The Twelfth Rune

By Rob Burton

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Contemporary Fantasy

Charlie is a novelist living and working in Marazion, Cornwall with his wife Annie. He once saved the world with the help of a 12th Century Scottish ghost called Nye. But that’s another story. And oh, whether he likes it or not he is “The Chosen One.”
Charlie lives a quiet life trying to put the past behind him and likes nothing better than visiting the local coffee shop and chatting with his Cornish friend Myghal and being served cakes by Lyndsey.
Out on a local clay mine tip searching for amethysts for Annie, his wife’s jewellery business they find a strange 12 sided box buried deep in the cloying white clay, later that evening they open the box to find a large amethyst. Inside the stone is a mark, it is the twelfth rune – Jeren.
This discovery leads them on a frantic chase through the myths and legends of Cornwall, bringing them face to face with King Arthur’s killer – Modred, as they attempt to save the world from the predicted Armageddon.

Rob Burton

Rob Burton was a professional Sociologist for over 25 years at a number of prestigious British Universities. Now semi-retired Rob works in Hangzhou China, teaching English at a university and writing novels. He also writes for the local Chinese newspaper in their ex-pat section and for the local English language magazine Red Star.

This novel, The Twelfth Rune is firmly set in the Urban/Contemporary Fantasy genre. Rob uses the knowledge he garnered researching his PhD on Cornish Identity and brings his experiences of travelling the world to this story. His academic interest in Cornwall, the Cornish and the Celtic world are to the fore in this novel. Rob has a 22-year-old daughter back in the UK. Snook Doggy Dog, a female Jack Russell that he took with him to China, also features in his books.

The Twelfth Rune is the third book in a series which starts with The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens (Novella) and is set in 12C Scotland. Nye, the focus of the story, turns up in the second novel Meditations on Murder which is where we meet Charlie Simpson our eponymous hero. I wrote Meditations first but Nye made me write her story!

