Dhein looked at the place where Aztal had stood earlier, where the demon had vanished not long ago. He could almost see the shadow of the demonic runes on the floor. "What if we could find it?"
"What?" A thin crease formed between her brows, wrinkling the scars of undeath across her forehead. "She ran off without a trace. And... it is likely she returned to Alliance. How could we possibly...?"
"Not by traditional methods. But I might have something in a spellbook that could stir up a clue."
"... You've been able to find it all this time?" Antimony's shoulders slumped.
"No. And I can't find it now." He crossed his arms, forcing himself to stand in the room. He could feel the chill against his skin, like a cold winters' day, but with the added sensation that it stirred the Fel inside of him. "I'm saying I might be able to find a clue. That clue might lead nowhere, and even if we do find it, we might not like where it is. It could be Stormwind Keep for all we know."
"Ah... of course." Fumbling fingers reached up to squeeze the bridge of her nose. "I... apologize. I suppose I am still... well. A clue could be helpful." The light in her eyes flickered. "It seems worthwhile to try."
Of course, she didn't know what it entailed, and why he hadn't considered it before. He brushed these thoughts aside with a fingertip along one of his ears. "I don't like having to feel this out with mortal senses. There's a reason one has to study arcane for a hundred years to be a Magister. We've had this plant for two weeks and all we have are guesses."
"Two weeks is hardly any time," Antimony countered, brow furrowing behind her fingers. "Of course we'll be groping at first. Over time we'll... well, be able to become more refined. As we learn more, and rule out more."
"Of course, Antimony. I have nothing but faith in you. And in myself, as long as I'm with you. But if we had that machine, we wouldn't have to guess how strong the lingering energy inside this room is. We'd know. We'd have a number."
"Alright." She blinked, mildly confused. "Is... something wrong? Both of us would very much like to return the sniffer to our possession."
"I'm sorry." He looked back at the plant. "I guess I’m trying to talk myself into it."
Turning her head, Antimony dropped her hand to her side, the limb hanging limp by her hip. "I do not understand...?"
He shrugged. "And I'm tired. And it's cold. And I'm worried about you."
"Dhein..." Her expression softened considerably at that. "... I am fine." She glanced down at her arms, then back up at him and tried for a small smile. Her muscles cooperated. "Let's leave it for tomorrow, then."
"Still have some reading we can do," Dhein muttered, looking over his shoulder at the piled books.
"Yes. Reading is relaxing." She pressed her lips together briefly. "Do you... think it is safe for me to come inside?"
With a sigh, he spread his limbs in a helpless gesture. "It's no colder now than... Well, it's warmer. You might be fine. I'm still concerned."
"I will be cautious." She stepped forward, crossing through the doorway. Almost immediately she noticed a distinction in the air that she didn't recognize as cold but determined it must be. It echoed the weight between her ribs and in the gaps of her muscles. She stood still a moment and then, when nothing immediately happened, gave Dhein a slight smile. "I can feel it, but I believe I am fine."
"If it doesn't get worse with continued exposure." He said this off-handedly, like he didn't really believe it, as he walked over to the tomes at the back of the room.
She chose to say nothing more on that subject, instead following him to the books and moving to stand alongside. "We've quite a pile building," she mused. "It would be wise to organize them first."
"It would. For now, I'm looking for something specific." He crouched down over the pile, moving the books on top. Aztal hadn't brought his research reports yet. That was good. he wouldn't have to worry about Antimony finding them tonight.
"Hm?" She leaned forward a bit to watch his shuffling, idly picking up a book nearby to glance over its title.
He began to sort through the books. "Finding the sniffer." As if that explained all details about the subject.
She looked up - or rather, down at him. "Ah?" Dropping one hand from the book she held, she set her fingers with some hesitation against his shoulder. "I thought we were going to put that off for tomorrow."
"The doing? Yes. But I thought I'd find the book so I don't have to worry about it tomorrow."
Her fingers lifted somewhat. "Oh, of course." Dim eyes flicked upward, then back down to the books. She felt heavy. "Excellent thinking." Thrumming her fingers against the tome in her hands, she mused, "Now, we could organize them by school of magic, but given what we are dealing with, I feel like a different factor should be used."
"It might be wise to take language into account. Many of these books are in Common, but many are in Thalassian or Eredun. A few are in Orcish." Dhein located a book, the title of which was in Eredun, and pulled it onto his lap. "What languages can you read?"
Thin fingers curled against the dusty binding between them, and when she spoke she tried to hide the minor embarrassment she felt, "Only Common and Orcish." And the language of the undead, but she doubted that would be of any help here, nor did she enjoy speaking it.
