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.
Two men, the elder with a slight haunch; the other was a little shorter, but proud, walk out of St Andrews Hospital, on a cool spring evening of the 7th day of Giamonios 2418 according to the LaTene Culture Calendar, with the setting sun in their faces. They walk at a leisurely gait down the street towards the local pub to celebrate. The proud man beams as only a new father could.
“The two of you should know she is the one we have been waiting for.” The elder man speaks.
“It cannot be her.” The other man replies. “She has not even had her chart written yet, how would you know it is her?”
“I just know it is to be her.” The elder man replies knowingly.
“She is not even an hour old, how do you know what has not yet been discovered?” the other man returns.
“You know just as I do, our calendar follows the cycles of the moon, instead of the sun, though we do celebrate the Sun as the name of one of our days. We’ve waited over 300 years for an heir.” The elder man replies. “Have the two of you chosen her name?”
“Elizabeth has chosen ‘Narissa’.” The other man answers proudly, as the two men enter the dark pub.
“A fine choice indeed.” The elder man responds politely, as they approached the bartender.
“After her ancestor, it is a wise choice.” The elder man adds.
The two men raise their glasses of freshly poured Glenmorangie in toast to the newest member of the Family, while the Gregorian calendar on the wall proclaims 21 April 1916.
It’s the final day of classes and even I can feel the element of excitement in the air. My classmates are chomping at the bit to be out enjoying the early summer sun, putting June 1930 behind them and welcoming the summer. As if on cue, a warm breeze wafts through the window and rustles the corner of the parchment I am working on, briefly waving my hair back from my face at the same time. Pondering the broad Latin scrawl before me, my mind wanders as a melody jumps across my thoughts. I am jolted from my reverie by the ringing of the final bell and the explosion of feet. I pack up my belongings, the few mementos I wish to retain from the passing year then slowly rise from my desk, and abandon the parchment to mark my place. Professor Riedesel patiently awaits the departure of her prize student and closes the door behind us.
The hallway is already deserted, except for loose paper strewn on the floor along with open locker doors that I unceremoniously close as I pass them. Narissa DeWitte, alone to my thoughts once more.
I encounter the ever-watchful eye of Principal Marriott as she makes her final daily inspection before heading for the exit and abandoning the school to our caretaker. Slinging my book bag over my shoulder and clutching my notebooks in front of me, I slip through the front door and hear the lock click behind me. The sound echoes in my ears like the sound of a rifle shot across an open valley, signaling the start of a carbon copy of another lonely summer, similar to my arrival in Victoria Estates the previous year. It seems much longer.
I focus my attention on descending the stone staircase unscathed. I blink in disbelief at the sight of a woman in a dark green cloak standing only a few paces in front of me, her hands held together, waiting patiently. I could have sworn she was not there, before making my way down the stairs. Startled slightly at her appearance, I will normally look down to escape a stranger’s gaze; however, today was different. I somehow feel akin to her and her posture extends an invitation. Though I did not yet know it, her responsibility is to awaken me to the world I am destined to be a part of.
Unlike me, I firmly stand my ground and refuse to back down from her gaze that I so often endure from my classmates. She extends her hand and offers me the envelope she is meant to deliver personally. My attention is briefly diverted as I read my name, which is richly scrolled on the outside of the envelope. A brief flutter of dark green catches my attention and I look up to find the exact spot where she stood was now vacant. The envelope is now the only thing that offers me an explanation as to her arrival and equally abrupt departure.
As fate has so often of late intervened, an equally abrupt rise in fear forces me to abandon the thought of opening the envelope. With my mind racing over the events occupying the past few seconds, my feet answer first. Slipping the envelope inside the cover of a notebook clutched in front of me, I flee the length of Talbot Street as though copying the action of the mysterious woman, and I do not stop until I reach sanctuary.
