Primus: The Book of Shadows
11/1/1937: At his current age of 8, there is little to be noted at this time.
7/1/1938: Classes taken at Candlebridge University: Prydic History; Myth & Folklore; Fencing
- Dad: Head curator at the University of Candlebridge (Richard)
- Mom: Curator at the University of Candlebridge (Nellie)
- Oldest Brother (plus 9 years) Wallace: Works mostly with father
- Brother (plus 6 years) Tye
- Brother (plus 3 years) Terrell: Rule follower, works mostly with mother
- Brother (plus 1 year) Hadley: Shows little intelligence, trouble maker
- Harlan: Born 10/17/1929
- Sister (minus 1 year) Faith
- Sister (minus 3 years)Tatum
Early Character Perceptions
As of 11/1/1937:
- Harlan is eight and the youngest of five boys. There are also two younger sisters. He lives at the University of Candlebridge, where his parents are the curators of the college’s antiquities. His father and oldest brother are often away on archeological digs. Their current project is the ancient Sidhe city of Clu’Clin-lum (site has been shut down by the crown following the mirror accident), just outside of Caerdun (capital of Prydwin). This leaves Harlan’s mother in charge and the primary disciplinarian in the family. She is well respected, if at least occasionally tested by Harlan.
- Harlan is curious by nature and upbringing. He is often willing to snoop around where one shouldn’t and try the boundaries of implied intent. Harlan is also not one to back down from a challenge, nor take a slight unanswered. Revenge is not beyond motivating his actions at this early age. An eye for an eye fits into his idea of fair play, which has put him at odds with his slightly older brother Hadley (who now resides at the Windahall Asylum). In contrast, Harlen idolizes his oldest brother, Wallace, who gets to do “all the neat stuff with Dad.”
- Because of his parent’s profession, Harlan has developed an odd sense of ownership. As he sees it, what is just lying around is eligible for the taking. If there is none about to argue the acquisition, then the item is yours. This is not a fully formed notion to Harlen, but it is one that is starting to take shape.
- If Harlan has any childhood enemies at this point, one would have to say it is Hadley. This mostly stems from an incident where Hadley framed Harlen for taking a sword out of the armory. This rivalry is currently on hold due to the recent events at Clu’Clin-lum that sent Hadley to the asylum in Windahall. The other potential enemy would have to be the older brother (Horat, age 13) of Seren Thorn. Harlan didn’t take too kindly to his insults. As a result of mouthing off in turn, Harlen received a hard clout to the temple and a bouncing thump to the stone wall. Though no lasting physical damage was done, Harlen won’t soon forget the feelings of injustice at his expense.
- Childhood friends include Valda Carne, daughter of the university’s headmaster. She is about the same age (a few months older)and is taking similar classes. Harlan and Valda share a “blood oath” that was accidently performed at a very sacred place and holds significant power in connecting these two characters. Another potential friend is Ethan, son of a traveling merchant. They’ve only spent about a week in each other’s company, but they became fast friends and confidants.
Breaking the Mirror
Mid October, 1937
It finally happened! I went on my first dig with Dad. Unfortunately, so did the rest of the family: not that that’s so bad. The lone exception is Hadley of course. For the most part my two younger sisters just played with their dolls while I tagged along with my older brothers. Perhaps if my brother Hadley had just stayed home, maybe things wouldn’t have ended so strangely.
We arrived in Caerdun on the third day out from the university at Candlebridge. Thankfully, the weather held and we were able to make it to the capital without incident. I never thought a city could be so vast or smelly. Dad says Caerdun has been the capital of Prydwin for more than fifteen hundred years, and that before humans built on the location it was the site of an ancient Sidhe city known as Clu’Clin-lum. Clu’Clin-lum is where we would eventually discover the artifact that caused so much trouble. But before that happened, a few more people would take an interest in my father’s work.
It turned out that my family wasn’t the only one to travel from the university. Dad’s boss and head of the school, Mr. Carne, was there with his wife and daughter. We were all staying at an inn known as “The Tainted Wine.” His daughter, Valda, was nice enough. At least she didn’t rat me out to my parents when I sucker punched Hadley for acting stupid. Serves the butt-head right for setting me up to take the blame on handling one of those fancy swords down in the university’s basement. Yet, the Carne’s weren’t the last ones to make an appearance. As my brother Wallace put it, some “very bad” people showed up to see how we were progressing with their “investment.”
Apparently, digging a large hole requires a large amount of coin. Who would have thought! I mean, I’ve dug plenty of holes and never once has anybody paid me a shilling for my efforts. But I guess there are those who do it professionally and need to be paid. So, as it turns out, Dad and Mr. Carne had borrowed a significant sum of gold to excavate the site and now these investors were looking for satisfaction. I found out later that they were known by the family name of Thorn. The name fits. The woman in charge seems to be quite prickly and ready to draw blood from any whom would brush against her. She also brought several rough looking men with her, along with her son and daughter. The girl, Seren, who was about my age, was willing to chat and teach me a new card game. A flower amongst pricks, if you will. Can’t say the same for her brother, Horat. He was a bit older and a whole lot meaner. Insults and a quick fist seemed to be his preferred form of communication. The arrival of the Thorns definitely put Valda’s and my parents on edge, while it gave me a throbbing headache from being bounced off a wall courtesy of my indiscretion around Horat.
The following day we were all set to digging in earnest, including my dad and brothers, while Lady Thorn and her companions supervised. Even Hadley was there, despite an earlier accident that had led to a very serious laceration to his upper leg. Tensions were high, expectations great. Thankfully we uncovered a single stone slab that hinted at an entrance to the lower level early on. Once removed, everyone made their way down.
On initial inspection the room was empty, save for a large oval mirror propped upon one wall. Below the mirror sat a large stone basin. Like the fancy swords back home, these items were void of dust despite the passing centuries. Quickly, one of Lady Thorn’s companions stepped forward to inspect the mirror. I believe his name was Velic, a well-dressed, handsome man who had a slight metallic scent about him. By his mannerisms and general bearing, one might consider him a mage of some note. Velic seemed satisfied with what he saw there and said as much to Lady Thorn. Who, subsequently, informed my father that their debt had been paid in full. That’s when she commanded some of the diggers to take the mirror down from the wall and out the room.
To say that the rest of us were quite stunned by this turn of events would be putting it mildly. As we all stood there in silence, it was Hadley who finally voiced his displeasure with the unfolding situation. This outburst must have startled the diggers, because the mirror slipped from their grasp and dropped to the stone floor.
You would have thought the whole thing to shatter upon impact. Instead, the mirror bounced. Not much, mind you, but enough to send it back up for a repeat fall. This second fall, however, was its undoing, breaking off several pieces from the edge. The majority of the mirror stayed intact, but the damage was done. It was then that several disturbing things occurred in a manner that is difficult to relate after the chaos of the moment.
