The Gate Keepers
Jeremiah Faulkner (Unused)
The fireplace was warm, and it was good to be out of the cold. He didn’t know how long it had been since he’d had a proper fire going, but whatever this new turn of fortune was, he wasn’t going to waste it on contemplating things past.
“Shoes,” the young man muttered as he bent down to tie the new boots he had been given, “They never let me have any shoes.”
“Yes, well, you will have to wear them in.” The old man said, “blisters and all that.”
“Yes,” the young man said, looking up from where he was sitting, “but still,” pointing at his feet, “shoes!”
“Now, Mr. Faulkner,” The old man said, leaning in, “I am most interested in knowing how you came to be in my gardens without, as you said, any shoes.”
“Yes… well,” Mr. Faulker paused, “I suppose you deserve to know something, seeing as how generously you’ve bestowed these gifts on me…”
The old main continued to wait patiently as Mr. Faulkner breathed steadily, the memories coming unbidden to his mind.
* * *
The carriage was parked outside the estate, after having dropped off it’s two passengers at their final destination. The coachman grinned at the squeal of protest the young lady gave as the young man scooped her off of her feet.
“Jeremiah Faulkner!” the young beautiful blond exclaimed.
“Yes, Eleanor?” Jeremiah replied, with a devilish grin.
“Unhand me this instant!” She pouted, thumping her fists futilely on his chest. “This is so .. hic so… so un-lady-like!”
“I dare say that the amount of wine you just consumed is far, far more un-lady-like.”
“Jeremiah! What a rotten hic uncouth thing to say!” She glowered at him.
He grinned back.
“Jeremiah don’t you dare! No! Don’t! – Augh!”
Jeremiah shifted his weight, and flung the young woman across his shoulder.
“Jeremiah this is not – hic – how you’re supposed to do this.” She pouted, glowering at the carriage and woods beyond the estate line.
“I dare say it isn’t, now I’m not sure how on earth I’m going to fit your bustle through the doorway. Not every fashion design that comes out of Inverhaule needs to be worn.”
“You love this dress! Or else you wouldn’t have spent so – eep!” He swept her through the threshold of the manor, missing the door-frame by a hair’s breadth.
“I never said that I loved that white monstrosity,” He explained as he set her down. “Just that I love you.”
“Oh Jeremiah, you’re absolutely insane, you know that?” She had her hands on her hips, “tossing me through doors and then having the hic nerve to try and woo me.”
“Yes, well, I dare say Mrs. Faulkner,” He smiled and pulled her up into his arms, “that I’ve been rather successful so far. Your father on the other hand-”
“Oh shut up, Mr. Faulkner,” she commanded as she ran her hands up the back of his neck gripping his thick black hair and kissed him fiercely.
* * *
“Jeremiah, you don’t understand!” she cried, clutching the small infant boy’s body to her.
“What don’t I understand!?” he roared, smashing his fist into the dresser, drawing blood from his knuckles.
“I did this for you!” she spoke through her tears, “the priests of Malin[Dark God?] said they would heal you in exchange for our son’s life! I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you!”
“So you kill our son instead!?” His anger bore down on her, “The doctors said I was getting better!”
“No, you weren’t! They just said that to make me feel better,” she sobbed “I could feel your spirit slipping slowly away from me. Calvin said his friends could help you.”
“I cannot believe you listened to him, that you would do this.” He stormed towards the door, “You’re not the woman I married.” He braced his hand on the doorway, “You’re not the woman I love.”
“Jeremiah don’t leave me! You’re all I have left!”
He dropped his hand to his side, and stepped out of the room without looking back, “No, you’re a witch.”
* * *
“What do you think, [Inquisitor Haynes]?” the young officer said. “It looks like suicide to me.”
“Yes, so it does [Officer Depple].” The Inquisitor examined the body of the hung woman. “What was the victim’s name again?”
“Eleanor Faulkner, scion and heiress of the Alastair family. She tied the rope and jumped from the second-story balcony. The maids found her this morning and called us, but not before her husband found her like that.”
“Odd,” the Inquisitor paused, “such wealth and comforts to give up.”
“Yes, well, her husband had come down with a deadly fever and her child died in the night not soon after,” the officer mused.
“Such a tragedy -”
“Your fault!” came the muffled yell. “This is all your fault!”
“Officer, where is her husband currently?”
“In the wine cellar Inquisitor Haynes, we didn’t think it prudent to bother him.”
“Yes, well, let’s go find him before this gets even more tragic.” The two made their way to the wine cellar, where they found Mr Faulkner.
“Your fault!” Jeremiah yelled, “Calvin, this is all your fault! I know you drove Eleanor to this.”
“Who is he talking to?” Officer Depple asked.
“I’m not sure…” Inquisitor Haynes glanced around the room, it was just he, Officer Depple, and Mr. Faulkner. “Calvin is Eleanor’s younger brother, yes?”