Catching my breath inside the door of the bookshop, the only true friend I have come to know, is seated next to the gently ticking grandfather clock, which greets everyone entering his bookshop. Karl is pouring freshly brewed black tea to celebrate the last day of the school year as he had promised yesterday. Karl, whose given name is too difficult to pronounce, and to put it to pen would come close to using every letter of the alphabet at least once, is the sole owner and proprietor of my sanctuary. Karl is perhaps the only man capable of wearing a well-tailored suit and still appears as a rag-a-muffin in less time than it takes to boil a kettle for a pot of tea. His grey hair begs a comb to be run thru it on an almost constant basis with the results being no better than when he’d started. His round eyeglasses make him appear studious, but he is more adept at tutoring. His overgrown moustache appears to muffle his voice, yet adds to his soft-spoken demeanor, excepting the fact that he is extremely articulate. Karl has been the only person to actually welcome me to the small town where my Great Uncle resides. Victoria Estates, part of what is now Midlands, Ontario is in Tay Township, on the southeastern shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Standing in the closed doorway of Karl’s bookshop, a steaming cup of tea waiting for me, I now feel safe. With my daily routine restored, the envelope becomes furthest from my thoughts as I give my Great Uncle’s oldest friend a huge hug.
“I had a visitor today,” Karl speaks, “your Great Uncle Vlad came by to see me. It seems he worries about you, my dear.”
“Oh?” I quickly respond.
“You know he loves you,” Karl offers, “and he misses your father and mother probably as much as you do.”
“He never told me,” I beam, slightly surprised.
“He also asked me to tell you to come home immediately after tea,” Karl explains. “He wants you to read your letter to him.”
“But,” I respond. “I only just got it, how would he know I received a letter?”
“Your Great Uncle Vlad has been my friend for a long time, my dear,” Karl explains. “He told me it was coming today and that you will have a guest for dinner this evening.”
“So, he knew and he never told me?” I angrily retort. I notice the flowing dark green cloak draped over the chair I usually sit in while Karl and I read books aloud to one another as we enjoy our late afternoon tea. It is definitely not the same cloak the woman wore, as it has a coat of arms embroidered on the breast. The cloak appears to be much too small for anyone to wear except someone my own size.
“Your Great Uncle left this for you,” Karl offers, as he sees my attention is focused on the cloak. I seat myself, examining the cloak but soon lose myself in Karl’s company. The sound of raindrops adds to the sound of our voices, as we take turns reading aloud to one another. The teapot empty, Karl bides me to follow my Great Uncle’s instructions to head home immediately. The cloak my Great Uncle has left for me during his earlier visit offers me protection from the rain, but my notebooks will remain at the bookshop until my return. The cloak’s hem sweeps the floor and has pockets sewn into the silken lining.
Surprisingly, I find my envelope already inside one of the pockets, though I could have sworn I never saw Karl put it there before he drapes the cloak over my shoulders. Karl quickly ushers me to the door of the bookshop. My mind now racing, I match the timing of the rain and dash for home.
My Great Uncle’s house is part of a row of houses built along what is now Talbot street before the town had developed into a center of activity for the Township. The house is modest in size, with neatly manicured flowerbeds that are Ferule’s pride and joy. Sitting two and a half stories tall, though dwarfed by the trees dotting the property, a gently sloping cedar shingle roof and un-shuttered windows is in sharp contrast to the whitewashed clapboards. The most noticeable feature of the property is what used to be a stable that now serves as a garage that is easily found by following the cobblestone drive to its double swinging doors.
The garage serves double purpose as the home for the Hudson sedan parked inside it and an underground boiler room. The boiler pumps heated hot water through pipes connected to radiators in every room of the house, making the house comfortable even when the coldest winter winds blow across the sound from the north. The front porch roof wraps itself along the front of the house shading the front windows. To the side remains a utility room directly off the kitchen, and is used as cold storage in the wintertime. In the basement is a large laundry facility complete with hot and cold running water, adjoining an indoor bathing room. So many of manor’s rooms haven’t been used, including a large dining room that could easily host a dinner party, accommodating twenty or more guests at its heavy oak dining table.
Being far too large for just one person to occupy for so long, my arrival almost two years ago as its newest occupant had meant my first few months in residence were taken with cleaning rooms, which had obviously not been used in years. My bedroom is one of the two master bedrooms, and was used as storage for books from his study before I came to live. They appear to be the only other rooms in the entire house that seemed to have been used at all.
Arriving under the porch eaves, I shake the rain from the cloak before I take the last few steps to the front door. The smell of a roast dinner immediately greets me as I pass the portal into a large foyer, dominated by a solitary deacon’s bench with the staircase just beyond. Directly above on the second floor are the two master bedrooms on one side of the house and a completely vacant suite of three bedrooms adjoined to a sitting room, filling the space above the dining room and the kitchen, with access via a spiral staircase that also descends to the basement.
