The Light Of The GUARDIAN

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CHAPTER FIVE

The Castle On The Hill

Kurt stirred, aroused by the rapping at the door. Sleepily, he stumbled to the door and opened it.

Ivan glared at him, “You not ready?”

Kurt rubbed his eyes, yawning, “What time is it?”

“Past midnight!” Ivan snapped. “Be ready in five minutes or I be gone!”

Kurt rushed over and said urgently, “Get up Jack; Ivan’s here!”

Jack bristled, “Huh, what?”

“Get up; Ivan’s here!”

Jack sat up, confused, “Why is he here?”

“He’s taking us to the castle.”

Jack rubbed his eyes as he mumbled, “Errr, I’ve been thinking about it, and maybe it’s not such a good idea.”

Kurt rushed over to the basin and splashed water on his face as he barked, “Come on, just get up!”

The two walked out of the Inn, and Jack was tired, but also hesitant. “Kurt, I don’t know, meeting her at night-time, I’m not comfortable about this.”

Kurt was flush with expectation, and he huffed, “Day-time, night-time, it doesn’t matter!”

“But what if she’s like, you know …”

“What?”

“Like not normal.”

Kurt gazed across at the cart, Ivan sitting impatiently in his seat. He turned to face Jack as he said, “Listen, if you don’t want to come up, wait for me at the bottom of the hill, but Jack …”

“What?”

Kurt began walking as he stated determinedly, “I just have to see this woman.”

Jack cocked his head and said wryly, “You mean you have to find out what happened to your dad?”

“Yes, that’s what I meant.”

Ivan sat in the middle of the wooden seat, and Kurt climbed up and sat on his left, Jack on his right, then Ivan coaxed the horse into motion.

They travelled in silence, not a light to be seen as they trotted out of the village and onto the dirt road.

The moon seemed to be sitting unusually low in the cloudy sky, and no stars were visible. The silence was making Kurt edgy, so he said, “Slovan told us that the woman in the photo lives there, and Boris said that when the men searched the castle, another woman named Ada was there.”

“When the comet come through, the women was there, whether they still there, who knows.”

“So the castle could be empty, no-one could be there?” Jack asked.

“It seems like you’re going to find out.” Ivan replied quietly.

Jack glanced at Ivan and muttered, “Everybody in the village seem scared of her.”

“People is always scared of what they don’t understand.”

“I have a letter from Ivanka Slovinsky, and in the letter she wrote that my father left one morning to go to the castle, and she never saw him again.” Kurt said.

“I know about the stories.” Ivan replied.

“It seems strange to me that the men of the village don’t want to know who these women are.” Kurt said.

Ivan remained silent.

“Ivan, if my father did go up there, the people in the castle may be guilty of murder, or at the very least, kidnapping; and it seems like you and the men of the village are too afraid to go up and confront the owners of the castle.”

“Boris and a dozen men went up not long after your father disappeared, and he was not there.”

“Okay, but they still should have tried to find out what happened to my father.”

“The story of the man going up to the castle is from twenty years ago,” Ivan began, “More’en likely that nobody even lives there now.”

Ten miles out of the village, Ivan turned off the road and steered the cart east, and the horse trotted through wild, knee-high grass for more than a quarter-mile until the forest began. Ivan constantly made clicking sounds with his tongue, steering the horse left or right, navigating the cart through dense scrub, and not long after, cautiously trekking his way around the seemingly endless conglomeration of towering trees. This part of the forest had obviously never been invaded by man, no tracks, no paths, the undergrowth thick and wild, trees everywhere, occasionally the moon being blocked out by the dense foliage of the trees. They continued on in silence, Ivan concentrating on the route, the horse occasionally spluttering out what seemed like a nervous whiny.

Jack leant forward and looked across at Kurt, and Kurt could see the apprehension in his eyes.

“You okay?” Kurt asked.

Jack fidgeted then said shakily, “Ivan, stop!”

Ivan stopped and Jack got off, motioning to Kurt, “Come over here.”

Jack led him out of earshot, then nervously faced him. “This doesn’t feel right.”

“What?”

“Jesus Kurt, the whole village seems shit scared of this woman or this castle or whatever, and here’s us, two foreigners just going, Yeah, we’ll go up and have a look around! I mean it’s crazy!”

Kurt placed a hand on his shoulder as he said, “This is a backward village, and the villagers are just stupid, superstitious fools who are spooked by a woman.”

