Second semester started like the first, only this time everyone pledged to work hard to get ahead of the game, not just Emily. They knew now they were a team, a tribe of women bound together with a common purpose and they never knew when something might come up. The night creatures were still out there, and though the creatures were quiet through the holidays, everyone figured it was only a matter of time.
As soon as they all got back to school, Sara came by. She added her voice to their sense of urgency as they unpacked. Mindy shared her conclusion that the golden apples of youth were certainly the main ingredient for ambrosia.
“I studied it as well as I could when I was home,” she said. “The old record is clear. Consuming ambrosia not only confers immortality, it makes one a god.”
Anna in New York came out of her coma just before Christmas and confirmed Mindy’s suspicion in a phone call to Emily that the scroll stolen from her was the recipe. The scroll contained the recipe of Hera herself, and while Anna never figured out the Linear A, she did understand that the golden apples of youth were indeed the key ingredient.
When the women had everything put away, they sat around the lounge area in their proper places except for Emily who paced. This time, Sara had the orange soda. Melissa had the water.
“Bernie the campus cop was at the airport when I arrived,” Emily said, as she ran her hand once through her hair and Maria wiggled her glasses in response. “He was decked out in a trench coat and sunglasses.” Emily smiled. They could all picture it. “He said he was in a stall in the men’s room in the security office just before break. Sergeant Valenko came in with another man whose voice Bernie did not recognize. Bernie assumed they thought the room was empty, and he kept quiet.”
“The Ambrosia will not be easy to make,” the unknown man said. “You may need to fetch a second supply from that place.”
“Understood,” Sergeant Valenko answered, and that was the whole conversation.
“But I thought you told me Anna said the recipe was written in Linear A,” Mindy’s eyebrows cocked and her face looked curious, like there was something she was not grasping.
“What is Linear A?” Jessica asked, and added, “Tell me in English so I might understand.”
“Same here,” Melissa said, and when the others looked at her, she added, “or math. I might be able to understand the math.”
Mindy spoke softly. “Briefly, Linear A and linear B are ancient forms of writing that may be related but no one knows how. Linear B is also called Mycenaean; it is a most ancient form of Greek. But Linear A is older. It is Minoan and no one in modern times has been able to translate that dead language. We have modern Greek, but there is no modern Minoan to compare.”
“There is one person,” Sara sounded hesitant. They had to encourage her to come out with it. “At the Christmas luncheon Lisa had for Latasha, Heinrich told us about a report he got on a night creature some twelve years ago. He read from a letter. He said it was in Linear A. He said the council corresponds in that language because no one else can translate it.”
Emily stopped pacing and put her hand to her head. She did not want the headache, but suddenly she understood why Lisa had such hard feelings for the council. Heinrich just moved to the top of her suspect list. Emily paused, sat, and tried to get a handle on it all. She spoke when she was ready.
“Last semester we ran around like chickens without heads. We looked for apples. We looked for a door. We tried to figure out the circle with three squiggly lines society. We fought defensively and reacted to the things thrown at us. This semester, I want us to be proactive. We need to forget the things we can’t find or figure out and focus on the people we suspect may be involved. Your thoughts? Jessica?”
Jessica sat up a bit straighter. “I agree. Next time we see an orc we should not be so quick to fight it as to follow it. It might lead us straight to the door.”
“Track the orc,” Emily smiled. “Spoken like a true hunter.” Jessica returned the smile but dropped her hand to her side where she had been wounded by an orc arrow. No scar remained, but she remembered. Emily moved on. “Amina?”
“You know I have no real control over what I see and cannot see,” she hedged. “My sight regarding apples and doors and even people has been blocked. I can feel the block. I think I would be upset if I did not know that Zoe herself must be blocked or she would have told us more of what is going on. All she says is it is a mystery.”
Mindy interrupted. “But the only one who could block Zoe would be another god or goddess. I can’t imagine anything we can do about that.”
“No,” Jessica agreed. “But we might be able to identify who it is.”
