Authors: A.L. Tyler
Arrival of the Traveler
Waldgrave Part 1
By A.L. Tyler
More books by A.L. Tyler
The Waldgrave Series
Arrival of the Traveler
Deception of the Magician
Secrets of the Guardian
The Spider Catcher
Lion’s Shadow (coming July 25, 2015)
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Story © A.L. Tyler 2011. All rights reserved. http://addisynltyler.blogspot.com/ Cover art by A.L. Tyler, using images found at
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination and used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Dedicated to my friends & family,
with special thanks to the sisterhood,
Ashley, Kelly, Kristen, and Jackie.
Abilene Collins came to live at the Waldgrave property the winter after her grandmother’s death, and only two months after her father’s. She had only met her father’s brother for the first time fifteen minutes earlier, when a flight attendant had removed her travel badge and passed her off to a man that had only existed to her in theory up to that point. Riding in Uncle Howard’s new sedan, it took almost four hours to get to a place that everyone expected would be her new home.
“How was your flight over?” Howard scratched behind his left ear, which had been a favorite nervous behavior since he had been young. Abilene sat slouched against the passenger side door, her forehead leaned against the chilled window, her eyes fixed straight ahead. “Abilene?”
“That’s what my Gram called me.”
“Okay. How was the flight over, Abilene?”
“I don’t like Abilene. My dad called me Lena.”
There was a long silence. Howard tried to glance over at the girl occasionally, but the roads began to fidget more as they got further into the countryside. Lena liked the feel of the car following the road; all along the twisting way, she moved back and forth with the vehicle. It was a feeling she was used to. Closing her eyes, she shut out the dried, dead fields and hills around her, replacing them with the green vegetation of an Australian rain forest. She made herself believe that she was once again riding in the old Volkswagen they had bought in Sydney; the blue one with a mismatched door and no front passenger seat. She and her father had made some great memories, and eaten some not so great food, in that good old car. It made a slight hissing sound when it started up because it was so old. A pitiful car, really, but it had a good run—it got them through Australia. Six months later they sold the car to a teenager in Cairns because it would have cost too much to cart it to Greece with them.
“The flight was okay.”
There was another long silence.
“You know, Lena, I know I never got the chance to really get to know you…” This was, in fact, a drastic understatement in Lena’s mind. She had never spoken to Uncle Howard before this day; the nurse at the hospital had arranged the pickup. There were always holiday and birthday cards, but the elusive Uncle Howard had remained a mystery through her entire life. She liked to trace the long arch in the ‘C’ of his signature with her finger, jealous of his impeccable penmanship; Howard Collins, the uncle who sent her a hundred dollars with every card. She had never even seen a picture of him before.
“…I think I only met you once. That was a long, long time ago when you were just a baby. Did you know, you look exactly like your mother?”
She did. Her father had told her many times before. Again, she didn’t have a picture to compare, and assumed her father was just being nice. She had never had the chance to meet her mother, who had died in childbirth. Given that there were no pictures, she thought her father’s reasoning would have been along the lines that at least knowing what her mother looked like, and that she shared a connection with her, would be some sort of a comfort. It was probably the same logic Uncle Howard was using.
“Well, I guess I’m saying, I don’t know about kids. I don’t have any. I’ve got a boy who does the lawn and fishes the excessive green crap out of the pond, and he seems to like the property. So, we’re going to have to help each other out here. A lot.”
The terrain under the tires changed and Lena opened her eyes. They were now on a dirt road.
“She said that too.”
Their eyes met for a brief moment—hers honest and challenging, his questioning and…hurt, maybe. Howard had gray eyes, she noted for the first time, so starkly different from her father’s bright blue. But at least his eyes were alive—living, and not the distant, unfocused gaze she had recently become accustomed to seeing.
They pulled up to a gate and Howard pressed a remote on his visor to open it. As Lena got her first glimpse of the old house, she had to wonder why her father had never brought her to visit his brother before. It was colossal…and wild. A beast of this size could never have been kept in the city like a normal house. She counted four stories, and guessed their might also be an attic hiding under the pointy roof and a basement chaining it to the ground. There was a line of tall trees that surrounded the house fifty feet out, marking the line between the well-kept lawn and the rugged realm beyond. It was a mutt of a house; clad in brick, stone, different paints, and mismatched windows, it looked like the project of ten different architects who had never gotten around to deciding on one particular theme.
“It was passed on to me by your…grandfather. Well, actually it was passed on to your father by your grandfather, but he didn’t want it. He was too much an adventurer to be kept in a house—even one like this. Too much to look after, I suppose.”
Howard parked the car in a shelter next to the house. Lena unbuckled her seatbelt and went to open the car door.
“Lena! Wait just a minute.” Howard had undone his seatbelt and twisted to face his new charge. Though he was not an old man, his hair was already graying, and invisible wrinkles were just starting to show on his brow. He looked very worried, and Lena knew what was coming. At that moment, Howard looked uncannily like how her grandmother had when starting the same conversation.
Lena settled back into her seat and waited. Howard sighed deeply.
“I know you’re dealing with a lot right now and—“
“I’ll be okay. I don’t need to talk.”
