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~House Vey~

I was working as a tax agent for the British government in the Year of
Our Lord 1999.  It was then that my supervisor approached
me regarding the matter of House Vey.

``It has come to my attention,'' he said, ``that there is a real estate that
has been evading tax law for centuries.  It isn't on land-survey maps and
has only come to my attention due to its recent acquisition of
materials from certain sources.''

He handed me a file that described several transactions in metals
and rare minerals by a House of Vey, location given.

``I want you to go down there,'' he continued, ``And make the books
square.''

So I did what he told me.  Not that it was easy.  There was no road that
led to the House of Vey (a house left off of the British Royals' list).
Instead, I took my auto as far as dirt roads allowed.  Then, equipped
with a hand-written map superimposed on the GPS grid, I wandered
through the British countryside in search of the House.

It wasn't easy to find.  Lines so clearly demarcing farmlands on
the map faded to scant-existent divisors in my experience.  I walked
aimlessly over hill and through valley following the crooked path.
Just as I was about to give up, I spied House Vey.

The House looked like it had been piled there through the chaos of
many years much as time shapes mountains.  It was a vague brown
color, such that it was impossible to tell which parts were wood or
metal.
Set upon the tips of parapets were brass vanes of curious intricacy,
revolving lazily in several hypnotic layers, seemingly without aid of
wind.  How long I stood there prizing my find, I know not, but the sky
had changed before I went to the door.

The door opened scarcely before I began to knock.  There stood an elder
man with an uncouth tangle of white hair.  ``Yes yes,'' he said in
a raspy voice, ``Come in already.  There's no point in standing out
there.''  He motioned anxiousless with his hands.  

Without so much as a look ahead I stepped in the house as he hobbled
further into the chamber.  Perhaps there was a gust of wind, for the door
shut behind me, leaving me in momentary darkness until my eyes adjusted.
A few misshapen candles cast scant light from atop a mantelpiece, reflected
in specks of gold and silver from metallic objects throughout the room.  
Everything was covered in such a thick layer of dust that it was
difficult to distinguish one thing from the next.  Bits of dust floated
in the air.

``Ahem,'' I said, ``Perhaps I should explain what I'm doing here.  I'm a
tax agent for Her Majesty's--''

``Hush child,'' said the old man as he turned to face me, ``for mercy's
sake.''  He held some spectacles up to his eyes that looked
hand-made.  He peered at me up and down, at one point rising on his
toes and leaning in so close that our noses nearly touched.  He
removed the spectacles, stroked his chin hairs, and muttered
to himself, ``Yes...well no.  I don't like this at all.  But he will do.''
Then he turned to me and spoke over-deliberately, ``I know you're
over-anxious to be done with your business, but in these parts its
considered rude to be in such a hurry.  I'd like you to meet my
family.''  

He gestured with upturned palms.  Sitting on a couch
so still that I had not
noticed
them before was a a homely woman of unguessable
age
and
young boy with
skin untouched by sun and
with some baby-fat still in his cheeks.  
They too seemed covered with dust, but it must have been a
trick of the shadows, for when they arose it seemed to melt from their
faces which shone in the candle-light.

The youth bounded towards me with a bright smile.  ``This is Ian,''
said the old man, ``He's a brilliant child.  A prodigy, you might say.''
I held out my hand and the child clasped it in both of his and
shook vigorously.  He opened his mouth as if to speak, but instead
just giggled.

The woman moved slowly and rigidly towards us, a slight smile on
her face.  ``This is the Lady of the House,
what you might call my wife,'' said the old man,
who for the first time smiled himself at her, ``Though of course
such labels are pretty useless here.''  She gave the slightest
curtsy.  

``What is her name?'' I asked.

``Just call her Mother,'' the man said, ``She's old enough that we can
all call her Mother.  As for me, I am called Vey, though perhaps a bard
could give me a more romantic name.  I am the caretaker of this house
while the Lord is away.''

``When will he be returning?'' I asked, ``I have business with him.''

The child and mother looked at each other quizzically.  ``The Lord will
not be returning,'' said Vey, ``However, I am entitled
to proctor business
for the House.''

``Ah good,'' I said, ``You see, I am a tax agent and this house
doesn't seem to be registered--''

I stopped as I heard a succession of booming noises, getting louder and
louder, until through a curtain stepped a mountain of a man wearing
armored boots and carrying a claymore on which was skewered a boar.  He
had dark hair and eyes and his features were gaunt.  Blood dripped
from the boar as he stood there.  Ian turned away, horrified, and the
mother lowered her head and covered her eyes

``And this is Edmund,'' siad Vey, ``You will behave yourself in front
of our guest won't you?''

