Cueco's Student - Chapter 1 - The Professor
Copyright © 2010 A W
Chapter 1 – The Professor
The courtyard was drenched with
late evening sunlight. A mist, velvet soft was beginning to rise gently from
the grass that, in places, sparkled with the evening dew. The leaves of the two
gnarled and shrivelled trees that sat in a shadowed western corner were already
beginning to turn as autumn began, restless in its slumber, to stir. Whilst
squirrels dashed from one end of the four walled enclosure to the other, frantically
gathering stores for the harsher, colder months ahead.
Professor Cueco swept across the
century old flagstone at a pace. He had been here so many times before that the
eerie beauty of the age old buildings no longer struck him. The warm glow of
the library windows, the scent of the wallflowers that wound up around the
supporting pillars, making no impression on this dark pilgrim who strode ever
onward. He moved underneath the thick, faded windows of the president’s rooms
without a glance upwards at the mounted gargoyles, who leered down into the
He wrapped his travelling cloak
tightly around him as he passed between the arms of the last archway and into
the college gardens. These too were softly lit by the quickly cooling embers of
a dying day and the grass lawns, so uniformly ordered by the gardeners, were
engulfed by a thicker fog that covered every square foot and seemed to throw
its desperate, leeching tendrils towards the lower branches of trees, spaced
haphazardly throughout the expanse.
These trees, that looked down with what had
once seemed to the professor, to be the mournful longing of old men who wished,
at last to be buried in the soft ground with the dons who had planted them.
The Pilgrim strode on, the soles
of his shoes “tap... tap... tapping” against the cold ground. He turned off the
path from the central quad and came left, passing into a manmade copse. The
dense overgrowth blacked out the sunset, and the professor thought, in a momentary
lapse from his reverie, that he could distinguish, even at this late month, the
gentle scent of the garden roses. The strongest of which still crowded at the
foot of an old oak.
Here he left the surety of the
flagstone once and for all, diverting his footsteps to an overgrown gravel
path, no more than a fox trail, which would have seemed to the passerby to lead
nowhere but a crumbling limestone wall. And yet the professor continued to
approach it without faltering, crushing weeds that had grown through the shoddy
stone path, not even faltering as he came face to face with the wall itself.
He murmured the two words gently,
almost under his breath. Yet, despite their subtlety they were still spoken
with force, their meaning barely mistakable.
The wall instantly crumbled away
as if it had been some mirage, a figment of imagination, allowing the Professor
to pass down a short flight of stairs, into the blackness of the anti-chamber
below. The professor’s entry confirmed, the wall reformed, like some organic
life form that sprouted from the earth, blacking out the final source of light
to the room below.
And still, as if gifted with some
bizarre night vision, the professor strode on, divining his way perhaps, like a
bat, interpreting the reverberations caused by the continued, incessant,
tapping of his shoes on the ground beneath him, now a smooth palatial marble,
veins of reds and purples becoming more evident to his eyes as they adapted to
the intoxicating darkness.
And then, as suddenly as the darkness
had fallen, blocked out by the illusory wall at the entrance, a second forceful
murmur returned the whole world to life. The professor, though not shocked, was
still forced to squint as his eyes focused on the amber firelight, and the
finery of the warm room in which, finally still, he now stood.
“Good Evening Seth...”
Another man, older than Cueco,
with a modest covering of silver grey hair, sat, almost enthroned on a high
backed chair to the left of a blazing open fire. A half empty goblet of wine
cradled in his right hand which slumped aimlessly over the arm, and cigar smoke
wisped upward in ever decreasing circles from an ash tray on small table. It
was he who had spoken, with a tremulous, dour undertone, as if Professor
Cueco’s entry had disturbed him from some deep revelry.
“... and what brings you here at
this hour? I was not aware that you were due, or I would have prepared.”
Cueco raised an eyebrow, which
masked his annoyance at the use of his Christian name. The other man gestured
toward a second chair, positioned on the other side of the fire. Cueco removed
his overcoat, laid it across a desk near the entrance of the room, and took the
seat, perching somewhat uncomfortably, as if he was not used to the luxury the
“You know full well I am here,
But the older man raised a hand
and Cueco paused;
“We have both known each other
too long to be addressing each other with formalities, Seth, and you are
correct, I know why you have come.”
Once again, Cueco winced at the
use of his first name, and for the first time seemed to lose his composure,
just for an instant, both annoyance and impatience evident in his all too
experienced eyes. And then it was gone, his features, sharp and weather beaten,
became placid and controlled once more.
“You have seen the boy?”
“And you are in agreement?”
“Then why are you still sat here? It is time, we must begin...”
Again Ramiel raised a hand for
silence; he rose from his chair and turned from the fire to a bookshelf, which
ran along the wall furthest from Cueco, from one end of the room to the other,
shelving volume upon worn volume.
Now face to face to it, the older
man paused, simply staring at the books, in complete silence, enamoured, and
surveying the contents of the shelves. Inwardly frustrated Seth opened his
mouth to speak again, but...
“Patience, Seth, Patience... the
hour is not yet as late as you think, we have time.”
Ramiel seemed at last to spot
something in the bookshelf, and moved with deceptive agility mid way down the
length of the room and eased a small leather bound volume from its place,
wedged comfortably between two larger texts.
“Time?” Uttered Cueco “What time
do we have? The watch is over Achaia, there is no more time! We must see to the
Boy and we must do it quickly.”
“We must do nothing Seth, you forget yourself, and your post, I will
decide what must be done and when, and you will abide by that.”
Ramiel returned to his seat, taking
a puff from the cigar whilst placing the glass, now empty, down on the table.
He opened the volume, and settled back, ignoring Cueco.
Seth spoke the words with the
same purpose and force that he had applied to the doors that had given him
entry. Their meaning completely and fully understandable. Ramiel looked up, a
look of contempt etched on his face.
“I will not abide by your foolery
Achaia, not anymore. This is madness, there is no time, you’ve gotten too
comfortable, it is time!”
Cueco got to his feet, the anger
plain on his face, he turned on his heel, took up his coat and make for the
threshold of the anti-chamber.
“Do not be rash Seth, you have
fewer friends than you seem to think, you are weak, always too impulsive, ever
the martyr, I tell you now, you leave this room, and it will be to your end. There
will be no return”
Seth took one look around the
room, its warm reds, the crackling fire, the scent of the cigar.
And he strode from the room.
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