The Rest of Forever: Chapter 5
Two weeks crept by before Ambrose began the search for her mother’s journal. The library was locked on a regular basis and only cleaned by the head of the households’ personal servant, who selected only one other to aid him. With the twin heirs constantly playing games and being wasteful with their money and resources, Ambrose never found the time to actively search for the journal until it was nighttime, a dangerous problem with the forest beast roaming. She attempted to ask about the beast but the servants were mute on the subject, only letting her know that lights needed to be off by a certain time. The disappearances of staff members were never questioned in this household and servants were often replaced. It was certainly a mystery why people would choose to work at the Vine Estate.
Still, the task her mother had given her was all that Ambrose could think about; the faster she could leave this place, the better. Once more in the dark of the night, she crept around the estate looking for a way into the library. She had learned that Lord Vine had an office that connected through the library and unlike the library, his office was a little easier to get into. She took quiet steps, wary of the silence of the house. Soon the steps of the beast would cut into the silence and, as she took the path to the office, any sounds she would make would be covered. The thundering steps sounded in the distance. It was time. She walked quickly, slipping past the kitchens and into the west wing. The door to his den was closed but unlocked. She stepped through and felt the chill of the windowless room.
Lord Vine’s desk was cluttered with parchment and inkwells. The massive wooden desk didn’t have a bare spot. The man could swim in his paperwork. Ignoring the man’s business work, she looked around for a door. Each wall held pictures of men with blonde hair and the disturbing green eyes.
“Ancestors?” she mused. “Where is the door?” she wondered.
There was no time for her to dawdle around this office. Glancing next to his desk she noticed the obscenely large cabinet. She looked inside and saw a few shelved writing tools, but the cabinet was large enough for her to fit into.
Strange, she thought to herself.
Ambrose opened the ornate cabinet doors expecting to find nothing but junk. Instead the wooden doors opened to reveal a singular shelf riddled with inkwells and tasseled journals. What surprised her was right beneath this shelf, instead of more junky shelves, was a large space that looked like a passage that led into the walls. She stepped under the shelf and found that the cabinet was, in fact, a secret tunnel. She crouched, careful to not displace his belongings, and walked through the dusty tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, she came upon a wooden door. Softly opening it, she discovered the door was hidden behind a false bookshelf.
The Vine’s personal library was no laughing matter. The large open space was filled with floor to ceiling shelving. Ambrose looked around; the moonlight revealed the wondrous luxury of books. She took a moment to focus back on the task at hand. As quietly as she could, she started browsing through shelves. Nothing stuck out. The cry of a baby animal snapped Ambrose out of her pace. She looked out the window and saw the beginning of the first light; the beast had already left. A jiggling key in a lock startled her and she ducked behind one of the darker bookshelves. Candlelight illuminated the library space revealing Lord Vine wrapped in his robes. Ambrose held her breath.
Lord Vine was a tall man and a little thick around the stomach. Luxury had perks but it caught up to Lord Vine as he aged. His blonde hair matched the twins, but his faded locks were trimmed shorter than what was fashionable. He walked up to a shelf next to the bay window, pondering over the books there.
What are you looking for? Ambrose thought.
The minutes dragged on as she waited for Lord Vine to leave the Library. His stared at the same shelf as if some mystery lied on the wooden shelves. As Ambrose watched, he finally chose a book, pulling it from the bottom. As he bent to pull out more books, the shelf above revealed dark blue leather bound books. She clenched the edge of the shelf waiting for the man to move on. At last, he gathered his books and left the library.
When the door clicked shut, she waited till the retreating steps echoed in the hallway before she made her move. Bending down to acquire better access she brushed her fingers over the leather-bound books. Gently she pulled each one out, stacking them in their proper order. Nothing was there. She checked for hidden panels and felt the shelf. Nothing once more. These were only blue books she had found. Her head lowered into her hands. This library was enormous; it would take a long time to comb through every book. Ambrose wished she had help; at least with Axel she would have access to the top shelves.
“Please be safe Axel. I’m trying.”
She closed her eyes and whispered a prayer for his safety.
