Arc II Chapter 20: Scavenger Hunt


Inside Eventide Archive, Fae showed Selphine the five items she’d acquired from Maxwell and the repository. Spread out on a table, each item bore one of the five symbols Fae sought:

A sealed jar.

A broken jar, with some kind of material or liquid spilling out.

A fire.

A lidless, soulless eye.

A dark spot within a square, evoking the feeling of falling into a deep pit.

The items were as simple as their symbols. For the first, a clay urn. For the second, an old, weathered book. The third was a nondescript metal candlestick. The fourth, a leather box the size of Fae’s palm. The final item was a small hand mirror, with the eye symbol on its handle.

“Shall we start from the top?” Selphine asked, pointing to the clay urn.

Fae nodded. When no one did anything, she realized they were all looking at her.

Right. This is part of my quest. She picked up the urn, thinking how the word “quest” would get Shana all kinds of excited. The thought brought a smile to her lips as she lifted the urn’s lid.

Inside was just a piece of paper tied around a golden amulet that bore the symbol of the sealed jar. The paper had only two words written on it.

“Sealed Vessel,” Shana read aloud. “I’m guessing that’s an Intangible?”

Selphine nodded. “The Sealed Vessel…” she said slowly, collecting her thoughts, “it’s said to be a characteristic of a person. It’s an Intangible that takes root within a living being, changing them. This one makes the person into a sealed-off vessel for… well, no one seems certain. But the ‘Sealed’ part of the term relates to their personality and emotional changes – namely, that they cannot express emotion. Their feelings and personal desires have been sealed off.”

“That’s no way to live,” Neptune said, shaking her head.

“What’s this amulet for?” Fae asked, holding the golden icon by its chain. The amulet itself was shaped like a teardrop, but it had no distinct markings or designs on it save the symbol of the Sealed Vessel.

“May I see it?” Selphine asked, holding out her hand. Fae passed the amulet over, and Selphine stared at it. Her hand pulsed with a white light once, then twice. She nodded sagely, handing the necklace back to Fae. “It’s a sort of homing device. When in the same Location as the Sealed Vessel – or near an exit that leads to that Location – the amulet will emit a light that points the way.”

“So until it does, we won’t know where the Sealed Vessel is?” Fae asked. Selphine nodded. Fae hung the amulet around her neck and moved on to the second item, the book with the broken jar symbol on it. Opening it, she was surprised to find the book was hollowed out. Like a tome used for hiding items or treasures in plain sight, someone had cut out the center of the pages in a circle, all the way from cover to cover. In that hollowed out space was a dried out sand dollar. Fae recognized the shape and texture from ones she used to collect at Grimson Bay as a kid. But instead of a star-shaped symbol on it, there were words.

“Broken Vessel,” Fae read aloud. “Confined. Fault Line. Jailer knows. Keep distance.”

“It’s like a telegram that keeps skipping words,” Jupiter said.

“It’s quite clear to me,” Selphine said. “The Broken Vessel is the inverse of the Sealed Vessel. The person who was intended as a vessel has failed, and their mind – and soul – are corrupted as a result. Emotions, feelings, beliefs – every essence of their very being – is constantly flooding out. As for the rest…”

“The Fault Line Dungeon?” Neptune asked.

Selphine nodded. “Whoever the Broken Vessel is, they’ve been confined in the Fault Line Dungeon. ‘Jailer knows’ means the Jailer who oversees the Dungeon must know something important about them.”

“And ‘Keep distance’ speaks for itself,” Jupiter said with a chuckle. “So we’d best stay away.”

“Then what was the point of finding this?” Fae asked. “My drawings are telling me to seek out these five Intangibles.” She shook her head. “I think ‘Keep distance’ is a warning mixed with a challenge. Be careful, and only pursue the Broken Vessel if we’re really bold.”

“Sounds like you’re feeling awfully bold,” Mercury said, grinning.

“But the Fault Line Dungeon is impenetrable,” Neptune said. “No one goes in or out without permission.”

“We just want to visit someone,” Fae said. “I’m sure there’s a way. Let’s check out the rest of these.”

