Saltus Floriger earned its name from the perpetual flowering cherry trees that clung to the cliff sides of the volcanic isle. The ornamental beeches added brilliant hues of gold, purple, green with their leaves to compliment the blushing pink of the cherry blossoms. Lush ferns unfurled beneath in the colorful leaf carpet, swaying in the salty ocean breeze. Sea gulls called out over the long, rocky beaches. The occasional majestic gryphon answered as it swept across the horizon. This was the fabled home of the mountain nymphs that frolicked in the hillsides, cliffs, and glades of the isle to madden and delight any man brave enough to climb the terrain.
Nested in the isle’s natural harbor was Saltus Port, the sea elf town that served the needs of Astrosystems Paragon built deep inside the nearby cliff side. Today a shipment came in and one particular elf was quick to claim his prize from a crate. A single book was all he took with great satisfaction. He waved to his fellows with cheer as he made his way out of town. As he approached the looming andesite walls of Astrosystems Paragon, he slowed to a halt at the door. He studied the gift he brought, pressed his lips together, and tentatively opened the door.
Lini made her usual rounds through the silent walkways of shelves upon shelves of the hallowed basement of Astrosystems Paragon, the sacred archives of the Dimensional Seers. She bounced her head and tapped her fingers on her thigh as she went, listening to the amazing device her pal, Bori, brought her a few years back. He called it a smart phone and said it wouldn’t connect to anything here but it had music on it. The funniest thing though was it connected to her. She didn’t need the solar panel to charge it or the ear buds to listen to the music. The music was in her head now, like everything else. The other nymphs on the island considered her unnatural now thanks to her bionic enhancements but one would think that after a few centuries they’d get over it by now. She sighed as she confirmed that all items and files were accounted for and returned to the first floor.
So what if she had cerulean glowing wires running through her limbs and up her back that gave her speed and strength. It’s not like it made her less sexy than the other nymphs. Oh wait, they made her smart too. She was no longer out there on the hillsides with the rest of them frolicking naked like an idiot. Lini rolled her eyes as she sat down at her desk and picked up her book titled “Spaghetti Dinner – Volume 5” but didn’t open it. She propped her feet up on the desk and leaned back in her chair. Why yes, please excuse the shit out of her for wanting to wear clothes and finding other ways of driving men mad. Too bad she was too busy stuck in here all the time to figure out how to do that.
She scowled as she opened her book. Twirling a strand of her thick, curly scarlet hair with her long finger, she squinted her apple-green eyes. By her calculations, she paid off in labor what she owed for them saving her life ages ago. They haven’t showed up to tell her she was free to go yet. She shouldn’t complain though because in return they gave her everything she needed. Lini had a comfortable home here. She lacked nothing and never went hungry. Peering over her book, she watched the sprites that also worked here flit around with their mind numbing tasks. All she had to do here was make sure everything stayed in its place. She didn’t even need to look anymore. She had everything here memorized now, so that was boring. She also made herself available to any Seer that required archival services. That part wasn’t boring.
The problem was there hadn’t been anyone here since in the last fifty years. She remembered the crowning of Angelia Azmias. Everyone celebrated the news of her imprinting on Raphael Hasaron decades later. Not long after they heard rumors of the Demon Wars and the Demon Raids. Eventually rumors and news stopped coming. Lini brushed off her brown suit jacket as she sighed. Pursing her full lips as she tugged on a delicate ear, she tried to focus on her book. She wished she was out there somewhere doing something useful instead of stuck here counting stupid files and boxes. It wouldn’t hurt either if she met someone worthy of her gifts that swept her off her feet.
Ignoring the sprites in their ghostly white smocks and whispering gossamer wings, she settled into her book. It was just another long boring day in her long boring life. Sure, she could just leave this place but there was nowhere to go. She wasn’t going back to live the life of the bubble headed nymphs on their beaches, glades, and hillsides and be chased around by the leering sailors on shore leave from the port. No man ran as fast as she did so that killed the thrill there. No man was as strong either so the excitement was gone in that too. Lini needed a different life and different thrills now. One that challenged the mind to new heights.
