Saturday dawned with me, Nyssa, Camilla, and Stephanie loading into Lindsey’s Suburban. Apparently, since there were no decent-sized malls in Pebble Beach, we would be doing our shopping in the nearby city of Carmel. I was glad Nyssa was there; I wasn’t sure how I was going to put up with all the gossiping. She and I pretended to take part in the boring drivel—all the while texting each other secretively. Camilla who was too engrossed in talking didn’t notice.
That was the thing about Camilla. Once she started jabbering, there was absolutely no stopping her.
When we arrived at the mall I was relieved to see that there was a bookstore. A bookstore I could handle. At the very least it would give me something to do.
I was first to exit the Suburban with Nyssa and Camilla right on my tail. Stephanie and Lindsey got out last. We walked into the mall together and I looked for an opening to escape to the bookstore.
There weren’t any.
Looks like I was going to have to be blunt.
“Camilla,” I said casually, “You guys go on ahead. I am going to swing by the bookstore.”
Camilla didn’t look happy about this. Thankfully Nyssa was there to save me.
“Come on, Camilla,” said Nyssa grabbing hold of Camilla’s arm, “There are some dresses here I can’t wait to buy.”
It worked; Camilla remembered that she could buy anything she wanted. She walked briskly into the mall followed closely by the others. Once they were out of sight I hurried into the bookstore.
This particular bookstore had a coffee shop inside which enabled me to purchase a large cup of mocha latte before perusing through the books.
After finding one that piqued my interest, I pulled it from the shelves and began reading. So engrossing was the content that I didn’t even notice that there was a person approaching me.
“I think you’ll find this interesting,” said a girl’s voice.
I started and looked up.
It was Nyssa.
“That was quick,” I said impressed.
“Camilla was easy to get away from once she began shopping. I think she’s going to max out your cards.”
“I think she’s going to have some difficulty with that as my cards have no limit.”
Glancing at her hands I saw that she was carrying some sort of aged poster. It was so aged, in fact, that it looked out of place in modern bookstore.
“Where did you find that?” I asked curiously.
“Over there,” said Nyssa pointing to one of the many tables in the book store, “And that’s not all—take a look at this.”
Nyssa spread the aged poster out on a nearby table but I was startled to see that it was blank.
“Watch this,” interjected Nyssa eagerly.
Nyssa placed her finger, which I noticed was bleeding, on the poster.
I was about to ask her how she cut her finger but the words never made it past my lips. A wondrous transformation was taking place on the poster: the moment Nyssa’s bloody finger touched the paper several red lines began to appear as though they were being drawn by an invisible hand.
Nyssa and I watched in bewilderment as the lines joined together to form some sort of enormous island.
It was a map.
Just as I was wondering what country it was, a peculiar sort of lettering appeared on the page. The language wasn’t one I recognized but, as with the thrones in Seraph Manor, I found I could read it as though it were written in English.
“Shinar,” I murmured as I read the lettering.
“What?” asked Nyssa curiously
“This island,” I said slowly, “Is called Shinar.”
“How do you know that?”
I pointed to the strange lettering on the page.
“You can read it?” Nyssa asked sounding both astounded and impressed.
“As easily as if it were written in English.”
“Is it written in Atlantean?”
“No,” thought Eliana, her voice once again popping into my mind.
“No,” I repeated.
“Then,” said Nyssa slowly, “How can you read it?”
I paused. How could I read the lettering on this map?
“Omnilingualism,” thought Eliana.
“Omni-what?” I thought back.
“Omnilingualism,” repeated Eliana, “You have an inherent ability to read, speak, and comprehend all types of languages.”
“And is that why I could read the thrones in Seraph Manor?” I asked remembering the strange lettering engraved upon them.
Nyssa was still watching me expectantly and I told her all that Eliana had just relayed to me.
Nyssa was thoroughly intrigued by this ability of mine and while I examined the map she wondered around the bookstore gathering several books. When she returned I saw that her arms were filled with books written in different languages; evidently she wanted to see more of my gift. So putting the map aside I indulged Nyssa by reading aloud the different titles of the books she had brought me.
It was weird to hear myself speaking in so many different languages. When I had read all the books, I found that my cup of mocha latte was empty. So I left Nyssa alone with the map and went to buy another. When I returned I saw that she was scrutinizing something on the map. I looked over her shoulder and saw with astonishment that more lines had appeared. Several hieroglyphs were now drawing themselves over the surface.