Despite her generally cautious nature, Fae was getting excited. Finding these clues and special items reminded her of scavenger hunts she, Shana, and Delilah would go on as kids, seeking out clues to “treasure” that usually ended up being a special dessert place their parents picked out for them. They were adventures driven by the imagination of children.

Now she was on a real adventure. These were her clues. And the treasure?

Fae had no idea what it might be. But that just made things all the more interesting.

Next was the metal candlestick, which Fae turned over and over in her hands. There didn’t seem to be anything hidden inside it, like the others.

“What’s that?” Mercury asked, leaning over Fae’s shoulder. Fae sidled away, protecting her personal space, but followed Mercury’s gaze to the top of the candlestick. In the cavity where a candle would fit, their appeared to be some kind of design. Fae had to lean in extra close, and even then, it was gibberish to her. Intricate, minute linework completely at odds with the stick’s otherwise very simple design was etched into the cavity, flowing from one indecipherable symbol to the next in a beautiful pattern. Fae showed it to Selphine, whose eyes instantly lit up with understanding.

“It’s a code,” she said, her eyes tracing the pattern. “Enchanted craftsmen will sometimes use them for paired items. The code has a unique twin inscribed on a second item. When the two paired items are united, they have a special message. That message often leads to something special – in this case, I’m betting it will lead to an Intangible.”

“But how do we find the other item?” Mercury asked.

“I can do something about that,” Selphine said, placing the candlestick on the table. “But let’s see what else we have here first.”

Fae was grinning, unable to contain her excitement. This really was a scavenger hunt, and the very best scavenger hunt ever, for that matter.

Shana, we are going to have so much to talk about when I get home.

Next was the leather box. Shana fumbled around with it until she found a concealed metal catch that lifted up, allowing the box to open.

Inside was a tattered, yellowed scrap of parchment, with only a few words scribbled on it.

“Anguish,” Fae read. “Collection. Red. Top Shelf.”

“The City of freaking Anguish,” Jupiter said, groaning. “I thought we dodged a bullet by not having to go there initially.”

“Apparently not,” Neptune said.

“Come on, it’s not so bad,” Mercury said, laughing. “I like the place.”

“We know,” Jupiter and Neptune said together.

“You’re alone in that opinion,” Neptune added.

“What’s the rest mean?” Fae asked.

“The ‘Collection’ is probably referring to the Mourner’s Collection,” Selphine said. “It’s the main library in the City of Anguish. The other words are likely referring to a spot within the Collection where you’ll find more clues.”

“It’s like a scavenger hunt,” Mercury said, eyes wide.

So I’m not the only one who’s noticed, Fae thought, smiling. Or the only one who’s excited.

“We’ll have to search it when we go there,” Neptune said.

“And this is last,” Fae said, lifting the mirror. She stared into it, but… the glass didn’t reflect her face. It didn’t seem to reflect anything.

“Fae’s a vampire,” Jupiter said, lacking any of the tension and drama that should go along with that phrase. “See? No reflection.”

“Hilarious,” Fae said, shaking her head. She turned the mirror over in her hand, and on the back was inscribed two words. “’Dreamer’s Heart.’ What’s that?”

“The Heart of the Dreamer,” Selphine said. “It belongs to the Dreamer, a character –”

“Character?” Fae asked. “Wait… is this just fiction?”

Mercury shook her head, laughing. “Character is another term used in the Dominion, like Location, or Intangible,” she said. “Characters are notable individuals in prophecies, mythology, or related to Intangibles. There are Static Characters that never change, like the Hunter of Souls. And then there are Dynamic Characters, Characters who can be different people at different times – kind of like that characteristic goes through cycles or is inherited. The Dreamer is a Dynamic Character, someone bearing the Dreamer’s Heart.”

“There have been several through history,” Selphine said. “They have abilities relating to dreams, like their title suggests, and it all ties back to the Intangible that dwells within them – the Dreamer’s Heart. Their abilities are… rather mysterious, unfortunately.”

“Dreams are weird like that,” Jupiter said.

“How does this mirror work?” Fae asked, looking at the glass once again. Now it seemed to be a window straightforward – it showed the desk and the items atop it in front of Fae.

