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Wicked Blood by Elphaba and Boyfriends
Chapter 6 : Uprooting Stones
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 0


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Dented bells clanged out of tune as Remus entered the dimly lit shop and inhaled deeply, taking in the scents of paper, dust, leather and mildew; the collective smell of thousands of old books. It was a safe, homey fragrance. Red, late afternoon sunlight illuminated the dust motes floating in the air, their lazy drifting the only activity within the entire space. Remus knew appearances could be deceptive, however. He walked stealthily down the nearest aisle, a path carved between teetering columns of books. He felt a shift in the air before he heard or saw the proprietor, a bent old man in paisley-print robes, make his entrance. His disheveled, white hair circled his head like a bird's nest.

Boldof MacLeod blinked at him with milky blue eyes surrounded by deep folds.

“Can I help you, sir?” he rasped.

Remus approached slowly, watching a glint of recognition spark in the man's eyes as he stepped into his limited field of vision. The pouchy creases around his mouth shifted, and it was hard to tell whether he smiled or frowned.

“Hello Boldof. Is there a bed available?” Remus asked.

“For you, there is,” MacLeod responded, tiredly. “I'll expect you to do some work about the place,” he continued, acknowledging the chaotic pantheon to books that surrounded them with a stiff wave of his arm. The books began to rearrange themselves, some sliding across the floor, others fluttering through the air. “Not that that's ever been a problem for you,” he added, already turning and shuffling off down the new path that had formed.

“How has business been?” Remus asked, following closely behind the old man, ready to catch him should he stumble.

“Eh,” he shrugged. “It's brisk and slow, it ebbs and flows.”

Remus nodded, though the old man had already turned away.

“You know I can't pay you? Not on the books, anyway.”

“Yes, I've been monitoring Undersecretary Umbridge and her nasty bit of legislation.”

“Nasty is an understatement!”

“It's all right,” Remus sighed. “I've been making do.”

“I can feed you, still. Dinner's in thirty minutes.”

“Oh, no, I don't want to impose. A bed is all I need.”

Boldolf stopped and turned, pinning Remus with his cloudy gaze “You need to eat, don't you? Have you eaten today?”

Remus looked away, pretending to be interested in a copy of Gilderoy Lockhart's Gadding with Ghouls that had been marked down by 75 percent.

“That's what I thought. Dinner's in thirty. I can guarantee Raoul and Ulric will be there, stuffing their faces.”

Remus nodded. He'd figured they would both be here. He hoped they wouldn't recall seeing him and Clio last fall.

Bodolf led Remus to what appeared at first glance to be a random bookshelf along one wall, but when he pulled out a first edition of Alexandre Dumas' Le Meneur de Loups (seven volumes in on the left side of the second shelf from the top) the entire bookcase rotated with a long, drawn-out creak, revealing a narrow stairway that led up.*

“Thank you,” Remus said, stooping to enter the stairwell. “As always, I'm eternally grateful and forever in your debt.”

Boldolf shrugged again, scratching at his hair as he shuffled off, “I thought I'd seen the last of you. It's a shame you're back.”

“Yes,” Remus sighed, plodding up the stairs to the long narrow room under the rafters. Just like every other room in the shop, it was lined with books. Cots took up the middle of the room. They folded neatly into squares during the day, becoming all-purpose reading, research and work stations for the transient artists, writers and werewolves that Bodolf took in.

Toward the back of the room, in the shadows, stood an iron cage large enough to accommodate several adult wolves. Keeping together during the full moon eased the transition. They might stage aggressive displays, but having company resulted in fewer self-inflicted injuries.

Raoul was already stretched out on his cot, snoring from under his arms. Ulric sat near the one window, gazing glassy-eyed at a dog-eared copy of Buns & Brooms. The amply-rumped witch on the cover looked over her shoulder and winked at Remus, giving her cheeks a jiggle.

Remus cleared his throat, and Ulric looked up. He was several years younger than Remus, but his hair had gone considerably more gray. The change tended to fall harder on werewolves who'd been infected later in life. Ulric had been bitten at age 18, and his hair had begun graying the next month. The young man's amber eyes widened.

“Loony Lupin!”

