The Shrouded Sword (CH 4)
THE THIRD EYE
Standing at the library window, Ethan watched Amos climb over the ivy-covered wall beside Gramarye House. Then he saw Scafell Crag with his shotgun. Ethan moved to put his shoes on. What he heard next through the glass chilled him.
“You’re trespassin’! I got my gun; you been warned!” Crag shouted.
His shoes now on, Ethan peeked out the window again and saw Amos running toward the rear of Gramarye House. His friend’s feet slipped in the snow as he made his way around the back of the house to the porch. Reaching the top of the porch steps, Amos opened the door to his right and flung himself into the mudroom.
Ethan knew he had to reach Amos before Crag did. Feet flying and heart pounding, he clattered down the hall and through the kitchen. When he reached the mudroom, he found Amos gasping for air on the floor like a dying fish. Seconds later the outside door burst open, and Crag was holding a shotgun, panting heavily with hatred in his eyes.
“I’ll skin ya alive,” Crag said.
Amos looked up at the old man, the whites of his eyes showing.
Then Ethan heard the click of the safety being released. “You’ll do no such thing, Scafell Crag!” Mrs. Gooch said from behind Ethan.
Ethan glanced over his shoulder, letting his shoulders relax. The look on Mrs. Gooch’s face would scare the meanest of men.
“Gooch, you stay out of this. I caught this little punk sneakin’ ’round out back.”
“Scafell Crag, that’s the Sprunt boy. You lay one finger on that boy, and I’ll knock you into next week. Now, get!” Crag lowered the gun and muttered vilely under his breath, slinking away like a dog with his tail between his legs.
“I’ll getcha, blondie,” he whispered.
As the door closed, Mrs. Gooch looked down at Amos. “All right, sugar. Tell me what’s going on.”
“Uh, ma’am, I’m Amos Sprunt.”
“I got that,” she answered. “Yer the undertaker’s son.” “Yes, ma’am. I’m here to see Ethan.”
“I figured that one out too, young man.” Ethan ran into the room. “What’s going on?” Mrs. Gooch asked, “How’d y’all meet?”
Ethan couldn’t tell Mrs. Gooch that he’d caught Amos spying or that they were solving a mystery together. And he was also pretty sure Mrs. Gooch could tell a lie a million miles away. He needed to sidestep this situation—fast. “Amos, this is Mrs. Gooch. She runs everything around here. Hey, let’s go do something,” Ethan said quickly, grabbing Amos by the arm and pulling him toward the hallway. Mrs. Gooch watched them hurry away, her mouth open.
Once they were in the library, Amos wanted to know why Mrs. Gooch shouldn’t know that he hadn’t already been in the house. Ethan explained that he didn’t want her to know what they were doing. There was a reason they couldn’t find the entrance to the maze. Maybe Socrates Maupin was hiding something in that building, and Mrs. Gooch knew what it was.
“Makes sense, when you put it that way,” said Amos. “Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with. I looked in the phone book and made a list of all the Toms and Thomases in the area—there’s only two. One’s old and the other’s actually a lady.” He puffed out his chest.
“A lady named Tom?”
“Welcome to southwest Virginia.”
Ethan told Amos every detail of his morning, and when he mentioned the solar, a smile inched its way across Amos’s face.
Ethan said, “Come on. Let’s go check it out. Fergus can’t be up there now.”
Amos got up to go, but then sat back down. “What was I thinking? We have to honor Mr. Maupin’s wishes.”
“Ethan, it isn’t right, and it has nothing to do with the riddle—or the maze.”
Ethan was dying to know what was up in the solar, but finally agreed; they wouldn’t go. Besides, after they found the entrance to the maze, maybe he could talk Amos into checking it out.
“So, what’s the plan?” Ethan asked. “I suggest we go look at these houses.”
They walked to the houses on Amos’s list, looking at the front doors. They saw nothing, and the houses looked abandoned.
No footprints were on the lawns and porches. None had cellar doors or basement steps near the front. Amos had talked very little and walked quickly everywhere, looking straight ahead. Ethan was bored.
