Here it was yesterday, when I was putting up the excerpt, that I mentioned, “I should tell you some day about how Isis helped save the school.” I even mentioned that I might do that today. Well . . . today is here, and for once I’ve kept my word.
Back during July Camp Nano, 2013, I decided to write the actual first novel of The Foundation Chronicles. Reason for that was I needed to get a feel for the location and the characters, but mostly I wanted to set down a certain event in the school’s history that affected a hell of a lot of people: The Scouring. As I’ve mentioned to others, The Scouring really went on for about a year. It started with an internal attack on Salem, performed by a group of deep-cover Deconstructors and some student followers, and came to a head on 11 September, 2001, with the attack on the World Trade Center. At that The Foundation said, “Screw this,” and spent the next year going scorched earth on the Deconstructors, and when it was over they were no longer a problem–or so we thought until ten years later and the Day of the Dead attacks around the world.
The events at Salem were traumatic, and with good reason: there was a lot of death going down. You’ll see why in a moment, but let me get things set up first with the staff roster, so you know who the players are:
It’s always easier to know the players when you have the cards.
Staff is on the left and instructors are on the right. Immediately you’ll notice there are a lot more men teaching. On the staff side, three of the four positions are held by name, the inverse of what it is in my current novels. You’ll also see that someone in charge of spirits and apparitions is running Jessica’s coven, Ceridwen, which is almost unheard of as well, as they are known for their transformation experts. You’ll recognize four people as well: Ramona Chai–this was her first year teaching–Matthias, Jessica, Erywin–who is the longest teaching instructor in the current books, followed by Jessica–and Madeline. You’ll also see Maddie’s husband David, and if you’ve been keeping up on current events, you’ll know you don’t see him all the way to the end of this book . . .
That was the set-up there. Where are Isis and Wednesday? They were students. So was Deanna, who also played an important part in the defense of the school. But right now we will see what those first two did to keep the school safe. Here is the scene that tells it all, from start to finish, with a few interjections from me at times. Enjoy.
(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles: The Scouring, copyright 2013 by Cassidy Frazee)
The Great Flight
As she’d planed Isis headed for the Great Hall less than a minute after Professor Greenfield had dropped her off at Cernunnos Tower. She didn’t want to hold up and wait to see what was going to happen: she wanted to see what was happening. Yes, it was dangerous, but she thought she could help in some fashion—
She could also see what Cleo and Wednesday were doing. Knowing them, they were probably checking each tower making certain everything was good—or at least safe.
The door to the West Transept eased open with but a whisper. Isis tip-toed inside, listening. She thought she heard running, but since everything here was stone unless someone was in some hard-soled street shoes, one wouldn’t hear anything.
Except Isis did hear running. Followed by the sharp cracks of energy spells striking something: could be walls, could be floors or railing . . .
Could be something else.
Standing in the West Transept she heard doors slam, heard more energy spells launched. There was yelling and cursing; Isis recognized one of the voices as that of Chief of Security Heidenberg, and while she wasn’t one hundred percent certain, she though the other voice might be—
“Will you get off my ass?” she heard Heidenberg scream. Though she’d stepped out from the transept hallway, the jutting overhang of the second floor walkway hid her. “You’re the headmaster! You should have your own bypass!”
“You were the one shooting at her,” Headmaster Hearst replied, his voice becoming more of a low growl than a shout. “I thought you were suppose to be a dead shot.”
“You don’t need to worry—” His grunt carried throughout the Rotunda. “She’ll be dead soon. Give me a second—” He grunted once more. “I’ll have this shied down in no time.
There was more conversation, but Isis wasn’t listening. She pressed herself into the shadows as she heard the East Transept entrance open and someone enter the building. Isis was good at hiding: there weren’t many things she’d learned in the Sorcery and Black Magic class, but the Blend With Darkness spell was one that she could do in her sleep.
Blend With Darkness is a spell that hasn’t been touched on yet, but it’s only a matter of time. It’s another of those shadow spells that allows you to become one with the shadow, or the night if you’re Batman, and remain unseen. Think of it as taking a shadow and wrapping it around you, and then just creeping along against the walls so you remain unseen–that’s Blend With Darkness. Fun stuff, right.
