God's Own Medallion
The ballroom lay empty, abandoned. It’s once gleaming marble floors were chipped and cracked, and caked with years of dust and grime. The great domed ceiling, made with translucent squares of glass, was dark with algae. No one cared enough to attempt to clean the dome that sat deep underwater at the bottom of a lake. The ballroom was linked to the grand library by a long, curved hallway that was intermittently lit by flickering tubes that ran along the top of the tunnel.
The library and ballroom were night and day. Where the ballroom was just a shell, uncared for and unused, the library was well used, and loved. Every surface was freshly dusted and polished, mahogany and other rich wood gleamed under warm lights from ornate lamps dotted around on small tables and on the large dark desk which dominated one end. A chandelier mostly of ornate, twisted metal than actual lightbulbs hung above the shelves of books and the large, inviting armchairs that were also interspersed throughout the room, but mostly clustered around the fireplace which took up a large amount of wall space on the east side.
Jonas heard the person arriving long before they reached the door to the library. He heard the hatch door thunk loudly against the stone above, on the surface, followed by each individual foot step that the visitor took down the curving metal steps of the stair case that deposited them outside the library doors.
He counted. “Ten, eleven, twelve,” the final steps down the stairs, and then paused, waiting for the knock. It came a half second later.
With a sigh he answered it. “Come in,” he said wearily, not wanting to be disturbed. He sat back in his chair, waiting for whoever it was who dared to interrupt him.
The tall, reedy man who entered opened the door slowly, as if he already knew the reaction he would get and was delaying it as long as possible.
“Sir,” he said softly, afraid that speaking louder would irritate the man even more.
“What is it?” Jonas snapped, stopping the movement of his pen across the paper spread out across the length and width of the desk.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but you have visitors,” his employee said, his voice lowering more to be barely audible.
“What? Speak up! I’m not getting any younger,” Jonas said, though he could hear the man perfectly well, just had he had his footsteps on the stairs outside and down the hall a bit.
The tall man stood straighter and raised his voice. “You have some visitors,” he said again, more loudly. “They say they have something of importance you might be interested in.”
Jonas’s eyes roamed around his office full of curios and knickknacks gathered on travels and from visitors like the people who had just arrived. People who wanted to sell him things for large sums. He was a collector, and a wealthy one, who could afford to buy rare goods that no one else had. He thought of them as his legacy. They would be here long after he was gone.
He raised an eyebrow, his curiosity piqued. “Oh? What is it they have?”
The man paused, raising his eyes to the ceiling in thought. Jonas could see the wheels of the man’s brain turning, trying to remember. How could he not remember?
“Come on, Sebastian!” Jonas prompted. “Surely you must know what it is they have for me.”
Sebastian shrugged sheepishly. “I-, I’m not-,” he stuttered, and started again. “Some sort of…medallion, I think they said?” His voice raised in a question, unsure.
Jonas stood, pushing his chair back. “A medallion?” He didn’t have many medallions, but there were only a few that interested him, and he had all of them in his possession already.
Sebastian nodded as he began to back out of the room as Jonas followed him out. Up the curving metal staircase, their feet ringing hollowly, to the man hole cover of a door way, that Sebastian pushed up and over, climbing out onto the hard granite rock that poked out like a small island, or perhaps the shell of some massive turtle, in the middle of the lake.
There was a small white row boat tied to a metal rod in the rock. Sebastian climbed in first, standing shakily for a moment as the boat rocked with his weight. He then offered his hand to Jonas who gripped it firmly, crushing his fingers, but Sebastian took it in stride and only grimaced.
The trip back to shore took only five minutes, but it was a further five minutes walk to the house that was situated back from the edge of the lake and surrounded by tall trees on both sides, and grass transforming to rocks and then sand at the waters edge.
