“The church doesn’t open until nine-thirty,” Daisy reported, having read the notice fixed to the south porch. “What d’yer want to do? That’s a while to wait.”
Klukelunnen would be happy to idle in the stone garden, it was welcoming. But the streets that surrounded the church, on two sides squeezing it tight, were now busying up.
“Start of the working day,” Daisy remarked.
“Nah, we’ll be safe here,” he said. “Look, no one looks this way.” Everyone passing, all were blinkered.
“Yea, but that’s not going to last—though, true, once they start work this street will go quiet for a while. At least till the shoppers start shopping. Oh, and the tourists—we need to be out of the way before they arrive. They’ll come with cameras and eyes that pry into everything. But I suppose by then we’ll be inside the church. Yea, maybe you’re right and we don’t need to move too far away. What about over by the trees—by those old vaults? Old bones don’t scare you, do they? And no one will see you there—they just won’t think to look. And if any should, they’ll just see a schoolkid waiting to rub brasses.”
He glanced at her bag, deposited beside him behind the stone. “I could sit in there. So long as you don’t close it. I do need some air.”
She agreed, and they settled behind the Victorian-styled above-ground burial vault.
“That looks like the chest in your attic,” he remarked.
It was a long climb for Daisy, up the church tower, Klukelunnen carried in her part-opened backpack. He couldn’t see much through the gap—it was too dark—but he could see how narrow the steps. How could an adult, say someone’s Jason’s size, squeeze their body up here? And he could tell by the way the bag threw him and jiggled him that the steps were steep. Daisy had to go slowly, her hands out feel the way. Not that that stopped her from talking.
“I’ve always said I’m to be famous,” she said (indeed, he remembered her saying when they first met). “I just didn’t know what I’d be famous for.” (That, too, he remembered.) “But now it’s all become clear. I’m to be a … but, jiggly-pig, what am I to be? Not a prophet since prophets prophesize—even irreligious me knows that. A missionary? Yeah, that’s what I’ll be, a missionary, carrying the word. They might even make a saint out of me. Oh, but likely not: saints are more his kind of thing. I shall tell the story: And in the beginning was the Mother and—”
“Grandmother,” Klukelunnen corrected her from inside the bag.
“—the Grandmother and her consort, the Father—”
“Grandfather,” Klukelunnen again corrected.
“—who are best known to us as this hallowed Earth and the sacred Heaven. Heaven, that is, as in our solar system as far out as Uranus. And between Earth and Uranus were formed many planets—”
“Their offspring, their children.”
“And one was Saturn—”
“Whom Grandma set to keep watch over all her Creation, and to protect all her young’uns,” inserted Klukelunnen.
They were nearing the top of the tower now. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to do this. But he hadn’t the choice. Grandma had marked him ‘beloved of Saturn’.
“You know, Mr Professor Brian Cox is going to so disagree with this story. But I don’t suppose you know who he is. He’s a famous astronomer, does loads of TV, even joins in with celebrity panel shows, everyone rates him. But astronomers don’t see analogies like we do; they’re all measurements and things. They don’t see things in symbols, they see it all as hard stone and … well, stones. But you are a stone, aren’t you?”
“We goblins, aye, we’re the Stone Clan,” Klukelunnen said. “Almost the first amongst Grandma’s first creations, we were. After the ‘sky rocks’.”
“And Saturn was—is—one of those ‘sky-rocks’?” She laughed. “Does that make Saturn a planet-sized goblin? But that also makes him one of your Kind.”
Klukelunnen shrugged, which wasn’t so easy while squashed into that bag. And, anyway, she couldn’t see the shrug. Maybe she felt it? He said, “Saturn might be a goblin, but he usurped his parents’ power.”
“So why isn’t he punished? Matricide, patricide, we’ve laws against that. Why must you be the one to atone?”
“I guess it’s because he’s too important, whizzing around the Heavens. And besides, Grandma chose me; she marked me.”
Daisy held quiet the rest of the way up the spiralling stairs. Klukelunnen could hear her laboured breathing. He ought to get out of the bag, he ought to climb these stairs himself. It wasn’t right to burden the girl, and she so helpful in so many ways. And yet he didn’t offer but stayed where he was, his limbs increasingly weak and trembling the nearer they came to destination. Ridiculous, he told himself. He, Klukelunnen, was renowned for his courage, his bravery, the way he never refused a dare. Aye, but this wasn’t one of his cousins’ dares; this was a Grandma’s directive.