Raoul snorted himself awake at his friend's outburst and sat up. He looked a decade older than his 40 years. His grizzled hair had once been as red as the Weasleys'. He grunted at Remus, glanced at his watch, and seeing that dinner was still 25 minutes off, flopped back down and returned to sleep. Although he'd never been to wizard school, Remus had tutored him to the OWL level in History of Magic, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts during their spare time.

“Ulric, good to see you're striving to improve your mind,” Remus said mildly.

“Don't worry, you can have it when I'm done,” Ulric answered with a grin.

“No, thank you,” Remus responded, claiming the last cot for himself and unfolding it. He may as well try to relax before dinner. He'd hardly slept during the past two nights.

“That's right, you probably still have memories to work off of.”

“I have no idea or interest in whatever it is you're referring to,” Remus said, sliding his shoes off and stretching himself out on his side, cradling his head on one arm and covering it with the other. He squeezed his eyes closed, wishing that Ulric would keep his mouth shut for once.

“You know who I'm talking about, that girl we spotted you with last year.” Ulric's eyes glinted devilishly over the top of the magazine. “She wasn't a student, was she? Is that why you took her so far from Hogwarts?”

Remus gritted his teeth and said nothing, knowing that whatever he said would only encourage Ulric further. If he kept quiet he'd eventually grow bored.

“Is that why you're back here now, you got caught shagging a student? Did you bend her over your desk--”

“Ulric! Shut the fuck up. I'm trying to sleep, here,” Raoul snapped. Ulric stopped, but the grin plastered on his face gave away that he was seconds from another taunt. “We all know you're just jealous of Remus for being capable of getting a job,” Raoul growled.

Ulric laughed, but his grin faltered. “That's just ... you don't know anything, old man.” His reddened face disappeared behind the tattered magazine.

“You'll be lucky to live to my age, with that mouth,” Raoul continued. “I'll snap your neck one of these nights in the cage.”

Silence fell. Remus exhaled, and as he began to doze unwillingly imagined her husky voice whispering S'agapo in his ear.

He was abruptly awoken fifteen minutes later when Ulric jumped on him and put him in a head lock. Remus sighed as he drew his wand and muttered, “Stupefy,” under his breath. His attacker slid to the floor with a thud. Remus sat up and rubbed his eyes, then slipped his shoes back on and stood up. Raoul was already up and standing by the door, shifting from one tree-trunk leg to the other. Remus started forward, then hesitated and turned back. Ulric lay prone, mouth frozen open in a grimace, drool starting to slide from one corner of his mouth.

“Just leave him,” Raoul growled, “He'll unfreeze in a minute. It'll give us a chance to catch up before dinner is spoiled.”

Remus followed Raoul's broad back down the stairs and around a corner toward the kitchen, both of them drawn by the soft yellow light, low cheerful voices and tantalizing scent of lightly seared sheep.

The cozy kitchen was dominated by a wooden table that looked like it had survived several centuries of active duty and illuminated by candlelight. Bodolf sat hunched at one end, flanked on his left by a radiant young woman of seventeen or eighteen who Remus realized with a bit of shock must be his granddaughter, Maggie. Her blonde curls floated about her head like a halo, her blue-green eyes scrunching shut as she laughed at something Bodolf had just said.

All conversation ceased as Maggie jumped up from the table with a squeal and ran to grasp him in a hug that reminded him uncomfortably that she was no longer a little girl.

“Hello, Maggie, classes not begun at Beauxbatons, yet?”

“I'm all done with school!” she said, nose scrunching as she laughed again, grabbing his hand and pulling him up to the table. Raoul had already sat across from her. “I suppose Ulric has been stunned again?” she said to him with a wink.



*


The rain passed through over night, leaving a network of puddles spread across the school grounds. Nox skirted around them during her early morning walk, glancing up frequently at Clio with folded ears; as if wet paws were a great indignity.

“You won't melt, Nox,” Clio snapped, wondering how she'd ended up with such a fussy dog as she tramped through the water in her boots. Neither noticed the electric blue eye that watched them from the shadows of the courtyard wall as they hurried back inside.

She suffered first-class jitters all through breakfast, though they weren't nearly as bad as the previous year. This year she had an idea of what she was doing. The runes she'd put on the door to her classroom had kept Peeves out over the summer, and so the room had gone un-vandalized. She inhaled deeply and (satisfied that the room no longer smelled of dung bomb, as it had at the beginning of last term) left the windows closed to keep out the damp chill.

