Chapter 2: Hera and Sasha

Hera is wearing a long bear skin cloak. It has an oversized bear head (preserved via taxidermy) for a hood. The interior of the animal head is lined with red silk. The bear’s teeth are plated in gold. In the eye sockets are large amethysts. Small pearls cover the entire cloak at intervals of one inch. Large rectangular buttons of cedar wood are fastening the cloak shut; vignettes of a warrior are whittled into the wooden buttons.

Hera is adjusting her sword, which is underneath her cloak; the movement opens her cloak minimally, revealing a glimpse at her shimmering gown underneath. The back of her cloak is thick with bear fur, as are the sleeves. At the fringe of both sleeves hang emerald encrusted charms: tiny silver leopards and gold okapi are dangling there.

Hera is removing her bear head hood. Sunlight is combing her rummy hair. Hera’s mane is cognac; it’s red like an alcoholic proxy for water in a crystal vase (so soon the pie-eyed tulips will die). Her hair strands are painted in garden-radish tones. The sun is moving across the sky like the slow hands of a clock; slow light is making electric fire glint in her spider’s thread hair. Stars are sliding down her flossy locks. On her bangs, silver gloss is vanishing as the light contracts. The sunlight is growing big: all over her tresses, prismatic coals are burning.

Hera is walking under a maple tree; her hair looks brown in the midday darkness of big shadows. The wind is blowing warmly. Buxom glacial clouds, mammary shaped like scalloped lace, are singing, white! Her brown eyes are looking at The New School. An immaculate topiary maze leads to a chateau on a hill. The lux edifice houses the secret academy she’ll be jail-breaking today.

Her gaze rests on some tall shrubbery shorn to resemble elephants. Hera is calculating the quickest route through the maze. She is a trespasser. Hera wants to see The New School’s most recent inductee: Zed. If my summations are right, Zed should be sleeping in the infirmary. It’s lunchtime, so security should be low. They definitely won’t be expecting me, Hera thinks.

Hera is bending her head down; she is touching a golden time-compass at her throat. The time-compass resting near her collar bone is a gift for Zed. She will need it, Hera thinks.

Thumping hooves are crumpling grass behind her. Now, a horse is whinnying and weighty reins are dropping. Hera is turning around. Orange hair like fur and shocking blue eyes: it’s her brother Sasha.

“Quick,” he says, “they’ve seen us. We’ll have to use the Central Lab Door.”

“No. That door is shut,” says Hera.

“No time to argue. If we’re gonna get tuh Zed, we gotta go now.”

Hera is throwing her eyes towards the chateau. She knows it won’t be long before a phalanx of time-detectives are surrounding her. She is slipping her foot into the saddle’s stirrup, and hefting her body onto the saddle. Sasha turns his white steed towards the tree line.

The horse slips through the cracks in the wind deftly. The siblings are speeding on towards a log cabin in the woods. The cabin is where Dr. Yoshimoto has hidden the Inferior Labyrinth Door; this door gives a time-traveler access to the Central Labyrinth Door via a time-corridor.

“What’s the plan,” says Sasha, slowing the horse.

“Through the Inferior door, then down the corridor, then through the Central door, an’ finally up the stairs to The New School. You know, all the way ‘round the bushes—but we’ll have to find the key first. That is if the librarian isn’t carrying the key.”

“There should be another under the ‘doormat.’”

Should be are the operative words, Sash.”

“So? What then? What do we do?”

“Hack the Lab, like always.”

“But they’ve got Zed now.”

“Zed is K.O., remember. If we’re lucky she’ll be awake and intelligible when we get to her. There’s nothin’ they can do to us till she’s all rested up. And the way we’re going, she’ll be on our side before long.”

“Someone’s tailing us,” says Sasha.

“I know. Let’s lose ‘em through the falls. Hide out in the grotto.”

Sasha is making the horse ease into a gallop. The siblings are heading for a big waterfall in the deeps of the woods. Hera is feeling very warm in her cloak, but she doesn’t want to take it off. If Sasha can lose their pursuer, they’ll be heading for the colder climes of the Time Labyrinth. She’s hoping their stalker doesn’t have much stamina. If not, this game of tag won’t last long.

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