Shana felt instantly at home.
Libraries are the greatest places in the universe.
Eventide Archive was the coziest, comfiest, most inviting library Shana had ever dreamed of. Bookshelves were close together, but it didn’t look or feel claustrophobic. There were many cushions throughout the place, often around low tables, and it seemed the normal thing to do in the Archive was to sit or sprawl on floor cushions rather than in chairs or on couches.
How come no other libraries have thought of that?
The warm lighting enhanced the atmosphere, and there was a wonderfully inventive layout to what Shana could see from the Archive’s entrance hall. In every direction, the Archive steadily rose, its entire perimeter a rounded, shallow staircase. Each step was wide enough before the next to serve as its own sitting area, with cushions and low tables, and there were bookshelves built into depressions in the floor, or into ramps breaking up the perimeter staircase, that seemed to be more of a “build your own shelf” sort of idea. Some of the floor and ramp shelves were empty, but Shana saw people carrying books from normal shelves to a sitting area, and then placing all but one book into the floor shelf next to them – a convenient way of storing the books they were reading without cluttering the floor or the table.
I love this place so much.
Shana started forward, but a voice stopped her.
“Remove your shoes, please.”
The woman who spoke had a calm, soothing voice, and she surveyed Shana and her group with a serene smile. She was dressed in a kimono patterned with glistening blue water cascading over silver stones, and every movement made it appear as if the pattern was actual water flowing, with a current and wetness that seemed completely real. The woman had dark hair and dark eyes, and her high cheekbones and smooth complexion paired well with how she carried herself, standing tall and conveying a sense of both warm invitation and authoritative command.
“H-hello,” Shana said, caught off-guard and feeling her thoughts jumble wildly for a moment.
“Hello,” said the woman. “Welcome to Eventide Archive. Please remove your shoes before exiting the entrance hall.”
“Oh!” Shana said, staring at her feet, and then noticing the shelves of cubbies in the entrance hall, many of which held pairs of shoes. “Sorry. Right. We’ll do that right away.”
“Are you Selphine Miora?” Shias asked as he took off his shoes.
“I am,” said the woman. “Archivist of Eventide Archive. Did you come here looking for me?”
“We need your help,” said Shana, tucking her shoes into a cubby. “We need to go to the Garden of Memory.”
“We should introduce ourselves first,” Shias said. “And explain from the beginning why we’re here.”
“Oh! Right,” Shana said, feeling ever so flustered.
Why am I so nervous?
Maybe it’s because of how things have moved so quickly? And that just a little while ago I was with so many other people, and now suddenly we’re back on our own again, just the five of us?
I miss Caleb and Fae already.
“If you seek the Garden of Memory,” Selphine said, her expression growing serious, “then I’m sure it’s quite the story. Please, follow me. We can talk in private.”
She led the five teens into an adjacent room, sliding the bamboo-and-paper door shut behind them. She sat at the head of a low table, kneeling on a floor cushion with tremendous poise and grace. Shana and the others gathered around, each of them matching Selphine’s kneeling pose. Ben clearly immediately regretted this, slumping out of the posture to sit with his legs sprawled out after just a few seconds, earning a slap on the arm from Kathryn.
“So, I guess we just… start at the beginning?” Shana asked. Selphine nodded, smiling. “Okay. Right.” Shana took a deep breath, then let it out.
It’s okay. This is where we’re supposed to be.
“I’m Shana, and this is my brother Shias, and my friends.” She let the others take over introducing themselves, and when they were done, she noticed Selphine was studying her and Shias with a curious expression. “What is it?”
“Ah, I’m sorry,” Selphine said. “I was just curious. You said you were brother and sister. Do you have any other siblings?”
“Yeah, two sisters and another brother,” Shana said, her heart heavy at the thought of them.
“Have you met Fae or Delilah?” Shias asked. “Our last name is Greyson.”
“Greyson!” Selphine said, eyes widening. “Of course! Yes, I met Fae quite some time ago, and we spent a good deal of time together. She had many questions, and I did my best to aid her in finding answers. Have you seen her recently? I’ve often thought of her and wondered at the progress of her journey, and her safety.”
“She helped us at the Nightmare Citadel,” Shana said, excited at the realization of this connection to her sister. “We saved Nocta, and then she went off to chase after Collapse and destroy it for good.”
