Lost and Found.
Vincent entered his chamber wearily, after a long hard day spent with a work crew carving out a new chamber. He was dirty and he ached all over. Even with his legendary strength he had his limits…and he’d reached them. All he wanted to do was to have a long soak in one of the bathing pools to get the kinks out. There was no hurry tonight because Catherine was away visiting friends, and although he missed her part of him was glad. He sank down gratefully into his large chair and put his feet up on a footstool. He’d been sitting for about five minutes when an unusual smell reached his sensitive nose. He sat up straight and took a deep breath… “Lavender,” he said aloud, and assumed that Rebecca was trying out new perfumes in her candles, so thought no more about it.
The next morning he passed her on her way to the candle chamber. “Hi Vincent,” she said cheerfully. “How goes the work?”
“Very well thank you Rebecca. I like the new scented candles you’ve made; I’m very fond of Lavender.”
She looked puzzled. “I haven’t made any with that scent Vincent.”
“But I smelt it in my chamber last night,” he told her.
“Well it’s not from my candles,” she assured him.
Now it was his turn to look puzzled. “Well if it’s not your candles Rebecca, where is it coming from?”
“Beats me Vincent. Are you sure it is Lavender?”
“Well you’ve got a bit of mystery then Vincent, because it’s nothing to do with me. Anyway I’ve got to go now; I’ve got another batch of candles on the go. See you later.”
She continued on her way leaving a very puzzled Vincent behind.
Several days later, after another hard shift, he was sitting in his chamber trying to work up the energy to go for a soak, when he caught the scent of Lavender again. Knowing that it wasn’t the candles he got up to see if he could find out where it was coming from…but with no success.
“I will find out,” he resolved, “but not just now. I’ll go for my soak and try to solve the puzzle tomorrow.”
He picked up his towels and soap and left the chamber. He returned refreshed an hour later and got ready for bed. He was just about to climb in when he suddenly froze…he was not alone, although he hadn’t heard anyone enter his chamber. He whipped round ready to deal with the intruder…and was faced with a little girl no more than six years old, who he’d never seen before! Assuming that someone new had moved Below that he hadn’t heard of (although it was strange that there hadn’t been a Council meeting) he said, “Hello there, where have you come from?”
She didn’t answer him for a moment, she just stood looking at him, and then she asked, “How come you look like that?”
He smiled at her. “If I answer your question will you answer mine?”
She thought about that and then she nodded.
“I don’t know why I look like this, I was born this way,” he told her. “Now will you answer my question please?”
“Mommy and me came down here a long time ago.”
“I don’t think so, I’ve never seen you before,” he told her gently.
“But we did,” she insisted.
He was just about to ask her another question when she turned her head and looked towards the chamber entrance.
“I have to go now, Mommy’s calling me.” And so saying she turned right round and ran from the chamber.
By the time Vincent had reached the chamber entrance and looked into the passage there was no sign of her! He was taken aback at the speed she’d moved, and then he went very still as he realised that he hadn’t heard anyone call!
The next morning, being a Saturday, he had more time to have a leisurely breakfast and he joined Father in the dining chamber. As expected the subject they discussed was the new chamber.
“How is the work going Vincent, you haven’t run into any problems have you?” Father asked.
“It’s going very well Father, and no we haven’t had any problems,” Vincent assured him.
“Good I’m pleased to hear it.”
“Father, have a new family moved Below while I’ve been working on the new chamber?”
Father looked surprised. “No Vincent, you know that any newcomers have to be approved by the Council. Why do you ask?”
So Vincent told him about his late night visitor.
“What did she look like?” Father wanted to know.
“She has long silver blonde hair and I think her eyes are blue, although I didn’t get very close to her. She’s about six years old and at a guess I’d say she’s about three feet tall.”
Father looked puzzled. “There’s no-one down here like that Vincent, are you sure you weren’t dreaming?”
Vincent was affronted. “No I wasn’t dreaming I saw her as plainly as I’m seeing you.” Then he suddenly recalled something. “And there was a faint smell of Lavender on her clothes.”
Father frowned as though something was puzzling him, then he said, “I would have still insisted that you were dreaming, until you mentioned the Lavender. I think that you’ve been haunted Vincent.”
Now it was Vincent’s turn to frown. “Haunted!” he said somewhat skeptically.
“Yes. Her name is…was Karen. Come to my chamber and I’ll tell you all about her.”
When they reached Father’s chamber Vincent was impatient to hear what Father had to say. “Come on Father tell me about her, as I find it hard to believe that I’ve been visited by a ….ghost!”
Father smiled. “Sit down and don’t be so impatient,” he chided Vincent gently. Vincent did as he’d been bid and then Father began the story.
