It was an ordinary looking bookstore from the outside but once you stepped through its glass-paneled door your opinion of ordinary changed drastically.
That’s exactly what Katherine “Kit” Sinclair discovered when she entered The Dust Covers of Yesterday books and antiquities store. It was much larger than it looked from the outside, amazingly so. The ceilings were sixteen feet high and added to the spaciousness but what truly held her spellbound was the vastness of the stock. Massive bookshelves towered over each aisle and wooden signs pointed to every area of interest, sort of like a totem pole with directional arrows in the middle of a road.
“May I help you madam?” an elderly, wizened looking gentleman in a tailored turn of the century suit asked as he approached her.
Kit nearly laughed at the authentic costume and the ease with which he wore it but his expression was so serious she didn’t want to spoil his performance and changed her expression to solemn. She nodded to the sign pointing the way to Astrology, “I’m looking for an ephemeris.”
“Do you dabble or predict?” he asked sagely, peering over the tops of his wire frame glasses assessing her with sharp clear blue eyes.
Kit was caught in the interrogating look and momentarily lost her train of thought. “Ah…I’m…I’m taking an astrology class…it was recommended we have an ephemeris.”
“Ah, you dabble then, but… I shall predict that you will soon be seeing more in it than you expected,” he said confidently and smiled at her, transforming his somber features and making him suddenly appear youthful.
She stared in astonishment, blinked several times until he was again the old bookseller. Was she being too receptive to the odd atmosphere? A distinct possibility, she thought as she shrugged and whispered, “Maybe,” in response to his prediction.
“Follow me,” he gestured with a wave of his hand and Kit followed him towards the back of the store and through a curtain that opened into a small alcove. The alcove may have been small dimensionally but when Kit looked up, it appeared to go upwards forever. The walls were fitted with massive built in bookshelves that were packed, end to end with books and staring up to see the top, was making her dizzy.
“I am sure what you need is right here somewhere,” he said standing in front of a large section of huge encyclopedia sized books. “Yes, here it is,” he said as he pointed to a book with a deep purple colored jacket that seemed to glow in the dim light of the room. “This is exactly what you are looking for,” he said with conviction as he took down the heavy tome and held it out to her with reverence.
Kit hesitated taking the book from him. “It looks very old…and heavy, don’t you have a modern pocket-sized version?” She asked staring at the extremely large book in his hands.
The old bookseller answered with significant annoyance in his tone, “There are no accurate pocket sized ones madam,” he sighed but seemed to considered her question. Then his voice took on one of a teacher, schooling a rather dull witted child. “An ephemeris holds the astral coordinates of celestial bodies at specific times throughout the centuries. It would not be very accurate or complete if it were condensed into a tiny pocket volume, you’ll need this one,” he stated succinctly and once again held the large book out to her, but still she hesitated to take it.
The bookseller shook his head disappointed but not surprised. If his long life had taught him anything, and it had, he’d learned that people didn’t always know what was best for them. “However,” he sighed again audibly, “If you require something more compact I may have a solution for you. Modernity has seen fit to invent the compact disc and it can hold great amounts of information. Perhaps not as accurate as this text but I suppose it is adequate for your amateur pursuit.”
Adequate for her amateur pursuit, Kit’s mind echoed. This guy was a great character actor and knew exactly how to play her, by speaking down to her, ‘amateur indeed’; he’d just closed the deal. Kit eyed the imposing book cradled in his arms. “Are you sure this is the best one available? There truly isn’t a smaller complete version of it you could recommend?”
He laughed and that youthful smile appeared again.“You will find all you need to know in this one, there is no other like it, and I can assure you of that.”
Kit nodded robotically, mesmerized by the crystal blue eyes twinkling merrily behind his lenses. This was one strange storeowner and one unusual store. “Okay, I don’t know how I’ll carry it but I’ll take it,” she reached out for the book and he gently placed it into her arms. When her hand came in contact with the words on the cover, she felt a strange tingling in her fingers and abruptly moved her hand off the words and to the book’s edge and the tingling stopped.
“That was strange,” she murmured but what in this store had seemed ordinary?
She followed the bookseller out of the alcove and over to the register where she handed him her credit card to pay for the book.
“Ah plastic, I think I have one of those swiping machines here somewhere…let me see…where is it?” he looked around and then crouched down behind the old counter out of her sight.
Kit could hear him mumbling something and then there was a quick flash of light. Had he touched an electrical outlet? “Are you all right?” she asked worriedly trying to look over the high counter but the bookseller reappeared, unharmed, proudly holding up an old credit card reader.
“I found it,” he announced taking her card from her tight grip.
“Wow, I haven’t seen one of those since I was a little girl,” she said staring at the heavy little manual reader.
