Lady Friday Part 19

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and he probably couldn't spill the contents, but it didn't hurt to be careful.

The silver chair was sunk, though Arthur could see it through the clear blue water. So he stood on the stone pillar and faced the direction Friday had. Seeing all the sleepers standing and swaying all around him, he couldn't help but search for his mother's face. Was she here? Were there other people he knew?

"Hurry!" called out Scamandros, who was looking closely at the back of one of the sleeper's heads.

Arthur took a deep breath, raised his arms as he had seen Friday do, and concentrated his thoughts on the Fifth Key. Just to be sure, he also spoke aloud, though quietly, so only he could hear.

"Fifth Key, return the experiences you hold to these poor people, so that they are just as they were before Friday stole their precious lives. Repair their memories and give back all their happinesses "

He paused for the briefest instant, wondering whether that was all they needed, but in that same moment knew that it was not. He would not himself be content to have only his happy memories.

" and all their sorrows. Thank you."

The Key flashed with multicolored light, and streamers 295 .

exploded out from Arthur's hand, snaking back across the silver-mirrored lake to connect with all the sleepers, making for just a few seconds a brilliant shining lattice of every color of the rainbow.

Then the streamers were gone and the mirror in Arthur's hand grew dull. As the sleepers still swayed and shuffled in their places, Arthur spread his wings and flew back to the others.

"Did it work?" Arthur shouted in dismay as he landed. "They don't look any better!"

Scamandros leaned back from the head he was inspecting, pushed his gla.s.ses farther up his forehead, and shouted back, "Yes! Most, if not all, of the stolen experience has been returned. The sleep is a different matter, merely an instruction from Friday, easily broken. But I suggest we leave them asleep until they can be returned."

"You have done well, Arthur," said the Will, who had spat out Friday and was now content to keep her wrapped under one wing. The former Trustee did not complain or struggle. She sat there, staring into s.p.a.ce, her eyes unfocused. "Very well indeed."

Arthur was not listening. He was already aloft again, flying over the crowd, searching for his mother.

"That's a dozen gold roundels you owe me, Fred," said 296.

Suzy. "Told you we'd get back to Arthur and get the Fifth Key before we got a decent cup of tea." "We got a cup of tea at Binding Junction," pro tested Fred. "Not a decent cup," said Suzy. "That was poison." "I wonder how we are going to get all these people back to where they belong," said Scamandros. "And now that I think of it, I wonder how we are going to get back. I forgot to pack a Transfer Plate!"


Chapter Twenty-SIX.

She's not among the sleepers in the crater," Arthur said an hour later. The silver chair had been fished out of the lake and set up on the sh.o.r.e, and he was sitting on it, as the centerpiece of an impromptu court or council of war. "Leaf, are you sure this Harrison fellow would know if she was here?" Harrison, who had been found hiding in the linen store, nodded from where he was kneeling in front of Arthur. Leaf, who was sitting at Arthur's side on a wooden chair from one of the closer rooms, also nodded. Her aunt Mango stood next to her, swaying from side to side and occasionally snoring. "Harrison had the records from Friday's hospital back home of everyone sent through. I'm on the list, but there's no mention of your mom." "Someone else has taken her, then," said Arthur. "Scamandros, there can be no doubt she is not on Earth?" "If we could not find her through the Seven Dials, she is either shrouded by sorcery or somewhere else," Scamandros replied.


Arthur bit his lip, then asked the question that had been worrying him for a long time.

"Could she be dead?"

"Only if no one knows she is dead. Which is very unlikely."

"I have to find out," said Arthur. "I don't suppose it's any use now, but Scamandros, if I use the First Key instead of the Fifth, will it contaminate me less?"

"No, Arthur," Scamandros said sadly.

"Thought not," Arthur muttered. He raised the mirror, glad that he couldn't see the crocodile ring and its measure of his sorcerous contamination under the gauntlet of the Second Key. "Friday, I charge you by the power of the Fifth Key to tell me truly if you know anything of what has happened to my mother since last Thursday, in the time of Earth, my home."

"I know nothing," whispered Lady Friday. "I would have taken your mother, if she had been there for the taking. But she was not among the patients of the temporary hospital from which I took my final selection. I would have so enjoyed her experiences, I'm sure "

"Enough!" ordered Arthur.

He bent his head and kneaded his forehead with his gauntleted fingers until a sudden fear that this could somehow contaminate him even more made him sit back 299 .

straight, just in time to see the Mariner approaching. He was leading two bedraggled Denizens, who were in turn carrying across their shoulders Friday's Noon and Dusk. The two superior Denizens were silent and still, their eyes closed, but they were not dead. There were papers stuck on their foreheads, hanging down over their elegant noses. Friday's Noon had lost his monocle.

"Milka and Feorin!" said Leaf. "These were the two who helped me. Not that they really meant to."

