The palace was still there, old and unchanged, tucked amid the graceful 19th century apartment blocks. Clement adjusted his gaudy tourist visor and pulled what appeared to be an elaborate camera out of his neon fanny pack. He looked into the scope of the device then scanned the façade, frowning. The ghouls were still there. The ancient spell was strong, but there were signs of weakening. Each gnashing spirit was lashed into place by the grotesque carvings etched on the arches and buttresses of the Gothic structure. Most were bound by limb and wing. But time had freed an arm here and a claw there. These dangling spirits, driven mad by the possibility of freedom, thrashed harder than the rest.
Clement shook his head and rummaged in his fanny pack for his notebook. He took another sweep of the palace, stopping to note the condition of each gargoyle and its attendant spirit.
Clement shifted his position. The larger carvings on the turrets were harder to see from across the street, but he did not move any closer. He did not want to risk notice by the palaces’ inhabitants, the police, and most especially the spirits in the stonework.
“You can see them?” A woman’s voice broke his concentration.
“Pardon?” Clement turned to see a tall woman with a handsome face and an aristocratic bearing.
“The demons,” she looked around before gesturing to the palace. “behind the gargoyles?”
“That’s just an old wives’ tale,” he laughed and stuffed his equipment into his fanny pack. “To attract tourists like me.”
He gave her a toothy smile.
“I assure you that is no wives’ tale,” She muttered and threw a murderous glance at the palace. “We have lived in that nightmare for hundreds of years.”
“Are there tours?” Clement asked, bouncing on the balls of his feet. He tried to appear casual, but inside he was panicking. The first rule of his job was not to draw attention from the subjects.
“You know damn well there are no tours, Clement!” the woman grabbed his shoulder and hustled him across the street.
He was too shocked to object.
“How do you know my name?” Clement managed as the heavy wooden doors closed behind them.
“My Lord?” the woman ignored his questions and pushed him through the foyer into a long, wide hall. A huge hearth took up the opposite end of the hall and even though it blazed high, it did little to ease the chill gripping the room. Two stout wooden tables hogged most of the floor space.
“Lady Eilyn?” A brawny old man sat at the head of one of the tables. A neat stack of newspapers stood at his elbow as he typed at a laptop. “We have a guest?”
“Yes, my lord,” Eilyn said, “The man from the Gathering Light Historical Society is here.”
“You caught him this year?” the man laughed.
“What do you know of the Gathering Light?” Clement demanded. His cover was blown and the Superiors would be livid.
“He can see the demons behind the gargoyles!” Eilyn said in a breathy rush. The man’s laughter died and the smile fell from his face.
The man stood up and pointed at a huge stone dragon lording over the hall’s gallery.
“You can see that?” he asked.
Clement paused then took the apparatus out of his pack. He held the scope to his face and nearly fainted. The spirit attached to the dragon was huge and inky black. It swirled and dipped, attached to its stone prison by only one taloned claw.
“What happens if it breaks free?”Clement’s hands shook as he lowered the viewer.
“One of us will be dragged to hell.”
Clement’s inner historian trumped the terror that made him queasy. Despite trembling knees, he dug the notebook out of his fanny pack and began scribbling.
“How often does this occur?” He asked after he finished jotting down descriptions of Eilyn and her lord.
“What does that matter?” The lord asked. The man got up and gestured for Clement to follow. “If this one gets loose it will likely take Eilyn and I with it.”
“Who else has fallen to the spirits in the gargoyles?” Clement asked trailing the man through a courtyard, making notes on all he saw.
“Every soul that took refuge in this house,” the lord said as he opened the door to a chapel. “Save those who died by their own hands.”
“Father, wait,” Eilyn, who drifted behind Clement trying to see his notes, stopped their small procession and began a conversation with the lord in a strange language.
Some of the words sounded familiar, but was neither French nor an olden form of English. Clement noted this and tried to grasp any words.
“Forgive me,” the lord gave a slight bow, “I have not offered you any food or drink.”
“What language was that?” Clement asked, his pen poised to record the answer.
