Dan tried not to shiver as Raven prepared him to go into a spirit trance. Thick blankets were wrapped around him and soft music played from a strange box behind his head.
“Try to relax, Dan. The first trip can be a little unsettling but nothing very painful. You will feel like you are falling backwards. Some people cannot stand the feeling but I have always found it quite liberating.”
Dan wanted to open his mouth and demand to see Alice one time before traveling but he was afraid of what Raven would do to her if he demanded anything. Raven had already threatened Alice with veiled words. Dan would not risk any pushing the man for more. Still, some information was required.
“What about the specifics. I am still unsure about what you expect me to do.”
“Fear not, Dan,” Raven ordered. “Hamish and I will be able to send messages across the deminsions. We will let you know what to do when it is time. All you need to know for now is that the evil sorceror lives in a large castle called Scullerity. We will have you travel to the castle were you can work to narrow down the culprit. You will know that man when you feel a tingling sensation all over -- that is your magic telling you that another magic user is near by. Hamish and I will contact you if we see that you have met the culprit but have not taken measures against them.I should let you know that Hamish and I can see what is taking place in the other world. We are prepared to take action if you try anything rash.”
“You know I would not endanger Alice!”
“I’m mearly making sure you understand the rules. I wouldn’t want Alice to be hurt because of your ignorance.”
“I want to see Alice before I go.”
“That is not possible. The young lady is very tired after her travles.”
“If you hurt one hair on her head...”
“I wouldn’t hurt the girl without reason, Dan. We are all on the same team after all.”
Dan wanted to insist on seeing Alice but he could see that the demand would only get him -- and Alice -- into more trouble. He did the only thing he could do. Dan allowed himself to relax into the music. He the strange fallinf sensation and allowed his body to relax into it. Lights flickered behind Dan’s closed eyes and became distinct shapes.
Dan opened his eyes and found that he was in a different place alltogather. He was high in the mountains. Tall peaks surrounded him but he could still see that a thin path lead down to a small town and the same path lead up to a large castle.
“That must be Scullerity,” Dan thought to himself. He began the upward climp with worry eating away at his heart.
Dan never got anxious when going to a new or unfamiliar place -- he was always looking for adventure. This worry was not over the new place, he knew. He was worried about Alice and Timothy and his family. He knew that he did not have the whole story and that Raven and Hamish were hiding things from him. Secrets and how they could harm his loved ones... tha’s what he was really worried about.
Dan tried to turn off his twirling mind. He took several deep breaths and counted a full minute. By the time Dan made it to the castle’s entrance he had managed to composed himself. He began walking along the paved path in the front of the house. The pristine, manicured lawn looked perfect for running but Dan could tell that the people in houses like this did not approve of people sprinting down the green.
“Oh, no, dear!” a high-pitched, grandmotherly voice called across the lawn. “Interviewees go in through the service door.”
Dan walked towards the woman who was speaking. She was a well built woman with a kind face. He followed her through the service door.
“Who will I be interviewing with?” Dan asked, playing along. He was not sure what this interviewing was all about but it got him into Scullerity which was what he wanted.
“Oh, Mr Bastion interviews all the new arrivals, dear. He may seem like an impossing man but is really is very kind. Just mind your manners and the two of you will get along just fine. I’ll go make a copy of your resume if you like,” the kind woman offered.
“I’m afraid I’ve come unprepared,” Dan admitted with a shrugged. “Will Mr. Bastion be able to see me without one?”
“It won’t be a problem, dear. Mr. Bastion is very flexiable. There is no need to be nervious,” she said mistaking his reactions. “Just be yourself and I’m sure you’ll get the position. Here’s the room now!”
Dan walked into the room she guestered to. a man wearing the strangest clothing stood inside. The man had to be the tallest Dan had ever seen. He wore stripped gold and green trousers that made him look even taller. The pants matched the green and gold floral jacket. The whole look came together to make him the most intimidating man in the world... or at least the most intimidating man Dan had ever known!
The man’s presence made every thought leave Dan’s head. He was not sure what to say. Dan opened his mouth several times but no sound came out.
The man noticed Dan’s dilema and asked a question to start him out. “Are you here for the interview?”
“Yes,” Dan began remembering that he did not really know what the interview was for. “My name is Dan and the kind woman told me to come here and speak with you.”
“That was Miss Polly, the head housekeeper. She is always very polite, yes. I am glad you get on so well. Now, we must get to the business at hand. What makes you think that you are suited for this postion?”
This was just the quesstion Dan was dreading. “Well, ugh...”
“Are you prepared to slide into a room unnoticed? To anticipate the family’s needs before they are needed? To serve in a number of ways; cooking, cleaning, delivering items; when they are needed?”
“Yes, sir, I believe I am. I have served as a nobel’s man servant in the past.”
“Good, good. Then it appears that we here at Scullerity can welcome you as a new valet. You will be assigned to Count Humphrey. I hope that you will eventually be able to take on the Count’s young son as well.”
“I would be honored to serve in any way.”
“I’m sure,” Bastion said in a dry voice. “Let me show you around.”
Bastion showed Dan a dizzying array of rooms.
“This is the breakfast room, baliard room, game room, dinning hall, counts rooms, countess’ rooms, dancing rooms, nursery, day nursery, night nursery, upper kitchen, under kitchen, scullery, dish room, china room...”
The list went on and on. Dan felt his head spinning but he tried to continue looking confident and smart. Finally, Bastion stopped moving.