Chapter 1

I once saved the world.
Saved all of you, actually, dear readers, using a hypersphere; which was a machine from back in the mists of time utilising the seven-ness of the universe, and given to me by a ghost called Nye. Howling dervishes wanted to murder me most nastily, and I’d opened portals to suck them into the screaming black nothingness of other dimensions.
Honest—I did.
Once they had finished with me, then you, all of you, would have been nothing more than soggy, blood-soaked seconds for the Red Caps—murderous dwarves who once roamed the Scottish borders but were abroad in London Town when they first came for me. Never in my wildest dreams, or nightmares, did I think I would have to do it all over again.
But who would know twelve is the unluckiest number?
It started with an innocent walk in rural Cornwall.
Sunday is my day off. It’s no big deal; I can’t say I work too hard during the week because I’m a writer living off family money. I try to write on a daily basis and form a good, professional habit, but you are probably more interested in how I saved the world than my attempts at being a best-selling novelist. Here’s the rub. I’m basically a reinvented office clone by the name of Charlie Simpson. I was a fortyish, pasty, sandy-haired, plumpish, non-descript, floppy-fringed, posh, ex-city boy. After a short and failed career at being a murderer (long story), I got a distinctive new look: skinhead, big boots, black clothes. And I’ve sort of kept that style. It fits the new me; the saviour of the world, as it were.
I know I saved the world—really, I did. There is footage on my GoPro; only, I don’t watch it much. The film is on a USB stick stored somewhere safe so no one else gets to see it. Maybe there will be a time when I’ll upload it to YouTube … or maybe not.
Horrible bastards.
I got rid of them all on my own.
Okay, Nye helped a bit.
A ghost from the twelfth century—did I already tell you that? Sometimes my memory is a bit messed up. Nye, a real ghost, came into my life. I’m not making it up, I swear. Scottish, too, with an accent so thick I could barely understand her when she was haunting me.
And she helped me out with those terrible goings-on in London Town.
Sometimes, when I wonder what happened in London, I get brain freeze. It’s as if I’d just taken a huge spoonful of my favourite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Cherry Garcia. So, I’d stopped thinking about it and got on with life in sunny Cornwall with Annie, who, fortuitously, I’d also saved from being murdered. Okay, I admit it was mainly Nye who saved Annie, but I did have a major part in that little adventure.
Life was good. We found a nice cottage overlooking the sea in Marazion, Cornwall. From the huge bay window of our cottage we could see St. Michael’s Mount. One couldn’t get much farther away from London without the aid of a boat, and that suited both Annie and me.
The cottage we found felt special right from the beginning. It had an extraordinary feeling about it. Some sort of vibration that was just right and gave us a buzz; we were happy there. Annie is a good artist and jewellery maker. She runs a little gallery in the main street. It caters mainly to the tourists, of course, but it gives the local colony of artists, artisans and makers somewhere to exhibit their art or goods to make a few quid. Being an artist in the South West is tough.
On a weekend, we like to go exploring around the hills and moors of Cornwall. It was on one of our walks we fell into it all again. That particular Sunday, we wanted to visit what we jocularly called the Cornish Alps. The China Clay industry in St. Austell and the edges of Bodmin Moor had, over the last four hundred years or so, thrown up massive amounts of waste. These “mountains” gleamed white above the moor, the kaolin-stained rocks evoking the vistas of alpine France or Italy. As we drive up the A30 in our ratty old Land Rover Discovery, we look forward to the moment when they appear on the horizon.
The reason for this Sunday outing was to search for amethysts amongst the mine waste. Annie uses the gemstones for her jewellery.
Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for.
On our travels, we’d noticed an isolated tip up towards Lanivet. It was a bit farther than we normally went, but it was a nice day, and Snooky, our dog, would enjoy the walk. I also needed the fresh air and exercise. I’d been sitting on my fat arse all week tap-tapping at the computer.
The place we were heading for was just off the main road, so we parked up in a lay-by. You’d know it because when you drive past, it’s the big one with the burger van and the Confederate flag flying over it. I must say, in these intemperate times, where the banner is banned in the US as a racist symbol, this guy has got balls. Perhaps he was railing at English rule in Cornwall, but politics aside, his burgers and hotdogs were pretty damn good.
It was a beautiful day and we could see right over the barren moors out towards the shining blue line of ocean on the far horizon. There was a buzz in the air and we commented on the tingling feeling we were both experiencing, but shook it off as the brightness of the sun and the vibrations from the cars and lorries flashing past us on the main road.
After finishing the burgers, we got our boots on and headed across the rough grasses of the moor towards the large, conical-shaped mound. The day was hot, and it was sweaty graft climbing the steep side of the waste tip. We scavenged amongst the debris for a few minutes and our work paid off. We found several decent-sized amethysts more than suitable to turn into beautiful jewellery and a couple of larger pieces that would look great as displays in the shop.
Annie and I had sat down to take a breather and share a bottle of water when we realised Snooky was missing. Normally, she hung around Annie or myself, sticking her nose into the little holes we were scraping to find the stones. Or she would be waiting patiently for us to chuck a rock so she could chase it up and down the hill. I stood up and called her a few times.
‘Snooky! Snooks! Where are you? Come on, that’s a good girl.’
I whistled and shouted, ‘Snooky, come here!’
I climbed higher to see if she was off chasing squirrels or rabbits or, God forbid, sheep. Perhaps I should have kept her on the lead. I didn’t want an irate farmer shooting her for worrying his livestock.
‘Damn dog.’
As I scanned the horizon, the sunlight made me squint. I needed my sunglasses, but I’d left them in the Land Rover.
I called again. This time I heard a muffled yipping and a bark.
She was close by.
I hunted around, following the noise. Annie was up with me searching, too.
There it was—a hole.
I laid down and called Snooky’s name. She gave a muted whine in return. I stuck my arm as far as I could to try to reach her, but no luck. I was going to have to dig her out. Leaving Annie talking down the hole to keep Snooky from panicking, I returned to the Discovery to get the shovel I kept there. I was back at the spoil heap in a matter of minutes and started to attack the pile, chucking the waste behind me. Annie, thrilled at this extra work, grubbed about the spoil, as it meant more amethysts for her.
After some hard digging, I was close enough to Snooks to grab her tail and try to drag her back. She yelped and squealed but wouldn’t budge—stuck fast and nowhere to go. Digging more carefully and scraping at the earth until I was at her body, I pushed my hands down her sides but couldn’t feel anything in particular holding her in.
The white cloying soil fell away from her, and I found her muzzle caught up in what looked like wire netting. It was probably old mining waste. Snooky whined a little as I gently started to pull the metal strands away from her. She wriggled, wanting to get away. The wire gave way, and I passed the dog out of the now large hole to Annie.
I became aware of a high-pitched sound almost out of my hearing range. I shook my head and focused on my hearing. Was it tinnitus? It was a high frequency—was that what Snooky was following? I became a little lightheaded.
‘Hey, Annie, can you hear that?’ I poked at my ears.
‘What?’ She was busy grappling with a wriggling dog trying to lick her face.
‘That noise? I can hear a noise. A sort of high-pitched whirring sound. Can you?’
She looked puzzled. ‘No, perhaps it’s that.’ She pointed to a mobile phone mast on top of a nearby tor.
I looked to the back of the hole I stood in. Lodged in the soil was the edge of a box—a straight line of metal amongst the dirt. Something out of place.
Things with straight edges are not natural. This was manmade, and it was deep in a spoil heap at least a couple of hundred years old. Irritated by the sounds in my head but intrigued by the find, I pushed my shovel forwards and started to clear around the object.
It definitely wasn’t mining waste.
I reached down and pulled a well-tooled metal box out of its resting place. It was roughly the size of a Christmas tin of chocolates, but it wasn’t square. It shook slightly as I held it. I’d felt vibrations like that before.
I was in a dark corridor holding the hypersphere before me, waiting for the Red Caps to tear me to pieces.
Climbing out of the hole, I made my way down to the bottom of the pile where Annie and Snooky were waiting for me. Snooky wore her harness now—she wasn’t getting away again.
When Snooky saw me place the box on the ground, she whimpered and moved behind Annie. I could still hear a high frequency whine in my ears.
Annie crouched down and rubbed the top of the box with her fingers. ‘What’s this?’
I shrugged. ‘Dunno. It was at the bottom of the hole the dog was in. Strange, isn’t it?’
‘It looks old,’ she said. ‘Is there anything in it?’
I picked it up. The shape reminded me of something, but I wasn’t quite sure what. I counted the sides. There were twelve. In my past life I’d been an engineer, so I knew it was a dodecagon. Interesting.
The box was vibrating slightly in my hands. I handed it to Annie. ‘Feel anything?’
Annie held the tin box with a puzzled look on her face. She shook her head. ‘No, not really.’ Putting it up to her ear, she shook it sharply. ‘Nothing,’ she said with a faux scowl of disappointment. She handed it back to me.
‘Really, you can’t feel it vibrating?’ The tremors ran up my forearms, leaving an unpleasant feeling of pins and needles in their wake. It was then I realised it didn’t have a lid, it was completely sealed. I dumped it down next to our kit—I would deal with it later—and we got back to the task of finding amethysts for Annie’s business.

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