``I caught this one trespassing,'' said Edmund, ``So I ran him through.''

``Well, at least we'll have dinner tonight,'' said Vey, ``Won't you be
kind enough to put the beast in the kitchen?''

Edmund stood there a moment, his eyes upon Vey's as if he was
considering running him through.  Then he shrugged his shoulders and
trod off the way he came, the booming of his boots gradually lessening.
For a moment, everyone just stood there, as if it wasn't sure what
would happen next.  Then, I remember the business at hand.

``I'm sorry, Vey,'' I began again, trying to be polite this time, ``If
I've come at a bad time.  But we really must get the business of
the registration of this house in order.''

``Patience!'' Vey yelled the word, ``Patience my dear fellow.  Here its
customary to have a little hospitality with business.  You'll stay for
supper, and then we can sort out whatever matter you're on about over
libations.''

``No,'' I said, ``I really can't stay.  I need to get back before dark.''

``Nonsense!'' said Vey, ``Of course you can stay.  And its already dark.''

He opened a shutter to reveal a sky that showed no sign of daylight.
The evening star had already risen.

``I must go at once!'' I said, ``I'll be lucky if I can got to  my car and
get back home in time for bed.'' I turned to the door, then realized how
disheveled I must have looked, and turned back and bowed for want of
something to do.  I dropped my papers, which the child picked up
before I could bend for them.

``Do you really think you can find your way back in the dark?'' asked
Vey,  ``Now be a good lad and leave your hustle and bustle behind for
a night.  You can stay here, I insist.  Don't think yourself an
inconvenience to us.''

I stood dumfounded.

``Ian,'' he said to the boy, ``Would you be so kind as to take the
good sir's papers to the library?''  The boy nodded and was off.

``Mother,'' said Vey, ``I'll need your help preparing the meal.  I'll start
the fire.''

For such a large boar, it seemed to cook in no time at all.  Then again,
I know nothing about cooking.  I had never had boar meat before, though
I figured it would be near enough to pork.  They beckoned me to the
kitchen when the food was ready.  An invertible feast stood on a great
wooden table.  Vey sat at the head of the table with the Mother and
Ian on his left.  Edmund sat on the right, and as soon as I walked in
pulled out a dagger and stabbed it into the table.  

``Lets get to eating,'' he said, and grabbed some boar meat and
devoured it.

I sat down and helped myself to some of everything.  While a pleasant
aroma, the smell of spice was overwhelming.  Taking a few bites,
it all tasted delicious, even the boar.  After satisfying my
hunger, I looked up to see Vey, the Mother, and the child calmly eating,
while Edmund on the other side eating like a half-starved wolf.

I notice a cat with silver streaks in its hair towards one end of the
table, then too quickly at the other end.  Now looking more carefully,
I saw there were several cats around, which all looked
alike, hidden in the darkness and revealed
only by their eyes and silvery fur.

A rather large spider descended by spinning a thread of its silk
from the chandelier above.  The child saw me looking at it, and catching
an eye of it himself dropped his knife and fork with a clatter on the
table.  Then Vey and the Mother noticed it and all three stared
at it open-mouthed.  Even Edmund stopped shoveling food in his mouth,
though he was still chewing as the spider lowered itself.  Ian
looked at his mother and started crying into her, but before many sobs
one of the cats jumped on the table and devoured it before it touched
the table.  Ian and his mother applauded and a smiled crossed their faces
and Vey's.  Edmund resumed his gluttony.

I spied a wispy
figure, nearly blending in with the velvet curtain
beside him.  He was not eating, but just sitting watching the
rest of us as if studying our every move.
I could not distinguish the gender, for all the skin but the upper
face was draped in subdued hues of crimson and indigo.  
The only mark of
color radiated from an iguana, two feet in length,
its tail coiling around
the figure's arm up to the shoulder.

``That's Skye,'' said Vey, ``you might call him a distant cousin of our
family.''

This Skye nodded at me but said nothing.  In my hunger I realized that I
knew little about these people and indeed had thought little ahead of
my official visit.  ``So if we shan't discuss business over dinner,
may I at least ask the history of this House?'' I asked.

``Who do you ask?'' said Skye, his voice dark and airy, like
a deep shadow of a voice.  

All eyes look at me in curiousity, save
Edmund who stomped his boot down, shaking the dishes and dropped
his food to say, ``Let me tell it!  I can tell it the truest.''

I didn't know what to say and no one else spoke.  So finally I said,
``Okay, Edmund.''

