The sun rose above the h orizon and turned the snowy mountainside gold.
Ethan and Darcy emerged from the trees on the western side of the Engelstad and stared up at the trail of footprints reaching north up a mountainside. There were two tracks, one of a man, and one of another, like a man’s but not, with obvious claw-shaped marks on its man-like feet and blood.
Lots of blood.
Ethan and Darcy walked carefully along the tracks. Ethan held his full-equipped Mossberg in his right hand with eight shells loaded and a black shotgun sling with sixteen additional shells, a sidesaddle with another six and a technical folding stock with five more. Underneath the barrel was a flashlight and above a night vision scope.
At his sides were his usual weapons including his left and right-handed black Berretta 90s, sword, dagger, and knapsack. It was unfortunately impossible to wear his armor completely under all his winter clothes but he did have his vest on.
Darcy was carrying Ethan’s Kel Tec SU-16 in her hands, now with a new long-ranged scope, a bipod, and four additional magazines of thirty rounds strapped to her side. She also carried her straight-bladed Revolutionary War-era sword at her left side which she had it enchanted after the incident in the cave.
Ethan was wearing a black jacket with an orange interior and orange stripe across his chest and down his arms, with a black beanie and black pants. Darcy wore an all-white jacket with gray pants and black boots. The jacket would blend beautifully into the white field around should she need to shoot something while hidden.
As Ethan knelt down, Darcy readied her gun and looked around. Ethan did not consider himself a great tracker by footprints although he had examined and memorized the footprints of dozens of monsters. The footprint he saw wasn’t familiar but, then again, he could be misreading what he was seeing.
Luckily, he didn’t need to be able to track very well nor did he need that to know what that particular monster looked like.
Darcy and her friends had some kind of outdoor picnic or something at the Anderson home in Edward’s Grove to cheer up their friend Teri Anderson whose depression was getting the better of her. Her parents had been killed in a car accident last year just a few months short of Ethan’s arrival and her sister was not in her life anymore.
Somewhere around midnight, a white ape-like thing leaped from the darkness, arms spread out, and rushed through several boys and girls, slashing randomly, and then tried to rip Teri Anderson apart. One hand caught her arm, another caught her face and both ripped off the flesh that it grabbed.
That was as far as it got before Johnny Le Sueur hit it across the head with a wooden chair. Someone came out with a gun after that, shot it in the shoulder, and it turned and charged out into the night with a scream.
For some insane reason, Johnny followed it. He went back to his car, took his sword out from his trunk and then went rushing off. He was an experienced hunter apparently and tracked it all the way from Edwards Grove, down along Charlotte St, and then all the way back up to the western side of Kurtwood Rd to its entrance into the Engelstad and then beyond.
Darcy was at the party but had no idea he had been doing that. She went with her friends to take Teri Anderson to the hospital who was crying, moaning, and saying, “Why does this keep happening to me?” over and over again.
She was still there with Teri Anderson around two in the morning when Johnny’s mother Nicole called her worriedly. He had apparently called her to tell her what he was doing and that she should “not worry” if he didn’t come home right away. It had the absolute opposite effect and she ended up getting terrified the instant he hung up. She called Darcy and begged her to get in touch with Ethan whose number she did not have.
The first thing Darcy did was knock on Ethan’s door and the next thing Ethan knew, he was up, armed, and scouring along the Engelstad looking for clues. They both knew it had to come from there so they moved along the forest line carefully and, eventually, found it. Or, more appropriately, Mickey found it flying along the west side and seeing a splatter of blood only his eyes could detect from the air.
The monster seemed to have made a stand at the entrance of the Engelstad and there was some blood splattered from a fight they presumably had. There was not enough to indicate death, however. If Johnny was dead, there would have been more blood and a very bloody trail, and if the thing was dead, Johnny would have said something and, presumably, gone home.
By the time they found that blood splatter, the sun had been rising.
“That can’t be the werewolf’s feet, can it?” asked Darcy.
“If last month was the first attack then not likely,” Ethan replied. “According to what I’ve read, it takes around a year for a werewolf to take full possession of a human being.”
“Yeah.” Zane stood up and looked at the trail slipping around the corner. “It’s interesting but werewolves…” He blinked and saw only one set of footprints. The human prints, Johnny’s presumably, weren’t there anymore. He blinked hard and then suddenly everything was back to the way they had been. “What the hell was that?”
“You saw that?” asked Darcy.
“You mean the footprints disappearing and reappearing?”
“Yeah. It’s something that happens around Johnny sometimes. Johnny knows but he won’t admit it and only people like us, people who can remember our past lives, can remember what we’ve seen.”
Ethan said nothing and felt a disturbing shiver run up his spine. He stood up slowly, face tense, and remembered something from his childhood.
Once, in the dark closet where his father would sometimes lock him, he had such a vision. He had been playing alone always when there had been a flash, blink or whatever just like the one he felt on that mountain, and there, sitting across from him, was his twin sister who had died during childbirth. The very one his mother proclaimed should have lived in his place.
He had stared at her face, tears roaming down his face, believing he was dreaming then and after.
Elaine Bartlett had been stillborn, although no one knew why as the doctor had said there had been every indication of life right up until birth. Ethan’s mother had always wanted a daughter and she had never failed to remind him of how sorry it made her that her daughter had died. Ethan’s father had wanted a son but he did not want a son that his own father seemed to have loved more so, aside from the few times Ethan was with his grandfather, he found his early childhood spent in loneliness and misery.
The girl across from him burst into tears. She crawled across to him, wrapped her arms around him, and started to cry so powerfully it came off as a wail. He could feel her. She was real and so real that his memory could still feel her on that mountain.
“She won’t let me leave!” she whimpered.
He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. “I won’t let her keep you!” he snarled and he felt that blink coming. He cried out, horrified at its coming, and when it passed, she was gone.
His father heard him cry out it and it had irritated him. So, he dragged Ethan out by his arm and beat him into unconsciousness. Whatever Ethan experienced, he had experienced alone, although he wondered about his mother sometimes…
“‘She won’t let me leave,’” Ethan whispered softly.
“What?” asked Darcy.
“Uh—something I heard a while ago back when I was about six.”
“Johnny followed this thing because of one of those flashes.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Every time I’ve seen one of those flashes, he always becomes very depressed and frustrated afterward. I don’t know why.”
Ethan looked around, seeing nothing in the snow around him for what seemed like forever. The trees had stopped behind him and the slope upward was mostly treeless.
“Does Johnny see his past lives too?”
“Yes but he won’t admit it for some reason. What I’ve told you is all I’ve ever gotten out of him and I’m a pretty girl who’s known him all his life.”
“What is this thing that happens exactly?” asked Ethan.
“I don’t know,” she replied honestly. “It just happens around Johnny sometimes. I’ve never seen it with anyone else.”
Ethan swallowed and felt a lump go down his throat.
“Are you alright?”
He blinked away the tears that were in his eyes. “I’m fine,” he lied. “Let’s do this.”
They began trekking up the mountain, slowly, eyes everywhere. They were rising in altitude as well, above Bartlett Bay, which, at a high enough vantage point, they could look back and see it.
It looked the same as it always had, right there as if this forest and mountain were natural in their placement in every way.
“I think it might be a yeti,” Ethan told Darcy.
“An ape with razor teeth is a yeti?”
“Yeah, probably. The tracks look ‘kind of’ human but too wide and barefoot with claws. It’s a possible print and the description your friends gave backs it up.”
“What is a yeti like exactly?” asked Darcy.
“I’ve never seen a photograph of one but I’ve read various accounts which all repute them to be monstrous. They rip and tear their victims to pieces and are nightmarish fast and can climb walls like spiders and other creepy things. They’re like—” he tried to think of the name “—Fluffy.”
“Fluffy?” asked Darcy with a strange expression. “They’re fluffy like a cute dog?”
“Like Fluffy the name,” Ethan replied. “That description for a yeti came in 1986 or so and has kind of grappled onto hunter lingo. It came from a survivor who had described it to be like the creature Fluffy which was a behind the scene’s name of the thing in the crate in that movie Creepshow.”
“You’re kidding,” she said incredulously.
“Nope,” said Ethan. He looked through Mickey’s eyes again and still saw nothing around him. “They’re kind of a like a sasquatch but different kind of like how the chimpanzee is different from the gorilla. Sasquatches, you know, Bigfoot, are dangerous, territorial and mean but they’re isolationistic, vegetarian and are generally harmless if left alone. Teddy Roosevelt made these national parks for more than just natural beauty. He was a reputed monster hunter and there is a sasquatch head still on display in his house on Sagamore Hill. Tried to rip his arms off or so the story goes.
“The yeti is also isolationistic but it’s a pure carnivore and really, really, mean if the stories are true. It’s more inclined to wander into human areas and ‘do things’ when hungry which could be very often. Bigfoots are vegetarian so hunger never brings them close to us. Both are said to natural experts in hiding.”
“Which means it could be anywhere.”
“Anywhere,” Ethan agreed and looked up around the mountainside up where the hills were. It couldn’t fly as far as he knew so it would leave trails anywhere it went but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be hiding in a tree or something, claws out, ready to pounce.
“How big is it?”
“I read it was like around three hundred pounds and about five feet tall,” Ethan told her. “They’ve got bear-like claws, teeth like piranha or something, but gorilla fangs which can use to rip open things like armor.”
“Do you think this yeti is actually what killed the woman on the boardwalk?”
“You might think so but it didn’t eat her. Yetis eat what they kill.”
