Tales of London #8
‘You do understand that we are going to have a chance to see artefacts the public hasn’t seen yet, right? Things that can be thousands of years old!’
‘I expect that much from a museum, yeah,’ Jenna shrugged.
‘Just let it go, he’s a history nerd. He will be geeking out over some old spoon or something every two steps,’ sighed Rose. ‘I’ve spent the longest Saturday of my life here with him.’
The impressive building of the British Museum stood before them. The facade looked like a Greek temple, with a triangular roof over not walls, but columns. On the steps underneath, which were usually swarming with people, now only two of them were standing, waiting as Robert, Jenna and Rose crossed the front yard.
‘Where is everyone?’ Jenna asked.
‘The Commissioner said something about it being closed, didn’t he?’ said Rose.
‘Oh yes, he did,’ nodded Robert. ‘I remember now. Even better, mind you! We have the whole place for ourselves!’
Rose sighed again and shook her head.
The two people waiting for them turned out to be the curator and the security chief of the Museum. The former was a bird-like lady with huge eyes behind round glasses, while the latter was a surprisingly young man with long dreadlocks, wearing a black Nirvana t-shirt. He led the thankful Rose away from Robert, to show her the security system.
‘Have you determined what is missing yet?’ Jenna asked the curator, Mrs Hill.
‘So far the only thing that seems to be missing is a small statue, size and shape very similar to that of the Venus of Willendorf.’
'So it is possible to be some kind of charm, a fertility totem perhaps?' Robert asked, absent-mindedly.
'That is the most common assumption about statues like that, yes,' answered Mrs Hill. ‘Although it was categorized as possibly magical, which means our experts thought it to have very little if any actual magical power.’
Jenna poked Robert in the ribs with her elbow, because the man barely paid any attention. He was turning his head left and right, wide-eyed and stunned, narrowly missing a column as he walked by.
‘Watch your steps,’ she hissed.
Mrs Hill showed them into the small storage room. It had no windows and was full of crates, some of them broken open with force and in a hurry. In the middle of the room stood a desk, almost like a workbench. Tools were scattered on it, and something dark on the surface, too, in a big blob. Blood, most likely, thought Robert. Somebody might have died in that room, and that thought dragged his wondering mind right back to then and there.
‘This is where…’ Mrs Hill said, in a muffled voice. ‘Carol didn’t even… He could have just stunned her, or something. She wasn’t fighting back, I’m sure. She didn’t even like to use magic that much!’
‘You can step out if you want,’ Robert said quietly, but Mrs Hill shook her head, sniffed and continued:
'It’s all right, quite all right. Let’s just… So, the statue was found in Belgium, around a year and a half ago. Took some time and negotiations to get it here, so it arrived only… Must have been four months ago, yes.’
‘Why did Belgium want to keep it so much?’ Jenna asked.
‘It’s quite the find, you see,’ the curator said. ‘Intact and even the carvings are in good condition. In some circles, an artefact like that is worth a fortune.’
‘Carvings?’ Robert asked. ‘You mean, Runes?’
‘Not any that we recognised, no. More likely a primitive language, but we haven’t had a linguist to look at it yet. Once again, I have to say, up until it went missing, there was nothing that suggested the statuette was anything out of the ordinary. Somewhat rare, perhaps, but nothing more.’
Robert turned to Jenna.
‘Any thoughts?’ he asked.
The girl frowned as she walked around slowly in the tiny storage.
'I'd lock that dagger up, and then I'd throw the safe into the Thames if I were you,' she said, pointing at a stone knife with a very evil-looking black blade. ‘It’s cursed up to the balls.’
‘Very helpful,’ Robert said, rolling his eyes. ‘How can you tell? You didn’t cast any revealing spells at all.’
Jenna looked at him surprised.
‘I can feel it. It’s cold and heavy, it feels like a little piece of a black hole or something. I can feel the itch in the back of my brain to grab it, use it… You should really lock it up, or at least not keep it in a room with fresh blood,’ she shivered and went on: ‘I can feel the Priest, too. His magic left a mark on the room, it was calm and calculating, he used exactly the right amount of energy and not a drop more… It’s a little harder to tell it apart from all the others, that box in the corner in particular has something heavily enchanted, but I can still feel it.’