“Destroy it?” Selphine asked, full shock apparent in her expression. “That is… she truly believes she can do so?”
“Apparently Collapse is weakened and on the run,” Shias said. “If she’s fast, she should be able to find and destroy it.”
“Truly…” Selphine said, a faraway look in her eyes as she stared at the table. “She’s done so much since she was last here. Even though she faces dangers I never could have imagined… I’m so glad she’s safe.”
Shana’s heart soared to see how much Selphine cared for Fae.
“But I’m sorry for distracting you,” Selphine said. “Please, start your story from the beginning.”
“Right,” Shana said, taking a moment to collect her thoughts.
The beginning, huh?
Well, if going to the Garden of Memory is linked to the Radiant King, then…
She started at what she thought truly was the beginning of her grand journey – trying to save the missing children in Grimoire. With the help of her brother and friends, she walked through the entire adventure so far, from finding Annabelle in the grove to being captured and meeting the Radiant King, from tracking down the Locksmith to their adventures with Maribelle across the Final Frontier, from the trial inside the Dream Forge to the most recent quest to save Nocta, and finally ending with what Heart and the Nightmare Queen had told her about her next task. Interspersed in all of that were her dreams, particularly the ones that the Radiant King had been involved in.
“The Dreamer…” Selphine said, sighing heavily. “And yet Fae didn’t seem to take special note of that fact?”
“No,” Shana said. “Why?”
“The Dreamer’s Heart is one of the five Intangibles that her drawings were linking her to,” Selphine said. “With all that’s happened, she must have forgotten.”
“So then…” Shana started, her heart plummeting. “I… I could have helped her more?”
“I will try to find a way to contact her,” Selphine said. “She has a mirror, one that can show her the Dreamer under the right conditions. I always thought it meant that she needed to know something about the Dreamer first – now she does. If she uses that mirror while thinking of you, she should find the answers she seeks.”
“And when we’re done with what we have to do,” Kathryn said, “we can go looking for Fae if she hasn’t gotten what she needs. We’ll just have to keep it in mind.” She smiled. “Too bad your sister doesn’t have your perfect memory, huh?”
Shana groaned, leaning back and staring at the ceiling. “Why is this all so complicated? If only she’d remembered when we were together… or if we’d had more time together…”
“Don’t be discouraged,” Selphine said, her soothing voice helping lift Shana’s heavy heart. “All will be well. I’ll do my utmost to aid both of you in the journeys ahead.” Her smile faded. “However, the Garden of Memory is no simple Location. To reach it in the first place… and to find what you need there… the Center Locations are always so challenging.”
“Center Locations?” Shana asked.
Selphine tapped the surface of the table with her finger, and it rippled like water. The table’s surface now showed three sort-of maps, spiraling affairs with numerous circles moving in strange, ever-changing speeds and patterns, but staying within their given spirals. When one circle drifted near a circle from a different spiral, sparks of light shot between them until they moved away from each other.
Looking closely, Shana realized the circles were made up of words! They were difficult to read given their small size and circular shape, but she made out a few: Hawthorn Academy, Hall of Reflections, and Sea of Tranquility.
“This is a simplified map of the Enchanted Dominion,” Selphine said. “The Dominion is made up of three Sectors, each of which has numerous Locations that move among each other in an ever-changing spiral fashion. When Locations move close to each other, pathways open between them, often linking to other Sectors as well. There are other factors to consider, like the URS trains, the trains of Sunset Square, the Dreamtide, the Final Frontier, Lost Locations… but we needn’t get into all of that at the moment. What’s relevant to our discussion are these.” Another tap on the table, and a circle in each Sector lit up with golden light.
Not just any circles – the ones in the very center of each Sector. They were the only circles that weren’t moving, and the spiral of each Sector seemed to orbit around them.
“The Center Locations are the core of each Sector,” Selphine said. “The Chapel of the Unreturned. The Celestial Shore. And the Garden of Memory. They don’t move, so they would seem to be the easiest to reach. But it isn’t so simple.”
“Nothing ever is,” Kathryn said with a sigh.
“The Center Locations are absolutely vital to the rest of their Sector,” Selphine said. “If some evil were to befall them, the entire Sector would suffer. So there are safeguards, defensive measures in place. The primary one is a simple matter of logistics. It is very, very difficult to reach a Center Location, and to do so requires no small amount of luck.”