“Hey Lini,” a familiar soft-spoken voice said, “I brought you a new book today. Fresh from the docks.”
Lini glanced up as a book slid across her desk. The title read “Spaghetti from the Deep” and her eyes lit up with excitement as she picked it up.
“A brand new Enon Thollo book?” She squealed with delight. “I’ve been waiting forever. Bori you’re the best.”
She leaned over her desk to give her friend a warm smile and ruffle his spiked midnight hair. He blushed slightly through his tribal tattoos as this gave him an ample view of her generous cleavage. Looking away he rubbed the back of his neck, his elven ears still pink.
“Yeah well, I’d thought you’d like it since you’ve only read that last one about twenty times now.”
“Like it? I love it. Thank you, Bori.”
“You haven’t even read it yet,” he said, giving her a sidelong glance with his chocolate-colored eyes. He quickly turned his eyes away again from her bust ready to burst from her green silk blouse. “Thank me after.”
“I love all his books. He’s my favorite author.”
Surprised, Bori faced her as she sat back up with the book to her chest. “He is?”
“Oh yes,” she said, closing her eyes. “Reading his words makes me quiver inside. I would love to meet him someday.”
Sliding his hands into the pockets of his tailored blue coat, smiling slightly as he stared at the floor. “You don’t say.”
“Oh I do say,” she said, leaning forward again. “He has the most imaginative mind, don’t you think?”
Bori stared into her eyes, flushing again. “I wouldn’t know. I guess there are plenty of word smiths out there.”
“Oh that’s right,” she said, sinking back in her chair to open the new book. “You’re a beast master. I suppose you don’t read many books.”
He rested an elbow on her desk as he glumly traced a black open-fingered gloved hand along the edge of it. “I suppose not.”
She peered over the pages at him. “You’re still here,” she said. “Is there something else, Bori?”
Biting his lip, he stood up as he gazed at her. His face warmed with a shy smile. “Actually yes, there is,” he said.
“Oh?” she said.
Holding her place with her finger, she clasped the book to her chest and leaned on desk with her free elbow. Normally Bori didn’t linger after delivering a book to her unless it was to ask her if she wanted another. Today he looked nervous instead of his usual casual calm. Did something usual happen at the docks today? His face flushed as he started to speak.
“Hello? Can someone tell us where we can find Floresco Retinentia?” a loud voice carried through the archive halls.
The sprites flurried around in a tizzy disappearing behind the shelves with squeals. Lini glanced at the entrance to see two men. One seemed safe enough. He was a short human with tiny gray box braids. The other one however was what caused the stir. He was much taller with his bat-like wings wrapped around his shoulders. His long tangerine hair cascaded down to his waist in soft curls. She felt herself melt into his peach-colored eyes and sly smile. So this was what a demon looked like.
“Forgive us,” the human man said, his mercury eyes meeting hers as he walked up to her desk. “We didn’t mean to upset anyone. I hope this will vouch for us.”
He handed her a small crest bearing the royal crest of Azmias. Lini set her book down as her eyes widened. Why hadn’t the Seer come in person? Or her knight for that matter? Why was this demon here? She looked up at the man to ask him.
“Donna said this would clear things up?” he said with a questioning expression as he handed her another smart phone.
“Oh,” Lini said, taking it.
She ran a finger across her forearm to open a small panel. She selected a matching cable and connected it to the phone. The three men watched her with surprise. Closing her eyes she waited for the phone to upload its information. Once completed, she unplugged the phone, and handed it back to him.
“Did you do the same thing with the music?” Bori asked.
“Yes,” she said and turned to the gray-haired man, “So you’re Eddie and your friend here is Zaum. You need the flower that grows in the volcanic caves to cure the Knights from the Memoria Slug toxin.”
She walked around her desk and headed for her living quarters to change her clothes. They’d need a guide for this and there was no one better for the job than her. Meanwhile, it horrified her to know that they stripped Dawna of her wings. What else were the Seers capable of?
