Karl - Birth of Mystery, Chapter One
Zandina Silam, also known as Zandina Solarbria to the very select few, sat alone at her desk working on her family tree. She sat staring at the path she had plotted tracing her family’s history for generations. She could not deny the path that followed for her or her mother or any of the distant grandparents. No male child had been born and had survived for more than six hours. In six generations only one male child had been delivered and he had lived no more than a couple of minutes.
She knew the curse that lay over them. In truth it protected her. But now that line was going to be tested. She knew she had little time left to conclude her researches and she was becoming desperate – a feeling she was not used to and she despised the fact that she had been made to feel that way. Zandina Solarbria did not accept failure.
Now she was ready to start studying prophecies and legends to find an answer. Zandina had to find the elusive answer, for her sake and for that of her daughter who was heavy with her grandchild. Zandina knew from her castings that her daughter was to give birth to a son.
Zandina stood up, her vision blurred from the long hours she had spent studying her records and texts. She blew out the candles on her table that she used to study when it grew dark outside her window. The semicircular room was plunged into darkness, but Zandina did not need a light to guide her in her tower.
This tower was as much a part of her as was her right hand. The tower stood in a small area of forest just outside of Miltonburg. If she listened hard enough she could hear the crash of waves on the Sea of Saul to the north or the water of the river Bey in the south. The tower, like her, possessed a powerful magical aura. Strong spells and rune engravings upon the outside walls protected it. Only the few people Zandina chose to tell the secret of the tower’s existence to could see or enter it. Any other passing traveller would see only the forest and would pass through without being any the wiser.
Now, on the ground floor of her tower was a visitor. It was to meet this visitor that she descended the steps. There was no knocker to knock on, or bell to ring on the outside to announce that someone was there, it was not necessary people could only enter by invitation anyway. Her awareness stretched to be one with the tower. The tower itself had admitted her guest to the reception area and had then informed her of their presence.
Zandina reached the bottom step of the great staircase that linked each level of the turret she was in with the main hall. From the main hall ran three sets of stairs - all leading to three turrets of her tower. Each turret had a spectacular bridge linking it to the other two turrets at a great height above ground level. But for all the splendour of her tower and for all the expertise she possessed in both medicine and magic she was afraid that she, greater than other magician or physician in Miltonburg or its neighbouring towns could not deliver a son to her daughter.
As she stepped into the main hall she smiled at her daughter who was sat on one of the couches. Walking over to her she tried to hide the fears she had been feeling behind a mask.
She wore a smile on her face and a look of confidence as she approached that she did not feel. The baby was not due for another month. This was only a regular visit that her daughter made to her to discuss things that a mother and daughter only discussed in private with each other. It also gave Zandina a chance to see for herself how the pregnancy was developing. At this time neither could have felt closer to any other person in the entire world than the bond that currently linked them now.
Until now, under her mother’s guidance Reoma’s pregnancy had gone smoothly. There had been no problems. With each visit that Reoma had made to her mother’s tower she had been told that the baby was developing fine. The child displayed all the signs of being a large healthy baby. This was true. Zandina had not lied to her daughter. All the signs were positive and she had seen them and the child with her own inner eyes. Nothing about the pregnancy until now had appeared to be abnormal except for her family, and the facts that kept returning to her mind from their history.
Zandina braced herself to cast the spell of sight, which she usually did when the two of them were alone. The spell would allow her to see her grandson in his mother’s womb. Here in her tower she could practice her magic, as it was not something she would do openly.
She was known for her abilities as a woman of medicine but not of magic. There was nothing dark or sinister about the type of magic Zandina practiced but she remained selective as to whom she allowed to know that she possessed these special abilities.
To those people with closed minds, and there were plenty of them, that did not understand the special powers those that possessed them were often branded as witches and were made to suffer. Even worse, some had been accused of being agents of a far greater evil. If those rumours were to be spread about then she and those closest to her would not be allowed to live a normal life in the town, as they would have liked.
