To Riddle Alone

Chapter 4

My Diary

3:10 a.m.

When I woke up, it was dark. Either I'd only been asleep for a few hours, or I'd slept for nearly a day. A quick check on my phone clock told me it was the latter. I wanted to get up – I'd already drained the glass of water I'd found on my bedside table, and now my thirst was gone I was free to feel the hunger cramping my stomach. A sandwich and some chocolate bars the day before yesterday weren't enough.

But the idea of creeping around the Big House in the dark, when I'd spent my last few conscious hours trapped in it, in absolute terror, put me off. Instead, I flicked on my globe lamp and found the clothes I'd been in at the cottage, only then noticing that Mum must have changed me into my nightie.

It was a relief to find the papers – and the picture – still safe in my jeans pocket, though it only reminded me of what had happened.

Epsilon was gone. His cottage was destroyed; contaminated by Cimul.

But how? Cimul – yes, I'll write his name now, he won't scare me off, though I'm still terrified of him – is DEAD! He's buried under the rubble of the Miradel, has been for years.

Unless he's a ghost. Or whatever Epsilon is when he's all... ghost-like. He, Epsilon, once told me I am no longer dealing with the laws of this world, so maybe when Bright and Dark Beings 'die' (or get crushed under a few hundred tonnes of rock) they don't actually die, or can come back or something. After all, Epsilon never materialised fully, in a solid body, after the Miradel fell, he was always almost spirit like; barely there. So that's one theory; Cimul is now in a similar state to what Epsilon was after the tower fell, and so can move things around, mess with me, but doesn't have an actual, physical body anymore; be it his, Yolandë's, or the swan's.

Either way, I'm in trouble, and on my own, for now anyway. And the only way I can get through this in one piece and sane is to try and figure out what he wants. Find a way to stop him. And I think Epsilon's given me a starting point in these pieces of paper.

First, the scrap of paper that was resting against my hand after Epsilon's fight. It was quite short, and, guess what! Another riddle, joy of joys.

I'm glad I've learnt Lumic, because my box file is still down at the cottage, and I am not going back there without some way of defending myself. Madness may run in the family, but I'm not suicidal.

Anyway, the translation.

'At lyrics start and lyrics end; I of X of X is the key'

I'd say I think he was going easy on me; the first line obviously refers to a song, with 'lyric'. But then it loses me. Lyrics start and lyrics end – the start and end of a song? But what song?

Okay, try the second line. 'I of X is the key'. The 'I' and 'X's confused me for a bit, but then I wrote it out without translating them, and I'll bet 'I' and 'X' are Roman numerals – one and ten. So, one of ten of ten is the key? Um...what?

Okay, so;

'At lyrics start and lyrics end;

One of ten of ten is the key'

Song, one of ten of ten...wait, what if 'one' is 'first'? So first of ten of ten. First of ten of ten, song.

OH! What's in a song? Verses. So, first verse of ten verses of ten...what? Songs? Maybe.

Assuming it is, the tenth song doesn't help much, but 'tenth' makes me think of a list. So... a list of songs? The only place I can think of that would have something like that is our library – or the internet, but that really would be impossible to find, and Epsilon has never given me something impossible, despite what I thought at the time.

So. A book of songs in our library? A book with ten songs in it; and I need the first verse of the tenth song.

Just as long as it's not like the ballad of Yolandë. That was both frustrating and scary, when I'd deciphered it.

In any case, searching our library is a job for later – it's still only half three in the morning, with no light yet.

May as well translate the other two pieces of paper while I wait. There's two of them – Epsilon's notes, by the looks of it. They're organised; his handwriting normal, unhurried. He must have written these before – or after, with him who knows? – the fight. But if he could write these after the fight, then surely he'd be here now? Pass.

There's no way I'm writing all this out in Lumic, then English. I'll have to find a new, temporary file 'til I can get my old one back.

Anyway, these pages are gonna take a while – I'll write what I find when I translate them.


5:30 a.m., Dawn.

