The maze

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Ferry got to the lawn of the Pride Mansion earlier. He wanted to see the place by himself before Ol' Joseph arrived.

The air smelled like moist soil. It had rained the day before and the drops still sparkled in the grass kissed by the few rays of the grumpy autumn's sun. The grass had been trimmed, but it looked as if spring was coming. Every blade of grass had the same size and shape as the one next to it.

The lawn served for the famous Pride parties, but also for golf and cricket games. During the Fires of the Hills, the entire lawn was covered in white; that was because of the tents where the guests of the Prides were feasting, listening to music, and having fun until the break of dawn. Seen from above, it didn't look so intimidating. On the other side, in the distance, there was the maze. Though it was a nice day, heavy clouds lingered above it.

Ferry had flown a few times over the maze. For some reason, he never liked it. He couldn't get too close, in fear someone might have seen him. Ferry always watched the town from high above. From up there, he'd seen the tangled paths of the labyrinth. The shrubs were placed in circles. Even now, when the fall was coming, they were still green. Every here and there, the rows were interrupted by bushes trimmed in strange animal shapes.

Every seven-year, on the first night with a full moon of the first month in the summer, the maze was hosting the Quest; it was a reunion for the friends of the Pride family, one of which the whole town was talking about. The guests arrived days before. There were always ten of them, men and women of all ages, each time others. And each time, they were allowed to be accompanied only by a person, be it relative, friend, or employee.

On the day of the party, all the employees at the mansion were having a day off. Except for the members of the family and their guests, everyone was forbidden to get near the Pride domain. The gates leading to the mansion were guarded by strong men brought from outside the town, each time different from the last time. Sometimes, there were even six well-built guards watching the gates, all wearing guns. Ferry knew that piece of information from his father who was using his day off to go fishing with his friends.

The next day, everything was going back to normal as if nothing had happened. The employees at the mansion were coming back for the cleaning. And each time, the maze looked like a battlefield. The bushes were torn; some of them so much, that they needed to be pulled out and replaced. Ferry's mother participated in the cleaning after the Quest. She had no idea what that meant. No one did. Everyone was suspecting it must have been a game only privileged persons were playing.

Ferry looked away from the maze because it gave him a headache. He turned his eyes to the mansion. The building was imposing; the stone walls were covered in moss, black mould, and climbing plants. Ferry thought he was to ask Lavender about the age of the mansion the first time they would meet. He looked for the last room on the third floor, which was also the last floor of the building. He knew the last floor was locked and abandoned. Yet he remembered that during his flights over the town, he could see the room lit and shadows walking to-and-fro in the room.

He looked at the heavy curtains in the windows. They made the house look asleep. He heard a rustle behind him and turned. Ol' Joseph was walking towards him, dragging a rake behind him. He was over seventy-years-old and he's been the mansion's gardener since he was sixteen. He was loyal and hardworking. But he had gotten old, and even the easiest tasks, such as watering the plants, had become a burden. But Ol' Joseph 'didn't give up. And the Prides appreciated his loyalty, keeping him as a chief-gardener. He was also among the few employees that lived on the land. Ol' Joseph lived in a small, neat cottage behind the mansion.

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