Melissa looked thoughtful. “Doctor Piedmont,” she said, and then she explained. “I know you said no one has translated Linear A, but Piedmont is brilliant in a way I have never seen before. He is writing all the software for the robot Doctor Harper is building and he just might break through to sentience or a sort.” Melissa fell silent like she was thinking something through.
“I don’t get the connection,” Amina admitted.
“Well. It’s just, before he came to the university I understand he worked for the government in encryption. That’s code making and code breaking. He has access to the most sophisticated decoding software on the planet. I know a language is different from a code, but I suspect he might be able to figure out a recipe.”
“One to watch,” Emily said and turned to the other side. “Mindy?”
“Papadopoulos, definitely,” she said. “I looked up to him all last year because he is a real genius, but now I am not sure I trust him. I think he is hiding something. That tattoo. I showed it to Professor Schultz right away, but hesitated on showing Professor Papadopoulos. I don’t know why, but when I did he said he did not know anything about it, and I think he is lying.”
“So you think he knows something?”
Mindy nodded. “And I think if there is anyone on earth who could translate Linear A, it would be him.”
“I guess that leaves Professor Schultz for me, though I can’t imagine Heinrich being one of the bad guys.” Everyone agreed with that. “That would require him to play one of those games he could not possibly keep straight. I mean, he helped kill orcs and freely gave Mindy what he knew about the tattoo.”
“And shared with Lisa what he knew about the night creatures,” Sara added.
Maria held her hand up for quiet. “But I was thinking about what you told me, Emily, about the members of the council keeping an eye on the elect in case one should be tempted to go rogue, and what I was wondering is who watches the watchers? I mean, what if there is a rogue member of the council out there tempted by immortality, not to mention possibly becoming one of the gods?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Emily admitted. The thought made her feel better, though she knew she could not remove Heinrich from the suspects list for the time being. “Follow that line of thinking.” Maria nodded and Emily turned to the priestess. “Sara?”
Sara took a deep breath. “You all know you have left the most suspicious name off the list. President Batiste. Emily, you said he was up to something at the beginning of last semester. I don’t think that anything has changed.”
“He may be behind it in some way,” Emily agreed.
“At least I work in the same building. I could keep an eye on him and I think Nancy, his secretary might help.”
“Good,” Emily nodded. “But I have revised my thinking on that a little. There is also Captain Gouldos, head of campus security and the ever present Sergeant Valenko, the only one we know who has actually used the word ambrosia. Right now, I don’t know if Batiste is in charge or maybe Gouldos is pulling the strings from behind.”
“Oh, I have no connection to the security office,” Sara said quickly.
Emily waved off her concern. “We have Bernie to keep an eye on security. But now I want to add one more name because the name keeps coming up, and because he was likely behind the attempt on my life over Christmas. Ferdinand Franco. I think I need to have a talk with Lisa.”
“So we all have our jobs,” Jessica said. “Though I don’t know where to start looking for signs of orc passage.”
“That’s easy,” Maria said. “Just follow the orc droppings.”
Amina put her hand up as Jessica made a face and a comment. “Eww, that’s disgusting.”
“What?” Emily ignored the exchange.
“How can I possibly find out anything about a rival god or goddess if they don’t want to be found, and it seems to me they don’t want to be found.”
“Just focus on what is blocking you. You may have more control over what you see than you realize.”
“But I don’t want to look there.”
Mindy nodded. “That tells me that what Sara said is true. Whoever it is, they don’t want you to look too close. You might not have to do anything but look. You might not be able to do anything about it, but maybe you can identify the block. I can show you all sorts of renderings of the ancient gods and goddesses. Maybe one will ring a bell.”
Amina started to nod, but then froze. The look on her face was like one whose hair suddenly stood on end and she shivered like a ghost just walked through her. Amina sprang up and tore the door open. There was no one there.
“Who is it? Who is out here? Show yourself.” No one answered, and no one crashed the door to rush down the stairwell to escape either. The women were stymied, but no one doubted that someone had been there. No one doubted Amina.