3. On Thin Ice

Making Progress

Even though Flora returns to the Winter Woods library two days earlier than planned she feels refreshed and eager to discover what real abilities she has in Ancient Linphean. She goes directly to the last paragraph that she and Ishandra disputed before Aisha ordered them to go on leave and finds that she has new insights into its meaning but is annoyed when she realizes that Ishandra had been right. But over all, she feels encouraged to start fresh translations of Queen Rhianna’s books into Modern Linphean.

Flora is about to start working when she finds that all the blank leaves and writing instruments are gone. Then it strikes her that the three Frost Faeries are also nowhere to be found. She finally locates the Keeper in one of the stack areas.

“I put everything away,” Dewey tells her. “There are plenty of annoying little critters about that have a huge appetite for fresh leaves. Fiona keeps them under control but we still cannot leave things lying about. We also use a little harmless but horrid smelling and tasting additive in our writing inks that discourages them from munching on written leaves and books.

“I should have known,” replies Flora. “We do something similar on Linphea to keep critters and insects out of food storage bins and the like.”

“Spike, Gliss and Periwinkle are off for a few days attending to their other duties,” continues Dewey, while pulling open a heavy wooden drawer and handing Flora a ream of blank leaves. “Because the heat is keeping folks indoors most of the time, Minister Snowflake says that more have to be out when it’s cold enough to forage for food,” then opens another drawer and hands Flora a couple of Tinker Bell’s writing reeds.

Armed with leaves and pens, Flora goes back to her writing desk and, after a few false starts, finds that she is getting more and more into the flow of reading, interpreting and translating Ancient Linphean. By the end of the second day, she has finished translating the first of Queen Rhianna’s books. On the third day, while waiting for Ishandra to show up, she reviews her translation and makes spot corrections here and there. That afternoon, a Messenger Talent arrives with a message from Ishandra that she will be gone for another week. Flora feels she’s caught a break and immediately starts to work translating Queen Rhianna’s second book. She reviews her work and, satisfied that all is in order, she writes a Modern Linphean and Alfean summary of the two books and with Dewey’s help transcribes the invisible message discovered by Darcy into the script normally used for the Linphean Priestess Language.

Ishandra arrives at the end of that week all smiles and bright eyes. She tells Flora of the marvelous time she had with Lord Milori and how she is especially pleased with herself for healing Milori’s torn wing with Ice Witch magic. She spent most of those last days with him getting him back on his wings. Flora asks about the new earring and Ishandra tells her it is a gift from him but still to Flora’s mind Ishandra is looking like a cat with a secret.

Flora decides that, while Ishandra is in a good mood, she would present her with her new translations of Queen Rhianna’s books. Ishandra takes her translations and the originals and compares the two line by line, paragraph by paragraph and page by page.

“Excellent work, Flora!” smiles Ishandra.

“You’re not going to argue with me about anything?” asks Flora surprised but relieved.

“No,” says Ishandra with a double wink. “You see, I learned your secret to acquiring Ancient Linphean. Before I came here, I paid a surprise visit to Darcy and caught her speaking in Witchspeak with the one called Iridessa. Iridessa was more than willing to spill the beans on how she acquired Witchspeak and how Leffi was aware of it. When I grilled Leffi on the subject, she told me how you planned to go to the Chamber of Voices to acquire Ancient Linphean so last night I did the same thing and presto this morning I found that I have the language too.” She pauses to let Flora absorb this then continues in Ancient Linphean, “I think your ancient language is beautiful. When you go back to Linphea you should encourage that it be reinstated as a living language,” then Flora blushes deep crimson and smiles.

On a whim, Ishandra takes the Old Hollowese translations and begins to compare it with Queen Rhianna’s originals.

“By the Yellow Pixie Dust!” exclaims Ishandra, more than a little angered. “Whoever did these translations had scrambled eggs for brains. We would never have figured this out without Rhianna’s originals. But this leaves many unanswered questions like why is the Old Hollowese version so bad and why is the invisible message on the back written in the language of the Linphean priestesses?”

“I might shed some light on that,” says Dewey, joining the conversation while holding an old tome in his hand. “I was inspired to do a little digging around and thanks to Duchess Tecna’s catalog I found this. It seems that Queen Rhianna was not alone when she arrived in Pixie Hollow nor was she a Queen Talent then. According to this, when she and her companion arrived in Pixie Hollow, they took refuge in the Pixie Dust tree. When they emerged, Rhianna was a Queen Talent and her companion, known to us only by her Faerie name which is Ombra, emerged as an Unlight Talent.”

