“So why are we going to see your grandpa?” Adelaide asked, holding Caleb’s hand and swinging it back and forth as they walked.
“Because he knows about the Enchanted Dominion,” Caleb said. “And he might know a reliable way to get there.”
“You really like helping people, huh?” Adelaide asked.
Caleb smiled. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
Adelaide was silent for a long time as they walked on, only occasionally humming snippets of tunes that Caleb didn’t recognize. They passed Greyson Manor, and from there it was just another two blocks to Grandpa Oscar’s house.
Caleb didn’t know why his grandfather had always gone by his first name with his grandchildren, but he’d always found it endearing. And he remembered, as he walked, little bits of stories Oscar had told him when he was very young.
They’d been stories of the Enchanted Dominion, stories that Caleb’s parents had suggested they’d heard as well.
Truth, disguised as fiction.
Why he’d never clearly told his family that the stories were real was a mystery to Caleb. In fact, coming back from the Dominion and then finding out there were a number of people in Grimoire who knew about the Dominion, Caleb was struck by how much the magical world beyond theirs remained a secret to so many.
It was as if it was an unspoken rule – don’t talk freely about the Enchanted Dominion to humans who don’t already know about it. Or something.
“Ooh, is this his house?” Adelaide asked as they headed up a narrow walk.
“This is it,” Caleb said with a smile. Ever since vacating Greyson Manor – leaving the vast, luxurious home to his son, daughter-in-law, and their children – and ever since Caleb had been too young to remember anything, Oscar had lived here, in a shaded spot between two hills packed with taller buildings, backed by the ruins of what had once been Grimoire’s inner wall.
The walk up to his home was flanked by many evergreen trees, and after passing through the gate and onto the grounds, it was like entering another world. Plant life ringed the entire place, with many tall trees casting their leafy boughs out like a ceiling, shutting out the view to the rest of the city. Sounds even seemed to fade away, leaving a secluded place that only had the sounds of a small stream rippling along, and the songs of a few birds that never left Oscar’s wonderful gardens, no matter the time of year.
And in the center was Oscar’s home, a quaint, rounded brick house. Half of it was one story, while the other half went up another story to Oscar’s bedroom and his study. A wooden porch framed the front door, and many flowering vines twined their way up the banisters.
“It’s so pretty,” Adelaide said in awe. “I need to take notes for my house.”
Caleb laughed, leading the way up to the front door and knocking the staccato rhythm that all of the Greyson children knew quite well.
Thinking about it now… I’m pretty sure Fae’s the one who came up with it.
The door opened within seconds, and Oscar’s smiling face greeted Caleb and Adelaide. His pale blue eyes twinkled, and he reached up in a practiced motion to smooth back his snowy white hair. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” he asked. He knelt down slightly, looking at Adelaide with a charming smile. “And what, may I ask, is your name, little one?”
“I’m Adelaide,” Adelaide said, sticking out her hand. “But you can call me Addie.”
“Addie it is, then,” Oscar said, shaking her hand. “Pleased to meet you.” He stood, grinning at Caleb. “You always were a magnet to children. Come in, come in. I’ll get some tea. Show Addie around, will you?”
“Sure thing, grandpa,” Caleb said, following Oscar inside. While Oscar headed to the kitchen, Caleb led Addie around the house. It was an easy tour – each room was quite large, with short connecting hallways, and it was a small house compared to what Adelaide and Caleb were used to. They checked out the library, dining room, kitchen, and lounge, all on the east side of the house. There was a warm, cozy feeling to this side of the house, with reddish wooden walls and furniture and decorations to match. Adelaide marveled at the constant theme throughout the house: turtles.
There were little turtle statuettes, figurines, and even plushies here and there throughout the rooms, often tucked away in places that looked like they were intentionally hidden, meant to be a fun surprise for curious children. And, knowing Oscar, that probably was exactly the intention of some of them. He recognized one of the plushies, a light green smiling tortoise that had just the cutest smile on its face, as a Christmas gift to Oscar from Shana several years back.
“He really likes turtles and tortoises, huh?” Adelaide asked, gently rubbing the head of a bronze tortoise statuette.
“Everyone has a favorite animal, right?” Caleb asked. “What’s yours?”
