We were all dying to see what was in the old chests that lined the wall of the balcony, but Oak made everyone wait until he could get a real stairway built, as I was pregnant yet again and there was no way I could climb a makeshift ladder. My heart was pounding in anticipation as I waddled up the steps to the balcony, Aster in my arms.
The first things that met my eyes were the old bookshelves that I remembered from my childhood. I could hardly believe they had survived. The water must not have reached this high. I didn't remember the chests. That didn't really mean much, though, as I tried to spend as little time in the library as possible when I was a girl. But still, I think I would have remembered so many of them.
Many of the books were ruined, but curiously, the most important ones were still readable. After closer examination, it was obvious that some sort of protection spell had been cast on them. I shook my head in dismay. I didn't even know such a spell existed, let alone how to cast it. So much had been lost.
My eyes cast about the rows of books, looking for one in particular. I didn't hold much hope that it had been important enough to protect, but there was always a chance. Suddenly I caught sight of a familiar spine. I pulled out the book, smiling. It was the tale of the ships, my favorite book from my childhood. Pirate treasure, sailing the high seas - it had survived after all!
More amazing then even the bookshelves, were the contents of the old stone chests. They looked just like the chest where I had found my spell books, upstairs in my little bungalow, sealed tight against the weather. But these chests held something even more dear to Oak's heart than spell books - paper, pencils, paints, cloth of every color and design, and more books - enough writing and painting supplies to last for the foreseeable future, plus recipes to make more.
Oak was ecstatic. He had been trying to teach the boys to read, but it was slow going when the only texts were my old spell books.
Books and chests were not the only surprises we found. Tucked away in a corner was an old Victrola. I was sure it wouldn't work, but I wound the hand crank several times, anyway. Oak was as surprised as I was when the soft strains of a waltz filled the air.
"Come here, Oak. Let me see if I remember how to do this..."
We danced until the music faded away. Then it was back to searching the chests.
One chest held a stack of Victrola records. I was so glad they had survived. My mom had always warned me not to touch them - they were irreplaceable. They had come on one of the last ships to dock here, and we would never see the likes of them again.
The old ship's telescope was more to Val's liking. In fact, that first day he spent hours staring through the eyepiece instead of helping us examine the chests and bookshelves.
"Val! You've been at that long enough. Time to help. Now!"
I was not prepared for the look he gave me.
"Grrr... I'm just keeping an eye on that wolf boy. He's out and about today, and I'm sure he's up to no good."
While I felt it was probably a good idea to keep an eye on Andrae, we really did need his help, so my request stood. Val was not happy.
He showed his displeasure by spending more time plotting with Eagle than sorting. I was just out of earshot, but I'm pretty sure they were discussing the wolf boy. I moved closer to try and eavesdrop, ready to head off trouble before it started this time.
"No way, Val, count me out. I got in big trouble last time we executed one of your little schemes."
I nodded silently in approval. At least I wouldn't have to worry about the two of them today.
The chests were finally sorted, and everyone had a say in the disposition of the items.
Fawn only wanted to dance to the new-found Victrola. We left it in the library for everyone to enjoy.
Marten appropriated a set of throwing knives for himself. I couldn't quite see the purpose of tossing the knives in the air; it looked dangerous. But everyone else thought he put on a great show, and from then on, he always carried them around, ready to show off at the slightest encouragement.
Zephyr pretended to be fascinated by the bookshelves, but I knew for a fact he couldn't read a word if his life depended on it. Eventually he settled on one of the old easels and an armful of paints.
Summerwind was just happy that everyone else was happy, and brought her newest little boy for everyone to admire.
As the light faded to dusk, we packed it in. Over the following days, Oak and Val moved the chests to our downstairs storage room for further sorting, and for future disbursal.
And I got busy doing something I'd wanted to do since we moved houses after Manny was born - painting over those old grey walls! I wasn't an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I was determined to try and liven things up. Aster's room was first. After much thought, I decided on circles - how hard could that be? Hmm.. harder than you'd think, actually. Oh well. I would just tell everyone I was going for oddly shaped eggs all along.
Ah yes, I was getting the hang of it now. Swirly lines for the boys' room.