There was nothing normal or ordinary now as she closed her physical eyes and began to recite the mystical passages that accompanied the spell of sight.
Once the spell was cast she opened her eyes. They were unseeing to the world around her. Instead she saw with her hands that which she touched and beyond. Placing her hands on her daughter’s stomach over the womb she cast her mind into the body of her daughter to look upon the child growing there. Her mind cleared of all other thoughts as she entered the region restricted to anyone else. She saw the child growing, living as one with his mother. The legs and arms were fully formed and the child kicked with an impatience to be born. She suspected that the child might not wait for another full month before he was ready to be delivered – he had developed well. She moved her hands slightly and although she was physically outside the mother she could feel the small heart of her grandson beating. The heartbeat was strong and constant; there were no signs that there would be a problem with this birth. All the signs remained positive, so she withdrew her presence from the womb.
Zandina took her hands away, and with it her presence left Reoma’s body. Zandina’s consciousness returned to herself and slowly her eyes returned to normal. No words were necessary, for the smile she now wore was genuine. She had seen for herself that the child still grew strong. As there appeared to be no problems this close to delivery she thought that maybe she could allow herself to relax. A new confidence passed over her. She could see no reason, which would prevent the healthy birth of a boy and thus break the curse.
‘Praise El-Undora. The child is healthy and strong. If El-Undora continues to smile upon us then there will be a son.’
Reoma smiled at the welcome news, this had been the reassurance she had wanted to hear. Like her mother she knew of the history that hung over their line of the family. Although she pretended that she was not aware of it and so would not be troubled by it, she feared for the child she carried. She feared for herself also. Reoma felt that if anything were to happen to her child she would lay down herself and die.
Reoma kept these thoughts to herself. She could see for herself that her mother tried to hide her fears from her. It had occurred to her that if her mother knew that she feared then she would give up everything and never trust in her own abilities ever again. This was the one and only secret that Reoma never mentioned to her mother, she treated the subject as taboo. Nothing else was hidden and a thought occurred to her. Maybe her mother could read her fears in her mind. She dismissed that notion; she trusted and respected her mother not to read her mind directly.
‘Agreed. Praise El-Undora for her mercy. Let her look down upon my child and grant her protection over him,’ Reoma replied.
It had been a month ago when Zandina had revealed to her that she was carrying a boy. She had suspected for a while that Zandina had known the sex of the child she carried, but had been reluctant to tell.
‘Wait until the child is born, then you will see for yourself,’ her mother had said.
Reoma remembered almost pleading with her mother to reveal the truth, if she had known it. There had been a great reluctance on her mother’s part to share the knowledge. However, once she had managed to coax the information from her, Reoma had felt that she knew why her mother had been reluctant. Zandina had said with such confidence that it was a son that Reoma knew there was no doubt. Reoma also knew that if her mother suspected she knew any part of the historic shadow that hung over them then the knowledge would be distressing enough for the pregnancy to be ill fated.
To know that the child was a boy and thus fear it would not be born may have just been enough to make the fears come true. This had been one of the reasons that Reoma had never told her mother she had these fears. The other was if she could not put it into words to her mother then maybe she did not believe it enough to fear that possible outcome. If she did not fear it, it could not be true.
Zandina took her daughter’s hands in hers. For several minutes after each had spoken their praises to the Goddess of Healing and Mercy neither of them spoke. Reoma was the first to eventually break the tranquil silence.
‘How long have I got to wait before I can hold my son in my arms?’ She asked.
‘A month, maybe less,’ was the reply.
‘But that is early.’
‘I know, your son is growing fast. I don’t think he will wait too much longer.’
‘That isn’t going to cause a problem is it, if he is born early I mean?’
Reoma was suddenly concerned; she had expected her son to be born at the end of Panatay. Now her mother was implying that he could be born in the first week of that month. Zandina felt her daughter’s hand go tense in hers so she sought to reassure her again.
