A story written by Aidan, AKA the Anti-Valentine.
Visit my blog @ http://hubpages.com/_3tzb0unem02ru/profile/Anti-Valentine
It all started when Gareth went up into the attic like most inquisitive young teenagers do. Gareth initially wanted to see if there was anything of worth in there to sell for a quick buck, when he discovered a trunk full of books.
Naturally, he opened one up, attentively, because of its age, and paged through, discovering that the writings in it were much older than he had thought, judging by the cover.
He was absolutely mesmerized as he kept on reading through the day, picking up one book after the other, scarcely moving, only to get up briefly to go to the bathroom or to eat and drink.
He continued the pattern for weeks; going to school and sitting through boring history lectures and pointless mathematics classes, all the while, waiting to head home, and dive straight back into the literary world he had opened up. Before he even changed out of his uniform, he would go back up to his chair in the corner of the dusty, cramped attic and flip through the tomes. He probed them, discovering more than what he would have ever have learned in school.
As he paged through, he started to discover some unusual similarities in them all, and he spotted the fact that the names changed, but the surnames stayed the same: Hightowne. These weren’t just any books; they belonged to his family. They were their journals.
All throughout them though, he hadn’t seen his dad’s name at all.
* * *
One morning, Gareth woke up and decided to talk to his dad about the books in the attic. It was a public holiday, and so he felt that he could investigate all day or as long as his dad would let him.
“Dad, can I talk to you about something?” he asked.
“Yes, sure Gareth. What’s up?” he replied.
“The other month I discovered some books up in the attic.”
“Were they in a trunk?” he asked as his eyes lit up.
“Yes, dad. What are they, journals?”
“More than that I think; those books are the entire collection of your ancestors’ memories and experiences, recorded so that future generations might read them.”
“They’re so interesting. I’ve been reading them for weeks.” Gareth said.
“Yes, but there’s something about those books that I don’t like.”
“Is that why you didn’t write one?”
“That’s right, I didn’t. Those books suck you in and hold you. They make you do things, you see. I hid them in that trunk. Your grandfather; my father, was the last one to write one. He spent most of his adult life in jail, and I think those books were the reason.”
“You’ve read them. You’ve seen the connections?” All of the writers, your ancestors, took part in writing and training rituals. The first one was named Garrett. He was what they called a keeper. Keepers were like the CIA back in the Middle Ages, although they might have been around before then even. They were one of many secret societies, just like there are today. He took it upon himself to teach his son the techniques and train him the way he had been long before. Since then, the tradition has followed; every son would record a ‘journal’ and read the others that had come before it, learning of not only the keepers, but the past, present and the future. Garrett had meant well, but it was either just human nature or perhaps a corrupt nature within the books that always drew people towards darkness. Before he became a keeper, he was a thief, and perhaps… a murderer.”
“You didn’t want me to see them?”
Gareth’s dad scratched his head. “No, but I’m not mad at you. It’s just that it ended horribly for every one of them. They ended up as thieves, criminals, and murderers. And they paid the price for their actions. The books have some sort of power. They’ve lasted for centuries, with minimal damage, and they have these symbols on them.”
“And that’s why they’re so great.”
“Look, they are just stories. They’re good stories, maybe they’re even true, but they are not meant to be handled by us. I went the opposite path in my life and became a well adjusted, responsible man; not a keeper or anything else.”
Gareth walked off just as his dad had finished talking.
Gareth thought that his dad was wrong to not embrace his heritage. He swore that he wouldn’t make the same mistake, and that he wouldn’t be overcome by any powers the books possessed. He hadn’t got through all of them yet. Not by a long shot.
As he got back to his favourite spot in the attic by the small dusty window overlooking the garden and the surrounding neighbourhood, he noticed that there was a bright glow emanating from the trunk. The books all had symbols on them that he hadn’t noticed before, just like his dad had said. The books also seemed to be new, as if they had rejuvenated and been put back together in immaculate condition overnight.
