Lana got back last night, in the middle of the night.
I’d spent the day making a damn fool of myself looking for excuses to hang out with Rook. For example, all the Palefish buildings are situated around this big wide well, with a thick brim, and it sort of serves as a meeting place. So I’ve been taking Julian’s books and laying out there to read. I’m not a big reader. I mean obviously, you read my blog. If I’m sitting around a well with a pretentious novel written by some dead white dude you know I’m not doing it for my own pleasure.
The most humiliating part? It didn’t work. Rook just sort of drifts around with his headphones on and goes for walks, and I have internalized exactly 0% of Rimbaud’s complete works.
I wish I was the kind of person who came up with fun adventures to drag unsuspecting hot dudes on, but unfortunately I’m not so much a manic pixie dream girl as an anxious goblin nightmare baby, so no matter how attractively he wanders around this island, frowning and thinking indecipherable thoughts, it’s all doomed. Doomed. I’ll never get laid again.
All the frustration is making me BORED because Neal and Jasper spend literally all day with the kid. They’re trying to teach her English. Apparently there’s a spell on the island that makes it easier for your brain to learn languages, so they’re trying to get her a head start before this place is crawling with students, and it mostly looks like Neal and Jasper making absolute clowns of themselves while the kid sits on the cobblestones eating out-of-season California Cuties.
Oh, which reminds me! The kid’s got a name! We call her Clementine because that’s only food she ever wants to eat.
There’s no case. Just us, on this island, surrounded by children and really old buildings.
And then Lana got home.
I was asleep, but I woke up when I heard Neal, Jasper and Julian in the hall. It took a second to realize where I was in the dark, and a moment longer to find a sweater that would double as a bathrobe over my shorts, but then I crept out after them. I met Rook just as he was coming out of his room.
“Do you know what’s going on?” he whispered, and I whispered back, “no idea,” and just like that we were united.
Palefish is a strange place at night — so dark you can see stars, so quiet you can hear the wind in the orchard and the distant crashing of waves.
They weren’t at the well so we crept into the cathedral, and found the Hawthornes, Jasper, Knock and Darryl, Professor Protsman and Lily huddled at the front of the hall, where the pulpit would have been if it was still a church, all gathered around a woman.
I knew who she was immediately.
She was very pretty, in a decidedly done way. Her hair was gently curled, her nails were manicured, she was wearing casual pumps, despite obvious exhaustion.
“Is that her?” I whispered.
“That’s Lana,” Rook confirmed.
There was a certain gravity about them all huddled over there under one light bulb in the great space. It took Lana raising her voice for me to realize that they were arguing.
“—I’m late because I went to see Jade,” Lana said and looked directly at the Hawthornes. I glanced at Neal in time to see his eyes close.
“Lana —” he began.
“They’re the first of the Dog Saints,” she said. “Aren’t you boys?”
Everyone — Professor Protsman, Lily, Knock and Darryl, Lana and her consort, who I would later learn were named Chase and Jane — turned to stare.
“Is that true?” Lily squeaked.
“It’s true,” Lana said. “But that’s all I know. Jade wouldn’t give me the details. She didn’t even know which powers you were exhibiting. But she was certain.”
“Lana,” Neal began again, but he was immediately spoken over.
“This is information that you should have shared with us,” Lana said. “Nolan would never have allowed —”
“Nolan knew,” Neal said, and his tone was absolutely spiteful. “Nolan knew for years. He just didn’t tell you.”
Lana looked as though he’d slapped her.
“That’s not possible,” she said.
“He told us not to tell you,” Neal went on, openly vicious. “Because he knew what would happen if you found out.”
“And what will happen?” Lana snapped. “What unforgivable thing am I going to do now, hm?”
“You tell us,” Julian said, more quietly, and Lana’s mouth opened but no sound came out.
Protsman took that moment to intervene.
“We have plenty of time to discuss the lasting repercussions of this secret-keeping later,” he said. “The more urgent business is this fog.”
And if you’re asking, what fog, I’m sorry I still have no idea, because at that moment, Julian turned and finally saw Rook and I standing there in the shadows. He forced a tired smile.