The father and daughter exchanged glances.
“These days it is called Old French,” Eilyn offered. Clement wrote it down. “It is a family tradition to speak Old French with each other.”
Clement nodded thoughtfully then asked, “What is the name of your family?”
Eilyn pointed to an inscription above the chapel door.
“That is the family who built this palace,” Clement chuckled, “But they’ve been extinct for over five hundred years!”
“Correction,” the lord held up a finger, “No one has been born into that family since 1301.”
Clement stared at the pair for a moment before laughing.
“Thank you for…” Clement paused when they did not join in. “For allowing me to see your home. I complement your humor in the face of nosey tourist, but now I must be on my way.”
“The Gathering Light must help us break the curse of the gargoyles!” Eilyn exclaimed as he turned away.
“The Gathering Light does not take part in practical jokes,” Clement continued toward the hall.
“I was born 23rd of July in the 1297 of the Julian calendar,” Eilyn jogged to catch up with Clement.
“Eilyn!” The lord came after her. “Remember yourself!”
“In 1301, my brother’s birth sparked a war of ascension between my father and my heirless uncle for my grandfather’s throne,” Eilyn grabbed Clement’s arm and let out a desperate sob. “After a decade of war we sought the assistance of necromancers. On the 29th of January 1313…”
“ I know the story of how the demons were trapped in the gargoyles,” Clement looked down his nose at the woman as he tried to pry his arm from her grasp. “And I believe that you can see them. You are quite brave to live here. However, there is no way I will believe that you are nearly seven hundred years old.”
“Why is that so hard to believe?” The lord asked. “I have seen the work of the Gathering Light on the internet. You track down and capture any number of nightmares and legends. Your group has come to my home each year for the past two centuries to check the gargoyles, yet you will not believe that we have been trapped here all this time.”
Clement studied them as he tried to recall the Gathering Light’s history of the property. Finally, he sighed and lifted the viewer to his eye.
“What is that thing?” Eilyn asked as Clement swept the device over her form.
“It allows me to see,” he paused and turned his attentions to the man. ‘The unusual, the enchanted, the evil, the otherworldly, the supernatural.”
“What do you see when you look at us, sir,” the lord suddenly became uncomfortable.
“Dust,” Clement said flatly. He also saw the divine goodness haloed around Eilyn and the dark enchantments around her father, but he remained silent.
“What does that mean?” Eilyn stepped closer to him. “Does that prove our word?”
“Yes,” He tucked the device away and scribbled a page of notes. The pair waited until he was finished.
“Can the Gathering Light help us?” The lord asked after Clement tucked away the notebook.
“According to our research,” Clement said carefully as he walked into the great hall, “The spell cast on this palace and its grounds will dissolve once the last person it is supposed to protect dies.”
The lord nodded, his eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“Right. The trick being that we can never leave the boundary of the grounds,” Eilyn sounded impatient. “Or die or age or give birth.”
“Unless taken by the demons pressed into service to protect you,” Clement took another look at the stone dragon before continuing into the foyer.
“We have an age of riches,” the lord pled as Clement exited the palace. “Whatever your society wishes, we can buy.”
“I am sorry,” Clement said as a great howl arose in the hall behind them, “The Gathering Light merely observes and contains. We do not get involved.”
Eilyn’s eyes filled with tears as Clement stood on the palace stairs, dismissing their plight.
“There, there,” her father put his arm around her. “It will all be over soon. Then we can finally see your mother and brother in the abyss.”
“Something is not right,” Eilyn shook her head. The same awful feeling that crept up on her the night their fate was sealed, swept over her again.
Looking back it was so clear that the necromancers were up to no good. Thick, gloomy clouds hung over the estate and the fruit in the orchard spoiled on the vine. Strange shadows hulked over the smoke from the necromancers’ brazier. Her mother stopped producing milk for her brother and the boy cried incessantly.
All these things and more were clear to Eilyn, but in those days, no one took the worries of a sixteen year old seriously.
