What has happened so far: Claire and Emma have decided to travel to Berlyne to start an apprenticeship. In the process, they make a diversion to Emma's grandfather's house in Sehlingen.
In this chapter we follow them as they stay in Sehlingen for a few days before continuing their journey.
The good thing about Sehlingen was its permanence. One could leave the village for a long time and return without anything having changed. For a second meeting within their last summer holidays, Emma had discussed everything with her grandfather before they left Kapellengarten.
He had picked them up at the Lödingen main station.
The gathering was celebrated by succulent home cooking. There was too much to talk about, so the stew gradually grew colder. Emma initially found it hard not to talk about her adventure, which is why Claire already wanted to hear the promise on the train not to say a word about it. They agreed that they had come from Pfalzburg with a stopover in Kapellengarten.
Friedrich was calm but a strict guardian. Before forming an opinion, he listened. His granddaughter told him of her wish to start an apprenticeship with Claire in Berlyne. It was a shock to him at first. He had never thought she would go to such paths but he understood also that there was more for Emma than just the quiet idyll of a village.
He asked about Emma's mother and what she had said. She quickly made up the story that she was sad and proud. Letting her go was good. At some point she would have grown tired of Regenschloss, Emma enlightened him and tried to get off the subject as quickly as possible.
Grandfather agreed to her idea. Since her friend was with her, she was allowed to go. If he had not given in, he would have had no idea what to do with her. Claire spoke very casually and mentioned that they would initially live with her father until they had a job.
After dinner, they went to bed. Claire and Emma had separate rooms.
The guest was asleep in the closer room next door. Freed from the lies, Claire formed herself into a ball under the blanket. Protected by a blanket, no one could harm her anymore. Constantly thinking that Emma's grandfather could see through everything, she was reassured that he was so kind.
He can call Emma's mother and check everything out...
He won't do that.
Bizarre and incomplete, Claire could not remember in the morning how the dream had begun. She was in a clothes shop with plump, creamy white bubbly colours, afterwards, she stepped outside the door only to see that she was standing in a strange city, knee-high under the floodwaters. She had no clue what it could mean. She tried to think of other things.
Claire had already heard a lot about Sehlingen and was now allowed to see it for herself. She had been looking forward to this a bit when she arrived.
Yawning on the next morning, she stood in the room and was about to leave it when Emma rammed the door in her face.
"Excuse me. Are you all right?"
Worried, Emma pulled the injured Claire to the bed.
"Good morning," she murmured rubbing her nose.
"Do you need something? I didn't mean to interrupt, I just thought of something to tell you. You know, we can meet Martha!"
For Emma, the most unimaginable thing came true. Never in her life did she dream that these two people would be standing in the same place. Her suspicions that they were one person, but in disguise, were thus shattered.
"That's great. I'm happy to have a bath."
"I'll show you," Emma spoke sheepishly.
Claire understood her discomfort. Rather reluctantly, she showed her the room and was gone in an instant. There was a lack of order and sanitation. There was no tub or shower. A washbasin was enough to draw cold water, a steaming bowl stood ready next to it.
They dined in the kitchen.
Grandpa von Preuß kept silent. He ate his bread with sausage and examined the window. Embarrassed and buttoned-up, Claire dined little - as she had yesterday. With her food intake, she did not want to fall into unnecessary costs.
She had felt indisposed when Emma had casually mentioned to her grandfather to bring a friend, she was now no more than an appendage.
"Eat. We have enough."
He took a sausage with his knife and balanced it onto Claire´s bread. Somehow, he did not resemble his granddaughter at all. What they had in common were their eyes, but otherwise, he was a completely different person in terms of character. He could take care of himself and knew the harshness of life in all its facets.
Out of the fog of her thoughts, Claire bit her tongue before uttering thanks in an embarrassed whisper.
Emma was jittery during the meal.
The liveliness was not uncommon, but unmannerly, as her grandfather explained. Somewhat perplexed, he understood her fidgeting only during the washing up.
Much like Claire, who flapped her wings in a blaze of joy, Emma had to render her delight in a wild bounce. The more discreet wing flapping, where Claire fluttered her hands in rapid succession, she never showed in public. She disliked it when people could see her doing her swan dance with her arms outstretched.
Emma wasn´t the same. Everyone should get a taste of her happiness. She was excited before the visit that was soon to come. Martha was something of a queen or president. Almost envious of her anticipation, Claire actually wanted to be happy too. Yet she had not been asked to go.
Josef Faber's workshop smelled like closing time.
In fact, he had not been able to work since last week. An accident had injured his leg. He stewed in the living room, carving figurines to pass the waiting time.
When Emma knocked, his roar to call his niece could be heard throughout the alley.
Before Emma could smile bouncily at Martha and speak, she began to shine with happiness.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm visiting," Emma exulted.
Emma unleashed herself from the embrace and stood next to the frozen luggage.
"That's Claire. I always talk about her."
Rejectingly, Martha held out her hand. Shrugging, the young Silberlilie pulled it away before Martha could shake it.
Stunned by the character Martha knew through stories, she no longer even thought about the cold rejection.
"Emma loves to babble, so I'm sure you've heard a lot about me."
"That's not true at all," it came out of Emma’s mouth loudly.
It was a reunion of two old friends.
Safe in a warmth of contemplation, just like in childhood, it seemed to Emma. Chirping colours that transformed the summer moon, moments without regard for others, it was like the old days.
She couldn't get the cheesy image out of her head. Emma was able to reveal all the events she and Claire had experienced within a few minutes. As Martha was curious about Léonard's progress (and had not known he was coming to Regenschloss), she was delighted the more he was mentioned.
