Inventory in the warehouse was a never ending task, a chore that was never finished and an entry on a to-do list that could never be completely crossed off. Most of the time Claudia didn’t mind doing inventory. Usually because she could always find some way to make it entertaining; there were just so many fascinating artifacts that did some awesome-sauce or just plain odd things. But, occasionally, not even the wackiest of artifacts could relieve the boredom of taking inventory.
This was the internal monologue running through Claudia’s head - and since when did she start referring to herself in the third person? - as she checked the item number for a very old looking book. Since nothing else in this aisle, or the last three, had been out of place or needed attention, Claudia’s startled jump when the scanner emitted a loud beeping could probably be excused.
“Jeebers, are you sure in the wrong place.” Claudia remarked to the book, sitting innocently on the shelf. “How in the multi-verse did you manage to get out of the Escher Vault?”
“Personal Journal of the Snow Queen? Well that’s a bit of a pretentious title...or wait, wasn’t that a fairy tale?” Claudia snapped on some neutralizer gloves and gently pulled the ancient text off the shelf and examined it. It was a fairly ordinary looking book as far as ancient, personal journals of supposed royalty went. She could just barely make out a faded blue snowflake embossed on the spine. “Really keeping with the snowy theme there, aren’t ya?”
Setting the journal back on the shelf, Claudia turned back to the information the inventory system had brought up to try and figure out what to do with the misplaced item.
“Well, well, well, says here there’s a portrait of your royal snowyness in the Art Gallery. Shall we go see what your illustrious icy-ness looked like?”
Claudia had never been one to ignore a mystery, or her own curiosity, and sure, it had gotten her in trouble before, but that was no reason not to go check out this portrait, right?
Somewhere within the depths of the system that ran the warehouse a countdown was ticking. Now to be fair, there were many countdowns and timers ticking away within the bowels of the warehouse system, some of these countdowns had been steadily going for centuries and some for only a few short months. But this one particular countdown had been set forty-eight years ago. Forty-eight years, ten months, two weeks, three days, nine hours and fifty-six minutes exactly.
48y 10m 2w 3d 9h 56m 27s
Claudia is pretty sure that she just got bamboozled by an artifact. Maybe. Okay, so it might have been two artifacts, and it’s way more than just a maybe. She is also mostly sure that it isn’t a bad thing, whether or not it’s a good thing is still up for debate. So it is a neutral thing for the moment.
She had had no intention whatsoever of actually reading the misplaced journal that had somehow escaped from the Escher Vault, absolutely none. And, fine, maybe going to check out the portrait of Her Snowyness with the journal before alerting Artie about it wasn’t the best idea. Neither was bringing the journal back to the inn with her. In her defense, she had completely forgotten that she was even carrying the journal at all. Which is one of the reasons she was near positive she had been duped by an artifact, or two. There had just been something about that damned portrait that had sucked her in.
When she had first noticed that she had smuggled the journal from the warehouse, past Artie and Leena, to her room at the inn she had attempted to take it back and failed miserably. Every time she had tried to pick it up with the intention of returning it to the warehouse or giving it to Artie she couldn’t find it. Plus, she wasn’t sure Artie would even be able to see the journal, Myka hadn’t earlier and she had been sitting pretty much on top of it!
Now she was simply sitting on her bed, staring at the journal sitting innocently in front of her trying to not think about taking it back to the warehouse so she wouldn’t lose the thing again while also trying to figure out what to do about the whole mess. But the more she thought about everything, the journal and the portrait, the stronger the urge to read the journal became. Finally the itchy, and likely artifact induced, urge became too much.
My father told me today that I write well enough now to start writing my own story so it can be added to all the stories kept in the library about all the past queens and kings and princes and princesses. ‘A chronicle of our history, accounts of our ancestors who came before us so that we may learn from them’ is what he always tells me about that section.
After he gave me the book mother told me that maybe this book can be like a friend, but I don’t think a book could replace Anna. But she doesn’t remember about my powers at all, and father says I can’t tell her about them either. That and even with the gloves I can barely control my powers. I just cannot hurt Anna again.
If there was any more writing on that first page it was illegible. In fact the rest of the page looked like water had been spilled on it, all rippled with splotches and blots of ink where a word might have been.
Claudia turned the page and continued to read. Meanwhile, in the depths of the warehouse, a countdown continued to tick away.
48y 10m 2w 3d 9h 23m 12s
48y 10m 2w 2d 19h 49m 10s
Claudia had ended up spending the entire night reading the journal. She hadn’t really meant to, but it was like she physically couldn’t put it down. The journal had finally relinquished its grip on her when her alarm clock went off, by then she was nearly halfway through the journal. From what she’d read, if it was true, it sounded like this Snow Queen, Elsa, had some sort of artifact-like powers, but with no evidence in the journal of any artifacts actually causing them. So maybe there had been some artifact shenaniganry that gave her “powers”
As Claudia thundered downstairs to grab breakfast she vowed to look into artifacts that bestowed supernatural powers on people. It’d be much more interesting than doing inventory, that’s for sure.
48y 10mo 1w 6d 23h 10m 3s
In the last 2 days Claudia had managed to accomplish several things. She had finished reading that damned journal, she had researched artifacts that could permanently bestow powers on people, and she had managed to successfully evade doing inventory, all without alerting Artie to any of it.
48y 10mo 1w 5d 6h 23m 12s
Water had begun to pool in a shadowy corner of the Bronze Sector of the Warehouse. An area rarely traversed by agents, it went unnoticed. A great cracking sound like the breaking of ice atop a frozen lake echoed across the vast expanse of the Warehouse.