Mrs Hill pushed her glasses up on her nose.
‘You are not suggesting that you can passively detect magic now, are you, Miss Carvelli?’
‘Yeah, of course, I can,’ said Jenna, a little confused. ‘Why, can’t you?’
‘One in a million sorcerers can, or perhaps fewer,’ said Robert. ‘I myself never met anyone who could before. It’s an extremely rare ability.’
‘Huh,’ said Jenna. ‘Cool.’
‘I will have approximately three hundred and forty-seven questions about this later,’ the man added.
‘That’s oddly specific,’ Jenna answered.
‘Do you happen to have any copy of the file of the statue, Mrs Hill?'
Robert got what he asked for. By this time Jenna was a little dizzy, the memory of the Priest’s power overwhelmed her.
‘Let’s just go,’ said Robert. ‘I doubt we will find anything else that the police couldn’t.’
Rose was waiting for them at the top of the steps.
‘Anything?’ Robert asked.
The girl shook her head.
‘It’s all… Weird. Safety spells like the ones this place uses are always cast by more than one sorcerer. Five is usual, if you really wanna be sure, ten. They used a dozen here, just in case. Yet, the Priest alone has broken the spells. Breaking an enchantment or curse is simply maths: you have to be stronger than the one who cast it.’
‘So you are telling me that that man alone is stronger than a dozen regular sorcerers?’ Mrs Hill asked. ‘Is that even possible?’
Robert glanced at Jenna. She was still a little pale.
‘There are such individuals, yes’ he said. ‘Churchill was rumoured to be one, for instance. Needless to say, they are also very rare. Your average sorcerer’s energy output is…’
‘Spare us, Professor,’ groaned Jenna. ‘Dude’s strong as fuck, we get it.’
The curator nodded curtly, pushing her glasses up on her nose once again.
‘I see. Either way, please let me know if you need any further help, or if you find our statuette,’ she said, and with that, she bid farewell to them.
‘Strong as fuck?’ Rose asked, walking down the stairs.
‘It’s a precise description if a little crude,’ said Robert. ‘Apparently, the Priest is, as Ms Carvelli put it, either “strong as fuck”, or wasn’t working alone.’
Jenna shook her head.
‘No, I only sensed the one source. All dark magic came from one person.’
‘Sensed?’ frowned Rose. They reached the bottom of the stairs and went on the gravelled footpath towards the main entrance of the fence.
‘Yepp, I can sense magic. Montgomery said I’m a freak.’
‘I said your ability is rather rare,’ Robert corrected. ‘The fact remains: if your senses are to be trusted…’
‘Excuse me, Red?’ Jenna busted out.
‘...then the Priest was working alone,’ the man finished. ‘Also, Red? That’s what you’re going with? What happened to “Professor”?’
‘Found it too sexy,’ Jenna shrugged, then she grinned as Robert’s face started to match his hair.
‘Not that anyone still remembers that I’m here, but I have very cool and expensive tools that confirmed what Jenna said,’ Rose lifted her toolbox slightly. ‘It was a one-man job.’
‘Huh,’ Jenna said again. ‘We are fucked.’
‘So fucked,’ agreed Rose.
‘That seems to be the case, yes.’
The wrought iron gate shut behind them, and the surge of magic that closed down the grounds was so strong that Jenna frowned and had to step away.
'I don't know about you, ladies, but I'm starving,' said Robert. 'Can I interest the two of you in an early dinner?'
'Not me,' Rose shook her head, 'I'm already running late. I promised my brother to babysit their little troublemaker so they can have a proper date night. Gotta run, but call me if you find out anything.' She disappeared almost immediately in the crowd. Robert looked at Jenna.
'What?' she asked.
'With you?' she asked, lifting an eyebrow.
'Why not? We are colleagues now. Sort of. Colleagues eat together sometimes.' Robert saw that the girl still wasn't convinced, so he had to use the big gun: 'There will be whiskey…'
'Well, what the hell then, lead the way!'
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