My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Phoenix: Chapter 22

We must have woken up at 10:00 or so, because the maid woke Key and me up. We jumped into our clothes, woke Mark and Xavier (who the maid hadn’t disrupted yet), and left.

We still had a long ways to go before we got to Kejimkujik Park. We went southeast for a long time—three and a half days. We did have to camp once because it was getting cloudy, but the rain hadn’t been too bad. All in all, we were grateful to finally be between the two lakes after a long week of travel.

Yes! Currey said. We did it! We’re here! We don’t have to be in the sky all the time, getting cold!

            “I concur with that sentiment,” I muttered, dismounting. Xavier looked at me oddly, but shook his head and walked on. I remembered that he still didn’t know Currey was talking to me all the time. Silvester never said a word to me, so I was pretty sure it was just Currey that I could understand—it was probably not worth mentioning.

Mark was stepping carefully toward the building. We were all sore—the saddles were good and both pegasi were smooth flyers, but still. We’d been riding for about a week straight, and the stops we made were to let ourselves rest as they were to let the pegasi.

But Mark didn’t seem to be working out the kinks in his legs—I think he was in shock.

“It’s empty,” he said blankly.

“There’s a note on the door,” Key said, and Xavier jogged forward to get it. In a few minutes, he was back with a laminated piece of paper and the nail that had hooked it to the door.

“Back in five years—maybe,” I read.

“They’re gone,” Mark moaned.

“This is bad,” Key said. “This is very bad.”

“I say we explore,” Xavier said.

“There could be something dangerous in there,” Mark said in warning.

“Then Phoebe will go with me,” Xavier said cheerfully. “There’s nothing in there that’s more dangerous than she is.”

I wasn’t sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult.

“All right,” Key said. “Go.”

We went, before Mark could protest.

The building seemed more and more creepy as we got closer. It was just… freaky. Deserted to the nth degree.

“You know, this doesn’t seem like such a great plan now,” Xavier said. I stopped, and he shook his head and said, “Let’s keep going.”

The wind was freezing, even on the ground. I pulled my coat more tightly around me.

We entered a nondescript glass door. No alarms went off, so we kept going.

It looked like we were in a giant hall, with lots of rooms. All the doors were glass, although a lot of them had marbled patterns in them so that you couldn’t see through. Xavier and I opened every one that we came across, with my wand pointed in case there was anyone or anything in them.

There wasn’t—we were grateful. But the suspense was the same every time we opened the doors, to find papers strewn everywhere by wind from the open windows, and some books looking like they’d been melted by snow from previous seasons. In one room, we found a sleeping gray tabby cat and a litter of kittens, but left them alone.

The architecture, even despite the creepiness, was remarkable. There were arches everywhere—anything that could have an arched or domed ceiling did, and the supports all had some sort of curve.

We found ourselves at the end of the hall, facing another door. I readied my wand, thought of a good freezing spell, and nodded to Xavier, who opened the door.

It was the most spectacular room I had ever entered.

The first thing that got to you was the size. It was at least forty feet high, and much wider across. Next, there was the shape—circular, of course, with a domed ceiling and a giant glass skylight with moss growing on it. But then there were the contents of the room itself: a second glass dome inside the room, teeming with plant life. Through the roof leaks, water had seeped in and kept all sorts of plants alive inside. There were Corinthian columns supporting the larger dome and surrounding the glass inner dome, and there was so much marble everywhere that it made you wonder where they got it all.

It was beautiful, and creepy, and decrepit, and charming and exotic and unusual and… magical.

“This is not a human place,” Xavier said. “Let’s get out of here.”

But I shrugged off my hoodie, took a running start, and flew over the dome to land on its peak. From there…

“This is amazing,” I said, looking around. “You’ve got to see this.”

“I can see enough of it from the ground,” Xavier said.

“No, no! Come on!”

“Phoebe, we need to get out of here!”

That collection of words snapped into my brain, and the room’s spell broke. Suddenly, it was just a bunch of marble. I was a little sad, but we kept moving.

On the other side of the room was another door, and I went in armed as usual. But this was just a library. And an ordinary one, at that. There were no books jiggling off their shelves, no vats of ice water or metal plates designed to contain restless tomes. It even had a fiction section.

“They have six copies of Ender’s Game!” Xavier said, picking his way through the aisles. “This place just got about ten times cooler.”

But I’d found exactly what I want to find.

I ran my hands along the titles, brushing dust off spines until a tall, thick book caught my hand. I pulled it out. The title read, “An Extended History of the Epselan Origin.” It was the same book I’d found at the Agency, and I put it back. It was an interesting book, but I didn’t want to think about the Agency just then.

The next book I pulled was “The Epselan Abilities: A Comprehensive Guide.” The third, “Spells for the Non-Mage Epselan.”

“These books are all about Epselans,” I called.

“Well, duh,” Xavier responded. “It’s the Epselan base, isn’t it?”

“Wouldn’t they take their books with them? The important ones?”

“This whole lot?” he said skeptically. “I think the baggage check would get kind of expensive.”

“Still, wouldn’t they take stuff like this?” I asked through the bookshelves. “It seems pretty complicated. Wouldn’t they want this for reference?”

“Maybe they did take the important ones,” Xavier said. I could see him still flipping through a novel, watching him through the gaps in the tall metal shelves.

That sounded depressing. If they took all the important stuff, then what were we going to find?

“You’re going to find the other copies that they left behind,” Xavier said, when I expressed this concern. “Look how big the nonfiction section is. I’m sure they’ve copied down all the rare books.”

“I guess so,” I said. “I just hope we find something. I have a feeling this is the place where we’re going to find out what to do next.”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 at 10:05 pm and is filed under Phoenix. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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