Her class of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw fourth-years was more interested in talking about the Triwizard Tournament than Ancient Runes. Equally curious and irritated, she set down her syllabus.

“Okay, since it's all you can talk about today, I'll award five house points to the first person who can explain exactly what the Triwizard Tournament is in fifty words or less.”

They looked at her, incredulous, for a moment before all bursting out at once. She caught something about rival schools and life-threatening obstacles and a thousand galleons, and sighed. “Fine, okay, five points to Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, each.”

A dark, quiet boy with a perpetually sulky face raised his hand from the back of the room.

“Yes, Mr. Corner?” she asked.

“Don't they have something similar in North America?”

She frowned. “No, not really.”

He raised his hand again.

One corner of Clio's mouth twitched. “You don't have to keep raising your hand, we can carry on a conversation, here,” she said. His hand dropped immediately, though his sour expression remained.

“I thought there was something with two schools?”

“Well, there's the Cross-Continent Contest, but that's a team competition.”

“Where's the other school at?” asked Susan Bones. Clio suddenly had her students' attention again.

“Gila Canyon, New Mexico,” she said, then continued talking in an effort to stem the tide of questions. “Both schools send a team to a secret location. It changes each year. Each team has a flag that they have to guard, and the other team attempts to capture it.”

“Did you do it?”

She sighed. “Yes.”

“Did Salem win?”

“We've gotten very far off the topic of runes,” she said, picking up her syllabus again. Her action was met by a chorus of groans. She attempted to eye them sternly over the paper, but felt the corner of her mouth twitching again and knew that she was failing miserably.

“We got our asses kicked,” she said, shaking her head at the chorus of guffaws that followed her admission.

“How come?”

“Weren't you any good?”

She threw up her hands. “Our team wasn't very good at working together. There were too many little splinter groups within it and they didn't all get along.” She thought of the Enoch Bananas purposely getting themselves eliminated so they could heckle everyone else from the sidelines, of the Raven's Claws trying to strategize on their own and winding up all being eliminated within the first hour, of the contingents from Order of the Badger and Quill and Scroll getting lost and wandering out of bounds during the second hour and of the Jolly Rogers attacking the Mugbloods halfway through and getting both groups eliminated. The representatives of the other houses had tried to pick up the slack, only to be gradually picked apart by the united front of the Gila Canyon team. “Imagine what would happen if your quidditch teams had to play together. Now add in the Slytherins and Gryffindors. Whose seeker would you choose? Whose keeper?”

The room immediately erupted into a three-way argument: Potter versus Diggory versus Chang.

“Ancient Runes! We're here to study runes, people,” she said, clapping her hands to silence them while mentally kicking herself for losing control.

 

McGonagall was spitting mad about something when Clio entered the great hall for lunch, while Charity couldn't stop laughing.

“What did Trelawney do now?” Clio asked, watching McGonagall's temple throb as she furiously chewed her minced meat pie.

“Nothing today. Moody transfigured Malfoy into a ferret!” Charity said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“At least someone's finally disciplining the little wanker,” Clio said, glancing down the table at Moody and instantly regretting this after catching a glimpse of him polishing his eye. “I wish I'd been there to get a picture of it,”she added.

She didn't see Malfoy in class herself until later in the week. He stalked sullenly into the room, then sneered at Hermione Granger as the girl walked past him to her seat. Clio stared at him openly until he took his own seat.

“Welcome back, everybody,” she said, once everyone had settled in. The general excitement over the tournament had died down just enough so that she was able stick to her original lesson plan.

“Let's see how much you've retained over the summer,” she said.

The Gryffindors and Slytherins all grumbled as she distributed copies of a pop quiz with a flick of her wand.

She laughed at them. “Don't worry, this will count as extra credit, only. This test is partially to tell me how good of a job I did last year.” She regretted that announcement later, as she looked over the completed quizzes and saw that half of the Slytherins, including Malfoy, had filled in the wrong answers for every single question.

“Little turd,” she muttered.

