Tythel dropped into the top level of the tower before the others, on the theory that she had the best chance to survive if it was full of soldiers. Eupheme followed immediately after.
It was not full of soldiers. The room was dimly lit – Tythel got the impression that this tower had for some time relied on its natural light to provide illumination. There were a few cots here, thankfully empty, and some unlocked lockers. As the others came to join them Tythel began to rifle through them while Eupheme watched the door.
They mostly contained personal effects. At the sight of the first letter from home Tythel tossed them aside. There was a very good chance that whomever they were addressed to lay dead on top of the tower right now, and Tythel could not afford the distraction of thinking about that.
You can’t handle the sight of letters to men you killed minutes ago, but you’re willing to condemn prisoners to their deaths to achieve your goals?
That thought, like the letters, was tossed aside. This was not the time for distraction.
She wasn’t the one that found what she was looking for. Ossman did, triumphantly holding the object over his head. A songshell, already attuned to whatever song they used to communicate within the tower. Ossman fitted it over his ear and gave an “okay” gesture to confirm it was working.
Now they’d know if they were discovered.
The control room was, according to Lorathor’s sources, the third level from the top. That meant only one more level between them and their goal.
Tythel bent down, pressing her ear to the floor. She could hear footsteps below, and held up three fingers for the group.
Given the need to remain as undetected as possible, they were avoiding speaking as long as they could. Fortunately, they had another option. Lorathor pulled back his sleeve, revealing his arm, and changed the colors on his skin to spell out a word.
Tythel shrugged. She hadn’t gotten enough time around the Unlight Magus to learn his footstep pattern. If he was here…killing a Magus could be done. Unless they got extraordinarily lucky, it couldn’t be done quietly. Magus’ office was in the room directly below them. If he was there, the mission was blown.
The letters on Lorathor’s arm shifted again. Alohym?
This time Tythel could at least shake her head, same as when he shifted the letters to Imperiplate? Whoever was beneath them, they didn’t fall into either of those categories.
Haradeth motioned for the group to head down the spiral staircase at the edge of the room to the next level. Lorathor took point, shifting to blend into the stone as best he could. Tythel strained her ears for any sign the Sylvani had been noticed as Haradeth and Eupheme followed.
A series of quiet thuds followed their departure. Tythel tensed until she heard a knock on the wall – two raps, a pause, and another three. She nodded to Armin and Ossman and they headed to join.
The door to Theognis’ office was open and the room beyond was empty. The waiting area outside now contained three guards’ corpses, their blood staining the thick carpet. Haradeth slipped into the office and began gathering papers and carefully folding them and placing them in a pack. He’d been staying up here and stealing every bit of paperwork he could find unless they were discovered.
Tythel pressed her ear to the carpet away from the dead bodies. The carpet made it harder to hear, but she was reasonably certain she couldn’t pick out any footsteps beneath them. What she could hear was the gentle hum she associated with Unlight devices as well as some repeated sounds she couldn’t place. They sounded a bit like someone drumming fingers on wood, but harsher and quicker. She held up two fingers, with a shrug to indicate she wasn’t certain.
Lorathor repeated the questions on his arm, and Tythel shrugged for Theognis, and shook her head for Alohym and Imperiplate. Neither of the later two made sense. Tythel couldn’t imagine an Alohym doing something as human as tapping a desk, and it didn’t have the metallic sound the Imperiplate would have made.
Lorathor and Eupheme went ahead, and again Tythel waited for the signal that all was clear before signaling Ossman and Armin to follow.
She had to put a hand over her mouth to avoid gasping at the sight below. There were circular windows that glowed with their own light. Instead of being attached to the walls, they hovered in the middle of the room, and they didn’t show the outside world, they showed the interior of the prison. As she watched, one of the windows changes to show her another prison hallway. And then another window flickers. Soon they were looking at an entirely different section of the prison.
The two people she’d heard down here had been sitting at a single long desk, along which was a wide array of buttons. Tythel reached out to touch one, curious to see if they made the clicking sounds she had been hearing, but Armin reached out and grabbed her wrist before she could, shaking his head.
Lorathor pointed at Armin and shifted the lettering of his skin. Can you work this?
Armin nodded, then looked at the sheer number of buttons. Frowning, he raised his hand and moved it back and forth in a seesaw motion, then sat at one of the chairs not occupied by a rapidly cooling body. Licking his lips, he reached out to touch a key.
Before his finger could even depress the button, Ossman tilted his head and growled, “they know we’re here.”
“I’m going to need some time!” Armin hissed, now that silence had been broken. Tythel could hear footsteps approaching.
“How long?” Lorathor asked.
“I don’t know.” Armin said. “I’ve never worked with a Lumephalon this complex before.”
“Work as fast as you can. If we wait too much longer, we’ll-”
Then the alarms started to blare.
Armin turned to the buttons and began to click away as the remaining four scrambled to brace the door as Unlight beams began to punch through the wood.