Photo | Taken on trip to Natchez, Mississippi to research for The Unicorn Rider: Book I …
2nd Day – Cool Breeze – 1st draft – The Unicorn Rider: Virgins, Unicorns & The Dead…
Candice finally arrived home with the huge pile of books she carried in her arms; the pencil case tucked under arm snug to her left breast, her right shoulder managing the thin purse strap and the bulging black backpack. She was over heated from the long walk from the Jazz club down on the pier and up the street to the white stucco and stone house. The evening sun was golden and warm, while casting long shadows between the buildings and behind each object she passed along the sidewalk.
“Candice!” shouted Mags from off down a street that had found some shade this time of day.
Candice saw Mags put down on the step, her watering can near one of the large iron flower planters at Mags’ front step, then face towards her.
“Are you gonna come over?” Candice shouted.
“Probably later. Did you get that paper done for class?” Mags said pushing back her long reddish curly hair off her face. “I want to hear all about that drop box thing.”
“When you get things done come on over.” Candice shouted back, giving her arm full of books a boost up higher on her torso and a shrug to her backpack to finish the trip home.
Walking through the front door and into the entrance hall of the maison a cool breeze grabbed at her skirt, which in turn inched up her thighs. Candice began to feel unusually cool at this point. Slugging the pile of books on the wooden table just inside the door Candice looked for her sweater, which she found draped over the winged black velvet cushioned chair. She looked longingly at the chair and the possible nap she could be taking later in it.
She had to do some chores first. She went back to the front door and bent over from the waist picking up the mail off the floor that had fallen from the tarnished brass mail slot. She felt the breeze again, but this time it passed between her legs touching the hidden moisture. Odd she thought, she did not feel the breeze uncomfortable. She even had lingering thoughts about how good it felt, as she straightened up to stand rummaging through the letters one by one. Placing them in piles on the table she casually rearranged her garter through her dress with her long fingers in response to the chill.
In the parlor the embers in the wood stove from this morning had kept the black enamel metal tea pot hot and now it was time for a cup of tea. Candice grabbed the black tea tin off the window sill and placed a bag of assam tea in a brown glazed cup. The cushioned chair beckoned her tired slender body between its massive arms. With cup in hand she fell into the chair’s cushions, mindful that her skirt had worked its way up her hips for a comfortable positioning. The soft cushions met her bare gartered thighs in a gentle cradling caress.
Candice was weary from the day and felt drugged by the warmth of the tea, the push of the cushions upon her body and the seemingly inviting warmth between her legs. Pulling up the slender silk stockinged heel of her foot into the curve of her bare crotch, the slight throbbing found there seemed to be answered finally with this reply. Satisfying something that had been building there if, but momentarily.
In the dark out front of the old house at a distance was the discreetly parked black Porsche Carrera, with Alastar Whybow mouthing a slim stylus held in his right hand. He was busy preparing video communication with Edita on his tablet, while keeping the light it emitted to a minimum in his lap. Edita’s image came in clear with her cooperation being in her hushed tone of voice.
“Do you have the house targeted Edita?” Whybow said in a lowered tone, while watching out the tinted windshield of the small car.
“If you mean do I have some idea of how many are in the house and my best guess where in the house, then yes I have it targeted,” Edita said, as she appeared to look between her tablet and at something near her, that cast a faint blue glow. “The girl is alone and I do not detect anyone else in the house, that is any other living beings or entities that emit energies. You know how inexact scrying a location is Alastar?”
“Yes, I am very aware. But I am also aware of your work. It is more than a scrying, that you do. It is the intuitive feel you express as part of the scrying, that interests me. I want your impressions.” Alastar said, as he attempted to slump more in his seat due to the anticipated approach of the young woman of earlier today to the entrance. The woman who had spoke to Candice from a neighboring house stoop.
Candice was awaken from a fitful slumber in the chair by someone rapping at the door using the heavy brass knocker. She sprung from the cushioned chair light on her silk stockinged feet. Leaning close for a look through the opaque beveled glass window pane next to the heavy oak door, she saw her best friend Mags.
Candice grasped the large brass lever knob on the door and felt the heavy door give as Mags pushed a little from the other side. The door swung open with Mags in tow into Candice’s arms. Breast to breast and face to face there was a gasp as lips mistakenly brushed by one another. The startle, gave way to a hurried conversation.