She returned to the archive lobby dressed in a tight short sleeved green shirt, snug brown shorts, and hiking boots. It showed off every curve she had but also revealed the glowing cerulean circuits too. Flicking her scarlet hair off her shoulder, she stood boldly before the three men with her head held high. It would only take a few moments to see which, if any were worth her time.
Bori looked away, leaning against her desk. An odd smile played his lips. Eddie folded his arms across his chest with a slight frown. Zaum raised an eyebrow with sly grin. He turned to the side as he leaned in at Eddie.
“Damn,” he said quietly, “I’d like to pull the pin on those grenades.”
Bori chuckled as Eddie gave Zaum a dark look. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Lini smiled to herself as she sauntered over to the archive exit.
“Not a damn thing,” Zaum said, as he checked the titles of the books on her desk. He titled his head back at Eddie. “What the hell’s wrong with you? She’s hot.”
Eddie walked over to Zaum and Bori. He looked over his shoulder to Lini before he spoke in a low voice. “She’s a librarian. A decent woman. You can’t treat her like a piece of meat like that.”
Zaum grinned. “She’s reading Spaghetti Dinner.”
Bori grinned back as Eddie said, “So? She likes pasta. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“It has nothing to do with pasta,” Bori and Zaum said.
“Are you guys coming or just breathing hard?” Lini said, leaning against the door frame. “Burning daylight boys, let’s go.”
Zaum patted Eddie’s shoulder and headed for the door. Bori followed closely behind, still chuckling. Mystified, Eddie opened the book in the middle and read the page. Turning a bright shade of crimson, he set the book back on the desk.
“Okay then,” he said. “People read that?”
As he walked through the door leading outside, he stared at Lini as if trying to understand how her mind worked.
“You like what you see?” she said with a smile.
Blushing, he hurried to catch up with Zaum. Looking forward to the hike, she waved to the sprites that slowly emerged from their hiding places.
“I’m out of here guys,” she said. “Catch you later.”
She ran to catch up with the men in time to here Eddie complain about her presence.
“Why is she coming with us?” he said. “Isn’t she a little delicate to be traveling through volcanic caves?”
“I’m a mountain nymph,” she said. “I was born frolicking here long before any of you were ever thought of. You won’t get a better guide than me.”
Eddie gave her a doubtful look. She scowled at him. What was this guy’s deal?
“There aren’t any maps of the volcanic caves,” Bori said. A faint smile toyed with his lips. “Besides, I don’t mind the company of an older woman.”
“Are you calling me old?” she said, surprised with his boldness.
Bori opened his mouth, waving his hands in front of him, as he tried to think of something to say to save his ass. Zaum grinned as he unfurled his wings wide with a stretching motion. Lini watched Zaum’s movements with parted lips. She wondered why the Seers went to war with such gorgeous creatures.
“What he means to say,” he said, “is you are finer than wine. Although I must say, you don’t look a day older than me.”
Bori slumped his shoulders as Zaum winked and Eddie rolled his eyes. Lini smiled, feeling herself blush. This guy sure knew what to say.
“Well I am,” she said. “In fact, I recall the rise and fall of Lilith. I was here when she was smuggled through the port. She was beautiful and sad.”
“What? That’s not possible,” Zaum said. His face became serious with hints of hope. “I watched her die.”
Lini looked away as she continued to walk up the upward sloping trail. Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything. He warm hand grasped his arm, bringing her to a halt. So it was true. He was a member of her court. His heart must still belong to her. That was disappointing to know.
“Tell me the truth.” He peach-colored eyes burned into her.
“You know about her power and how she mastered even demon kings,” she said.
He nodded. “That’s why they wanted her dead. More like her were rising.”
“Yes,” she said. “Well her death was faked. The Seers brought her here.”
She pressed her lips together, hesitating to tell him the rest. The truth would hurt him.
“They stripped her wings and pulled her fangs so she could live among the humans.”
He paled at the news as his hand slipped from her arm. “She lives?”
“No,” she said. “Something went wrong. Either from the surgery or someone found her and poisoned her. Don’t know. Just rumors.”
Sadness weighed on her as she watched him crumble inside.
“She died alone then,” he said.
