21 – Dual Telecarding
For my part, I taught the three of them how to telecard two people as I said I would. Of course, they already had their individual telecarding skills down pat.
I instructed them to how to stand, what to think, what to say, and so on. To telecard another person, you must be in physical contact with them. Holding hands works really well, because the astral fields of the two people can harmonize easily, but, if necessary, one person who is telecarding could simply grab hold of another anywhere. Don’t laugh! This is serious business!
Ah, it can be hard to telecard someone properly if they are speaking of a different place or even just thinking about another place (in the case of an advanced cardlanger). So it makes sense that if the second person can repeat the words of the first, or at the very least keep their mind and mouth silent, that will help.
When carried out correctly, dual telecarding permits two people to travel instantly to the same exact spot, the place the lead telecarder had in mind. However, if it doesn’t work, one person may be left behind or even sent to a different, unexpected place.
I repeat: master your individual telecarding skills before you ever attempt this!
   
22 – Busy And Carefree
As you might imagine, the three were terribly busy! Thank heavens they loved what they were doing. They seemed to have a serious purpose behind them, driving them. Just take a look at their classes…
 Chinese I
 Japanese I
 Conlangs I
 Translation I
 Flashcard Arts I
 Languages Of The World
| American Sign Language I
 Spanish I
 Hacking I
 Cryptanalysis I
 Flashcard Arts I
 Languages Of The World
| Latin I
 Arabic I
 French II
 Flashcard Arts II
 Language Revitalization
 Folk Tales Of The World
Ah, on top of that, each of them was apprenticed to a master cardlanger and was tutored on occasion by still other masters. Thus, I was Marion’s master and Ray’s tutor.
There wasn’t much spare time for them or for most new cardlangers, but even so, the leaders of the school knew extra-curricular activities formed well-rounded students.
Marion did sports, longboarding, and parkour. Ray was into three-dimensional chess, computer games, video games, virtual reality, and that sort of thing. Savannah preferred yoga, DIY, cooking, and art.
Sometimes they seemed so carefree to me that I wasn’t sure when or how to reveal the true dangers of our world to them.
   
23 – Opening A Door
After the possessed book incident, I went to seek help in the form of Marlena Grim, but she was not the same.
Professor Marlena Grim held tenure at the Academy for centuries. However, she specialized in black magic and so was assigned no apprentice. I hoped to understand more about what the Finders had in mind when they toyed with my book from afar.
I climbed the spiral, stone staircase to the highest nook in the school clock tower. Cobwebs stretched before me, telling me she’d had no visitors for some time. Arriving at the crooked, wooden door, I knocked.
And knocked again.
Then, I pushed the door slightly open.
   
24 – Closing A Door
As I peeked round the door’s edge, I saw, from her armchair in the far corner of the room, Professor Grim staring back at me. She looked smaller than usual and slumped over to one side.
“Archidemus. I should’ve saw that,” she murmured, beckoning me with two light, scooping motions of the hand.
I sat near her on her footstool, near enough to know something was definitely not right.
“Professor Grim? It’s me, Archidemus. Are you okay?” I reached out to find her hand, which had disappeared into a humongous sleeve.
“Archidemus, there’s not much time. Listen.”
My heart started pounding in anticipation of something horrible.
“The Finders have learned… how to reach out… through their own words. Any concentration of black magic… may serve as a doorway. That is why… I have decided… to close… this one.”
My eyes followed her pointed fingers over to the table. There, lay an overturned vial with a few drops of black liquid remaining.
“Professor Grim!” I tore out my cards and scoured through them like a madman.
“It’s too late… listen to me.”
“Where is that stupid card?!”
“The Finders… don’t want you.”
I threw the card to the floor, stamped my foot, and hugged her tight.
“You were… my best student,” she whispered.
When we appeared in the hospital lobby, the only thing left for me to do was cry.
   
25 – The Mind Prison
Yes, dark forces gathered strength at our doorstep. The leaders of the Academy foretold it. That is why they assigned an apprentice to every master for extra training. They wanted to make sure every master’s knowledge would be completely transmitted before open war broke out. Marion regarded his classes with me as completely normal and I decided to leave it be for the moment.
The confusion I felt about Marion, the pain of Professor Grim’s passing, and the ominous threat of The Finders weighed heavily on me. Thank goodness tea always stood ready my cupboard! I decided to have Oolong that day.
Tea and preparing lessons distracted me from my troubles. That week, studying The Card Palace seemed like a logical next step for Marion.
Ah, the Card Palace builds upon the ancient Mind Palace technique. The idea is to connect words or ideas you must remember to locations you already know very well, like the rooms of the house you grew up in. Doing this will help you remember a great number of things very quickly and accurately by association.
But as my eyes practiced, drifting from one room to the next, depression returned again: “It’s such a cozy place. It’d be a shame if they wrecked it.”
Just the thought of The Exinctors or The Finders or the goons being in my place was enough to make the tea taste bitter.
   
