A Riddle in Love

“The most captivating way to start a story is with something to solve. How about a riddle?”

I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
#Writephoto Challenge — Picture above by Image by KL Caley
Word of the Day — Scarlet
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Shove – Prove – Love
Your Daily Word — Accord

A Riddle in Love

‘Through the arch, I see a pond and a tree. Somewhere between in a place of ascension, I wait for thee.’

“The treasure has to be here!” Kimberly remarked while picking her way through the ruined walls of the ancient castle. The gentle breeze blew her angelic blonde hair about her shoulders.

Arden nodded and smiled at her, “From where I’m standing, I can already see the treasure in this castle.

“Aww, you’re a true sweetie.” Smoothing her white dress with its pretty scarlet belt, Kimberly indicated a more complete section of the ruins. “Look, there’s an arch in that section.”

“Great,” Arden slipped an arm around her, “Just imagine what we might find up here and all because your grandfather hid that special stone in his attic all these years.”

“It’s incredible!” A bulb of sadness caught Kimberly’s throat. Her grandfather Edwin had been a worldly explorer. She had great memories of him telling her stories of his adventures. He took great pride in taking her with him whenever he could too. Just a couple of weeks ago, a sudden heart attack had taken him from her. Edwin’s passing would always leave a big hole in her heart, now.

It had been during the painful task of clearing his house that the stone had been discovered. Kimberly’s father Stanley had identified it as the keystone for an old archway. Etched into it was the riddle:

‘Through the arch, I see a pond and a tree. Somewhere between in a place of ascension, I wait for thee.’

“You, okay?” Arden had noticed the sadness darkening her features. Kissing her, he was rewarded with a little smile.

“I’m fine. Just doing this reminds me of my grandfather,” Kimberly took a breath as she looked around at the beautiful old walls and the forest at the fringes of the ancient structure.

“He’d be proud of you going on this adventure just like you used to. Tell me again why you think this is the place referred to in the riddle?”

“This place was called Castle Janus. It was more of a grand castellated mansion than a real defensive keep. I came up here several times with my grandfather over the years.” Kimberly smiled briefly, “Anyway, ‘Janus’ is one of many words in Latin which means ‘arch’ it’s a long shot but this could be the place.”

“I believe it. Let’s find the treasure for your grandfather.” Arden allowed Kimberly to step through an ancient doorway ahead of her.

“Thank you, sweetie.” Kimberly turned a circle taking in the cave-like remains of the gloomy old room. Only the stone walls remained, the one window and door were long gone along with any furnishings that once graced the room. “Poor place. You feel so sad and lonely. It knows that nobody loves it anymore.”

“It really does.” Arden ran a hand along the wall. “You can feel the energy of the place, can’t you?”

 “Yes, it’s quite dark and spooky in here.”

“Wooooo!” Arden howled like a ghost and pawed at her dress.

Kimberly shrieked and gave him a playful shove, “Idiot, you scared me!”

“Sorry, couldn’t resist.” Arden hugged her. “Forgive me?”

“Okay,” Kimberly grinned as she freed herself, “Boys!” she muttered as she entered the next room.

This one was much larger and grander. It was clear by the arched colonnades on either side and the raised area at the far end; this used to be the grand dining room. Much of the space was being reclaimed by the Ivy throttling the walls. The ceilings were gone and the upper area was completely inaccessible.

“Wow, this place must have been amazing when it was freshly built,” Arden said in awe of what he was seeing. “Could these arches be the one in the clue?”

“No, my grandfather checked here when we came, I’m sure of that.” Kimberly gazed up at the remains of the floor above the colonnade and wiped her eyes.

“Did he have a metal detector or something then?”

Kimberly nodded, “He always had all the tools. You see the stone angel at the top of this column. My grandfather lifted me up there when I was six. He wanted me to climb up to the floor above so I could look around for him. I took pictures of everything up there so he could examine them later.”

Arden grinned, he could imagine little Kimberly scaling the wall on that great adventure. “You both shared wonderful times together, didn’t you?”

“The best. Now, I’m sharing more lovely times with you.” Kimberly took his hand with sparkly eyes. “Come on, the pond is this way if I remember correctly.”

The couple wandered through what used to be the kitchen and arrived at the roughest set of stones steps. They looked as though a bomb had been detonated on them. Here was the arch, the steps lead down into the remains of an ancient walled garden. A square of box hedges encircled a natural pond filled with reeds beneath the cloudy skies.

Kimberly pointed into the garden, “See, through the arch I see a pond and directly in line above the steps is a tree.”

Arden had the bend to look beneath the arch. “Well, if any place fits the riddle this does.”

“Does it?” said a man wearing a leather jacket and jeans blocking the light at the bottom of the steps. “Come down here, dear Kimberly. Don’t try to run — you won’t like it if Serge has to make you.”

Kimberly felt a presence behind her. Turning her head, she saw a towering figure blocking her escape.

At six feet and looking every bit the mercenary in his black and white military outfit, Serge was a terrifying man.

“He won’t like what I do to him if he touches her!” Arden responded with raised fists as he stepped between Serge and Kimberly protectively.

“It has nothing to do with you, boy. I suggest you leave while you still can,” said the man at the bottom of the steps.

“While Kimberly is in danger I’m going nowhere,” Arden looked at her and nodded.

“Yes, let’s go.” Kimberly led the way down the steps with Arden at her shoulder.

Serge thundered down behind them.

Emerging into the light of the garden, Kimberly studied the man. His neat ginger goatee and short-cropped hair to match were familiar. “Mr Botham, how could you? You were my grandfather’s best friend?”

“I used to be until he betrayed me.” Botham reply striding about in front of her.

