It Rained

It rained; an interminable kind of drizzle that walled the world in a sodden curtain, and roofed it in overcast grey. It was a melancholy sort of downpour – barely a distant cousin to a thunderstorm, dark and angry, that charges the air, and stands hair on its end; certainly no more than a distant ancestor of a summer shower, warm and welcoming; a suppressive, unassuming sort of rain that feigns innocence but manages to permeate everything with its uncomfortable damp. Even could one manage to escape it, they would fall prey to the light that came with it: cool, grey, and above all, wet. It was weather that persuaded heartily against activity, especially the hypaethral variety. Nonetheless, under the rooftops, and under the rain drops, things were happening. And, above it all, it rained.

Brincke Parsons stood in the lee of the palace wall. His head and shoulders were hunched and folded deep amongst the shadows contained therein a smouldering spark could be seen, were there any to see it. Time passed. With a swish, and a helpful boost from masonry long in need of repair, Brincke disappeared over the wall. In his wake he left nothing but a small dry patch – long gone before the patrolling guard came across it. Across the dimness of the palace grounds his shadow flitted. It weaved between trees, skirted the large fountain, and continued up the sheer face of the main building to be lost in the gathering gloom.

Flickering fireflies fluttered flightily about Fredrick Fergusson’s feet. The librarian smiled to himself, noting the alliteration in the notebook that rested in his breast pocket. Far above, the sweeping glass panes of the palace arboretum’s dome pittered and pattered with the falling rain. Fergusson rarely left the library lately – his musty nest of spidery text ensconced in brittle, yellowing pages. The three tomes beside him on the springy turf he had chosen at random from his desk on as much of a whim as that which had guided his feet to this place. He picked the top one up and started reading where it fell open. After a minute a frightening suspicion dawned on him, made all the more frightening by what he had just read. A quick glance at the front cover was enough to confirm it – this was not a book he had ever seen in his ten years as the palace librarian.

The shelf labelled ‘L’ was missing one book. There was not even a space for it between ‘Lo’ and ‘Lu’ – there was no point denying it. Certainly no point looking for a third time. He had even checked the librarian’s desk, tracking his sodden footfalls up and down the aisles. The desk lay overturned now, papers and books strewn across the floor. Brincke swore under his breath. He didn’t have time for this. Somewhere out in the city, soaked to the skin, She was waiting for him. Fergusson could at least have had the decency to be at his desk – now Brincke had to find him and the book.

She shivered with the cold, pulling her threadbare cloak tightly around her for what little protection it afforded her from the rain, which grew steadily heavier. Brincke was late. That wasn’t like him. The book must be causing trouble again.

Heat rising from the kitchens and the laundry room kept the arboretum lush; almost subtropical. The cool breeze that played over Fergusson’s supine form now was thus quite welcome… and quite puzzling – so puzzling, in fact, that it distracted him from the greater but less immediate puzzle of the strange book and what to do about it. He climbed to his feet and followed the rustling of leaves, away from the path and out of the range of the light cast by the standing torches. It did not cross his mind how out of character this was – it didn’t even cross his mind that it should have crossed his mind. Presently he stepped into a clearing, and a deluge of water. No need anymore to wonder about the breeze, or that roaring sound that had been assaulting his ears – someone had opened one of the service hatches, letting in the cold and the water running down the outside of the dome. Who would do such a thing in this weather? And… wait… why had he left the book behind?

From his perch low in the boughs of a towering oak, Brincke could see the book. Fergusson, however, was not where he had been lying scant minutes before when Brincke had spied him from atop the dome. There was no time to dwell on it. He hit the turf with light feet and soon had the book in his hands.
“Uh… I think you’ll find that’s mine,” came a voice from behind him.
“Yours, Fergusson? Wouldn’t it belong to the King, given that it came from the palace library?”
“Yes… well… it certainly doesn’t belong to you, in any case.”
“Well, regardless, I think I’ll take it off your hands anyway,” Brincke was glad that his hood kept him from being recognised. “Now if you’ll excuse me.”
Fergusson stepped forward and placed his hand on Brincke’s chest, halting his advance. “What do you want with the book?”
“That’s not the question you should be worried about. What does the book want with you?”
Fergusson looked confused, and slightly worried.
Brincke pressed the point – he knew Fergusson was an intelligent man. “Take walks out here often, do you? With strange books you’ve never seen before?”
“You know what’s written in there,” said Fergusson. “You’re surprised that I’m not going to let you take it?”
“Surprised? No. Slightly amused, perhaps. But do you really think it wouldn’t suit the book’s purposes quite neatly if we were to both kill each other and it were to drop out of knowing?”
“You can’t fool me! If it really can control me then it can control you as well!” Fergusson raised his fists.
“Something much greater controls me, Fergusson.”
“And it wants the book, eh? Well it will be sorely disappointed!” So saying, he lunged at Brincke. But Brincke was ready. He span deftly out of the way of the well-placed fist and delivered a cracking blow to the back of Fergusson’s head.
“Sorry, old chap. You’ll have a hell of a headache in the morning, but at least you’ll be alive.”

It was a thirty foot drop from the palace eaves to the grounds below, but Brincke couldn’t afford the time it would take to climb down; so he jumped. His feet hit the ground hard, sending up a plume of water, his knees giving way to a crouch.
Brincke rose slowly, his hands in the air and his hood flapping uselessly down his back.
“Turn around!”
He did so.
“Your majesty! My apologies, sir, I had thought you some rogue.”
“Quite alright, good man. It is, after all, what I hire you for.”
“Thankyou, sir!”
Bidding the guard farewell he crossed the grounds and vaulted the wall. Somewhere out in the city, She was waiting.

September, 2004

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