26 – You’re Not Ready Yet
“Sun is shining through the window. Huangse!”
Marion ran to pick up the card from its place to see if he was correct.
“The bathroom has running water. Lanse!”
Whoosh. Off he ran again.
“There are vegetables in the kitchen. Luse!”
He slid the card back into his deck.
“A scary book lives in the library… heise.”
Archidemus shook his head, “Don’t move an inch towards that book, Marion Erie.”
“I’m joking! I’m joking!” Marion sat down at the table. “But Archidemus… there’s something I wanna talk to you about.”
“Yes?” Archidemus was listening, but his eyes had started scanning the bookshelf. It had been a while since he thought about it. Where did he put that book last exactly?
“I’m worried about the Finders. Do you think they are still looking for us?”
Archidemus spied a black book with some relief and turned back towards Marion, “Those sniffers never give up easily.”
“Then, what’ll we do?”
“Marion, we can’t act with impunity.”
“Impunity. That means we can’t just do what we like, when we like, without fear of the results our actions will bring. This school has rules. The leaders decide-“
“Sounds like a drag.”
“It is a dra. What? No, no. It’s not a drag. It’s the right thing to do.”
“Listen, Marion. You’ve actually been assigned to me with a very special purpose in mind.”
“Yes! But you’re not ready for it now. For heaven’s sake, look at your shoes, boy!”
Marion’s shoelaces were untied and dirty from having been dragged everywhere.
“Why, the Finders would eat you for breakfast!”
   
27 – Ask A Question, Get An Answer
“What’s my special purpose?” asked Marion.
“Well, Marion, ah, it’s kind of hard to explain.” Archidemus pushed out his chair and crossed the room to confirm what he saw was, indeed, Find Words, Find Yourself.
“Please try!” said Marion, on the edge of his seat.
“No, Marion, I really think it’s not quite the right…”
Archidemus’ voice trailed off. His hand touched an empty space between books on the shelf.
“Marion, be quiet!”
Only then did Marion realize the change on Archidemus’ face: it was frozen with worry, but the eyes revealed the spinning cogs of a brain trying to solve a life-or-death puzzle. “What’s wrong, sir?”
“Marion, did you move that book?”
“What book? No. I didn’t move any book.”
Archidemus had time enough to utter two words, “Oh, no.”
With shocking force, two skeletal arms shot from the hole in the bookshelf and gripped Archidemus’ face. Marion fell off his chair, horrified. From under the table, he watched as his teacher shriveled and twitched uncontrollably. The evil, wiry hands appeared to leech life from Archidemus as he grew noticeably smaller.
“No!” Marion yelled.
In desperation, Archidemus tried to grab onto the bookshelf. His flailing arms knocked books from their places, but rather than falling all the way to the floor, they vanished into the same place the arms emerged from. The apartment fast became a vacuum. Objects flew passed Archidemus, cutting him, and on into the black hole.
Without letting go of the table, Marion slowly struggled to his feet in the windstorm. He stretched out one hand and called to Archidemus, but no sound would come. The tremendous suction even stole away his tears.
Suddenly, a vase loosed from somewhere behind him, smashed Marion on the back of the head and he collapsed to the ground. Marion watched with blurring vision as those two ghastly appendages pried Archidemus from the shelves and dragged him through before he lost consciousness.
   
28 – Cardlanger Academy Tactical Support
Hearing Marion’s screams, objects breaking, and wind howling, neighbors frantically dialed their phones.
Minutes later, C.A.T.S. broke Archidemus’ door down and cleared the apartment. Finding a young boy lying face down near the table in blood, they successfully stabilized him. Without a moment’s hesitation, they arranged to have him medevacked and alerted the school hospital to prepare a room.
No one knew exactly what led to this, but apparently, someone or something powerful and cunning enough, kidnapped a Master Cardlanger, Master Archidemus, leaving no trace.
This would mark the first time Extinctors infiltrated Cardlanger Academy. But Exinctors couldn’t do something like that without help, it was reasoned. It must have been Finders. But Finders were not known to have that awesome a power.
Who could have done such a thing? And why? For the time being, the much-needed answers to those questions remained locked up in an unconscious head, so, just to be safe, Whisperwalks were sent for.
   
29 – Whisperwalks
The school leaders primarily relied on C.A.T.S. for rapid attack and defense. Whisperwalks, quite differently, safeguarded the Academy from incursions of black magic, especially that of the Finders. They had done so successfully for ages.
When the Whisperwalk order realized the Finders’ ability to sense leftwords, they took a vow of silence to make sure they would never leave a trail for the Finders, even by accident. Being silent for so long caused most of their vocal chords to atrophy, such that they couldn’t hardly speak above a whisper, even if they wanted to.
To help keep their voices at least partly alive, the Whisperwalks chanted. Their monophonic droning routinely cleansed the catacombs of the Academy, inoculating the entire school against black magic and infusing it with positive energy.
Of course, the Whisperwalks immediately noticed the precision timing of Master Archidemus’ kidnapping: it transpired at the nadir of their daily chanting rituals. Therefore, the kidnapper would have to be someone familiar with the school schedules and their chanting habits.
   
30 – Sealing The Room
Hours later, the Whisperwalks shuffled in; they rarely did anything in a hurry.
Keeping their hands together in front of their chests, palms down, it appeared as if the hands were mouths, one eating the other. This physically communicated the Whisperwalks’ subservience to the order’s code of silence.
Entering the room somberly, one-by-one, they unclasped their hands and outstretched one or the other to feel for any paranormal activity in the room. Satisfied, they began to root around for any objects that might pose a threat. Finding none, they cleared away the table and chairs from the center of the room and knelt by sitting on their heels, forming a circle. Then, the Whisperwalks rejoined their hands and commenced chanting.
That night, Archidemus’ neighbors rested well, as the sonorous sounds of the strange monks softly filled the whole building. They chanted throughout the night, leaving only when the sun broke over the horizon.
The room was sealed.