Shadows & Lights
All Rights Reserved; This publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part, nor transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy nor otherwise without the express consent of the Publisher.
Valiant Digital © 1995 in Association with Aberdare Multimedia © 2009
Copyright © 2006. Johanez Johnston
This First Edition Published in Canada in 2012 by Valiant Digital.
The author asserts intellectual property rights of all materials contained within.
I awoke with the realization that I had a pair of eyes staring at me. Annie and Cathie were both already dressed in their exercise clothes.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” I asked them both.
“Professor Montay suggested we let you sleep in this morning.” Cathie mentioned.
“And we always do everything the professor tells us to do.” Annie stated very sarcastically. “So get your butt out of bed and get dressed.”
I bounded out of bed immediately, and quickly got myself into exercise clothes before jumping down the hallway while trying desperately to get my feet into running shoes, while my wand bounced along behind me as though desperately trying to mimic what I was doing. I couldn’t help myself to laugh and giggle while Ferule held the front door open as I jumped onto the lawn with my shoes now tied and was able to catch my wand before I got poked on my bottom. Racing down the street, I was able to catch up with Annie and Cathie before they turned the corner. We had the rest of our usual entourage greet us before we made it all the way to the sports field. The only person missing was James, but I was sure he would be exercising with the male half of the student body.
Our three-kilometer run had grown into a five-kilometer run, which we managed to complete in just over twenty-three minutes, while the remainder of the field completed their last lap. Our usual shower and hearty breakfast was soon behind us as Annie, Cathie, Deanna, Rachel, Valerie and myself, walked briskly to Linwood carrying nothing more than a sense of pride in the task ahead of us. Our partially completed besoms would be that much closer to being completed before the end of the day. I sensed a presence nearby and found it a little odd, but also very familiar to me.
“Loire?” I projected warmly. “Annie loves you very much.” There was no reply.
“Loire!” I heard Annie project. “I will teach you some manners if it is only on how to be polite.”
“Yes, Mistress.” I heard Loire reply this time.
“Loire?” I asked. “Where does this hatred of me come from?”
“That is not an easy question for me to answer, Mistress.” I heard Loire respond. “Perhaps in time, you will find the answer to that question.”
“Does it have anything to do with Bootee?” I asked, this time much more firmly.
“It very much has a lot to do with her.” Loire answered back, and I felt the connection severed.
A Necromantic Dragon would be the most logical choice to complete the circle of the three familiars. I quickly evaluated how the balance was maintained, between me and Ferule, as well as now Annie and Loire. The balance with Ferule’s forethought, and Loire’s obvious anger needed the stability that a Necromancer, to complete the circle similar to the one that the three of us as witches completed. I tucked this thought away as we met Amos unloading some more crates onto a trolley. These crates were obviously empty, as they did not burden the trolley nearly as much as the crates Amos had unloaded the day before.
“Good morning, Master Kovar.” We all greeted Amos together.
“Did you manage to get the forge fire hot enough, yesterday?” I asked before he could respond to our greeting.
“Good morning, ladies.” Amos replied. “No, not nearly hot enough.”
“You may want to mix a generous amount of powdered limestone to the coal before lighting it.” I added. “That may help.”
“We tried that.” Amos returned. “Nowhere near what we needed to achieve.”
“You need a lot more of a different kind of coal, and mixed with the ore before you start.” I added back. “And it will take several days to reach the desired result.”
“Would there be any other wisdom you possess, Mistress?” Amos asked.
“With the amount of hot air the chamberlain has, you might want to try harnessing some of that.” I giggled.
“Hot air, eh?” I overheard Amos state as he pushed the trolley into the school. We waited outside the school for the other students to begin arriving for the day. I noted the small white shoulder patches on everyone’s school uniforms, even the staff members that had begun to arrive. Our small guard seemed to be growing rapidly as to the subtle insignias becoming displayed. It was Nyssa, who first noticed the black house guard detail, slip into the school then re-emerge with Amos tagging along behind them. Robyn approached looking very unhappy.
“Excuse me, Mistress.” Robyn spoke.
“Yes?” I answered, with Nyssa looking a little nervous with her older sister in such close proximity.
“It would seem that Master Kovar is having a problem unsealing the gymnasium doors this morning.” Robyn announced.
“You might try using asking Principal Marriott to unlock the doors.” I added. I had in fact added a binding to the doors that they would only unseal themselves with the use of Principal Marriott’s master key, and no other. A somewhat devious, but simple method of defeating any would-be thief, or worse a spy, from gaining access to our little besom factory.
“Of course, Mistress.” Robyn replied, and returned to the interior of the school once again.
“My sister is very dedicated to her position.” Nyssa mentioned.
“I know, but this project is too important to be left to chance.” I added. Both Annie and Cathie noted my comment.
“Any thoughts on how long it will be before the first besom is completed?” Cathie asked.
“At least another day, then pre-flight checks, before Amos can add his final binding, allowing the besom to accept any rider.” I added. It was interesting to note that unless the final binding was done, the besoms would only allow the person who made it to actually ride it. This was a secret part of the craft that I had learned during the construction of my own besom. Subsequently, if this was not performed properly, or even performed at all, then the besom was essentially useless as it would either never respond or remain just as it was, or it would be completely unable to be controlled. Either way, the result was unacceptable.
The besoms we were creating had to be as close to identical as they could be. The only exceptions being the besom I was making and, the one Amos was trying to copy from me. The warning bell for Assembly sounded, beckoning us to attend. Upon entering the school foyer, I was greeted by Principal Marriott.
“May I have a word, Narissa?” Principal Marriott announced.
