The Celestial Globe Page 34

’’That\s a lie!’’ But doubt tugged at Petra, and behind doubt loomed despair, bitter and frightening.

’’It is true. I am sorry.’’

Better than ever, the prince had said. Of course. The prince would think that being transformed into a monster was better, because he was one. And Ariel. Ariel must have known. She had changed into a Gray Man in front of Petra\s eyes. Had she been ready to tell Petra about her father? I offer a word-gift, a whisssper heard far away, Ariel had said. A sssecret.

Despair gripped Petra by the throat. She began to weep.

’’Do you understand now why I wanted to keep this from you as long as I could?’’ said Dee. ’’I have spent my life trying to know as much as possible. But the most important thing I discovered is that certain kinds of knowledge can be painful. More than that: they can break the spirit. Stay with my family, Petra. We will protect you. We could make you happy.’’

’’Never!’’ she sobbed.

’’Then what will you choose? To return to Bohemia, where you will be hunted?’’

Before this moment, all the possibilities of rescuing her father had seemed difficult beyond measure. Now, any plans she had disintegrated in the face of the thought that her father no longer was her father, but a monster. What could she do? Where should she go?

’’I have cousins. I can live with them. Dita, Josef, David ’’

’’But if they shelter you, how long will it be before the prince discovers this? Would you really put them in danger? Here the prince cannot touch you without insulting Queen Elizabeth. That has been made clear to him. But Bohemia is his country, and when you are on its soil he can do what he likes to you and anyone who helps you.’’

Petra looked at the wharf, and it blurred through her tears.

’’Go with your friends, then,’’ Dee urged. ’’Sail far away. You do not need to tell me where you are traveling. But don\ return to Bohemia. Not until you are strong enough, and skilled enough, to protect yourself. Here’’ he pressed a sealed envelope into her hand ’’this is a gift.’’

’’I don\ want it!’’ She began to shred the paper.

He stopped her hands. ’’I know you don\ want to listen to what I have to say. Not now, maybe not ever. But someday you will be grateful for that letter.’’

She squeezed the paper in her fist. But she wanted to tear something, anything. Something must break.

Her eyes were silver pools, shining with tears and misery. When they turned to Dee, he could not look away.

And that was when he felt something slice through his heart, reach into his mind, and wrench at a tiny knot. Dee gasped.

Petra had severed the mental link between them. I am free, she told herself, and stumbled down to the wharf.

•••

AS THEY ROWED toward Deptford, Astrophil tried to console Petra. ’’I think John Dee was being entirely too grim. I did not wish to say so on the wharf, because it would have been bad manners for me to interrupt.’’ In fact, Astrophil had been too shocked to speak. ’’What if the Gristleki operation is not permanent? Perhaps it can be reversed.’’

’’You think so?’’ Petra swiped at her tears.

’’Yeah,’’ Neel said eagerly, ’’and the Vatra\s just the place to find out about that. I know you Bohemians have some piddly school for studying magic, but that\s nothing compared to what the Roma\ve got.’’

’’You have an academy of magic?’’ Tomik pulled a little faster on the oars.

’’Something like that. Also, a Kalderash rules the Roma these days, and if there\s one thing the Kalderash tribe is good at, it\s being all mysterious and knowing things they shouldn\ . Can\ stand \em, personally. Give me the Maraki or Ursari any day, if I can\ have the Lovari. But my point is that the Vatra will be packed with magical experts who might know a cure for your da, Petra. Or they can think one up.’’

’’Would they do that for me?’’ she asked.

’’They\d better,’’ Treb growled, ’’or I\ll make \em.’’

Hope trickled into her heart, and when the launch pulled alongside the Pacolet, Petra was ready to come aboard though she didn\ like sitting alone in the launch and being hauled upward with rope and pulleys. She watched Neel, Tomik, and the others climb up the Jacob\s ladder. Soon she touched her sore shoulder I\ll be able to do that, too.

As the Maraki pulled the boat higher, Petra uncrumpled Dee\s letter. The seal had been crushed, and waxy dust fell on her lap. There were only a few lines of writing.

My dear Petra,

You once asked me what Prince Rodolfo\s magical talent is. I refused to tell you. Now I would like you to know: he has none.

Call upon me if you need me.

John Dee

Petra folded the letter, and stepped aboard the ship.

THE PACOLET sailed down the Thames, and then ventured out into the sea. When England was just a fuzzy green line behind them, Treb summoned his crew. Everyone crowded into his cabin. They jostled, each wanting the best view of the globes resting on the table. They had seen the Terrestrial Globe before, of course, but they had heard that its twin was stunning. They were not disappointed. When Treb pulled away the black velvet cloth, several sailors gasped.

The Celestial Globe was almost entirely black. While the Terrestrial Globe was made of wood and paper, its twin was marble. And a strange kind of marble it was, too, one with shades of midnight blue. Points of light were scattered across its large surface. As Petra looked more closely, she saw that they were holes bored into the stone. Thin, inlaid lines of gold swirled around these stars, showing a swan, a man wrestling a snake, a ram with wavy horns, a lyre made from a tortoiseshell, and many other designs. They were the constellations.

