I sat down at the table. The sun was bright and shone in my eyes, while the chill winter breeze blew my hair across my face.
I looked down at my notebook, flicking through the pages like I always did when I was anxious. My writing was nothing but a scrawl, yet nearly all the pages were full of it. I began to read through some of my notes, stopping now and then to try and decipher a word or two. I was so absorbed in it that it took me a moment to realise that someone was casting a shadow over the pages. I looked up, pushing my glasses back onto the bridge of my nose.
‘Still lost in your notes as always, I see,’ said the well dressed young man in front of me.
‘Lawrence,’ I greeted him.
He pulled up a chair and sat opposite me, and caught the eye of the waitress two tables behind. He ordered two cappuccinos. I watched her go over to the counter inside the cafe before turning to him.
‘So, what is this all about?’
‘Well,’ he said smiling, ‘I believe I have something of great interest to you. To us all, actually.’
I raised my eyebrow, about to reply when the waitress came back with our drinks. Lawrence nodded his thanks, and without bothering to watch her leave, proceeded to put his briefcase on the table. Two clicks told me he’d unlocked it, and before I could utter a sound he opened it and turned it round so that I could see what was inside.
I gasped. Then, noticing how many people were around us, turned it into a cough. The clatter of cutlery and babble of small talk told me that no one had noticed. Still, I felt the urge to whisper.
‘Where on earth did you find it?’
‘Here, actually,’ Lawrence replied.
‘Here? After all this time, it was here?’
‘Yes- but Jenn, there’s something you should know. The dig site where we found it suggests that it’s over fifteen hundred years old.’
‘Fifteen hundred? How can that be? Our records of it only go back seven hundred years.’
‘There’s something else, too,’ he said. Fishing through his jacket pockets, he produced two photos.
‘We found these markings all over the site.’
I looked at them. They both showed the same marking, an inverted triangle with its point set on a horizontal line. Each end of the line was connected to a downward diagonal line.
‘This looks just like a House Mark!’
‘That’s what I thought, so I checked. It was there all right, along with all the other Marks of the Old Houses.’
‘And?’ I asked. ‘Which house does it belong to?’
‘That’s the thing, there was no name next to it, just the Mark.’
I frowned. That was unheard of. A House Mark surrounding the Object, but with no clue to the House it belonged to? No, surely we’d gone wrong somewhere.
‘Have you thought about it being something other than a House Mark?’
‘Yes, I’ve searched through the whole of the Great Library. There’s no sign of it. But the question is, if it isn’t a House Mark, then what was it doing in the records of the Old Houses?’
I tried to think, but no answers came to me. What was the link between the Object and this Mark? Was it a House Mark? I just didn’t know. There was only one thing I could think to suggest.
‘I think we should show my Father.’
‘Your Father?’ Lawrence said, turning pale.
‘Yes, he has quite a few articles in his personal library that I haven’t seen in the Great Library. Maybe one of those can answer our questions.’
‘Are you sure he wouldn’t mind us looking? I heard he’s been ill lately, I’d hate to interrupt him unnecessarily.’
‘Oh Lawrence, don’t be ridiculous! If he finds out that we have the Object from someone other than us, he’d probably go so far as to disown me.’
‘Well, if you’re sure…’
Two hours later we arrived at my Father’s house. I looked at it distastefully as we drove up the long gravel path. I took Lawrence around the back to the workmen’s entrance, and then raced up to the library. Swinging open the great double doors, I revealed the rows and rows of bookshelves, and at the very far end, as though expecting us, was my Father.