Candice just loved to talk to Mags, which was a nickname Mags received in their childhood. Actually her name was Melinda Stewart. Melinda was of the same slender build save for Melinda being a red head, while Candice a pale blond.
Biting her lip to concentrate Candice began to relate the day to Mags concerning her paper and the business she had started in her home as a dropping place for business mail she was attempting to manage in to a living.
Mags leaned over the heavy oak table where the piles of mail were neatly stacked and closely listened in interest as Candice related to her each client’s name, apparent business and where they were supposedly located. Head to head they talked, Candice close enough to feel the wisps of warmth of Mags breath on her face; while reading the mail, processing each piece.
Mags would make inferences as to the possible physical appearance and social history of a particular client. She would make up intimate stories, while leaning with her elbows on the old wooden table moving her weight from foot to foot productive of undulating movements of her rounded buttocks under her short knit skirt. Candice’s interest was held by the stories and the images that came to her.
“Alastar Whybow, Actor’s Guild, New Mosby,” Mags said with her best distinguished voice. “How do these people find the drop-box Candice?”
“I placed a few business cards around town with some general information about possible services. I don’t have all the services worked out, but wanted to see what anyone would be possibly interested in,” Candice said handing Mags an envelope to open.
“Alastar is either an older man with bucks in his big pockets or a starving young guy hoping to attract a group with prospects. Let’s say he is young and so needy he would do anything to get a part. Tall, short hair, large brown eyes, wears well worn tight Pepe Jeans with a cute butt and a bulging package,” Mags said taking the next envelope.
Candice took a deep breath. “Mr. Whybow is nothing like that. He is attractive in a different way. He is a very exacting man and dresses the part.” said Candice looking up from the letters and straight into the eyes of Mags.
“So you have seen him?” Mags said, “What did he say? What did he do that impressed you so much?”
“It was the way he acted, like he already knew me. It was as if we had known each other for a long time,” Candice went on, “He asked questions like he was catching up on old family news. He expressed his interest in the mail drop and gave me a check to get it started. He has paid in advance for one year, more than anyone else so far. And he is very much interested in knowing if other actors, agents or acting guilds take an interest in the business too. I got the feeling he may tell other entertainment agents about how it turns out with his using the mail drop-box. He is not as you describe him. More sophisticated. He’s a red head too with his hair short and quiffed; likes to wear jaunty panama hats and shiny ankle high boots.”
“Wow, he sounds intense,” Mags continued. “He certainly made an impression on you. He sounds almost scary and too good to be true. Probably nothing like any of your local customers that is for sure.”
“I haven’t seen all of these people yet. I am trying to keep it all very confidential for them. They can pay by the month in person, by mail or on-line. If they don’t pay I return to sender the mail. They get nothing here and their disappointed contacts will also be after them too,” Candice said squinting at Mags in her most pretend matronly way.
“I know how well you like people,” Mags said looking sideways at Candice. “Why in the world did you dream up a business like this? You are a very private person. You do not like crowds. I am not saying you are a recluse. You are great with people, but not the sort to seek out strangers. You just puzzle me on this one!”
“Well I felt since I have this place with the entrance secluded, but right on the street. The front entrance makes the whole house look stately. The large brass mail slot kind of archaic. The door is heavy and formidable. It just looks like a place one could trust their livelihood, mail and deliveries coming to that’s all,” Candice saying this as if to reassure both herself and Mags of her decision and reasons. Candice continued, “You’re so right, but it just seems like the right time to step out of the familiar. The house makes me feel safe. I am thinking there must be a reason I feel I can do this right now.”
“Well you are lucky that your Uncle Osbert did not need this house anymore with his move up north,” Mags said wanting to add to this sense of security for Candice. “He moved years ago. You had always wanted to meet him. Your dad Osborn and even your Grandmother Berisha could not tell you where he went off to or why. Sad in a way, but turned out best for you now having this house. You don’t have to live with an aunt like I do. Aunt Monica is gone most the time off selling paintings at gallery shows.”
“I never got to know Uncle Osbert, only heard about him,” Candice said looking off towards the intensifying night darkness appearing in the parlor across from the entrance hall. “I asked my mother about Uncle Osbert and she would say he was a dear always looking out for her, dad and me. He was a business partner with dad. I am not sure if he hasn’t passed too.”
