Chapter 7 pt A
I should have put down that journal as soon as I saw it. I should have locked it away, tossed it into the sea, burned it. I should have done everything I could to make sure I was rid of it. I didn’t know it then but the journal would be my undoing. It would cause me to take the plunge in which I could never stop falling. Of course, I didn’t know any of this at the moment. All I knew was that this journal had information that I didn’t. Information that I desperately longed for. In its pages, I would learn a truth hidden from me. A truth rightfully so. My life would be so much better if I hadn’t opened that small blue journal. Now I scream it at myself as this scene plays through my nightmares. Sadly, there is no changing the past. There is only reminiscing and focusing on where you went wrong. Finally, you end with recounting all your mistakes, as I am doing now.
Journal entry 1,
I’ve learned something today. Something that, depending on what it is, has the possibility to change my life. The thing is, I don’t necessarily want to change my life. I like it just how it is. I’m ruling a grandiose Shire. I have my lovely wife, Elaine. I have my beautiful son, Lucian. I’m the master to hundreds of servants. I will never have to go hungry. My life is the epitome of success. As you can see, I don’t have any plans of changing it. In fact, I wish for everything to stay the same. Always and Forever.
First I feel I must explain what has happened in the past few months. It all started on Lucian’s birthday, two months ago. Our son turned 8. It is such a great milestone because it marks his ascent into becoming a man. Elaine knew how important this was to, well, everyone. I guess what really bugged me was that she didn’t tell anyone. Elaine was there all morning, setting up as she usually helped to do on Lucian’s birthdays. She worked alongside the servants, making sure everything was perfect for her son. I wish I could have been there to help but I had a council meeting that morning.
If I could go back in time, I don’t think I would have gone to the council meeting. It’s clear to me that in some way my wife needed me that day and I ignored her. I feel terrible about it now. Perhaps if I had spent the morning with her she would have been there for her son.
I should stop dwelling on that now. I made my choices and there is no going back to stop what happened.
I got home from the council meeting in the late afternoon because we ran overtime. The Fortress was in chaos. Servants and Conses were running everywhere with bits and pieces of the party decor in their hands. As I walked through the hallways I was constantly stopped by several. They had many questions I couldn’t answer.
“Ene Kreed! Where is the Sor?”
“Ene Kreed? Would Chi Lucian prefer blue or gold?”
“What is the dress for this evening, Ene?”
“Where is Chi Lucian? I was charged to give him his lunch, Ene.”
“Where is Sor Marlow-Kreed?”
“Where is Elaine?
“Sor Elaine is missing? Do you know where she is?”
It seemed that Elaine was the most pressing issue. At first, I wasn’t worried. Elaine was a very anxious woman so she would sneak off into my study to calm down. She knows that no one besides us is allowed to be in that room so she uses it as a haven.
I responded to the questions as I knew.
“I don’t know where the Sor is. Figure the designs out on your own.”
“Lucian prefers gold.”
“The dress for the evening is semi-formal.”
“Chi Lucian is in the library, catching up on his reading.”
“I don’t know.”
“I have no clue.”
I pushed through crowds of people setting up in the hallways and towards the tower, I share with my family. When I reached the inside of the tower I began racing up the spiraling staircase. This was, perhaps, the only time I could catch Elaine alone that day and I was excited to see my wife after a long meeting.
There were many flights to go up because the study is at the top of the tower, but I was hardly out of breath by the time I reached the top of the staircase. I remember leaning my ear against the door to see if I could hear her. I couldn’t. There was no sound coming from the room. I knocked on the door, seeing if I could get a response. Nothing. I knocked again, seeing if she’d answer now. I pushed open the door and did a quick sweep of the room. She wasn’t there.
I looked around the room to see if she had potentially been in the room recently. My desk was messy, as always. Her sitting chair looked neglected, but it always did. Elaine always preferred to sit on the floor as opposed to a chair. The bookshelf was neat and still bursting with novels. Elaine insisted we kept her favorite ones up here so no one could ruin them. Our library was open to the public and she was afraid someone would steal her books. I told her she was ridiculous, but she insisted. She treated her books like they were a collection of the most precious gems in the land. Perhaps to her, they were. But she hadn’t been here at all today. The giveaway sign was that the fireplace wasn’t on. Elaine gets cold easily. She always lights the fireplace when she is up here, so she can sit on the carpet and warm-up and read. The coals in the fireplace were cold so I knew she hadn’t been up there any time recently.