“We’ve been pretty lucky so far,” Ben said.
“Indeed you have,” Selphine said. “And coming to me was a wise decision, as well. I am what you would call a Prime Paladin, not by any nature of my own ability, but simply because of my Location – Eventide Archive is a Prime Bastion, a Daylight Bastion which serves as the most important of its kind for its Sector. That affords me certain privileges, and since the Garden of Memory is the Core Location of my Sector, I can make what would be a very uncertain journey very certain indeed.” She held out her hand, and the air shimmered above her palm for a moment before coalescing into an ornate, golden key inset with a glittering ruby. “This key serves to open a very special door in a very special Location, a door that cannot be opened by any other means. This is but a copy that will dissolve as soon as it is used, but that will be enough for you to gain access to the Garden of Memory.”
“So the short version is that because we talked to you, getting to the Garden is super-easy,” Ben said.
“Indeed,” Selphine said. “But as I said…”
“To find what we need there is also a challenge,” Shias said.
Selphine nodded. “The Garden of Memory is a place, the only place, in all the universe that holds all memory,” she said. “There are memories, events of the past, that people wish to forget, or that they wish to hide. And there are many magical methods to do so, to lock away memories, to destroy them, to manipulate them, to rewrite them, to shroud them in impenetrable darkness. But the Garden of Memory is where all of those memories exist in the light, with no tricks, no lies, no deceptions.”
“So it’s filled with horrific memories of terrible things,” Shias said. “And what we’re searching for might be similar.”
“Memories that people have taken great care to destroy or hide can be terrifying things,” Selphine said. “So you will likely see things you didn’t wish to see, things that you may not be prepared to see. And more than that, you will have to contend with the Guardian of Memory.”
“Guardian in the Garden, huh?” Kathryn asked.
“He is a final safeguard,” Selphine said. “He curates the memories, organizes them, and denies passage to those who would attempt to destroy the core version of memories that they’ve otherwise disguised or eliminated.”
“But we’re not trying to do that, so won’t we be okay?” Shana asked.
“He will question your every action,” Selphine said. “He can see within your mind and soul, to your deepest thoughts and desires. And he is a very untrusting individual, cautious, strict, severe, and uncompromising. Do not try to hide anything from him, even if you would find it embarrassing or uncomfortable. Be entirely truthful, no matter what. And seek only what you went there for. Do not be overly curious. It would be best not to be curious at all, in fact.”
“So basically,” Kathryn said, nudging Ben, “you specifically need to keep your mouth shut and follow our fearless leaders without question.”
“Why are you singling me out?” Ben asked.
“Because you’re the most likely to get us in trouble,” Rae said in a small voice, smiling slightly.
“See?” Kathryn asked, pointing at Rae. “Everybody knows it.”
“Unfortunately, this is all I can do for you,” Selphine said. “I hope it’s enough.”
“It’s everything,” Shana said, beaming as she took the key from Selphine. “We know so much more than we did before. Thank you.”
“Now, please come with me,” Selphine said. She rose and exited the room, and the five teens followed her. She crossed the entrance hall to a door that had a dial next to it with three different settings that were color-coded: red, blue, and yellow. She turned the dial to red. “This door will take you to the Seat of the Seven. You will not be able to go far into this Location – exploring its depths requires a Writ of Passage from the Crystal Family – but you do not need to. At the great gate leading into the Seat of the Seven, you will see stacks of flat rocks. The side of the gate that has the least rocks stacked on top of each other is where you must go. Simply follow the path, and you will find the door to the Garden of Memory.”
Shana looked longingly back at Eventide Archive. “I wish we could have stayed longer,” she said.
Selphine gave her a sympathetic smile. “I’m glad to hear you say that,” she said. “But the path to the Seat of the Seven will not remain open for much longer.”
Time’s never on our side, is it? Always forced to rush from one thing to the next…
Shana clutched the key she’d been given tightly and turned to the door.
But if we hurry…
And if we succeed…
I can always come back here someday, right?
I’d like to visit it with Fae. And Delilah.
“Everyone ready?” she asked. Nods and words of assent went around. Selphine opened the door for them, and Shana led the way through.