a moment, but conceded to shake the man’s hand. “Thank you, sir, but I had no idea any of this existed before today.”

“You never told her?” he asked, turning to Gran, who shook her head slowly. He sighed sadly “Then I am even more grateful for your arrival. I know how strange this must all seem to you. Why have you come then, if not to see the temple?” He beckoned the three of them into the room as he asked the question. It seemed to be a library of some sort. Books and rolled scrolls of parchment populated shelves along the walls, and there was a reading chair next to a small fireplace in the corner—something Derryn hadn’t expected to see underground, though she supposed there must be air shafts to keep the smoke from clouding the passageways. The mantle held an assortment of strange objects: old inkwells, a rounded crystal, and some dried herbs. A colorfully woven rug was placed before the fire, and it appeared as though Rinn had been kneeling there, studying a large map that had been spread out on the rug, the corners held down with small polished stones. He led them to a wooden table on the opposite wall, decorated only with a lantern.

Gran didn’t hesitate as she eased into a chair, “Something has happened, Rinn. Derryn saw it—the dreams are back.” Rinn’s face became grave, stone-like. “It has been some time, hasn’t it…since you’ve had your dreams.” The way his eyes bore into hers made Derryn uneasy. “You…you know about them? Gran, he knows?” She asked, alarmed. “He can be trusted, my dear, tell him what you saw.” The old woman urged.

“I thought they were just dreams, I thought you were the only one who knew…” Derryn said cautiously, her discomfort growing.

To read the first parts of the story, follow these links!

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