Reread Featuring Bookburners

Bookburners Reread: Episode 9, “Ancient Wonders”

Episode nine opens in a small French monastery to find Sal and Liam engaged in a different type of sweaty sport: ZOMBIE FIGHTING.

And also, of course, normal interpersonal fighting – it seems the breakup has been wearing on everyone, with Sal and Liam snapping at each other and Grace thoroughly annoyed by it all.

Such heightened tensions could not come at a worse time – It seems the nefarious Mr. Norse has stepped up his hunt for the Codex Umbra (see Episode 5 for a refresher) and been lighting magical fires all over the place. Sal and Team Three have been pulling longer days than usual.

Unfortunately, while the hunt is doing a bang up job of keeping them all busy – they don’t appear to be getting any closer to learning just what the Codex Umbra is, or why Mr. Norse would want it. The latest foray into the zombie-infested monastery seems another dead end. With a one last head shot, they head home.

Back at headquarters, the team is called to task by Monsignor Angiuli (their boss). He’s unhappy with the increase magical drama and minimal pay off: they are no closer to finding Mr. Norse or learning about the Codex Umbra. With the every helpful advice of “I suggest you get answers, soon,” he leaves them to it.

In the frustrating silence that follows, Menchu says it’s time to talk to Pythia.

This suggestion gets mixed reactions –

Grace is all, “Wait, THE Pythia?”

Asanti is all, “You’ve had access to the Pythia all this time and you’re just now mentioning it?”

Liam is all, “Uh, wtf, our whole thing is fighting against magic and now you want to use magic, or at least talk to someone who is willingly possessed by some magical force??”

And Meanwhile Sal is in the back, wondering just what the f*ck is the Pythia.

So Menchu explains – the Pythia is the Oracle of Delphi! It may be long past his hay day, but apparently the Greek God Apollo still has a high priestess, blessed with the the fight of sight into the future and past.

And Menchu has a friend who owes him a favor – and just might be able to get them in touch with her.

<Scene Change> The Team is has flown to Alexandria, Egypt and is picked up by a man named Youseff – who clearly knows Menchu well enough to answer his call, and owes Menchu enough to help him…but does not seem in any way shape or form happy to see Menchu.

Their connection is left largely a mystery as the man leads the team into the legendary Library of Alexandria (which we learn was just moved out of the public eye, rather than lost to history. There, he has them all sign a blood oath to abide by the rules of the Oracle before explaining that what he’s given them is merely the invitation that will get them through the door – if they want information or a prophecy, they each will have to bring something they are willing to sacrifice.

“Magic adheres to the laws of cause and effect, and works through the principles of correspondence. Reflection: like attracts like. Participation: links the practitioner to the ritual, and to the result. And sacrifice: because for something to be created, even by magic, something of equal value must be destroyed. There is no specific recipe, no ritual by rote, but the nature of what you choose to sacrifice will determine the direction, potency, and accuracy of the Pythia’s visions. I suggest you choose wisely.”

<scene change> Back in Rome the Team has an early morning flight to Greece – that Sal is terribly late for having slept through 6 calls before waking up in the Archives…despite her last memory being heading home to pack. She scrambles to make it to the airport and chocks up the memory laps to exhaustion.

Liam cops an attitude and throws major shade at her for being so late.

But Sal is too tired and confused to care – she’s been waking up more tired than rested for weeks now.

A plane ride, some hours, and a rickety bus ride later they arrive at the ruins of Delphi. Bypassing the tourists, they climb up a path to a hut containing a stone basin with bubbling water. Asanti, who reveals herself to have several PhDs and an excess of knowledge about the Oracle of Delphi in particular, takes the lead.

…Except instead of firing a blaster she takes the invitation they received from Menchu’s contact, plunges it into the fountain, and transports them to the real Delphi – where a a woman draped in white greets them.

Now in the Delphi of legend, a place out of time, they follow their guide. Gone are the tourists and restored is the temple – magic really is wonderful isn’t it?

The Oracle is expecting them, of course. After a quick ritual bath (more of a splash, really) they are lead into her presence…and find a bored young woman reading Vogue.

Continuing to surprise, she goes on to telepathically communicate with Sal, reading her unspoken questions and replying in kind – apparently the articles in her Vogue are whited out because Apollo doesn’t want to clutter his prophet’s mind with distractions.

But an oracle has no time for chit chat so it’s straight down to business: they ask about the Codex Umbra. She asks them for their sacrifices. Grace offers a book, the first one she read in English. Menchu gives up a bible, given to him long ago. Asanti submits letters from her mentor. Liam hands over a knife.

