69th trial of Vhalar, 722
The Dubois Estate
The Dubois Estate
"So... how's it work?"
Kasoria had been quietly dreading that question. Not just because it was easier to do than to explain, but because, well... he'd never actually done it before. He knew the potential was there. Extrapolating what he knew about the discipline, applying that to the task at hand... then yes, it was possible. He had a good idea of how he'd do it, too. Like everything else with Transmutation, it required touch, contact, letting his ever-curious Spark explore with senses beyond his own.
But he didn't have any experience to fall back on.
"S'called Identity," he told Vaul as they walked down the darkened hallway. The last lamp had been extinguished a break before, but that hindered them not. They were Oh'Pee boys, raised partly in the shadows of the Underground. Navigating gloomy or blackened tunnels was known to them by the time they started tugging themselves. "You put yer hand on somethin', an' yer Spark-"
"S'the thing in yeh that makes the magic work."
"Thought that was ether?"
"It is, but it's also-look, yeh touch somethin', it tells yeh what it is."
"... what's it sound like?"
No answer for that one, either. Kasoria knew because his Spark knew. There was a communication, and Fates, most times he couldn't shut the thing up. Not one but two of his mutations seemed determined to drive him bad with information about the world around him. Composition, density, age, weaknesses... he had to make a real effort to quiet it at times, especially in places entirely new to him. Yet he'd endured it long enough to know it just... knew. And once it worked out what it was identifying, so did he. As if he was remembering something, expressed purely through existing memories and impressions of an object. It was, really, quite fascinating.
But he didn't have time to explain that, nor was he here for an experiment.
"Doesn't work that way," he said as he stopped before an intricately carved door. "But it speaks, an' it seems more'n I do."
"Here we are."
He opened the doors and saw a luxurious bedroom beyond. More of a suite than a room, really. A bronze bath by the windows, one wall lined with a book case, sumptuous rugs on a bed big enough to sleep four. Another door led to what looked like a closet, packed with clothes. He saw paintings and sculptures as they walked, all clearly... tasteful. He wasn't one to judge value. A writing desk was under the opposing window, inkwell, wax stick... no papers. Nothing had been written or studied there in a while. Likewise, the bed hadn't been slept in, nor the clothes moved from the closet. He ran a gloved hand over the bookcase as he passed, and saw a smear of dust on his fingers.
Keeping away while the foreigners are taking up space.
"Reckon he sleeps 'ere?"
Vaul gestured to a painting hanging over the bed. A nobleman in relaxed but stately repose: hand in hip, other hanging loose, dressed in finery and silks. Kasoria frowned and tried to remember what this Nathanial Dubois looked like... and decided this man seemed too old, too much grey about his head. Father, perhaps? Ancestor? Either way, he was sleeping elsewhere. The Band and the delegation were quartered in the wing next door. This place was... he would say not for the current owners. They were in the opposite wing, and guards were posted there, patrolling night and trial. But this one was for distant relatives, other guests... or just ostentation, perhaps.
Could be a wild goose chase. If there was a tunnel entrance, it would be where the family is.
Assuming it's the only one.
"Dunno. But he ain't here, an' we ain't got all night."
Vaul fidgeted. Not nervous, just restless. He didn't enjoy the feeling of being useless, and this was something beyond his ken. Still, at least he got to watch.
"A'right," Kasoria said with finality, removing his gloves and walking to the wall. Two of the sides of the room had windows; unlikely to have secret doors carved into them. Unless the Dubois' could also fly. "Time t'ave a look..."
He closed his eyes, summoned his Spark... and heard Vaul breath a curse.
The eyes. He saw the eyes.
