Father Young breathed the mist like a dragon, flaring nostrils shooting streams of white. He wore round dark spectacles like a blind man. Dew glistened on his balding head, smoky tufts of hair sticking out on each side. He held his cane nearly horizontal, one hand near the top and the other gripped the midsection. Quietly he oozed out of the fog.
Gazing at the dark lenses, Sebastian recalled the strange orbs, twin storms of dark bolts cracking golden orbs. They were inhuman eyes, monstrous. Watching Father Young leaving the mist behind, he recalled the words of Thomas. The Dunston Monster arrived with the fog. Father Young had the eyes of a monster, but according to Tabitha the killer fled elsewhere.
“Shouldn’t you be at university?” Father Young stood with his feet apart, hands on the cane as if ready to attack.
“Father Gustav sent me.” Pulling coat open, Sebastian revealed the gun at hip. “My studies are on hold.”
Father Young nodded. “Boy, you and I have an agreement. You tell Gustav you’re not your father’s replacement.”
“Did you have my father murdered?”
“Don’t be absurd, boy.”
Tabitha appeared with a teacup in each hand. She offered a cup to Father Young. Slipping his cane underarm, he smiled and took the cup. Sebastian accepted the other teacup. Stepping to the side, the Dunston woman watched the men drink their tea.
“A giant,” said Father Young, raising his teacup. “To some, an intimidating sight. Others.” He lowered his cup and grinned. “To others merely a big man. A helping hand carrying the heavy load.” He removed his dark glasses.
Sebastian peered at the golden jewels bursting with dark currents radiating from the center. He thought the orbs might appear more natural on a lizard.
Father Young raised his teacup again. “A beast to some and a friend to others.”
Sebastian breathed in the cold air recalling his arrival at Dunston, an isolated little town. They likely had never seen anyone very tall before. On Mary’s insistence, they had allowed him to take the quest, find their missing Tabitha. Thomas had made it clear that only success allowed his welcome. To them, his unusual size made him a monster.
Raising his cup, Sebastian nodded a salute. He realized that of all the people, even his own siblings, Father Young understood him best. “To monsters.”
Father Young drank. Sebastian emptied his cup, the floral tea filling him with warmth.
“I wonder,” said Father Young. His strange eyes made reading difficult, but he appeared to feign curiosity. “Did your father, Rhemus the Giant, hunt monsters so others wouldn’t hunt him?”
His father, taller and nearly brutish in appearance, had earned the title of Giant at a young age. “I’m not my father.”
“No. That is why I offer you another chance. A challenge. Fail and go back to university. Tell Gustav you want to become a scholar or a priest. Something civilized.”
“On my success, I will continue my quest to find the Dunston Monster. And you’ll tell me about my father’s killer. Those are my terms.”
“Agreed.” Father Young tapped his cane twice on the ground. “I have eyes of gold, I’m older than this country, and I’m my mother’s father. What am I?”
Sebastian gazed at the gold eyes, the gray hair, and wondered about Father Young’s age. Being older than a country seemed unlikely, not impossible. A ruse, he considered. Twirling through his head he pictured gold coins, rings, needles with eyelets. Nothing fit.
Thoughts turning back to persons, Sebastian considered Father Young’s grandfather—his mother’s father. A grandfather is a person. A position fits the riddle.
Then Sebastian considered that Father Young’s riddle was meant to be taken literally.
“No monsters here,” said Sebastian.
Father Young grinned.
Glancing between the men, Tabitha appeared confused.
“Your riddle is a message.” Sebastian tried fighting it, but a smile melted onto his face. “You are a priest.”
“That’s it?” Tabitha glared at Father Young. “A priest?”
“That’s the answer to the riddle,” said Sebastian, looking over at Tabitha. “But the message is that he is of high respect within the church. My superior.”
Eyes narrowing, Tabitha studied Sebastian as if seeing him for the first time.
“Maybe the others don’t know about his inhuman eyes, but I suspect a few among the church do including Father Gustav.” Sebastian studied the gold eyes searching for confirmation. The orbs were mirrors. “And my father. He knew. Didn’t he?”
Rhemus the Giant had hunted Father Young’s kind, a revelation by the priest at their last meeting. Sebastian recalled his childhood listening to Father Young’s weekly sermons. Had the priest ever lied? Father Young’s blindness had been an unspoken lie.
Sebastian took a deep breath. “Did you order my father to hunt your own kind?”
“Dear Tabitha knows your father’s killer. Her brother knew him very well.” Father Young’s grin faded. “Please escort the lady back to town.”
Sebastian watched the priest disappear into the fog. “Another time then, Father Young.”