I place my newest garment onto the coat hook provided for my use, and I retrieve my envelope from the cloak before proceeding further into the manor. My Great Uncle is a creature of habit, so very much like myself, and I find him sitting in his study in his overstuffed wingback chair that has served him well for a good many years. Even by the light cast from a roaring fire in the large double-sided fireplace that divides the main floor parlor and his study, I can easily see the footpath worn into the carpet pattern that begins at the fireplace and ends in front of his favorite chair. The familiar faces, in an aging family portrait hanging over the mantle, appear to be watching over him as he reads his newspaper. His only companions sitting with him are the large bookcases rising from the floor to the ceiling and a divan that forlornly seems out of place.
I try to sneak up behind him as I do everyday. This time I am able to wrap my arms around his neck before he gives any indication that he knows I’m there. My Great Uncle Vladimir Griffin, my only known living relative, became my legal guardian following my parents’ deaths. Though I know my uncle Vlad cares enough for me to make sure I attend school, have enough to eat, and have a place to call home, it is still his home. I sometimes feel as though I am an intruder, forced to share the space he has created for himself.
“Welcome home, Narissa,” My Great Uncle greets me. “I’ve been waiting all day for you.”
“Thank you,” I say warmly as I hug him, “but how could you not tell me?”
“I’m sorry, but I was forbidden,” My Great Uncle explains. “As you read it, you will know why.” Anxiously I rip the envelope open and remove the letter it contains. I read the letter aloud in much the same manner as reading a book with Karl.
My Dearest Daughter:
Today is the day I have long anticipated, and if you are reading this, then I fear your father and I are now departed from you. It is with a sad heart that I am compelled to write you this letter and entrust its contents to be delivered to you by people you have never met. Those who will surround you shortly will be the only people you can trust to prepare you for the future your birthright commands. The family coat of arms is the only evidence you will need to know that those who wear it are worthy of both your love and trust in return. For your own safety, your father and I have hidden these facts from you.
Your father and I fled the world we lived and chose to sever all contact so that we could be given the opportunity to raise you away from the influences associated with that world. Remaining hidden, it is not until the time I write these words to you that we realize the grave errors we have made in concealing your existence and identity. The family members we have entrusted with your life and future education have willingly made sacrifices and pledge their own lives to ensure your safety.
I cannot stress enough the importance of never underestimating the need for you to be studious and patient. While I cannot reveal to you the reasons why we have hidden these facts from you, I can tell you that you may one day be responsible for reuniting the entire family and returning from the self-imposed exile separating you from your birthright. Together, we offer you only our love and the knowledge that what you need to learn will be taught to you in stages. Be forever respectful of your professors and learn well the lessons they will teach to you.
You will sense the presence of those who mean to do harm to you long before they reveal themselves to you. You will also be able to command the elements of fire, water, wind and earth to protect yourself and those you love from harm. May happiness find you and bless you.
By my own hand, I command your birthright be returned to you, and release the bindings separating it from you.
A sudden feeling of euphoria sweeps over me as I finish reading the letter written by my mother when the paper bursts into flames. I collapse onto the floor, overwhelmed with memories of my life and memories hidden from me, as they flood back into my mind.
I awake reclining on the divan in my Great Uncle’s study, with his warm smile filling my sight.
“It is now done,” My Great Uncle speaks softly. “You have a guest waiting, and a dinner that can no longer wait to be served.”
“Uncle Vlad…,” I begin to speak.
“The answers are coming, but more important is your guest,” my Great Uncle interrupts, and he moves aside to aide me to rise to my feet.
Standing barely taller than I, my Great Uncle approaches his fifty-third birthday with his steel grey hair complementing his sparkling blue eyes. My residence is succeeding in developing his once frail frame into a healthy physique. I drape my hand over the forearm he offers, as the gentleman he is dictates, to lead me to the formal dining room that has long been dormant. What greets me is the sight of Karl, standing in formal attire consisting of a short jacket tuxedo similar to the ensemble my Great Uncle wears each and everyday for dinner. The only other occupant in the room is the woman who delivered my envelope earlier. She is already seated at the dining table and only now, am I able to see the resemblance between her and my Great Uncle. I know that she is family, as her face wears the same warm smile that stares back from the portrait I see everyday.
“Good evening, Professor,” I politely greet her. Her azure stare and cascading auburn hair frame her face like a theatre actress. Her deep green dress with its high collar bodice does so very little to hide her obvious charms which could easily ensnare the most connubial male from a chaste lifestyle.
“Since you already know my purpose, you may continue to address me as so,” my guest speaks softly yet firmly with the tone of someone much wiser than I, and commands such respect in return.
