The Author’s Apprentice

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Chapter 9

We climbed up the lighthouse stairs to the guest room. It was a cozy little room with wooden floors and light-gray walls. It was lit by a couple lanterns on the wall and the evening sun’s glow through a window overlooking the ocean.

There were two full-sized beds on either side of the room. Logan took one, and Evelyn and I shared the other one.

Logan passed out almost immediately, and Evelyn rolled her eyes at him. “Typical,” she said with a laugh.

I chuckled. I leaned back against the bed and sighed. “So…how’re you holding up?” I asked her.

Evelyn glanced at me. “What do you mean?”

I shrugged. “I mean, a lot has happened today. Are you doing okay?”

Evelyn nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay… Are you?”

I shrugged again, not wanting to admit that I was very much not okay. “Yeah.”

Evelyn paused, eyeing me. “You sure?”

I nodded, biting my lip.

“We should probably get some sleep,” she said.

I fiddled with the edge of the blanket, trying not to think about the fact that the last time I’d slept, I’d led Kai and his army of shadows right to the Library, which led to its destruction and possibly the deaths of some of my dearest friends. “Yeah.”

Evelyn seemed to sense my unease, then said, “Or we could, you know, chat a little bit. If you want.”

The corners of my mouth turned up. “Sure.”

“So, what was your life like before all this?” she asked.

“Honestly? Pretty mundane,” I said. “I did school, read books, drew stuff… It really wasn’t all that interesting. Kinda…lonely, actually.”

“How so?” Evelyn asked.

“Well, I…I didn’t really have any friends,” I told her. “My dad is in the military, so we move a lot. We moved to New Mexico about a year ago. I’m not the best at talking to people, so…I never really made any connections.” I rubbed the back of my neck and chuckled awkwardly. “I probably sound like such a loser, huh?”

“No, not at all,” Evelyn assured me. “I’m sorry you had to go through that, but…you have us now.”

I smiled. “Yeah, I do.” I cleared my throat. “So, what about you?” I asked. “What’s your family like?”

Evelyn tensed. “Well…I don’t really have one. I grew up as a foster kid.”

“Oh, really?”

She nodded. “I never really knew my parents — I’m not even sure if they’re alive or not. I never found a family I fit in with, so one day, when I was around eight years old, I ran away.”

“Wow,” I said softly. “What happened?”

“Eventually, the Author found me. He sensed I had the power of a Storyteller, and took me to the Guild’s Headquarters—where all the Storytellers grew up. There, Bradley and his family decided to take me in. They were the first family that I really felt at home with. So it hurt a lot more than I thought it would when…” She trailed off.

“When…what?” I asked slowly.

Evelyn sighed. “Bradley’s parents died a few years ago. Killed in a monster attack. It hit him pretty hard. He wasn’t always so serious, you know.”

“Oh, no… I had no idea,” I said.

“It’s okay,” she said. She gazed out the window at the ocean, looking pensive. “It hit us all pretty hard, me more than I thought it would. I didn’t even have enough time to really settle in — I didn’t even call them mom or dad, just Esther and Aaron. I barely even considered Brad to be my brother. But…it still hurt, a lot.”

“I’m…I’m so sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay, really.” Evelyn sighed. “Sorry for bringing the conversation down.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” I said. “I’m here to listen.”

A small smile crossed Evelyn’s face. “Anyways, by the time I was nine, I was shipped off to the Library to start my Storyteller training with the others. And we’ve been there ever since, practicing our powers and going on the occasional mission.” She shrugged. “You know the rest.”

“Wow,” I said. “So, you’ve been a part of this world your whole life?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” she replied. “I’ve never really gotten the chance to just be a normal kid.”

I laughed. “Trust me, having a normal life is nothing compared to this life. I would know.”

Evelyn smiled. “So, tell me what being normal entails. First of all, what’s school like?”

“Actually, I’m homeschooled,” I admitted. “All I know about real school is what I’ve seen in movies.”

“Me too!” Evelyn exclaimed. “Me and the others learned pretty much everything from books.”

