Sedna split up with Kay at the locker rooms. Lin had her gym clothes, and Sedna had to change into them. It was a bit… hard. There were… things about it that Sedna wasn’t used to. She kept her eyes on the locker in front of her or off to the side, since it felt somehow embarrassing. The smell of bleach on the locker room tiles was another good thing to focus on. There was a chatter around her as she dressed. She had a dry, empty taste in her mouth. The hunger in her seemed to be paralyzed, caught between trying to think of what they would all taste like. So it didn’t tell Sedna anything.
She was happier that way. Better yet, no one here seemed to want to talk to Lin.
Probably some of them did, but they were keeping their distance. This was something Sedna had forgotten. It was the hidden advantage to being Lin. While everyone in school wanted to talk to her, some of them were too intimidated to try. Sedna was happy to keep looking aloof, if it would keep them away. It was something she could manage, too. Sedna usually didn’t have to bother–no one tried to talk with her, because they didn’t really know or care about her.
Today had only reminded her how good a thing that was. Sedna had been taking her lack of notoriety for granted.
Lin’s gym clothes were the same as Sedna’s–the shorts, the t-shirt. Sedna normally didn’t feel that strange, wearing them. A bit cold. But today, she felt like she was wearing some kind of ridiculous succubus’s outfit, designed to make her look as much like a floozy as possible.
She smoothed her shirt on the way out, licking her lips to try to keep her mouth from going dry. She guessed that anything Lin wore was a succubus’s outfit, technically.
Once they were changed, they went to the main gym. The court extended the size of two basketball courts, with seating available at the sides. Without looking, Sedna knew that each of the courts had the high school’s mascot stamped in the circle at the center of it. The Quiet Forest Demon. Sedna thought it was silly, sometimes. She had a hard time thinking of a demon living quietly in the forest. Maybe it would have a simple log cabin, and play the banjo. But then, its extra arms might get in the way.
They met up with the boys’ class again. As they did, Kay waved at her. Feeling a flutter in her chest, Sedna returned the wave.
The boys and girls had to pick teams… for dodgeball. Sedna almost groaned. The gym teacher made Stanley Roberts a captain, and someone else the other captain. The other one didn’t matter–Sedna had a pretty good idea what would happen. As the hum of a dozen conversations started up around her, Sedna watched Stanley, crossing her fingers behind her back.
“Lin,” he said, pointing at her.
He’d picked her first. Oh, joy, Sedna thought, uncrossing her fingers. She’d hoped that she could avoid having anything to do with Stanley, for as long as she was Lin. He was obnoxious enough when she was just Sedna.
And Sedna had never liked dodgeball. Then again, she did have some stress to work out. Maybe if she could send enough people to the hospital, the teacher would end gym class early. Sedna walked out across the court toward Stanley, brushing her hair out of her eyes and behind her ears.
Lin’s hair and skin were softer than Sedna’s. So, touching herself made Sedna feel like she was dreaming, gave her a brief sense of unreality. It almost made her trip. She managed to keep her feet. As she reached Stanley, still keeping as much distance between them as she could, Sedna could smell something on him. Something like confidence.
Oh, right, Sedna thought. This game of dodgeball is going to be the time. Lin will finally fall all over you. She sighed. She just hoped Kay would wind up on the same team.
Sedna shook her head. It was just that she didn’t want to send him to the hospital. It could cause problems for Lin later, once they switched back to normal again.
Sedna was starting to think that couldn’t come too soon.
Lin sat in the Library, at a long table on the first floor, looking down at a book through heavy eyelids. She felt like she might fall asleep at any time. Sedna’s bangs kept getting in her eyes. Why would she possibly wear her hair this long? Lin twirled in a finger down at it, re-reading the same sentence for the fifth time.
The wand of… somebody can consciousness bridge people if something.
Lin reached the end of the sentence, realizing she needed to read it again. The smell of the faded ink on the pages was thick in the air, and she had to turn to sneeze into her arm. The Librarian had already set aside a number of books, saying that they wouldn’t find what they were looking for there.
Lin had only set aside one, so far. The taste of Sedna’s sandwich was still in her mouth, mayonnaise and everything. Lin never had mayonnaise. It felt strange. Anyway, the chair was uncomfortable, the air underground was heavy. And the books were boring her to tears.
She was starting to think that she and her mother hadn’t missed much, being banned from the library. She almost wished she’d gone to school instead. Nothing Lin had seen in the books looked close to anything she’d touched. Or even been near, as far as she knew. She’d gone to a museum with her parents a few weeks ago, and she wondered if it had been something there. But the problem was, she hadn’t touched anything. That was what Mr. Schwartz had said–have you both touched anything. Rubbing sleepers out of her eyes, Lin looked back at the beginning of the sentence.
The wand of Ahntino. That was the name of it. Lin looked ahead at the description. It was described as a long, thin stick, with silver prongs and silver inside engravings along the length of it. Thinking back, Lin knew that she hadn’t touched anything like that. She probably would have remembered.