The lump-and-bump-hitch stopped. Were they at the top of the tower? He heard Daisy swear. “Where the bleep is the door. There must be a door. How does it open? There must be a catch? Ah!”
He heard the grate of metal, the creak of wood. And simultaneously felt a blast of cold air as the wall sprang into clarity.
“Yurk! Cobwebs,’ Daisy fussed. ‘When was the last time this dust was disturbed? Still … the parapet.”
She waited until she’d squeezed out of the door before she shuffled the bag off her back and lowered it gently down to the moss-covered grey metal roof. There she released Klukelunnen from its safe confines. He stuttered backwards in the blast of the wind.
“We’d be better to find shelter in that turret opposite,” she said. There was a turret, like a miniature tower, at each of the corners. The one to the southwest housed the steps.
They shuffled around to the other side, out of the wind.
“I’ve brought you to here, but I can’t watch you do it.” She scuffed her foot on a moss-free patch of metal roof, seeming intent on what she was doing. After an awkward elastic silence, she looked up. “I shall miss you, you know that. Miss you heaps. I’m heaps fonder of you than I ever was of Flopsy and Peeps. And … oh, dear Klukelunnen, must you do it?”
“Aye, I must, Daisy, it’s my destiny. It’s why Grandma’s spell delivered me here. But you’re right, you can’t watch. I can’t allow it. Besides, I don’t want you implicated in this. You can help me onto the parapet then skedaddle back down those stairs.”
“But …” her face clouded. “How can I be witness if I don’t see you do it? And if I’m not a witness I can’t be a missionary.”
“I’ll wait till I see you down there, in the street.”
But he intended no such thing. He’d wait till she was down the stairs but not yet out of the church. Then …
He stood with his legs braced, hands held firm to either side of the crenel, the wind battling to tumble him backwards. He had to lean against it to look down at the street. Cobbles, of natural stone. Granite, he thought. Could he reach that far? If not, it would be the pavement, and that didn’t look natural at all. Perhaps if he leapt?
His body trembled, almost so violent it rocked him. Fear? Aye, and when had Klukelunnen ever rocked with fear? Never. And he’d not rock now. Grandma had marked him for this. She had allowed him to stumble upon her Spells Book, had misdirected his spell, had brought him to here with express purpose to meet Daisy who would then introduce him to Professor Angelus Margev who in making a big do of his name—Klukelunnen, Precious Stone aka Sapphire, Beloved of Saturn—had prompted his discovery of the truth of himself. And now, knowing that truth, he couldn’t shy from it. But it would not be in vain.
In telling his story, Daisy would set in motion a train that eventually would set right whatever the resultant disequilibrium caused by Saturn’s long-ago usurpation of Uranus’s powers. Klukelunnen didn’t know what that rebalance might require, but Grandma knew. Shame he wouldn’t be around to see the results. Neither would Daisy: a human, she wouldn’t live to be so old. Yet whatever the imbalance that ancient event had launched, he was assured what he did now would, with time, amend it.
“A deep breath now,” he spoke aloud though none could hear him. “Best do this before Daisy reaches the bottom.”
He leaned forward, his body held in empty space by arms that now were straining. He couldn’t hold it long. His fingers were cold on the stone. Dead stone, traitorous stone, Saturn’s stone. His fingers slipped. The road rose towards him.
He’d a sense of easeful drifting into the Earth. Into darkness.
Around him all was shadowy gloom. Where was he? He expected to be nowhere, but … Nay, nix, he didn’t believe his eyes. Gruff’s Cavern? It couldn’t be. Yet he’d recognise that cascade anywhere.
He pulled himself up to a sit. That wasn’t easy, he hurt, a nasty sting across his face, his chest, his arm. He frowned. Odd, that sting followed the line of his barely visible fracture, sustained when he fell from the Giant’s Knee, the line that had marred and made him imperfect. His fingers tentatively felt along it. His frown deepened.
The scar was gone, no longer there.
“Ah,” said a voice from out of the shadows, “so you finally arrive? And I suppose now you’ll claim those diamonds. What, you think we’ll fall for that? Weren’t no spell brought you here. You’ve had time and plenty to have walked it.”
His cousin Grinneal emerged from the dark, a heavy bag swinging from his hand. Was it all an imagined adventure? Or had he really visited Grandma’s Attic?