The Impossible Children

Chapter 18: Reckless into the Unknown

Annabelle knew it was late morning, yet the sun’s rays were absent, shrouded by the power that lived in the upper levels of the Tower.

It had been many weeks since she’d first arrived at the White Tower, and she was just beginning to feel used to the place.

She had wakened hours earlier in order to make progress with Foundations. As was now her usual custom, she’d walked down to the dining hall and spread out her books until they resembled a nest.

Translating glyphs and interpreting them was difficult work, almost dull and seemingly without end, but Annabelle kept at it with a persistence she’d never shown at school. There were things she liked about glyphs and things she didn’t like. The language seemed to have no inflected forms: no noun declensions, no gendered forms, no verb conjugations, no voicing or tenses of any kind. It was wholly unlike any language she had encountered, written or spoken.

But it was difficult to make sense of it. The same collection of glyphs ordered in the same way seemed to have a different meaning depending on this or that context that she could not fathom overall. It was maddening, yet also somehow motivating. It was a puzzle she wanted to solve more and more as the weeks went by.

In truth, life at the Tower was a mixture of both wonder and misery.

Jenny especially was a demanding teacher. Every week, Jenny would ask Annabelle to come to her study, and she would ask about Annabelle’s studies. Annabelle would fumble through this, speaking either too slowly or too quickly. Jenny was quick to make sure that Annabelle enunciated her words clearly.

[Jenny expects her to have memorized 111 of the known circles, their movements, their dispositions, and other qualities. Annabelle is struggling to meet her expectations.]

During this time Jenny would ask questions that Annabelle would have no answers to. Jenny would only click her tongue in disappointment and continue on with a different question. Annabelle felt like she was taking a test but not being given any marks. And after the end of each session, Jenny would give Annabelle a new stack of books to read by the next week, with Annabelle often not having finished the previous week’s stack.

[But Annabelle is making progress in memorizing various timetables, though she’s not as good at mathematics. Seppo helps when he can, but Annabelle has found that she is alone in her studies. Charlie does not seem interested in it, and Percy only comes to dinner and is off by himself outside of the Tower. Amelia herself seems to understand the material, but her explanations are incomprehensible, while Cid is still in the infirmary. Annabelle is afraid to ask Jenny for help.]

[And without the ability to read glyphs, she can’t do her own independent studies either. She’s stuck with trying to plod through the primer and starting texts that Jenny gave her all those weeks ago.]

[It wasn’t all bad though. Annabelle has come up with some mnemonic devices to help her memorize.]

Yet Annabelle had found her own particular joys as well. Every morning after waking, she had taken to exploring the Tower, though these often ended in frustration with her way barred by some impassable wall. Still, she marveled at the different wings of the Tower that had different rooms and different books, as if different versions of the Tower were contained within the same space. She was managing the knack of choosing which wing of the Tower she wanted to go to, though she had to walk to the bottom of the stairs and climb them again each time she did.

And while there were no windows she could see on the lower levels, there was light all around, unless the day was shrouded by the power living upstairs. The very stones of the place seemed to be imbued with this soft light, as if it had been captured and locked within.

[Further explorations of the Tower yielded another discovery. A placard of wood with light encased within. This light traced designs onto the wood. Annabelle could not see any filament or mechanism by which the light shone from the wood, only that it did.]

[Annabelle mentions this to the others at breakfast one day, and Jenny says that the skill is particular to the Wizard, who developed the method.]

[..]

[Annabelle mentions that she wants to go to the forest.]

[Jenny asks what for.]

[Annabelle gives a half-truthful answer. In truth, she wants to try to capture light into the wood from the Forest.]

[Jenny says that it is permitted, but to be careful. There are many dangers beyond the boundaries of the White Tower. She suggest to take Seppo or Percy with her.]

[Annabelle goes to the Forest with Seppo.]

[Annabelle conducts an experiment in the forest next to the Tower.]

[She is trying to replicate the capture of light.]

[However, the experiment goes awry and nearly proves fatal, if not for the intervention of a forest creature named Vyma, a young nighthawk. He had blue feathers and a wicked curved beak.]

“Reckless! Very reckless!” said the hawk.

It was strange to Annabelle that she should no longer feel strange to be talking to a hawk in the middle of a magical forest somewhere. “What’s your name?” she asked the hawk. “My name is Annabelle.”

[Annabelle thanks the hawk, no longer surprised that it can talk after meeting the wolf in the forest. She asks for his name.]

[“I am Vyma of the Clouds!” the blue hawk proudly declared. “You magi from the White Tower, always so eager to disregard the laws of nature!”]

Annabelle apologizes and thanks the hawk again.

The hawk flew off and left Annabelle alone.