Sitting in the back of taxi on the way home from Head Porter’s house, my head is reeling. Reeling and thumping from an early onset hangover. What Head Porter told me is simply so unbelievable that it must be true. And Professor K was making perfect sense all along, I was just too ignorant to realise.
So, if I have this right in my head (which after all the wine and sherry is a grand achievement) The Vicious Circle is not only a sequence of events that stretch back to the very foundation of Old College, but also simultaneously are a forever-shifting group of people from the elite of The Fellowship.
The tucked-away book in the Old Library held the first clue, had I been bright enough to spot it. The sacrificial peasants buried ceremonially in the foundations of Old College were indeed the bones dug up when The Porters’ Lodge was rebuilt. This much Professor K had all but confirmed to me. What I didn’t realise, however, was that two of the bodies cast into the ground were members of The Order Of The Lesser Dragon, the ancient secret society that founded Old College.
Legend has it that these two unfortunates thought that the arcane method of burying peasants under buildings for good luck was a bit beneath The Order Of The Lesser Dragon, what with them being such highly educated men. Their stance was that it wasn’t very lucky at all, especially for the peasants. Their insubordination cost them their lives and it seems to be a pattern that has repeated itself in the years since.
Historically, it seems, The Fellowship have not been averse to dispatching with those among their number who do not tow the party line. This practice became remarkably more popular following the discovery of the bones beneath The Lodge. Head Porter says there may even have been a couple of students who came to an untimely end when they questioned the sudden deaths of their beloved tutors.
Following that little episode of slaughter, there began what became known as The Vicious Circle. Whoever questioned or attempted to investigate the unexplained deaths met with the same fate; a knee-jerk panicked reaction from The Fellowship, a group of academics so powerful they simply believed that the normal laws and morals of society don’t apply to them. The more deaths that occurred, the more questions were asked. And so more deaths occurred. And so on. A Vicious Circle, if ever there was one.
But that isn’t even the worst bit. Not by a long shot.