- Ch. 1: Waking up is hard to do. Unless, of course, there are fries.
- Ch. 2: It might be a game to you, but it’s not to us.
- Ch. 3: Does anything actually happen or do we just talk about it?
- Ch. 4: What could possibly be better than jewels, gold and glittery treasure?
- Ch. 5: The first thing we do, let’s uninvite all of the parents.
- Ch. 6: The long walk to freedom
- Ch. 7: Pieces of the puzzle are coming together. But what’s the puzzle?
- Ch. 8: The unknown versus the known.
- Ch. 9: It doesn’t always make logical sense. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.
- Ch. 10: This is the worst day of my life (again).
- Ch. 11: We are family.
- Ch. 12: Castle Burgers with a side of Bog
- Ch. 13: Upside-down ladders and distant brothers
- Ch. 14: Sibling rivalry isn’t only among 9- and 11-year olds
- Ch. 15: No time for patience
What it is to you is not what it is to us.
“Do you really think they have fries for breakfast?” Dec asked Lu as they walked down the corridor.
“I hope so,” Lu said.
“Wait, you hope so or they have them?”
“I hope so, but I don’t know if they have them,” Lu explained as best he could.
“I thought you said that they had fries when you woke me up. Dude, did I fly out of bed for nothing? I think I was dreaming about fries. But I was also dreaming about the World Cup, which is kinda weird because I don’t really even care about the World Cup,” Dec rambled, concerned but not angry. If had been his own brother, it would have been anger first, then concern.
“Well, you’re out of bed now, so we’ll find out pretty soon anyway, right?” Lu said as he didn’t look at Dec or where he was going but focused on the tennis ball he was still throwing up and down while walking. “Wait, did you say you were dreaming about fries and the World Cup? That’s so cool because I was talking to you about that but maybe you were still asleep, so maybe I made you dream about that! Whoa, that’s so cool,” Lu nodded his head in agreement with himself that it truly was very cool.
“Whoa, what if you were talking to me about flying or teleporting under the castle or eating burgers. Do you think I would have dreamt about that, too?” Dec marveled at the possibilities. “We should try it tomorrow morning. Can you wake up before me and talk to me about stuff?”
“Of course,” Lu said, happy to be of help. But he was still tossing a tennis ball in his hand and it reminded him of what he also wanted to do, in addition to eating fries. “Hey, do you want to play some catch after breakfast?”
Within a matter of milliseconds, Dec agreed to drop the fries matter as Lu was obviously onto equally important topics like tennis balls. “Sure, we could go out on the grass, right?”
“Yeah, that’ll be great. It’s huge out there, like a full football field,” Lu was excited about all of that open space to throw the ball around. “Maybe we could even get a game going with Li & Dan and play tackle football or something,” he paused and thought, “Except that I don’t have a football, but I have a tennis ball.” He continued to toss it up and down.
Dec was still half asleep, half of his body still in bed and the other half not sure what it was doing not in bed. Then all of this talk of activity and grass and balls that don’t exist was just too much, too soon and too early. “Do you think they have fries for breakfast?”
Lu didn’t even answer this as the topic had been beaten like a dead horse. Besides, he obviously didn’t know the answer and if he reasoned that if they stopped talking about it, they might get there sooner.
“Where are Li and Dan anyway?” Lu asked.
“I don’t know. I jumped out of bed and got dressed so fast, I didn’t even look into their beds, but they were gone, right?”
“Yeah, they’ve been gone a while,” Lu said.
“Have you been up a while?” Dec asked.
“Yeah, I was just reading and looking at the ceiling before I decided to wake you up,” Lu said.
“Oh,” Dec replied, again not sure what to do about someone who intentionally woke him up when it didn’t seem necessary. As he was about to get into that discussion or comment on someone who looked at the ceiling, they arrived at what they thought was the dining room.
“Hey, it’s empty,” Dec said.
“Yeah, but this isn’t the dining room, this is the bar, isn’t it? Isn’t this where we were with Alastar last night?” Lu asked.
“Oh yeah, you’re right. Man, it seems like we were in so many places already. We’ve only been here for, what, like 24 hours, right?”
“Right, yeah, wow, I know, I feel like I know this whole place, but then I know nothing. I bet we could get lost in here so fast, there are so many different rooms and hallways and doors,” Lu noted.
“I wonder where we’ll end up tonight,” Dec thought aloud. “Maybe we’ll even see more rooms and halls and who knows what we’ll see under the castle tonight.”
“Planning a little visit under the castle tonight, are we lads?” said a husky voice behind them.
The boys turned around slowly and they both had the same thought: Please, anyone but Killian.
Killian spoke again before the boys could speak, “So nice to see you two again. Did you sleep well? Where are your brothers? I saw them earlier when they had breakfast. Have you had breakfast yet?”