From what others reported afterwards, I not being one to have noticed at the time, upon the mirror’s breaking there was a release of energy. A force that affected some within the room, while leaving others untouched. Valda’s parents, my own, and some of the diggers were all sent into a catatonic state. Though still able to move, they lacked any self-motivation to do so. Otherwise, they seemed unharmed. Of all of the younger ones present, Hadley was the only one to be hit. I say hit because, in contrast to my parents, he was thrown from his feet, his stitches torn from his leg, and several teeth knocked from his head. I believe he received the worst of it because he was the last to speak, and thus, attracted the focus of whatever force was trapped in the mirror before it broke. But that’s just what I think.
What I did notice, however, was one of the oddest things I have ever seen in my life. From above the basin, where once the mirror rested, several drops of water fell. It was as if someone had ever so slightly opened a faucet where no faucet was to be found. This seemed to upset several individuals among Lady Thorn’s party, most significantly her daughter Seren, for she started yelling at everyone to quickly leave the room. I would have been more than happy to follow her suggestion, given that there was a fetid wind starting to build up within the small room, but my parents weren’t in any shape to move on their own. Added to the foul smelling wind was a hollowed breathing sound that was growing in intensity.
As much as I wanted to bolt for the opening, I could not simply leave my family to whatever horrors had been let loose. Lady Thorn and Velic had already proven themselves capable of doing otherwise, having quickly ascended the stairs. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one to stay behind. My brothers, Valda, and Seren were all frantically directing the stunned members of the party out of the chamber. To the credit of her family, Seren was willing and able to drag the seemingly lifeless body of Hadley out as well. All this transpired while the winds continued to breathe a deathly rattle.
Finally, with everyone out of the dig, we made it back to the safety of the inn. Most who had been struck catatonic started to return to normalcy within a few hours. That is all save one of the diggers and Hadley.
It seems that Hadley had truly received the worst of the effects. Where everyone had regained his or her wits, Hadley had thoroughly lost his. In the ensuing weeks, his mental state became more agitated, often resulting in fits of rage and long strands of rambling gibberish. Doctors from the island asylum, Windahall, came to investigate the situation and eventually departed with my brother. It is my understanding that Valda has a younger sister also interned there. Perhaps they’ll become friends like Valda and I. From what I hear of Alice, it would be a match celebrated in Hell.
But before they departed the doctors and several others ventured down to the chamber. Luckily, I was able to tag along. There they found the mirror still lying upon the ground. The wind had ceased to blow and the drips were no longer falling, but the stone basin was now full of water. Seren said that an opening to the elemental plain of water caused it. A portal is what I think she called it. Whatever that is. Since there seemed to be no apparent danger, the doctors wrapped up the mirror and took it back to their island as well.
If it were left at that, one might think the entire project was a loss for my family. But it turned out the chamber held more than just an ancient mirror. In truth, the room was a tomb.
While the adults had been busying themselves with the mirror, I decided to investigate the rest of the room. To my surprise there were several alcoves to be found on both sides, twenty-four in all. In each of these rested the remains of what I can only speculate to be one of the Sidhe. I say this because each skull possessed an intact jaw line full of serrated teeth. And the overall size of each skull was slightly larger than a normal human, with elongated eye sockets. The weight was also less than one would expect of a full specimen. Though I’ve shown it to a few of my peers, I’ve yet to share it with my dad or any of the other adults present. I’m sure Dad will want it for the university’s collection, but not until I get home. And because I couldn’t help myself, I snatched a piece of the broken mirror from the floor. I think I’ll keep that for my own personal collection.
As of this writing most everyone has left the inn or is preparing to leave soon. I’ve been told that we are leaving tomorrow to head back to Candlebridge. That’s fine by me, because a new presence has entered the picture: The Good Doctor. At least that is what they call him. He’s nice enough, but he’s from the royal palace and he’s asking a lot of questions. The Good Doctor seems mostly interested in the mirror and its missing pieces. I’d just assume not have that talk.
Broken Laws & Walls
Early February, 1938
It’s as if Clu’Clin-lum never happened. Yet, hidden treasures tell me otherwise. That, and Hadley’s conspicuous absence which so readily serves as a reminder to those of us who suffered at his presence.
With several months having passed since that fateful day down in the ancient Sidhe city, time seems to be erasing most everybody’s clear perceptions of what actually took place. Mom and Dad, along with Mr. Carne, all talk as if the mirror was simply dropped – if dropped at all – picked up, and carried away by “that most unsavory woman,” Lady Thorn. After which, she and her entourage just departed. I am most certain that my parents are totally unaware of the mirror’s current whereabouts at Windahall. In addition, there is never any mention concerning the eerie sounds or fetid winds that assaulted the party at the mirror’s breaking. Nor, do they recognize being placed in a catatonic state after said event. And lastly, to mention Hadley being taken away to the asylum is practically taboo. I believe they are all in such a desire to remove themselves from the disagreeable truth of the day’s events, that they’re willing to fabricate any plausible story to sooth their bruised psyches. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents completely forgot they once had a son named Hadley. Not that it would be any great loss.
My plan to make a gift of the Sidhe skull to Dad has also fallen apart. It seems owning such an artifact is against royal decree: what Dad calls possessing “contraband.” If I were to give him the skull, he would only be obligated to turn it over to the authorities. So I’ve decided to save him the trouble… I’m keeping it for myself. Sure, I know where there are several more, but Dad also mentioned that Clu’Clin-lum has been sealed off and all archeological activity ceased. I doubt I’ll be getting a chance to obtain another one anytime soon.
Concerning the skull, I was able to persuade Valda to take me up to the university’s library where I could do some of my own investigating. Once there, we asked the sour faced librarian if he had any books on elves. He showed us a fairy tale book with several pictures of the typical elves one sees in my little sisters’ readers, but none seemed to match the head I had carefully hidden away.
When I asked for a more realistic picture, the librarian produced an ancient leather bound tome with tarnished brass hinges. He pointed out that the book was a primary source written by a Sir Edmond Demontfort and turned to an image much more consistent with what I’d hoped to find.
The elf, or Sidhe, practically sprang from the page. Contrary to the conventional figure of a pleasantly smiling fairy bathed in light and nature, this dark, tight-lipped image seemed more animalistic, predatory and merciless in its desire to destroy the human adversary on the page. I was quick to note the Sidhe’s main weapon matched the mysterious swords that we have down in the basement. Beneath the image was a caption reading “Bansidhe.” When I inquired as to its meaning, the librarian informed me there were two tribes of elves: the Sidhe (Shee) and the Bansidhe (Banshee). He did not offer more on the subject. As I was unable to read most of the accompanying script and did not want to draw too much attention to my topic of interest, I ended my search for the time being. Besides, it wouldn’t be long before I found myself back in the library seeking answers to another discovery.