“I like kitty cats!” Adelaide said, grinning.
“Mine are otters,” Caleb said, smiling back at her.
“Otters?” Adelaide asked. “Why’s that?”
Caleb rubbed his nose, staring out the window and feeling suddenly self-conscious. “I like the way they swim,” he said. “It’s cute.”
Adelaide giggled. “Super cute!”
They headed to the west side of the house, which was more open, with floor-to-ceiling windows letting in tons of light across the white tiled floors and light-colored upholstery. A silver spiral staircase was in the middle of this side of the house, leading up to the small second floor. But Adelaide wasn’t interested in the second floor, not once she looked out the window to the gardens behind the house.
“Ohhhhhh!” she shouted excitedly, staring out the window with wide eyes. “That’s a super tortoise! And his turtle buddies!”
Out back, standing at the entrance to a little flowered labyrinth, was a large marble statue of a tortoise stepping up atop a boulder. Around it were smaller marble statues of sea turtles, and out of water it made them look like they were in flight.
“I should put a giant kitty statue in the back yard,” Adelaide murmured, staring at the statues in delight.
“That sounds like a marvelous idea,” Oscar said, coming into the bright living room with his cane in one hand, and a circular tray perfectly balanced on his other. The tray bore a tea pot, three tea cups and saucers, three smaller plates, and a spread of cookies, small cakes, crackers, and cheeses. He set the tray down on a low table and then took a seat in a comfy armchair. “Please, do take a seat.”
Caleb and Adelaide sat on the couch across from him, and Adelaide marveled at the sea turtle patterns on her tea cup as Oscar poured tea for her. For a moment, the three just sipped their tea and nibbled at treats, content with the quiet, cozy atmosphere.
It’s always so relaxing coming here. I’m glad I could bring Addie with me.
“Now, then,” Oscar said, setting his tea cup down. “Caleb, it’s quite clear you have a question on your mind. What would you like to know?”
“You’ve known about the Enchanted Dominion for a long time, right?” Caleb asked.
Oscar smiled, nodded. “Yes, of course. I’m glad you were able to go there. Wonderful, marvelous, strange place, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Caleb said, thinking not only about his own adventures, but also about what Delilah and Chelsea had told him, about all the strange connections between Locations – the kind of adventure, and the strange aspects of the Dominion, that Caleb hadn’t been able to experience for himself. “I was wondering, though… do you know of a reliable way to go there from Grimoire?”
“Of course I do,” Oscar said, a twinkle in his eye. “Your grandmother and I visited there very often, in fact, especially before we had Callum. We took Callum with us, once, when he was but a baby. I simply had to let him see the Celestial Shore.” Oscar sat back, a faraway look in his eye, his voice brimming with nostalgia. “What a marvelous sight. You won’t see anything like it anywhere on Earth, not in a thousand lifetimes.”
“But Dad said he’d never been to the Dominion,” Caleb said.
“Oh, he wouldn’t remember that, of course,” Oscar said, laughing. “And we always talked about taking him back when he was older, but, well… plans have a funny way of changing. I suppose I should apologize to him, now that the cat’s out of the bag.” Oscar sighed, and seemed to bring himself back to the present, his eyes clearing, his voice stronger. “Right. So you wanted to know how to get there. There are two good routes, one not-so-good route, and one truly dreadful route that you shouldn’t even attempt unless you have a morbid desire to lose a few limbs. Which I certainly hope you don’t, dear boy. I quite like you healthy and whole.”
Caleb laughed. “So do I,” he said.
“So do I,” Adelaide echoed, raising her hand.
“Well, let’s focus on the two good routes,” Oscar said. “No reason to fuss with the worse ones, is there? The first is from the Bay Overlook. On that bench, if you play or sing music just before midnight, you’ll be transported directly to Cartographer’s Waystation. Which, to be frank, is exactly where you want to start your journey in the Enchanted Dominion, so that you don’t get lost. The second good route also leads directly there. If you stand on Moonstone Bridge, when the light of the moon – as long as there’s any moonlight, so it can’t be cloudy and there can’t be a new moon – touches you, stare up at the moon and make a wish.”
“A wish?” Caleb asked.