He ignored her perplexed expression as he ran a metal bar over her card impressing its numbers into a paper receipt and told her once again of the benefits of her purchase. “This is a very old edition and it is filled with lifetimes of planetary information. Once you understand how to use it, you will find it to be your very best companion,” he assured her as he placed her receipt copy on top of the book.
Kit touched the book as she picked up the receipt and saw images. Numbers, degrees and symbols flashed in her mind in quick succession and she could have sworn she understood them all. Dazed, she gripped the receipt tightly and lifted her hand from the book, the images were gone. She was being way too sensitive to the atmosphere of the store and this odd bookseller.
“Let me put the book in a bag for you,” he came around the counter and slipped her purchase into a very large, heavy brown paper shopping bag. She whispered a thank you but internally she was consumed by the oddity of her fertile imagination causing those images. She needed to get out of here. She took the bag from him and quickly walked out of the odd book store.
Merlin tossed the unneeded bifocals onto the counter. Through the store’s large front window he watched the beautiful, very modern woman, walk hastily across the busy New York Street.
Ah, how he loved this century and the lack of insight these natives had. He loved to shine a sorcerer’s light on the chosen ones. Down through the ages, moving through time, finding these exceptional beings and bringing them the universal knowledge they were born to have. Of course, he was at home in any century, past or future, but he was happiest here in the twenty-first century and today with added pleasure, he was more than satisfied with this new protégé he’d encountered. Katherine Sinclair was by all accounts a worthy recipient of the knowledge she had just been handed.
Merlin took a large, ancient ledger from beneath the counter and opened it. He turned the crackling, time worn pages until he found the name he sought. He touched it and read out aloud. “Katherine Theresa Sinclair, descended down through the ages from ‘The Astrologer, Olrick of Atlantis-” Merlin paused and patted his pocket for his golden pen, looking down at his attire he laughed. He needed his golden pen to set his seal upon the deed but he had left that pen in his robe, his robe that hung upon the hook in his bedchamber at the moment.
Oh well, he would set the seal once he closed the shop and returned home and since he’d already served his purpose and delivered her primordial ancestor’s Ephemeris into her hands; the rest was up to Katherine T. Sinclair anyway. She’d have to acknowledge her abilities and follow her own true drummer, hear the beat of her soul’s rhythm as it matched the powers of the book. It was her destiny, if she accepted it.
Merlin closed the ledger, his deep voice began to chant words that created movement, movement that began to turn the store’s space back into the closed record store it truly was. His magic worked its way across the store but his chanting was interrupted when the shop door behind him flew open.
Merlin had not summoned another customer and his awareness prickled as he felt ancient eyes upon his back. He turned slowly around to acknowledge the intruder.
“Allyssa!” Merlin smiled warmly, even as he felt her restrained power and he quickly built a wall of resistance knowing the tall, lithe, raven-haired woman before him, was simmering with anger.
“You have taken a liberty that was not yours to take Merlin. I am most annoyed.”
“Understatement, Allyssa, you are sizzling, but you know the powers are to be passed to rightful heirs, so you’ve no cause to be angry.”
“Yes, to be passed to the rightful heir but she is not that heir! It should be my descendent not Olrick’s who inherits the book. That double dealing, stargazing, he-man of putty has no absolute right to it.”
Merlin knew of the discord between the houses of Olrick’s and Allyssa’s and the personal war between the two powerful opponents as well, but that was not to be considered.
“You cannot change the bloodline by will Alyssa and it stands with Olrick.”
“It also stands with me and I will see my heir receive his due,” she declared with full fury.
“Allyssa, the Ancient Tribunal of Atlantis decreed the rightful heirs to be the bloodline of Olrick’s family not yours and your family’s raging battles did little to win you favor in the judgment. Their material desires caused even you to lose the rights to the ancient power. The divine love for all mankind was not in your relative’s hearts and the destruction of Atlantis, and not the retention of its powers, are your family’s legacy.”
“Don’t you think I know all of that? I did not come here for a history lesson, Merlin. I have come here for the final redemption. It was also decreed on that dark judgment day that there must be one true soul of pure thought and actions born to the line of Algor, for the torch of betrayal to be extinguished. Olrick knew such a soul had been born in my line and so he forced your hand too quickly to pass the power to his heir.”
“It is not in the heart of Olrick to trick anyone. There must be more to this.”
Allyssa’s righteous anger dimmed a little, “There is, he is a child of my line and Olrick’s, so it could be said it is due to Olrick’s influence that he is pure and not mine.”
“That is a distinct possibility. However, if he is a descendent of Olrick’s then he should be recognized.”
“Olrick will not allow it because the boy is only half of his bloodline. Do you see my dilemma now Merlin?”