“Yes, Ma’am.” I answered quickly, and I followed Principal Marriott to her office. After being escorted into her office, I sensed something, but had a hard time to define it.
“It seems Detective Sergeant Hobson has been seen in Bruce Peninsula recently.” Principal Marriott stated.
“Oh?” I answered.
“His presence along with his colleagues is raising some eyebrows.” Principal Marriott noted. “And he did send a message, that the portrait hanging in the Lion’s Head Inn, bears a striking resemblance to you.“
“Imagine that?” I quipped. “I think Detective Sergeant Hobson is trying to tell us he’s devoting some attention to Bruce Peninsula as a possible location of someone of interest to them.”
“I thought so too,” principal Marriott concluded. “But morning assembly is only a few minutes away, so leave my office door open when you leave, Narissa.” Principal Marriott departed her office quickly, but left several newspapers haphazardly on top of her desk. I quickly scanned the headlines and noted a news article about recent arrests of dissidents near the Capital, along with a report of missing museum artifacts.
“My popularity must be growing.” I mused to myself as I left Principal Marriott’s office and headed directly to the Auditorium for morning Assembly. I arrived and quickly sat with Cathie and Annie as the warning bell sounded, indicating the start of another school day.
“Today, we will continue where we left off yesterday.” Principal Marriott announced. “Master Kovar is waiting for you all in the Gymnasium.”
With no other announcements, we all filed out of the auditorium and headed in a gaggle towards the gymnasium where our looms from yesterday were waiting patiently for us. I passed several of the looms before noting a few of the wraps under construction had carelessly floated away since yesterday, as they had not been properly secured with the anchors. Upon arriving at my own workstation, I noted that my work from yesterday had been disturbed. As I sat at my workstation, the wrap pulled against the loom and its anchors much like an affectionate puppy greets its master after being absent. A gentle stroke of my bare hand across the unfinished wrap settled it with the portion of the wrap hanging out the end of the loom, waved like a dog’s tail. The entire inventory of besom under production was clearly beginning to show signs of life. Fortunately for me, the contents of my loom did not burst into flames, as did the wrap a few workstations away from me.
“Too loose.” I noted aloud as several teachers advanced with fire extinguishers. The student, whose previous day’s labour was smoldering on the floor, was fast approaching tears. I beckoned her to sit beside my station.
“What did I do wrong?” my tearing schoolmate sobbed.
“Always double check your knots before proceeding.” I offered her. “I don’t think you will make the same mistake a second time?”
“Thanks.” She answered back.
“Well, at least its not completely ruined.” I added, noticing she could use some help. “Get it back into your loom, and add some fresh birch twigs and re-wrap any damaged portions before you proceed.”
“Can you show me what I did wrong?” she asked.
“See how my wrap is tightly bound, and sometimes double tied?” I asked.
“Yes.” She responded.
“The first set of knots is meant to hold everything together, the second set of knots is meant to compress each new portion.” I explained as I pointed out each set of knots. My schoolmate quickly returned to her loom after retrieving her smoldering wrap from the floor, and followed my instructions to the letter. I settled into my own concentration and completely finished my wrap by the time what would have normally been the end of morning classes. The few times I raised my head from my loom was to witness a repeat performance by several other student’s work following the example of the first baptism of flames. I noted how four members of the school staff, armed with fire extinguishers, had strategically placed themselves equal distances apart and had divided the gymnasium into four quadrants.
I quietly mused to myself how some of the students were rewarding themselves with a little excitement and a few of them were placing wagers on whether or not the contents of my own loom would be the next focus of attention to the staff and their extinguishers. Having now anchored the contents of my loom securely, I collected what few raw materials were left over, and made haste to deposit them into the refuse bin before the toll of the lunch bell signaled respite for everyone. Having been so deeply concentrating all morning, I had a brief opportunity to survey how everyone was progressing, before Annie and Cathie joined me.
“You know everyone is making wagers as to whose loom will burst into flames.” I giggled.
“A few of the boys in the Senior Class have a large pool on Rachel’s loom.” Cathie returned. “It seems she’s been substituting horse hair for her own.”
“And her loom is straining the anchors.” Annie interrupted.
“I know,” I quipped. “She wants to replace the besom she lost when we recovered Cathie’s copy of the text.” Knowing this, I was sure that Rachel’s new besom could possibly rival my own in maneuverability and speed. I was also doubly sure that by this time tomorrow, the first of our newly constructed besom would be ready for their final consecrations and bindings. I made a mental note of how close my own besom was nearing completion.
“Lunch, everyone!” Amos announced as the noon bell pealed. I lost myself in thought as we exited the quickly deserting gymnasium, and headed towards the school cafeteria along with the flow of the student body. The smells emanating from the school kitchen blanketed the hallway as we approached the open cafeteria doors. I recognized today’s meal to be one of Ferule’s specialties and one of my favorites. Nothing seemed to be able to dampen my spirits as lunch proceeded with Ferule’s usual luster for simplicity.
“Mistress,” I heard Ferule’s voice echo inside my mind.
“Yes, Ferule?” I responded with a soft projection.
“You can not fool me, mistress…” Ferule answered.
“Sorry, I was thinking about Rachel’s besom we lost, while retrieving the last text.” I responded.
“You’re thinking about making a gift of the one in your loom, mistress.” Ferule beamed directly at me.
“Yes, I was.” I focused in reply. “And it seems I am thinking just slightly ahead of you, Ferule.”
“Yes, mistress.” Ferule’s voice replied. “You are starting to do that more often.”
“I am growing more accustomed to thinking ahead.” I focused while appearing to be enjoying the plate now being set before me.