He began speaking, putting the full gamete of emotions into his speech,
as if the telling was most profound thing in his life:

``The McBaern family had,'' Edmund begun, ``For some generations now,
lived in a
shack by the river.  Not a large shack, mind you, but one of those
glorified lean-tos with a tin roof that had somehow grown to look
as part of the land.  Jeb `Pappy' McBaern made his living in
providing leeches to medicine men and surgeons that still used such
things from old tradition, or who recently rediscovered that art.  
Every night he came home covered
with leeches which his daughter Lily lovingly
picked off.
He drank some of the potent corn whisky and went to sleep.

``One day, the great storm came -- a furious thunderin' storm rolling
across the hills, blowing a wind about which grandfathers would tell
their grandchildren.  The McBaern family was outside, holding somewhat
of an important conference to decide whether they should slaughter their
mule, Ol' Bessie, for the meat.  The wind came blowing and their shack
went flying.

`` `Well shat,' spoke Pappy.  And their stood their, a portrait of a
a less glamorous side of American Gothic.

`` `Where are we going to live, Pappy' asked Petunia, the youngest of
the children.

``Jeb McBaern stood up right tall, staring into the storm with defiance
in his eyes.  He cleared his throat and began in a strong, solemn voice,
`I reckon...I said, I reckon -- aw hell with it, we might as well curl up
in a little ball and die.  We gonna die children!'

`` `Pappy!' some cried, and all began weeping.

``Heads turned as they heard a sort of crashing up river and blank faces
stared open-mouthed as a cottage was floating down the flooded stream.

`` `No time to lose, hook up Ol' Bessie,' said Jeb, sticking a corn-cob pipe
in his mouth, `If we work fast we can grab that cottage.'

``They got the whole thing hooked up with ropes and the family pulled with
all their might,along with Bessie, amidst the torrential water and
managed to get that house up where their shack used to stand,
not much worse for wear.

`` `Well, he he,' laughed Pappy, `Christmas just might come again
this year.'

``The next few days were spent in elation as they got settled in the
cottage.

`` `We never had a wood floor before, Pappy!'' cried one child.

`` `I think the butter churn still works!' cried another.''

A long, eerie silence ensued, as if the conversation went on but no one
in the room was left a part of it.

`So you're saying that cottage is this?'' I asked, `And that that story
is true?'

``Yes,'' said Ian, ``Except it wasn't Christmas we celebrated.''

The Mother gave him a stern look.  Edmund laughed.  
As everyone had finished
eating, she began clearing away the table.

``But surely you're not serious,'' I said, ``I mean, it doesn't even
seem set here. Let alone all the other absurdities.''

``What is so hard to understand?'' said Ian.

``So why is it name `House Vey' if it was founded by this McBaern
fellow?'' I asked.

``As I told you,'' said Vey, speaking very slowly and deliberately,
``I keep the house for the Lord.  It
bears my name until his return.''

I opened my mouth to say
that McBaern didn't sound to have the
makings of a Lord, but he kept on talking, ``And this has
nothing to do with your business anyway,'' said Vey,  
``Since everyone is done
eating, let's retire to the library for that cordial I promised you.''
He rose from his seat and grabbed a candle-holder and walked down one
of the adjoining hallways.  Ian waved at me as I followed.  We walked
through a narrow unlit twisted passge which seemed to curve unnecessarily
every few meters.  Except for the occasional door, the passage was
featureless.

Vey opened a door to a room bathed in rich warm firelight from a
large hearth.  A bright wooden room contained an inestimable number
of well-preserved volumes, with ladders streching up the wall of
bookcases several meters high to an ornate ceiling.  In the center
of the room was large table of polished chestnut surrounded by chairs.
In the center of the table was my briefcase of papers.
Vey gestured me to sit at a chair as he walked to a liquor cabinet.

``Wine or cognac?'' he asked.

``Wine, please,'' I said.  He poured me a stone goblet of a wine so
dark that its crimson tint could be scarcely discerned from black.
He poured himself a snifter of cognac that glowed a bright gold
in the firelight.  He gave me the wine and raised his glass in silent
toast, which I answered.

Sitting himself, Vey began, ``So you will tell me that my house is
not registered under whatever laws require so, and that I must be
added to the lists, and pay levys, and what have you.''

``Yes,'' I said, ``Then you were aware that you were in violation of
the law?''

``Not aware of,'' he said, ``Though I have heard others tell of
similar happenings so I guessed what your business here might be.  Did
I guess correctly?''

