Post-apocalyptic paranormal romantic fantasy
Gabriel thought it would be very useful to discover a little more about Leonie. He was very much concerned that his visions meant she would turn his whole House upside down. On Christmas afternoon, he had been sleeping with one eye and both ears open, and had noticed Prospero and Leonie leave. Andrew had got up to follow them but Gabriel had gestured to him to stay put.
“Prospero was making some progress in getting her to talk to him,” Gabriel had said quietly. “Give him half an hour or so then go and find them.”
Unfortunately, Prospero had found out very little that they didn’t already know, and they hadn’t added to their knowledge in the few days since.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. The Porter ushered in a boy in his teens, with a package he would not hand over to anyone but Lord Gabriel in person. Recognising the boy as a Settler and also the handwriting on the package, Lord Gabriel sat the lad down and closed the door behind him.
“What's your name?” he asked the boy.
“Simeon, sir. I was sent by Merchant Tobias,” the lad answered, his voice wavering with nerves.
That made sense to Gabriel; Tobias was the leader of the local Settler community and no doubt knew all about Leonie.
“And do you know where he got this letter?”
This time Simeon shook his head. “I don't know where he went but…”
“Is it something you aren't allowed to tell me?” Gabriel asked him, knowing that the Settlers guarded certain secrets very closely.
“Oh, no, sir. Uncle Tobias told me that I could tell you anything. I'm just not sure where it started.”
Gabriel understood. “Let me help. I should think it started when your family came to the Christmas service at the Abbey and your uncle, or possibly your aunt, talked to Leonie. Am I right?”
“It was my aunt. And then we all went home and there was, there was a Calling.”
Most people knew that Settlers were Trader families who had decided to leave the traveling life and stay in one place. Very few knew that this was rarely their main motivation. Whilst other Gifts were rare amongst Trader people, Trader women were almost all telepathic. By placing their strongest telepaths in key towns on their major routes, and in each caravan, they had established an extensive communications network. A Calling directly linked one or more community or caravan leaders. It took a great deal of energy; the most powerful telepath in a group would link to the others for additional power, but they would also link to, and draw energy from, other non-telepathic members of their community. Hardly anyone outside the Trader community and caravans knew anything at all about their ability to communicate like this. Gabriel's knowledge had been acquired many years ago in circumstances he chose not to think about.
“I assume it was Katila’s caravan you Called? To speak with Merchant Ethan?”
Katila had taken over the caravan on Katya's death. Ethan had remained the Merchant within that caravan.
“Yes,” Simeon agreed. “And then they arranged for Uncle Tobias and Merchant Ethan to meet up. I don't know where that was, just that it was a long, hard ride for both parties. Uncle Tobias set off the morning after Christmas Day and got back this morning. He sent me to you straight away.”
“He must trust you very much.”
Simeon nodded and shrugged at the same time, showing a flash of silver from the bracelet at his wrist. “I hope so.”
“Will you take a message back for me?”
“Of course,” Simeon agreed.
“Give Merchant Tobias my thanks. Tell him that Traders and Settlers are always welcome in House St Peter. And ask him to pass the same message onto Merchant Ethan.”
Simeon repeated the message back, and then left. Gabriel shut his office door again to ensure that he would not be disturbed as he investigated the contents of his package. It contained a letter in the same handwriting as on the address, a small leather drawstring bag such as might contain coins or jewels, and another envelope in a different handwriting, but one which Gabriel again recognised. He smoothed the first letter out on his desk and read it.
Katya told me to ensure that you received the enclosed letter as soon as possible after both we and you knew that you had Leonie in your care. Katya considered the girl in the light of a daughter, as do I. As such, she has a substantial portion which we will bring to you when we next pass through. As a small token of this, Katila sends the enclosed. The Sight has told her that you may need them before we arrive. It is my prayer that you do not need them all.
With every blessing,
So, thought Gabriel, this little waif we've taken on is all but a Trader princess. He'd wager a fair bit that she had no idea and wondered why not, why Katya and Ethan would have kept this from her. With her colouring, it seemed unlikely that she was born a Trader – that red hair meant it was likely she was some by-blow from the House Chisholm – and maybe that made a difference? He wondered whether it made a difference to what he had to do. No longer was she an abandoned orphan with no one to care and few to mourn her loss. Now she was at the centre of a large extended family even if she didn't know it. Obviously one life was not worth more than another, but the consequences could be vastly different. He sighed, opened the bag and tipped three small bundles into his hands. He unwrapped them and stared at them for several minutes before carefully replacing two of them in the bag. They were very much what he’d expected and a confirmation of his fears. Like Ethan, his prayer was that he would not use any of them, his fear that he would need them all. He turned to the second letter and opened that with some trepidation.
You now have in your keeping my most precious and unusual jewel, a rare merge of two opposing forces. I can no longer guard her, and can think of no one I would rather entrust her to. There are others that seek her, for their own gain. My jewel is damaged; I do not know whether this is a flaw or simply a past bad setting. I did what I could to remove the damage, but my time, options and abilities were limited. I hope that you can place her in a setting where, damage or flaw, it becomes an asset, an essential part of her purpose. I trust her to you because you will do what is right, no matter how dire the consequences.
Please ensure she is loved and valued, as I love and value you.
Until we meet again, eternally.
For a while Gabriel sat with his head in his hands. Katya had called Leonie a jewel, which tied in with his dreams about her, but Ethan had sent jewellery that indicated a potential close relationship with someone, probably Prospero. And Katya had called her a ‘rare merge’ yet in his dreams he saw her as a single ruby. Or was that something to do with the emerald he had seen?
He was very concerned that he would not live up to Katya’s trust that he would do the right thing no matter what. And if he did what Katya asked and grew to love the child, what then? How would he be strong enough to do what would be necessary whilst knowing that his actions would lead to her death? He was already troubled about the extent to which he had involved Prospero, and his uneasy dreams and unsettled nights had been reflecting this.
He very carefully folded up the letters and put them away safely with one of the small bundles, leaving the little drawstring bag out. He sent for Brother Edward, and when he arrived, gave him the bag and indicated that he should open it. Edward unwrapped the contents and stared at them, nestled in his hands.
“Beautiful,” he breathed. “Exquisite. Such workmanship. They must be unique.”
“I should imagine so,” agreed Gabriel. “Please put them somewhere safe, but close to hand. I have a feeling we may need them soon.”
Edward looked up. “Soon?” he asked. “Should I prepare?”
“Yes, I think you should. And ask Pedro, too. But involve no one who is not essential.”
“May I ask who they are for?”
“Do you need to?”
Edward shook his head. “No, not immediately, but I will need a couple of days’ notice.”
“You'll have that.”
Impulsively, Gabriel reached into his desk and pulled out the third small bundle, handing it to Edward. “Do you know what this is?” he asked.
Edward unwrapped it and nodded, again admiring the workmanship.
“It's a Deathstone,” he said turning it over in his hands. “It's not actually a stone, of course. The Traders place them on the body before they cremate their dead. Originally, if the fire burnt hot enough to melt the Deathstone, then it was hot enough to have destroyed any germ, virus or plague that might have caused the death. That's not so important now, of course, but they still do it. The setting contains the stone somewhat as it melts, and when it cools they keep it as a memento of the deceased.”
He looked up at Gabriel. “Do you wish me to put it with the others?”
Gabriel shook his head. “No, not this one. I’ll keep it. But please don’t speak about it to anyone else.”