“You will need something of hers to bind the besom to her, mistress.” Ferule passed, and severed his projection as a plate crashed to the floor.
“It’s all or nothing now.” I spoke aloud, and quickly exited the cafeteria with my lunch plate barely touched. I Briskly walked into the school’s centre courtyard.
“VOCO VIRGA VOLO!” I commanded with a wave of my wand. The wind seemed to be helping me summon the lost besom, and I was rewarded a short time later with the lost besom plummeting to the ground a short distance away. Having driven itself into the ground similar to a lawn dart, the besom stood tail up. After a quick examination, I found Rachel’s lost besom had been fitted with very ornate stirrups. With my wand as a cutter, I removed the stirrup’s retaining ring, and essentially rendered the damaged besom as nothing more than a tangled mess of its components. With my trophy, I marched triumphantly towards the gymnasium. Working quickly at my station, I started winding the contents of my loom onto the Willow shaft. Every wrap was bound tightly against the layer beneath it and interwoven with flax straw and horsehair until my labour began to finally resemble a finished besom.
Completely oblivious to my surroundings, I reached for the ornate stirrups salvaged from Rachel’s damaged besom. Moments later I hammered the heavy retaining ring into place. Now fitted to the completed besom, the ornate stirrups appeared to beckon a pair of feet to slip into them in preparation for a maiden flight. The now finished product of my labour strained against the anchor chains. I looked up to find Amos waiting patiently.
“Master Kovar,” I quipped, as I handed him the hammer I had lifted but moments before from his work station. “If you could please perform the final bindings?”
“With pleasure, Miss Narissa.” Amos replied, with a wave of his anvil hammer, he struck the anchor’s restraining bolts, and the shackles clattered against the floor.
“No volatilis quod rectus procul mos of vestri vinco!” (Fly swift and straight as the will of your master) Amos exclaimed, and the newly completed besom vibrated horizontally to the floor. ‘Duchess’ began to glow in small script along the handle shaft along with ‘#1’.
“Reperio vestri novus vinco.” I commanded with a wave of my wand accompanied by a blinding flash of light. The newly completed besom hovered for a moment, before spiraling the short distance to where Rachel stood in wonder as her new besom waited patiently for her to complete the last and final binding, making the besom completely hers to command.
“VIRGA, SIRSUM!” Rachel commanded, and her new besom shot into her outstretched hand. The bindings now completed, the first besom waited to be flown, for the first time. The other students, having learned of the first besom nearing completion during lunch, had assembled in the gymnasium as Rachel commanded her new besom for the first time, erupted in applause, shattering the din of the gymnasium. Rachel’s feet barely had left the floor as she mounted the newly completed besom, and her weight seemed to provide the needed ballast as the besom vibrated beneath her. I watched with everyone else as Rachel gently maneuvered the first Duchess Class besom as she hovered a seemingly fixed distance of barely a meter off the floor.
“Tonight, Narissa.” Rachel emotionally spoke. “I think it would be better to test its capabilities to their full extent.” And Rachel dismounted before preceding any further.
“I can not agree more, Rachel.” I concluded. I sensed the tears of gratitude from Rachel approaching the point of bursting, and the gymnasium’s population sensed it with me. With no further emphasis on the newly completed besom, we all turned our attentions to the besoms nearing completion that dotted the looms around our workshop. My mind raced with details of how our completed product would be best utilized and how to reach that point in complete secrecy.
“Miss Narissa, where did you find a pair of my stirrups?” Amos asked politely, as everyone else began to return to their work stations.
“From one of your besom, Master Kovar.” I answered. “Where else?”
“I first used that design,” Amos stated. “When I was an apprentice under the Masters of the Seven.”
“Master Kovar,” I asked. “The Masters of Seven are a very prestigious group to have apprentices, yes?”
“They are indeed, Miss Narissa.” Amos replied. “They seldom recruit apprentices, excepting for succession of future Masters.”
“Oh? So can I conclude you are a Master of Seven, Master Kovar?” I asked in reply.
“No, the original Masters of Seven were assassinated, Miss Narissa.” Amos sadly confided to me.
“Did they refuse a request from the Chamberlain?” I asked, while thinking of how the Masters of Seven contributed to the Violet House.
“They did, Miss Narissa.” Amos added quietly. “Your Father was one of those assassinated.” Amos’s confidence seemed to swell with a sense of pride as he confided he was an apprentice to the Masters of Seven. I now understood completely. Amos had not only been an apprentice, but also knew my Father. History it seemed was destined to repeat itself. This time however, the mistakes of the past might not be repeated.
“Master Kovar, please tell me more about what you know about the Masters of Seven?” I asked.
“I know very little, Miss Narissa.” Amos conceded.
“But I do.” Principal Marriott added. I now noticed Principal Marriott had eavesdropped upon my conversation with Amos.
“The Masters of Seven were each Master Artisans in their respective fields.” Principal Marriott continued. “Seven tools of the craft are the minimum required by any witch or coven to perform complex spells. Items not found naturally are manufactured under the scrutiny of the Masters of Seven.
“Athame, Boline, Besom, Bracelet, Burin, Caldron, Censer, Cord, Chalice, Garter, Necklace, Pentacle, Scourge, Skull, Sword, Tome and Wand are all tools of the craft.” I noted, remembering my lessons.
“Correct, and certain items, such as a besom, require a true master to be manufactured.” Amos added.
“Did the Masters of Seven refuse requests from the Chamberlain.” I asked.
