I. The Second Floor
On 15 August 1982, Angelica Aliyev, twelve and three fourths years old, got off Train 4π from the Quad Cities, leaving Moline at 8:15 am and arriving, at Union Station after a lovely all-day train ride across the prairie, at around a quarter to nine the same morning. She came out, feeling terribly alone and incredibly grown-up: she had been so on her best behavior that her parents, Vladimir and Audrey, had let her take the trip on her own. Now she sat in the café and sipped hot coffee with lots of cream. She sat, pushing her black hair out of her face in the wind, squinting her brown eyes against the sunlight. She felt like she should have a cigarette, except that she felt very strongly that cigarettes were stupid.
She was early. The subway left any time. She watched the people wander by. She wondered how many of them were mages.
Angelica was finishing her coffee when she saw a kid come up the escalator. Like her, he had an inconspicuous badge around his neck. He was dressed too warmly: his fall coat was on him so he wouldn’t have to squeeze it into his bags. He had light brown hair and blue eyes and a face that tended to smile. He was her age, or a little younger, and he was bigger than she was, but the way he looked at everything seemed like a seven-year-old, interested in every detail of what was around him. Angelica, with her teenage detachment, found herself wanting to talk to the kid. And then there was something else: the shadow, it seemed, of a large cat, following him without stealth.
By the time they got to the L station, Angelica and Tom Hexane of Maine were best friends.
“My folks are college professors,” said Tom as they rode south.
“My folks run an inn,” said Angelica.
“Are they both—?” asked Tom.
“Yeah,” said Tom.
“And is that a ghost of a cat?”
“That’s Eva,” said Tom. Eva, sitting on the empty seat between Tom and Ange, looked around. None of the thin crowd at the L station seemed to notice.
The other people came and went, but Ange and Tom stayed on the L train, which looked like an orange line but, they could see, was actually a pale ocher. When it stopped at the Lyceum station, no one else seemed to notice, but an old black man in a police uniform walked up to them and said, “This is your stop, folks.”
They got their stuff together and got off. The train pulled away.
“Well,” said Ange, “I wonder if someone’s going to come get us.”
Eva was staring at a post on the platform. Once the train was gone, the post transformed, just quick enough to notice from moment to moment, into a woman. She had red hair of a muted shade, she had the facial lines of a forty-year-old, and she dressed in long black robes.
“You must be Miss Aliyev and Mr Hexane. I am Mistress Ann Ash. You will call me Mistress, or Mistress Ash. When not in my presence, you may refer to me as you like. Come with me, and bring the cat.”
Ash’s students, ten first years at the Lyceum of the Lake Wind, lived in one house on the hidden, and dimensionally odd, campus. Their rooms were on the second floor. Ange, thinking of August heat, chose a room on the north side of the house with a nice view of the Lyceum building, which looked to outsiders exactly like a boarded-up elementary school. Tom took the corresponding room on the south side, and there they sat for a talk, Eva a shadow against the curtain in the window, staring in at them and not out at the next house.
Within an hour, the other three kids who would live on the second floor were in the room, being interrogated by Angelica and getting Ange’s and Tom’s stories in return.
There was Claudius Cloud: “Everyone calls me Cloudius.” His folks ran a shop in Rockford: apparently they had gotten in trouble in Philadelphia for fixing ordinary folks’ stuff using magic. Now Mom and Dad, of whom he was the only child, ran a toy shop and were very closely watched. Now they sold regular toys (and tried to fix them in regular ways if needed), while on the side they sold magical toys to people who knew about magic. It all sounded so cut and dried.
There was Arnulf Shmoke. His dad had been in the Magic Police, and had been killed in action when Arn was a toddler. His mom was not a mage at all. His fees for the Lyceum had been paid for by the union. Arn didn’t say so, but Ange had the feeling that his mom had not especially wanted him to go.
And then there was Daphne Golden. She was taller than any of them, and at least as heavy as Arnulf, all of it muscle. She was blond of hair and blue of eye. She looked like a basketball player: “Yeah, of course, obviously,” she said with impatience. What she preferred was football. What she really preferred was the sword: she showed them hers, drawing it from the leather sheath with a whispered prayer.
“It’s just a short sword, though,” she pointed out. “I’ll need to earn my warrior sword.”
“Mom, Dad or both?” asked Tom.