“Come, daughter,” her father sighed and turned away from the door. “Let it not be said that we shied away from our doom like cowards.”
“Please listen to me this time, father,” she begged. “There will be no reunion. The necromancers have trapped us here for another purpose.”
“And what would you know of this?” her father gave her a hard look. Eilyn wiped her eyes and returned his gaze.
“I’ve had centuries to study the books in our library,” she said. A flicker of fear danced in her father’s eyes.
“Clement!” she shouted as she sprinted down the stairs and grabbed his collar. “If you will not help us, then you will die with us!”
Eilyn leaned against the heavy wooden door and watched Clement unravel. He was not willing to man handle her away from the door, but each howl of the demon sent him into a panic.
“Daughter,” her father said. “A guest must be allowed to leave at will.”
“He is no longer a guest, father,” she said crossing her arms. “I claim him as hostage against the Gathering Light Historical Society.”
“In my house,” Her father started.
“This is my mother’s palace,” she countered. “As a second son, you came into your wife’s house with nothing more than grandfather’s power to bolster your status.”
“Lady Eilyn!” Clement yelped as another howl came from the hall.
“We cannot stay here,” her father hissed. “Follow me.”
They scurried through the darker corridors of the palace with the demon’s howls getting closer and louder. They made it up to her mother’s tower just as the shadow caught up to them. The demon howled and banged at the closed door.
“In here,” she said ducking behind a tapestry of biblical scenes. “The cross on the door won’t stop him for long, but we will be safe in my mother’s private chapel.”
They huddled in the small space, listening. The tapestry fluttered as the demon tested the wards on the entrance to the alcove.
“No,” Clement looked sick.
“Help us,” Eilyn demanded. “Ring your superiors and send out a necromancer to reverse the curse.”
“It’s not a curse!” Clement said through his teeth. “It is the exact spell your father requested.”
Lord Tharlmund felt his face contort into the same look of surprise registering on his daughter’s face. Except that Eilyn’s was caused by disbelief and his by shock. Only one person in seven hundred years and figured out his secret and he dispatched of her in this very alcove.
“You asked for this?” Eilyn screeched, her chest heaving. The demon answered her with a piercing howl.
“I asked for protection,” he managed to utter as Eilyn’s face went from disbelief to anger. “but you don’t know necromancers! They offered me my dreams. They seduced me with my heart’s desire. My one true weakness.”
“Life eternal?” Eilyn frowned.
“Power,” Clement whispered, his eyes on the hem of the tapestry. Eilyn looked at him and he added, “Your grandfather’s throne.”
“A second son,” Tharlmund said mockingly. “Even my own daughter holds it against me.”
“You were lord of an estate richer than the crown,” Eilyn shook her head. “You married well and wanted for nothing!”
“I should have been on that throne!” Tharlmund shouted, “King of France! I wanted my name to ring through history!”
“It has,” Clement said. “Occult history.”
“A hidden history,” Tharlmund spat. “Befitting a second son.”
“If you knew,” Eilyn turned her wounded eyes back to Clement. “Why didn’t you come for us sooner?”
“We only knew of the spell and its lasting effects on the palace. We had no idea about the inhabitants. Not that it would have mattered, as we don’t interfere.”
“You know how to stop this, don’t you?” Eilyn’s voice trembled with rage.
“Of course,” Clement said. “As does your father.”
“You must understand,” Tharlmund said slowly. “I never intended to employ the necromancers. When my brother realized my ambitions, he brought every alchemist into his court and locked away all of the wise women.”
“Was my brother a changeling?” Eilyn looked crazed.
“No,” Tharlmund waved away her question and continued his tale. “By then I had already stolen his virility. It was only a matter of taking his life and the throne would be mine.”
“Why?” Eilyn blinked as if blinded by a bright light. “If you stifled his manhood, time would have passed the crown to our house.”
“Too much time,” Tharlmund felt cold. “I might have been king a year or five. Assuming I outlived him. When he marched on the palace with an army reinforced by the alchemists, only the necromancers were available to defend us.”
