Chapter 17
The Phoenix's Treasure

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

Gally seemed to be under the impression that Giger used some arcane skill to detect whenever someone was at the door. It was actually much simpler. He had rigged a simple circuit to light up a crystal in his lab to alert him whenever the door was opened. Gally was never particularly aware of her surroundings, so she always seemed surprised when he showed up behind her.
For some reason, she was not still at the door by the time he came upstairs from the basement. Usually she was good about keeping any guests occupied until he arrived, but this time it was different and the reason soon became clear. Much to Giger's chagrin, it was Mordekai of all people, sitting on the couch and holding a teacup and saucer while Gally poured for him. Though Mordekai was not the absolute last person Giger hoped to see, he was not too far down the list.
"What are you doing here?" Giger demanded, not too sharply but not hiding his displeasure much either.
"Hi, Uncle Giger," Mordekai said in his fake kid voice. "Your housekeeper let me in." He nodded to Gally. "Thank you."
Gally, who had just finished pouring Mordekai's cup of tea, replied, "You know, you really don't look anything alike."
Mordekai shrugged.
"I guess I take after my mother."
A little of his real tone slipped in there. Giger had his doubts about how long he could keep up the kid act and at any rate, he did not want Gally around for whatever the two of them had to discuss.
"Mordekai, could we have a word downstairs?"
"And waste this tea Miss--"
"--Miss Gally made?"
Giger crossed his arms and tapped his foot impatiently while Mordekai took his sweet time drinking his tea. When he was finally done, he offered the teacup to Gally, saying, "Thank you, Miss Gally. It was quite delicious."
"Why, thank you," Gally replied. "It's nice to be appreciated for a change."
She eyed Giger pointedly. The last thing Giger needed was for her to get an overinflated sense of importance. Besides, if Mordekai was showing his true face to her, Giger would seem like an all-loving saint by comparison.
"Are you ready now?" Giger asked.
"Yes, Uncle Giger."
Giger motioned to the door to the basement. Once that door was securely closed behind them, Giger wasted no time getting some answers.
"What was that?"
"I have to maintain appearances," Mordekai replied. "And I could ask you the same thing. Who is that girl and what is she doing here?"
Giger sighed.
"I suppose there isn't any point in hiding it from you. You know the bronze statues that are everywhere?"
"Yes, of course."
"They date from before the Cataclysm, right?"
Mordekai nodded.
"That's what they say."
"Well, I had a theory and I tested it out. I got her."
Mordekai grabbed Giger's sleeve the moment the realization set in.
"You mean to say you turned a bronze statue into living flesh?"
"Reverted it, technically."
Mordekai went silent for a moment. It was a pretty big revelation, after all.
"She's an Ancient."
"You aren't the first person to have that theory, but I've never heard of anyone successfully identifying the curse, much less breaking it. Impressive."
Giger had never seen Mordekai genuinely impressed about anything in all the years he had known him. It would figure that the sentiment would not last long.
"What were you thinking!?" he demanded. "A high-level spell like that cast in the open!? No wonder the Witch-hunters have gotten so active lately."
"I had to do something, didn't I!?" Giger snapped back. "I wasn't going to be able to figure out the Lost Technology on my own and Kamellia doesn't have the time for me to screw around with that garbage."
Giger shook his head.
"When she first came to, she didn't remember a damn thing. Then about a week ago, she recognized another statue. Proved to be traumatic enough to snap her out of her amnesia. Problem is that she was nothing but a clerk in her old life. She knows almost nothing about Lost Technology and what little she does know has told me that most of my collection is worthless."
By then they were in Giger's lab. He picked up a piece on the workbench that was about as worthless as any of the rest of it.
"I guess it was stupid to think that this stuff would still work three hundred years later."
Looking a little disappointed himself, Mordekai said, "Then my reason for coming here will be less helpful than I thought."
"What reason?" Giger asked.
Mordekai pulled out a package from his bag and offered it to Giger.
"I got my hands on more record-disks from the archives."
Giger took the package and walked over to another piece of Lost Technology on the workbench.
"Gally told me this box here can read the record-disks," he said, "but it's powered by electricity and I need something called a display to see anything."
"Would she happen to know what this 'display' looks like?" Mordekai asked.
"I'm sure she does."
"Well enough to draw a picture of it?"
Giger shrugged.
"I can't say how well she draws. Can't be much worse than her cooking. Why?"
"I have my own channels," Mordekai replied. "Perhaps I can get my hands on one of these displays. Crafting an electrical power source shouldn't be too difficult."
