The Sugar Quill
Author: Connor Coyne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Saturn's Stepchild  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.





"Where is it?"

"Who are you?"

"What does it mean?"

"Why are you here?"


Two voices muttered, alternating, pressing quickly upon one another in the darkness.


"If I tell you why I'm here, will you tell me what it is?"

The first voice, high and nervous, catapulted against the rustling trees with a unnatural loudness that echoed harshly in the closed space.


"Who are you to ask anything of me?"

The second voice, both soft and low, nevertheless seemed to breathe a power that stirred the beech leaves below and tugged on  the branches arching high overhead.


"I am nobody..." said the first voice.  "I am nothing really.  A young man.  A young man from... from the school if you must know the truth.  I am about to leave..."

"You are about to go on a long journey," said the second voice with a mock sigh, dripping with sarcasm.

"Yes.  No, you are correct.  And I need to know --"

"Who are you?"

"My... my name is Quirrell.  Professor Quirrell.  I teach... up at the school.  I am going on a long journey."

"You are not helping your case."

"Should I lie, then?"

"I would know."

"Then who should I say I am?"

"Step into the light."


Professor Quirrell obeyed the order, taking one long stride into the moonlit clearing.  The milky light bleached his face, and his eyes blinked in the sudden illumination.  All around him nested the shadows of the Forbidden Forest, towering oaks, slender sycamores, and beeches reaching for the heavens.  He felt alone and vulnerable.


"You are a small man," came the second voice, rumbling out of the depths.  "But I do believe you could be dangerous."

"You mock me.  I saved your life."

"And it is no honor for me."

"Bane, you know I respect your ways --"  His voice cracked with nervousness and exasperation.  "Always!  But I did save you, and now I'm here.  I've come, for the service you owe me."

"lt is arrogance," Bane countered, cantering into the clearing, "that drives you humans.  Arrogance and ambition!  You do not listen, but long only to speak and to be heard."

"Help me find Saturn and tell me what it means!"

"Even now you do not listen to me." 


Bane stood directly before the young wizard, and as his eyes adjusted, he couldn't help but tremble as the centaur glowered down upon him.

Bane, himself, was long and dark, his muscles supple and relaxed.  A permanent crease divided his brow.  He clenched his teeth.


"You do not listen," he said, "even now, when what I tell you is so important."

"I don't care!  I want you to find Saturn for me."

"You live in castles and houses, you fly, you build machines and contraptions and devices that talk or run or explode.  All these things you do, yet you are unwilling, too impatient, to listen for the silent things that propel your future."

"I found you Bane!"  Quirrell burst.  "I found you!  Remember?!  You were lying in a cobwebby clearing with spiders all over you!  You were green with poison.  You couldn't breathe or speak.  I was the one who chased them away.  I was the one who brought you herbs.  Are you listening?!"

"You must listen."

"I do listen!  But now I am going away, and what am I going to find?!  That's all I want to know."

"And I'm telling you now, even though I hate you, but you are too arrogant to listen.  You must listen."

"Bane!  My name is Professor Quirrell and I am going to Albania to find my future.  Will you listen?  Listen!  My future!  And all those diviners, those fortunetellers, those cracks, they go on and on about Saturn... I have to be patient, I have to be careful.  Why?  And for what?  'Because,' they say, 'Saturn hangs low on the horizon, out east, by Albania.'  Sadness, gloom, death, dread.  'Tread carefully.  Look intently.  Wait.  And be silent,' they say.  I'm sick of silence!"  Sweat glistened on the professor's brow and fell into his eyes, but he did not blink as he glared up at the centaur.  "My whole life I've been silent, and where has it gotten me?  They treat me like a confused child.  Up at the school... I've wanted to save the world, but I can't seem to keep my own classroom.  And since I lack the competence to do good, I'm going to... go... find the competence to do good, even if I must wring it from the world!"


Bane placed his arm upon Quirrell's shoulder, and the professor jumped.  The centaur's eyes seems to shine, to grow soft, for only a moment.


"You must listen," said Bane softly.


For long moments they stood, and Quirrell's eyes gradually acclimated to the contours of shadow, to the lustral dusting of dew at his feet, and the cool breeze exhaled, seemingly, from the thousands of trees on every side. 


At last, Bane spoke.  "Listen.  Because I will never speak this to a human again.  Saturn is real.  It is more real than you can imagine.  Do not go.  Saturn is not a frown or a grimace to you, professor, Saturn is a skull.  You must knead confidence from your students and friends, from your duties, and from the time you have here.  But Saturn will kill you if you leave.  You will find what you seek, and it will destroy you.  You will be his stepchild.  I have read this."


Quirrell looked toward the ground, and for several minutes, they stood still beneath the turning stars.


"It's not enough!" Quirrell cried.  "I will face the darkness and win.  I'm not afraid of you or them, or any planet!"  He turned on his heel.  "You are a liar, and I will be more than I am.  You can die next time.  Alone."


He strode from the clearing.


"You must listen," Bane whispered.  "You are Saturn's stepchild."

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