All is pain, my heart, my head, my soul. I am cold, always. Each breath burns me and yet I dare not stop.
I did my part, just as he said. I spied, and I reported. I did what I was asked. I trusted him, like I trusted them all, and he, like they, betrayed me.
Tantibus has come, Tantibus is here. From across worlds and centuries and he promised that we, that I, will go with him, but he lies. Only he can go on, he and the Other; the rest of us join him until he is finished with us, and then we are done.
And in between all is pain. Is he in pain? Or the Other? Have they hurt and suffered for thousands of years?
Come, he said to me. We will be knights in his army, and we will stand beside him, forever.
I believed him, and now I have lost everything. I died, and now I will die again, no closer to eternity than I ever was, but farther away from life than I could ever have imagined.
Continue reading “Chapter 6: Emily”
My father complained at supper that talk in the capital was growing more indiscreet with each passing day. In the harbors south of Rotterdam a navy was coming together, and the word was that sailors were flocking from all over England to join William and Mary’s fleet. In the marketplace the street children sang about cutting off the King’s head. I heard a priest wonder if being overthrown was to become a Stuart family tradition. At night I could hear cheers for William and Mary coming from the crowd in the Three Tuns.
My father was quite busy at this time and rarely home. He shuttled between his offices on Paternoster Row and various courts and salons in Westminster. My mother also was unusually busy; she feared that the revolution would interrupt her studies, so she determined to absorb as much from the libraries of London as she could before it was too late.
Each night there were men in the house, an odd assortment of nobles, businessmen, and scholars. Isabelle and I were summoned to entertain them. We played and sang nearly every night. There were a few men who came often enough that I recognized them and learned their names, but for the most part I only came to play and then leave again. Once the music was over the conversation would return and my mother would motion for us to leave.
My chief complaint was that Isabelle quite enjoyed dressing up for our performances, and so each day our playtime was cut short by Miss Annie ordering her to come in and get ready. She’d wash up daily, which Mrs. Smith disapproved of at first—frequent baths cause cholera, she said—but Miss Annie insisted that Isabelle couldn’t put on her fine dresses and gowns if she smelled of sweat and earth after a long day of playing in the fields with me. Mrs. Smith eventually relented, and it wasn’t long before they began insisting that I wash daily, too. I asked her about the dangers of cholera and Mrs. Smith admitted she had made it up.
Continue reading “Chapter 5: Julian”
My father was born in Portsmouth, and that is where he took me after my mother died, to the home where he grew up, an ancient manor named Ryne Hall that sat on a hill overlooking the harbor.
My mother died of plague, and it nearly killed me, too, but “such are the vagaries of life and disease,” I heard said once, “that the strong young woman succumbed and her infant daughter did not.” I know of her, of her Spanish ancestry, French education, talent for music and taste for mischief. These things my father told me. A portrait of her hangs over her bed in Ryne Hall, and I often sit on her bed and look up at her, studying her face and her hair and her gown for clues as to who she was. Those who spoke to me of her always described her as an angel, but Father cautioned me that nobody speaks ill of the dead, and I know there was more to her than a voice and a face and a ladylike demeanor.
When my father was young he was sent to London to study at Westminster. As his belief in the Church waned his interest in the occult grew. Witches, ghosts, shades, demons. England was filled with spirits of all kinds, and Father would devote his life to studying them. Secretly, or perhaps not-so-secretly, I have always wanted to see one myself. When I finally did, I regretted it.
Continue reading “Chapter 4: Isabelle”
I had hoped to get to Rwakobo Rock at Lake Mburo with enough time to decompress and be excited about taking a night safari (which is apparently a thing), but the road from Bwindi took a lot longer than expected, so by the time I reached my destination all I wanted to do was sit on the rock and relax until I fell asleep.
The last time I came, though, was during a dry spell and the air was filled with dust and haze. This time, after several weeks of heavy rains, the air was clear and the sunset was gorgeous, so I was able to take the photos I couldn’t take before. Continue reading “Rwakobo sunset”
Our home sat about midway between the Covent Garden market and St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. The market bustled at all times of day, with fashionable ladies strolling in pairs past the vendors hawking their wares. The square teemed with children, but with their dust-colored clothing and earth-stained faces I barely recognized them as children, and they, in turn, didn’t even see me. When I was much younger, maybe four or five, I told to my father that the children were dangerous—”urchins,” I’d called them. He asked me if any had ever bothered me, and I said no, but that I’d heard lots of people, adults and children, call them that. Father took me to the market then, and we sat on a wall and watched the goings on. We watched quietly as the children played, and worked, and begged, and stole. We watched them be sent on errands, shooed away, rewarded, and kicked. And we watched a group of manor-born boys come in pick a fight that ended with adults chasing the street children away. Father didn’t comment on the scene, but explained that while I must be willing to receive information from wherever it comes, I must also withhold judgment until I can see and understand things for myself.
A part of me always wanted to befriend the street children, but I never did. There weren’t many other children on Shandos Place, and ever since Emily Shively had disappeared none of them spent much time outside at all. Continue reading “Chapter 3: Julian”
This seems ridiculous, but I’ve come all the way out to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and I am not going gorilla trekking. Why not? Because it is more than I wanted to pay right now, and (more importantly) I am not in any kind of shape to go into an impenetrable forest.
Also, I am a horrible judge of distance and didn’t realize it would take all day to get out here.
There are other things to do here besides look at gorillas, so today I will do some of that. Honestly, though I’d be content enough to just sit and look at these mountains with a glass of wine.
I took these pictures on the road, so they’re a bit fuzzy, but by the time I got to my hotel it was dark and I was too tired to explore. I will say, though, I’ve been all over the world, and this corner of Uganda might be the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. Certainly, it’s on the short list. Continue reading “The road to Bwindi”
Once upon a time, Queen Elizabeth visited this spot in Uganda, and the entire park was promptly renamed for her.
The park is in western Uganda, nestled against the Congolese border. As one of the jewels of East Africa, it is beautifully maintained and very user friendly, with better infrastructure than most of Kampala.
I came out with a driver I hired in the capital, and then signed up for a boat ride between Lake Albert and Lake Edward. In less than a day, without really needing to walk anywhere, I saw all the stuff I’m sharing, plus lots more. Continue reading “Queen Elizabeth National Park “