After that, I was really puzzled. Elaine didn’t have any other spots I knew about. I slowly walked down to the ground floor. It was really strange. I made sure to check our bedroom as well. It was a longshot but perhaps she was sleeping. She wasn’t in the room. She was just missing.
Later that night was Lucian’s birthday party. Elaine still hadn’t returned. Instead, it was just Lucian and me at his birthday party. I felt sorry for the kid. I had him attached to my leg the entire night. He wasn’t a very open person, and I think all these people in one place were scaring him. It’s honestly quite funny. Elaine and all the other servants and Conses spent all day designing this party to Lucian’s liking except they invited all these people to come.
Lucian didn’t know any of them. They were all people that Elaine and I somewhat knew. This party was supposed to be for my son, except Lucian felt like a stranger at a party celebrating him. I knew the feeling all too well. I was just like that as a boy. I hated the attention I received because of my father. I grew to like being above the chaos, just as my father had grown at ease. I only hoped that Lucian could do the same. So far the outlooks weren’t in his favor.
Lucian was a very frightened boy. He was scared easily and had many fears. Soon he will have to learn to grow past that and be strong. That will be for another day. Right now he is still my little boy and he can be afraid of things.
Then he gave me a question I couldn’t answer.
“Dad? Where’s mommy?” He asked in a voice so innocent I couldn’t bear it.
I hate that he had to ask this. Elaine should have been here. I don’t know where she was, but wherever it was, it wasn’t more important than this party.
Lucian needed his mom for support just as much as he needed me. If not, more so. Lucian felt a strong connection with his mother. A bond that I knew, I could never touch. I was fine with that. At least Lucian had a bond with a parent. That was more than I had ever had.
“I don’t know, son,” I responded to his innocent question. “I’m sure she’ll be back soon.”
Lucian and I moved around the party. We would stop and chat with a small group of people. More, I would stop to chat. Lucian would stand there looking down. He seemed miserable. The more we walked, the more he seemed melancholy.
Perhaps it was that his mother was missing from his birthday party. Maybe it was that his birthday was tailored to fit someone else’s demands. I believe it was a little bit of both. Eventually, Lucian stopped pretending to be enjoying himself as I talked and discussed it with the group. His features seemed to sag. His eyes were drawn to the floor and a permanent frown was etched onto his young face.
Eventually, I couldn’t stand it. I pulled Lucian aside and told him to go find a book in the library to read. That request restored all my son’s energy. He picked himself up and raced out of the Great Room and towards our Library. Then he spent the rest of the night there.
After Lucian left I began getting double the questions.
“Where’s the Birthday Boy?”
“Elaine? Where is she? I must have a word with her.”
“Ene Edmond, where is Chi Lucian? I want him to meet my boys.”
“Ene, where is the Sor? I want to thank her for a wonderful evening.”
“Where is Lucian? He needs to try his cake.”
“Oh Edmond, where did Lucian run off to?”
“Ene Kreed, I must speak to Sor Marlow-Kreed. It’s urgent.”
I responded mechanically every time. I soon began to worry for Elaine. She had been missing for 7 hours. I had no clue where she could have gone. Hours passed. Lucian was eventually found in the Library. Elaine’s Cons made him go to bed after that. People began wishing me a good night and asking where Lucian was so they could wish him a “Happy birthday”. I told them he was sleeping and that I’d tell him in the morning. Elaine was still nowhere to be found. Late into the night, I helped the Conses and Servants take down the decorations.
I didn’t want to stay up but I figured I should probably be there if Elaine comes back. Before going to bed I sent a horseman out to look for her. I couldn’t imagine that she would run away but you can’t be too sure.
It was early morning when I finally returned to my tower. The sun hadn’t risen yet and I was exhausted. I practically was stumbling up the stairs. Mostly I felt awful. My wife hadn’t returned and I had a splitting headache. Still, I walked up to Lucian’s bedroom first. It was really quiet in his room. The only sounds were the quiet little snores coming from him.
I sat down on Lucian’s bed and brushed little curls out of his face. He looked so peaceful when he slept that it calmed my nerves as well. There was a little lantern lit in the corner of the room so I could see the many books he had. They were everywhere. He had a few on his bed, his night table, spilling out of the bookshelf. He probably had close to a hundred books in his room. It was good that he enjoyed reading, it would make him a well-adjusted leader.
Sorry I got sidetracked.