"That encompasses a number of books. We should divide them along those lines so that we can ensure to split our reading efforts efficiently." He opened the book in his lap. Lines of Eredun, like a madman's ink-dipped, broken fingernails scribbling through a seizure, filled the page from corner to corner unbroken.
Antimony hummed in agreement and set the book she held down by her feet before taking up another. The second book's cover was thick and strangely greasy beneath her fingers, and she hardly had to glance at it to know it encompassed some form of demonology, even if she couldn't read the title. This she held towards Dhein with one hand while sorting through another few with the other.
Dhein peruses the book he held, flipping through a number of pages as though he had found a table of contents somewhere. The eredun writing on the pages remained unbroken, however, with no sign of punctuation, no spaces between letters, no sign of lines or borders. Occasionally Dhein ran his fingers across the page as though to trace a sentence, but his fingers ran in crooked paths.
Belatedly, he noticed the tome, and took it with his off-hand without looking up. "Yes."
Faint yellow flicked his way for a moment, watching his expression. Then she just pursed her lips and returned to the pile. "Magic conduits and... bodies? Hm."
"Volume 1," Dhein amended, almost absently. "There are many kinds of bodies that can be used as magical conduits in a pinch."
"I can see," Antimony murmured, flipping through a few pages before setting it aside. Volume two was conveniently directly below, as was volume three, and she gave them both a vague frown before piling them atop one another. A new book found her hands quickly. "Empowering... who is Alumeth?" She set it aside as she spoke though, searching for another with perhaps a more useful title. "Kel'Thuzad, Father of the Cult of... oh. You have some strange books, Dhein."
Unable to discern the tone in which that was spoken, the words at least captured Dhein's attention. He finally looked up from demonic tome he'd been reading. His expression wavering, unsure to be nervous or concerned or aloof, he looked from Antimony to the book and then back to Antimony. "There is much that can be learned from such unpleasant tales."
He reached out to the book that rested beneath the book about Kel'Thuzad, recognizing the bindings and off-green pages of the lower tome. He pulled it towards him and slipped it beneath the book he was reading. "You don't need to read every book. Some of them are more unpleasant than the knowledge is worth."
"If Aztal brought them, he must have thought them relevant. I would be remiss in my duties if I skipped potentially valuable insight." She furrowed her brow over the pages of the book in her hands, watching Dhein's actions, and wondered if she should press further. Bending, she set the book on the infamous Lich in the pile she'd been forming and moved to take up another. She glanced sideways though towards Dhein as she did this, not quite able to stifle her curiosity.
Dhein held the book of correspondences beneath the demonic tome, keeping it out of Antimony's sight. For now. He wasn't going to throw it out, so she'd probably find and read it eventually, but... "In the least, you should work up to the larger tomes. Don't read about Kel'Thuzad until you know how necromancy works, or the history and philosophies recorded therein will seem arbitrarily twisted instead of informed by misused intellect."
Straightening with a frown, Antimony just hummed in mild consent before turning her eyes down to the cover of the next book. She recognized some of the symbolism embossed upon the cover. "Ah, another on the Light. Or... Foibles of the Tome of Divinity?" Opening it, she thumbed through a few pages. "Perhaps there... mm, any luck finding our means of sniffing out clues?"
"Yes," Dhein answered, directing his attention back down to the book in his hands. "I think I saw enough of the 'Foibles of Divinity' when that priest killed our horses. I won't be asking for her input again if we find her."
"Certainly not," Antimony's lips turned downward. "Such an utterly ungrateful woman. With not a clue how much we risked helping her into the Crossroads, it seems." Air rattled out her dry chest. "At any rate. This seems to be on... well, it reminds me very much of passages the Forgotten Shadow posts out in the Undercity."
"That's not a coincident." Dhein turned another page in his demonic tome. "Their faith is... Well, I've no doubt you'll be able to teach /me/ more about the subject once you've read so much as a chapter of that tome."
“Ah, you mean you are not simply keeping me around to solve your arithmatic problems?" She smiled a bit as she said this, eyeing him with a prodding expression. "... It is hard to not be familiar with such practices when you are as I am."
"Similar to how all Sin'Dorei have a working knowledge of the Arcane." He thought about this, and amended. "Well, distantly similar. I haven't seen you utilize the Shadow in your day-to-day."
"That is because I do not, ever," Antimony spoke firmly. "I may be aware of their teachings, but I do not necessarily agree with the practice."