“What is his name?” Merlin asked her and when she told him he turned his power up to a level that would have split a non enchanted room in two but the bookstore was Merlin’s world, it took his power and magnified it. He weighed the two lives in question. The female heir, Katherine, was easy to discern, she was truly Olrick’s descendent. However, the heart of the male, David Noel Seager, was much more intriguing. He lowered his power to a simmer but what he’d deduced, he would not tell Allyssa. Olrick would not be pleased by the events he’d seen but he served the truth not the egos’ of gods.
“Your heir appears worthy,” he told Alyssa, “However, as you already know I cannot take back the gift.”
“You must take it back for he will be bound by destiny to seek it out.” Alyssa fumed, her anger returning full force.
“And so he shall…Let it be, Allyssa, you cannot force my hand or that of destiny.”
“What if the darker forces in his bloodline move him to covet what should have been his for the giving? If it is not given to him by free will, if he takes it unearned, then my line will remain in shadow for eternity.”
Unlike Allyssa, who had no power of insight into others’ lives, he was a master of it, and he had been granted that status solely by the One True Ruler, so he did not use it lightly. Merlin had not seen dark forces in the young man’s soul but he could not offer this or any insight to her.
“Leave it be, Allyssa, any interference from you will only serve to darken your own destiny.”
She was ready to argue the point when she felt the presence of the one she dreaded most behind her. “Olrick,” she whispered and turned to find him watching her.
“Lovely as ever Allyssa and just as devious, I’ve already told you Katherine will have the power. You gave up your right to it when you denied our betrothal.”
“I gave up nothing! Our betrothal was a moot point. Once you learned my father had joined the Wanters, I was tried and convicted in your mind and your marriage proposal became your way to redeem me. I needed no redemption Olrick, but I still think you do,” her voice was controlled but laced with fury. She saw the lightning flashing in Olrick's eyes and the angry step he took toward her to refute her interpretation of events, but she would not allow him any closer and vanished in a swirl of violet smoke.
Olrick stared at the feathers of smoke and reigned in his frustration. Where Allyssa was concerned he had no choice but to control his reactions. Centuries ago, she’d blocked his ability to follow her. It was the one, last wish she’d been granted by the council before she left Atlantis to its fate. If he could have followed her, all of this nonsense would have ended millenniums ago. Nevertheless, it was she who had rejected him, so her claims to his powers were unsubstantiated. He turned back to his friend.
“Merlin, I trust the deed is done, judging by Allyssa’s anger.”
“Yes, your heir has the means to channel her powers.”
“Wonderful.” Olrick smiled and prepared to leave but Merlin stopped him.
“Olrick hear me, before we call this over I think you should consider the bloodline of the one Allyssa claims as the heir apparent.”
“I have already seen and do not question his abilities, but he is not one hundred percent my heir, only Katherine Sinclair has that honor.”
“Yes, I concede there is no doubt to Katherine’s bloodline but the boy has a stronger power than your heir, what do you make of that?”
“The dark side has power, and you know its strength” sneered Olrick, anger at Alyssa’s father still reined in his heart. The dark power had destroyed his homeland.
Merlin felt the righteous anger that Olrick harbored but he did not relent, instead he questioned further, “When you observed the boy had you seen him use dark powers?”
“No, but he has the ability.”
”Olrick you are fair in heart, usually, so I shall consider it is because Allyssa has confused your balance that you look for false reasons to condemn. You know that we all have the ability to enforce the dark powers and it is only our convictions that keep us from tapping into them. Be fair to the boy, he is partly your heir and you must consider who will be the better ruler of the power.”
Olrick’s eyes narrowed but not in anger, in consideration, “You say his powers are stronger?”
“And you’ve seen no call to the dark masters when he uses them?”
“Have you?” Merlin countered, not advising or conferring what he knew.
“No.” Olrick answered but his thoughts were racing now. He had nearly let his anger at Alyssa’s father distort his judgment. He would not let that happen.
“Have you sealed the deed of transfer?”
“No, not as yet,” Merlin conceded knowing it was no accident that he’d left the golden quill at home.
“Good, then do not record the transfer. Maybe it is time I put the anger from the past behind and look to the future with new eyes. If an alliance has created a true leader than we need to investigate his nature further. Thank you Merlin, you are a true guardian of the powers.”
“Then you shall allow the contest?” Merlin looked at him with admiration in his all knowing eyes.
“Oh yes, in fact I decree it. Set the banns announcing the competition and be sure Allyssa is notified first. I only wish I could deliver it in person,” Olrick laughed heartily then he left the bookstore the same way he had entered, in a swirling puff of royal blue smoke.
Merlin sent out the information through time and space as the bookstore vanished and the old vacant record store reappeared and the store’s changes went unnoticed by the New Yorkers hurrying along outside the shop's window