“Several years before we found you, a young woman and her daughter sought refuge Below. The young woman’s name was Leslie and her daughter was called Karen. Both of them were victims of physical and mental abuse by the husband, and if they hadn’t escaped neither of them would have survived. I won’t go into all the details of how they got here, sufficient to say that they did. It took them both quite a while to trust people but eventually they did and the whole community took them to their hearts.
The little girl was a joy to know although sometimes she could be a little minx, but she was never spiteful and when it came to telling her off…” Father paused and smiled, “you never could because she would smile at you and you were lost. And she knew it.” Father stopped and smiled again, remembering.
“But what about the smell of Lavender?” Vincent wanted to know.
Father didn’t answer for a moment and then came out of his reverie. “In the early days the Tunnels were sometimes damp and the smell used to pervade everything. Leslie made some Lavender sachets and put them in among their clothing; it made a big difference. Eventually we cured the problem but Leslie still used the sachets. Then one day, a day I’ll never forget, Karen disappeared.”
“Disappeared, how?” Vincent asked.
“We don’t know. When we asked Leslie if anything had happened between them she told us that Karen had been naughty, and that she’d been punished by having her favourite doll confiscated. But we didn’t think that she would run off because of something like that, and assumed that someone had taken her somehow because security wasn’t as efficient back then. We searched the Tunnels for weeks but she was gone without a trace.
“How long ago was this Father?” Vincent wanted to know.
Father thought for a moment. “I reckon it must be nearly forty years ago.”
“So why has she suddenly come back…and why me?” Vincent asked.
Father shook his head. “I have no idea Vincent.”
Vincent left shortly after and went back to his own chamber. He was sitting quietly trying to figure out why Karen had come back when his nose twitched. He turned towards the chamber entrance and she was there again.
“May I come in please?” she asked.
“Of course you may, you may come here any time you like,” he told her.
She smiled sweetly at him and Vincent was entranced.
“I’m not really s’posed to pester people Mommy said, but you don’t mind do you?” she asked ingenuously.
He smiled at her showing the tips of his fangs, because he somehow knew that she wouldn’t be afraid. “Of course I don’t mind.”
She came fully into the chamber and sat on a small stool, watching Vincent all the time. There didn’t seem to be any need to talk, but he knew he had to try and find out what had happened to her. But just as he was going to start asking her some questions she looked towards the entrance.
“Oh-oh, Mommy’s calling me, I gotta go else I’ll be in big trouble.” And so saying she got to her feet and took off. He didn’t try to follow her this time…he knew it would’ve been a waste of time…how could you follow a shadow? He sat for a while longer wondering how he was going to find out about her, and then he suddenly stood up and said one word, “Narcissa.”
He went to find Father to tell him that he was going to visit Narcissa, knowing what Father’s reaction would be. He wasn’t disappointed.
“Vincent I can’t believe that you’re going to see her, she lives in a world of her own most of the time,” he said exasperatedly.
“But she is still a very wise woman…she may be able to help me,” Vincent explained patiently.
Father could see that it useless to try and persuade Vincent otherwise. “Oh very well Vincent, do what you think is best…you usually do anyway,” Father said somewhat wryly. “But be careful.”
Vincent gave Father one of his rare smiles. “I always am Father.”
He left the chamber and headed down, leaving the Home Tunnels far behind. It took him quite a while to reach Narcissa’s chamber and it struck him anew how far from them that she lived. As he reached the entrance she called out to him, “Come on in Veencent.”
When he went inside he never even thought to ask her how she knew it was him. He knew she simply did!
“Welcome Veencent, are you well child?” she asked.
He smiled and he knew that however old he got she would call him child. “I am well thank you Narcissa. Do I find you well?”
“I am very well thank you,” she answered. And then without any further ado she said, “You’ve come about the little girl.”
“Yes I have Narcissa. Father says she simply disappeared, but people just don’t simply disappear, and especially not a child! What I need to know is why she has suddenly decided to come back…and why me?”
“I don’t know why Veencent…but perhaps she wants to be laid to rest. You must find her.”
“But how?” he asked her.
She pondered for a moment. “She will tell you,” she told him confidently.
He left her and headed back to the Home Tunnels, thinking about what she had said.
Several days passed and Karen hadn’t visited Vincent again so he assumed that she had gone. He was mistaken. Very late one night he was sitting at the table writing in his Journal when he realized that she had come back. “Hello Karen, I was starting to think that you weren’t coming back.”
She didn’t answer for a moment and then she said sadly, “I’m gonna haveta go ‘way Vincent.”
“But why Karen?” he asked her gently.
“Don’t know, just gotta.”
He took a chance and asked, “You’re lost aren’t you?”
She dropped her head and nodded, and when she lifted it again he could see tears in her eyes. “Nobody found me Vincent.”
His eyes filled with tears too, and he said huskily, “I’ll find you Karen.”