“I know that it is all a lot to take in at once. There is a map in the kitchen whenever you need it. This room here will be your’s. I’m afraid you will have to share with our choufier. He is a nice enough chap but he does talk quite a bit.”
“I’m sure we’ll get along fine.”
“You are close to his age,” Mr. Bastioin agreed with a small smile. “The lenin room is through here. I’ll just get your sizes and bring you a uniform.” Bastion moved quickly and surely; grabbing what he needed with an ease that came from knowing everything would be in its’ place. He handed the bundled uniform to Dan and pointed to the left.
“Here is your roomate now.”
“What’s this?” The tall boy asked. He wore his uniform well and Dan could see that the house maids would find his dark, curley hair handsome.
“I’m Dan, your new roomate.”
“You a new choufier too?”
“He’s a valet, Tristen and he needs to be shown the ropes,” Mr. Bastion broke in with a schowl.
“Nothing to worry about Mr. Bastion, sir. I’ll take care of him.” Tristen put his arm around Dan.
“Don’t be too hard on him, Tristen.” Mr. Bastion remained the youth as he left the room.
“I have some ground rules we need to go over if we’re going to be living together.”
Tristen stoped after one sentence and the silence lengthened. “And the rules are?” Dan prompted.
“No questions and no tattling.”
“I’m no snitch but I can’t learn my way around here without questions.”
“I understand that but I will ask you to stop asking questions about my own life. Can you handle that?”
Dan nodded uncertainly. “I’ll not pry into your life if you leave off of mine.”
“Sounds fair,” Tristen agreed.
Tristen held out his hand to seal the deal. Dan took the older boy’s hand in his own. Blue light flashed everywhere. Rainbows of light shot from their joined hands. Dan tried to pull his hand away but Tristen only gripped it harder.
“You’re a magic user!” Tristen whispered with his eyes and hands locked on Dan.
“You’re a sorceror!” Dan shouted with shock. This boy could help him find the evil man who has been hurting people.
“Not so loud,” Tristen hissed. “It’s a secret. Did you know that you were absolutely covered in spells? They fell away as soon as I touched you.”
“You can see spells?”
“So can you. Someone just needs to teach you.”
“Who is teaching you?”
“I suppose I’ll have to introduce you to them.”
“Don’t start with secrets now! Just tell me about these teachers.”
“I’ll tell you what I can -- keep in mind that they haven’t told me everything yet either!” Dan nodded and Tristen continued. “You see there are five kinds of magic: fire, stone, wind, water and spirit. Those five types each have a male and female aspect. The female aspect is focused through women and the male aspect can only be controled by men.”
“Why is that?” Dan interupted. “Why can’t men use the female aspect?”
“Women understand women and women will always remain a mystery to men.” Dan nodded because he knew it was expected of him... even if he did not know why.
“Men like you and me, we can tap into the different elements’ power and harnes it to our own use. We can combine powers to accomplish almost anything! Or, teachers I worked with can do anything... I’m still learning.”
“Are your teachers here? In Scullerity?” Dan asked with excitement twinging his voice. He could not help but look foreward to meeting a whole comunity of magic users. It would be easier to find the evil sorceror, yes, but what he was really exilerant about was simply meeting other people like him. He could not help but feel like an outcast growing up -- being the only human. He wanted to be in a place that made him feel like he belonged. He wanted to get lost in a crowd and be able to have a conversation with anyone around him; to have something in common with anyone and everyone he saw.
“My teachers don’t work here in the castle!” Tristen proclaimed with a laugh. “They live in the town. I go and visit on my days off. Here, I’ll show you.”
Tristen and Dan raced down the hall to the maze-like underthing. Tristen ran through the kitchen and pointed to a paper posted in the wall. Dan ran through after him and stared up at the wall.
“This is the scheduale,” Tristen informed him. “The blue one here at the end is you. You have Friday after noons and every other Sunday off. You’re lucky! I have Friday after noons off too. We can go down to the town together and I’ll introduce you then.” Smiles lit both boy’s faces.
“Tristen!” Mr. Bastion’s vioce boomed down the coridors. “You’re needed in the main foyer. The Countess will be late to her appointment.”
“You know that they won’t start until she gets there,” Tristen said as he walked up the stairs calmly. “The Lady will never be late.”
“Puntuality is important, Tristen. This house has a ruputation to uphold.”
“I appoliguise for my tardiness, my Lady.” Dan heared Tristen’s voice attest from a long way off while an equally far car door open and an engine roar.
Mr. Bastion who was standing next to Dan was listening to the exchange too. He shoock his head and turned to Dan. “Tristen gets away with far too much. I am not sure if it is his charm or his youth that allows him to do so. Either way, his luck will fade and then I would not want to be in his shoes. A life of hard work is much harder after a life of sloth.”
Bastion’s jaws twitched as he spoke but Dan tried to pay attention to the words. “Do not follow his example, Dan. Watch Anderson here during the lunchon.” Bastion guestured to the man at the table.
Dan walked up to the middle-aged man (Dan was surprised Bastion called him young) and introduced himself.
“I’ve been at this job for years, young man. I know how to behave properly, see? I can make even this uncomfortable pose look natural!” Anderson stuck his lower lip out and sucked his cheeks in. Dan faught not to laugh.
“I’m lucky to have someone so experianced to learn from.” Anderson smiled in thanks and agreement. Bastion seemed to be trying to hide a small smile too.
“I’m sure that the two of you will get along siplimely.”