3. On Thin Ice

By Ælfstangard

Fantasy / Adventure

In Pursuit Of The Past

Periwinkle, accompanied by her friends Spike and Gliss, fly toward the great frozen library. Dewey the Keeper had asked for Peri’s help with the research ordered by Lord Milori, and she has recruited her best friends, knowing how vast the library is.

“So what’s this I heard about Princess Aisha and the Winx coming back?” asks Spike as she flies alongside Peri on her left side. Gliss is keeping pace on her right.

“Really?!” squeals Gliss. “I didn’t know about that! When are they coming? How long are they going to stay? What are they going to do?”

Peri, amused by her excitable friend, waits until she calms down to answer. “They should be here any time, I don’t know, and they are taking down time from their…, learning place. Can’t remember what the word is.”

“I hope they’ll visit us!” Gliss adds. She is flying loops around the others in her joy.

“I’m sure they will,” answers Peri, “Now come on, the Keeper’s waiting for us.”

They soon land before the great doors of ice and slip inside. They find the Keeper’s friend, the lynx Fiona, asleep near the front door, so they move quietly past her. The big cat’s whiskers and ears twitch, but she doesn’t wake.

It was mid-morning so the hall was lit with a pale blue light from no particular place. Flying around stacks of frozen books they hoped to find Dewey at his writing desk, but he wasn’t there.

“Guess we have to wait,” says Peri, “He should be here soon.”

Spike and Gliss were rare visitors here, and found the sheer size of the place overwhelming. That the books were stacked haphazardly around in columns taller than they were did not inspire confidence they would find what they were looking for.

Gliss flies up near the ceiling so she can get a better look at the overall layout. She is turning in place seeing books everywhere, but none of it gave any clue to how it was organized, if indeed it was.

“So, we’re looking for books that will tell us if there was any melting in the past?” Spike asks, wiping away the frost and reading titles on one of the more balanced-looking stacks.

“Well, that’s part of it,” answers Peri, sitting at Dewey’s writing desk and idly paging through the book he was working on.

“That’s right, Peri,” comes the voice of the Keeper as he flies down to the desk. He had apparently been somewhere in the back.

Periwinkle turns red and quickly gets up, and Dewey pretends not to notice. Gliss lands beside Spike as they move together facing him.

“Hello, girls!” says Dewey, “Thank you for helping us!”

“Glad to,” answers Spike, “We don’t need anything like the other seasons trying to take over the Winter Woods.”

“Oh! Oh! Oh! This is sooo exciting!” exclaims Gliss, bouncing a bit. “We’re gonna be the ones to solve the problem! We’ll be heroes!”

“Let’s find what we need to know, first,” answers Spike, putting a hand on Gliss’s shoulder to calm her down.

“You know, Spike, you might be on to something!” says Peri. “We saw the Woods expand when the seasons were out of balance that time, could it be the reverse this time?” She looks at the Keeper for his opinion.

Dewey considers the question. “Could be…,” he says, slowly. “But we aren’t seeing the melty-melty at the borders. It’s high in the mountains, and a lot slower.” Seeing Peri’s disappointment at not solving the problem right off the bat, he adds. “But that was a good guess. Let’s get started. Follow me.”

The four Winter Faeries take off toward one side of the library. They follow the Keeper as he passes bookshelf after bookshelf set in seemingly endless rows.

“I thought we would start at the beginning, when Pixie Hollow was young and the demesnes of the Four Seasons first came into being,” he explains. Suddenly he stops. “Ah, here we are! I’m hoping we’ll find what we want here.”

They had traveled all the way to the back wall, and the bookshelves before them had both books and scrolls and random loose pages stacked together. It stretched off into the distance and was lost where the light grew dim.

Gliss and Spike look at each other and gulp.

“This…, is going to take some time,” Spike comments.

“Maybe not as much as you think,” Dewey answers. “This end is where the oldest records about the Winter Woods are kept, and they go into later times that way.” He points into the distance.