“Mom,” said Daphne. “Who cares about Dad?” The others laughed, but Daphne caught Arnulf’s eye. “My dad, I mean,” she said to him.
“What classes are you guys taking?” asked Angelica.
“Everyone has to take defense,” said Arnulf. “Everyone has to take Magic History. Intro to Alchemy, math or science, and English. That’s what everyone has to take. So that’s what I’m taking.”
“I’m taking Metallurgy as a side,” said Daphne.
“Really?” said Cloudius. “Me too. Playing with dangerous hot metal early in the morning! My dad took it from Timms, he said it was the best class.”
“I have Light,” said Tom Hexane.
“I thought I’d try illusions, yeah, wow,” said Angelica. “I am not the one you seek. I am not the one you seek. I am not the one you seek.”
“I’d have to agree,” said Arnulf.
Later, after she thought of lots of cutting replies, Angelica, lying in a strange but comfy bed, thought of how varied their backgrounds were. Arnulf had lost his dad, and his mom wasn’t magical; Daphne only had her mom; Cloudius was an only child of parents who were rebels against the magical regulations. Tom Hexane’s folks were almost normal, teaching at the teachers’ college and tutoring in magic a little on the side.
Angelica thought of her own parents. They ran an inn—a bar and a hotel for mages. In the Quad Cities, they had a full house every Friday and Saturday. Mages came out of the woodwork, all dressed up in their best carousing duds. Most of them were conjurors, who never used a spell outside the house; in this crowd Audrey and Vladimir were Queen and King, and Ange and her older sister Clary were the royal princesses. Their parents were bartender pillars of the community, alchemists who kept a protected zone and made the best beer anyone had ever heard of. They didn’t like the authorities, but they believed in following the rules. They wanted to improve the lot of the rest of humanity, but they didn’t want to reveal themselves.
Audrey had explained it to Angelica this way: there were the improvers, who wanted to help humanity in spite of sometimes being lynched by it; there were the hiders, those who preferred to stay out of the way completely. Then there were the balancers, who wanted to maintain an equilibrium within the magic and the non-magic worlds; and then there were the anarchists. And then there were those who wanted to use magic to rule the non-magic world. And most mages believed in most or possibly all of these things. They wanted to help out, they wanted to be left alone. They wanted to keep things from crashing, but they wanted everything to work itself out naturally. And sometimes they put a non-mage to sleep, or the like; often they hid themselves by casting illusions to fool the non-magical; occasionally, no doubt, a mage youth rolled a non-mage acquaintance and stole his Walkman. “We’re all everything,” said Audrey. “Never trust anyone who thinks he’s just one of those things.”
In the next few days, before classes started, they all got in trouble to one extent or other.
Arnulf, with his sad dad story, got a lot of attention from the snobbier kids, those whose parents were most integrated into mage society. Pindar Webb (Pinhead to his detractors), who lived on Ash’s third floor, picked on him repeatedly, obviously trying to spur a fight. Finally Pindar gave up and just attacked Arn with magic combat in the kitchen. Pindar clearly thought he would be able to knock out the poor half-breed Arnulf on the first throw of magic power, but Arnulf reflected the attack back, with his own energy added on, and Pindar was thrown back against the wall. Before it could go any further—they were both already almost out of energy anyway—Mistress Ash intervened, and the two boys got to know each other a lot better doing all the house dishes for a month.
Daphne got in trouble in much the same way. Ash was willing to put up with the gangly girl practicing sword at dawn, and with a few of the other girls joining her occasionally. The only other “Amazon” in the class was Jen “Spiny” Norman of Minnesota; she had a nice sword too, and they were well matched. Then there was Ahir Shaheen, whose father had been killed in the Iranian revolution, and whose mother had brought her to Chicago. Ahir was tall, Ahir was beautiful, Ahir had a distinct accent and an antique curved sword. She didn’t know how to use it very well, and Olympia Month (Limpy to her detractors) stopped to make fun of her. The next morning, Limpy made sure to be there to trip Ahir on her way out to the yard. Daphne went over to have a chat with Miss Month, but when she got there, something about Limpy’s grin convinced Daphne to let her fist have a chat with Limpy’s stomach. Daphne got a month of garbage duty.
