Here is a mix of glimpses from the Castle from snippets I have written and insights from Septimus fans about why the series means so much to them. This first Castle piece take place after the main series has ended but before the TodHunter Moon series has begun. It is slower-paced and aimed at older readers. Warning: there may be some rude words …
It was an autumn afternoon in the Castle. A sharpness in the air announced the time of year when the season turns towards winter, but in the straggle of gardens on the rooftops of the Ramblings, warmth deep in the stones kept the chill at bay.
Septimus Heap, sixteen years old, with deep green eyes and long straw-coloured hair tied back into a ponytail, was an uncomfortable guest in one of the smaller gardens. He was sitting on a spiky patch of camomile, wedged against a low parapet, which was all that separated the garden—and, more worryingly, him—from a two hundred foot drop to the sluggish brown waters of the river below. Trying to ignore the chasm behind him, Septimus was fixing his attention upon the almost translucent face of an ethereal looking young woman. Her name was Syrah Syara. Painfully thin, she wore a long dress of an indeterminate colour as washed-out as she was. To Septimus’s concern, she sat carelessly upon the parapet, gazing past Septimus to distant blue hills on the horizon.
Syrah was no stranger to the Castle. Some five hundred years ago she had been the ExtraOrdinary Apprentice, just as Septimus was now. However, all had not gone well for Syrah. After drawing the Questing Stone, she had spent many lifetimes on a distant island, Possessed by an entity called the Syren. A few years back, Syrah had been rescued by Septimus and taken to the safety of the Wizard Tower, but despite the best efforts of the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand and a State-of-the-Art DisEnchanting Chamber, Sarah had not entirely recovered.
It had been a hard lesson for Septimus to learn—that Magyk and Physik could not fix everything, but he now understood that the fragile Syrah would never be fully in this world. Indeed, Marcia had warned him that one day Syrah would drift away completely. “It is a lesson for us all, Septimus,” Marcia had told him sombrely, “That Darke Magyk takes its toll. Let us hope it is a price that neither of us will ever be called to pay.”
So now all that Septimus cared about was that Syrah was as content as it was possible for her to be. “Syrah, are you well today?” he asked, gently. Septimus wished Syrah would meet his eye just once, but she always looked anywhere but at him. At last Syrah’s answer came, her words as wispy and flyaway as her fine, brown hair. “The sea thrift does not thrive,” she murmured in a voice that sounded as though it came from miles away.
“Ah,” Septimus murmured. There was a sad little clump of sea thrift beside his left boot that he had, to his embarrassment, trodden on as he sat down. But Septimus suspected it was not the plant that Syrah was talking about. It was herself.
“It has been scorched by the sun,” Syrah spoke slowly as if trying to work out the sense of her own words. “It has been battered by the wind. And now it is tired.”
Septimus leaned over to Syrah and placed his hand upon hers. It felt cold and full of bones, like the wing of a dead bird. “It just needs to rest a little more,” he said. “That’s all.”
Syrah slipped her thin fingers out from under Septimus’s broad hand and fluttered them up to a wisp of her hair and began twisting it. An unsettling memory had flitted through her mind, as it so often did when Septimus came to see her:
She is sitting on a rock and he is beside her. There is salt in the air and the sound of the waves far below. She is gazing out to sea, feeling so happy that at last she is not alone. And then the terror comes and she is away, running, running, running. Reeled in towards a nameless horror …
Septimus could see in her eyes what she was thinking. “Syrah,” he said quietly. “You are free now. You will never have to run to the Syren again. I promise.”
Syrah leaned down and picked a strand of the sea thrift that Septimus had planted in her garden to try to make her feel at home. She rolled the pink flower between her fingers and Septimus said no more. He gazed over the patchwork of tiny gardens and ramshackle terraces that covered the flat roofs of the Ramblings. The mellow stone of the Ramblings glowed in the late afternoon sun and the happy voices drifting up from the streets far below were such a contrast to the sadness he felt with Syrah. He looked at her once again and to his surprise saw the slow dawn of a smile. “Thank you, Septimus,” she said. “I shall sleep now.”
And she handed him her strand of sea thrift.
And here is a lovely piece from Divya Iyer about why Septimus Heap means so much. click here