“Based on your friends message the other rumors are true,” she said.
“What rumors?” he said, meeting her gaze.
“She had a child before passing. Carried on her lineage.”
“Looks a lot like her, doesn’t she?” Lini said, smiling gently.
Zaum raised his face to the sky with a broad grin. “You should see her when she’s pissed. Damn, even Lilith can’t touch that.”
“Her blood lives on, Zaum. Decades after their betrayal Lilith remains victorious. Take comfort in that.”
He closed his eyes as peace enveloped him. “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” she said.
“Can we get going now?” Eddie said, he face dark and uncomfortable. “We have two people to keep from dying.”
“Okay, okay, grumpy pants,” she said, pointing to the rocky cliff side. “The cave entrance is right up ahead.”
The jagged maw of the entrance gaped wide into the cliff side. Inside it the murky darkness exuded the smell of sulfur and ash. Eddie frowned uneasily as Lini stepped into the cave.
“Hang on, I got this,” Bori said.
He pulled out a small jug from inside his coat. Uncorking it, he sniffed the contents. Satisfied, he dribbled the liquid on the ground. Smoke curled up from the puddle, forming a small yellow cloud. The cloud took shape and solidified into a giant firefly. It flew to his shoulder and hovered there. Its thorax glowing brightly. Nodding to himself, he repeated the process. A second one formed to take form and position itself over his other shoulder. Putting the jug away, he smiled at Lini.
“Ready,” he said, joining her.
The light of the fireflies following him illuminated the cave. Lini smiled back at Bori approvingly as Zaum patted Eddie’s shoulder. He folded his wings against his back as he followed them inside. They all waited for Eddie as he hesitated.
“Come on,” she said. “The flower grows in the darkness of these caves. We should be able to find them easy enough.”
“Then why did you have to come?” he said.
“Because it’s a maze in here,” she said with a scowl. “Feel free to find your way by yourself if you want.”
Sulking, Eddie walked into the cave as the rest of them made their way down the tunnels. Lini led them through the tunneled maze with confidence. Getting down in here wasn’t the hard part. Anyone could do that. The challenge was getting back out. She knew how to feel the subtle air currents in the tunnels to find the way back out to the hillsides. They might not come out the way they came in, but that didn’t matter. Once out they’d find their way back to port with no trouble. As she promised, it wasn’t long for them to find a patch of the violet phosphorescent blossoms growing in the cracks of the rocks.
“Okay,” she said, “here we are. Where are your bags?”
“Bags?” Eddie said as Zaum looked sheepish.
“Got you covered,” Bori said, digging around in his deep inside pocket of his coat.
“Do you carry everything in that coat?” Lini said.
“I’m a beast master remember? I have to be prepared for anything,” he said with a smile as he produced a small leather pouch.
Impressed, Lini took it from him and knelt beside the blossoms. “I don’t suppose you have any harvesting tools on you, Bori.”
“I wish I did,” he said, kneeling beside her.
His eyes never left her face as she frowned at the blossoms. These guys needed the entire plant, not just the blooms. Realizing how close Bori was, she looked up at him.
“Get back a sec,” she said.
When he stood up to back up, she punched the rock a few times. It reduced the stone around the plants to rubble. Hoping she didn’t damage the flowers too badly, she picked through the debris. Bori returned and picked through it with her. He added whatever pieces of the plants he found to the bag. She was grateful that he tagged along. He was always around with a helpful hand, a kind word, and seemed to have just what she needed at the right moment.
“The whole plant, right?”
She looked at him in surprise. “Yeah, how did you know?”
“Why bother break the rock if you could just pick the flower?” he said, smiling at her.
She chuckled as she nodded. He wasn’t stupid either. Once the bag was full, Bori tied it off and handed it to Eddie. Lini stood up and brushed herself off. She felt a little sad that her adventure today was almost over. At least she’d still have Bori to keep her company. The cave rumbled and the ceiling above them cracked.
“Run,” Bori said, pushing her forward.
