“She’s back! The Key Keeper has come back to us!”
Ronnie opened her eyes and found herself sitting beside the Gateway. Azulia was running toward her, as were Meline, Morpheus and Iris.
“Where did you come from? One minute you weren’t there and the next you were sitting there with your eyes closed holding the Key and chanting. Have you found the magic?”
“Oh yes Azulia, I have!” Ronnie leapt to her feet with more energy than she’d felt in ages. “I feel it now. I went through the labyrinth and I drank from the Nechtane’s Well and I fell asleep and I saw my Dad and we found the answer. Oh Morpheus”, she exclaimed as she flew into his arms. “Thank you for sending him to me! When he said it was all Greek to him, I thought it meant he didn’t know but he did know and he knew I’d know and I did know! This is great! I can feel the magic all through me. Bring on those Harpies. I’ll show them that they can’t mess with the Key Keeper.”
“Slow down Ronnie.” Iris sounded so much like Ronnie’s mother when she spoke that Ronnie stopped leaping around and stood, listening. “It is good news that you have found the magic but it must be tamed. Magic used for vengeance is a terrible thing. My sisters have surely taught us that. Recognize its might. To quote your legendary King Arthur: ’Not might is right but might for right’ You own an awesome power now; you must not let it own you. While some jubilation is appropriate, you must temper it with awe.”
“You’re right, of course, Iris. I’m just so excited. And I am in awe. I can’t believe that I brought myself back here with that chant. I know now what the symbols are. They spell out my Dad’s name: ROY G BIV. We were right about the symbols. They are an ancient language and, luckily, one I chose to research when my class did Ancient Studies - or maybe luck had nothing to do with it. The magic must have been leading me here all this time. Funny I forgot about that project till now. I guess the Labyrinth really did clear my mind or open my mind or whatever so that I could know what I now know. The magic has been leading me to the answers all along.
“But, I just remembered, something happened to the stone while I was holding it. I felt its surface changing in my hand.” Ronnie held the stone up and everyone crowded behind her to examine it. The back of the stone was covered in symbols! The magic had etched a message into it.
“Ronnie, can you read it?” asked Morpheus.
“No. It’s not that simple. I only remember some of the symbols – the ones in my name and now I know the ones in Dad’s name too. I am pretty sure that it’s the same language as the one on the front. I’ll copy it and see if I can start to solve the puzzle.
“Aren’t Wollomombi and Tilly back yet? I was in that labyrinth for such a long time.”
“No, Ronnie. Any time you may have taken in the labyrinth was touched with magic and because you did not use any time returning here, you have really not been away long at all,” Morpheus answered. “While you’ve been away, we’ve been hard at work cleaning up after the Harpies’ last deluge. This one was the worst ever. I am afraid the village was damaged in the flood. Nothing a little determination and hard work will not put right. We managed to rescue most of the Iridalites before they came to serious harm and we administered first aid to those who were injured. All will recover in time but we must return to them and to the cleanup efforts.
“ Azulia and Meline will, I am sure, be happy to bring you some food and drink while you work. Even though you were in the magic of time, you probably worked up an appetite. They will also send someone to you with any tools you need to complete your work”
Ronnie asked for some paper, writing implements, and a surface upon which to work. She could make herself comfortable enough in the grass by the river so had no need of any thing to sit upon. The two Iridalites nodded in agreement and set off to prepare a feast fit for their returning heroine. Ronnie quickly told the Olympians about her encounter with Echidna.
“Nothing more needs to be told in detail right now, though my journey was exciting and wondrous. We all have important work to do and we should get busy doing it.” Ronnie surprised herself with her attitude toward the work. Her mother had been right about her tendency to put off tasks. This work seemed different somehow.
Morpheus and Iris bade Ronnie farewell and all turned their attention the tasks at hand.
In short order, Ronnie had all she needed. She took a little time getting used to the quill pen and was distracted as well by the ink that changed colour with each symbol she copied from the back of the stone. She wrote the corresponding letter of the alphabet above each symbol she recognized. She was left with:
B_ _ _ _ _ _ NIG_ _
NO _O_O_R _I_ _O_ _ _IG_ _
_ _ _N _ _ONE _ _N _ _ _E I_ RIG_ _
EO_ _E_ _ _ _ _ IN O_R _ _IG_ _
She reasoned that ‘NIG_ _’ was probably the word night and ‘RIG_ _’ would be right, in fact each line ended with an ‘ight‘ word. Now she was getting somewhere. That helped her figure out a bit more of the code:
B_ _ _ _ _ _ NIGHT
NO _ O _ O _R _ itho _ T _IGHT
_ _ _N _ _ ONE _ _N _ _ _E IT RIGHT
EO_ _E_ _ _ _ IN O_R _ _IGHT
With a whispered promise to help her Gramma more often with cryptogram word puzzles and a sense of gratitude for the lessons so far, Ronnie was able to figure out that ‘_ITHO_T’ must be without. That in turn solved more and those led to more. In time she sat staring down at:
BL_ C_ _ _ NIGHT
NO COLOUR WITHOUT LIGHT
_ _WN _ LONE _ _N _ _ _E IT RIGHT
EO_ _EL _ U_ IN OUR _ LIGHT
Ronnie was now so close to solving the puzzle she felt she’d earned a break and turned to enjoy the tray of food the Iridalites had left for her. They had come and gone so quietly, she hadn’t noticed them until their happy voices caught her unawares as they chatted on their way back to the aid station. She had solved all she could for now anyway.
After satisfying her thirst and hunger, Ronnie strolled along the pathway, greeting the children who played in the grass. She noticed that all the children here were small in stature. Even the older ones were somewhat smaller than she. It felt strangely nice to be so comparatively big to everyone around her. When she felt her legs were suitably stretched, she turned back toward her work.
She was again staring down at the puzzle before her and was so engrossed in her work that she failed to notice the approach of friends - until Tilly barked. She leaped up to greet him and Wollomombi, carefully placing herself between her joyously bounding pet and her work.