“Yes, Professor.” I immediately respond, curtseying properly.
“There will be time for manners and decorum later,” my guest returns. My Great Uncle now offers me a chair in front of one of the place settings, and I seat myself in a most ladylike manner, as though the woman seated across the table from me was scrutinizing my decorum for a formal dinner. Karl and my Great Uncle seat themselves as Ferule, our butler, emerges from the kitchen portal behind my seated guest. My gaze immediately falls to the coat of arms almost invisibly embroidered in grey thread on his chef’s tunic. The dinner that greets my sense of smell earlier is now being paraded before me. The silence is deafening as dinner is served as expediently as Ferule can achieve.
“My name is Professor Montay,” my guest announces, shattering the silence.
“I am pleased to meet you Professor,” I formally respond.
“It will be my task to ensure the lessons your mother had dutifully outlined before her death, are taught to you,” Professor Montay continues as though I have not even responded to her greeting. Staring back at Professor Montay, I realize the trust my mother had placed in her was because she had also been my mother’s teacher.
“Perhaps I may prove to be more of a challenging student than my mother was,” I retort, with confirmation as to my astute observation provided by Professor Montay’s reaction.
“You reveal your powers of observation as though you are trying to impress me,” Professor Montay sternly replies. “By catching me off guard, I also note my reaction gave you information you sought to find. You may find the price of such information is not what you are willing to pay.” Professor Montay adds.
“I trust you will not underestimate me, nor I you, in the immediate future, Professor,” I politely quip.
“You are indeed your mother’s daughter,” Professor Montay states, with a hint of carefully metered affection. “and it is a lesson you need not be taught except to conceal until its appropriate use.”
“Professor,” I interject, “my name is Narissa, and it would be appropriate to address me as such with familiarity and affection, so that my true station is not accidentally revealed if we venture beyond this house.”
“A wise decision for you to make, Narissa,” Professor Montay replies, “That was your mother’s last error.”
Professor Montay’s words slap my face and I am too late to conceal the injury of their delivery. At the same time, they confirm a promise Professor Montay made, revealing that my mother sacrificed her own life for mine. It is clearly obvious my mother accepted her fate, while Professor Montay never forgave herself for the simple indiscretion that cost her a student.
The same euphoria I felt earlier returns, but this time I fight hard not to reveal it, nor succumb to it. Pretending to focus my attention on the delicious dinner Ferule has served, I remember the lesson my mother dutifully taught me. Using only my mind, and the knowledge the now released bindings have suppressed, my wand gently floats into my waiting hand from Professor Montay’s carpetbag.
“Your mother taught you well, Narissa,” Professor Montay notes.
“Only because my mother had a great teacher,” I affectionately return. My openly displayed prowess results in Professor Montay taking the action of an equal display, making my wand vanish from my hand with nothing but a simple flick of her fingers.
“Since the only thing you currently need to use is cutlery, you have no need for your wand until your studies begin,” Professor Montay equally remarks with affection.
Uncle Vlad and Karl stare with disbelief at the sparing between my new master and I, her apprentice. It is at this exact moment I know that Professor Montay is a spinster aunt. My teenage attitude continues long into the evening, as together the four of us enjoy the lavish dinner of celebration my Great Uncle has chosen to serve.
“I must take my leave as I have another pressing appointment requiring my undivided attention,” Professor Montay says clearly with conviction.
Without even so much as a goodbye, she excuses herself and regresses from the house before my Great Uncle and Karl rise from their chairs. Now dragging my feet, I retire to my bedroom well past my normal time. I ascend the staircase, leaving Karl and Uncle Vlad to their cigars and brandy in the main floor study.
The light of the moon cascading through parted drapes greets me as I enter the second master suite’s sitting room. By the dim light afforded me, I make my way past my cherry wood writing desk with matching chair, and a velvet upholstered rosewood settee, both individual pieces of the furniture suite commissioned by my Great Uncle when I took up residence. A full-length mirror stands sentinel just inside my bedroom door, next to my dressing table and an upholstered stool. The opposite side of the room is taken with an armoire and twined wardrobes. An oversize four-post bed, complete with a matching canopy and bed curtains dominates my bedroom. However, the teak wood would not have been my first choice for my bedroom furniture, but my floral duvet, curtains, wall and floor coverings make the room as warm and inviting as was possible to achieve.
