If this gets proof red in the next week it will be a miracle.
Well well well, the old crown and the book. I knew I’d left them somewhere. Masie will be pleased. This is a find.
“Masie, look what I’ve found!” he called down from the loft, waving the battered old circlet in the hatch. She looked up.
“That’s nice dear. What is it?”
“The old crown!” Masie squinted up and then reached into her pinny pocket for her glasses, peering through them owlishly before unfolding them and putting them on. “Well pass it down!” She reached up. Richard, the man in the loft, passed it down.
“Careful with it, you know what happens.” He warned.
“I know very well what happened before, you old coot! It’s no good without the book!” She turned the thing in her hands, looking at it with amazement. Richard tutted a little, and she looked up at him, he would never normally show any sign of impatience.
“That’s what I saying,” a hint of exasperation entered his voice. “I’ve found them both, they were right here, together!” Masie clutched the crown and swiftly put it behind her back.
“Don’t you bring that thing near it! You know what happened last time,” she snapped.
“Oh Masie, you have to invoke it.” Richard called down.
“Not always, not always!” she said, threatening to dislodge her dentures in her excitement. She took a brief moment to settle things down.
“Don’t you miss it?” Asked Richard. He poked his head out of the hatch. “All the adventure?”
“Not a bit of it!” But behind her back, Masie’s fingers traced out the little ruby crudely set in the centre.
“Didn’t you have a good time?” Richard pulled his head back up into the loft and shuffled about where Masie couldn’t see.
“Of course I did,” she began. “I know what you’re doing you old goat!” she shouted up at Richard. “You think a little trip down memory lane will be just the ticket, don’t you?” She waved the thing at him angrily. “Well I’m on to you Richard Cadwallader! You get down here this instant and forget about your crazy ideas. We’ve got grand-kids to worry about, and Meg and James will be home soon, they’ve nearly got that mortgage arranged, we can finally get the house to ourselves again. I can get my sewing room back.” But she gripped the crown tightly. She knew it was delicate, not what it seemed.
Richard poked his head out again, book in one hand, an old leather-bound thing with illuminated pages, heavier than it looked, and with the weight of curses and blessing upon it.
Richard opened his mouth to say something, but gasped in surprise instead as the wood splintered under his hand. Masie saw it all, as if in slow motion, the book passing the threshold, the old curse taking effect and aging the wood to dryness. It was this that splintered under Richard’s hand and removed his support completely, shooting him downwards out of the loft as if catapulted.
Masie saw his head hit the ground at the bottom of the ladder and heard the snap of his neck, sounding like the twang of an arbalest. He didn’t move, but she could see him breathing.
“Sorry.” He whispered. “Can’t seem to feel anything.” Somehow the book had landed on his chest. She leaned over him, tears flowing.
“Richard, oh Richard! What have you done you old fool? You know you can’t have the book without the crown. Oh, my Richard. What am I going to do?” He looked at her. Very faintly he said,
“Hobbs.” She stopped crying immediately and stared down at him as he took his last breath. Snatching up the book and turning pages, she didn’t even see the ruby begin to glow on the little crown as she snapped it on to her head and gripped her husband’s hand tightly. The booked opened to a richly decorated page she recognised, even after all this time, and she began to read a strange language. In less than a minute she was finished, and the landing and the house was empty.
Another minute passed, and the front door banged open.
“Strange,” said a voice, “James the door’s off the latch.” The woman looked about. “Mum, Dad?” She searched the downstairs, fruitlessly, and bustled upstairs. Seeing the loft, she investigated, with equal results.
“The car’s here, darling.” Called up the man’s voice.
“Yes, I saw.” Said Meg, picking up a splinter of wood. “They can’t be far.”