Chapter 98: The Walrus and the Students
Nathanial stood next to Liam in the Rottweiler's art room and researched JWD's store via the web on his new Sony Play smartphone. It was taking him a bit to find the phone number since it wasn't listed under JWD, but he figured it shouldn't be too hard to find -- there weren't that many bookstores in Halifax. While he looked for the listing he watched Liam paint. The painting was of the lane leading up to the alpha's and Geoff's homes in Ireland. Nathanial noticed the brush had the words, 'To my beautiful Muireann, Love Daddy,' inscribed on it and a pink bow was tied on the handle. Nathanial blinked his eyes rapidly a few times when the screen of his phone suddenly looked blurry.
His friend moved incredibly fast and with shocking precision. The slowest part of the process was whenever Liam dipped the brush into the bottle of ink and paused to let some of ink fall out of the bristles. Liam made a few more rapid strokes with the paintbrush; his youthful face was set in its customary passive expression, reminding Nathanial of the way he thought of Liam as 'the cute killer-robot' on the first day of school. Nathanial smiled at the thought and teasingly said, "You look like Data when you paint."
Liam didn't pause in his painting, but his ears twitched. "I know not what you refer to. I appear as...a set of science manuals? Some bits of computer programming? How, pray tell, does one look like information?"
Nathanial chuckled, but his eyes caught an entry for Doull's Books, so he looked for the webpage for the store. "Um, not data--" He pronounced it 'dah-tah,' then 'day-tah' as he continued. "--but Data. A character from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's an android. He, um, painted too, and was really fast, like you are, when he got going."
Liam's voice gave obvious lie to his response. "Fascinating."
Nathanial felt his face warm beneath his fur, and his ears flipped back. He thought Doull's Books was the right store; the pictures certainly matched Micah's description. He dialled the number and peeked through the phone when it was answered.
"Doull's Books, John Doull speaking." An elderly, bespectacled Walrus sat on a stool behind a cluttered desk next to a cash register facing out into a...wonder.
Nathanial almost didn't hear the greeting as he gazed in delight at the piles of books stacked on every available -- and occasionally unavailable -- surface. There was barely enough space to wind your way through the overflowing shelves; every blind corner led to new treasures of literature and fascinating troves of knowledge heretofore unimagined. He shook himself out of his daze. "Oh, hi! I'm Nathanial Marks--" He saw the Walrus sit up sharply in surprise and glance at the number on the phone, jotting it down. 'Odd.' Nathanial continued without pausing, though. "--and I was hoping to pop into your store this evening. Micah, my brother, told me you have some, ah, unusual material that I can't find elsewhere in the province."
Mr. Doull chuckled. "Micah. That would be the little black and white Akita that discovered my secret room. Yes, I remember him; it'd be very difficult to forget a little scamp like that. Will George, the Rottweiler that was with him, be joining you?" Liam smiled and shook his head when he heard the name 'George,' though Nathanial frowned in confusion. The Walrus, of course, didn't see either reaction. "I'd like to hear what he thought of the Mages who continued Amadeus Thotz's work. How did you enjoy the book on the Elemental Plane of Darkness?"
There was obviously no one in the store; even the sidewalk out front was reasonably quiet, though the streets were congested with rush hour traffic. Nathanial noticed the door was marked with a book inside a circle and had 'J.W.D.' on top with 'Books' underneath; that would be why they thought that was the name of the store.
"Um, I liked it, but it didn't seem to match what I saw there. The effect it has on the Furs or Mages brought there is wrong, too." He quickly spoke up when the Walrus's eyes widened and sparkled in scholarly interest. "But, but, I -- Can I open a portal into your store? I need to pick up some books as soon as possible. Please?"
"Certainly, certainly." The portly Pinniped pulled himself off his perch and began pacing toward the back of the store, letting his reading glasses fall to dangle by their chain. "Let me just... How will you...? Ah, yes, never mind. I assume you're watching me right now." Mr. Doull was out of sight of the front door and the windows and moving toward a heavily warded part of the store. Nathanial found that even more fascinating than all the books.
'Wait. How does Mr. Doull know I can watch people like that? Did Arrie tell him? Why is Arrie telling all sorts of people about what I can do?' Nathanial was rather put out by this.
The merchant sounded jovial as he stopped in a relatively clear area. "This is the best I can do in the store. Can you open a portal without damaging anything?"
