The sky was blue. I saw Stephane’s eyes. The sky. Or was it the seas?
I explained later to Leon that I read the journal, well, part of it, but I did not understand it.
“The journal belonged to Sir Thorvin Molton Paine. He was an painter, from grey and misty Northern Umbriar. He was also a poet. He was Lynoria’s lover. Did you read to the part about . . . what happened . . . to Lynoria?”
“No, not yet.”
He spoke quickly now, in hushed tones.
“Keep reading the journal.”
“But, how did you find it anyhow?”
“At an auction. A series of Odalisques by the doomed Thorvin Paine, artist and poet, lost to madness and the decays of . . . addiction.” Here, Leon stopped and looked downwards. “That is how I know. And that is how I recognised Lynoria in his paintings.”
Who was this Lynoria I’ve often wondered. What was her secret?
He would tell me no more. He said I must pack soon, leave, leave the estate and country, as I had been summoned from distant relations across the seas. And as for Stephane —
“But, I don’t want to leave yet; I’ve so wanted to find your brother.”
“I will find him again and when I do I will send you a message.”
“Is there any more you can glean from these works of Paine and how they relate to Lynoria and all of us as well? Please, tell me . . .”
“I became interested in his works after reading a poem of his in an obscure tome of literary works put together by an occultist. I also learned that Lynoria was a part of his occult society; she, in fact, was a high priestess . . . she studied vague magicks from a world that is said to reside in an old lake — a world called Nimbuec Eruum, I’m sure you have heard the legends, as I did, as a child.”
“I do recall some of that, yes . . .”
“In some circles, Lynoria was known as a despot; she never really fit in anywhere; she was descended from the families Andalus and Frochardian, both of the old land across the seas; with no allegiance to anyone or anything; however, she was known for her particularly peculiar allegiances with various lovers. She was quite a bold and odd woman for her time, and a character indeed . . .”
With that, Leon began to read specific excerpts from Paine’s diary to me, every so often taking a sip of some vile elixir he kept in a brown but clear apothecary glass:
“Last night, she came to me again. The first time I was frightened. She slipped down the steps ever so slowly. I could hear the rustle of crinoline. I was already half-dead, my body gouged with bullets, my bones broken . . . the war had already done enough damage and now . . . she came . . . I watched with great horror, but I could not move though my broken body wished to. Her hair seemed long and green, or was it something in the long strands? For they . . . glistened like a living thing does . . . her very physical self seemed to reek atop those stairs to waft towards me like death; yes, like death itself. Now and then she stumbled. She seemed inanimate yet strangely animated, from within; atop her head she wore a stained veil . . . it was long and dirty and trailed webs. When she finally reached the landing, she bid me to rise. I did what she said. Somehow she spoke to me with her thoughts. Without thinking, I lifted the veil . . . she looked at me . . . her face, it was pale and rotted! She had no eyes! In place, a light emanated from them — from he hollow orbs that had housed them — and a terrible light, a lightning, emanated and struck me, penetrated me. I could not think, I could not breathe; I was speechless . . .”
Leon stopped reading.
“The last entry ends there . . .”
“How strange.” I said.
“Paine claimed that Lynoria’s husband found out about their affair, that he tied Lynoria to the mast of one of his ships and sailed across the sea . . . and most likely, having tied her up, bound her legs and feet to one another and threw her over into the sea itself. . . Paine was convinced of it but nobody listened to him by then for he was thought mad by this time. He kept repeating that she would not die, that she could not die . . .”
“And . . . what happened to him ultimately?”
“Well, ultimately, he did go mad. He was confined at the Wodebrite Sanatorium.”
“Was Lynoria ever found?”
“Buried. Or so her husband claimed. Paine suspected him of poisoning a trollop and burying her in Lynoria’s place, a crypt; but the body was never examined nor exhumed. According to the mad seaman, she drowned herself.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think most likely, that Paine was half-right. I think Lynoria really did drown, but it was suicide . . . she threw herself off a ship sailing to the old world, to escape her murderous husband . . . she threw herself into the sea rather than suffer any longer . . .”
“And what has all this to do with us, with you?”
“Because Paine is my ancestor. Because Lynoria is your ancestor. My brother saw her in that mirror, in place of your reflection; she haunted him, as she now haunts me . . .”
“What can we do?”
“I do not know. Perhaps . . .” He looked half hopeful and shook his head.
“Leon, I do swear, I saw him that night at the music hall — he looked right at me, or through me, as if in a dream.”
“He may have mistaken you for Lynoria.”
“But we wouldn’t want to confuse a dream for real life, would we, Leon? And at least we know he is alive, but, do you know where he might be?”
“No, no, unfortunately not; I cannot find my poor brother. I am sorry I do no even know where he is dear. You say that you saw him at the music hall? Perhaps you too saw only a ghost. I have not seen him in years since he was dismissed by your family after demanding to speak to your father about a union . . . with you, as I told you before . . .”
I asked Leon then if I could borrow the journal to take to a mystic friend. I would help, as best I could. I would do my best, my utmost, to assuage the sins of my own ancestor, or else die trying, for Stephane’s sake; for Leon’s sake. For all of us.