Emily woke up and looked around. She was back in her bedroom. She looked down at herself. She was still in her bed. She shook her head. She had the craziest dream. She had been with someone named Merlin and an old woman. She had been scared and holding onto the old woman at first before holding onto Merlin. The Black Hand had been there and they had to escape from the Black Hand. She looked at her book. No doubt she had the dream because she had been reading the book for the last few weeks ever since her kidnapping. Sure the F.B.I. agent who had led the kidnappers was dead and she had recovered from her wounds but she couldn’t help but feel like something was off.
Emily looked at the page she had been reading before she had gone to sleep. When she had first read the book, it had mainly been about the battle that someone named Seraphina had been a part of against something known as the Darkness and its Black Hands, a society dedicated to the Darkness but now there was more to read. She had a feeling that it had been because she had nearly died. The book wanted her to know more about the past so she could be ready for some sort of future. She wasn’t sure why though or how it was possible. All she knew was that the new part of the story had appeared shortly after she had woken up in the hospital and that couldn’t have been a coincidence.
The page she had been reading had to do with when Gabriel, known as Merlin in the story, had been escaping from a lady who seemed to be in a high position within the Black Hand at the time. She wasn’t sure who the lady was. There had been evidence that the kidnappers had had black hands somewhere on them but Emily didn’t want to believe that a book that had some story in it to be the explanation. The book had been a gift from her mother. That was the only reason she had kept it. She knew that her mother had never held the book but she wanted to believe that her mother had left her a message in it.
She got out of her bed and looked at herself in her mirror. She still looked the same. Just eleven year old Emily Tual. She knew though that she wasn’t the same. No eleven year old girl went through being kidnapped and nearly killed twice in less than a week. She still didn’t have her memories of the first kidnapping. The doctors at the hospital had merely dismissed it as her blocking it out of her memory because of how terrible it had been for her. Emily had a feeling that it wasn’t that though. There was something else. She just didn’t know what it was yet.
Emily reached for the necklace she had been wearing a lot since she had woken up at the hospital a second time. It was of a crescent moon. Her dad had taken her to a jewelry shop to see if they could find out anything about it. All they found out was that it was made of pure silver, was very expensive and very old. She had woken up with it on. A note had been next to her hospital bed on the table. It had simply read: Happy Birthday Emily. – J. Emily never did find out who the “J” was. Most of the doctors who had taken care of her had told her it was probably one of the many people who had come to see her while she had been asleep. Emily didn’t know anyone though whose name started with “J” except her mother and she had been dead for seven years. Emily still wore the necklace though because it had touched her that someone had tried to cheer her up after everything that had happened to her.
Emily got changed and went downstairs. Her book was against her chest in her arms. She always carried it everywhere she went. She didn’t want to lose it. “Hey sleepyhead.” Emily smiled. It was her little sister Rachel. The nine year old girl was eating her breakfast in front of the television. Emily shook her head and smiled at her sister. Rachel had gotten hung up on a show after seeing the first episode even though there were only three episodes as of that day. “Dad wanted me to tell you that he would be away for a little while.” Rachel continued. “He said that he had a few errands to run.”
Emily shrugged. It didn’t bother her. Mr. Tual left a lot to do errands. He had started doing more of it since her last trip to the hospital. He was probably at the local shooting range getting his permit to use a gun or at the police station asking for leads once again on who the dead men were since it turned out that only one of them had been a real F.B.I. agent and the other three were kidnappers. “Did he say when he was coming back?” She asked her little sister.
Rachel shook her head. “He wasn’t sure this time like the last few times.”
Emily sighed and sat on the couch. She wasn’t feeling hungry anymore. Rachel looked at her big sister. “Are you okay?” She asked Emily.
Emily shook her head. “I don’t know any more to be honest.” She answered. “Everything has been crazy since my last birthday.”
Rachel knew what Emily was talking about. What was supposed to be a special birthday had turned into a nightmare that lasted a few days. Rachel looked at Emily’s necklace. “Any clue as to who J is yet?” She asked.
Emily looked down at her necklace. “Nothing yet.” She answered.
The front door opened. “Is anyone here?” The sisters looked towards the front door. It was Delaney.
“We’re in the living room.” Emily announced.
Delaney and Elizabeth came into the living room. “What’s up Emily, Rachel?” Elizabeth asked as she sat down next to Emily.
Rachel looked at her cousins. “Emily just came downstairs.” She told them.
“Is your dad here?” Delaney asked.
Rachel shook her head. “He’s out running errands.”
Delaney smiled. “Perfect. Gives us girls a chance to talk.” She sat down across from the others.
Elizabeth nodded. “Has there been any luck with finding out the person who gave you that necklace?” She asked, looking at Emily’s necklace.
