Paradigms Lost — Chapter 35

Paradigms Lost — Chapter 35

Chapter 35: A Test of Trust

“Good evening, Master Jason.” Morgan said, opening the door.

“Evening, Morgan.” I answered, glancing around. There were still lots of pieces of clutter around from the work that was being done on the house. “Verne around?”

“He and Master Kafan are in the library at the moment, sir.”

I opened my mouth to ask who “Master Kafan” was, then remembered Verne calling Tai Lee Xiang “Raiakafan.” “Thanks, Morgan.”

“Your coats, sir, Lady Sylvia?”

Though impatient, I didn’t show any sign of our concern. Neither did Syl; we both knew that if it was a werewolf, any hint that we suspected it could be fatal.

The library was much neater than the other areas. I remembered that Verne pushed the contractors to finish that room first and to clean it up each day; he valued the library more than just about any other room, except naturally whatever room it was that he slept in during the day. Verne and Tai were sitting together, bent over what looked like an atlas, with other books scattered about the table. Both looked up as we entered.

“Jason!” Verne rose. “I did not expect you. And Lady Sylvie.” He took her hand and bowed deeply over it.

I felt slightly jealous as Syl developed a slight blush and thanked Verne for his courtesy. She used to be scared stiff of Verne, but that seemed to be a thing of the past now.

Tai nodded to me and stood up at a gesture from Verne. “Tai, please meet my good friend Sylvia Stake,” Verne said.

We’d hoped for a setup like this. As he reached out, his attention focused on Syl, I pulled my hand out of my pocket and flung what was in my hand at him.

Neither of us saw everything that happened; from Syl’s point of view Tai suddenly disappeared. I, on the other hand, saw a blur move toward me and felt myself lifted into the air and slammed into a wall so hard that breath left me with an explosive whoosh and red haze fogged my vision. I struggled feebly, trying to force some air back into my lungs.

The pressure on my windpipe vanished suddenly as my attacker was yanked backwards. “Raiakafan! Jason! What is the meaning of this?” Verne demanded.

“I saw him move quickly; the characteristics of his motion strongly implied an attack.” Tai’s voice was level, cold, and flat, almost like a machine rather than a living being. “I therefore moved to neutralize him.”

“No one ‘neutralizes’ a member of my household or my friends.” Verne stated flatly. “As to Jason’s action, I am sure he will explain himself… immediately.” The last word carried a considerable coldness with it.

“Urrg …” I gurgled, then managed to gasp, pulling precious air back into my system. “Sorry… Verne.” I studied Tai carefully. Yes… I could see traces of the stuff. It had definitely hit him. Hell, he’d charged straight into it. Obviously he didn’t realize what kind of an attack it had been, if it had actually been an attack. “In a way, Tai was correct. Under the right circumstances, what I was doing would have been an attack. A lethal one.”

Verne’s eyes narrowed, fortunately showing more puzzlement than anger; we’d been through enough that he knew that I’d never do anything like this without damned good reason. “And just what circumstances would that have been?”

Syl answered. “If Tai had been a werewolf, he’d be dead now.”

Tai blinked, brushing away the silver dust I’d thrown in his face.

Verne’s expression softened in comprehension. “Ahh. Of course. You could hardly be blamed for such a suspicion, Jason. Without knowing the extent of my senses, you had no way of knowing that I knew this was the real Raiakafan, no matter what his outward seeming. And he has confirmed it in other ways since then.”

“According to what you told me,” I said, “a werewolf could foil even your senses.”

“True,” Verne admitted. “But there are other things that mere duplication of the soul and body cannot achieve, such as the memories that would have to be derived from… well, from someone supposedly dead a very, very long time ago. You still seem unsure, Jason. Please, tell me what troubles you.”

Without a word, I pulled out a printed copy of the pictures and articles I’d located and handed it to Verne, who read them in silence, then studied the picture and Tai carefully. Finally he handed them back.

“As we expected, Raiakafan,” he said. “I am of the opinion that we must tell them everything.”

That dead-black gaze returned; I saw Syl shrink back from it and it took some effort not to do so myself. “Are we sure?”

Verne waited until the strange young man was looking at him, and then answered. “Jason has risked his life to protect me. He has rekindled the Faith that was lost. And the Lady Sylvia is his best companion, a Mistress of Crystal, and born with the Sight. If I cannot trust them, then I cannot trust you, and if you cannot trust them, then I am not who you believe.” His words were very strange, half-explanation, half-ritual, spoken in a measured, formal manner that sent a shiver up my spine; that alien accent had returned again.

Tai studied me again, less ice in that gaze than before. Finally he nodded. “As you wish, Father.”

Verne relaxed, and so did we. The last thing any of us wanted was a real conflict. Whatever was going on here, it was obvious that Raiakafan — Tai — whatever his name was had some real problems in his life, and they might be coming after Verne too.

“Morgan!” Verne called. “Send in refreshments for everyone.” He turned to us. “Make yourselves comfortable, Jason, Lady Sylvie. This will be a long and difficult story, but a necessary one, for I see no other way around it but that I — that both Raiakafan and I — will need your help to solve the difficulties that face us.” Morgan came in, bearing a tray of drinks, and went out to return a moment later with two trays of hors d’oeuvres. Verne took a sip of his usual and frowned faintly. “How to begin, though…?”

“How about using the White King’s approach?” I suggested. “Start at the beginning. Go on to the end. And then stop.”

