Chapter 11: A History Lesson


“Come on Mitch!” Reece shouted from below. “Time for a history lesson!”

Mitch peered her head into the hole.

“Reece!” she called, making her way down a rickety stepladder. “I can’t see anything! Where are—”

With the click of a lamp chain, the room was flooded with light.

“Whoa!” Mitch exhaled, jumping off the last rung of the ladder onto a big wood beam.

“Careful not to step on the boards,” Reece warned. “You’ll fall straight through. The beams are made of cypress. They’re the only reason the place is still standing. This house is old…and seriously damaged from Zahlamaer’s hurricane.”

Zahlamaer’s hurricane,” Mitch asked puzzled. “Are you talking about the hurricane? The one that wiped out Rover Landing and killed all those settlers a hundred years ago?”

Reece nodded. “Those weren’t just settlers, Mitch. They were chrontercogs.”

Reece pointed to the life size oil paintings stacked against the walls of the vault.

“They called themselves Rovers. And they came here, to Ol’ Cypress, to start a school. Zahlamaer found out about them though. At first, he tried to get them to join his Trust, but they refused, so he ordered his viceroys to hunt them all down, and destroy them.”

Mitch surveyed the faces of the people staring at her from every direction of the room. Their features were all so different. Some appeared to be quite young, while others looked very old. Their clothes were a strange mix of fashions from different times and places—back-laced gowns and long head-dresses, colorful kimonos, simple tunics and woolen trousers, hooded cloaks, buckskin dresses, and baggy pantaloons—but they all wore the same mysterious expression. It looked like they had an important secret to share.

“These are all voyage vessels, of course.”

“Voyage vessels? I read about those. They’re the bodies you get stuck in when you go back in time, right?”

“Right. If me or you were to go back to a different century like this, we’d look totally weird. People freak out if you’re too different from them.”

Mitch nodded. This was something she really did understand.

“So you have to blend in,” Reece continued. “That’s where voyage vessels comes in, and this is where it gets strange.”

Mitch raised an eyebrow. “This is where it gets strange?”

Reece laughed. “Okay, so I guess it’s all a little strange, but stay with me. So you’re in the Corridor, and there’s all these doors. You open one and then whoosh!—you get sucked through this giant vortex!”

Reece waived his arms wildly and collapsed onto the beam.

Mitch giggled and hopped over Reece to study a portrait that caught her attention. The man’s expression looked so familiar.

“You feel your face changing shape.”

Reece pulled one side of his face up and the other down.

“And then your body starts stretching, or maybe collapsing—it’s like you’re this lump of clay being molded by these giant hands!”

Reece wiggled his fingers.

“And then, all of a sudden, you land in this stuffy chamber, and there’s this old guy in there—or old lady—they’re Timekeepers, but we call them ‘Tinkers,’ because they tinker around with your voyage vessel to make sure everything looks alright before you cross the timegate into the past. They’re real smart, you know. They don’t do anything but study the time they’re assigned to. And they can live in the Corridor forever if they want to!”

Mitch stared hard at the face in front of her, half listening to Reece. One eye was covered by a black patch. The other looked like it could have been her own—the same amber iris and green flecks around the pupil, the same thick black lashes.

“You found the pirate,” Reece said, jumping to his feet. “Cool huh? He’s the one Rover we don’t know much about, but I suspect he’s one of your ancestors.”

Mitch nodded, dropping her gaze from the pirate’s face to his ruffled shirt, lace-up pants, and fold-over leather boots. A long sword hung from his waist, and a red bandana pulled back a thick tangle of black hair from his face.

“You can usually tell who’s who by the eyes, but everything else looks like the time you’re traveling to. The Rovers had these portraits made so they’d be able to recognize each other. You can travel back in time by yourself, but you need a tracker to bring you back to the present before the moon cycle resets.”

“And the tracker needs to know what you look like in your voyage vessel,” Mitch said, studying the portrait of her Rover ancestor.

“Exactly,” Reece nodded, glad she was catching on. “So the Rovers would get Zahlamaer and his Trust chasing them all over time, and then they’d regroup here, at Ol’ Cypress, and pick up with the school. They wanted people to understand magic, from the basic stuff, like illusions and timeshaft travel, to the most advanced supernatural knowledge—how to harness the energy of a flarefield, how to generate charges in the past that can stretch to the present. They started with a handful of apprentices, but the school grew.”  

“I’m guessing Zahlamaer didn’t appreciate that.”

“No,” Reece said gravely. “He didn’t. Eventually he found out about Ol’ Cypress and released a storm of destruction. Twenty-six young magicians and eight chrontercogs lost their lives. Only five survived. Your ancestor, the pirate, was one of them. So was my great-great granddaddy.”

Reece nodded toward a portrait of a young snake charmer with electric blue eyes.

“Meet the alchemist, Ivanovich Rostov, my mama’s granddaddy’s daddy. He was an inventor too,” he added proudly.