“—oh.” Howard looked even more worried, glanced down at his fidgeting hands quickly and then looked back up at Lena. “I know people have their different ways of doing this—you know, what you’ve got to do—and all I’m saying is…”
“I know. It’s just that I’m getting good at—“
“No, now stop! Just let me get this out.” He waited, taking a deep breath. Lena finally nodded, staring down at her worn sneakers on the new-looking floor mat.
Howard exhaled slowly. “Whatever you need, if you need anything, you got it. You’ve got a lot on your plate now, with your dad, and your grandma, and…” He took another deep breath and sighed. “…everything else you’re going to have to deal with now. So just tell me, okay?”
They stared tersely at each other, both attempting to judge the truth in what the other had said.
They exited the sedan together and Howard proceeded to open the trunk and pull out Lena’s luggage. There were two good-size suitcases—one of which had previously belonged to Aaron Collins, and still contained his worldly possessions. Lena also had a carry-on, which contained a few trinkets from her grandmother’s house, and those things which she usually couldn’t bring herself to part with while on an airplane: a spare change of clothing (in case the suitcases were lost), toothbrush, book, blanket, granola bar, bottle of water, and a total of fifty dollars in various world currencies.
They entered the house through the side door, which was closest. Lena took a good look at her first view of the house interior. Coat rack, muddied rug, white tile floor, white walls and ceiling… It was really pretty basic. From somewhere nearby she could hear the uneven load of a clothes dryer throwing itself against a wall. For all the unique charm of Waldgrave’s exterior, inside it appeared to be just a house.
They passed through an immaculate kitchen and into a large living room with oversized couches. At the other end of the room, there was a set of stairs which they ascended, Howard carrying both suitcases and leading the way. At the top of the stairs was a large library; they passed through a door and into a hallway. Howard turned to the left and led Lena past several doors before reaching one at the very end of the hall.
“The house is extensive, as you can see. You’re welcome to look around tomorrow, if you like. There’s quite a few bedrooms, and you’re welcome to any of them, except mine, of course, which is on the fourth floor.” Howard scratched behind his ear. “In fact, I’ll tell you right now that the fourth floor is off limits. I work up there and I get very flustered when people invade my space.”
“Okay. I can respect that.”
Howard froze, dropping his hand and raising his eyebrows with a hint of a nervous smile. “Has anyone ever told you that you talk like you’re thirty?”
“My dad didn’t believe in infantilizing me.” Lena shrugged, briefly directing her gaze down the long hallway. “He told me the truth about my mom from the start, and he treated me with the same respect he did other adults.”
Howard looked worried. Lena wondered if he could actually produce any other expressions. “How old are you?”
“Fifteen. And a half.” Lena tried not to blink. She was well aware that she had aged to an uncomfortable boundary between childhood and adulthood, and she was tired of being treated like a child.
“Well. In that case, I’ll try to uphold your father’s standard, if you like. But I must tell you, your behavior is somewhat…disturbing to me.”
“Howard,” Lena threw him a courtesy smile, “death can do that to you. My mother died before I was even born. I watched my father die on a train in Egypt. I found my Gram’s body…”
“Okay, okay, stop! I know what you’ve been through. I can allow for your eccentricity. Don’t talk about your dad that way.”
“Like it was just another day. Like it didn’t bother you.”
Lena took a seat on one of her suitcases. “It did bother me. I cried, and now I’m over it. It’s no use crying over spilt milk. Or blood, I guess.” The last part seemed to anger and sadden Howard at the same time. Tears actually welled up in his eyes. “I’m sorry. My dad and I never believed in permanent attachments. Nothing in our lives was ever permanent.”
“Except for your dad…”
“Well, apparently not.” Seeing the look on Howard’s face caused Lena to add, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Howard turned and started down the hall. His voice cracked a little. “Well, breakfast is at ten. I’ll have the housekeeper lead you back to the kitchen when it’s time. Good night.” He walked several doors down the hall, opened one, and disappeared through it.
She had a hard time understanding the emotions of those around her. Everyone was so concerned with death—but death happens. Everyone, and everything, in Lena’s mind, was mortal. She and Uncle Howard would both die someday, whether it was tomorrow or fifty years from now. In the grand scheme of things, fifty years wasn’t even that long. Someday this house would pass on to new owners, who might value the land more than the house, and it would be bulldozed and die. Someday in the very distant future, what would only be the blink of a second to the rest of the universe, the sun would burn out, and this planet would die. Eventually, the speck of mud once known as Earth would break apart, and all vestiges of humanity—art, and literature, and pictures of families—would be decomposed into their elements, and would be scattered throughout the stars in tiny bits and pieces. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. She had dealt with the fact that things die. And because it all dies, none of it really mattered.
Lena, still seated on her suitcase, sighed and opened the cherry wood door next to her. She flipped the light switch just inside the door and gasped. The room had twelve foot ceilings and a king size bed. The bed, however, was dwarfed by the size of the room; floor to ceiling windows were on either side of the bed. Continuing the symmetry, there was a door on both the left and right wall. It was done up in a green color palette; the ceiling molding consisted of an elaborate vine design.