‘It is your first child - and it is not uncommon for a first born to be either a couple of weeks early or a couple of weeks late.’
Reoma’s eyes searched her mother’s face to see if she had spoken the truth; or had simply used the words to offer comfort.
‘I have seen it on many occasions, when I have watched over the pregnancies of others.’
Zandina felt her daughter’s hands relax again and she knew she had been successful in reassuring her own only child.
‘With so little time left then I should decide upon a name for him.’ Reoma said.
‘Have you any in mind?’ Her mother asked.
Reoma smiled, ‘I know what I shall call him.’
‘Will Max agree?’
‘My husband will not be able to disagree, for I shall name our son after him. I have decided, and I know it will please him. Our son shall be known as Max Axilion Junior.’
‘Then I hope he will make you both proud to be his parents. Just as I am proud of you.’
Reoma smiled, and blushed slightly. She thought quickly to change the subject and redirect the conversation.
‘And I am proud of my mother. You said ‘it’s your first child’ as if to imply others.’
‘Would you like there to be others?’
‘Yes, I think so.’
‘Then I see no reason why there should not be others. This one is going fine.’
The mother and mother to be took each other in their arms and held each other close.
Max Axilion stood alone in his shop; it was small by comparison with most of the others in Miltonburg.
Miltonburg was a busy port town where a lot of the trade was imported or exported. The Emperor’s own personal produce for the palace was shipped through one of the wealthier merchants in Miltonburg.
The Axilion family were not so fortunate and their humble store, tucked away in one of the back streets away from Dock Road, (the central trading area of Miltonburg), was visited by only a few customers. Max had considered trading in food produce and other similar essential items, but with the location tucked away as it was in one of the obscure back streets he had little custom. Produce like food, with custom like that, would deteriorate and would not be edible by the time it was sold. He did not have the money to set up his business in the main areas where he could guarantee better trade. If you could not afford to start your business there you were never able to move there because you would never be able to keep it running long enough for the profits to rise above the costs.
You needed money to make money, and capital was one thing Max was short of. Thus Axilion Trade found itself dealing in goods of pottery, rugs, hardware and ornamental luxury goods that would keep. Which was just as well, some of it was still original stock. Max received his stock when he could work a shipment to be carried by some of the other merchants and traders’ ships whenever they had some spare cargo space aboard. Thus it was, because Axilion Trade had no ownership or part ownership of any vessels that Max found himself often in debt to the other traders. Max was often kept low in public profile whenever new and exciting developments occurred at the Traders’ Guild.
That had to change; Max was going to be a father. Although he longed for a son and heir many things now troubled him. The first of his many concerns was how he was going to feed the child. He was proud and although his mother-in-law often offered help, he would refuse on the grounds that it was his place to supply food for the family.
His second concern was what sort of business he had to pass on to his son. His shop just provided a living for him and his wife. It was nothing to be especially proud of, or to hand down with pride. Max had his pride and his unerring sense of what was right and wrong and he found in business that did not always help, you could be too honest for your own good. But he could never change his ways; his honour would at least always remain intact.
The third major concern was how the child would see him once he was grown. To be the owner of such a shop was nothing to be boastful about. To be the son of such a shop owner would probably shame the boy and Max feared his son would grow to despise his background.
Max looked around the shop taking in the stock that seldom varied from week to week. Sighing deeply he looked around the shop again; there was little else to do. Nothing had changed; the small shop was still empty of customers. Max walked over to the window and looked out onto the equally empty street that his shop was part of. It was the month of Panisslorn, and although autumn fast approached it still remained fairly light towards the early part of the evening.
However, by late afternoon he had decided that he was as well to close up and go home. He decided to return home via the docks.
Max closed the shop, secured the door and began to walk home. He knew his wife would not be there, she had gone out to meet her mother. Often when she went out with the intention of meeting her mother for the afternoon she would be gone all night.