“They were all arrested, tried, and summarily executed for their repeated refusals.” Principal Marriott sadly answered. “It is believed Master Kovar, though not a Master of Seven, is the last of his trade left alive after the last Vehmgericht (People’s Court) was convened.”
“But the Vehmgericht was outlawed by the Governing Council.” I added while I remembered the Sachsenspiegel’s three branches of law. Vorfahrecht, Lehnrecht, and Landrecht. (Ancestral, Feudal and Common)
“The Chamberlain appointed a new Commissar to convene the last series of tribunals.” Principal Marriott answered. I remained thinking about the three-way discussion and its impact upon our need to succeed at our present tasks. The afternoon ended without any further discussions and I tightened my resolve to complete several tasks this evening that would include another visit to the airfield operated by the Blue House. I caught a glimpse of Rachel clutching her new besom as Annie, Cathie and I exited the school. Our usual late afternoon tea at Karl’s bookshop was overshadowed with preoccupied thoughts of this evening. My silence lasted long past the imposed twenty minutes, to have it shattered with Professor Montay’s entrance.
“Stop brooding, Miss Narissa.” Professor Montay announced.
“Professor? You never told me my Father was a member of the Masters of Seven.” I stated boldly.
“You never asked.” Professor Montay quipped back.
“Who forbade you from mentioning it.” I accused her, raising my voice.
“Your Father, Miss Narissa.” Professor Montay almost shouted.
“My Father, Professor?” I repeated. So it was true. My own Father was a Master of Seven.
“Yes.” Professor Montay stated with a tear.
“But why, Professor?” I now asked calmly.
“Do you remember the endless hours you spent weaving cords with your Mother?” Professor Montay asked.
“Yes, Professor.” I meekly replied.
“And you remember making your wand?” Professor Montay continued.
“I do Professor.” I answered while thinking of how my mother carefully led me thru each step.
“You remember learning how to sharpen your Boline, then how to best cut and chop with it?” Professor Montay asked more.
“Yes, Professor.” I added once more. Annie and Cathie, who had been minding themselves, were sensing what Professor Montay was getting to, long before I even considered.
“Stop being so daft!” Annie almost shouted at me.
“Narissa…” Professor Montay began.
“…Our besoms are all his design!” Cathie interrupted. I giggled slightly as Cathie’s interruption stole Professor Montay’s wind.
“Then he knew what was coming, and…” I stated with a grin.
“Wanted us to keep the secrets of his art in the Family.” Annie quipped.
“Now, you’ve got it.” Professor Montay concluded. “This evening’s lesson will be history, so mind your thoughts until then.” Professor Montay stood and walked into the rear of the bookshop and returned with a rather large volume under her arm.
“Time’s up ladies.” Karl stated, breaking the silence. “You all best be off.” Professor Montay patiently tapped her foot while we collected the tea tray before donning our cloaks for the walk home. The three of us fell in behind Professor Montay and I noted a few wipes of dust creasing the back of Professor Montay’s cloak. The volume she carried was obviously retrieved from someplace not stored in the public area of the bookshop. Upon arriving home, though a little early for lessons, we dashed into our suite with Professor Montay right behind us.
“You need not change for this lesson.” Professor Montay spoke while dropping the volume on her instruction podium. She motioned for us to tuck up with our stools around her, as she opened the cover of the volume.
“This was my journal when I was last at Linwood.” Professor Montay stated. I recognised her handwriting scrolled with the usual green ink I’d seen in the texts.
“You taught at Linwood Professor?” Cathie asked.
“Yes, I did.” Professor Montay confided. “After your parents all graduated, I stopped teaching.
“What brought you back, Professor?” Annie asked meekly.
“You three made me realise I have an important task.” Professor Montay answered proudly. I sensed she relished being a teacher, even more now.
“Professor, what’s today’s lesson?” I asked seeming to know the answer.
“Let me read you three, a few journal entries about your Mothers.” Professor Montay quipped with a smile.
“Today is my first day at Linwood. Elizabeth and Margaret seem to be quite bright students and my brother has asked me to keep an eye on them. Elizabeth pays attention during lectures while Margaret seems more interested in a particular nonanfaber occupying the desk beside her.”
“Professor? What is a nonanfaber?” Cathie asked before neither Annie nor I could ask.
“Nonanfaber is a slang.” Professor Montay tried to explain. “It is probably the most polite term used to describe someone who does not practice, nor is an apprentice of the craft. The proper term is Non an Faber from Latin, meaning not an artisan. More recently it has been shortened to just Faber.”
“Was the Faber my Mother seemed more interested in, my Father?” Cathie asked.
“Yes he was, Cathie.” Professor Montay answered. “He was quite a charmer too, if I remember correctly.” Professor Montay continued before we could interrupt further.
“Elizabeth has a talent for being mischievous and it is quite amusing the number of times she tries to trick her classmates with harmless charms. Margaret, being older, tries to remind Elizabeth not to get into trouble. I read each of their student files and found they had been home schooled, and this was their first year in a formal school setting. Their entrance exam results show me they both have an above average aptitude in Physics, Chemistry, Botany, and Mathematics. Their language skills in Latin are exceptional though I note from their essay answers they have a few problems with both French and German. Their command of English in particular their use of certain written expressions leaves me to believe they have traveled extensively. Margaret’s exam results for Geography seemed to confirm this. Their grade placement was accelerated for their ages, and I am concerned their behavior is related to a lack of social interactions with others their own age.”
I noted Professor Montay’s voice was marked with a certain amount of affection towards reading this particular passage from her Journal. She flipped thru several more pages and began reading aloud once more.
