Archibal made the lessons entertaining. It wasn’t the humdrum lessons Walter and Alden were used to. Archibal used his magic to help explain astrology which bewildered Walter and Alden. Even history and science were informative when he used his magic. The magic made it more intriguing and it kept the boys engrossed. Archibal was a pleasant teacher and not the surly man he was. He had the patience of a saint especially when Alden got stuck in arithmetic. This was one side Walter saw very little of from Archibal. The elder Mr. Clough had hinted that perhaps Archibal enjoyed teaching. Days passed and still no signs of Cadi. Sometimes, he thought he saw her pass by the door or got glimpse of her in the corridor, but, maybe his mind was playing tricks.
During one of their lessons, he caught sight of Cadi at the top of the stairway. Walter didn’t see Archibal in the library and decided to head up the stairs in hopes to talk to her. He caught her walking away in the corridor. “Cadi,” Walter called out. She stopped and slowly turned around. “Where have you been? Why haven’t we seen you?” Walter said.
“I’ve been here,” she said.
“Isn’t Archibal teaching you magic,” Walter said.
“He is… right now he decided I needed a break,” she said, trying to stay in the shadows of the corridor.
He walked closer to her. “I thought maybe we might get to visit with you since he is giving us lessons,” he said. He wasn’t aware that Alden and Mr. Clough had come up behind him. Mr. Clough’s ghostly illumination made Walter see the bruises and cuts on Cadi’s face. They all stared in shock. “What happened?” Walter said. This was probably why she was hiding from them. She didn’t want them to see her wounds, thought Walter.
Cadi became abashed. “I had a couple of mishaps in the labyrinth. I keep having difficulties passing it. Archibal thought it was best to rest and practice my spells here.”
“Is that why we haven’t seen you?” said Alden.
Cadi nodded. “I need to pass it before I can move to the other labyrinths.”
“Do you have to pass it?” Alden said.
“Why,” Alden said.
“Each level represents how magic works,” she said. “If I can’t face the magic that is within the labyrinth. I can’t face a magic with that same power.”
“Is this where everybody has gone to?” Archibal’s craggy voice, boomed from behind them. “I expect to see students seated at the time and place of their lessons. You will get to see Cadi another time for now she needs to rest. I shall not repeat myself.”
The boys reluctantly headed back down stairs followed by Mr. Clough. They waited for Archibal in the library. When he finally came down, they quickly assumed the lessons. They went through everything they had learned the previous week. Archibal wanted to be sure they had retained the material. Near the end of the lessons, Archibal informed them that he would be away for a few days and that he was canceling the lessons until he came back. He still expected them to keep up with their school work and study. He made it clear to them he would be testing their knowledge on his return and it was best to be dedicated. He left them assignments and pages to read. The best part came in the end when Archibal gave them an orb. “This,” he told them. “Is to help you keep in track of your studies. They use to give us one when I went through my apprenticeship as a child. They are called Erudite Orb. I think you will find it very interesting.”
“Where are you going?” said Alden.
Archibal had turned away, fiddling with a few books. “You have a very inquisitive mind, Mr. Bagley.” He turned to look at Alden with his hard stare. Alden expected to be chastised, but to his and Walter’s surprise he didn’t. “It’s not a bad thing to have,” Archibal said. “I guess there is no harm in letting you know. As you are both quite aware, Cadi is going through her lessons in a different manner… She wasn’t so lucky last time. I am hoping with rest she has gathered enough energy to pass it. It requires my full presence to be there. The obstacles are quite dangerous, but if she doesn’t pass them she has no chance of surviving any such magic if she ever encounters it. If you will excuse me, I need to prepare for our departure.”
Walter and Alden took that as their sign for them to leave. They gathered their books, the orb and headed out the door of the manor. By now, Alden had been privy to Walter’s Odyssey ring. Walter would have told him sooner. For now it was the best way to go back. The Black Coats were still patrolling around the lake. Walter had them appear in Walter’s unused hut. It gave them the cover they needed to easily transit to Archibal’s manor and back. His mother had the intentions of moving back, but she had been busy and found it easier to stay at the inn. Walter wondered if they would be staying there permanently. He hoped so. It got too lonely at the hut.
Once there, Alden headed home. He was exhausted after all that learning and needed a nap. Though, Alden was slowly warming up to the lessons. He did looked forward to them and rarely complained. But, in part, it wasn’t all about the lesson, but the refreshments Archibal set out for them during their breaks. Alden was just happy to eat. Archibal must have known Alden’s struggles at home because he encouraged Alden to take some home.
After Alden left, Walter did the same. A nap wouldn’t be so bad, thought Walter. Outside, he tighten his coat around him. The weather was bitter and though the rain had ceased for the moment the grey clouds did not dissipate. The winds blew a cold air from the mountains. It was a sure sign that winter was coming. He could have used his ring to take him to the inn, but, he needed to take a walk and clear his mind after it had been rammed by all the lessons. He had realized that Archibal never asked them what had happened to their teacher. Maybe he knew something, maybe he didn’t. Suddenly, a movement from an alley way caught his attention. This time he was cocksure he saw the menacing outline of a hunched shadow with the top hat. Was it following him? What did it want? Walter felt a cold chill of fear roll down his back. They smell fear is what Cadi told him. If that was the case, it surely sensed Walter’s. He quicken his steps and looked nowhere else, but straight ahead. He avoided anything that casted shadows.
He reached the inn safely and pushed through the crowd until he reached his room where he closed the door behind him. He turned on the light and looked out the window. Without the sun, Walter wondered if he was safe.
The Psychai flew beside him. She began to squeak something to him. This Walter understood and nodded. “I saw it too,” he said to her. Was this the very thing the animals feared? Walter sensed this shadow was not like the other spooks. It was somehow different. He had seen it when he and Alden were at the cemetery. He had seen it when he went looking for the light that night and he hadn’t been afraid; but he felt it was stalking him. As if it knew that Walter could see it. Cadi had deprecated him from being aware of its existence. Walter wondered why.