“Hey,” said Darcy in a suddenly very different, more pleasant, voice. “Off-topic but did you really partner with Damien Simms?”
“You mean with the Game Street store? Yeah, it was an easy sell for me. He already had most of the money so I’m basically just partnered in because I own the property he wanted to use. It is a good deal too. I get discounts and free games and the local police will let me off because he’s the grandnephew of the captain of the police force. Why?”
“It’s just kind of cool,” Darcy told him with a smile. “Julian fucked over his grandfather several times. He had tried to open an electronics shop back in the eighties and nineties I think but Julian just fucked him out of it with that asshole lawyer of his. No reason I know of. His grandfather had bad depression and killed himself later on.”
“I didn’t know that one,” said Ethan. “I guess we can chalk that up to reason one thousand and one why someone would want to make that lawyer disappear.”
Reginald Stanley James disappearing was probably one of the best things that ever happened to Ethan. The more Ethan learned about the man, the more he learned to fear what he could, and very much would, have done to him in court. The man was diabolical when it came to the use of the law.
Through their link, Ethan asked Mickey, What do you got?
Confusion, Mickey replied. When Ethan looked through his eyes, he saw a huge, wide, open area of endless mountains and forests covered in a layer of white. If it’s white, it’s going to be fuck-hard to see.
“Yeah,” Ethan agreed.
Some of the spells that he had been given for his familiar were incredibly basic; however, the spell labeled as “See Through Familiar’s Senses” was a little more complex. It contained not only the functions that it implied but it also contained a mental communication and was capable of being held up by Mickey as well as Ethan, allowing Ethan to concentrate on other magic or his environment. While the spell was up, either one could will themselves to see out of the others’ eyes or hear out of their ears, and anything they said, the other could hear in their mind.
It was a little unsettling to have another being in one’s head and Ethan wasn’t surprised there was an alternate, more comfortable, communication spell packaged with it.
Ethan saw tracks tilted to their right, the east, and then downward along the slope where it merged into a path that moved along the mountainside they were climbing up. The slope they had been climbing continued past the tracks and path becoming a wall along its left side that rose up higher at each step beyond the place where the two met.
As they stepped onto the snow-covered path, Ethan walked across to the edge, leaned over, and peered down thousands of feet at a valley covered in trees.
“No one is ever finding your body if you fall down there,” said Darcy.
“Yeah,” Ethan agreed.
The path went along the mountain northward and southward, the tracks a little more difficult there but still visible and heading north. The wall was a constant as was and drop to their right, the path itself remaining about five to ten feet across. From the first, they could see the path tilted to the west and as they turned around that corner, they saw that the cliff wall had shot across the path a hundred feet or so away. It wasn’t an end, however, for there was a tunnel. Ethan thought it might not lead anywhere and they would find Johnny there, possibly dead, but then they reached the point on the path where they could see into the tunnel and they saw that it went straight through the wall and beyond.
To Ethan’s confusion, there was a gentle, swirling snowstorm on the other side of the tunnel even though there was no hint of it on the side he was on. He also saw something that looked like a sign just right of the tunnel, which he had seen many times and barely took notice of.
“That’s weird,” said Ethan as he stared beyond the tunnel at the storm.
“Weird is what we get in Bartlett Bay,” Darcy replied.
As they neared the cave entrance, Ethan examined the sign closely and was even more certain of what it was. He had seen ones like it dozens of times in California.
“Goblins,” said Darcy.
I hate Goblins, said Mickey through their link. He had a tendency to listen in to Ethan’s conversations when their communication spell was up.
The sign was simply a long wooden pole, like that from a broom or shovel shoved into the earth of the trail, with a rope tied at the top and strapped through three animals’ skulls set on top of each other. On the top was a wolf and the two below were deer, complete with horns.
“Do yetis eat goblins?” asked Darcy.
“I would think so,” Ethan replied. “Someone told me once that goblins worship monsters in the woods so maybe the yeti would spare the goblins if the goblins fed it.” He shrugged. “Who knows?”
Holy shit! cried Mickey suddenly. Ethan, you need to see this like right now!
“Keep your eyes peeled,” Ethan told Darcy as he moved into the vertex where the wall on the left turned and covered the trail. He held his gun tightly, leaned back into the wall, and looked out through Mickey’s eyes. “Holy shit!” he said instantly.
“What are you seeing?” asked Darcy.
“A castle,” he gasped. “A Tudor period castle.”
“Are you sure?”
“Pretty sure,” he replied with a shrug. He refocused on the castle, staring at it through the storm Mickey had flown casually into and the insanity and impossibility of what he was seeing were overwhelming him. Not only that, it was unquestionably familiar. It was white then, covered in snow, but he knew what he was looking at from somewhere.
And then he saw an archway, one he knew from his life as Ethan instead of Walter because it hadn’t been built yet in his memories, and he got dizzy and leaned up against the rock face.
“What is it?”
“Queen Anne’s Gateway,” said Ethan.
“Queen Anne’s what?” she asked.
Ethan saw the storm spinning around the castle starting to fade, the bricks turning bright red. The mountain began to disappear and the clouds of the storm parted to let pure sunlight stream across the sky. It was the original red beauty of a place few could imagine and fewer had ever experienced.
“It is Hampton Court,” he gasped. “Built by a cardinal, owned by a king, and the center of the universe for English aristocrats for centuries!”
Ethan shut his eyes for a moment, and—
* * *
—gasped in awe.
Walter looked around the courtyard with wide-eyed admiration, surrounded by red that was almost blinding in its intensity. There were gorgeous X shapes of black within, somehow emphasizing its redness even more.
It was so beautiful it as if permanently on fire. Walter had never seen anything like it in his life.
King Henry walked through the courtyard resplendent in a bright red jacket, his chest covered in gold and jewels with fashionable white leggings with gold garters tied extremely tight to make the most out of the shape of his gorgeous legs.
In the courtyard, bowing to the king, was the cardinal in his red.
Thomas Wolsey shared a wide and friendly smile with the king as the two embraced each other as respected friends.
It made Walter smile a bit as he looked at the two of them.
Thomas Wolsey and Henry were close for just having known each other for only half a decade or so. Wolsey rose to prominence because Henry VII’s counsellors, Richard Foxe, Bishop of Winchester, and William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had been overly cautious and conservative in their thinking of war.
It was Wolsey who had persuaded the Privy Council to war and soon enough, he had taken their place. It was that very war that empowered the King of Scotland to attack England only to then fail and die in the field of Flodden. Warham resigned as Lord Chancellor, evidently because the king pushed him to do so, and Wolsey was now in his place.
Wolsey was not a man to love, and not a man to control his pride either, but Walter found he did respect him despite not liking him. He was nothing like the king. He was overweight, without any athleticism, pro-French, and unattractive, which were counter to all the qualities Henry valued in his friends, yet friend he was and a good one. Walter was impressed. Not every son of a butcher could rise up to be the Chancellor of England.
The entourage with Henry VIII was as huge as always and Walter found himself was nowhere near the king. The Duke of Norfolk along with Charles Brandon, William Norris and others, were but Walter was closer to the back. His relationship with the king kept fluctuating and at that time, it was at a low point.
Wolsey was presently showing him the eight Roman heads carved into the walls suitable to the faith the cardinal was a part of.
Walter listened to him, still a scrawny man with black sleeves and doublet with an orange jacket and orange hose. His flat cap was the matching orange cap with black feathers on it.
He found everything Wolsey said to be fascinating and his palace an absolute marvel. It would be greater than any palace of the king, which might have upset Henry at one time, but there was no upsetting the king that day.
Henry was in a very joyous mood, extremely satisfied with himself. That was because he finally had a son. There was a major problem with that thought, and one that bothered Walter quite a bit, but that didn’t damper the king’s mood in the slightest.
The problem was, of course, that the boy’s mother was not the queen.
Henry Fitzroy was the son of King Henry VIII and his mistress, Elizabeth Blount, who was one of the queen’s gorgeous ladies in waiting. Shortly after birth, he announced the boy publicly to the queen’s horror although she had been lucky enough to have been spared being caught unaware and in public.
Walter, despite being in a dream castle under a bright, cloudless blue-skied morning, had an irrational feeling bubbling up behind him and ruining his day. He had this unshakable, and surely unrealistic feeling, that Queen Catherine and Princess Mary were being pushed aside despite one being the king’s wife and the other his only legitimate heir.
The queen was never brought out except for various official functions, dining with the king and the like and that also bothered Walter. Queens were supposed to be mistresses of the kingdom and mistresses did things that were more than just “official functions.”
Catherine had gained a great deal of weight and it evidently disgusted Henry who preferred slender women. Did that have something to do with it? Was that she was no longer the prettiest woman in England making a difference in her husband’s treatment of her? When he had last seen the queen, he thought he had detected a sad, lonesome and, possibly insecure, quality that had not been before the arrival of Henry Fitzroy.
He wouldn’t have been surprised that she felt that way. An acknowledged bastard who was a male was a slap to her face and a very public acknowledgment of her own perceived failure as a mother and wife.
Thoughts of that sort were making him very sad and he tried to distract himself from them with Wolsey’s new half-built palace. He put them out of his mind as he moved through the roofless halls and stared at the wonders all around him.
Unfortunately, he walked up a staircase and found himself once again reminded of the queen. He stared up at the stone arch and the symbol built within and became overwhelmed with a powerful, strange memory.
He could see the then princess of Spain dancing. She was skinny then, a fifteen-year-old girl, with reddish-blond hair and beauty like none in the world. He stared at the archway for a long time as he remembered that long-ago day as he was often prone to do.
