"Things like this never work like they do in the textbooks," Jantzi said again. The atrium of the Musical Arts and Sciences building was empty besides the trees, Jantzi and Obermeyer, and the old statue known as "Looking Up" since its original name had been lost to antiquity. There was occasional movement in the halls of the building, but almost nobody came out to the atrium, even during the busiest times. It was quite overgrown.
"Quiet," whispered Obermeyer. "I'm starting to think that YOU never work! You're letting me do everything." Her ears perked forward as she, looked at the softly glowing tellical instruments she had conjured into being, floating before her hands. "Make yourself useful and try to tune in on this guy's signature again."
The other dog dog gave "Looking up" a sidelong glance, then rubbed his hands together and chanted. As he moved his hands apart, a similar instrument made of soft light appeared, similar to the group of items Obermeyer had already conjured. "Same as it was before. Just like I told you: he was once alive; definitely a transmutation effect, but the residual trace of the conversion is only strong enough to register as present; I still can't get a good reading, even with your dampers active."
He crossed his arms across his chest and frowned at the statue. "I do so work. You wouldn't have even known "Looking Up" here was anything out of the ordinary before I told you so." The statue's face made him nervous; it wasn't so much the knowledge that the individual had once been living; it was the strange features.
"Looking Up" wasn't a dog. He wasn't a big or little cat, a bat, a raccoon, or any of the other less common races. He had horns; they were massive things, with numerous prongs like a deer might have; but the speaking deer were extinct. He wasn't exactly a deer, either. Nobody knew what he was supposed to be.
Until it became clear to Jantzi that "Looking Up" had once been alive, the mystery of finding out what kind of thing he was, exactly, became a lot more enticing. It was the perfect senior project, once he found a grunt like Obermeyer to do some of the more tedious, technical conjuring and channeling.
"Basilisk," Obermeyer barked. Her finger passed through one of her conjured tellical devices; it expanded and its screen grew brighter. "Last one of those around here was.what, at least 400 years ago? This fellow's older than we thought."
"More like 700 years. But you know, I had a feeling about this." Jantzi grinned and opened up a book, thumbing through pages.
Obermeyer was startled by it; not that she hadn't seen books, but she didn't expect Jantzi to be the type of dog to have one. Or to spend a lot of time reading. "You have a theory?"
"Yes. The fact that "Looking Up" is here, on the campus.did you know the faculty here had several abberants as faculty members, back in the day? Not only was there a harpy, and a unicorn, there was." He trailed off and thumbed through a few pages, then turned the book and held it up. "Hauke Von Friedrichs. Non-distinguished career, except for a Conservation of Tellical Weights theorem.back when it was fashionable to re-frame everything in terms of infinite sums.
"The little blurb here states he was mocked for trying to develop Harmonic Engines.a little bit out of his depth, there.and then quit due to family issues."
Obermeyer was already searching through the aura database, and had found an entry just as Jantzi shook his head. "Family issues," she snorted. "That could mean anything. But he does have an entry. Incredible! It's almost 980 years old!"
"There are older ones there," said Jantzi. "But queue old Professor Fredric up for us. Let's see if it gets "Looking Up" in a chatty mood."
After a bit more concentration and linking with her devices, Obermeyer created an effect that spoofed the ancient, departed faculty's presence; Jantzi only conjured one device with a big speaker on it, and listened to it intently.
For a while, nothing.then suddenly a booming voice almost made the dog drop his concentration enough to nearly dispel the tellical energy sustaining his device. "Stars! I see the stars." There was a soft moan, and then a question: "Who was I?"
Obermeyer's tail was wagging. "Normal disorientation, but a definite reaction! One of Hauke von Friedrich's victims, for sure." She boosted the signal on the false presence.
The disembodied voice sighed, and even though it came from Jantzi's device, the dogs had the distinct impression that the statue was speaking to them; of course, in a roundabout way, something deep inside it WAS speaking to them. "Are you there? I.I remember who I am now. Ahh, the stars.the stars."
"Is that why you're looking up?" Jantzi was whispering into the phantom box made of light, cradled between his palms. "What's your name?"
"Stargazing is.it was my life," it answered. "Norman. That's not you, Hauke, is it? Are you there? Who are these young wolves?"
Jantzi and Obermeyer glanced at each other; wolves? A true wolf hadn't been seen in centuries. Obermeyer leaned toward Janzi's device. "We're here with him. We wanted to know what you were watching. And..uh.your clan. Where are you from?"
"The North Circle Moose. I'm their astronomer. I can see now more clearly; The Blue Cow has moved so far from her old constellation that I'm sure it's been.why, it must have been 1000 years since I noticed it. Time moves so fast.Hauke, you were right. Time moves so fast.they whirl by so fast that I stopped thinking about them for a little while."
There was a loud, brief clap of laughter. "A little while! A millennium, almost to the day. Maybe almost to the year. Now I should pay more attention. This has been a splendid gift, Hauke. Just as you said it would be.a splendid gift. I just need to keep watching..keep my focus."
The voice started to fade away. "Norman? Norman, you said you're a moose? Could you tell us more about that? Are you related to any deer?"
There was another long sigh, almost like a yawn. "Wolves..yipping, howling. Be quiet for a while. I'm tired.I just want to watch." And it spoke no more.
"Better talk to someone about getting his name officially changed. Maybe we can put out a plaque. 'Norman the...' What did he call himself? What are mooses? Meese?" Jantzi scratched his head.
"Don't know, but I plan to do some digging. There's at least one paper about that, right there. A lost species! Imagine that..tucked away on campus all this time."
The canines dismissed their tellical devices and hurried away, excited for the find. "I could get three or four papers out of this," Obermeyer giggled.
"Not if I write them first," Jantzi said to himself. "Though I wish I'd paid more attention to the settings she was using."
Perhaps an opening to some mysteries: why did so many races seem to have gone extinct? And did Norman ask for this, or is he making the best of what's happened?
(Thanks to Tzologeist for the artwork!)