12.2 | Unexpected Companions

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Thanks to Jade's keycard, slipping into the building was easy. Staying out of sight as they made their way through the labyrinth of corridors and emergency stairwells was the true challenge.

By the time they were on the lower levels, Nika had timed ten minutes of dodging out of sight and sneaking around the paths of security cameras. And when they reached the entrance to the Vigil's archives, she was practically salivating with anticipation.

The archives were a wonder. Row upon row of shelves—all of them filled with physical documentation. The Vigil was careful about everything, and they always backed up electronic information with hard files.

"Split up," said Jade. "Look for anything on Volkari or the journal of Konstantin the Keeper. We need to connect them to each other, find out why Dante stole it. Then we're one step closer to saving Lu."

They immediately parted and began scouring through books and documents on Konstantin the Keeper, refreshing their memories on the Volkari race. All the while, Nika kept an eye out for anything regarding moon curses and magic.

After Jade had surprised her by inviting Elliot on their escapade, she'd decided not to share that vital information. As far as Jade and Elliot were concerned, magic was all but dead. Nika was certain they didn't know about the curse or the Volkari's revenge mission. And they weren't going to discover it from her.

"I can't find anything on Volkari that I hadn't already known," Jade said when they regrouped a small eternity later. "How about you?"

"Some of the biographies on Konstantin say he had dealings with wolves," Elliot replied. "But they weren't major incidents, so there isn't enough detail to work with."

Nika merely shook her head. It was true, unfortunately. She wondered if the Ministry had disposed of any texts and records mentioning curses. It wouldn't have been a shock if they had.

As they departed, spirits now obliterated, Nika sent one last, hopeful glance around. Assessing everything.

Then she saw it.

The shelf on her left, just beside the exit, was...different. While all the others were pressed against the wall, this one was set a few inches away.

"Wait."

Jade and Elliot shuffled after her as she approached the shelf. Thanks to her small hands, Nika was able to reach behind it, and warily feel the surface. Her fingers brushed a groove in the woodwork. Slipping them inside, she tentatively pushed, tapped, pulled, and then...the panel moved.

Her pulse fluttered excitedly as she slid it toward her. Jade and Elliot gathered closer as Nika blindly searched the secret compartment.

Inside, there was something smooth and soft. Leather.

Nika grabbed the object, quickly removed it from the hiding place, and held it in her palms. All three of them blinked down at it.

It was a book. An old book. There was no title, nothing on the cover page. But when she opened it, holding her breath, she found everything to be handwritten in a language she couldn't decipher. There were sketches, log entries, and page after page of scribblings.

"I can't understand any of this," Jade said, pulling Nika's wrist toward her. She flipped through a few pages. "I hardly even know what these pictures mean."

Nika had to agree. Some of the images were plants, belabane among them. And she'd never bothered learning another language.

Elliot snatched it, his eyes a dark frenzy as they scanned and scanned. He turned it over, studying the front and back, several pages in between.

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