“I took your advice,” I said as I entered the kitchen. Thomas was flipping pancakes. He’d finally progressed past burning things beyond all recognition.
“I cut my hair.” I fingered a curl by my ear. It had been a hard thing to do, but necessary to save money. I’ve been growing my hair out since I was nine. Mom always said how she loved my curls, how they made me unique, since neither she nor Daddy had had curls. And Aunt Susan’s hair had been as straight as Pythagoras’s lines. Mom said I took after her mother.
Thomas turned around, a plate stacked high with breakfast in one hand. He looked at me critically, then nodded. I let out the breath I hadn’t even noticed I’d been holding. If Thomas thought I looked fine, it was fine.
“I’m heading out to the market,” I told him.
“Really?” He looked surprised.
I nodded. “I’m out of reading material.”
He chuckled and nodded. “I’ll see you later, then,” and he dug into his only slightly crispy breakfast.
Outside the air was crisp and clean. Somehow it was easier to breathe in Shang Simla than back in the Valley. I considered this. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the emotional responsibilities and consequences I’d left behind there or the lack of industrial pollution in this part of China.
It was a long walk to the market, but enjoyable. It was a cool spring day, and I spotted a few dragonflies zipping over the stream beside the path. There were colorful birds high in the trees and interesting beetles scurrying along the ground. Everything was beautiful and peaceful. I felt a smile slip onto my face and a spring enter my step.
The market was a bit disappointing. The only merchant selling books didn’t have much beyond fiction.
Still, I found a few fishing manuals and a chinese cookbook and made my way home.
I heard nothing, absolutely nothing, and Donovan skidded into the room.
He looked around and his grin dipped. “Where’s Chloe?” the excited teen asked.
“You just missed her,” I replied, carefully setting my plate in the sink. “What’s up?”
The grin reappeared on his face. “I found ancient scrolls!” He drug me into the dining room and plopped his bag on the table. It smelled of dry dust and…soot?
“What have you been doing?”
“Well–” he began, opening the bag. A plume of smoke puffed from it.
“No, wait, I don’t want to know!”
“Oh…anyway! I found ancient scrolls!” He laid them on the table, still babbling. “They feature some ancient recipes for making fireworks!”
“Wait, you can speak Chinese too? When did this happen?!”
Donovan gave me a look, one, until this point, I’d only seen on Chloe. “Chloe’s been teaching me.”
I began to panic. Oh God, not the bunnies!
Donovan scrambled in his bag and pulled out some charcoal rubbings. “Don’t worry. I’ve been telling her I’ve been sight-seeing the ancient landmarks around town and finding cool glyphs. She’s been happy to translate them for me and has been teaching me some on the side.”
I calmed down.
“She helped translate the last riddle in the last tomb and I found these in there.” He gestured to the scrolls. “And I know she’s already read through everything else in here, so I thought she’d like something new.” He beamed up at me innocently.
“Okay,” I said slowly. I couldn’t see anything immediately wrong. Donovan meant well, obviously. But where he and Chloe were concerned, the whole world should fear their well-meaning. That was how that damn rabbit had been born. I shuddered.
“Fine, just…a bit chilled.” I stood up. “Chloe should be back this evening, if you want to stick around.” I brightened. “I made pancakes. They might be a bit cold, though.”
Donovan raised an eyebrow. “You did?” He glanced at the counter warily.
“And they’re fine,” I barked.
“Sure,” and he went to the fridge.
“Fine, fine, don’t eat my cooking!” I threw my hands in the air.
“Woo!” Medea entered the kitchen. “Donny’s back! We can eat tonight!” More cheering sounded down the hall.
“So,” Donovan began, as Medea and I sat down at the table. My cooking was okay, but Donovan’s was way better, even if it took longer. “Guess what I did today.”
“What?” Medea asked warily.
Donovan grinned over his shoulder as he tossed seemingly random things into a wok. “I visited,” he paused, the Drama King. “The Dragon’s Maw!”
Medea gasped. Clearly she had heard about this place, though I didn’t know how. Shaye and Lucy wandered in, both curious.
“It’s a tomb!” Donovan continued, grinning.
And while he made a late lunch, Donvaon told us tales of hidden doors and ancient locks…
…fire traps and dead king’s coffins…
…water wells you entered in one room and came out in a completely different room…
…uncovering forgotten treasures…
…and ancient secrets.