Although it looks out of place against the black hardwood, a large cedar chest sits locked at the foot of my bed, bearing my mother’s initials EYHG in brass. I catch my reflection in the full-length mirror, as I head towards my dressing table. Returning my gaze stands a willowy figure that more resembles a boy than a girl. I release my hair, the color of an Ontario Maple in autumn, from the ribbon that is the only thing capable of controlling my locks, which then cascades over my shoulders as I sit at my dressing table. Firmly grasping my hairbrush, I struggle to tame my curly mane. My mother’s green eyes stare back at me from my dressing table’s mirror while my thoughts draw me towards my pillows. The moonlight streams thru my bedroom’s open curtains, casting my shadow upon the floor as I change into my nightclothes. Having not lit even a single lamp, I waste no time to finally fall asleep.
A jumble of images filled my head while I slept. I do not remember even a single image when I awake to the sun filling my bedroom. I barely have time to dress in a modest blouse with a pleated skirt, before Ferule gently knocks on my door.
“Good Morning, Ferule,” I announce.
“Good Morning, Mistress,” Ferule answers, “Professor Montay is waiting for you in the Parlor.”
“Thank you, Ferule,” I reply, “I’ll be right down.”
So it begins. My summer is to be filled with lessons, study, revisions and more lessons. The time spent pouring over books from my Great Uncle’s massive collection, and Karl’s seemingly bottomless inventory of reference material becomes my routine. Interaction with Professor Montay allows my self-confidence to grow, in part from her informal lessons three times a week, and my memories of lessons with my mother. I discover a natural strength to command the elements, an almost surreal ability to project my thoughts, and the unique skill set to transport objects from one place to another. In addition, I can also make an object hover, or seemingly float through the air.
On the rare occasions we venture outside, I take note of how Professor Montay’s striking beauty seems to frighten men away, while the few men who do attempt to make her acquaintance, often shrink from her upon discovering any amount of mental acuity. Such is my own problem. Boys never want to be near me as my intelligence intimidates them. Professor Montay’s tutelage in more personal matters of grooming, fashion, and social skills, I welcome with enthusiasm. For my stubborn locks, I find much more delighting methods of styling my hair that I do not need to struggle to tame. I find myself willingly transforming into an attractive fourteen-year-old female instead of the insufferable know-it-all my schoolmates have previously known. I endure my self-imposed exile from my classmates all summer, until a few of them begin to arrive at Karl’s bookshop to purchase their texts for the autumn term. No one recognizes me, and in fact they think I am a relation of Karl’s working with him for the summer before returning home elsewhere. That is before a few unruly boys enter Karl’s bookshop the last weekday before school start.
My nemeses display their usual lack of manners and one of them even tries to leave the bookshop with a complete set of unpaid texts. Their biggest mistake is applying their usual tactic to the only student to ever stand up for me, who arrives shortly after them. Though not someone I could ever call a friend she was never mean to me like my other classmates have been. This now earns her my assistance as one of the boys tries to physically intimidate her with unwelcome male interest.
Being my most vindictive, he suddenly removes his hand as he experiences the pain of a mousetrap snapping closed upon the fingers he has under her skirt. He didn’t stop to ask what she is doing with a mousetrap, and she never thought to ask him where the mousetrap that closed on his fingers came from either. I offer her the water closet to compose herself from his rough hands, and then she approaches me from behind as she exits the water closet.
“Thank you, Narissa.” She softly speaks. Cathie stands a little taller than myself, completely opposite my own willowy frame with her ample curves, dark brown hair and steel grey eyes. She is barely three days older than I am.
“Bienvennue, Cathie.” I reply, over my shoulder. My slight accent betrays my identity to her, and standing firmly rooted she is unable to believe the few short months of summer have had such a dramatic effect on me. Smiling back at her, I ask innocently about the broach pinned to her blazer. It was the same size as the ring I wear and is engraved with the same trefoil knot and equilateral cross, though I had discovered the engraving in my ring hidden underneath a dark red stone setting meant as a cover. I cautiously inquire as to the origin of the broach.
Cathie had been orphaned, with her mother giving up her life as she was born, while her father, the county constable, was shot and killed by an armed robbery suspect while on duty, around the same time as my parent’s deaths. The broach is a clue not only to my own identity, but also to Cathie’s.