When Kapellengarten came into being, Claire realised how it was going to end. Her friend was not allowed to talk so carelessly about the castle and the murder. It would eventually come up against more questions. Should anyone from Sehlingen learn where they were at the time, they and Léonard would instantly be hunted by the HePo.
"Shall we go outside? It's nice weather," Claire interrupted the story.
They agreed to this.
During the walk to the park, she made it clear to Emma several times that she should keep quiet about it. After all, she had promised.
She quickly understood. Instead, Martha now focused on Claire who was being quizzed. She was interested in the girl from Regenschloss.
Claire didn't like this game. Martha spoke of embarrassing moments with Emma instead in the meantime, Claire saw how little she did in her life. It was monotonous and boring.
In order not to cling too much to her only friend, she invented a pen pal relationship with her sister. At some point, Martha wanted to know what Claire knew about her.
Emma talked a lot. Listening to her was not Claire’s style, sometimes she would nod, but mentally she was on a higher level. The impossible had become reality. Claire admitted to herself that she hadn't always noticed everything. The few words she exchanged were things she had quickly put together.
In the dark green park - they had done a lap around the ponds - Martha now wanted to know how things were going with Léonard. Rhapsodising about his return, she remembered the arrest fondly.
Claire had become secondary. She didn't know if she could like Martha. She walked behind them, condemning the giggling. It awakened a bleary-eyed fight in her. She didn't know Emma as well as Martha did. She couldn't even remember how they had met.
During the night, Claire was awakened by her thoughts. Her ice-cold way of dealing with strangers, friendly with adults and submissive to their commands, was the same mask Léonard put on to fool her.
"People of Sagauvela!
I stand in your midst today to revive the memories of a glorious man whose movement was of great significance to the Sagauvelian people.
The decision to hold his deathwatch, as an honourable man, a former comrade, shall not be forgotten. With his skill - and the skill of many from our ranks, we have created the birth of a new freedom movement that will bring peace across the continent.
It has been a failure.
The death of our beloved and honoured Imperial Territory Leader will remain in our hearts forever. A proud heroic death, he fought his way through the ranks before being cowardly executed by an assassin. -“
Listening to the previous day's radio address was the only thing grandpa von Preuß found useful, as it was said that the Sagauvelian regime would now enforce harsher punishments for criminals.
A souvenir of the euphoria remained at the breakfast table. Emma wanted to see Martha again. When she woke up, Emma had confirmation that it was not a dream. Claire was sitting with her in Sehlingen.
Still, with half her head in her memoirs, it happened that Emma blabbed. Grandfather talked about the speech. Kapellengarten was only the beginning. He assumed that the murder had to be partisans from Flechburg.
"It was a woman from Mönchsberg Abbey! “
Claire gulped down her milk. Grandfather smiled at her with disbelieving eyes.
Emma understood her stupidity. With a yes, she then said she could sleep a little longer.
"Have you ever been to Kapellengarten?" she asked him.
"No. With pleasure, I would go and visit the gardens of the castle."
"Go ahead and do it!"
"Naive child," he spoke fatherly, "Kapellengarten and the castle have been a closed city since yesterday."
"What is that?" Emma wanted to know.
"Places that may not be entered without permission. Residents there are not allowed to leave them easily either. It is a typical wartime measure. Malachthyst and Hirschenburg, for example, are such closed towns."
Emma looked at him as if he had just told how he climbed a ladder to the moon.
"There's such a thing," he murmured, "We're glad we live in Sehlingen, away from world events."
"Just think, Claire, we would have stayed there!" Emma said to her friend while she was washing up after breakfast.
Yesterday they had not dared to take the park entrance next to the school.
They deliberately avoided the market square with the villa de Waarfay. Today, on another beautiful day, they could admire it from the outside.
Emma didn't have to say anything, Claire already realised that this building had something to do with him. It was the only villa in the village. Most of the houses were farms, so a small mansion immediately stood out.
Claire was almost ready to go into the courtyard and take a closer look when her friend stopped her. There was something to discuss that she wanted to do now.
Life in the park seemed more real.
Birds flew around, little sparrows and blackbirds gathered in the large open meadows. A black squirrel was observed between the treetops, while the ducks swam around in the pond. A breeze released light. Some leaves flew about. Claire felt the shadow all over her skin.
What Emma wanted to talk about now was questionable to her. She had put on such a serious face after breakfast. She was rarely seen so concentrated and thoughtful. The question of what was in the bush would soon be answered.
Before she could say a word, she thought of Emma's grandfather. Was she trying to apologise about her slip-up? Or had she blurted out more than that? Possibly to Martha?
"I've been thinking."
Emma paused and sighed. It scared the young ducks away from them. The park bench did its job and gave the sitters a hard and stiff back. Claire didn't want to sit all day.
"Do you know what the Codex Mortuo is all about?"
"No more than Léonard told us," Claire said.
"I want to find out more about it. You know, I thought of Léonard as a friend, not as a thief or something like that. Now that he's gone, I realise there's a big gap missing. A gap that can only be answered with this book. What is it about? Does he need to protect it from this abbey? Will it get him anywhere?"
"I don't know. I didn't think about the book," Claire lied.
I still haven't told her that Léonard isn't even looking for it. Should I tell her?
"I even briefly suspected he was the bad guy, and the Abbey were the good guys," Emma said.
"You don't really believe that."
"It was for a short while in the head. He's not bad. He's nice," Emma explained, "Martha opened my eyes once more yesterday. We can't let him go. I want to see him one last time. At least hear his voice. I want to go to the villa. Maybe we'll find clues to his whereabouts there."
It didn't take long for her to change her mind. It's true. Life is boring without him. His mere presence promised adventure. I can't imagine life as it was before he arrived. Right now, we're back to upheaval.
Claire nodded sheepishly.
"Let's explore the villa."