Authors: E.G. Foley
“Sharks are far less dangerous than the disaster that thing could bring down upon us.” He put his spectacles back on and shook his head ominously.
“So you know what it is, then?” she asked meekly, frightened by his dire tone.
“An Atlantean sphere!” he whispered, nodding and looking just as scared as her. “I suspected from the moment you showed me, but that little demonstration just now removed all doubt. You have to get it out of here, Sapphira. It cannot stay in Poseidonia. It’s too dangerous. If the legends are true, then what we just witnessed was only the smallest demonstration of its power.”
“Is it some sort of weapon?”
“No more questions. Just do as you’re told for once and get rid of the dashed thing before anyone else finds out it was here!”
Sapphira stared at him in wide-eyed confusion, fear rising up from her bones. She swallowed hard. “All right. I’ll go now.”
He nodded in relief. “Take Tyndaris with you for protection out there, but no one else. He’ll defend you with his life, and he at least is trustworthy. But, above all, you must never breathe a word of this to anyone, Sapphira. If news got out that a real Atlantean sphere has been found, it will draw every power-mad tyrant in the seas to this kingdom, and possibly from the landers’ world, as well.”
Her eyes widened.
Pro-Pom began picking up his scattered books and papers. “Our safest course is simply to throw it back into the abyss…and pretend none of this ever happened.”
She nodded in fright. “I understand. Make some excuse to Father if he asks for me, will you?”
Her tutor nodded grimly. She put the orb of doom back into her satchel, then swam to the door, head down.
With one hand on the door latch, Sapphira turned back before leaving. “Professor—I’m sorry. I-I truly didn’t mean any harm. I didn’t know.”
His face softened. “I know, child. Just do as I said, and all will be well.”
She nodded in regret, then let herself out and pulled the door shut behind her.
Outside his cave, she leaned against the door for a moment. A flurry of tiny silver bubbles accompanied her unsettled sigh.
In the distance, the lights of the coral palace gleamed, its fanciful pink spires reaching for the moonlight that now played along the surface of the waves.
Gazing at her home, she couldn’t believe she had put the whole kingdom in danger. She felt like such a fool.
No wonder Father doubts my abilities. Ah, well. I’d better go fetch Tyndaris.
She cringed at the thought of having to confess to someone she respected so much about the trouble she’d caused. But she’d swum only a few strokes when a thought made her pause.
But what if I throw the orb back into Calypso Deep and the rock monsters come back and get it?
That would virtually guarantee the Atlantean artifact ended up in the wrong hands—the hands of whoever had made those creatures. She shook her head with a frown.
I can’t risk that.
There’s got to be a better hiding place.
Preferably somewhere close by. That way she could keep an eye on it. Then, after some time had passed, when she was sure those bizarre rock monsters were long gone,
she could do as her tutor had said and throw it back into the Calypso Deep.
In the meanwhile, she knew the perfect hiding place. It was her own secret refuge, the ancient ruins of a sunken temple, where she had often gone to be alone and play or dream and hide ever since she was a child.
A thousand years ago, the Roman temple had slipped into the sea during an earthquake. It still sat at an angle to this day on its remote mountaintop in a sleepy rural province on the western edge of her father’s kingdom, off the coast of Sicily.
After visiting the place for years, Sapphira could personally vouch for the fact that no one had ever bothered her there. It was too deep for humans to reach, and the merfolk had long since forgotten all about it. What did they care about some old, decaying pile of rubble made by landers?
she concluded. The orb would undoubtedly be safe there, at least for a while, until she could dispose of it properly.
She saw no need to tell Professor Pomodori about her change of plans. He didn’t want to know, anyway; he had said so himself.
Her mind made up, Sapphira nodded.
I’ll hide it there and never tell a soul.
But as she swam off to stash the orb inside the sunken temple, she failed to take one small thing into account.
Word had a way of traveling far and fast in the underwater world, as the whales well knew.
messages traveled for hundreds of miles at a time, and a few of them had seen her in the deep.