“It belonged to my mother,” is her calm reply. “It’s the only thing my father had of hers to give me.” I show Cathie my ring. It is an exact match for her broach. With this evidence, there is little doubt in my mind that her mother was my mother’s sister, which by default made her my cousin. Now realizing our relation, we stare at one another. I quickly deduce that my identification of Cathie is purely accidental, and I am instantly relieved to see Professor Montay enter Karl’s bookshop.
“I see you have finally met each other,” Professor Montay speaks.
“Professor?” I begin.
“Professor!” Cathie interrupts.
“Girls, calm yourselves before you force me to bind you both,” Professor Montay calmly demands, “I suggest you both prepare to leave.” Cathie and I exchange curious glances at one another as we both gather our cloaks and depart, leaving Karl and his bookshop behind. Smartly marching several paces in front of Professor Montay, I remember my communications lessons. I concentrate and focus conscious thought towards Cathie.
“Talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking,” I meekly project.
“Whoa!” Cathie solidly projects back to me. “No one has ever been able to initiate a projection with me.”
“Sorry, first time luck,” I honestly reply aloud.
“You damn near blasted me off my feet,” Cathie also replies aloud. “I don’t know how you did that, but take it easy. I’ve been practicing it for months and my aunt says I have a natural defense against someone trying to read my thoughts.”
“Months, eh?” I enquire.
“Yes, and I can tell the Professor’s not too happy about us meeting. She’s told me more than once I am not to speak to you. ” Cathie projects to me, and quickly changes the subject by adding, “You called her, Professor too?”
“She’s been helping me continue my studies where my mother left off,” I project back.
“Girls! Wands at the ready.” I hear Professor Montay softly command to us. As we both have the same teacher, I deduce Cathie’s immediate defense reaction would be to discretely withdraw her wand. I merely will my wand into my hand, and hide it within the folds of my cloak. We soon arrive at my Great Uncle’s house without confrontation, and the three of us quietly slip inside the portal. Once inside, I immediately sense something I know cannot possibly be true. The feelings I felt when the bindings separating my memories from me were released, envelope me. I slip my wand back into the slender pocket hidden in my dress and call out to the familiar intruder.
“Show yourself!” I command, only to have Professor Montay muzzle me.
“Silence child,” is Professor Montay’s stern whisper. The powerful binding spell Professor Montay imposes only prevents me from communicating verbally. I reach out with my mind and draw the mind of our unseen intruder towards me. My reward is the apparition of a young woman not much older than Cathie or me.
“Hello,” she speaks. “I have had a dickens of a time locating you two.”
“Pardon me, but who are you?” Cathie speaks, as Professor Montay only now releases the binding spell preventing me from speaking.
“I think you both know who I am,” she speaks addressing us. “Do you two realize if I could find you two, then anyone we’ve been hiding from may have had the opportunity to find us?”
“You know you should not have come here,” Professor Montay reminds the young woman, “but I should have known better to have the three of you apart for so long.”
“Professor?” I enquire. “You know who this is?”
“She is your elder sister, Narissa,” Professor Montay concedes, “and now it will be impractical to keep the three of you separated any longer.”
“Because all three of you are witches, and damn powerful witches when you three work as a team.” I hear my Great Uncle Vlad’s voice concur, as he sits by the fire. Professor Montay tries to interrupt my Great Uncle, but it is already too late for her protest to be heard.
“Well, little sister,” My newly introduced elder sister regards me, “it’s polite to introduce me to our cousin.”
“Cathie, meet… umm,” I start to say.
“Annette, but everyone just calls me Annie…” my sister intercedes, and they hug each other before I join them. Annie stood barely an inch taller than me and her slender body matches my own except her blond locks denote the primary physical difference between us. Tears begin streaming down each of our faces and we remain locked together.
“Now, girls,” Professor Montay states, breaking our embrace and capturing our attention. “There is much to be done if the three of you are going to insist upon remaining together.”
“Yes, Professor,” we all reply in unison, wiping the tears away.
“Annette, you will of course remain here and Catherine…” Professor Montay was about to finish.
“Will also remain here,” my Great Uncle speaks loudly with confidence and a strong disposition, while remaining focused reading his newspaper and lounging in his favorite chair.
“But the locals may…” Professor Montay begins to say.
“Shall be informed she has become my ward,” my Great Uncle finishes, still not raising his brow from his newspaper.
“Vladimir, you know not what you are doing.” Professor Montay protests.
