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IV. The Castle

The answer was: that very Monday night. On Tuesday, Temple was taking his Intro to Alchemy class to the Field Museum, and they all supposed this could not be a mere educational experience. The class was on Crimson Day: Tom and Daphne were in the class scheduled to go, and Angelica, in his Yellow Day Intro Alchemy class, didn’t have a Crimson Day class at the same time and arranged to go. But Cloudius and Arnulf had no excuse to tag along and were adamant that the Fab Five needed to do more underground research.

“That one tunnel goes to Giordano’s,” said Cloudius, “there’s gotta be another that connects up to those Indian tunnels.”

“And we’re going to follow Temple or something?” asked Daphne. “Like, not dangerous at all, huh?”

“We’ll get expelled,” said Angelica. “And by the way, exams are coming up in two weeks.”

“Two weeks?” said Cloudius. “That’s like forever.”

“I want to go,” said Arnulf. “But I’m not going just me and Cloudius. Would you go if Tom and Daph went?”

“Me?” asked Angelica.

“Yeah, you.”

If Tom and Daph went?” She looked their way. “Just how well do you know them, anyway?”

They decided to rendezvous in the basement at 9 pm. Things went fine until Professor Match came around the corner in the school and saw the basement door close. He opened it, and there was Daphne.

“Students are not allowed—!” he began.

“Hey, Daph,” said Tom from behind him. “You must’ve got turned around. That’s not the way to the auditorium.”

“Auditorium?” said Match.

“Yeah,” said Tom, “we were going to try out for the school play. They’re doing Arsenic and Old Lace.”

“Tryouts are not until tomorrow night,” said Match in a cold voice.

“I must have got confused,” said Daphne.

“Isn’t today a crimson day?” asked Tom.

“No, yellow,” said Match. “Tomorrow’s crimson. Well, I can see where you got confused, both of you. Now run along back to your house without delay.” He watched Daphne come out and then folded his arms and stood before the door, beefy in his dark grey robe and hood, and white shirt and loud-patterned tie, bald head and walrus moustache, and watched them go out the door and not come back.

“Man!” said Angelica, hiding among the rubbish pile.

“Just wait,” said Arnulf.

“There’s light under Mac’s door,” said Cloudius, after taking a brief look, “but not Temple’s.”

“See?” said Arnulf. “No hurry.”

And there they were, twelve minutes later, when Daphne and Tom moved the shelf aside and came out of the tunnel from Ash House.

“I thought we’d have to go without you,” said Angelica.

“Believe me, so did I,” said Daphne.

Just then the stair door opened again and someone who turned out to be Professor Temple came through, led by his glowing wand. Temple strode quickly and confidently, with the wand light low, down the long chamber to his room, where he had to fiddle with his keys for a moment. Then he went inside and shut the door. They could practically feel the slight reverberation in the stone as he re-locked it.

“Come on,” said Daphne, “to the secret door. He’s just grabbing stuff for his trip.”

“What if he doesn’t need to grab anything?” asked Tom.

“Exactly.”

They hurried across the middle, then scurried along the shelves, then pulled Remediae medioevales plantarum and hurried through. Arnulf pulled the secret door at the far end open just a crack, and just then Temple’s door opened and Temple came out, striding perhaps a little less confidently but with a brighter light. He strode right on past the watching kid exactly as if he had no idea Arnulf was there.

After the light was past, Arnulf pushed the secret door open, but Cloudius and Angelica pulled him back. They could hear MacMorris’s door open quietly and shut, and moments later, his wand light way down, the tall young professor (also handsome, blue-eyed, with a wonderful smile and hair just a half inch too long and a lovely soft-looking moustache and a dreamy look in his slightly watery blue eyes, none of which was visible in the dark) walked by.

“That was close,” said Arnulf.

“Cloud and I are going in front,” said Ange. “Tom, in the middle with the light. You and Daph can take the rear. Don’t mess with anything.”

“Who made you boss?” Cloudius started to say, but Ange froze the words with a look.

So they followed at a considerable distance. MacMorris’s wand light was little more than an idea in the gloom ahead, and Tom’s light was down to the point where it would have seemed just a trick of the eye to MacMorris if he looked back. Further ahead, a bright but distant Betelgeuse, was Temple’s wand light. Now and again it stopped, and as a result the other two stopped one step later. All the while they were going down five steps every fifty feet or so, slowly but steadily delving into the earth. The tunnel was wide enough for them to easily go two by two, finished and paved with smooth cut stones.

The fifth time they stopped, then started again, almost immediately there was a wave of magic force from ahead. Penton energy ten to a hundred times their entire stores was expended in a moment. The MacMorris light fell to the ground and there dimmed and died out; there was a thump as, simultaneously, MacMorris himself landed. The Temple light hovered a moment, then turned and went on its way, dwindling ahead and downward in the distance.

“What the bleep?” said Angelica.

“Come on,” said Cloudius.

“But don’t touch anything!” She hurried to keep up with the eager young man. Wands out, they soon came upon a dimly seen body. “Oh my god,” said Angelica. “He killed him.”

“Really?”

“Don’t get your hopes up,” said Daphne.

Tom brought his light down to look. He let it come up a little in the red. They could now clearly see Professor MacMorris, lying face up, smiling as he softly snored.

“Don’t let us get caught by Temple,” said Arnulf.

“Better him than some others,” said Cloudius. “He puts his enemies to sleep.”

“Bad enough,” said Arnulf.

“Come on,” said Angelica. “We agree we don’t want to get caught. He’s getting away!”

So they hurried after Temple. It was hard to make up much time, with the intermittent stairs. Other things slowed them down: the need for silence, the sound of lapping water, the smell of water, and now the faint and growing sound of an echoing howling.

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