“My butt hurts,” Dani complained. I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t say what immediately jumped to mind. She heard my snickering anyway. “No seriously, this happens all the time when we ride too long or hard.”
Unable to bear it any longer I burst out into a fit of laughter. “Sounds like a personal problem to me.”
She rolled her eyes and huffed at me. “You know exactly what I mean. You have such a dirty mind.”
“Yes, yes I do. It’s part of why we are friends. Now, can you take a look at the directions we were given? There is a fork in the road ahead.” Flurry’s head peeked out of my saddle bag and I reached over to stroke the top of it.
“We want to head south at the next fork. It looks like we are going to have to go through some pretty thick forest though. Think you’re up to being our eyes?”she asked.
The deeper into the woods we traveled the darker it became. Soon we relied heavily on my Elven and Dragon senses to navigate the tough terrain. Unable to gauge the time of day, we continued to ride until we were too tired and sore to continue. When we finally found an alcove in the trees along a riverbank, we decided to make camp for the night.
While I gathered firewood Dani secured the horses and relieved them of their burdens. Soon we were seated around a warm campfire enjoying soup and other goodies from Aiden’s kitchen. I looked up from my bowl to see Dani pouring over a red book. Her hands quickly flipped through page after page while she sighed, huffed, and looked longingly at a tree as if threatening to beat her head against it. “What do you have there?” I finally asked.
“We received these books at the library and I can’t read them,” she said in frustration.
I snagged the book out of her hand I and skimmed the words within. “Tel dar mah laj ri telanora…” I read. Shrugging, I handed it back to her. “It looks like Dark Elf to me.”
Her eyes grew wide and she looked ready to hit me. “You can read it?”
“Of course, Alathea made me learn Ancient Elvish, Modern Elvish, Dark Elf, and the common language, remember? It was all part of her training to be a better Elf thing.” I smiled. There had been a time when I dreaded seeing Alathea. Now I still dreaded it, but for totally different reasons. Most of them had to do with her falling in line with my parents and complaining about me not completing the binding ceremony and ushering whelps they could spoil into the world.
“Yeah I remember, but I can’t do it,” she said, snapping the book closed and crossing her arms in a pout.
“You can read Dark Elf. I’ve seen you do it,” I said with confusion.
Shaking her head, “Yes, I am capable of reading it, but there is NOTHING on the pages of the book.”
Taking the book from her again I flipped through it. “What are you talking about? It’s all handwritten mumbo-jumbo. The pages are overflowing with words.”
“Then read it to me,” she pleaded.
I blinked a few times at her. “I’m exhausted. This can totally wait until we are back home or at least until after we find the missing herald.”
“You don’t understand,” she cried loudly, tears already staining her cheeks. “I’ve been trying for weeks to see the text and I just can’t. Why can you read them and I can’t? It’s like the cruelest prank of all time. I’ve been surrounded by people who can read books I can’t and then they refuse to help me.” The last of her words were muffled between her sobs.
“I really don’t think it is a cosmic prank being played specifically on you,” I told her, handing the book back.
“If you love me at all you will at least read me the first few pages so I can transcribe them,” she begged. I took one look at her watery eyes and quivering lip and caved. With a heavy sigh I opened the book again and began reading. I read the first ten or twenty pages before I looked up at her. “I’m sorry, I’m exhausted. I am going to sleep now.” She looked like she might object but thought better of it, choosing to nod and take the book back instead.
I curled up in my bedding and closed my eyes. I could hear her feverishly scratching at her pad with a pen trying to translate the words. “Go to sleep Dani. If you are tired tomorrow it will mean I have to worry about you falling off the horse, or worse, being injured if there we’re attacked.” I opened one eye to stare at her before holding out my had for the notebook. “Give it to me.”
“No, I’m an adult,” she yelped.
I held up my hand and a ball of fire appeared. “Give it to me or I torch the whole notebook.”
Her eyes flared with fear as she held it protectively. Finally she handed it over, mumbling to herself. “No-good stinking Dragon. She thinks just because she is a princess she is the boss of me….”
“You do remember I am half Elf? My hearing is outstanding,” I told her as she pulled out her hearing aids. She stuck her tongue out at me and faced her back towards the fire. Sighing, I tucked the notebook under my pillow and closed my eyes.
“Why won’t you tell me where she is?” Dani pouted at me.
“Because she needs time away. She has some pretty big stuff to sort out.”