The first meeting of the photography club that afternoon was a little more enjoyable, as she taught them how to produce double exposures. There were several new members among the crowd. Lee Jordan's round cheeks grew endearing dimples whenever he smiled (which was nearly always), but it was a pale, spacey girl named Luna Lovegood who seared herself onto Clio's memory. Clio couldn't help staring at her wide silvery gray eyes, which were very close to Remus's in color if not in expression.

“Have you ever photographed Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?” Luna asked.

“Umm, no, I can't say that I have,” Clio replied. The girl's unblinking eyes were mesmerizing, like a will-o'-the-wisp on a dark night.

“They are very elusive. My father and I have been searching for them for years.”

“Oh, well, if you find some you'll have to show me what they look like.” Clio broke her gaze, and noticed several of the other students smirking. She shot them a stern look to make them stop, but turned her back toward them when that failed.

The last students had left for dinner, and she was putting away the jugs of developing potions when she heard angry voices in the corridor just outside. She slid the door open just a crack to peer out. Moody and Snape stood in front of Snape's office door.

“The Headmaster authorized you to search my office?” Snape sneered, his eyes inadvertently meeting hers in their desperate attempt to avoid Moody's. Clio ducked her head back into the lab, but kept the door cracked so she could continue to listen.

“Not just yours, I'm authorized to search any room I like,” Moody barked in response.

“He is also free to enter any room in the castle whenever he likes, which I'm sure you already know. Why wouldn't he just search it himself if he were concerned?”

“Because he's busy and knows there's things that I'll pick up that he might miss!” Moody roared. Clio thought of his magical eye. She was carefully, carefully shutting herself back inside the lab, willing the door not to make a sound, when Moody called out to her.

“Good evening, Professor Callimachus.”

She considered closing the door anyway, then changed her mind and stepped out, as if she hadn't just been standing there and eavesdropping on their conversation.

“Hey,” she mumbled, turning casually to lock the door behind her. She heard Moody's staff clunk heavily on the floor as he ambled toward her.

“Not so fast, Callimachus,” he said. She turned slowly back toward him. “That lab butts up against the potion master's office, doesn't it?” Clio didn't respond. She had no doubt that he already knew this.

“Wouldn't you like to know if there were a secret passage between rooms?”

Clio's eyes widened. She looked over Moody's shoulder at Snape's train tunnel eyes.

“I assure you that there is not,” he said icily.

“There'd better not,” she said.

“Still, there might have been something in that shipment of photography supplies that doesn't belong,” Moody said, enormous blue eye boring into her soul. “Someone might have slipped something into one of the boxes while they were sitting out in the corridor.”

“I unpacked the boxes myself,” she said. “I'm not sure what you're looking for, but I would have noticed if there was anything that didn't belong.” This wasn't the type of reception she'd expected from a friend of Dumbledore's. She'd been expecting someone a little more along the lines of Elphias Doge.

Moody sized her up for a moment. “If you're that confident then you won't mind me taking a peek inside.”

Clio wanted to protest, but couldn't think of any good reason to refuse him. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides. He continued to stare at her, while she avoided his gaze.

“Be my guest,” she said at last, with an irritated wave of her wand. The door swung wide as he clumped forward. She tried and failed to catch Snape's blank eyes for moment before following. Snape flowed silently on her heels.

Moody's blue eye rummaged through the lab without needing to touch a thing. He lifted his staff occasionally to prod the walls.

“This wall is very thin compared to the others,” he said at one point, vigorously tapping the stones in the wall above the sink.

“I'm told the two rooms were once one large storeroom,” Snape droned.

Clio's mouth quirked briefly upward. That explained how the sound from her music box could wake him in the morning. She would have to make certain to place it there from now on.

Moody paused to take a swig from his flask, then grunted. “This would be the perfect place to hide a secret doorway from one room to the next, eh Severus?” Clio's eyes popped wide again.

“What interest could I possibly have in sneaking through the wall?” Snape inquired softly.

“Even if someone were to sneak past my security runes, I would have been alerted by the caterwaul charm I've placed, as well,” Clio said, more than a little disturbed by the idea of Snape slipping through the stones.

Moody slapped the counter with one hand, “Very well then, Callimachus, sorry to trouble you. No one will ever say that I let a stone go unturned, however.”

His eyes swept over the cabinets again as he turned to leave, tucking his hand into the front of his robe as if he were itching for another drink. “You've got some interesting photographs stashed away in here,” he said, gesturing to one particular cabinet in the corner. Clio's eyes narrowed.

