VI. Yulugensis albus
The whole thing seemed a lot easier to Angelica after she and the rest of the football team took a short portal to visit the Ann Arbor Lyceum and drub their fine squad, the Michiganders. The scoring began with a fine drive that stalled, and led to a Tom Hexane field goal; the Michiganders went three and out. Then the fun began. Angelica got open on a center route on second and ten, and made a move that caused the safeties to run into each other, and she was gone. She was triple teamed most of the game, but she still got loose for four touchdown catches and a kick return for a touchdown. And Daphne, without an interception, hit Bert for two and Estelle for one on a flare-out. The other two touchdowns of the 66 to 28 rout were an 80-yard run by Estelle and a 74-yard interception return for Jen Norman. The Michiganders put it in the air a lot, and reaped four long touchdown passes, but also handed over three interceptions, with Arnulf and fellow safety Maggie Melillo, on successive drives in the fourth quarter, jumping in front of deep receivers and taking away their footballs. The Zephs were 4–1.
Then they were portaling home and Angelica was back to thinking about the extra paper she’d have to write for English, Josh (that scum) Hubble and Yulugensis albus.
On Sunday, after a lovely breakfast, Daphne and Cloudius headed to the basement to take the short cut. Daphne opened the stair door and there was Ash.
“Ah, excellent,” said Ash. “You’ve volunteered to help me with the tarts.”
Twenty minutes later, they had made up six pans of tarts and they were all in the oven. “You may go now,” said Ash. “You’ve been a great help, but I fear metallurgy training may not recommend you especially for the actual baking.”
Daphne and Cloudius laughed politely and excused themselves. This time they headed to the school and snuck into the basement that way.
“We were wondering,” said Rachel Rabat, as five figures condensed around them at the bottom of the stairs: Rachel, Natalie, Angelica, Arnulf and Tom.
“This’ll come in handy,” said Tom, handing Daphne a book and then illuminating it with his wand. It was a pocket herbarium, a beaten-up but serviceable hard cover with pretty pictures.
“Definitely,” said Daphne. They all looked around. The frightening thickness of the gloom, the impenetrability of the silence: these were oddly comforting.
“You say there’s a tunnel from Ash House to here?” asked Natalie, whose house master was Norbert Match, Tom’s Light teacher. “I wonder if there is from our house.”
“There probably is from every house,” said Angelica.
“If there were from my house,” Rachel put in, “MacMorris would never let us near it.”
“A lot of secrets, huh?”
“Yeah, and like half my house worships the ground he walks on, including your old boyfriend Josh.”
“Sigh,” said Cloudius, then “Ow!”
“That scum,” said Angelica. “Best not to mention him.”
“Gotcha,” said Cloudius.
Daphne managed to get the others up and in some sort of formation, and all the way over to the secret door together and without too much discussion. Cloudius wanted to rummage in the rubbish some more; Tom was getting distracted by book titles; Ange, Rachel and Natalie were laughing about something. She looked to her left and there was Arnulf. He nodded. She looked to her right, and there was Eva, who mouthed a mraow. Daphne reached out and pulled Remediae out.
“Everybody with me?” she asked.
No one dissented. She put the book back upside down. “Okay, troops out, move it or lose it,” said Arnulf, leading the way into the passage. Natalie and Rachel looked quite impressed. After the three girls, Cloud went in, and then Tom, who looked back to Daphne. She put the book back right side up and ran in ahead of the closing secret door.
“This is cool,” said Natalie.
“Glad you like it,” said Arnulf. “Keep your voices down.” He turned and pointed a finger at Rachel. “No giggling.”
“Okay, okay,” said Rachel.
Arnulf led the group out into the passage with the steps. They went on and on and on into silent darkness, down and down. Finally, just as they began to suspect that no one else was within ten miles, they saw a little light ahead. They came to where the hall opened out into the so-called dock area, and peered out.
The light came from a couple of torches in brackets. There was no one on the dock, but they could hear voices out on the dark water: not the voices of mermaids or fish demons, but a couple of teenagers and one familiar voice.
“It’s MacMorris,” whispered Rachel.
“What’s he saying? I can’t hear!” said Natalie.
“Sssh!” Daphne glared around, and they could see her dangerous blue eyes in the shadow of the passage. She looked out, then cocked her head sideways to listen.
The next voice they could get at all was a female student, a third-year they all knew. Her high voice was audible over the water: “So it’ll help with the Eleven?”
Then they could hear MacMorris’s voice mumbling. Daphne listened, then pulled Arnulf and Angelica across the dock to the hallway on the opposite side. The others followed, hidden in the gloom among the pillars. Once they were all inside the far hall, Daphne stopped and turned. “He said, ‘it’s not one of the eleven, but if we find it, the next thing we find will be a segment, or several of them.’ Then they sort of splashed. I think they were going under.”
“Yeah,” said Cloudius, “I bet it was a submersible rowboat. My dad’s made those before. They’re great, yeah, if you’re, oh, say, looking for something way down underwater.”
“So, any clue what it was, if it wasn’t a segment?”
Cloudius mugged and shook his head. Tom shook his head. Angelica, Rachel and Natalie shrugged. “I have no idea myself,” said Arnulf.
“Great, then,” said Daphne. “On to the Castle.”