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New Acquaintances, Plus an Informative History of Atlantis

New Acquaintances, Plus an Informative History of Atlantis Over the next few weeks, both Cindy and Marcell began to open up to each other. They were careful not to get too physically close at school, Cindy didn’t want Marcell to lose his job, after all, but they talked more freely. Cindy talked about the gap between their acquaintance, about the last year and her time in a mental ward. Marcell discussed more about his “curse” as he called it, but most importantly, he finally began to reveal why he had come to Ede Valley in the first place. “I don’t want to get you involved,” he insisted after she wheedled him for the hundredth time. “Why not?” “Because it’s not necessary.” He crossed his arms and frowned. “There’s no point in risking your life just to know the Jeopardy answer to ‘why Lucius Marcell is an idiot’.” “Okay,” Cindy countered, “but if you’re involved in something dangerous, shouldn’t I know about it, you know, in case someone else decides to get me involved.” “Well...” “Besides, how do you know I’m not already involved? I could be knee-deep in whatever it is and you wouldn’t even know it.” “But you’re not.” Marcell did not look amused. She tilted her head. “How do you know? I’m involved in a lot of things.” “Like what?” “I’ve got a mob boss-in-training as my next door neighbor.” Marcell blinked. “You what?” “You heard me,” she smirked, putting her hands on her hips. “The heir to a mob family is squatting in the next door house that I bewitched to be abandoned in exchange for rare ingredients.” “I should be wildly concerned about this but I’m actually really impressed so well done.” Cindy began to smile before he interrupted her. “But I’m still not telling you.” “Why not?” “Because... well...” he struggled. “You’re going to make a habit of doing this, aren’t you?” She grinned. “Of what?” “Dismantling all of my arguments before I can make them.” He shook his head, sighing. “But you might be right. Sort of. So, I’ll tell you a little. But not here.” Lowering her head, Cindy glanced back and forth across the classroom in mock paranoia. “Why, because they could be watching?” “No.” he grouched. “Because it’s kind of complicated and I’m not the biggest expert. And there is no ‘they’.” Luckily, the day was hopelessly downcast, and in the middle of November, Marcell would hardly look out of place with a large coat and hat. They agreed to leave after school ended. “You can at least tell me where you’re taking me. It’s not into your windowless van, is it?” Cindy asked, only half-joking. “Of course not,” Marcell smiled a little. “We’re going to the East Branch.” “The East Branch?” Cindy brow furled. “You mean the library?” Shrugging, Marcell placed his large brimmed hat onto his head. “You can call it that if you like, but it’s not a library.” “What, just because no one goes there?” Cindy followed him out the door. “Because it’s actually a dragon’s hoard.” Cindy blinked. “Excuse me? I think I would know if there was a dragon living in my boring suburb.” “Dragons are old beings with very powerful magic,” Marcell said sagely. “She doesn’t usually look like a dragon.” “Well now you’ve just got me excited.” Cindy grinned as she pushed open the school’s front doors. The East Branch was one of the two libraries in Ede Valley, the other one being known by the obvious title of “The West Branch”. This latter branch was far newer and nicer than its eastern counterpart, and had a much larger selection of books and other materials, so no really went to the East Branch anymore, though it still technically remained open. No one, that is, except Marcell, apparently. As they walked the few blocks to the rather dark, gloomy East Branch, Cindy meditated on the growing weirdness of her life. She had no way of knowing, of course, that this was only the beginning. The East Branch was an old, round building with a peaked roof and dark windows. It seemed as if the sky itself darkened as they approached. Cindy hesitated, suddenly feeling very uneasy. “That anxiety you’re feeling now,” Marcell began as she paused. “Ignore it. She does that on purpose to scare people away.” “The dragon,” Cindy breathed, “is making me anxious?” “Yes.” He took her hand and together, they walked into the heavy interior. Beyond, the room was echo-y and round, with tall, spindly bookshelves lining the walls. Everything was coated in a faded shade of blue from the clouds poking out of the largely glass ceiling. Yet it was more with awe than with trepidation that Cindy glanced around the room, for Marcell had been right. Most of her sudden anxiety had faded as soon as she stepped through the threshold. "Wow," she whispered, her voice small against the weight of the books. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually been in here before.” But before Marcell could respond with a no doubt sarcastic quip, a head poked out of one of the doors lodged between the shelves with an odd clicking sound. The head tilted to the side, staring at them for a second, before a body joined it and began to walk towards Cindy and Marcell in interest. It was a boy, probably no older that fifteen. He was dressed oddly, in a white, long sleeve shirt under a button-down, which had numerous pineapples sprinkled across its patterned front. He didn’t say anything, just continued to approach with an oddly blank expression on his face. “Hello!” Cindy waved. “Do you work here?” And then, under her breath to Marcell, added. “You said that dragon was a ‘she’, right?” The boy just continued to stare. “Um, are you... alright?” Cindy asked. “He won’t respond,” said a new voice, coming vaguely from behind a desk stacked feet high with orderly stacks of books and scrolls. Marcell smiled as a short, grey-haired woman in a blue sweater stepped beyond it. She was one of those people who was probably nearing sixty, but you couldn’t really tell because there was nary a wrinkle in sight. It gave her an ageless quality, and Cindy silently preyed that she would look that good at that age. “Ah, Cindy, this is Aurum,” Marcell nodded to the woman, “She’s the owner of this... collection. Good afternoon.” Ah so this was the dragon. She didn’t look very intimidating, but Cindy guessed that that was the point.