“No come on Kurt; Boris said that they searched the place and your father wasn’t there, so maybe he did you know, just run off to another village.”

Kurt sighed and said, “I told you that I wrote to Ivanka, and in her letters she said that my dad was acting strange for a few days before he left, and he seemed kinda spooked, but she was certain that he went to the castle to see the woman.”

Jack bowed his head as he mumbled, “You know that I’m normally up for anything, but this, this just doesn’t feel right.”

Kurt gazed into space as he realised that to push this venture forward, he needed to come clean. “I, I’ve seen her before.” he mumbled.

“What?”

“The woman, the woman who is supposed to live there; I’ve seen her before.”

Jack shook his head in confusion, “I don’t understand.”

Kurt looked to the heavens and blew out a breath, then faced his friend. “When I decided I was going to find out what happened to my dad, I started having these strange dreams; dreams of this village, his birthplace, and dreams of, of …”

“Of what?”

“Of her.”

Jack shrugged his shoulders and said, blandly, “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.”

“For months, months on end, I had dreams of the woman, and Jack, it was just like that photo I’ve got; the woman dressed in the see-through gown with her head bowed.”

Jack pondered, then shook his head, “No, no way.”

“I can’t explain it, but maybe it’s like some kind of a message or something, my dad reaching out to me and saying, Speak to the woman and you’ll find out what happened to me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Well I’d only dreamt about her, dreamt about a woman, and guys dreaming about women isn’t unusual,” Kurt began, then he lowered his gaze as he muttered, “But when I saw that photo …”

“Nahh, not possible; it couldn’t be the same woman.” Jack said dismissively.

“My mind might be playing tricks, but I’m sure it is the same woman, and last night, well yeah, I had the dream again and it was definitely her.”

Jack pondered, then he said confidently, “Okay, that’s freaky, but it’s also another reason why we should get the hell out of here.”

“No way!” Kurt trumpeted. “It has been confirmed that my dad went up there, so yeah, I have to go up.”

“Yes, and we will go up, but we’ll do it during the day, and we’ll also pay somebody else to come with us.”

“Jesus Jack, we’re almost there.” Kurt huffed.

Kurt saw his friend’s shoulders slump, so he said daringly, “The Jack Trent I know would love this challenge, and he’d say to me, Come on Kurt, follow me and we’ll charge in head first.”

Jack gazed at him bashfully and said, “Jack Trent is saying that this doesn’t seem right, I mean this place is miles from anywhere.”

Kurt pondered, then said invitingly, “Kurt Slovinsky is saying that him and Jack Trent might get the opportunity to stay in a castle where the only other occupants might be two women.”

Jack was nervously scuffing his right foot into the thick undergrowth, so Kurt added enticingly, “And one of those women could be the woman from the photograph.”

Jack pondered for long moments, then he said bluntly, “You owe me one Slovinsky.” And reluctantly, Jack followed Kurt, and they both climbed aboard the cart.

“We go on?” Ivan asked.

“Yes, yes please.” Kurt replied.

Within the half hour, the dense congestion of trees began to abate, a clearing beginning, the land now flat and arid, and miles ahead of them, the hill was visible. As the horse plodded on, the hill grew in size, its mass momentous, the hill looking like a flat-apexed triangle.

“This be as far as I go.” Ivan muttered as he drew the cart to a halt.

Kurt gazed at the hill, and he guessed that they were five hundred yards from the hills base, and he nodded at Ivan and said, “Thank you.”

“Ten dollar.” Ivan said briskly.

Kurt rifled around in his back-pack, and a moment later he handed him a ten dollar bill. “Again, thank-you Ivan.”

Before dismounting, Jack faced Ivan and said, “There’s nothing else around here, no other houses or huts.”

Ivan ignored him as he jumped off and led the horse in a semi-circle, and after the horse was facing the direction they had come from, he mounted again, then he clicked his tongue and urged, “Go girl, take us home.”

Increasingly anxious, Jack piped up and said, “What are you doing? You have to wait for us!”

“Nay.”

A negative response, a response that Jack followed up on as he asked, “Can you come and get us tomorrow?”

“I no be coming back.” Ivan replied, and then with a whip of the reins, he prompted the horse into motion.

Jack trotted alongside the cart as he asked shakily, “So how do we get back?”

With his focus straight ahead, Ivan replied, “You got legs.”

“Wait, wait; what if nobody lives there and we’re stranded?” Jack asked.

