Caelynn and Lincon bid everyone good night and watched as the others returned to their partitioned ‘homes’ lining the edges of the cafeteria. It had been tempting to let each family claim a classroom for themselves, but they all knew their stay in the school would be short-lived. There was too great a risk someone would be left behind if they were spread out.
Lincon offered Caelynn his arm as he escorted her back to the admin office. She responded by taking the offered arm and draping it over her shoulders so she could nestle against his side for the short walk down the hall.
Dayne greeted them as they entered the office and nodded towards a back room. “He just got back a few minutes ago.”
Caelynn breathed a sigh of relief. “About time! Is he all right?”
“I’m fine,” Collin assured from the doorway. “I sent word that I’d be delayed, didn’t I?”
“It’s so cute you think that would keep her from worrying.” Lincon grinned and ducked out of Caelynn’s reach as she spun on him in feigned outrage.
Collin chuckled. “Anyways, I’m sorry to worry you, but I think you’ll like the reason why.” He crooked a finger, beckoning her into the room.
Caelynn and Lincon followed him into what was the principal’s office, where an ancient hermodric chest sat on the desk. Caelynn’s eyes went wide. “Is that…?”
Collin opened the lid to reveal three large archive crystals filled with strands of varying colors. “The only ancient archives we’ve been able to find in the past three thousand years. And this one,” he lifted the middle crystal from the chest, “has something special. Wanna give it a try?”
Caelynn nodded eagerly. She ducked out of the office and returned a few seconds later with a heavy blanket.
“Could I sit in on this, too?” Lincon asked. “I’ve been wanting to for a while, but this is the first time I’ve been available when you’re ready to start.”
“Fine with me,” Caelynn replied. She looked to Collin with raised eyebrows.
“I don’t see why not,” Collin answered as he and Caelynn cleared a space on the floor. “We’ve never had a non-Alfath use the archives before, though, so there’s no telling how you’ll experience it. Still, we can hope for the best.”
“Understood.” Lincon nodded. “So what should I do?”
Caelynn spread the blanket out on the floor and smoothed out the wrinkles, and settled down cross-legged at one edge. “Just sit there and look pretty.” She grinned and pointed to another side of the blanket.
Collin laughed. “Ideally Caelynn will do all the work and we’ll just be along for the ride.” He took a seat as well and placed the crystal in the center of the blanket. “As best as we could tell, this is from just before the start of the Sprytath rebellion.”
“So this records the last days of the Alfath on Tarros?” Caelynn couldn’t keep an eager gleam from her eyes.
Collin shook his head. “Not exactly. The rebellion lasted nearly a century, so this crystal wouldn’t have the final days before we went into exile. But it may let us learn about what happened in the earlier years of the conflict.” He lightly tapped the gem. “See the teal recordings?”
“Mhmm.” Caelynn nodded. “My favorite color.”
“Really?” Collin quirked a brow. “Those are entries Amarrah did herself. I wonder if it’s a coincidence or a deeper connection?” He turned his attention back to the crystal. “Anyways, this is the one I wanted to show you.” He pointed to a teal thread twisted around a shorter, orange-colored strand. “Entwined entries are experiences of someone unable to access the crystals directly. Basically, Amarrah read another’s mind in order to record their memories. If you can read this, we’ll see through both her eyes and the eyes of her subject.”
“What is this memory?”
Collin shrugged. “No idea. I could barely access the most basic, direct recordings. Peter was better at accessing the archives, but even he couldn’t read these threads. Your skill is already far beyond what either of us could do, so I’m just here to give you context and hopefully learn a bit more myself.”
Caelynn narrowed her eyes. “This better not be another orgy.”
Lincon’s eyebrows shot up. “What?!”
Collin’s cheeks colored. “It was in one of the records from Earth. I had no idea our ancestors were so… limber.”
“We cut it short as soon as we realized what was going on,” Caelynn assured. She looked back to the crystal. “Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out.” She sat up, her back straight, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She let it out slowly and opened her eyes. Focusing on the entwined thread, she placed her hands on either side of the crystal, her fingers loosely splayed, careful not to actually touch it. The glow within the recording pulsed and brightened until it was a solid, gleaming light inside the crystal. Caelynn turned her hands and flexed her fingers, coaxing the glow up through the crystal until it shone out through the top. Images formed in the air over the crystal and spread out to encompass the three of them.
◊ ◊ ◊
Affixed in an ornate stand, the crystal glowed and pulsed as it began recording. Caelynn, Collin, and Lincon could feel Amarrah’s concern as she adjusted the stand, ensuring it was fully hidden by the chair before it. She draped a cloth over the crystal for good measure to better ensure her subject remained oblivious to the recording.
She stepped around to the front of the chair — a modest throne — and took a seat. “Testimony of Tassark, foreman of the lake lodge construction site.” She nodded to the heavily-armed guards attending her. “Bring him in.”
The doors opened and two more guards escorted the blindfolded foreman to the center of the chamber. They awaited Amarrah’s nod before withdrawing, closing the door behind them.
Amarrah studied the man before her. She had already reviewed his records and knew he was an effective but harsh master of both lower-caste Alfath and Sprytath servants. She was not surprised his methods had finally backfired. “You may remove the blindfold.”
Tassark untied the cloth covering his eyes and blinked as he adjusted to the light. Once his vision cleared, he paled when he saw Amarrah and immediately dropped into a deep bow. “Forgive me, my lady, but I’ve an urgent message for you.”
The foreman fidgeted as he complied. “Please, my lady, I must…” His words were cut off as one of the guards stepped forward, placed a cushion on the floor, and pushed him down to his knees.
Amarrah reached forward and placed her fingertips over his lips. “Shh. I know you have a message for me. That’s why you are here.”
Tassark slumped with relief. “I promise, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. All I can remember.”
Amarrah gave a pitying little tsk. “I believe you would tell me everything, but I doubt you even remember what you said when you arrived at the gates of The Court. I need to know everything, not just what you remember.” She placed her hands on either side of his face, holding him still as her gaze locked on his eyes. “Just relax,” she cooed. “Let me in.”
Panic flowed from the foreman and washed over Amarrah. What does she mean about The Court? What did I say? Tarros, what is she doing to me?!
The images from the crystal blurred and swirled together as Amarrah reached into Tassark’s memories.