``Yes, nearly so,'' I said, looking through my papers, ``So if you could
fill out these forms -- I can help you if you wish -- then we can
at least get on the way to--''

``I am not interested,'' said Vey, and sat motionless looking me dead
in the eye.  The cackle of the fire puntuated the thick silence.

``I'm afraid, good man...sir...'' I stammered, not knowing how to address
him.  His eyes were unwavered.  ``I'm afraid its not an option.  You
see its required by law that--''

``It is not my law,'' he said.

``Well yes,'' I said, ``I'm sure you didn't vote for it.  But its
required that--''

``There is nothing more to discuss on the matter,'' he said, ``Another
word about your forms and treaties will be the death of us both.''

I didn't know what to say there.  Part of me wondered if he was
making a joke, but his eyes were so stern and serious that I didn't
dare ask.  Vey sipped his cognac, his eyes never leaving me, and I took
a drink of wine to calm my nerves.  I realized I hadn't tasted it
yet for I was shocked how magnificent and complex it was, such a deep
earthy tone atop which were subtle textures barely discernible --
oak, cherry, honey, and many more that blended in perfect
harmony on my palate.
Such a crisp, clear taste that I almost forgot the necessity of my
business.

I decided to begin again, in a diferrent way.  ``The wine is
very good,'' I said, to which Vey nodded with a polite smile, ``Thank
you for it.  If I may, though, can I at least confirm some of our
records for the sake of accuracy?''  When he did not answer, I decided
to press on:  ``Looking here, it saw that just this last year you
bought what I would consider an unusual purchase for a house like
this.  Three tons of high-quality brass, two hundred kilos of
quartz.  Large quantities of feldspar, jasper, azurite...silver and
gold ingots.  Did you buy these?''

``I did,'' Vey said.

``Ah, very good,'' I said, ``Now...`Reason of Purchase'? ''

``I require them for my work,'' Vey said.

``Oh?'' I said, ``Are you an artist?  What is your profession?''

`` `My profession'?'' he said, the quotation marked gestured
to by his intonations.  ``Who says that I am employed?''

``But you said--'' I started, but he cut me off.

``I know what I said!''  said Vey, who rose more quickly than
I would have guessed he could have moved from his age and slow gait.
He loomed over the table, the firelight casting his shadow giant and
menacing on the bookcases behind him.  It darkened the whole room.
Then he sat, and said, much more meekly, ``Forgive me.  When you get
to be my age it is sometimes hard to be patient with the young.
Yes, I bought such things.  No, I have no source of income nor require
any.  If you want to call me an artist working for my own pleasure,
then so shall it be.  
We take nothing from the British Government, and will give nothing
in return.  Suffice it that your records are accurate, I can
promise, and nothing more of your official business will you get from
me.''

At this point, I contemplated telling him the consequences of
his actions.  But I was more afraid of him then than I was
even of Edmund and his blade.  I also decided against trying to
get him to sign off the forms.  I just wanted to leave, but thought
about how hard it was to find the house by day, and figured it
must be deep night at that point.  I was stuck.  I drank some more
of the remarkable wine and it roused my spirits a bit.

``I'm sorry if I offended you,'' I decided to offer in case there
was any bad blood between us, ``I was just trying to do my job.  But
I will leave you alone if you'd rather.  I can't promise that no one
else will come, though.''

``It is not your concern,'' said Vey, drinking the last of his snifter.
``Tell me,'' he said, ``What do you think of magic?''

``Do you mean slight of hand, that sort of thing?'' I asked.

He turned up his palm and I saw a ball of fire materialize, hover over his
hand.  He blew on it and it floated over to me, but disippated as
it reached me.

``Fascinating, sir,'' I said, ``How do you do it?''

``Practice,'' he said, ``So come along.  If you are finished with
your official business here, I'll show you to your room.''

I took the last drink of my wine and we left the library.  Vey, holding
the candle, led me again through the twisting passageways.  I could
not tell if we were returning the way we came or on a new route entirely.
The hallway ended in a old wooden stairway leading up.

``We have to go through the attic to get to the guest bed,'' he said.

`Old architecture', I thought, and the thought somehow amused me.  

As
we climbed the stair, the darkness seemed to deepen as the ceiling rose
with the slope of the roof and
a draft felled the candle to a mere pinprick of light.
Vey opened the door to the attic of the house, a room
filled only with gray spider webs and dust.  One of the black cats streaked
up the stairs past us into the room and stalked around in front
of us with the curiosity of a hunter.
The dust and webs were so thick that I wondered if I would ever be able
to get my shoes clean.  I could scarcely breath
for all the particulate that hung in the air.  I noticed
a window to deep blue sky framed in colorlessness.
I saw what looked light lightning, but pink dissolving to green, arc
in front of the distant clouds.  We crossed the room to another
stair leading down.