Being in possession of contraband definitely makes one a little more vigilant, if not a little more paranoid. So far I was able to keep the skull hidden from Mom; Dad and my brothers weren’t a problem either given they were all away on another dig. But I’d have to secure a better hiding place before their return or before Mom went on an early spring-cleaning binge. I’d considered the hidden chamber down in the old armory, but it was a near empty room with little to offer in the way of concealing such a sizable item. Not to mention, Mom was aware of the room.
The new dig was something I could have joined with Dad and my brothers, but as I stated earlier, I had my own archeological concerns. That, and Valda had given me the idea to ask about taking classes at the university: doing something they call “auditing.” Essentially all the learning, but none of the tests. Mom said I could take fencing lessons if I participated in a history class. To which I readily agreed seeing as these were the two classes I was most interested in anyway. It turned out that Valda also takes fencing, and as we are the only two youths in attendance, we have often been paired for sparring practice. She may be better than I am, but I’ll never admit that out loud. Thankfully, staying home had the added benefit of allowing me to meet Ethan. Ethan, who would be instrumental in solving my contraband-hiding problem and put me on the path to an even greater mystery.
It was Candlemas: a time for religious observances and personal reflection, and if you’re lucky, maybe a gift or two. It’s three days at the very end of the year, where people often travel the Candlemas Road. As a result, the city of Candlebridge swells with pilgrims and merchants alike. Within this crowd some of the more affluent take up residence on the university’s grounds. Ethan’s father, a contractor of transportation, was one such merchant.
I met Ethan in the library. He didn’t seem very happy at the time, seeing as his father had just chastised him for pulling his older sister’s hair, but his true nature quickly came to the surface and we became fast friends. I don’t know how he did it, but it wasn’t long before I was telling Ethan about the strange swords down in the basement. And not long thereafter, we were looking at them. That’s when Ethan grabbed one off the rack and swung it into the table. It took both of us to remove the captured blade from the wood. I thought for sure Mom was going to catch us in the act. Luckily, she failed to appear. Prying it from the table, I quickly replaced the sword and we left the room unnoticed.
A quick observation concerning Ethan. Unlike my missing brother, I find him to be quite intelligent and witty, possessing a thoroughly enjoyable personality. What amazes me most though, is the utter foulness of his general speech. He is not above cursing at any point in the conversation, much less, each sentence. It is a habit he persists in even when adults are about. Ethan is what mother refers to as “a well seasoned sailor.” And his father seems quite unaffected by Ethan’s colorful language, never once reprimanding his son for his vulgarities. I’m sure, however, that if I were to try the same I’d be enjoying the taste of lye for a solid week.
Ethan must have known that he had put me at some risk with my mother in handling the sword, such was my agitation. So in the spirit of shared risk Ethan took me to his room, where he produced a thin, silver, throwing disk about the size of a dinner plate from his father’s travel trunk. Like the swords, it had a flowing pattern of vines and thorns etched into its surface. What was most remarkable about the disk was that it had no sharp edges; yet, when thrown towards the wall it sliced cleanly into the masonry. One would have thought it to be trapped firmly by the stone, however, the disk was easily removed leaving behind a long thin void. This gave me the idea of cutting away some stone from the wall in the hidden chamber, creating a small cubby in which to hide my illegal skull. Ethan refused to take the disk from the room, but thought I might use one of the silver swords to similar effect.
Upon Ethan and his father’s departure – they were headed to Anbrontium to sell the disk – I decided to try Ethan’s suggestion. Sure enough, though not as quickly as the disk had promised, the Sidhe sword effectively removed the mortar between several stones. Within a couple of hours I had a sizable stone removed from the wall as well. What I did not expect to find was a second barrier. Thankfully, this one was made of small red bricks that were readily removed. It was behind this that I discovered a third, partial wall constructed of plaster.
This remnant of a previous structure held something quite intriguing. Upon its surface were a painted vine and the open face of a large rose surrounded by evenly spaced arrows. Accompanying the graphic was the script, “Drusai iter in montem fidei.” Believing it to look much like the language used in the Ventan holy book, I retired from my excavating to venture once again into the library. There I was able to find a dictionary to translate the saying into Prydic. As I could not find the word “Drusai,” I believe it read, “Path of the Drusai to the mount of faith.”
I did not recognize the name “Drusai,” but it was possible that this wall represented a map. I say this because the rose brought several depictions I’ve seen on maps in history class to mind. The arrows could be the cardinal points, while the vine – which never loops – represents the “path” that these Drusai took. If this is indeed a map, then where does the path begin and where does it end? And for that matter, who or what were the Drusai? And lastly, is there a place known as the Mount of Faith? There is much to consider, but at least now I have the perfect place to hide my contraband.
Mid February, 1938
Age 8 1/2
As it turned out, my mystery wasn’t so mysterious. It seemed like everybody knew about the Drusai… my history professor, the librarian, mom, and especially some guy named Clause Feintuch. So much for uncovering some great, long lost and forgotten civilization.
On the bright side, the fact that the Drusai are common knowledge made it that much easier to fill in some of the missing details. Foremost was that the Drusai were a splinter group of the Shide who opted to stay on the main continent, north of the Boarder Princes, rather than join the mass exodus that took place nearly a millennium ago. There are those who believe the Drusai a mere wives tale, such as the librarian and professor, but my mother seems a little less skeptical. Yet, they all exhibited some level of doubt concerning the Drusai’s existence.
Then there is Clause Feintuch to consider. A modern day author living in Nordhausen, Clause is regarded by some as the leading authority on the Drusai. Others think him a crackpot. Either way, Valda was able to locate two of his books in the university’s library and came away with some interesting information on the subject.
Translated as the “disenchanted” or the “disenfranchised,” she said Feintuch claimed the Drusai to live above Alderburg, in the Boarder Prince region. Reclusive at best, as there has been no confirmed sightings for several centuries, he asserts that the Sidhe choose not to deal with humans. Feintuch also wrote that the Drusai have claimed a section of the local mountains and paths as their own, and that they fiercely defend this terrain.
Aside from these books, my professor suggested I look into something called the “Bridgewater Text.” This too was easily found, as a copy resides in the library. It is a very convoluted text at best, consisting of Sidhe words and probable definitions. The librarian said it was a bunch of gibberish; while the professor said the only way we’d ever know what it meant for sure was to have one of the Sidhe explain it. I think they both might be right. All the same, I made a copy for myself.
What I find most interesting about the “Bridgewater Text” is its mention of Clu’clin-lum. The associated notes make me believe that the ancient ruins were once some sort of Sidhe stronghold… a final stand for some group known as the Erl (Another tribal name for the Sidhe?). It is the last line that hints at what we found at the dig and intrigues me most, “Tomb of the Erl haunted Kly.” I wonder if this “tomb” is one and the same from which I liberated the skull? I hope this doesn’t mean I am to be haunted like the Kly.
