What has happened so far: Claire and Emma travelled on from Sehlingen towards the Melaten estate to see Léonard. But their journey was prolonged by a diversion into the Closed City. While Emma has made her escape, Claire remains alone. It looks as if their paths will part.
In this chapter we take a look at Léonard, the writer Julius Siebenfeder and Emma before going back to Claire.
Gone wind touched the pages of the countless books.
The mighty windows of the library were open. The perforated curtains hung to one side. The meadow and the lake fought for the shore. Waves broke off sand and grass, mountains watched the spectacle.
Cloudless skies changed the humidity in the forest. In the distance, the rustling of shy animals could be heard. The sun did its duty, showing itself in the east. Twilight transformed the world.
Léonard de Waarfay jumped down the steps.
There were ashes and a charred piece of birch in the fireplace. He strolled past the sofas with a stack of envelopes and papers to the narrow, raised desk. The fresh wind blew the things back into the room. He hadn't given much thought to the fact that the windows were open. Rarely did he care.
Briskly he ran through the hall and grabbed the last flying sheets.
With a childlike conscience and the joy of showing his parents what he had achieved, he strutted confidently to Monique. She was sitting on the narrow, makeshift terrace. The table and chair were not suitable for the low-growing lawn. The furniture wobbled with every movement. There was always the fear that the teacup might tip over.
In her hand, she held an antique book. Dirty and used, it lay against her innocent, clean skin. The brown-mouldy tome reeked of asebeia. It belonged to the monks who ran the lazaret then. Names of families wiped out centuries ago, names of children, names of the elderly, it was the death list. A piece of paper that brought nothing to those people who were immortalised on it.
"Why do you keep reading this book?" interjected Léonard comfortably.
"Like you're going back in time when you run your fingers over the names," he said snappily, "You'd better look at my list."
He handed her the paper in solemn hope. With a flat brow, she consulted her fiancé's handwriting. With a raised eyebrow, she pointed to a name.
"He won't come."
"I'll write him an invitation anyway."
"Where is he at the moment?"
"Vogtstadt. He takes a room at Hotel Hoppe under a false identity."
"How do you know all this? “
"He mentioned it in a telegram. He travels between Violentz and Vogtstadt."
"I last saw him... I don't remember... when he was living with us? " Monique spoke thoughtfully, "I probably wouldn't recognise him on the street."
Léonard sat down next to her.
"The last time we saw him. It's true... that must have been with us here,” he murmured. "We are in irregular contact and yet we haven't seen each other for so long."
"A sort of pen-pal relationship," Monique smiled and stroked him on the head, "He helps us. No matter what it means to him."
"He even put his sister at risk."
"It's on my bedside table."
"The Book. The Palace of Arias. That's what you're talking about."
"It is part of my heart," Léonard spoke anxiously, "Two years since I found the first casket..."
"It was published when you travelled to Petrichor.”
The country house at the end of the forgotten road lay in ruins.
Debris and ash had rained down and lit up the forest around it as the flames distorted the building. It was a sight that the people of Kalliope district kept in their minds forever. Almost without memory was this country house; living there in seclusion was a strange person known only for her eccentricity. Only on selected days did the butler come to the market to do some shopping; one Friday in a month, the woman also came downstairs, cloaked in black veils, and disappeared into a pavement café, where she only ever read the newspaper and drank a glass of water.
As Léonard took the narrow, uneven, and gravel-strewn path upwards, he did not yet know what to expect. The roof had completely disappeared, only the first floor could be sparsely made out and it was littered with fragments of books and wooden stakes. Léonard stopped in front of what had once been the entrance.
A voice called to him. Dimly, Léonard could make out the cowl standing beyond the building. He tore off the tattered sleeve and entered the former house. Among charred furniture, he found the burned remains of a cat. Lying next to it was a pair of glasses. It did not interest him. The important thing for him was to have a result.
The cowl stood on what looked like a former terrace. It still smelled strongly of the fire and Léonard wondered if it was appropriate to light a cigarette.
"I'm here," he said aloud to get rid of his worry.
The cowl pointed to a narrow table with two chairs. Before Léonard could say anything, the cowl showed her face and took a seat. With a look from the woman that was ice cold, she pulled out a case and took out a document. It was followed by a small black casket. It was so inconspicuous and to any ordinary person like a souvenir that was not noticed, but to Léonard it seemed to be something very special. His heart beat faster and his pupils enlarged. What he had been looking for was lying on the table in front of him.
His counterpart was aware that the usually calm Léonard was sitting there with a childlike manner and could no longer be still. His arms moved closer in the direction of the casket as the woman tossed it to him.
"It won't kill you."
Léonard, quite taken aback, barely caught the thing and admired it in his own way.
"Medea is my name."
Léonard did not take his eyes off the casket as the woman spoke.
"You of the abbey still use those old-fashioned names from the time of the goddess,” he murmured, "What does yours mean?"