Walter reached up and touched the pomegranate symbol of Queen Catherine of Aragon.
This is not how a queen should degrade, he thought. A queen like Catherine should end like Eleanor of Aquitaine. Old but respected as a veteran warrior queen.
He could still see her on her horse after they displayed the corpse of King James IV, every bit the warrior as her mother, Isabella of Castile, had been before her.
He turned around, walked down the stairs, and took his place back behind the king.
Edward Courtenay moved beside him, smiling at him with a strange, curly half-smile filled with smugness and arrogance. He was a handsome man, blond, and capable of luring young woman away from her marriage, Anne Chapmen just the first. As just a mere cousin of Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon, he sure thought highly of himself.
“How are you, Lord Walter?” he asked.
“Doing well,” Walter replied brusquely. He found being near the man unbearable.
“How is the family? Two girls, right?”
“Both are well, thank you,” he replied coldly.
“The blond is the prettiest, isn’t she? Doesn’t look anything like you, though.” Walter said nothing, frowning ahead, wanting to stab the man in the heart. “I have a son and a daughter, you know. A boy and a girl with my new wife.”
“I know,” replied Walter. He looked over at the dark-haired, quiet beauty beside him. She was a distant cousin named Mary Markham, the heiress to a great fortune that Edward was rumored to already be squandering. “I heard. Good for you.”
Lady Mary Courtenay was, as always, a cold-looking woman. Her body had tensed up at the reference to her husband’s bastard but she said nothing, which was very much in character with her.
“It’s a shame how some men have no sons to follow their name and only worthless brothers. With one a miserable failure and the other a sot, a man must feel the need to have a son to follow his legacy.”
Courtenay let out a long, tired sigh.
“I guess there is nothing to be done,” he added and then smiled widely. “It’s a good thing you have daughters. One of them, of course, is far more beautiful than you might have expected but then, I suppose, that’s because she takes after the mother.”
“She is my ward, Lord Courtenay, and she’s the only reason you still breathe.” He meant every word.
“Careful,” he said. “My cousin is close to the king. He shared a nursery with His Highness.”
“And the only man he hates you more than me.” The Earl of Devon was the smart one. He saw Edward Courtenay for who he was long ago. If only Walter had been half as wise, Anne Chapman might still be alive or at least have died with some kind of dignity.
And Edward Courtenay would be rotting in a grave somewhere instead of drunkenly spending Mary Markham’s fortune and, if rumor was to be believed, beating her as well.
“Blood is stronger than friendship,” Courtenay told him.
“The king hates you too,” Walter replied. He looked over toward a staircase at an archway the king was looking at with Thomas Wolsey. It had a stone display of a pomegranate, the symbol of Queen Catherine of Aragon, intermixed with the rose of King Henry VIII. “The queen too.”
“That doesn’t hold quite as much weight as it once did, do you not think?”
“Courtenay,” he said. “Someday, you’re going to going to go too far, and I will be there when you do.”
That just made him laugh. Clearly, he did not believe him.
* * *
The Hampton Court in the mountains wasn’t red.
It was inverted in color, black with red Xs instead of red with black Xs, but otherwise still Hampton Court. He saw Anne Boleyn’s Gateway greeting him along with the great court with the clock in the center and the great hall and everything else. It was missing the later changes created by new kings leaving it different from the Hampton Court across the Atlantic. It was a copy of it from some earlier age.
There were other differences as well. It was built alongside a mountain, for one, and there were extra buildings as well, separated from the palace and made of some different grayer kind of stone. Notably five towers of some earlier, medieval age that didn’t even remotely fit in with the Tudor period palace.
Ethan blinked, stepped away from the wall, and looked down at the valley. Some distance down, he saw a river had become a waterfall but it was so frozen over that it only stretched down half a hundred feet or so in the form of one large, solid block with jagged points. Beyond it, the trees and jagged hills, he thought he saw the beginnings of the palace hidden there.
“Oh shit!” Mickey said suddenly.
“What—” He saw it then, a white shape creeping on the cliff above them “—oh.” He moved back near the wall, trying to see it with his eyes but could not, and then moved into the cave carefully. “Play it cool, Darcy.”
“What?” she asked.
“It’s on the cliffs above us. We can’t see it but it’s trailing us.”
She flipped the rifle’s safety off. “Where does this path lead?”
Mickey heard that and Ethan felt him tugging and looked through his eyes. He saw that beyond the cave, the path rose up and forked with the path continuing north way and a bridge pointed to the east in another spreading a hundred feet across a drop of thousands to connect to another path. That path went straight east toward one of the gray towers on the outskirts of the inverted Hampton Court.
Mickey looked back and the yeti was gone. Oops, he said.
“He lost the yeti,” said Ethan.
“Great,” said Darcy.
I’m sorry. I blinked and he was gone.
“It might be onto you,” Ethan told him. “Don’t land remotely anywhere near where it might be. In fact, don’t even fly low to the ground.”
Gotcha, said Mickey.
Ethan blinked, stepped away from the wall, and moved up beside her. “We’ll have to head through the storm but there is a bridge across the canyon past this cave. I’m guessing Johnny went there.”
“There are only two entrances,” said Darcy. “If it is going to hit us in here, it’ll enter through the front or the back.”
“Got it,” Ethan replied. He focused on the back, she the front, both with their guns ready. They made it halfway through before they realized there was a narrow alcove in the stone wall on their left. It was dark, shaded against the light, but they could clearly see nothing was moving in there.
Ethan flipped on the flashlight on the shotgun, raised it up, and tensed.
In the alcove, of which was maybe as large ten by ten feet at the most, were a huge pile of bones. They were mostly in a corner but bones were everywhere. Moving the light carefully around, they could see most were animals, some goblins or the larger hobgoblins judging by the shape but Ethan counted at least half a dozen human skulls.
Nothing in there was fresh which might have been an indication that the yeti had not eaten in a while. A hungry yeti was far less likely to run and hide when two yummy pieces of meat came walking by.
“This is bad,” said Ethan.
“Yeah,” said Darcy. “It hasn’t eaten in a while. It’ll be hungry.” She kept her peripherals on the entrances. “Why did it go after Teri when there were half a dozen people who were closer?”
“That is the question, isn’t it? I honestly have no idea why.”
The thing they were hunting had gone south on Kurtwood, walked across the tree line of the Engelstad on Charlotte St, and then made a straight line through the abandoned roads around the old Charlotte Church straight toward Edward’s Grove. It then jumped the tall stone wall, moved between the houses like a ghost, and then made its way to a seemingly random Victorian house built along Lake Chelsea to rush through several people and attack one slender, small girl.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Darcy.
“We’re not going to figure it out here,” Ethan replied. “We need to keep going. Show me the cave, Mickey.”
Seeing through Mickey’s eyes, he saw both entrances and around it, and nothing was nearby. There was no sign of the yeti anywhere and that made Ethan very nervous. It was nearby, somewhere, and he would much rather know for sure than wonder. He did not believe for an instant that the yeti had fled.
“Fucking Johnny,” Darcy said. “What was he thinking chasing this thing alone?”
“It doesn’t sound like him at all,” Ethan replied. He moved past her, slipped out the cave, and pointed his shotgun up at the cliffs above him. “Jesus!” he cried as the wind blew into his face and sent ice-cold winter into his face. Being from Southern California meant he was not prepared for the cold in the slightest but somehow he managed to put it out of his mind. He examined the cliff face and trail but the storm destroyed any prints that were there.
Darcy stepped out behind him and the two started up the winding road toward the long bridge that extended across the canyon at one of the few places close enough for a bridge to be built across.
* * *
Neither they nor the bird saw it in its hiding place as it listened to them.
It bared its long, sharp teeth hungrily, a type of mouth similar to ape’s but not quite exactly so. Claws of black stuck out of its white-furred hands and its yellow eyes narrowed in hunger, hate and rage.
It hid itself in the snow, its fur blending perfectly, and listened to the voices as they dared to wander through its lair and home. The jabbering of their tongues meant nothing to it except that it made its mouth water.
It hungered but the manfood it really wanted was in the big hard place and out of reach. It would not go near there for anything.
It smelled the new ones and the firesticks they carried, and it moved slowly and carefully above them. It avoided the gaze of the birdfood above, stopped past them as they were in the cave and then felt the pain of its face where the first manfood had sliced it with its long, specialness claw. That was the worst wound but its long specialness claw had landed across its chest as well when they met at the long walk across the fall.
It lowered its hand and snarled quietly to itself.
Firesticks scared it but, as a rule, if it got close enough, they didn’t help. Unfortunately, they too had long claws. It sensed the same specialness in them as well and coming off the other manfood, which meant it could do unpredictable specialness things on its own. The other one, the female manfood, had as little fear as the other and that was unusual in manfood females.
It was not frightened of them but it was cautious. It would eat well tonight if it could do its job and it very much wanted to.
But it had to be careful and wait for just the right moment.
* * *
There were no footprints leading up to the bridge due to the storm but they could see a skirmish that had taken place there. There was blood, mostly fresh, spread across the bridge, half-buried in the snow where the bridge ended.
The bridge had runes carved onto it but Ethan could see that all they did was keep the snow off and keep the bridge from naturally degrading. It did not remove the blood, however, because the magic was basic and only protected against the natural weather. Ethan found it to be an impressive, hundred-foot-long structure considering when it was built and it felt surprisingly safe considering what it was spread across.
