Kleronomos Chapter Four
The window was open and the cold mountain breeze blew up the untacked corners of music sheets sloppily hung on the wall. Charlie was sprawled out on the floor, her closet door open, a messy pile of cases and clothes pulled carelessly out like they’d escaped on their own. Three of the cases were open—a clarinet, a Saxophone, and an empty case that was clearly for the flute that Charlie held to her chest.
“I know how to play this,” Charlie whispered, eyes drooping.
It was well into the night now and she was sure that Elliot went straight to bed after the way their mother yelled at them. He was such a boy scout, there was no way he’d disobey her. But Charlie knew from all of the rules she’d broken that their mother only really had one good scolding in her before she became compassionate again and no one was in trouble anymore. Charlie wondered if a stricter upbringing would have fixed all of the problems she was facing, but she knew that good parenting wouldn’t make any difference. It wouldn’t stop the monsters and it wouldn’t break the curse she had on her now.
Feeling helpless, Charlie sat up and stared at the flute. It had been more than two years since she’d played anything and her whole body ached with the need for it. Without thinking, she pulled the flute up to her mouth and breathed lightly into it, trying to be as quiet as she could. Her eyes closed peacefully as a lullaby filled the room. She was lost in it, gone from the human world, off in the land where music was the only thing that existed. Charlie tried to remember why she ever quit such a thing in the first place, but there was no room in her tired brain for such a thing anymore.
The sun was rising now and Charlie had propped herself up on the wall with the curtains open, hoping the light would keep her awake. Her flute rested in her lap as she watched the sun peek over the mountains. She caught a glimpse of an owl outside her window before her eyes shut and the vision of a mask filled her dreams.
The sound of a woman’s voice was calling out to her. It was warm and comforting until suddenly the space around her was freezing. Where had the light gone? Wasn’t the sun coming up? Had she fallen asleep? Charlie could feel the fear jumping in her gut, but she couldn’t move. There was someone holding her down. She could feel the smooth, cold porcelain brush lightly against her face when another voice spoke. It was a man’s voice and it spoke in a regal tone that was somehow familiar.
“Be gone,” it said just before the sound of glass shattering.
Charlie woke with a start to find Elliot hovering over her, shaking her shoulders. “Charlotte! Are you alright? What happened?”
“What?” She sounded out of it even to herself as she reflexively reached a hand up to the throbbing pain in her head, but Elliot grabbed her hand before she could.
“Don’t touch it,” he said. “I’ll get a towel or something. Just wait here.” He ran off before Charlie could ask anything, but it didn’t take her long to notice that something was off.
The sun was high in the sky now and the light was unfiltered by Charlie’s broken window. She sat up at the sight of it, her hand steadying on the floor beside her only to land on a broken piece of porcelain. She stared wide eyed at it and the speckled red spots and listened to the sound of running water down the hall. Then she noticed the other presence in the room.
“Don’t move around too much.” Elliot was suddenly beside her again, pushing her gently against the wall and dabbing the side of her head with a damp towel. She didn’t miss his curious hazel eyes traveling around the room where her instruments were scattered about.
“What the hell?!” Charlie panicked when she saw the scarlet red stain on the towel. “Am I bleeding?”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t look like a big cut,” Elliot answered calmly. He grabbed her chin and turned her head to examine her. “I’m going to call mom and then I think we should go to the hospital.”
“No.” Charlie swatted him away. “No mom. No doctor.”
“Are you crazy?”
“No, the girl is right. We don’t have time to get humans involved.” The man’s voice permeated the air suddenly, pushing away all other words until only silence was left.
Charlie stared at Elliot as his shoulders tensed, her eyes widening. He heard it too. She watched as Elliot turned to her bed where the white and grey owl sat. He waited until the creature blinked to scream.
“Wh-wh-what?! What are?! You!” Elliot sputtered out, falling back and pointing wildly toward the owl. He turned helplessly toward Charlie who was far too calm for his comfort. “Wh-wh-wh-why is that th-thing talking?!” Elliot stammered.
“That thing? How dare you address me so casually, impertinent human child.” The owl glared, prompting Elliot to grab the nearest pillow to shield him and his sister from the creature.
Charlie sighed in exasperation. “Relax, dork.” She took the pillow, lightly bopping him on the head with it before tossing it aside and turning toward the owl. “You were at my grandfather’s home, weren’t you? Are you a spirit? Did you eat him?”
Elliot’s eyes widened at the question. A spirit? He watched her face, calm and knowing. It was a look he recognized and it made his head spin with thoughts of stories and his childhood and times he’d told her to stop making things up. He shook those thoughts away. That was impossible.
“You have a strong spirit for a human.” The owl seemed to narrow his eyes perceptively, but Elliot wasn’t quite sure if he was smiling. “A great purpose is within you.”
“Answer the question,” Charlie said unflinchingly.
“And great courage as well,” the owl said, distastefully. “Very well. I am no lowly spirit, human. I am a diákonos and I was named Sofós by my master.”