That was why she was starting to think it might be pointless. She would have remembered touching any magical item. There was something else going on here.
For instance… Lin had heard from Sedna about Jeremiah Wolfe, the oracle who was after her. This could be some of his work, couldn’t it? He could have arranged to have both Lin and Sedna touch a magical item. When they were asleep, or something. Lin didn’t know how he would have gotten into her house, but he was an oracle. Maybe he could have.
Maybe they should be going after him. Who knew?
“How are you doing?” the Librarian said. From his direction, Lin heard the rustling sound of a turning page.
She shifted in the chair, trying to make herself comfortable. She thought it probably wouldn’t work. “The same.”
“Don’t give up. This is a hard one.”
Didn’t Lin know it. “Yeah.”
“You have to keep in mind that there might not be anything near Oakland Street. As you can see, there are a number of things that might have done it. But I don’t know how many of them will be near here.” The Librarian shifted in his chair, his robes rustling. Looking over at him, Lin saw him adjusting his glasses on the tip of his nose. He didn’t look back at her–he was still reading.
Lin looked back down at her book. “Well, I’m sure there’s at least one.”
“We’ll find it, if there is.” Lin forced herself to keep reading, forced herself to move her eyes. The text on the page was hard to read, though. It was small type, and in places the pages were ripped. How many people had looked up magical items in this book? Lin wondered.
She was getting the hang of being around the Librarian. But she’d had to throw out most of her ideas about how to pretend to be Sedna. It turned out that she wasn’t unpleasant to him. She was friendly, most or all of the time. She made jokes with him, but they felt comfortable with each other. Sedna never called him an idiot.
Lin hadn’t seen the two of them together. She hadn’t had any way of knowing this, before she’d met him. Lin knew that Sedna generally complimented people by insulting them. But it didn’t seem to be that way with the Librarian.
“How are you sure there is one?” the Librarian said. “Are you sure no one has had their bodies switched?”
“Well… eh. I don’t know,” Lin said. “I know there’s something around here that can do it, though.”
She would have been worried about saying that, before she’d understood. But now she knew the Librarian wouldn’t press Sedna too hard on it. If anything, he’d ask–
“So you think some people may have their consciousnesses bridged in the near future?”
That. Lin shrugged her shoulders. “I really can’t be sure.” It was the truth. Though Lin technically had Sedna’s ability to see the future, she didn’t like the idea of using it. Going insane had never been one of her goals in life. She leaned her chair back, looking up at the ceiling.
It was very far above them, from the first floor of the library. It almost gave Lin vertigo, looking up. From the smell of the place, she knew they were underground. There was a certain amount of dirt and rock on the air, a stuffy character to the smell. Lin’s instincts told her this was an underground smell.
Her chair creaked. Lin put the front two legs back down, looking back at the book. It wasn’t only the smell. Despite how large the Library was, she felt closed-in.
“If there is anything that can do it around here,” the Librarian said, “I suppose it will be in Lady Uathach’s collection.”
“Annabel’s? The faery, Annabel’s?” Lin turned to look at him.
The Librarian looked up from his book, nodding. His eyes were slightly narrowed, his hands relaxed on the book. But something in the way he was sitting gave Lin the idea he didn’t like talking about Annabel.
“I’m surprised you didn’t hear about this in your mission briefing from Delphi,” the Librarian said. “Then again, there are people on Oakland Street who don’t know about it. You must not have seen any of Annabel’s storerooms, when you were trapped in her home. Hmm?”
“Even if you saw some, you didn’t see all of them,” the Librarian said.
Lin was glad that he hadn’t made her answer that question. She hadn’t heard the entire story from Sedna, and she didn’t know how much Sedna had told the Librarian. She took a deep breath, tasted something like book dust on the air. Everything about the Library was so stuffy, Lin thought.
The Librarian shifted in his chair, setting one of his elbows on the table. He was working at the same one as Lin, but far enough down that they couldn’t distract each other. Although… apparently, that hadn’t worked. Lin was happy to look at him instead of at her book while he told her about Annabel’s collection.
The Librarian’s gray eyes were serious. Sitting straight, he towered over Lin. If she stood up from her chair, maybe she would have been level with the top of his head. He said, “The faery has a famous collection of magical items. Famous in some circles, anyway. I’ve heard it’s big enough that even she doesn’t know what some of them do. I’ve heard it rivals anything in the world.”
“Babylon,” Lin said automatically. She’d heard of collections of magical items, great and small. From the one in the Vatican to Titania and Oberon’s store in Ireland, most of the collections Lin knew were clustered in Europe. Himmel’s was in Germany. The ones in Asia, she didn’t know too much about, though she was sure there were more than a few. But the biggest one was supposed to be in Babylon. From what Lin knew, it might have been started by Gilgamesh. It was twice as big as the Roman Catholic Church’s collection in Rome, which was second place.
The Librarian nodded. “You’re right. She doesn’t have as large a collection as the one in Babylon. But she’s added to it from travels on the sea between worlds, so some of the items have more value. …I meant what I said.”