In Defence of the Realm

Chapter 17

Jacob had shown me how to prepare the Penduliflora. To use it was very simple, paste the preparation behind the ear. Then call out, in my head, to the person I wanted to communicate with. That was it! So simple.

“Derek, there’s only fifteen minutes left to get to Belfairs Woods. You really have to be ready.”

“I’ve put everything in the satchel. I have the map. Can’t think of anything I’ve missed.”

“Good. Time to move then, lad.”

Jacob pulled a gas firelighter from another drawer in his workbench. I recognised the grey-handled device, with its steel tube; my mother used to use the same said thing to light the gas fire in our lounge.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“It’s to get us to where we’re going, lad. I need to generate a leap to take us to the portal’s entrance.”

“A leap?”

Jacob nodded, his brows were knotted. “Yes. How else do you think we’ll get to Belfairs Woods in the time we have?”

I looked at Jacob nonplussed.

“A leap of faith or a leap in time and space, it’s all the same thing, lad.”

“Sorry, Mr Brizelthwaite, I’m not used to this. It’s just not normal.”

“I know, lad. I know.” Jacob nodded. “Let me establish the bridge.”

My eyebrows rose. I felt I was about to see something beyond my comprehension. Something I’d certainly never seen before.

Jacob waved at me to follow. We left his workshop, wandered up the stairs, walked along the corridor and entered his office. He sat on his chair.

“Derek, we’re about to go to the portal’s entrance; I hope you understand what this means?”

I looked at the satchel I carried and I looked at my mentor. “Jacob, I know what’s planned for me. I know what I have to do. And I know that, potentially, I may not make it. And I know someone has to do this.” I shrugged. “And I think it’s me.”

Jacob put a hand on my shoulder. “You have all the skills, my lad. Don’t fear.”

He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a feather quill, a small strip of blotting paper and a pocket compass from the pen tray.

Placing the pocket compass in front of a framed picture of a woodland landscape, which had been on his desk since before the day I’d joined Markent, he waited for the needle to settle; then aligned the left and right edges of the picture frame with north and south.

Next he reached into the drawer beneath the pen tray and removed – nothing! Jacob then twisted an imaginary lid from an apparently invisible vessel. I didn’t know whether this process was mime, or, through some weird magic, I couldn’t see the pot.

Jacob placed the “invisible” lid on his desk and pulled the thin strip of blotting paper towards him. Then he picked up the feather quill and after brushing the feather between his thumb and forefinger he dipped the nib into the non-existent pot.

I was amazed. As Jacob tapped the nib on the edge of the make-believe pot I could hear a light metallic clink on a glass rim each time. All I could do was shake my head in awe.

Jacob started to write on the blotting paper and words formed at the base of the quill, no different from any other writing with real ink from a real pot.

shackles from here take us to there,

and cease to be our bonds,

the portal will open in the park,

where twin trees demarcate the long,

journey to the Conversion,

where an apprentice makes a change,

to be in the Other Realm,

so as to extinguish the dark flame.

He put the quill down and folded the blotting paper in two. The words were now encapsulated within the slither of absorbent material, but slowly partial curves and lines showed through exposing illegible text as the ink made its mark.

Jacob took the gas firelighter, clicked the ignition and melted some wax. It dripped onto the blotting paper making a seal.

Jacob looked at his watch and then looked at me. “Lad, only seven minutes left. Are you ready?”

As I shook my head, my mouth said, “Yes.”

Jacob took the sealed blotting paper and started to rub it against the surface of his framed woodland picture. With every circle he made the already dim periphery of his office, and my vision, became dimmer, dissolving the office and post room.

I could not see anything but a blackish background containing twinges of earthy brown, an image that changed position in the blackness whenever I blinked.

Then a path came to the fore followed by a moonlit golf course on my right and a hedgerow on my left. Forward there was a tarmac road; both of us were standing on it.

I turned to Jacob. “How on Earth?”

“Do I need to answer, Derek? I think you must be sure of the ‘how’, by now.”