Sleeping with the Dead
Early-Mid Summer, 1938
Age 8 1/2
“Sleep tight… Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Yeah, as if that were my greatest concern. I doubt I’ll ever sleep decently again. At least not since sharing a bed with the dead.
I can’t say why I awoke. It wasn’t as if I was dreaming ill thoughts or felt disturbed in any way. Nor was there an external noise or calling voice to pull me from the kindness of slumber’s oblivion. Yet, I awoke, and in so doing found myself face to face with a nightmare of my own making.
Sure as the sun rises in the east, there upon my pillow rested the Sidhe skull. It’s grinning teeth smiling all the more sharply and the hollow sockets staring all the more accusingly. Were my brother Hadley about, I would have considered this his doing. Yet, that was as impossible as the skull now placed upon my pillow.
I believe I now understand the saying, “He jumped right out of his skin.” I was so frightened that I sprang straight from the bed, touching naught but the floor for my effort. And there, standing next to the bed, I was able for the first time to fully recognize the six-foot long divot within my mattress. A fact that further shocked the mind.
Why at that very moment of discovery I didn’t run screaming from my room, I can not truly say. Perhaps, at one level, my subconscious realized such a response would surely jeopardize my continuing possession of the skull. While at another, I must have known that such behavior would only result in an adjacent room to Hadley’s at the asylum. Whatever kept me there, it must have been the same presence of mind that held tight to the mooring lines of sanity.
That being said, I can’t declare my following actions were those of a completely sensible individual. With the initial shock still reverberating in my head and pounding in my heart, I began to question the skull as to its reasons for being there, what it wanted from me, and how it came to be in my room. Thankfully, it failed to answer any of my inquiries. Its silence, however, did not slow my unceasing slide into bizarre behavior, for I was soon asking my visitor to translate my copy of the “Bridgewater Text.” Again, no response. I’m certain that it would not have done my psyche much good if it had.
Finally, with my pulse returning to normal and there being no further activity on the part of my guest, I decided it would be best to return the skull to his hiding place. It was only when walking through several rooms, opening doors, and removing the several other barriers to my hidey-hole that I came to realize just how improbable it was to find it in my bed. Clearly there were mystical forces at work here.
Since that night I’ve often considered the skull’s reasons for coming to me. Sure, I was the one who took it from the tomb, but if the skull possesses powers to move through walls and travel on its own, then why doesn’t it just take itself back? I certainly won’t be able to do it now that the site is officially shut down. Or, perhaps that is not what it seeks. Whatever it is, I just hope it stays put and lets me get some sleep. I’m afraid these bags under my eyes are starting to show.
Confessions & Oaths
Mid Summer, 1938
8 ½ years
Well, it didn’t take long before somebody noticed. I’m sure my sudden interest in ghosts and spirits didn’t help matters. It’s like waving a red flag in the middle of the forest. Here I am… Right here… Come and ask me what’s wrong. So I wasn’t really surprised when Valda started doing just that.
I was in the library looking up information on Sidhe spirits and such when Valda found me. I must have been at my most vulnerable given what I had just discovered in one of Feintuch’s texts. An endnote inscribed, and I quote, “Sidhe burial sights are dangerous to the psyche; people have a tendency to go crazy.” Nothing more… just that simple statement without any evidence to backup his claim. Not that any proof on Feintuch’s part would have mattered. I had my own empirical evidence materializing in my bed. Having finished these words, that’s when Valda and I crossed paths.
I’m sure the shock of Feintuch’s words was still plastered upon my face, not to mention the evidence of several sleepless nights, when she started asking me what was the matter. There was no hiding it. I tried diverting the conversation, but Valda would have nothing to do with my attempts. Finally, I conceded to telling her the truth about what had happened.
Seeking out the most secluded place, Valda and I discovered a small alcove at the back of the library. So serious was I about maintaining the secrecy of my encounter with the skull that I found a holy book and demanded her oath upon it to tell none other. Not to be outdone and quicker than I could recognize her actions, Valda procured a sharp object and sliced the heel of my thumb. Doing likewise to her own, she did me one better and swore a blood oath to keep what I was about to tell a secret until death. With that accomplished, there was little else to do but tell my tale.
No sooner than I started to relate the story of my late night visitation, a disembodied voice filled our tiny alcove. Speaking in heavily accented Prydic, the voice declared, “The man-child is singing my song.” Of course, this brought an immediate halt to my own words and a barely contained panic to Valda. Thankfully, her reaction was proof that I was not the only one to hear the words. Overcoming the immediate surprise I sought further communication, but the voice failed to take up the conversation. We could tell it was leaving us as its long, slow breathing soon faded out of hearing.
It wasn’t until I was fairly certain the voice (spirit?) was gone and Valda had regained her composure that I attempted to continue my tale. But with the first words of my second effort the temperature in the room suddenly dropped; the voice returned with a lone but forceful shout, “Man-child!” It was clear the spirit was displeased by the telling. I told Valda so and chose to keep my tongue on the subject. As neither of us wished to tarry long in that place, we departed with the promise of meeting each other the following day.
Yet, my troubles that night were only beginning. My mind was in such a fractured state that rational thought could not divert me from the chaotic path I had set myself. For as soon as my dinner was down, so was I to the basement and its hidden treasures. And as I had expected, and feared, there rested the skull as I had left it, save one exception. It was wet.
A Real Head Trip
Mid Summer, 1938
8 ½ years
In retrospect I had essentially dug my own grave complete with head stone, epitaph, and a ghoulish ferryman to carry my soul through the great beyond. For there I was, lying in a tomb-like excavation of my own making surrounded by the bones of the Earth. At the head stood a white marker inscribed with ancient holy script, and in my hands I held the visage of Death itself. There was even a pillow to rest my own head. To complete the scene all I needed to do was die.
As I stated earlier, returning to my hidden treasures I found the skull to be wet to the touch. Inspecting the walls for any possible leaks, I found none in evidence. I also checked the shard of mirror I had placed with the skull earlier. And unlike my friend, the shard was dry. How ever it came to be, there was no recognizable reason for the moisture.
In exasperation over the events that took place in the library, I seized the skull and demanded to know what it required of me. This was perhaps not my best choice of action as my answer came in a rolling wash of foreign words placed upon the mind more than heard by the ear. Such was their effect upon me that I can still recall and speak each one perfectly, which I immediately did thereafter. Those same words I now inscribe here:
“Dienban soriel ishireal jo entorika da’nai immram sara do ill ahn nu oar ven vior all hel ban dore’ in shriel an tier. Eekron sapai. Ishin sla. Ishin id vaw dai. Ishen wour id inyar sal is-ha. Idja…v’no iksa.”
Though I’m certain of my accuracy in echoing this unfamiliar tongue, nothing came of my efforts. With mounting frustration I demanded further, “Is there anything else?” This instantly resulted in what can only be described as a pull from an unseen force, centered at my navel, that dragged me into unknown darkness.