Vaul understood why Kasoria favored those gloves now. It wasn't just a practical choice; they hid the things sunken into the back of his hands. As he watched, even in the dark, he could see the flush of Brilliance illuminate his old friend... and then the eyes on his hands snap open. Some oddly calm part of his mind noted that the were the same color as Kasoria's eyes from before they'd turned jet black. Dark brown. After a few moments the one facing him actually looked his way, he was sure of it. Kasoria didn't respond, or even seem to notice. He muttered something, maybe a spell, but it sounded... almost gentle.
"C'mon... look fer me..."
His Spark did as commanded, boosted by him making himself deliberately sightless. Another mutation he'd found a way to make a use of. As he placed his hand against the wall behind the bed, he could feel his ether seep into the paint and wood and stone. Delving deeper, guided by his Spark. Almost instantly it started rattling off properties. What the stone was. How old. The chemicals in the paint. Cracks in the bricks. It spread deeper, broader, through the surface and across the length of the wall. The same thing, over and over... but nothing that stood out.
He lowered his arm, opened his eyes, and his Spark seemed dulled in an instant. Still questing and searching, but at a far smaller radius. Fates, what was he doing? Was he really taking the word of a spy that there were secret tunnels in the Dubois Estate? Probably (after all, who better would know?), but was he expecting to just stumble across one? Easy as that? Just reach out with his magic and boom, find a doorway. He shook his head and massaged the bridge of his nose.
And you waited until tonight, as well. Less than a break before you're set to meet. Fucking genius, you are.
Vaul was smart enough to see his boss was not in the mood for questions. Frustration rolled off the Raggedy Man like fog. He paced the floor and closed his eyes again, only now with his hands on his hips. Back and forth across the rug, muttering and cursing in two languages. Which was understandable to him: Ith'ession was a fine, flowing language for spewing out annoyance. His eyes swept over the room as he waited.
Room. Fuck me. Place is twice the size of the house I grew up in. We had a bath, though. Well, after I stole-
Kasoria stopped pacing. Looking straight down. Something stirred him. He closed his eyes again, those hideous second orbs snapped open... and he sunk down... pressing his palms to the rug, and to the tile underneath it...
That was when he'd stopped. His Spark was obedient, but it was willful. It didn't think in the same way he did (Fates, if it even thought at all). It didn't just look at the walls, it explored where he was walking, too. It whispered to him and he learned even in his foul mood... until he learned something unexpected. There wasn't just floor and fabric under his feet. He frowned, cast a quick glance out the window. They were on the ground floor. If not a door in a wall, then maybe a hatch to-
"Help me move this."
The two of them pulled the plush rug aside to reveal... more tiles. Unconvinced, Kasoria willed his Spark again, holding up his hands-
"Bloody hells, Kas."
-until the palms glowed as if they were suns chained to him. He hovered them over the tile, examining them, eyes closed after a few moments when he touched them. Vaul watched, enrapt despite himself, casting a quick look back at the door. The staff were asleep, and the guards were outside, not inside. But it wouldn't be outside possibility if one of them was doing a walk through, and his ears were pricked for footsteps. Kasoria saw none of this. Eyes scrunched shut, he sifted through the "words" barraging him, trying to discern some kind of location-
Vaul turned back and saw Kasoria rap his knuckles across the tiles. His eyebrows shot up when the deep retorts suddenly changed to a higher pitch. One of them was thinner. The one with the very visible and unusual hole at one corner. Large enough for a finger, and when Kasoria worked his own inside, crooked it and heaved-
"Well, fuck me running..."
The Raggedy Man smiled in triumph as the manhole-sized tile was pulled up, revealing a hole with a ladder set into the side of it. He knew it would be a bedroom. What safer place would the master of a house pick? If anyone came tearing through the front door, too fierce or numerous to be defeated, this would be where he'd retreat to. So this was the last place he'd be, and if his guards failed... he had one more way out. He examined the tile as he held it. Same material as the rest, but this was just a façade, maybe half as thick as the others. The grout lines were even matching, but that hole gave it away... and only then, because Kasoria knew what was under it.
"See," he said after a moment, "Told ya it'd work."