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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.
Just after Dad had found a dusty curtain and pushed it aside, Professor Pinfeathers appeared to me and told me that there is someone I should meet. He told me that he was the castle's oldest resident. While Dad checked the stairs to be sure they were safe, I looked around at the Throne Room. When Dad pushed the curtain aside, it revealed the top half of a suit of armor hanging from the ceiling along the wall, just to the left of the new doorway.
When Dad came up and told me that the stairs were safe, I started down the stairs. Dad said that his map told him that this was the Forbidden Tower. I only got a few steps down into the tower when I froze. Standing with a part of him under the stairway, was a Dragon! This was not a stuffed dragon, it was a real life, fire breathing dragon. But this was no storybook dragon. He wore a monocle, had long white eyebrows and whiskers and a white beard. He had horns on his head. As if that wasn't enough to startle me, he then spoke. When do you ever expect a dragon to speak to you? In this Midnight Castle, I am beginning to believe that anything is possible. Even a talking dragon.
He told me that he was the Ultimate Arbitrator and that as he needed an assistant, I was it. Wow, I've just been drafted into the service of a dragon. I feel like I must still be dreaming. Although he was very nice, he seemed to be a bit self centered. He said to me that "you need to love yourself, as much as I love myself. Well," he said, "that may not be possible." He told me that as the castle keeper, he keeps the order. He then told me that Anabel needed my help.
So, off I went to see Anabel. She told me that she was having trouble assembling the right equipment. She said that she is about to face the challenge of the Midnight Hour, a rite that every vampire must undergo. I helped her find the items she needed, just in time. As I watched, a purple-pink glow surrounded her and before my eyes, she became a vampire. She said that she now has the power of the highest vampire. She told me that she will help me find the mystery chamber, but first I must return to the dragon and tell him how I helped her find her true self.
I went back to the dragon, and after listening to me about Anabel, he told me that the Knight needed some help, but would never ask for it. I then went to the Knight and asked him if I could help him with anything. He said that he did not ask for me and my help but still sent me to find his items for him.
Between the doorway to Ice Rock and the bronze statue was a statue of a fairy hanging on the wall. The fairy was holding a harp as though she was playing it. It turned out that this Fairy statue, called the Harp in Blossoms was another magic cupboard. Only this one took two polestars and one seed of life. It gave me the fairy dust that the Knight wanted. Three items for one seems a little unfair to me, but then I don't know the value of the fairy dust. He then had me get a midnight rose from the chest in the rock garden. He wanted the fairy dust and the midnight rose to give to Anabel for her birthday today. Her birthday is today because today is when she became a vampire and her true self. The Knight told me that he was a bit tongue-tied and speechless around Anabel. Then Lord Chamberlain called him, and he told me that Lord Chamberlain never ceases his demands. So I left him to serve Lord Chamberlain, and went to my room to think about today's remarkable happenings. There was a lot to think about.
When I saw that the Knight had finished his tasks for Lord Chamberlain, I went back to him to see if he still needed some help. He told me that he had received disturbing news. That I have new enemies, and that they must protect me. Who would be an enemy and why? As he had no answer for me, he had me craft the Binding Fate and the Orb of Moonlight. He said that it would help. I did not know how or why those items would help but I did it anyway. Then he told me to go and tell the dragon how I have helped him enough, but that now I must help myself. Things are getting so confusing. Enemies, help myself. I really don't understand it all.
After telling the dragon about my time with the Knight, he told me to go to the Mountain Troll, Rustle. Rustle was not happy about the snow and ice at the Ice Rock. He said that he was a Mountain troll not a snow and ice troll. He was also very bored and his cure for boredom was to have more fun by watching me running errands for him. Then in an ice wall, a totem appeared. This totem seemed to have a bird head on top, then a mans head, and a bear head on the bottom. Rustle wanted a Chimera's mask from this totem and a Hyena's chain from the Harp in Blossoms. These items seemed a little weird to me. But then the whole day today has been very weird. Rustle told me to tell the dragon that he was very pleased with my help.
When I was finished reporting my experiences with Rustle, the Mountain Troll, the dragon told me to go to Lord Chamberlain, as he needed me for some tasks.
As I approached Lord Chamberlain, he told me that he knew my uncle. But even as I asked to tell me more about him, he would say no more. He told me that we have some things to do, and in his usual haughty tone, he said, "and by we-- I mean you". So as I did his tasks for him, without much help from him, I was nearly finished when he told me that The Astral Messenger came to the castle with bad news. He would be busy for a while, and I was to spend my time wisely. What or who is the Astral Messenger? I guess there is still much I have to learn about what goes on in the Midnight Castle.