Ahir and Olympia had to get along on the third floor of Ash House, and Mistress Ash may have been distracted by that issue. Also up there were the studious and quiet Jen Chang and the mysterious Bruce “Rats” Laguna, a Chicago native who claimed that neither of his parents was magical. “Yeah,” he said, “I kept getting in trouble and I didn’t even know how. I’d get mad and the paper I was drawing on would burst into flame. The social worker said they were going to send me to a special school. Fortunately the social worker was actually a witch.”
Rats and Cloudius hit it off immediately, and it was Rats’s idea to sneak into the house basement. They barely managed to escape being caught, but they escaped—the faceless, but actually rather nice when not on duty, House Ghost just missed finding them twice. In the meantime, they found a neat cellar with three side rooms: one with fruit and drying herbs, one with wine and liquor bottles (and possibly other things in tiny bottles), and one full of books.
“What sort of books?” Angelica asked when they got back to Tom Hexane’s room.
“We couldn’t get in to see,” said Cloudius. “It was locked.”
“Can’t you pick a lock, Ratso?” asked Angelica.
“Sure,” said Rats, “if it’s not a magic spell. This had Magic Lock on it over the regular lock.”
“But—for books? Those must be some books.”
For a week, the new friends got to know each other and the school. They learned a lot of rules, and quickly forgot a lot of them; they would be reminded. They dabbled in their books. They chatted. They tried spells on each other. They gossiped about all the Lyceum secrets.
“The attic,” said Angelica on Friday afternoon, feeling as if she hadn’t had as much fun as others.
“Let’s go,” said Tom Hexane, who was feeling the same way. They jumped up, while the other three plus Rats looked up at them. Then they all looked at Eva, who sat up, got up, stretched, hopped down and went to the door. She looked back at them—in her shadowy form, only her greenish eyes gleamed—and then she went through the door. She peeked back in and mraowed.
So Ange and Tom followed her. She gave them one more questioning meow: I do not approve, but I am not going to let you go by yourselves, you’d be caught for sure. Then up the stairs—no one had their doors open on the third floor—and up the attic steps.
The first room they came to, walled off with nice solid wooden panels and two by fours, had a lock on the outside. It was open, though, and inside was a bed and a table and chair and a shelf with a few books: a Shakespeare, a Bible, an Avesta and some Raymond Chandler novels.
“What’s Avesta?” asked Angelica.
“Mazdaist Bible,” said Tom. “Zoroaster supposedly wrote it. It’s like three thousand years old.”
He picked it up and looked. “No,” he said, “it’s recent. Belle Wand Publishing, London, Paris, Berlin, 1867.”
“1867? Recent? It’s probably worth a fortune.”
Eva mraowed. They backed against the wall. The ghost flew by the door and dropped through the floor.
“Leave it,” said Ange. They stepped out into the main area, and presently came to a solid wall. “There’s got to be space behind this,” said Angelica. “This just yells Secret Door, doesn’t it?”
Tom looked at it and smiled. “I can hear it,” he said. “Secret door! Secret door! Right here.”
They felt around, and Ange, with her dagger, managed to trip the lock. They stepped inside and pulled the door nearly closed. The room they found themselves in was perhaps twelve feel square.
There was a telescope and a sextant, both set up in the middle of the room—which had no windows. There was also a table with a brass bowl on it which had what might possibly be dried blood in it, as if it had held a gallon or two which had been allowed to dry into thick cracked cake.
They were just taking all this in, and squinting at books on the shelf in here, when Eva made it clear that they needed to go. And go they did: Ange pulled the door all the way shut and it disappeared, and then she hurried to catch up with Tom on the steps. Door shut, around corner: here came Jen Chang out of her room.
“Hey, Jen,” said Angelica. “I was looking for your room. I wondered what classes you were going to take this fall.”
“Ash for math and defense,” said Chang, “she seems tough but I like her.”
“Me too,” said Angelica, as the ghost swept past, ignoring twelve-year-olds gabbing in the hall.
The first day of class was a Yellow Day (as opposed to Crimson). It was also a gorgeous day after a rainy hot weekend; now the kids in class at the Lyceum had to look out at the lovely sunny gardens. The Lyceum of the Lake Wind looked from the outside like an old closed-up elementary school surrounded by boarded-up houses. In here, it looked exactly like a school, except that the glossy posters were of wand positions and how to identify herbs.
Of course it was bigger on the inside than the outside, that beat-up playground was actually a football field with seating and concessions run by the house ghosts, and it had a two-level lunch room where students who had mastered flying could float up to the second level.