Max walked down to the docks where a vessel had arrived and was now being unloaded. A gang of rowdy labourers had been hired to empty the vessel of its cargo, and were now passing the crates down in a chain gang formation to the port inspector. The port inspector was checking details of little or no significance against each crate, where from, where to, contents and shipment charges were being thoroughly scrutinized.
It was guaranteed that on a normal shipment a dozen crates would fail the inspection and be confiscated. It was a burden the merchants and traders had come to bear, but it was always the lower merchants or traders who suffered most. The more powerful, rich or influential the merchant the less likely it was that their shipments would fail inspection. In fact, there was one merchant who never lost a single part of his shipments, they were never inspected, and this merchant had an exclusive contract with the Emperor himself. Any delivery holding his seal was passed without question.
The port inspector looked up from his paper work at Max standing at the side of the dock. Slowly he returned his gaze to the papers in his hand. He scanned the list looking to see if any crates had been delivered for Axilion Trade. There were two. Both shipped from Mirdi - this was always open for question. The port inspector coughed loudly to draw attention to him. Once he had caught Max’s attention he called him over; using the same method a head teacher might use to summon a pupil who was about to be publicly humiliated in front of the class.
Peering over the top of his spectacles and using the index finger of his right hand he made the summons.
Slowly Max walked over. He had played this game before. He was not at all fond of the port inspector and in his dreams he saw him being decapitated and thrown in the sea. All the labourers that were about Max supposed were probably; ideally, there to prevent such an occurrence. Max guessed that if such an event were to happen they would more likely stop work early and take-up residence in The Ship and Hankor.
As Max approached, the small weasel faced man peered at him long and hard. Then in a voice that resembled someone who had just found that he had been sitting in something unmentionable and unpleasant, the port inspector addressed him.
Was it a question or a statement? Max could not decide what the inspector was saying. He thought hard to remember if he was expecting a delivery. The inspector obviously did not feel like waiting for a reply.
‘Two crates from Mirdi. What do they contain?’ He expanded, in the same cringing voice.
Max considered. ‘Pottery,’ he said.
The inspector’s eyes bore through him, it was obvious that any moment he would declare the crates as being impassable and would have them split open on the dock there and then.
The port inspector considered and rechecked his list of shipments. A smile cut across his face, it looked like a split in a wrinkled orange thought Max. The inspector looked up again.
‘I shall pass these.’ He declared, as if he was doing Max a great favour. ‘However I see also a shipment from the Isle of Mishdine. That intrigues me. Why was not this crate on my manifest, nor brought over by the ferry?’
It intrigued Max, slightly. He was not expecting anything from the Isle of Mishdine. He did not have any contacts there, either trade or customer. Who would be sending me something from the Seat of Learning? Max thought. Thinking about it, Max Axilion had never been to the Isle of Mishdine either. It was obvious what was coming next.
‘There is no paper-work for this crate. What does it contain?’
How would Max know, he was not expecting it - and if it was not documented then he guessed that he would not be getting it either.
He guessed right.
‘That crate cannot be released. It will be confiscated by the authority.’
This meant that whatever the crate contained, if it had any value at all, would now belong to this small weasel faced man in front of Max. Max hoped that it would rot on him, whatever it was. He simply nodded his acknowledgment of the fact. There was no point in arguing with the weasel; no one ever won that argument. The weasel’s ruling became law.
There was only one way around it, and Max could not afford that. Still, he decided, if he was not expecting the crate, what had he lost?
He left his other crates there. They would be safe, guarded with the rest of the crates overnight. He could arrange collection of the two he had been allowed to have in the morning.
That was when he had found some money to cover the port taxes he was expected to pay in order to take what was his in the first place.
Max left the dock and walked home.