There were so many questions in that one breath that the boys forgot most of them as soon as he said them. Plus, they were both so scared of the man that they weren’t as much interested in answering questions as saving their lives because he would certainly pull out a huge machete and hack them into pieces right there in the bar. They said nothing, didn’t move and only looked at him.
“Ach, lads, you’re probably still half asleep still, aren’t you? I heard you were up quite late last night. Lots to do here in this castle, isn’t there, lads? Ah yes, so much to see and do and discover,” he kept going and didn’t seem to be looking for answers or even want to wait for much of a conversation. He kept going. “Yes, so much to discover and uncover, isn’t there? My yes, the history and the secrets and the codes and the puzzles. It’s all just like a game, isn’t it boys?” This time he seemed to be waiting for an answer.
Lu was the first to give it a try, “I guess so.”
“Ooh, yes, indeed. Maybe like a video game or an arcade game or well, yes, let’s get modern, shall we, like an app for your iPad. That’s a game, too, now isn’t it?” Killian was a perfect gentleman and friendly and smiling and inviting. But if he was 98% good on the surface, there was just that tiny 2% under the surface that gave the boys hesitation. They didn’t join in his conversation.
He didn’t change his smile or even his tone. He continued speaking and the boys continued listening, but the words he was saying were changing.
“But is it a game, lads? Oh yes, moonlight and blue moons, windows and prisms where moon beams pass and spread their rays. Words and puzzles and darkness. Alastar and Margaret and Killian, all just a happy family here at Markree Castle,” his voice was so certain, so confident, like a story teller, but more like the evil story teller. The boys didn’t move because they couldn’t move. Their thoughts were on nothing but being not in this room. Fries or no fries, it no longer mattered. Killian was one frightening dude.
“You’ll be going home in a few days, well, yes, you’ll probably be going home,” he seemed to stop to think, then quickly continued again. “But yes, back home to your own countries far away from here. Practically another planet compared to the dark secrets and unknown treasures that lie under this fine castle. Back to your families and own histories, back to what’s rightfully yours and what’s been handed down to you over the generations.” He was still talking to the boys and he was certainly looking into their eyes directly, but his words seemed to be coming from somewhere else, like he was in a play on stage.
“But,” he said and stopped. The single word snapped the boys out of their trance and they both blinked as if his word touched their eyelids. He didn’t speak and they both felt themselves leaning towards Killian as if they would more quickly be able to hear what he would say next. But what? they thought.
“But, my dear boys, here it is not a game,” he again paused. “It is our lives, our histories, our fortunes and our futures. Our pasts, entangled and intertwined, bloody and evil, soft and sweet, a mix of a melange and a swirl of secrets.”
The boys heard words, but many weren’t registering. They certainly knew fortunes and futures, bloody, evil, and secrets. This was enough to remind them that they would pretty much rather be anywhere else at this moment than in the bar with Killian.
“No, it is most certainly not a game, although,” his voice rose and he even raised a finger towards the ceiling, “although we need to be playful to figure it out, we need to not care to actually learn, we need the innocence of your young minds to put all of the pieces together and figure this out once and for all.” Silence. Even if the boys’ vocal chords functioned, they had nothing to say. They said nothing.
“We need you lads, we need your help, that we do, of that I am certain,” he stared through them. He seemed to have so many words and they seemed important, but they were as if they were coming from an angel. Or a devil.
“Tonight is the night, as I gather you boys know. It is the night where things line up, where, if, and this is a large if, they are ready and if you are ready, if everything comes into place, we will again have an opportunity, a chance, an opening in the tiniest crack, a sliver of time, an open window that only opens once in a blue moon. Tonight we have this chance and you lads, although I’m sure you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m rambling on about, are vital in the success of our future,” he paused, but it was clear he was going to keep going.
“But here’s the twist and it will most absolutely be hard to fathom, difficult to believe, but the futures for you young lads will also be determined tonight,” he said but realized maybe he had gone too far–if that wasn’t already the case. “Or not, it’s up to you. But from what I know, your futures might be changed tonight if you can help unlock the key to the Markree Castle.” His voice stopped and the silence hurt the boys’ ears.
“I don’t need a commitment, I don’t need an answer. I need not a nod or a smile, a wink or a nudge. I need only that you know that I know what you don’t know and that I know that you don’t know what I know and that puzzle, when you play it over in your mind later today, is what you know and that is that you know nothing and that is the knowledge we need,” he smiled. “With that, my dearest Lu and Dec,” the boys’ hearts jumped in their chests as he said their names. “I bid you the finest of mornings and the most wonderful of afternoons. I will see you later on, well, probably sooner than later, and I can only hope that you can confide in me and give me the benefit of the doubt, that you give me just a chance and for that there is a possibility that you will be handsomely rewarded,” he stopped and it seemed like he was done. He opened his mouth one last time.
“Good day, lads,” and with those final words, he tipped his hat, turned on his heel and walked calmly and silently out of the room.