“Same here!” I said. “I basically just read my way through elementary school.”

“I didn’t realize we had so much in common,” said Evelyn.

“Neither did I,” I said. “Especially since we basically come from different worlds. Ooh, I have an idea—let’s play that game where we pick a category and each say our favorite!”

“Great idea! I’ll go first…” Evelyn closed her eyes in thought. “Favorite…animal?”

“Hmm… I have to go with foxes,” I said. “They’re clever, and super cute.”

“Mine’s an owl,” said Evelyn. “Very wise, and also super cute.”

We laughed.

“Okay,” I said, “favorite…food.”

“Chocolate,” we said at the same time, then started laughing again. “Yeah, we got one!” I said.

We did a few more rounds of the game, staying up way too late, then finally decided to go to sleep.

I collapsed onto my pillow and passed out almost immediately.

But not before a sneaking feeling of unease crept into my mind, as if something—or someone—was close by, waiting for the perfect time to strike.

* * *

Kai paced back and forth in the rock cave on the edge of the beach, the crackling fire casting shifting shadows behind him.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” he hissed. “You had her. All you had to do was swing the stupid sword, and you screwed it up!”

“Kai.”

Kai jumped at the voice. He whirled around to see a shadow in the shape of his brother standing before him.

Kai swallowed nervously. “Yes, Kievan?”

“Have you completed your mission yet?” the voice echoed.

“Um…” Sweat beaded Kai’s brow. “N-not yet. But I promise I will! They’re close, I can feel it.”

“I gave you one simple task, Kai,” the shadow hissed.

“I know, I know,” Kai said rapidly. “I promise, I’ll get it done.”

“Remember who you’re doing this for.”

“Our family,” said Kai. “I know.”

“That’s right,” said the shadow. “Don’t let your family down, Kai. Don’t let me down.”

And with that, the shadow dissolved into smoke, and Kai was once again alone in the cave. He gazed out of the entrance of the cave and muttered, “I won’t hesitate a second time.”

* * *

I startled awake. I felt a faint stinging sensation on my cheek where Kai had cut me. Sunlight streamed through the window and created squares of light on the wooden floors. Logan was still asleep, and Evelyn stirred at my movement.

“Stormi?” she mumbled sleepily. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “I had a dream—vision—intuition? Whatever. Kai’s close. We need to leave.”

“Oh, okay.” Evelyn promptly grabbed her pillow and threw it at Logan’s head with surprisingly good aim.

“Agh!” Logan gave a start when the pillow hit him right in the face. “Evelyn, whyyy?” he groaned.

I snickered, covering my mouth in a failed attempt to silence the laugh.

“Stormi says we have to go,” she told him. “So get your lazy butt out of bed.”

“But it’s like five in the morning,” he whined. “Let me sleeeeep.”

“It’s at least eight, Logan,” said Evelyn.

“Ughhh.” Logan put the pillow Evelyn had thrown at him over his head and curled up under the covers.

Evelyn groaned and rolled her eyes.

I shook my head, then used telekinesis to yank the covers off of Logan.

“Wha—Stormcloud, how could you betray me like this!” he cried.

I chuckled, then cleared my throat and attempted to be serious. “Lo, we have to go or Kai will find us—and Nicholas.”

“Ugh, fine,” he said. “Just five more minutes.”

Evelyn glanced at me, giving me a look that said, Do it.

I gestured toward Logan’s extended leg and yanked my hand back, and Logan was dragged out from underneath his covers.

“Hey!” he shouted. He straightened up, grabbed a pillow, and hurled it at me and Evelyn.

“Don’t attack me, that was Stormi!” Evelyn protested.

“You started this war!” Logan shot back, flinging another pillow our way.

I thrust out my hand and stopped the pillow midair, then tossed it back at him.

He barely managed to catch it before it hit him in the face. “Hey, telekinesis is cheating!”

“There are no rules when it comes to pillow fights,” I replied with a smirk.

“Oh, you asked for it, Stormcloud,” Logan said, grinning.

The three of us grabbed pillows and swung them at each other in a flurry of white pillowcases and feathers, laughing loudly as we did so. We fought with pillows and telekinesis until the bedroom door swung open.

