‘No one can know where I am.’
That is what I said to myself when I first awakened in that place. I was young and needed to escape my past. Since that day, more than five decades have passed. Before it’s too late, I write of the second chance to live that I found there, under one condition: I must remain in hiding. I took it. But I prayed that one day I no longer would have to hide.
Before my curious tale begins, I share pertinent details of the arduous history of that place, Empire House. She was no ordinary manor, situated alone in these quaint rolling hills. She never wanted to act the much-ballyhooed heritage site as the State Historical Society boasted. Her purpose for humanity was far greater, and yet no one but a chosen few would know.
Somewhere in Old England, her origins nearly eight centuries ago were both humble and great all at once. In her former incarnation, Empire House had been England’s Priory of Sithia: a sanctified refuge for the poor, the sick and the needy in ancient Warwickshire.Her bodily purpose the testament to the higher calling of the chosen, those whom she had protected, sheltered and nourished had long since passed. Every act of love and goodwill she had witnessed were long forgotten. The legendary Priory of Sithia – the centuries-old seat of selfless service and divine wisdom – stood ungainly, abandoned and purposeless on the hills of Warwickshire, facing full-raze demolition. She would never be occupied again.
Not on this shore of the Atlantic.
I wanted to believe that the intention of those who succeeded in the magnificent effort to do the unthinkable, and transport her remains from the shores of old England to the shores of New England, would do Sithia’s legacy nothing but honour. I was wrong. The names of the owners who purchased and brought the Priory remains from England to America, those who built Empire House remained undisclosed. More disconcerting, the architect responsible for the redesign of Empire House mysteriously disappeared following the completion of the manor, and he never was seen again. He was the first of many associated with Empire House to suffer the same fate and never be found.
Experience the mystery of Empire House, used and abused away from the world’s watching eyes. Walk by my side in the garden and take in your view as I did so many years ago…shade chestnuts stand tall, wisteria descends gracefully from the East Garden loggia stonework, where Freemason symbols and markings from another era are crafted into the stone blocks and tiles. The achingly long history of this place must be experienced; it is still palpable so many years hence, even on its American soil. The atmosphere of this place is transcendent, lush, evocative…
Empire House rises up from the garden grounds a stronghold, and her stature is arrestingly mysterious by her very existence. Feel her! All she has witnessed over eight hundred years…residual imprints inexplicably retained that emanate from each of her blocks of stone, from every timber and beam, in the old staircases and balustrades. The worn down floorboards, caressed by sandals in a time so far removed from yours and mine, yet you can still hear the softly brushing footfall. Feel her, this venerable Priory of Sithia, feel all that was the Middle Ages, how time urgently lives on, crackling through the air that circulates within her walls, then passes through the original leaded glass windows to dance in the garden space around her…she is far more than she appears to be. Those who have been lost, and those who have hidden them, their secrets are not mine to keep anymore.I am no longer in hiding.