Once Richard and Chloe could feel the world stilling around them, they rested their hands on their knees, taking in several breaths. Chloe bent back up carefully, to put her pendant back on.
"Gee," Richard whispered. "I'm never going to get used to going back and forth between worlds."
Chloe shook her head to clear her senses, taking a look around them. She found they had landed in the center of a large stone room. Men dressed in bloomers and doublets crossed the floor near them, speaking with women in large, puffy dresses that had huge, lacy collars. The ceiling was high up, from which hung flags of every color and tapestries of every kind of design. At the front of the room, there was a pair of long tables, where more of the nobility were sitting. And above them, two tall thrones sat, decorated in burgundy upholstery, occupied by a young couple. They were dressed in fine clothes—finer than any of the noblemen and ladies present—and upon both their heads, were golden crowns adorned with glittering gems.
Between their thrones, there was a crib, with a large awning that spilled over with pure white tulle. A lavender blanket draped over the edges of the crib, mixing with the tulle in a dramatic display. And on the crest of the crib, there was an ornately carved "R", surrounded by carvings of vines and rosebuds with thorns.
"It's amazing," Richard said, turning his head in a circle to observe the throne room.
"That's because this is supposed to be the christening of the baby princess," Chloe reminded him. "Hmm. I wonder why no one is looking at us. We stick out like a green apple in a strawberry field."
"Maybe that's why," said Richard, who pointed to the center of the throne room with a swift gasp.
Chloe followed Richard's pointed finger above them, where, just over the room, a collective group of people was descending upon the room. They all had lovely faces, with intricate markings upon their cheeks in many colors, to match their flowing robes. Their hair was cut into perfect bobs, in black, white, or yellow. The entire group had such a presence, that when they spread their arms to land on the floor, the room started in a storm of whispering.
"They're fairies," Chloe said. "We've got to get out of their way."
She and Richard speedily walked out of the room, and stopped at a pillar off to the side, while the mysterious fairies floated to the floor. Together, they turned, and curtsied before the king and queen before them. "Your Majesties," they said in unison.
"Welcome, friends," said the king, while he raised his arms. "My beloved queen and I are so pleased you could make it so far for this christening."
"Anything for the sweet princess," said one of the fairies. "May we take our seats?"
"By all means," answered the king.
Then, the fairies got into two straight lines, facing each other, as they took one collective step off the ground. But it didn't look as though they actually had seats—they were just floating there, like they were being suspended from wires.
The king stood up to address the great crowd, of both nobility and fey. "My people," he called, "it gives me tremendous pleasure to see each and every one here today, to see the christening of out lovely daughter, the Princess Rosamond…"
"This could take a while," Chloe said to Richard, pointing at the king with a sigh.
"And the fairies are floating so high up," said Richard. "How will we reach them? How will we get their attention?"
Chloe looked thoughtfully at the fairies, twirling a bit of her hair on her finger. "Well, I don't think we'll see them again once all the gifts have been given to the princess. So, of course, we'll have to catch them while they are presenting their gifts."
"Won't they get mad, if we interrupt?" Richard asked, worried.
"Not unless we talk out loud to the open," Chloe answered. "What else is whispering good for?"
"Okay," Richard said, inching out from by the pillar. "We just need to be careful."
Both Richard and Chloe stepped out so that they could observe the fairies. In the meantime, Chloe crossed over to the one nearest them—one wearing a blue robe, with black hair, and blue markings on her cheeks.
"Um…excuse me?" she whispered, cupping one hand around her mouth to project her voice.
The fairy turned her head, looking in all directions before, at last, she met Chloe's imploring gaze. She seemed taken aback to be seeing Chloe, but she smiled sincerely.
"Little child," she said. "Why, what is it?"
"We would like your help," Chloe explained.
The fairy's eyes turned down when she heard Chloe speak. "I wish I could, but at the moment, we are presenting our gifts to the baby princess. It would be disrespectful to leave during such festivities."