“Quite the contrary, with three students to learn from you, it makes perfect sense to have everyone stay together.” Great Uncle Vlad concludes. “It will be easier for you to make sure they stay out of mischief too.” At that precise moment, bright blue flames blaze briefly in the fireplace, and my Great Uncle merely moves his knees aside to allow three, no now four large steamer trunks to gently float past him, and up the stairs destined to take up residence in two of the other three bedrooms.
“And Narissa, I’ve taken liberty this afternoon, to relocate your belongings into one of the other bedrooms so that your Great Aunt may also take up residence.” Great Uncle Vlad spoke softly. “I hope you don’t mind I gave her your room.”
“Mind?” I reply with a smile. “I don’t mind at all.”
“Good,” my Great Uncle sings in reply as he rises from his chair and folds his newspaper. “I am guessing you three will want to get settled into your new accommodations.” Annie and Cathie join me in giving Great Uncle Vlad a huge hug before the three of us dash off. I knew our bedrooms adjoined a sitting room upstairs across the hallway from the master bedrooms that each has their own sitting room. Bounding like a herd of does, the three of us dash into the sitting room that we will share. I stop just inside the doorway, and I am greeted by Ferule. He is smartly dressed in his usual tuxedo jacket and pleated trousers. As usual, his bright green eyes, ever so much the same color as my own, blaze as he holds before him, brand new school uniforms in each of our sizes, as though trying to hide his own round form.
“I have taken the liberty of drawing out your wardrobes for the week, so that the three of you may become accustomed to wearing them before the start of your classes.” Ferule calmly states with an expressionless face. Ferule used to be employed by my parents, and with their passing, my Great Uncle concluded the most logical thing to do was retain his services. Ferule never ceases to amaze me, and quite often anticipates my needs long before I do. It is going to be interesting to see if he is going to be able to continue his astute demeanor as his responsibilities just multiplied three fold. But with the school uniforms, my heart sinks almost immediately.
“I was expecting Double Trouble,” Ferule calmly states. “But since it is now the Terrible Trio, I shall have to make some adjustments to your schedules.”
“Ferule,” I state, “you never cease to amaze me, and I suspect you never will.”
“Of course, Mistress,” Ferule replies, almost beaming from my compliment. “Dinner is at eight sharp this evening, and I trust none of you will have any problems suitably attiring yourselves.” With his last statement, Ferule hands each of us our school uniforms. With his massive frame, Ferule exits the sitting room, to which the click of the door catch signals each of us to promptly abandon the uniforms and make haste to find out whose room is whose. I know immediately that mine would be the center room. Ferule’s sense of humor, though very dry, comes instantly to my mind. Keep the ringleader and number one troublemaker front and center where it will be easier to find her, meaning of course me.
Older and wiser at right of line being my elder sister Annie, hers is the room to the right, leaving Cathie’s room to my left. I point right for Annie, left for Cathie, and I head straight ahead for myself. Each of us reaches our respective doors and we each open them. My room is a carbon copy of my old room, as I left it this morning. The only exception is the placement of an additional wardrobe. I look both to my left and to my right, and as if on cue, the three of us shout with glee and rushed into each of our rooms excitedly. Knowing everything else is as it was, I open the door of the second wardrobe. I find a full complement of seven school uniforms and a space for the eighth I have abandoned on the sitting room floor. Ferule did not miss a thing. But school uniforms? Closely inspecting each set, I find a crest richly embroidered on the right breast of the blazers. Pasted to the inside of the wardrobe door, I find a letter from the school outlining that the school has a new benefactor and has donated uniforms for each and every student as part of his donation. Incidentally, the letter also states the colors are the same as a local boarding school that burned to the ground long before I was born. I can now easily conclude the uniforms are nothing more than equalizers whose sole purpose is to allow the three of us to more easily blend into the student body should anyone try to individually locate us. The phrase – can’t see the forest for the trees, comes to my mind.
“Yes, they are equalizers,” Ferule’s voice announces from behind me. “I chose the colors from the school crest and found them to be satisfactory.”
“Ferule?” I question. “But why? I mean how?”
”Your parents left me a very sizable stipend from their estate,” Ferule states. “And ladies should be dressed as ladies, gentlemen as they should be, and as I have not been able to spend any amount previously, I thought it would be appropriate.” The dark skirt and blazer sharply contrast the simple white blouse with the school crest boldly embroidered with white thread on the blazer’s thick woolen material.
“And you dropped this,” Ferule calmly states, as he hangs the uniform I had abandoned onto the hook in the center of the door. Starting to giggle I manage to entice Ferule to actually drop his studious demeanor slightly and return a smile.