“Those are private,” she said quietly. That was the cabinet where she'd locked away all of her pictures of Remus. She didn't want to see them anymore, but neither did she have the heart to throw them away.

“I haven't seen Lupin in years, but I received a very detailed letter just before I left home, outlining everything he covered last year.”

Clio's eyes dropped to the floor. She could feel the weight of both of their gazes on her, and wanted to scream at them to leave.

“Fascinating,” said Snape in his iciest tone. “Now, if you're satisfied that I've not hidden anything here, then I believe dinner has already begun.” He swept from the room, Moody clunking after him. He paused by the door and turned to Clio once more.

“Thunderbird wings? Interesting,” he said, gesturing to her arm. Clio immediately crossed her arms over her chest. He'd looked through two layers of clothing to see that tattoo. “Has Snape shown you his?” he added, cackling wheezily as he stumped out and down the corridor.

Clio glanced back at the thin spot in the wall. The very idea of Snape walking through the stones was preposterous. Moody was obviously paranoid, and overly suspicious of Snape's past. He must not know everything that Dumbledore did. He must know even less than she did. She turned away from the wall and then, skin breaking out in goosebumps, immediately turned back. The wall was just as she'd left it. Still, what if there were a switch on his side of the wall? The hairs on the back of her neck began to bristle.

She walked as slowly as possible up to the great hall, not wanting to catch up to either one of them.
 

Snape caught her later that night, while she was adding an extra layer of protective runes to the walls inside the photo lab. He paused to glower at her from just outside the door, left open because she'd felt too nervous to shut herself off from an escape route.

“You're wasting your time,” he scoffed, “There's no door.” Clio's wand arm jerked, startled by his voice, and she flashed him an almost guilty expression before continuing with her spell.

She finished her work before turning to blink innocently back at him. “How do you know I'm not adding a sound-proofing charm?”

His lip curled, “You're a terrible liar.”

“Fine, next time I'll have you lie for me,” she said, returning her wand to her belt. “Why do you think Moody would be looking for a door in the first place?”

Snape scowled. “He's paranoid. He didn't find anything in my office, so he assumed that I might hide something somewhere else.”

Clio's mouth twitched. “What would you be hiding, your official Voldemort Fan Club membership card?”

His black eyes glinted dangerously. “You shouldn't throw that name around so carelessly,” he spat. “Your parents did you a great disservice in not raising you to respect the Dark Lord's power,” he continued as he slunk out.

“And your parents did a bang-up job of raising you,” she muttered towards his back. She wasn't sure whether he heard her or not, though his head may have tilted slightly as he glided away.

 

Clio didn't speak to Moody again until a few days later. She was standing in the courtyard just after sunrise, waiting for Nox to finish her morning pee, when she heard Moody's unmistakable clomping gait.

Determined to try to talk with him, as difficult as that might be, she took a deep breath and turned to face him as he stumped up.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Morning,” Moody grunted back. “We got off on the wrong foot the other day,” he said, tapping his fake leg with his cane and attempting to smile, which only made his mangled face look even more horrific. Clio eyed him warily.

“I'd like to remedy that,” he added. When she said nothing, he continued. “Make a fresh start. I'm Alastor Moody,” he said, sticking out a hand.

She released a minute amount of the tension from her shoulders, just enough to allow her to extend her hand in turn. “Clio Callimachus,” she murmured. His grip was firm, at least. He nodded to Nox, who had circled around to sniff his claw foot.

“Nice dog,” he said.

“Thanks. Found her scavenging in an alley.”

He grunted again. “Your father was John Callimachus? Beater for the Magpies?”

“Yeah, he still is. John Callimachus, that is. Not still a beater.”

“Right,” he said, taking a swig from his flask. Clio didn't think to wonder what he was drinking so early in the morning. He'd given her an opening, and she leapt at it.

“You might have heard of my grandfather as well,” she said, clearing her throat. “Ambrose Callimachus.”

He started at her blankly for a second. “Refresh my memory?”

“He worked for the Ministry, up until '75. He looked a lot like me, only taller. And male.”

“I'm afraid us Aurors didn't mix with the bureaucrats pushing quills at headquarters too much. Always out in the field we were. Constant vigilance!” He gestured to his blue eye.