Everyone but Arnulf was in Ramona Sear’s Magic History lecture at 8 am. They got to see Cloudius not know what happened in 300 BC. While Angelica searched her own brain for the answer, Cloudius tried to get out of trouble by talking back to Mistress Sear. “Why would I need to know that?” he thought it a good idea to ask her.
“Pa kla kaln,” she said to him, and he was stricken dumb.
This had repercussions next period, in Defense, when he couldn’t answer Mistress Ash’s questions. Then he goofed around with Rats and he got in trouble, not Rats. On the other hand, Arnulf got asked to help Ash with the demo. “You really have a knack, Mr Shmoke,” she told him in front of the others. “Unlike Mr Cloud here, who is off on a cloud again.”
Things got no better in English. All five plus Jen Chang and Ahir Shaheen were in the class, along with a dozen from other houses; Susan White was the teacher, Ash’s best friend, a generally well liked professor. Cloud fell asleep in class.
Meanwhile Angelica impressed Master Temple in Alchemy, which made her feel good because he gave her the creeps; the Illusions prof, Ben Shag, who also gave her the creeps, used her as an example by fooling her repeatedly. “Now you try it,” he said to a second year boy, who made Angelica think he was a rhino.
“He had the whole class fooling me,” said Angelica that evening in Tom’s room. “This one’s a rhino. That one’s a dragon. Then one boy is a bunch of worms. One girl is a subway train. I have to do something or that class will drive me crazy.”
“It’s bad that he lets them pick on you,” said Pindar.
“No, it’s good. I have to practice.”
“Do you guys think there are terrible wizards out there and dangers and all that stuff?” asked Jen Chang.
“Yeah,” said Arnulf. “I’m pretty sure of it.”
The second day was a Crimson Day: yes, the Lyceum of the Lake Wind’s colors are crimson and yellow. For Daphne and Cloudius, the day started early but well. They both had metallurgy at 8 am with Andronicus Timms, an ancient and hard-skinned metal smith who informed them that the class would in future begin at 7:30 and not 8, “if we are to get anything accomplished.” They looked around: they were the only students. Down here in the cellar of the school, they were surrounded by shadows and piles of mysterious odds and ends.
Both of them knew they liked working with their hands, both already knew about safety, and both of them proved willing and able to hold up. Timms betrayed nothing, but time, in Metallurgy, flew by. Timms suddenly smiled to signal class was over. “See ya in two days,” he said. “I want effort like this every day.”
Arnulf had History of Magic with Pindar, and they turned out to be among the best students. Tom talked back to the young English professor Tracy Glohan, who was an animals expert; none of the other second floor kids were in that class, so they didn’t see him cut down to size with her Sarcastic Look. Daphne and Cloudius went from Metallurgy to Ash’s Math 1 class, where they both excelled. Angelica was in that class too, but she was completely underwater.
“Mistress Ash,” she said at the end of class, “I’m completely underwater. I need to take an easier math class.”
“I’m glad you didn’t wait for the water to get too deep,” said Ash. “After dinner, you and I will sit down and make sure you know how to swim.”
Then there was Temple’s Intro to Alchemy class, in which Daphne and Ahir sat with Tom in between. Daphne and Ahir kept looking at each other and rolling their eyes—old Temple knew a lot but seemed to delight in talking just over their heads. But Tom was keeping up and not talking back this time—if he had talked back, he might not have heard Temple, on the subject of wand applications, mutter that there must be one for identifying segments of the Eleven.
“The Eleven?” asked Angelica. “He didn’t say anything about that in my Intro Alch class yesterday.”
“I wish White would say anything interesting at all,” said Arnulf, who had Susan White, Ash’s best buddy, as his Intro Alch master. He was turning his new wand in his hand, and every so often having a glance at the base of it. They had all ended their day being given loaner wands.
“I didn’t tell you,” said Angelica, holding up her wand: it was fourteen inches, longer than any of the others, and pale yellow, almost white. “I now have a friend and an enemy.”
“How’s that?” asked Daphne, who was hoping to score a better one, even if she had to make it herself. Hers appeared to have been a randomly chosen stick, bark removed, polished.
“Jen Stinking Greenbelt,” said Ange, “she tried to foist the broken one off on me. It had a crack as big as the Chicago River in it. But Natalie, she’s in Professor Match’s house, she switched them around and Jen Stinkerbelt ended up with it and I got this nice one.”