Gradually the darkness gave way to a lighter gray that remained constant and vast. There was also a definite sense of movement, but without any landmarks to judge progress, I could not guess as to the pace being kept. This was the whole of the journey save but one instance where an emerald glow was evident upon the horizon. Though I tried to redirect my movement toward this point, it was impossible to alter my current path. I was powerless to enact any change. The skull was in complete control. We traveled on.
After an indeterminable amount of time, the seemingly endless gray started to give way to the solid landscape of a lush green forest. Ancient giants towered beyond anything I had ever seen in Prydwin, while the canopy denied all but the slightest sliver of sunlight to shine through. Yet, our destination was still to be reached. Without any effort on my part, I was pulled through the trees at speeds only made possible by familiarity and inhuman agility.
It was about this time that I came to realize I was not fully physical, if physical at all. Though aware of my surroundings and possessing conscience thought, I felt more the passenger in someone else’s body than anything resembling self. I now assumed the Sidhe to not only be my guide, but also my vessel. Yet, how could this be possible? The skull I possessed was evidence enough that my guide was long dead and had no such body to offer. So what was I a part of? A dream? The afterlife? Some other time? I did not have long to ponder these thoughts as the forest soon gave way to a grand vista that removed all other considerations. Looking out into the valley of the forest I saw our destination, Jo’Enthorika.
Jo’Enthorika. The Palace of the Dawn. I knew it true as much as if I had been born there myself. The white city at the navel of the world with impossibly tall, thinning needle-like towers piercing the sky and gossamer bridges spanning the heights above forest clouds. Jo’Enthorika… home of the People in flight. The beginning and end of all things People. And as I walked down to the outer walls of this most beautiful of cities, a gentle breeze carried the sounds of music to my ears. Music I knew to be created by the very towers themselves as the wind blew across their delicately carved surfaces. And upon the white stone structures were the very same ivy carved patterns etched within the Sidhe swords back at Candlebridge.
Drawing closer to the city, I finally encounter its inhabitants, for here were the Sidhe. I was not surprised to find them in great numbers, moving about in their daily routines. If I was a stranger to any there, none gave evidence of the fact. In truth, I was more the ghost for all the notice they took of my presence. And like the picture of the Bansidhe I had found earlier, these beings seemed almost cat-like in their features and precise movements. Though none seemed to display the level of ferocity equal to the depicted Bansidhe, I’m almost certain they could be provoked to such a degree.
As I strode without hindrance through the city streets, streets that were clear of the usual refuse and discord one comes to associate with large cities, I became acutely aware of the central tower. For not only was it the tallest to be found, but it was most certainly my final destination. Without breaking stride I entered this colossal spire and began the long journey of stairs to the top. Such was the exertion to reach the apex that I must admit to the first time of being physically effected to pure exhaustion. The burn in my legs was truly great, but it had brought me to a most interesting and disturbing end. For waiting there were those that I would later refer to as the Magnificent Seven.
The Magnificent Seven
Mid Summer, 1938
8 ½ years
They were the most magnificent creatures I could imagine… seven in all, standing eternal in their majestic white tower. They were Sidhe, but they were something more. Dare I say, “Gods?”
Entering their presence, the seven stared in unison their unblinking eyes akin to cats, offering up gazes that made me appreciate what it was to be prey. Forcing my eyes away from these ancient portals to the past, I couldn’t help but notice the sharp teeth and facial features that were more feline than human. But where one would almost expect fur, there was perfectly smooth skin, possessing deep rich tans that were accentuated all the more by fluid silks, transparently thin and pale in color. In deed, the only true color to be seen was in their long flowing hair, where shades of emerald, indigo and lavender prevailed. If there was anything to be considered as missing, it would be their complete lack of adornments. For none of these Sidhe displayed a single piece of jewelry or decorative pattern to their clothing. Here was shear beauty through simplicity. Austere and completely authentic.
Believing myself to be among my betters, I initially chose the tact of speaking only when spoken to. But the silent stalemate was beyond my human tolerance to maintain. Thus, I greeted these creatures with a most childish and timid, “Hello.”
“The man-child speaks,” came the stoic reply.
Shocked as I was by the response, I could not immediately tell which of the seven had spoken. Only that it sounded feminine and had addressed me in heavily accented Prydic. The tone, however, was unmistakable… condescending, dismissive, and conveying a barely restrained tolerance for an inferior disturbance. It was clearly evident that this encounter would not turn into some great exchange of pleasantries or a warm welcoming with tea and cookies being served by the host. Not that the latter would have been possible, for there was no furniture or other artifacts in the room to provide such niceties.
“It is marked. It is done.” It was a simple statement directed toward an insignificant thing. Me. At least this time I was able to identify the speaker.
The Sidhe was a she. White translucent robes made it quite apparent as to the gender in question, leaving little to the imagination. Yet, this seemed the norm for the seven present, where modesty was certainly of little or no concern. The speaker’s waist length hair cascaded in shades of deep purple, almost bordering on a shiny ebony, which did more to guard her tall, slender curves from view than any folds of her garment. Twin gems of bright lavender for eyes matched her mane, while fangs punctuated a thin lipped smile. There was a beauty here that was at yet both exquisite and cruel to behold.
Unsure as to what had been “done,” I responded, “What is marked?”
“Poor man-child. It doesn’t understand. Send it back,” was her cool reply.
What was this? I did not wish to be so easily dismissed. Nor, left so ignorant after such a long and bizarre journey. I decided to take a chance and pressed the issue.
“But I wish to understand,” I pleaded.
For the first time since joining the seven there seemed to be kindness reflected in the Sidhe’s face, and speaking in a more pleasant, softer tone, “Very well, show him the end of things.” If it was pity or a more calculated cruelty in granting my request, I am still not sure. What I do know is that I’ll never be the same for what I’ve witnessed.
With her command came a forceful push away and once again I began my journey, only in reverse. But unlike my arrival, time passed at an accelerated pace. Years slipped by with the blink of an eye. Centuries were lost to every breath. And as I flowed through this mirage of memory, I witnessed the steady deterioration of Jo’Enthorika. The gleaming city walls, its concentric circles and towering ivory spires, elegant bridges and singing structures, all crumbling to dust upon the forest floor. To say my heart broke at such a sight would only belittle the true sorrow that accompanied my tears. What was saddest of all was to know that the cause of such destruction came from the Sidhe themselves.
Like any great civilization, theirs was destroyed by a cancer from within. Before my eyes I saw the People split in two, and what was once the Sidhe had become the Sidhe and the Bansidhe. And such was the severity of the schism that civil war ensued. A war, that if it were to continue could only have one conclusion: extinction. Why this happened, I did not learn. How it ended, I do not know. For everything then faded into darkness followed by the now familiar gray landscape of nothingness. But before I fully departed the death of Jo’Enthorika, I was granted one last insight… the Magnificent Seven were the guardians of a great and lasting secret.