We emerged in another hall, indistinguishable from the one we came from.
Vey opened a door at the foot of the stair.  ``This is our guest
room,'' he said, ``You may stay here tonight.''  The room was the
very image of a dainty country
bed and breakfast, though much older. A
canopy bed was made as if by the perfect butler.
A nightstand held a silver tray with a pitcher of water, sweating
as if freshly chilled, by which stood an empty glass and a burning
candle.
  The walls were ornately carved hard wood, and
on the floor was a bright
plush carpet thicker than any I had seen before.
The cat walked onto it and seemed to sink
into its intricate pattern and nearly vanish,
but it must have been an illusion for when I stepped on it it was
no deeper than it appeared.  

With only a nod, Vey closed the door and left me alone in the house
for the first time.  The cat made it out just before the door caught
its tail.  I sighed, poured myself a glass of water, and went over
my notes, feeling a little guilty that I couldn't complete my duties.
At the end, I gave up and retired to the bed and fell fast asleep as
my eyes closed watching the moon against the deep blue sky behind
dark swaying tree branches.

The strangeness of the day was mirrored in my dreams.  In them, many of
the events were repeated, but in the hazy way that they often are
in night visions.  In the end of the dream, Vey brought me to a guest
room similar in style, but an even more immaculate image of a fancy
bed and breakfast room.  I awoke to the sound of movement in the room.
I froze in fright, but it seemed too small a thing to be a person.  One
of the cats jumped on the foot of my bed and started cuddling up
to me.

``Where did you come from?'' I asked in astonishment.  As if in answer,
the cat jumped back off and I sat up and watched him.  He walked around on
the thick carpet, back and forth, and sank deeper and deeper until
he disappeared.  My momentary puzzlement was forgotten when I heard a
blood-curdling scream.
I didn't know what to do,
as I didn't want to fall victim of foul play myself, so for some time
I just sat there.  But the tortured screams came again and again.
I finally resolved that I must do something, be it my business or no.

I tried to step down from the bed, but when my feet hit the carpet it gave
way and I sunk as quick as falling.  My hands sought something
to gain purchase on, but nothing held steady.  As I fell, it seemed like
the carpet felt wet and more plant-like than fibre-like.  I plunged through
a ceiling to a stone passage, seemingly uncarved
but natural.  I landed on my bum with
a jolt, though without injury.  Near me, there was a large door cut out of
a single slab of granite
upon which were carved sigils and runes foreign to me.  On each side of the
door was a burning torch held in an iron sconce.  Were it not for
these touches of civilization, I would have hardly been surprised that
I had left the house altogether and was some miles away.  I looked up
and was glad to see that hole that I had fallen through was not covered
with carpet but a stringy moss.

I heard a noise behind me
and remembered the screams I had heard.  I turned
in haste, but saw only Ian, a peculiar smile forming on his face
as he saw me.

``Hello!'' he said, seeming not at all surprised to find me in the underground
passageway.

``Be careful,'' I said, ``I heard the most awful screams.''

``These caves do really echo the
noises we make, don't they?'' the child said.

``So you didn't hear any screams?'' I asked.

Ian chuckled and said, ``You're funny.''  I wondered if this child
was indeed the prodigy that Vey said he was, or some sort of autistic
savant, or just autistic.  For whatever reason, his non-concern seemed
to reassure me that perhaps nothing was wrong.

``What is this place?'' I asked.

``This is where lie those who have gone before us,'' the child said,
gesturing at the sigil-ridden door.

``A crypt?'' I said, ``Hardly the place to wander at night.  What
were you doing here?''

``I always come here,'' said Ian, and I heard the sound of Vey's voice
reflected in his.  I had wondered that this young lad was his child,
as aged as Vey was, but when Ian said this I perceived it to be true.

``Well, if you don't mind, lead me back to my room,'' I said,
and hastened to add, ``Please?''

``Okay,'' Ian said, and started down the cavernous passage back the
way he came.  I followed close behind.  As we got further from
the burning brands it quickly grew very dark.  Grown man though I am,
I must confess I grew fearful, and the horrible screams replayed
themselves in my mind.  Why did I trust this small child's judgement?
We approached a flight of broad stone steps, barely visible to me
in the blackness.  I was about to suggest going back for a torch, but
before I could speak, Ian shouted, ``I'll race you!''

