Nightfall: Part Three
"So, you know Reorna? How?"
The question was one Grant had been prepared for. This mission was starting to feel quite impossible, yet exhilarating. Tuleu Delmas was not an intimidating Acara, but her history was. She had trailed the high seas with pirates and worked for both kings of Meridell and Brightvale. She was able, learned, and clever. What had Lamenter sent him into? Where was Amy?
"She hired me for an apprenticeship in Meridell," Grant lied.
"Oh, yes. She liked to help others," Tuleu replied.
The couple were sitting in the spacious den. Grant sat on a red lounge chair while Tuleu was perched on the edge of the suede sofa. Her tunic folded over her legs and her hair was pulled over her left shoulder.
"But what brings you here to a fake address?" The question was stated so abruptly that Grant didn't know how to respond but had to think quick.
"Maybe Reorna wrote your address wrong?" Grant offered, staring Tuleu straight in her eye. The Acara removed herself from the ledge of the sofa. She quickly walked over to a box at the side of the den. Here, she overturned the box and fumbled through a mess of papers. Tuleu pulled out a yellowing piece of paper and tossed it at Grant. On the paper was written a letter, signed by Reorna Pierce.
"Oh?" Grant replied. He folded it up again and held it out to Tuleu. The handwriting wasn't the same.
"I know my comrades, sir," Tuleu said briskly. She snatched the paper from the Techo and tossed in back in the pile. She inhaled, turned to Grant, and asked,
"Who sent you?"
Grant had been warned. Lamenter had said she was wise beyond most, but this was incredible. Grant could only think of Amy, sauntering past this Acara and demanding Lamenter's books. But something else was telling Grant that Amy hadn't been here.
"No one," Grant lied. "Your history is public record. I need a place to stay. I travel a lot and you are quite kind."
Tuleu looked taken aback by Grant's statement.
"Whether or not I am, I prefer the truth," Tuleu replied, sitting back down the on the sofa.
"I apologize," Grant said. He removed his top hat and set in on the arm of the lounge chair. "I am a weary traveler, Ms. Delmas."
Tuleu eyed Grant and smiled. Her green eyes sparkled with a little mischief.
"I don't trust you in the least, but I won't deny you sleep," Tuleu said.
The two walked down a short corridor to the wooden staircase. It seemed to extend miles into the ceiling. In reality, it was a very short walk up. Stained glass framed the small windows along the staircase. The light penetrating the glass bounced off of the waxed staircase rail. On the top floor, Tuleu threw open the door to the nearest room. A small orange bed lay in the center of the room. The rest of it was bare, except for a chair with a coat hanging over it. With a thin smile, Tuleu left the room.
This entire mission was becoming a little bizarre for Grant. Now that Tuleu did not trust him, how could this end? But Grant didn't have much time to think. He gently closed the door of the room. Time was running against him. He needed to get back to Neovia before the next evening. Grant always worked quickly, but this would be tricky. This wasn't a simple key. These were books that would lead him to Amy.
Grant sat on the bed and stared at the ceiling for some moments. Lamenter said the books would be well hidden. That was quite the lead. The more Grant stared at the ceiling, the more he began to drift off. He surely was tired, and the bed was comfortable. The Techo blinked. There was a small crack in the ceiling. Grant stood up and craned his neck toward the opening. Quickly, he seized the chair and threw the coat on the bed. He stood on the chair with his bare feet; the chair wobbled a bit. The ceiling wasn't that high, and before long, Grant prodded open the cracked wooden board. It fell to the floor of the room with a thud.
Grant shifted his weight and hoisted himself up with both his arms into the opening. His days of taking keys weren't truly that behind him. The opening was a dimly lit attic. It was quiet. There wasn't much impeding Grant in the attic. He could see stacked boxes in the corner of the room. Every creak of his body moving closer to the boxes was deafening, but it was now or never.