The port inspector approached the pile of crates, which the labourers had stacked inside the door of one of the warehouses. Quickly he searched through until he found the first crate that had become his booty. It was a small crate, by comparison to some of them, marked with an open book and a wolf’s head, which symbolized the Isle of Mishdine. The destination on the crate was marked as:
AXILION TRADE, CARE OF.
Miltonburg was not mentioned on the crate as its destination at all. It was as if the crate had found its own destination.
He touched it. It felt cold. A chill ran through him, from his fingers, which had touched the crate, up his arm and down his spine.
Instinctively he drew his hand away. He looked around the warehouse for a crowbar, but could not see one. He had to know what was in there. Putting his paperwork down he went in search of the implement he desired. It only took a few minutes to find one as he had expected.
Returning to the crate he inserted one end of the crowbar between the side and the lid and began to try and lever the crate open. The lid stayed firm. He pulled down harder, the wooden lid should have split into fragments - but the crate remained perfectly secured. He looked around the warehouse for inspiration.
He was reluctant to call for help; he was sure now he had something of value, something that someone like Max Axilion should never have in his possession. This something was by rights his; it was destined to be his. It had not been documented and anything not sufficiently documented to his satisfaction became his. He heard voices, belonging to the labourers finishing their work and leaving. He thought again about calling to one of them to come and open the crate. Then he reconsidered; he did not want anyone else to see what was in this crate.
He had a strange feeling that he could not describe. He touched the crate again; as before, he felt the same icy chill run the length of his body. It thrilled him. Something at the back of his mind told him he was not going to get the crate open tonight. He decided he would return in the morning and try again to open it.
The port inspector returned home. He slept little that night. He was awoken on many occasions by dreams of wolves attacking him as he opened the crate.
In one dream they leapt from the crate as he opened it. Instantly they were free they had begun to satisfy a hunger that they had felt throughout the process of shipment. He was the food that they sought. A dozen or more leapt from the space not big enough to hold even two of them.
In another dream that followed once he had returned to sleep the wolves silently entered the warehouse behind him as he opened the crate. They formed a circle around him and as in the previous dream when the crate was open they leapt for him.
The result of both dreams had been the same, the wolves had attacked, he fell, and the wolves tore at his flesh.
He awoke from each dream sweat drenched. Again he awoke in the early hours of the morning when he thought he had heard a lone wolf howling outside his window.
He lay in bed awake until late into the morning. In some part of his mind he knew he was late for work but that realization did not press heavily upon him. As a result of his disturbed night he felt weak, and for the first time in his life he felt alone. His body felt as if his muscles had collapsed, he felt that he had no strength at all. He lay in bed, his stomach felt empty and he felt sick. As he tried to recall his dreams in order to place them into perspective in the early morning light he had found that he could not remember them clearly enough. He closed his eyes again and drifted once more into sleep.
Max spent that night alone in his small house, the house that was barely able to contain him and his wife - let alone a newborn baby. His wife was staying with her mother overnight whilst she examined the child.
He knew Zandina had a house in Miltonburg. He did not know about her magical tower outside the town. Max did not know of the magical abilities of his mother-in-law. He did not know the name Zandina Solarbria, the magical name passed down thought the centuries.
Max did know Zandina as a physician, and it was at her place near Salve Gardens that he expected her and Reoma to be. He had considered paying them a visit on his way home, but then changed his mind. Max thought he was being paranoid but some thought in his mind told him that Zandina was not very fond of him. He had taken an offence to Zandina’s reaction when she had found out that her daughter was going to have a child.
Reoma had told him in front of Zandina that she was going to have a boy, and the look of disbelief on Zandina’s face had hurt him in some way. Nothing Zandina had actually said had implied anything, but there had been something in her tone of voice, a sharpness that had put him on edge. That had been enough. The look she gave him when her daughter had left the room had secured the thought in his mind.
Max decided to retire to bed early that night. He lay down with thoughts of packing crates and the docks. He slept without disturbance; no dreams of wolf attacks disturbed him that night. He was only awoken the following morning by the sound of voices and light laughter from the kitchen area of the house.
