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I went in to Old Salty and told him that there was a very strange looking raven in the side yard. "Oh so you finally talked to him heh?" said Salty. "And he is not a raven, he is a crow. I think he would be highly upset for you to be calling him an odd looking crow, Caroline", he said. "So what did he say to you?" So I told Salty about helping Rustle with getting some items he wanted. I even had to get Dad to use his tools to open another magic place in the brick driveway at the Castle Gates. Then we had to open an old Iron Chest close to that coffin/crypt and even then we weren't done. We had to fix the Sign Post so people would know which way to the Castle and which way to the Tavern. I didn't tell Dad this but both the Iron Chest and the Sign Post were magic too. You put two items on the post and get something else back. The Iron Chest took these two triangular eyes but they opened the chest and there was always something inside of it.
I continued to help Rustle the Mountain Troll for a while and when we were finished collecting his items, he gave me a key! I think it is one of the keys that will unlock that huge lock on that really big door. One more key and we can find out what is behind that door. I hope it's not Marty's Kraken.
After talking to the crow, I found out that his name was Professor Pinfeathers and he was going to guide me through the castle. He would be telling me who to talk to and who to help get the items they wanted.
When Dad took down that old, ripped, dusty curtain, I found another resident of the castle. I went in to speak to him and he was very rude, said his name was Lord Chamberlain. I remember Old Salty once told me that not everyone in the castle was as nice as Anabel and The Knight. I even liked Rustle the troll better than this Lord Chamberlain. He just had that attitude that he was better than everyone else. He had me get items for him, telling me that he had the last key. When I was finished collecting his items, he did not give me the key, as I expected him to do, he had me go to Old Salty to get Salty to pay his debt to this rude man. Since he would not give me the key until Salty paid his debt, I decided to help Salty collect the items he needed to pay his debt. Once the debt was paid, Lord Chamberlain finally gave me the key. Alright! Now we can find out what is behind the huge door with the huge lock and chains! "Not so fast, Caroline," said my Dad. "This will wait until tomorrow. You start back to school tomorrow, so it will be after school when we open that door." I did not realize that the whole summer had gone by during my meeting the castle residents and doing their scavenger hunts. They called them quests, but I like a scavenger hunts better.
When I went to bed that night, I started thinking about all of the people I have met so far, and especially the strange crow, wearing a top hat. Strange? This whole place is strange. Magic cupboards, road signs, lamps and even a magic cupboard built into the brick road. As I fell asleep, I wondered what adventure tomorrow will bring.
At school the next morning, all I could think about was that huge door and what might be behind it. During lunch/recess there were 3 boys bullying this little girl. When I saw that, all I could think of, was how Lord Chamberlain behaved just like a bully when I first met him. As his actions had stirred anger in me, so did the 3 bullies and I went to help the little girl. As a crowd of kids gathered, I said in a loud voice, "Will no one stand up to these bullies with me? Will no one do what is right?" Immediately, I felt, but could not see, Old Salty the Innkeeper, Anabel, the Iron Knight, and even Rustle the Mountain Troll, standing beside me. In a small voice in my head, Anabel whispered, "We are always with you Caroline". Then little by little the other kids in the playground came to stand beside me against the bullies. The bullies turned and ran into the school, but it was too late for them, as the teachers had already seen them. This made me think of Lord Chamberlain again. I remember thinking that I need to stand up to him and any other bully I come across in the Castle. Then I heard Old Salty say, "There are many bullies in the Castle, Caroline. We will stand with you."
The rest of the afternoon went quickly and I stood proud, knowing that I could stand up to anything I came across in the Midnight Castle. When school let out, I ran all the way home so we could open the huge door in the Castle Entry. I was so excited to see whatever was behind that door. But I did hope that it was not Marty's kraken.
As I ran home, I was hoping that Dad was ready to unlock that huge door with the great big lock and all those chains. I can't wait to see what is in there. When I finally got home, (it seemed to take hours) I found that Dad was going all out for Halloween. After he had put lights in the gargoyle and the Astral lamp, he decided to light up the driveway to the castle, and put a lamp on the overturned carriage. Then he put candles in the crypt and between the crypt and the burnt tree. There were even small candles in the burnt tree. The most amazing things he did was light up the dragons that were climbing the tower that looked like a lighthouse. He made them look like they were breathing fire!! The sign post in front of the crypt was especially neat. Somehow, he made it light up and send out smoke from the animal skull.