Of course there was also the several empty bottles of whiskey, brandy, and… yes, several empty syringes of [morphine/other opiate?].
“Depple, get this man to a Hospital, he should be dead already!”
“Yes Inquisitor!” He shouted upstairs, “McKinley, Faen, a stretcher and restraints, quickly!”
* * *
“I’m not mad!” Jeremiah shouted, struggling against the restraints. “Calvin did it! Calvin killed my wife!”
“Look, officers, you can plainly see that Mr. Faulkner is quite deranged. I know that losing his son and wife in such a short period of time would stretch the sanity of any man, but you and I both know that the overdose that almost killed him damaged his mind.”
“I saw you there!”
“Nonsense,” Calvin Alastair dismissed the claim, shifted his weight in the chair, and straightened his jacket. “I was in Phelen on business that entire month. Anyone there can vouch for me.”
“Yes, Mr. Alastair,” Inquisitor Haynes looked up from the papers, “I can see that.” He sighed, sometimes this job isn’t worth the pain and suffering.
“If my sister was, as Mr Faulkner claimed, in leaque with Malin[Dark God] she did it of her own accord. I have had no dealings with such a thing as that.”
“Lies!” Jeremiah screamed, “Liar! You and Robbert were there when the ceremony was performed. Ask my maid Avianda! She brought you drinks that evening!”
“Depple?” Inquisitor Haynes asked.
“Inquisitor, we talked to everyone in that house extensively, and used truth spells on them. If someone was concealing any truth we would have known about it.” Depple explained.
“Fools! All of you!” Jeremiah yelled, “Blind!”
“Doctors?” Inquisitor Haynes rubbed his temples, “Please escort Mr. Faulkner out.”
“I’m not Mad!” He struggled against the minders, “I’m not mad I saw it with my own eyes….” His screaming voice trailed off as he was dragged down the corridor.
“Inquisitor, I know you’ve had a trying day but I’d like to put this incident behind me. I need your signature to sign over the estate on Mr. Faulkner’s behalf.” Calvin coldly explained. “I need to set my father’s inheritance in order, and Mr. Faulkner is obviously not well.”
“Yes, yes.” Haynes picked up the quill, “of course. I’m sorry that everything turned out this way.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’ll be all right in the end.” Calvin said with a thin smile. “The Shlyde Asylum will be good for him, I know the headmaster personally and I make donations annually.”
* * *
“This one’ll make a good candidate.”
“How do you figure?”
“See here? Under his fingernails.”
“I’m not sure I-”
“The blood you idiot. He’s got more blood.”
“More blood is more life. More life, more magic.”
“He’s a swordsman too, right?”
“Yes, but just for sport. Foppish nobs don’t do any real fighting.”
“Ah. So when do you want to bring him down?”
“This afternoon. No reason to wait. I want to see if my new procedures will awaken him.”
“What will you do with his mind?”
“His mind? Leave it in pieces. Our mystery donor asked as such, and I’m not about to start disappointing him now.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Yes, and once we unlock the potential, we’ll have an army of mages, completely under our mental control. Malin[Dark God] will be unstoppable then!”
“Should you really be saying this in front of the patient?”
“What does it matter? His mind is almost gone, and it will be completely gone very soon now.”
* * *
“I know you fool! I can’t leave my experiments!”
“Doctor this place is going to come down. The patient started a riot.”
“Nonsense! He was a cabbage this morning.”
“Well it doesn’t matter now! Half the inmates are out and they’re unlocking the rest of them. If we don’t go now, we’re all going to die.”
“You go, you fool. I won’t abandon the work. My reward is waiting for me.”
“Stay and die then, I’m not going to -auchk!”
The assistant’s body slumped to the floor. A figure stepped out of the shadow.
“Doctor.” The shadowy figure said.
“Mr. Faulkner. I see you are awake. No matter.”
“Faulkner. Awake. Yes. Matter. Faulkner, Matters.” The man stepped forward, blade glowing with the crackle of magic. “ You – No Matter.”
With the riot upstairs, no one heard the screams from the basement below.
* * *
Jeremiah Faulkner looked back towards the fireplace, then at the old man. “Just a series of unfortunate mistakes, Mr Hurst.” He cleared his throat. “Some of them mine, some of them other’s, but that’s all in the past now.”
He stood up and walked across the room. “But shoes!” he exclaimed happily.
“Yes, so I see.” Mr. Hurst shifted in his armchair, “but they aren’t free. You’ll need to earn your keep. Put your talents to use, so to speak.”
“Yes, and I appreciate the opportunity so much.” The young man flopped back onto the bench, “I’m good at business, I can do investment maths and I know the seasons and -”
“Not those,” Mr. Hurst said softly, “your other talents.”
“How do you-” He sat up straight.
“Trust me.” The old man said, sipping his wine.
Jeremiah Faulkner just stared at the old man. Unsure of what to do next.