Dani huffed before plopping down on a seat with her arms crossed over her chest. “Yeah, and I have a pretty big stack of books to sort out,” she grumbled.
I tossed her a look over my shoulder that told her I wasn’t feeling all that sympathetic to her cause. “Look, I’m going on a mission for a few days and since Tessa isn’t around I thought you would enjoy coming.”
“I can’t right now, I need to decipher these books,” Dani complained, motioning to the pile of red leather-bound books.
“So pack two or three and bring them with us. I figure we will only be gone a couple of days.” I tugged a few odds and ends out of my closet and tossed them in my backpack.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“A new realm for us. It’s called Paven. Once we are packed here we are headed to Everbloom to pick up horses and more helpful supplies. The new realm has a mostly Darkling population. One of the OAC’s appointed heralds has gone missing there. Our job is to locate her and retrieve her message.” I closed my bag and swung it up on my shoulder. “Flurry, come here baby.” The chubby white kitten dashed across the room and clawed himself up my leg.
“I can go?” he asked with excitement.
“Yup,” I said, scratching under his chin. I carefully tucked him into the hood of my jacket and turned to face Dani.
With a heavy sigh and a bit of a whine she slid off the seat. “Fine, I’ll go pack. I’ll meet you back here in half an hour.”
I needed a break. I love Kat and Dani. They are the first real friends I’ve had since I can’t remember when. That’s the problem – I can’t remember. I remember growing up in the States. I remember my family. I remember college. I can’t remember any of their faces, which is unnerving, but I know that the memory is my family, or friends, or roommates. It’s frustrating. It’s like all my memories are there but there is a thin grey film or fog that floats over all of them.
What’s worse is not knowing why I’m a Banshee. Is it a punishment? Is it a curse? Was I born this way? I’m happy with the life I’m building, I just don’t understand what’s going on in it. Was I meant to find Kat? In all of my reading I don’t think I ever believed that a half-Elf, half-Dragon princess existed.
I needed time to sort things out, so I asked Kat if she could take me somewhere I could clear my mind. She brought me to Drakemoore and took me down by the coast. I may not have any of my electronics but I have all the solitude I need to work through some things.
How To Catch Your Best Friend And Make Her Talk
Step 1: Luring Her In
- Tell her you need her help with something and lock the door behind her.
- Set a trap with chocolate.
- Set a trap with signed first editions of Lord of the Rings
- Tell her you need help planning a surprise for Kat’s birthday. Then lock the door.
- Organize a D&D game. Pass notes to all the players saying they have to crack the code. Give her a journal instead of a note.
Step 2: Getting Her to talk
- Offer to cook for her. Tell her you’re really really stressed about the books and cooking will make you feel better. Only relent if she offers to read the books.
- More tickles?
- Say you’ll do aaaaaaanything please please please
- Ask nicely?
- Tell her you found a time travel spell and you can take her back to meet J. R. R. Tolkien if she helps you out.
Now all I have to do is find her….
I have used every sight, reveal, unlocking and unsealing spell I could find, and a couple I made up. Every time I try to use even a cantrip it doesn’t work. I think my Pixie magic is off sulking somewhere, because I don’t feel burned out, I feel like something inside me is going “Nah na na na na, not listening!”
I have examined every single journal until I can categorize them by touch. Eleven of them have pages that have been dogeared, ranging from four pages to twenty-seven. Three of them have smudges on the inside cover. None of the pages have any discoloration, even the one where a leading pen slip would have marked the last page. Six are scratched on the outside, two are in near-pristine condition, and one is slightly smaller than all the others. I’ve checked. I stacked and restacked and moved those things around so many times…
I have compared them to journals written by Elves,Humans, Dragons, Dwarves, Fae, and every other known race. I have looked at books from all the known realms and some from realms that no longer exist. Got some luck there – found a couple books with similar paper composition, but of course they were undocumented, realm of origin unknown (why can’t people just fill out the paperwork when they donate???). I can’t even compare the ink because I can’t see it.
Tomorrow, I’m finding Tessa.
Supplies: 3 kinds of tea (varied caffeine levels); 2 notebooks; 1 four-color pen; 2 highlighters; sticky tabs; index cards; mechanical pencil; chocolate; emergency granola bar
Reference books: Beginner’s Guide to Magical Theory by Umbram Theliopsis; A History of the Fae by Aurealialualoa Ping the Magnificent; A Most Expected and Normal Journey Through Six Great Realms by an unknown traveler, presumed Elven; On Expanding One’s Vision by Othar the Dwarf (half recipes for different kinds of beer, half actually useful spells)
I’ve staked out a corner of Stack 5 in the History section. I snuck off after the morning meeting and if I’m lucky, no one will look for me all day. These books, or journals, whatever they are – they can’t keep their secrets forever. If Tessa won’t help me, I’ll figure it out on my own!