Treb spun the Terrestrial Globe on its axis, stopped it with a finger, and pointed at a red spark off the coast of England. ’’Here\s a Loophole.’’

’’Where does it go to?’’ someone asked.

’’Not sure,’’ Treb replied, frustrated.

’’Well, you\d better make sure,’’ said Nicolas. ’’We could end up anywhere. I don\ think the Pacolet would sail too well on top of a mountain.’’

’’That Celestial Globe is pretty,’’ said Nadia, ’’but how does it work?’’

’’I thought it would do something,’’ said a disappointed sailor.

Many voices began to join in the conversation.

’’What if we have to sail to the Vatra the usual way?’’

’’That could take a year!’’

’’Maybe we should cut into the globes. See if there\s anything inside.’’

’’Are you a fool? Because that idea sure makes you sound like one.’’

’’Get out of here, all of you.’’ Treb passed a hand over his eyes. ’’I swear on all the hairy bears, my head hurts.’’

’’Been drinking, Treb?’’

’’Couldn\ you celebrate after you figured out whether the globe was worth the trouble?’’

’’I said, Get out!’’ Treb slammed his fist down on the table.

Muttering, the crew began to leave.

’’Tom,’’ Treb called.

Tomik, who had been quietly translating the conversation for Petra and Astrophil, looked up.

’’Stay,’’ said Treb. ’’And you all, too.’’ He pointed at Petra, Astrophil, and Neel.

’’Well?’’ Treb flourished a hand at the globes. ’’You\ e a sensible lot. What do you think?’’

’’It is perfectly clear.’’ Astrophil shrugged. ’’We should wait until nightfall.’’

’’And why is that?’’

’’How else will we see the stars?’’

•••

IT WAS A CLOUDLESS NIGHT. Petra stood with her friends at the stern of the ship, and watched Treb and Andras walk toward them, each cradling a globe in his arms.

’’It\s heavy.’’ Andras set the marble globe on top of the table they had brought on deck.

’’Actually, so is this one.’’ Treb lowered the Terrestrial Globe. ’’I never thought about it before, but this thing doesn\ weigh like it\s made of paper and wood.’’

’’I bet there is something inside \em,’’ said Neel.

’’Maybe you\ e right,’’ said Petra. ’’Why else would they glow like that?’’ In the darkness, each globe twinkled with points of light red for the Loopholes, white for the stars. ’’It\s like they\ve got candles inside.’’

Tomik laid a palm on the black marble. ’’There is a crystal!’’ he said excitedly. ’’I can sense it. It\s a sphere, nestled inside the globe.’’

’’What\ e these?’’ Neel touched the three brass rings that encircled the Terrestrial Globe and gave them a spin.

’’They\ e called armillaries,’’ said Treb. ’’They\ e used to help chart a course.’’

Petra traced one brass circle. What was its history? She caught a glimpse of Gerard Mercator, long dead. He was a man who loved the world, but not the people in it. Petra looked at her friends. When she thought of her father, an aching sadness welled up within her. But Astrophil\s legs clung to her right shoulder, she saw Neel\s lopsided grin, and she felt the heat of Tomik standing next to her. Petra was not alone.

Thoughtfully, she pulled on two of the rings until they crossed over the red spark that marked the Loophole they sought.

There was a whir, and the third ring moved on its own.

’’What did you do, Pet?’’

’’Look at that!’’

On the Terrestrial Globe\s surface, the red light off England\s coast flared, and so did another light, exactly where the third ring crossed with another.

’’The West African coast!’’ said Treb, peering at the second red flare. ’’That\s perfect. That\ll bring us a lot closer to India.’’

’’How do we find the English Loophole?’’ asked Andras.

’’It\s somewhere close by.’’ Treb pointed at the darkness ahead.

’’But we\ e talking about a Loophole,’’ said Tomik. ’’You have to enter at exactly the right spot.’’

’’Align the Celestial Globe with the stars in the sky,’’ Astrophil advised. ’’Turn the globe until the constellations on the top match the ones over our heads.’’

Neel spun the Celestial Globe.

There was a hum, and a shiver, and everyone stepped back as each globe split in half. Like eggs, they hatched. Inside the globes were bright crystal balls one red, one white. The two spheres rose into the air and floated over the Pacolet, soaring over the waves. Then they came to a halt, hovering fifty yards off the starboard bow.

’’It seems,’’ Astrophil observed, ’’that we should aim for the space between the two spheres.’’

Treb began shouting orders at the crew, and the Pacolet turned. The ship sailed closer to the shining spheres.

’’You ready?’’ Neel turned to Petra. He offered a hand.

She took it, and reached for Tomik\s as well. ’’Yes.’’

One moment, the Pacolet was gliding over the dark sea. The next, it was gone.


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