The steps ended. The hall ran ahead a ways level, then opened out into a cavern. The wall on the left disappeared: off on that side, the cavern opened out into a chamber of water, the stone floor replaced by a floor of black waves. The ceiling went off into darkness; they could just see Temple’s wand light playing off a distant wall far to their left over the waves, beyond which, perhaps, the water went all the way to the ceiling. The area before them resembled a dock, but one without boats, freight, people or equipment. Here and there the massive stone ceiling, and the weight of a city neighborhood above, was borne by huge square pillars. Temple’s light played about these as he moved away from them.
Far ahead still came the sound of hollow howling.
Temple was just entering a hallway at the far end of the “dock.” The kids hurried across the dock area as he went into the hall, and waited as Temple passed through a four-way intersection and approached a door. Arnulf alone crept up the hall far enough to hear the password before Temple went through the door.
The others joined him in the four-way intersection. To the left was the direction of the howling. To the right, the hall went a short distance, turned right again and went up a stair.
“Albusdumbledore??” Angelica repeated.
“That’s what he said.”
“What do you suppose—?”
“Ssh, listen, he’s talking to someone.”
Temple seemed to be holding a conversation with a disembodied voice. It was deep, but not at all like the Deep Voice that MacMorris had been arguing with.
Temple was saying, “He’ll wake up. Will the spirit guards keep him off my back? What say you?”
“Of course, of course,” said the voice.
“I only wonder,” said Temple in a voice that almost sounded humorous but was very serious underneath, “if all of your colleagues are entirely committed to helping in this little project for the good of all. You do believe it’s for the good of all, do you not?”
“This spirit,” said the voice, “is entirely in your corner, but no, I would not assume that every one of the spirit guards is entirely reliable. There are weak links in any chain. Do you not have weak links in the Lyceum?”
Temple laughed, again without much mirth. “Oh, we have some very weak links,” he said, “as well as some who are stronger than you or I even know, I dare say. Well, it will have to do, it’s as much as we ever have.”
“What more do you wish of me?”
“No more,” said Temple. “I must go Upstairs and read in the Books. Just keep the sleeper off my trail when he wakes. It would be unfortunate if he knew what books I was reading.”
“For that,” said the voice, disembodied but with both heart and pride, “you may count on me.”
“I know it,” said Temple. “The reverse is also true. Fare thee well.”
Then Temple was coming back out. Ange, Cloud and Arn hid behind a pillar at the edge of the dock area, and Daphne and Tom hid around a corner.
“Is he gone yet?” Cloudius hissed, before Angelica put a hand over his mouth. Temple, in the dark of the intersection, looked around suspiciously. Then he headed off down the right hand way, turning right again and heading up the steps.
The five kids reunited in the four way intersection. The howling behind Daphne and Tom was loud and yet mellow. “It’s just the hakkenkraks,” said Daphne.
“The what?” Arn, Ange and Cloud all more or less said at once.
“Are we following him or not?” whispered Daphne.
“We’re following him,” said Angelica.
So, Tom and Angelica in front, they crept up the steps behind Professor Temple. Presently he came to an iron-bar door, and they distinctly heard him mutter albusdumbledore.
“Albusdumbledore?” repeated Angelica in a whisper.
“That’s what Eva heard him say too,” Tom put in.
They all gave him a look, and then they set off toward the iron gate. Temple was already well beyond. They approached it gingerly: only after considerable investigation did Angelica mutter albusdumbledore at the gate. It came open very quietly. They were no longer in an underground tunnel, but something more like a basement.
The five kids looked around the basement—clean but authentic, like a new museum. There was torture equipment, there were suits of armor, there were racks of swords and spears and bows, all well-organized and well-dusted.
They crept up the steps, Angelica and Arnulf in front. They came out on the edge of a tiny open courtyard. The steps had come out into the open air, the courtyard lit by the gibbous moon through a few trees along the wall.
A door next to them was ajar. Eva went through, came back, mraowed. Daphne listened, then went through. They all came through into a wide landing at the bottom of wide stairs. Up two flights, they came out into a long library. They could hear Temple humming among the stacks.
And then they hid, all five of them, among the shelves of old books, for an hour while Temple studied, tsked, hummed and sang. One minute he was softly singing “I did it MY wayyy” and the next minute muttering about cracks and segments and chortling or harumphing.
Then he slammed a book shut, stood up, looked around. The five kids, here and there around him, held their breath. It was well that they did, because Professor Temple was having a bad case of foul vapor. He grabbed up the book he’d slammed down, grabbed up his glasses, and headed for the castle john.
“Watch that john,” hissed Arnulf.
“What? Me?” Angelica hissed back.
“Yeah, you,” whispered Daphne. Eva glared at Angelica and mraowed.
Then for six and a half minutes, Arnulf, Daphne, Cloudius and Tom pored over Temple’s books and notes, and Eva and Angelica listened to Temple talking to himself in the bathroom.
“Eleven segments,” Daphne read off the note pad. “He wrote it in that margin too, and over here. Why eleven, anyway?”
“There were more combinations than waves on the sea,” Tom read from an open book, “and the sages knew many obscure patterns to achieve certain effects.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Daphne. “Ange, is he saying anything?”
“He’s given up, he’s reading Peanuts aloud to himself.”
“Tell us if he starts to get up? Or recites the locations of the eleven thingies.” Angelica returned to perusing Fascinatynge Animales and Beestes of Magickle Powres.
“Look at this,” said Cloudius, clearing books off of a map on the table. It was a map of the middle east: Egypt at the lower left, Greece at the upper left, the long Iranian plateau occupying most of the upper right. There was a notation near Baghdad, where Babylon had once stood. All four leaned close. “Last seen together in the time of Cyrus the Persian,” they all read off the map.
“Flushing,” said Angelica. The others quickly rearranged the mess on the table and dove for the stairway. They made it to the basement of the castle, but in the darkness Arnulf and Cloudius got separated from the others. They bumped into each other and were in frantic whispered consultation when the door above opened and Temple began to descend the stairs.
Arnulf dragged Cloudius through the gate and down the steps. With Temple behind them, they went straight at the four-way intersection, down, zig left, zig back straight again. And then they both hit the brakes just in time to avoid sliding into cold dark water.
A gale wind of howling broke from the black chamber in front of them. They got to their feet and dashed back, hitting the brakes again just in time to avoid coming around the last corner straight into the path of Professor Temple.
“We have no luck,” said Cloudius.
Temple was calling at the door of his spirit guardian friend. They made small talk while Arn and Cloud sat on the floor in the hall almost facing the water chamber, a bitter wind of howling blowing hard across them.
“A bit loud tonight, eh?” said Temple.
“I rather like it,” said his unseen, deep-voiced friend. “Game of chess?”
It was four in the morning when Arnulf and Cloudius made it back in the back door and up the back steps to their beds.