“What in the heavens is going on up here?!”

We dropped our pillows immediately as Nicholas Waters walked into the room, stifling sheepish giggles.

He shook his head and sighed. “Oh, Lord have mercy... This is what I get for letting three strange kids stay in my house,” he mumbled. “Come downstairs, you hooligans. I made breakfast.”

We quickly put the pillows back in their places and followed Nicholas downstairs. He’d make bacon and pancakes in the kitchen, which we devoured almost instantly.

“Thank you so much for your hospitality, Nicholas,” I said.

“And sorry for attacking each other with your pillows,” Logan added.

A faint smile crossed Nicholas’s lips. “Of course,” he said. “I’m glad I could help you three.”

“We should get going,” said Evelyn. “The longer we stay here, the more dangerous it is for all of us.”

Nicholas nodded. “Right. Well, good luck on your journey, kids. Stay safe out there.”

“We will,” I said, standing up. “Thank you, again.”

He smiled. “Of course. Now, get out of my house.”

We started out the doorway, when Nicholas stopped us. “Just...be careful, you three. I'll be praying for you."

I smiled. "Thank you, Nicholas. We'll do the same."

With grateful waves to Nicholas, we left the lighthouse.

As we walked down the beach, I listened to the soothing sounds of seagulls and waves crashing against the rocks. Wind whipped through my hair and blew the salty spray into my face. I looked out to sea and saw a few ships dotting the horizon, sailing on the choppy waters.

“So…where do we go next?” Logan asked.

“Nicholas said there’s something that can help us ‘at the bottom of the lake made to preserve.’ Any ideas?” I asked.

“Hmm… Well, what’s usually used to preserve things?” Evelyn said.

“Containers…?” said Logan.

“Salt used to be used to preserve meat,” I suggested. “Back before there were refrigerators.”

Evelyn snapped her fingers. “That’s it! The Great Salt Lake!”

“Ev, how come you’re such a genius?” Logan said.

“I just am,” she replied with a smirk.

I slung my bag over my shoulder. “Well, let’s go.”

“How are we gonna get there?” Logan asked.

“I’m going to teleport us,” I replied.

“What?” he exclaimed. “But Storm, you said you couldn’t teleport that far without using up too much energy!”

“It’s the simplest way,” I said. “It’s easy and fast, and after that last encounter with Kai, I don’t want to take the chance of being caught again.”

“Stormi, do you realize how dangerous this is?” Evelyn asked, her eyes wide with worry. “Trying to teleport all the way to Utah could kill you if you’re not careful.”

“Then I’ll be extra careful,” I said simply, extending my hands to both of them. “Come on, it’s now or never.”

Logan and Evelyn looked at each other nervously, then took my hands.

“Here we go,” I said. I grasped their hands tightly and pictured, as clearly as I could, the Great Salt Lake that I had visited once with my family. Then I immersed myself in the thought and pushed it into reality. The barrier was tougher this time, though, harder to break. I pushed as hard as I could, using all my willpower to get through the barrier. But the more I pushed, the more it seemed that I wasn’t going to make it.

And then I saw the flash of blue light.

When I opened my eyes, we were standing on the sandy edge of the enormous lake that was ringed by the towering Rocky Mountains.

“See?” I said, releasing my grip on my friends’ hands. “I told you it’d be — ”

The world suddenly spun before me, the edges of my vision going dark. I stumbled, then lost my footing and tumbled backward. I heard someone shout my name and catch me right before I lost consciousness.

* * *

Stormi, can you hear me?

Logan? I thought.

Are you okay? Logan’s thoughts were heavy with worry.

I think so… I can’t see anything but darkness, though… Wait, am I asleep?

Um, kind of. I think it’s best that you don’t wake up yet, he said. You need to get your energy back up.

But how am I going to be able to help you if I’m unconscious? I asked.

Don’t worry, Evelyn came up with a plan. She’s good at that kind of thing. One of us is gonna go down to the bottom of the lake to look for that thing that Nicholas Waters mentioned, and the other is gonna stay here with you.