“What did you do, father?” Eilyn asked, desperately. “What did you bring down on us?”
“The demons at our door,” he laughed. “Old entities from the darkest reaches of Byzantium. I wanted my name to live on forever. They gave me the truest form of my wish.”
“What of the rest of us?” Eilyn asked. “How did we get swept into this hell?”
“The necromancers took gold for the binding spells. The demons wanted blood for their protection.”
“A palace full of sacrificial lambs?” Eilyn looked disgusted.
“I am sorry, my child,” Tharlmund said as he pushed aside the tapestry. “But now you will be free.”
Tharlmund took a deep breath and stepped out of the alcove.
“No!” Clement lunged for the lord. “Don’t!”
“Father,” Eilyn cried, but the man was gone.
The lord let out a blood curdling scream as the demon attacked him. The noise filled the alcove and slammed against them. Eilyn collapsed against the wall and Clement fell to his knees, vomiting. Suddenly, the scream was cut off by a wet noise that caused Clement to vomit again.
The demon let out a long, victorious howl. Eilyn looked surprised when it was joined by hundreds of other howlers.
“What is happening?” Eilyn whispered as she slid down to the floor.
“Unfortunately for us, the spell is broken,” Clement wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and pressed himself against the wall. He pulled a cell phone out of his fanny pack and quickly thumbed a message.
“How?” the woman was too terrified to notice his actions.
“Your father is dead,” Clement looked down at his phone and his face grew hard. “he no longer needs protecting. The spell that bound your protectors, the demons, is no more.”
“What is going on?” Eilyn asked as the howls grew louder. “Are they leaving?”
“No,” Clement stood and lifted Eilyn to her feet. “You father was a fool for throwing himself out like that.”
“Why?” Eilyn scowled. “He sacrificed himself to free me.”
“That was never possible. The demons want payment for all of the lives they protected in the war,” Clement put his hands on her shoulders.
“I didn’t ask them to!” Eilyn struggled to escape his grasp.
“You are the last,” Clement said quietly and shoved her out of the alcove.
She’s awfully agile for a seven hundred year old. Clement thought as Eilyn used the force of his push to swing around.
“No!” She cried and reached out for him.
And awfully strong for a teen girl. His mind was surprisingly calm as Eilyn dragged him through the tapestry.
The pain began before they hit the floor. Clement’s ears rattled from the volume of their screams. Eilyn thrashed wildly landing solid kicks on Clement’s stomach. He scarcely felt them.
The demons slashed and tore at his face and chest in a bloody frenzy. He threw up his hands to protect himself from their sharp talons. Each swipe felt like a thousand hot razors peeling back his flesh.
Just when Clement felt he would break from the pain, it stopped. Eilyn’s screams died with his own, leaving a thick silence. He shivered on the floor, afraid to open his eyes.
“Eilyn!” an unfamiliar voice floated into his ears. “Eilyn? Where are you?”
“Clement?” Eilyn sobbed.
“No,” Clement removed his hands from his face and sat up. His skin burned, but when he looked down, there was no evidence of the demons’ attack. He took in their surroundings. “What part of the palace is this?”
“It’s just as I feared.” Eilyn said, hopping to her feet. Besides her rumpled hair, she, too, bore no signs of the attack.
“Eilyn?” the voice came again.
“Show yourself,” Eilyn called, looking around warily. “Get to your feet, Clement. This could be a demon trick.”
“No, Eilyn,” A slim boy in tattered courtly wear stepped out of the shadows. “Tis I, your only brother.”
Eilyn gaped at the boy standing before her. He looked just like her brother and he even wore the same clothes her brother had on when he… Eilyn couldn’t complete the thought.
“The stars are jewels on the ebon breast of night,” He recited a line from a poem she adored before they were cursed.
“Twinkling lively in the moon’s silver light,” She finished and wrapped her arms around him. Like her, the boy was tall for his age.
“I am happy to see you again,” the boy said. “But I prayed that you would not make it here.”