“Don’t give me that skeptical expression, it doesn’t suit you at all,” Oscar said. “Yes, a wish. You should know from your time in the Dominion, but there’s far more to magic than what we mages can harness for ourselves. There are magics older and stranger and more powerful than even your incredible Time Magic.”
“Like Birthright Magic,” Adelaide said with a confident grin.
“Indeed,” Oscar said. “So, now you know of your two best options. I think we’ll have a new moon any day now – perhaps even tonight – so you may only have one option. But as long as you can hum or play an instrument, you’ll be quite all right.”
“Well, it isn’t for me,” Caleb said. “It’s for… a friend.”
“A nameless friend,” Oscar said, chuckling as he sipped his tea. “I see. Well, pass the information along. I hope it helps them get where they desire to go.”
For a long while, Caleb and Adelaide stayed and visited with Oscar, chatting back and forth about many things. Adelaide was delighted to explore the gardens, and Caleb was simply…
I do love this place. Like a little haven in the middle of a bustling city. Grimoire has plenty of places to find peace and quiet, but nothing quite like this.
Eventually, Chelsea inquired as to where Caleb was, and – at Oscar’s suggestion – Caleb invited her over for dinner. She brought along Lorelei and Gwen, and Will ended up being invited as well. Caleb went to message his siblings, but…
That’s right. They’re all…
I mean, they’re just in the Enchanted Dominion. They’re on their own adventures, they’re doing just fine, but…
Despite being surrounded by friends, Caleb was struck by a sudden sense of loneliness. And then…
I really need to visit Mom and Dad more often. Especially with all the others gone.
But Caleb didn’t make it back to Greyson Manor that evening. As dinner was winding down, he received a text message from a phone number he didn’t recognize:
Caleb Greyson. If at all convenient, please meet with me in one hour atop Zodiac Tower.
I hope you’ve found what you promised.
- Royal Raven
“How’d she get your number?” Chelsea asked, resting her chin on Caleb’s shoulder as she read the text. “You sure you trust this girl? You sure you know who she is?”
Caleb laughed. “I’m sure. I don’t know how she got my number, but I trust her.”
“You gonna be okay alone?”
“Alone?” Adelaide asked, squirming her way under Caleb’s arm, staring up at him and Chelsea. “Who said he’s going alone?”
Caleb laughed. “Looks like I’m bringing a friend,” he said.
“I’ll come,” Chelsea said. “Lorelei, Gwen, and I did some good investigating today. I can stick with you until it’s Hollow Hour.”
Caleb smiled. “Thanks.” He tilted his head and kissed Chelsea on the cheek.
“Oh, snap,” Adelaide said in a hushed voice. Caleb and Chelsea both burst out laughing.
Caleb walked the streets of Grimoire with Chelsea holding his left hand, and Adelaide holding his right. Along the way, Chelsea and Adelaide chatted back and forth, while Caleb stayed mostly silent.
They’re finally starting to get along. I know Chelsea was suspicious of her – and I understand why – but I’m glad she’s seeing that Addie isn’t Duo. She’s just a little girl who can use as many friends as she can get.
She doesn’t let onto it much, but she’s been really lonely for a long time. I can’t even imagine, knowing some of the things she’s been through…
And she never talks about what happened to her parents.
Not that I blame her, but…
Well, I hope Chelsea can help add a little more light to her world.
The trio reached the Bay Overlook just as the meeting time was approaching. The sky above was filled with stars, but the moon was noticeably absent.
Good thing there’s a reliable path to the Dominion that doesn’t rely on the moon.
“I had hoped you’d come alone, Caleb Greyson,” came the familiar, flamboyant voice of Royal Raven. Caleb turned, and there she was, all decked-out in her superhero costume, purple butterflies flitting about her, shining their light on her as she walked. “But it’s all right. Did you learn anything?”
“Sure did,” Caleb said. “And you picked the perfect meeting spot. One of the most reliable paths to the Enchanted Dominion is from here. If you sit on the bench and play or sing a song just before midnight, you’ll be taken to Cartographer’s Waystation. From there, you can find anyone, and go to just about any place.”
“That’s… all there is to it?” Royal Raven asked.
“You can’t use a recording,” Caleb said. “It has to be a song performed by yourself, but it can be anything, and I don’t think it has to be long.”