The reason the Headmaster and the Chief of Security are trying to get into the library–which has been locked down by the librarian–is because they were going to destroy everything inside. Given there are like forty thousand books on so many different subjects, most of them related to magic, and some of them one of a kind books, consuming the library at Salem would have been a tremendous loss.
The person walking into the Rotunda was a girl, probably a student. Isis thought she recognized the attire, but it wasn’t until the person was almost in whatever passed for light in the Rotunda that she saw it was Wednesday. Isis saw something else, too: blood. All over Wednesday’s face and chest and shoulder—
What the hell? Isis watched Wednesday walking out from the shelter of the East Transept, and the overhang walkway of the second floor. In a matter of seconds she was going to be in the Rotunda, and from where Wends would be standing, Hearst and Heidenberg—who sounded like they were still working hard on getting into the library—would likely see her, even in the darkness.
If they were throwing spells at someone, then they were trying to stop someone, she thought. And if they see Wends . . .
There was a loud explosion from outside: Isis felt the vibration through the soles of her feet. What ever had just blow had been close, and there were only a few things close by that weren’t inside the Great Hall. Isis didn’t think the eruption came from behind her, so it wasn’t something in the west garden—or her coven tower. It felt like—
“Sounds like Ram took care of Åsgårdsreia,” Hearst said. Isis’ stomach clutched as she heard the headmaster ask the chief of security, “Are you about done?”
Ram is Nawaazish Ram, who was the Coven Leader of Åsgårdsreia. That explosion Isis felt–Ram taking “care of Åsgårdsreia”? He blew it up the tower, with the sleeping students, or those going to sleep, inside. Deanna is in Åsgårdsreia Tower at the time, doing her best to get everyone out. But that’s another story . . .
That was her cue to move. Keeping the Blend With Darkness spell about her, she flew across the Rotunda, staying low to the ground so the shadows there would keep her hidden. Flying was the fastest way across the tremendous expanse, getting her to Wednesday before the girl could wander out where she could be seen.
She flew in behind Wednesday and grabbed her around the shoulders. She landed and pulled the girl back into the transept wall closest to the Northeast Stairs. Isis dropped her spell and whispered in her friend’s ear, “Wends, it’s me.”
The light shock that had enfolded Wednesday since the incident at Blodeuwedd Tower vaporized as soon as she heard Isis’ voice. “Ice,” she whispered back. “God, I’m glad it’s you!”
Now that she was close to her friend, Isis could better see the bloody condition of her face and night clothing. “Damn! What happened?”
Wednesday saw no need to dance around the truth. “Cleo’s dead.”
Isis found it difficult to speak. “She’s dead?”
“So’s Professor Warnstedt. Dessauer killed them both.”
So Wends was right. Isis was now worried about Professor Greenfield, wondering if she’d found one of the other two . . . “Wait: where’s Dessauer?”
“I killed him.” Wednesday stood, keeping her back pressed against the wall. “I locked down Blodeuwedd, then went and locked down Mórrígan.” She turned her head so she could see Isis. “Then I came here, ‘cause . . .” Her voice caught in her throat. “It was the fastest way to go to find you.”
Wednesday is covered in blood because she was standing next to Cleo–who was a close friend of Isis’–and Professor Warnstedt–the Coven Leader of Blodeuwedd–when both pretty much exploded. At least their head and chest did, respectively. Wednesday then killed Dessauer by wrapping him in a mini-tornado of dirt and stone, and flaying him alive. Let me point out here: Professor Dessauer was not only the Coven Leader of Mórrígan, but the Head Sorceress. And Wednesday killed him. This is why it’s said if you really know your magic, you can do anything, and even a witch with a mastery of most common spells is not a person with whom to trifle.
She kept telling people to wait to see who would die. She got tired of waiting.
Though now wasn’t the time to say she was touched, Isis was. She’d just discovered she’d lost one of her close friends, and it was a blow that was hammering at her heart. For Wednesday to say she’d come looking for Isis, after everything that had happened to her the last few minutes, meant far too much for her to vocalize.