“You weren’t at grandfather’s funeral. Mum and dad sent you several invitations and you never responded. This is why, isn’t it?” Kimberly said looking him straight in the eye.

“Could you be friends with, and mourn the loss of the person who stole great wealth from you?” Botham paused to admire her. “You grew to be a pretty girl you know that. I’ve never met anybody so fond of someone, as your grandfather was of you. Pity, his betrayal could cost you everything!”

“As I said, touch her and I’ll make you pay!” Arden said flicking his eyes between both men.

“Gallant, isn’t he?” Botham chuckled as he drew a 9 mm Glock handgun and demonstrated it was loaded by removing the clip and replacing it. “I wonder if he’ll die for you?”

“In a heartbeat!” Arden blocked a clear shot at Kimberly with his own body.

“Calm down, sweetheart.” Kimberly placed a hand on his shoulder. “What is it you want, Mr Botham?”

“At last, down to business.” Botham kept the gun focused on Arden. “I want the rest of the riddle from stone. There must be more after the Ascension line?”

“No. It ends ‘Somewhere between in a place of ascension I wait for thee.’ I’ve seen the stone. Nothing else etched there.”

“Damn it! Maybe this is the wrong area. There is no place for ascension here,” Botham mused.

Kimberly smiled and then remove the look just as quick.

“I saw that. Tell me what you know or I’ll kill him!” Botham waved the gun dangerously.

“What do you know about ascension then?” Kimberley asked trying to remain unfazed.

Botham took on a thoughtful look, “Well the Ascension refers to Jesus rising to heaven. It supposedly took place on Mount Olivet in 312AD. So, if there was something to do with ascension between the pond and tree; you’d expect to see a mountain, church, or at least an alter, right?”

“Maybe.” Kimberley folded her arms.

“Don’t mess with me!” Botham pointed a finger at Arden.

Serge grabbed and punched him in the stomach, leaving him lying on the gravel gasping for breath.

“I won’t help you if you keep hurting him!” Kimberley said.

Serge kicked Arden in the ribs.

“I said stop!” Kimberley yelled as voices could be heard. Tourists drawing near in the kitchen.

“I make them go away.” Serge vanished through the arch and up the steps.

“Then tell me what I need to know!” Botham ran at her. He seized a handful of her dress and pressed the gun to her forehead.

“Please, stop hurting us!” Kimberley begged.

“Tell me where the Ascension —” Botham gasped to a stop.

Arden was on his feet. He took hold of the gun, dropped to his knees and levelled it at his own forehead.

“Are you mad, boy?” Botham asked in disbelief.

“When Kimberly took me to be her boyfriend, I took an accord of love for her. I vowed to take care of and protect her. Now you give me chance to prove how much I love her. Somebody must die today, spare my love and shoot me!” Arden said unafraid.

“Seems somebody genuinely loves you, Kimberley. If you want to keep him, start talking!”

“It’s simple, you’re taking the word ascension too literally,” Kimberley told him.

“What do you mean?” Botham asked.

“Even I got that,” Arden said exchanging a look with Kimberly.

“Then tell me!” Botham flexed his fingers and released the safety on his gun.

Footsteps, signal Serge’s return.

“To ascend is to rise,” said Arden standing and squeezing Botham’s hand as he spoke. The gun barked off a round as he turned aside.

Serge cried out. The bullet obliterated his right knee and dumped him in a moaning heap.

“Damn Y—”

“It’s you who’s damned!” Kimberley buried her foot deep in Botham’s groin. She felt no mercy as he crumpled to the gravel. “Greedy scumbags, get nothing!”

Serge had quite an effect when he scared the tourists off. Through them to site security guards and a pair of police officers appeared and charged into the pond garden.

An hour passed to the two men being arrested and dealt with, statements being made and medical treatment being issued. Then as quickly as all hell broke loose, Kimberly and Arden found themselves alone again.

“I can’t believe you took the gun from me and pointed it at your own head,” Kimberly said hugging him.

“I love you, Kimberley. I would rather die any day if it meant you could live on happily and healthily.”

“I wouldn’t be happy, not without you. Thank you so much for defending my life.”

“Of, course,” Arden kissed her. “So, is this the place? Is this is where the Ascension is hiding?”

“You bet it is!” Kimberley grinned. “Look.” She pointed back at the arch. The Keystone was a different colour compared to the rest of the stones in the wall.

“Oh, wow! So your grandfather took the stone and then replace it with a different one?” Arden realised.

“He sure did.” Kimberly walked around the pond. “What’s more between the pond and the tree is a set of steps. If a person climbs them, they ascend.” Kimberly did just that.

Arden followed her up, “So, what are we looking for?”

Kimberly came to a stop on the last step. Unlike all the others its central stone had a curved front. “Whatever it is, I bet it’s hiding behind there.”

The couple decided to find the site manager. Having explained their findings to him, he arranged archaeologist to help remove the stone. Behind it was an ancient stone box containing two gold rings. The wedding rings of the last couple to call Jane’s castle home. Mary and George Middleton.

“That seems romantic,” Arden said.

“And a little sad,” Kimberley added with her head on his shoulder.

“Why do you think that?”

“Why leave a riddle leading to your wedding rings?”

“I don’t know.” Arden conceded.

“I think George left home to fight a battle and never returned. Mary was gifted his ring back but realised his soul wasn’t with it. She hid the rings and left the riddle in the hope that one day George’s soul would return to Janus castle. She hoped he’d solve the riddle, find the rings and ascend to her in heaven.”

Arden led Kimberley into the setting sun. “That is a sad but special story. Know that even if my body has to go somewhere my soul will always be with yours, Kimberly,” he said as they kissed in the golden light.

The End

Thanks for reading my friends.

There’s more in the Poetry CornerPoetry Nook, and the Short Story Collection

Have a great day!

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