Ivan swung his head to look at the castle, then he muttered, “I see a light burning.”

Kurt nodded and said, “Yeah, so someone must live there.”

“If you go to the castle on the hill, maybe you find out if anybody there,” Ivan began, “And if you do, you’re all by yourselves.” Ivan produced a whip, and with practised expertise, he cracked the whip and the horse broke into a canter, the cart rocking and rolling on the uneven ground, although Jack noted to his dismay, the cart was rocking and rolling away from them.

“Hey, what the hell!” he screamed out.

As a stiffening breeze swept through the clearing, they both watched as Ivan encouraged the horse to break into a clumsy gallop. Jack felt decidedly uneasy as he gazed up at the castle. A single light flickered from a ground floor front room, the rest of the vast castle draped in an ominous darkness, and from their vantage point, it appeared that the partially obscured moon was sitting right on the apex of the castle. Occasionally, a single bird fluttered in and out of the moons dull beam, the bird performing some kind of an aerial ballet.

Or maybe it wasn’t a bird.

Kurt sucked in a breath, then said, “Okay, let’s get going.”

They walked through the clearing and eventually found themselves at the bottom of the hill. The ground at the bottom of the hill was muddy, but as they walked up the gradually inclining surface, it became more solid.

As Jack trudged up the hill, he turned back to see the cart disappearing into the forest.

After a few minutes, the hill became steeper, and Kurt puffed out, “One things for sure, the people who live here would have to be fit, climbing up and down here every day.”

Unsettled, Jack had no reply to offer, although he did note that there didn’t seem to be any worn or defined tracks or paths leading up to the castle.

The final fifty yards was steeper again, the boys almost having to lean forward at right angles to trudge up, then the slope lessened appreciably until finally they reached the top of the hill. Kurt knew that Jack was uncomfortable, so he thought he needed to inject a positive. “Hooo,” Kurt panted, “At least going down is going to be easier.”

The boys stood a hundred yards from the castle, the single light still flickering.

Good looking, confident and dashing, Jack had always been bold and adventurous, loved testing himself, loved pushing himself to the limits; and indeed, his motto had almost become, Hey, what the hell; let’s give it a go! But as he stared at the castle, he began to wonder whether he had just found his limit. “Kurt,” he whispered, “I don’t like this.”

Kurt shivered, not through the chill; he shivered because he didn’t like it either. This wasn’t about him though, or Jack; this was finding out what had happened to his father. “Hey, you ready?” Kurt asked brightly.

Staring at the castle, Jack conceded; he had found his limit. This wasn’t a- Hey, what the hell; let’s give it a go- situation, this was a- Hey, get me the hell outta here- situation. He felt intimidated just by looking at the castle; are you feeling bold and adventurous? No … do you want to test yourself? No, not here … push yourself to the limits? Uh uhh, I just wanta go home …

Kurt drew in a breath, then declared shakily, “Okay, let’s do this!” He drew the solid door-knocker up, then slammed it down three times, initially startled by the loud thudding sound it made. Kurt gazed at Jack, his friend shivering, and his eyes were opened as wide as they could be.

“Wow,” Kurt blew out, “This is exciting, yeah?”

He was just about to slam the door-knocker again, when a shrill creaking whine broke the silence, and the large heavy door slowly swung open. In shadow, a figure peered out, the eyes of the shadow blinking in intervals as silent seconds ticked by.

Kurt was uneasy in the silence, and he mumbled nervously, “Hello.” He waited for a response, although no response came, the eyes continuing to blink in silence.

“Hello, my name is Kurt.”

No answer, the figure motionless.

Uneasy? Yes … uncomfortable? Yes … so Kurt dithered, then he asked meekly, “Can, can we speak to Theibe?”

“What do you want?” came the reply, a female voice.

“I, I would like to speak to Theibe.” Kurt muttered.

“Why?”

“My, my father came up here almost twenty years ago, and I want to ask Theibe if she knows what happened to him.”

The eyes blinked and the female voice said bluntly, “No-one comes up here.”

Jack’s idea of coming during the day was making more sense to Kurt by the minute, although they were here now, and besides, he had a mission, so he asked timidly, “Well, you see, I think my father may have come up here twenty years ago, and nobody has seen his since.”

“So?”

“Well I want to speak to Thiebe and see if she remembers him coming up.”

“What is your name?”

“Kurt, Kurt Slovinsky.”

The woman stepped out of the shadows and stared at Jack, then she asked, “Who is this?”