Royal Raven stared at the bench. “That’s so… simple…”
“Simple’s nice, right?” Caleb asked. “Makes it easier to get out there and find Fae.”
Royal Raven stared at him, a strange look in her eyes. “You truly do care about her, don’t you?”
Caleb smiled. “Of course I do. She’s my sister. I know we don’t really talk at all, but… I wish we did. And whatever she’s going through… and I don’t just mean her mission… well, I think you might be able to help her with that. I hope you can, anyway.”
Royal Raven looked away. “I do, too.”
“Are you going tonight?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I just…” Caleb stared back towards the city. “Don’t you think there’s someone you should tell? I never got the chance to tell my family before I was whisked away to the Dominion. But you do.” He looked back at Royal Raven and smiled. “Just a thought.”
Royal Raven said nothing for a long moment, then turned away. “I thank you, Caleb Greyson!” she said, boldly and proudly. “I hope when next we meet, Fae will be safely returned to Grimoire. Farewell!”
And then she was leaping away, vanishing into the night, the bright lights of her butterflies making her shine in the darkness.
“She’s a total nut,” Chelsea said, sighing.
Caleb grinned. “I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, well you know who she is,” Chelsea said, pouting. “And you’re not telling.”
“She wears a mask,” Caleb said with a shrug. “She wouldn’t want me to tell. I think she’s annoyed that I figured it out.”
“I think she’s totally cool,” Adelaide said breathlessly, staring in the direction Royal Raven had gone. “I wanna be a pretty, sparkling superhero when I grow up.”
Royal Raven dismissed her butterflies, leaping here and there through the darkness.
“Don’t you think there’s someone you should tell?”
Royal Raven stopped in the shadows and sighed.
As if I could tell him.
How did you figure out who I am, anyway? We only met… once? And that was so brief! And we never even spoke to each other!
And here I thought Caleb was just a goofy oaf. Well… I should’ve known you can’t really trust what Fae says about her family.
Did you have a chance to tell anyone before you left? Or were you whisked away like Caleb?
And if you did have a chance…
Why didn’t you tell me?
Royal Raven continued on, leaping here and there through the shadows. She still had an hour before she needed to be back at the bench, singing a song to hopefully – if Caleb wasn’t just messing with her, but he seemed so sincere – get to the Enchanted Dominion.
And then, somehow, some way…
No one knows anything about what happened to you. Caleb, Shana, Shias, Delilah… they all came back. And it seems likely they’ve talked to each other, and their parents, and their friends, about what happened, about where they went.
But all Caleb even knows is that you’re on some mission. And you’re with the girls of Fallen Stars? What’s that about? Did they kidnap you?
No, Caleb said you seemed to be getting along. And they always seemed really nice – kind of too nice, if you ask me.
It can’t be coincidence that all four of you ended up in the Enchanted Dominion.
You knew you were going to go. You had time to prepare.
But you didn’t…
You didn’t say anything.
Royal Raven came to another stop, this time on a rooftop looking towards the Hunter Building.
So I ended up here after all.
Do I really tell him? Won’t he just get mad at me? There’s the costume and the alias, first of all – I know he’s heard of me, since I’ve been running around during Hollow Hour and helping out Hunters. But when he finds out it’s me…
He’s a stickler for the rules more than anything. And I’m not a Hunter. I don’t belong out here, fighting with them.
Would he really care if I just vanished?
I want to believe he would. He was so determined to find Caleb and the others when they vanished. And when Fae disappeared…
He was worried. For my sake, more than hers, but…
Royal Raven sighed.
I have to talk to him, don’t I?
But I don’t have to show him this costume. I don’t have to tell him that much. He’ll be furious if he finds out what I’ve been up to. After all… all this jumping and running, well…
Royal Raven leaned against a wall and knelt down, massaging her legs.
I’m still not used to Enhancement Magic. And I was never as athletic as I’m pretending to be.
Okay. Ditch the costume, tell him, then leave. Assuming he’ll let you leave. Which he should. He always lets you do what you want.
Royal Raven’s Talisman – her right glove – flashed, and her entire costume unraveled, coiled up into thread and sequins, and then bounced into the air, vanishing through a Conjuring portal.
