3. On Thin Ice

A Course Of Action

With the Frost Faeries in the lead the group flies back to the library. Once inside both Gliss and Spike take deep breaths.

“Ahh, that’s better,” says Gliss. She stretches, standing up on tiptoe as she does, her wings wide.

“Yeah, it was starting to get too hot outside,” agrees Spike, fanning herself.

The Winx exchange glances. They hadn’t noticed any difference.

They are introduced to Fiona, who sniffs each girl and accepts rubs and scratches from them, all the while making a deep rumble between a purr and a growl.

“When this kitty sits around the house, she sits around the house,” comments Stella, gaining her sour looks from everybody.

Without warning an enormous rough tongue slaps the Sun Faerie in the front, lifting her off the floor and onto her back, covered in saliva.

She sits, up, liquid dripping off her. “Ewww!!!” she exclaims.

Everybody laughs, and while helping Stella to her feet, Musa comments “Serves you right for a joke like that. Better get up before you freeze to the floor.”

“You did that on purpose!” Stella accuses Fiona, who merely looks at her blandly.

“Catch up with us when you’re ready,” says Bloom, and everyone goes deeper into the library while Stella uses magic to clean up and change clothes.

The group finds the Keeper at his writing desk, and he takes them over to the table where Periwinkle is still checking books.

“Hi, everyone!” Peri greets the Winx as Gliss and Spike come around to her side of the table. “It’s really good to see you again!”

“Anything new?” asks Spike, looking at the pile of unchecked books on the table.

“Not yet,” is the reply, “I’m trying to find any books that were written by the same person as this one.” She points at the one Gliss found.

In the back Tecna brings out her palmtop and steps away from everyone. Taking readings she discovers the size of the library and that, while some parts are neat and orderly in arrangement, others are in a state of chaos.

“This is certainly no way to run a library!” she thinks, “No wonder they are having trouble finding anything relevant!”

Musa, having had some experience with a few of Pixie Hollow’s ancient texts during the Dragonfly War, is carefully looking through the book. When she gets to the smeared pages she holds a hand over it and sends a medium-frequency sound wave to it at a low power level, to see if the problem is caused by a substance on the pages she could vibrate off.

She tries as many different frequencies and strengths as she dares, but in the end has to admit defeat. Nothing is there to remove.

“Nice try, though,” Aisha comments.

“Keeper, how is the library organized?” asks Tecna, taking the short Sparrow Man aside.

“And here we go…” mutters Stella. She had rejoined the group a few minutes earlier and is wearing a different coat.

“Well, in theory by subject and date, but as you can plainly see I am far behind putting away newer books,” he replies, a bit embarrassed. Then to defend himself he adds, “It’s hard to keep up when it’s just me here.”

“Oh! Oh! Oh! I’ll help!” exclaims Gliss, bouncing.

“Me too!” adds Peri.

They look at Spike, who reluctantly says, “Not really my thing, but I’ll help once in a while.”

“Thank you, girls!” says Dewey, giving them a short bow. “Very much appreciated.”

“Where is the library catalogue?” asks the Faerie of Technology.

“Catalogue?” says Dewey. “Why would I need one? I have everything memorized.”

Tecna staggers over to a chair and sits down heavily. Dewey follows, concerned. “Are you all right, Miss?”

“I think you blew her circuits,” smirks Musa.

“Actually, sir, if you will allow me, I can have everything in this building sorted and arranged fairly quickly,” says Tecna.

“And just how are you going to do that?” asks the Keeper, glancing around meaningfully. “It is going to take years as it is.”

Spike has a look of horror briefly cross her features, while Peri and Gliss look determined.

“With these.” Tecna taps a key on her palmtop and a cover on the side opens. Three small devices are released, and they float up and gain size. They are spheres colored gold, with red sensor placements at regular intervals, and a flexible arm with a three-fingered hand on each side.

The Winter Faeries gape in astonishment.

“They will scan each book and assign it a unique label, designated a call number. Once that’s done they will reorganize the library by subject in a logical way and create a catalogue of the entire collection so anything can be found quickly by anyone,” she explains. “Room will be left to accommodate future additions.”