“I guess not,” Clio said, deflated. “He wasn't a bureaucrat, though, he was a scholar with the Department of Mysteries. I thought you might have heard--”

“Department of Mysteries, did you say?” Moody suddenly looked more engaged in their conversation. “Oh yes, yes,” he said. “I do remember hearing about Callimachus, now.”

Her tongue was loosened, her reservations set aside, as soon as he said 'yes.' “Were you involved with the investigation? I know no one was ever charged, but I've always wondered what evidence had been turned up--”

He laughed bitterly, then scratched at his chin. “No, and I'm afraid anyone who wasn't working directly on a particular case would be kept in the dark until an arrest was made. I can assure you that if they'd found anything remotely interesting there would have been arrests.” His tilted his natural eye toward her now, which glinted almost wistfully. “People were put on trial with the flimsiest of evidence back then, it was a kind of mania. No one was given the benefit of the doubt. 'Guilty until proven innocent' was the motto.”

He spat into the bushes, then took another swig from his flask. Clio nodded mutely, trying to hide her disappointment.

“Course, Snape still got off,” he growled. “All because Albus Dumbledore stepped in.”

“He was arrested?” she asked, caught by surprise.

Moody nodded gravely. “No charges were ever filed. I would love to know what cock and bull story he fed to Albus.”

Clio was struck again by the thought that she knew something that Moody didn't. Why hadn't anyone else figured it out? Had she simply come to the wrong conclusion? Aware that Moody was staring at her, she blurted out the very next topic that came to her.

“So, you got a letter From Lupin,” she said, with instant regret. Squirming under his scrutiny, she continued. “Did he mention what he's up to these days?”

“No,” he answered, scratching thoughtfully at his chin again, his eyes never leaving her face. “He did mention to keep an eye out for you. Thought Snape might retaliate.”

“Oh,” she murmured, her face flushing. “I don't think there's any real worry there.”

“No? Are you sure about that?” He laughed harshly. “I heard about his escapades after the World Cup.”

“Escapades? You mean when he retrieved my wand.”

“Retrieved. Yes. Who knows exactly what he did to get it back,” Moody said. “What kind of bargain he struck.”

“Would he really bargain with Death Eaters?”

Moody laughed again, sending a chill down her spine, then turned dead serious. “He can try, but he can't deny what he is.” He took another swig. “Of course, I hate to refer to those goons at the World Cup as 'Death Eaters.' They aren't in the same league as the LeStranges or Dolohov, or even Crouch.”

“No, I guess not. Lucky for me,” she said.

“Did you see it?” he asked, his natural eye burning intensely.

“See what?” she asked.

“The Dark Mark. Did you see it light up the sky?”

“I did,” she answered, goosebumps rising on her arms at the memory.

“So, you saw how they reacted?”

“They all fled,” she replied.

“That's right,” he responded. “Imposters, all.”

Clio was left at a loss for words.

“But, you were asking about the Department of Mysteries. I've wandered far off topic,” he said with another harsh laugh.

She nodded, relieved that the conversation had turned back to her grandfather.

“Trying to do some amateur sleuthing, eh?” he asked, exposing his uneven teeth in another terrifying smile, puckering the scars that criss-crossed his face.

She shrugged. “Just curious. I would have liked to know my grandfather better, but seeing as I'm unable.” She shrugged again. “I've found a couple of names. Bode and Croaker. Ever heard of them?”

“Hmm, oh yes, yes. Croaker and Bode. Both very well respected,” he said.

“I thought I might write to them,” she said, recovering from her earlier disappointment. “Ask them what they might be able to tell me. You don't think that would get them in trouble, would it?”

“What? Receiving a letter?”

“I guess that does sound silly,” she said sheepishly, already composing a letter in her head.

“Just a warning; before you go turning over too many rocks, consider whether you really want to know what's underneath.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, snapping back to the present.

“There may be all kinds of unpleasant truths for you to uncover. After all, you said yourself you never really got to know your grandfather. Just be prepared. If you're going to go turning over rocks, then don't be surprised when you find all kinds of nasty, slimy things crawling around underneath.”

Clio shivered involuntarily, her blood freezing in her veins.

He took a last swig from his flask before stumping back inside, nodding and grunting his farewell as he went.


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