Artorius was a fool, an eccentric. Artorius was my friend, and I will miss him. The authorities say his death was accidental, a fall down the stairs in his home, but I doubt it. His troubles began when he met his cousin, Lang. Artorius had always believed he was the last of his line, an ancient and noble house that had its roots in the remote hills of the Holstein border country. An amateur antiqitarian, he showed me a geneological chart that he had painstakingly constructed that traced his family back to Attila. I remember the day he showed me the letter from his long lost relative that contained proof that they were indeed of the same blood. I curse the day that Lang came to our town of Heckel for an extended visit that he and Artorius might get to know one another.
|The country town of Heckel, two miles south of Ardoberg|
At first my friend was delighted with this discovery of a living link to his family's past. I met the man once and was very uncomfortable in his presence. Lang is tall and thin, with dark, piercing eyes and a cruel face. His hair is gray and he seems to be quite old. He and the amiable Artorius made a strange pair indeed. When the weather was fair it was my custom to meet Artorius in the old churchyard, where we would sit on the benches and talk the afternoon away. Having not seen him at our meeting place for a week after the arrival of Lang, I was beginning to feel concerned and, I confess, a little offended. Finally, yesterday in the late afternoon I saw my friend sitting on the bench at our accustomed time. I walked over and greeted him, but when he looked up I was shocked at his appearance. He looked as if he had aged ten years in a week, his shoulders were stooped and his eyes were haunted. I tried to engage him, to understand what had happened to put him in such a state, but he seemed unwilling to discuss the matter. His responses to my attempts at conversation were vague and disjointed. As the sun sunk low he looked up at me with tears in his eyes. He handed me a bundle wrapped up in cloth and tied with a string, and then he shuffled away.
This morning they told me Artorius was dead. The bundle he gave me yesterday was a most curious book. I was up reading it most of the night. It is quite old, written in archaic German, and appears to be a sort of manual describing how to combat the evil creatures that populate the fairytales that we tell to our children. Just the sort of arcane lore my friend delighted in, but what did he mean by giving it to me?