“Where is here?” Eilyn asked, looking around. Clement stood beside them scribbling in his notebook. “This is Clement. He was monitoring the spell when I dragged him into our problem.”
“Do you have any idea how to break the enchantment?” the boy asked. He smiled at Clement who nodded curtly then continued to scribble.
“He doesn’t understand you,” Eilyn hugged her brother again. “Our language is no longer spoken.”
“Oh,” the boy whispered, defeated. “Sister, how long has it been?”
“Don’t” Eilyn said. “You will only break your heart.”
“How long?” he asked, his voice strengthened with determination.
“Since you’ve been gone?” Eilyn whispered. “Five hundred years.”
“Dear god!” he exclaimed. “Are you the last?’
“Yes,” Eilyn smiled. “The dragon in the great hall took me, Clement, and father.”
“Father?” her brother frowned at her then looked around wildly. “Where is he?”
“I don’t know,” Eilyn answered. “What type of danger are we in?”
“Another eternity of being hunted and tortured,” the boy gave her a hard look. “And father is the key to our release.”
“What is happening?” Clement asked, finally. The siblings gave each other pained looks. “Where is Lord Tharlmund?’
Eilyn made hasty introductions before declaring, “We have to find my father.”
Clement waited as Eilyn and her brother whispered, heads together, in their archaic french.
“My brother will take you back to the shelter where the rest are hiding,” Eilyn gave him a sad smile and squeezed his hand.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay with you,” Clement raised his notebook. “For the Society.”
A flash of anger crossed Eilyn’s face and for a moment, he thought she would say no. Instead they were distracted by a low growl. Clement squinted in the direction of the noise and discovered an inky shadow slithering their way.
The boy went crazy, shouting and pointing at the shadow.
“This way!” Eilyn grabbed his hand and dashed away from the figure. A wild shriek arose behind them causing Eilyn to stop. “Brother!”
Clement looked back to see the boy grappling with the demon. He could not tell if it was the child or the shadow filling the air with such screams.
“He’ll be fine,” Eilyn let out a sob and took off again. Clement lost sight of the struggle as they rounded a corner. He refocused on Eilyn and his current surroundings.
“You are familiar with this place?” He asked as she took another corner without hesitation.
“Yes,” she said breathlessly. “I studied the map in an old book in the palace library.”
“What!” Clement exclaimed, skidding to a stop. “Where are we?”
“The necromancer’s lair.”
“Come on,” Eilyn said as she took off running again. Clement paused long enough to take a few notes before catching up with her.
“There are a few safe places where the demons cannot harm us,” Eilyn huffed. “The necromancers use them when a conjuring goes wrong”
“How do you know this?” Clement asked. He increased his pace, putting him shoulder to shoulder with Eilyn.
“I told you,” Eilyn threw a glance behind her. The corridor was empty and that made her very nervous. Someone or something should be on to them by now, but the lair seemed desolate. She turned her attention ahead. “I studied the necromancy books in the palace library.”
“Right,” Clement agreed, “To find a way to reverse the spell. But what made you decide to memorize the layout and boltholes of a mythical lair.”
“It’s not so mythical after all,” Eliyn let out a mirthless laugh. The safe room was just ahead. She tensed, expecting an attack, but they made it to the door unharmed. “We will be safe in here.”
“What about the necromancers?” Clement hesitated. “What will we do if one of them shows up.”
“We’ll be fine,” Eilyn said, pulling him into the large room. “The safe places absorb magic and prevent any spell from working.”
“Will it keep them out?” Clement pulled out the camera device and looked into the eyepiece. He frowned and hastily tucked it away.
“No,” she shook her head and latched the door. “But I think we can take a few withered elders.”
“I don’t know,” he said, “You’re pretty strong for your true age.”
“The curse..I mean spell kept me sixteen forever,” Eilyn felt an odd sense of loss creep into her heart. She sighed. “A necromancer can not call himself master until he has risen from the dead.”
“You never answered me,” Clement said, his curiosity overshadowing his fear of undead warlocks. “How are you so well informed?”