There was only about a metre diameter of clearance between bookshelves at chest level and half that on the floor. He'd have to open the portal parallel to the floor and drop in. "Sure, not a problem." He turned to Liam, who'd put his brush away by now. "Ready, George?"
Liam chuckled and winked back. "Yes, my friend, I am."
Mr. Doull perked up even more. "He is with you? Marvellous, simply marvellous."
Nathanial opened the portal just above the floor in Liam's house and two metres above the ground in the bookstore, then ended the call. He jumped in, landing with a thump on the hardwood floor, and took two steps forward.
Liam landed silently behind him, spinning quickly as he dropped into a combat stance facing the Walrus. "I do wish you had informed me there would be someone so close by, Nathanial."
Nathanial ducked his head, his ears flipping back as his face warmed up beneath his fur. "Sorry."
Mr. Doull was peering at the portal through what looked like jewellers glasses. His voice was barely audible. "Fascinating." He moved to stand under it, oblivious to Liam, and forced the Rottweiler to move out of the way. "Ab-so-lutley fascinating. The way the spatial theorem of the standard variation from Kerfoot's dual-point teleportation enchantment combines with the magic patterns from demonic transplanar rifts, as analyzed by Belagosi family..." He seemed to realize they were still there and waved his flipper at them. "Yes, yes, I know, heretics and Demon Mages, but they still produced the best analysis on Demons in the history of the Arcane Society." His focus was drawn back to the portal when he looked at it again through his jeweller's glasses. "And there! Look there! It contains subtle variations to deal with any potential disruptions from my wards!" He crowed in delight. "Very subtle and completely insufficient to do the job if we were inside the room, but it matches up perfectly with the spell work from the wards on your basement. Just follow this pattern to its logical conclusion and it'd go through them without a hitch."
Liam's eyes narrowed into razor thin slits and a deep growl rumbled in his chest. His voice even dropped from its early-puberty height to a menacing tone suitable for a Dog twice his size. "And how do you know about my friend's home? I was under the impression neither he nor his brothers had ever met you before September."
"They haven't, well not since they were mewling pups still latched onto Lily's bosom." Mr. Doull looked away from the portal momentarily, and then cut off a protest before it'd fully formed when Nathanial closed it. He sighed. "I used to visit on occasion; this was before you turned four, Nathanial. I knew many of the same people your parents did. When your mother found out I was a Mage and had been leaving you books and stories about magic and the Hidden World, she was furious and made sure I never visited again. I don't know if Garret knew -- probably not since he still stopped in to buy or sell things...on very rare occasions. I doubt he would've been happy either, though."
Nathanial was stunned; he didn't remember Mr. Doull at all, but if this was all before Lily was even pregnant with Micah, then it wasn't that surprising. But if he knew... Nathanial shook his head. This guy was only an acquaintance of his parents; why would he go out of his way to visit someone else's pups? How would that look? Really, why was Mr. Doull leaving books for him in the first place? There wasn't any logical reason for Nathanial to feel abandoned by a guy -- who had nothing to do with him or his family -- just because they shared a fascination with magic and books.
Liam's suspicions weren't allayed in the slightest. "So you remember the wards on his basement, and knew they were there despite their invisibility. You have an obvious interest in his family, going so far as to spy on them with two Society law enforcement personnel -- one of whom was the girlfriend of a Demon Mage and was nearly Turned herself. And you have confessed to an interest in Demons on your own." The expression on Liam's face had gone from narrowed eyes and a stony countenance to murderous hatred.
Nathanial quickly looked over the store and closely examined the cautious-looking Walrus, but he couldn't find any Demon focus. Then again, he couldn't get through the wards...yet. The only odd looking thing he found was a small shrine-looking thing with some sort of Greek symbols on it, probably dedicated to some minor god or other. "He's clean, uh, George." Nathanial almost called Liam by his real name; he wasn't sure why Liam gave a fake name last time, but it was up to Liam to give his real one or not. "He doesn't have any Demon magic active or a focus on him. I couldn't find anything in the store, either. I've almost broken through his wards, so I can check his merchandise soon."
Liam relaxed slightly, but Mr. Doull perked up like he had when he saw the portal. He pulled his jeweller's glasses out again and peered at Nathanial. "No, no spells. No magic items." He almost sounded like he was talking to himself. "Hmm. Micah said he was half-Fey and that Charms didn't work on him, but I know Nathanial is Garret and Lily's boy."