Ethan pointed his shotgun across the bridge with one hand and said, “I think he went that way.”
“What makes you say that?” asked Darcy.
“I don’t think he came up here looking for the yeti,” he said. “Why would he? Is he known for being a reckless hunter?”
“No,” she replied.
“Therefore, unless he went up the mountain further behind us, he’s looking for something else and the only ‘something else’ is that palace beyond. One of the towers connects to the path through the trees.”
She moved up beside him, her gun held tightly in both hands, and nodded soberly. Her face was calm despite the danger and a lock of gold hair hanging down near next to her right eye. “Makes sense. Let’s head across and see if we can catch his trail.”
They started across the bridge very carefully. It felt solid as any bridge, a perfect structure, but halfway, Ethan felt it coming, that blink thing again, and he and Darcy shared a look as something floated through their minds. They both moved ahead, rushing quickly, and made it to the other side.
On the left was a steep hill, the right was an almost impenetrable set of trees that led to an edge and a drop of a hundred feet or so to where Hampton Court awaited.
Ethan went over to a tree, pressed his back to it, and took a deep breath. He blinked but then nothing happened. He leaned back, stared up at the ice crystals formed on the branches and leaves and then felt the snow drop down onto his forehead. The coldness of it helped him regain his senses.
“What the hell was that?” He had a flash of something, something like a dream, where he saw his sister but a woman now, young and beautiful with his mother’s face but not her insanity, approaching him on Sorcery and Stick Farm.
“She was there,” gasped Darcy. “I saw her.” She looked at Ethan. “Johnny’s girlfriend.”
“My dead infant sister is Johnny’s girlfriend?”
“I knew she was connected to you!” she said. “I sensed it! She has your eyes and your hair!” She let a breath of air that came like white smoke in the air. “It hit our memories this time. She was at the party but she stabbed it in the chest with a long, glowing, purple spear that looked like a hologram or something.”
“Psi-sword,” said Ethan softly.
“Psychics have them. I only know because my mother told me when she went mad. It’s like an object formed out of telekinesis or something.” Fraternal twins, he thought. I took after my father and she took after our mother. Son of Chaos, Daughter of Balance.
“Becky Masterson never showed me that.”
“Psychics don’t show you shit,” Ethan replied. “They’re a seriously secretive bunch.”
“When your sister was there, it never got to Teri.”
“This is getting weird,” said Ethan and he pushed away from the tree. “And I don’t like it.”
“I’ve never felt it like this before,” she told him. “Never this intense. It’s like it’s building to something.”
“Let’s just get going,” he told her. He looked through Mickey’s eyes again and, again, saw no sign of the yeti.
“Tell me about your mother,” said Darcy.
“No,” he replied curtly.
“She was psychic like Masterson. That’s how you know what psychics can do.” She seemed oddly interested and Ethan turned to look at her.
“Look, my father was a psychopath. My mother was mad. She told me things psychics don’t tell people because she was mad and she was powerful. I saw her lift a couch off the ground with her telekinesis and chop wood with a psi-sword axe out camping once. She died completely insane.”
Ethan didn’t want to tell her more and was on the urge of saying, “Now the fuck up about it,” but then said something else.
“She was an unpleasant mix of Carrie White and a Jewish version of her mother. The thing is—” he sighed “—she used to talk as if Ellie, the nickname she gave my dead sister, was in the room. I thought she was just crazy but I’ve seen her too and now you have and since my mother is no longer alive to plant things in our brains, I think it might something more.”
“What did she tell you exactly?”
“Shit that’s better not repeated.” John Valentine, he thought. God, the day she told him that name, he had nightmares that he screamed awake from for a month. In them, he was alone in the universe, and the screams came from the knowledge he would never die and live there forever.
Before she told him that name, the only time that name meant anything was from Twilight Zone: The Movie and was the new name of the poor bastard who saw a gremlin on the wing of an airplane. In reality, the name was associated with some kind of psychic boogeyman the very mention of which psychics gasp in horror.
When he had mentioned the name to Becky Masterson, he saw that fear in her eyes and he had no intention of ever bringing it up again.
Something else his mother said seemed to have reached him again on that mountain. She had once said, “A monster stole your sister away.” She was mad, that much was true, but she was in one of her stable times when she said that. “It stole her soul right of my wound and keeps her in a dark castle in the woods.”
Elliot put it out of his mind and started walking without a word.
“Are you okay?” asked Darcy.
“I think the yeti knows it’s being watched by Mickey,” said Ethan softly. “I think it’s waiting to come after us where Mickey can’t see it and it can sneak up on us.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I don’t know. I just got a feeling.”
The tower that led down to Hampton Court was a genuine medieval-looking tower, the kind one found in old remaining gray castles built around Europe built in an age where octagonal towers were possible but perfect cylinders were not.
A single, solitary heavy oaken door faced them and it was leaning slightly open toward the inside.
“Does Johnny have anything magical?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “Had his sword done with mine after that shit in the church. Trevor Matthews at Bridgeport did the job.”
“He’s good,” said Ethan. He had gone to a variety of magicians in the area a while back and tried to purchase spells and enchantments but none of them would sell any to him. Matthews was one of the more respected magicians in the area and had a close intimate relationship with Jen Everson and her family. He even a crow familiar from the Everson farm that he named Peter after Peter Lorre.
Ethan reached out to push the door open wider and—
A white-furred arm shot out from the doorway and stuck its claws into his chest. They were almost like that of a cat, hooking into his armor easily, and catching him instantly.
Darcy fired without hesitation, the bullet blowing through the thing’s arm, and then there was a cry that sounded somewhere between cat and ape before Ethan was yanked inward. As he was thrown across a stone floor into a stone rail, the yeti slammed the door shut, and turned to face him.
The hit was almost hard enough to break bone, the shotgun flying from his hand, and Ethan’s chest exploded in agony.
He whipped out his sword, sliced the yeti across the chest as he turned, and it let out a scream of rage as it stumbled backward. It made a large X shape on its chest where someone else had cut it violently.
In that instant, he saw it clearly.
A snow-white ape-like thing, about five feet tall, so thick with muscle it looked almost square, with an ape’s elongated head, and a mouth full of long teeth with pointed ends. Someone, possibly Johnny, had slashed it across the face along a diagonal narrowly missing its left eye but cutting it deep.
Its yellow eyes stared into his, narrowed and angry as Ethan raised his blade, and for a split second, Ethan was certain it was going to rush at his blade.
The door behind it opened enough for Darcy to fire through and it leaped without hesitation over the stone railing left of Ethan. Ethan raised his blade up as its left leg reached for his throat and slice it across its shin as it went over.
Ethan spun around, leaned over the rail and watched it disappear from sight down the stairwell. A moment later, Darcy was next to him, eyes wide.
“I shot it in the arm and it didn’t even blink!” she hissed. Ethan sheathed his blade, the blood having magically slipped off, and then grabbed his shotgun. “I’m going to need armor-piercing to really hurt this monster.” She sighed. “What the fuck is Johnny thinking?”
“It’s really not like him,” said Ethan.
“You sound just like every girl who knows him,” she replied bitterly. “He’s a good guy but he gets like this when there are those flashes.”
“Just don’t lower your guard,” said Ethan. “Fluffy might not have left and could be setting a trap for us.”
“Is it that smart?”
“Smart enough to get in front of us,” he replied and he readied the gun in both hands and looked around.
It was a simple, hollow tower and they were at its very top. At the door, there was a platform complete with the stone rail that he had been thrown into. From there, in a counterclockwise manner, a staircase descended downward and they could see that it was unbroken as it went all the way to its bottom a hundred or so feet below. The interior was lit by small openings spread along the south and east sides. The other sides were merged into the mountains.
“Best not to take chances.” Ethan then gestured toward the stairs and the human-like tracks with his head. “Johnny went this way.”
“The fucking idiot,” she replied bitterly.
They started down the unbroken staircase built on the outer wall of the tower beginning at the door they entered. There were a few platforms but Ethan didn’t see Fluffy on any of them nor did they see any adjacent doors, hallways or alcoves.
As they moved down, Ethan saw the world flicker again. “Oh great. Here we go ag—”
Ethan was walking down a hill, his feet stomping through the snow. He looked around, saw Johnny on his right wearing a dark blue jacket, armed with a sword, and on his left was Darcy, also armed with a sword. They looked at each other, confused, and then heard a voice.
“Did you find it?” asked a voice below and they saw it was a woman.
Ethan’s eyes went wide and the words, “You’re not supposed to be up here,” were on his lips as if his words were predetermined. “Ellie,” was what he said instead, his voice barely above a whisper, and he saw it really was his sister Ellie, dressed in a dark purple jacket, a grown-up version of the child he had seen in the closet, beautiful, mature, and very much like his mother.
“Ellie?” asked Johnny. He stumbled forward and she looked up at him in surprise and then gasped. He moved desperately toward her. “Ellie!” he cried as if he suddenly understood some great thing involving her name.
Ethan and Darcy shared a look of confusion and then looked back.
Ellie’s eyes turned to Ethan and then back to Johnny, her face full of horror. “Find me!” she cried. “Find me in the black tower!”
Johnny reached for her but just before his arms came around her the world began to shake and—
Ethan fell against the wall along the stairs and gasped. “Did you see that?”
“Ellie is your sister! I knew her!” Darcy swallowed. “It was so weird.”
“Let’s just keep going,” Ethan said bitterly.