``No, Ian!'' I cried, but it was too late.  He was off like a flash,
and soon I couldn't even hear the echoes of his footfalls.  I froze for
a moment, weighing my poor lot of choices.  I didn't want to go back
to the crypt, as the thought of being so near death in such a mood
fill me with dread.  But at the same time I didn't want to climb
the unlit stairs in darkness.  In the end, I resolved to climb
the stairs.  I put my hand on the stone wall and went up the steps
ever so slowly.  As the light dimmed, I had to go up by feel alone, and
for what seemed an eternity I climbed in solid blackness.

Finally, my hand felt wood instead of stone, and as I put some weight on
it a door opened into starlight.  The moon must have already set, but
the stars were bright and numerous this far from the city.
I stepped through the door into an atrium with trees reaching up
to a glass ceiling.  The starlight illuminated plants I could not
identify, but beautiful leaves of deep violets and greens and some
silver flowers dusted with dew.  I saw that I was not alone, but standing
in the garden was the Lady of the House.

She did brief curtsy and said, ``Good evening, new friend.  
How do you like my garden?''

``Its beautiful,'' I said, and noticed that under the starlight she
did not look at all old or homely, but as a lovely young maiden
with eyes reflecting heaven's lamps.

She approached me and clasped my right hand with her left.  When I
opened my mouth to object, she covered it with her other hand.  I
closed it, and she asked me, ``Tell me...what do you think of me?''

``You're very nice,'' I said, ``And a wonderful cook, and you seem
very kind.''

``Do you love me?'' she asked, and sought my eyes with hers.  And
she looked to me then more beautiful than any woman I had ever laid
eyes on.  I could see how Vey did love her, and was even jealous
that she was not mine.

``You have a husband!'' I said, ``And a child.''  I tried to pull
away, but my muscles gave out on me.

``Do you love me?'' she asked.  

I stared at her eyes and wanted to cry.  So much of me wanted to
say yes, but I couldn't break this family apart.  I couldn't just start
a new life with someone I barely knew.  And I feared that not
knowing each other, that she wouldn't like me or I her, and that
this moment of passion I would remember as lust and not love.
So I said, ``No.''

She let go of my hand and collapsed, weeping into her hands.  I
tried to console her, but she only batted me away.  Confused, I left
the starlit garden in search of my room.  

I made my way blindly through the mad turnings of the hallways, looking
for the door to my room at the foot of the stairs.  But again, louder and more
clearly, I heard the tortured screams.  I shivered in the darkness.  But
I resolved, for the sake of the house and my own, to find the madman
responsible for this horror.  I followed the sound to a door.  Slowly,
and as quietly as I could, I opened the door just a crack and peered
inside.

Consuming the room was ornate machinery, lined with
brass and interconnected with moving crystal rods. Edmund stood before
a panel standing in the center like the keyboard to some ancient
immaculate organ.  His wolfish grin stretched from ear to ear.
Brass carvings revolved in unceasing pattern, sending
faint arcs of electricity between one another.

Upon the machine was stretched a naked human.  The electricity touched
him and burnt his skin.  The crystal rods prodded at his skin,
causing him to bleed, and he incessantly screamed in pain.  I watched
in horror, unable to avert my eyes.  Then I caught sight of the
face of the person.  It was my face, the same I see everyday!
Edmund noticed me.
He looked at me with blood-lust and ran towards the door.  I tried to
shut it, but his foot and sword were already blocking it open.  
Drool fell from his teeth as he stared at me, pushing the door further
open.  I couldn't match his strength!

Then I awoke in a sweat.  
I was back in my guest room.
Were all my night wanderings --
the cat in the carpet, the screams, the Mother's divine beauty,
-- just a dream?
The room that I was in
was not what I remembered falling asleep in.  Instead, it was
the more immaculate room from my earlier dream.
Which is real -- the dream or the waking?  The morning sun streamed
in through the window.  Now more than ever, I looked forward
to my departure.

Just as I had finished dressing, there
was a knock on my door.  Before I could say, `Come in', the door
opened and Vey stood beyond.  For a moment I felt guilty for meeting
with his wife in the garden,
and then I felt silly for it was just a dream.  But I did nothing
wrong, as far as I could tell, and can a man be held accountable for
his dreams?

``We are out of eggs and toast, so you will have to make due with
coffee for breakfast,'' said Vey.  He gave me a cup of black coffee
in a white porcelein mug.

``I trust you want to
be on your way,'' he said, ``Nevertheless, a
night's sleep does magnify regrets of yesterday, and I wish to again say
that I'm sorry for my lack of hospitality last night.  Though manners
can never be ammended with gifts, I recall you quite enjoying your
wine and I would gladly give you a case if it would leave us in
closer acquaintence.''

