Chapter 94 - Puzzle
The ship lay in the harbor when someone unexpectedly knocked on their door. Marcus left earlier with Jack and a few men to obtain some slightly less than legal merchandize.
“Byron?” Alena called when she recognized his scent and the steady rhythm of his heart. He entered the room dressed in black with a cape and hood that hung loosely across his shoulders. Behind him, Sarah scanned the hallway to make sure no one observed them, which made the vampires uneasy, but Byron looked both extraordinarily pleased with himself and sad.
“Come, my ladies, I have something to show you.” His barely contained excitement made them follow him without hesitation. They grabbed their capes from the hook behind the door to blend in with the night.
He led them from the room to the deck and then on to the harbor pier. He continued forward, and ducked behind some cargo boxes stacked up high. Byron showed signs of hesitation which made Alena and Rowan wary, but then he came to a standstill. They hesitated with their senses on high alert, but they were alone.
“It lies at your feet, my ladies,” Sarah whispered just loud enough for them to hear, and they glanced at the weathered wooden slats.
“I think this is our port of call, my ladies,” Byron announced, and they had to agree as the moon revealed the mark of the Dark One etched into the wood.
The pier itself was over a hundred years old, but the emblem barely showed any wear. It was a recent edition, still distinct, less than seven years old, and almost a full meter in diameter.
“Did Marcus see this?” Alena asked, and Byron shook his head.
“We found it as we returned from seeing him off,” Byron explained. Rowan and Alena realized that Byron had the crew stack these crates to hide their presence and not alert anyone to what they discovered.
“It’s a calling card,” Alena concluded and shivered.
“He knew we’d come by sea,” Rowan agreed with a sense of unease which the humans picked up on.
“He could have guessed?” Sarah tried to ease their alarm, but it only confirmed that they did the right thing to tell Byron their secret.
“No, he didn’t guess,” Rowan denied. “He’s waiting for us,” she corrected, and Alena glanced into the night as if she expected to see him.
“Yes,” Alena agreed. “Cover it,” she ordered Byron, who frowned, but nodded before they made their way back to the ship.
“He’s inland,” Rowan concluded with absolute certainty when Byron and Sarah had excused themselves to tend to their duties.
“Yes,” Alena agreed, and without saying a word, they retrieved all the documents to spread them across the table. They both suspected that the answer to their final destination lay in these records, waiting for them to discover it.
The night wore on, and Marcus didn’t return, Rowan leaned forward to study some detail and then grew still.
“Do you see this?” She asked of Alena, and Alena stared at the tiny mark. She rummaged through one of Marcus’s bags and retrieved the magnifying glass from it.
The drawing was so small that it was no larger than a pinky nail under the looking glass, but it was distinct. Alena and Rowan scanned the rest of the documents to find more such symbols.
“They’re a puzzle,” Alena concluded, and they spent most of the night sorting the letters until they covered most of the floor.
The edges of the documents made shapes and the artifacts fit in those shapes. When they finished up and realized the image created by the documents, they felt gutted. The dark emblem mocked them from the ground.
The words in the glass, the scroll in the tiny scarab, the symbols, and marks all fit together in a design that revealed the same message over and over. You are mine.
“The dark one played us,” Rowan admitted with a growing sense of dread. “He did not intend for these clues to allow us to find him; he meant them to enable himself to find us. To lead us right into his hands,” Rowan realized, and as she said these words, the air in the cabin grew chill.
“He orchestrated everything we did. None of it would have happened but for his interference,” Alena agreed, and they felt the weight of their newfound knowledge upon their souls.
“Everything but this,” Alena said as she placed a tiny vial on the table along with an ancient document covered in near illegible scribble. The bottle looked similar to the ones that contained the poison Alderin sent to them, but the text Rowan never saw before.
Rowan frowned as Alena took the vial and poured the watery but citrus smelling contents over the paper before she took a clean rag and wiped away the original text. Rowan frowned, but the liquid dried with a little sizzle to reveal words.
“Father gave me this before he died, but he never fully explained it to me. I didn’t see the connection until you discovered the markings, but there is a similar one on this vial,” Alena said as she turned the bottle upside down to show it to Rowan. “Father showed me how to make letters like these when I was little. It just didn’t occur to me until I read the part about invisible messages being used by the Romans,” Alena revealed.
Rowan frowned as she leaned forward to watch the words reveal themselves with more clarity as the paper rapidly dried.