Tired of the silence, Ethan asked, “What would Sherlock Holmes do?”
“Great, I’m trying to help you, and you . . .”
The words mock me never passed Amos’s lips. He froze—a wide grin spreading slowly across his face. “Ethan, that’s it! ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’ Sherlock Holmes said that.”
Ethan wrinkled his forehead. “What does that mean?” “All we have to do is figure out where it’s not, and then we’ll find it.”
“Amos, who knows how many houses, moles, bones, and doors there could be around here.”
“Ethan, you’re a genius,” Amos said. “Huh?”
“The catechism is basically a riddle; it tells us that in the first line. Then it tells us to find a living puzzle; that’s the maze. Elementary—line two is solved.”
Ethan seemed to understand. “We’ve checked the two houses owned by a Tom, so we know it’s not them.”
“So, that means, ‘Old Tom’s home’ means something else. Then there’s ‘born of dust and bone, the path to the goal begins with the mole and from the door.’ ”
“Sounds to me like a bunch of dirt,” Ethan said.
Amos sat on the road’s guardrail while Ethan hurled tightly packed snowballs at a road route sign, each strike causing a ringing pong sound.
“Ethan, what do dirt and bones have in common?” Amos asked, his voice rising in pitch.
“A dog. Really? You’re joking, right?” “Dogs bury bones in dirt.”
“Ethan, what else gets buried in dirt?” “People?”
“There’s a graveyard at Gramarye, isn’t there?” Amos said. “Yes! Yes, there is.”
It was after one o’clock when they finally reached Gramarye, and even though they were hungry, they agreed that before eating lunch they would go check the graveyard. They struggled to run in the deep snow, and Ethan noticed Amos puffing like a steam engine, his face turning beet purple from the exertion. Reaching the graveyard, they were surprised to see a shiny new lock hanging on the wrought iron gate.
“Amos, that lock wasn’t there before.”
“There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” a voice said from behind them.
They turned around and saw the smiling face of Socrates Maupin. Ethan wondered if his uncle had put the lock on the gate. He had to think fast.
Ethan introduced Socrates to Amos. Amos looked like he would throw up, but then seemed transfixed at meeting the mysterious artist.
“How ’bout we go get a pizza?” Socrates asked. “I’m starved, and Gooch said you two haven’t darkened her
kitchen door. Deadmoor has a great little pizzeria. Jynx is coming too.”
Then the boys saw Jynx’s small face peering from behind Socrates. The boys hadn’t seen her standing there.
“Who’s Jynx?” Amos asked.
Jynx was mad at Ethan for not mentioning his new friend Amos and wouldn’t talk to him on the way to the pizzeria. The trip was unusual because all of them had piled into Socrates’s 1970s station wagon. Not in the best of shape, the car was multiple shades of green, with rust and mud colors mixed in here and there. The fake wood panels on the side were peeling off, and the car backfired every few minutes.
Socrates sang loudly to the music on the radio.
Now that’s funny, Ethan thought as they pulled up to the restaurant. The sign hanging above the front door read THE MAGPIE and featured a laughing black bird.
“I admit it’s a wee bit weird,” Socrates said, “but the Magpie has the best pizza I’ve ever had, and you can tell by looking at me, I’ve had a lot of pizza.”
The place was old and unlike any restaurant Jynx and Ethan had ever seen. Hundreds of guitars, cymbals, drums, and other musical instruments hung on the walls. Concert posters covered the ceiling, and a small stage occupied one corner. Music from the early 1970s pumped out of speakers mounted inside three tubas and a bass drum. In another corner, a potbellied stove heated the room.
A man came over to the table and, after heartily greeting Socrates, said, “What’ll y’all have?”
The man wore a bright red ski cap, khaki shorts, a tie- dyed T-shirt, and a tuxedo jacket. Socrates introduced the man as Magnus Wigfall, the owner of the restaurant, and then they ordered.
Ethan’s parents strictly monitored everything that he and Jynx ate, and pizza was the first item on their list of banned food. Having real pizza was a special occasion for Ethan, and when the pizza was served and he took his first bite, it really was the best he’d ever had. The pizza at Brinkley was nothing compared to the Magpie.
