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The High and Lonely Destiny of Andrew Ketterley

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To: Tobias Chesterfield

No. 17 Raven Way

Mansfield

 

My dear Tobias,

The nights in London have become long and dreary since your departure. Without your companionship, I feel smothered by both the smog and the insufferable relatives. No one here properly appreciates my Undertaking, dear Toby. I can only marvel at the multitude of Londoners who cannot see the wonders of the universe churning beneath their very noses. Only you and I, Toby. And that is why it is our names that will one day be written in the Magical Archives.

As always, thanks be to my godmother for her astonishing gift that first opened our eyes.

In an attempt to stave off the loneliness, I have gone through all our research again -- every scrap of it. If you could only see the state of my rooms now! One must be especially careful where one steps, for fear of crushing beneath the foot a priceless Arthurian manuscript or an Atlantean map. I write this letter on the single bare corner of my table, my candle dripping wax upon an old volume of Homer's works.

Oh, but if you were here to review these notes with me! I feel that I am on the verge of something great, Toby. All the accumulated knowledge points to a breakthrough that hovers just beyond my grasp. You must come and visit soon, for I am sure you would see the patterns as well -- and likely be able to decipher their meanings faster than I.

(Though of course there is always the possibility that such a visit may bring its own distractions. But as you would say: even the greatest of magicians must pull away from their work at times to allow the mind to breathe.)

I look forward to your prompt advice, my dear friend.

 

Yours always,

Andrew

 

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To: Tobias Chesterfield

No. 17 Raven Way

Mansfield

 

By Jove, Toby, you were right!

As per your most brilliant suggestion, I performed the inaugural experiments upon my godmother’s gift. And lo! A result of fascinating significance!

Such things should not be entrusted to ink and paper, however. I implore you to return to London with all haste that we might discuss the implications of these experiments in person.

 

A

 

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To: Tobias Chesterfield

No. 17 Raven Way

Mansfield

 

Tobias,

I have not heard from you for several weeks now, ever since our impassioned discussion argu debate on the purpose of our research. You called me an obsessed fool of misaligned priorities. To say the accusation stung would be a horrific understatement. My work -- our work -- has always been of the highest caliber. You knew from the very beginning how important this research was to me. I thought you understood that when I brought you on.

Clearly, I was mistaken.

I have greatly appreciated your assistance in the past, Tobias. Without your contributions, my research --

Well. If you cared at all about my research, you would not be suggesting I put my work on hold to (and I quote) “enjoy the fulfillment of life before it passes us by.”

I look forward to hearing from you when you return to your senses, and to my side.

 

Andrew

 

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To: Tobias Chesterfield

No. 17 Raven Way

Mansfield

 

Tobias,

I recognize that it has been a great many years since I last wrote, and I begin by begging you not to throw away the page before you reach the end of this account. For the most Extraordinary Events have occurred to me such that no one would believe my words to be true -- no one, that is, but you.

It was the dust, of course. Oh, how I have slaved over the contents of my godmother's box in order to understand its true potential. And what have I seen for my efforts? Nothing but wasted years and the loss of those dearest to me, yourself included. How often had you begged me to abandon my research? Perhaps, dear Toby, you were correct in your cautions. For I succeeded in the greatest act of my magical career, and it opened my eyes to sights more terrible than the heart can bear.

The path of the Magician leads to a high and lonely destiny. But Toby, I believe this path is no longer mine to follow.

I set out now to right the greatest wrong of my life. The past lies beyond my reach but perhaps I can still make a single change to my fortunes in my years left on this calm, gentle, safe Earth of ours.

 

Yours, always,

Andrew

 

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There is a knock at the door: three crisp raps, a hesitation, and then a slightly more frenzied tapping. Tobias knows who it is even before he heaves himself from his favourite armchair. He takes his time moving through the old townhouse, his cane marking the effort of every step. Upon reaching the door, he sighs and lets his eyes flutter shut. He can still picture the letter that arrived with his morning toast: the words scribbled and ink smudged due to the haste at which the missive had been penned.

Another series of thuds on the door. Tobias opens his eyes again, turns the handle, and pulls.

"Oh!" huffs the man on the doorstep. He is older than Tobias remembers, hair wild and white, eyebrows as bushy as ever. His clothes are the same, if more rumpled than usual. And his expression -- Tobias cannot remember a time Andrew Ketterley looked less self-assured.

"Andrew," he says, when it becomes clear that his former friend is so badly rattled that words have escaped him. "I received your letter."

"Ah! Yes, the letter." Andrew blinks furiously. "You read it then?"

"I did."

“Good! Good.” The man runs a hand through his hair, which does absolutely nothing towards taming it. “And?”

“And what? Congratulations. You have finally achieved your life’s goal.” Years ago, Tobias would have spoken with bitterness, but the years have mellowed any lingering anger and regret. Now, his words are simply tired.

Andrew’s face twists. “No. Well -- yes. But no.” He performs an odd sort of dance on the step, as though he is torn between stepping forward to plead his case and dashing away to wallow in shame.

“Then?”

“Then -- now -- well, I meant what I said.” Andrew draws himself up. “I have come to -- hmph -- to apologize. For being, uh--”

“An ass?” Tobias suggests.

Andrew stops, squints. “Yes,” he says finally. “An overly entitled and obsessive ass, no less.”

He falls silent, waiting as Tobias considers the confession. Automobiles honk at each other at the intersection, and a dog barks decisively from someone’s front yard. A raven cries out overhead and Andrew flinches.

Tobias makes up his mind, and shuffles back. “I suppose you had better come in then.”

 

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