They reached the bottom of the stairs, saw no sign of the yeti, but did see another open oaken door. Ethan looked through Mickey’s eyes and Ethan was not surprised to find he couldn’t see any sign of the yeti.
Ethan stepped out of the tower, rested his gun on his shoulder, and looked through the trees toward one of the extended buildings beyond the inverted Hampton Court Palace. He had no idea how he knew it but he knew he was looking at the tennis court where Henry VIII and Walter Kent, if it had been the real one anyway, had played together half a millennia ago.
A window was broken and, although there were no tracks due to the storm, it seemed clear that was where Johnny went. It was the closest window in a straight line from the tower’s door. The two of them went over to the window, slipped inside, and entered the tennis court at the back and slowly proceeded forward.
It was very quiet in the inverted Hampton Court Palace. The storm didn’t make much noise even outside, it was only a light storm, but it was still very cold. It would have been cold as most buildings in the snow without a heater would be, but it felt colder than the outside if such a thing was possible.
Ethan cast his Sense Magic spell and runes appeared along the walls literally everywhere. Near the ceiling, he could see several elemental runes that he gathered kept the interior temperature freezing for some reason, but there were a lot of other runes he did not understand in the remotest.
They stepped onto a cherry red wooden floor with black walls on either side below the long rows of windows. On their right side, there were boxed-off areas in matching black where spectators would watch and probably gamble on who would win.
“Is this a tennis court?” Darcy asked as she stepped out.
“Yeah,” said Ethan. “It was what they call royal or real tennis. I’ve got no memories yet of this but I will. In my visions, Cardinal Wolsey is still building this place.”
“Who’s Cardinal Wolsey?” she asked.
“The king’s chancellor,” he said and he looked up at the windows. “Thomas Wolsey was the son of a butcher who rose up to be the second most powerful man in England. He built this with the immense wealth he got from countless honors given to him by the king. Later, Henry came to possess it and he improved on it in various ways.” Ethan found it all extremely familiar. “Built the great hall, expanded the kitchens, and a bunch of other things. That’s going to be fun to see—”
Darcy caught his shoulder, turned him to the right, and showed him the spectator boxes blocked off by a gentle cloth. There were figures standing within the shadowed area, all very pale, almost whitish-blue in skin color, and dressed in a variety of odd outfits.
“Those are not statues,” said Ethan softly.
“No,” agreed Darcy. “They’re corpses of people frozen solid.”
The people within did not come from any specific time period. Some looked like 19th-century people, one of them some kind of lumberjack, the other a well-dressed Southern Belle right out of Gone with the Wind. A couple of them looked like they were from the 1950s, a dark-haired boy in a leather jacket and a redheaded girl in a poodle skirt with a ponytail. Another male looked right out the 1980s complete with a white tieless suit right out of Miami Vice and dark, slick 1980s hair long on the top, sides and back.
Their expressions were strangely neutral, their eyes open, their bodies caught in the act of reacting to something spectacular in the court.
“That is fucking weird,” said Ethan.
“I guess we know why it’s so damn cold in here,” said Darcy.
They slipped beyond the court quietly and entered a slender hall that led to the rest of the palace. The instant they stepped into it, they saw the figure at the other end wearing a blue jacket and leaning against the wall at the back. He was very tired and breathing heavily.
The figure turned back around and slammed himself into the door with a loud bam sound, completely unaware they were approaching him. He moved back, threw himself at the door, and then grunted when the door remained closed.
He groaned, leaned against the door, and breathed.
“What the fuck Johnny?” hissed Darcy and he looked back and watched them walk among the frozen people standing like guards on either side of the hall.
“Oh, hey guys,” he said as they approached him. His upper left shoulder was bloody, he was incredibly pale and he looked exhausted. He was wearing a custom-looking 16th century medieval French arming longsword with the Templar emblem on its pommel and a red and black color scheme grip.
“Have you been doing this all night?” asked Darcy.
“Since I got here, yeah,” he replied and he turned and tried to shoulder open the door again. “It’s frozen!” he snarled. “And so are the windows.”
Ethan stepped up to the door and looked it over. It was definitely frozen and so were the windows. He moved up to the door, eyes narrowed as he heard something, and then tilted his head with his ear closer to the door.
“Help me,” whispered a voice from the other side.
“Ellie,” said Ethan softly.
“You saw her too!” said Johnny suddenly, his eyes blazing. Ethan looked at him, opened his mouth to speak, but said nothing. “Who is she to you?”
“My, uh—” he hesitated “—sister. She was stillborn.”
“She’s dead?” he asked, his face strange and worried.
“I think so,” Ethan replied but he saw her in the closet and on the hill. And he thought again but how his mother spoke to Ellie as if she was there and what she told him. ‘A monster stole your sister away.’
“You’ve seen her too.”
“So have I,” said Darcy and she elbowed the door. “But she’s not in there.”
“Don’t to be sure.”
“We’re not,” Ethan replied and tossed him a healing potion. He drank it and adjusted his arm to test how well it healed. The wound closed up and seemed fine but, oddly, his paleness did not.
He was about to start shoving himself against the door again when Darcy said, “She’s not in there, Johnny.”
“She might be. I can hear her on the other side.” He gestured with his head toward Ethan. “So can he.”
“You’ve been pounding on this door all night long,” said Darcy. “You’re never getting through—”
“Well, not alone, but we have a magician now—”
“Johnny!” hissed Darcy. “That door is never opening—” There was a distinct crack and they turned to see the door into Hampton Court Palace casually slipping open. “What the hell is going on?”
Ethan was about to say something when he heard the sound of Ellie whimpering on the other side. Johnny stepped through without hesitation and Ethan and Darcy moved in afterward.
A second afterward, the door slammed shut behind them. They looked back and though shut, it didn’t freeze over. Several runes were glowing around them and Ethan only recognized one or two as runes designed to reinforce some other spell.
“More alter reality shit,” said Ethan bitterly.
“What do you mean?” asked Darcy.
“I mean-where are you going?”
Johnny was already walking down the hall. “I’m going to find my girl,” he said simply. “You coming along, Bartlett? She’s your sister.”
“Stop!” ordered Darcy.
Johnny stopped, sighed, and faced them. Looking into his face, Ethan saw a kind of desperation and anxiety he had never seen there before. Johnny seemed to have had a will of iron by the way he was controlling but it was there as clear as day.
“Slowly,” said Ethan. “We don’t know what is waiting for us in here?”
Johnny swallowed but said nothing.
“Who lives here?” asked Darcy. “Who built this place?” She looked around and looked back. “Who maintains it?” She walked over to a statue of a woman in a 1920s flapper outfit. “Who are these people?”
“Tell us what is happening with you,” said Ethan.
Johnny looked down the hall and then back and his hands opened and closed nervously. He hesitated but then said bitterly, “I was a Frenchman named Alcuin once. I had a bride and we were in love. It was simple and it was wonderful. A story right out of a chivalric romance complete with a handsome knight and a lady faire.”
“When was this?” asked Darcy.
“When I was in the service of Emperor Charlemagne. Just like you two, I remember everything. Right up until I was killed on my wedding day.” He swallowed. “I’ve been reincarnated more than once since there.”
“Same,” said Ethan.
“Not like you. I keep coming back and I keep looking for my bride. I cannot remember my other lives clearly, not like I can Alcuin’s. It’s like I get reincarnated to finish that first life but it never happens and then I die young and it seems to fade away like a dream. A half-life.” His face fell. “In all my lives, I’ve never seen thirty. Maybe not even twenty-five. I was twenty when I died as Alcuin.
“Your sister, Ellie, is my bride. She was taken from me by a dark queen on a dark night in the year 807 AD. I was murdered in front of her that same night by a knight made of darkness.” He looked deeply disturbed. “I don’t remember much about his lives after that but I know I’ve always been some kind of warrior and one of them was a Templar.” He pulled half of his blade out to show Ethan the symbol on his pommel. “I imagine it was glorious but it didn’t help me live any longer,” he said in a hard voice and then angrily shoved his sword back into its sheath.
“You and I shared everything as children,” said Darcy sadly. “Why didn’t you tell me this?”
“That I was going to slip into a coma or have a heart attack and die by age twenty-two and watch you pity me for the rest of my life? Lot of good that’s going to do.” He started to step backward in direction of onward. “If she’s here,” he added with intense, almost insane, eyes, “I intend to find her.”
“I’m in,” said Ethan. “If my sister is somehow alive in all this, I want to find her.”
“Why not?” said Darcy with a shrug.
Johnny turned around and Ethan could see him battling his emotions and, shockingly enough, winning. “Her name was Adélaïde,” he added.
Ethan readied his shotgun and moved ahead of him. “I know this palace,” he said.
“How?” asked Johnny.
“It’s a copy of Hampton Court,” he replied. “I haven’t experienced much in memories but I can still remember it somehow. It’s like I relearned it just watching a program on BBC.”
Ethan decided to head toward the front of the palace. No reason but he figured a “show” of some sort would be waiting for them in the Great Hall or the courtyard and both of them were in the direction of “front.”
Adélaïde, he thought and thought about his sister. She had the same eyes as him, a thing his child-self recognized, and it had brought home how deeply lonely he had been. He felt himself getting distracted by those thoughts and he tried to push them out of his mind.
They passed the Queen’s Long Gallery, which had a lot more of those statues in poses like trophies, headed right and downward through what might have been a nursery. There were frozen children in that place in positions of playing, all of them in nightgowns from the 19th century.
As they slipped through, they passed a man was there standing overlooking the children in images of playing. Ethan stopped and stared at him with wide eyes.