Zandina and Reoma stood in the kitchen of the Axilion household sharing an amusing account of a coach driver who had picked them up outside of Miltonburg. He had managed to carry them almost to their door, thus annoying the other passengers and had then forgotten to charge them for the journey. Reoma was convinced that her mother had cast a small enchantment over the man. This accusation Zandina denied.
‘I had better be going before Max wakes,’ Zandina said.
‘I think that’s too late,’ Reoma replied pointing upwards.
Her action prompted her mother to listen for movement upstairs.
Reoma was right. Max had got up, and was now coming down the stairs. Zandina quickly kissed her daughter and slipped out of the back door.
Reoma was still laughing when Max entered the kitchen.
‘The news is good. Our child grows strong and fast. Maybe he will be born as early as the first or second week of Panatay.’
Max made a quick mental calculation. ‘That’s early.’
‘The pregnancy must have been further developed than we had first thought.’
It was all that Reoma could think of to explain the occurrence. Details of childbirth were not something that was usually discussed by the father, unless he happened to be a physician. Max sat down and Reoma joined him.
‘How was your day?’ Reoma asked.
Normally they talked together in the evenings about the events of the day, but on the nights that Reoma spent with her mother their conversations had to be postponed until the morning, which was when she always got back.
‘Little trade, as usual. Went down to the docks after I closed up, there’s a ship in.’
‘Anything on it?’
‘Two, no three packages, but I’ll only collect two of them.’
‘That weasel of a port inspector?’
Max nodded. Reoma knew who would end up paying the cost of the lost shipment. Every time they lost a crate to him Reoma had felt like asking her mother to intervene. A small spell would never be noticed and they would have their crates. Each time Max had accepted the situation as lost before Reoma had had time to act. Reoma did not want to go against her mother’s wishes and tell Max of the magical abilities her mother possessed.
‘What was in it?’ Reoma enquired in as casual a way as was possible.
‘I don’t know; that’s the strange thing. It came from the Isle of Mishdine and was addressed to Axilion Trade but had no papers with it.’
‘Who’s your contact over there, were you expecting anything?’
‘I’ve no contact over there.’ Max said, ‘I was expecting the pottery from Mirdi in the other two crates. I had no idea at first that there was a third crate for me.’
This mysterious crate interested Reoma, if only by its unexpected arrival. Max always knew what was coming in and from where. This was definitely an interesting mystery. Reoma made up her mind that she should ask her mother for help on this crate. Maybe her mother could obtain it using her subtle art of persuasion.
‘How much would it cost?’ Reoma asked.
Max guessed why she was asking; once Reoma had sensed a mystery she never gave up until she found an answer to it.
‘More than I could afford.’
‘How much could it cost to get one man to over look the paperwork? Does he enjoy the paperwork that much?’
‘I guess he does. He takes pleasure in denying you the shipments.’
‘You would have to cover the value he thought the shipment was worth.’
Reoma sighed, as if to imply that she was going to let the matter rest, which was what she knew Max wanted. Instead she felt more determined to find out what was in the crate and who had sent it. She knew her mother would be able to help her find out, and would also enjoy the mystery.
It was about midday when Zandina found herself walking along the docks. Many of the labourers who had stopped for lunch whistled as she walked past. Despite her age she looked no older than her daughter, but of course she never revealed her secret.
She knew where she would find the weasel man. He was always around the docks, and his reputation was renowned.
Many of the crates that had been unloaded the previous day had begun their journey to the merchants, those crates that had had the correct documentation.
Max had already taken collection of the two crates that had been cleared for him. When he had arrived there had been no mention of the third crate between him and the port inspector. The port inspector had cleared Max and the other traders who were there to collect goods quickly.