She could run faster but she wasn’t leaving them behind. Grabbing Zaum and Eddie by the arm, she pulled them ahead. She felt Bori’s hands slip away from her back as the stone came down behind her. Turning around, it horrified her to find nothing but a collapsed tunnel behind them. Agony carved through her soul as she screamed Bori’s name. She felt the gears in her arms whir as she hurled chunks of rock to get to him. Tears burned her eyes as dust choked her. Her carelessness caused this. She should have calculated the weakness of the walls before punching the rock. This was her fault.
“Watch it,” Eddie said.
Zaum joined her with digging. “Help her.”
Eddie dug into the rock on the other side of her. His face grim told her what he thought.
“Don’t be dead,” she said. “Don’t be dead.”
Her heart fluttered and skipped as the rock shifted beneath their hands. Hundreds of armored crabs poured out of the rubble and vaporized, revealing Bori’s curled up body. Slowly he lifted up his head, coughing. Relieved, Lini reached in with one hand, grabbed him by the coat and hauled him out. He gasped as she clutched him tightly to her chest. Sobbing, she kissed his hair.
“I thought I lost you,” she said. “Don’t ever do that again. I can’t live without you.”
“Am I dead?” he said, his voice muffled in her chest. “Is this heaven?”
Zaum chuckled. “If suffocating in breasts counts.”
“Oh, sorry,” she said, pulling him away.
“I don’t mind,” Bori said, smiling shyly. “Really.”
“Can you walk? Are you hurt anywhere?” she said.
“I have a horrible pain,” he said.
Her eyes widened as Zaum shook his head and turned away from the pair.
“Where? What can I do?” she said.
“Right here,” Bori said, pointing to his lips. “Just a kiss, maybe a little spaghetti?”
She slapped the back of his head. “No spaghetti for you. Jerk.”
Storming off up the tunnel, she grinned. She’ll give him that kiss later. How she missed it all this time she didn’t know, but she was glad to have figured it out now. Looking over her shoulder, she gave him a small smile as she leaned against the wall of the cave. Zaum helped Bori stand and patted him on the shoulder.
“Crossed the line with the pasta,” he said quietly.
“Yeah I know,” Bori said, brushing his coat off, “think I blew my chances?”
“Wouldn’t say that,” Zaum said, tilting his head in her direction.
Bori looked up at her to see her glowing form leaning against the cave wall and caught his breath. “She’s divine.”
“Don’t tell me,” Zaum said. “Tell her.”
Zaum headed over to her side so she could lead them out.
“But,” Bori said and frowned.
Eddie stood in front of him. “She damn near killed us to get you out. So make your move. Tell her how you feel.”
Bori nodded. “I will. As soon as her body stops making me stupid.”
He rolled his eyes. “Not happening.”
Raising his eyebrows, he followed Eddie to join the other two. Bori smiled warmly with surprise as Lini laced her fingers in his. She quickly led them out to the warm sunshine and cool sea breeze on the cliff side.
As they walked down the sloping trail among the beech trees, Lini enjoyed Bori’s company at her side. It frightened her that she almost lost him. She didn’t want him to leave her now that today’s adventure came to an end. Too soon her life would go back to the boring day-to-day routine.
“What’s up?” Bori asked her.
Lini looked at him as they walked and shrugged.
“I know that look,” he said. “It’s the same one you give the sprites after you finish your rounds.”
“I don’t want to go back,” she said. “They were supposed to relieve me of my duties years ago, but I guess they forgot about me after the Demon Raids.”
Zaum tilted his head in her direction. “Speak with Donna,” he said. “She didn’t kill me on sight and I live there now.”
“What of the other Seers?”
Eddie and Zaum exchanged glances before Zaum answered. “Her mother believes they are the last.”
The hillside rumbled as the earth cracked. Lini’s eyes widened. The volcano had slumbered for decades and there were no signs of it awakening now. Clouds of ash darkened the sky as they hurried to the archive. Upon arrival they found the sprites carrying boxes and crates down another path, guided by a dark-haired woman Lini recognized as Clarissa from the message. Clarissa saw them and ran up to greet them.
