When George was gone, Morgan went back to Eny’s letter:
I know this is hard for you, Morgan, but you’ve got to accept it. I know you’re dealing with issues of your own. You have reasons for wanting to find a way in. I realize that. I’d help you if I could, but I can’t. I’m under geis. I made a vow, a promise. I’ve got to keep that promise now that you-know-who has the Stone. Everything depends on it. Even my dad and Rev. Alcuin agreed that this was the best plan. Somehow you’ve got to see that too. What if She were to come back to Santa Piedra looking for me? It makes me shiver just to think about it.
Even here, in the middle of the big city, far away from St. Halistan’s and the Cave of the Hands, I’m always looking over my shoulder. I get nervous every time I see a crow. I cry a lot and don’t sleep much. Worst of all, I haven’t picked up the fiddle since we got to L.A.— it just isn’t the same without Simon. But I know that I’m in the right place. At least for the time being. It’s too dangerous at home. And if I were to go—you-know-where—well, that would be like handing myself over to the enemy. I can’t do that.
Got to close. It’s late, and there’s school in the morning. Write me. I’ll write again as soon as I can. Remember that I’m your friend forever.
Gently, carefully, Morgan folded the letter, sliding the crease between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. For a brief moment he held it to his nostrils, hoping to catch some faint hint of his friend in the scent of the paper. Then, replacing it in the envelope, he pulled his backpack out from under the table, slipped the letter into a concealed pocket deep inside the bag, and zipped it shut.
After that he sat for several minutes with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, staring steadily at the long blue bundle at his feet. Reaching down, he lifted it into his lap. Slowly he unwound the flannel wrapping. Gripping the hilt with his right hand and resting the blade on his left palm, he held the sword up to the light of the desk lamp.
But what was this? Squinting narrowly at the blue blade, he noticed now for the first time that it bore strange markings. He blinked and looked again. Slowly he shifted he sword in his hands, deflecting the glare and studying it closely in the changing angle of the light.
He had not been wrong. There could be no mistaking it now. Three long, straight lines ran lengthwise down the shining steel, crossed at intervals by perpendicular hatch-marks. And on the curved crossguard was an inscription in an unfamiliar alphabet—
Morgan let out a low whistle. Lightly he ran his fingertips over the strange letters. They were engraved deeply and solidly into the silky smoothness of the glittering gold. Somehow it gave him a sense of profound satisfaction just to touch them. They spoke to him of permanence, antiquity, and power.
Turning the sword over, he discovered yet another inscription written in the same outlandish alphabet on the obverse side of the crossguard. It was shorter than the first one—
He stared at the alien characters until his eyes were sore. Again and again he turned the sword in his hands. How was it possible that he hadn’t seen these odd engravings before?
And then it occurred to him: never once since the sword had fallen into his possession—not until this very moment—had he taken time to study it closely. Yes, he was familiar with its shape and size. He had hefted its weight and even witnessed the stunning release of its powers. He was acquainted with it in a general way. But he did not yet know it intimately.
The reasons were obvious. When he had wielded it on the night of the Battle for the Stone, it had been in the midst of darkness, terror, and tremors of the earth. When he had heaved it up to strike the rock at the rear of the cavern, his thoughts had been intent upon a single goal: that of opening a door into the Other World. The rest of the time—two long months—he had kept the miraculous thing hidden away in its flannel graveclothes, fearful of discovery, anxious to protect it from prying eyes.
Now his mind flew back to the anguish of that bleak afternoon in the Cave of the Hands. Again he saw himself lying on the barren floor of the silent and dripping chamber. Again a nameless and powerful longing swept over him. A determination to find his father at any cost gripped him by the throat.
But then another thought flashed across his mind—an inspiring, energizing thought. These inscriptions, this writing, these unknown words—perhaps they held the secret he was seeking. Perhaps they could provide him with the key that would unlock the power of the sword and subject it to his will. Suddenly he felt sure of this. There was not the slightest shred of doubt in his mind. All he had to do now was learn to read the ciphers. And what could be simpler? Hadn’t his father been a linguist?
His heart pounding, Morgan wrapped up the sword and stowed it away. Then he rose, crossed the room, and pulled down five or six ancient volumes from the bookshelves on the opposite wall. In a cloud of dust he dumped them in a heap upon the workbench.
Then, seating himself in the chair, he began searching for the key to the unknown language.