“I don’t know,” said Nyssa puzzled, “I accidently touched the paper with my bloody finger and all of this suddenly appeared.”
“Eliana?” I thought. “A little help.”
“That is a Shinarian blood map.”
“Uh-huh,” she thought, “The Shinarian Mages created maps of the Shinarian Empire that could only be used by them.”
“Mages?” I thought, “You mean like—witches and wizards?”
“Yes. All a mage would have to do is spill their blood on the paper to reveal the lines. But the paper is never stained for the blood map absorbs the mage’s blood and uses it to drawn the lines.”
“So more blood—”
“Means more lines,” Eliana finished.
Her response caused me to envision a person pouring out loads of their own blood just to make the map work.
“Only a few drops of blood are needed to make it work.”
“Does it work with anyone’s blood?”
“No. Only Shinarian Mages and their descendants can use a blood map.”
“Is a descendant of a Shinarian Mage. In others, words she’s a witch.”
It was beyond belief. But then again so was my being Atlantean.
“Does she know?” I thought.
“No. And now’s not the time to tell her.”
I was about to ask why when Nyssa diverted my attention to something on the map.
“Don’t some of these hieroglyphs look familiar?” she asked.
I examined the hieroglyphs more closely and saw that she was right. Twelve of the hieroglyphs were exactly identical to those on the Shinarian Spires.
What did this mean?
“You know,” said Nyssa, “these hieroglyphs look a lot like the coordinates you would see on a regular map but with a lot more complexity.”
She was right. The hieroglyphs did look like coordinates. But whatever coordinate system the Shinarian Mages used; it wasn’t latitude and longitude.
Either by her Shinarian blood or her keen understanding of maps Nyssa matched the hieroglyphs on the map with those on the twelve Shinarian Spires we had seen to locate a point somewhere near the center of Shinar.
“I wonder what’s here,” she said pensively, “It’s too bad we can’t zoom in.”
As soon as the words “zoom in” left Nyssa’s lips, the map did indeed zoom in. So much so that we saw roads, trees, homes of varying sizes, towns, and a massive structure labeled Stairway.
“Stairway?” asked Nyssa after I told her what the label said, “Stairway to what?”
“I have no idea,” I said staring at the structure.
The blood map had zoomed in on the structure so much that we could now see every detail. It looked to be some sort of pyramidal tower consisting of hundreds stories. There was a broad stairway winding round the structure that gave it the appearance of having a series of terraces.
“What’s that on the top?” asked Nyssa pointing to a circular object on the top of the stairway.
“According to the label next to it,” I said, “It’s a Phoenix Gate.”
We both looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Nyssa was about to ask me something when her cell phone began vibrating.
“It’s Lindsey,” said Nyssa checking her phone, “She wants to know what’s taking us so long.”
“We’d better leave before they start to get suspicious,” I suggested.
“Good idea,” said Nyssa as she began to roll up the map. “I just wish there was some way for us to disguise this thing.”
As soon as the word “disguise” left Nyssa lips the map shrank considerably and turned into a beauty magazine.
Nyssa’s eyes widened in surprised.
“Now that,” she said in awed sort of voice, “Was really cool.”
Her easy acceptance of all things supernatural was a bit spooky.
“The map seems to obey your commands,” I said impressed.
“It’s because she’s a witch,” thought Eliana. “If you tried to command the map nothing would happen.”
A thought suddenly occurred to me.
“Yes,” thought Eliana amusedly, “I put the map in the bookstore for Nyssa to find.”
“Here,” said Nyssa holding out the beauty magazine for me to take.
I shook my head.
“It’s yours,” I said with a small smile.
“Isn’t it?” I added in my mind.
“Yes,” thought Eliana.
I could tell that Nyssa was about to protest.
“Finders keepers,” I said emphatically.
“Thanks,” she said appreciatively.
A few minutes later we were standing outside the bookstore and inside the mall. I heard someone calling my name and turned to see Camilla walking toward me smiling. I saw that she, Lindsey, and Stephanie were all carrying shopping bags. Camilla wasted no time in grabbing hold of my hand and pulling me off to another store.
We spent the next three hours coming in and out of various stores. Camilla felt the need to model every bit of clothing she was buying. I had to admit she did look good in several of the outfits, but not as good as Nyssa.
Of course that being said I couldn’t help but wish it was Victoria modeling her outfits for me.