Liam tensed back up. "Micah said no such thing. He said Garret was his father and that, quote, 'Nats and Nick are my older brothers.' End quote. Why do you say he is a Changeling?"
The Walrus lowered his glasses. "So suspicious, aren't we? For your information, when you claim I was 'spying' on Nathanial, I was actually out driving with my niece and a friend after lunch when Arrie wanted to show Lara the Markses. Or was it Lara who wanted to unofficially check on them? Anyway, Arrie, my niece, knew I had an interest in unusual magic activity and you, Nathanial, were responsible for some very unusual activity, indeed. There's no law against her talking about things she sees as long as it doesn't hinder an investigation. She said nothing that wasn't on the reports and Lara had already read them and submitted her recommendation."
Nathanial gulped and scuffed the floor. He didn't want to get in trouble for something so stupid as altering a fog-summoning spell. "Wh-What did she recommend?" Liam was still glaring at the Walrus.
Mr. Doull shook his head. "Irrelevant. All of her work is discredited and is going to be undergoing a full review by a panel of Investigators." The large Mage carefully moved between them and opened the secret door to the warded room. His voice was regretful. "That damned Gordon utterly destroyed her reputation along with taking her life. She'll forever be remembered as the Investigator who was so blind that she dated a Demon Mage for years without noticing. I hope that Cat is found soon and faces justice for his crimes; Lara had her flaws, but she didn't deserve to be nearly Turned."
Liam followed the other two into the room. "She did not. No one deserves such a fate, regardless of how lacking they may be in admirable traits. However, Mr. Doull, even if Agent Arrie is your niece she has no business relaying personal information about others to you, particularly pups. I assume she told you of Micah's ancestry? That is a great breach of confidentiality and must be reported."
Nathanial barely listened as he wandered about the room in complete awe. So many books on magic and the Hidden World right here! He could spend days studying the display cases full of little magic doohickeys, let alone the awesome spell work on the cases themselves. He saw the grimoire Micah had mentioned was still here.
Liam was continuing to scold the Walrus. "You, of all people, must be aware of how Changelings can be treated by Mages! The Demon Mage you revile -- Gordon Ahjee -- seeks Micah's blood because of that ancestry, and he would not be the only Mage seeking to harvest parts of this young pup to use in their magic! To cavalierly pass such dangerous information around is a terrible abuse of her position!"
Mr. Doull's face set grimly as he gazed down at the Rottweiler. "Then file a complaint, George. All members of the Society are free to do so if they think a fellow Mage has been put in danger by the actions of the Society's representatives. I won't discuss this any further; I did nothing wrong." He turned away from Liam and walked over to Nathanial. "What did you come here to buy, Nathanial?"
Nathanial jumped in surprise; he was completely absorbed in studying the various wards in and around the room. Some of them appeared to comprise solely of spell work -- woven cords of magic strung about like a spiders web to catch certain types of incoming magic -- that were anchored to an object (like a display case) and appeared to link back to Mr. Doull for the magic to power them. Others were set into physical objects, mostly glyphs and runes. These seemed to produce a far more uniform effect, like the glyphs took the cords of magic and made a tapestry out of it. They also seemed to be charged with their own pool of magic and didn't rely on constant maintenance from a Mage. That would mean the Mage also didn't have constant control of the magic, or awareness of it, unless a separate spell was included to give it to him.
Nathanial shook himself out of the reverie he was falling back into. "Oh! Books! Right. Yes, I came here to buy some books on..." What did Mr. Doull call it? "Kerfoot's dual-point teleportation enchantments and variants thereof. Um, also on the tetra-bioscan formula and the type three biochem scanning formula, a primer -- the best one you have, in your opinion -- on enchanting objects. Ah! U-Um, the book on enchanting needs to have a section on spell patterns to allow a Mage to monitor and modify the existing enchantments, too." He looked over at a still very suspicious Liam. "George? Anything else?"
Liam shook his head. "Not that I can think of at the moment. This should be, at the very least, a good start."
Mr. Doull nodded and began pulling some books of the shelves. "It's not my business, but the books on medicine seem very out of place. There's no reason for them if you're just looking at setting up a teleporter so your friends don't need you to shuttle them around. Though, in my opinion, unless you're setting up a replacement for the teleporter between the McDougals' home here and in Ireland, it's a waste of magic."