Worse, neither she nor her tutor had noticed the listening conch half buried in the sand on the floor of his cave. You only had to hold one such shell up to your ear to hear whispers of all the secrets in the ocean.
Thus it was only a matter of weeks before the rumor that an Atlantean orb had been found had encircled the Seven Seas, and finally reached the deepwater fortress known as the Locker, home to the ocean’s most legendary outlaw.
Oh, he was the devil of drowning, himself, worse than a hurricane and a giant octopus combined—the taker of souls—known to sailors the world over as the cold, the cruel, the pitiless Davy Jones.
When one of his loyal shark-shifters came and whispered in his ear, the dread, undead pirate king sat back from his gaming table, where he had been rolling the bones on a wager for the fate of some poor soul. But at this news, a covetous smile curved his bluish lips.
“Well, now, me hearties,” he rumbled to his terrifying crew. “Here’s a treasure worth havin’.” He shot abruptly to his feet. “Make sail, boys! It’s time we paid King Nereus a visit.”
“Aye, aye, Captain!” said First Mate Carnahan. Half-man, half-thresher shark, he used his long tail to whip the crew into action. But always eager for battle, the rest of the cursed pirates scrambled to obey.
Jake Takes a Holiday
nother night, another round of potent cloaking spells from Aunt Ramona. Another grand hotel somewhere on the Continent.
Jake’s moods had been all up and down ever since they’d left England. Sometimes he was giddy with the sights and sounds, tastes and smells of some dazzling new city.
Other times, seemingly at random, the sadness over the trouble he’d caused to everyone he cared about would creep up on him in the midst of looking at some amazing ruins or a sculpture or a dazzling cathedral or some treasure-packed museum.
For the most part, everybody got along, but occasionally members of their group bickered under the strain of travel, especially Isabelle, fault-finding with poor Maddox, who just kept his mouth shut.
His stoic refusal to argue with her only irked her more. Of course, the fifteen-year-old empath was still sore that the Guardian apprentice had politely rejected her overtures. Izzy had succumbed to—in Jake’s view—a silly infatuation with the muscular older boy. She knew full well that a Guardian was not allowed to pursue romantic involvements.
As for Nixie Valentine, the witch prodigy was gloomy by nature, so it was hard to tell if she was having fun on their trip or not. Even Archie’s dauntless cheer wore a bit thin now and then, but that might’ve been due to lack of sleep.
Now that the three boys were sharing a bedroom, Jake was well aware that his cousin was still having his unsettled—and possibly prophetic—dreams.
They had started after his brief brush with death, thanks to an attack at Merlin Hall by the ghoulish hag Jenny Greenteeth. Thankfully, Nixie had been on hand to bring him back with an astonishing display of her magic, but the boy genius had been a little
Nevertheless, Jake had found it amusing that Archie had wept when Aunt Ramona had taken them on a sort of pilgrimage to the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci in Tuscany.
Leonardo was, of course, Archie’s top scientific hero, but more than that, the original Renaissance man had recently appeared to the boy genius in these strange dreams of his, advising him on how to solve certain problems with his various inventions.
As for Dani, they had hardly been able to pry her away from Paris, where she had loved the fact that she could bring Teddy everywhere with her. Small dogs were welcome even in the cafés. Naturally, little brown Teddy was in heaven. No Norwich terrier had ever lived so well.
Jake had laughed uproariously, however, at the redhead’s comment following their visit to Notre Dame, smack-dab in the middle of the River Seine. Dani had walked out of the awe-inspiring cathedral in a daze and announced that, after that, she simply
become a nun.
Heading east, they took a first-class car on the Continental railroad and enjoyed a stunning journey through the Alps.
Still no news from Derek or Henry—but on the good side, no trouble from the Dark Druids, either.
After they had tumbled back down from the Alps, they filled up their eyeballs with art in Florence, then stood sideways together to admire the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After that, Jake learned the hard way that Rome was one big, unending horror for a boy who could see spirits. The place was lousy with ghosts! Regiments of dead centurions marched off to war beneath triumphal arches. Wild tribes of Vandal invaders pouring through the city, leaping off the old aqueducts, swinging phantom axes. Slaughtered Christians sang their way to martyrdom in the Colosseum. Countless, moaning shades haunted the labyrinth of ancient catacombs that snaked beneath the city.
