The door closed behind Sol with a heavy thud as he entered into the corridor.
"They don't seem to like you very much," Sol commented.
"Even less now," said Goone. "Oh well. In for a dime, in for a dollar, as your people say. This way."
The detective led him along the dim hallways of the Citadel until they came to a large room, in the centre of which was an arch made from black stone. Writing inscribed along its top in a language Sol did not recognise. Goone took out the black coin which Ephera had given him and tossed it beneath the arch, and the hollow space began to shimmer with silver light.
"After you," said Goone.
Sol knew what he was supposed to do, but he still felt nervous as he stepped forwards. He closed his eyes as he passed under the arch, feeling a warm glow smother his face. The stone floor under his feet became earthy and soft as the sound of rushing water grew louder. When he opened his eyes again, he found himself standing on the bank of a fast flowing river in the middle of a dense woodland. He looked behind him and saw a similar black stone arch to the one from the Temple. A shadow appeared beneath it which transformed into detective Goone.
"A lot quicker than driving, huh?" quipped Goone as the silver curtain behind him faded.
"Where are we?" Sol asked.
"The Forest of Devahn. This is where Pan Magal lived."
"In the woods?"
"He liked his privacy." Goone strode off into the woodland, following the bank of the river. Sol chased after him, gazing up in wonder at the enormous trees around him. They were so tall that he had to crane his neck just to see their tops. Amongst them he spied large white smoke rings floating upwards and followed them down to the mouth of a grey-stone chimney, which he was amazed to see belonged to an enormous treehouse.
The treehouse was so large that its foundations spanned several of the giant trees and its base didn't touch the ground—which is just as well, as the river ran directly beneath it. The most prominent feature, however, was a huge mill-wheel which rumbled and rolled in the water, providing the house with its beating heart.
"Is that Pan Magal's house?" Sol asked.
"It was," said Goone. "It's yours now."
Sol didn't know what to say. As they moved closer, he detected movement around the house and realised hundreds of little bodies were navigating the structure, like ants about a nest. They could almost have been human, except none of them looked much bigger than a foot tall. Some were running around on the roof and ducking in and out of trapdoors, some carrying armfuls of chopped wood while others tottered along little rope bridges draped between the trees. They wore clothes of every colour and style imaginable, from little red dungarees to grass green day suits and tiny top-hats. Each had their own unique (and often garish) take on fashion, and one could easily be picked out from the rest with no trouble at all, even from a distance.
"Are those the Tomlins?" Sol asked.
Goone nodded. "They're hard workers but they're not very bright. The ones around here treated Pan Magal like their King. They even built his house for him."
"Those little guys built that?"
"They're small but there are a lot of them. People always underestimate Tomlins."
They arrived at a small bridge that led over the river to the treehouse, but they'd barely stepped foot on it when a trap-door sprung up from its middle and one of the Tomlins jumped out to block their way. He was dressed in an exquisitely tailored sky-blue suit complete with a matching waistcoat and a bowler hat.
"Nip!" said the Tomlin, and Goone and Sol halted. His face was round and squashed, with eyes so minuscule that he looked like he was permanently squinting. His nose, on the other hand, was so large that Sol could barely see his little round mouth.
"Chanamoo gafifi!" shouted the Tomlin, waving his hands above his head. "Soopatoco!"
"Jammangacoco," replied Goone. "Pinarolo figgalump."
The Tomlin froze with his hands in the air. "Pookador?"
"Yanmatenga." Goone reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a silver badge with the emblem of a tree on it. "Simpansa chimanatoo, Noble Order."
The Tomlin lowered his hands slowly and scratched his head, staring intensely at the badge. "Nobbly odor?"
"Close enough." Goone put his badge away and waited while the Tomlin sniffed the air as he rocked from side to side in his little blue shoes. The Tomlin suddenly gave a hop and ran off towards the treehouse.
"That means follow," said Goone.
YOU ARE READING
* Next chapter this weekend * Manhattan, 1929. The City is on its knees following a devastating crash in the stock market. Thanks to the Prohibition, criminals are making a killing off illegal bars while thousands of honest labourers can't find a si...