“His name is Jack, Jack Trent, and he is my friend.”

The woman was taller than Kurt, and that made her 5’10” plus, and she had an attractive face, although a four-inch scar on her right cheek tempered her beauty.

“Slovinsky?” the woman asked.

“Yes, Kurt Slovinsky, and my father was Hors Slovinsky.” Kurt bit his bottom lip as thought about his rushed reply, then he silently admonished himself; don’t say WAS, say IS, because he could still be alive.

The woman stared at him, the stare intense enough to have Jack meekly looking at the ground, then the woman asked quietly, “You have lodgings for the night?”

“No, no we don’t.”

The woman stepped aside and said in a more civil tone, “Come in.”

They stepped into the entranceway, and Kurt looked around in wonder. The entranceway blossomed into a huge spacious area, although strangely, a large room on their left had no furnishings, and the room on the right had only a large table and chairs.

“What is your name ma’am?”

“Ada.” she replied, then she picked up a lantern and said, “Come, follow me.”

Kurt remembered Boris saying, and another woman, Ada … and he felt an excited shiver race up his spine, or as he reflected nervously, maybe it had been an anxious chill.

She led them past the stairwell, down a darkened hallway, then opened a door. Ada lit a lantern which was placed on a small table between two beds, then she faced them. “Sleep gentlemen, and I will see you on the new day.”

“Ummm,” Kurt began timidly, “We were hoping to meet Thiebe.”

“My Lady has retired for the night, although she is generous of nature, and she would not turn away strangers.”

Kurt tensed at the final words of the statement; would not turn away strangers … although he regathered quickly and said meekly, “Thank-you Ada, and I look forward to meeting Thiebe.”

Ada glanced at him and said blandly, “You will meet My Lady when she wishes it to be so.”

The boys undressed and curled into separate beds, and while Kurt felt slightly spooked, he was pleased that he may be one step closer to finding out what happened to his father. “She, Ada, she’s very attractive.” he said.

“Yes, very attractive,” Jack agreed, “But did you see the scar on her face?”

“Yeah, I’ll bet there’s a story behind that.”

“Anyway, good night.”

Kurt bedded down, wondering whether he’d dream about the mysterious woman when he was sleeping under her roof. He was just beginning to doze when Jack said quietly, “Kurt …”

“What?”

“That’s Ada, right?”

“Well that’s how she introduced herself, yeah.”

Jack was reflective as he said hesitantly, “Boris told us that when the men went up there, they met a woman called Ada.”

“So what?”

“That was almost twenty years ago, so …”

Kurt propped up and glanced over as he asked, “What are you saying?”

“Well it’s dark, but if I was taking a guess, I’d say that Ada wouldn’t even be thirty.”

Kurt closed his eyes as he tried to bring up an image of the tall woman. She was an attractive woman, but Kurt’s focus had quickly honed in on the large scar, and he’d never even thought about her age.

Jack was doing the math though, and he said, “So if she was here when Boris came up, she would’ve been about ten years old or even younger.”

Kurt knew that Jack was unsettled by this venture, but he needed to keep him on-side, so he said, “Who knows, maybe half the women in the village are called Ada.”

Jack didn’t reply, and Kurt assumed that his evasive response hadn’t eased his friend’s anxiety; unfortunately though, Jack’s observations were swirling around in his mind. … she would’ve been about ten years old or even younger …

*

Kurt stretched and yawned, then as his vision adjusted to the darkness, he sat up. He felt rested, so his assumption was that it was morning, yet the room was in total darkness. The castle was huge, and a geographical guess would put this bedroom somewhere in the middle of the building, and that would explain why there were no windows in the room. He reached across and grabbed his watch, and straining his eyes, he saw that it forty minutes past seven. “Jack, you awake?”

Jack rolled onto his back, “Yep.”

“It must be morning, so let’s get up.”

The boys dressed, and Jack tentatively moved in front of the door. The door had a keyhole, and Jack was anticipating that he would turn the handle, and then … their real problems might begin. The room didn’t have any windows, and the door was thick and solid, so if the door was locked, they would be trapped; trapped in a room of a sprawling castle where the only other occupants were two women; one of them having a large scar on her face, and the other one being someone who prompted large powerful men to utter; If you meet her, there may well be a price to pay … Drawing in a breath, Jack placed his hand on the door handle, then he turned the handle, and he heard it click, so he pushed, then he froze. With a startled expression, he faced Kurt, and he wanted to verbally relay his terror, although speech deserted him as more of Ivan’s hushed warnings speared into his mind; wise men don’t bother the woman …

Kurt rocked back when he saw Jack’s dazed expression, and he asked, “Are you okay?”

