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The building’s icy chill hit Chuck as soon as he walked through the front door. The entrance hall was grand, lit up by candles burning brighter than any he’d ever seen before. In front of him was a staircase, that split into two at the top and headed off into the different wings of the house.
“It’s not normally this quiet,” Fiona said, placing Toby down on a sofa near the bottom of the stairs.
The candles flickered and there was a chill that shot through the air, attacking everything in its path. Chuck moved closer to Fiona, his footsteps echoing throughout the hall.
“Maybe it’s because it’s night-time?” he asked.
“No, it’s more than that. There’s always someone up and about at Whistling. It’s never this quiet. Stay here with Toby, I’ll be back in a moment.”
Fiona didn’t wait for Chuck to reply. She walked through the doors on the bottom floor that led underneath to the left part of the building. Normally one of the guardians would be in there. She fully expected to see her friend, sitting behind the counter eating cereal or watching something on TV, but instead the room was empty. The air cold like the house hadn’t been lived in for years. She slowed down, making each step as quiet as possible, but there was nothing else to hear.
“What happened?” she said to herself, looking around for any clues.
Returning to Chuck, she sat down on the spare seat next to Toby, wondering if the little boy had managed to save her from whatever had happened at the academy, or maybe she could have prevented it if she hadn’t left to chase him.
“What’s going on?” Chuck said.
Fiona didn’t answer straight away, instead, taking the time to actually look at the newcomer for the first time. She thought he looked timid, definitely older than she’s realised, and he lacked any sense of confidence. He could never be a Whistler. Maybe he could have been if they’d found him soon enough, but now he had just the last remnants of whatever power he’d been born with, or maybe he was something else entirely. Through all the books she’d read in the library, all the people she’d helped teach and nurture, and even through her own lessons all those years ago, she’d never come across an adult who showed any potential.
“I don’t know,” she said quietly and then leant back on the chair. “I think something’s happened. I just don’t know what. There’s not a lot of students here at the moment, but there should be someone making noise. At least one of the other guardians poking about. Someone would normally notice us coming and there would have been others worrying about Toby. It just makes no sense at all.”
There was a loud crash that echoed throughout the building, shaking everything in the room. Fiona jumped up and pulled out her knife, holding it at arm’s length as she moved around the room, checking all the doors. Her heat was racing, it was the first time she’d felt anything close to fear within those walls. Another crash and one of the candles blew out, leaving half the room shrouded in darkness.
“Stay in the light,” she shouted at Chuck moving away from the shadow the extinguished candle had left. “If it’s another shadow creature we can’t do anything if they get you in the shadows. It’ll kill you before I could stop it.”
Fiona held her knife out, pointed towards the shadow, and waited, silently hoping that it was just someone playing a prank. She could see Chuck panicking, standing as close to the light as possible, and she pitied him. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but what else could she do. If she’d come back and told Arthur that an adult had seen them after she’d cast a protective spell around herself and Toby, then he would have likely gutted her on the spot for not bringing him back. Arthur was fair, but he didn’t like people who wasted his time, that was for sure.
When there wasn’t another sound echoing throughout the room, she flicked her knife towards the unlit candle and a ball of fire jumped towards it and set it ablaze, making the room even brighter than before.
“Something’s definitely not right. Take Toby and go outside, the moon will keep you lit up so if there is a shadow creature, then it won’t be able to get you. I’m going to go and check the rooms.
Chuck did what Fiona said, even though he knew he wasn’t safe outside, he’d seen that spider thing on the streets of London. Moonlight wouldn’t stop it at all, but he just couldn’t express that in words.
With Chuck out of the way, Fiona moved to the staircase, casting a ball of fire to appear and hang above her head as she walked, holding the knife out with every step. The stairs creaked, exactly in the way they were supposed to. Room after room was empty. The library, the dorms, the lecture halls. All empty and cold, unlived in. In total there were no more than fifteen people on the premises at any time, as much as Arthur had dreamed of more when he first created the place, and Fiona had never realised it was so large until she was exploring it alone. Every step echoed throughout the empty rooms. The entirety of the second floor was empty, as was the ground floor. The kitchen, living areas, training room; all empty.
There was only one place left for Fiona to check, and that was the basement. The students were forbidden to go there. At least until they mastered the basics. That is where the guardians would practice, and Fiona did not want to go down there. Not if there was something loose in the building. She walked through the entrance hallway, underneath the grand staircase. She closed her eyes and cursed. The chains on the basement door were missing. Whatever was going on, she’d find the answer down there, that was a guarantee. She looked up and at the front door, wondering if perhaps it was a good idea to let Chuck know where she was going, but what good would that do? He couldn’t help, and it’s better that Toby has a chance at being safe. Fiona opened the door and walked through, taking the first steps into the basement.
To be continued…
Part Six is available here: https://ashleymanning.com/2023/01/27/magic-in-london-whistling-part-six/! Don’t forget to subscribe to never miss a post:
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