Strand of Faith

Chapter 1

Late again, Prospero would have no chance of making it to the Abbey on time if he followed the conventional routes at a conventional speed. But there were alternatives he’d discovered through many years of similar situations. He surveyed the corridor with his mind to ensure it was clear, ran along it, pushed open the window at the end and jumped, unconcerned that the ground was two floors below. Using his telekinetic ability on himself meant he could land gently and, this time at least, he remembered to use it to close the window behind him.

The Abbey itself was central to the campus and the other buildings had grown organically in courtyards around it. Having been built at different times, the courtyards did not fit exactly together and the consequence was a number of small, forgotten spaces like the one Prospero was now in. At the upper levels, it provided light into various corridors. At this lowest level he was faced with a door. Despite its imposing appearance it wasn’t locked and it gave him access to the extensive cellar storage that spread under the campus, which meant he could run directly across rather than having to zig zag round the courtyards.

Part way through, he pulled up suddenly, sensing the presence of another person nearby, someone he didn’t recognise. He hesitated for a moment, torn between curiosity and his urge to reach the Abbey. But, whether or not they were supposed to be here, he certainly wasn’t. If he stopped to investigate, not only would he be late, but there could also be some very inconvenient questions about why he was in the cellar in the first place. His compulsion to be with his Brothers won out and he set off again, trying to push thoughts of the stranger to the back of his mind. At the far end of the cellar he ran up a flight of stairs, slid carefully round a corner then merged into the line of Brothers as they filed into the Abbey.

The stranger refused to stay at the back of his mind. At the slightest lapse of his concentration during the service in the Abbey they danced back to the forefront of Prospero’s thoughts, the remembered sensation of spotting them tickling at his mind, an itch he couldn’t relieve. Andrew nudged him as they were leaving the Abbey.

“You were almost late, and you haven’t been paying attention,” he whispered.

Prospero just grinned, glanced around to make sure no one was looking and pulled Andrew into a cupboard under a flight of stairs.

“Come on,” he said. “There’s something I want to check out.”

He reached for the back of the cupboard, where another long-forgotten door gave access once more to the cellar storage. In the middle of the cellar, they met Pedro, head chef, checking on his supplies. He raised his eyebrows at them.

“What are you two doing here?” he asked.

Andrew just shrugged but Prospero was happy to explain, “I was in here earlier and I'm sure there was someone else here, near the back, the older part.”

“That's hardly surprising, there are often people in here. And what were you doing here then? Were you late again?”

“Maybe.” Prospero grinned. “But if it was anyone who was supposed to be here I'd have recognised them. And I didn't, so I want to find them.”

“Well, they won’t still be here, not now, not with the noise you’re making,” Pedro told him.

Prospero acknowledged that, “I know they’re not still here, or I’d be able to sense them. But there may be some sign that they were here, and of who they were.”

Prospero was quite certain about where he’d sensed whoever it was, but there was no sign that anyone had been there and nothing seemed to be missing or to have been disturbed. Puzzled, but unrepentant and still convinced of what he’d sensed, Prospero headed back to his duties, taking Andrew with him.

Late one evening, Andrew and Prospero walked across the courtyards to the monks’ residence after fulfilling their medical duties at the hospital. The cold season was well underway and both men shivered slightly, pulling up the hoods of their outer tunics and covering their hands with their sleeves. The night Shields were on, protecting the campus, but limiting the range Prospero could mind search.

As a skilled adept, Prospero had an extended awareness of the presence of others over a range of several miles. He could even identify and locate specific individuals, seeing them as glowing spots in his mind, each as individual as a face, superimposed on a mental image of their location. Each time he used this skill and saw only those he recognised he was reminded of his failure to find the stranger.

“It’s not any of our Brothers, nor the Sisters,” he told Andrew. “In fact, it’s not anyone from the Great House at all. I know everyone here, and it wasn’t someone I know.”

“You’re looking for that intruder again, aren’t you?” Andrew asked. “Honestly, there are plenty of people you don’t know. Especially in the college, and some in the hospital.”

“Not that many,” Prospero said shortly, his frustration building. “And anyway, if they were on the staff anywhere, I’d have spotted them by now even if I didn’t know them personally. And no one else should be in the cellar.”

“You know you’re being ridiculous about this, don’t you? Just forget about it.” Although his face was hidden in the dark, Andrew’s feelings showed in his short, sharp tone.

“I can’t. It’s nagging at me. All the time.” Prospero was insistent.

“Have you thought, maybe you just made a mistake?”

“I didn’t. I’m sure of that.”

“Well, then, someone who shouldn’t have been in the cellar. A student, or a random stranger.”
Given that neither a mistake, nor a random stranger could provide a satisfactory solution in Prospero’s mind, he continued to scan the college part of the campus for students. Once or twice he thought he caught a mental glimpse of his intruder but they always disappeared before he could track them. He thought about staking out the cellar in case they returned, but duties and events conspired to stop him. He’d still look, every time he used that route as a short cut – even when he didn’t need it.

As soon as he was sure that Andrew and Prospero had left the cellar, Brother Pedro returned to where Prospero thought he had sensed someone. He circled the shelfing once or twice, studying its contents while thinking hard. Then he reached for a large box on an upper shelf and was unsurprised to find it light and empty. Behind the box he saw a concealed space, big enough for a person to curl up in. He spotted a couple of old blankets, a book, a water bottle and a small food tin. Putting the large box on the floor, he opened the tin, and smiled to see that it contained a couple of his signature chocolate chip cookies. So that’s where they’ve been disappearing to, he thought.

He put everything back as it was and decided to keep his findings to himself. If Prospero’s intruder was what Pedro now thought they were, Pedro would keep their secret as long as necessary and provide all the help he could. Prospero might mean well, but this particular intruder would be easily scared off and that wouldn’t help anyone.

Instead, every night before he left the kitchens, Pedro put extra food, old items of clothing, and anything he supposed might be useful, in places where they might be thought of as having been discarded. He wasn’t surprised when they disappeared promptly. He thought about trying to communicate with this secretive creature but he knew his presence would scare them off and he very much doubted that they could read, so for now he did nothing more.

Lord Gabriel started dreaming again. The first dream was simple; a jewel, a glowing red ruby, fell into his hands. He knew that he had to do something vital with the jewel but not what that was.
He awoke in fear of what the dream meant – not in itself but the consequences of it happening at all.

“Not again,” he prayed. “Please not again. Please take this burden from me.”

He dreamt again the next night. This time he was holding an emerald when the ruby fell into his hands. He tried to keep them apart but they were drawn to each other and began to merge together. He woke suddenly, unsure whether they had merged to form a new jewel or disintegrated to dust in his hands.

He prayed again, “Show me what this means. Give me the strength to do your will.”

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