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Rite of Passage

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Alex opened the door to the study and found herself standing in a massive gray rotunda.

Her first instinct was flash-up to tense, bright fight-or-flight. Alertness. Preparation to keep her mind sharp, to not be fooled and to look for a tether around which to begin re-grounding her perceptions. She held the Tome tightly between both hands, mentally drawing runes into circles, knowing from experience that Xel'lotath's magick, while weakening due to her binding (albeit, Alex tentatively hoped, safer), ought to be enough to stabilize her senses, should a vision devolve too far before she could right it on her own.

As she surveyed, however, she became familiar.

Before her, a narrow walkway stretched to a white altar, barely-distinguishable from her end. It was flanked with statues; passive recognition sent a heated-nerve tingling buzzing in the backs of her shoulders.

Underneath the walkway, the floor of the rotunda dropped and dropped into complete and utter darkness.

Above her, the ceiling reached and reached into blinding full light, as if it was a portal to the sun.

Her heart began to buffle - erratic twitchings and flutterings and beatings of moths' wings.

She had not imagined she would ever find herself here, for lack of consideration of the possibility. She would not have been, at all, the only Tome-holder who had not. Pious Augustus hadn't - having had no need for the Tome. Maximilian hadn't, as the Tome had found its way to him. It had been the same case for Grandpa.

And she, like them, had the Tome, having found it in the study.

Her next heartbeat felt slow.

The ripples in her bloodstream distortive.

The study was where every Roivas had taken the Tome from. She had been attempting to enter the study.

She was here, instead.

The first Roivas to ever be.

She looked at the altar before her with disbelief. Breath slowly starting to quicken.

The altar pulled her toward it, like the Tome which it was meant to hold had pulled so many others in the past. She marked them, as she passed the statues; it had been long now, but a simultaneous melancholy and adrenaline poured and drew and pulsed and trailed through her system as she regarded each one, recalling how her mind had merged with the likes of Anthony, fast and fierce and frightened at the sudden freedom, and Roberto, unsubtly-striking with the hammering desperation of a man chipping his way to freedom, as she and they had fought with Pious, her muscles becoming theirs.

She wondered if they were still in there.

Or if, for them, there was some other freedom.

In a single, abstract moment, she wondered what, for her, was to be expected from death, too.

The floor beneath her had started to scream, the stones twisting and warping into faces, and she remembered Grandpa having once told her of a concept explaining things of the kind.

She stood before the altar - its open hand of bones. Hesitating to touch it, at first. It felt incorrect, and incorrect felt dangerous, risky, trap-to-be-triggered. The hand, after all, had been closed, in every memory she had of the place.

It was with a tentative, dark curiosity, more ginger than Ellia's or Anthony's, that she reached out anyway, book in hand, setting it down on an altar, remembering when Karim had in fact done the same, in a different place. Abandoning this fixture to a bone altar.

In her thoughts, the hand snapped shut and crushed the bones of hers like an Ancients' mousetrap; she withdrew them quickly.

Then stood.

As the fingers in fact closed slow. In between the wet popping of pockets of old flesh folding in on itself, the bones creaked, deep, a sound she could feel in her ribs as if they were bending, too.

Once the hand had the book in its clutch, colors shifted so sharp it left stars behind her eyes.

She was in front of the entrance to the study.

Suddenly breathless, but warm. Blinking, surveying her surroundings to confirm them, wondering if that truly happened, an experience suddenly personally familiar.

She no longer had the Tome in her arms.

Nothing else felt different.

Long ago, Ellia read the book.

It soon found its way into the hands of the Roivases, each of whom, by their turns, came upon it in their secret study.

In more recent history, Xel'lotath was killed, and Chattur'gha was bound.

Today, Alex put the book back, twice, thrice, having long since killed Chattur'gha and bound Ulyaoth.

Now, she was in front of the entrance to the study.

Suddenly breathless, but warm. Blinking, surveying her surroundings to confirm them, wondering if that truly happened, an experience suddenly personally familiar.

She no longer had the Tome in her arms.

Nothing else felt different.