“Today, members of the Chamberlain’s Guards visited me in my study. The Senior Officer had asked about several students, and in particular about any new students. Their insistence at knowing about any new students to the school alarmed me slightly, and all I was able to tell them was I was a new teacher this year and had not known the students long enough. This seemed to appease them, until they produced several steno sketches, which bore a striking resemblance to Margaret and Elizabeth. They offered very little information, but I was able to deduce they were searching for the girls. Remembering my Brother’s request to keep an eye on them, I immediately confronted my brother with this information after the guardsmen had departed. To this my brother informed me, both Margaret and Elizabeth were a distant cousin’s children. I knew immediately the peril they would be in if the Chamberlain discovered not only their identities, but also my own.”
“My station as a Lieutenant of Vert Maison precipitated reporting to my Domus Regina the information of a possible discovery of members of Blanc Maison. My report prompted our Rector Regina to send Sarcina First Class to the school from Violette Maison to assist me to watch over Margaret and Elizabeth.”
“Professor? I know these entries are important, but how do they relate to us?” I enquired.
“Your Father was that Sarcina First Class, Narissa.” Professor Montay admitted. “He was an apprentice at the time. Soon after, your Mother and Father were inseparable. After Graduation that year, they fled lest their liaison was discovered.”
“They managed to keep their marriage a secret, yes?” Annie asked.
“Yes they did.” Professor Montay answered. “Our Rector Regina was so angry when they returned and revealed they had eloped with another couple. The Houses were all in an uproar.”
“Professor…” Cathie began to ask.
“Your parents were the second couple, Cathie.” Professor Montay added. “To protect them, they were separated. Your Fathers entered their trades away from Victoria Estates, and your Mothers returned to Linwood to finish their studies.”
“The houses hid our parents not only from the Chamberlain, but also from each other.” I concluded.
“You are correct.” Professor Montay answered.
“This is the dilemma we are now in.” Annie noted.
“Correct.” Professor Montay added. “Keeping you all hidden from the Chamberlain is more important than anything else.”
“Professor, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful…” I stated. “But the Chamberlain already knows who I am.”
“But not where you are, Narissa.” Cathie quipped.
“The Houses are fighting amongst each other, over who is more resourceful at hiding you three.” Professor Montay spoke.
“What do you think, Professor?” Annie asked.
“I’ll tell you three exactly what I told your parents.” Professor Montay answered. “Do what you think you need to do.”
“Professor.” I now stated boldly. “As the Family Congressus, you could announce it’s time the Family celebrates a Sabbat together.”
“A wise choice, Narissa.” Professor Montay concluded. “Don’t you think Ladies?”
“Agreed.” Both Annie and Cathie quipped together.
“You ladies have a late evening tea tonight, don’t you?” Professor Montay winked. “I don’t see you being missed at dinner this evening, so why don’t you three head off and meet Rachel early.”
“Yea!” Annie giggled. “I bet she’s just dying to try out that new besom. We all giggled as Professor Montay whisked her Journal from the podium and exited our suite. I headed into my room to find my flight suit already laid out on my dressing stand, along with my boots. I returned to find Annie and Cathie waiting impatiently.
“Shall we head to the sports field or the abandoned airfield first?” I asked, though I already knew the answer.
“Airfield, definitely.” Cathie answered.
“Airfield it is.” I answered back, without waiting for Annie’s answer. “We can make it before dusk if we hurry.”
With no further fanfare, we mounted our besoms and shot out thru the open balcony doors, up into the cool evening sky. Flying straight and just above the treetops, we skirted the distance to the abandoned airfield before dusk completely hid the field from view. We did little to hide our approach and landed on the barren floor of the hangar we’d previously known, to burn down long ago.
“Annie, why don’t you head over and see if Loire is home,” I mentioned. “While Cathie and I check out the stairwell, we’d marked the last time we were here.”
“Ok, Meet you back here after dark.” Annie stated before she jumped off again.
“Don’t let Loire give you any problems, Annie.” Cathie shouted before we headed towards the overgrown stairwell. “Got a Torch?”
“Lux!” I commanded, and my wand sprayed light similar to a very powerful lantern. “Let’s have a peek at what’s down below.”
“Lead on… “ Cathie quipped. We descended the crumbling staircase to find after several flights of stairs, a heavy wooden door that seemed to have been blasted apart, partially blocking our way thru what was left of the doorway it once stood in. Once inside the doorway, we found a large open area filled with crates labeled as ‘Machine Parts’. The crates seemed to be grouped together, each crate had a serial number as part of the crate label.
“Hey Narissa,” Cathie noted. “This one is marked one-twenty of two hundred.”
“This one is one-forty-two of two hundred.” I read from the crate next to me. In all we counted exactly 170 crates. We found one crate open. Inside was a radial aircraft engine labeled as a 360 hp Dragonfly LA engine.
“Interesting.” I noted. “Remember the hangar we dropped into last night looked like it was being used for something?”
“Yea, I remember seeing a bunch of assembly diagrams for a 232-Sopwith.” Cathie answered.
“Of Course!” I now thought out loud. “Look on the crates, Cathie. See the purple circle?”
“You mean Violet, don’t you, Narissa?” Cathie mentioned. Just then the buzz of the ceiling lights and their subsequent illumination startled us slightly. The three of us hid behind a row of crates just in time before several men entered the bunker from a closed doorway near us.
“Crates thirty-one thru forty-five are the ones we need, gents.” Cathie and I heard a male voice speak. We remained hidden behind the row of crates, as several men began loading the crates they had mentioned onto a row of trolleys. After several minutes the men finished their task, and departed as the row of trolleys began to move down a tunnel and disappear from sight. The lights were extinguished moments later.
