The Bane of Rendsberg Part III
The echoes of the closing door in the foyer of the old mansion sounded loudly throughout the living quarters like a heavy vaulted gate on a dungeon. The figure with the dark maroon colored cloak with a matching wide brim hat with a red plume looked up from the shade that the hat provided. He had finally returned home. He had left this place almost a year ago before he was fully healed from the injuries acquired here. He drew in a deep breath. The oppression of the similar scene of the last time he had stood in this place was not here this time. Very little preyed upon his mind, and he noticed that the usual mustiness that used to hang in the dark interior of the old structure was now gone, and the interior of the foyer was warmer than usual for the winter months. The curtains, covering the window in the landing no longer played out their morbid dance, and the coating of the dust was nowhere to be seen. No wind whispered through the hall. His friends had been hard at work since his departure. All the same, the interior of the four walls was still dark and was much appreciated after so many months in the glaring sunlight. He pushed back his hat from his one eye and rubbed his red sunburned nose. He suppressed a cynical laugh. He had to be the only Kobold in existence to get a bloody sunburn in the middle of December.
Smiling, he stepped further into the house. It was good to be home again. He dropped his sacks to the floor and proceeded to untangle them from the hook that replaced his left hand. Before he had the chance to remove his cloak, he was suddenly bombarded by arms being thrown about him. He was tossed about from friend's embrace to another friend's embrace. William was the last of the three to pull him tightly into a hug, then he held him back to take stock of his young prodigy. Alteng pushed up his red hat from his one eye again so he could make visual contact with the elder and his adoptive father.
Stephen pulled his hat off his well groomed long hair and grumbled about where were his manners. Johann took the hat from him and fully inspected it, tried it on, and strutted in front of the three of them like some high bred mortal. Finally, with a smirk, he made a comment about how gaudy one could get. The younger Kobold snatched it back from him.
William ran his one hand over Alteng's red cheeks. The youth pulled back at the slight sting. William gave him a warm smile and ruffled his soft clean hair that was tied back with a black ribbon. The three elder Kobolds bombarded him a barrage of questions about where had he been and what had he done over the last year. Alteng laughed and held up his arms.
By this time, the other resident Kobolds had come to investigate what was going on. Hannah and Ther came from the kitchen. Behind the two females, Hans appeared with a crutch to support his left leg. Alteng stiffened at the sight of the child. If his face was not already red from the punishment of the sunlight, it would have been at this time with his embarrassment and shame. The youth frowned and bowed his head, as he returned to the kitchen. He did not have time to ask why the child was still here when William had promised to take him to Preetz, because Sil appeared on the stairway with a bundle in her arms. The youth watched her with his one wide eye as she approached. He moved passed his friends and held out his arms for the infant. Life had finally come back in amongst these timbers. There had been no natural life brought into this house since his father's birth that he knew of, and that was not exactly a normal circumstance. His smile widened further. At least Johann was good for something, and Sil was not his sister by blood.
Sil held her child to herself for a few moments as she looked over the young happy Kobold with the eye patch over his left eye and the sinister looking hook for the left hand. She gave a brief glance to William, who delivered her baby into this world, and he, likewise, suffered the same loss of hand. With a heavy sigh, she relinquished her mental complaint and gave the child to the other. Alteng took the little one into his arms with the greatest of care. His eye was wide with wonderment. He had never held an infant of his own kind before.
"So, this is the new little Rendsberg," he commented without taking his one eye off the little wonder. The light of joy lit his weathered face as he held the infant up. He, then, cradled the laughing curious wide eyed child into his left arm. "What did you name him?" he asked cheerfully.
"Xavier," Sil replied proudly.
"Better than what Johann wanted to name him," Stephen remarked.
"He is a Scweinlein!" the blonde complained, and his sister smacked him in the back of the head.
"Xavier is a good strong name," the youth commented as he allowed the child to play with the fingers of his one hand.