“You like Natalie?” asked Cloud.
“I like mine okay,” said Tom, waving it: pine, not too long, nicely polished over a dark stripe that ran all the way down it.
“Natalie’s cool,” said Angelica. “Cooler than Jen, that’s for sure.”
“You’re not talking about Jen Norman, are you?” asked Daphne.
“Jen Greenbelt,” said Ange. “They’re both in Mistress White’s house. I know, right? There are too many Jens. Jen Norman calls herself Spiny.”
“Why?” asked Daphne. She set her wand down and pulled out her sword.
“It’s a Monty Python reference,” said Arnulf.
“The Shmoke Boy speaks,” said Ange. “How do you like your wand?”
“It’s fine,” said Arnulf. He was looking at the bottom end. It was a little circle. Carved into it, discolored against the light brown of the walnut wood, then polished over, were two letters. They weren’t in any secret script, any glyphs of power: they were straight, simple Roman letters carven in gentle curves and colored with brown grime polished over.
“J S,” said Tom, leaning over. Arnulf pulled the wand out of his view, then relented, and the two boys leaned together squinting at the letters.
“What’s it mean?” asked Cloudius.
“Former owner, I bet,” said Angelica. She smiled at Arnulf. “Maybe it was some great wizard. Well, it gives us something to do instead of homework!”
Another thing to do that wasn’t homework was football. Most of the forty first years tried out, both boys and girls. It seemed like first years might have a chance this year: last year’s team had been heavy with third years, and had also notably sucked. Coach Trena Whelp was evidently looking to make changes, and return to mediocrity at least.
Football among mages was different from football out in the wide world: for one thing, both boys and girls played. The reason that was possible was the other thing about mage football. Though the literal rules were the same, the abilities of the players were affected by their magical powers in very regulated ways.
Daphne, of course, was the sort of girl who might have gotten onto a junior high school team among non-mages, and Coach Whelp recruited her personally, coming to dinner at Ash House to say in front of all and sundry that she was going to be at least her backup quarterback.
“I can play too,” said Ange.
“Me too,” said Arn and Tom and several others.
“Well, try out,” said Whelp.
So they did. Jen “Spiny” Norman did too, and she was Daphne’s nemesis. She was trying out for defensive back and she intercepted pass after pass from Daphne and the other quarterbacks. Spiny was from Minnesota, from a “tribe” of Amazons that lived in hill country just across the border from the hill country where Daphne’s mom raised horses. Spiny was as tall as Daphne, but a little skinnier, with blond hair a shade browner. Their rivalry was of a specific sort, however: they were from opposite sides of the St Croix, but they were the only Amazons in their class. Spiny made starting cornerback. Daphne made backup QB, behind a third-year boy named Billy Swett, who was a mad scrambler with a powerful if not very accurate arm.
Arnulf, to everyone’s surprise, out-tackled and out-hustled the defensive recruits and even the previous starting safeties and snagged the starting job at free safety. Tom Hexane also made the team, as a kicker: the previous starter graduated and no one else was any good without using a spell of aiming, which could net a five yard penalty. (And no one else was any good at hiding their spells of aiming.)
Angelica surprised herself as well as everyone else. She tried out, of course, and it helped that she was feeling especially good that warm September Saturday. She couldn’t outrun everyone, but she could outrun Arnulf, and she caught all the passes thrown her way. Whelp didn’t even let her try out at kicker or defensive back.
And then the sun was shining in a broad blue sky in the late afternoon on that seemingly vast football field, Arnulf was far behind her, Spiny was covering someone far across the field, and the ball was twisting through limitless space, a perfect spiral from the left hand of the Amazon. Angelica ran and ran, as fast as she had ever run, as the ball peaked in the sun and drifted down into shadow. She stretched forth her hands, she wrested the ball from its parabolic path and pulled it to her, and there she was in the end zone, turning as she ran, not stopping, but looking back on the run to where Daphne, so far away she seemed a speck in the distance, was jumping up and down and hooting and hollering. Ange was still running when she got back to the coach, who, not cracking a smile, slapped her arm and said, “You’re number three receiver, you start Game One.”