“Didn’t your grandmother say that Uncle Osbert left some old trunks or boxes downstairs?” Mags said, looking a little bored now with the stories she was making up over the letters.
Candice looked again across the entrance hall into the parlor. “It is too dark right now to satisfy a curiosity.”
Mags smiling said, “Really? You light this whole place by lanterns, why would it be too dark to go downstairs? To a basement that has no windows and no chance of natural light, day or night?” Mags pulled together the stacks of mail into neat piles in an action of finality to the chore.
“You are right as usual.” Candice said, feeling the point sink in. “Mags imagine if you and I were able to find something that could make sense of things. Answers. About all those people, the accident and maybe about how I feel?”
“Well I wouldn’t get carried away that far,” Mags said with an energized smile. “We could just go down there right now, because we have time. You had told me you wanted to look around down there, but it spooked you a bit to go by yourself. Anyway aren’t you bored a bit?” Mags made an outward sweep of her hands over the piles of letters, then wrinkled her nose.
“You get more easily bored than me Mags, probably your A.D.D. kicking in too.” Candice said with a slight smirk. “Ok, let me get the big lantern from the kitchen off the icebox and we’ll have a look down there right now!”
While Candice was gone Mags looked around in the closet off the entrance hall for a pair of lower shoes to replace her spiked heels she had been wearing. Mags also found a pair of high top sneakers for Candice to wear. “I bet the housekeeper, if there ever had been one, has not been down there in a long while,” Mags said to herself as she pulled on the borrowed shoes.
Candice arrived back at the entrance hall with a box of matches, an iron ring of old keys and an intensely bright tall oil lantern. “I have never been down there. The door has not been opened in years. The door is the one over behind that small table.”
Mags followed Candice into the parlor and over to the closest corner of the room. “I thought that was a cabinet Candice” Mags said with surprise. “I thought it would be more, well bigger.”
“What, did you think it would have a sign over it saying ‘keep out’ or ‘creepy basement enter at your own risk’!” Candice said over her shoulder at Mags as she handed the lantern to Mags and edged the heavy table away from in front of the small door. “There, now put the lamp on the table, so I can see which one of these keys will fit the old lock.”
“I heard something click, maybe you have done it.” Mags said in an almost whisper.
The door opened as if on its own followed by a push of cold musty air.
“What is that all about.” Mags said.
“Yes, but now with the door wide open that wind or what ever it was is gone.” Candice said as if making a statement to herself out loud.
Candice grabbed the lantern as she handed the heavy key ring to Mags. Both women now engrossed in exploration, as they took the first step down on to the wide wooden basement steps.
“How far down is it?” Mags asked as she steadied herself with her right hand on the stone wall.
“Well it is hard to tell. There is no hand rail here. Looks like a black hole.” Candice said as a way to calm herself in this narrative. “The light appears to be swallowed up. I can’t see my feet. Wait. The step feels different now. Yes, I must have stepped down on to the floor.”
“I have never been on a stairway that takes 5 minutes to get down!” Mags said slightly breathless. “You would need an elevator to store anything down here.”
“Look here is a torch on this wall.” Candice said, “Would be nice to have more light, but how in the world do you light the thing?”
Mags grabbed the stick like object. “Light a match. Light the top as I tip it down Candice.”
The torch emitted a crackly sound then flamed up. Mags tipped it back with the flame following in a now up right position of the torch. “I’ll handle the torch. You do the lantern and maybe we can see something down here.”
Both women acted as if the darkness was heavy. “Stay together so we don’t fall down something in here,” Candice said. “There is a well. I have no idea what it looks like or if it has a lid.”
Mags grabbed Candice’s free hand to get the exploration started. Hugging the stone wall that had held the stairs Mags moved along until she found another torch hanging out from the wall. She lit it with the torch she held. More light flooded the room and it became easier to see. “Maybe we can light all the torches in here Candice to actually see what is going on down here,” Mags said, in a more confident and relaxed tone of voice.
Mags’ toes of her right foot struck an object, though her eyes did not see a wall or barrier in front of her. “Candice, I think I have found something. Maybe a trunk. Definitely something heavy.”