At this point both Flora and Ishandra are reeling. Ishandra takes the tome from the Keeper and starts comparing it with the text of the Old Hollowese she and Flora had been working on.

“Yes,” says Ishandra, “the handwriting matches and so does the horrible grammar and style. These translations are Ombra’s.”

“I can see how this went down,” picks up Flora. “Queen Rhianna ordered Ombra to do the translations and then, as Ishandra found out, she ordered Ombra to smear those last pages. It was Ombra who wrote the invisible message on the back of the book that Darcy found. It may have been she who buried Queen Rhianna’s books in the shaft where we found them. I think she may have died while putting them there. She was able to withstand the radiation long enough to get down there and place the books into the vault but not strong enough to fly back up. We’ll most likely find her body at the bottom of that shaft.”

“But why write the hidden message in the Priestess Language?” asks Ishandra.

“It is because Ombra knew that someone would be able to read it even millennia into the future,” explains Flora, “because the Priestesses make sure that the language remains pure. We update the lexicon as needed but we adhere religiously to the same grammar and style. That is why on Linphea we have access to works written millennia into our past.”

“Well,” says Ishandra, “that sounds like Leffi’s brand of warped logic but it worked. I take back that bit about having scrambled brains.”

When the Frost Faeries arrive at the Winter Woods library, Gliss happily runs up to Ishandra to hug her and welcome her back. She looks into Ishandra’s face and immediately sees the new earring. With a delighted squeal, she calls to the other two Frost Faeries while pointing to Ishandra’s new earring. In the next breath, Ishandra is surrounded by the three Frost Faeries who are smiling, clapping and singing in delight as they fly in a circle about her.

“Congratulations, Mistress,” says Gliss bight-eyed. “When is the wedding to be?”

“Wedding?” gasps Flora, her jaw dropping.

“I don’t know,” replies Ishandra, smiling back at the Frost Faeries, “Lord Milori and I have many things to settle first before we can even think about our wedding. But I want you to keep quiet about this until I’m finished with that. Keeper, Flora, can I rely on you to keep this a secret for the time being?”

“Yes, My Lady,” replies Dewey, grinning from ear to ear.

“Yes,” says Flora – too shocked to say anything else.

By the end of the week, a meeting is called involving the Winx, the Tinx, the Trix, the Keeper, the three Frost Faeries, Lord Milori and Minister Snowflake.

“I pray that it is good news you have for us,” says Lord Milori, looking seriously at Ishandra and Flora.

“Flora and I have finished translating Queen Rhianna’s books and have what we believe is a breakthrough,” replies Ishandra.

“Go on,” encourages Lord Milori as excitement breaks out all around.

“I would say this is Flora’s show,” says Ishandra, gesturing to the Nature Faerie to continue.

“We know that it is a special but very dangerous substance that keeps the shafts running,” begins Flora, forcing herself to keep her explanation as close to the common language and understanding as possible. “But, like any other fuel source, it has run dry.”

“Radioactive?” asks Tecna and Flora nods.

“Radioactive?” frowns Lord Milori.

“A deadly form of un-light,” explains Darcy then everyone shivers.

“But to save the Winter Woods we need to find more of this fuel to replace the fuel in the shafts that is spent,” says Lord Milori.

“Exactly,” confirms Flora.

“And there is a problem with that?” asks Snowflake.

“I have a general description of what to look for and where to look but the description is vague at best,” continues Flora. “We know that we are looking for palm-sized nodules of a dirty-white substance but the only reference to where it can be found is where there was an ancient dried-up seabed.”

Minister Snowflake looks questioningly at Dewey and Vidia.

“I’m not aware of such a place,” says Dewey, looking frustrated.

“I don’t recall seeing any such area on the maps I have studied or copied,” says Vidia, shaking her head dismayed. “The Cartography Room had fallen into serious neglect since before I took it over and many of the maps from anywhere near that time that could have helped have moldered into piles of dust.”

“I could send to Zenith…,” begins Tecna but is quickly shushed by Aisha and Bloom.

“Too advanced for them,” whispers Aisha into Tecna’s ear then it is Tecna’s turn to look frustrated.

“Well, it would have been the logical thing to do,” Tecna whispers but then is quiet.