I traveled back through the gray. Its featureless horizon, save the emerald point of light, held no fascination in the shadow of what I’d just been shown. If I had had the choice to go elsewhere, it wouldn’t have mattered. All I wanted was to go home. And home is where I went.
I awoke with a desperate gasp for air. Air that my body had apparently starved for in all the time I was gone. But before I could even begin to exhale my first breath, three words forced their way out of the depths of my subconscious.
“A poisoned fruit!”
Questions without Answers
Late Summer, 1938
8 ¾ years
“A poisoned fruit!”
I’ve pondered these words often in the weeks following my impromptu journey to the now ruined Sidhe city, Jo’Enthorika. Their exact meaning I doubt I shall ever learn, but I might guess.
The Bridgewater Text hints of Jo’Enthorika as “a place of hope.” That it was a refuge to which the “People” came to in order to escape from something known as the “Darkness.” Perhaps the Darkness found them and this was the cause of their division, forming Sidhe and Bansidhe. And the civil war that followed was the poisoning of what was meant to be a new beginning for the People. For Jo’Enthorika, which had grown from the seeds of hope, now lays spoiled like so much “poisoned fruit.”
Right or wrong, these are my thoughts on the matter. But there are other questions to give equal consideration to.
“How did you find me?”
This is what I first asked Valda upon recognizing it was she whom was knelling over my prostrate body. That she had dragged me outside my makeshift tomb had yet to occur to me. Thankfully, somehow she knew I was in need of aid, and more importantly, had discovered where I lay. I’ve asked her the same question a time or two since then, but her answer is always the same as it was then; “I don’t know how I knew. I just knew.” I often wonder if it has anything to do with our shared experience in the library, for somehow I feel there is a connection between us that goes deeper then just friends.
As for the moment in time, my mystical journey had left me completely drained. If not for Valda, I’m not sure how long I would have lain there. It was only by her much needed assistance that I was able to make it to my bed and by her hand that I was able to put words to paper echoing what the skull had placed in my own mind. Though she was much concerned for my health, I told Valda she must seal away the skull and my hiding place before any others should come along to discover them. Once the task was completed, I begged her to leave before we should be forced to concoct some story as to why she was in my room at such a late hour. I assured her I would be fine, but would most likely not be in class on the morrow. She left, and I, suffering from extreme exhaustion, fell into the blissful hands of sleep.
So weakened was I by the night’s events that I was true to my last words to Valda for several days following. My mother was sure I’d been struck down by an illness and brought the obligatory hot soups and comforts that only a concerned mother can provide. Thus, by means of her tender care I was soon back amongst the living.
Now was the time that more questions began to crowd my mind: Why was I taken before the grand Sidhe council? What is their great secret? How was I marked? Does any of this really matter? Should I really care? These were just a few of the many quandaries vying for my attention. To which none did I possess the answer.
I so dislike an incomplete puzzle.
Knowledge Is Dangerous
Late Winter, 1940
10 ¼ years
I’ve heard it said, “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I’d like to amend that by saying, “A little bit of knowledge can get you killed!”
Curiosity… yes, I suppose one day it shall be my undoing for I’ve been unable to silence the questions clamoring in my head. And as a result of trying to quiet the din, I’ve discovered several disturbing details and unsavory truths. To these I shall speak of the more mundane and steadily move to the most fantastic.
Not long after recovering form my unplanned mystical journey, Valda informed me of the university’s potential purchase of a library in Nordhousen. Though it’s been nearly a year since this piece of news came to my ears, the current owner of the library has yet to do us the “courtesy of dying.” So my father says. In any case, my mother indicated that Wallace would most likely be the one to head up the expedition, seeing as “books are more his thing.” Given this fact, whenever this bibliophile should decide to write his final chapter, it might work in my favor to travel there as my brother’s assistant, putting me that much closer to Mr. Clause Feintuch in Elthiem.
I’ve given considerable thought of posting Feintuch a letter concerning the Drusai and my discoveries in the inner walls of Candlebridge. This, in the hopes of possibly gaining more insight on the Sidhe than our two volumes of his work has thus provided. But to do so would be a very costly venture. The mail system within Prydwin only ranges as far as the two main roads, the Candlemas Road and the King’s Road, and is handled solely by the Royal Post. Where going beyond our boarder requires the use of the Courier House. And to engage their services would require funds far beyond the meager means that my ten years of existence have managed to produce so far. Thus, managing any form of correspondence to Mr. Feintuch in this manner seems remote at best. Perhaps if I were to be in Nordhousen itself, my chances of contacting him would be much improved and far less costly.
It also turns out that I must be fairly careful about what I say and to whom I entrust such knowledge to. For I have learned from several sources that certain knowledge and practices are considered heretical… a hanging offence at best. And at the very top of the list is the act of sorcery. Learning such, I retrieved and summarily destroyed the written words I’d dictated to Valda, and thereafter, swore her to the utmost secrecy under penalty of persecution and certain death. Besides, I do not believe I shall ever be in need of their written copy. With nearly a year past I can still in perfect fluency recite from memory those most foreign words. Yet, none of which, where it to be known, would help me at the end of a rope.
Speaking of dangerous matters, we had two stride into the confines of the university the other day…Velic and Horat. As much as I wanted to find a sizable rock and drop it from one of the upper walkways upon Horat’s head, the presence of Velic was intimidating enough to keep me in check. They were not there long, only spending enough time to procure one of the library’s two copies of something called the “Klyic Prophecy.” Dad says that they took the one of lesser importance, one that he later claimed had several written suppositions concerning its possible meaning. With copy in had, Velic left with a most satisfied grin while Mr. Carne, standing in his wake, was decidedly unhappy with the loss. I, for one, thought it a small price to pay for their quick departure. Little did I understand the nature of what had been lost.
Now I must turn my pen to those things of a less mundane yet, more mysterious nature.
As my studies have progressed, I’ve learned several things concerning the Sidhe. To save time and ink I shall simply state them here as a list to consider:
- Jo’Enthorika, the Sidhe city of my travels, is hypothesized to be the capital of Sidhe society. It has never been discovered.
- Ing’Shreal-an’tier, known as the “Fortress of the Sea” (Bridgewater Text), is also a potential contender for the capital city.
- 700 years ago there was an exodus of the Sidhe from the known lands.
- Just before the exodus, it is claimed that the Sidhe and Bansidhe reunited. This is according to “St. Isabelle of the Knife,” the only Saint canonized for an act of violence.
- The “Klyic Prophecy” is attributed to the Kly, a Sidhe tribe. It is said to be 1700 years old and written in Prydic. It is not a translation and the original copy rests in the vaults of the Ventan Church. The author is unknown.
