Read part two here
Read part three here
Read part four here
Read part five here
Read part six hereRead part seven here
Read part eight here
Read part nine here
In Lord Shadow's House, the finale
As he walked a fear came upon him. Would the lane be there or would he be stuck in this new reality he had created for himself? His fears were unwarranted, as the lane was just as plain as the river running beside it.
The Manor was present, although to Jarius, it did not appear nearly so perfect as it had the day prior. Instead, he was caught with longings for his own estate, although not as large as Eveningside, still suited him.
Jarius rapped on the door, but on this day there was no Mr. Taylor to admit him. Mr. Taylor was far too happily engaged, doing his best to forget his own encounter with the Lord Shadow.
After several minutes of nothing, desperation made Jarius let himself in.
There were aspects of the house that Jarius noted now, that he had not seen the day before. The house itself, although large and well appointed, was dirty to the point of dinginess. His eyes that had only been longing to see the Lord of the Manor, to have his request be granted, had noted none of those things that were more than apparent to him then.
Eveningswood Manor was a ruin.
Jarius stepped carefully forward, aware of each creak of the floorboard, noting well the ones that were too precarious to walk upon. Every part of Jarius wanted to run, and forget all about the Lord Shadow and live in the shambles that his life had become, and if he hadn’t seen Miss Eliza looking herself so fine, he may have done just that.
There were no other rooms, there was only one room. There was no other door, there was only one door, and Jarius walked towards it.
He did not knock upon it, or pause in hesitation. No, our Jarius walked boldly in and stood in a place that exists only in dreams, or nightmares, if that were.
The day prior Jarius did not see the source of the voice that promised to give him his desire. He only saw darkness and shadow. That day the shadow had lifted and Jarius saw with whom he was indebted.
“Well now, if it isn’t our Mr. Knigglesby,” the gaping mouth said. Jarius stayed fixed where he was, staring at it. For it was an it, and nothing more.
“It is me,” Jarius whispered. He was surprised when he heard the words, having assumed that all speech would fail him.
“And you are here because…?”
Jarius swallowed deeply, knowing he should look away, desperately wanting to look away, but that is not the way with the Lord Shadow. If he wants to be seen, you have no choice but to see him.
“Forgive me, sir,” Jarius began, the words coming out like a stream. “But I was wanting to return the gift you have most kindly bestowed upon me.”
Lord Shadow seemed to be smiling. “My gifts cannot be returned, Mr. Knigglesby; they must be passed on.”
“Passed on?” Jarius asked, revealing his ineptness.
The Lord Shadow’s smile became a certain thing, just as death and hell are certain.
Jarius left the Manor, with the calling card in his hand. It appeared very fragile, as if the slightest breeze could shatter it. He cupped his other hand over it, sensing how his very life was tied to this one simple piece of paper.
Thoughts rolled in his mind like waves; thoughts of home and happiness, followed by the grimmer realities of what he’d just experienced. Not once did the thought occur to him that he should not look for another, that he should accept his lot and stop this chain that was a thousand years, at least, in the making. But you must not blame poor Jarius, for as you must now have guessed, such thoughts are rare.
He traveled to the town on foot, going slowly, watching, listening. He thought he knew how it was to be done, after all he’d witnessed it with his own eyes. Twice he came upon groups engaged in a conversation that appeared promising, only to see contentment in the potential victim’s eyes. Contentment was not something Jarius could use.
As the sun set the second day, Jarius walked the road that led to his estate. He knew that there was more than a fair share of trees to sleep under in the village green, but something inside Jarius wanted to go home.
Jarius settled under his oak and it was not desperation that filled his dreams that night, but plans as dark as the Lord Shadow himself.
The man who awoke the next morning no more resembled Jarius Knigglesby than you or I do. He was haggard and disheveled, and around him there was an odor that was a cross between human waste and cow dung. Even still, this was not the most disturbing change in our Jarius. It was in the person himself. He was so altered that his own mother, God rest her soul, would not have recognized him.
He proceeded to walk towards the town with a brilliant gleam in his eyes.
Jarius was determined that he was done sleeping under trees.
The very first gathering he came upon were several young men of his acquaintance. He knew they would not recognize him in his current state, and indeed they did not.
“Did you happen to see the production last evening?” one of them asked the others. They all nodded their acknowledgements, all but one.
Jarius moved in closer.
“And what about you William, did your mother permit you to leave the house last night?”
The young man blushed deeply but did not answer. Jarius, although never having met him, recognized him immediately as the young man who had been walking with Miss Eliza the day prior.
“Leave him alone,” another said. “You know as well as I do that he has no choice in the matter.”
William glanced past all of them towards the town. Jarius knew that look. It was a look that wanted something.
“If mother were only well…,” William whispered to himself, not knowing how carefully he was being listened to.
Jarius smiled as his finger grazed his coat pocket. He waited until the party had dispersed and it was only William who was walking back towards his home.
Jarius smoothed his hair and straightened his jacket and approached the young man just as he was about to cross the threshold into his house.
“Excuse me, sir?” Jarius called out with all the grace of a mule. He did not have Mr. Taylor’s style or patience, but none the less, William turned and gave him his full attention.
“I do apologize for intruding on your person,” Jarius said, rocking back and forth on his heels. “But it has come to my attention that you want something; nay, that you need something.”
“Are you not Jarius Knigglesby?” William asked, because unlike Jarius, he was both wise and observant.
Jarius froze, not expecting such a question. After a long pause he laughed and carried on with his schemes, hoping that the need would be greater than the fear.
“It is neither here nor there who I may be; the matter at hand is who are you and what do you want?”
“That may be known to any man, sir,” he said. “I want my mother to live,” William answered, standing taller.
The card was out and placed in William’s hand before the sentence was completed.
Jarius ran ahead towards the Manor, assuming he knew how this should work.
He opened the door and waited just inside, not wanting to travel deeper into the house than was necessary. In less time than he expected a knock came at the door. Jarius opened it eagerly, expecting anything but what he found there.
Miss Eliza Fearby, clutching the name card in her hand, raised her eyes to meet his. They were neither bright nor lovely, instead there was a desperation there that Jarius had never seen before.
In that moment the thought occurred to him to take that card and rip in into a million pieces, or burn it, or send it back to the abyss that it came from. He did none of those things. He held the door open and let the lady pass and showed her the way to the door that would bring with it the unspeakable. When the door closed behind her, Jarius Knigglesby left to go back to his warehouses and his estate and a number of young ladies who longed to have his last name, as well some mothers who had secret hopes of acquiring him for their daughters.
He indeed received back all that was lost, except for himself. For the other side of the card is always this: What good is it to gain the whole world if you lose your own soul?