Unfortunately things such as “work” and “responsibilities” conspire to get in the way of my research. I have been interrupted far too often in the past few days. There have more meetings than usual at the library*, Birda keeps calling me to ask if I know what Kat’s doing, and I’ve barely touched my to-read pile on my Kindle (only three books this week! I’m so far behind!). Well, that ends today. Today I am going to finish all the work for the rest of the week so I can focus on these seventeen red enigmas of DOOM.
*some sort of management reorganization and inter-branch cooperation initiative, which sounds lovely, but we’re spending way too much time talking about it and not enough time working.
I have decided to keep a record because it has been a WEEK and I still can’t read the bloody books. I think I’m starting to repeat experiments, so it would probably be a good idea to write down everything I’ve tried so far:
- Application of lemon juice and heat (to one corner of one page)
- Fae-based reveal spell
- Elf-based reveal spell
- Dwarf-based reveal spell
- Gnome-based reveal spell
- Application of Fairy dust
- Attempted chemical analysis of a page to detect ink, etc. (inconclusive)
- Dragon-based reveal spell
- Yelling at it
- Yelling at it in several languages
- Arranging the books in a particular order
- Reading by moonlight (phases tested: waxing crescent, half, waxing gibbous)
- Holy water
I have several more ideas but it will take time to either get the materials or the permissions needed. In the meantime I will be conducting a comparative analysis of the book covers with others in the library. If I can narrow it down to even a realm, never mind a time period… If only I could get my hands on Tessa!
“Delivery!” A Dwarven courier stepped up to the circulation desk. Everyone but me turned to him with the standard “shhhhh” noise that made it sound like a balloon factory had sprung a leak.
I offered him a warm grin instead. “Hi Russ! Whatcha got for me today?”
The dark haired Dwarf shrugged. “I don’t see what’s in them. I just deliver them, and boy is it heavy.” I chuckled as I signed his clipboard and bid him good day.
If it was heavy it was probably old leather-bound books. My mouth practically watered at the thought of new ancient texts to pour over for hours to come. I started to grab a crowbar for the crate, then stopped. With a deep breath I focused on the box before me. “Crate of wood, please open wide. I wish to see what waits inside.” The wood panels shimmered and faded away, leaving a pile of red books.
Tessa was nearby rereading the Hobbit and looked up at me with a smirk. “For all the reading you do I would think your rhymes would be better.”
I rolled my eyes and gave her a glare before turning my sights back to the pile of books in front of me. Excitedly I grabbed one from the top and carefully flipped through it. To my surprise all the pages were blank. I did the same with the next and discovered it too was blank. After a few moments of exploration I sighed heavily. “Ugh. What a waste. I guess they will make pretty journals.”
Tessa put down her book and came over to look at them with me. “What are you talking about?”
“These books, they’re all empty,” I explained.
Tessa picked up a book and flipped through it. “What are you talking about? There’s writing on every single page.”
I glanced over her shoulder and was completely confused. “What are you talking about? It’s blank!”
“No it’s not. It’s handwritten, but it is filled cover to cover.” She handed it to me and pointed to the page.
“Are you teasing me or do you really see something there?” I asked hopefully.
“There are tons of things there.”
“What does it say?”
Tessa’s brows pulled together in frustration. “I don’t know. It’s like I recognize it, but when I try to piece it together it doesn’t work. It’s a language I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Sorry.”
I growled. “A whole crate of new books and I can’t see what is written on even one page. This is torture.” Tessa began gathering up her things.”Wait, where are you going?”
“I have to meet Kat across town in an hour. I should have left an hour ago. I just lost track of time while I was reading,” she said as she zipped her backpack closed.
“Wait! You can’t leave. I need you to write what you see on the page so I can try to translate it.” I smiled at her with pleading eyes.
She shook her head. “I can’t, even if I wanted to go through seventeen massive journals. Sorry, you’re on your own for this. I’m sure there is a librarian here that can see it too. Maybe they can help you?” I huffed as she waved and walked away.
“This is not okay,” I mumbled to myself.