A crash of thunder, heard even through the stone walls of the keep, punctuated everyone's arrival to the library.
"Lovely," muttered Fortunato. "Sounds like it's turning into a real storm out there."
"No worse than your snoring, Vodacce," muttered Ulf in return.
Lady Grace sighed, the verbal sniping between Ulf and Fortunato an all too-familiar occurance. David offered her a sympathetic smile. "Are they always like this, I take it?"
"You have no idea," Grace bit back a chuckle. She lowered her voice. "Did you get a look at what was found, David?"
The doctor shook his head as a flicker of seriousness crossed his eyes. "Not yet. The Baron had it put under lock and key after Mannheim brought whatever it is inside." He paused, brown eyes now bright with anticipation. "We'll both be seeing it for the first time."
Father Sigurd made a beeline straight for the brandy snifter. He poured himself a glass, drained it in one swallow, then quickly poured himself another. "We finally get to see what all the fuss is about," the Vendel priest smirked. "Even you have to be curious about it, eh Tedmund?"
The Eisen monk only glared coldly at his Objectionist counterpart. "Any tool of the Abyss should have been tossed into the flames the moment it dared to see the light of day!"
"With all due respect, Brother Tedmund, that isn't always such a good idea. Some artifacts react rather badly to fire." The hint of a grin popped up on Fortunato's face. "Ulf, do you remember the incident with the fire mage?"
"Which one, Vodacce?"
"The one with the hook. I think it was in Tamis...remember Tamis?"
"Ohhh, that one!" Ulf nodded, making a face. "Do you think her hair ever grew back?"
Brother Tedmund's eyes widened in shock and abhorrence at the two men. He quickly made the sign of the Prophets' Cross. "Typical Explorers' prattling," he spat, jabbing a finger towards Fortunato's way. "You disregard Theus' warnings at your own peril. It's bad enough one life has been lost already!"
Ulf, Fortunato, and Grace's heads suddenly shot towards Brother Tedmund, who only smiled in return, disturbingly pleased to be the bearer of such news. Father Sigurd stared at his empty glass in awkward silence while Doctor Foreman just gave the monk a grimace. "Baron Adelbert, you made no mention o' anyone dyin' in your letter to the Society," Lady Grace frowned, her gaze turning now towards the uneasy Baron.
However, it was Mannheim who spoke first. "Because this thing didn't cause the death in question, Lady MacKenzie." The Baron's secretary wrung his hands slightly before continuing, his expression one of concern. "One of the servants...he was out hunting boar. He didn't get a clean shot off and..."
"...it only enraged the animal?" Ulf finished, grimacing in realization.
Mannheim just nodded. "I came across the scene and finished the boar off myself, but it was too late for Hans. The boar must have torn up the ground around it in its pain and uprooted the relic." He went over to the corner to pull out a small chest, placed it on the center table, then unlatched it. "I told the Baron what had happened. Apart from myself bringing this inside, no one has touched it."
Grace was already putting on a pair of heavy leather gloves as she approached the chest. She lifted the lid, then reached in and carefully drew the object out.
It was ashen-white, approximately the size of a man's head. Four thick shells hinged together at the bottom, as if to form some sort of sphere once it was closed. The entire object was covered in sharp, narrow spikes each about four inches long. All eyes were focused on the Highlander and the relic. After a minute or so, one voice broke the silence.
"That's all that it is?" Father Sigurd gave a disappointed snort. "I was expecting something more...complex. With springs and dials and humming and sparks. Or at least made out of gold!" Lady Grace only ignored him, frowning thoughtfully. "Are you..." Ulf wiggled his hand, making sure the thumb was sticking out. "...finding anything, Grace?"
Grace shook her head, taking off her gloves finally. "Fortunato, come over here an' tell me what you make o' this."
The Vodacce came over. He reached out and tentatively tapped the smooth inside of one of the shells with a finger. "What is that? It's hard, whatever it is. Bone maybe? Pardon me, Doctor, you're in my light." Fortunato nudged past the Avalon as he tried to get a better look. "Those spikes don't look healthy, Grace. Some sort of trap already set off? Or a Syrneth torture device."
"It's hollow. Might have held something once...," Grace cocked her head, looking over the relic carefully. "You found it like this, Herr Mannheim?"
"Ja, Lady MacKenzie. Partially uncovered in the dirt," Mannheim's head bobbed quickly. "Once the storm stops, I can, of course, show you where. Do you have any idea what it is then?"
"Not sure yet," Pausing, Grace spied David giving her an encouraging smile and looking at her intently. Not for the first time since arriving did Grace find herself returning the doctor's smile warmly with one of her own. "Ruminatin' on a few possibilities though."
"The library is yours to use as long as you have need of it, Lady Grace. It's never locked...both Doctor Foreman and Father Sigurd can attest to that. I've spent more than a few nights in deep discussion with them both here," Baron Adelbert nodded towards the doctor and the priest. "And if there's anything that I or my staff can assist with, please do not hesitate to ask."
"Thank you, Baron Adelbert," The Highlander's smile quirked into a small grin as she pushed her sleeves up. Her gaze hesitated briefly on David before nodding to Fortunato, then to Ulf. "Time for us to get to work...."