A couple of nights later and the search for the blue book her mother had referenced produced no results. The few blue books she found revealed nothing of her mother’s presence in this estate. She was careful to avoid making noises as she looked through books. There were books on all sorts of subjects, many terms and ideas unfamiliar to Ambrose. She had just reached a section on bird hunting when a blue book shorter than the rest caught her eye. The title on the spine read, “The Ambrosia of a Blue Birds Nest”. She opened the book to find a worn leather journal inside. Upon opening the peculiar journal, she read a small inscription;
My dear Ambrose, if you are reading this then my time has come. I have avoided the silver sickness for as long as I could, but the city is a breeding ground for the tarnished silver. You’ve very little time before the protection I have placed wears off. It is time you knew the truth about why I have sent you to this estate. You cannot return to Stemin until you have gone through the Kings Forest. Many have feared the power and the beast within. The beast that lives in the forest is a guardian of the last Wild Magic left on this side of the world. Beware that once you learn the secrets of the forest, your journey from here on will be harder. I’ve hidden you from the Kingdom’s taint and kept your fathers’ secrets. My hope for the future lies with you and I’ve prayed this journal guides you in ways I never had the time for. I love you, Ambrose. I wish I could be with you. Stay safe, be diligent, and trust only in your heart.
Your mother, the former high enchantress of the Kingdom of Stemin.
Small drops of water bounced off the first page in the journal. Ambrose wiped her eyes and turned to the next page. A map of Stemin and the Land of Nobles was elegantly etched into the page but there was more. Beyond the bordering wasteland, there was land Ambrose had never heard of; “Forve” was scrawled in the corner. As she flipped through the pages the Bloodhaven journal had more than her mother’s words, but diagrams and instructions on a variety of subjects related to Wild Magic. The world her mother lived in before her birth was unveiled on these pages. The sounds of awakening birds startled her into remembering the time. While the beast may frighten the Vine Estate to remain locked in their rooms, it didn’t mean they stayed hidden all day.
Tucking the journal under her arm, she cleaned up the mess of books she had searched through. After she slipped back through the tunnel, she quickly made her way through the west wing into the servants’ quarters. Once in the safety of her room, her heart rate relaxed and she pulled the journal out. Clutching the journal to her chest, she wept. Her mother’s scent had faded from these pages. The old paper had her mother’s handwriting and notations from another source, who Ambrose suspected could be her father. She slid down the door, as she collapsed under the strain of her sorrow. All of this hadn’t been for nothing…she had found the Bloodhaven journal.
There was a slight tap on the window. Ambrose looked up to see her peculiar bird companions. She walked to open the window, letting the black and white ravens perch on the inside.
“I was wondering what had happened to you two. I think I finally understand…you two must be magic,” Ambrose whispered.
She smiled to herself as she made the observation, but she didn’t expect the black raven to gasp.
Ambrose stepped back, unsure she had heard correctly.
“Ravens don’t gasp,” Ambrose said quietly, carefully watching the birds. The white raven rolled his eyes.
“Ravens don’t roll their eyes either! What are you?!” Ambrose said.
She grabbed the nearest object she could find for protection. She held the candle in defense. Slowly the white raven flew down to the floor in front of her, a haze of silver mist surrounded him as he turned into a man with a white streak passing through the dark waves of his hair. He bowed before her.
“I apologize for the dishonesty, but I didn’t expect for anyone to recognize us as magic,” he apologetically said.
He looked up from his bow to study her and raised his hand in greeting. She looked at his offered hand and stepped further back. He let his hand fall back to his side.
“My name is Theo and the cheeky raven behind me is Rezul.”
Ambrose lowered her candle and peeked behind Theo.
“Is the other raven going to change as well?” she asked Theo who laughed, his face softening a little.
“No, but he’ll speak if he stops being shy,” Theo answered.
He took a step back and leaned against the wall by the window gazing out into the new morning sky.
“Why have you been watching me? Are you a part of the Kings forest?” Ambrose asked.
Theo smirked as he folded his arms.
“I have nothing to do with that place and neither should you,” Theo warned.
Rezul squawked and unheard communication passed between the two.
“As lovely as it was to speak to you in person I must go. However, I never caught your name?” He looked at her with a hint of curiosity in his expression.
“I do not recall giving my name. Why are you leaving and who are you?”
Ambrose looked at the two, unsure if she could trust a man who changed his shape or a bird that could speak. The strange man only looked at her with amusement. She felt that he treated her like a game, something to alleviate his boredom. There was something about his eyes that caught her attention. His eyes, while full of mischievous intent, looked jaded beyond his years. It was an unnatural detail that made Ambrose wary of him.
“You’ll have to trust me with your name one day,” he whispered.
Ambrose shook her head. Theo looked at Rezul and then turned back to her.
“I’m late for a drink.”
He bowed once more and the haze of silver surrounded him as he changed back into his raven form. His beady eyes looked at Ambrose as if he had one more comment to say and then the birds flew out of her window. The candle from her hand fell to the ground and she ran to watch the birds fly away.
This world I am aware of now is far trickier than it should be, she thought.
TO BE CONTINUED