“English?” Charlie glared, clearly confused.
“Diákonos. It is a term used to describe creatures like myself that exist to serve a master.” The bird sighed, looking a bit defeated. “My master is a man named Isaac Howell who employed me to fight demons like the one that just tried to kill you.”
“Tried to… kill…? Who? Charlotte? And you worked for… That’s our grandfather’s name…” The words fell from Elliot’s mouth helplessly as he stared. “Are you saying that Grandpa was up in those mountains… doing what? Fighting demons?” He was in shock, unable to understand the world he’d suddenly found himself in. Hazel eyes turned for reassurance to find a pair of gentle whiskey eyes staring back at him. “Have you been fighting demons too?”
“It’s okay, Elliot. I don’t fight demons.” Charlie placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I know all of this stuff might be weird and scary, but I promise you it’s alright. Whoever this guy is I think he’s on our side.”
“Indeed.” Sofós seemed to smile. “It was the music you were playing that gave me enough strength to banish that demon. The power you have is more than just the sight. It is a wondrous gift.”
Charlie seemed to glare at those words. “What happened to grandpa?”
“He’s disappeared. Isaac has been gone for so long that I didn’t even have the strength to speak anymore.”
“Is he dead?” Charlie asked coldly, prompting another fearful look from her brother.
“It’s possible.” The owl stared back, the two of them warring with their eyes as if trying to decipher each other. “Normally if my master died, then I would meet the same fate, so I believed all this time that Isaac was alive. However, it’s possible for me to live without him if he has a Kléronomos.” A long silence came over the room and Sofós glared a bit when he realized these children truly knew nothing. “A legacy, if you will. Someone of the same blood that has the fortitude to inherit his power.”
Elliot looked to Charlie as it was all too clear what Sofós meant by that, but she was examining the owl with a contemplative look. Even with the short time they’d spent looking at him in their grandfather’s house they knew that his beak hadn’t been so crooked before and the feathers atop his head had seemed fuller on one side. Charlie wondered if he had gotten hurt protecting her, but Elliot had other concerns.
“You said you gained power when Charlotte played music?” Elliot asked, pretending not to notice the intensity in the pair of whiskey eyes next to him. “So does that mean you’re strong now? You can protect her?”
“I did regain some power, yes.” The owl nodded, hopping down from the bed and waddling cutely over to them with his wings behind his back. “But only enough to keep that demon out of the house.” Sofós looked Charlie in the eye then. “Tell me, did you agree to something that creature said? I can’t imagine that I’m too weak to break the curse of such a lowly thing unless you have some sort of binding pact.”
Charlie looked away from Elliot’s stare, wondering if having him understand was truly better than not. “It’s not like I had a choice,” she mumbled.
“Charlotte!” Elliot near shouted. “Did you make a deal with a demon?!”
“I didn’t make a deal! It attacked me! It said it would leave me alone if I could stay awake for five days and I thought if I said no then what’s to stop it from eating me right then and there!”
Sofós hopped onto Charlie’s lap as the siblings stared each other down. No matter how much the creature looked like a real animal, it still made Elliot too uncomfortable to hold a glare.
“There’s only one thing you can do now that you’ve broken the terms of your agreement.”
“I broke them?” Charlie looked offended, but Sofós ignored her. Surely such a regal creature was to take none of the blame for the girl’s mishaps.
“There is an ocarina in Isaac’s cabin that’s made of the egg from which I hatched. Its magic is the only thing that can restore my power enough to exorcise that demon of yours.” He looked between the two with a stance that commanded authority despite his size. “You’ll retrieve it. Then, once I’ve provided you with this service, we can discuss the terms of my contract with you.”
“What contract?” Elliot tried, but Charlie ignored him.
“Deal,” she said, holding up the creature from under its wings. “Elliot, get me a big ass band-aid for this cut. Mr. Sofós and I are going to go back to the cabin.” She stood with a new found determination, pulling Sofós into her arms like a child would hold a cat or a stuffed animal. Elliot didn’t even have time to feel exasperated at her statement.
“I’m coming with you!” He stood after her, but she waved him off.
“Don’t you have school?”
“I’m already late,” Eliot said stubbornly. “And I’m not letting you go back there alone now that I know… you know.” He gestured toward the owl letting himself be carried around like a toy. Clearly he had no idea what it is he learned or what was going on exactly, but he knew enough to know it was dangerous and that his sister had already been attacked twice. He wasn’t about to let there be a third time.
“You can’t see them, Elliot.” Charlie sighed. “You’ll just get in the way.”
Elliot ignored her, running off to the bathroom to find a large bandage. When he returned, Charlie was watching him carefully and he knew he was being gauged for weakness, so he kept his gaze strong and his back straight. To his surprise, it was Sofós who broke the silence.
“Let him come.” He grinned up at the boy. “If he follows without us knowing then I won’t be able to protect him.”
Charlie sighed, finally agreeing as well and Elliot gave Sofós a grateful look before they set off.