Chapter Five, continued
It was vault rather than room that met my eyes. A back wall held rows and rows of drawers. In the middle, a raised dais of what looked like the same white plastic as the panel beside the door. On it was a round of gray stone, perhaps a foot in diameter.
We approached and as we got closer, I could feel the temperature of the air dropping with every inch that closed between us and the stone in the middle. I couldn’t imagine how powerful it might be. Some of the artifacts are demigods in and of their own right. We’d studied a few in classes, but I didn’t recognize this one.
We stood around the dais at equal intervals, Santa directly across me. The Tooth Fairy gave me another of those unsettling attempts at a smile.
“Put out your hand and lay it on the Calendar, Ms. Amme,” Santa said.
This close, the stone’s surface was covered with tangled lines, a carving whose meaning I could not decipher. The air reeked of magic, that odd nostril burn you only get when you’re around the really high-powered stuff.
I hesitated. But what could I do? I’d play along, at least until I’d had a chance to talk to my mother. I stretched out my hand.
It was cold, unbelievably cold, when I touched it. I started to pull my hand away, but some invisible force held my fingers fast to it. It rang like a bell, a sound so loud and piercing it was almost painful, a wave of sound carrying us to another dimension, where senses where different, where everything was bright and three shining figures stood in a circle with me.
One of them laid his hand on the stone as well.
“I give you the power to make much of little, and to travel quickly,” Santa Claus said.
The Tooth Fairy followed.
“I give you the power to trade one thing for another, and to enter any room.”
Finally, the Easter Bunny’s paw.
“I give you the power to bring out the life that is there, and to hide and be hidden.”
With every word, I could feel energy coiling inside me, as though I were hollow and being filled for the first time. it was an odd and unpleasant sensation, but I gritted my teeth.
The stone rang again and as the noise faded, I was able to pull my hand away.
Santa Claus smiled at me, but the expression didn’t reach his eyes. He handed me a folder. “You’ll find your target in there, and we’ll supply an assistant to help orient you.” He walked to the door. “Once you’ve had a chance to met it, you can return here and we can discuss the next step. Think of it as a trial of sorts.” He turned.
“You’ll want to talk to your mother at first, of course. That’s understandable. Quite understandable. But don’t take too long, Miss Amme We don’t try to keep these creatures down for our own amusement.” He frowned at me. “We do it for the good of the world.”
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