“We’ll do our best, sir!” exclaims Gliss, ever the optimist.

“That’s all I can ask,” Dewey nods. “If you three will pick a shelf and look for anything about making cold and ice and snow and whatnot, I’ll check these loose sheets and scrolls. Please be careful; these records are very old and brittle.”

Peri flies to the top shelf, while Gliss takes the second and Spike the third. That left three more shelves below to check.

Spike uses her talent to carefully remove the frost so she could see the spines. Then she runs into a problem. “I can’t read this!” she says, squinting.

“Well, the alphabet is archaic, but not really that different from what we use today,” Dewey says, looking over at her. “You should be able to work out the titles.”

“No, I mean I can’t read it! It’s too dark! I can see the letters, but can’t make them out!” she clarifies. “I’ll get eyestrain at this rate!”

“I can’t see them at all,” says Gliss, and Peri adds “Me either.”

“Oh, silly me, I forgot,” says Dewey. He reaches into a pocket and pulls out four yellow light crystals and tosses one to each girl. “These should help.”

“Wow, these are the biggest ones I’ve ever seen!” exclaims Gliss, holding the brightly glowing five-sided crystal and inspecting it closely.

“I had them made special for me by the Light Faeries years ago,” explains the Keeper, “I had to go find them in the back.”

Now armed with a light source, the Winter Faeries turn to their task.

It was a day later, and they had found a number of tomes whose subjects were in the range of what they were looking for. It was a bit of a task, trying to understand the old words, but so far they hadn’t found anything they couldn’t handle.

“Anything?” Spike asks Peri. They are sitting at a table that has been cleared of other books and going over the ones they found promising. Dewey is away, attending to his other duties.

“Not so far. I did find one journal filled with dates and temperature readings, but it didn’t help,” she replies. She is turning pages of the book in front of her while propping her head on her hand.

“All this material…, there’s got to be something here!” mutters the black-haired Faerie.

“You’d think, wouldn’t you?” agrees Peri. “Where did Gliss go?”

“Back into the stacks,” Spike answers. She looks around to make sure their friend wasn’t nearby. “You know, I’ve been a little surprised. Normally I’d expect her to be bouncing off the ceiling, but she’s been quiet, focused, and thorough.”

“I noticed that too! Maybe she’s found a hobby,’ answers Peri.

Several minutes later Gliss returns carrying five books. Putting them on the table she immediately opens one and began working on understanding the words before her.

Peri and Spike give each other a significant glance, then return attention to their own books.

An hour or so later Gliss pushes the fourth book aside and looks at the last one. It is thin and unmarked on the plain brown cover. Opening it carefully reveals the title:

Secrets Of Ye Lande Of Wynter

She turns the page, cringing a bit when it split just a hair, and stops, staring.

“Guys, I think I’ve found something,” she announces, not looking away from the book.

Her friends immediately come over and look over her shoulders. “Whatcha got?”

She points at a drawing of a spire of dark blue rock as seen from the side. Beside it was the same formation from the top, revealing a round hole. Below them was the side view again, but this time wavy lines were emanating from it. The outline of a faerie was drawn to the side for scale.

“So…, what is this?” asks Spike, not seeing anything of importance leap out at her.

“Read the caption,” answers Peri, pointing. “Ye Cold To Keepe Ye Wynter Landes Comes From Here.”

“The cold comes from underground and spreads from one place? That seems unlikely,” says Spike. “Look how small the opening is.”

Gliss turns the page and begins working out the neat handwriting.

“No…, Peri, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this says there are fifty shafts like this all over the Woods, and they bring the cold from another place.” Gliss points at a paragraph.

Peri nods. “That’s what it says. But I have never seen any holes like that, and I’ve been all over the Winter Woods.”

“Me either,” agrees Spike, crossing her arms.

“Well, let’s keep reading. Maybe it explains…,” says Gliss, and they return their attention to the book.