“I think we have something to ask these gents.” Cathie mentioned. Together we exited the crate storage area thru the unlocked doorway the men had exited thru. We didn’t have to go far before finding the men seated in what appeared to be an office.
“Evening Gents.” I greeted them, while both Cathie and I carried our Besoms amongst them.
“Oh, here’s the cleaning staff, gents.” One of the men mockingly called out.
“Yea, now clear off, so we can get done and get out of here.” Cathie mocked them all back. It was then that one of the men noticed the stirrups on our besoms, and asked what they were for.
“Oh, they’re the latest thing...” Cathie quipped. “They’re so we can sweep with our feet while we dust.” That was a good one, It seemed to confuse the men slightly, but they all rose to their feet and departed the office area to allow us to ‘clean’ the office. After only just a few minutes I found a shipping registry, and found that the crates were part of a consignment of aircraft parts from a shipment originating in England. The engines were just a part of the consignment. We could hear the men returning a moment later, and Cathie met them at the doorway.
“Hold it right there, you two.” One of the men spoke. “The other cleaners have no idea who you two are.”
“Really?” I quipped. “Everyone knows who I am.” I leisurely sat in one of the swivel chairs next to me. “Care to explain why the security around here is so lax?”
“I have no idea who you are, but you don’t belong here.” The man stated angrily. “Guards, Arrest these two!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Cathie giggled. One of the guards attempted to draw a pistol from his holster.
“Fervens!” I shouted as my wand snaked into my hand. The guard dropped his pistol as though it was burning his hand.
“I did warn you not to do that.” Cathie giggled. We now both had our wands drawn.
“Algor.” I calmly stated. “Holster your pistol and take us to your guard commander.” The men all watched my wand lazily bounce up my arm before disappearing back into its hidden pocket. The guard whose pistol was on the floor poked at it as though he thought it would still be hot, but found it to be completely cold steel. Moments later an officer appeared near the office door and demanded to know what was going on.
“Don’t blame them Lieutenant.” I spoke. “They just didn’t know who I am, but you do, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course, Mistress. Lieutenant Fiala at your service.” The lieutenant replied while snapping a very smart salute. The men all now understood and snapped to attention, awaiting further orders.
“Have your men stand down, Lieutenant.” Cathie spoke. There’s an open stairwell into the storage area that you might want to have sealed before any unwelcome guests arrive in the future.”
“Yes, Mistress.” The Lieutenant answered in reply to the order. She turned and directed the men to return to their guard posts immediately. She also commanded a detail to investigate the open stairwell.
“Oh, you may want to tell them not to impede anyone coming down that stairwell in the next little while. I am expecting my sister to join us shortly. Cathie nodded and I felt her extend a projection to Annie.
“So, Lieutenant, tell me a little more about my new Head Quarters.” I asked politely.
“You office is on the next level up, Mistress.” The lieutenant replied. “We’ve been told to expect you.”
“Good you can lead the way.” I quipped. Cathie stifled a giggle and we departed the office behind the Lieutenant. Moments later we were escorted into a very comfortable looking room with a carpeted floor, several upholstered chairs and a single large desk. Being rather mischievous, I glided across the floor and sat in the chair behind the desk.
“Mistress, H-H-How do you do that?” the Lieutenant stammered.
“With lots of practice, Lieutenant.” I replied. “I suggest you practice more.”
“Yes, Mistress.” The Lieutenant was only able to reply. Cathie rolled an equally comfortable chair in front of the desk and sat herself in it.
“Join us, Lieutenant.” Cathie mentioned and a chair from behind the Lieutenant skidded up behind her and then shot forward as she landed on it.
“Comfortable?” I added. “My sister should be joining us shortly.” Moments later a sergeant escorted Annie into the office.
“Hey, How’s our friend doing? Cathie casually mentioned.
“Oh, he was hungry.” Annie quipped. “But other than that he’s doing just fine. Seems he’s not too happy about people pestering him while he tries to get some sleep.”
“Do you know anything about that, Lieutenant Fiala?” Annie asked. The Lieutenant’s face went pale as though she knew about the red dragon housed in the hangar somewhere above us.
“You aren’t talking about that beast in hangar three are you?” The Lieutenant asked.
“Actually, we are.” Annie quipped again. “Have you met him yet?” the Lieutenant seemed very afraid being asked the question.
“I have three men in hospital because of that beast.” The Lieutenant spat.
“Oh, well.” Cathie spoke softly. “He probably wasn’t hungry when they bothered him.”
“I’ll ask him to behave himself when your men are around.” Annie giggled.
“And you should tell your men to stay out of that hangar from now on.” I added. “That’s an order, Lieutenant.”
“Yes, Mistress.” The Lieutenant replied to my order. “Will there be anything else, Mistress?”
“This is quite an example of inter-house cooperation. This facility for instance, belongs to Violette Maison, yes?”
“Yes it is, Mistress.” The Lieutenant replied quite proudly. “We share this facility with small compliments from Rouge, Jaune, Vert and Gris Maisons. Without their assistance, Bleu Maison would not be able to complete their assignment on time.”
“I’d like to know under whose authority this facility operates, Lieutenant.” I calmly spoke. Both Annie and Cathie seemed to notice where I was heading with this.
“We receive our orders directly from the Adjudant, Mistress.” The Lieutenant answered.
“Do you have a Troop from Rouge Maison in attendance, Lieutenant?”
“Yes, of course, Mistress.” The Lieutenant replied.
“Good, have their Subaltern report to us.” I asked.
“As you wish, Mistress.” The Lieutenant answered with a smart salute after rising to her feet before departing. It was several minutes later that the Lieutenant returned with the Troop Subaltern.
