CHAPTER FIVE: The Resident (part 1)

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On the west side of Labrys Town, in a cemetery where grand mausoleums formed a cityscape of the dead, the white and grey stone glowed eerily beneath the hue of Ruby Moon

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On the west side of Labrys Town, in a cemetery where grand mausoleums formed a cityscape of the dead, the white and grey stone glowed eerily beneath the hue of Ruby Moon. All was quiet among the statues and ornamentations crafted by the hands of master stonemasons. The lights of streetlamps and houses illuminated the near distance. Rain clouds were clearing from the night sky, and the wind had stiffened enough to flutter the cassock and long white hair of a solitary man standing before a moderately sized crypt.

He had been drawn to the cemetery by an alien signal, magic that did not originate in the Labyrinth. The source of the signal came from within the crypt, but it was weak, vague, barely detectable. It was almost as if the magic was fading, destined to be as dead as the corpses in the graves. It was not a favourable sign, and the man was not best pleased.

With gravel crunching beneath his boots, he stepped towards the crypt's entrance – tall double doors of stone set between white pillars that were cracked with age. Above the doors an ornate carving of the Timewatcher, supposedly watching over the soul inside, did not much impress him. With a grim expression on his pale face, he extended a hand. Energy rushed from his palm. The entrance shuddered inwards; shifting stone ground as if the crypt was drawing a ragged breath.

He stepped inside, ignoring the dust and cobwebs the wind swirled around him. The faded tapestry hanging on the back wall, the words of memorial engraved into the stone to his left and right, were wasted on him; he cared nothing for whose resting place he disturbed and wasted no time in descending the steep stairs that led to the crypt's vault.

There, a sarcophagus sat at the centre of the floor. Its lid was carved to resemble the man lying inside. The signal was a little stronger around it, but still not as strong as it should have been.

With his displeasure growing, the white-haired man barked a single word at the sarcophagus. The intricately carved lid cracked and broke into a thousand pieces which rose, slowly, hanging in the air for a moment, before he sent them flying away, like lethal projectiles, to shatter against the far wall.

He looked into the sarcophagus, feeling mild surprise that no skeletal remains lay inside; that there was no bottom upon which a skeleton might lie; that there was nothing to see except the deepest of shadows.

Jumping down through the hole, the man landed smoothly in a secret chamber beneath the vault.

The dark meant nothing to him; he could see perfectly well. The secret chamber was formed from hard-packed earth and was utterly empty. The only aspect of note was a crude hole dug in the floor. He crouched over it. It was a few feet deep and also empty. The source of the signal had at one time lain at the bottom of the hole, and the magic he could now sense was only the residue of its presence. He suspected some years had passed since the source had been removed.

The man leapt out of the secret chamber, up through the bottomless sarcophagus in a single bound, and ran up the stairs of the vault. Exiting the crypt, he stood in the cemetery and sniffed the air. He jumped up onto the crypt's roof. There he cast a spell, a simple incantation that altered his vision, allowing him to see the wind. Like fine grey smoke, it whipped around him.

The very foundations of Labrys Town were imbued with magic. A network of energy lines flowed beneath the ground and in the air, travelling like blood through veins. The network connected every district and every building. It provided homes with energy, kept trams running, and charged the little crystals that the denizens called power stones. If one were skilled enough, it was possible to feel the network, see it, use it, and to detect within it the presence of magic that did not belong to the Labyrinth.

White, luminescent lines crisscrossed through the misty wind, like an intricate spider web. But interwoven into these lines were four tendrils of dark purple: four signals from alien sources that snaked between the currents of the Labyrinth's energy. Three of the tendrils held a strong colour, vibrant and alive; but the fourth was undeniably weak, sickly. It rose from the crypt he stood on, struggling to exist as the wind threatened to scatter it in all directions. But it held its form, just, and weaved away into the distance, towards the lights of streetlamps and houses – and its source.

The man smiled grimly. Three signals were strong; they could wait, for the time being. The weakness of the fourth demanded attention before its time ran out and it disappeared completely.

He jumped down from the crypt's roof and began following the flagging purple tendril that twisted away deeper into the western district.

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