“If it is something that dangerous, maybe it is to be found in the Forbidden Hills,” says Fawn then the other Tinx cringe. There is a place in the Summer Meadows where we forbid animals to go or dig in the ground there,” begins Fawn. “Those animals who do soon die from the Rotting Skin disease.”

“Yes!” exclaims Tecna so suddenly that Fawn jumps. “There’s where you will find your fuel.”

“You mean the place really exists?!” gasps Spike, her eyes wide. “I thought it was only an imaginary place where they threaten to send people who are bad.”

“It’s only too real, I fear,” says Vidia, getting up to lead everyone to where the Library maps are kept. “But I can show you the location of the Forbidden Hills on the maps I copied from here. Come along.”

“The Forbidden Hills are here,” says Vidia pointing to an area in Spring Valley near the border of the Winter Woods once all were gathered around.

“Fine,” says Tinker Bell, frowning, “but how we get at the fuel if it really is there? I couldn’t even begin to build anything that would be quick and safe enough to get us there and back.”

“Ahem!” breaks in Darcy. “Un-light Talent here. Natural radiation and blast shielding,” then unfurls her wings to demonstrate.

“I know what you’re going to ask next,” says Ishandra to her dark-eyed sister, “but let’s cross those bridges when we get to them.”

“Agreed,” says Aisha.

“Good work,” praises Lord Milori. “Ishandra, are you coming back with me?”

“Tweet, tweet, tweet!” snarks Darcy to Leffi while circling her index finger about her temple.

“Yes,” says Minister Snowflake, preparing to take her leave. “It’s been a long day for all of us. Time to retire.”

Tecna manages to get Flora and Ishandra together before they depart. “I understand that you have made new translations of Queen Rhianna’s books,” she begins. “What do you intend to do with the originals once you are done.”

“The safest thing would be to put them back in the vault where we found them,” replies Ishandra.

“And what about the translations?” inquires Tecna.

“They’ll be kept here as part of the Winter Woods Library collection,” replies Flora. “Ishandra and I are going to ask the Keeper’s help in making Modern Hollowese translations.”

“This is going to be a challenge,” adds Ishandra, “because Hollowese lacks a technical register. We’ll need to coin a whole host of new words to fulfil that need. And until Pixie Hollow gets technically up to speed, not even these new words will make much sense to them.”

“Got that right!” says Darcy who with Leffi has joined the conversation. “I tried to explain the concept of light refraction to Iridessa in Hollowese and there was just no way I could do it. We ended up fighting and it wasn’t until she acquired Witchspeak from the Chamber of Voices that she had any inkling about what I was trying to tell her.”

“Then I think that any attempt to make a new Hollowese translation will just be a waste of time and effort. It seems that this Ombra already attempted that and ran smack into the same problem,” says Leffi. “What I would do is leave copies of Rhianna’s originals in Ancient Linphean here in the Library but add an annotation in Hollowese that whoever wants to understand them has to go to the Chamber of Voices to acquire Ancient Linphean.”

“Out of the mouth of a child!” thinks Flora.

Tecna frowns and looks pensive. “You know,” she says, “we have an expression on Zenith that she who laughs last made a backup. I think we should do the same with all this information.”

“You obviously have a plan,” says Ishandra. “What is it?”

“Once everything has been completed, I would like all this documentation to be gathered together and organized,” Tecna starts to explain. “Once that is done, I’ll make digital copies of everything and send the digital file to Zenith to be stored in the Great Database. From the digital file we can replicate everything as etched alfeanium leaf books that will withstand any test of time. Then we’ll put one of these alfeanium copies here and distribute others to the Alphea College and Cloud Tower libraries, the Linphean Priestesses and elsewhere. That way, when the information is required once more, there should be at least one surviving copy.”

“A wise precaution,” agrees everyone.

“I also have an idea for a warning device to alert future Pixie Hollowers that the fuel in the shafts is beginning to run out but give the warning early enough that there will be none of this current wild scramble,” says Tecna. “For that, I’ll need a slightly smaller nodule of this fuel than what you intend to use to replace the ones in the shafts.”

“I’ll see to it,” says Darcy, yawning. “I’m beat. Hopping into bed sounds like the best plan now.”

“Agreed,” seconds Flora. “We can hammer out the details tomorrow.”

“Sounds like a plan,” says Ishandra, smiling as she sees Lord Milori coming to take her to his place. “’Night everyone.”

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