Magnus kept coming back over to their table to talk and joke with Socrates. Ethan thought it funny that Magnus would make such a fuss over his uncle, but then remembered what Amos had told him—Socrates Maupin was the area’s biggest celebrity. Magnus wouldn’t even let Socrates pay for their lunch, saying it was an honor to have “such a great artiste” in his restaurant. Ethan thought it was cool when his uncle slipped cash into the tip jar, though, before they left.
“Kids, I need to run an errand. Are y’all cool hanging out around here for a little while? I won’t be long,” Socrates said as they stood outside the Magpie.
“Yeah, sure,” Ethan said, eyeing the small downtown area. “Good deal. Let’s meet back here in thirty minutes,” Socrates said, then started walking up the street, his cane clicking on the sidewalk.
Knowing nothing about Deadmoor, Ethan naturally turned to Amos for suggestions on where to go. Amos immediately told them about a funky shop that sold all kinds of used and vintage things. Naturally, Ethan wanted to go, but Jynx wasn’t interested in used and vintage. After threatening to leave her, she gave in, and they followed Amos to an old shop that had once been a house. The brightly colored sign over the front porch read AGATHA’S PSYCHEDELIC CASCADE. On entering the store, jazz music played from hidden speakers, and they were amazed by the amount of merchandise crammed from floor to ceiling. Ethan thought everything looked like junk—he wasn’t interested in incense, psychedelic posters, or lava lamps. Jynx whispered to Ethan that she could really use some sanitizing hand gel. Amos just picked things up and said, “This is fascinating!”
In the rear corner of the shop, Ethan saw clothes hanging everywhere. On seeing his reflection in a full-length mirror, he realized that he was dressed exactly like his father—same pressed khaki pants, button-down shirt, and sweater. To his left, hanging next to the T-shirts, was a green parka with a military insignia sewn onto the upper arm.
I’m sick of dressing like Reginald, he thought and grabbed the parka. It was a little too large for him, but he liked the way it looked. It was also cheap, so he could use some of the spending money his parents had given him.
“Gee whiz! That’s a vintage British army parka. I wish I’d seen that,” Amos said.
“I just hope it’s clean,” Jynx said, scrunching up her face. An older woman wearing all black peered over the small checkout counter at Ethan, her impossibly thick cat-eye glasses perched on her large nose. “Darlin’, you have the perfect hair for that; just don’t keep it so neat. Now, to truly complete the ensemble, you need the RAF T-shirt back there. You’ll look just like the mods I knew in London during the sixties,” she said.
Ethan grabbed the white T-shirt with a blue-and-red bull’s-eye on the front. Looking down, he spotted a rack of vintage sneakers, and he chose a pair of yellow running shoes. Soon he was wearing his new clothes, his old clothes in a bag.
I don’t look like Reginald now, Ethan thought, triumphant. Ethan and Jynx waited for Amos on the front porch of the shop. Jynx admitted that Ethan’s new look was growing on her. When Amos stepped out onto the porch sporting a fuzzy brown cardigan sweater, Ethan laughed.
“Go ahead—laugh. I’ve always wanted a sweater like this; it makes me look sophisticated,” Amos said.
They made their way down the street and met Socrates, who was seated on a bench while finishing an ice cream cone. “I’m diggin’ the vintage threads, gentlemen,” Socrates said. “Jynx, nothing for you?”
“Certainly not,” she replied. “They need to have that stuff sanitized.”
“Well, different folks for different strokes. Anyhow, who’s up for a movie?” Socrates asked.
Had Ethan heard right? His parents never took them to the movie theater. A few minutes later, Socrates was parking the car next to an old movie theater across town. Looking up at the colorful marquee, Ethan read the word MYSTIC in bright red, orange, pink, and green letters.
“They don’t conjure ’em up like the Mystic anymore. Kids, magic happens within those walls,” Socrates said.
