Emily paused in her reading. Maria was in her spot on the couch with papers and books spread all over the coffee table. Amina was in her chair with a book, but she looked ready to take a nap. Melissa had a math book out and was taking notes. Emily could not imagine why anyone would ever take notes out of a math book, but then she probably would not understand the math in that book, so it hardly mattered.
“No,” Maria answered without looking up. “No doors to Avalon. And no apples from Avalon either.”
“Where is Avalon?” Melissa asked. She put the pencil in her mouth for a good chew.
“Long way,” Amina said.
“But we may never find the creatures that have escaped if we don’t find the door and close it,” Melissa said.
“Yes, I know,” Emily responded. “There’s trouble in the ranks, whatever that means.”
“Zoe’s Mystery,” Maria said. “It means the world is going mad.”
All four women spoke in unison. “Blah, blah, blah.” They went back to their studies.
Early on the last Tuesday morning before Christmas break, Mindy went down to the library sub-basement for her shift. She was feeling more frustrated than any of them. Every chance they got was spent looking for apples, looking for a door, and in Mindy’s case not finding anything about the circle with three squiggly lines. They did not talk about it. Days went by without mentioning it. Thanksgiving came and went and now it was nearly time for finals, the semester was almost over and they found nothing.
“How does Zoe expect us to find things that may be invisible or insubstantial?” Mindy complained.
“I don’t know.” Bill looked up from the desk opposite hers and shook his head; but Mindy was not finished.
“I mean, what good is a wise woman who doesn’t know anything? Really?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Bill responded. He stared at her, and at any other time Mindy would not have minded, but at the moment she was not in a good mood. She returned a mean stare and he opened up just a little. “I am the graduate student, but you are so far ahead of me on so many things, and you are just a sophomore. I mean, you eat ancient languages for breakfast.”
“I’ve always been good with languages. That doesn’t mean anything.”
“That means everything!” He shouted as much as a scholar can shout. “In two years you know more languages than I know in six, plus high school where I studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew because I was supposed to be the genius kid. And worse, you remember it all. It’s like we are all looking at the tapestry of life and enjoying the picture on the cloth. You can see the stitching and know just where one color ties off and the next begins. You are the most remarkable woman I have ever known.”
Mindy could not respond right away. She was too busy reveling in the fact that a young man called her a woman. She was short and perky and everyone else just referred to her as a girl. When she did respond, it was with sharp words. “Bill, quick. This way. Hurry.” She grabbed Bill’s hand and dragged him through several twists and turns around stacks and cases until she got to a spot on the wall where the pieces of a cabinet lay unassembled. She grabbed a six-foot dowel as Bill caught sight of what was following them. To his credit, he managed to maintain enough control of his tongue to ask, quietly.
“What the hell is that?”
“Orc,” Mindy answered as she shoved Bill behind her and held the dowel like a staff.
The orc paused at the end of the aisle. It stared at them through intelligent, malevolent eyes.
Mindy spoke in a language Bill never heard before, and she shifted her hands on the staff to show she knew how to use it without threatening the beast at the same time. The beast simply barred his teeth, his many sharp looking teeth, and growled in guttural sounds before it turned and walked off. Mindy was for going down the aisle to see if she could catch a glimpse of where it went, but Bill grabbed her by the shoulder.
“Listen first,” he said. “Maybe it is waiting for us.”
It sounded wise, but Mindy shook her head. “It had us cornered here. If it wanted us it would have taken us, or tried already.”
Bill nodded even if he did not quite believe it. “So what was that language you spoke? I didn’t recognize it.”
“What?” Bill backed up a little. “No one knows how Akkadian is spoken. That is a matter for scholars to debate.”
“Well, that was Akkadian all the same,” Mindy said. “How do you think I learn all these languages? I hear it in my head as I read it. If I read enough, non-stop, I start to think in the language and have to make myself think again in English. I spoke Akkadian, and correctly since the orc understood me.”
“The original language of the Amazons. I told the orc I belonged to Zoe and you belonged to me. I said if he harmed us he would have to answer to Zoe. He answered that he would go.”
“Yeah, that growl and stuff. He answered in orc.”
“I belong to you? Bill took Mindy by the shoulders and turned her so she would face him. All Mindy could do was nod her head. “Wait a minute. He answered in orc?”
“Yeah. It’s sort of like Klingon but not as friendly.”