How are you going to get down there?

Evelyn thought that whoever went down could connect telepathically with you and you could tell us how to use that spell casting power that the Author taught you, said Logan. You know, sort of guide us.

So, let me get this straight, I said. You want me to instruct you to use powers that took me weeks to learn…in a few minutes?

Pretty much, he replied.

I considered the idea. I guess I could try… But if this goes wrong, and someone ends up trapped at the bottom of the lake…I’ll never forgive myself.

Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Logan joked. It will be fine.

I’m serious, Logan, I said. This is really risky. I don’t want either of you to get hurt. How are we even going to decide who goes?

Well, that’s where I’m torn. I don’t want to let Evelyn be the one to put herself in danger like that, but I also don’t want to leave you… I suddenly sensed extreme embarrassment in Logan’s consciousness. I mean, you know, while you’re like this. Not that I don’t trust Evelyn, I just — I mean — Agh, nevermind.

I laughed — or I would have, if I was awake. Thanks, Logan. But seriously, I don’t want to put either of you in danger. I mean, how do I choose between two of my best friends?

Uh, I think Evelyn chose for you — she just dove into the lake.

WHAT? I retreated from the mental contact with Logan and reached out to Evelyn. Evelyn, what are you doing?!

You tell me, she replied. And I suggest you hurry — I’m running out of air.

I began panicking inside. Um…uh…ah… Say ‘Da mihi infinitum caeli’!

I heard her say the words in her mind as she uttered them underwater, and then sensed her consciousness feel at ease. Great job, Stormi. I knew you’d come up with something.

Wait…did you do that on purpose? I demanded.

She shrugged mentally. You think quicker on your feet.

You scared me to death! I can’t believe you!

You can scold me later, she said. I need you to help me find whatever Nicholas was talking about.

Well, it’s not like he gave a lot of description, I thought. Just look for anything out of the ordinary.

Will do.

As Evelyn searched, I began to notice that with every breath she took, I sensed a little energy flow out of her. Each inhale was increasingly difficult. I could feel the worry in the back of her mind.

Evelyn, please hurry. I don’t want you to lose too much energy. You’ve seen the consequences.

I’ll be…fine, she insisted. I can…make it.

Evelyn — I pleaded.

Wait — I…I see something. Look —

The darkness behind my eyelids suddenly cleared away to reveal an image of an underwater wreck of some sort of aircraft as Evelyn shared her sight with me. And coming from that aircraft was a glowing golden light.

Whoa, I said.

I can’t get down far enough… The salinity is…making me float up…

Magic would easily solve this, I realized, but Evelyn couldn’t risk using any more energy. I reached out to Logan and said, Logan, I need you to join minds with Evelyn and say this: ‘Da fortitudinem ad natare.’ And fast!

Got it. Logan said the phrase, and I felt the magic flow from his consciousness to Evelyn’s.

Okay, I can swim better now, said Evelyn. I’m almost to it… I can… I…

Evelyn? I said. Evelyn, are you okay?

Her thoughts became patchy, coming in and out before fading away completely.

I’ve lost contact with Evelyn! I said to Logan, starting to panic.

So have I, said Logan.

She must’ve run out of energy for the infinite oxygen spell! I realized. We have to… have to… What’s…happening? It slowly became harder to think, my thoughts slowly fading into darkness.

You’re waking up, Logan explained. I’ll see you in a sec — then we’ll go get Evelyn.

Darkness consumed my thoughts as I slowly came back to reality.

* * *

My eyes snapped open. I pushed myself off the ground and immediately swayed.

“Whoa, careful Storm,” said Logan, grabbing my arm to steady me.

“We have to go after Evelyn,” I said anxiously. “She could be drowning as we speak!”

“I’ll go after Evelyn,” he said. “You need to stay here.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Your strength isn’t all the way back up yet. You could get hurt!”

Knowing I wasn’t going to be able to convince him, I pulled my arm out of his grip, ran toward the lake and dove in without another word.

“Stormi!”

