(Set sometime after Night of The Rooster, but depicting events before the start of the game)
You watch the creatures scuttling on the beach, pattering tiny impressions into the sand. From time to time, their gaggle of legs sets off silent avalanches.
One day in the past, you know, these grains of sand were a mountain. That mountain, cracked by wind and rain, fractured by ice and scorching sun, disgorged a portion of itself: a boulder. That boulder, over time, crumbled into smaller rocks; those rocks, pebbles; those pebbles, sand.
And that, you know, is how the world goes. But you are not content. You understand this power; you realise what it means. The power to decide what is broken. The power to decide which mountains turn to sand.
One day, you will walk on a beach of your own devising.
You pull up a tiny crab, gripping its conical shell between forefinger and thumb, and twist it upside down. It kicks at the air, helplessly. Smiling, you walk away, crab in hand. It doesn’t take you long to find what you’re looking for. You set your new companion down - next to a larger, less weather-beaten shell.
You wait. The creature, evidently in shock, takes a moment to recover. Righting itself, it extends a chunky pinkish leg and tentatively grazes the shell now standing before it. Slowly, gaining confidence, it claws the shell around until it faces the entrance. You watch with interest as it probes the shell, brushing it with its mouthparts, prodding, getting the full measure of it. It claws and nudges the shell for some while after, until, seemingly satisfied, it suddenly hoists itself upward. For an instant, you witness its repulsive, yellowing tail - before the creature plants itself, backside-first, into the larger shell. It wiggles about contentedly.
It is three months later when you find the broken body in the jungle. This secret palace of green light, with its unapologetic courtiers, has always offered you sanctuary. To spy another human being here is a profound and upsetting intrusion. You ball your fists. Your breathing becomes erratic.
But the boy is dead. Perplexing. You know the monkeys wouldn’t have attacked him unless goaded to unimaginable fury. It seems more likely that he fell climbing a tree or tripped and cracked his skull open. After all, his clothes (and my gods - those silly shoes) are utterly unsuited to exploring the island’s interior.
It is then that you notice the emblem on his tunic: stylised bird, foot raised, tail flicked out imperiously. Beak open, declaiming. A rooster.
Your head begins to hurt. A child of House Cargan - here? Your first instinct is to run. Run from this spectacle of death. To hide. Hide from retribution, from the bloody scythe bequeathed from this unfortunate child to the vengeful host of his surviving relatives.
But when you draw near to his face, and see yourself reflected in his vacant eyes, a wicked thought presents itself. Isn’t it funny how very much you two look alike? But for an accident of birth, you could be the one lying dead here, and he could be the one staring back at you.
Later, with a sick thrill, you find out that his tunic fits you perfectly.
Over the next few weeks, you learn just how much a person will compromise to protect their core beliefs. My child has not died. Deep down, of course, you suspect that Theo’s parents realise - that they could not help but realise - the multitude of discrepancies between their son and you: the inch of difference in your height (my, Theo, how you’ve grown!), your calloused body, your tan, your mannerisms, the vast gaps in your knowledge (it must have been the fall…)
You feel that there is almost the flavour of negotiation about the way your family remind you of what their child is really like: ‘Dear heart, but you always used to love my cabbage rolls…’ And oftentimes, you wonder if these Cargans don’t take the opportunity to make a few adjustments while they’re at it: ‘But Theo, you must remember how much you love to listen to Aunt Agatha talk about our family history!’
Nevermind. You’re smart. You learn quickly what is expected from you. Bumbling and blustering - not taciturn and focused. Forthright - not calculated. Honest, not secretive. Fiercely loyal. Terribly naive. You are terrified when they discover you practicing magic in your room that the facade is finally over. Instead of retribution, they shower you with praise. Another mage in the family! How exciting.
It is only when you look in the mirror that a jarring sense of discord overpowers you. The person reflected in the glass is never Theophilius Cargan, but Theodore Krave. Theodore stares back at you, accusingly.
Theodore is a mountain. That mountain, cracked by desire and necessity, fractured by habit and expectation, becomes a fragment of yourself. That fragment, over time, crumbles into a splinter; that splinter, a speck; that speck, a memory. Some days, when the mood is right, you wholeheartedly believe that you are staring at Theophilius Cargan.
So, when several years later, the severe Mr. Hoskins asks you quite pointedly if this is 'all an act', you really don’t know what to say.