“Come in a little please,” said the Walrus. “Otherwise the gateway will be seen.”
He floated back into the hallway and the Jennings, Miss Henderson and Morag followed him in. The door closed behind and as their eyes adapted the corridor seemed a deep blue colour. Ghost fish swam past in little shoals. Apparitions of octopus, wraiths of rays and phantom turtles swam around. It was no longer clear where the wall was.
“So,” said the Walrus, “How may I be of assistance to you?”
A perplexed looking crab came up to Sir John’s feet and squeezed his boot inquisitively. Sir John couldn’t feel a thing.
“We are, uh, looking for a key part,” said Sir John.
“Are you sure?” said the Walrus as a confused tiny whale flitted by.
“Fairly certain,” said Sir John.
“And when, if, you get the key, what will you do with what it opens,” said the Walrus.
“Well, we’re rather hoping to keep it from some others, some rather dastardly chaps,” said Sir John, “who we think would like to use it to kill us.”
“And you think you’d do better at this task than four supernatural creatures that set appropriate challenges to one who search for it? That you are a better guardian than those who have guarded the key for centuries?” said the Walrus.
“Er…” said Sir John, “Well, we aren’t intending to be critical of the excellent work you have all done but…”
“They have something special,” said Marie, “something dangerous that might help them achieve their goal. And they are devious, and they have one part already.”
“Hmm,” said the Walrus. “Very well, it is your prerogative to seek and it is mine to hide. You understand then there is a challenge?”
They all nodded as a sea snake wound its way around them.
“Let me explain the challenge for you. As I’m sure you may imagine, it is a test of one’s emotional resilience. We are testing to ensure that one who gains access to the power the key permits is stable enough to earn it. You will be presented with certain emotional truths. These will be hard to hear and hard to bear. Anyone that can bear them will have passed the test.”
“How will we know,” said Marie, “if we have borne these truths?”
“It will be clear,” said the Walrus. “It always is. Also, I must inform you, you will be on your own. As your emotions are yours only, so must be your responses. Is that all very clear?”
The group nodded.
“Does just one… take this test?” said Sir John.
“Anyone can. Indeed, all of you can. The tests are very arduous even for the strongest, so I would advise you to be sure you are in your best frame of mind.”
Miss Henderson looked at Marie and then Morag.
“Perhaps,” she said, “we would be better placed to come back after a big cooked breakfast and a nice cup of tea.”
The Walrus smiled, the door creaked open and the ghost aquarium vanished in the daylight.