Sal, meanwhile, is panicing because she totally forgot about this part and didn’t bring anything. She rummages through her pockets and finds a curious piece of paper she doesn’t remember putting there. Folded within it is a lock of hair – her brother’s hair, she realizes. Before she can really wonder just when and how she acquired that, she hands it over the Oracle who (silently) comments that it’s an interesting choice.

 

The Pythia accepts their sacrifices, drinks from the spring, and beings to speak: “The Codex Umbra: a prison of demons, the worst placed together, to be more easily guarded by the followers of the cross. Until the Codex became too dangerous to be safely held. Even the jailers could not be trusted to the temptations of the prisoners.”

Suddenly, before she can tell them more about where it’s kept, the Pythia starts to choke! A gold necklace around her throat has sprouted seemingly poisonous thorns that are digging into her flesh. The team scrambles – but are utterly helpless as the Oracle struggles for her last breaths. In a moment, she is dead.

Through her sudden grief, the attendant tells them that the necklace was a recent gift from a supplicant – a thank you for a prophecy. Sal tries to ask more questions but the sound of thunder and approaching footsteps cuts her off. The attendant orders them away – the other acolytes must deal with this sudden tragedy. When the stone floor starts to shake, the Team concedes the point and runs out.

Back through the portal and in modern day Greece, they take a moment to catch their breath and take stock. Asanti theorizes that the necklace was a trap, set off by a verbal trigger – someone didn’t want the Pythia revealing information about the Codex. They all agree Mr. Norse is the likely candidate. Beyond that, Asanti postulates that he’s on a time table – the Orb has been going off every 20 minutes with signs of his activities, and while the the Pythia will be replaced, it won’t be for at least a few weeks which suggests Norse just needs to delay Team Three long enough to finish his work.

Liam is unimpressed by these theories – all he sees is a brush ith magic that left this with little new information and a very dead priestess.

But Asanti disagrees: they’ve learned a bit about how to access and use the magic of the spring – perhaps they can use it directly themselves.

Liam and Menchu are all “NOPE! Terrible Idea.” Grace is actually in favor: “We need to do something and this is our best option.” And technically Asanti outranks Menchu so…

She needs to prepare for the ritual so she sends Grace and Sal off to gather supplies. On their walk Grace calls Sal out on the weirdness between her and Liam.

Sal admits that they had been sleeping together but weren’t anymore. Grace isn’t surprised – and moreover surprises Sal with her lack of judgment. She’s of the opinion that team politics be damned – some chances should just be pursued.

Sal intuits that Grace is thinking of something else with that proclamation, and pushes the issue a bit more. After a long silence, Grace mentions that when she met Menchu, they looked the same age. Now, he worries about her candle – but she’s been watching his burn down for thirty years…

OMG YOU GUYS I WAS RIGHT I WAS RIGHT I WAS RIGHT #TeamGraceMenchu #brbdying #toosad #canteven

Back with the Team, Asanti has finished her preparations (the woman has been studying magic for most her professional career, does it really surprise anyone she can pull a magic ritual out of her hat?).

She follows the steps, drinks from the spring, and speaks: “The Codex Umbra: what you seek cannot be found, although you can reach its hiding place. Go to where dawn first lights this land, where a Titan once stood watch. The Codex lives in shadow. To protect the world, the wounded knights locked its prison, which can only be opened on the lightest of days.”

Before they can ponder, things take a turn: the magic Asanti had tried to harness over takes her. Suddenly she is unresponsive and shooting flames – at Sal, who bursts in to flame. Grace attempts to push her into the spring while Menchu and Liam leap into action trying to stop Asanti with an impromptu exorcism.

Note to self: always carry holy water. Asanti comes out of her possession and Sal comes out of the spring, no longer on fire. Menchu declares it time to go home.

Back in Rome, and with the help of the internet, they unlock the riddle Asanti pulled from the Oracle: the Codex is in Rhodes, in the secret vault of the Knights of St. John, and it’s hiding place will unlock on the summer solstice – which is in fourteen days.

Now that they finally have some answers – and a path forward, it’s time to recoup. Menchu orders them all to take two days rest before they dive back into the battle against Mr. Norse. It’s a sign of their true exhaustion that no one argues.

Eventually only Grace and Menchu are left in the Archives…

But it’s only so that Grace can tell Menchu she needs a rest – and not her usual magical-death-coma. She needs a mental rest – she needs her day off. Menchu agrees, and says he’ll meet her in the morning.

Grace smiled. After all these years, Menchú still loved the way it lit her face. “See you in the morning, then,” she said.

#TeamGraceMenchu #TeamGraceMenchu #TeamGraceMenchu

 

Whew – nice to end an episode on a happy sweet note for once! Your faithful reviewer might actually not have to cry herself to sleep tonight. You can still find her at the bar though, toasting to her favorite lovebirds. See you next week!

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