“Sarah!” Erin called out, keeping her eyes trained on the wall, trying to discern something through the darkness.
Part of her wanted to wait for Sarah, so they’d get to see what was inside together, but she also was feeling really impatient at the moment, and wanted nothing more than to tear out all the remaining planks so she could take a look inside.
Her mind was running wildly, thinking about all the things she was about to find in there. Unconsciously, her magic flared up and started tugging progressively harder on the wall, the planks creaking in protest.
“Erin? Are you…oh,” Sarah said, emerging from the kitchen and into the garden. “What’s going on, did you find something?”
Shooting a gleeful smile in her direction, Erin said nothing and simply pulled harder on the planks. She wasn’t exactly sure this was the expected way to get inside, but the wall also didn’t offer much resistance. In retrospect, checking for some sort of array would have been the clever thing to do. It was too late for that now, though, and Erin wasn’t exactly feeling remorseful about it.
Soon enough, part of the wall lay scattered on the ground, the outside banishing the hidden room’s darkness away. Sarah had joined Erin, both of them looking at what they’d just discovered.
“Is that a storage room?” Sarah asked, taking a hesitant step inside.
It was pretty difficult to say how big the room actually was, considering all the items that occupied it. Contrarily to the rest of the house, everything was spotless, kept clean and very well ordered. The room was very narrow, with a desk facing the wall opposite of the entryway. On both sides were big shelves that took the whole length of the room and went up to the ceiling, stocked to the brim with tools and gadgets, some of which Erin had seen Becker use in the past. They could see a box, containing a bunch of neatly arranged pendulums, crystals and other strange objects serving as their bobs, a strange tripod with a rod going through it ending in a prong, what looked to be a three dimensional pentagram, and so much more.
As exciting as all of these items were, what really caught Erin’s eye was the end of the right shelf, the one closest to the desk. There, she could faintly see books, dozens of them standing there on their shelf, just waiting to be read.
Not wishing to wait any longer, she made a beeline towards said shelf, intently looking through the titles. Some of them didn’t have one, while others were in languages she didn’t recognize, but she still found a bunch of titles she was able to read, much to her joy. Something about this situation felt a bit familiar, but she was too excited to think about it for long.
Everything suddenly lit up around her, and Erin looked away from the books, startled, only to see Sarah standing next to the entry, her finger resting on a light switch she’d missed.
“I figured you wouldn’t want to read in the dark,” Sarah said with an amused smile on her face, evidently finding something funny. Whatever it was, Erin didn’t know.
“Thank you,” she said gratefully, her eyes going back to the shelf. She thought she’d heard a muffled giggle behind her, but she wasn’t certain.
While Erin was busy staring holes through her new books and picking the ones that interested her, Sarah slowly made her way into the room. There wasn’t a lot of space, but it was still enough for two people to comfortably move around each other.
Trailing her eyes over the shelves, Sarah was extremely tempted to call forth her magic and have it tell her what all these wondrous and mysterious items she could see were. She didn’t in the end, however, as her head was still hurting a little bit and she didn’t want to sprain something, if that was even possible.
Honestly, there were times when she felt like her powers were cheating. She could just take a look at something and instantly know things she shouldn’t have been able to discern otherwise. Becker’s house had obviously not been made with Seers in mind. She may not be able to throw plasma around or levitate objects like Erin could, but she didn’t really feel like she was missing out. Plus, she’d only discovered her powers recently, she couldn’t help but wonder what its limits were.
For one thing, what would happen is she used her powers on herself? Could she learn more about her powers by using her powers on her own powers?
Dismissing that mind-bending thought, Sarah focused back on the shelves in front of her, slowly walking while looking at their content. Everything seemed to be pretty well organized. She’d just passed by different stones and gems, some of them reflecting light in ways that made her brain hurt, and was now standing in front of what must have been small tools. Sarah could only guess at their purpose, maybe gem carving, who knew?
Hopefully either Erin could tell her about all these items and their uses, or she would feel better tomorrow and would be able to figure it out by herself.
Speaking of tomorrow…
“Erin?” Sarah called out, still looking around.
“What are we going to do with all this?”
“What do you mean?” Erin asked, tearing her eyes off the book she’d been leafing through.
“I mean that we’ll never have enough time to go through all these books before Becker comes back, and I’m sure some of the things on these shelves could be very useful to you,” Sarah replied, turning to look at her friend.
“But that would be stealing,” Erin said hesitantly, her gaze alternating between her friend and the pile of books she’d been putting on the desk.
“I know, Erin” Sarah said softly. “But we won’t be able to come back afterwards, and we’re very likely going to need all the help we can find. Think about it, why are we doing all of this? Why did we come here?”
“To stop whatever’s happening in the forest?” Erin said questioningly, unsure of what Sarah was trying to get at.