He looked up to see Ther, standing and smiling at him from the doorway. He felt the warmth wash over his stomach, and he returned it with a sense of weightlessness. His happy thoughts and quiet gaze were cut short when the curious five month old discovered the eye patch he wore over his empty left eye socket. Sil retrieved her child as Johann began to laugh at the other's embarrassment. Alteng shot the elder a nasty look that caused him to laugh harder. With chagrin, he turned away to readjust the patch. Out of the corner of his good eye, he noticed Ther cover her mouth to suppress a laugh. The muscles of his shoulders relaxed, and he looked up with a smile to her.
He looked around at the gathered Kobolds in the foyer, and he noticed that some of the residences were missing. He cocked his head to the side and inquired, "Where's Olivier, Ther?" At the absence, his stomach clenched at one dismal thought after another. "He hasn't dissipated, has he?"
The younger Kobold female shook her head. "You are a strange one indeed, Altenglisch Hans. You leave the girl you want to marry with a derelict ghost of an insane Kobold!"
Alteng looked away from her. "I'm sorry. Was he all that much trouble?"
She laughed lightly at him. He looked up at her, as she shook her head. "Your uncle is very sweet. I am only teasing you. Still, he has missed you, and you know these are his last few days among the living," she scolded him. She took in a deep breath and made eye contact with him. "He thinks that you still hate him, not that I would blame you for that, but he didn't want to spoil your homecoming."
Alteng let go of a heavy sigh. "I will chase him down eventually, but in the meantime, I have brought gifts for you all. I'll give Olivier his later." He gave a glance at the door to the living room. His soul felt rather heavy. He had not expected to see Hans among his friends again. His face burned further. He had not thought to bring him anything from his journey. A nasty smirk tapped him. He wasn't sure that he would accept anything he had to give after what he did to him.
The group muttered and mulled around him and he was ushered into the living room, where he took one of his sacks. The youth laughed and held up his arms to hold them off. He looked around at the gathered group, then he dug into his bag and came up with a ragged looking book with several pages and added papers hanging out of it. He turned to William and asked, "Did Josef return to Preetz?"
The elder stood back and crossed his arms. He shook his head. "We have nearly finished the work on the house. He got stuck in your family's library. You know how my cousin is with books, and there was no vampire to chase off, so he had to make his time productive here." William shrugged with a smile, and he added cheerfully, "So, he busied himself with the other supernatural being here, and bombarded Olivier with all kinds of questions, but you know Olivier as well. There is only so much you can get out of him on normal subjects, and he really doesn't get the whole concept of being a ghost and all. Of course, I can't say either party was dissatisfied with the other's company."
Alteng gave a grin. "It sounds like Olivier had a good time in my absence."
"Don't get me wrong," the elder added, "He has looked for you . . . or whatever you would say in his case . . . every day. I'm certain he's glad you're finally home before he has to leave. As for Josef, he is most likely still in the library. Your family had quite a collection of books on history, and you know that is his other interest."
The younger Kobold frowned with the returning aching thought. "What happened to your promise to the vampire? I see that Hans is still here," he remarked.
The elder shrugged. "I was going to send him on with Josef, but neither one of them wanted to go. Preetz is quite a distance, and you had disappeared for awhile, so I really didn't see any need for hurry."
Alteng shrugged. "I kind of thought Josef would be intrigued by my family's library. So, I brought him a book and several notes on Southern lore." He laid the book on the table before him. He returned to the expanse of his sack. He came up with a smaller sack and a couple of papers. He checked the contents of the literature and nodded. He handed these items to William. "You know me. I'm kind of reckless, and I've seen a few healers on my journey. These are some herbs and some instructions for herbal remedies I picked up. I thought you might be able to put them to good use."
William accepted the gifts with a nod of thanks. The youth returned to the sack and returned with some more papers and a flask. Looking over the papers, he nodded. "These are for you, Johann. This is a rather potent liquor and the instructions on how to make it." Alteng gave him a knowing grin. "I know you have your own ways, but everyone needs new ideas every once and awhile, and I'm certain you will corrupt this in your own special way. Yet, this stuff might be potent enough to floor even you."
The blonde Kobold yelped his excitement, and Sil shook her head and rolled her eyes. She snatched the flask away from him and told him "Later". With his arms crossed, he flopped on the floor with a pout.
