Deep below a half-ruined castle, in a secret chamber revealed by magic, Olivia Weaver reads the journal of a dead Eeee…
I'm keeping this journal down here in my lab. I can't trust Igor anymore. His clan is so tight-lipped about their own secrets, and if he got ahold of my discovery then I fear he might do away with me! But I should not get ahead of myself. This is meant to be a record for posterity, after all. So I should do things in the proper order.
After the accident with the tunneling device (which I had to convince Igor was loaned to me by Abner Wingnut, claiming he had been the one to find it which is ironic since I did bring it to him to examine first) I managed to return the thing to where I found it, deep in the tunnels.
A few of the troglodytes watched me from their holes, and I was afraid they would come after me, when something curious happened: they all ran off into the dark recesses of their tunnels. Piqued, I boldly went to get a closer look, and once inside a tunnel I could feel and hear it: a massive heartbeat of some kind. I was certain that it was this signal which drew the creatures away. I ventured further into the darkness, but found nothing. No nest or belongings or even waste. If the troglodytes are truly animals of some sort, then they don't appear to have the habits of any I know of.
Over time, I was able to map out the warren while the creatures were away. I've found that the odd heartbeat lasts for about an hour according to the sands, and occurs seemingly at random during the day and night. The individual tunnels all seem to lead deep into the ground, where they join together to form a single great tunnel possibly a natural cavern, as the walls are not so smooth.
The creatures themselves are cryptic, and flee if approached. I constructed a false boulder from which I could observe them, much like one would use to study animals in the wild. Their behavior is boggling, though. They do not appear to sleep or eat or do anything but sit around like gargoyles. They retreat when the great heart beats, and for some reason they flee when a larger member appears.
The larger ones have red eyes instead of pale ones, with a vampiric glow to them. Their claws also seem to be of sterner stuff both longer and sharper than the regular troglodytes. I observed one capture a smaller one and carry it off through a tunnel that the others do not use. It may actually be a different species.
I had decided that it was necessary to capture one of the creatures for study. The best time for such an attempt would be when they were leaving to go to the source of the heartbeat (or wherever they go when they sense it). To this end I created a snare trap that I could trigger from my hiding place, and set it within the tunnel of one of the smaller and slower creatures; one which had barely escaped capture by one of the bigger ones before.
It was quite a struggle, as the creatures are far stronger than they appear to be! It became clear that I could not simply bundle it up and take it home, so the best I could do was extract a blood sample and then release the beast from a distance. But that sample changed everything.
Olivia sits back and digests this information for a few moments, then takes out the little drawing pad and a charcoal stick from the inside pocket of her hat. She then takes notes from everything she's read, since she figures that moving the notebooks from their hiding place would only arouse suspicion. Well, this certainly seems to fit the story that the, uh, head in a jar told both Zahn and I. But what in the world is that heartbeat for? The Skeek shakes her own head and turns to the next page, to see if there is any more written in the journal.
The next page goes into great detail about the blood sample. Unfortunately that detail is given in Alchemical code, which just reads like gibberish. There are diagrams of circles like that in the outer chamber though, and one of them has a sort of stick-figure drawing of a person in the center.
Now Olivia faces a dilemma. The one who could translate all of those symbols would be Dr. Pike but she fears that the Eeee would just use the information to further her current research, of which she isn't sure she approves. While she's mulling that over, the Skeek flips through the next pages of the journal, frowning.
Past all of the alchemical symbols, Olivia comes to a page with something recognizable: a recipe! At first, it looks like some sort of bread, but then the ingredients become more bizarre, calling for powdered bone, Mandragora Root grown below a hanged man, blood, something simply labeled '5ml S.F.' and then three drops of something marked with a symbol of a staff entwined by serpents.
Olivia writes out the recipe exactly as it appears in her own notebook. Well, since these ingredients include things that the witches might use, I could ask Isolde about this… although that would mean she'd think I was crazier than she already does! I could show this to Madame Natasha first, although I'm not sure that Mandragora Root is exactly in her line. But still worth a thought. Then she flips to the next page.
More magic circles, and some of the symbols look like the ones Olivia saw in the Troll-detection ritual she went through with Isolde and Natasha! There are also more recipe elements, such as baking times, amounts, and… ripening times?
As bizarre as all of this new information may be, the Skeek notes it all down, too. Now, what exactly are we ripening here? she wonders, reading further.
The next page is full of illustrations of… little… things. They all have arms and legs, but some have fingers and others have mitts or tentacles or crab-claws. The faces vary as well, except that none have mouths. There are ears of various sizes and shapes, and different noses and a bizarre assortment of eyes. A clawed hand reaches over Olivia's shoulder to tap on a semi-mouse-shaped one, and a familiar voice lisps, "That one ith kinda cute."
Olivia squeaks in alarm and spins around to face the patchwork Skreek. "AUGH!! Igor, please don't sneak up on me like that! You nearly scared the life out of me!"
"Everyone thayth that, but none have died yet," Igor says in defense. "I came to check and thee that you didn't fall into the well or anything. Didn't expect you to find another room."
Olivia puts one hand over her pounding heart and takes a few moments to recover. "Well, I did say 'nearly,' now didn't I?" she responds finally, giving Igor a weak smile. "As for this second room, well, I didn't know it was here, either. I was simply searching for these-" here she nods at the notebooks "-but I found all this, too."
"Hmmm," Igor goes, reaching into the chest and lifting out the head of the late Mad Doctor Orifice. "Interethting. Did you examine thith clothely?" he asks Olivia.
Olivia shakes her own head. "It was a little too distracting to look at while I was reading," she admits. "Is there anything unusual about it?"
