Chapter 1 - Fate has called them forth
A small shadow, avoiding the silver rays of the new spring moon, slithered up the spiral staircase. The mysterious darkness stole over the top, gliding soundlessly down the hall pausing briefly before slipping under the nursery door. The shadowy figure concealed itself in the darkest corner beneath the crib…and waited.
It did not take long before the baby awoke, releasing a desperate cry for his mother. She swiftly entered the room cooing gently, the door closing softly behind her. Before she could nestle her baby into her loving arms, the shadow struck. Not a sound escaped her lips. She was all the baby had. The floor welcomed her motionless body.
The shadow emerged clutching the screaming baby. “Illuminos.” shouted a deep voice. Immediately the hall was bathed in a brilliant light. The dark figure screamed in terror instinctively throwing his hands up in defense. The baby suddenly fell from the intruders grasp. A quick strong arm shot out, catching the baby before he collided with the floor. The Shadow hissed at its unexpected opponents, vanishing abruptly into to the night as mysteriously as it appeared.
“Do you have the baby?” whispered a voice.
“I do.” another replied. “What of the mother?”
There was no reply. The house became quiet except for the mobile still playing. Its lullaby echoing eerily down the empty hall. A solitary light remained, produced by the dancing fish frolicking innocently over the mother’s pale feature as she lay still on the nursery floor.
The shadows of the night clung to the four cloaked figures scurrying towards the village border. Until a moment ago, the group lived unaware of each others exsistence.
“Quickly now, we must not waste anytime. The Keeper wants to see him immediately” Miss Mirdy, a stout old women; yipped to her companions.
“You know, if you don’t slow down, your tickers going to stop on ya!” laughed a dark haired young man, and the youngest traveler, attempting to lighten the mood.
The old woman turned heel and marched over to him jabbing her finger into his chest. “You may not fully understand the importance of what we are doing, but I do and I intend to fulfill the task at hand. I have been biding my time in this god forsaken village for the last twenty years waiting for this day and I am not about to skip down the road singing a little diddle prolonging my time here.”
The young man was taken aback by her reaction. “I am so sorry…..” He began, offering up his apologize “I was only try…….”
The old woman would hear none of it. “Just because my hair is grey and I am a wonderful, full figured woman does not mean that I can’t keep up with you young folk, Mr. Leath durum.” She said standing on her tippy toes to be nose to nose with him.
“Oh, of course not” Leath stammered taking a step back “You could take me any day.” Holding his hands up in defence.
“That’s right, and don’t you forget it.” She nodded with a satisfied humph.
Their other two companions chuckled. Leath gave them a wide eyed look as the old woman scurried away like a mouse with a cat hot on its tail.
“When picking a fight, I find it best to know your opponent first.” Mathias, the largest companion in the group whispered in his ear.
“Thanks” Leath mumbled “I’ll remember that for next time.”
A silence enveloped the four as they quickly made their way down the darkened road. Suddenly the silence ruptured. A tiny wail floated into the air.
“What is wrong with him?” Leath asked a bout of panic quickening his heart. Never in his life had he ever dealt with a child, let alone a baby.
“I am sure he’s just scared.” The young woman holding the infant replied reassuringly.
“How can he be scared, he’s just s little thing?” Leath asked quizzically.
“Hopefully you never procreate.” The old woman said under her breath.
“I heard that.” Leath replied.
“Babies are incredibly tuned to their environment.” the young woman graciously explained “He may not understand what is going on but he senses something is not right.” her voice barely above a whisper as she stroked the babe’s rosy cheek.
“Well can you make him be quiet?” Leath asked, worried the baby’s cries would draw unwanted company.
“You can’t just turn a baby off, Mr. Durum” Miss Mirdy scoffed “So you will just have to buck up and deal with it.”
“Well we should move quickly than.” Leath replied shooing the two women along.
“If the man can’t handle a little squeaking, I have no idea how he is going to survive the next few years.” Mirdy chided in a hushed tone to the young woman.
The young woman chuckled lightly, nodding her head in agreement.
In a few minutes they arrived at an enormous iron gate. It rose twenty feet with two monstrous gargoyles resided atop the polished marble pillars anchoring either side. Leath stepped forward grasping one of the heavy gates in his hands. Before his palm felt the cool of the iron in its grasp, he was met with a startling roar.
“You shall not enter through these gates.” a rumbling voice boomed, echoing across the night.
“Don’t you tell me what to do?” Mirdy shouted, shaking her fists in the air. “If you wish to boss me around you should do it to my face.”
“Do you think it is wise to anger something you can not see Mirdy?” cautioned the beautiful young girl.
Mirdy was about to open her wisdom trap, when two pairs of glowing red eyes leapt down from the pillars.
“You should heed the young ladies words.” The voice rumbled “Perhaps my friend here could give you a lesson in manners.” the voice smirked.