That took longer than I thought. At least there's a bit of light now – enough to turn my lamp off and open my curtains to work in natural light.

I've just realised what a mess I left my room in after that incident with Doctor Parker. I think Mum and Mrs Shilling have tried to tidy it up, but I can still see a pile of wrecked homework books, and a large crack up the middle of one of my mirrors. I think I kicked it – or kicked Doctor Parker into it. If I did; good. I really hope it hurt him.

Moving away from that topic before I can get angry again – there's no point in smashing my room up even more.

So, yeah. The notes. As ever, they make little sense. It's like Epsilon knew I would have to read these at some point, so he wrote them as cryptically as any of his clues.

I think I'm going to give him 'Plain Speaking' lessons the next time I see him. It would save me a lot of time and headaches.

I'll keep the notes – translated and otherwise – in my file. I'll copy them down in a minute – it's finally light enough that I feel I can go downstairs without freaking myself out at every shadow. It's that warm, golden light in the sky – the light you get just as the sun's coming up. Vibrant. Comforting. It turns the wood in this old house into gleaming copper and amber. A sunrise like the one Mum and I watched from the beach. When the relic was returned to the sea and Agapetos vanished from sight.

Oh, god, I hope I see him and Epsilon again. Because if I don't it'll still feel like Cimul won. Even if he doesn't.

I can't stay put any more; I'm going to have to move before I turn into a blubbering wreck. First, food. Then the library. And hope I don't wake anyone up.


Later.

Well, after about two hours of looking through books, and nearly breaking my neck to see the higher shelves I might add, I think I've found it.

There were five books of songs in our library (I was surprised – our library's not that big!) and two with ten songs in them (though some of them were those old songs that had about a gazillion verses in them that no one would be able to remember anyway). One of them had songs from all different countries in it, and the last song wasn't even in the English alphabet – it looked Arabic or something. So that left me with one book; all in English; thank god. If Epsilon wanted me to translate Arabic now on top of everything else, I think I'd go crazy!

So, I'm after the first verse of the tenth song of ten songs, which is this:

Praise, for the King is well!

Praise, for the devil is dead!

Buried in his cave of misery,

Only snakes of stone still hold him.

Okay, this is creepy. This book – and the song – has got to be a few hundred years old; the front page says it was printed in fourteen fifty. But it is clearly referring to events that only happened two years ago - the 'devil', Cimul – who else? – dying, and being buried 'in his cave of misery'; the cavern he retreated to in the myth, where he became so twisted, and the cave he lured Martha, Mum and me to.

The cave that Martha was trapped in, and died in, cold and alone. If that isn't the 'cave of misery', I don't know what is.

I guess this is more of that 'time is meaningless' stuff, but it still makes that paranoid, watched feeling come flooding back.

So, that's half of that figured out. The first line has me really confused, but the last one...the 'snake' could be the Ouroborus, so snakes of stone I'd guess would be the Ouroborus stone on our land. The thicket around it has always made it impossible to get into, but if I need to I could always steal a knife from the kitchen and hack my way through. The way things are going, I may have to.

Back to the first line. 'Praise, for the king is well!'

I don't think the 'praise' bit has anything to do with the riddle; it's the 'king is well' bit that's important.

The only 'king' I know of that could be relevant is King L'Ume, but all this is saying is that he is 'well'; he's healthy, not ill or something.

That can't be it; there's got to be something else.

So far, it's mentioned people and places of Lume; King L'Ume, Cimul, the cavern and the Ouroborus stone. It's probably going to match that pattern. L'Ume was mentioned in the same line, so somewhere associated with him, maybe?

That only leaves the whole freakin' island!

Something more localised. The King is well. L'Ume is well. L'Ume. Well. L'Ume.

Wait.

On the map, wasn't there a well to the southwest of the Miradel? I'm sure it was labelled 'Well of L'Ume'.

So, I've got two places to search for I-don't-know-what, with no help from Epsilon, creepy dark beings and followers generally scaring the hell out of me, and absolutely no idea why any of this is happening!

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