Candice lowered her lantern to about waist high and saw a round wooden plank lid on top a rounded stone base that rose about two feet above the stone floor. She stepped to the left of it, while letting go of Mags’ hand. There was a wall on the other side of this structure. “Mags, we have found the old well. We must be on the north wall.” Candice said.
“Let’s keep going until we have seen the whole room,” Mags said, not being satisfied with what the room held yet.
More torches were found and lit. The room was well lit along the edges, but the center of the room with all the old wooden columns was nothing more than a dance of dark shadows.
Mags grabbed Candice’s hand and took her over to a low shadow she saw on the floor at the first of the support columns nearest them. “Here Candice,” said Mags finally with her enthusiasm not so guarded. “A trunk, with a note nailed to it. Nailed, what, they had no tape?”
Candice touched the old trunk running her hand along the sides looking for a latch to release. She found a keyhole. “Put your torch here closer Mags, the lantern is not showing the keyhole.”
“What is the note about? Can you read it?” Mags said, moving quickly with excitement.
Reader Support of up coming Chapters in | The Unicorn Rider | Book 1
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Whybow sat in a state of extreme concentration as he focused on the image the tablet gave. “Edita, what are they doing? I expected they would be done by now with talking.” Whybow said in a low edgy voice.
“They have moved, as if their location is neither above or below ground.” Edita said, in a professional voice as her gaze appeared to intensify into the blue glowing object just out of view of Alastar’s tablet. “Alastar, now there is something else or someone else involved, just an impression.”
“Can’t you be more specific?” Whybow said as he reached for the glove compartment of the car and the leather sleeve inside it. “Could be I am getting the impression of more than the two girls. But whatever it is it is an entity.” Edita went on in her analysis. “I feel the girls reacting to change and then something in addition emitting a sense of choice to change. There is definitely three entities in the house now, meaning the girls are not alone.” Edita now looking directly into Alastar’s eyes through the tablet, her eyes no longer appearing trance like.
“I am going in Edita, just letting you know.” Whybow, using the light of the tablet to select an oil ampule from the leather sleeve, uncorking it and allowing it to drip onto the lens surface of what looked like a small rotating magnifying glass. “I will leave the tablet live here on the seat. Hope more useful, than turning it off, with you there trying to see here only one way. Or maybe I am just imagining that would be of some use.”
“Alastar, if there is something there, there may also be someone else there too.” Edita said, now looking very focused on the blue glow out of the view of the tablet.
“If they have gone down stairs. It will not matter who, or what is there, or why. I want to know what is going on. Maybe there will be confirmation of what we suspect or give answers to a few questions. You know by its very nature the well will attract the dead, the guild and of course the unicorn rider. Maybe this will also help Osbert. It is obvious the well is not open at this point.”
“Do you want it to be opened?” Edita said glancing into the tablet screen.
“I am not sure,” Whybow said in a gravelly voice. “It is a trap for all of us at this point.”
Whybow slipped out of the car and reached behind the driver’s seat grasping a dark hooded cloak. He threw it on, fastened the silver clasp at his neck and pulled up the deep hood to almost over his eyes. Bending down in one swift motion he found the lens where he had left it on the front seat, pocketing it.
He moved up the street with quick echoing steps to the alley like entrance of the huge old house. Walking confidently up to the front door, with a wave of his hand above and across the top of his head the illuminating lamp to the door went out. Darkness fell quickly to the whole alley. Alastar leaned down and pulled back the brass door on the mail slot. He peered inside and could see the dark outline of the small basement door from his vantage point. He then went to the right entrance corner, farthest from where the extinguished lamp was, held the lens in front of his mouth cupping his free hand over the device. He took a deep breath and chanted quietly words with rich intonation that could not be heard easily from far away. His dark cloaked figure frozen in the corner did not reveal, his entrance into the house. His physical shell appeared to blend with the other shadows of the entry way.
Whybow stood on the other side of the heavy oak door in a form not unlike himself. He turned to head toward the basement door, while pocketing the lens. When he reached the door he saw below and head of him at some distance the yellow bouncing glow of torch light. He made his way down the steps swiftly. He looked out into the center of the room, hearing faint voices.
Mags said, “What does the note say?”
“It is to someone, but I can’t make it out.” Candice said as she brought the faded paper closer to her eyes and the torch Mags held.
