Galwynn began to pick up the more interesting books, astronomical devices, and magical knickknacks scattered across the parlor floor. He scrutinized each one, and then put it back on the shelf or table where he guessed it belonged. “You are not very tidy are you, Your Lordship? It looks like a cyclone blew threw here.”

“One did. Its name was ‘Duke Northstorm,’” Charles said, chuckling at his own jest. Then he added with a deep understatement, “I think he was quite angry with me.” To his surprise, Charles was beginning to enjoy the company of a fellow scholar. 

“All the same, I must compliment your lordship,” said Galwynn. “Your laboratory is very well equipped. You seem to have one of everything a stargazer requires. I have quite a collection myself, back in the Basilica Lux. Although I must admit, neither of our collections compares to that of the Mistress of Stargazers,” he joked, sociably. Taking a tally of the instruments around him, Kevin identified an: alidade, armillary sphere, astrarium, astrolabe, astronomical clock, antikythera, blink comparator, coronagraph, cosmolabe, dioptra, equatorial ring, equatorium, inclinometer, kamal, meridian circle, mural instrument, Nebra sky disk, nocturnal, octant, orrery, planisphere, quadrant, scaphe, sextant, standard gazing crystal array, sundial, torquetum, triquetrum, and zenith gazing crystal array. Lord Lewis beamed with pride at hearing his hard-earned collection being appreciated. 

“My mother tutored me as a child,” volunteered Lord Lewis, animatedly, “and she instilled in me a lifelong love of learning. I studied anything and everything at my mother’s knee.”

Charles seemed to revel in the opportunity to talk to a peer. To talk to someone who might understand the solitary life he lived, and the challenges that imposed. And to empathize with the loveless life he had become so used to enduring, that he no longer recognized his loss.

“I believe I’ve seen a portrait of your mother in the king’s gallery. She was a very beautiful woman.”

“She was a very clever and compassionate woman, too,” Charles said. “I think she might have gone on to become a scholar or a goodwitch, if only…”

Galwynn looked quizzical, and waited.

“Mother fell ill when I was very young,” Charles said, slowly. “I was bereft when she died; inconsolable. Of course, father grieved, too. But he mourned by occupying himself day and night with the daily business of running the estate.”

“Did he not take up your tutoring?” Kevin asked. That would have been an appropriate way for a father to comfort a son who had just lost his mother, Kevin thought.

“Oh no, father was far too busy for that. I understood. I understood. He was the baron, after all, and he had an estate to run, and all the people who depended on the barony to take care of. I understood. Rearing children was not his primary concern. Besides, he was never too caretaking to begin with.”

Kevin did not comment.

“The house staff—Teague and Anna and all the rest—they effectively adopted me in those early years. When my mother died, I found refuge in books, study, reason, and invention. It was my lifeline. And when I discovered books could enable me to explore worlds far beyond these walls, I threw myself into studying and learning all there was to know. You are a Master of Enlightenment; you are a scholar too; you must surely know what I mean.”

Kevin nodded, noncommittally. 

It occurred to Galwynn, that for a man for whom reason has been a lifeline most of his years, the prospect of losing that salvation to madness—as indisputably proven by his recurring fits of mania—would be terrifying. And if Charles was paralyzed by fear of going insane, he most likely would not be introspective and analytical enough to reason clearly about his situation. 

Kevin mulled that thought over and over in his mind. Fear. Relentless, inescapable, overwhelming fear. The bogeyman. There was something…intriguing…about that thought.

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