A favor in return

It worked. I do not know why, but a part of me did not expect it to. Lydia stirs now even though her heart was stopped just moments ago. It has come at much cost to myself, for I feel like my own spirit has been drained from my skin as quickly as hers has returned. But it has been worth the effort. Worth the price. The book tells of many things that could make a man more powerful than a king. I will put it away now. For I am not the fool who kills the golden goose. I will keep it only for times when desperation calls.

Dean closed the summoner's journal and looked up to the sound of growls in his chamber. The Crawlers had returned. They seated themselves before Dean like a couple of overgrown, disfigured felines. Their forked tongues ran over their lips and teeth that jutted out from their mouths at strange angles, and Dean felt once again like they looked at him as a meal they were forbidden to touch.

"What?" He asked.

'Hungry massster,' hissed Grovel.

"So Hungry…' hissed Grabe.

Although he despised being on a first name basis with these things, Dean found it hard to avoid it when they hung about him so. He could tell them apart because Grabe only had one eye in the center of its head, and Grovel had two extra legs.

"Then eat something," Dean said. He slid the journal into his pocket and stood. The Crawlers stood as well. They followed a step behind him as he walked out.

"Need flesh," said Grovel.

"Need blood," said Grabe.

"Must be squirming."

"Must be Fressssh."

Dean tried his best to ignore their request. If Crawlers were allowed to feed whenever they wished there would be no more dogs or cats on the streets of Port City. Maybe less children too. More to the point, it would draw attention.

"Where is he?" Asked Dean. The little demons had one task, which was to tell him the comings and goings of Master Ellus. They were good little spies, even if their stomachs sometimes got the better of them.

"Out," said Grovel. "Out for long. Took the black coat and all the money."

"What is he up to?" Dean took the stairs down, but looked around before descending onto the main floor. The Summoner had a new Raithling, and this one was a fair bit sharper than the last. But judging by the silence that hung about, he guessed that it had gone with Ellus.

"Cannot say. Has secrets." Said Grovel.

"Difficult to read," said Grabe.

Dean did not think very hard on the subject. The Summoner had been doing this a lot lately; ever since Dean had killed his Raithling and summoned the crawlers. He had told Dean to keep studying, and then gone out. He was gone the entire day sometimes, and that was just as well. For it was getting more difficult to tiptoe around him.

"Lianka…" He knocked on the door to the basement. "He's gone." He waited until he heard the light tread of footsteps coming up the stairs. The door opened hesitantly, and Lianka poked her head out the door just to make sure that they were, in fact, alone.

"What do you want?" She asked.

Dean took the journal from his pocket and handed it to her. "Put this back where you found it," he said.

"You read it?"

"Yes."

"All of it?"

"Yes."

Lianka took the journal and then looked around once again. "Come," she said. She took Dean's hand and led him down the stairs.

Dean was shocked by the gesture. Although he had known for some time now that this was her lair, he had never once dared venture past the door. And he was surprised, maybe a little disappointed too, to find that it simply led to a room. It was a room as plain as his own. There was a small cot at one end and a dresser opposite that. In the center was a little round table with a single candle that provided the only light to be seen.

"Please, sit." Lianka said as she awkwardly pulled out a dusty chair for him. He guessed that she did not have many visitors.

"Do you live down here?" He asked.

"So?" She asked defensively. "You live in the attic."

"Kind of…dark, isn't it?"

"Yes," she replied as she took a seat across from him. "It is…Do you understand now, Dean?"

Dean did understand many more things now. He understood that they were trapped. That no one was going to come and help them. That they needed to find a way to beat Ellus at his own game. And he understood the journal.

"You're Lydia. Aren't you?" He asked.

"Yes," said Lianka. Even in the dim lighting it was clear that this made her very upset. "Or I was, once. I think. But I don't remember ever being Lydia. I just remember being here. In the dark. I found the journal sitting underneath that old shelf in the corner and I put the pieces together. I think he loved me…Back when he was capable of that sort of thing. But now he just keeps me here in the dark. He's a different person than he was when he wrote that. Hardly a person at all actually."

"But you can fight him!" Said Dean. "You can still get out of here. You can be in the light again-"

"Quiet now, yes." Lianka's eyes immediately went toward the ceiling. The Summoner might have been absent, but they both knew that he had ears planted everywhere. "Why do you think I gave you the journal? I could have told you all that myself. But the journal lets you see what he would have no one see. His biggest secret."

Dean nodded. "The book," he said.

Lianka looked resolutely back at him in a way that said she was about to ask a favor of him. "It made him who he is," she told him. "It can unmake him. All you have to do is find it."

"I'm going to get us both out of here," said Dean. At that moment, finding The Guardian and finishing The Sword Master's quest could not have been further from his mind. Instead he found himself reaching for Lianka's hand with no thought in his head whatsoever. "I promise."

Lianka smiled and closed her own hand around his. "I never thought I'd say this, but I believe you."