Well, here it is folks: the first chapter of the first episode of the third series. The plan is still to post an episode a week, roughly 5 chapters apiece and at a rate of a chapter a day. All reviews are welcomed. All views expounded by characters in the series are theirs, not mine, and are extrapolated from the data in the show. I do not own the concept or the six main characters and Charlene, or anyone else from the canon that may turn up: that's all Devlin and Rogers and their pals. I'm keeping da Vinci and the MacLeod women though!
I am saying this now, loud and clear, up front and in full view of everyone: if you have not already got the hint from previous series and the title of this one here is a big, bold warning for those of you wishing to avoid such tales.
Characters will die in this series.
Sorry, but they will.
I don't do candy coated romances.
(P.S. At least one of the deaths will be one of the big six and will be permanent.)
You have been warned!
Episode 1: History's Greatest Monster, Chapter 1
Cassandra Cillian opened her eyes. Her nose was touching the page in front of her, the book still open on her desk. She sat up and looked around, discretely checking for witnesses. There were none. Well, there was Jones, but he was sound asleep upside down in a chair, his ankles hanging over the top of its headrest, his head hanging back off the seat cushion. Cassandra blinked and shook the sleep out of her head. Location gradually swam into memory. They were in another of the rooms the Library had produced for their use. It was the reading room. At least, that was what they were calling it. It had elbowed its way into the stacks upstairs on the mezzanine after another argument between da Vinci, Jenkins and Stone about Ezekiel's whistling. The argument had not involved Ezekiel, of course. He simply was who he was, and everyone else just had to get used to it. Not that he had been whistling much lately, of course. Nobody had been in the best of moods to start with, but when Ezekiel Jones' grin faltered, Cassandra thought, that's when you knew you really had trouble ahead. The youngest member of their group had spent the entire day with her in the reading room, and it was the first time in the ten days since Flynn and Eve's wedding that he had been so long in any one place. Disappearing on his own had become par for the course for at least part of every day. She stretched and stood up, pushing her comfortable chair back on the deeply carpeted floor without a sound. The book her unconventional colleague had been reading was on the floor, upside down like the rest of him. She picked it up. It was a treatise on the twelve labours of Hercules. Research into the apotheotic possibilities of the items used by the hero on his travels. Since the revelation that Ragnarok was still on its way, they had all been working through Jenkins' ever extending list of artefacts and creatures that could be used by the Serpent Brotherhood to bring about their apocalyptic plan. The accoutrements of several Greco-Roman, Norse and Egyptian heroes had made the cut. Heroes and historical personages were Ezekiel's area of research. Creatures, like the phoenix whose feathers she had been reading about before her own little catnap, were Cassandra's purview. Magical items, small and large, had fallen to Stone. Upon discovery of the runestone's latest message, Jenkins had taken over and strutted like a peacock for all of five minutes before Charlene decided he was better suited to searching the archives for records of similar events, and making lists, of course. The not-quite-so-retired secretary and receptionist had taken up residence in a suite of rooms that looked as though they had been recovered from an archive of their own, and was proving to be even more assertive than Colonel Baird on a bad day, but without the maternal overtones! She had dished out the jobs to each of them without a second glance and had chased da Vinci back to inventory duty with barely a bluster. She had also placed an emphatic embargo on any thought of calling Flynn and Eve.
"Nobody interrupts their honeymoon," she had ordered. "Not until the crazies with 'The end is nigh' on their sandwich boards start getting worried!"
Cassandra looked at her watch. It was after midnight. If Jacob had been here, she would have enlisted his help in turning their younger colleague into a more comfortable position. She tried waking the thief up, but he slumbered on. She stood back and thought. There was a sofa nearby. A book shuffled out of its shelf. She smiled. Once again, the library had read her thoughts and agreed. She held out her hand for the book and it hopped the short distance into it. There was power in its pages. There was power in the very leather that bound it. She focused on the power and held out a hand to Ezekiel. The boy rose gently into the air and floated over to the sofa, his body refolding itself into the cushions as if it had just turned over in the softest feather bed. Cassandra picked up the blanket that always lay over the back of the makeshift bed, drew it over him and left. It wouldn't be the first time he had woken there. It wouldn't be the last.
The office was quiet. Jenkins and da Vinci had long since gone to bed, she thought, or were ensconced in their work somewhere they stood little danger of running into each other. Charlene was definitely in bed. She had long since declared that at least one of them needed to get a full eight hours every night, just to stay sane and keep the rest of them on track. She disappeared at ten each night like clockwork, reappearing at seven the next day, coffee in hand. Jacob was in Cuba, tracking down an art collector. And Flynn and Eve were anywhere but here. For now. She picked her way down the stairs and across the office floor, heading for her own extra-dimensional rooms and sleep.