Now as classes moved into their second week, the Second Floor of Ash House began to think about what to turn their other energies to. The answer turned out to be the school’s mysterious basement. Daphne and Cloudius got to see it when they went down there with Timms for metallurgy, but otherwise no one was allowed down there but profs. Naturally, hardly a student had passed the doors of the Lyceum of the Lake Winds who had not, eventually, snuck into the basement for a look around, but nearly every one had assumed that he or she was the first to make the attempt. Of the Ash House residents, the first to make the attempt were Arnulf and his new friend Pindar Webb; they had gotten no further than the top of the stairs before they were apprehended by Mistress White.
Most of the professors had, as well as an office upstairs, a work room off the basement, and what went on in those was a matter of conjecture. There were several sections of book shelves; there were the racks of loaner wands, from which the mysterious J S wand along with all the rest had come. And then there was the rubbish pile.
“It’s like twenty feet high,” said Cloudius.
“Maybe ten,” said Daphne. “But still, it’s huge.”
“I saw Temple down there, you know,” Cloudius added. “He had his wand out for light. He went behind the rubbish pile.”
“I told you,” said Daphne, “he probably has one of the work rooms down there.”
“Strange guy, don’t you think?” asked Angelica.
“That would be yes,” said Daphne.
“Someone overheard him arguing with Professor MacMorris,” said Angelica.
“I think he’s cool,” said Tom. “But yeah, I bet he has all kinds of secrets.”
“Just give me an hour with that rubbish pile,” said Cloudius. Angelica laughed and nodded.
“Sure,” said Arnulf, looking at J S. “That rubbish pile is why Pinhead and I have another month of kitchen duty after this month.”
“Keep it up,” said Daphne. “You guys are getting pretty good at gravy.”
“So what’s the plan?” asked Angelica.
“No plan,” said Arnulf. “I’m not going.”
The next Crimson day, at 2:40 pm, Tom held his wand aloft and made a lovely little bluish light. He was doing very well with Professor Match’s class on light. Beside him, wand out, walked Arnulf. They had ascertained that no professors were anywhere near, they had slipped through the door to the stairs down, and now they were hurrying quietly to the bottom to wait for the others.
They heard voices behind them as they came off the wooden stairs: Mistresses Ash and White, best friends, chatting in front of the stair door, audible as it opened and closed.
Someone was coming down behind them, after exchanging terse greetings with the ladies. It was Temple. “Holy crap,” muttered Arn, “I am not here.” He dragged Tom off to the right and behind the steps. But Temple didn’t seem to notice them: he turned the other way, the main cleared way in the cluttered basement, and vanished.
Behind him by a minute or two came Cloudius, and behind him came Angelica and Daphne. “Sorry we’re late,” said Angelica to Tom as he lurked with his little blue light behind the stairs. “White & Ash were going to stop us, but Spiny made the interception. They were still talking to her when we slipped out of the library the front way. But here we are. Uh, where’s Nulf?”
“Oh, hi, Nulf,” said Daphne. Arnulf was standing right between them. “Invisibility??”
“No, just sneaky,” said Arn, waving his wand toward a door on a clear space along the south wall. “Temple’s in his office over there. He’s talking to someone.”
“You listened at the door?” asked Angelica. It didn’t look safe to her.
“Eva’s on the lookout,” said Tom.
“Oh, I see,” said Ange. “Well, I see no problem then.”
“You want to go listen?” Arnulf asked.
“Yeah. Sure.” She looked at Daphne, who smiled and waved her on. She followed Arnulf across the dark open space to the door. A lamp glowed near the door, and cast the shadow of a large cat. Angelica watched the shadow cat: for a moment she could almost see Eva as a real cat in the room with her. She got the willies and overcame them.
Temple’s voice was coming through the door. He was literally arguing—making an attempt to persuade. The other man was not persuaded. They couldn’t hear the words, and they couldn’t hear the other man enough to identify him.
Presently they seemed to approach the door. Arnulf and Angelica bolted across to the rubbish pile, dove for shelter, and then waited about ninety seconds before the door opened. Only Temple came out, not smiling but hardly seeming perturbed. He used his wand to turn off the orange lamp and then to light his way to the stairs.
Once he was past, the five kids looked around at each other. Tom let his wand light glow just enough for them to see one another.
“I want to look at that pile,” said Cloudius.
“There’s another prof down here,” said Angelica. “Nix on the rubble pile. We’d get caught. And it’d be serious. Comprenez?”