After a little while, Lord Chamberlain came back and told me that the news was bad but that there was still time to change things. Now he needed my help in getting a Shard of Soul and a Knife of Peril. Personally, I really do not understand what these items could possibly be use for, to "change things". After retrieving these items for Lord Chamberlain, he told me to go back to the dragon, as he had no time to chat. It seems that Lord Chamberlain does not give much information on anything.
So back to the dragon I go. The dragon said that he was somewhat surprised by my "awesomeness"- then said "Yay". He said that the junction of two worlds keeps him deep in thought, and makes him very sleepy. I can almost understand about two worlds. The world that everyone else sees, and the world of magic that is the Midnight Castle. At least, that is what I think he means by the junction of two worlds. He said that I am growing in importance, and as such, gave me the Sapphire Eye for Valeria Steiner's diary. That will make me one step closer to finding a way to open and read the diary.
I wish there was someone who could explain all of this to me. Even Old Salty does not understand all of it. I guess I will just have to keep my eyes and ears open to see if I can figure out some of these many odd statements and occurrences. Perhaps I will not figure some of this out for a very long time. Just like some of the notes I have been finding and collecting. Some are from 30 years ago or more. I have not yet been able to determine who wrote them, or who some of the people are that have been mentioned in them. I will keep collecting them until I can understand what they are referring to.
As I am still in school, I don't have a lot of time to spend in the castle. But I try to do and see as much as I can in the afternoon. I think that the more I learn about what is here and why, the more I will understand some of the cryptic messages I get from the occupants of the Midnight Castle.
Professor Pinfeathers has asked me to go to Anabel and try to help her. Anabel said that she is still getting used to her new abilities and she needs me to find her something simple so that she can train. So I got her an 8 point star and she wanted me to craft her a Solar Seal. Unfortunately, she broke it, but it did not matter as it was only for training anyway. Then she told me that her cargo delivery never arrived, so I needed to help find some items to replace the missing cargo. She gave me a list of what she wanted me to bring to her and said that she would discover their uses later.
Anabel said that her father used to say that great abilities always come with greater responsibility and that now she understands what he meant by that. I found her items for her and she said that she was very impressed. By bringing the items to her she will find the Topaz Decoration for the cover of Valeria Steiner's diary. She told me that the High Convention of Clans takes place soon and she need the Infusion of Suffering to make the right impression, and a Voodoo Doll. We were both very pleased with our efforts. She told me that the high clans will discuss her status soon. It was very soon after this, that she found the Topaz Decoration and gave it to me. I put it on the cover of the diary and saw that I still had a ways to go to get all of the decorations, but that we have made some headway. Now I just hope that Dad and Marty don't decide that my time for finding the decorations is up. Right now, Dad is still opening new areas in the castle, and Marty keeps trying to get the half suit of armor down off the wall to try to wear it. I hope he does not succeed, I am afraid that if he does manage to remove it, it will disturb the magic that is Midnight Castle.
Professor Pinfeathers now told me to go to the Innkeeper "Salty" Took. Old Salty told me that I should give up on finding the Mystery Chamber. He said that it was like "my Rosebud". I don't know what he means by that, but I can tell that he has not been around kids my age before. Every time someone says that I should quit looking for the Mystery Chamber, it just makes me want to see it for myself even more.
Salty commented that he has a new guest at the inn. As I looked at the skeleton sitting on the stairs, I could not help but be glad that Mom and Dad and Marty could not see him. He looked like the kind of person (ghost, skeleton?) that they would hand him something to eat and tell him to be on his way. Salty wanted me to get a Mandarin Root from this new guest. He was a drunken skeleton sitting on the stairs and when you give him some items, he apparently is able to take a drink from his bottle, and then opens his coat to reveal the Mandarin Root. When I first saw him start to open his coat, I backed toward the door, ready to run. I can remember my Mom telling me about some bad men that open their coats to reveal their naked bodies. I think my Mom called them flashers. But the open coat did not reveal his body, only the item that he was to give you in return for the items you gave him.
I took the root back to Salty and he told me that I was wasting my life chasing after the Mystery Chamber, "Trust me", he said. Why? Has he seen the Mystery Chamber? What did it contain? Now, he really has me intrigued. But right now, we need to mix some potions. A Blood Flow potion for healing, and the Infusion of Suffering for nightmares. Does that mean it gives you nightmares, or does it take nightmares away? I have a feeling that it does not take them away. Salty then told me that even demons respect those who drink from that cauldron filled with the Infusion of Suffering. He also said that these potions will keep guests from complaining about the cockroaches. Yuck!
Salty found out that some crook has the Golden Wing that I need for Valeria's diary, and he has charged his amulets and is ready to throw himself into the hunt for the Golden Wing for me. He told me that my uncle worked faster, as if something was urging him on and that I am nearly as quick as my uncle.
Old Salty still wants me to find more items for him, but as it is still a school night, the rest of my hunt will have to wait until tomorrow after school.