Nathanial growled loud enough to startle Liam, let alone Mr. Doull. "How the fuck do you know about that?" Snow and three other Mastiffs stalked into the room with their heads lowered and hackles raised menacingly.
The Walrus held up his flippers placatingly. "Calm down, calm down. It's hardly a secret for those who pay attention. It's obvious some Spirits moved into the neighbourhood next to yours, very wealthy ones since they paid the Halifax Clan substantial amounts of money to use their charity to buy the land behind the McDougals' new house." Nathanial started to relax since that was the exact same way Liam figured out where Geoff lived. "The only Clan with that kind of money is the Cork Clan. I know from the chatter in the Society that the Dark Spirit was being harassed by Hunters. Getting his name and photo was no problem, and I recognized Geoff when I saw you walking with him. There was no way the Cork Clan would let him come over here without means of protecting him and bringing him back quickly. Any government agency, Fur or Mage, is suspect, so air travel wouldn't be considered reliable. That leaves magical means and I have contacts that let me know who built the teleporter...though they didn't know what was built, just that this Mage has had recent dealings with Spirits."
Nathanial and Liam exchanged glances; Snow and the other Mastiffs slipped out of the room again, much to Mr. Doull's relief. Nathanial looked at Liam again and asked, telepathically, *It sounds reasonable. It's how you knew that Geoff and Faelen lived there, and the rest isn't all that surprising either.*
*Had I the same network I would have found out about the teleporter just as quickly; indeed I likely could have had I inquired. I cannot trust him, for he knows far too much for comfort, but his method of acquiring such knowledge does not appear to be a mark against him. I shall insist your father complain about Agent Arrie's indiscretion.*
*Should I ask for his help? The wards and stuff in this room are pretty impressive.*
*He is a merchant, Nathanial. He has already sought to cheat me in a most egregious manner; such aid would be far too costly for its worth.*
*Lowell was a merchant, too, from what you said.*
Liam stiffened up, apparently highly insulted. He merely answered, *And I was also an assassin who used my money and charms to get close to my targets. I am honourable and take my duties very seriously, but that does not mean I should be trusted by all. My kindness may be a ruse to allow me to gain information or opportunity to strike my target down. My honour is not the honour of samurai -- it is the honour of shinobi. The 'honour' of a merchant is also markedly different...if this merchant has anything resembling honour.*
*It's not like he'll learn anything he doesn't already know.*
Liam sighed. *I concede the point. Carry on.*
Nathanial smiled up at the amused Walrus, who lowered his jeweller's glasses. "Yes, I plan on making a teleporter to replace Geoff's. It's not working right." He was about to say it was booby trapped, but he didn't want that to potentially get back to the suspect Mage -- it could put Ciaran in danger as he scouted out the guy's base. "The Mage who made it rigged it so it's pulling tons of energy from anyone using it, probably to power spells and enchantments for other customers. That wasn't part of the deal, so Mr. McDougal wants me to make a replacement before he terminates the contract. He doesn't want to be left without a teleporter, but he doesn't trust this one, either."
Mr. Doull frowned. "Very few Mages are willing to deal with other entities because of the scrutiny they face by the Society. This was under the table, I'm betting, so the Cork Clan has no recourse through the Society, and we'll disavow responsibility for the consequences." He rubbed his bushy moustache. "This is why we scrutinize any deals, no matter how much extra time that takes; deals going sour can have huge implications. If Alpha McDougal thought -- for whatever reason -- that the Dark Spirit was intentionally jeopardized it could start a war." He grumbled angrily. "Greedy bastard. I'm sorry, Nathanial, but I'm going to have to run this up the chain and get the Mage brought in for questioning; it's too sensitive a problem to let be. At this point it doesn't matter whether or not the Society has any responsibility for the teleporter; things are unstable enough without some rogue Mage cheating the Dark Spirit. We'll ask Alpha McDougal and Conor McDougal for permission to examine the teleporter and fix it gratis." His eyes fixed on Nathanial's face and searched it carefully as he asked, "They are only concerned about being cheated, right? There's no chance, from what you saw, that the young McDougal was ever in danger? And the Spirits know that?"
Nathanial tried very hard to meet Mr. Doull's eyes evenly, but he found his gaze drifting off to the sides repeatedly. The Walrus grumbled and rubbed his eyes. "Damned greedy bastard. Damned fool Spirits. We don't need this, not with..." He waved his other flipper at Nathanial. "...you, and the Hunters going crazy trying to do...whatever it is they got fixed in their psychotic little minds to you."