“There you are,” she said. “Donna sent me to have the archive moved to Nusquamton. It’s finished with its reconfiguration she said. I guess it has a basement now.”
“What’s happening?” Lini said.
“The island is being evacuated,” Clarissa said. “Something about corruption and the domains being unstable.”
“Glad we got the flower when we did,” Eddie said.
Clarissa nodded. “Head back now. Donna is waiting.”
“Save a few roots to grow more,” Lini said. “Where will everyone go?”
Bori placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “There are ships in the port and don’t forget the Gryphon Fleet. There are other places to live. Go with them and I’ll be back. I need to help.”
Her heart sank as she watched him run toward the port town to assist with the Gryphon Fleet. He didn’t get far before a gryphon swooped down in answer to his call. Waving, he took flight in search of stragglers trying to evacuate the island. She hoped this wasn’t the last time she saw him.
“Are you Lini?” Clarissa said.
Lini nodded as she continued to stare at the empty dark sky.
“Donna is looking forward to meeting you,” she said. “The sprites have everything handled here. You can wait for your friend at the door.”
“My books,” Lini said, her heart clinching in her chest.
She remembered each one Bori had taken the time to get for her over the years. It brought her comfort back then but it meant more to her now. Each one expressed his affection and she didn’t want to lose that. The sprites would never bring those. They weren’t part of the archive. She ran into the building as the ground shook and groaned. The lobby blurred past her as she snatched the two from her desk. Spinning around, she made her way to her living quarters.
Twenty books collected in the twenty years she had known him. Had it really been that long? She stuffed them in a bag. If he didn’t make it back to her these were all she had to remember him by. No, he had to make it back. He would make it back. She wouldn’t think like that. Staggering as the rumbling earth protested, she hefted the bag to her shoulders. It was time to leave and she didn’t hesitate to exit into the lobby.
She gasped as the center of the lobby floor shifted up and the ceiling crashed down. Dust blinded her as she crouched under the tilted bookcase. Lini couldn’t stay here. The earth still moaned and trembled. Staying here guaranteed her being crushed. Her circuits offered limited light as she picked her way through the uneven rubble. She fell as the floor heaved again. A few feet ahead of her, the crushed body of a sprite bled from under a chunk of ceiling. Her heart ached as she wondered how many others there were. Were any of them going to make it out?
“This way,” a voice called. “If you can walk, come this way. If you can’t, then yell. We’re coming.”
A small, weak chorus of sprites rose from the rubble as a cloud of giant fireflies hovered. The cloud illuminated a small group of beast masters summoning giant ants that followed the voices to rescue the sprites. Lini pushed herself up to find her way through the debris toward the light.
“Lini? Lini? Answer me,” Bori said. The cloud of fireflies shifted with his voice.
“Stay put Bori, they need to see your light to find the way out.”
“Bori,” Lini said, “I’m coming.”
The light of the fireflies shone brighter as Bori summoned more for her. A sprite flitted past her toward the cloud to safety. Lini hurried across the shaking ground to follow.
“Anyone else in there yell,” Bori said.
The floor surged under her as she screamed. Chunks of the ceiling crumbled down. Rolling to the side, she avoided being crushed by a breath.
“Lini?” Bori said, as the cloud of fireflies parted.
“Stay at the exit, Bori.”
“I’m coming,” she said, scrambling to her feet.
The building would collapse soon. They had to get out now. She stumbled and climbed through the broken building as the parted cloud of fireflies left a trail behind leading to waiting cloud that remained at the exit. The last firefly greeted her from below a broken bookcase. Its light, along with hers, illuminated Bori’s face. He held his arms up to her.
“I’ve got you, come on.”
“I’m too heavy for you to carry,” she said, dropping down in front of him.
He took her hand and led her back by the way of his fireflies. “I would have tried.”
Each firefly they passed joined them, adding their light to the cloud. Soon they were at the exit and Bori turned to watch the other beast masters escape with their charges.
“Time to go Bori.”
“Do we have everyone?”
“No time left.”
“Lini, Bori, this way,” Zaum said, waving his hand to them at the path the sprites had carried the boxes and crates down.