The young Kobold presented Stephen a tin that contained special sweets from the South. The Kobold bowed his sincere thanks. He turned to the elder female Kobolds and presented them with soft fine material of neutral colors to use as they will. They bowed their thanks, and both were equally impressed with the feel and the quality of the material. Finally, he turned to Ther. A soft smile crossed his lips, and his one eye looked upon her with the relaxation of pleasant thoughts. He shook his head and came up with several little pouches and a small book.
"I don't know Hans very well, and nothing I can do will amend what I did. Still, I know he likes you a lot, Ther, and you're the resident cook. These are some exotic spices and recipes I collected with you in mind. I ask that you share them with him."
She blinked at him and nodded her thanks as well. He held up his hand for her to wait. She cocked her head as he pulled out a sizeable box from his sack, causing the bag to collapse in upon itself.
"I know we haven't been on the best of terms, but I knew this would be perfect for you, and I had it made to my specifications," he spoke as his cheeks became warm. He sat the box down on the table and pulled out a gown made of a deep blue velvet material. The modest neckline was draped with white lace, and the skirt flared out in a way that it would make the wearer look like she was floating. He draped it over his arms and presented it to her with an elegant bow. "Although I know our race is normally prone towards drab colors, blue looks the best on you, and . . ." he continued, but he had to pause and collect himself. With an effort, he looked up into her eyes, " . . . if you wear this to the Festival of Meeting, no Kobold will be able to resist you."
Her jaws gaped as she approached him. Sil took the earlier gifts from her hands. The young Kobold female took the dress in her arms. Her wide eyes examined it with complete fascination and admiration. She looked back at the bearer of the gift. He only stood there smiling quietly. She stepped forward and kissed him, then she fled the room with her prize.
With his one eye half closed, he only watched the spot where she had retreated from with his happy daze. "I do look forward to seeing her in it," he remarked quietly to no one in particular.
William placed his hand on the youth's shoulder. "Don't give up hope, my boy. The Kiel women take a while to start a family. Take Sil for instance. There is still hope for you."
"If I live that long," he added. He shook his head out his thoughts and gave William a reassuring smile. "I need to go find Olivier." The other Kobold nodded and allowed him to make his way back to his discarded bags and then to his room. Once in his room, he threw his bags on the bed. He looked about the welcoming familiar dark interior with a smile. He had returned in a much better condition than when he had left. He had left his home a mere month after his fight with Lucifer. He was barely able to feed himself, but he needed to make haste for what he wanted to achieve.
He hung up his cloak and hat in the closet. He went about undoing his red coat and looked up. There still was no sign of the ghost of his uncle. Drawing in a deep breath, he announced in a clear voice, "Olivier, come to me. I reclaim your spirit as mine."
Although he knew the ghost was free of his possession to start with, these words tended to bring him forward. The youth removed his coat from his thin shoulders. He wore a clean over sized white linen shirt with red velvet pants and a matching vest. He wore a short sword at his waist that he had acquired on his recent adventure. Smiling, he drew it from its sheath and admired the sharp blade. It made a good companion to him, he thought. Shaking his head, he removed the belt with the sheath and hung it up in the closet as well. He was home now, and he had no need of it at this time.
He went back to the sack of clothes on his bed. He started putting them back to their proper place. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the white glimmer of the ghost. He gave a brief glance to Olivier, who stood in the doorway and wringing his hands as if he had done something wrong. His wide blind eyes were turned towards the youth's direction.
A smirk tugged at the corner of the youth's mouth, as he continued his chores. "Your absence makes me think that you may not be happy about my return."
The ghost shuffled his feet. "I'm sorry, Alteng. I just didn't think that you wanted to be reminded of bad things upon your return."
A smile crossed Alteng's face as he finished his work. He threw himself on his bed with the last sack. He pulled himself up into a cross legged sitting position in the middle of the bed. "How did it go with Ther?" he queried, as he pulled the contents from the bag. There was a rat- eared book with a ragged piece of cloth as a marker. Alteng put this on the night stand and made a mental catalog of the other items . . . a scroll and three small pouches.
