by Chris Quinton
“Bring me the contents of the security box from the bank, and make sure you’re not followed.” Miles Carter carries out his grandfather’s instructions, and finds himself caught up in a dangerous tangle of family mysteries – and the unexpected return of Allan Warwick, his childhood friend. Add to that a parallel world and a plot to overthrow its government, both of which seem to involve his grandfather and Allan. Miles’ life will be changed irrevocably, but only if he and Allan can stay together and survive the coup.
66500 words/250 pages
Publication 1 May 2017
It took the combined power of the letter of introduction, the electronic card, pin number, and keys to the safe deposit box, plus Miles’ driving licence, to grant them entrance to one of the small viewing rooms behind the massive door of the vault. The manager brought in the large box, and set it on the table with a solid thunk that widened Jenny’s eyes. Then he left them alone, shutting the door behind him.
“Bloody hell,” Rob said. “What’s in it? Lead ingots?”
“Feels like it.” Miles slid one of the keys into the lock and turned it.
The first thing he saw as he raised the lid was a long white envelope. On it was written, ‘Upon my death, this is to be opened only by Miles Westerman Carter. If he should be deceased, this is to be incinerated unread, along with my corpse, and the contents of the box given to his heirs without conditions.’
“Bloody hell,” Rob said again. “If it wasn’t for your fan in the blue car, I’d think the old guy read too many mystery novels.”
“Open it!” Jenny insisted. “Quickly, BB. I’m dying here.”
“No,” Miles said. “He isn’t dead. If he wanted me to read it, he’d have said so in his letter.” He examined the envelope. It had been sealed with a thick blob of scarlet wax, and the imprint of an heraldic beast had been pressed into it. Immediately he recalled his grandfather’s ring, an oval of russet carnelian, set in reddish gold.
“The hell with that. Gramps is acting a little bit psycho, and so is this Gerry of yours. In my book that cancels out normal privacy.” Rob snatched the envelope from Miles’ hands, ripped it open and took out the letter. “Do you read it or shall I?”
“Give it to me,” he snapped, and retrieved the folded sheets.
“What does it say?” Rob demanded.
“Give me a chance, brat,” he replied. “Okay, now shut up, both of you.” He cleared his throat and began to read aloud. “‘Dear Miles – ‘”
“If it starts with, ‘if you’re reading this, then I’m dead,’ I think I’ll scream,” Jenny interrupted.
“Shut. Up. ‘Dear Miles, I wish I could have had the opportunity to tell you everything in person, sitting in the comfort of my study sharing some excellent whisky. But Time moves at her own pace and we cannot control her. If you recall, the meaning of your name – our name – is Soldier, and that is what we are called upon to be. We guard the Edge, and the only one of the few fords still open in England. This duty is a proud heritage, and despite Cecelia’s insistence that you remain ignorant of the Westermans’ sacred trust, I hope that you will take up the mantle. I am aware of your nature, so it is unlikely that you will be able to pass this on to your own offspring – “
“Huh,” Rob said. “Assuming, much. Hadn’t he heard of surrogacy?”
“‘So I ask that you consider Jenny or Rob as your heir in this matter,'” Miles continued over him. “‘Vigilance must be maintained at all times, especially in these latter days.'”
“What the hell is he talking about?” Jenny said. “He’s rambling, poor old bugger.” Miles ignored her as well.
“‘I have done my best to protect you all. Cecelia’s wish to sever all ties served me well in this, much though it grieved me. Yet while it has kept you safe, it has also left you vulnerable in your lack of knowledge.’
“‘The enemy on this side of the ford has been trapped in exile here for over sixty years now, separated from his supporters in Logres. I fear that he will one day return to attempt to overthrow the Warwicks and take the Wyvern Throne. This must not happen. But first you must cross into Logres yourself and swear allegiance to Crown Prince Michael. That will give you all the authority you need to call upon others to aid in the defence of the ford.'”
“He is nuts,” Rob said confidently. “Senile dementia, at least. But where does Gerry fit in?”
“Okay, this is now officially creepy,” Jenny said, glancing around the room as if she expected the walls to sprout ears. “If this is an example of Gramps’ craziness, I can understand Mum grabbing us and running for Norfolk. I’m surprised she waited so long!”
“‘If I am not around for any reason, the key is in the secret compartment by the fireplace in my study. Remember I showed it to you on your fifteenth birthday? Take the key to Edgeway Lane, but to be safe, make sure you aren’t followed. I think it unlikely that you will be, the most likely eventuality will be that they’re keeping a general watch on the lane itself. Do you recall our walks when you were young, and that telephone kiosk – ” Miles paused, the hair on the nape of his neck lifting, “‘ – you always laughed at? The key will put you in contact with the Edgeway Exchange, and all you need to do then is follow instructions.'”
“Damn,” Rob said. “He could have written a neat gaming scenario if he’d put his mind to it.”
“‘But above all, do not take either twin with you. They are your heirs and must be kept safe. I leave it up to your discretion how much of this you share with them. In conclusion I hope you have kept up your martial arts training, and if not, please resume it.” He paused, startled. He’d not done any Karate since 6th Form. “‘Also, become proficient in the use of firearms. My fears may prove to be unfounded, but a soldier needs to be skilled in various forms of combat. Miles, I have watched you from afar as you grew from a rambunctious child to a caring, compassionate and strong man, one I am proud to name my beloved grandson and heir, whether or not you take up the Westerman duty.’ And he’s signed it, ‘your loving Gramps.'”