As Gareth touched the book almost as a dare, he felt an energy course through his body and then all went blank.
* * *
It was night, and he was in a place like he had never seen before. He was on his own; he could see lights in the distance but no people. He was surrounded by grimy, mossy stone walls, and wooden beams adorned the roof. He could see out to the black sky above accompanied by the moon and clouds, through the holes made by the masses of missing tiles. In front of him there were some statues on the sides of the room. After walking towards one of them, he looked down and noticed that he was clad in garments he was sure weren’t his. He had on leather pauldrons and fingerless gauntlets with bracers. His torso was covered by a leather cuirass and he had on slim soft-soled boots. He put his hands up to his head and felt a hood covering it, and on his arms and legs, he had similar cloth covering them.
“Gareth.” A voice rang out.
“Who’s there?” Gareth said while he turned around quickly, surveying the whole room, trying to pierce the darkness as his eyes slowly grew accustomed to the shadows.
“It is us, the voices of your ancestors. We have guided one another as we shall now guide you.”
The voice sounded very strange, almost as though several voices were speaking synchronously.
“You must complete a series of tasks that we have set for you, young Gareth.”
“What? But I don’t even know where I am.”
“All in due time, that is the point of the tasks. You must become familiar with your surroundings as well your own body.” The voice replied.
All of a sudden, a strange luminous vision appeared at the end of the room.
Gareth walked slowly towards it; he heard it whispering something and moving slightly, swaying about. It seemed to have the outline of a human figure but he could see through it; a ghost.
“Fear not. Before you is a guardian, a keeper. Your task is to approach it without being heard. You must be careful of the tiled floor; move cautiously and slowly.”
Gareth stood silent for awhile. He was scared of the thing at the end of the room, this… keeper. His dad had told him about the keepers when he talked to him about the books he found in the attic.
He put his foot forward and slid it across the floor slowly, so as not to misstep and fall forward. He tip-toed towards the stairs leading up to the porch and watched the figure for a while. He went up the stairs and took a step back in shock as it disappeared from plain sight.
“Very good, we did not hear you enter the room.” the voice said. “Your next task awaits you through the arch, Gareth.”
Gareth walked until he felt a wooden object on the floor. He bent to pick it up; it felt like a piece of a fence or gate.
“Your next task is to make it to the end of the room without being seen. Hanging around your neck is a light gem. If you look down and see it glowing, you are visible, as it reflects the light. If it is still and dark, you are hidden and will only be spotted if someone is very near.”
There were broken glass windows that let in the moonlight, which streaked across the room, leaving a clear pathway to the door ahead. He walked forward, watching the light gem every now and then as he avoided the light. Just then, a light entered the room from outside, and almost instinctively, Gareth ducked and rolled forward until he was near the wall. He couldn’t figure out what the light was until he heard a helicopter outside. It was off in the distance but obviously its searchlight had skimmed the building.
He hoped they weren’t looking for him. How long had he been away from home? And how had he found this place?
He remembered that he had to make it to the top of the stairs.
“Very good, we did not see you reach the stairs. Your next task awaits you through the door and down the hallway.”
Gareth opened the door and continued on along the passage. It too was covered in mould, moss and the stench of rot filled his senses so badly that he covered his face with his hood and made his way down to the table at the end of the hallway.
On it was a bow and a quiver full of arrows, a short blade, a dagger, and some knives, all with sheaths, as well as a hard leather object.
“Pick up the objects laid out in front of you and proceed to the courtyard below.”
Gareth did so as he was told and picked up all of the items and slung them all over his body; the bow and quiver on his back, the short blade and leather object from his belt, and the dagger and small knives across his chest.
He walked down the cracked steps to the courtyard.
“Gareth, to your left you will see some targets.” The voice pointed out.
He nearly jumped back in horror when he saw some vile creatures roaming around the enclosed space beyond the rotten wooden fence. They let out moans and wails and looked as though their very flesh was hanging off of their bodies.
