Start with Part I.
8:00 AM, Saturday, April 15th, 2006
I am a young man, now, perhaps 13 or so. The old man has long since passed away — or perhaps just disappeared. It does not matter. I was not emotionally attached to him. I am not emotionally attached to anyone. I am attached to my studies.
I had been gradually taking on more and more of the simple chores needed to keep up the castle, so his departure was not a radical shift. We never really talked or socialized, though he would teach and quiz me as needed. Which was not very much, since I soon learned to read and taught myself from his library. My horse — the only other living thing in the castle — had soon grown bored and wandered off. I felt a brief pang at the time, but since I was already too busy for him it didn’t really seem to matter. Did it? As usual, I just returned to my studies and moved on.
Alone in my castle, with few distractions and no visitors, life was placid, but never boring. I took joy in the simple tasks of self-sufficiency, conjuring food, mastering new ideas, maintaining order in the castle so it wouldn’t get it my way. There are no wild plants or dust to disturb my tranquillity, just a few herbs in a box for my research. The armor of my childhood still lay in my room, and I would polish it and magically stretch it to keep it in my size and in good condition — for I was well brought up — but I never needed it, since I never went out, and nobody ever came.
Which is why the knock on my chamber door is so startling. I am not scared, exactly — what need I fear? — but sufficiently surprised that I spill ink over the parchment I’m annotating. Actually, so surprised I don’t even mind my clumsiness, but — without thinking — get up and answer the door. For I was brought up well.
I open it, and there stands a well-built, bearded man in his early thirties. I’ve never seen him before, but he looks at me with a smile of recognition.