Nigel Williams
Writing as:
N. Williams
N.C. Williams
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The Rod of Asclepius

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1

Upper Swansea Valley, November 1909.

    A light shake of snow had coloured the valley white. Temperatures had tumbled from an Indian summer to an Arctic bite in less than forty-eight hours.

    Adelina stood on the roof of her Victorian-Gothic castle overlooking her extensive manicured grounds.

    The crunch of fresh snow alerted her to a presence behind.

    Salvatore stood at the newly installed large stone sarcophagus occupying the centre of the flat roof. Built as a folly, it was a place for the devout Catholic to come and be closer to her God. The structure was made from a single piece of local limestone, carved with an ornate crucifix through the top. An inscription had been carved into the stone, something Adelina had insisted upon but was something Salvatore had advised against. It alluded to their secret, and anything that could jeopardise the security of the relics was not good. 

    ‘Too cold for this,’ he smiled awkwardly.

    The woman nodded and turned back to the stunning view of her land.

    ‘You really should come inside,’ he said.

    ‘I know.’

    He turned to leave but stopped and looked back over his shoulder. Adelina looked set to stay. ‘Well? Are you coming?’

    He noticed her shoulders begin to jerk almost imperceptibly, gradually becoming more and more pronounced. Adelina wasn’t one to display emotions.

    Salvatore walked slowly and quietly over to his employer, his idol, and his friend, and placed his hand gently on her shoulder. ‘Please, Madam...’

    The woman’s silent sobs became loud soul-searching wails of anguish.

    ‘There was nothing you could do. None of us could foresee this.’

    Adelina turned and buried her head in the tall man’s chest. At six-foot four and stick thin, Salvatore gave the impression of a sickly man. In truth he was the complete opposite.

    Each morning, at sunrise, rain, wind, sun or snow, he would immerse himself in the frigid waters of the pool Adelina had fashioned after the much larger original version of the reflecting pool at the Taj Mahal. A brisk walk around the entire perimeter of land surrounding Craig-Nos Castle would usually follow. Today he had forgone that dubious pleasure to remain close to the opera singer.

    Holding her firmly, Salvatore rested his chin on the little woman’s head and gazed at the view of the gardens a long way below them. The stepped terrace dropping down from the castle was laid to lawn and planted with a vast array of flora and fauna, reflecting the great lady’s extensive travel engagements over many years.

    ‘It’s nine years, now. I don’t know where to start looking,’ Salvatore sighed.

    ‘We must find it. We owe it to Nicholas. I promised I’d find it and if we don’t… I dread to thing what might happen to the boy.’

    ‘I have given the team new orders. To begin retracing the journey of the relics; we know it was on the ship with the relics when we brought them here but all I have ascertained is that someone must have taken the Rod during the voyage.’

    ‘It must have been the reason for Hayward’s death,’ Adelina agreed.

    ‘Of that I have no doubt. But who could it be and where has it gone?’

    ‘We need to call in some favours, Salvatore. We need to put pressure on the others. One of them knows more than they have said and we must get the information soon.’

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