0035 – Bull & Hope: The Tower, Part 3

They had been searching the low-ceilinged, circular room for over half an hour. It was starting to get embarrassing. Passers by were openly staring, curiously, through the splintered and ruined door and into the circular chamber, gawking as Bull virtually tore the room apart in frustration. Every now and then, he would growl threateningly at the onlookers, causing those nearest the front to scarper, only to be replaced by fresh faces within a few seconds.

“I don’t think we can get up from here.” Hope eventually conceded, having finally finished carefully feeling over every single exposed surface she could find. They were each thorough, in their own way.

Bull lobbed a flimsy wooden chair in the vague direction of the doorway. “CLEAR OFF!” He bellowed.

She waited patiently for him to react to her statement. Eventually, he did.

“You’re right.” Bull raised a sleeve, wiping the sweat from his broad brow. “This is stupid. Let’s try something else. Did you see any other way into the tower? From further up?”

She shook her head. “None. The walkways don’t even make contact.”

“What if they…” He thought. “What if they jump into a window up there? Something like that?”

“To get in and out every single time?” She asked.

Before Bull could answer, something caught Hope’s eye. Her partner had been thorough in tossing the room over, and the floor was now absolutely covered in ruined furniture and scattered objects. In amongst the mess, open atop a toppled bookshelf, its surface strewn with jumbled playing cards, was a book.

A book full of blank pages.

At this point in their search, anything remotely out of the ordinary warranted investigation. Without another word, Hope carefully picked her way through the strewn detritus. Bull watched, used to his partner’s way of working.

She stooped, picked up the book, and flicked through its pages. Eventually, she found one that contained some actual writing. It was the very first page.

“I can’t read this.” She announced. “It’s in another language.”

“Those two looked foreign.” Bull motioned to the unconscious guardsmen. One was stirring slightly. He’d know better than to wake up.

“Yeah, but this is really weird.” She held the page up for him to see. “It’s not Shamballese, either.”

“It might be English.” Called a spectator from the doorway. “Let’s have a look.”

“Bugger off!” shouted Bull. He was running out of suitably intimidating things to throw. This time, it was an ornament that had fallen off one of the many cluttered shelves when he was trashing the place. He very nearly hit the man with it.

“He has a point.” Hope remarked. “It could be English.”

“Oh, yeah.” Bull said. He called after the man. “HEY, MISTER. CAN YOU READ ENGLISH?”

Unfortunately, the fellow had already made himself scarce.

“Excuse me.” Called a mousey woman’s voice from the back of the gathering in the street. “I can read a little English.”

Before Bull could explode again, Hope called her inside. A few awkward apologies later, the tiny woman had finally pushed her way through the spectators and taken a few cautious steps into the ruined antechamber.

Hope passed her the book, open at the incomprehensible page. The woman furrowed her brow for a while. Eventually, having spent a few tedious minutes with her tongue peeking out of her mouth in concentration, she offered a summary.

“I can’t read much of this.” She confessed. “It’s something about people going up a tower, I think. Only they leave something behind? And then it turns into a rant about something. See here, where it’s all capital letters?”

“Going up a tower is exactly what we’re bloody trying to do.” Bull fumed, plucking the book forcefully from the timid woman’s hand. He glanced at the assembly in the doorway and, having finally exhausted his ammunition, simply gave an intimidating roar.

“Evening, all.” Called a man in a constable’s hat, peering through the cycling crowd outside.

“Oh, good evening Officer Billhook.” Hope greeted him, casually.

“You’ve made quite a mess in here.” He observed, unconcerned. “Don’t kill anyone tonight, alright?”

“We never do.” Bull was adopting a sheepish posture now. Even he felt slightly bashful about openly violent gestures in the presence of a constable.

“I know, I know.” Officer Billhook reassured him. “Now what’s got you two stumped?”

“There’s no stairs.” Bull explained. “We’re supposed to be going upwards.

“No stairs, eh?” The constable scratched his stubbled chin, thinking. “Can’t you just go in from an upper floor?”

“No.” Hope told him. “Nothing else in the whole city connects to this tower.”

“So hold on.” The constable tried to catch up. “What’s any of this got to do with a book in English?”

“We’re just clutching at straws.” Bull rubbed his forehead, frustrated. “Sis noticed it.”

“I’m not your sister.” Hope said, automatically.

“Excuse me, Officer.” The mousey woman interjected. She was, apparently, still there.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I think the young lady’s reasoning was that there must be some trick to moving to the upper floor.”

“That’s right.” Hope nodded. “I was just looking for anything out of sorts.”

“It’s the blank pages!” Called a previously unseen man from their persistent audience outside. “It’s all blank after the first page!”

“HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW THAT!?” Bull roared. He had decided, apparently, that some of the other books would fly through the air with acceptable aerodynamics.

This particular onlooker was too intrigued by the proceedings to scarper. He merely ducked. “She said so,” he explained, pointing at Hope.

“Hold on just a moment.” Officer Billhook had closed the book, now, and was examining its cover. “The title is in Agarthan.”

“Really?” Hope asked.

“Yes. It’s ‘A Reader Who Teleports Up One Floor, Leaving His Book Behind.’”

The constable vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving the mysterious book to flutter awkwardly to the floor.

Hope’s eyes widened. She inwardly browsed her perfect memory, then blinked in realisation.

“Sermomancy.” She stated. “I think this is J’Kab the Great’s tower.”

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