"Oh, we mean nothing bad towards Rosamond," Richard butted in quickly. "It's just one question."
"One question, you say?" the fairy said.
"Yes, if you would please," Chloe clarified.
The fairy turned back to the table, where another fairy on the opposite side was offering her gift to the princess's crib. With a growing smile, the fairy in the blue robe nodded her head to the children.
"Very well, then, I have your word," she said. "I am the last of the fairies to give her gift, so I shall come with you."
"We promise to make it fast," said Chloe, as she started back for the pillar. Richard and the fairy weren't far behind, so they huddled together where they couldn't be easily noticed.
Promptly, Richard took the compass from his book bag, presenting it to the fairy. She looked at it, turning it every which way, even shaking it out like an old gift box, before she held it normally in her hands.
"A most interesting device," she said, looking it over again. "It's interesting you would be carrying this around. It's broken, a little."
Chloe snorted, rather than laughed. "Yes, we know. But we would like to know if you could help us." She slowed down as she spoke, seeming to get the feeling that this fairy would be as helpful as Mr. Dewey had been.
The fairy continued to look over the compass, as if she had forgotten what it was in the last few moments. She cocked one eyebrow, but a smile started to grow on her face.
"I've never seen a device of this caliber," she stated. "But I know that it was once magic. And that it belonged in the expertise of the Pagemaster." She bowed her head as she mentioned the name.
"How can you tell?" Richard asked. His eyes closed to slits, and he reached for the compass, which the fairy let him take. She pointed to the rusted silver lid, which Richard rubbed over carefully with his hand. But Chloe just looked confused.
"It's on the inside," the fairy hinted, as she stuck her fingers under the lid. With a crack, the lid opened, and the damaged compass face, and the cracking clock face flapped upwards. With a gentle hand, the fairy pulled up the clock face, as Richard just gaped in wide-eyed amazement. He thought that the clock face was where the device ended.
It turned out that, below the clock, was the engraving of an intricate, beautiful symbol. There was a single book, surrounded by vines and snakes, curving in and around each other, so that Richard, nor Chloe, could find where one part began and another ended.
"You see that?" asked the fairy. "That is the symbol of the Pagemaster. It's branded to show that this is a creation of his magic."
"How do you know that?" Richard wanted to know.
"I have connections," the fairy explained. "With the Pagemaster, that is. We all do. We all recognize that symbol when we see it, for it is an emblem of the sole ruler of all that keeps our worlds together." She smiled, patting her hand on the compass in Richard's hands. "That is why it is so extraordinary seeing that such a device came into your hands. An object with the Pagemaster's emblem means that it was either created at his hands, or belongs directly to him." She paused, putting a hand to her mouth in surprise. "Which brings me to another point. However was it that this device came into your possession?"
Chloe touched the compass at the same place as Richard and the fairy, and she swept her finger along the surface slowly and curiously. "The…Pagemaster?" she asked, forgetting the fairy's question in her raging thoughts. "I…I've heard of him before, but I didn't know that he was an inventor."
The fairy nodded. "You could say that, although it's not the precise word. The Pagemaster is a powerful being, child—far greater than any witch or fairy could hope to achieve becoming. I haven't met him, but we all know who he is when we hear his name. That is how much power he holds in this world."
"Then…" Richard let his voice trail off, considering the possibilities. He remembered meeting the Pagemaster for the first time not long ago, though he couldn't remember there being much helpful magic to the figure. All the Pagemaster had done was send Richard into terrifying situations that nearly got him killed, and without many ways of escaping. Of course, Richard understood now the purpose of that journey, but he didn't fully appreciate the dangers he was unexpectedly put through. That was why they had to try and fix the compass—otherwise, some of the helpful magic to going into this world would be lost.
"Then…could you take us to him?" Richard finally said.
"I apologize, my dears, but I must be going!"
Richard and Chloe barely registered the fairy's words in their ears, when the fairy vanished. There was nothing left of her in front of them, except for some sparkles of fairy dust.