“Subaltern McKay Reporting, Mistress.” The Subaltern spoke while saluting.
“At Ease, Subaltern McKay.” I spoke. “Any relation to Captain Alfred McKay?”
“He was my uncle, Mistress.” Subaltern McKay replied. I noted the famous pilot from the Royal Flying Corps.
“You thinking of following in his foot steps?” I asked politely.
“I am not permitted, Mistress.” Subaltern McKay answered.
“Perhaps I can rectify that.” I spoke softly. “In the mean time Subaltern McKay, I have a task for you.”
“I would like you to place our Rector Regina under house arrest, and not allow her to leave her domicile until she is summoned. Is this clear?”
“Yes Mistress. It shall be done.” Subaltern McKay replied.
“Lieutenant McKay, I suggest you stop by your Vicus Vinco (Quartermaster) and ensure you are properly attired for your task.
“Yes, Mistress!” The newly promoted Lieutenant McKay replied with a smart salute before dismissing herself.
“Lieutenant Fiala, have the senior officer of this facility report to Lieutenant Griffin within the hour.” I calmly stated.
“Yes, Mistress.” Lieutenant Fiala replied. “Will there be anything else?”
“I would also like to know where that tunnel from the crate storage area leads to.” I asked.
“It leads to a maintenance area belonging to Bleu Maison.” Lieutenant Fiala answered.
“Is that where they’re assembling the Sopwith Dragons?” I asked.
“You are correct, Mistress. Do you wish to see it?” The Lieutenant asked. I looked at both Annie and Cathie and nodded.
“Yes, Please.” I replied. “Can we access the maintenance area thru the tunnel, Lieutenant?”
“Yes, Mistress.” The Lieutenant answered.
“We’ll find our way there, Lieutenant.” I spoke calmly. “Return to your duties and don’t mention our conversation about the tunnel to anyone. We’d like it to be a surprise.”
“As you wish, Mistress.” The lieutenant replied, she then rose to her feet, snapped a smart salute, turned on her heels and departed.
“Shall we drop in on Lieutenant Griffin now?” Annie mentioned.
“Let’s find that tunnel and drop by for a visit.” Cathie replied. Together we departed for the storage area and passed no one on the way. We mounted our besoms and sped off down the tunnel with our wands acting as torches. The tunnel was long, but straight and level. As we neared the end of the tunnel, we could hear activity in the well-lit maintenance area ahead of us. We dismounted our besoms before reaching the end of the tunnel, and we walked into the maintenance area. We leisurely paced back and forth inspecting several open crates as we made our way down what appeared to be an assembly line. Across the expanse of floor, I could see several completed Sopwith Dragons waiting to be towed out of a large open door.
“Lets see how far we get before someone stops us.” I projected to both Annie and Cathie. With that we kept our leisurely pace until we reached the open doors that led directly to the airfield apron. I noticed from his rank insignia, that a Vicus Vinco was watching our approach towards the doors.
“Test Pilots are not allowed in this area.” The Vicus Vinco reported to us.
“Sorry, Corpus.” I spoke.
“I am a Vicus Vinco, you ungrateful pilot.” The newly demoted NCO replied.
“No, I was correct, Corpus.” I replied. “Unless you prefer being a Sarcina Third Class.”
“Corpus, I suggest you do as our Primus Regina directs you to do.” I overheard Lieutenant Griffin’s voice echo from behind me.
“Y-Y-Yes, Ma’am.” The new Corpus stammered, realizing his mistake far too late to have it reversed.
“And is Sergeant Valcourt somewhere close by, Lieutenant?” I asked.
“Sergeant Valcourt is escorting Captain Arendonk as we speak, Mistress.” Lieutenant Griffin reported. “Tea is waiting for you and Miss Annie and Miss Cathie in the officer’s lounge.
“Good, please join us, Lieutenant.” I added. “Carry on with your duties, Corpus.” Lieutenant Griffin led us off the assembly floor and into the night air.
“Another hundred fifty five dragons to finish, Lieutenant?” Cathie asked.
“We have twelve completed so far, with three more to complete our quota. Fifteen in various stages of assembly, with another fifteen in pre-assembly. We expect the whole lot of two hundred completed and flight tested by the end of next week. We’re running twenty-four hour rotating three shifts a day.” Lieutenant Griffin replied.
“Impressive, but not nearly as impressive as more than three hundred Duchess class besoms will be completed in the same period.” Annie interrupted.
“I have not heard of such a besom before.” Lieutenant Griffin spoke as though surprised.
“Speaking of a Duchess class besom. Here comes number one now.” Cathie added as Rachel hovered above them before descending for a perfect landing. Moments later, Deanna descended, followed closely by Valerie. I was impressed that Deanna and Valerie had also completed their own besoms. Before we had taken more than a few steps Nyssa, Tessa, Vijay, and Zoë had landed close by and joined us.
The only one missing was James, but I was sure he was delayed, as the Excalibur was no match for the seven brand new Duchess class besoms. Almost identical in every way, including the ornate stirrups, I sensed Lieutenant Griffin wanted to have a go on one of them.
“You seem distracted, Lieutenant.” I noted as our entourage proceeded across the soft grass towards the hangar we had visited last night. I noticed the blue shoulder patch she had been wearing last night had been replaced with a white and blue diamond shaped patch.
“Since your visit last night, I have been placed on assignment by our Congressus to Blanc Maison.” Lieutenant Griffin admitted. “My immediate superiors were not very happy.”