The ghost cocked his head at the casual movements of the living. He ceased wringing his hands and clasped them together. With an effort, he put his mind to the question asked. "She is a wonderful mistress. She wasn't really happy at first that you left me to her, but she said I was alright after awhile. And her cousin Josef asked me all kinds of questions that I didn't know the answer to, and he told me all kinds of things about being a ghost I didn't know."
"And what would he know?" Alteng smirked, as he juggled the pouches between his fingers, "He hasn't been one."
"I don't know," the ghost replied as he scratched his head in thought, "but he was right all the same."
"You sound like you have had a good time while I was gone," the younger pouted.
The spirit hung his head and clasped his hands together tighter. "I missed you. I wish I could go with you when you go away like that, but I know I would cause too much trouble," he replied. He looked away from him and added, "I leave for the Netherworld in a month, you know."
"Olivier," Alteng spoke as he looked up at the apparition, "If it were possible, would you like to live again?"
Olivier looked back at him. He blinked his sightless eyes and furrowed his brow. Finally, he shook his head and dropped his shoulders. "I chose this. What good was I when I was alive?"
"That's not what I asked," the living pointed out.
"It's not possible, so why think of it," he argued, "I am content to have what I have," he added with a soft smile.
"Olivier, I dream of Ther as my wife every time I lay down to sleep. She is the most beautiful Kobold I have ever seen, and I am a lowlife thief, a kinslayer, and a cripple, but the impossibility of it all doesn't stop me from dreaming," the other remarked.
"I don't sleep," the ghost stated.
Alteng stopped shuffling the little pouches with his fingers and sat up. He dropped the pouches into his lap and smacked the spirit in the back of the head. "That's not what I mean! Don't you ever wish for things that you can't have?"
The ghost wrung his hands and turned away from the other to pace. "It would be nice to stay here with you and your friends longer. I would like to know them," he spoke as he held out his hands in an effort to feel what was not there. He then wrapped his arms about himself and looked up. "I could go with you when you go off to these wondrous places!" Laughter crossed his face as he turned to his nephew. "Because I am blind doesn't mean that I'm a hindrance. I got along alright before I met you, and I have always been blind," he answered. Alteng smiled back at the elder's childish behavior. The ghost ceased his jubilance and stood up straight again. His eyes turned downward. "But it isn't possible. I died."
The smile widened on Alteng's face. "Uncle, I have been away for nearly a year. I have come upon many amazing things in my travels. I once saw a magic man raise the dead from the grave to do his bidding. I returned to where I met him, and he gave the means to bring you back to full life. You can live again and, well, I will no longer be a kinslayer if I succeed."
"Alteng . . ." the spirit started, then he put his hand to his throat thoughtfully. "What price did you pay for this?"
"That's my business," the other snapped. Looking on at the ghost, his voice softened, "It is over and done with, and nothing can back those deeds. So, what do you say?"
The ghost turned his head as if to look around the room and held out his hands. He threw back his head and laughed. "I would love to live again, especially with you and your friends. This house even seems tolerable now," he announced. Suddenly the happiness fled from his face again. He pulled back and blinked several times. "Your sources are often wrong, Alteng. What if it doesn't work?"
The youth shrugged. "You're already dead, and the ritual is to be performed on the seventh anniversary of your death. You are doomed to return regardless. If nothing else, you are always aggravating me about wanting to go on one of my adventures. Here's your chance."
Olivier put his finger in his mouth and looked onto his nephew. "What about you? What will this do to you?"
Again, Alteng shrugged. "If I am not damned for deeds I've done after your death, I'm damned for killing you in the first place." He tossed one of the pouches up and caught it easily. A hint of wickedness gleamed his eye. "And if it doesn't work the way its supposed to, a certain magic man will be most sorry that he betrayed one of the mystical fairy folk."
Olivier threw his arms around his nephew in excitement. Alteng froze a moment. The thought of pushing him off crossed his mind, and if it was a little better than a year ago, he would have done so with some physical statements of his anger. He drew in a deep breath, and for the first time since he had known his father's brother, he wrapped his arms about the other.