They could pop up anywhere, rising right through the streets and the fountains, into the very hotels. Jake’s supernatural senses had been utterly overwhelmed. Bug-eyed and paranoid, he simply couldn’t stay there.
So Nixie knocked him out with a sleep spell, Maddox hefted him into yet another carriage, and they moved on, nomads, traveling in luxury, of course, but constantly on the move, and after a few weeks, it began to wear them down.
Jake wasn’t sure where they would ultimately land, but with the arrival of June, summer was nearly upon them. The farther south they went, moreover, the hotter the days grew.
The Italians seemed unfazed by the swelter, but eighty-degree weather was likely to boil British blood. When they began seeing palm trees, Aunt Ramona agreed it was time to find their beach.
The Order of the Yew Tree owned luxurious estates throughout Europe that could serve as safe houses. Each of them was on or near a Waypoint, so Lightriders could easily open a portal to come and go. The question was, which of these estates did Aunt Ramona deem best for their purposes?
Personally, Jake would have been content to stay in Naples, where he had fallen madly in love there with a flat, round, edible invention the locals called a
But Aunt Ramona took one look at the packed streets of the busy seaside port city and determined it would be too hard to keep him safe there, even for a mage of her prodigious powers.
She briefly considered the fashionable island of Capri just across the bay as their refuge; if it had been good enough for Caesar’s own holiday villa, then it was jolly well good enough for them.
But it turned out that Capri’s shoreline was mainly made up of rocks and cliffs, its good swimming beaches too few and too crowded. So, once again, they packed their traveling trunks and pressed on southward, by steam train, by carriage, and by boat, until they finally crossed to the spicy island of Sicily.
On the map, Sicily looked like a stone the boot of Italy was about to kick; and, indeed, brain-boy Archie was quick to give them a lesson on how the ownership of the island had been punted like a football back and forth over the millennia among various peoples—Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, French.
Archie was especially thrilled to be there, since Sicily had also been home to his namesake, Archimedes, the ancient mathematician, astronomer, and inventor. They endured while the boy genius gushed on about the great man’s geometrical theorems, but the less scholarly among them—well, Jake—was relieved when they chugged into the fancy train station at the fashionable seaside resort town of Taormina.
Miss Helena informed them that Taormina, on the Ionian Riviera, had been a Grand Tour stop since the 1700s for its many charms, including its sea breezes and its fine views of Mount Etna, snow-capped and shrouded in cloud.
Because of its longstanding popularity, one of the Order safe houses was there: the Villa di Palma. Her Ladyship had apparently decided that this would serve best as their long-term retreat.
Upon arriving at its lacy wrought-iron gates, Aunt Ramona handed Maddox a key. He got out of their hired carriage and unlocked them, hauling them open. Then they proceeded up the cobbled drive, through junglelike gardens.
At the end of the lush span of exotic greenery, the Villa di Palma emerged, basking in the sun. They took one look at the pink stucco Mediterranean mansion in a flowery style Miss Helena called Sicilian Baroque, its tiled roof, sunbaked terraces, and quaint center tower with a cupola, and they knew they’d found their perfect refuge.
They walked around with their mouths hanging open.
“Blimey,” Jake said.
Italy had already lived up to its reputation as a feast for the senses, just as Constanzio had promised. But the Villa di Palma took it to a whole new height of elegant indulgence.
Nestled in a secluded rocky cove, the palatial villa had a dozen breezy bedchambers, sun-drenched terraces with sea views and vine-covered pergolas, outrageous tropical gardens, and its own private beach.
Sparkling sea, golden sun, waving palm trees.
“I could get used to this,” Dani said, glancing at Jake in amazement.
He grinned at her and nodded in agreement. A boy on the run from a cult of evil sorcerers could certainly do worse. “This is good.”