"I found them trying to sneak out and board my ship!" The Mariner laughed. "Doubtless they did not know what I do with stowaways!"

Arthur looked at the bedraggled would-be star sailors, and then at Friday's Noon and Dusk. He was annoyed that they had escaped punishment, the more so that they were doing it by partaking of some poor long-lost mortals' lives.

"Can they be brought out of their experiencing?" he asked.

"Not without breaking their minds," said Scamandros. "It is not an area which I have studied. I don't know who has. Now, Arthur, we must get these sleepers back to their Secondary Realm, to your Earth. They will wake up before too long and I doubt that waking here would serve them well."

"I need to get Aunt Mango back," confirmed Leaf.

300 .

"Easier said than done." Arthur felt the pocket at his side where the Fifth Key rested. They had already established that there were two ways out of Friday's retreat, mirror-paths set up that could be activated by the Key. One went back to the private hospital on Earth and the other to the Middle of the Middle House.

"Martine can lead us back if you can open the way with the Key," said Leaf. She had spoken to the craggy- faced, gray-haired woman, who was not anywhere near as mad as Harrison had made out. She was just shy and deathly afraid of Lady Friday and the Denizens, though she'd served the former Trustee for at least thirty years.

"I've got a Transfer Plate too," said Suzy, pulling out a disc of burnished electrum. "The doc can retune it for the Citadel or wherever you want to go, Arthur. "

"I want to go back to Earth!" said Arthur. "I'm just not sure if that's the right thing to do. The Piper may already be attacking the Citadel again, and without the Keys, Dame Primus will be hard-pressed. So perhaps I should go there. Or I should move directly against Sat.u.r.day... if I can figure out some way of getting into the Upper House. There's just so much I don't know!"

"Knowledge, like all things, is best in moderation," intoned the Will. "Knowing everything means you don't need to think, and that is very dangerous."

301 .

"Whatever you decide, Arthur, I must be away," said the Mariner. "The solar tide of this purple star flows strongly, and I would catch it. If you do not require them, I might also take these Denizens. My current ship requires no crew, but I have my eye on a larger vessel."

"They may go, if they wish," said Arthur. "Though if you could stay, Captain, I'd really appreciate it."

"Do we wish?" Feorin asked Milka.

"Definitely," said Milka. She bowed low to Arthur, and then almost as low to Leaf.

"I must catch the tide," said the Mariner. "I am a seafarer, Arthur. Long ago I decided I did not want to be immured in all the politicking and bickering within the House. When my debt to you is fully paid, I shall not come again, save that it be at my own whim."

The Mariner saluted Arthur. Then he took his crew and left, striding back inside to begin the long climb up to the crater rim where his small starship nestled against a crack in the dome. As they disappeared, Leaf heard Feorin asking the Mariner whether he had his ship's log bound in leather or calfskin.

"I have decided," said Arthur. "I will go back to Earth with you, Leaf, and the sleepers. Suzy you, Fred, and the Will had better use the Transfer Plate to go to the Great Maze and take Friday with you to be locked up, with her Noon and Dusk. Dr. Scamandros, I have the plate here that took me to the Middle House. You can reset it for Monday's Dayroom I know Dame Primus wants you to keep an eye on the Old One."

"It is not the Old One that is troubling," said Dr. Scamandros. "He is chained as always. But there has been a curious winnowing of Coal-Collaters and other strangeness in the cellars. I am investigating that."

"I am going to give you the first four Keys to take to Dame Primus," continued Arthur, directing his attention to the Beast. "I'll need the Fifth Key to get back to the House. Which I will do as soon as possible."

"I'd keep them all if I was you," said Suzy.

"No," said Arthur. "Everything of power from the House, Denizen or Key, has a bad effect on the Secondary Realms. I have brought enough plagues and troubles to my world. Besides, Dame Primus will need them to fight off the Piper. And Sat.u.r.day."

"Sat.u.r.day!" exclaimed Suzy. "That reminds me. Where did I put it?" She rummaged in the pockets of her paper coat, pulled out a small square of paper, and handed it to Arthur. "It's the paper poor old Uggie had. I reckon he got it 303 .

from the Raised Rat who used the Transfer Plate Friday sent to Sat.u.r.day, the one whose tracks we saw in the snow. There's a b.l.o.o.d.y paw print on the outside, see?"

"What is it?" asked Arthur. He unfolded it as Suzy answered.

"Something worth a Raised Rat dying for, I'd say."

Arthur read what was written on the sc.r.a.p of paper aloud. It had been torn from a larger paper, and there was an edge that he thought had probably once held a seal, for there was a trace of the rainbow wax used by all the Trustees.

for the last time, J do not wish to intervene. Manage affairs in theMouse as you wish. Jt will make little difference in the end.

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Lady Friday Part 19 summary

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