They watched an old movie that was so corny that it was hilarious. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad was made before computer animation, and they could see strings and wires on the skeletons and monsters Sinbad the sailor fought. Ethan once glanced at his uncle and actually laughed to see Socrates’s expression—he looked like a little kid. He had thought there wouldn’t be anything cool to do in Deadmoor. He was glad he had been wrong.
When they returned back to the house, Mrs. Gooch scolded Socrates for letting the children eat junk food; it would ruin their appetites. She invited Amos to stay for dinner, but he said his parents were expecting him. Amos thanked Socrates for the pizza and movie, and then trudged toward the main road leading to his house.
Later that evening they were together for dinner, and Socrates was happily munching pancakes heavily laden with sardines and covered in pineapple syrup. Between bites, Jynx was absorbed in telling Socrates about all that was in Agatha’s Psychedelic Cascade. Unable to eat—the sardines looked and smelled revolting—Ethan excused himself. He tried to go out to the cemetery but was prevented by Badger sleeping against the mudroom door. Oddly, the other doors were locked.
“Gram, would you unlock the doors, please?” Ethan said. Nothing happened.
When he went to the dining room to ask Socs for a key, he wasn’t there. There was no other sound in the house except for the grandfather clock in the conservatory. With no other options, he decided to go to the upstairs bedroom, where he could study the maze.
Sitting in the room’s window seat, Ethan stared out into the cobalt night. Moonlight on the snow glowed blue and cast floating shadows over the garden statues keeping their ghostly vigil; their blank eyes were fixed in radiant marble. The frosted bushes and trees gave the garden below a haunted lunar appearance.
Something in the graveyard distracted him: one tomb- stone was faintly glowing. Like the marble statues, it too looked like it didn’t belong in the world below. It seemed to force him to look at it. The person’s name was faint on its surface—was the first letter a T? What if the name was Tom?
Ethan was thrilled to have a chance to find the key to the strange riddle. He had almost reached the hall when he stopped. That’d be a pretty cruddy thing to do to Amos, especially since he’d figured out most of the riddle. As he sat back down in the window seat, the glowing tombstone seemed to be taunting him. What if he took a quick peek? He wouldn’t have to tell Amos. But no—it would be wrong. This stinks, he thought.
In the end, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Miserable, he sat above the maze, gazing out over the snow-covered living sculpture. He drifted off to sleep, unable to keep his eyes open.
A gentle tug on his parka woke him. A human face was inches from his own.
“Aaah!” he shouted. “Hush, silly. It’s me.”
Regaining his senses, he saw Jynx. “Shh, follow me,” she whispered.
Jynx led him out of the room and down to the main foyer. They sat at the bottom of the staircase, just outside of the conservatory door. In the moonlight, Jynx’s tiny forefinger pointed to the conservatory.
Seated in the low, warm light of two lamps were Socrates and Fergus. Their uncle had a guitar and the butler a mandolin. Together, they were playing some of the most beautiful music Ethan and Jynx had ever heard. The music conveyed a sense of years past—a time before cars, computers, cell phones, and television. As Ethan listened, the music was interrupted by a very soft snoring, and looking down, he saw Jynx sleeping. He quietly roused her and guided her up the staircase to her room.
Later, as he lay awake in his bed, he thought about the glowing tombstone. Tomorrow he and Amos might solve the riddle and get inside the maze. He just hoped the tomb- stone was the answer.
He was happy to see snow falling again. The gnarled branch was turning white, and a faint moon glowed through the clouds. He watched the snow piling up on the branch and soon fell asleep. Higher in the tree, the one-eyed raven left the branch and flew to the solar’s porch.
The next morning, Jynx walked with Ethan to the grave- yard. When Ethan told her everything that had happened, Jynx had to admit it was amazing. Looking at the new lock on the gate, and the height of the wall, the problem now was how to get into the graveyard. Ethan was tired of waiting for Amos and began looking for something to prop against the wall so that he could climb over.
“Shame on you, Ethan. You can’t go in without Amos. He probably figured all of this stuff out.”
“He’s not going in without me,” Amos said, appearing behind them.