Mitch smiled admiringly at the portrait of Reece’s ancestor in his voyage vessel.

Reece hopped to another beam. “These are the other survivors,” he said, positioning three portraits side by side.

“This is Señora Maribel de la Cruz.” Reece pointed to the portrait of a Viking.

“And this is Tsuki-Yomi Masamune.” He gestured toward a sweet-looking village girl with flaming red hair and a face full of freckles.

“And this,” Reece said, his tone turning severe, “is the Marquis Gaspar Richelieu.”

Mitch gave an involuntary shudder as she stared into the hard black eyes of the man in the portrait. His expression was different than the others—cruel and full of contempt. He wore a blood red robe with a thick black sash that draped around his shoulders and gathered around his waist.

“We’re pretty sure it was him who led Zahlamaer to Rover Landing,” Reece explained. “All the others traveled far from their own time and settled into their voyage vessels as fast as they could. The marquis, on the other hand…”

Reece pointed to the jeweled medallions hanging from the marquis’ neck.

“He couldn’t bear to be without his riches, so he refused to go too deep into hiding. He’s someone who would betray his friends if the price was right. You can see it in his eyes.” 

Mitch locked eyes with the marquis’ mocking stare. She felt a great surge of anger rush through her.

“When Zahlamaer found this place, he tried to blow it all down—the land, the house, the teachers and the students. He wanted to wipe out the Rovers and stop the spread of magic. But the Rovers got word Zahlamaer was coming for them. They had just enough time to hide their treasures before the hurricane hit with full force. Those five chrontercogs escaped through the flarefield, but they had to stay in hiding for years.”

“But their children came back,” Mitch said thoughtfully, surveying the portraits. “My great-grandmamma, my granddaddy and great-uncle, even my mama and my daddy—my whole family lived here once.”

Reece nodded. “Mine too. And it was Mr. Arlington and Mr. Scarlett who brought them here. They’re the ones who started the Collective with the last of the Rovers and their descendants. They’re the ones who finally figured out how to end Zahlamaer’s reign of terror through time. They brought our families back together. They closed the Corridor! Do you see now Mitch—your granddaddy and great-uncle really are heroes! They’re the greatest, most—”

BOOM! A loud explosion from below rattled the walls of the vault. Mitch dropped her bag in surprise, and The Corridor Atlas spilled onto the floor. Currents of light shot up the walls as the book started to glow. One by one, the other books scattered throughout the room began to emit the same strange blue light.

Reece’s jaw dropped. “Mitch!” he exclaimed. “Why do you have an atlas in your bag?”

Before Mitch could explain, another explosion shook the room, but this time it was followed by a monstrous bellow.


“My granddaddy!” Mitch cried. “He’s down there!”

Mitch leapt across the beams and scrambled up the stepladder.

“Wait!” Reece shouted, chasing after her. “Mitch!”

Mitch darted across the laboratory into the hallway and bounded down the stairs two at a time.

What was that?!” she called over her shoulder.

“Mitch!” Reece cried, “Wait up!”

Reece spilled into the hallway and then sprinted toward the staircase, leaping onto the wobbly railing and sliding down the spiral flight of stairs until he landed with a thud in front of the passage leading to the basement door.

Eliot—” he huffed, standing and trying to catch his breath as Mitch caught up with him. “It’s Eliot Blackmont. He’s one of the Trust.”

Mitch started back, momentarily surprised at the revelation, and then pushed on Reece with all her force.

“Reece! My granddaddy’s down there!”

Another inhuman howl split the air.


“Mitch!” Reece cried, “Listen to me!” He grabbed her shoulders and forced her eyes to meet his. 

“Your granddaddy is in no danger. It’s Eliot who is.” His electric blue eyes hardened.

Mitch’s body relaxed, and Reece released his grip.  

“We found him in the flarefield just the other day, wandering around in a daze. That’s why Mr. Arlington and Mr. Scarlet got the summons. They’re down in the basement with him right now, trying to find out what he knows.”

STOOOOOPPPPPPPPPP!” cried a voice from below.

Mitch’s face turned from frantic to furious.

“What are they doing to him?” she demanded.

“Nothing he doesn’t deserve,” Reece retorted angrily, but seeing the look on Mitch’s face, he changed his tone.

“Look Mitch, Eliot is a bad man. A really bad man. And he may be the only shot we have at finding out where Zahlamaer is now that the Corridor’s been reopened.”


Mitch gathered herself and took a deep breath. Her amber eyes locked with Reece’s blue. “Reece Rainier, you let me pass now.”

Reece looked pleadingly into the eyes of his old friend, but he knew she wasn’t going to budge. He sighed heavily and turned toward the door, winding the gears of the lock. One click, two clicks, three clicks, and then the sound of metal sliding against itself.

The door opened. Mitch ran down the stairs. Reece winced as she cried out.

Granddaddy! STOP!”   

New chapters of The Secret Corridor will be published every Friday to Listen at SpotifyApple Podcasts, or Buzzsprout.

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