The boy watched through the dark mirror as his sister and the strangely dressed man rushed through the darkness to their prison cell.
“She knows,” the boy’s master growled from his seat on the dias.
“No,” the boy frowned and stroked the head of his shadowy companion. “Otherwise she would not go so willing into her doom.”
“Still,” the master continued. “We can’t take any risks. Your father is crafty and will not go down without a fight.”
“Be at ease, master,” the boy said. “No one has ever escaped this lair. My father can delay his doom, but he cannot escape it.”
“Find your father first,” the master advised. “Use him to bait your sister and her companion.”
“Should we separate them?” the boy asked. He was still upset that his sister had chosen to run with Clement, instead of staying with him when his pet emerged from the shadows.
“It is not necessary,” the master said. “It might make her fight harder since the man is innocent. She will feel responsible for his safety.”
“Yes, master,” the boy said and left the room. He stalked the corridors of the lair, searching for any signs of his father. The man was wiley. He used his marriage against the royal court, the necromancers against his brother, and his family against the necromancers.
“And now I will use you against your sister,” his father appeared out of thin air and slung a muscled arm around the boy’s neck. The shadow demon shrieked in protest, but they were gone before it had a chance to pounce.
Tharlmund winked through the lair, his son in tow, thinking of every possible thing that could go wrong. So far the necromancers had not put in an appearance and something held the demons at bay. But Eilyn…
Tharlmund cursed aloud.
The girl made her way through the lair as if she lived here her whole life. And now she hunkered just beyond his reach in a neutralizing chamber with the man from the Gathering Light. If she knew so much about the layout of the lair, then she probably knew as much about the necromancers. The man from the Gathering Light would fill in the rest.
“What are you so afraid of, Father?” his son croaked. Tharlmund looked down and eased his grip on the boy. The child looked up at him and gave him a sad smile. “What was done so long ago cannot be undone. Pay for the life you were given so we can all be at peace.”
“You sound like your master,” Tharlmund said as they appeared before the chamber where Eilyn hid. “But I know better than to listen to the false promises of a necromancer. Even one as young as you.”
“Do not let my youthful looks fool you,” the boy twisted out of his father’s grasp and placed himself between the man and the door. “I came to the necromancers in this form, but I have studied with them for centuries. My knowledge is greater than yours.”
“I have had the same length of time to study, son” Tharlmund grabbed the boy and got in his face. “And I was already well versed before you were born.”
“Then let us work together,” the boy smiled and gestured to the chamber door.
Tharlmund returned his son’s smile, then called his daughter’s name.
Eilyn exchanged a look with Clement before tipping over to the door. She searched the wood for a peephole, but found none.
“Eilyn!” the voice called again.
“It sounds like Tharlmund,” Clement said, joining her at the door. Eilyn felt the unspoken question lingering between them.
“There is no way to be sure,” she said after a moment. “We never established a code.”
“Sister,” a child called out to her. “I found father.”
“Brother, how do I know it’s you?” Eilyn called. In her heart, she hoped it was not her brother and father on the other side of the door. She needed more time to get Clement out before she confronted them. Her hopes sank as the boy rattled off the line of poetry. She responded and put her hand on the doorknob.
“You don’t have to do this, Eilyn,” Clement put his hand over hers. “We can get out without them.”
“They are my family,” She answered. “I have to try.”
Eilyn took a deep breath and opened the chamber door. Her father and brother stood before her like a beautiful dream. One in which they were safe and happy in her mother’s palace. She smiled weakly.
“Come in,” She said, knowing they would not. “We will be safe from any danger in here.”
“Eilyn,” Tharlmund said, his voice sweet and paternal, “We must not delay.Your brother will lead us to where the others are hiding.”
“No one can hide from the necromancers for too long,” Eilyn said, stepping out of the chamber. “One can join their ranks or be turned into a soulless minion.”
“You are well studied, sister,” the boy stepped forward and bowed. “Which will you choose?”
The boy studied the flow of emotions running across Eilyn’s face. She knew, but like women of her time, she would set herself on fire to keep her family warm.
