Word Count: 3221 | Estimated Reading Time: 16 Minutes
In Chapter Six Xanthe manages to cross the bridge with the help of Cobweb and gets to the house which the Book of Words had shown to her. She meets the Truth Weaver, who has been awaiting her arrival and finds out that there is more for her to learn. But does she want to?
After Melanie had left his room, Kit watched the storm from his bedroom window as it took hold, wondering if Xanthe was safe and dry.
The wind whooshed through the small cracks around the window, making a high-pitched whistling sound, and shook the tree in front of his window back and forth as if dancing. The sky had turned to a dirty dishwater colour, streaked with rain clouds which rolled from left to right. He inhaled the aroma of wet earth that seeped through the open window light and watched the dust bounce from the ground as the water hit it.
He shouldn’t have got so mad about the tattoo. Or Malik. He knew Xanthe hadn’t chosen him. Kit didn’t understand these feelings that were racing through him. He had driven her away and only had himself to blame.
The light had faded to grey muted tones and clouds swirled and whirled in the sky. Several flashes of light blinded Kit for a second and he counted the seconds. A rumbling noise, like a train in the distance, rose into a large clap of thunder which rattled the windowpanes. He counted until he reached fourteen and the rumble sound repeated, this time sharper, louder. Fourteen miles away. Big droplets of rain plummeted against the window, hitting the glass before spreading like a rash and running away.
Kit rubbed his eyes, strained from watching the flickering light, and his head ached from the change in air pressure
He had to find her. To explain. That her mother was dead. He couldn’t really believe it after all this time of searching, that it had only come out now. Why hadn’t Xanthe been told? But then she didn’t want to know, and perhaps she was right. Protecting herself against being abandoned. This time more so. Final.
The light had faded so much that it resembled night, yet it was not even lunchtime. Kit’s stomach grumbled. He’d missed breakfast again, but he didn’t feel like eating. Not until he knew Xanthe was okay. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the moonstone, which he rolled about in his palm, trying to reach Xanthe. She was blocking him. Again. Or worse still. No, he mustn’t think like that.
“Come on, Xanthe.” he muttered under his breath. “Let me in. Please.”
He tried again and again as the storm neared and the loudest clap of thunder he had ever encountered shook the house and startled him. He stood up, half expecting the walls to crumble around him. It was then he felt a sharp pain in his calf. As though someone was pushing a needle through his skin. He rolled up his jeans and examined his leg, but couldn’t see anything. He threw the moonstone across his desk in anger and it rolled until it hit the tiny glass jar he'd brought back from the Kingdom. A gruesome souvenir of their time on Selene. When Xanthe had overcome Toovah.
The moonstone glowed as though in response to meeting the dryad’ s ashes. He had told no one he had them, because he didn’t know why. He picked up the jar and rolled it around, the grey dust swirling at the edges.
There must be some clue where Xanthe was. He was miffed that she’d made such an effort to help Melanie after all her bullying and calling Xanthe a witch. He rubbed his temples again before lifting himself out of his seat and making his way to Xanthe’s room. Normally he wouldn’t think of snooping about, but extreme times demanded extreme measures. In a few strides, he’d reached Xanthe’s bedroom, which was on the third floor, along with a guest bathroom. His hand hovered over the handle as he hesitated and then he stormed in, half hoping she’d be lying on her bed. There all the time, after all. But the bed was freshly made with clean sheets and had not been slept in. A quilt, in greens and blues, lay at the foot of the bed and as he gazed around, it was as if Xanthe had never been here.
Kit sat down at the dressing table and looked back at himself in the mirror. He didn’t like what he saw. Large black rings under his eyes and the soft sheen of stubble around his chin. He got up and paced the room and his gaze fell on the fireplace. A brass screen sat on the grate with the face of a lion engraved on it. He tipped it forward gently and peered into the blackness and sniffed. The smell of burnt paper. He hadn’t known the fire being lit all the time they had lived there. Xanthe must have burnt something.
He moved the screen and knelt down and poked at the ashes. Under there were some half burnt papers, and he scooped up the brittle pages which had singed at the edge. The paper was from the Book of Words; he was sure. It was like old-fashioned paper, very thin and light but tough. He put them on the rug and pieced them together like a jigsaw. Images formed in clusters. The three moons, the entwined wolves, and a house. He watched as the pages told their story. A figure walking across the bridge and something else. A snake rising out and attacking the figure. The pain in Kit’s calf throbbed and his leg felt hot. He ignored the pain as he tried to impress the image to memory, for as quickly as the image had appeared, it was fading and burning. He swept the still warm ashes back in the grate and returned to his room.
Xanthe was still on the estate, but there wasn’t a house like he’d seen. Unless the only access was through a portal. A bridge? Perhaps that was the key.
Melanie had been hiding around the corner when she seen Kit leave his room and go to the third floor. She had got bored and hoped he had calmed down after his outburst. She was sure she could make him like her. More than he liked that witch, Xanthe.
She tightened her ponytail band, feeling the skin stretch at either side of her forehead as it pulled the hair in. She crept into his room and sat down at his desk again, watching the flashing cursor on his screen, mesmerised, until a tiny light behind the console drew her gaze.
