Chapter Twenty-Three: Part One

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Gwen had done everything she could to stay preoccupied for the past few hours. It hadn't been easy. For the first half hour or so, all she could do was sit at Forneus's side, clasping his hand between hers while her stomach tied itself in knots.

Fortunately, neither Asclepius nor Lyka intruded upon her thoughts, both seeming to sense that she needed time to herself. They moved silently about the room; Asclepius continuing to do all he could to speed up Forneus's healing process, while Lyka lent a hand where she could.

Gwen must have fallen asleep at some point, because when she'd opened her eyes, it was to find Asclepius beside her, resting his hands over Forneus's bare chest. Though Phenex's healing arts had closed the wound, there was still a dark, jagged mark. Asclepius had assured her it would heal, but that because of whatever dark energy Misa's blade was imbued with, it would take more time.

That had been an hour ago. Now Gwen occupied one of the two armchairs closest to Forneus's bed, thumbing through a large, leather-bound book balanced across her knees.

Having grown tired of moping, she had meandered around the room. From Forneus's large, four-poster bed in the right-hand corner, past the over-stuffed armchairs closest to him with a single, circular table between them, and over to the left side of the room. There she had noticed a long, mahogany bureau sitting against one wall, filled with all sorts of materials, most of which seemed to be the same kind Forneus's clothing consisted of. Beyond the bureau sat a couple more armchairs, a table identical to the first between them. As she had circled back toward Forneus's bed, a tall, slim book shelf in the right-hand corner closest to the room's entrance caught her eye.

With Lyka's help, she'd managed to wrestle the massive tome from the shelf, and had been reading it ever since. After a few pages, it was obvious that the book was an encyclopedia of sorts, covering the various plant life that could be found not only in her world, but in each one of the realms the High Council safeguarded. There were a great many she didn't recognize. Exotic flowers and herbs in hues of colour the likes of which she'd never seen, from realms she wouldn't have been able to pronounce if her life depended on it.

And then, she saw it. A picture of the very things that had nearly killed her back in the Roman Colosseum, and that she and Forneus had seen again atop Prague Castle's turrets.

The black vines.

"Hey, Lyka?" Gwen glanced up from the book. "Come take a look at this."

Lyka tore her gaze away from the various knick-knacks adorning Forneus's bookshelf, and made her way over to Gwen, resting her arms across the back of the chair to peer at the book over her shoulder. "What is it? Did you find some—" Lyka trailed off, the red markings on her face standing out against the stark whiteness of her skin.

"What is it?" Gwen craned her neck, staring at her in alarm. "What's wrong?"

It was a moment before Lyka spoke again, her voice almost a whisper. "By the gods...you can read ancient Arabic?"

Well that was unexpected.

"Wait, what?" Gwen glanced down at the book, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. "Um...I don't know how to tell you this, but this isn't Arabic; it's English." She held the book higher so Lyka could see it better, her wrists trembling from the sheer weight of the tome. "See? Those letters are from the English alphabet. I guess you must not have spent much time in my world, but—" Gwen faltered at Lyka's sharp look, swallowing nervously. "Okay, so maybe you have..."

"I know ancient Arabic when I see it." Lyka arched an elegant brow, one corner of her mouth turning up slightly. "As I recall, Forneus said that your third power had yet to be discovered, but that whatever it was, it would most likely be of a linguistic nature." She looked pointedly at Gwen, patiently waiting for her response.

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