You and harold dash up the stairs, heading for the roof of the building. The opressive buzzing noise receeds somewhat. It’s still loud, and it’s still annoying, but at least it’s not as bad as it was outside.
The stairwell is similar to those you’re familiar with in everyday buildings with the exception being that you’re pretty certain the stairs are not at right angles to the rest of the building geometry. The overall effect of this is that you quickly lose track of what direction you were facing when you first entered the stairwell.
After a few flights of stairs, Harold begins to slow down. After a few more, he seems to be having trouble with every stair, and you can read the pain in his eyes as clear as day.
Considering your options, you decide to give Harold a little rest. After all, it wouldn’t be prudent to let your only friend collapse and die in a stairwell after all you’ve been through. With that decided, you take a seat on a stair and wait for Harold to catch up. He shoots you a thankful glance and mutters “Just for a few moments…” before collapsing to sit on the stair next to you.
Never one to waste an opportunity, you decide to probe Harold a bit:
“I read through two of the chapters and I still don’t understand… what’s your role in all this? Are you one of ‘The Chosen’, or what?”
Harold pauses a moment to catch his breath and chuckles. “No, Vlad. Not I. I’m merely a guide. It was my job to guard you, help you… to shepherd you into this unfortunate circumstance.” He sighs. “Alas, no. The chosen are you and Benziah. Benziah is chosen by chaos and you by order. Between the two of you, you must hash out the fate of humanity.”
He gives a great wracking cough, and you notice blood on his lips as he pulls his hand away.
“Besides…” Harold continues, wiping his shirt cuff across his mouth, “It’s not our place to decide for you. The likes of us…” he grins sheepishly, “we’d only fuck it up somehow, Vlad.”
“‘The likes of us?’ Harold, please — what the hell are you talking about?”
Harold stifles a surprised look. “Damn… wound must be getting to me. I’m just babbling now. Pay it no mind…”
You’re about to press the issue when the horrible, omnipresent buzzing sound increases in volume sharply. The walls vibrate suddenly and you hear a muffled explosion from downstairs, followed by the clicking sound of millions of tiny feet on stone.
“They’re coming, Vlad. We’ve got to get to the roof.” Harold heaves himself up and begins a mad dash up the stairs. “Come on, Vlad — can’t be much further.”
You run after him as fast as you can. True to his word, Harold finds the end of the staircase a few flights up and casts open the door to the roof. He ushers you through and draws a line across the threshold with the last of his yellow powder. Discarding the empty packet, he curses softly and then slams the door.
From the rooftop you can see the lay of the city much more clearly. To what you decide to think of as “the south” you see the lake you crossed shimmering in the dim light. To the north, you see a mighty castle, with yellow banners streaming in the nonexistent wind. The castle, as with most of the city, is surrounded by a carpet of insects. There must be millions of them, constantly writhing and twisting about. None of them seem to want to get within 10 feet of the moat surrounding the castle, and the castle grounds themselves are completely devoid of the scum.
“The Yellow Hall!” Harold yells to you over the clicking and buzzing sounds. You see him point at the castle.
The only ways you can see into the castle are:
a) Get on top of the city wall. The walk will be precarious, and in Harold’s state you’re not sure he has the capacity for the balance that would be requried. You’re sure you could do it without a problem, however. You’ve walked on far narrower surfaces. Once on the wall, you can get right up next to the castle’s rear and hop into a window.
b) Cross rooftops until you get to a building neighboring the castle and jump into the moat surrounding it. Given your recent history with water, the thought unnerves you a bit. You can’t help but think that you see something swimming in the water, and you hope it’s just your mind playing tricks. You’re pretty sure that if there WAS something in that water, you probably couldn’t swim fast enough to avoid it.
Harold calls out your name and you snap back into the moment. He gestures at a piece of wood he’s found. Using that, you should be able to cross the rooftops with a minimum of trouble. Given the short distance across the plank, balancing would defintiely be much easier than trying to walk the city wall.
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