After leaving Mae at the hotel, Beatrice moved quickly through the streets on Belbarbiton. She was on foot, allowing her to make use of the many alleyways and semi-hidden passages that crisscrossed the city. She was already taking a risk going to see the Crone, but she knew she must, so stealth was imperative.
Finally, she reached her destination. To anyone else, it would appear that nothing was out of the ordinary. The street was lined with tall, glass and steel buildings, all alike except maybe for the choice of colour. But, the building the Beatrice approached had one tiny difference, it was a hologram. Beatrice stood in front and whistled. Just three short notes, barely audible to anyone who might pass by.
The edifice of the building transformed. In place of the sleek, modern shard of glass, stood a huge building made of brick and stone. It was only three stories tall, but it was wide, and even from the street you could see it was deep. On each level, a ridge ran around the building decorated by statues depicting all kinds of strange creatures. The building was old, it looked like it had been standing in this spot for many centuries, which it had.
Above the door, a sign written in an elaborate cursive script read, Belbarbiton Institute. Beatrice pushed on the door, a great big, heavy, wooden door, and entered into a huge foyer. The floor was tiled in black and light grey marble, and the walls were all panelled with deep, dark, reddish, brown wood. The walls were filled with portraits of stern looking people, mostly women, glaring at the world with violet eyes.
Beatrice approached a directory, listing all the current occupants of the institute. She found what she wanted, and swept past the reception desk toward the lifts. There was a young man at the desk. He was sitting bolt upright and wearing a suit that was two sizes too big for him. His eyes were wide, with what looked like terror. He called out to Beatrice, quietly so she could barely hear him,
“Excuse me. I said excuse me.”
She turned, impatient, “Yes.”
“You can’t just go back there. I need to announce you.”
She looked at him, one eyebrow raised. “That’s alright , I know where I’m going, and trust me the person I’m looking for will definately see me.” She kept walking.
The boy started running after her, the slightly panicked look intensifying. He managed to edge ahead of her, and stood in front of the lift.
“I..” he swallowed, “cannot let you up there.” He quickly looked down avoiding eye contact.
Beatrice sighed, “Very well, off you go and announce me.”
Relieved, the young man ran back to the desk. It was only when he got there that he realised he had forgotten to ask who she was, and who she was seeing. He looked up to ask, only to see the lift doors closing, with Beatrice inside.
She got out at the top floor. The hall was carpeted in thick, lavender carpet. The door at the end of the hall was inlaid with stained glass, in a variety of purples, blues and mauves. A plaque next to the door proclaimed that she has reached the Croan’s Office. She knocked on the door, and waited. She could hear rustling behind the door.
The door opened. A tall, strikingly beautiful, woman, with long, lilac hair stood before her. When the woman saw Beatrice standing in front of her, it seemed like her face blanched of all it’s colour. But, it only lasted a second, then her face lit up like a beacon.
“Bea! Dear friend. Come in, come in.” She ushered her unexpected guest into her office.
“To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” She motioned for Beatrice to sit on the soft leather couch next to the window. ‘How long has it been? Three, Four years?”
“No! It can’t have been that long?” She sat down, in an armchair opposite. “You look well.”
“Yes, well, I’m afraid this isn’t a social visit.”
“Oh! How silly of me, I forgot to get you tea.” She got up and went to her desk, picking up the phone. “Miranda? Please bring in some tea…Yes, for two…Now, please.”
She sat back down.
“Now, where were we, ah yes, you look well.”
“Thank you Melusina. But, as I said, this isn’t a social visit.”
“No?” Melusina looked toward the door. “Where is that tea?”
“Never mind the tea. I need you to come with me.”
“Come with you?”
“Yes. We need to be quick and quiet too. I don’t know if anyone else knows we’re here.”
“I’m here with, her.”
After a pause, Melusina nodded, and sighed. “I should have known you were coming. I had honestly lost track of how long it has been. Eighteen years! My my.”
Beatrice stood. “Perhaps we should get going. I’ve left her on her own, and I’m worried.”
There was a knock, and then a young girl came in carrying a tea tray. She placed it on the small table beside Melusina, and left.
“Oh look! The tea’s here. Shall I be Mother?” She started pouring the tea into the two cups.
“We don’t have time for tea. We need to go.”
“Come now Bea! You always were a stick in the mud. Trust me, there is always time for tea. Now sit.”
Beatrice reluctantly resumed her seat. She left her tea untouched.
“So Bea, how have you been? Keeping well?”
They sat for what seemed to Beatrice, like an eternity. Neither saying anything.
All of a sudden. Melusina stood up.
“Oh my goodness. I’m such a scatterbrain today. I just have to go and see to something. I won’t be long. Drink your tea.”
With that she left.
Frustrated, Beatrice waited. While she waited she looked around the office. It had been a long time since she had been here. She had sat in this very chair, holding a newborn babe in her arms. She, Melusina and a few trusted others had gathered here to make plans, and decide what to do next. It had been Melusina that had suggested Murpodompous as a good place to hide.
Melusina had been a teacher to all the royal children. She was particularly skilled in the ways of the Amethyst arts and had shown countless others with the gift how to harness and control it. This was why she was here, it was only a matter of time before Mae started to come into her power.
Given that both her mother, father and grandmother all had Langstons blood, not to mention that she was the true heir to the throne, her power would be considerable. Also, it was said that while all Langstons possessed some of the Amethyst power, it ran strongest in the royal line, and stronger still on the female line. Mae could potentially be the most powerful queens in centuries, but only if she knew how to control it. At the moment, she was a ticking timebomb.
Melusina came back into the room. Beaming from ear to ear.
“Okay! That’s that taken care of.” She looked at Beatrice. “Why are you still sitting down? We need to get moving. It’s time I saw that girl of yours. Don’t you think. Come on.”
They moved at lightning speed across the city. It was already twilight, and Beatrice realised she had been gone longer than she thought. They got to the hotel, and entered the lobby. Beatrice saw that that dreadful receptionist was gone. The two women climbed the stairs. Beatrice climbing two at a time.
Once they reached the door to their room, she used the knock she had shown Mae earlier. She waited. But there was no response. She tried again. Still nothing. She pressed her ear to the door, trying to see if she could hear anything. Nothing. Maybe the girl was sleeping.
Melusina came behind her and said, “Allow me.” She very quietly hummed a gentle tune, while placing her hand on the door handle. I small click was heard, and then she opened the door. The two women entered, the clearly empty room.
Then the power went out.