“Amos, I’m sorry!” Ethan said. “I should have waited. I just wanted to check out a tombstone.”
“No worries. I’d have done the same thing.”
Ethan told him about the glowing tombstone as they looked for a ladder or a crate. All Amos could keep saying was “Gee whiz.” He found a long plank, and they used it as a ramp to get them over the wall.
Once they were all in the graveyard, they hurried over to the tombstone Ethan had seen the night before.
“Thomas Malory. This has got to be the Tom we’re looking for—excellent work,” Amos said, tracing the carved lettering of the tombstone with a gloved finger.
“So, what happens next?” Jynx asked.
“We look for a door, right?” Ethan asked, circling the tombstone while searching for any sign of a door. He stepped onto the grave and jumped up and down, hoping to hear a hollow sound from below.
“Don’t! Stepping on someone’s grave is very bad luck,” Amos said.
“Well, what I’m gonna do next is even more bad luck.” “Not that. That’s worse than bad luck; it’s against the law.” “What are you two talking about?” Jynx asked.
Ethan recited the catechism again and then said, “We’re going to dig up the grave.”
“Ethan, you are not doing that,” Jynx whispered. “What do we do, then?”
“You forget about the stupid maze,” Jynx said.
Then Ethan said, “Well, that’s it. We won’t dig up the grave, and we’ll forget all about entering the maze.”
“What?” Amos looked at Ethan, astonished.
“Oh, so now you want to do it, Amos? What happened to ‘it’s against the law’?”
“I thought about it. It’s, well . . . it’s the only solution— that’s all,” Amos replied.
“See, Jynx, it’s the only solution. Amos said so. He’s very smart.”
“You two are criminals,” Jynx said. “Help me back over that wall.”
Ethan helped Jynx over the wall and begged her to keep their secret. He told her that if they found a coffin, they’d stop, put back all the dirt, and smooth snow back over the grave. Crag wouldn’t know they’d ever been there.
“I’m not visiting you in prison, just so you know,” Jynx said and stomped off.
“I know this isn’t right; it’s disrespectful and unconscionable. But gee whiz, the secret gallery, catechism—are we really going to give up?” Amos asked.
“No way. We’re digging up that grave tonight,” whispered Ethan.
“Do you think she’ll tell Mr. Maupin?”
“Call him Socrates. No, she won’t. She’s mad at me, but she’s not a snitch. Thing is, how do we do it without getting caught?” Ethan asked.
“I’ve got it. We’ll tell your uncle you’re sleeping over at my house. Then we sneak out really late and do it.”
“Amos, that’s awesome! Do you have any tools we can use?” “Are you kidding? My dad’s the sexton.”
“The undertaker—he buries people,” Amos said with a wry smile.
They laughed at the irony of the situation, then discussed their plans. They agreed on a time to meet, and then went their separate ways.
Later, Mrs. Gooch fetched Ethan from his room to help her, and he spent the rest of the day hanging garlands and other decorations in the huge mansion. Jynx kept giving Ethan reproachful looks as they strung popcorn and hung running cedar.
“Sleepover at the Sprunts, ya say?” Mrs. Gooch asked. “Do Brisen and Moss know about this?”
A moment earlier he had climbed through the library window, and then joined them. “Yes, ma’am,” Amos lied. “I think that’s a great idea,” Fergus said, entering the kitchen.
Mrs. Gooch said, “Well . . . as long as it’s okay with your folks.”
The boys gave each other congratulatory looks and left the room.
The orange, hazy sun slowly dropped behind the nearby mountains as Ethan walked down the driveway. Turning onto the rural road, he met Amos, who was staggering under the weight of a bulging backpack.
“Why do you have all that stuff if we’re going to your house?” Ethan asked.
“Change of plans. My dad had to leave; someone died. Anyway, my house is boring. I’ve got a much better idea,” Amos said, motioning for Ethan to follow as he headed for the forest.
Their flashlights revealed a rolling forest floor—a creepy alien landscape completely void of any undergrowth. The path they followed became steep and wound through a large outcropping of rounded boulders. The two boys climbed higher and higher, until Amos stopped and said, “Well, we’re here.”