On my way to the castle, I also noticed that he had put some candles on the rock garden. But then I noticed something that I had not seen before. Those stones in the rock garden and the magic trunk were all floating in air! When I said that to my Dad, he said that if I looked closely, I would be able to see that the rocks are sitting on another stone set upright. I looked again, and could not see anything holding those rocks up. Dad could see them, but all I could see was that they were floating in air with nothing holding them up. I am going to have to ask Old Salty about this.
Dad was finally ready to open the huge lock. I was so excited, I wanted to stand right beside him and see what was there, but he made us all stand back at the start of the castle entry. He said that there might be some bad air in there after had been closed up for so long. As he clicked each of the keys and removed the lock, the chains fell away. Marty was behind me and I could feel him holding his breath. I know he was thinking of the Kracken and he was afraid that it was going to jump out of the door that was now opening.
When the door was fully open, Dad gasped and then said the air was fine. There must have been air holes somewhere behind what was in there. Dad stepped aside, and this time we all gasped. Inside that door was a huge statue of a man wearing a hooded cape. His eyes seemed to glow in the light from the gargoyle and astral lamp. As I watched, a book seemed to slip from his grasp and fell to the floor. It was a beautiful book, but was missing some of it's decorations. Angels, dragons, lions and gems. You could see the outline of those items that were now missing from the cover of the book. All I could think of was, diary. I don't know why I thought it was a diary. The statue did not look like he was the sort of person who would keep a diary. But in my heart, I knew it was a diary. Marty wanted to get some tools to pry the book open. "No!" I said. "I think if I can find the decorations that go on the cover, we will be able to get it open. Please let me look for them before you try to use tools to pry it open." I knew, somehow, that if we just pried it open, we would find only blank pages. Luckily, my Dad agreed to let me search for the missing decorations, for now.
As I looked at the statue, I thought I saw him wink at me. Mom, Dad and Marty all touched the statue and said it was cold. Dad thought that was because it was next to the cold room where I found Rustle the Mountain Troll. But when I touched it, it was warm under my hand, as though it was a real, living person. I am finding that there are more and more strange things in this castle that only I seem to know about. I really need to talk to Old Salty about this...this and a million other things that I have questions about. Professor Pinfeathers, how can a crow talk to me, and why are the stones in the rock garden floating in air when the others can see other stones holding them up. Why will the magic cupboards only work when I am there. They won't work for Marty if I am not there with him. I don' t know the answer, but I think that Salty will be able to enlighten me. As soon as I can, I need to get to Salty alone.
I finally found Old Salty and asked him about the questions I have." First of all Caroline, you need to know that the Midnight Castle is a living, breathing thing," he told me. " It knows who to reveal it's magic to and who not to. This goes way back to when the castle was built. It has stayed in the same family for the castle's entire life. Generally, the women of the family inherit the ability to see the magic that the castle contains. Over the generations of your family, there have been a few men who were chosen to see and feel the magic. Your uncle was one of those men. Quite often the castle would require the person who was chosen, to build on extra rooms, which is why the castle and its grounds are so large now. The castle also requested that there be sanctuaries built for many different peoples, such as dwarves, and elves and fairies. There are other creatures here that you will not find in the real world out there. The kraken, dragons, and yes, your talking crow, Professor Pinfeathers. You are the only one left who can see and hear the magic that is the Midnight Castle. While your parents and brother see stones supporting the rocks in the rock garden, you see it as it really is."
"Sometimes, some other women are able to sense that there is magic here, but can not actually see, hear or feel it. Your mother can sense me, but can not see me or hear me. Most adults who experience this, ignore it as it is something they cannot explain. And if they can't explain it, to them, it really isn't there." he said. With that, Old Salty disappeared and left me to ponder what all of this meant. I am the only one who can see, hear, and feel the magic that is my castle, I thought. That is something that will take some getting used to. I won't be able to talk to anyone about this. They will think I'm crazy. In a voice inside my head, I heard Salty say, "You can always talk to me, Caroline. I am never far away." Wow, I thought, I can even think my questions to Old Salty. Well, at least I will have someone to talk to.
Professor Pinfeathers commented that we finally got the huge secret door open, and that the book that fell from the statue's arms was Valeria Steiner's Diary. I knew it was a diary! He told me that this is a sacred text and that the next step is to open it. It might tell me where to find the Mystery Chamber, he told me. Now, I don't know what the Mystery Chamber is, but I think I read something, somewhere that it will grant a wish. So Professor told me to talk to Lord Chamberlain (I have to remember to stand up to him) and to the Mountain Troll and the Innkeeper. So off I went to find Lord Chamberlain.