“It’s likely designed to show you the Dreamer,” Selphine said, taking the mirror from Fae and looking it over. Occasionally her eyes pulsed with light, likely signifying her using magic to analyze the mirror further. “That seems to be the case. But you need some clues or some understanding of who the Dreamer might be or what they are tied to. If you can’t focus, it will simply show you different, unrelated things.” She showed the mirror to the girls. The glass now displayed a foggy image of a stormy beach, with waves and rain crashing against rocks.

“Do we know anything about the current Dreamer?” Fae asked.

Selphine shook her head. “If anyone knows, it isn’t me,” she said. “And I don’t know who would know. But we have one more clue to decipher.” She placed the mirror on the table and retrieved the candlestick. “I can work a trace onto this code, giving us at least a hint, if not more, as to where the paired item is. With that, we’ll know everything we can of where these items lead, and you can start to make a decision on which path to take first.”

“We’re going to travel the entire Enchanted Dominion at this rate,” Jupiter said with a heavy sigh. “We’ll never play another show at Grim Night’s if we don’t hustle.”

“Helping Fae and finding the Silver Star Sanctuary are kind of more important right now,” Neptune said, though she was staring past the group at nothing in particular, a wistful look on her face. “Though I will miss music.”

“Don’t say it so dramatically!” Jupiter pleaded, shaking her blue-haired sister by the shoulders. “Come on, Neptune, we’re gonna do more concerts, right?”

Neptune sighed dramatically. “Who can say?”

“Neptuuuuuuune!” Jupiter continued shaking her sister and whining, while Neptune continued to stare off into space.

“Are any of these Locations closely linked?” Fae asked, looking over Selphine’s maps of the three sectors of the Enchanted Dominion. “Oh, the Fault Line Dungeon and the City of Anguish are both in Sector One. That’s good, right?”

“It would be helpful to know what sectors the amulet and the mirror will send us to,” Mercury said. “But yeah, that’s probably good. Depending on timing, we might be able to hit both of those Locations close together. Though… well, it doesn’t seem like either of those are gonna be easy tasks.”

“What do you mean?” Fae asked. She looked to Neptune, who was usually quick to show off her considerable knowledge, but at the moment she was continuing to cause Jupiter a dramatic fit, acting awfully tragic about their future musical prospects.

“The City of Anguish is a big place,” Mercury said. “And if we have to search an entire library, going off of just a few words as clues, it could take a long time. And then there’s the Dungeon…”

“You don’t just walk in and request a visitation,” Selphine said, placing the candlestick back on the table. “You need special permission. Usually you could meet with the Crystal Family and petition for a writ of access, but access to the Crystal Palace has been blocked off for quite some time. I don’t know how else you could get in, but I can look into it and send you a message with whatever I find.”

“You can send messages across the Dominion?” Fae asked.

Selphine smiled. “Oh, that’s easy. Don’t worry, if you aren’t here when I discover information of significance, I can relay it to you one way or another. And now you know another of your destinations.” She passed the candlestick to Fae, who took another look at the engravings.

“It says… crimson?” she asked, struggling to read the new lettering properly.

Selphine nodded. “It seems you have more than one reason to visit the Crimson Docks.”

“That’s not what I wanna hear,” Jupiter said, groaning. “We have to go through Sunset Square.”

“Oh come on, we’ve gotten through just fine before,” Mercury said. “We just need to be careful.”

“If it’s really so bad, why don’t we do it first?” Fae asked. “I’m pretty interested in going to the Crimson Docks anyway. It’s the shortest path to one of our destinations –”

Fae stopped herself.

“Our” destinations? No. They’re my destinations. The sisters have their own –

“Hey, don’t get all glum on us,” Mercury said, waving a hand in front of Fae’s face. “Come on. We’re with you on this.”

“But why?” Fae asked, feeling her chest tighten.

How long had she been holding that question in? To her, that had been the unspoken tension in their little group since their journey had begun. Now that she’d asked, she felt like she’d tossed a grenade into a crowded room, and all she wanted to do was sprint for the exit.

“Because you’re our friend,” Mercury said, grinning. “What kind of question is that?”

Friends? They… think I’m their friend? After such a short time? When all I’ve done is be focused on my journey, and I’ve barely taken the time to know them?

I’d like to be friends with them… I think.

I’m not used to people claiming me so freely.

Do they really think of me that way?