Aurum smiled. “Likewise. A littler early for you, isn’t it Lucius?” Cindy did not miss the familiarity between them. “And who’s your friend?” Aurum winked in Cindy’s direction. “I’m Cindy Miller, I’m a witch,” she took a step forward before Marcell got a chance to speak. “What do you mean ‘he won’t respond’?” she added, turning back to the boy. Approaching the boy with a kind expression, Aurum put her hands on his shoulders. The boy didn’t acknowledge this in any way. “This is Servus. He’s an automaton,” As she blinked, Cindy frowned. She’d heard the word before, but didn’t know its meaning. “An automaton?” “He’s a... robot, I guess you could say, made primarily out of clockwork. Some of them can speak, but not this one, I’m afraid. It’s frankly surprising; he’s one of the most advanced specimens I’ve ever come across.” She patted Servus on the head like he was some antique car. He blinked once, but still didn’t move. “And you see a lot of... automatons?” Cindy added. “I’m a collector of all sorts of ancient things.” Aurum smiled. “It’s sort of my obsession, if you will. But not so much more with automatons. I found this one while I was flying over the Atlantic, floating in the middle of nowhere, completely waterlogged. They’re largely Atlantean constructions, you know. There’s a reason they were the most advanced city on Lemuria.” “Wait, did you just say... Atlantis?” After pausing in surprise, Aurum turned back to Marcell with a frown. “Lucius, do you mean to say you haven’t told her about Atlantis yet?” “I taught her half a semester on it,” he said sheepishly. “But I don’t think she really listened.” Cindy sighed. “I was sixteen and didn’t believe you.” “You’re much better at explaining it than I am anyway,” Marcell added. They both turned to Aurum expectantly. She shook her head, looking very disappointed. “Servus, be a dear and get the Atlantis books. The usual ones please.” He nodded once, before jogging mechanically off through the large, metal door he’d initially appeared from. “I hate that name,” Marcell said unexpectantly, watching the boy leave. “Why did you name him that of all things?” “For irony’s sake,” Aurum grinned widely, revealing surprisingly large, sharp teeth for a woman of her size. Oh yes, dragon, right. For a moment, Cindy was confused, before she remembered she knew Latin. “Wait, does that word mean what I think it means?” She asked, glancing back and forth between the two. “My sense of humor is not for everyone, I’m afraid,” Aurum admitted. “Now,” she shook herself, “Atlantis was a city on the continent of Lemuria, which sank into the sea countless years before Sumer or Egypt were a glint in some farmer’s eye. It was incredibly advanced for 4000 BCE, and so much knowledge was lost when it sank. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly why the continent was lost.” Just then, Servus returned with a small stack of books, which he carried with ease despite his lack of musculature. “Ah yes. Thank you,” Aurum smiled as Servus nodded once more and then stood amongst the others with an expression that could be mistaken for mild interest. “Where was I?” she blinked several times. “Ah, of course. The knowledge of Atlantis would have been lost forever, had it not been for a Roman historian who followed a trail of obscure clues that eventually led him to discover the continent’s existence. Though no one really knows for certain, some say he found the city itself. “But that may have not been his biggest find. This historian also uncovered a legend which speaks of something known as ‘The Truth’. No one really knows what it is, but it seems to hold some great power, and danger.” Cindy nodded, but frowned. “That’s all very interesting. But what does that have to do with Ede Valley?” And here Marcell took over. “About sixty years ago, a group of archaeologists found something near the coast of Britain that we have reason to believe may be related to this ‘Truth’.” “And you think that something found its way here,” Cindy concluded. “But how do you know all of this?” “We’re not the only ones seeking the Truth,” Aurum admitted. “Some of us work together.” Cindy nodded, taking it all in. At the very least, these