Jeanette’s father had anticipated her inability to sleep, so he modified a device the Grammarians had given him (uncharacteristically they came with directions) to monitor her eyes and tell her just how long she’d been asleep.
The presence of Pilgrims in camp and the sky filled with suns should have insured her jumping up every ten minutes, but when she did, the floating thing displayed a respectable 6:17:35. She also felt well, completely and satisfyingly slept out.
She was still up before everybody else, though. She went over to Lord Elphinstone, who she was sure would be scanning the forest. He was sleeping in his mirror armor, true, but he was dead to the world. She considered that, if he were to make up for all the vigilant nights he’d spent guarding them--guarding her--he’d be asleep for a couple of years.
She looked around for the Pilgrims, and saw that they were coming in from from the surrounding forest, no doubt prompted by her awakening. Their great owl eyes might have been scary, but to Jeanette they were one of the most beautiful things she’d ever seen--and in keeping with their calm and elegant motions.
And now that she had them all to herself, even for a little while, she had a million questions.
She went and dug quickly into her backpack. The two major things were the larger ne cklace she’d taken off the dead commander in the Night Land, and the book, What’s Been Did And What’s Been Hid. She saw at the bottom her one World Jewel at the bottom, and decided to keep it hidden depending on what the other answers were. (She did notice that the bottom was also littered with Skittles that she’d gotten from the Red Queen’s World, and wondered if they would do something weird if she ate them.) Quickly and quietly she went to the Pilgrims.
“I was wondering if I could show you a couple of things,” she said directly. She handed them the large necklace, and then as an afterthought took the one she was wearing and handed them that one too. They handed them back and forth to each other, and there seemed to be a music in the air that wasn’t sound, and the most beautiful smell. Was this how they really talked?
They handed hers back. “These are both training bracelets--though training is probably the wrong word, since they have nothing to do with either repetition or restriction. Neither are they grades of any kind--one embodies one expertise and the other, another.”
“Could you tell me what they do? I’ve learned what some of them do, they’ve been useful, but I’m kind of scared to touch the others. The bigger one I haven’t tried at all.”
“Do,” said the red-clad Pilgrim, “is a very strange word, but we will explain what we can.”
It was the Pilgrim in shifting gray who started to talk.
“Your necklace has ten stones. There is also a zeroth stone, which you can only see when you learn how t express the other together, but it does not, strictly speaking, ‘do’ anything. They embody
Each necklace has different stones in different places. In the course of instruction and discovery, a student will be expected to learn the effects of all of the combination of all of the stones touched in different order, or simultaneously. It is actually a very powerful tool, if not terribly energetic. The zeroth stone--well, we already said that we weren’t going to bring that up. Sorry.
What you’ve made some progress on is the first level, of stones touched in solitude,"
Jeanette realized that she was supposed to say something. “Um, yes. This guy--Acquin of the castle of Broceliande,” she said stupidly, as if it existed, “tried them out. One was teleportation to a black place, one was a magical shield, one was a physical shield, one was the recorder--” which she should have remembered recorded her own thoughts, “--one showed the most evil thing that had happened in the place, and the one that healed. Then things got interrupted.”
“Grounding, Luster, Rulership, Knowledge, Accomplishment, and Mercy,” said another Pilgrim. “What’s left is Wisdom, Understanding, and Culmination. It’s hard to say what those stones, mm, ‘do,’ Not a lot when fighting monsters, sorry to say.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions, please,” said the red Pilgrim.
“Quite right. Just no power bolts, alas.”
“And the larger one has twelve, plus a different sort of zeroth stone,” said the grey one.
all in no particular order. Since you haven’t bonded to it, or it to you, it’s probably best to leave it alone.”
“I heartily agree,” said Dr. Ransom. Jeanette blushed bright red. They were all watching her go off on her own again. Yes, the Pilgrims didn’t seem dangerous, but she had to sneak off by herself once again.
And get caught.
Her father ruffled her hair, but she was still busted.
“You said you had something else to show us,” a Pilgrim said. She pulled out the book, flipped to the bookmark and handed it over.
The Pilgrim looked at it quickly, then handed it over. “It’s our language, but in a style that doesn’t yet exist. We have to be careful in reading of our own futures: that can have profound effects.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t talking about all of that, just mainly this part here, ” and she leaned over the pilgrim’s shoulder (was she actually doing that?) And pointed. “Those characters there. See?”
And a different kind of music, and a different lovely scent arose as they passed the book back and forth.
“The script of the Chorus,” the red Pilgrim said after a while. “They were very few, and they’ve been silent for a long time.”
“That’s not a figure of speech: they were First Children who only manifested in sound. We helped them craft a silent language, but they were old when we were young.”
“Does it...mean something?” Jeanette asked, completely lost in the idea.
“Or is that a trick question?” Senhor Capoeira Capybara said.
After an extended silence, the red Pilgrim said. “All we can say is, sing it.” And it was clear that they weren’t going to say anything else.
“Well, you did it now, my dear: forced them into enigma. You’ve got to be careful with this sort.” said the capybara. “Maybe we can salvage the conversation with refreshments.”
“Wait,” the grey Pilgrim said. It was said in an offhand tone, but in the next second all the Pilgrims had vanished.
A great roar spread out over the treetops, and the earth began to shake.