With his eyes open wide, Jack muttered weakly, “It’s locked … we’re, we’re locked in.”

Kurt saw him pushing against the door, and he said quizzically, “Pull it. Hinges are on this side, so don’t push, pull.”

Jack ran the statement through his mind, then he looked at the hinges, looked at the handle, then he pulled, and the door swung open. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and lowering his gaze, he motioned, “After you.”

Kurt walked into the hallway and he saw that the front of the castle was in complete darkness. He noticed that the heavy curtains in the front rooms were still drawn, and conscious of Jack’s obvious anxiety, he asked, “You okay, everything alright?”

Jack felt like an idiot, and he didn’t know how to explain his pathetic performance, fortunately for him, he heard sounds coming from the rear of the house, so he mumbled, “Somebody must be up.”

They walked under the stairs, and as they walked onto the main hallway, they saw the suggestion of light coming from the eastern end. The further they walked down the long hallway, the more prominent the light became, and Kurt was almost giddy with expectation as he approached an archway. He may be about to meet her, the woman in the photo, the woman from his dreams, the woman who may have information about his father. He blew out a breath, then walked into the room. The room was a huge kitchen, the floor featuring large white tiles, the morning sun shining brightly through the bay window and bathing the tiles in a golden hue. A woman stood at the stove with her back to them, stirring and whisking with a large wooden ladle, her blonde hair gathered in a bun, the woman wearing a black dress that reached to her ankles. Nervous yet excited, Kurt said, “Hello.”

The woman turned her head, and Kurt saw that it was Ada.

“Good morning, I am making breakfast; please sit.”

Kurt and Jack shuffled over to the table and sat, and not long after, Ada brought the plates over, the plates loaded with a generous serve of scrambled eggs. Moments later, she placed a plate of toast in front of them, then she asked, “Tea or coffee?”

“Coffee Jack?” Kurt asked, and when Jack nodded a response, Kurt advised, “Coffee for both of us thank you.”

The table was fully set; placemats, cutlery, a jug of milk, a bowl of sugar and a plate of butter. Ada scooped coffee into the mugs, poured the boiled water in, then placed the mugs in front of them.

“Thank you.” Kurt said bashfully.

Ada noticed that Jack was staring at her, so she asked, “Is everything to your liking?”

Jack nodded, although Kurt assumed that a more gracious reply should be offered, so he smiled and said, “Yes, we weren’t expecting this, so again, thank you.”

In the bright light, Jack noted that Ada had the smooth skin of a young woman, the scar being the only blemish on her face, and while it was a large blemish, the rest of her face was creaseless and wrinkle free.

After buttering a slice of toast and shovelling egg on to it, Kurt asked, “Will Theibe be joining us for breakfast?”

“My Lady sleeps.”

“When will we met her?”

“My Lady will decide.”

Ada moved over to the sink and began washing the pan, and after chomping down a mouthful, Jack said, “Ada, can I ask you something?”

“You may.”

“How old are you?”

She didn’t bother turning, instead she kept washing as she said, “My age is not your concern.”

Jack frowned at the reply, then said, “I’m guessing that you wouldn’t even be thirty yet; maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight.”

Still washing, she said, “I have no interest in your age, and I have no interest in discussing my age.”

Kurt asked, “Will Thiebe join us for lunch?”

“You will meet My Lady when she wishes it to be so.”

*

After breakfast, Kurt pulled the photo out and stared at it. The woman, the woman in the photo may very well be in the same dwelling, and Kurt felt a shiver rush up his spine. Finding out what happened to his father was what this was all about, although he hungered to see the woman in the flesh. The photo had captured him at first viewing, and every subsequent viewing had him longing to gaze upon her. The villagers seemed scared of her, or maybe scared of what they didn’t understand; although Kurt wasn’t scared of her, he was excited by the prospect of meeting her. He approached Ada and showed her the photo. “Is this Thiebe?”

“Aye.”

“She, she looks beautiful.”

“My Lady is a woman of great beauty.”

“When can we see her?”

“When My Lady wants it to be, it will be.”

Slightly disheartened, Kurt sighed, then asked, “Can we have a look around, can we walk around the castle?”

