The Three Keys



Chapter 26: The Past Comes Back For You


  My steps rang clear and dry on the garden steps, unbroken by any other My steps rang clear and dry on the garden steps. It’s been a stressful day, and I was looking forward to a quiet moment for myself in a gazebo. Yet my good mood became spoiled once I saw someone I wasn’t expecting waiting for me. I narrowed my eyes at him as I entered the gazebo and took up my favorite seat, and he had the gall to follow suit. I looked at my personal assistant, Malon, for answers, but he shook his head and took his place outside. A few seconds passed as my personal maid, Carmel, prepared my favorite tea as well as some snacks. She poured a cup for me and, after a slight delay, poured another for my guest.

  “You have until I finish this cup of tea to explain why you are here,” I announced while taking my first sip. “Begin.”

  “Something new has happened near the border.” I sigh as I try to brace myself for whatever idiocy the aristocracy had come up with now. “There was a massive explosion. Locals checked the site and got attacked by unknown enemies. Since then, nothing has happened.”

  I take a second sip. “ I have heard nothing of the sort, and trust me that if I say so, then nothing has happened in any of the borders.”

  “I apologize for my vagueness. When I say ‘the border’, what I mean is the border between us and The East.” My eyes widen a little at this clarification, though my face remained impassive as ever. “This information was gathered from personnel assigned on a mission to the same area. They were also tasked with regrouping with one ‘Hosea Zai’ and his companions. They found neither, but they did encounter the unknown enemies. A local intervened, at which point none of the personnel were able to remain conscious due to trauma.”

  “That’s rather … convenient,” I say as I reach out for a cookie. “And you said 'a local', not the locals? One person knocked out Arnold's men?"

  For the first time since he started talking, my guest looked uncomfortable. I raised an eyebrow at his behavior and decided to pressure him a little. I raised my cup and made a show of tipping it ever so slowly.

  “Yes, well ... .” He hung his head low as sweat bead his forehead. “It was Mathis Moreau that did so."

  “Mathis Moreau?” I repeated the name as though it was a curse. “Are you sure it was him?”

  “That is what I’ve heard, yes.” My guest took an unconscious step back. “He lived nearby with his daughter, according to the locals. His daughter had gone missing, which I believe to be due to the unknown enemies present in the area.”

  “Well, it’s a neat explanation for his motives, I’ll give you that.” I took my fourth and final sip, setting down my cup for a refill. “Well, what are you waiting for? Go on.”

  “I would like to investigate further on what happened with your help.” My guest looked at me straight-on, though he faltered under my gaze.

  “Why?” I asked the most obvious question of all. “Why do you have to be the one to investigate this? What’s in this for you? Why do I have to care about this at all?” I glanced at my cup to make sure it was refilled before bringing it up and taking a sip. “It could be nothing in the end. A lot of things do.”

  “Not according to this.” The man stood up straight and took something out of his pocket, balling his hand into a fist. He held out whatever it was towards me and nodded, which I took as a sign for me to receive his offering. I sighed and held my hand out, to which he opened his hand and let go of something. It fell onto my palm and the texture reminded me of ice, but its weight told a different story. I put a little pressure onto it and the thing didn’t budge, which is when I finally decided to have a proper look at what it was.

  “It’s a-” The man stopped talking when he saw me glaring at him.

  “Where did you get this? No, how did you get this?” I got up from my chair and towered over him, my clothes starting to tear apart from the strain they were under. “Be very careful with your next words, lest you want to be a permanent fixture in my garden as a red stain.”

  “It was something found at the site of the explosion. There’s more, but-”

  “MORE?!” I smashed my free hand against a nearby table, cracking the marble face. My other hand proceeded to try and crush again the abominable object, but it didn't budge. I growled in frustration and threw it at the ground, creating a small crater. There, it became clear to all what it was; a small transparent gem with a purplish glow emanating from within it. I saw Carmel looking at me as if asking permission to pick up the thing, and I shook my head.

  “… What is your name?” I asked my guest, who was trying his best not to quiver too much, lest he found himself on the floor.

  “Branko. Branko Ismail.” My guest answered.

  “Very well Branko. You’ve convinced me of your merits, and we will discuss the details of our arrangements soon. In the meantime, you will never speak to anyone else ever again about this. You were never here, and you never had that ‘thing’. Do you understand me on this?” Branko’s eye looked at the gem he had brought, then to the demolished table, then to me. His eyes were blue and full of fear and regret, but there was steel within it as well. His answer was a foregone conclusion.

  “I understand, milady, and I accept your terms. I am forever in your debt.” My face relaxed and I gave him one of my more pleasing smiles, which he took as his cue to leave. Once he was gone, Malon stepped in, not even glancing at the table but pausing when he saw the gem. He began approaching it, stopping a step shy as he looked at me for permission. I nodded, and he began putting on gloves.

  “Just when you think you put the past behind you,” I muttered, sighing at the busy days ahead.


About the author


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Bio: Currently writing a story one word at a time.

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