There wasn’t time for that, though. On the second floor the Hearst was getting tired of the lack of process by his Chief of Security. “I thought you said you were going to break through this,” he said in a loud, pissed off voice.
Heidenberg wasn’t in the mood to fight with the headmaster. “I am almost there!”
“You better break through it now, goddammit—”
‘Cause if you don’t, Isis thought, you’re going to move on to something else—and I think I know what that is . . . “Wends—” She crowded next to her and looked past her, past the expanse of the Rotunda, to the opening on the second floor directly across from where they stood. “We gotta get up to the security station.”
Wednesday knew about the security center, and she knew of the time Isis had spent there this year as an intern: this newest part was confusing, however. “Why?”
“I have . . .” Oh, god, don’t say that: it’s such a cliché. “I think something really bad is going to happen. At night the outer defense screens are left on to keep people from coming in over the wall, either flying or teleporting.” She stepped in front of Wednesday. “The headmaster and Heidenburg is up there; I think they went after the librarian—”
And they did. Along with the doctor as well–the same one who trained Coraline.
Now, why does Isis want to get up to the Security Station? Because she interned at the Security Center this year of schooling. However, a few weeks before the events here, the Chief of Security told her she wasn’t needed any longer, and revoked all her access. But this is one of the reasons Isis knows about school security: she was trained here. And she’s a smart girl . . .
“River?” Wednesday like the Head Librarian a great deal, and couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt her—like they wouldn’t hurt Cleo . . . “She’s up there?”
“I don’t know. I came in, it sounded like someone was shooting off spells.” She leaned in close to her friend. “I’m afraid they’re going to pulled down the outer screens.”
Wednesday didn’t need to ask more questions. “You think others are coming.”
“Maybe.” She looked down, sighing. “Something blew up—”
“I heard it.”
“They’ve killed students.” Isis took one step back. “I think they’re going to kill everyone.”
The fear hit as soon as Isis was through speaking. Wednesday, covered with the blood of her friends, and a little from their killer, didn’t want to die. She didn’t want to be here, but she didn’t expect she could just walk out the main gate right this moment, either. “What do we have to do?” she asked, her voice grave.
Isis thought it best not to say too much. “Turn around and take a step away from the wall.”
Wednesday did as she was told. “Okay, now—whuuuu!”
Isis started hovering as soon as Wednesday turned around. She wrapped her legs firmly around Wednesday’s waist before grabbing her under the arms. Once she had her, Isis lifted them both off the ground, turned, and sailed into the Rotunda.
And here we go: Isis flying through the Great Hall holding on to Wednesday for dear life.
She hadn’t put her shadow spell up, but she didn’t need to, because they were across the Rotunda in a matter of seconds, then a turn to the left and down the West Corridor towards the Atrium—
Attack spells went off around them, and Isis heard a yell from somewhere behind them. She wasn’t sure who was yelling, but it didn’t matter. She moved up and down as they headed away from the Rotunda.
Wednesday was too shocked to be scared; the shots landing near them hadn’t even registered. “What are you going to do?”
They slowed as they entered the Atrium by the Main Entrance. “You need to do that portal thing you do.”
“What?” A few months before Wednesday had mastered the Mater Transition spell, which would allow a person to move through a physical barrier. Professor Ram had been extremely surprised that she, a C Level, could do something that E and F Levels couldn’t master; she now wondered if there was more than surprise behind some of the things he’d said at the time . . . “Yeah, I can do it, but—”
Isis crossed the Atrium and entered the East Corridor, turning north and accelerating. “But my ass. We’re going to have about three seconds for you to phase us through, ‘cause I got a feeling that we’re racing to get to the center now.”
Close to the ground floor, the Bell Tower entrance flashed by. “I can’t do it that fast!”
“Then we’re gonna crash into the wall.” Isis hugged her friend. “Nice to know you, Wends.”
“You can’t do this!” Wednesday didn’t realize she was shouting, didn’t know how her voice was carrying. “There’s no time!”
“Then you better find it—”
Both girls shot out into the Rotunda. Isis saw the Headmaster Hearst and Heidenberg standing near the Northwest Staircase, both looking as if they were going to blast them. Hope you’re ready, she thought as she altered her course and headed for a wall spot at the third floor level. “Now!” she yelled, then half-closed her eyes.