“You may,” Ada began, “My Ladies quarters are at the end of the main hallway upstairs, so …”

Kurt waited a moment, then prompted her, “What are you saying?”

“Do not disturb her.”

Kurt nodded, then he motioned to Jack, “Come on, let’s have a look around.”

Apart from the bedroom they had slept in and the front room with the table in it, the kitchen was the only room with furniture, the solid wooden table in the middle of the room, four wooden chairs as its companions. Every room downstairs was huge and spacious, most rooms having timber floorboards, a few of the smaller rooms hosting large rugs. Nine rooms downstairs, and with the high ceilings and the lack of furnishings, most of the rooms gave you an eerie feeling.

As they climbed up the winding stairwell, Kurt swung his gaze around, curious about everything. The interior layout of the castle was similar to what he imagined a castle would be like, and he could almost visualize a King and Queen dining on a sumptuous feast as servants and maids scuttled around and brought the place to life. He wondered whether his father had even done this, walked up the stairs that he was walking up.

Five bedrooms upstairs, also a large sitting room by the west wall, the large windows of the sitting room looking out towards the imposing forest.

Soon enough, everything was explored, everything viewed, all except for one room. Kurt stood at the beginning of the long hallway, staring down. It was dark, and from his observation, there appeared to be a door about fifty feet down on the right, the only other door being right at the end of the hallway on the left.

Her door, her room.

Kurt began walking down the hallway, although Jack grabbed his arm. “What are you doing?”

“Just having a look around.”

“Ada said don’t go down there.”

“No, she said, don’t disturb her.”

“Jesus.” Jack muttered, as he tentatively fell into stride.

Halfway down the hallway, Kurt opened the door on the right, then gazed down in wonder.

“Jack, come here!”

“What?” Jack asked hesitantly.

Kurt pulled the door fully open, then he said, “Let’s go down.”

Jack peered down, dozens of steps leading to a small open doorway. He followed Kurt onto the stairs, although he stopped on the first step then rapped his knuckles against the timber panelling.

Kurt looked back up and asked, “What is it?”

Jack pointed at the outline and said, “I’m not sure; maybe it’s a door or a partition.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Kurt said, “Let’s check out this room at the bottom of the stairs.”

The narrow stairwell was dark, and cautiously they stepped down the stairs and found themselves in a spacious bathroom.

“Wow!” Kurt exclaimed.

There were no windows in the room, the room being thirty feet in width and depth, while the ceiling was twenty feet above ground level. A large circular bath sat in the very middle of the room, the bath sunk into the ground, the bath being ten feet in circumference, and its depth meant that you could sit in the bath and rest your elbows on the tiled rim.

After the satisfying breakfast and the tour of the castle, Jack was feeling more comfortable about everything, and gazing at the bath, he said jovially, “Maybe I should ask Ada if she wants to have a bath with us.”

They climbed back up the stairs, and Jack began walking back to the landing, but he stopped when he saw Kurt staring at the door at the end of the hallway. “Hey, come on Kurt!”

Kurt looked at him, then swung his gaze back towards the door. With his nerves tingling, Kurt slunk down the hallway and stared at the door. “Father,” he whispered, “Have you been here? Have you done what I’m doing right now?”

He wanted to open the door and gaze upon the occupant of the room, although something held him back, and it wasn’t Ada’s warning, it was something else, something less tangible, something intuitive. Drawing in a breath, Kurt ran his right hand over the solid timber door, then he bowed his head and closed his eyes.

She was in there, he knew she was, for he could feel her presence, just as he had been aware of her presence in his dreams for many confusing, restless nights. The woman in his dreams was alluring, yet mysterious, and the photo of her aroused all his carnal emotions, and now, a six-panelled timber door was all that stood between them. He gripped the door handle, though he tarried. Do not disturb her … It had been a clear and definitive instruction, although it was an instruction that he felt compelled to disobey, for she, her, was in there. Breathily heavily, he rested his forehead on the door as images snuck into his mind. Her, she, alluring, mysterious, a vision, although an incomplete vision, her face still bowed, the bowed face beckoning, challenging him, daring him. Kurt held his breath as his resolve swelled, the adventurer in him wanting to take up the challenge, and his grip on the door handle tightened as he …

“Kurt!” came the nervous, whispered exclamation.

Kurt was snapped back to reality by the sound of the voice, then he gazed at his companion who was standing at the beginning of the hallway. He drew in a breath, then before walking away, he had one last look at the door as he wondered, Who are you?

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