Ezekiel Jones woke suddenly, attempted to turn himself right way up, realised he was right way up and promptly fell off the sofa in a tangled heap of blankets. He extricated himself with the ease of a spider caught in its own web and sat, blinking owlishly, on the floor. Something had woken him. What? He looked around the room. Empty. He listened. Silence. He frowned.
A light made him wrinkle his eyes up. He looked down. The book, his book, was illuminated with a bright, pulsing light. If it had been blue, he might have thought the police were after him, but this light was golden yellow, like syrup on pancakes. He realised he was hungry. He reached for the book and dragged it open to the page. He read the headline. He blinked more sleep out of his eyes. He read it again. He groaned.
"You have got to be kidding me!" Ezekiel Jones cried out to the world in general, slumping back into the sofa. "Can't it at least wait until morning?"
Groaning and muttering, Jones dragged himself to his feet and stumbled to the door. The mezzanine greeted him in apologetic silence, broken only by his sleep-weighted footfalls. A book glowed in greeting as he neared it and he plucked it off its shelf. It was a book he recognised. It was a book he knew well. It was a book from his own childhood.
"I am not going back there," he hissed up at the ceiling. "Send someone else! Monsters are Cassandra's deal these days!"
The back door clicked open and clunked shut with a fizz of magic and electricity. Jones edged forward and peered down over the balcony. "And where have you been sneaking off to?"
Jenkins froze, his back to the thief. When he turned, his features had been marshalled into their usual inscrutable mask. Jones, the book still in his hand, folded his arms and did his best Baird inquisition impression. Jenkins smiled smugly and turned to his desk.
"Fine," Jones sighed, yawning and continuing down the stairs. "Since you're here, what do you know about this. It just showed up."
Jenkins looked down at the clippings book the boy passed him. He cast his eyes over the page in silence once, then again. He stared, frowning, at the page as if it was deliberately trying to confuse him. Then his eyes went wide and his eyebrows shot up his forehead. He held out his hand for the other book and Jones passed it over. The Caretaker opened the book to the index and looked up a page. He compared one book's contents to the other. He shook his head.
"I haven't heard of them causing trouble in years. I thought they were extinct!" Jenkins gasped, handing the books back to Jones. "In fact, the last time I heard anything about them was nineteen forty one. We were a bit busy at the time. Judson had sent the Librarian and her guardian to retrieve at item before the competition got there. He asked me to deal with this. I thought I had done so sufficiently, and that the creatures would not awaken in this dimension again. Apparently I was wrong."
"Nineteen forty one?" Jones frowned. "Why do I know that date?"
"The insurgence happened at Meeberrie," sighed Jenkins. "Perhaps you know the name?"
"Australia's strongest earthquake," Jones groaned. "That was them?"
"Cause or effect, one or the other," shrugged Jenkins. "What with all the quakes we've been having recently, my guess is that one has hit near a nest and woken them up. I can find the scrolls I used last time, but with all this going on I dare say using them might be a bit more, well, clouded."
"Clouded?" Jones frowned.
"Ragnarok is coming," said the old man. "Wild magic is loose, and the Serpent Brotherhood is using it to envelop the world in a cloud of raw magic, like static interference. I might not be powerful enough to get through it. Not alone."
"You're not alone," grinned the thief. "You've got me!"
"No offence, Mr Jones," smiled Jenkins, "but the level of magic you have absorbed over the last twenty months is more akin to a raindrop than an ocean. We're going to need at least a reservoir."
"You mean we're going to need Cassandra," Jones nodded, his shoulders sagging. "It's nearly two in the morning. Do you want to wake her or shall I?"
"I'll go," Jenkins sighed. "You finish reading that book. Best to know the beast before you hunt it."
"Believe me, I know," groaned Jones.
Jenkins, moving now towards the office door, stopped and turned. He eyed the young man suspiciously. "You do?"
"There's a reason the book gave it to me, Jenkins," Jones admitted grudgingly. Honesty was still a novelty for him. "I've done this before."
Jenkins turned fully and walked back to the thief. He raised the boy's chin and scrutinised his face. "I'd remember if I'd seen you on any of my decreasingly frequent excursions. I don't recall any other incursions since forty one. When exactly did you do this before?"
Jones took a deep breath. "I was very young," he said. "Before I got my first letter. I got dragged into something that barely made sense them and only makes slightly more sense now. It's not a short story though, so maybe we'd better all hear it together."
"Hmm," Jenkins considered. He nodded. "I will awaken Miss Cillian and bring her here. While I do so, might I suggest you make some coffee and consider a concise and consistent manner in which to communicate your chronicle."
"You do know there was an easier way of saying that, right?" Jones raised an eyebrow at the receding figure.