"Not similar at all, then." Dhein shrugged. "I am corrected. And I've found what I'm looking for. I'll have to gather reagents, but they'll be cheap." They would be free, at least as far as their value in gold.
"That is good news." She looked up, setting the book aside. Recalling his earlier hesitation, she paused suddenly, and the light in her eye sockets flickered with a blink. "... But let's set it aside for now and focus on the rest, hm?"
"Yes." He stood, carrying the open book with him. "I'll even do so literally." He walked the demonic tome to the broken table and sat it in the crooked crack, open. It tried to fall closed, so he lay the book with green pages over it to hold it in place.
Her gaze followed him across the room, lingering on the green pages a moment before shifting up to his face. A small smile curved her lips. "Good. Now, come help me. Will Aztal be retrieving any more of these?"
"I suspect there will be many more." Returning to the pile of book with empty hands and lowering eyelids, Dhein perused it distantly and noted that his mind was having difficulty switching from one language to the next. Mental fatigue. He shrugged it off. "We'll likely wish we had a bookshelf, but I don't think it's in our budget, and it's unlikely we'll be able to get Aztal to retrieve one from my study."
"Perhaps not. Though as for the budget... well, we shall see. Let's not write all comforts off entirely until we know what kind of income we'll be taking in from clients, hm?" Though her hands rested on a stack of books, poised to sift through them some more, she watched his expression quietly for a few moments.
Dhein lowered himself once more in front of the books. He couldn't make his brain work fast enough to switch from language to language and peruse titles, but he could tell the difference between the different languages. He began to separate the Eredun from the Thalassian from the common from the Orcish from the etcetera. He based this off titles, knowing that some tomes were written in many languages. "At least no bookshelf this week. I should have told Aztal to put them in ordered piles. Seems I never think far enough ahead."
"It's quite alright. This isn't so much trouble." She returned to those books piled immediately in front of her, sorting through them carefully, though her gaze flicked towards the blood elf every few seconds. "I am looking forward to beginning the reading. We should devise a spreadsheet to order the notes properly, as I'm sure there will be some overlap in subjects across books."
Rubbing at his forehead, Dhein winced as his mind immediately tried to summon an organizational method for such a spread sheet and gifted him instead with a sudden headache. "That would be ingenious, Antimony. Do you have an image of such a spreadsheet?"
"Of course." The smile that pushed at her lips faded a bit at Dhein's uncomfortable gesture. "Are you alright?" She looked around, noting the faint but lingering haze in the air. "... Is the energy affecting you?"
"I am fine, and no, it is not. I am still vexed by my concern for you." He gave her as strong a smile as he could manage, though his eyelids did not open all the way. "I think will continue being vexed just so until I'm sure the energy is dispersed and yourself at full health."
"And what constitutes full health?" Lifting one book, glancing down at it, and then setting it aside in the growing pile of Common-language texts, she gave him a concerned look. "You do not look well yourself. And don't try to deny it further - I've more than enough experience sleuthing these things out."
Dhein waved it off. "My health varies throughout the day. You'll have to get used to seeing me when I'm not at my best if we're going to be living together in the long-term." He smiled at the thought of that. "I'll admit I'm not sure what 'full health' is for a Forsaken, but I'm willing to guess on a case-by-case basis."
Narrowing her eyes, Antimony remained silent for a moment in thought. "... I suppose you are correct. But I reserve the right to worry however needlessly, just as you are currently doing." She lifted one brow towards him.
Chuckling, Dhein crossed his arms. "Very well, then. Let's both be worried."
"Mhm. But not unproductively so." Dropping her gaze back to the books, Antimony moved a couple more texts in silence. She hesitated on one, furrowing her brow at its title, which involved an unhappy marriage of Shadow and Fel magics and the crafting of corrupting spells with proxy vessels.
Dhein raised an eyebrow at the statement, but said nothing, continuing to pull books of Eredun into an ever-increasing pile. Eredun, Aztal's favored language, had more dialects than there were races upon Azeroth. Some could contain entire lectures in a few syllables. Others used whole pages to convey a single, very nuanced, idea, with entire brief tomes being single statements or aphorisms
Looking towards Dhein, Antimony opened her mouth to speak but found she wasn't quite sure if she wanted to further press on the strange topics she kept running into. Perhaps not now. She hung in indecision for several seconds, tapping her fingers on the book's cover, before finally just shuffling it aside and quickly picking up another. This one was thankfully more benign. Flipping through a few pages, Antimony tried to just ignore the quiet of working like this with Dhein, her shoulder brushing against his occasionally, the two of them engaged in mutually interesting intellectual activities. She smiled a bit as she went along.