``I don't want to be a burden,'' I said.

``Please,'' he said, ``The regret would burden me if you didn't take
it.''

``Very well,'' I said.  Vey smiled.  

``Come with me,'' he said, and I followed him through a set of twisted
passages back to the library, though I could swear that the route
changed from when we had been there last night.  

The fire was no longer burning in the hearth, and the room seemed
somehow emptier for it.  Vey pushed down with his foot
on a certain stone at the base of the hearth, and the back wall of
the fireplace rose up.  I had heard about secret passages that were
in some of the older houses in England, but I had never seen one
myself.  A torch on the wall illuminated stone stairs that led down
to caverns like those I had seen last night.  But as we walked down,
we seemed to go deeper than I had been (or imagined I had been) before.

We reached a small stone winecellar with high ceilings and wine
racks stacked to the top, mostly filled with bottles.  In the center
of the room were Ian and his Mother, tending some plants growing from
the top of square box planters stacked three high.  The plants were of
the same deep indigo and green that I had seen in the garden.  Ian
and his Mother looked carefully at each leaf, touching them, as she
spoke to Ian about them in hushed tones.  

``They are about to harvest the latest batch,'' said Vey, ``Do you want
to see?''

``Sure,'' I said.

They lifted up the top planter and underneath was a planter that I first
thought was filled just with
dirt, but looking closer I saw there was all manner
of bugs living there -- centipedes, crickets, potato bugs, pillbugs,
and countless others.  Ian looked at Mother, who nodded.  He set
the top planter aside and picked up the second planter.  In the bottom
planter there was little soil, but a mass of worms and slugs of
all types, writhing in a seeming invertebrate orgy.  Ian set aside
the planter and picked up the bottom planter.
A strange
black liquid dripped from the planter as he held it to a cavity
in the rock floor.
In the middle, growing out of the very rock itself, was a orange ruffled
fungus
with streaks of blue.  It seemed to be pulsing with life, and the black
drops that fell on it were instantly sucked inside it.  A smile
graced the Mother's face as Ian got down on his knees.  First he
kissed it, then
squeezed and massaged
the fungus, which let out the crimson-black liquid into
a crystal vessel which he poured into an empty wine bottle.
He did this again and again as Vey and
Mother looked on in pride, while my stomach turned and I suppressed
a gag.

``That's what I drank last night?'' I said.

``Yes,'' said Vey, ``Though this is the first time the child
has harvested it.''

``I want none of it then,'' I said, ``Absolutely disgusting.''
The mother looked disappointed.

Vey sighed.  ``Very well,'' he said, ``Is there nothing else I can offer
you that will ease the debt between us?''  He raised his eyebrow.

``The coffee was good,'' I said, trying
to satiate his offer of hospitality, ``I wouldn't mind another cup.''

``Very well,'' said Vey, ``Lets all go upstairs.  We can continue this
harvest another time.''

We walked back upstairs to the same parlor where I first entered the
house.  Seeing the door to the outside gave me no small comfort, I
don't mind telling you.  ``Mother,'' said Vey, ``Please bring us some
coffee.''  

``A lump of sugar with mine, please,'' I said.  She brought out a carafe
and poured a cup for myself, herself, and Vey.  She also put a lump
of sugar on my saucer
along a spoon.  Perhaps it was bad nerves from my restless night,
but when I tried to
pick it up I dropped the spoon and it fell and bounced
under the couch I was sitting on.

I felt under the couch and found a metal spring covered in cobwebs and
lint.  I ran my finger along the groove of its coil, until
I came to a metal spike, which pricked my finger.  I recoiled quickcly,
withdrawing my hand and holding it under my eyes.
There was a small drop of blood.

``You were pricked by a thorn!'' said Mother, as she crowded in to
look at the injury.

``No,'' I said, ``It was some sort of metal spike.  Its not bad.''

She lowered her head and shook it solemnly side to side.  The child
placed a hand on her and said, ``You see what you want to see, I guess.''
He looked half at me and half at her.

She looked up at the clock and her expression transformed from dismay to
horror.  ``The Elves!'' she cried out, ``Quickly!''  She arose and began
ushering everyone out of the room as fast a possibly.  I was among the last
and as I glanced over my shoulder I saw a small figure with silverish hair
streaked with autumn holding a crystalline blade.  But this was in a blur
of motion and a flash of dust in the final moment before the door stood
completely closed.  It came upon me that stillness had frozen the moment,
for the image of the door was unmoving, no longer vertical but lying flat
upon the ground and with nothing before or behind it.  I had been staring
at the door for an inestimable amount of time.  It split in half as I opened
my eyes, finding a new picture filling the interior as if painted
by prismatic brushes while I stood frozen.