She almost screamed as a flash of lightning shot across the screen reflected from the window and a large clap of thunder sounded above her. She clamped her hands over her mouth and listened. Kit was above her. She could hear his footsteps. Melanie returned her attention to the flashing light that was coming from a dark recess of the desk, obscured by books and empty crisp packets. It was a mess. She reached for the tiny orb and withdrew it in two fingers. She’d seen Kit with it before. It was a hard stone that looked grey and boring when it wasn’t lit. A tiny glass jar rolled from the corner towards her as if pulled by a magnet and she picked it up. Grey smoke twirled at the glass walls. Weird, as if it were alive. She heard a door bang above her and pocketed both items before leaving Kit’s room and skipping down the stairs to the surgery.
Kit went down to the library, hoping to find some more clues. There must be something. He didn’t know what. There were lots of books that had been left there from the Estate. He ran his fingers over the leather spines, releasing tiny dust motes which danced behind him. He pulled out the death notice he’d printed. It was very short, and he’d just cropped the image, but there must be more. A newspaper would have printed this.
He went back to the desk and fired up the computer. This was much older than the sleek new machine in his bedroom and slower, but he didn’t want to risk running into Melanie. He trotted over to the door and turned the key in the lock. Just in case she came snooping.
By the time he’d returned to the desk, the computer had warmed up, and he dragged the captain’s chair over, sat down and began tapping away at the keyboard. He soon found the original and discovered it came from a local paper. He searched for the publication. Most newspapers had digital archives, but not the Dorset Daily. He cursed under his breath.
The natural light was waning fast and streams of rainwater were running down the windows, making little rivers along the outdoor sills before running off onto the ground. Kit switched on the green and brass bankers lamp that sat like a sentinel on the desk.
He tapped again on the keyboard, searching for more general information. Anything but it all drew a blank. As if it never happened. As if Stella Rivers never lived.
He pushed himself away from the desk in frustration. There must be something. He rubbed the soft down on his chin. He hadn’t shaved in a week, and this was all he had to show for it. His dad told him to make the most of it. Once he shaved, then it would be a lifetime routine.
He rolled the chair back to the desk and reread the article again, concentrated on every word. His focus settled on something. A name. The name of the reporter. Brigid Hart.
He tapped his finger on it. Well, they might remember something about it? After all, they had written the article. Surely local papers were run by local people, which meant they had more of an insight into the daily life, maybe even knew the people they were reporting on? He smiled. He loved investigating things, working out puzzles. One skill that would make him a brilliant doctor, his dad would say. Never giving up on finding out the truth. He pulled up yellow pages on the computer and found the number of the paper. Grabbing his mobile, he paused and then picked up the landline. His dad paid for his mobile account and therefore had access to the calls he made. The local health authority paid for the house line.
The number rang out, and he held for several seconds, though it seemed much longer. He was just about to hang up when he heard the click signalling that they had picked the call up. He licked his lips in anticipation.
“Dorset Daily. How can I help?” a tired voice tried to sound chipper and failed. Kit cleared his throat.
“Hi, um, yeah. I’m looking for a Brigid Hart. A reporter? I believe they work for your paper?”
“Not any more, they don’t,” replied the tired, faceless voice. “This is a one-man band and has been for some years.”
Kit’s shoulders drooped He should have known it wouldn’t have been so easy.
“Oh, right? Well, uhm, do you know this person? Or maybe you have records?”
A deep sigh resounded down the line. “Look, can I ask why you want this information?
“Why?” repeated Kit. He could hardly tell them the real reason, could he? “Well, I’m looking into a career in journalism. You see, and well, someone somewhere mentioned this person might be someone I could, uh, you know, talk to. You know about the job and all that…” the words and lies tumbled from Kit’s mouth like a ball rolling down a hill. He grimaced at his efforts.
“Well, firstly all our staff records were burnt in a fire, so no is the answer to that question. And secondly. I wouldn’t advise my worst enemy to go into journalism. It’s a thankless job. But someone has to seek the truth and tell. And—” there was a pause and a rustle of papers. “That reminds me. I have an interview I need to get to. Sorry I can’t be anymore help. But a bit of advice before I go, son. Change your direction. What about being a doctor? Everyone loves a doctor, eh?” With a clunk, the call ended.
Kit stared into the mouth piece before returning it to the phone base. Waste of time that had been. He drummed his fingers on the desk as the burnt skin throbbed in response. She wouldn’t deliberately hurt him. He knew that.
He sighed. He would not give up. Not that easily. Now where else could he get someone’s personal details. Just an address would do. The local council would be the most sensible option. That would take too long and anyway, he would need to have a more believable reason to access individual information. He clicked his fingers. That was it. It was a long shot, but right now it was all he could think of.
Unlocking the door, he opened it carefully and then peeked one way and then the other. He tiptoed towards his father’s surgery and paused when he heard Melanie humming tunelessly. Damn, she was still here. He hoped she had got bored and left. The humming was coming from the kitchen, though, not the surgery. He peered around the wall at Melanie, who sat with his back to him at the kitchen counter. She had ear buds in and was flicking through a magazine and, with the other, held a mug. His mother’s mug. He bristled and clenched his fists.