Anyway, I said goodnight to my son and continued the ascent to my bedroom. The door was open and I could see light from inside the room. I got excited because that meant that someone was in there. The only other person allowed in the room was Elaine. I walked in and Elaine was sitting on the floor in front of a burning fireplace. At first, it appeared that nothing was wrong with her. She was sitting in her nightgown with her knees pulled up to her chest, sitting in front of the fireplace. I had seen her do that on many occasions. It was normal for Elaine.
As I got closer to her I began to notice something more. There was something off about her demeanor. She was shivering, despite sitting in front of a roaring fireplace.
“Elaine?” I called as I continued to get closer to her.
There was no response from her. She just continued to stare into the fireplace, rocking back and forth.
“Elaine?” I called louder.
That broke her from her trance. Elaine stopped looking at the fireplace and looked back at me. I sat down next to her and took her in. It was obvious that something had happened to her. She was shivering, her arms were covered in crescent sized marks, her face was red from crying, her head was bleeding. I immediately pulled her into my arms and held her tightly. She began crying as I rocked her gently. I pet her hair as she cried. I felt awful. I spent the entire day thinking she had run away. I blamed her for not being present at the party. I blamed her for Lucian’s sadness. I thought she had run away and I didn’t stop to think about what if something happened to her.
Elaine continued crying into my expensive surcoat but it didn’t matter to me. I held her more tightly. I needed to make up for it. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t more worried about what had happened to Elaine. I had been so wrapped up in being angry she missed our son’s birthday that I didn’t even stop to think about if something had happened to her. I’m still as disappointed in myself as I was that night.
“What happened, Elaine?” I remember whispering into her ear.
Elaine didn’t respond to me. Instead, she burrowed deeper into my chest. I kissed her forehead but she didn’t acknowledge it.
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” I pulled her up.
I went into Elaine’s closet and gave her a coat so she would stop shivering. Out on the balcony, I scooped up some snow and put it in a small cloth so I could wipe some of the blood off her face. The snow melted and the cloth was damp so I walked back inside. Inside Elaine was looking at a stack of books. She wasn’t reading them. Just staring intently at them. I walked over to her with the damp cloth and wiped all the dried blood from off her face. Beneath it, I saw where it had come from. Five crescent-shaped marks on her skin. I wondered where it came from but then I noticed blood on her fingernails. I brought the cloth down and cleaned them for her. I didn’t say anything. She didn’t either. We just sat there in silence as I examined her. She didn’t seem too injured, other than the marks on her skin. She did seem kind of haunted and distant. I wondered if that had anything to do with it. When she was clean I finally spoke again.
“Is there anything I can do?” I asked as I brushed her hair out of her face.
“I want to go to bed.” She whispered.
I could barely make it out but that’s what she wanted. I scooped up my shivering wife and carried her to our bed. I set her down on the bedsheets and pulled the bed warmer out from under the bed. Usually one of our Conses would do this task but everyone was sleeping so I figured I could do it for tonight.
I filled the bed warmer with hot coals and placed it under the sheets. I slid into the bed next to Elaine and she immediately curled up next to me. I wrapped an arm around her to keep her warm.
“Do you want to tell me what happened to you?”
Elaine turned and stared at the ceiling. She laid there for a minute. I was about to turn away and go back to sleep when she finally responded to me.
Her voice was hoarse. It had sounded like she spent hours upon hours screaming. I sighed and I stared up at the darkness. I wasn’t going to get anywhere with that. I wondered if her voice was hoarse from emotion or if it was somehow related to her disappearance. Whatever it was, it was important to figure out what happened.
That was only one occurrence. At the time I thought it was a stand-alone event, but soon enough there began to be more strange things going on with her. Her disappearance was only the beginning.
The next thing was different. It took place nearly two weeks later. Elaine went on a secret trip. She didn’t want anyone to know about it. She told the Carriage Driver not to tell anyone, but I will always know who leaves the Fortress, when they leave and where they are going. When Elaine got back the Carriage Driver told me where she went. Apparently, she went on a day trip to Cadia.
That was strange to me. We don’t have any dealings with Cadia, even though they are our neighbors. I don’t know anyone there and neither does she. It didn’t make sense. Elaine returned two days later and she acted as if nothing had happened to her.
It was such a strange occurrence that I told the Carriage Driver to let me know as soon as Elaine tried to leave our Shire again. For a few weeks, nothing happened. Elaine stayed in Fyn and I nearly forgot about it.
I dismissed it as a singular thing. There was nothing behind it. Elaine’s disappearance had nothing to do with her day trip. That was until she left Fyn again and returned to Cadia. Like a loyal citizen, the Carriage Driver went directly to me when Elaine tried to leave. I told him to take her to wherever she wanted to go.