She looked at him with hope in her eyes. “Will you really and truly Vincent?”
“I promise I will,” he assured her. Then he had a sudden thought. “Karen do think you could take me where you went?”
“I think I can…yes I can Vincent. Can we go now please?”
“Of course we can.”
She led him deep down and he wondered how she had ever gotten this deep on her own. He called to her and she stopped and turned round to face him. “Karen how did you come to be this deep on your own?”
She frowned and shook her head. “Can’t ‘member,” she told him evasively.
“I think you can,” he chided her gently.
She shook her head stubbornly. “Can’t.”
He sighed deeply. “Well if you won’t tell me…” He turned to leave.
“Vincent…please don’t go. I’ll tell you.”
He turned back. “Well?”
She dropped her head. “I ran away,” she murmured.
“You ran away? But why?” he asked.
“’Cos Mommy took Betty off me, and she was my bestest doll.”
Vincent remembered what Father had told him. “But you had been naughty, hadn’t you?”
She opened her mouth with a denial on her tongue, but when she looked at him she knew that she couldn’t tell him a lie. “Yes,” she whispered.
“And then you got lost.”
She nodded. “I couldn’t find the way back and then I got tired so I went in a little cave and went to sleep. But when I woke up I couldn’t get back out ‘cos there were some big stones in front of the way in. And then…” she couldn’t continue and Vincent guessed what had happened. There’d been a rock fall and she’d been trapped. He hoped that the end had come quickly for her and she hadn’t suffered.
“But why have you come back now?” he asked her gently.
“’Cos I don’t want to be there anymore,” she said simply.
“Let’s go then,” he said.
They hadn’t gone much further when she suddenly stopped and pointed to what looked like a solid rock face, but on further investigation Vincent could just make out the outline of an entrance and he knew that he had found her. He turned around to tell her…but she had gone.
He knew that he wouldn’t be able to clear the entrance himself so he went back up until he found a pipe. He tapped out his own personal code and then asked for help. ‘Need help to clear rock fall please…at least five men.’
The person who answered didn’t even question as to why he wanted it clearing.
‘Where are you Vincent? Will come asap.’
He gave them precise directions and then sat down and waited. When they arrived he greeted them and told them why he wanted it clearing.
“Well what are we waiting for Vincent…let’s get to it.”
He took them down to where the cave was and an hour later they had cleared enough of a space to allow Vincent access.
When he got inside he saw a small skeleton lying on its side in a foetal position. His crossed over to it and knelt down and laid his hand on the skull in benediction. Then he was aware that Karen was back and was standing by his side. He turned to her and smiled and she smiled too.
“Thank you Vincent,” she whispered…and then she vanished.
He collected the small bones with reverence and placed them in a velvet bag that he’d taken with him and they all headed home. When they finally got there Vincent went straight to Father’s chamber and told him everything that had happened. Father was incredulous. “We never dreamt that she had simply run away, and for that to happen…” He shook his head. “That poor child she must have been terrified, all alone like that in the dark. Still, you found her Vincent and now she can have a proper burial.”
“No!” Vincent said vehemently.
Father was taken aback. “What do you mean, ‘no’?”
“I mean that she’s been in the dark a long time and…” he stopped.
“And what Vincent? She must be buried.”
“I know that Father, it just seems wrong to shut her away in the dark again.”
“I understand that Vincent, so what do you propose?”
“I don’t know yet, but I’ll think of something.”
He left Father’s chamber and headed for his own. When he got there he was too tired to have a proper bath so he made do with just washing his hands and face, then got ready for bed and climbed in gratefully.
But sleep eluded him as he lay thinking about Karen. Then just before dawn an idea came to him and he finally slept.
Later on that morning when he awoke his first visit was to the Bathing chamber, then breakfast, and finally a visit to Mouse’s chamber. Mouse was surprised to see him so early and asked, “How come so early Vincent?”
“Because I want to ask you something Mouse.”
“Ask what Vincent?”
“To ask if you can make me a small box with a clear lid.”
Mouse wanted to know why. “Why need Vincent?” he asked.
So Vincent explained about Karen, finishing with, “So I don’t want her to be in the dark anymore.”
Mouse was visibly upset. “Poor kid being lost in dark. Not good Vincent. But Vincent find. Ok now.”
“Yes Mouse it is ok now. So do you think you can do it?”
“Vincent tell Mouse how big, Mouse make.”
Vincent indicated with his hands how big he wanted it and Mouse said, “Easy Vincent, no problem.”
Then he had a thought. “Can make all box clear, then be like Snow White.”
Vincent smiled. “Yes Mouse, just like Snow White. When will it be ready?”
“Come back later Vincent.”
Vincent knew that it was no good trying to get Mouse to give him a specific time, so he said, “Alright Mouse I’ll come back this afternoon. Will that be alright?”