I uttered the same spells I’d given Evelyn and Logan to use to let me swim better and breathe underwater. I swam around, searching frantically, until I saw the same golden glow that I had seen through Evelyn’s eyes. I swam closer, and saw Evelyn unconscious at the bottom of the lake, clutching a small wooden box with a gold lock that was causing the glow. Ignoring the feeling of exhaustion that was slowly creeping in, I pushed through the water, grabbed Evelyn’s wrist, and teleported us back to the surface.

I collapsed as soon as we landed on the sandy bank, sucking in air with heaving breaths. Logan rushed over and kneeled next to Evelyn and I. “That was an incredibly risky thing you just did, Stormi,” he said, scowling at me.

I was slightly taken aback. I had never seen Logan this angry. “I…had to,” I panted. “For Evelyn.”

“You could have died, Stormi!” he shouted.

“And what about her?” I demanded, gesturing to Evelyn’s unconscious form. “Would you rather her die instead of me?”

“I would rather you let me help you sometimes instead of risking your life for us!” Logan shot back.

I blinked. I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came.

Before I could come up with a retort, Evelyn started coughing. Her eyelids fluttered open, and she looked back and forth between us. “What…happened?” she groaned, pushing herself into a sitting position. “Why do you guys look so angry?”

“That doesn’t matter,” I said, glancing at Logan. “Are you okay?”

She coughed again. “For the most part,” she said with a weak smile. “I also got this.” Evelyn held up the box.

I looked closely at it, and realized the golden lock was etched with the Agapē Order’s emblem. “What a surprise,” I said with a half-smile. “What’s inside?”

Evelyn shrugged. “Let’s find out.” She grabbed the lid of the box and started to pull…

And it wouldn’t budge.

“Seriously?” Logan said.

“Wait, let me try something,” I said, holding my hand over the box.

“No,” said Logan abruptly.

I whipped my head around and looked at him incredulously. “What do you mean, no?”

“I know what you’re thinking, and you don’t have the energy to do any more magic,” he said firmly.

“Since when do you get to decide whether or not I use magic?” I said, my tone rising.

“Since you almost killed yourself using it!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Your Majesty, I’ll let you come up with a better plan!”

“Guys!” Evelyn shouted. We both froze and looked at her. She held her own hand over the box and said, “Resigno.”

With a flash of blue light from Evelyn’s palm, the box flipped open.

Logan and I stared at her.

“I know some Latin too, you guys,” she said simply.

Curious, the three of us peered into the box. Inside was a round, silver object. Evelyn reached in and pulled it out, displaying it clearly on her palm. It was some kind of compass, but instead of the symbols for north, south, east, and west, it had the symbols we’d seen in the scroll with the triangle — the Agapē Order’s golden symbol in place of north, the blue symbol of the Authors Guild instead of east, the Warrior League’s symbol where west would be, and the Dark Alliance’s symbol in place of south. When Evelyn held it up, the blue circle began to glow. The needle in the center quivered, then began to spin around, pointing back and forth between Evelyn, Logan and I.

“Whoa,” said Evelyn. “This must show us where members of each alliance are.”

“That’s helpful,” said Logan. “But how do we get it to show us where the Agapē Order is?”

Evelyn looked back at the box. She reached in and pulled out a small piece of paper, then read aloud. “To point you in the right direction, you must understand what you stand for. Dig deep, and you’ll find the key.”

“Key…? Maybe there’s some sort of keyword to activate which alliance it points to,” I wondered aloud. “Understand what you stand for… Maybe the words have something to do with what each alliance stands for. Like… Knowledge.”

As soon as I said the word, the blue symbol’s light pulsated.

“Nicholas Waters said to look up the definition of Agapē,” said Evelyn. “Maybe that definition is the keyword we need to find the Order!”

“Agapē,” I murmured. “I know that definition, I’m sure… It’s a Greek word. Agapē, agapē, agapē…” I let out a groan. “Shoot, I can’t remember. How are we going to find that definition if we don’t have access to the Internet?” I asked.

“We’re Storytellers,” said Evelyn. “When we need information, we don’t use the Internet. We find a library.”

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