He had arrived over three hours late because of his disturbed night. It was the first time he had ever been late, and he was not happy about it. Until now he had not had a chance to take a crowbar to the crate that he had taken possession of from Max. The crowbar from the previous night was still on top of the crate where he had left it. There were several other crates from previous ships lying open in the corner of the warehouse that he used as his office. These he would sell at a later date to the highest bidder. It was known that once about half a dozen ships had docked and had been unloaded there would be an auction of ‘uncollected’ goods.
When Zandina located the port inspector he was again trying to open the crate addressed to Axilion Trade. Zandina approached the little man from behind using incredible stealth. It was apparent that he was having difficulty opening the crate in front of him and the act of opening it consumed all of his attention and effort.
‘I’m looking for a crate that I understand was delivered here yesterday.’ Zandina announced with incredible authority.
The port inspector jumped. The crowbar that was held in his hand fell to the floor and the sound it made echoed around the otherwise silent warehouse. It took several moments before the port inspector regained his composure. In that time Zandina waited, standing before him, glaring at him. The port inspector considered that he might have just lost a good number of years off of his life.
‘All the crates have gone already.’ He finally announced. He was still shaking.
‘Then what are those crates behind you?’ Zandina asked, in a matter of fact way.
‘They are, hum, er. They are crates of uncollected cargo.’ He had to think about it.
For the first time in his job the port inspector found he was nervous but he did not know why. There had been too many firsts this week for his liking, and none of them had been pleasant. What made this one worse was the fact that he was nervous in front of a woman. Under normal circumstances he would have demanded who she was, what she wanted and would have told her that it was totally out of the question before she had managed to get halfway inside the door. Instead she had appeared out of nowhere, behind him, and was now twisting his mind. Actually Zandina had not yet used any magic upon him.
‘If that’s uncollected cargo for Axilion Trade then I’m here to collect it.’
The thought of a woman walking out with a crate under her arm by herself would normally have made the inspector laugh. For some reason he could imagine this woman in front of him being able to move the crate by will power alone.
‘It didn’t have the correct paperwork. Thus it was confiscated by the authorities.’ His voice was weak and little more than a whisper.
Zandina wondered why Max had never stood up to the port inspector before. Not only Max, all the other traders that had bowed down from a confrontation with him.
‘If, in that case, the correct documentation was found then the crate could be released.’ It was not a question.
‘No. It would be too late. Once it has been confiscated it becomes property of the port. If someone arrives after with the paperwork it is too late. The paperwork must be here first. There must be order. If there is not order no work would get done.’
The words came out fast, almost tripping over each other in his rush to say them. He felt as if he should have had apologised. He blushed. The small weasel man who had had the port under his total control found himself having to give an explanation. This feeling was another first, and one he did not care for, or want repeated. There was something not right about the situation and about the crate in question, but he could not work out what.
‘But if you had the papers all the time then it would be wrong to keep hold of the crate. It would be your mistake.’
‘That is impossible. I have checked.’
‘You never make mistakes? Can you prove that?’ Zandina asked.
No one had ever asked him to prove anything to them before, another first; which was out of place in his life. He was never questioned. Suddenly he became defensive.
His voice took on an edge of aggression, but it was an aggression caused by fear. A fear he did not understand nor know from where it had come. He had to prove himself to this woman once and for all. Quickly he began to sort through the papers attached to his board which he always kept near where he was working.
‘See. No papers for the movement of a crate from the Isle of Mishdine to Miltonburg.’
Zandina did not have a chance to see, he was the only one who could see the papers. Zandina did nothing more than smile. Halfway through the stack of papers he stopped. Zandina was sure his face turned white. There was paper work for this crate. It was complete. The contents were listed as ‘personal artefacts, of no merchant value.’ The address of the shipper indicated that the crate came from the Main Hall upon the Isle of Mishdine. The consignee was given as ‘The representative of Axilion Trade, Miltonburg.’