When Dewey finds them they are having a somewhat heated discussion. The last couple of pages were smeared in places, and they couldn’t agree on what was written there.

“Now, now, girls, what seems to be the problem?” he asks as he lands beside them.

“Keeper! We’ve found it!” said Gliss, picking up some leaves. “We made a translation! Here! Read it!” She thrust them into his face.

Taking them he adjusts his glasses and reads. It only took a minute, since he could read quickly. He looks up when done. “This is it, alright! Wonderful! But you didn’t finish the copy?

They show him the smearing, and he studies the pages with a worried expression. “This might be a problem, and it might not. Does it say where these shafts are?”

“No,” answers Peri, shaking her head. “But the last page clearly mentions a map.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere!” exclaims Dewey. “Let’s go find the map!” He leads the way to a semicircular area where the shelves were filled with both flat and rolled-maps, and some tables sat in the middle.

“Wow…, what are all these maps of?” asks Gliss, eyes wide.

“Well, I never spent much time here, but some are of Never Land, some are the islands around, some are of Pixie Hollow or parts of it, and some are even of the Mainland. I imagine most are out of date now.” He gestures at the shelves. “They should be divided by subject, but you’ll probably find others mixed in.”

Peri, Gliss, and Dewey fly over to the shelves to start looking, but Spike spots a side table with a number of maps carelessly discarded on top. Landing beside it, she picks up the maps and goes through them.

They all seemed to be of an area on the south shore of Never Land, where she had heard pirates had started a settlement. In any case, none were helpful.

She starts to return the maps to where they were when she notices that the top of this table is different. It isn’t wood or polished stone like the others, but ice. It is inset in a wooden frame.

Putting the maps on another table she uses her talent to sweep the top of frost. Holding her light crystal over it, she sees that imbedded in the ice is a map. A map of the Winter Woods!

“Hey, everyone, look at this!” she calls.

“Good find, Spike!” said Peri, looking over her shoulder, “If this isn’t it, I’ll be surprised!”

“Definitely the Winter Woods,” says Dewey, looking closely. “And very accurately drawn, too. As far as I can tell, every mountain is shown.”

“But I don’t see anything about those shafts,” complains Gliss.

“No, we’re obviously missing something,” answers Dewey. “Give me your notes, maybe I can tell something.”

As the Keeper and her friends go over the notes and compare them with the book, Periwinkle looks over the table. It is very solidly built, and no way of getting the map out can be found.

Stepping back she notices another odd feature (besides the top being made of ice). There is a shelf below the top, but it isn’t low so things could be stored on it. Instead it is just a few inches below the top.

Intrigued she kneels and looks closely. The shelf is bare, but where is that light coming from? Looking at the underside of the tabletop, she sees it is ice as well. The light is from the crystals the others are holding, shining through the ice. She could see the map, and…, that was the secret! She had it!

“Everyone, give me your light crystals!” she says, excited.

“Find something?” asks Spike, looking over.

“Yes, I think so! Quick, give them to me!” She takes them and lays them evenly spaced on the shelf. As she does, the others give exclamations of surprise. Lit from underneath, the map now shows clearly the positions of all the shafts.

“How is it doing that?” asks Gliss, puzzled.

“There’s the edge of another map underneath, see?” Peri points at a corner where a second sheet could be seen. “But you can only see what’s on it when it’s lit from below.”

“How clever!” says Dewey. “Peri, this is an extraordinary find! How did you figure it out?”

Embarrassed, the white-haired Frost Faerie shrugs. “My sister’s a tinker. Maybe it’s rubbing off on me.”

“What do we do now?” asks Spike.

The Keeper looks at the table thoughtfully. “I think the map should be left where it is. We need to call the Queen’s Cartographer and get her to come and make a copy. Congratulations, everyone! We’ve made a major step forward!”

“Well, Gliss, maybe you’ll still get to be a hero,” says Spike, and while Gliss turns red, everyone else laughs.

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