“Well open it then,” Mags said, as she leaned closer than the torch to see for herself.
Candice carefully broke the dark wax seal on the face of the note. Then she opened the folded square of paper. The corner had been damaged at the nailed spot and caught there momentarily. The note felt stiff as if having been damp at one point, then had dried out in its history. “The paper does not look as old as the wax seal Mags,” Candice said. “Look the note appears to have a title or some sort of big lettering to see.”
In large letters across the top of the note “We will open the well together, you and I.” Candice read slowly out loud mouthing each word for understanding.
“Can you read anything else?” Mags said, restraining her impulse to grab the note out of Candice’s hands to see for herself the now mysterious note.
“Yes,” Candice said, “I can read only the end of the note since it is in equally large lettering.”
“What?” Mags said, a little annoyed that Candice was taking so long to reveal this delicious mystery to her.
“I love you Candice, Your Uncle and Protector as Always, Osbert,” Candice now choking with emotions on the words.
“OH my god!” Mags said, she was so sorry for Candice now.
“Mags, I want to get this upstairs to look at it. It is obvious the trunk can not be opened unless we can take a better look at it with some flashlights. We now know what is down here. I want you there when I read all of this note from Uncle Osbert,” Candice said in a flood of statements.
“What about the torches?” Mags said.
“They will burn out on their own I would think,” Candice said in a dazed voice. “We need proper lanterns down here anyway to work and to investigate the well.”
Mags and Candice turned and walked back over to the direction of the stairs. Candice felt drained and Mags felt her lean more heavily upon her shoulder.
Alastar turned on his heel revealing his position with a grind of leather to stone.
The two women heard the sound, “We need to get to that door or that wind could come back and lock us in down here!” Mags said, holding Candice closer and picking up the pace to the stairs.
Whybow then dashed up the stairs in a full sprint. Clearing the parlor and took his place at the front door. Producing the lens again he spoke into the device in a low deep chant of intonation, then raised his hands above his head with feet together in an arrow stance, he reappeared, rejoined with himself, on the other side of the door.
He was confident the women did not see him though they knew someone had been there. It was then as he turned he was slammed against the wall by a piercing pain to the center of his chest. Whybow through up his hands defensively, with a reddish spark appearing about a foot in front of him. Having shielded himself he moved quickly down the short alley with one hand on his wound and the other hand at the ready.
As he ran he noticed the symptoms of paralysis taking hold of his breathing and extremities. Memories of alchemy flooded his mind as he fought to stay conscious. An image of his first meeting with Candice appeared to him, shoving all other images to the periphery. The image of bright light reflecting on the Calendula flowers behind the black wrought iron spikes with their gray stained finish stood out to him over powering the fever that had begun in his body. Alastar ran past his car and up to the house that was a short distance. He bent over the fencing and grabbed a clump of plants pulling them up by the roots. He almost fell as he spun around to dash back to the car knowing seconds counted. Having been able to negotiate the door handle he found himself laying in the low seat of the car and the leather alchemy sleeve in his lap. The tablet was lighting the interior of the car and his progress. Edita was silent as she witnessed his fight with death. He pulled out two oil ampules. One he rubbed upon his neck at the vital vessels found there. The next ampule he broke he used the jagged edges of the ampule’s glass to cut deep into his left wrist and let the contents of the ampule mingle with his blood. Lastly he bit into the Calendula flowers, leaves and roots savagely. Grinding them with his teeth swallowing with gags the mashed plant parts and then spitting a bit on to the open wound on his wrist. He turned to lock his car door, then he clasped over the bench between the two front seats. Mouthing in a single whispered breath, “Jorge,” the word now only he could have heard. His face close to the tablet screen containing Edita’s horrified face.
Alastar awoke from a fitful sleep in the uncomfortable position he found himself in. He felt his left wrist throbbing and noticed thankfully it had stop the evident profuse bleeding. He turned his face back to the only light in the car to find the tablet on and Edita present with her eyes closed. Alastar knew from the looks of her image she was in a trance and the strain was wearing upon her. “Edita, …hey,” Alastar mouthed the words with only the faintest of whispers produced.