Dust had filled all of the boxes. Nothing stood out to Grant as holding the key to finding Amy. Everything looked untouched. Grant wiped away the dirt from the first box with his vest. It read:
Keepsakes & Diaries
Grant opened the box and pulled out the first journal. It was thin but made of satin. Grant shuffled to the light source near the window. The page read:
"14th day of Collecting
There are times when I have felt like giving up. Sure, King Hagan can tame the gentle soul with knowledge, but what can I do? Reorna, Iwora, Lamenter all agree that this is a bad idea. But this is my decision. I can't give up on my dreams. Who is Lamenter to tell me how to live? We shouldn't fight about this. But how can we not?"
The entries continued on in that manner until an abrupt change in tone in one.
"8th day of Sleeping
Lamenter left this morning. Not so much as a goodbye. I'll bury my diaries with these: his books. Now, I may enter my new life."
That was the last entry in the journal. Grant rested the journal on the window ledge and walked back over to the box.
There they lay. The two books Lamenter wanted. They were bound tightly, as if they held a dark secret. Grant quickly stuffed them into his bag. He placed the box back into its spot. He then turned around and gently climbed back down into the room. Replacing the wooden ceiling holder, he breathed a sigh of relief.
Grant placed his ragtag bag limply on the floor beside the bed. A gentle sleep came over him.
The sun was setting in Brightvale. The light pink end of it peeked through the window of the room Grant slept in. Grant fluttered open his eyes and stared into the dark spaces of the room. It was quiet through the house. Inhaling, Grant stepped out of the bed and buttoned up his vest.
The hallway was dimly lit now too. As Grant reemerged into the den, the Skeith was sitting on the couch. He looked as Grant and snorted. Grant could see Tuleu outside.
"The spy is awake," Tuleu said, tucking her cloak under her thigh. Grant sat down next to her on the porch. "Good rest?"
"Great," Grant replied, resting his head against the railing of the porch.
"Who are you really?" Tuleu asked.
"A weary traveller in search of my best friend," came the most honest response yet from Grant.
"So, you admit to not knowing Reorna?"
"No, I do not know her."
An audible sigh emerged from Tuleu. The two said nothing more until the sky turned a deep purple. It was calming, yet unnerving. Grant knew he should leave now. But he would return to what? An empty tent on a hard dirt bed? He felt Tuleu rise and go into the house. He heard Tuleu and the Skeith exhange words and then another silence fell. This darkness was different. It had light. It was a sweet dusk Grant had never experienced in the Haunted Woods. Surely, he hadn't experienced it anywhere.
Another drowsy haze fell over him. It wasn't until some hours later that Grant awoke. There was a sharp pain on the left side of his neck. The Techo tried to move but felt restrained. As his hand wandered over his neck, he felt the cool blade of a dagger pressing on him.
"Who are you?"
Tuleu's whisper sent a shock through Grant. He had never before been threatened with a weapon, let alone on the porch of an Acara known for her kindness.
"Get up!" Tuleu shouted, pulling the dagger back.
"Please," Grant said. "I am only looking for my friend."
"Oh, stop it now," Tuleu shouted again.
"Honestly!" Grant pleaded. "My friend Amy. I am looking for her."
"Oh, alright, so you steal in the process?"
Tuleu whipped around and grabbed on to Grant's bag. She threw it at him and it landed square on the Techo's chest.
"Look, I can explain," Grant said, clutching the bag in his right hand.
"Ok, explain why you are here and why my personal items are in your bag. Right now."
Grant took a breath and eyed the dagger. Tuleu nodded and placed the dagger back in its sheath under her cloak. The Techo truly didn't know what to do. If he panicked and ran now, there would be no end to Tuleu's anger. If he told the truth, he'd be in hot water with Lamenter. Both options weren't ideal, but the former was moving him to talk.
"I was sent here to get these books," Grant started.
"By whom? There is not many that know they exist," Tuleu barked. "You don't know the great evil they have caused. Couldn't you tell by the way they were bound. You never even told me your name. I knew you were a thief but I didn't think you'd move so quick."
"By an old friend of yours. And the name is Grant."
"My old friends are in my scope, Grant. Please, you cannot fool me."
Tuleu blinked twice rapidly. It was odd for the Acara, even Grant knew it. Tuleu opened her mouth slightly.
"Take me to him. Take me to Lamenter."
To be continued...