Normally the calculating brain of the port inspector would find a reason to retain the crate. Today he was at a loss and reluctantly signed the papers that released the crate. In doing so he turned the crate over to Zandina, without collecting any import taxes.
The port inspector knew nothing about what happened next. He never remembered Zandina leaving with the crate, or how she got it out of the warehouse. He did not know what happened to the paperwork after she left. It had vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared. The other thing he did not remember was how he ended up off the quay and in the water.
One moment he was dry in the warehouse, the next he was treading water.
These mysteries that included the crate, his behaviour and all those firsts he decided would never be explained. The only solution he could think of was that he had been working too hard.
Zandina had decided to use her magical abilities to transport the crate. Zandina and the crate materialised in her tower; in the room where she had been studying the family tree.
Zandina stood in front of the crate; she had watched the port inspector try and fail to open it with a crowbar. She decided not to use such techniques in trying to open the crate. Her methods would be much more subtle.
Zandina kept the crate in a state of levitation in the middle of the room. She walked around the crate looking at it in detail. There was only one set of markings on it, not even an indication of which way up the crate went. Zandina gently released her mental hold upon the crate and it floated to the floor and landed without a sound.
Placing her hands upon the crate she closed her eyes and concentrated upon the crate and its mysterious contents. Her eyes opened and she saw into the crate. Her gaze was distant and held an element of loneliness, but her eyes saw into a different time. An image of the ancient times came to her, and she saw handwriting. Then inside the crate she saw the work that the mysterious hand had written.
Amongst the items in the crate was a scroll, rolled and sealed. There were other things in the crate and each held a story that was accessible to her. For now she was contented to only know what was in the packing case. One thing was certain, now was not the time to open the crate.
She made a mental inventory of what she could, a book, some objects that were of strange shape and origin, a large key, another book and another smaller crate. This other crate she could not penetrate with her mind. In her mind she picked up a message as clear as if it had been written on the outside of the box. It addressed itself to her, by her other name; the name of ages that she had inherited.
It was a message to Zandina Solarbria, to tell her when she would be the one to open the crate and read the scroll, but that time was not now, but would be soon.
She withdrew her mind from the crate and allowed her eyes to refocus on the room around her. Taking a step away from the crate Zandina considered what she would tell Reoma.
It had been Reoma that had asked her to find the crate, now it was Reoma that would not want to know of its contents. She decided that she would say the port inspector had already sold the crate off. What else could she say, that something was going to happen and that it involved the child she carried?
The remainder of the month of Panisslorn went without incident for the Axilion family.
Max continued with his business, he received another delivery but this time he was allowed to keep all his crates.
Reoma grew bigger with the child she carried.
Her curiosity regarding the crate had never been satisfied. Zandina had told her that she was not able to obtain it because the port inspector had traded it off as ‘uncollected’ cargo. She did not know if her daughter believed the story. She thought it best that she knew the origin, nature and purpose of the contents of the crate before she said anything else about it to her daughter and before she opened it.
The time to open the crate was getting closer, but had not yet come.
In the time that passed until the end of the month Zandina made a final check on the development of the baby. As before there were no problems, but she was surprised by its growth. It was developing faster than any child she had seen before. In her previous mind voyage into the womb she had predicted the birth to be within the first or second week of Panatay. By the penultimate day of Panisslorn she predicted the birth would come at any time within the week.
Max Axilion Junior was not going to wait. From then until the birth Zandina ordered Reoma to stay at home. She would have preferred to deliver the child at her tower, but without revealing the tower to Max, there was little she could do.
Zandina had her reasons for keeping the tower from Max, but her reasons were in no way disrespectful to her daughter’s husband. Zandina moved in with Max and Reoma, to be there and ready for when the child was born.
Extract from Karl - Birth of Mystery by D.J. Kettlety
Paperback edition published by Berforts Group Ltd.
Kindle edition published by D.J. Kettlety
(c) D.J. Kettlety 2013