Syl and Verne chuckled at that; Kafan (I’d decided to use Verne’s name for him) just looked puzzled. Verne smiled sadly, his eyes distant. “Ahh. The beginning. But it’s always hard to mark the beginning, is it not? For whatever beginning you choose, there is always a cause that predates it. But it is true that for most great things there is a point at which you can say, ‘Here. At this point, all that went before was different.’ Perhaps I should start there …”

“No, Father! It is too dangerous — for them.”

Verne sighed. “It would be too dangerous not to tell them, Raiakafan. Jason works best with maximum information. But you are correct, as well.” He turned to us. “Before I proceed… Jason, Sylvia, I must impress upon you these facts.

“First, that much of what I am going to tell you contradicts that which is supposedly scientific fact.

“Second, that these contradictions — though they be on a titanic, global scale — were nonetheless designed; that it was intended by certain parties that the information I possess would never again be known to a living soul. My own existence is due as much to blind luck as it is to my own skill and power.

“Third, once you have been told these things, you become a potential target for the forces that would keep these things secret… and so will anyone to whom you reveal these things. And the forces behind this are of such magnitude as to give even Virigar pause, so powerful that the mightiest nations of this world are as nothing to them.” He gazed solemnly at us. “So think carefully; do you still wish to involve yourselves in these matters? I will think no less of you either way, I assure you. But once I speak, there is no going back. Ever. Even my ability to hide memories will not save you; they will never believe a memory completely gone when they can ensure it by killing the one with the memory.”

Verne’s deadly serious warning made me hesitate. He had only been this concerned when Virigar had come, and at that time there was no doubt that all the Great Wolf’s forces were directed towards him. Now, he was speaking of forces that didn’t even know he existed and yet were so fearsome as to warrant the most frightening warning he could give me. Not a reassuring thought.

I remembered the time he’d suddenly stopped a conversation. “The subject we discussed once before. Who you were, where you came from… the fact you’re not, exactly, a vampire… that’s part of it?”

“It is,” he said.

Syl replied first. “I want to hear the truth, Verne. I believe we were meant to hear it. If not, I would not be here.”

I nodded. “I didn’t think I’d be able to make friends with a vampire and not get into trouble sometimes. Might as well know what’s really going on. Seriously, Verne… if you have troubles on that scale, you’re going to need all the help you can get someday.”

Kafan studied us for a moment, and then smiled very slightly. “They are strong friends, Father.”

“They are indeed.” Verne leaned back in his red-cushioned chair. Light the color of blood flashed from his ring as he folded his hands. “Then, my friends, I start… or no. Raiakafan, would you begin? For what I must tell them is not only the more dangerous part, but the one that is less immediate. Your story is immediate. Mine is important to explain why even your story is insufficient.”

Kafan nodded. Turning to us, he began.


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8 Responses to Paradigms Lost — Chapter 35

  1. Terranovan says:

    Whoa, whoa, whoa – what happened to the Cry Wolf night vision goggles? Jason and Sylvia stopped to grab “a couple pieces of equipment” before rushing to Verne’s house. Wouldn’t those be – highly – useful in a situation like they thought they were rushing into?

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      Not really.

      IMO Jason wanted a way to reveal to Verne that Kafan was a werewolf if he was one.

      The Cry Wolf goggles would have revealed to Jason that Kafan was a werewolf but if Jason tried to shoot Kafan, Verne would have likely stopped Jason doing so which might have been lethal to everybody concerned if Kafan was a werewolf.

      The silver dust was harmless to Kafan but would have been lethal to a werewolf.

        • Ryk Spoor says:

          To expand on that, the CryWolf goggles (at this stage, being very obvious) are a DEAD GIVEAWAY of what you’re trying to do. If Kafan was a werewolf, he would undoubtedly be VERY aware of the existence of the CryWolf technology and even more aware of the fact that Jason, specifically, has that technology. If Jason came in wearing CryWolf, the Kafan-wolf would KNOW the jig was up and would try to take everyone out right there.

          • Bibliotheca Servare says:

            That was my main thought. Jason comes in with that monocle (or are they goggles now) strapped on his face and even if Mr. Kafan (lol, I call him Mr. Kafan because he’s all kinds of mysterious and spooky from my perspective rite now) WASN’T a werewolf, his “vampey” (Spidey) senses would probably have gone batty ;P and Jason would’ve (as in the snippet) done his finest impression of a fly meeting a flyswatter WITHOUT learning anything vis-a-vis Mr. Kafan’s fuzzy/furry quotient. Lol. Anyway, the only other thing I wanted to add to this wall of text was this message to the character of Jason: Jason SERIOUSLY needs to find some chutzpah somewhere in his body and tell Sylvie he wants to be with her. Truly. (Talking to Jason) Just get the thing done, son. She’ll not break your heart lad. (Imagine all that in a Scotch accent) I want to hit him with my de-angst-ing hammer, lol. Once more, THANK YOU for these snippets! ;D

            PS: in case it wasn’t clear, I wasn’t actually trying to criticize the pace at which you’ve decided Sylvia and Jason’s relationship should progress, or not progress or anything else. I was just kind of playfully trying to let you know that yes, you are succeeding at driving at least one of your readers absolutely bonkers with the Sylvie-Jason dynamic. Ahem. I think I’ll leave this post unmeasured and prey its just not too embarrassingly long. Thanks for reading it if you did, and if you skipped to the end here, thanks for the snippets, lol!

            • Heh. Jason tapdances a lot, but so do most of my characters; most of them want a single long-term relationship.

              But sometimes people do get impatient, as we will see in _Phoenix in Shadow_, and try to shortcut the angst.

  2. Bibliotheca Servare says:

    Oh good. Not so bad as my lack-of-sleep plagued brain thought. ‘Tis good.

  3. Bibliotheca Servare says:

    The length of my reply, that is. Lol

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