Chapter 59: The Body of Science

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They called themselves the Corpus Veritorum, the Body of Truth. Hearsay was they they were led by a scientist with dark impulses, desires to cut apart people and see how they worked, piece by bloody piece.

-Arro Venicci, Chronicles of the Albic Nations, Vol. 6

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Ten Years Ago

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The kitchen was dark, the fires long gone out, everyone having gone to rest. Soon, the cooks would rise to prepare the lord's food. Soon, it would be a place of business and work, of savory industry and fragrant labor. Here, heavy grunt-workers would large sacks of grain while artisans would craft masterpieces, exquisite works of art that could only be enjoyed once.

But it was not that time. Now, everything was dark, everything was quiet. The entire kitchen was empty and devoid of life, except for one box, and a chimney.

Skaria shoved herself down through the soot-greased chute. It was a tight fit, and normally, she would pop out one end as black as a chunk of coal, or the volcanic glass that was so popular in Saefel Aedhin as jewelry. However, this time, she had come prepared. She had tied herself into a sack. And with this sack, she inched down like some sort of demented slug, gaining a foot at a time.

After a good few minutes, Skaria didn't feel her legs being squeezed. She kicked, lurching down. And kicked. And kicked. 

With one last kick, she fell a good five feet, landing on a pile of cinders and ash. A quick shake moved her out of the sack, and she kicked it aside.

She quickly oriented herself. That door over there, ornately carved with silver filigree, must lead to the dining hall. Not what she wanted. That door over there, heavier, with a window leading out to the garden and the cool night, was probably where the delivery men came in. But that little door, not locked or bolted, seemed much more likely to house the pantry.

She pushed on one of the panels of the door, making sure it didn't squeak loudly, and yanked the small pocket lantern. Powered by an alchemical compound that the alchemist had given her (and warned her about), the thin lens channeled light in a feathery beam.

The pantry was a large room of brick, though Skaria could only tell that from the top of the wall, right at the juncture of the brick wall and plaster ceiling. The narrow beam of light swiped from burlap sack to burlap sack, darting, as if something alive, searching for the faintest hint of the crate Skaria had spent a fortune on smuggling in.

There! A corner of dark tan wood jutted out from a large pile of grain bags. Skaria set the lantern down on a small box of carrots, aimed the beam at the box, and got to work shoving the grain off the crate.

She looked around the room once the box was exposed. Saefel Aedhin had experienced plagues before, and the governing council had issued an edict requiring all dead flesh of twenty pounds or more to be transferred only in boxes to prevent future plagues from spreading. Pigs were sent to the kitchen in boxes exactly like this for the butcher to cut up. Which meant that the house had to have a pry bar somewhere.

She found one, hanging off a nail wedged in the mortar between bricks. Yanking the metal bar off the wall, she jammed it underneath the lid. Bloody thorns, they packed these things tight! She stepped back, took a deep breath, and brought her foot down upon it.

With a startlingly loud crack, it lifted the crate lid up. The pry bar was dashed to the floor, the clang as it bounced off the stone floor pealing like the church bells that filled the sky with their notes and chords every other day. Bloody thorns! Skaria ducked down under a sack of grain, making sure no one came to investigate.

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