“Exactly, and I’m almost certain we’re going to have to go in there at some point if we want to do that. Let me finish!” Sarah hurriedly added, seeing her friend about to speak up in protest. “I know you don’t want me going in there because it’s very dangerous, but think about it. You’ll need to reach the center of the forest if you want to find out what’s happening, right?” Erin hesitantly nodded at that. “But you don’t know anything about that part of the forest, right again?” Erin nodded again, frowning. “Which would be really dangerous. Now, who could go in there and magically take a look around everything around, giving you precious information that would prevent you from dying stupidly?”
Silence. Erin looked down pensively, her expression clearly indicating how much she disliked the idea of Sarah coming with her in the forest. Her friend’s reasoning made a lot of sense, as much as it pained her, and she couldn’t find any good argument to dissuade her from coming.
“I don’t want you to get hurt,” Erin mumbled.
“I know, Erin, but I don’t want you to get hurt either, and we’ll have a much better chance of seeing this through if we’re going together,” Sarah said, approaching Erin and wrapping her in a hug.
They stayed like that for a moment, basking in each other’s presence, silence surrounding them.
“So,” Sarah said. “Are we stealing these books or what?”
Erin giggled a little bit. “Yeah, we will. I don’t like it, but I think you’re right.”
“Great, because the sun is setting, so you may want to grab a few so you can read them at home, and tomorrow morning we’ll come back here and take a look at everything else.”
With a nod, Erin slowly broke off the hug, and started looking through the volumes that interested her, Sarah smiling at her all the while.
A few minutes later, the two friends were once again standing in the garden. Erin carefully put the planks back in place, just in case someone happened to wander around. The odds of anyone seeing the hole were very low, since the back of Becker’s garden faced a vast empty field, but it still seemed prudent to cover the traces of their passage for the time being, just in case. Once they were done, they locked the house’s doors and made their way back home, a couple of books safely stored in their respective bags.
- - -
A couple hours later, after the sun had set and everyone had enjoyed a warm meal made by Sarah’s mom, the two teenagers found themselves in Sarah’s room, sitting close to each other on the bed and carefully poring over the volumes they’d brought back. While Erin was the only one of the two truly capable of understanding their content, Sarah was still able to classify them by themes and somewhat understand what concepts they were talking about. While some of the books had titles, most of them didn’t, and the ones that didn’t weren’t that helpful in figuring out their content. Wherever these came from, it seemed like they hadn’t been made with sharing in mind.
Most of these books were obviously very old, as could be seen by their grammar and language, though they still remained readable and in good condition. They might be even older than they appeared, as they very well could have been reprinted and the language modernized. Another interesting thing was that Becker had apparently carefully annotated them, clarifying the more obscure sentences within and adding some of his personal observations.
Unfortunately, Becker’s handwriting was a pain to read, and Sarah often had to squint to try and discern the meaning of his notes. It was very obvious these annotations, much like the books in which they were written down, had never meant to be read by anyone but their owner.
This was why Sarah definitely didn’t envy Erin’s job. While she was tasked with looking through the textbooks they’d brought back, Erin was reading what appeared to be Becker’s research journals, pages after pages of incomprehensible scribbles with a few badly drawn illustrations here and there. That didn’t seem to bother her very much, however, judging by the intense look of concentration on her face. She was reading with such an intensity that Sarah was starting to wonder if she was trying to memorize the journals’ content by heart.
Sighing with a good-natured smile, Sarah turned her attention back to her own book. While she was certain its was very fascinating to read, she unfortunately didn’t understand much, which made the task more tedious than anything. Still, she wanted to help, and wouldn’t let obscure gibberish get in the way of that. She would do her best to facilitate Erin’s task, even if it was really boring.
“Sarah,” she suddenly heard, just as she was about to start reading again.
“What is it?” Sarah asked, turning her attention back towards her Erin.
She wasn’t looking at her, however. Erin had her eyes fixated on different journal, the other one laying discarded on the bed. What stood out about this one, however, was its age. All of the volumes they’d brought back with them seemed to be several decades old, but this one looked to be just a bit older than that.
The leather jacket’s color was very faded, and the cover was damaged in many places. The pages had taken a familiar yellow hue, the edges of the pages somewhat crumpled and uneven.
“Erin?” Sarah asked again, seeing as her friend wasn’t answering.
“Sorry, it’s…I don’t understand, it looks like it’s Becker’s personal diary, but the first entries are too old for that. I thought Becker had just found someone else’s diary at first, but I’m almost certain the last entries are from him, it’s his handwriting!”
Discarding her own textbook, Sarah got a better look at the diary Erin was holding. It was opened towards the middle, and she recognized Becker’s unreadable squiggles. Looking at the top of the page, she could discern a date. 15th of August 2001.
“What’s the date of the first entry?” Sarah asked.
Wordlessly, Erin, flicked through the pages until the very beginning of the diary.
The entry was even harder to read, as the ink had faded a little bit, but it only took seconds for Sarah to discern the entry date.
9th of March 1864.
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