“Ok good. Ok fine. Box be ready then.”
Later that day Vincent went back and Mouse presented him with a beautifully made little box, exactly the size Vincent had indicated.
“Mouse this is beautiful, exactly right.”
Mouse blushed with pleasure at such praise from his best friend, and then he asked, “Put Karen where Vincent?”
“I’m not sure yet Mouse, but not in the dark.”
Mouse frowned with concentration trying to think of somewhere Vincent could put the box, and then his face lit up. “Mouse knows place Vincent. Never dark. Always light.”
Now it was Vincent’s turn to frown. “Where Mouse? It has to be someplace where not many people go.”
Mouse tutted and rolled his eyes. “Easy Vincent…Narcissa’s place.”
“Mouse I don’t think Narcissa…” Vincent began, but Mouse interrupted, “Will for Vincent. Betcha!”
Vincent shook his head and Mouse sighed dramatically. “Just ask Vincent. Now.”
Working on the principle that Narcissa could only say no, and nothing ventured nothing gained, Vincent once more made his way to see her. But this time he didn’t have to go so far…Narcissa was on her way up. He greeted her and then for the first time in his life she astonished him. “Yes you can put Karen in my chamber Veencent, I have just the place.”
“But how…,” he began, but she put her fingers gently to his mouth to silence him.
“Because she asked me,” she told him.
“She asked? Then she…?”
Narcissa chuckled. “Yes Veencent, she came to see me. When will you bring her?”
“I thought we could have a small service at the Mirror Pool and then I can bring her to you. If that is alright with you Narcissa?”
She nodded her head in approval. “That will be fine Veencent.”
After a very short and moving service Vincent took the little box to Narcissa’s chamber and she put it in a little niche in the wall that looked as if it had been made specifically for just that purpose. “She will be safe here Veencent, you need have no worries, and she will always be in the light,” Narcissa assured him.
“Thank you Narcissa,” he said in a voice made husky by unshed tears, and then he turned to leave. He had reached the chamber’s entrance when a thought suddenly struck him and he turned back, meaning to ask Narcissa if Karen would ever come back, but she forestalled him.
“No she will not come back Veencent, she is happy now.”
He thanked her again and left.
Several days later Catherine returned from her trip, and once she had unpacked she made her way Below to see Vincent. He knew of course that she was on her way and was waiting for her at the threshold. As she reached the last rung of the ladder she felt his hands at her waist, and instead of putting her foot down she simply turned into his arms. He hugged her gently and she placed a kiss on his cheek.
“God I’ve missed you Vincent,” she told him. “It seems to have been forever since I saw you.”
“I have missed you too Catherine, but did you have a good trip?” he asked as he put her down.
“Yes I did but it’s good to be back!”
They went straight to his chamber and when they got there he asked if she would like some tea. When she said she would he sent a message on the pipes asking Kipper if he’d mind bringing them some, and Kipper tapped back that he’d bring some straightaway. They made themselves comfortable while they waited for their tea and Catherine said to him, “Now Vincent I want you to tell me what’s been happening while I’ve been away.”
So he told her the whole story, finishing with, “So now she’ll always be in the light.”
Catherine’s eyes were bright with unshed tears as she said, “Oh Vincent that poor little mite. Do you think she suffered?”
“I hope not Catherine, but I think with her being so small she wouldn’t have lasted long.” Then seeing that she was still upset he asked, “Would you like to visit her? I’m sure Narcissa won’t mind.”
“I’d love to,” she assured him.
And that’s exactly what they did. On the way back up to the Home chambers Catherine stopped for a moment looking back the way they had come. “Is something wrong Catherine?” Vincent asked her.
“No Vincent, I was just wishing that I could have seen her.”
Vincent smiled. “Narcissa said that she’s happy now and she won’t come back.”
Catherine sighed. “Oh well, never mind.”
They continued on their way until they finally reached Vincent’s chamber, then just as they were about to enter Vincent’s nose twitched. “She’s here Catherine.”
“You mean Karen?”
He nodded and then they went into his chamber. She was sitting on the little stool but stood up when she saw them. “Hi Vincent, hi Catherine I thought I’d come back one last time…just to let you know I’m really ok…and I like Narcissa. I won’t come back again.” Then she was gone.
Catherine turned to Vincent. “How come she knew my name Vincent?”
He shook his head. “Probably Narcissa told her.”
“I wish I’d known her Vincent,” Catherine said wistfully.
“Me too,” he agreed. “And I wish she’d come again…but I know she never will.”
But he was mistaken…although he never actually saw her. Because sometimes when he was patrolling the Tunnels late at night he’d suddenly stop, lift his head and inhale, and catch a very faint smell of Lavender. And then very quietly he’d say, “Goodnight Karen,” and continue on his way.