Larsa was fast. How in the world did he get so fast? Usually after that much food, he’s inches away from falling asleep. Not to mention all the alcohol we’d been sharing. Was he really this propelled by being excited? He was already up the on the third floor, with Killian right beside him.
The stairs had all taken on a golden hue. So had the walls around the stairs. Most of the second floor was still completely dark; only the floor between the two staircases had a glow to it.
“It’s going to lead them right to the library,” I muttered to myself. I got up the stairs to the thirst floor as quickly as I could.
“Larsa,” I called, “wait for me! Just stop and talk to me before you go any further!”
They were at the doors to the library, which shone just as they had on all the other nights I’d ventured into Tierney Ríocht. Larsa had his hand on the the doorknob when he turned to look at me.
“This is really beautiful, Leila,” he said. “How did you set up your house to do this?”
What was I supposed to say to that? I didn’t set anything up; my house just randomly aligns with a magical world that, by the way, is asking for my help? I couldn’t go along with his thoughts that this was something I’d set of with wires and lights, could I? I didn’t know how to do something like that, let alone deceive my friends.
I couldn’t speak, and when I didn’t respond, Larsa asked me. “What’s in here? You mentioned that you had a library, right?”
Oh yeah, I thought to myself. We hadn’t gotten around to a full tour of the house. I’d shown them most of the ground floor and pointed out the bathrooms and laundry, and they knew who was in which room, but we’d been so busy with other things that they hadn’t seen every single room. They weren’t the type to snoop around, either.
“Or does this room have two doors because it’s a really big bedroom?” Larsa added.
“It’s…” I stared, my voice catching in my throat. “Yeah, that’s the library.”
“I wanna see it!” Larsa declared.
I take back what I said about not snooping. Partially, anyway. Now that he knew it was a library and not a bedroom or office, Larsa felt that he could go right on in. Killian could do nothing to stop him. Larsa loved libraries almost as much as he loved museums; he even worked part-time at the university library. So he pushed the door open and strolled right on in.
“Woah, this is fantastic!” I could hear Lars cooing from the middle of the room. “So many old books– hey, where does that door go?”
Damn his curiosity. “Larsa, hang on! Just stop and talk to me before you go any further!”
I hurried down the glowing hallway. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to him. “It’s dangerous, don’t go?” If I told him that my house wasn’t safe, he would tell Stefan, and then Stefan wouldn’t let me stay in that house by myself. Was it even possible to convince him to come back downstairs and forget about all of this? I barely understood how this magic worked, so I couldn’t even begin to explain it to someone else.
Stefan was catching up to me. I could hear his heavy footsteps crossing the library, and he was soon through the doorway and beside me. He gave me a puzzled look, then gazed up at the spiral staircase, where he was sure to hear that Larsa and Killian talking, then back at me.
“Leila, what is going on?” Stefan asked, sounding none too pleased. His cheeks were flushed from running up two flights of stairs.
“I’m… um… asking Larsa to come back down.”
“No kidding,” he replied, all but grumbling. He pointed to the doorway he’d just come through. “I saw the pictures you shared online, Leila. Remember showing us photos of the library? There was a huge painting on the wall, right where the door is now. You took the picture from far enough away that I could see from floor to ceiling, and that painting wasn’t covering a door.”
“That’s the one!” he declared, pointing to the painting hanging in the shadows behind the staircase. “This doesn’t make any sense, Leila. There’s no way you knocked out part of a wall and added all this since moving in.”
“I know,” I told him, even though it must have sounded daft. “Just– agh, can we get them back down here first?”
Stefan gave me a serious look as he yelled up into the stairwell. “Larsa! Killian! Come back down here! Something isn’t right, and we need to talk before you guys go any further!”
But the boys’ footsteps were only getting further away.
Stefan sighed heavily. “If they didn’t wait before,” he pointed out, “they’re not going to wait now.”
“Hey, this hallway is really pretty! I could hear Larsa declaring from the top of the stairs. “It’s like it’s from a totally different time!”
“Just wait there for me, Larsa!” I called, heading up the stairs. “I’ll be there in a second.”
More footsteps down the hall upstairs. Dang it, larsa! Why couldn’t he just listen? And why wasn’t Killian doing more to stop him? I grumbled, then called up to them. “Killian, come on! Don’t let him go any further!”
I could hear one of the door knobs upstairs rattling. Larsa was starting to try the doors. I know most of the doors up there were locked, and I still hadn’t figured out where they led. Maybe one would take him back to the media room? Or his room; he could explore Killian’s body instead of my house.