Dewey is grinning. “That would be a dream come true! Then I could concentrate on writing the books!” He adjusts his glasses. “How long will this take?”

“I would estimate five or six days,” is the answer.

“Then please do so with my thanks!” says Dewey with a bow. Behind him, Spike looks relieved.

Tecna inputs instructions to the robots. “I am adding a priority order to find any more works by that same author.”

A moment later all three beep and two move away. The third scans the book and heads toward the section it came from. The four locals watch as the machines disappear into the stacks.

“With that under way, we need to decide what to do,” says Bloom, sitting down at the table.

“I’m guessing you went to the vents?” asks Dewey, flittering over to her.

“Yes, sir,” answers Flora, “Unfortunately we didn’t find out much more than you already knew.”

“It would be helpful to know which vents are blocked,” adds Tecna, “It might give us a clue.”

“Oh! Oh! Oh! We can get some help and do that after dark,” volunteers Gliss.

“Thanks!” says Bloom with a nod, “Our first idea is to take an expedition down one of the blocked ones and see what’s going on.”

“But the shaft is very deep, and there is a real danger of whoever goes becoming exhausted before they get there,” objects Tecna. “And remember the shaft is smooth; nothing to hold on to and rest.”

“Oh, yeah, right…” says the Faerie of the Dragon’s Fire.

“Keeper, do you have any ideas?” asks Aisha.

“Perhaps Miss Tecna could send one of her metal balls?” he answered, looking at Tecna.

The Faerie shook her head. “It wouldn’t work. The droids are designed and programmed to work in a library, and wouldn’t understand the orders. And they are powered by light, so they would stop working fairly quickly.”

There are sighs of discouragement all around.

“Maybe you should talk to Sis,” says Peri. “She could figure out how to go down the shaft without getting tired.”

“Great idea, Peri!” exclaims Aisha, “I’ll do that as soon as we get back to the Tree.”

“So, is that the idea? Send an expedition down the shaft?” asked Spike.

“Well, we can’t do much about it from here, so yeah,” answers Musa.

“Well, if there’s nothing else, let’s go to the cottage,” says Stella, standing and stretching, “I could really use a nap after all this flying around. And I’m hungry.”

The idea of food is a welcome one, and the Winx decide they have done all they can for the moment. But just as they are taking their leave from the Winter Faeries, one of the droids flies over to Tecna carrying a small, thin book like the other one.

She hands it to Dewey who takes it to the table and everyone crowds around behind him, having no problem seeing over his shoulders. Opening the cover they all read:

Book Ye Seconde Of Ye Secrets Of Ye Wintren Lande

“This is it!” he exclaims, “Thank you so much, Mr., uh, Droid!”

The small machine beeps and heads back to the stacks.

Knowing they were in the way, the Winx sit back down, leaving the Winter Faeries to work.

The Keeper leafs through the pages slowly, converting the archaic language and alphabet in his head. When he gets to the last page he turns back to the first one.

“None of that made any sense!” he complains, “Did any of you girls understand?” He looks over his shoulder at them.

“I caught something about a cold place, but what was done to get there was just meaningless,” said Peri.

“That’s what I thought too,” adds Spike, and Gliss nods agreement.

For an hour they pour over the book, making an exact translation. But very little made any sense.

“We’re no better off than we were,” grumbles Stella, “And I’m even hungrier!”

“Girls, I really don’t want to go down one of those blocked shafts unless there is no other choice,” says Bloom, “There’s no telling what is at the bottom. So let’s talk about Flora’s idea of getting Icy to help.”

“Who’s Icy?” asks Gliss, “Is she an Ice Faerie in your realm?”

“A Witch we know,” answers Stella, “She specializes in ice spells. We’ve been enemies for years now.”

“A Witch?” says Spike, and the Frost Faeries and Keeper exchange a look.

“But that’s not all there is about her,” interjects Flora, “I happen to know she is knowledgeable about many languages and is an expert on arcane magic. She’s even had some papers published.”

“That makes sense, considering her past schemes,” says Musa. “Tec, what do you think?”

