Warm summer sunshine glittered on the water rippling over stones on its way to the sea. The gardens were always beautiful at this time of year. The sound of children's laughter rippled on the breeze. It was Sunday. The house and grounds were closed. This was a day for family only. Eve Carsen rounded the corner of the hedge and joined the group on the lawn. Her son darted between two twin girls, leaping into the air to try and catch the balloon that floated between the three of them. The minor fact that the twins were somehow bouncing a balloon out of reach of a teenager twice their height without even touching it was one of the varied reasons why the hedge around the lawn was now twice the height it had been before their birth.
"Mom," called the teen, managing to get all four limbs back under enough control to walk over to her without tripping on air or knocking something over. "Where'd you go? We're waiting to cut the cake!"
Eve smiled. "Just fetching something from the Library. Go on, Judson: I'm here now."
Grabbing her hand, Judson dragged Eve over to where the rest of their unique family were waiting in the shade of a marquee. The twins followed them, never ones to miss the opportunity of cake, and nobody batted an eyelid when their father waved a hand at the balloon still floating in mid air. The balloon drifted gently to the ground.
The cake was cut, the obligatory round of Happy Birthday was sung. The group spread out again to their own corners of the sun or shade. Linking an arm through her son's, Eve drew the boy aside.
"Mom? What is it?" Judson frowned, studying the enigmatic expression on her face.
"Walk with me a little," murmured Eve. "There's one more birthday present I still have to give you."
"Okay," blinked the boy, letting his mother lead him through the beautiful gardens of Dunvegan.
When they reached a bench in the shade of a tall tree, Eve sat and drew her son down with her. She reached into her pocket and removed a small, wrapped box. "This isn't just from me," she told him, putting the box into his hands. "It's from your father too."
"What?" Judson's puzzled frown returned, and he turned his attention to the little parcel in his hands, peeling back the tape and unfolding the paper as meticulously as one might remove mummy wrappings. The box within was of a dark wood, intricately carved, and hinged to open like a jewellery box. "What is it?"
"It's a memory box," replied Eve. "Your father started recording memories of his in there for you before I even knew I was pregnant. I don't know when he figured out he might not be around to share them in person, but it was what made him think of making this. The first message in there was to me, asking me to give this to you on your sixteenth birthday. The rest, I assume, is for you."
Eve rose to go, but Judson caught her sleeve. "Mom, you can stay if you want to."
With a brief nod, she reclaimed her seat on the bench, watching as her son opened the memory box. It wouldn't be his first introduction to his father. That had happened long ago, through stories told by Charlene and Jenkins and all the others, some in Dunvegan or places Flynn had visited, others in front of his portrait in the Library. This, however, would be the first time he would see and hear his father speaking directly to him. They watched the brief message to Eve together in silence, then looked on together as Flynn started giving his son, and anyone who happened to be listening, explicit instructions on how to use the magical artefact now in his hands. Then they reached it: the first memory Flynn had recorded into the box.
"Hi, Judson. If all goes as expected, your mother will have given you this on your sixteenth birthday. I wish I could be there in person, but I have more than a suspicion that I can't. I haven't told your mother yet, or anyone really, but this battle that we're facing, well: I believe it will be my last. I was looking forward to meeting you, I really was: you have no idea how much! But the way we found out about you? It got me thinking. Not just about what we did find out, but about what we didn't. There are so many things in this world, this unique and precious world that so few of us get the chance to inhabit, that I had wanted to show you, share with you. So much magic all around that everyone else out there never sees! Never even imagines might be there! And that's before we even bring in actual magic! But I know that, whatever happens to me, you'll see that magic. I know you'll be surrounded by people who love you, who will be just as eager to show you that world as I. Maybe not as much of the archaeological side, but history, art, sciences, languages and I dread to think what tricks your Uncle Ezekiel will teach you, but I hope Houdini is in there somewhere. I know there are no better people in this world to teach you about magic and all the crazy adventures it leads you on, and no better person than your mother to guard and protect you when those adventures come knocking at your door. And they will. I'm sure of that. You are the child of a Librarian and a Guardian. You are named after the first Librarian: my mentor and one of my dearest friends. I don't know what those adventures will be, but I know they will be amazing, and that you will be amazing. Listen to your mother. If you have any common sense at all it's all from her. She has saved me and the others on countless occasions. Listen to Jenkins: he's a walking library in his own right and has seen and survived just about everything. I hope all the others will be there with you, but I'm only really sure about your mother, Jenkins and Ezekiel. Seonaidh too, I guess, if you spend much time in Dunvegan. I'm trying to record as many thoughts and memories as possible in here, but there's a world out there to save and a new one on its way. I don't know what the future holds for you and, you know, it's true what they say: you can know too much about your future. But that's okay. I'm just happy to know you have one."