- Marcos is a name heavily connected to the Sidhe. He is said to be the wizard most closely associated with the rise of Artre’ and who worked with The Four. Marcos was also known as Math’eos, which translates to “Mule.”
I’m sure greater minds than mine have pondered the possible connections between the “Bridgewater Text” and the “Klyic Prophecy,” but how many of these can draw upon a journey to Jo’Enthorika and a personal audience with the Sidhe? What I can say for certain is that the prophecy has me plenty concerned.
First of all, there are too many unsavory characters taking a sudden interest in this little known piece of divination. Velic, being primary on the list. Another is the elderly doctor from the asylum. I’ve spoken of Velic’s visit, but I shall address the doctor’s in more detail later.
Next, there is the all too familiar words found at the very last line of the prophecy… “A poisoned fruit.” The self-same words I uttered aloud upon my return from Jo’Enthorika. I now wonder if the Sidhe meant them to be more of a warning rather than a commentary upon their own plight. Was this their way of directing me towards the prophecy? A way of correcting my ignorance? Certainly the first few lines may be an echo of what befell the Sidhe at Jo’Enthorika, but the remainder seems to speak mainly of a possible future… a future that does not bode well for the prospects of Man.
I mentioned earlier the name Marcos, or Math’eos. The Mule. I draw attention to this name because “…the mule and his chosen…” are also recognized within the “Klyic Prophecy.” Whether this prophetic reference is for past events, helping Artre’ in centuries long gone, or a part he is to play in events still to come, I can not say. Perhaps, both. Legend has it that Marcos was a wizard of true wonders, and who amongst us this day is to say what powers he possessed then? Powers that might easily have stilled the hands of time or brushed aside the touch of death to allow him to walk amongst us now. Surely my words are those of great fancy, but strange things are certainly afoot.
And having taken this leap of fancy, I must allow myself one more grand supposition. The prophecy warns of the Darkness coming again and that “a foul wind blows, reaching across the epoch.” I can not help but draw comparison to these words and those frightening moments following the breaking of the Sidhe mirror in Clu’Clin-lum. For no fouler wind have I ever encountered, and I certainly felt then, as I do now, some ancient mystical force was set free upon the world at its breaking. As the prophecy further states, “the key will be broken; the lock destroyed.” I fear we may have fulfilled one, or both, of these already.
Late Winter, 1940
10 ¼ years
Button… Button… Who’s got the button? It’s a game mother enjoys playing with my two younger sisters. She hides a button and they have to find it given clues of “warmer” or “colder” based upon moving closer or farther from where the button is concealed. The one who finds it first, wins. It’s a simple game, as long as you play by the rules. Unfortunately, when it came my turn to hide the button, I wasn’t too sure of who was playing and just how far they were willing to go to claim the prize.
The button, in this case, was the university’s last copy of the “Klyic Prophecy.” As I’ve already stated, Velic came to the library and took the first copy. Now we were down to one. So when Seren Thorn and Jared, her bodyguard, made an appearance on the university grounds a month later, I instantly had misgivings for the safety of our second copy.
Seeing as the pair was headed towards my father’s office, I made a hasty end-run through the halls and arrived there first. I should have saved myself the trouble seeing as Dad dismissed me before anything of importance was said. That and the fact I received a rather smug look from Seren as it became obvious she was to be allowed to stay. As it turned out, having to leave early was the best thing.
Not wanting to take any chances on why they were there, I quickly dashed to the library. Skirting the librarian’s desk and failing to discover anybody else in the isles, I silently slid into the now very familiar section containing the prophecy. Removing it from its resting-place, I quietly made my way to another portion of the library and hid the parchment behind some old, nondescript texts. That’s when I became aware of some very heated conversation happening at the front of the room.
Using their voices as cover, I nearly made my escape before being surprised by Seren. You can imagine my suspicions when Seren immediately asked me where the prophecy was located. I instantly played dumb, pretending not to know what it was she was asking about. But I could tell she wasn’t buying any of my act. Seren kept up the questioning, yet quietly so as to not draw the attention of the others in the library. When I was fairly confident she was not after the prophecy for herself, I finally gave in and assured her it was well hidden away. Seren said that that was a good thing and I was to make sure the rude old man at the front desk did not lay his hands on it. At this comment I could not resist a look. I found the “rude old man” to be none other than one of the doctors who had taken Hadley and the broken mirror to Windahall.
I guess Seren wished to quickly notify Jared of her findings, because she left the library in a manner that said she was never there. I, on the other hand, decided to question the doctor concerning my brother’s health.
Relying on the fact that I am only ten, and as such, can be excused for a certain amount of rudeness, I walked up to the argument in progress and tugged upon the elderly man’s sleeve. He looked down without really seeing me.
“What do you want?” was his response.
“How is my brother, Hadley?” I asked.
His tone was dismissive and lacked any true thought. “He’s resting. Now go away.”
The old man turned back to the librarian and continued his heated debate as to the whereabouts of the now missing “Klyic Prophecy.” Had I any real clue as to the danger I was about to place myself in, I would have run for the farthest hills. But curiosity was my undoing.
I could not stop the question from coming out, “Why do you want the ‘Klyic Prophecy?’”
The doctor’s eyes instantly fell upon me, his intentions quite clear. “You know where it is? Tell me!”
I lied, “It’s back there,” pointing to the section where one would normally find the prophecy.
“No, it is not. Now where is it boy? You know where it is. Tell me!”
“If it’s not there, then I don’t know where it is,” I told him trying to back away.
Quicker than I could imagine any old geezer like him striking, he grabbed the end of my nose and yanked me close. His stale breath washed over me as he demanded to know where the prophecy was located.
“I know you have hidden it, so tell me where it is boy!”
I reached for the only possible lie that I thought he might accept. “Velic has it. He took it last month. It’s with Velic. Now let go of my nose!”
Whether the librarian had already told him about the other copy being taken by Velic or he knew I was fibbing, I don’t know. I only know that he did not accept my ploy.
“Not that one! The other one! You know where it is. Now stop lying and tell me where it is boy!”
Something told me that I just couldn’t give in to his demands. Not to mention that he kept calling me “boy.” I suppose most ten-year-olds would normally not take so much offence to this term, but for me, it just served as a reminder of how poorly Horat had treated me years ago. It also had echoes of the disdain the Sidhe had for the “man-child.” All in all, despite the clear and present danger I found myself in, I was getting angrier at every use of the word.
Finally, I had had enough of his verbal assaults and nose pulling. Drawing back as far as I could, I let go a solid kick to the old man’s shin. Whether it was the sudden shock of pain, the slick sweat from the pores of my nose, or a combination of both, I was suddenly free and bolting for the hallway. I was free. I was running. I was out of there.
It was all true for about ten seconds.