“What are these things?” he said in revulsion.
“They are zombies, Gareth; undead. You must first take your bow and broad-head arrows and shoot them to pass the test.”
He reached into his quiver on his back while retrieving his bow at the same time with the other hand. He knocked an arrow and aimed for the head of the zombie.
The zombie collapsed and was silent.
He carried on in this fashion, killing the other things, even if they were already dead.
“Very good; now walk over to the cobblestone circle in the middle of the courtyard for your next test.”
He did so, and watched as another zombie burst up out of the earth. He wore a metal helmet and had chainmail armour as well as a torn tunic. In his left hand he carried a sword.
“Now Gareth, take your short blade and dispatch of this guard.” The voice commanded.
He reached for his blade at his left side and unsheathed it, holding it out, while shaking slightly. He moved forward and as he stepped onto the cobblestone off of the grass,
the zombie snapped out of its trance, turned to face him, and lunged out. Gareth blocked the sword swing and took a step back. The zombie made another swing, and he parried it once more, moving to one side as his blade clashed with the other. A few minutes into the fight and he was clearly on the defensive. He got tired, even though his was a short blade and was supposed to be lighter, the swinging and effort required to block and dodge the attacks was taxing.
One overhead blow caught Gareth on his shoulder and he fell to the ground. He was too tired to carry on, but the zombie seemed to have boundless energy and strength. He got back up and stumbled further away from the creature, but it ran after him and made another attack. Gareth jumped out of the way and the zombie plowed its sword right into the wall. As it desperately tried to break it free, Gareth, with all his might swung down on the creature’s neck, and watched as its skull rolled and bounced along the grass.
He slumped down against the wall and clutched his shoulder.
“Would you care for some refreshment, young Gareth?” the voice enquired.
“Why are you doing this to me? What is the purpose of this?” he cried out.
“We have said before; it is education. You are becoming familiar with yourself and your surroundings through these tasks.”
He got up and looked at the table.
“To your right is a healing potion. When you drink it, it heals your wounds and rejuvenates you. To the left of that is a key that will open the door.”
He took the potion and gulped it down. He didn’t even stop to think about it. He had a splitting headache, and he was out of breath, as well as having sore arms and legs.
Slowly he felt the pain subside, the headache diminish, his arms became lighter and his legs stopped shaking uncontrollably.
“I wish they had something like this back home.” He said.
He took the rusty key off of the table and took it to the lock on the door. After opening the door he went inside and through to yet another courtyard.
“Now you will learn to climb.”
Gareth walked over to the rope that dangled from the rafter above and climbed up it with ease with his new found liveliness.
“Now swing onto the ledge.”
He did so and planted his feet firmly, and crouched so as not to lose his balance and fall back down.
“Now you must mantle onto the ledge above you and cross the beam to the other side.”
“Now there’s a challenge.” He said.
He leapt up and grabbed the ledge, pulling himself up and onto it. He walked towards the beam and looked down to the ground below. It was a long way down and he would be sure to break some bones with a fall from that height.
He put his hands out for balance and put his foot on the beam, flexing it up and down to test how sturdy it was. After that he took a step onto it, and then another. He realized that he would have to move quick or else he would fall. Stooped over and with arms out, he put one foot out before the other, careful trying not to trip. As he got closer, he jumped the last couple of feet. There was a door on the balcony ahead, and so he made his way over.
“Very good, Gareth. We are pleased with your progress. You may now leave the compound through the doors, if you wish.”
“Why did I have to do all of this?”
“You wanted to, Gareth. You read the journals, awoke your ancestors and wanted answers to your questions. So it has been with your forefathers, and now with you.”
“What do I do now then? What was all this training for?”
“This training was to prepare you for the trials you will face ahead and the truth you will learn of. Continue to read the journals, Gareth. You will learn much from them and eventually you will find out why they were written.”
* * *