"Even if we do that, it's apparently not that simple. Gally says that you can't just shoot electricity into these things and make them work and even if we can control the power supply, there are hundreds of little components that may have failed in the past three centuries."
"We have to try at the very least," Mordekai said. "It would seem that the time has come for us to cooperate more closely."
"Aren't you worried about the Witch-hunters?"
"Should I be?"
"I know they've got their eyes on me," Giger said. "What's more, I hear they called in Altai Turco."
Unfazed, Mordekai replied, "Yes, I know."
"You know?"
"Inspector Clemence paid me a visit. Or, rather, he paid Kamellia a visit."
Giger went quiet for a moment before awkwardly asking him, "How, how's she doing?"
"Well as you can hope under the circumstances."
There was a clear melancholy in Mordekai's voice. He was never one to let his emotions surface too much, but Kamellia was his weak spot. Giger should know. As much as he hated to admit it, their feelings were the same.
He knew his own efforts were not enough. He had to take it a step further.
"Let's go talk to her," he said.
"Talk to her?" Mordekai asked, confused. "You can't possibly be thinking about going to Kamellia with this."
"No, not Kamellia. I mean we should talk to Gally. Keeping her out of the loop isn't going to protect her and you might be able to ask the right questions to get something useful out of her."
Mordekai thought on the proposition for a moment and said, "I suppose you're right. Let's go."
They went back upstairs, where Gally was tidying up, or at least pretending to be busy. When she noticed them, she stood up straight to greet them.
"Oh, Giger, uh, I mean, Mr. Taus. Are you talking with your nephew?"
"He isn't my nephew, Gally," Giger said. He then gestured to Mordekai. "Meet Mordekai Grummond."
"Mordekai Grummond? You mean--?"
Gally was interrupted by the sound of flapping wings. With the cat out of the bag, Ramstein no longer felt obliged to remain out of view. Mordekai held up his arm to act as a perch.
"Hello, Master Grummond," Ramstein said as he alighted on Mordekai's arm.
"Hello, old friend," Mordekai replied. "You've gained some weight."
Ramstein bristled a little at this and told him, "You simply have forgotten what it feels like to bear me on a child's arm."
"What has it been now, sixty years?"
"Sixty-two since we first met, Master Grummond," Ramstein said. "Fifty-six since Master Mardi parted with me."
"Poor old Master Mardi..." Mordekai sighed. "Did Barz tell you about Turco?"
"I had to settle for overhearing it."
Mordekai gave Giger a disapproving look.
"Come now, Giger, is that any way to treat noble Ramstein?"
"Master Falkner has always been lacking in respect," Ramstein said, "and I do not expect him to change now."
Giger rolled his eyes. It had been a long time since he was graced with the reproach of both Ramstein and Mordekai. He was spared further disapproval by Gally of a all people.
"Giger said that Turco guy was your rival," she said to Mordekai.
Mordekai adjusted his glasses with his free hand and replied, "I suppose a little storytelling is in order. There's much that I'd like to ask you and it's only a fair exchange."
Mordekai lifted his arm slightly, a cue for Ramstein to get off. The old raven flew over to his perch by the bookshelf and Mordekai began his story.
"Altai Turco was an apprentice to Samuar Mardi, the heir to the line of Belmond Weiss. It was Turco's hope that he would succeed Master Mardi, but the honor went to me. Instead of creating my own familiar, I inherited Ramstein, who was the familiar of Belmond Weiss in case you didn't know. Master Mardi then took me in as his apprentice. It's a rare thing for a master wizard to have two apprentices. It inevitably leads to trouble."
He gave Giger a look to punctuate the awkwardness of his last comment. Rather than dwell on it, though, he simply continued.
"Turco made the mistake of thinking he could take what could only be given. It cost him, but he didn't learn from his mistakes. Now he makes his living hunting other wizards, no doubt thinking that when all the rogue mages have been hunted down, he will finally stand as the foremost wizard in the world. Simple, petty ambition, one thing that hasn't changed in all these years."
"Giger said he was trouble," Gally said.
Mordekai nodded.
"Exceedingly so, yes."
"But you beat him before."
"That was a long time ago and I don't yet have a full command over my powers. It would be dangerous to risk a wizard's duel with him now."
"Hopefully it won't come to that," Giger said.
"If we can move our timetable ahead, it may become less of a problem," Mordekai replied. He then turned to Gally, saying, "And for that we're going to need your help."
"I've already told Giger what I know," Gally said. "I mean, I don't really know much of anything."
"You know a little and a little knowledge can take you far if applied correctly. We can start with this thing you call a display."