“Oh, I’m sorry, did we wake you? Come meet Lana.”
But it was strange and stiff, and after that we all went to bed.
And now it’s been super weird ALL DAY.
At noon Julian poked his head into my room to invite me to a picnic in the orchard. I was immediately suspicious. A picnic in an orchard is super not the Hawthorne vibe ahaha.
It turned out to be a private picnic away from the school so that everyone could rage, which was much more on brand for us.
Neal was still fuming.
“How is it our fault Nolan didn’t trust her? She’s the one who’s a damn tyrant.”
This was news to me. As far as I’ve heard Lana’s a pretty benevolent force in the cryptid hunter world.
“You don’t mean that,” Julian said, totally peaceful, thoughtfully biting around the pit of his cherry.
“Sure I do,” Neal said. “Would you call her anything else?”
“I’d call her a dear friend,” Julian said. “The love of Nolan’s life. I’d very nearly call her family.”
Neal sneered at him but didn’t argue. “As if she told him everything,” he grumbled.
“She doesn’t like it that Nolan had to protect you from her,” Jasper said and spat a cherry pit out into the grass. “It paints an ugly picture of her. She’ll get over it.”
“Yeah well, in the meantime what’s stopping queen bitch from telling everyone we’re destined to lead the known universe in the fight against monsters,” Neal grumbled and I choked on my lemonade.
“You’re supposed to what?” I said.
“He’s joking,” Julian said, casting a dirty look at Neal. “We’re not destined for anything.”
“I know that!” Neal cried. He chucked a whole cherry as hard as he could at a tree. It left a little smudge of dark juice on the bark.
At this point I was nice and confused, because up until today, the boys have been very clear that this whole secret super powers situation is just weird luck of the draw and none of anyone else’s business. And if some people — Mercy, Jade, Zinia, apparently Lana — thought otherwise, that was their own problem.
Julian finally took pity on me.
“Cyclical selection spells — more colloquially known as chosen one spells, are very rare, and have been interpreted in a number of ways,” he said. “There’s no actual evidence that people who wind of with these powers always wind of making something of themselves. For all we know, there have been hundreds of chosen ones who left not so much as a skid mark on history. But some people, Lana included, take a more… Spider-Man approach to these powers.”
“With great power comes great responsibility,” Jasper said.
“So she thinks… what exactly?”
“She thinks that because we have powers we owe the world something,” Neal snapped. “And that’s bullshit.”
“It is,” Julian said, calm as ever. “But Lana was given a lot of responsibility very young because of her powers.”
“What are her powers?” I asked.
Neal made a face. “Basic ass super strength shit. Speed healing. She’s got the easiest, least complicated powers of all time. What’s the worse she deals with, the devastating troubles of a super active metabolism? The horrible struggle of needing to sleep at night? It’s bullshit.”
“Ignore Neal,” Jasper said affectionately. “He loves Lana, he’s just bitter, so he’s being a brat.”
Neal made a face at him and Jasper stuck out his tongue.
“Lana’s spell is very well documented. Dog Saints come up only every few hundred years, but there’s a Guardian every generation,” Julian explained. “There’s a whole order that exists just to train and assist the Guardian. Lana’s whole life has been dictated by what she is. Nolan was just trying to keep us away from the same treatment. Unfortunately, it’s a big secret to keep — seers have been predicting another round of Dog Saints for almost a decade. They’ve been waiting for us.”
“Yeah, well here we are,” Neal said. “We’re what they get.”
“Lana will come around,” Jasper said. “She’s always said she wished she could just be anonymous. Surely she can’t be mad that you managed to do it.”
Neal scoffed disbelievingly, but it was Julian that said, grimly, “either way, we’re not anonymous anymore.”
Which has a nice ominous ring to it, don’t you think?
So remember that fog Protsman mentioned?
Well, I really thought the big news of this post was gonna be all the drama about Dog Saints and Guardians and chosen ones and all that dumb bull shit, but nope. Incorrect. The real drama is that Lana found us a case.
Tonight we were formally summoned to the main hall.