I really went all out for mine and Oak's room. A field of leaves! I was just putting the finishing touches on the last section of wall, when I felt the old familiar pain.
Oak was calm for once; I guess he was finally getting used to this birthing scenario. Val, on the other hand, wasn't taking it that well.
We were all in shock a few hours later,when we found ourselves the parents of not one, but two tiny baby girls - Lily and Lavender.
Oak was determined now that he had the proper supplies, to teach Val and Manny to read and write. There were even a few children's early readers in one of the chests, and soon Manny was pointed out the words he recognized, as Oak read to him.
He held lessons on the beach and invited all the younger children to attend, but most days it was only Manny. I told Oak that the fairies were too flighty, and Dijn too focused on the present, to see the benefit to learning to read, but Oak persisted anyway.
"At least I know I gave them the option. If they change their minds, I'll be here."
Class for the older children was in the storage room, with close access to the chests of paper and writing instruments. At first it was only Val and Oak, but one day Meaghan showed up, shyly asking to join them. After that, she was there almost every day.
Val, being Val, took this as a sign that she was sweet on him; but when he tried to flirt, he received an unexpected reaction.
"Get it through your thick head once and for all, Val. I'm here only because I want to learn to read. So just keep your grubby hands off me, thank you."
I can't say I wasn't a little disappointed. With no witches to choose from, if I had to choose a mate for Val, Meaghan would be ideal - very responsible and down-to-earth, so different than her mom.
After teaching his classes, Oak spent his spare time sorting through the remaining chests,which mainly held old spell books, most of which were duplicates of mine. Sometimes he would shake his head in discouragement - it seemed and endless task, and many of the books had identical unlabeled covers. But he was determined to sort and label every last one of them.
Meanwhile, our work at the library continued as well. I restored the walls and bookcases to their original bright colors, as best I could remember.
Aster grew into a child during our restoration project. She was such a good girl, always willing to help. She loved the library as much as Oak did; we had to drag her away from the books when it was time to leave for the night.
The twins grew into toddlers, and into their own distinct personalities. Lavender, with lighter skin and rounder face, was always well behaved and quiet - more like her big sister than her twin. Lily, on the other hand, was continually into everything. She wasn't a bad child, just insatiably curious about the world around her, which led to many rescues when she found herself halfway up the bookshelves, unable to get down.
The library became the prime hang out location for our three teenagers - although I suspected the only reason Val and Eagle spent so much time there was a certain blue haired Djin girl. While Meaghan spent her time lost in her new love of books....
...the boys spent their time egging each other on, as to which one of them was going to end up breaking through her indifferent shell.
"I dare ya! Just sneak up behind her and give her a little peck on the cheek."
"No way! You know what she did to me the last time I tried that?"
I just rolled my eyes, and later asked Oak to please talk to Val again about the proper way to treat a girl.
The library project was almost complete. The spell books were almost all labeled; we had set aside a day to return them to the library. Oak was just reading through a few of the last remaining ones, when I heard him shouting excitedly.
"Moon! Come down here! Quick!"
I rushed downstairs as fast as I could, Lavender still in my arms.
"Moon! You have to read this! Here!"
He pointed to a page of the book he had open. I glanced over his shoulder at the open page and my forehead creased in concentration trying to make it out. I soon gave up. The page was full of hand written chicken scratches - Oak called it cursive, but it looked like gobbledygook to me.
I sat down at the table, Lavender still in my arms.
"Uh.. Lavender doesn't want to be put down right now, just read it to me, okay?"
Oak looked up at me with a serious expression.
"It's a journal, this is the entry from the day of the big storm.
Today is the day. The full moon is upon us. The stars and planets are aligned. If we are going to do this, it must be tonight. There will not come another chance for seven generations. If all goes as planned, we can reverse the damage caused by our ancestors seven generations ago.
We are beside ourselves. Moonflower is missing. We cannot start the summoning spell until we know she is safe with the other children. We have sent Lupa out to search. She is young, but she is our best tracker. We can only hope she finds her in this storm.
Lupa has returned with our little Moonflower! We head out now to begin the summoning. If we succeed, our island will be protected from the sea forever. If we fail.... best not to think about that.