The woman smiled.
"Names have no meaning. Just as our Mother has a different name from when she was born, we too have been given new names once we entered the Order."
She paused as Léonard put the casket back.
"But today it is not the abbey on the table. Just you and me,” she whispered softly, "This is a contract signed between two individuals, not between the Abbey and one of its victims. Remember that."
"That's why you were so calm at the Abbey?"
"You give me what I want and I will give you what you want,” she said calmly.
"And what do you want?"
Léonard didn't feel at all comfortable sitting here with her. A breeze caught him and he got the smell of burnt flesh in his nose.
"I want what you have," she repeated.
Léonard stared at her.
"I can't give you that. You'll have to find a way yourself," he replied, "You won't be happy with it."
"I have seen mankind, so it is only understandable that I want to flee from them."
Léonard looked at the casket. As if she could read minds, she continued.
"The abbey received the four caskets. This one was among all this debris.”
She waved her arms around the terrace as if to form a circle and pointed in the direction of the former salon.
"No matter how much the world perishes, you will remain forever. As long as the Goddess wants it, right?" he whispered to the casket.
She took the document and handed it to Léonard. He knew what he had to do and read it carefully while his counterpart continued to look at him with her piercing dark eyes. Nothing changed around him. The rustling of the leaves had died down and the gentle waves on the lake had come to an end. The squeak of some charred wooden beams fell silent as Léonard finished.
"You promise to give me the caskets here - all four of them - and you only have one with you?"
"I still have to get the others. It is not easy to deceive the abbey."
"That seems dangerous to me. You're working all by yourself?"
The woman clapped her hands after speaking the name. Another cowl appeared from behind one of the trees and bowed. Léonard watched them both from top to bottom and tried not to blink. He was too intent on seeing something concrete.
"I don't trust you. Not you two. I don't know with whom I'm making a contract here. -"
"But you need the caskets. You need them to make the Maiden Rose in you go out, don't you?" spoke the cowl.
"There have been so many rumours,” explained the woman, "It wasn't hard to put it all together. Actually, it was an easy puzzle. That there is still someone wandering around isn´t even a thought that seems impossible. It’s truly not a real No Man's Land, considering even the owner here was one of yours."
Léonard shook his head. A shiver ran down his spine.
"It was a cruel time, so it is understandable that man should prevail in his urges."
Léonard slammed his fist down on the table.
"My mother never volunteered-"
"No one is here by choice. We are all just puppets of our Mother. Léonard de Waarfay, as you call yourself. An impostor and a liar, a friend, and yet a mystery. You are desperate to have this will fulfilled. You have seen it in the bottom of your soul, you see it lying before you, and yet you refuse to accept the offer? Is your longing that weak? "
The woman grew louder with each new sentence. Léonard remained quiet and stared at the casket again.
"Do you really promise me the caskets? All four?"
"That's why we're making the contract. So that you have a guarantee. So that I have a guarantee."
Léonard laughed out.
"And what happens if there's a breach? Death?”
The woman smiled at him.
"Death is only a redemption. You know it better than the rest of us. Life is the true torment.”
Léonard looked down.
“In the end, it is always the parents' fault for being born. Out of a drive of lust, they condemn their children to remain eternally guilty.”
“Aidos, that´s enough.” Medea said in a dominant tone, “You will see what power we as abbey have. The book is now out and people can read it. Julius Siebenfeder should enjoy his life in fame now because every mountaineer has to come down one time. And it is your fault, that Julius Siebenfeder has to fall. But all the guilt that you have - you can lose it by signing this contract.”
Léonard was shaking all over. He was sitting in front of the goal and yet it seemed as if the goal was moving further away from him with each new step. For a long time, the guilt he no longer knew had been spreading through him. He had an anger inside him, sadness, and was looking for a way to forgive. Léonard remained in stasis as his thoughts spoke up in his head. He had to go on. He had to go on, to get to the end. There was no time to be sorry. There was no time to feel guilt. It was his time to finally move forward.
With doubt about being close to his end, he thought about the fact that his goal was now in front of him.
“Forgive me, Julius, but this is for Monique and myself.”
“So you going to accept the offer?” Medea asked.
“Yes. I will get the caskets and you will get our lives.”
Medea handed him a pen. Léonard signed the document and felt with every new letter he made on this thing, that he could get his redemption in the end. But he didn´t know that the way to it, was still in front of him.
Medea took the document and signed it, too.
"Our game begins with this."
"Three months later, his sister died," Léonard continued, "Why is the abbey so bent on helping me and hurting him? We have a common goal...?"
"To understand the abbey is to be part of it. There is so much missing to complete the puzzle,” Monique said, "Don't throw yourself into thoughts like that. Look!"
She took his pen and added a name.
"Why him?" he asked, perplexed, after taking the note from her, "He's not one for parties."
"Because I would like to see him again. Besides, after everything that's happened."
"He will come," Monique smiled.
"All right. “