Now the woman who ran around as a costumed superhero was wearing street clothes – jeans, tennis shoes, a tee shirt, and a pea coat – and she jumped down to the street, walking on up to the Hunter Building.
Though she wasn’t a Hunter, she could enter the building just fine, and even was allowed to take the elevator all the way up to Jacob Crowley’s penthouse office without an appointment. In the elevator, she stared at the wall, did her best to steady her nerves.
You’re committed now. Don’t be nervous. Just tell him the truth. You know where Fae is, and you’re going to go help her.
The young woman stepped out of the elevator, grimacing ever so slightly at the décor. Jet-black marble tiles, from floor to ceiling, all around. Despite the open concept, and the massive windows at the front and back walls…
Well, he always loved black.
And there he was: Jacob Crowley, head of the Hunter Guild. He stood at his desk, but his back was turned, his hands clasped behind his back as he stared out the windows of his office. The young woman opened the glass door to his office, knocked twice.
“You normally call before coming to visit,” Jacob Crowley said, his deep voice flowing through the room like inky black water. He turned to face the young woman, his dark eyes seeking information. “Madeline.”
Madeline Crowley nodded. “Father,” she said softly. “I… I found out where Fae is.”
“Yet you don’t seem panicked,” Jacob Crowley said, raising an eyebrow. “So she hasn’t been kidnapped. Where, then?”
Madeline took a deep breath, let it out. “She’s in the Enchanted Dominion.”
Father stared at daughter for a long, silent moment. Finally, slowly, he nodded, that little nod that Madeline knew meant “go on.” He’d accepted her words as truth, and he wanted to know more.
“No one knows much,” Madeline said. “But apparently, when Caleb was in the Dominion – that’s where he and Chelsea and Lorelei were, by the way, as well as the other Greysons – he met Fae once, briefly. She’s on some sort of mission, though none of her siblings know what it is. If it’s all right, Father, I’d like to find her, and help her.”
Jacob Crowley stared for several moments, and then turned his back, staring out the window again. “It may be safer for you there than it is in Grimoire, at the moment,” he said. “As much as I am loathe to admit it. You’re sure you can help her?”
Madeline nodded, knowing that her father could see her reflection in the window. “Yes. And I want to. More than anything.”
Another long pause, which Madeline had grown used to long ago. Jacob Crowley always thought before speaking, always measured his words and their meaning. “Will you believe me if I say that I hope you return safely?”
Madeline was taken aback, and couldn’t respond for a moment.
But despite her disbelief… considering what she knew about her father…
There really was only one answer, wasn’t there?
“Yes,” she said softly.
Jacob Crowley nodded, slowly. He didn’t turn around. “Go. I hope you can help her complete her mission. And I hope you both return to Grimoire safely.”
Madeline nodded, turned to go.
“Madeline,” Jacob Crowley said.
“Father?” Madeline asked.
Madeline nodded, and left.
The walk across Grimoire to the Bay Overlook felt far longer than it was. Madeline’s mind was filled with confused, conflicted thoughts.
When she arrived at the Overlook and sat on the bench, those thoughts hadn’t calmed. But it was two minutes before midnight. She needed to start singing, and hope for the best.
She softly hummed a tune, and after a few phrases, opened her mouth, singing the melody louder, though she didn’t include any of the lyrics.
She felt a bit silly, at first. She didn’t sing often, and only really when alone, or with Fae. But as she kept going, kept singing, she felt a peace start to wash over her. The dark, starry sky above. The tide of Grimson Bay softly coming in and going out. The complete solitude, knowing that here she was, all alone.
It soothed her. And as she continued to sing, she closed her eyes. Something made her feel like that was right, and in a moment, she knew why.
The dark inside of her eyelids suddenly burst with yellow light. Madeline kept her eyes closed shut against the glare, and more colors melded into the brightness – pink and blue, red and green, purple and silver. The song Madeline sang seemed to catch on a sudden breeze, was carried in a swirling pattern all around her, echoing, folding into and over itself, layering again and again until her own voice was a full, resounding chorus.
In the sound and the light, Madeline’s mind took hold of her destination, of her goal, of her one desire.
Fae, I’m coming for you. Let’s complete your mission, and come back home.