Retreating to the safety of the library my world started to unravel. From what I could tell the book had been written by many greats granduncle Poisson (who died of dysentery long before any still living Benedick was born poor sod). He was the brother of grandaunt Beatrice who had written HNBF I and had also been an avid historian like his sister despite being less accomplished. This Benedick lacked the astute observations and wit of his sister and the exhaustive footnoting of the others. This was not a calm and comfortable historian whose work lies perfect and polished on a shelf. This was a passionate terrified historian who heard Time’s winged chariot and hurried himself to put his words down. Based on the date jotted in pen on the back page the work must have been written in the very latter years of Poisson’s life when the old man must have known his time was limited. His writing was nervous and error-riddled but important. The book only existed in this rushed form fresh from some pen that was now dust wielded by a man who was no not even a skeleton.
So much of what he wrote could bring down the name of the whole family. Like a good Benedick I skimmed over the passages about the rape of local women, the orgies, the feasts, the fits of cannibalism and madness that often gripped those first generations of Benedicks to settle this land. My hungry eyes wanted only two words: Delphi Brothers.
I found it about a third of the way through. They were only briefly mentioned, again in a footnote, but mercifully included at least some detail. The Delphi’s were two brothers who settled the valley in a date it took me a moment to read from the poor handwriting. But when I did my eyes widened. A large part of the dispute between our two families was over who had first laid claim to that precious valley. The filthy Alistairs claimed they had settled a whole month before our earliest estimate; the rats and liars that they were. But, if what this book said was true, then these Delphi’s had settled even before that outlandish estimate. If I could prove these two brothers were Benedicks and not Alistairs then that would give us outright claim to the whole valley. They Alistairs would be forced to upend and the dream of Benedick Valley would be realized.
I wanted to scramble through more of the book when suddenly the alarms went to meet in the banquet hall. I stuffed the two books under a shelf with a distinctive copy of the works of John Donne on it in the dead centre. I leapt off the ground and ran to the banquet hall. Until I knew more I would have to keep my discovery to myself.
The hall was chaos, family members flooding in whilst dad stood on a table yelling instructions to the crowd. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and the extensions thereof all flocked and fled down passageways to man positions and prepare rocket launchers. Dad pointed a long finger at me.
“What took you so long son? Were under siege dammit get to your post and prepare for battle!”
I ran off obediently and smiled to myself a little. As soon as I got back to that book after the battle I could rout every Alistair from the valley without another shot fired.