“She’s spacing out again,” Jupiter said, laughing.

“Your journey’s interesting,” Neptune said. “We have our own goals, sure. But we’re not going to leave you to take on your giant quest alone.”

“But why?” Fae asked again. “Why… why do you think we’re friends?”

Mercury shrugged. “Friends are friends.”

“Hey, if you don’t want us around, we can l–” Jupiter was cut off by a sharp elbow to the ribs from Neptune.

“We’re with you to the end,” Neptune said.

I don’t deserve this. But… I’m grateful.

“So?” Mercury asked, smiling at Fae. “Are we going to Sunset Square?”

Fae paused, taking off her glasses. She procured a cloth from her bag and cleaned the lenses, put her glasses back on, and took a deep breath.

“Yeah,” she said with a nod. She looked to Selphine. “When will we have access to it from here?”

“It looks like it won’t be long,” Selphine said, eyeing her maps. They didn’t seem to indicate times or schedules, so Fae didn’t know how the Archivist knew, but she wasn’t about to question her. “Make yourselves at home. I’ll let you know when the path is open.”

During the wait, the Star sisters researched the Silver Star Sanctuary, though they didn’t discover much. As they’d said, and thought, the Sanctuary, for whatever reason, was a mystery even to the most learned in the Dominion.

Fae, meanwhile, drew. It had been a long time since she’d just sat and doodled, and she enjoyed the process of simply linking shapes together, adding details here and there, and seeing what appeared on the page from her instinctual, unplanned lines. Her first page ended up covered in puppies – apparently her subconscious was yearning for something cute. The second page was more of a single scene. Two girls sledded down a snowy mountain, kicking up snow in their wake as arctic foxes and polar bears watched on with curious eyes.

Page three was turning into a cutaway of a large boat’s interior when Selphine alerted her and the triplets that their pathway was open. At the door in the Archive’s entrance hall, Selphine turned the color-coded dial to red.

“It won’t be easy to return here once you go through this door,” Selphine said. “I hope you’re prepared for what’s to come.”

“I’ve taken detailed notes,” Fae said, hoping her smile conveyed her gratitude. “And I copied your maps of the three Sectors. I’ll do my best. And if I find a path back here in the middle of the journey, I’ll be sure to visit again.”

Selphine smiled, but her eyes conveyed a deep sadness. “I truly hope your journey goes well. The more time we’ve spent together, the more I’ve realized… you aren’t Oliver. I’m certain you won’t make the same mistakes. And your fate, I hope, will be much brighter than his.”

With a round of final goodbyes, Fae led the way through the door, emerging through golden light into a cacophony of noise. People were talking everywhere, and… were those car horns? And music playing through really grainy speakers?

As the light faded and Fae could see her surroundings, she was struck by the startling familiarity of it. The Enchanted Dominion had so far been a strange and fantastical place to her, but now she was in a bustling city. Sure, it looked more like it came out of the 1920s than modern day, but it was something she could understand at a glance. She and the triplets had walked into a break from the city, a large park with grass and flowers and trees all tinged gold by beams of light coming at everything from an angle.

“So that’s where it gets its name,” Fae said, turning left and squinting against the sunset. “Is it always like this?”

“Oh yeah,” Mercury said. “It pays to know the right streets to take.”

“And we don’t know enough of them,” Jupiter said. “I still think this is a terrible idea.”

“It’s a necessary terribleness,” Mercury said. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Where do we go?” Fae asked, surveying the park. Her eyes were drawn to a bridge over a river that fed into a lake where couples rowed boats at a leisurely pace.

“That way,” Mercury said, pointing straight at the bridge. “We’ll cross that, and follow the road north.”

“It’s only a few blocks, then we turn east and head to Sunset Station,” Neptune said. “They have a dedicated train line that runs between here and the Crimson Docks.”

Fae led the way, following the path that Mercury indicated. Her hopeful and confident attitude faded away suddenly, though, when she spotted a familiar figure crossing the bridge towards her.

“Fae?” Mercury asked, noticing that she’d stopped. “Are you all right?”

Fae didn’t answer, her mind racing for a proper response.

Coming towards her from across the bridge, accompanied by a tall and intimidating man in a dark coat, was Caleb.


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