At first I was sprinting with the combined speed of fear and adrenaline, heading for the safety of my father’s office. The next moment, I was tripped up and falling for the stone floor. I tried coming to my hands and knees, but quickly found myself unable to free my feet from each other. They were too closely tied and no amount of struggling could break their bonds. That’s when I started to be dragged back down the hall toward the entrance of the library.
Looking to my ankles I sought out the ropes that had me bound. But rather than the traditional twisted hemp of common cord, what I found was a smoky gray figment of my expectations. Try as I might, there was nothing to grab hold of, nothing that could be unknotted, nothing but smoke and restraint. Magic had a hold of me. I had lost my chance at freedom, and once again the old man pounced.
This time a knife, and not just words, was brought to bear. The doctor was clearly upset and was resorting to greater fear tactics in the hopes of gaining his prize. His questioning for the prophecy continued, along with the promise of a knifepoint to the eye should I refuse to give it over. Clearly, this time, I was not going to escape. So I did the only thing I could think of. I yelled for help. And I kept yelling in the hope that somebody would arrive in time to prevent this nightmare from playing out its gruesome end.
That somebody came in the persons of Seren and Jared.
Once again, the circumstances in which I found myself changed dramatically. In place of a maniacal, knife-wielding, spell-caster threatening to carve my eye from its socket, I was now lying alone upon the floor watching the shadow-ropes melt away. For as my would-be rescuers approached, so departed the doctor down the opposite hall. Though Jared pursued my attacker, he failed to find any trace of the old man. I can only imagine that magic had some hand in his quick departure and immediate disappearance from the university’s grounds. This said, I do remember as the old man turned the corner, hearing a faint whine, followed by a popping sound. It would not surprise me if magic were in deed his chosen method of escape.
As for what followed, Seren asked if the old man was successful in getting the prophecy. I was all too happy to produce it, gaining praise from Jared for my successful concealment and for not having pissed myself during the whole frightening ordeal. It didn’t dawn on me, until later, that I had just handed over the document I was originally trying to hide from these two. Thankfully, both recommended we should take it to my father and have the prophecy placed in a more secure location. During this time, we also managed to find the librarian behind his desk, knocked out, but still breathing and in apparent good health.
My father listened to the whole story, offering calming words and recommendations about not mentioning the use of magic when talking to the Reevers. For certainly the Reeve would be called to investigate. And if I did not wish to be put to the inquisition by the Black Robes, I would conveniently forget about any use of magic that might have tainted my person. As if the smoky-ropes were my biggest concern when it came to being possibly tainted with heretical magic.
As my father and Jared made arrangements to secure the document, along with the “Bridgewater Text,” I took the opportunity to talk to Seren about some of my own concerns. I brought her to my room and broke out my own copy of the prophecy, giving her a quick run-down of what I knew about the Sidhe and Marcos (the Mule). I also pointed out how poorly things would turn for us humans if the prophecy where to hold true, and that quite possibly, we had set things in motion with the breaking of the mirror at Clu’Clin-lum.
I must admit that I was rather reluctant to offer so much to an individual I didn’t fully trust. Wallace had said that these were very bad people and I should stay away from them. But Seren had twice proven herself to be somebody I could count on in a crisis. I felt I owed her at least some level of friendship and trust. Besides, if things were going to start getting as grave as the prophecy was promising, then I was going to need to expand my circle of confidants.
What finally won me over was Seren’s promise not to partake in any killing of my family. For evidently, murder is not above Lady Thorn’s methods of acquiring what she desires. Seren said she would even try to warn me if any such plans were in the works. I guess only the young and naive can be comforted by such arrangements. It didn’t hurt to also find out that Horat had recently been the recipient of a thrusted knifepoint, courtesy of Seren. Apparently, Horat had been trying to do her harm and had found himself on the sharp end of things. I, for one, hope the wound festers and turns into a long and agonizing death. I’m sure it would be a just end.
One unexpected benefit from this whole experience was Seren’s ability and willingness to deliver a letter to Clause Feintuch. I mentioned my desire to write him, but that I lacked the financial means to do so. She said she could handle it without any difficulty. I could not believe my luck and readily accepted her help. However, now that I’ve had time to consider whom I’m dealing with, perhaps my decision was a bit rash. Though there was no talk of reciprocating the favor, I’m sure there will be a price to pay latter. What I must be most careful of are the words I put to paper, for I’m sure they can be as damning as any ill-conceived action.
No sooner had Seren and I concluded our private conversation, than a most alarming noise was heard throughout the castle. This was followed by my mother poking her head into my room, telling us the Reeve was on its way and that it would be best if we were to stay in my room. My room! That was the last place I wanted the Reeve to be. It was much too close to treasures better left undiscovered. I asked if there was somewhere else Seren and I might await them. Once she discovered that we were in the midst of what was happening and why the Reeves were being called, she directed us to the main gathering hall of the university.
Joining up with my Father and Jared, and encountering Valda along the way, we all entered into the main hall. The Reeves were already there, questioning several of the castle’s support staff. One, in particular, was a maid who had what looked like a large amount of bloodstains down the front of her smock. She was visibly upset and a Reeve was trying to calm her down. Valda started asking all sorts of questions, but I thought it best she remained ignorant until all had returned to some normalcy. Less potential trouble for her.
We were still not sure why the maid was seemingly covered in blood, when a second group of investigators arrived at the hall. Only they were not the Reeve.
This group had all the trappings of the Ventan Church, the Black Robes, the Inquisition. At their head was a majestic knight dressed in full armor and holy trinity crown. I was quick to find shelter from their eyes, but made sure not to run and draw attention to myself. Thankfully, the Black Robes walked through the main hall and headed down towards the library area.
Not knowing why, Jared asked me to create a distraction. Once again, I was quick to respond in the affirmative and challenged Valda to a game of tag. Running through the crowd, I made a beeline for one of the nearest suits of armor lining the walls. The next thing everybody heard were plates of steel crashing across the stone floor and my name being yelled above it all by my father. I could only assume success because, as I pulled myself free from the chaos, Seren was no longer to be found amongst the crowd. Fortunately, my father was too busy to mete out punishment for my apparent carelessness and I was simply told to sit still for the remainder of the investigation.
Seren soon returned from wherever she had disappeared to, bringing with her rather horrific news. The librarian, whom we believed to be merely knocked out, had now been brutally murdered. The blood covering the front of the maid was certainly his. Initially, we all thought the doctor had come back to tie up loose ends. And when the Reeves questioned Seren and I, I’m sure we gave just that impression, including a description of the old man’s medallion. From this, the Reevers started making noise about the island and the asylum. But despite the evidence, Seren seemed less sure of the doctor’s guilt. For some reason she thought Velic might be the responsible party in this unfortunate murder.
What will come of all this, I doubt anyone can foresee. I certainly feel no closer to the truth of what is going on or secure in how to find out the answers. I only know I am on a path surrounded by unseen dangers and feeling colder with every step.