I was back in the room,
the Mother standing over me, slapping my face, though I felt only vague
numbness.  The others were standing there too, their faces grim.
I found I was lying upon the floor.

``What happened?'' I said.

``You were pricked by a thorn,'' said the mother.

``I don't understand,'' I said, ``This just happened.''

``No,'' said Vey, ``This is what happened.''

He held up his hand and a glowing globe appeared
in the room, making all else seem dark.
At first colors swirled without definition, but after
a moment they became clear and began to form shapes.  I saw myself
walking to the House, I saw my interaction with the Lady, word for
word and movement for movement, but it was not me but instead Vey,
and I saw myself watching Edmund torture me, then the scene changed,
and it was I torturing Victor, as his mirror image looked on.
Then I saw
world motionless, and if I thought a thought I could see
it being born in mind as if time was just a collection of tiny
building blocks.  

``How can this be?'' I asked, ``I cannot both be in a place and watch
myself there.
I must still be dreaming.''

``Only the great dream,'' said Vey,  ``When I asked if you believed
in magick, you made some quip about slight of hand.  I have seen nothing
that cannot be done with smoke and mirrors, but belief in illusion
only beguiles the believer.''

``We are the last House of our line of Magick in this world,''
said Skye.

``We are dying,'' Vey said, ``And we brought you here to help us.
To be blunt, I don't like you.  You are brash and young and know
nothing of our ways.
But you are here with me now
so you must help me.''

For the first time, I realized -- I truly understood -- that I was
no longer in what I quite called the mundane world.  
The things which had seemed strange now suddenly made sense,
as if I could now see things through a window that had been cracked open
where before I sat in darkness.
``What can I do?'' I asked.

``All you can do is to be what you are,'' said Vey, ``Just open the front
door and step through.  No matter what you perceive, you must
step through the door.''

I opened the door.  Nothing but blackness lay beyond.  Was it
mortal blackness or the curtain of some infernal night?  Trying to see,
I stepped upon the threshold.  The same feeling of the moment
between dream and waking
came over me again.  A sharp pain exuded its warning at my side as
the world peeled back before my eyes.  I stood there, entranced, peering
into the realm of fantasy and nightmares.  Its unearthly light filled my
senses, my every being, enticing me with an unworldly ecstasy, of dreams
beyond dreams.  It came to me that I could move {\it between} worlds --
that is, I could decide whether to return to the life I had known and
the comforts it had brought me or fall into hysterical dreams and the
madness of gods ... into waterfalls drowning my senses in ecstasy.  I did
not know which way was the trap.  As I reflected on the merits of a choice,
I saw only its folly.  So went my thoughts on the threshold.  And each side
seemed to distort, to cave in, as the doorframe became the pinnacle of all
that was.  I stood there in blind indecision as both worlds folded under me.
Then at last the doorway collapsed and I was falling, though into what realm
I knew not.  I had the feeling of plunging into deep water, then my memory
blanks.  And the stars fell.

I found myself on the ground outside of the House at dusk.
The brass fixtures crowning the house spun like a violent dynamo
and glowed under the night of the moon.  Blue electricity arced
across the vanes, sending of shower of sparks fading orange into the night.

Just inside the door stood Lady, Vey, and Ian, while next to me stood
Skye.  Vey gestured with his hands and the whole House rose from the ground,
sparks shooting everywhere.  A dark hole appeared in the sky, and
winds picked up sending a torrent of leaves into the void.

``Farewell, child!'' said Vey, ``Edmund
is no longer with us.  Skye has decided
to remain with you, though he will be
ever hidden.  Do not forget what you've seen here.
These are the last of our legacy here.''  His left hand held
three large gems glowing in the shower of sparks.
He raised his right hand and sent the House flying towards the hole
in space.

At the last moment before
the House vanished and the hole closed,
Vey cast down the three jewels.  We stood
dumfounded, as if each of us could not decide what to do.  The iguana
struggled against Skye's grasp frantically, compulsively leaping out and
scrambling towards the stones faster than I thought it possible to move.
It swallowed them, one after another, in three successive gulps as we
continued to look on without action.  And that was the end of magick.

* * *

So ends my report.  Since House Vey no longer exists in England,
there is no longer the need to resolve any related tax anomaly.
While I realize that this write-up will ruin my career,
I have sworn to present the truth as I have seen it and I have done
just that.
an auditor stumbles across an ancient House in Britain.
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