“The masters will be impressed by your initiative,” he said and offered his hand. “Few women can handle the rigors of necromancy. If you succeed, you will hold a special place among us.”
“I know you joined them to survive,” Eilyn took his hand and stepped closer. “But I can help you, brother.”
“I was doomed to this life long before I was born,” the boy said and shot a smug look at Tharlmund. His father turned red with anger, but Eilyn did not notice.
“How?” Eilyn looked at him, her eyes full of terror and concern.
“I promised the soul of my first born son as entry to the brotherhood of necromancers,” Tharlmund said. The man was beyond caring.
The boy watched as the fight left his sister. Her shoulders slouched and several centuries of sadness settled on her face.
“You’ve known all along,” the boy comforted his sister. “Now you must accept it.”
“Mother,” she sobbed. “What happened to mother?”
“Our time is short!” Tharlmund huffed. The boy looked at him and gave an imperceptible shake of his head. His father’s impatience undermined the man’s ambitions each time, but the boy would not let him ruin this. He loved his sister and would not bring her any more heartache.
“Mother’s soul was too pure to even make it to this realm,” the boy smiled at Eilyn. This brought a little life back to her face.
“Will you join us?” he asked. “You will find solace in the arms of the living death.”
“I have nothing to offer them for entry,” she sighed.
“Yes, you do,” the boy looked past her to the man still standing in the chamber.
The boy’s shadow companion snuffled around the dark corners of the lair looking for her master. She found the boy, along with the angry man, standing in front of one of the dangerous chambers. There was a woman and man who were not dead and had no powers, but they were not her concern. The angry man wanted her master and all of the masters in the brotherhood destroyed. Her master spoke with the woman. She was calm, but the angry man wanted to hurt her, too. The demon let out a roar and charged down the corridor.
“Eilyn, hide,” the master said and hurried the woman into the chamber. The woman begged for him and the angry man to join her. They both refused.
“Now father,” the young master said, “You must pay for the life you were given!”
“You treacherous spawn!” the angry man screamed and leveled a bolt of power at the demon. She spiraled gracefully around the bolt and let the energy evaporate into nothing.
The angry man had to be destroyed!
Her memories were still strong: the tiny alcove alight with votives, the sharp knife glinting in the candlelight, the strange words, waking up in the lair…
She let out a shriek of rage and slithered around the angry man.
“Mother, no!” the young master screamed and she forced the angry man into the room with the undead.
The world faded amid a cacophony of voices, but the demon was rewarded with a final vision of her master stabbing the angry man.
Clement looked out of the window to the street below. He watched the emissary from the Gathering Light Society amble down the block and stop in front of the palace. The woman, dressed in tourist regalia, checked the street before pulling a device from her backpack. She put the viewer up to her eye and swept the front of the palace. The woman frowned and recalibrated the device. The findings were the same: The legion of demons no longer clung to the palace’s gargoyles. The woman whipped out a notebook and scribbled pages of notes.
“That was you a year ago,” Eilyn’s weak voice emerged from the pile of furs cradled in the wheelchair. “And several years before.”
“How are you feeling?” Clement asked, adjusting the swaddling. The centuries were catching up to her fast.
“I’ve got time still,” she smiled. Her withered hand reached out to pat his.
“We could always summon your brother,” he offered. She frowned and he added. “You wouldn’t be alone.”
“No,” she laughed. “I am too happy to have this life over with and I would not allow you to trap yourself.”
“As you wish,” he nodded. The man in him feared the powers needed to grant eternal life. However, his inner historian swooned at the prospect of observing the passage of time without consequence.
For now he was satisfied with interviewing Eilyn. Her mind remained sharp even as her body failed. And each day, when she grew too tired or cold to go on, he studied her detailed diaries or the massive collection of first editions in the palace library.
Someday, the books would be all that remained of this epic tale.
“Let’s get started,” she tugged his hand, dragging him out of his thoughts. “1889 was an exciting year in the city.”
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