two believed what they were saying, and though she didn’t know Aurum all that well, Cindy trusted Marcell. “One more question, if you don’t mind,” she paused before Aurum nodded her consent. “Why are you two looking for it in the first place if it’s so dangerous?” “Why does anyone seek the Truth?” Marcell answered with a question of his own. Though she could guess some of the things he may have been implying, Cindy decided that it was not a good time to bring them up. “I suppose you’re right,” she said instead. “Thank you.” She turned to Aurum now too. “Thanks for... telling me all of this. My ‘powers’ aren’t terribly advanced yet, but if you think there’s anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to ask.” “Perhaps I will,” Aurum began to smile before Marcell cut her off with a red glare. “Though it could be very dangerous. Now, Lucius,” she changed the subject. “You wanted that medieval manuscript, didn’t you? I believe it’s in the vault. Servus knows where it is.” The automaton almost seemed to sigh with mild annoyance before leading Marcell through the thick door on the other side of the circular room. “Don’t mind him,” Aurum leaned on her desk and rolled her eyes as soon as the door shut. “He doesn’t mean to be ‘overprotective,’ but when you’re as old as he is, let alone me, it’s hard to see someone with a normal lifespan as anything but a child.” “Well, I guess I’ll have to make that change, then,” Cindy breathed, determined. Aurum grinned. “That’s the spirit.” She reached into the stack of Atlantis books that Servus had brought, and sneezed a small spurt of flame as the dust from the old tomes reached her nose, though she turned out of the way with an expert motion. “That was a close one,” she sighed, pulling out a thin, leather-bound book. “Now, don’t discount what Lucius said,” she intoned. “This hunt for the Truth is incredibly dangerous. But if you’re still interested, that should never stop you from pursuing knowledge. I’ll let you borrow this.” Smiling, she placed the book in Cindy’s hands. Cindy returned the grin. “Thank you.” She hid the book in her coat as Marcell returned and the two shortly thereafter departed. She didn’t tell him about the book, not on the walk back towards the school, nor when they split up and Cindy walked the rest of the way home. Though she knew that it was probably a stupid thing to do, that it could get her into trouble, her interest had been peaked. She had to know more. That night, Cindy opened the creaking, yellowed pages for the first time, intending to read just a few pages before bed. She didn’t shut off the light until three the next morning. The book was a diary, written by a Roman historian—presumably the one mentioned by Aurum—on his quest to discover Atlantis. The original must have been written in Latin, because this was apparently a translation into English. Cindy guessed it was Aurum’s work. The diary detailed the historian’s search as he pursued a vague trail of clues and hearsay over the course of many months. Eventually he seemed to have pin-pointed the location, for her procured a sailing vessel and sailed from the coast of Britain. But to Cindy’s dismay, the diary ended before the historian told if he had actually found it. All there was was a letter. “To whoever reads this,” it began, “And to all those who seek the Truth. Know that the path ahead of you will be long and difficult, and that your very humanity will be brought into question along the way. There are some things that man is not meant to know, lest he be driven mad with the knowledge, his soul split three-fold. But to those desperate enough to succeed, who have looked inside themselves and seen the abyss, the truth is almost in your grasp.” And below, in a nearly illegible scrawl, the name of the author was written: “Lucius Marcellus.” Of course it was. She didn’t know how she hadn’t guessed that in the first place. After that, there was only one more thing before the last page: a fable, the one that had apparently started Marcell on his quest in the first place, and one he often referenced in the diary. It was simply titled: “Muirne and the Truth.”

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