“I wouldn’t think they would be.” Annie quipped as we now had arrived at the Hangar where James waited patiently with Sergeant Valcourt along with a very unhappy Violette Maison Captain. Sergeant Valcourt snapped to attention first upon seeing us arrive. I noted the same blue and white diamond patch on Sergeant Valcourt’s shoulder as well. I mussed to myself as Professor Montay had obviously recruited everyone who was here last night to Legion Two of Blanc Maison. Captain Arendonk stepped forward and saluted as we approached.
“Good evening, Mistress.” Captain Arendonk spoke. “Reporting as ordered.”
“Thank you, Captain.” I replied. “Your new duties will suit you well.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Captain Arendonk replied, somewhat disappointed until he had noticed the diamond shaped patch on his shoulder.
“You’ll need to report to Captain Riedesel, at your earliest convenience.” I replied as we entered onto the hangar floor. We were greeted with the sight of seven of the completed 232-Sopwiths with an eighth being towed in right behind us. The hangar doors were quickly closed as we entered into the corridor where we’d met Lieutenant Griffin last night. Lieutenant Griffin quickly escorted us to the officer’s lounge, where a Captain, who was the senior officer of Bleu Maison, greeted us.
“Captain Valcourt, Mistress.” The Captain greeted us.
“Any relation to Sergeant Valcourt, Captain?” I asked.
“My grand daughter, Mistress.” Captain Valcourt replied. The next few minutes were filled with faces and handshakes as I was introduced to everyone. Those whose names I recognized would soon learn their sons, daughters, brothers or sisters would soon be members of Legion 2. What seemed to really draw everyone’s attention were the sleek new besoms carried by Deanna, Nyssa, Rachel, Tessa, Valerie, Vijay, and Zoë. The seven Duchess class besoms had them wondering which master artisan had built them, but I drew their attention away from the besoms and on to more important matters.
“Thank you for being here this evening.” I finally announced, drawing complete silence in the officer’s lounge.
“Everyone above the rank of Lieutenant, you are dismissed. Everyone else please remain.” I now commanded. The look of complete surprise said more than words ever could. The shocked disbelief that I had dismissed all the senior officers registered with an ungrateful display of snide comments that I noted the only Magnus Proeliator was taking notes as the senior officers departed the Officer’s Lounge.
“Sergeant-Major!” I commanded.
“Ma’am!” The Magnus Proeliator dutifully replied, then stepped forward. He stopped a few paces in front of me and snapped a very smart salute.
“Join me, Sergeant-Major.” I almost whispered. The Magnus Proeliator stood beside me and continued to make notes.
“Who is the most senior pilot here?” I now commanded.
“Mistress!” I heard a familiar voice respond. Lieutenant Griffin stepped forward.
“Lieutenant Griffin,” I clearly spoke. “You and every officer in this room will be responsible to teach the art of aerobatics to a student that will be assigned to you.”
“Yes, Mistress!” The Lieutenant replied. The officers in the room registered their acceptance of their announced duty. “I now turn you over to our Rector Regina, for further instructions.”
“Cathie,” I projected softly. “You’re up.” Cathie stepped forward and stood where I was standing as I sat down in a very comfortable chair.
“I’ll get you for this, Narissa.” Cathie’s voice echoed inside my head.
“One pilot to one student, Cathie.” I projected back, and she immediately got the hint.
“Lieutenant Griffin, who are your two best pilots.” Cathie asked.
“Subalterns MacCready and Piggott!” Lieutenant Griffin cried out. The two Subalterns stepped forward.
“Your students are,” Cathie announced. “Myself and my cousin, Annie. Have you ever flown a Besom Before?”
”N-N-No Ma’am.” Both Subalterns replied.
“You will learn before this week-end.” Cathie answered. I continued to look around the room and noticed there were another seven pilots.
“Cathie, seven more to go.” I softly projected.
“Deanna, Nyssa, Rachel, Tessa, Valerie, Vijay, and Zoë,” Cathie now commented. “Meet your instructors. Instructors, greet your students.”
“Sergeant-Major,” I calmly spoke. “No one outside of this room is to ever know what we are doing. Is this perfectly clear?”
“Crystal, Ma’am.” The Magnus Proeliator dutifully replied. “Shall I see that we have at least ten of the 232-Spowiths are made available for training?”
“Yes, with flight plans for normal flight training properly filed.” I replied.
“I know nothing.” The Sergeant Major nodded and completely understood what was being asked of him. The remainder of the evening was filled with a quick trip to the hangar floor where each of us took our respective instructors aboard each of our besoms and we took a quick jaunt around the airfield while being hidden by the darkness of the night. Lieutenant Griffin screamed as she clung to my besom handle like a frightened child on a roller coaster as I rolled and spiraled my besom in the air barely fifty meters above the ground. The instructors all seemed a little worse for wear as we departed from the airfield shortly after midnight. We shot into the night sky as fast as our besoms could travel. The newly completed Duchess Class kept even speed and we all set down on the sports field after screeching to a hover less than a foot off the soft grass covered ground. The ten of us laughed hysterically as James finally joined us over a minute later on his Excalibur. We laughed so hard and for so long; that even a mention of flying lessons had us all stifling giggles and snorts.
“James, I need you to calculate a flight plan, from here to the Chancellery and return without crossing any major population areas.” I asked while still giggling.
“And you need it for when?” James asked with a snort.
“All Hallows Eve, James.” I answered. “And it needs to be done quietly.”
“It shall be done,” James replied. “All Hallows Eve.”
We finally managed to collect ourselves from the soft grass and headed home. I barely managed to strip off my flight suit and peel myself into my pajamas before sleep beckoned me to close my eyes.