Edita opened her eyes. The realization appeared on her face that she was talking with him. The conscious Alastar and not the one who she supported in a dream state, helping him not loose his grip on precious life. “Alastar, Alastar,” Edita said in a faint voice.
“What is …?” Whybow croaked then coughed. “I am ok. Just getting my facts straight.”
Edita said leaning closer to the tablet, still with the blue glow to her left. “You had me going there for a while Alastar,” her voice choked with emotion. “I think you used up one of your nine lives.”
“I can’t I am not a familiar. Just a brash ceremonial mage,” Alastar said supporting Edita’s attempt at defusing the tension.
“I wouldn’t call you brash Alastar. Far from that. Brilliant more than likely,” Edita said showing pride in her voice because of her friend. “How you knew the antidote and its formulation is beyond me Alastar.”
“Ah Edita, you forget how I met our friend the unicorn rider,” Alastar said as he revealed his suspicions about Candice. “She almost met the same fate, that almost took me. The same poison.”
“But how?” Edita said in a controlled voice. “How did you know the poison? And how do you know she is who you now claim her to be?”
Alastar now taking a handwipe from a container from under the car seat attempted to wipe up the still moist blood on his wrist and sleeve. “I heard the answer from Osbert himself in a note found by the two young women in the basement before my needful swift departure.” Alastar said as if the information was an aside. “As for the poison, the culprit used what he found around him. The Calendula flower is both the base and antidote for the toxin I was inoculated with. Inoculated at the moment of dazed materialization into my body after bilocation catoxtromancy. The composition of the poison and the color of the energy used in an attempt to subdue me points to an old friend of ours within the Maleficia Guild. I am only speculative, as to the who, in particular at this point. The what, is the Guild of Maleficia. How long have I been out?” Alastar said with a wince as he attempted to straighten his dress shirt over his chest wound.
“About an hour,” Edita said now fully in control again of the situation. “The girls are still in the house and on the main floor. The other entity, well it is not apparent at this point. The girls are not fearful. Just a sense of generalized confusion and sadness.”
“I am a mess at this point Edita. It would not be beneficial to make contact with Miss le Wilde at this point,” Alastar said, as he sat finally comfortably in the low seat of the sports car staring out the front window and out into the early morning light. “I believe they are safe for now. That is as long as Candice does not go back down to the basement and around the well. I do not believe the Guild knows anything or they would not have taken open action against me as they did.”
Edita took in a long breath, “Waiting maybe safer for us and for the girl. Do you want me to continue to watch?”
“No, watching could attract attention, to what we do not want seen at this point,” Alastar said, “There will be time, since the Guild likes to calculate situations. I will be watching once I get my self back to normal. It maybe more useful to watch our old friend Toni Cassini instead, Edita. A sort of red herring across the path. I’ll rest here in the car until I see Miss Stewart leave and Candice locks herself in. Then I will be off to clean up a bit.”
“I would prefer to wait with you Alastar on the tablet if you don’t mind the company?” Edita said, as she disengaged from scrying and the blue glow was no longer apparent.
“Maybe Toni can help me read this note, he is familiar with how Uncle Osbert and my family wrote,” Candice said, to Mags.
Mags anxious to be supportive of Candice said, “I am sure Toni will help and you will find out more about what happened to you and your family because of the accident.” Mags gave Candice a heart felt hug.
“Grandmother does not like to talk about Uncle Osbert or about the accident. She tells me what is done is done and no use thinking on it. I thought she was right, but now I am not so sure. I feel I will need to know sometime about what happened and how to attempt to get a hold of anyone left. Besides me and grandmother.” Candice could not hold back a huge yawn, “I am all of the sudden feeling so tired.”
It was getting late and Mags said she could take home one of the stacks of mail to answer for Candice. Candice was grateful, since she was so tired and the hour late. Helping Mags place the stack of mail in her pack Candice saw her to the door and the ritual of opening the huge heavy door once again brought them comfortably close together. Pressing into one another as the door yielded allowed Mags to exit into the cool night air. Candice had but one thing on her tired mind, since this late visit was over and that was a warm long soak in the bath tub tonight.
“The young lady is now leaving, finally,” said Whybow, as he turned the key bringing to life the engine of the Porsche Carrera. Making a u-turn in the opposite direction, he left unnoticed by the walking figure and the one closing the front door of the old estate house.