Header image by Evelyn Simak under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

He looked down over the edge into the fortress’ abyss, and saw a tangle of granite stairs, bridges and arches blanketed in ivy, crumbled in places and collapsed in others. He looked up and saw the same thing plus a faintly visible ceiling with holes in it, nothing but a white sky on the other side. He couldn’t help but fixate on a lone balcony on the inside, halfway between his location and the top of the fortress stairways. He could barely see the room through the arch, but he could see a canvas covering something propped up against a dusty-looking bookcase. He stared and stared until his expedition partner passed him on the bridge, strolling towards the arch leading outside.

“Come on”, she said, “We’ll check out that room when we climb the stairs. Quit staring.”

He continued staring for a good 3 seconds before breaking his focus and turning around, following.

The wind was howling outside. It was especially fearsome this high up; he wondered how these stairs had survived so long. He couldn’t help but feel nervous climbing stairs that were so old, even if they were made of granite. He may de the mistake of looking down, but…the fear didn’t seem to kick in. The courtyards looked so beautiful even from up high. She was also occasionally glancing down, though she seemed more focused on ascending the stairs. She didn’t seem as invested as she should have been to him…

She wasn’t sure what level this was, but it was a good bet that it was on this level or the next, if she’s correct. Hopefully he hadn’t guessed that it wasn’t under the canvas, but it was unlikely that he even knew what it was.

Broken bridge. A long time ago, judging by the looks of it; the ivy didn’t seem like it had been torn off abruptly anywhere, instead growing in the cracks where it probably fell that long time ago. The balcony was only one level up from this one. She prayed that the stairs to it weren’t through the corridors past the arch on the other side of the bridge.

“That’s a shame. Most of the bridges above us look intact, at least. Come on, let’s go.” She said, almost murmuring. She saw him shoot another glance at the canvas. He couldn’t know what she was really here for.

One set of stairs up, the wind howled louder still. He slightly braced himself, just in case. The balcony was one level below now, and the only stairs led upwards to another arch and series of corridors. They had to be getting close. He marched up those stairs in the hopes he could get to that canvas. “Up here. Only a few more networks to go.” She nodded and followed.

Yet again, they didn’t use the torch they carried very much. The windows provided plenty of light, as did the holes in the walls. The first room in the network seemed to be another small library of sorts, though none of the books had labelled spines.

“Down here.” He’d found a series of stairs going down.

She took one last look around before slowly following. Books. A broken table. A chair leg. A piece of rubble. A broken piece of window frame…


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