Neal was furious. “What the fuck is she, the queen?”
Neal does not like to be told what to do hahahaha.
“Protsman says she just needs our help,” Julian assured him.
“Bullshit, she’s just pissed she’s not the only sailor scout on campus anymore, so she’s flexing her power.”
Jasper rolled his eyes from the bed where he was lounging, flipping the pages of a ragged novel. “My god Neal, the drama. Flexing her power; this isn’t Game of Thrones. She just needs our help”
“Then she could ask for it,” Neal grumbled.
Nevertheless, we trudged down to the cathedral at the appointed time.
Inside, waiting at the head table, were Lana and her inner sanctum. Assembled like that they were a surprisingly formidable company.
Knock, Darryl and Rook were already there, not on the dais with the others, but in the aisle between the tables.
“There you are,” Lana said. Her expression made me nervous so I tried to catch Protsman or Lily’s eye for reassurance instead, but they looked coolly over my head. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d decided not to join us.”
Even I felt the chill, and glanced at Neal. His face was neutral, but I saw the muscle in jaw tighten.
“What did you want to discuss Lana?” Julian asked. I noticed that there was nowhere for us to sit. I wondered if that was by design, and decided it must have been. They’d set up the room so that they were looking down on us, bestowing us with orders.
“There’s a mission,” Lana said. “And I’d like your assistance in handling it.” She paused for a breath, but then continued before any of us could answer. “One of you would of course be welcome to stay with the child. And I of course won’t require your apprentices to join us.”
Require was a strange word for her to use ahhahahaa.
Evidently Neal noticed it, too because he said, “oh, that’s so generous of you.”
Lana glanced icily at him but said nothing.
“What’s the case?” Knock asked, maybe to cover the awkward quiet. I don’t know Knock well. He’s sort of reserved. Sorta lumberjack-y.
“We sensed an explosion of magic,” Lily said, pulling her phone out of her pocket and starting to thumb through it. “I’ve never felt anything quite like it, and then pretty quickly after that, a town nearby went quiet. News crews can’t get in because the whole town is enveloped in a fog.”
“A fog?” Darryl said.
All our phones buzzed. “That’s the link. See for yourselves.”
“Send one of your lackeys,” Neal snapped without looking at his phone. “Is it too much for Chase and Lily to handle?”
“You misunderstand me,” Lana said. “I need them here, because I will be out there, investigating that fog personally, and a new term is starting this week.” There was a long pause, in which I correctly assumed that it was highly unusual for Lana to go work a case by the looks of surprise on everyone’s faces. “Look at the link,” Lana said, now that the gravity of the situation was setting in.
It was a link to a local news crew. In it shaky camera captured the what looked like a whole wall of mist, beyond which nothing was visible.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Lana said.
Looking at that mist I realized that all this drama maybe this had nothing to do with weird power dynamics and chosen one spells and betrayal and pettiness. Maybe Lana was just trying to send someone she trusted. Maybe this all felt so serious not because they were trying to pull something shady, but because we’re all in danger.
“You don’t have to go,” Lana added. “But if I’m going, I can’t bring the rest of my staff, not with the kids coming. I need a team I can trust.”
Neal didn’t look up from his phone.
“We’ll go,” he said.
Just like that. We ship out tomorrow.
Tonight we’re having one last bonfire. There’s a lot of nervous, chaotic energy in the air. I don’t know what I’m feeling, but half an hour ago, Neal knocked on my door.
He sat in the wooden chair across from me and looked me right in the face. “I don’t know what this hunt is going to look like,” he said. “We don’t know what has happened to the people in there. We don’t know what we’re going to be dealing with at all. I want you to stay here, but I promised I’d give you the choice.”
I said I’m going. Obviously.
Neal took a deep breath. “We’re leaving tomorrow at dawn,” he said. “If you’re in the car you can come with, but I’m not going to come for you, and I’m not going to wait. If you change your mind, just sleep in. No one will think less of you.”
LMFAO yeah sure, I’ll just stay here with Clementine. PLEASE
anxious goblin nightmare baby…I’m saving that one in my brain pan