“Well, actually, we’re going to go in that cave,” Amos said, pointing to a shadowy area in the rock face. “It’s a cave no one knows about but me. This can be headquarters for us. We can hang out there until it’s safe to go to the graveyard.” Ethan wasn’t so sure about the cave. He thought about what could be in there: spiders, snakes, or even bears. Before he could say anything, though, Amos disappeared into the shadow, so Ethan followed reluctantly. The cave was the size of a large room and had a dirt floor with a ceiling that gradually got smaller as it went higher. With no wind, it was warmer than outside. Ethan noticed firewood piled over to one side and asked Amos if someone else might know about the cave.
“I brought it here a while back. I was going to camp out here one night, but it never happened. Anyway, it’s good and dry,” said Amos.
They built a fire—Amos was surprisingly good at it. As Amos was quick to point out, the cave’s vaulted ceiling must have an opening to the outside, because the smoke didn’t fill up the cave. Very soon, it was nice and warm.
Amos searched his backpack and pulled out the two bundles of sandwiches, chips, and sodas he’d packed. They relaxed beside the small fire and ate.
Amos told Ethan more about his family. He was an only child, and everyone avoided his parents; his father’s job and his mother’s eccentricity made them different. Ethan told Amos about his overachieving parents, Brinkley Academy, and Jynx. As he talked, he began to feel sleepy. He heard Amos add more wood to the fire, and then he closed his eyes and fell fast asleep.
Icy drafts seeped through the cracks between the moldy stones of the tower. Morgause sat at her ancient desk strewn with lizard parts: coiled tails, spindly legs, and shriveled gray heads. A few eyes peered up at her. A brass bowl bubbled and spit a noxious, pudding-like black liquid onto the table. Her deep, slow giggle echoed in the chamber as her long black braids spilled out around her head. Wearing a long, flowing batik dress, she pulled a tie-dyed shawl tighter around her shoulders.
Her skin was like alabaster—the only flaw a thick, jagged scar that encircled her neck. Morgause’s countenance was that of a store’s mannequin: lifelike but eerily artificial. With a long fuchsia fingernail, she moved the minute hand of a clock backward. She paused to throw a hunk of putrid meat to the vulture perched across the room.
At last, she saw movement in the pale green clock face, blurry and indistinct. A white flash stung her eyes. Figures slowly materialized, reclining near what looked to be a small fire. She cursed the lack of clarity. Then, the milky clockface went dark.
Morgause had been locked inside the tower by the tutor Bleise, her master. Eternal imprisonment was her punishment for her campaign of terror against their homeland. Her fellow student—she didn’t know what he was calling himself now—was free and living in the small town of Deadmoor, Virginia. Try as she might, she couldn’t escape. Her main obsession was the Ceithir, the four most precious objects in the history of many worlds. If she could possess the Ceithir, no power on Earth could stop her.
Her other obsession was her nemesis, her fellow student. She used her enchanted clock to monitor the comings and goings around Gramarye House. His magic had prevent- ed her clock from penetrating the walls of his mansion. For now.
Socrates Maupin awoke with a start in the library. He had seen Morgause with his unpredictable third eye—his ability to see what others cannot. Badger, curled up next to the crackling fire, followed her friend’s movements. Socrates shook his head as if to clear water from his ear. Relieved that Morgause hadn’t been able to locate the boys, he reached for his pipe.
“Badger,” he whispered, “she’s failed, but I know she’ll try again.”
The leopard acknowledged him with steely coolness in her steady gaze.
“We just need to be ready if she succeeds.” Socrates lit his pipe and settled back into the chair, creaking the well- worn leather.
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Owen R. Minter was inspired to write The Shrouded Sword, a fantasy story filled with ancient magic and time travel, after creating a drawing based on Arthurian legend. The Shrouded Sword is the first book in the Gramarye Cycle series. When he’s not writing, Owen makes paintings with a leaf blower, reads, and enjoys coaching Special Olympics Athletics.
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