“We need to keep going,” said Johnny.
“I know this guy,” Ethan said. It was a man dressed as a hunter and carrying a 19th-century hunting rifle. He wore a jacket with two lines of buttons at the front and a heavy, fur-lined coat reaching to his ankles with a matching hat and dark gloves. His face was so unmistakably familiar that it was outright disturbing.
“Who is he?” asked Darcy.
“Arthur Gurney,” Ethan said softly.
“Gurney?” asked Darcy and she looked at the statue. “I don’t know any Arthur.”
“He disappeared in the eighteen hundreds. He went out hunting one weekend and never came home. It was said that he got drunk and that he must have frozen out in the winter but they never found the body. That was just before the American Civil War.”
The Gurneys were close to Thomas’s father for some asinine reason, even after that incident with the house and the slaves. Ethan could remember seeing Arthur at various get-togethers: a man who was stern, quiet, and rumored to have the same kind of hair-trigger temper as his uncle who murdered his own slaves when Connecticut officially made them free.
He turned away and the three of them made their way onward, into the privy kitchens, and that was when they heard music.
All three of them shared a look of surprise at the sound of an organ and various other instruments playing an elegant rendition of a familiar tune somewhere nearby in the palace.
“I know that song,” said Ethan. “It’s called ‘Greensleeves.’”
“Yeah,” agreed Johnny. “I heard it at camp when I was a kid.”
“I remember,” Darcy said. “We sang it together by a campfire. It was so cheesy.”
“A woman without romance is such a sad thing,” said Ethan with a weak smile.
“I don’t believe in following stereotypes,” said Darcy but she smiled as she said it. Her smile dropped down shortly afterward. “Who’s playing it?”
“Maybe a recording,” said Johnny. “It’s not an ape, that’s for sure.”
Ethan could not recall a time ever hearing that song as Walter but he had heard it as Ethan often enough. The song was probably the oldest in the English language and he had always been interested in that time period.
It was Elizabethan he recalled reading somewhere.
“Adélaïde!” Johnny gasped. He was wrestling some more emotions but he was still in control. It was been intense as it made sweat run down his face despite the cold. “Get your guns ready.”
“This feels like a trap,” said Darcy.
“Possibly but I don’t care,” Johnny replied. “I’m going to find my bride and then I’m going to get answers.”
Ethan held his shotgun tightly in both hands and started to backtrack. “This place is a fucking maze,” he said. “I know where to go, though.”
“The Great Hall.” He cut through a building called the council chamber, took a right down the Haunted Gallery past the Round Kitchen Court and entered the Great Watching Chamber.
As they entered, it was lit entirely by natural light, a wood-floored rectangular room with tapestries on either side and a ceiling with a web-like fashion of connecting golden bars and making the shape of diamonds. Some of them had family crests within them, many of which were familiar.
The west was an entrance toward the dais of the Great Hall where “Greensleeves” was being played on an organ.
Ethan opened the door quietly, pushing it open, and looked out into the Great Hall. He immediately felt like he had gone back in time.
There were two walls with huge tapestries below regular windows above stretching across the length of the hall. On both ends were stained glass windows and there were huge eaves along the top of the ceiling that were unmistakable to Ethan. The place was filled with snowy light and the long, wooden floor had statues lining the sides before the tapestries.
At the end, against the wooden walls with two doorways, called the Screen’s Passage, there was an organ and a well-dressed woman in white was playing “Greensleeves” upon it with her back turned to them.
Ethan felt bright sunlight on a summer day leak through the suddenly warm hall. Within the center of the room, beyond the dais where he stood, Tudor gentlemen and ladies dance with each other. The women wore vibrant colors, their gowns shining vibrantly in the cold light, their hairs hidden up in headdresses that only showed the very front of their hair and their breasts shoved up with corsets called stomachers.
The men he noticed secondly, wearing their hats with feathers, vibrant coats over shirts with sleeves, doublets and tight hoses showing off their legs with their small shoes. He had worn them himself, his favorite system of orange over black, but they were all so bright. Brighter than he had ever remembered.
Then they parted and he looked at the figure in white with her hair tied up within a French hood, her dress squeezed to her shape with a stomacher, and her hands, which he saw to be almost snow-white, were playing eloquently. She seemed to become clearer as he approached revealing her to be a woman in a white Tudor dress with bluish-white skin.
Her voice suddenly came out as musical, loving and warm. She sang slowly but powerfully, “‘Alas, my love, you do me wrong, to cast me off discourteously; for I have loved you well and long, delighting in your company.”
Ethan did not remember stepping off the dais, nor did he recall walking down the hundred-foot hall to reach her. He seemed to have floated across the floor, his eyes captivated on the woman before him. As he neared her, his eyes grew wider.
He knew her! From somewhere, he knew her!
He saw at the edge of his vision that, though the figures still were a position of dancing but they were not moving nor were they particularly colorful.
They were dead just like all the others.
The only one that wasn’t dead was the woman playing the organ although she looked little different.
“‘Greensleeves was all my joy; Greensleeves was my delight. Greensleeves was my heart of gold and who but my lady Greensleeves?’”
Ethan felt her voice flowing through him like an icy wind and caution was there but it was overwhelmed by a sense of unfathomable pity. He felt a strange sense of loneliness from the woman’s voice that seemed almost to overwhelm all other sensations in its intensity.
“‘Your vows you’ve broken, like my heart! Oh, why did you so enrapture me? Now I remain in a world apart but my heart remains in captivity.’”
She let go of the instrument and it continued to play by itself. She stood up, tilted her head over her shoulder, and a beautiful, demure, gentle face stared at him with the qualities of a modern-day model set on a short, petite body. Her hair was dark, barely visible under her headdress, as was famously French and just at the edge of where risqué became scandalous.
She walked up to him, the music playing as strongly and powerfully as before. Her eyes, a vibrant, lively blue, seemed glazed over with that of the dead even as it looked upon him with clear eagerness.
He only marginally recognized her face and he quickly lowered his eyes to see if someone had sewn her neck back on.
That made her laugh, fully knowing exactly whom he was thinking of, and it was a strange, beautiful sound that echoed like music throughout the hall. She looked into his eyes, smiled sadly, and the only strong feeling that came over him was still pity although he had no idea why.
She sang another verse of the “Greensleeves” chorus that began with “Greensleeves is all my joy.”
Ethan opened his mouth, hesitated, and then opened it again. What came out made the woman step back in shock and emotion.
He sang, “‘I have been ready at your hand, to grant whatever you would crave. I have both wagered life and land, your love and good-will for to have.’”
They sang the chorus again and then she sang the next section.
“If you intend thus to disdain, it does the more enrapture me. And even so, I still remain, a lover in captivity.”
She then curtsied very low before him as though he were a lord and he bowed back as though she were a lady.
She moved up to him and they began to dance. Her hand touched his for an instant, and though his hands were gloved, he could feel an intense enough cold coming from her skin to make him shake his hands as if he had just grabbed snow barehanded.
“Greensleeves” did not stop playing from other quieter and unseen sources but the organ stopped and the time for singing was over.
“Do you remember me, Walter?” she asked with a clear English accent. Something about her voice outside of the song sent shivers of ice up his spine. It made him think of a door opened in on a snowy day sending in a wave of cold through some heated home.
“I think I do,” he replied.
“I dreamed of you often in my long sleep,” she said. “In them, I am as I was, and you love me as you loved my sister, protecting me from the cruelties of the world and battling for my happiness and contentment.”
“Sister?” A name came to him but he had no idea why it came to him then. “Courtenay.”
She smiled gently at him, bit her lower lip in a cute, shy way and said, “I’ve been waiting a long time to see you again, Walter.”
“How?” he asked.
Her smile turned sad but still remained a smile. “How lovely you are, Dear Walter,” she said sadly. “The women of the court mocked you until that day you showed your love to my sister and then loved you every day onward. Girls never know what they have until they’ve lost it and men like you are some of the greatest treasures of all.”
“Why did you summon Johnny here?”
“It was just the only way to see you with my own eyes,” she said simply. “I knew you would follow him and he would follow your sister anywhere.” She was staring into his eyes in a sad, forlorn way that spoke of desperation. “I’m not the monster I appear to be. I want you to know that.”
“I don’t know if I do.”
“It is alright.” Her face turned into a strange, almost content smile. “I have always loved you and seen you as the father I never had. You loved my sister so truly.”
It came to him suddenly. “Edward Courtenay,” he said. “You’re his daughter.” He felt an instant pity for her.
“The man who humiliated you and ruined Anne Chapmen and left her with a child that you raised.”
“It is him,” whispered a voice. He looked up, saw the heads on the eaves, the originals in the real Hampton Court being the origin for the word “eavesdropper,” but none of them were doing anything. They were just little carved heads of courtiers, male and female, staring down at them.
“He can hear us!” whispered a female voice.
“Quiet!” whispered a male voice.
He looked among them, far above his head, his face full of confusion. He saw no evidence of anything “living” up there and looked back down.
“Are the eavesdroppers speaking—”
“They do in the real palace as well,” she told him. “Same beings, I think, although I never personally heard them when I was in the real palace.”
That kind of thing sounded rather familiar. Just like the paintings in Beechwood. “They’re made of wood and magicians have been Hampton Court thousands of times and I have never—”
She touched his chest and jerked back at the sudden burst of cold that went through him. Lady Courtenay stood there, biting her lower lip, looking into his eyes sadly. “I have never danced with you, Walter,” she said. “My father forbid it. He believed you would ruin me in an attempt to dishonor him.”