“Lad, I’d say this time ye need tae listen tae her.”
Finally! I thought to myself; he was actually saying something to Larsa.
Another door handle was rattling Now. was he seriously going to try all of them? “Come on, Killian. I want to see what’s in these rooms. Do you think it’s more books?”
“I’d say it’s more like this: ye get into one o’ those rooms, Leila gets up those stairs, and ye get taken over her knee and spanked for nae listenin’.”
“What?” Larsa asked in disbelief. “My mom didn’t even do that!” Another door handle rattled.
Killian sighed. “Yeah lad, I’m startin’ tae think she didnae discipline ye a whole lot. But ye’re pretty much the baby in the family, so she gave ye a lot o’ freedom.”
“I did too have discipline!” Larsa retorted. “I had to do extra chores, and sometimes I wasn’t allowed to go out into the woods with Dáidu.”
I was working my way up the stairs, going as fast as I could while still being careful of the metal stairs. I called to them again.
“Lad,” Killian said even as Larsa checked more of the doors, “how about we go downstairs tae our bedroom and I take ye o’er my knee and show ye something a lot more fun than all these locked doors?”
There was a pause in the noise Larsa was making. “That sounds fun. Let’s do that later!” Then there were more footsteps, and he was off down the hall again. I could hear Killian moan in frustration.
“Leila,” Stefan called after me, following me up the stairs. “Leila, where are they going? What’s going to happen if they find– well, whatever it is you think they’re going to find?”
“Hey, look!’ Larsa called. “That door isn’t shut all the way!”
Oh no! Oh no, oh no, oh no!
“Lad, can ye just wait a minute?”
I got to the top of the stairs. Larsa was way at the other end, Killian right on his heels. Larsa was pushing the door to the music room further open. I couldn’t hear any music coming from inside, but once the door opened more, I heard a few voices talking.
“Hey, wow! There are some people in here– and one of them has wings!” Larsa declared. “You know what, Killian, I’m probably just dreaming. I probably just had too much to drink and passed out on the couch with you. That explains what’s going on. Hello, dream people!”
“Larsa!” I shouted down the hall. “No!”
“Lad, somehow I think I wouldnae be tellin’ ye tae stop so much if this was just another one o’ yer flights o’ fancy.”
Larsa was already stepping into the music room. “Killian, could you please stop him?” I called down the hall.
“Ah, hello young man,” one of the voices in the music room said. I wracked my brain trying to identify who it was. “What a very unexpected meeting this is.”
“I’m sorry, gentlemen, Killian said. “We didnae mean tae interrupt ye. We’ll just be goin’ now.” I could see Killian trying to take Larsa’s arm and lead him back out of the room.
“What?” Larsa asked. “But we just got here! I want to meet the people who live in Leila’s dream-attic!”
“Yeah,” Killian replied, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, lad.”
“Kansas?” Larsa repeated. “I never said anything about Kansas. Isn’t that really far from here?”
He clearly wasn’t getting the reference. I dashed down the hallway to the music room and grabbed both their arms. “Come on, let’s go back downstairs.”
“You’re leaving so soon, milady?” Jean-Marc asked me.
I looked up at him, my expression full of worry and doubt. “I really didn’t expect–“
I froze. There was a hand on my shoulder. I turned and looked up into Stefan’s bright blue eyes.
“Didn’t expect what?” Stefan asked me.
“It’s not a problem, Lady Moss,” Brom said. As charming as I’d found the honorific before, I really wished he hadn’t used it just then. “Your friends are clearly important to you, and for them to have come here, they surely have the same sense of wonder and magic that you do.”
I gave him a pleading look. Egad, why couldn’t they just shoo us out?
“Ooooh, I love dreams about magic!” Larsa commented.
“Oh!” Tobias laughed, his fae winds fluttering. “He really thinks this is a dream? He’s a charming one, Lady Moss.”
I glanced around the room; Aubré and Nikolai weren’t there, but I couldn’t exactly ask about them just then. Oddly enough, neither was Evander. Maybe it was better that he wasn’t there yet, since Larsa might have recognized him from the symphony. But there was someone else there whom Stefan would be none too pleased to see. Especially since she took off from the top of the harpsichord and flew over to land on his arm.
“Leila,” Stefan said through gritted teeth even as Chopin gave him a friendly hoot and looked up at him curiously, “I need you to tell me everything. Right now. And don’t even try to lie to me or leave out any details.”