After a time, when Dhein had accumulated a number of demonic tomes and arcane textbooks, there was a flash of green brown light near the center of the room and an unhurried imp carrying enough books that he could not see around them. Aztal walked them over to the pile wordlessly and dropped them upon the floor, stirring up dust that he had carried with him from Corinn's Crossing. It smelt of old books, expired reagents, and fetid undeath.
Dhein at once set aside the book in his hand and stood. "Aztal, there's some simple reagents I need you to retrieve on your next trip."
[10/2/2014 10:13:02 PM] Adrienne D: "Ah, careful! You'll mix up the..." Antimony trailed off as she pushed a few stray books out of the way, moving the ones they'd sorted carefully to the side.
[10/2/2014 10:18:18 PM] Kyle: Aztal chittered curiously, and Dhein dragged him over to the broken table, showing him the spell on the book he had in mind. Aztal barely seemed to glance at the page before barking. "Boring! Never any interesting spells with you." He pointed at Antimony. "Bet she's more fun."
Dhein smacked the imp in the back of the head. "You know I don't allow you to gamble. Now get going."
[10/3/2014 4:32:40 PM] Adrienne D: Antimony looked up from her hasty re-sorting of the book pile. "Oh, Aztal! Are there any furnishings in your library that he /can/ carry over? It would certainly help our budgeting."
[10/3/2014 5:08:19 PM] Kyle: Aztal threw his hands up in the air. "Get it yourself!"
Dhein caught one of his hands and threw him against the wall. "Rude."
The imp splatted with just short of bone-jarring force and then fell face-first on the wooden floor, groaning.
"He's so flimsy," Dhein muttered. "He probably couldn't carry so much as an end-table."
Huffing at the pile of imp, Antimony dropped her gaze back to the books. "I suppose not..." Brushing off a tome particularly laden with dust, she wrinkled her nose at the distasteful title - the number of books on necromancy and mental control and evil spells and other such things were beginning to truly bother her - and dropped it a bit forcefully into the Common pile. "Nothing to be done for it, though... Get back over here so we can continue. I... think I'll draw up the spreadsheet if you wish to finish up with these books."
His tiredness beginning to get to him, Dhein put on a surly expression. "Of course. I'll get right over there as instructed." Which, he did, otherwise without complaint. "The spreadsheet would be much appreciated. The less time we spend thinking about which books to read the more time we can spend reading them."
"Precisely." She smiled with the pleased thought, straightening from the books, but the expression faded at Dhein's face. "... Well, I suppose enthusiasm isn't exactly necessary," she muttered as she made for the parchment and ink.
"I'm plenty enthusiastic." He half-heartedly picked up a book and frowned at it. What language was this title even in? It looked like decorative filigrees. Oh, the book was backwards. There it is. Still no idea what language that title was in. He tossed it on with the Eredun.
"Mhm," Antimony sounded unconvinced but she didn't press further, instead directing her attention to laying out several stretches of parchment across the floor. Pen in hand, she stood over them and crossed her arms. Her lips pursed in thought, gaze turned downward to the paper.
Dhein grew silent, pulling books into his lap and gazing at them for long seconds before shuffling them off towards a pile. When Aztal disappeared in a snap of Fel fire, Dhein started, but barely noticed himself do so. He looked around, trying to figure out what had happened, and then ended up watching Antimony.
Dim light in her eye sockets flickered as she shifted her gaze from one sheet of parchment to the next, expression intensely concentrated. After a lengthy period her brows lifted and she dropped carefully to her knees before beginning to inscribe a number of notations, different for each paper. Her writing was careful but not slow. "Mana theory and the manipulation of spells are related topics but subdivided in different ways. They'll require notations to mark connections. As well as for different schools of magic... and the redirection of one school for another purpose... we'll require an index to code for any charts or graphs in the texts, or our own..." She spoke half to herself as she worked, bent over the parchment and occasionally shifting to renew the ink on her pen.
"Using one kind of magic for an altered purpose was one of my main research directions towards the end of my career," Dhein volunteered, returning his attention to the book in his lap and doing nothing with it.
"I believe such has come up before," Antimony murmured distractedly, scratching out a careful series of numbers and letters, notating each one.
"Has it?" He couldn't remember. He thought he'd been avoiding the subject. Maybe he'd had enough tact to skirt it in the past. "Hm." He looked back to the book, squinted, set it aside, and then stood. He'd moved almost no books since Antimony had begun work on the spreadsheet, but he was tired enough to confront the problem of the cot once more, so he turned and strode towards it.
