The scent of seared meat and spices greeted Caelynn, Lincon, and Dayne as they returned to Elyoniem. They entered the common room to find Collin in the kitchen, julienning fresh quiver root. The dining table was already laid out with an assortment of dumplings, stuffed leaves, and cheeses, and judging by the numbers of bowls, pots, and pans along the counters, they were just the beginning.
“Um… Collin?” Caelynn started.
“Stress cooking.” He threw the chopped root into a simmering pan before looking up to them, his eyes rimmed red with emotion. “We’re still in The Court so obviously things went wrong. It didn’t take much to figure out Peter is dead.” He dropped his knife on the counter to clench his fists. “He used me. Manipulated me. I should hate him and be glad he’s gone but…” He clenched his jaw and turned his attention back to his cooking.
“You said before that he was like a father to you,” Caelynn noted. “Family can be complicated.”
“His regard for you was sincere, Lord Foley.” Dayne spoke up. “Yes, he used you. He used everyone. But he still genuinely thought of you like a son.”
“You were there yesterday,” Collin spat back. “You heard him say I’m unworthy because I’m a half-breed.”
Dayne frowned and nodded. “That’s been bothering me. Three days ago he threatened to discipline Thyla for saying the same thing.”
“We know Thyla can perform some magic and can take control of thralls.” Lincon broke in as he helped himself to the dumplings. “Is it possible she could control Alfath as well?”
“That may also explain Bailey.” Dayne noted.
“Bailey?” Collin’s eyebrows shot up. “What about him?”
Dayne told Collin about the attempted incursion of Thyla’s spies and Bailey’s capture, including the young man’s initial contempt and sudden contrition once he saw Caelynn.
Collin shook his head. “Even if he’s still angry at me, Bailey’s always been supportive of half-breeds. He’d never buy into Thyla’s purity politics.”
“So that’s two full-blood Alfath uncharacteristically supportive of Thyla’s agenda.” Caelynn pulled the dwindling platter of dumplings away from Lincon.
“It’s supposed to be impossible to compel Alfath, but…” Collin shrugged. He dished up the last of the food and carried it to the table.
Dayne’s expression grew dark. “She has Morgan. There’s no telling what she can do now.”
“Morgan’s alive?” Collin paused midstep to gawp at the bodyguard. “Fuck.”
Caelynn gestured to the others to take a seat. “We need to bring Collin fully up to speed while we eat, and then I expect one of you to tell me just why a five year old boy is such a problem.”
They passed platters and information as Caelynn, Lincon, and Dayne filled Collin in on the battle, Peter Jorrall’s death, Thyla’s capture and subsequent escape, and the director’s orders and ultimatums. Once they had finished cleaning up, Caelynn turned the discussion back to Morgan.
“You said he’s the opposite of Amarrah?” She looked over to Dayne.
He shrugged. “We know very little, but every reference we’ve come across that mentions Morgan notes he is just as powerful as Amarrah but can be more dangerous to the Alfath than to our enemies.”
Caelynn tilted her head. “How is he dangerous?”
“We don’t know,” Collin answered. “What little we do know comes from ancient archives, but we’ve only found three of those and they are… difficult to read.”
“So where are they?” Caelynn sat up, an eager gleam lighting her eyes. “The sooner we start going through them, the sooner we find what we need.”
“No.” Lincon spoke up, his voice even but firm. “I know that look, Heartsong, but you are not going to pull an all-night research session. Not tonight. You need rest. We all do.”
“Comman… er, Lord Sparks… Lincon?” Collin cast about for the right title.” Whoever — he’s right. Besides, we wouldn’t be able to search those records anyways. They aren’t in The Court.”
“Professor Jorrall said you had the Archives here.” Caelynn frowned.
“He didn’t lie.” Collin shrugged. “We brought a few records here to show you. But Peter kept the Archives scattered and hidden to avoid the risk of someone getting ahold of them and weaponizing the information.”
“Someone like Thyla.” Lincon frowned.
Collin nodded. “But I can show you what we have here, if you like. It’s in your chambers.” He looked over to Lincon. “We’ll need your help since I no longer have the belt.” With Caelynn’s permission he led the others into her chambers and the short passage between her bedroom and bathroom. He turned sideways in the hall and gestured to the wall before him. “The Archive is hidden in this wall. See if you can find it.”
Lincon quirked a brow, shrugged, and began to examine the wall. The polished stone was seamless and gave no indication where there may be a hidden door or panel. Running his hand over the surface proved equally fruitless. With a smirk, he stepped back and focused on the wall, reaching out with his magic to feel the energy within the stone. His eyebrows shot up as he realized all he could sense was the stone of the wall. He looked back to Collin.
“The archives are stored in hermodric chests to avoid detection.” Collin looked up to the top of the wall and found a specific swirl in the marbled stone. He traced a line down the wall with his finger to a spot about chest high. “Here.” He moved his hand in a small circle over the area. “If you focus on the energy of the wall itself you should… uh, you should be able to feel an empty area.”
Lincon narrowed his focus on the wall and nodded slowly. “Like the energy just disappears there — which makes no sense, but that’s the only way I can describe it.”
Collin nodded distractedly. “That’s the chest. Manipulating the stone around it will be tricky, but you should get the hang of it with a little practice.”
Lincon frowned. “Hermodric wreaks havoc with magic. I don’t want to risk tearing open another hole to the surface.”
“It’s safe,” Collin assured. “These chests only dampen incoming magic, so they won’t boost any spells. I learned to control the belt by uncovering and reburying the Archives. If anything bad was going to happen, it would have been that first week.”
Still looking a bit doubtful, Lincon stepped in front of the indicated spot on the wall and narrowed his focus once more. His brow furrowed in concentration as he raised a hand towards the wall and spread his fingers. A ripple moved through the wall and the stone under Lincon’s hand seemed to bubble out and pull away, revealing a box of glassy, black stone. Lincon waited for Collin to remove the chest, then slowly closed his fingers. The stone flowed back into place and solidified once more.
Collin carried the chest back to the common room and sat it on the table. He stepped back and gestured to Caelynn.
She lifted the lid, revealing a large crystal laying in a nest of black silk. Her fingers trembled as she reached in to pick it up, and her eyes widened in surprise. “It’s heavier than I expected.” She lifted the crystal out and held it carefully with both hands. Dark green threads filled the bottom half of the crystal and snaked towards the top. “Those can’t be natural,” she frowned at the colored streaks. “They are too uniform and orderly.”
“Each one is a historic record,” Collin explain. “That green color is particular to Peter — this is the record of his tenure leading the Alfath. He wanted it to be the first one you went through.”
Caelynn narrowed her eyes. “Why?”
“He didn’t usually discuss his students, but something about you rattled him. He knew you disliked him and he purposefully did things to put you off so you’d keep your distance. Then he found out you were his daughter, and he knew he had to mend fences.” Collin lightly tapped the crystal. “These records aren’t just statements of facts. They’re his experiences, thoughts, and emotions. I think he hoped that by making himself vulnerable, you would come to understand and maybe even forgive him.”