“So what about history and stuff?” asked Tom Hexane an hour later, as he and Angelica and Rachel and Natalie and Cloudius sat in his room, with Eva in the middle of the rug. “I thought you were in trouble.”
“Well,” said Angelica, “she really scared me in class, but she just wanted to give me my answer in private. And I can see why, now. Boy, you are not going to hear leading questions from me anymore in that class.”
“Sure, whatever,” said Rachel.
“But what did she say? Did you find anything about the segments?”
“Sort of,” said Angelica. “We more talked about the MPW and the C Group.”
There was a sarcastic cough from the doorway. Arnulf came in with Ahir and Daphne. “Yeah,” he said, “let’s talk about that, but maybe not quite so loud that they can hear you in the Field Museum.”
Angelica looked mortified. Arnulf carefully shut the door, and Ahir said “Shesh!” at it.
“Is that Farsi for Ssh?” asked Cloudius.
“It’s a spell,” said Ahir, in a decent imitation of Ash. “You could use that one, young Cloudius. Perhaps you would not wake people every Saturday morning with your blacksmithing.”
“And perhaps,” said Daphne, also imitating Ash, “you and Rats wouldn’t get caught every time you sneak into the attic or the basement. Wouldn’t that be good?”
“Shesh, you say,” said Cloud.
Ahir pulled out her wand, a long skinny black number, and waved subtly it at Cloudius. Arnulf nearly swooned: he just loved the way she subtly waved her wand. “Shesh!”
“Did it work?” asked Cloud, but even though he could hear himself clearly, the others heard only a faint murmur. Eva mraowed appreciatively.
“So tell,” Natalie prompted.
“Okay,” said Angelica, “but this is like super secret. Like, if Sear hears I spilled beans, my source of info dries right up. Okay?” The others all nodded seriously. Eva just glared at her. “Okay. So Madame L, let’s call her. She’s the MPW, or at least she was during the Crisis. That would be around 1930: it sort of peaked in—”
“1931,” said Rachel.
“But since then, she’s retreated. She’s very well hidden now. I suppose she’s still Most Powerful Wizard, but she doesn’t use it in any obvious way. But everyone thinks she has some Segments. Sear says L is known to have at least two segments, but probably has three or four.”
“What can you do with three or four segments?” asked Cloud. “If there’s a total of eleven, four doesn’t seem like much. I mean—!”
“You can do all kinds of things with just three,” said Angelica. “Sear wouldn’t tell me examples, but she did say they think Alexander the Great had five segments, and he led men in battle and defeated huge armies and apparently called up things and fought armies and he defeated the Egyptian gods, did you know that? That’s why after him no one worshiped Amun-Ra or Osiris.”
“Whoa, really? Defeated Gods? Yeah, that makes sense—but, whoa.”
“Of course he had Aristotle,” said Daphne.
“Yeah, Sear thinks Aristotle was the brains of the operation. After Alex died, his successors split them up. Ptolemy had three for a while, the Ptolemies did, but Seleucus, the guy who had Babylon and Persia, he apparently had one of Alex’s and found another one. But they kept getting split up and buried and lost, and now it’s thought that only L has more than one.”
“So she gave you a timeline of the Segments?” asked Arnulf.
“Actually that was the least of it. We were talking about the Maroons and the C Group. Because here’s the thing. If you’re a controller, it’s hard to cooperate with other controllers because everyone wants to be in control. But Madame L apparently when she was young, which was about 1400 or so, had the idea to form a council to coordinate and maintain boundaries and that became the C Group. Anyone in C Group could ‘control’ to their heart’s content within the rules, and if there was a dispute, the council decided it and that was that.”
“And this works?” asked Daphne.
“It did, right up till the Crisis. But you know whose idea the whole thing really was?” They didn’t. “Anyone hear ever hear of Photius and Ignatius?” She looked at Ahir.
“They were Byzantine patriarchs,” said Ahir. “They fought like cat and dog. And the fights featured spells.”
“Yes, that’s right. In the 800s, in the ninth century. They kept going back and forth, and one would get into power and kill off the other one’s supporters, and then back again, because neither could kill the other one. Well, they carried it right on outside of—well, you know Sear keeps calling it the ‘obvious world’ as opposed to the ‘hidden world.’ They went right on.” She looked around. “Everyone thinks—well, Sear thinks they’re probably still alive, somewhere.”
“Which one is on our side?” asked Tom.
“Neither of them,” said Ahir. They looked at her. “Well, Ignatius is supposed to be some type of anarchist,” she said. “Some type of authoritarian anarchist, I don’t know. My father—!” But then she shut her mouth in a nervous smile and turned her brown eyes on Angelica. There were tears in them.
“I don’t know anything about that,” said Angelica. “Sear didn’t talk about Ignatius much. But Photius—he was around Europe and the Middle East right through to the Renaissance. She thinks he was Pope at least once. She thinks he talked to Thomas Aquinas and gave lessons to Abelard and who knows what else. But you know who else he taught?”
“Would it start with the letter after K?” asked Arnulf.
“Yeah, that’s the idea.”
“So why isn’t he the MPW?” asked Cloudius. “If he taught her, and he’s still alive—!”
“Because she’s stronger than him,” replied Angelica. “Apparently he became her second in command. I don’t know, it seems like that’s the way he does things. And if you think about it, she eventually started to see things his way—that’s why she’s hidden nowadays.”
“And they’re back behind it all controlling everything?” asked Tom.
“Except that they can’t control everything. There’s lots of other forces. Like Mac M’s people and the Maroons. The Maroons are related to the C Group but Mac is part of some other group, I think Sear referred to them as the recusants. I think they’re some sort of Improver. Of course she didn’t say his name. Not even close. But she talked about Magica, like the nation of magic users, and clearly Magica is split between these Improvers and the Controllers.”
“And the Hiders and Balancers,” said Natalie, “we learned that stuff the first two weeks.”
“But the Improvers are everywhere and they tend to work together pretty well. They’re like the Underground. You almost want to side with them, but the trouble is, scratch an Improver and you have a Controller underneath, because they think they know what’s good for everyone else. So they’re scary, because they think they have a good unselfish reason to do what they do.”
“Like Mac M,” said Arnulf.
“Exactly,” said Daphne. “Never trust a good looking guy.” Natalie and Rachel said, “Hear, hear.”
“So, back to segments,” said Cloudius. “What? I’m into items, you guys know that. What about them? Where are they now? What do they do?”
“No one knows where they are now,” said Angelica. “No one knows what they do. They were made by ancient Egyptian priests, partly out of previous attempts by Sumerian priests. Some of the Old Kingdom pharaohs had all eleven. But they didn’t know what they could do, there wasn’t an owners’ manual, and when the priests figured out how much power they were giving the pharaoh, after Menkaure died, they split them up and put one in each of eleven temples. And of course they started disappearing right away.”
“And the next person who had more than one was Alexander,” said Ahir.
“Well, that we know of. But what do they do? Lord only knows.”
“Like to find out,” muttered Cloudius.
“Maybe you’ll get your wish,” said Arnulf. “Got a lovely cylinder. I can’t imagine it doesn’t have something to do with the segments.”
“You know what I think,” said Cloudius. They all looked at him skeptically. “No, really. I think it’s—!” He smiled around at them. Arnulf and Daphne rolled their eyes. “Seriously! I think. The cylinder. Is. A segment finder!”
More eye-rolling. But Eva mraowed proudly at him. “I think she agrees with you,” said Tom.
“And how will you find out?” asked Arnulf.
“We’ll take it on a little trip sometime,” said Cloudius. “To a museum.”