There he was, just standing in what Dad called The Throne Hall. The throne was way at the back of the room and looked like it was made from a skeleton. Above the throne were two gigantic bat wings that have seen better days. They were very dusty, torn and had cobwebs like I had never seen before. As I approached him, Lord Chamberlain said that he would help me find the missing decorations after I found some items for him. He was a lot nicer to me this time, but still was haughty. Here I go on another scavenger hunt, I thought. He said that he would tell me about Valeria, but even after finding his items and giving me the Golden Angel bor the cover of the diary, he never again mentioned Valeria Steiner. But he did give me a warning. He said, "Your true enemy is closer than you think." I am not sure what he meant about that, but I couldn't help but think of him as the enemy.
After I had finished finding the items for Lord Chamberlain, he actually gave me a few coins. That was good because I had to spend some of my allowance to make some of the items that he wanted.
Next I went to see Rustle the Mountain Troll. He said that he remembers the woman but not the diary, but he will try to help me find the decorative items that belong on the cover of the diary. As I was helping him find some things that he needed, he seemed to get rather strange. Well stranger than a Mountain Troll had been before anyway. He said that the black portal must be about to open, but first we must remember the past. I don't know what a black portal is, and I'm not too sure I want to find out. But one thing I have learned here in Midnight Castle, is that things will happen, whether you want them to or not. Then he was in a trance-like state when he told me that his master sent instructions to him and that it seems that I am not welcome in the castle. He then switched conversations completely, and said that he thinks he used to be someone else. After finding all of his items, he also gave me some coins and I got the Golden Crown for the book. After attaching it to the book, I looked back at Rustle, and he seemed to have a confused look on his face. I wonder what that was all about.
According to Professor Pinfeathers, next I had to talk to the Innkeeper. This, of course, turned out to be Old Salty. After telling him about Lord Chamberlain, and his warning about my enemy being very close, and about Rustle and his confusing statements, he told me to watch my back around Lord Chamberlain. Watch my back? What would he do to my back? Guys, I'm only seven years old, you have to explain things to me. So Salty revised his statement to tell me to be careful and avoid Lord Chamberlain when I can. As far as Rustle's comments, Salty would have to think about that. In the meantime, I could help him find some items that he needed too. This one item he needed, I think he called it a Golden Watermark, would be found in the Iron Chest. But I could only find one of those triangular eyes and the chest needed two of them. I went back to Salty and told him that I could only find one of them in the crypt. He told me that he could sell me one with some of those really pretty blue stones that I kept picking up, or I could go back and look again. Sometimes, the castle knows what you need and will provide it for you. But it needs time to do so.
While giving the castle time to create another triangular eye in the crypt (Salty called it a murderer's eye) I went to what Salty called The Dead Ambassador in the Throne room. When I got to the Throne Room, I saw that an old timber and candle chandelier had fallen on top of The Ambassador, which I guess is why they call him The Dead Ambassador. I had to use some of the items that I have collected to open a chest that the skeleton of the Ambassador was holding. I was going to call my Dad to see the skeleton, but when he came into the room, all he saw was the fallen chandelier and the hole in the floor it caused. So apparently, the dead Ambassador, was for my eyes only again.
Then I went back to the crypt and found another murderer's eye and got Salty his Golden Watermark out of the Iron Chest. Just like Old Salty said, the castle would work it's magic to give me what I needed. While I was running around getting Salty his items, I went up to the Belfry. Dad said that I should not go up there because he has not had a chance to check the stairs to see that they were safe. But, of course, I went up anyway. If he thought the stairs were bad, wait until he sees the hole in the wooden floor, where the bells had come crashing down. One bell I saw had a crack in it just like the Liberty bell.
After getting what I needed from the Belfry, I went back to Old Salty and he told me to get a book from the Armored Bear. Just then, right in front of my eyes, that old bear rug turned into a real, but stuffed bear. He was stuffed like some people do to birds and deer heads. I think they call it taxidermy. Anyway, here was this giant bear with a satchel, and like other magic cupboards, I had to put items into this satchel to get the book that Salty wanted from it. It was just after I got the book, that my Mom came in and I thought she would see the big bear, but once again, the bear was only for me to see. This place is amazing I thought! I want to see more of the castle and somehow I knew that to see a lot more I needed to get Valeria Steiner's diary fixed and opened. Salty said that I was obsessed with the Mystery Chamber, but in reality, I was really obsessed with the Midnight Castle itself. I just wanted to see more of it.