Isis felt the wall approaching more than saw it. She half expected to slam into stone and brick, feel her skull cave in as her body crumpled, and maybe remain conscious long enough to feel their impact upon the floor below.
Instead there was the momentary feeling of being pushed through something cold, then they were hitting a floor and skidding to a stop in the middle of some heavy darkness.
They’d made it; they were in the upper storage room directly over the Security Center. Isis had been here once to put file some old equipment away, but she was aware there was a staircase here, somewhere, going to the second floor, and then they only had to go down the corridor.
She heard Wednesday ask, “Were are we?”
Isis was still holding on to her after their passage thought the wall. “We’re over the Security Center—second floor.”
“We’re over the center?”
They fell out of the darkness and into the light, hitting the floor below hard. Isis hadn’t expected to drop like that, so she didn’t have time to soften their fall— She landed on top of Wednesday, who started screaming. “Wends—”
Here eyes were filled with tears. “Do what you have to do!” She shot Isis a worried look. “Go!”
All the computer monitors were on, the screen savers going. Isis jiggled the mouse and brought one to life, then pulled up a log-in screen. She’d been told her information wasn’t in the system any longer, but . . . She typed in the system admin ID, then the password. She’d used this more than a few times to monitor things, and Isis figured Heidenberg hadn’t changed those after revoking her personal access.
In two seconds she was on the system admin screen. “I’m in!” she squealed.
Gasping for air, Wednesday said, “Get-get everything up.”
Isis brought up a schematic for the school and the grounds. She checked the defense shields; they were low but still in place. She scaled them to one hundred percent and locked down all outside access gates. She activated the anti-teleportation spells; those might hurt the instructors, but it would hurt the bad guys just as much. Lastly, she locked down most of the Great Hall: the Dining Hall, the Hospital, the Admin Wing, the Library, the Security Section—all locked down, all inaccessible without the proper ID.
She took a few seconds to deactivate Heidenberg’s profile, so even if he did know an override he couldn’t used them from any terminal. Lastly she changed the system admin password, then logged in on another terminal before shutting down the one she had used to perform all this chicanery.
Only then did she activate the alarms, which—not surprisingly—had been deactivated.
I’ve done a bit of security on computers, and most places where I worked never changed the System Admin signon, so the password was always the same, and it was set never to expire: who wants to mess up and forget that password? Since the Chief of Security never figured on Isis getting into the security center again, why change anything? It’s really how people are.
And why did Isis know that login anyway? Because she was probably asked to do some work on the servers that required System Admin access, and it was given to her. And the password wasn’t changed after that because people are lazy. And, no: it wasn’t 123456. They’re not that lazy. But I have been at jobs where the Sys Admin password was the one that came with the computer, and that meant it was the same as the profile. Like I said: lazy.
Isis spun around, a big smile on her face. “We did it! God, Wend—oh, shit!” She fell to her knees next to her friend, who was laid out on her back. She examined Wednesday’s right leg: it was broken two-thirds of the way down her thigh and bent at a strange angle. “Oh, hell, man—”
“I’m okay,” she said weakly. “I broke it when we fell.” Wednesday sucked in a huge lung-full of air. “I put up a shield around us—”
“I’ve got the shields up.”
“Well, we have another.” She smiled up at Isis, her face ashen from shock. “We did good, huh?”
Isis retrieved a first aid kit from the wall. He had it open before she was kneeling next to the bloody, broken girl. She pulled a vial of greenish liquid from inside and gave it to Wednesday to sip; Isis knew it would help cure her shock. After that she could numb her leg and straighten it—
And then we just wait to see who comes to our aid.
She smiled at Wednesday. “Yeah, Wends.” She laid her hand upon the girl’s shoulder. “We did good.”
If they hadn’t dialed up the outer defense screens, other Deconstructors would have come in and torched the place to the bedrock–just like they wanted to do a decade later. And the bad guys didn’t want to let them in early, because they were worried their chicanery would get discovered and the wrong people would get alerted–like a certain Guardian who shows up a few chapters later.
And there you have it: how Isis and Wednesday saved the school.