Emily looked down at it and shook her head. “Not yet.” She answered. “Whoever sent it hasn’t sent anything else to me.” She added.
“What about the book?” Delaney asked. “Is there any information about the necklace in your book? After all, it did speak of the Black Hand and the people who kidnapped you had black hands on their chests.”
Emily knew that Delaney was only trying to help. The thing was, she was already looking in her book. If there was a reference to her necklace, it wasn’t there yet. She had only gotten to the story of Merlin and the little girl. That was when she realized that the girl’s name had never been mentioned in her dream. She wondered if that was because the book didn’t have it or if she hadn’t gotten to that part yet. “I haven’t found the necklace in the book yet.” She answered. “But there’s quite a few pages I haven’t read yet so there’s still hope it’s in the book.
Elizabeth looked out the window at the street. “It’s weird not having Officer Daniel driving down the street anymore.” She said. “Did you ever find out what had happened to him?” She was speaking of Officer Daniel. A police officer that used to patrol the nearby streets. He had disappeared shortly after Emily had been kidnapped the first time. The four girls didn’t know what had happened to him but they weren’t sure they wanted to know. The kidnappers after all had nearly killed Emily twice. If Officer Daniel’s disappearance was anything like hers, he was most likely dead.
Rachel shook her head. “Sadly no.” She answered. “He was fun to see and he would always have something funny to say.”
Emily cleared her throat. “Come on girls.” She said. “We have a job to do.” She opened her book and looked down at it. “We need to find out why there’s a bunch of people in a book that are after me. We also need to find out why my mother wanted me to have this book if she didn’t have it.” She didn’t want to give up on looking for those answers. Those answers might be connected to each other.
The other three girls went over to her and they looked at the book. “What have you found out so far?” Elizabeth asked.
Emily flipped through the last few pages she had read. “It seems like there were several times that the Black Hands had tried to kill girls over the years. Last one I read about was during King Arthur.” She pointed at one page. “Apparently the Black Hand was behind King Arthur’s death. They had Mordred kill him.”
Elizabeth whistled. “That is pretty big.” She said. “And not a version of King Arthur’s downfall that I’ve heard of.” She was a big King Arthur reader. “I’ve never heard of an organization killing King Arthur over a child.”
Emily shook her head. “Neither have I. King Arthur wasn’t the girl’s father which is probably why she was never in any story of King Arthur before.”
Elizabeth nodded. “King Arthur only had one son: Mordred. They both killed each other during the last fight.”
Emily flipped to that page. “Apparently Mordred was some horseman.” She told them. “He led a Black Hand army against Arthur while a lady led other Black Hands after Merlin.”
Elizabeth leaned down and read the part. “It doesn’t say the lady’s name.” She said.
Emily looked at her. “Any important women during King Arthur’s time that knew about Merlin?” She asked even though she had a feeling that she already knew the answer.
Elizabeth nodded. “Queen Guinevere. Merlin told Arthur to marry her. There was Morgan La Fey. King Arthur’s half-sister and in some stories Merlin’s archenemy. Morgause, Morgan’s sister. There was also Nimue or the Lady of the Lake.” She answered.
Emily looked at Delaney and Rachel. “Anyone else notice how quickly she answered that?” She asked.
Elizabeth managed not to roll her eyes. “You asked.” She reminded Emily.
Emily thought of each name. “Did any of them have a daughter that would have been a great threat to evil?” She asked.
Elizabeth shook her head. “No. But none of the stories mention the Black Hand so she might have been kept out of the other stories too.”
Emily did not think of that. It would make sense though. “Do the stories ever mention what happened to Merlin?” She asked. Her book didn’t say what had happened. She had a feeling she knew who Merlin really was but she wanted to first hear what had happened to his character.
Elizabeth nodded. “The most famous one was that he taught Nimue everything he knew for her love and she betrayed him by sealing him away in a tree.” She answered.
Emily was not expecting that. If that was true then what had happened to the girl or the old lady? “Is Merlin still in that tree?” She asked.
Elizabeth shrugged. “I don’t know. The story just said he was sealed away.” She sat down. “But seeing how this says he escaped with a little girl and an old woman from the Black Hand, I doubt it. It would have been impossible for him to do that from a tree.”
Emily looked at the illustration of Merlin, the little girl and the old woman. For some reason, the little girl looked familiar. She wasn’t sure why though. Delaney looked at the passage. “It said here that Mordred was the Horseman of War.” She said.
Elizabeth looked as well. “That’s a first.” She said. “There’s no mention of any Horseman of anything like this in any other story.”
Emily looked at the illustration of Mordred. He was in black armor and on a red horse. His blade was blood red. “I don’t think this is a normal story.” She told them. “Not if Merlin survived the tree and escaped and there were Black Hands there.”