Edmund was not his real name.
The lone man in a brown double breasted suit leaned against the railing as the ship cut its way through the night. There was laughter and light coming from the ballroom above, but Edmund simply ignored it.
He arched his neck to observe the full yellow moon in the sky, throwing its light carelessly onto the shimmering sea.
It was a warm summer evening, but still he shuddered.
He examined his ticket again, recalled what his contact whispered seductively over the phone:
Edmund’s fingers instinctively went to his coat pocket to check his pocket watch.
The watch's outer casing was forged from polished silver, with delicate engravings of intertwined vines and leaves adorning its surface. The lid, when opened, reveals a crystal-clear glass face, showcasing the inner workings of the timekeeping mechanism. The numerals on the watch are elegantly etched in golden filigree, which glimmered in the moonlight. It was three hundred years old, and had only been wound once... and had kept perfect time ever since.
Seven fifty, the timepiece’s face read.
Edmund knew he had a few more minutes before the meeting. The anticipation gnawed at him, the weight of the mission he had been entrusted with. His real name was a distant memory, buried deep in the shadows of his past.
He stayed in the dark, keeping his rare copy of Saint Sera’s History of the Night carefully tucked under his arm, secured by a leather strap. Only his contact and a few others in the world would recognize it, if anyone was below decks at all.
As the ship sailed on, he couldn't help but feel a sense of unease, as if eyes were watching him from the darkness. The moon's glow seemed to intensify, casting an eerie aura over the deck.
He glanced around from time to time, searching for any signs of the contact who was supposed to meet him here. The ship's horn blared, breaking the silence and causing Edmund to jump. His heart raced, a mixture of anxiety and excitement coursing through his veins.
The laughter from the ballroom above echoed in his ears, a stark contrast to the turmoil within him. He couldn't afford to be distracted by the revelry: not when his future rested on the sale of that book.
The ocean few by like so many secrets. It was a dozen or so feet down, and Edmund could tell the ship was moving very quickly. Perhaps they were being pursued again? It had taken him weeks of sailing to secure his entry onto this level of dark and discreet rooms, and he hoped that the ship’s security would not force him away.
“Saint Sera the Uncanny,” he said to himself as he looked at the leatherbound cover.
Edmund turned around to the dark rows of rooms stretching on and on. The ship itself was huge: The V.S. Whisperwound was meant to sail endlessly and to take on special guests when necessary.
The codex that Edmund was indeed huge: about eight hundred pages of codexes and spells and bizarre stories and pictures and poems. Edmund looked at his watch again.
Eight o’clock, or thereabouts.
Edmund gulped and patted his forehead with a handkerchief. He momentarily wanted to sit, but that was against the orders he had been given... and besides, every minute or so he felt a jolt of adrenaline that made him want to stand all the more. He cursed his father’s name and returned to watching the sea.
The shadowy man leaning on the railing noticed the stars and took note of their positions, all the while making sure his valuable tome was safe under his arm.
Edmund recalled his grandmother’s teachings.
Tyr the Eagle, He’s in the North. Do you see him? Edmund, wanting to please, shook his head in the affirmative. He is false. See how the North Star is his eye? He is blind, and so are all that follow him. Edmund nodded again.
Remember how I taught you about Tyr? Edmund could recall: it had been a year filled with fun tales about the trickery of Reynard and Tyr, his hated rival. Well that, she said, leaning over and pointing, is the Southern Star. That is the eye of Reynard! Edmund could recall marvelling and drawing the God of Foxes with his fingers.
This meeting was fifteen years in the making. After his father died, Edmund and his brothers and sisters were all allowed to choose one book as their inheritance. Only true scholars of the eventide would know the History’s true worth.
Five years to gain the trust of rare book sellers and follow the prominence of the book to Milan, five years to find the cult and join it, and five years to find a seller without being murdered for it.
What would Reynard think of him? Would they use the book to defeat Tyr, or was it merely a book of Reynardian puzzles meant to sharpen the mind of His followers?
Edmund was having strange dreams. The previous night was filled with chanting. Doorways opening in dark, endless hallways. Eyes watching furtively.
The ocean spray gently misted Edmund as he looked up and down the deck once more. The warm summer wind flecked the little droplets away, causing a pleasant cooling sensation.
He felt the tome again to make sure that his enchantment was still encasing it: once could never be sure with a cult who worshipped Foxes.
The shadowy man adjusted his necktie and cleared his throat.
The voice that he had been in contact with was soft and feminine. She somehow always knew where he was, even when he was on vacation in the Alps with some friends.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when the front desk said he had a phone call:
Everyone who knew his real name was dead except one: and Edmund had made sure to implicate them thoroughly. The last time he had heard, they were irreprably insane. He had a smug smile crawl across his lips, hoping that he was the cause: That he was the one they saw in the moon every night.
Was he making a mistake? It was an ungodly amount of money...
He laughed at the pun.
Was it true what the Tyrians had said about Sera? Was she truly a demon? Would the sun be banished forever if her writings were fully understood?
Edmund recalled the car chase that occurred in Morocco after a group of Tyrians had discovered that he had the book. They probably would have simply burned it.
“Pfft. Barbarians.” He smiled at his own cleverness at avoiding them, and then brushed away his doubts: Clerics of the “God of Justice” thought everyone who didn’t agree with them entirely was a demon.
Edmund’s hand dangled over the railing lazily. He was hungry but the excitement of the upcoming meeting made him feel full.
The ballroom above was starting to get louder and louder: the exiled princes and princesses were beginning their nighttime revelries.
The man in shadow, lost somewhere at sea, waiting for an unknown contact to buy an unknown book, took a small, wrinkled, well-read piece of paper out of his coat pocket - read it one last time, wept a single tear, and threw it into the foam below.
The moon had turned from yellow to shining white as the evening danced forward. It had climbed farther into the sky - so much so that the deck above obscured Edmund’s view of it. Instead, Edmund looked into the deep waters below, now rippling with the moon’s reflection - like the mirror of a once-worshipped theater star.
The ocean few by like so many secrets.