“Right,” Corrie said. “If the building is not in imminent danger, I guess we can.” She took a deep breath. “We found the ghost—there wasn’t anything to see, but she knocked to communicate with us. She wouldn’t use the tarot cards, though, and she wouldn’t communicate very clearly. She ran out into the hall—Edie figured that out, since she felt the cold wind.”
“Cold spots,” Annie said. “I thought I’d noticed those, but I wasn’t sure.”
“We followed her to try to communicate with her more,” Corrie said. “But she still wouldn’t say anything. Then she started bending the floorboards. It looked like we were going to fall through the floor if we stepped forward. I’m getting more skeptical of the magic professors’ assertions that ghosts can’t hurt us.”
“That all follows with the notes I have on my vision,” Roe said, nodding. “I wish I’d seen the bending floorboards. But if it was an illusion, maybe that’s why I didn’t see it?”
“Or maybe it didn’t happen that way in your vision,” Edie said. “Remember, we changed the vision by bringing Dawn. I guess it didn’t change the outcome, though.”
“The building isn’t falling down or anything,” Annie said. She stood up. “I’m going to go upstairs and see if there’s really anything wrong with the floorboards.”
Edie scrambled to her feet. “Are you sure that’s safe?”
“If they’re still bent, or if they’ve broken, I’ll be able to see it without getting too close, right?” Annie said with a shrug. She’d reached the door.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Edie said. “I mean, we didn’t fall. But I’m coming with you.”
Annie smiled. “Come on.”
Edie followed a half-step behind as Annie strode out into the hall and up the stairs. “You seem really confident,” she said. “I would think you’d be more scared of the ghost than any of us.”
“Well, she hasn’t actually hurt me yet,” Annie said, frowning slightly. “And if she’s able to create illusions, I really want to know that. And… maybe I feel a little better now knowing for sure that it’s a ghost, or something similar to a ghost. I guess because she must be a person, or she was a person once. I can at least try to do more research and see if I can find out anything else about her.”
They went through the fire door and started walking down the hall. Edie already thought that Dawn had been right—the hall didn’t look unusual at all from this angle.
As they walked toward the end of the hall, nothing changed. The floorboards looked old and worn, but straight and sturdy. Edie stopped where she, Corrie, and Dawn had stood a few minutes earlier, but Annie walked forward cautiously, putting her foot at the very end of the floorboard where it met the wall and pressing down. When it didn’t give, she jumped on the floorboards a few times.
She spread her hands wide. “No give whatsoever, and they feel as sturdy as ever, though I guess I’ve never actually stood on this part of the floor before. I guess she can create illusions.”
“Wow.” Edie shook her head. “It was pretty convincing. I wonder if we should talk to Troy. The Djanaea have illusion magic, too.”
“Yeah, but her illusion magic isn’t the problem, is it?” Annie asked. “She’s just… I don’t know if she has emotions the same way as a living human, but they have to be similar.”
“You mean, the problem is she’s just mad, so she’s using her illusion magic to scare people?”
“Yeah, something like that. But maybe she’s not just mad. We don’t really know, right?”
Edie nodded. “That’s the real problem. Let’s go back to the others and see if we can figure out the next steps.”
“Sounds good to me.” Annie turned and they began walking back down the hall. Annie glanced at her door as they passed. It was shut again.
“You know, the magic classes that mention ghosts only talk about communicating with the dead,” Edie said. “At least, that’s what Dawn said is in the Ritual Magic class, and I don’t think there are any classes about what to do to get rid of ghosts. Isn’t there a way to exorcise them?”
Annie frowned. “That might be a good idea. Or it might be really bad, I guess. If there was only a way to find out what she wants…”
“We were able to communicate with her a little bit,” Edie said. They had reached the first floor and were nearly to Roe’s room. “She just didn’t really want to talk to us. Maybe we can just wait for you guys to learn more about how to communicate with the dead in class?”
She had spoken that last sentence as they reached Roe’s room and opened the door. Dawn looked up and frowned at them.
“I didn’t really want to wait,” Dawn said. “That’s the last thing we’re supposed to learn, so it’s not for several more weeks. After what happened on Monday, I figured Annie needs this ghost thing dealt with as quickly as possible.”
Annie shook her head. “I’m managing better. It takes a little more time, but I’m able to get more sleep during the day, when the ghost isn’t as active. I think we will be fine to wait.”
“Can’t you guys ask Mardalan to teach you the ghost stuff early?” Corrie asked.
“She’s never very well prepared for class,” Annie said, sitting down on Roe’s bed again. “And she was pretty skeptical about it even being possible to communicate with ghosts.”
“Right, I was thinking the same thing,” Dawn said. “She probably doesn’t even know how to communicate with the dead yet herself. She’s going to get theoretical lessons from one of the other professors or something like that. And none of them believe there’s really a ghost here.”
“So everything was okay?” Roe said, looking between Edie and Annie. “The building isn’t going to collapse around us?”
“It looks like Dawn was right,” Edie said. “The boards seem fine. Annie even jumped on them to test.”
Annie grinned. “It’s kind of cool, honestly. If ghosts can create illusions, no wonder people are scared of them.”
“I can’t believe that was an illusion,” Corrie said. “It was extremely convincing. And scary.”
“Troy and Link have convincing illusions, too,” Roe said.
“Yeah… I doubt that illusion would have been broken by a four-leaf clover, though.”
“We didn’t test it,” Edie said, shaking her head. “We didn’t even think of that.”
“I’ll make sure to keep one convenient,” Annie said. “So if the ghost freaks me out in the middle of the night again, maybe I can use a clover to break an illusion and reassure myself.”
“I wouldn’t rely on that,” Dawn said. “You’ve been hearing things and your door has opened and closed, right? Those obviously aren’t illusions. Or I don’t know if sounds can be illusions.”
“But the door isn’t an illusion, you’re right,” Annie said, frowning.
“The ghost can obviously affect things physically,” Corrie said. “You two saw the way she threw the tarot cards at me. But if all she can do is throw cards around, open and close doors, and create illusions, then the magic professors are probably justified in saying that ghosts can’t hurt humans.”
“I think we’ve talked this over enough,” Annie said, standing up and stretching. “There’s not much else we can do at the moment, unless we find out more about her. Wait—Dawn, did you ever talk to your aunt?”
“Oh, shoot, I forgot,” Dawn said. “I called her yesterday, but she was probably at her pottery wheel or something. I’ll try again tonight.”
“Then for right now, I move that we go get some dinner and try to stick with other conversation topics,” Annie said.
“Sounds good to me,” Corrie said, grinning and bouncing to her feet.