Two giant gargoyles with monstrous wings, stepped out from the shadows.
“What do you think Goliath? You take two I take two.” The smaller one suggested as they wandered into a thin slice of moonlight.
“I want the little old lady!” Goliath growled, cracking a menacing grin accented by razor sharp teeth. “I like them feisty.”
Miss Mirdy shimmied into the shadows as the gargoyles circled the group.
“Since you think you have business here,” growled the gargoyles in unison “you should know the procedure to enter these gates.”
Mathias, stepped out of the darkness. He approached the great stone beasts with confidence, meeting their gaze without fear. Slowly he leaned in “It’s not the eyes or the hand that sees or feels the stone. It is the mind.” He whispered.
An eerie creak resounded across the blackened sky. Slowly the gate opened granting them entrance to the grounds. The old woman, minding her manners, turned to thank the guardians. She found them perched back atop the marble pillars with eyes of stone.
“Pleasant experience wasn’t it.” Leath sputtered, trying to shake the jitters that were still creeping along his spine. No one replied.
They hurried up the oak tree lined lane. Safetly was still just a fleeting feeling as the nights rich colour concealed their path. The twinkling yellow house lights peek-a-booing through the branches.
Moments later Leath let out a low whistle.“You call that a house.” he exclaimed as an imposing estate home finally loomed out of the darkness. Leath was no stranger to wealth and the granduer it bought you, but even to him the property was impressive.
“Well, what would you call it?” The old woman asked sarcastically as she climbed the steps of the white washed veranda.
“It looks like a small city, or even a country.” Leath replied taking in the enormity of the structure and grounds surrounding it.
The old woman snorted as she pushed through the front door without pausing to knock.
Leath and the young woman gasped as they entered the foyer of the house. An antique brass chandelier hung from the center of a soaring ceiling, casting off dozens of tiny rainbow reflections. An elegant hardwood, framed a mosaic of gleaming marble.
“I can’t make out the design, can you?” Leath asked.
The girl shook her head. “It seems random to me?”
“You can admire the shiny floor later.” Miss Mirdy stated, her heavy accent cutting into their thoughts.
Leath and the young woman hastily removed their cloaks and hung them in the hall closet.
“You are late.” A voice said, drifting from atop a mahogany spiral staircase. “He has been a waiting your arrival for over an hour.”
“I apologize, but dealing with these…..”
“No need for excuses Mirdy.” The gentleman smiled as he descended the stairs. “He is waiting in the second to last room on your left.” He instructed.
He surveyed the group taking notice of their numbers. A flicker of confusion crossed the old man’s face.
“A shade was at the house.” a deep voice answered in a quiet tone.
“A shade, are you sure of this Mathias?” the gentleman asked shocked by the news.
Mathias nodded his head.
“What of his mother?” the man whispered, all color draining from his face.
Mathias shook his head sadly.
“Thank you.” the gentleman replied placing a hand on Mathias’s broad shoulder “We will discuss this more later."
Mathias rejoined his companions who were waiting anxiously in front of a handsomely carved door.
“Exactly what are we doing?” Leath asked Mathias as he approached. “Shouldn’t we just walk….."
Miss Mirdy’s voice interrupted them. “Animadverto Expositus.” she whispered, gently tracing her finger along one of the delicately carved flower stems. She cautiously opened the door, producing a small light from her pocket and stepped inside. The others followed close on her heels as they ventured deeper into the room.
Leath unexpectedly tripped, grazing his shoulder on something rough. “What the…” He exclaimed in a puzzled tone. He carefully extended his hand. A knotty, rough sensation greeted his skin. “What in the heck.....no it can't be.”
A hooded figure abruptly appeared out of the darkness. The group immediately went on guard ready to defend the baby at all costs.
“It is good to see you again my dear friends, it has been far too long.” The stranger exclaimed, pulling back his hood to reveal his face.
“Gabriel,” The young woman gasped in relief “haven’t you learned that it is not polite to sneak up on people.” The girl smiled as she gave Gabriel a hug.
“It is good to see you Zyphera.” He said returning her embrace.
“Glad to see all is well with you brother.” He said to Mathias “It has been a long time. I see you have grown much since I’ve seen you last.” He stated shaking Mathias’s hand.
“I definitly felt safer walking the dark roads with this big brut in our group.” Leath quipped.
“Ah Mr. Leath Durum, My dear friend how has your journey treated you?”
“Well, my company has proven to be rather interesting.” His gaze directed towards Miss Mirdy as he spoke.
“ Yes she is a fire cracker." Gabriel laughed. "I would love to catch up on the years we have spent apart my friends, but I am afraid I must reconvene with the council. They are anxious to meet this child.” Gabriel replied gently taking the baby from Zyphera. "Wait here till I return." He instructed the group "there is more we need to discuss."