Jonas moved as quickly as he could, following the younger, more spry Sebastian up the worn path that was beaten into the grass to and from the beach, and entering his mansion on the bottom floor, and onto the hard tile floor that surrounded the pool. He debated taking the elevator to the main floor, but sometimes it was slower than it should be. He took the stairs instead, using the railing to lever himself up quickly and out into the main foyer. He strode purposefully into the sitting room next to it where his guests were waiting.
One was a tall man, young looking with a mop of dark hair. The other was a woman, slightly shorter and a lot older with more grey hair than not, taking over what used to be blond hair. It was swept back in an elegant twisted bun.
The woman had been examining a collection of objects and vases on a long table in front of a window. The man had been sitting on a couch, one leg crossed over the other and his foot bouncing nervously. They turned as Jonas entered.
“Mr. Shadbolt,” the woman began, her red lips parting in a wide smile.
“I’ve been told you have a medallion.” Jonas said bluntly. “Well? Let’s see it then.”
The young man nearly leapt off the couch, and thrust a pile of velvety cloth at Jonas. “Here it is,” the man said, words trying to escape him faster than he could speak. “It’s God’s medallion.”
The stately woman stepped forward shaking her head. “God’s Own medallion,” she corrected.
Jonas took the cloth from the man and unwrapped it slowly, carefully. The medal inside the wrapping surprised him. It was simple, understated. A silver disc, bisected by swirls that made each side mirror itself, in two almost tear-drop shapes.
Jonas’ brow furrowed. Had he seen this before? He couldn’t remember exactly.
“How much?” he asked, before he asked anything else.
“We don’t want anything for it,” the man said quickly. The woman shot him a look, but he didn’t notice. “We just want to get rid of it.”
Jonas arched a neat white eyebrow once more, curious again. “Why?”
“It’s trouble,” the man said.
The woman shook her head again and positioned herself in front of the man to stop him from speaking anymore. “He’s exaggerating. It’s...powerful,” she said, choosing her words carefully.
“Yeah, because it’s the God’s Own Medallion,” the man piped up from behind the wall the woman made. He edged out from behind her and pointed at the medallion in Jonas’ hand. “See here, both sides represent light and dark, the creation of the world.”
The woman rolled her eyes and sighed. “He’s right about that. Creation and destruction too. It’s in perfect balance.”
“But it’s been wreaking havoc on us since we got it,” the man replied. “Since we found it in an old junk shop a few months ago. It’s cursed.”
“Cursed?” Jonas echoed.
The woman laughed loud and sharp, shooting the young man another look. “I wouldn’t go that far, John,” she said. “It definitely has a …personality. And we heard you collected interesting and rare things. We’ve had our use of it, and thought you might be interested in it. If you’d like to give us a little something for it, we wouldn’t object,” she said silencing her partner with a sharp look.
Jonas looked at the medallion in his hand. It was heavy. Heavier than something that size should have been.
“Excuse me,” he said, and handed the medallion back to the man before he turned and went to a nearby bookshelf, withdrawing a large book and carrying it to a table. He flipped through the pages, that pictured antiquities of all sorts before settling on a section about medallions. He flicked over a few pages, then stopped. The medallion that currently sat in the young man’s hand was there on the page. He scanned the words in the paragraphs below it. The last sentence, a short one, made his spine tingle.
It is dangerous; owner beware.
Owner beware? Dangerous? Jonas thought. Now he had to have it. It would be a great talking piece.
He shook hands with the man and woman and even smiled and waved them away as they drove off.
The ballroom under the lake was abandoned, full of dust, undisturbed for decades, perhaps even centuries. Next to it, down a short, narrow hallway in total darkness, all of the lights that ran along it had long since burned out, was an office, or study. It had been unused for a long time. Dust coated all surfaces and objects thickly.
On the desk large sheaves of paper were spread out across its entire surface covered with maps, technical diagrams, plans, for inventions that never saw the light of day. The study was empty and had been so for a long time. Across the papers in thick dark ink that stained the paper in dots and messy splotches were two words in a shaky, scrawling hand. Owner Beware.