“Let’s check the shelves,” said Daphne. As the others considered this suggestion, the upstairs door opened again and someone with a wand lit was coming down. “Now,” whispered the Amazon. “This place is like Union Station.”
So, Eva in the lead, they hurried into the nearby section of shelves. Most of these seemed packed with files. To escape from notice, they quietly filed themselves—all the way to the back, and then right toward the corner of the basement.
The wand-bearer went into a room. “It was Jambis,” said Cloudius. “The other metal smith. I hear she’s kooky.”
“Fortunately,” said Daphne, “the smiths are always hard of hearing. That’s why I always take the ear protection seriously, um, Cloudius.”
“Hey,” said Angelica, “look, a desk.”
In the corner, among the shelves, was a little office: a desk, some candles, a magic lamp, a can with pipe ashes in it along with a few stubbed-out cigars. They gathered around, but Tom Hexane was looking down at the floor. “Gao,” he muttered.
His wand lit up, then dimmed toward the ultraviolet. “Oh my gosh,” said Angelica. “The dust is glowing.”
Tom laughed. “I knew I could do it,” he said. “Glad I took Light, huh? Yeah. Those are recent footprints, but you can see they’re older than ours.”
“And that seems like the only footprints,” said Arnulf. “Those ones, and ours.”
“Well, let’s follow them,” said Daphne. Everyone shrugged. Daphne in front, they followed the prints up a side shelf. The prints turned aside at several points and then went on out into the open floor, where they disappeared.
“These are student records,” said Angelica. “Year 1932. Fifty years ago. I can’t tell if they looked at any file in particular.”
“Transcripts,” said Daphne. “Transport records. Papers. Oh, look, Melinda Malmquist got an A minus on this paper. ‘As everyone knows, the sleep spells are among the most useful spells anyone knows.’ I hope it gets better.”
“Look at this one,” said Tom. “It’s thinner than the ones around it.”
“Hey, you’re right,” said Daphne, taking the folder. “These all are an inch thick. This one’s only got about four sheets in it. Looks like someone grabbed everything and left these four sheets. They’re just scratch paper for schedules. They took all the transcripts, all the papers. From a folder from 1932.”
She flipped it shut. She squinted at the name in the blue light of Tom’s wand. In a flowing script, a woman had written, in red, Josephus Shmoke. She looked up at Arnulf. Ange and Cloud read it around her shoulder, and looked up at him in their turn.
“What,” he said.
“Josephus Shmoke,” said Angelica. “Ring any bells?”
“My grandpa,” said Arnulf.
“It’s his wand,” said Daphne.
“What?” said Angelica.
“Yup,” said Arnulf. “It’s his wand.”
They crept out into the blackness and had another go at listening at Temple’s door. At first Angelica thought she heard nothing, but then she wasn’t sure there wasn’t a sort of constant whispering in there.
“Yeah,” said Cloudius, “I heard it too.”
“Me too,” said Tom.
“Either he was telling someone a bunch of secrets,” said Daphne, “or he has an alarm system. Sometimes they sound like whispers.”
“And how would you know that?” asked Tom.
“My sister and I used to break into Grandma’s workshop.” She fixed Arnulf with a look. He was examining his wand again. “You’re quiet. What do you know about your grandfather?”
“Nothing but his name,” said Arnulf.
“Oh, please,” said Angelica. “You know more than that.”
“Nice day,” said Arnulf.
They spent the rest of Week Two catching up on their studies. Daphne, Arnulf, Ahir and Jen Chang started practicing magic combat every afternoon; Angelica got some practice herself, trading low-energy barbs in the back of Illusions class with Jen Greenbelt.
Even History of Magic was almost interesting: it seemed like half the historical figures they had once yawned over were mages, including Ramesses II, Julius Caesar, Cyrus the Persian, Confucius and several signers of the Declaration of Independence.
“But how did they not know Ben Franklin had magic?” asked Angelica that night.
“He was cool about it,” replied Daphne. “So was Hamilton. I guess that Aaron Burr thing was actually a spell battle.”
“Temple’s taking us to the Field Museum,” said Ange. “What do you think of that? We aren’t even going to have an assignment or anything. I think he just wants to recon the place for reasons of his own!”
Daphne looked at her. Angelica could tell Daphne really wanted to burst her balloon. The Amazon just raised her eyebrows. “As Arn says,” she replied, “nice day, isn’t it.”