Liam shook his head at the Akita, making him duck his head in shame. Nathanial wasn't sure what he was responsible for, not the way Mr. Doull seemed to be inferring. "U-Um, what do mean a-about me? H-How am I destabilizing the Society, or whatever? You can't mean I'm at fault for the Hunters wanting to sacrifice me."
Mr. Doull's flippers dropped away from his face and he tensed up. "Sacrifice!? That's new. Arrie mentioned nothing about this; Lara didn't either. What do you mean, sacrifice?"
Liam stepped between them; he looked really annoyed. "Mr. Doull, we are here to purchase books. We are not here to discuss personal matters, nor enlist the aid of the Arcane Society in a matter you readily admit does not concern you, nor discuss anything outside of this business transaction." He paused for a moment. "I may be persuaded to add a little side transaction, however -- an exchange of information, yes? You have learned the reason behind the Hunters of the Damned's keen interest in Nathanial, so keen that they have ignored the Dark Spirit entirely. I want to know your position in the Society. It is highly bureaucratic; things do not get done quickly, yet you speak as if your voice is given far more weight than a mere purveyor of trinkets and tomes is worth. Answer this: what are the sources of your influence within the Arcane Society -- be they current or former positions within the bureaucracy, the political power structure, wealth, connections, or anything else?"
Mr. Doull's lips quirked up into a smile and he stroked his thick moustache in amusement. "An interesting proposal, George. First, the rules would have to be laid out, the number of questions decided, and the penalties for refusing to answer. I have a lot of questions for you."
Liam's annoyance shifted to a more wary look. Nathanial put his paw on Liam's shoulder, hoping to head any trouble off. "Please, don't fight. H-He has a very good reason to be curious; it's not like you hear about people wanting to sacrifice someone every day. I-I'm really curious about stuff he could know, too, but some things he might ask about just aren't my place to discuss. We also need to be getting home before long. If you guys want to go through this, keep it short, like five questions. We can always come back some other time. Um." He glanced at Liam, betting a few questions would be about the Rottie. "S-Since this is limited, let's keep it to one subject each, too. The penalty for refusing to answer is...the asker gets to pick a different question and a free one. The topics are subject to an outright refusal, and they have to be pretty narrow -- no 'anything you know' or 'your life story.' Last, if the question would be considered treason or violating a vow or oath, it doesn't constitute a refusal to answer, it's just a new question. B-But, really, is this worth it?"
The Walrus looked like he was enjoying himself, immensely. "Oh, yes, it certainly is worth it. I could spend hours engaged in this type of game, with just about anyone, let alone two fascinating specimens like you pups. I've been burning with curiosity since the rumours and stories started circulating."
Liam looked even more wary, now. He shook his head. "No, I do not think it worth the trouble. I, primarily, did not like his inquisition with nothing provided in return. I find myself laden with questions, but I do not think I would receive fair value in this exchange of information."
Mr. Doull chuckled. "Ah, the vanity of youth. Do you think you could learn more valuable information in your few years than I have in my long life? Perhaps, perhaps not. You did make a grimoire, after all, without being trained by any of the professional enchanters in the region. And, really, I can probably find out what I want to know anyway; this is just more fun and less time consuming."
The Rottweiler's wariness was mixed with a resurgence of suspicion and annoyance, and even Nathanial didn't like the way that sounded. The Akita shook his head. "Um, some other time then, perhaps. J-Just so you know, I really doubt Alpha McDougal would let a Mage who was actually, like, in the Society -- the government part -- anywhere near his clan."
The Walrus frowned. "That's...illogical. There's no conflict between us, and we'd be going there to help."
This time it was Liam who cut in. "Speaking of keeping discussions short, that particular conversation would become most heated before it truly began and take the rest of the evening. Let us pay for these and depart." Nathanial nodded and levitated his stack of books.
Mr. Doull quickly pulled out his glasses again. "Hah! It is completely new! I told Marcia this had nothing to do with the Gravitational Variance spell! Those patterns were just coincidence and not one of your modifications." He fiddled with his glasses some more. "This is marvellous." He started walking around Nathanial and the books, hemming and hawing as he went.
Liam frowned. "And how do you know what occurred during that test? Is the Society so free with the records of its members' pups that anyone can obtain them at will?"