“Icy is a viable option as far as her capabilities go,” says the Technology Faerie after a moment, “It is the thought of what she might do if given free rein that troubles me.”

“Seconded,” Stella injects.

“Well, does anybody want to take a run down a shaft?” asks Bloom. There is an instant chorus of ‘no’ from all concerned. “Well then, let’s talk about Icy and see where it takes us.”

“As I see it, we have to weigh the risk of bringing her here against the risk of not doing so.” Tecna looks at each of her friends. “If current trends continue, the Winter Woods will heat up to a point which will kill the Faeries here and result in flooding throughout Never Land. That in turn will throw the seasons out of balance, causing chaos both here and on the Mainland. The ecosystem of the entire realm will likely break down beyond recovery.”

Seeing the looks of horror on the faces around her, she adds, “Eventually a new equilibrium will be reached, but that will take tens of thousands of years, and there is no way of knowing who or what would survive.”

“You’ve never been one for sugar-coating bad news, have you?” asks Aisha, shaking her head.

“Sugar-coating, as you call it, obfuscates the facts,” replies Tecna. “We must deal with things as they are, not as we wish them to be.”

Rather than argue and waste time, the Princess of Andros says, “You’re right, of course.”

“To continue,” says Tecna, “Based on what I know about her, I estimate a seventy-three point eight percent chance she can fix the problem.”

“Tec’s certainly made the case for bringing her here,” says Musa. “None of us like it, but we still outnumber her.”

“So the shaft is Plan B then,” says Bloom.

“It should be,” says Tecna, “Even if we went, there is no guarantee we could do anything to fix the problem. I would say twenty-eight percent.”

“Just like there’s no guarantee Icy would hold up her end of the bargain,” says Musa.

“Now, that’s not true!” objects Flora, “Witches have their own sense of honor! Look at Ms. Griffin, or Mirta. Or even her friend Lucy!”

“You’re right, Flora, the Trix aren’t representative of all Witches. We should remember that,” says Bloom.

“If that’s settled, let’s go eat before I dry up to dust and blow away,” complains Stella.

“So you’re going to bring a Witch here to solve the problem? Is that wise?” asks the Keeper.

“Of the two options, it is the better,” says Tecna, “Do not worry, we have handled her before, and we can do so again.”

A few minutes later the Winx take their leave of the library and head for the Pixie Dust Tree. Stella is the last one out the door, and she pauses to stick her tongue out at a sleeping Fiona.

After lunch the Winx ask for an audience with Queen Clarion, which is granted immediately. At their request Miss Faragonda is contacted for her advice. The Winx explain the plan carefully to the queen, who listens closely.

“Faragonda, what are your thoughts about this plan?” asks Clarion.

“Icy is a very powerful Witch, and I too have misgivings about taking her there,” says the headmistress, “I would very much prefer she stay where she is. But considering the situation and her knowledge and abilities, I have to agree she is the best option.”

Clarion turns away, thinking. When she turns back, it is clear she has made up her mind. “Bring her here, if she will agree to help. The consequences will be terrible if something is not done.”

After a moment of silence, Bloom says, “I guess I’d better get ready to go.”

“Bad idea, Bloom,” objects Musa, “She hates you beyond all reason.”

“Yes, but…”

“Musa’s right, Bloom,’ says Tecna, “She would probably refuse to help just to hurt you in any petty way she can.”

“I think Aisha should go,” says Flora, “She and Icy have had little contact, so there’s a better chance of an agreement.”

The other Winx and Faragonda agree with Flora, and Bloom gives way graciously.

“Princess Aisha, I will issue a proclamation naming you Ambassador for Pixie Hollow and granting you the authority to make decisions and agreements on our behalf,” says Clarion. “It will be ready by tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Majesty,” says Aisha, bowing, “That will likely make things much easier.”

“I will contact Light Rock and inform them of the situation,” says Faragonda. “Girls, I’m sorry your vacation has been put on hold, but I’m also very proud of you for helping.”

“Of course, Headmistress, it’s what we do!” exclaims Stella, to the consternation of the other Winx.

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