Antimony didn't reply, too absorbed with her own efforts. After a time she spoke without looking up, "I should ask what other topics there are, in the books I cannot read? I do not want this organization to be redundant nor miss anything."
"Oh, there are many." Dhein rubbed his forehead, looking down at the pile of useless cot he'd purchased. "Demonic possession. Non-demonic possession. Possession of demons. I guess that's all sort of the same thing. The books in Eredun deal in the same topics as the others, and Fel is all about the corruption of what already exists. With the addition of, I suppose, pestilence? I'm not used to thinking in terms of the broad strokes."
"Broad strokes to begin. And it is easy to notate for finer subdivisions." She made a face at his list, but set to including summation categories for what he'd listed off. After a moment she finally looked up. When the pile of books did not seem much smaller and seemed to be lacking in a Dhein, she frowned in confusion. Then her eyes tracked him to the cot and she let out a soft sigh, pushing herself to her feet.
Dhein pulled at the facial hair beneath his lip, considering how he might prop the cot up, or rather prop up something to hang the cot from. Maybe if he slept with the door open he could...
Setting her pen down, Antimony stepped over the parchment and quietly padded across the room until she was next to Dhein. The dim, yellow glow of her eyes turned up towards him. "It may be that the floor is more comfortable than a half-constructed cot."
Dhein brushed at his face. "I'm not sure my pride allows me to go out with a budget for blankets and pillows and a bed and then to return home and sleep on the floor with a pile of rope for a pillow. I'm still a Sin'Dorei, though I walk in Kalimdor."
"But you purchased neither blankets nor pillows." One thin brow lifted. "Though there was enough to do so. I believe you were in a bit a fit at the time."
At this Dhein frowned all the deeper, offended, "I was not throwing a fit. I'm not a child. It was a tacit civil protest at the lack of beds in Orgrimmar."
"A protest that has resulted in your current uncomfortable situation." She realized she might have come off too cold with that and so tried to rest her hand on his arm, leaning forward slightly to look up towards his face. "It is not so bad. Tomorrow we can at least find you a blanket and pillow, and some nails to hang the cot with."
"Perhaps I will choose to protest by not sleeping tonight. I have the ability to do that."
Antimony frowned. "And sacrifice your mental acuity. I also am of the understanding that the living do require rest."
"Sacrifice it for one day," Dhien muttered. "Two maybe. If I don't use a spell. Which I might have a spell."
"Absolutely not safe." The light in her eyes flashed and she tightened her fingers against his arm. Touching him so willingly did not feel as strange as it may have before. Her lips pursed. "I will begin exploring our sources while you attempt to rest. You can join me in the morning."
"It's not so unsafe." Dhein patted her hand. "I spent whole weeks awake through mystical means when I was studying as a young man in Quel'Thalas. Granted, those last few days were mostly aimless wandering, but I was young. It was fun."
"Far be it from me to call you old, Dhein," Antimony began, giving him a heavy look, "but I would hope you were wiser now. I am eager to make advances in this project, but I will not let you sacrifice your good health."
"I'm not the one who had to be carried out of the room just now," Dhein respoded, unwisely, but with a bold smirk.
"Oh truly," her eyes widened. "No, but perhaps you will be if you refuse to rest."
"Magical rest counts." Dhein felt his hip for a wand, but didn't find one. He tried to remember the spell, but just ended up squinting. "Though I suppose I am to curl up in a dark, cold, dirty corner like some kind of pack animal lost alone."
"It can hardly be said to be cold in Orgrimmar," Antimony observed mildly. "And why would you presume alone?"
Dhien blinked. "Well, because Aztal doesn't cuddle. Wouldn't want to anyway." He pulled on the tuft of hair under his lip. Then his long eyebrows paused. "Oh! And because... Ah... The corner is no place for a... Uh. Because you're busy reading. Presumably among the books."
Her brow lifted. "They are not sealed to their current position."
"Well." He pondered. "I'll just pile up this rope here and proceed to lie stiff and frustrated on the floor."
"Mm, that is a start, I suppose," Antimony watched him a moment longer before she pulled away to cross back to the books. Her expression softened as she looked over the pile.
Dhein perfunctorily kicked the rope out of the way. He wouldn't degrade himself by using a cot as a pillow. It would leave unsightly red lines on his face. Instead, he just placed himself where the rope had been a moment before. Maybe he’d try to sleep sitting up? No, he was lying down pretty quickly. His body was too tired to notice how uncomfortable the floor was at first. Later, he was sure his muscles and bones would let him know.