"Well, hith brain is gone," Igor points out, and holds the head so Olivia can see into the empty eye sockets. Then Igor 'flips' the top of the skull open like it's a sugar bowl. "It'th jutht held on with thith flap of thcalp on the back… "
Olivia gags in horror when Igor open the top of the skull and quickly claps a hand over her mouth. When she chokes down her bile, she murmurs, "Then someone must have really wanted it, to go to all the trouble of scooping it out. Although why it was left with… hmmm." The Skeek then turns back to the journal and flips through it a little more, to see if there are any diagrams of machines that plug into people's organs, or something similar.
Nothing appears that relates to machines at least, not the sorts that Olivia and Zahn found. There is a diagram of the strange picture-taking-box, complete with a homunculus chained to the little chair inside. "It'th pretty clean inthide, no thignth of forthed thcoopage. Plug the holeth and it could be a cookie jar," Igor comments.
"How about any strange indentations on the skull?" Olivia asks next.
Igor sets the skull down, and riffles under the hair with his fingers. "You mean like the oneth Clover had?" he asks.
Olivia nods her agreement.
After a few more moments, Igor shakes his head. "I don't feel any thcarth. Have you found out what happened to him yet?" he asks, gesturing to the chest full of journals.
"Not completely, although it appears that the trolls got him in the end," Olivia hazards to guess. "This is only the first journal I've gone through. And I don't understand all of it, either. Lots of scientific or alchemical stuff in there. Not my forte', obviously."
"Hmm, he collected troll blood, didn't he?" Igor asks, setting the head off to the side.
"That's what this journal says, yes," Olivia agrees. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, he wath a vampire," Igor notes. "Theemth the thort of thing a vampire would be curiouth about."
Olivia quirks an eyebrow at this new information. "Was he, now? Interesting. Then it makes sense that he would want to study a troll's blood right away. Although he was trying to capture the troll instead of just taking a sample of its blood." Her eyes look off into the distance and then she muses aloud, "I wonder if he drank any of it. Perhaps that's mentioned in a journal somewhere. I'll have to look."
"Oh, I doubt he did that," Igor says, and taps on the empty head. It makes a funny sound.
"How can you be so sure?" the Skeek has to ask. "He clearly found the results of his test on the blood fascinating. And it sounds like the sort of thing a mad scientist would do."
"Well, he wath thtill alive to be killed by trollth," Igor notes. "And he uthed the thtuff to make hith little toy impth it lookth like."
"So, you think that drinking troll's blood would have killed him?" Olivia asks. "Although now that you mention it, I have to agree with you on using the blood to make his humun- er, hommun- er, little imps. Yeah."
"Troll'th blood and living tiththue do not mix," Igor claims. Although Olivia just saw a living… mouse-thingy… that Pike claimed to have used troll blood on assuming the red liquid crystal stuff is troll blood.
Olivia eyes Igor oddly, but all she says is, "I'll try to remember that. By the way, just a random question do you know anything about alchemical symbols? Or does that kind of thing confuse you just as much as it does me?"
"That dependth," Igor says, glancing sideways at Olivia (and when Igor does that, it really redefines sideways).
Olivia tries not to smile at the oddness of his glances, but merely shows the Skreek the journal pages with all of the symbols Orifice had written there.
Igor flips through the pages, and his ears perk up on the recipe page. "He thought he'd found the philothopher'th thtone," he notes, pointing to the Caduceus symbol in the recipe. "Thome demonology thtuff here and there. Witchcraft. Bio-Alchemy too." At this last comment, he taps the '5ml S.F.' line in the recipe.
Olivia tries to make sense of all of this. "So… this is the recipe Orifice made his little imps with?" she asks slowly. "And the '5ml S.F.' notation? I'm guessing the first part of that means an amount, but an amount of what? The troll's blood, maybe?"
"Theminal fluid," Igor says, then turns away and coughs. "Tho that the homunculuth will therve its 'father' onthe created."
Olivia blinks at Igor in astonishment a few times then begins laughing uproariously. "You know," she gasps in between laughs, "I just can't picture old Uncle Orifice in his bedroom with a copy of a 'Naughty Naked Eeees' in one hand and a vial in the other!"
"Well… you're the lucky one then," Igor says with a bit of a wince. "Although he probably jutht hired a bunny. They do that thort of thing with the Rughrats… "
Now Olivia winces, too. "Yes. Please don't remind me. Anyway, thank you, Igor. You've really been most helpful. Although I suppose I should try reading some more of Orifice's journals to see what I can find."
"Thure you want to do that all alone down here in a dark room made of black thtone with the dithembodied head of the author?" Igor asks.
"Well, that's what I was doing before you got here, remember?" Olivia teases the Skreek. "Anyway, I'll probably call it a day in a few more hours. I still have to work my next shift at the Weavers', you know."
"In that cathe, would you like any tea or thnackth?" Igor solicits. "I've got a fresh batch of ginger-thnapth cooling in the kitchen."
"Tea and ginger-snaps sound lovely, thank you," Olivia replies. "And, oh, just one more thing, Igor? Would you mind not telling Dr. Pike about any of this yet? It's not as if I've found out anything that would really interest her, but still… plus, she seems pretty occupied with her newest experiments, anyway."
"Oh, of courthe, Myth Weaver," Igor says with a big, snaggle-toothed grin. "Wouldn't want to upthet her, what with her great-uncle'th head being turned into a cookie jar and all. In return, you will let me know if you find anything more in the noteth about trollth or what Orifithe was up to, won't you?"
"I suppose I can manage that since that's what I want to know, too," Olivia replies, grinning back. Among other things… she thinks to herself.
The servant shuffles off back to the hallway. Odd how he makes plenty of noise when leaving, especially when being watched, but still manages to just appear silently when he wants to.