Mr. Doull smiled back. "Is that a question? Do I get one in return?" Liam shook his head. "I'll answer this one for free. I'm an amateur historian, with a broad range of knowledge, but an expert on spell patterns and spell work. I'm also one of the global authorities on artefacts -- not making them, but on the origins and histories of all of the major ones out there." His smile grew broader as his eyes bored into Liam's. "That includes every artefact crafted by Xun Song, except the one you own. A simply astounding person, Xun; he wasn't a Mage, but his skill in making artefacts was incomparable in his time. Even close to three hundred years later, his work holds up in comparison to new techniques and training. I've seen some better work done in the last hundred years, but he's still ranked highly by every historian."
Nathanial felt uncomfortable with the tension in the room; he cut in to change the subject and hopefully get home soon so he could start supper and his homework. "Do you take debit?" Nathanial asked before fishing out his wallet. "I'll need a receipt for this, too. I assume we pay out front."
Liam answered for the Walrus. "Yes, we do." He impassively met Mr. Doull's eyes. "You still neglected to answer the question, though I thank you for what you did provide. I would assume that you were informed of the test he took to get your expert opinion on Nathanial's unusual spell work?" The merchant nodded, still smiling.
"C-Can I get a copy of those records? And the video of my fight with Gordon and Lara?"
Mr. Doull's smile dropped into a deep frown. "Why would you have gotten into a fight with Lara? Why in Hecate's name would two Investigators be fighting a pup? Lara?"
It was Liam's turn to smile. "Is that one question? Or three?" He teased the stunned Walrus further. "I'll answer this one for free. Yes, Lara May is the person of which we speak."
Nathanial put his paw on Liam's shoulder again and almost called him by name. "L-- George, let him be." He looked over at Mr. Doull, and said Lara's name to cover his near slip. "Lara May. Yes, sir. Sh-She was probably goaded into it by Gordon. He and my father hate each other, and those two Inquisitors had been stalking and harassing me for weeks. She trespassed on my property, invaded my house without a warrant, and tried to steal my grimoire. I told them to leave or I'd be justified in the use of force to kick them out. They refused to leave, so I forced them out."
Mr. Doull's jaw dropped. "You...forced...? Hessed Blecate." He sputtered as he crooked his fingers and pushed his flipper out in an old warding gesture, one that was supposed to push away bad luck. "Nathanial Marks, you continue to surprise me; your father couldn't fight a paper bag using magic, and definitely couldn't fight his way out of one." He shook his head. "The debit machine is up front; I'll follow you out."
They made their way to the front of the store, with Mr. Doull pausing to seal the room behind them. The purchases were rung up in near silence, with Nathanial hiding how aghast he was at the price of the books, before they went back to the 'widest' free space in the store.
Nathanial looked at it with a frown. "I can't get out this way; there's no way I can jump that high."
Liam chuckled. "You just referred to your fight with the Investigators. You leapt over your pool in that fight; two metres should be a mere hop for such a gifted jumper."
"I did? How did I do that?"
"I believe you said you were using your telekinesis to give yourself a push or boost in some fashion."
Nathanial scratched his ear. "Really?" He thought about it. He used telekinesis in a similar way many times, so he probably did use it to jump over the pool. It just seemed really far. "All right." He opened a portal above them. It was a tiny one first, so he could make sure the gym in his house was empty, then he closed it and opened a vertical portal by the mats in the kung fu part of his gym. "Here we go." Liam just made a standing jump and rolled when he hit the mats, rising to his hindpaws as he stopped. Nathanial sent the books through and moved back to make a running jump.
He noticed Mr. Doull was frowning as he looked at the portal through those magic glasses. "Is something wrong, sir?"
The Walrus started, but shook his head. "I...don't think so. I'd like to examine a portal crossing the planes or a larger distance at some point." He fussed with his glasses as he kept looking at the portal. "I don't like magic being left open like this in the store, Nathanial, so you should join George. I hope you come back soon when you have more time to talk. If not, Marcia and I will see you and your brothers in Ottawa on the twenty-fifth."
Nathanial's stomach plunged. "Wh-What!?" He had visions of giant tentacles invading Parliament Hill. The front bell chimed, signalling the arrival of customers.
Mr. Doull hissed, "Get going! Now!"
Nathanial stared for a split second longer, but turned and ran. He jumped through the portal and rolled like Liam had taught him to. He closed the portal and lay on the mats for a bit, before he realized Micah was home, his brother had company, and the little pup was crying.