Once Upon A Book

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Chapter 02 | Ancient Runes and a Book

“Are we actually searching for something here?” asked Catherine with a frown.

Jeremy the cricket, still sitting on her shoulder, turned to her. “What makes you think so?”

She turned her narrowed gaze at him. “Because you knew that we had to come to this exact spot – whatever this is.” She looked around her. “A vast chamber that might’ve been used as a… study?” There were several built-in shelves in the walls that led her to believe this. They were now in the unused, locked section of the house.

“Well, let’s search these shelves.” The cricket hopped off her shoulder and towards the top of the nearest shelf. “Let’s begin!”

He had meant it when he said they didn’t keys to enter the locked doors with him around. Jeremy went right to the other side through the built-in keyholes, unlocked them for her to walk in without a hassle. When asked how he did it, since the locks and bolts were surely rusted, he simply shrugged and said, “Magic”.

This is so suspicious,’ she thought now, standing in the entrance to the third room that the cricket unlocked. ’Wait… this thing is a descendent of the original Jiminy Cricket – a family of species that hide out in the deepest, most inaccessible part of the forest outside the town. Now that I think about it, I did ask Lena where she got him from and she… never answered my question. And now, he’s evasive, too. Did she somehow find out their hiding place? And if so, how come he’s being so friendly? I didn’t think –

“Are you helping me or not?” Catherine’s thoughts were interrupted by the cricket in question.

She looked up at where he stood to her right, a tiny paw on the enormous shelf below him, staring at her like she just sleep-walked. She shook off her daze and went towards him. Suddenly, she felt a curious buzzing in her ear that became louder as she neared.

“What’s that noise?” she asked him. “Do you hear it, too?”

Jeremy blinked at her and tilted his head. “I… don’t think so. Why? How does it sound like?”

“Some sort of… buzzing, I think. Wait, it stopped.”

“Okay then. Hurry up and open this cupboard for me!”

Catherine didn’t really want to do it, but for some reason, she felt as if she absolutely had to. Like her subconscious was trying to search for something. She opened the cupboard and saw that it was empty, except for a few cobwebs and maybe a bunch of other insects nested in it.

“Nothing unusual,” she told him. “You don’t see anything either, do you?” The cricket was hanging to peer into the cupboard.

He straightened up and shook his head, forelegs crossed across its chest. “None. Next!”

She frowned in annoyance. “You sure do order about a lot!” she mumbled, but proceeded to the next shelf and opened it. “Nothing in here, either.” She paused, gazing for a second into space. “But, here comes the buzzing again – ugh! It’s so loud!” She hunched forward instinctively and clutched her ears with her hands, as if trying to keep out from hearing something annoying.

Jeremy looked on thoughtfully as he hopped over to where she stood. “You say a buzzing noise, huh?”

“Ugh, it’s getting so loud!” she exclaimed. She obviously didn’t hear what the cricket said. Her face had scrunched up, too, eyes closed tight.

He frowned in thought. “Um, a buzzing sound, getting louder and louder… Aha!” He hopping onto her shoulder once more and began to sing a lullaby.

For a whole minute, nothing changed, but as the cricket sang on – and let me pause here and tell you that it was absolutely fantastic to listen to: any baby would fall right asleep listening to it or quiet down, whichever the singer wants – she calmed down, gradually. Even when she stopped yelling and her hands fell to her sides, he didn’t stop until the song was over. For, there were rules when it came to magical spells and songs imbued with them.

When the song ended, silence fell across the room.

It was broken a few seconds later by Catherine’s whisper: “Thank you.” She seemed to have understood that the cricket did something to help her.

Jeremy looked up at her with a small smile. “You’re welcome. But, I think know why you’ve been hearing it.”

“Actually… I still do – it’s just more tolerable now. But, do go on.”

“It’s probably because of a certain something I want to find. You’re right, I came here specifically for something. Until I entered this room, my directions had mostly been on instinct and general reading of magic, but the after that… Well, I suppose it must be left to you to find this thing.”

“Well then, what do you know about it?”

He shrugged. “Just that it’s magical. And I know that somehow, you’re linked to it.”

“Is that the buzzing noise? Like, how in the TV, in magical shows, they show the light of some jewel glowing stronger as it nears something it’s been attracted to? Is the noise like that, too?”

“Yes, that’s what I suspect. Especially since only you can hear it.”

She blinked at this, stunned. “Only me?!”

He nodded. “Only you. Not sure how you’re linked, though. Well, we’ll just have to see.” He cleared his throat and bloated out his chest importantly. “Now, heed my words, young Catherine, though it might be difficult for you to do.”

Her head hung in remorse. “Let me guess: you want me to go in search of that buzzing?”

“Wow, yes, exactly! How did you know!?” Jeremy looked genuinely excited. “Wow, you can read my mind!”

“Well, it’s pretty much written all over your face,” she muttered before letting out a sigh. “All right, fine, I’ll do it. But, just this once. In fact, I’m never coming to this creepy place ever again! – no wonder it was completely closed off from the rest of the house!”

Despite her words, Catherine took a deep breath and let it out. She rubbed her hands together like she usually did when doing something she didn’t want to but had to.

This is probably the most exciting thing I’ll ever be doing in my life,’ she thought. ’And that, too, on my most important birthday—the day I turn sixteen! Better to just get it over with and now!

She concentrated on the buzzing in her head. She could feel the calming sensation of the song fading away slowly and she decided she had to find the object before it completely wore off. She walked slowly to the other side of the room and a cupboard in the middle. The cricket watched these proceedings carefully. She held the handles of the cupboard and blew them open.

They were both sure, absolutely sure, that the object they sought would be in there. After all, she was almost deaf with the buzzing now and he could feel intense magical energy.

It turned out that they were both wrong: the cupboard was empty.

“What?!” Jeremy exclaimed as he hopped up and down on the young girl’s shoulder. “And I was so sure this was the one!”

“The buzzing certainly left my ears.” She frowned. “Well, it isn’t here. In fact, nothing is here… Wait, except for this.” She leaned forward and when the cricket felt himself sliding, he hopped off of his perch and onto the shelf she was peering into. “What’s this writing in here? Wait, I think I can read it – it’s in ancient runic language.” She had learnt to read it all of her life.

“Well then, read it out.”

“Right!” She cleared her throat. “Just in case this is actually a spell, which you can’t get wrong. Otherwise, you’ll suffer consequences. Okay, so let’s see…” She examined the runes engraved on the wall carefully. “’My name is Rue and I call upon thee to hand over your book to me’.” She blinked. “What does it – Ah!” For, a bright light blinded her and she pulled the cricket from where he was standing – he could’ve been engulfed by the light otherwise – and they watched from a safe distance, several feet away from the shelf.

When the light faded away, they glanced at one-another, before nodding in mutual agreement and walking back towards it.

In the shelf, underneath the writing, was a book.

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