The building shook with a pealing squeal as it tumbled down inside itself. Lini lifted Bori with an arm and sprinted down the path as the volcano erupted. The isle of spring that had been her home her entire life was no more.
She didn’t slow down until she came through the door leading into a small lobby. To her left was a small table with a wooden box with two photos on it, one of a young woman and the other of a small boy. There were candles and incense set up on the table around it and used regularly. Behind the table was a flight of dark mahogany stairs and straight ahead was a door leading outside. The walls were a soft cream color and trimmed with a dark mahogany. Along both walls were two doors with numbers on them. She sensed they were living quarters. The building breathed with life in a way that reminded her of dryads.
“You can put me down now,” Bori said, dangling from her arm by the waist.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, and set him on his feet.
He laced his fingers with hers and smiled. “Not everyday a girl sweeps you off your feet.”
They chuckled together as their foreheads touched.
“Lini? I’m so glad to meet you,” a tall, curvy woman with short charcoal hair said.
Her impish smile warmed her dark skin and sparkled in her wide, bronze eyes. Lini smiled back as Bori sighed and turned away.
“You must be Donna. Where’s the basement?” she asked.
“Through the door you just came in,” Donna said and raised her hand, “I know, weirdest thing ever, and I don’t get it. I just know I touch the door and tell Nusquamton where I want it to go.”
“The building. Its name is Nusquamton,” she said. “It’s sick too but I haven’t figured it out yet.”
“So it’s a dryad then?”
“A what? No, it’s a demonic parasite that took over the building.”
“That doesn’t sound right,” Lini frowned as she started scanning her internal databases.
“What is she doing?”
“Behold the bionic nymph,” Bori said. His faint bitter tone surprised Lini. “Your kind experimented on her centuries ago and indentured her in the archives ever since. She has the entire place memorized now.”
“Why would they do that?” Donna said.
“I almost died from the last volcanic eruption,” Lini said absently as she continued to look for what Donna described.
“Wait a minute, are you Enon Thollo?” Donna said.
Lini stopped scanning and stared at Donna. “What? Where?”
“Him,” she said, pointing to Bori. “Right next to you. Let me grab my book.”
She ran through one of the doors and quickly returned with a copy of “Spaghetti of the Deep” but her copy had a photo on the back with a shirtless Bori. Donna held it out to Lini with excitement. Bori turned bright crimson while his ears burned a deeper red. Zaum chuckled as he wrapped his arm around Clarissa to lead her out of the lobby. Eddie shook his head as he closed his door behind him.
“This. Doesn’t he look just like this guy?”
Lini took the book from her with trembling fingers. The photo was black and white but he still looked smoking hot as he slung his coat over his shoulder and leaned against the wall. The sight of his smooth, muscled chest thrilled her. There was no denying that Enon Thollo looked exactly like Bori. Something else curled inside her. She turned her head to give him a dark look.
“Why does she have a cover with your photo and I don’t?”
Bori cringed. “Because you got the first edition of all my books?”
Lini returned Donna her book as she walked over to Bori. A frown tugged her lips. “Forgiven but you still owe me.”
He pressed his lips together as she folded her arms in front of her. His eyes locked with hers as he took a step back. “How?”
“You owe me a private viewing mister,” she said, leaning forward. “All this time I’ve been dreaming about meeting Enon Thollo and not once did you ever tell me.”
“I swear it wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t know until this morning and I was going to tell you but I never thought you liked me,” he said and relaxed as he saw the gleam in her eye. “I’ll be more than happy to give you that viewing.”
Donna hid her face behind her book. “I can show you to your room.”
Lini gave him a slow grin and hefted him over her shoulder.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Bori said.
“I’ll take that room now,” Lini said to Donna.
The research for Nusquamton would have to wait. Deep down Lini felt it wasn’t a demonic parasite. Lilith wasn’t evil and neither was Zaum. The demon kind had once been allies. Something darker and more sinister turned the wheels here. For now though she wanted to delight and madden a certain beast master. She would puzzle out the mysteries of the Seer kind tomorrow. Tonight she would make Bori hers and hers alone.