The Blackford Folly, Part 5

Something I recognised crouched by the Treasure. The powerful reptilian legs and clawed arms. The thick black spidery hairs sprouting from farthing-sized pores. The dead gaze from full-moon eyes.

Willie fell dead on the cold stone floor. MacGregor fell to his knees and began to babble fearfully. Elias just stared at the profane creature, mouth gaping, feet glued to the floor.

The Treasure was a gate between worlds, I realised suddenly. The creature had travelled through it and was dazed by the journey. But it was going to wake up, and it probably wouldn’t be friendly.

On the night the Laird read to us from The Clavicle of Moses, hose many years ageo, the book I held tightly to my chest, he had given one passage particular emphasis. “If ever you go too far,” he’d said, and we’d laughed heartily at the idea. “I know what intelligent, curious young men are like,” he insisted. “If ever you summon, by accident, that which you cannot put down, then remember this.” He held up his right hand: the index finger extended up, the middle finger pointed forward, and the thumb was out to the left, making three right angles. His comically portentous seriousness burned the image onto my impressionable mind. “The sign of the N’beros. If you remember only one thing, then remember this. If it doesn’t work, nothing will.”

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The Blackford Folly, Part 4

An hour later, Elias, MacGregor and I stood before the Folly in silent awe, the terrier Willie snuffling blindly around our feet. Its south and east faces were lit brightly by the moon, their opposites cast in shadows of purest pitch. All but the sharpest lines of the imposing structure were black, as though no light was reflected off the rock, but rather absorbed; perhaps providing some sort of power to the interior, current for ancient circuits.

What was this building? What were we to find within? The moon was stark and bright, and I shuddered as I recalled that hideous eye I had glimpsed through the gloom. All at once, the absolute terror of the situation struck me like a hurricane, and I wished to be back in my study.

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The Blackford Folly, Part 3

We both knew the basic story, as does everyone in Scotland with a taste for history or mystery: the First Laird, Jacques Lindsay, returned from the Fourth Crusade in 1205, to take up the lands bequeathed to him by the King. He was, it seems, suddenly enormously wealthy, and began to spend like a pope. The original Blackford House was an example of his flamboyance; an elaborate, pinnacled Gothic construction that was to collapse three centuries later. There, he threw lavish parties, and soon became well-known in society. Through his contacts, he even gained some political influence in Hollyrood. Finally, in 1221, King William made him his Lord Chancellor.

Inevitably, dark mutterings began to circulate; Jacques Lindsay had some secret that gave him his power and wealth. The most stubborn of these was that he had uncovered a treasure of some kind, a relic of a famous saint, perhaps, in Constantinople. Others have suggested that it was a secret document that he uncovered, one that would give him political or religious leverage, perhaps even blackmail. Jacques joked to his friends about a fabulous treasure hidden in the Lindsay estate, but none has ever been found.

Whatever the truth, Jacques Lindsay died in 1243, and took his secret to the grave with him. Title, house, money, estate; all were passed down through the generations, from father to son. Except for that one thing: the nature of the Treasure.

The study of George Lindsay, Laird of Blackford, was situated at the very apex of the tower in the southwest end of the House, where it commanded a spectacular panoramic view of the estate. The valley crept around the House from the west, cutting a swathe through the land. Due north, just visible through yellow-flowered gorse bushes, lay the Folly. The weather had grown belligerent, and heavy clouds were sharply outlined as they hurried across the sky. The dramatic vista was curtailed as Elias hastily drew the heavy curtains.

The walls of the circular room were lined with towering bookshelves piled high with antique books. Somewhere among them was a black cloth-bound copy of The Key Mosaic, also known as The Clavicle of Moses, a book so rare that many take it to be a mere legend. The Laird had once even gone so far as to give us a surreptitious look at his centuries-old copy. I had a sudden pang of regret that I would no longer know the eccentric old man with his smiling, piercing eyes, who had indulged my hungry mind over the years.

My eyes wandered around the room, taking in the objects d’art dotted about on the shelves. They betrayed the exquisite taste of their absent owner – a carving in pinkish, almost translucent soapstone of a reclining Buddha, an intricate brass sextant, the Golden Spiral of a nautilus’ shell. However, a coarse bust of the cheapest plaster of Paris caught my eye. It was of a grinning fat man’s face, painted in gaudy colours with no subtlety or care. It simply did not belong.

I beckoned Elias over to the desk, and opened the topmost of a stack of notebooks. Scraps of paper marked the important pages. The page open before us was a hand-drawn map of the valley, shown in meticulous detail.

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The Blackford Folly, Part 2

I awoke late in the morning, with a terrible headache. Holding my head against the pain that the sharp light of day brought, streaming in through tiny leaded windows set in walls two feet deep, I rose and began to dress. At first I took the curious images which were beginning to return to my mind as no more than a nightmare. How likely was it that no one else would respond to the piercing howls of the dogs? Perhaps, I mused, I had suffered a bout of somnambulism, brought on by the unusually fine whiskey.

As I stooped to comb my hair in the mirror, Mrs. MacGregor knocked upon the bedroom door. At my beck she entered, bearing a tray of porridge, crumpets, marmalade and rich-smelling coffee. Her decrepit terrier Willie trotted in behind, and began to snuffle blindly around. I bid her good morning, and thanked her profusely, not having noticed until that moment the cramps of hunger that gripped my stomach.

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