“Not every man was as he was,” Ethan replied bitterly.
“Still angry. Even after five hundred years.”
“Pain doesn’t know time.”
She stepped forward, looked up at him with wide eyes, and said, “By God’s Blood that is the truth.”
A hand cane down on Ethan’s shoulder.
Ethan jerked back, sucking in very cold hair, and felt like icy cold water had been thrown over him. The room was almost colorless in the snowy white and he looked over and saw Darcy with a cut across her shoulder and a series of broken frozen bodies lying white on the floor.
They had been broken apart like ceramic statues exposing their insides as a whitish red.
“Where is she?” cried Johnny, his sword in his right hand and a cut across the left side of his neck.
“Holy shit!” he said and then looked back and suddenly jerked at the sight of Lady Courtenay’s snarling face.
“He’s mine!” she hissed and she readied her hands for some spell. It was a powerful one too. Ethan could feel it make the hairs on the back of his neck stand up on end. He cast his shield spell, creating a kite shield over his left arm, and he stepped between Lady Courtenay and Darcy but then Courtenay stopped and didn’t cast the spell. Darcy stepped back, raised her rifle, and fired at her. The shots hit her center body, easily, but they bounced off like she was made of stone.
Courtenay stumbled back with each hit, her eyes full of misery. Darcy fired only five times but it wasn’t enough to even hurt her. Darcy threw her rifle over her shoulder, pulled out her blade, and then rushed forward. She brought it down with all her strength.
It slammed into Lady Courtenay’s shoulder and stuck solidly there as if it was caught in wood.
Lady Courtenay was more or less unharmed. The most the bullets did was scrape her body and clothing and the most the blade did was scrape just slightly deeper.
“Frances,” said Ethan as her name came back to him. Courtenay had just had his daughter during that tour of Hampton Court and he had heard the name at some point.
“Walter,” she replied.
“Don’t hurt her.”
Frances Courtenay’s face looked as if it was resisting the instinct to cry. “Forgive me!” she whimpered. “I lost control!” She whacked the blade off her shoulder with her left as easily as if shooing away a fly and stepped back. “Love from a man, either father or husband, is forever lost to me, and I envy all women for who it is not!” she said. “I shall be alone in this cage for eternity!”
Darcy stepped back with the blade held out before her but she was sensing what Ethan had sensed and her face looked sad.
“I know why Katherine Tudor loved you, Walter,” she told him in a soft, low, voice.
“Where is my wife?” snarled Johnny coldly, holding his sword in his right hand and standing with pieces of bodies all around him.
“The same place she has always been,” Courtney replied sadly. “I may have a dark palace but it is not that dark a palace.”
“And where is that palace exactly?”
“Ask him,” she replied. “He knows, doesn’t he?”
Did he? Ethan didn’t think so.
The woman looked around at the bodies, sighed, and snapped her fingers. All the bodies snapped back together in a single instant.
“Why did you summon me here?” asked Ethan.
“I just wanted to see you. You’re so much prettier than you were as Walter. Not as a kind but still a good man.” She looked over at Darcy and her eyes had darkened. Her face distorted and rage that she barely could contain moved through her. She said simply, “I did not go through the trouble of summoning the Duke of Edmonton only to find myself in competition with a girl of little charm and no beauty!”
She looked at them, all of them, and her face suddenly fell. She bit her lip, shuffled her feet, and looked suddenly very ashamed.
“Forgive me. I do not wish to hurt people. Do you understand, Walter?” She sounded almost pleading,
“Maybe. I’m not sure.” He hesitated. “How did you know I would be here?”
“I didn’t. I sensed the yeti had a purpose and I suspected it would involve you. I didn’t think it would attack you specifically, they’re pitting you against the Beast, but I thought it might be somehow close to you and I was right.”
Her eyes went wide. “The Descendent of Lycaon is in Bartlett Bay,” she said softly. “Even I fear him.”
“What are you?” asked Darcy.
“The Ice Queen,” she replied and her face fell. “I am cursed with loneliness for I am immortal but must spend my immortality alone. The people that I find, most of whom are just horrid, are these people around you. They are the only company who can stay. If I keep you in this castle, you will all turn into them eventually. The same happens if I touch you skin to skin.
“I will never know the touch of a man.”
“Touch of death?” Darcy was staring at her incredulously. “The White Fairy.”
Frances smiled and there was some actual warmth in it. “Muire Lindsay,” she said in surprise. “I didn’t know it was you. I surely would have been able to resist trying to harm you if I had. Your life and beauty brought out my envy.”
Darcy swallowed and just stared at her. “I—”
“When you were a girl, you asked me if I could make you beautiful so your parents would love you.” Darcy swallowed and her face fell into deep shock control. “You are incredibly beautiful now.”
“I told you that my land of wonder was beautiful but you would not wish to visit. Did I lie?”
“No,” replied Darcy honestly.
“How do you break your curse?” asked Ethan.
Frances smiled in a strange, sad way. “You’re a good man, Walter Kent. I’ve always loved you. I wish you were my father.” Her face hardened. “There is no ‘breaking’ this curse. I can only die when someone gives up themselves or their daughter to take up this curse.”
“Their daughter?” asked Darcy.
“My father had great plans for my vagina. He didn’t care if I was happy. He had great ambitions and my body was to serve those ambitions. My mother was no better. In the end, she traded me to the last Queen of Ice for a book that gave her eternal youth.
“I don’t want to live this life. I want to have the life you gave my sister Catherine.”
“You know that’s not possible,” said Ethan.
“I do. I’m sorry I fooled you, Alcuin. I just wanted to see Walter and speak to him once in my life.”
“How did you know I was Alcuin?” asked Johnny.
“I hear everything in these halls,” she said simply. She looked like she was crying but no tears came out. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry to all of you. The beast in the ice will overwhelm me one day as it had my predecessor and someday I will collect another girl, make her take my place, and then go to Hell. By then, I’ll have lost so much of myself, I don’t think I would know Heaven if I saw it.”
She did the motion of wiping her tears, most likely by habit, as her face had no tears.
“I didn’t kill most of these people,” she told Ethan. “They had frozen to death in the winter and I collected their bodies. I put them in places in my palace and pretend they are alive. They are all I have.”
“Don’t hate yourself,” he told her. “Whoever created this curse is the responsible party.”
“Who could create this kind of curse?” asked Darcy.
Frances smiled sadly at Ethan, her eyes still looking as if she was crying, and ignored the question. “If I help you,” she said, “Will you come back and visit me someday.”
“Yes and if I find a way to break your curse without cursing another, I will do that too.”
Frances smiled sadly and wanted to hug him but they both knew it was impossible without killing him. “I wish to help you but I do not wish vengeance for vengeance’s sake and for surely, to turn on one’s mother is the greatest sin of all.”
“She is no mother if she put you here,” Ethan said coldly.
She looked into his eyes and her face became harder. After a moment, she nodded soberly, and said, “There is a place near Bartlett Bay. One of the adjoining villages or townships. Go to the establishment where they keep the elderly and find a new arrival. She will be a very old woman with young eyes who knows you and is surrounded by ghosts. The ghosts around her will lead you to my mother.”
“I remember Lady Courtenay,” said Ethan softly.
“That won’t help. She didn’t just become young and stay that way as the witch in the tower had. She got young by stealing the bodies of others. That way she does not have hide as Agatha Cane was forced to.” Ethan’s eyes darkened. “Yes, she is very much a monster. I do fear leading you to her death will make me a matricide but surely God will forgive me if it ends the existence of such a creature.”
“If nothing else, God understands,” Ethan replied.
“How do you know about the old woman?” asked Darcy.
“The ghosts of her victims follow her around and speak to me sometimes. Black Mary steals the bodies of young girls and they always let me know, before and after, but they don’t stay long. They are cursed. Cursed to follow around my mother for eternity, forced to watch her enjoy their bodies and lives without them, and then cursed to grow larger in number with every new victim until that fateful day that she finally dies. They come to me and weep endless tears and scream endless rage but my mother is not foolish enough to be near Bartlett Bay during the season I can reach her.”
“Jesus,” said Ethan softly.
“Find the old woman with a young soul and the ghosts,” she told him. “I’m not sure what you can do but that is where you can start. That is where you’ll find the roots of the group who call themselves the Saturnine.”
“This is a nightmare,” said Darcy in a horrified voice.
“Best be thankful she didn’t choose you, Muire,” said Frances. “You are far from that ugly, undesirable girl you had once been.”
“Will you come and visit me again?” Frances asked Ethan softly.
“Someday, yes,” said Ethan. “I promise.”
“Thank you, Walter. You will find no trouble getting out and you must leave and soon for Alcuin’s sake.”
“You mean we’ll be like you?” asked Darcy.
“No. You’ll be like them.” She gestured to the corpses. “No one is like me except me. Ever.”
“Forgive me, Alcuin,” she told him. “I did not wish to deceive you.” Johnny said nothing, his face cold and unreadable. “He is right to hate me,” she said to Ethan.
Ethan bowed low to her. “Goodbye, Lady Frances.”
She curtsied low back. “Goodbye, Lord Walter. Good luck.”
And with that, they walked back out the way they came. They had no trouble doing so although, while walking, an abnormal stiffness had crept into Johnny. He was clearly walking a little funny and he seemed paler.
“She wasn’t kidding,” he said when Darcy asked about it. “I’ve been feeling oddly stiff for hours now.”
