Vaush’s affections for those early friends is well documented throughout his journals. What is less so; is just how aware Vaush was of his own deficiencies. Though scholars have often argued when Vaush’s first kill occurred, there is no arguing the man was lethal by his early teens. Several in the burgeoning science of the human mind have argued that Vaush was mad and incapable of preventing himself from slaughtering those that he came across. The neurosis made him both genius and mad man; a functional sociopath. This folio presents one of the very few instances that Vaush reveals just how much he was aware of his own condition.
~G.M. Frasier, Professor Emeritus – University of Cadris
Homecomings are rarely what you expect and almost never what you hoped for. Mine, returning from the Glenfeld Highlands was no different. We arrived as highlanders do, in the midst of chaos. The giant wagons hauling the Baron’s lumber followed the number of horses that had been wrangled on his behalf. It had been a good trip and the friendships that had been built were finalized here. It was during this return trip that I realized just how much I liked the McPhersons. They were rough and lacked the manners that I had been used to; but they were honest. They were honest and cunning.
When we arrived there was doubt in my mind as to exactly what was expected of me. The baron greeted his son and Stratum, with Brannigan, was obviously welcomed to Castle Hartwich. For myself, I was still an outsider and because of birth I always would be. In time it was something that I relished in, as it gave me a freedom that the likes of Simon would never know. For now however, at the age of eight, I was at a bit of a loss, so I informed Blaise that I was to be on my way. I would return to the Rush estates for I had no urge to linger and I was eager to return to Robert and the training. There was so much yet to learn.
It was determined that Ruby would accompany, however as we were about to set out a carriage of such extraordinary gaudiness that it could only be one of Rush’s arrived. I knew immediately who it was. The footman and driver were undoubtedly of Robert’s choosing; quiet and unassuming but moving with the leisurely professionalism that marked them as predators. These were dangerous men, handpicked no doubt by Robert himself. I wonder even now if the McPhersons or the Locke’s for that matter realized what they had allowed into their front Bailey. I doubt it. They were invisible as most servants are.
The inattention afforded the servants of almost any great house is astounding. I cannot count the number of times that a half wit member of the aristocracy from Istania to Uster has been done in by a member of their own staff. And always it is the same. It could not have been the Second Floor Mistress of the House Keepers; she was always so loyal. Yet the buffoons could not have named her children or even said if she had any. No, when the servants are invisible the Lord of the manner is in danger. At the Rush estates no one is invisible. They only pretend to be.
The first to disembark from the carriage was Veronica. She stepped from cabin with the seeming care of Robert. It was then the world went silent. Even I have to say that she was stunning. When her foot touched the ground, the world ceased to spin. The atmosphere stilled and there was collective holding of the breath. They were all slack jawed mutes. The lot of them could not help but stare. Brannigan gave the most inappropriate low whistle of appreciation. For me, it was my mother; so called the Lady Veronica.
There was one however; one among the slack jawed, mesmerized souls that was as immune to Veronica’s beauty as I. Ruby, who was Amber’s mother, gave the most audacious snort of derision. It was a shame that for the most part it went unnoticed. Most were far to beholden to the sight of Veronica to see the show for what it was. Ruby wheeled her horse about and with none to subtle discord exited the bailey, returning the corrals of horse flesh.
It was then that I began my dismount. The horse that Robert had provided me with had served well and I had actually grown quite fond of the beast; as far as possible that is. Though I had become an accomplished rider during the time spent in the Glenfeld Highlands, I still believed that the beasts were dangerous. They are dangerous at both ends and crafty in the middle. There was another in the carriage; smaller. I began to hear whispering among the crowd that had gathered in the bailey; Vaush has a sister. Well, to the best of my knowledge I did not. The idea was preposterous of course. But there she was. As elegant as Veronica and in my mind twice of lovely, being mostly immune to my mother’s charms, the young lady stepped from the carriage. I was in mid dismount. My leg stretched out behind me like the fallen mast of a ruined ship. Now I was as slack jawed as the rest. For a moment the world halted for me as it had for everyone else. I could hear my own heart thumping in my chest. It was a wholly new sensation for me. It was at once wondrous and terrifying. I knew that I should put my foot to the ground. Instead I kept it up like a dog in mid piss.
My inner hound finally regained composure and I settled to the ground with as much grace as could be managed. It was Sarah, who in the time of absence had acquired a surname. She was now Sara Wick. I perceived around me that the world had again ceased its rotation. Men and woman alike were as captivated by Sara as they had been by Veronica. Though to my own sense I had more understanding for the second then I did for the former.
I moved to approach. I was determined to blend. The Baron Locke was approaching as well and I thought to do what was best and slowed my pace, allowing him to arrive to bend his knee at Veronica’s hand first. I had no intention of bending anything for the woman. They greeted and there was much conversation. Sarah was introduced to the lord of the manner and it became quickly apparent that I had been forgotten. Veronica was whisked away with her new protégé.
It was at that moment that I knew a mistake had been made. A mistake on my part; an error that vexed me; but one that I could not bring to Robert’s attention, though I am sure he realized it as much as I did. My cold countenance and lack of reaction had soured Sarah’s visage. She had seen something in me that disturbed her. Sarah had seen that cold place at my center that has always been so private, even in those dark days of amnesia. She saw the fledging monster that I was and perhaps had glimpsed the killer that I would become. At that moment I resolved as I always did to never make that mistake again.
In the briefest moment it was over. I admired how she slipped back into her role, the very soul of grace. The Baron, though I doubted it was entirely his idea, invited us to stay for supper. Annoyed and peevish as only an eight year old could be, I allowed myself to be led into the castle. I recognized the valise atop the carriage. It had been planned. We would be staying the night.
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