No time for that now. He turned to the surgery door. His dad still kept paper records, and Xanthe had been organising them in alphabetical order. He hoped she had completed the task as he opened the filing cabinet. He paused for a second, his fingertips hovering over the files. Patient confidentiality was a big thing. He knew that. He was only after an address, not their medical history though, so it wasn’t as if he was doing anything bad. The first drawer ended at the letter X and so he opened the second drawer, then the third and a fourth. Nothing. He flipped through them once more, this time slower just in case he had missed something but o nothing. Of course, he reasoned, there were other doctors registered in the area. He shut the drawer carefully. His shoulders sagging with disappointment. He was at a dead end. Again.
His gaze fell on a box, a cardboard box with a label written in Xanthe’s hand. “Old Patients for the Archive”, she had written in meticulous lettering. Worth a try? He knelt down, removed the lid and began flicking through, taking pleasure in the thought that Xanthe had touched the contents of this box. Was he becoming obsessed with Xanthe? A little perhaps, his dad thought so. And Melanie. He shook the thoughts from his head and looked at a fat envelope. Bingo, Brigid Hart, had been a patient of his dads. He looked around for a pen and paper, but Xanthe had done a great job on the organisation of his dad’s messy surgery. He pondered for a second. If these records were going into the archive, did it really matter if he just took it for a while? He didn’t want to risk trying to remember the address and then getting it wrong. Not now. No-one would miss it. He stood and turned.
“What you doin’?” asked Melanie, chewing on a piece of gum, her jaw clicking with every movement.
“Um, nothing.” Kit shoved the file behind his back and eased his way past her.
Melanie frowned and tried to look behind his back and turned this way and that way.
“What are you hiding?” She stopped chewing and smiled. “It’s okay, I won’t tell. I’m not a snitch.”
Kit flushed from all the lies, shook his head. “No, it’s nothing. I’m not hiding. Anything. Well, it’s just a file.”
“Yeah, right,” said Melanie. “A patient’s file more like.” She tapped the handwritten notes Xanthe had left her. And your girlfriend—”
“Not my girlfriend,” growled Kit.
“Well, whatever, she said here that files must not be taken from the surgery by anyone but Doc Stephens.” She crossed her arms and stared back at him. She was taking her role seriously.
“Yes, that’s right,” Kit said, chewing on his bottom lip. “Dad’s just called and asked me to get this for him. He forgot to take it on his house call.” He turned to go. He had enough of explaining himself and telling lies.
“So you’re taking that to him now?” Melanie’s face softened. “Where to?”
“Uh,” Kit glanced at the file. “On the edge of the village, I think.
Melanie grabbed Xanthe’s helmet as she followed Kit out of the surgery.
“Great, you can give me a lift, then. I have some errands to do.”
Kit sighed. “Sorry, but you can’t come. I’m going on somewhere else after.”
Kit brushed past Melanie as they passed in the corridor. He was limping now. The pain in his calf was getting worse. But he couldn’t let that stop him. He needed to find Xanthe. She was in danger.
“Hey, are you okay?” Melanie asked, her hands shoved in the pockets of her skirt. “What did you do to your leg?”
“Nothing, I’m okay.” He tried to sound as standoffish as he could be. His voice trembled. He didn’t want her around. She gave off bad vibes. He strode outside and to his motorbike, pulling on his helmet, hoping that she would get the message.
“Hey wait,” Melanie shouted and ran towards him. She hadn’t got the message then. He shook his head and grappled for the keys in the ignition under the tank. They weren’t there.
“Looking for these?” Melanie waved the keys from her ridiculously long fingernails. They were like mini weapons. Kit sighed and held his hands out. Next time, he would be so foolish as to leave the keys in the ignition. His dad was always going on about it, and Kit had always ignored his sensible advice.
Melanie curled them up in her hand. He didn’t have time for her stupid games. “Don’t you have to say something?” she bit at the smile playing across her lips and Kit rolled his eyes.
“Please?” Kit said with a bored tone. He just wanted to get going. He wasn’t in the mood for playing Melanie’s stupid games. “Not unless I can come with you.” Melanie pouted and put her hands behind her back. I meant it, Kit. I want to find Xanthe too.”
“Don’t you have work to do for my dad? You know that this is work experience. It’s supposed to help you.” There was something about her tone that Kit didn’t like, but he didn’t have the patience or time to argue. He would have to deal with it later.
“I’ve done everything that was on that list Xanthe left. I don’t know what else to do. I could stay here. Tidy your room a little.” She smiled wickedly.
“Fine.” He climbed on the bike. “Now give me the damn keys.” Melanie squealed with delight, climbed on behind him, and handed him the keys. She wrapped her arms around his waist, just like Xanthe had done. He felt sick, as if he were betraying her, but right now he had little choice. He checked the fuel tank and his phone in his pocket before putting the bike into gear and wheel spinning in the gravel.
The seventh episode of Thunder Moon will be posted next Friday at midnight. This first book in the the serialisation of The Luna Legends is free to all my subscribers and I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for your support.