They slipped out of the window again and continued onward toward the tower. Halfway there, he looked back at the inverted Hampton Court and there saw its one sentient visitor, standing in a window in some random room.
She raised one hand in a tentative goodbye and he raised one back.
Then he turned and left and she remained just as she had for the last five centuries.
He turned and followed the others. They entered the tower, looking around for nothing, and then climbed upward slowly. They didn’t say anything, confused and disturbed, eyes staring off in the distance.
Ethan kept seeing that prick Courtenay grinning at him and thinking about Frances Courtenay in the same way he sometimes thought about Princess Mary. He had no memories for what was coming yet but he knew what history had in store for. Unlike her mother, who was rescued from a lifetime of loneliness of Henry VIII at twenty-four, she would not see a marriage until she was forty or near to it. In an age where thirty was considered “old” for childbearing, that was a cruel fate for any girl who wanted love and family.
Frances and Mary had spent their youth simply waiting. Men would come and go, men who they even loved perhaps, but their respective fathers would refuse them any suitor that did not serve their interests. Their teens would pass, and in the case of Mary for sure, their twenties and thirties as well, but still no man would be good enough to satisfy their fathers. No man would serve his interest so wait they would, endlessly, for a mythical man that might give their fathers the advantage they craved and on their deathbed, Ethan imagined each man blow their girls for their fates and believe God would greet them as a saint.
“See anything?” Ethan asked Mickey.
I do not, said Mickey. Ethan looked through his eyes and saw that Mickey was sitting on a tree branch up in the hills somewhere staring down over Hampton Court and the hillside. You think it’s gone?
“No,” said Ethan. When they looked at him, he said, “Mickey doesn’t see anything. It’s all white and Fluffy knows how to hide.”
“Fluffy?” asked Johnny.
“That’s the name of the thing in the crate in Creepshow,” said Darcy. “It’s also the new name of our yeti friend.” When they reached the platform at the top, Darcy looked at the still open door and frowned at it. “You think Fluffy is still out there?”
“Pretty sure it is,” said Ethan.
“I’m inclined to agree,” Johnny said as he moved up to the doorframe and looked out. The storm was moving across the path, a little heavier before but hardly unmanageable, and nothing seemed to be out there. “It looks clear from here.” He pulled his blade out and held it in his right hand.
Ethan stepped out ahead of him, his shotgun ready, and started across the snow-covered trail. Darcy moved after him, eyes peeled and looking around. It wasn’t quiet exactly, the storm making some sound, but it had a quiet vibe to it. A storm moving through a very empty world.
Johnny came last, face stern, looking serious.
They walked across the snow carefully, their eyes pointed in all directions as they made their way to the bridge. “Maybe it is gone,” said Darcy as they neared it.
“Possibly,” said Ethan. “I—”
He was suddenly kicked in the back and sent flying toward a space between the bridge and the tree line. He rolled several times over, spinning around, and then spread out his arms once on his chest. His left arm caught onto the stone bridge and his right onto a tree trunk.
His legs and pelvis shot out over the edge.
“Fuck!” he cried and saw the yeti was facing Johnny on the road.
* * *
Fluffy had thrown its fists out and knocked Ethan and Darcy flying away. Ethan, it shoved toward the edge and Darcy, it just aimed away. Ethan had caught himself, barely, and Darcy had been knocked backward into a tree so hard that the snow exploded off the tree like a white firework.
Johnny sliced at the yeti several times and started forcing it backward.
Fluffy let out a nasty, roar, teeth bared then slammed its fists into its chest back and forth in a show of dominance. Johnny raised his sword up in a salute. It saw that, bared its razor teeth, and then rushed at him much like a gorilla.
Johnny slashed it across the side as it reached for him, ducking under the clawed hand, and then faced the yeti on the opposite side.
Fluffy flipped around, its yellow eyes narrowed with rage. It extended its claws slowly, long black, nasty claws and it pulled its lips back to reveal its yellow pointed teeth but it hesitated.
“I needed this,” he told the yeti.
Fluffy’s eyes narrowed.
“Can sense it can’t you,” said Johnny. “A man on the verge of death has no fear. I’ll be dead within a year or two whether you kill me or not. Might as well be now.”
“I got this!” he told Darcy as she stumbled up. “Get Bartlett!”
Darcy stumbled toward the bridge with a cry, her back probably very close to being broken, and stumbled toward him.
* * *
Ethan cried out in aggravation as he tried to pull himself up, his left hand slipping from the slippery stone, his right barely holding on. While only his legs and pelvis were over the edge, he was at a slant and gravity was dragging him down.
Darcy was suddenly in front of him, her face filled with pain. As she started to reach out for him, he grabbed her hands with his left hand and tried to pull himself up. She pulled back as hard as she could and let out a high-pitched scream of agony as she did. “My fucking back!” she cried and then let out another scream as she pulled him again even harder.
Ethan used the tree awkwardly and he was only moving a little.
Darcy growled, tilted herself toward the tree, dropped to her bottom, and jammed her foot against it. She then pushed with her leg and arms as hard as she could, her eyes rolling into the back of her head as she fought against the pain.
She pulled Ethan up so that only his knees were over but was beyond the slant and could crawl the rest of the way himself. He scrambled through the snow on all fours, looking around and unable to find his shotgun buried beneath. “Shit, shit, shit!” cried.
“Sweet Jesus!” Darcy cried painfully and then rolled onto all fours, scrambled to her feet, and stumbled toward her rifle.
* * *
“Come on, Fluffy!” cried Johnny. “What are you waiting for?”
Fluffy jerked forward, knocked the blade aside on the flat part, and slashed Johnny across the chest. He barely felt it, slammed his forehead into its face, and then stabbed it in the chest with one hand. Johnny shoved the yeti back with his sword but it barely went in. Its body was so dense, Johnny almost felt like he was stabbing stone.
Johnny stepped forward, tried to trip it, and knock it down but its leg shot out and slashed him across the thigh as easily as if it was a hand.
It was. He forgot what kind of feet apes have.
He twisted the blade the yeti knocked it away with a cry and started slash at him in rage. It moved quicker and faster, its rage increasing with every swing with its yellow eyes wide and its fanged mouth open wide. It let out a howl it pushed Johnny back toward the bridge.
And then it was hit by a pistol shot in the left shoulder. It jerked in surprise and Johnny slashed it across the stomach in the opening it created. It cried out, slashed him across the upper chest, and then rushed toward Darcy.
Darcy had just grabbed her rifle and it jerked toward her the instant it sensed it. It was a sprint for a kill, moving as fast as it physically could with its teeth bared and its eyes wide. She faced it without blinking, aimed the rifle, and started firing.
She and Ethan hit every time but it only turned and ran when one shot Darcy made went across its skull near its left eye. It let out a cry, still more of rage than pain, and then rushed up the hill opposite her. She shot it in the back several times but it still didn’t stop.
“Jesus!” said Ethan.
Darcy grimaced and felt her back with a gasp. “The fucker nearly broke my back!” she cried.
Ethan handed her and Johnny a healing potion and as soon as Johnny drank, he felt his physical pain go away. His emotional pay was still there, stronger than ever.
Am I still here? Johnny wondered. Is this finally real? He handed Ethan the little bottle back, looked up the hill where the monster had gone, and thought, This time might be different. This time I might find her.
He hoped that was true but he found it very difficult to believe it.
* * *
Ethan felt the bruise on his chest disappearing and holstered his pistol.
I lost it again, said Mickey. This yeti is slick, that’s for sure.
“Its body was like a rock,” Darcy said. She was adjusting her back, gasping still at the soreness remaining. “I shot it several times but it wasn’t until I almost took an eye that it ran.”
“It took nine-millimeter rounds like BB shots,” said Ethan. He found his shotgun not far away, picked it up, and shook off the snow. “Let’s just get out of here,” he said.
“Agreed,” Darcy said as she adjusted her back awkwardly once more.
In the distance, shockingly far up the hill for how long had passed, they heard a howl of rage, hate and anger.
They started across the bridge but only got about ten or so feet before they slowed, turned around and saw Johnny was still standing in the middle of the path looking up the hill. “You coming?”
Johnny blinked, hesitated, then turned and followed afterward.
* * *
The yeti wasn’t back in its lair and they reached Ethan’s truck without trouble.
They got inside and, a moment after turning on the car, there came of tapping. Ethan lowered the window and Mickey flew in and landed on Darcy’s lap. Then he shook off the snow and made Darcy laugh the way girls sometimes laugh when a dog shakes water on them.
“I’ve tired of snow, goddamn it!” Mickey cried and then dropped the See Through Familiar’s Senses spell.
“You and me both, bird,” said Darcy as she petted him.
Ethan started back down the street. It was too early for food so he drove Johnny back to his car. “You shouldn’t have gone in alone,” said Darcy as he started to get out.
Johnny stopped and didn’t speak for several moments. “I’m always alone,” he said finally. “I’ll be alone forever.”
“What about his sister?” asked Darcy. “You can’t free her if you’re dead.”
“He doesn’t have a sister. She’s dead.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Ethan said. Johnny said nothing and left.
Ethan decided that after Darcy left his house, and making some calls to the nearby retirement homes about any potential new inhabitants, he would take the day off, or at least the morning anyway, and check out the newest episode of Banshee on Cinemax. He would maybe play some video games, eat breakfast out perhaps, take his bird with him maybe, and try to enjoy the day.
And then hopefully, possibly, he would get the eyes of Frances Courtenay out of his head. Those infinitely sad and lonely eyes so cold they couldn’t even produce tears.