“Hey sis!” Annie exclaims as she bounds into my room, causing Ferule’s smile to instantly vanish. “You got to see this! You got to see this!” as Cathie also bounds into my room, bumping into Ferule. Annie and Cathie have both wasted no time in changing into matching dresses with complementing cutaway tailcoats. The simple gold clasp closing each coat is in perfect contrast to the jet-black material.
“You’ll each find matching shoes at the foot of your beds,” I state, and each of them return to their rooms to find the missing pieces to their ensembles.
“Yes, Mistress,” Ferule muses, “Ringleader front and center.”
“Ferule!” I exclaim. “That’s not fair! You cannot accuse me of something I haven’t even done yet.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Ferule muses back once again. “I shall endeavor to refrain from doing that.” I could no longer resist and wrap my arms around his neck as I leap into his outstretched arms. My giggling turned into a full laugh by the time Cathie and Annie return back into my room with their shoes clicking across the floor. The three of us start screaming with joy and dancing around my room. Ferule takes his leave, but I catch him sending me a wink as he closes my bedroom door following with the sound of his walking stick clicking across the floor. I then take notice, as the three of us shriek, that the placement of the bedroom walls seemed to be a little off.
I temporarily put it out of my mind as I strip my clothes off and attire myself exactly as Cathie and Annie. Finally slipping my shoes onto my feet, the three of us only needed red and white striped tights, long capes, and pointy hats to be stereotyped as a coven of witches. Seeing as how Ferule has already labeled me as the ringleader, I soon find a pair folded neatly in my undergarment drawer. My sister and cousin promptly follow suit and the three of us mock each other as though our next fabulous adventure will include a midnight flight.
Advancing back into the sitting room, we each find matching roll-top student desks forming a triangle, and facing each other. In the middle stands a podium meant clearly for the purpose of Professor Montay to conduct her lessons from. The sitting room door springs open and Professor Montay steps in, wearing a similar dress to our own, though much more appropriate for a matron such as herself being floor length instead of mid-calf as ours are.
“Good evening, ladies.” Professor Montay’s voice sings. “We should not keep the master of the house waiting much longer.” And she stands aside the door to conduct ourselves single file past her and into the hallway.
“Ladies, You each forgot something.” Professor Montay states as she taps her own wand against the doorframe. Our wands speed past the open door and into each of our left hands and the door closes behind them. “The three of you will be wise to keep them with you always.”
“Yes, Professor,” we respond together, and we each tuck our wands into the slender pockets sewn into the tailcoats.
“And I do not like having to remind you ladies about things you should already know. Your lessons will continue each evening, with the only exception being this evening.”
“Yes, Professor,” We respond together once more as we begin marching down the hallway to the staircase.
“Um… Professor?” I start to ask. “Will we be…?”
“Attired as you are now, each and every evening,” Professor Montay finishes. “You will be studying, therefore, some sort of uniformity is required, I think.”
“Yes, Professor,” we answer once more in unison. Though somewhat formal, our attire is unique and makes us appear older than our few years will otherwise allow.
“But you may attire yourselves as you please on week ends,” Professor Montay added. “Young ladies need to be able to express some individuality.”
Professor Montay’s last statement makes me smile, and as the youngest, I have strategically placed myself last in line as we descend the stairs. Uncle Vlad waits patiently at the foot of the stairs. His Tuxedo matches the cut of our tailcoats, though it was clearly evident, the tailcoats were intended for someone female and our own age range. Great Uncle Vlad offers a cloak to Professor Montay and we each accept matching cloaks offered to us from Ferule. Ferule wears a matching cloak with his usual jacket and pleated trousers.
The six of us depart the house and into the waiting Hudson outside. Ferule dutifully closes the passenger side door, rounds the front with his shoes clicking against the driveway’s cobblestones and into the operator’s compartment. The Hudson glides away from the house almost silently after Ferule roars the engine to life.
“Tonight may be the last time we may safely venture out as a group,” Uncle Vlad states, “but we do so tonight so that the community may know we are a family unit of sorts.”
“Your best behavior is required this evening, Ladies,” Professor Montay states warmly.
“But be on your guard,” Great Uncle Vlad adds. “Our enemies may know where we are, but do not know the three of you are together, hence our unity may be enough of a disguise to confuse them.”
“Professor?” I ask.
“Yes, my dear,” Professor Montay responds as I note the affection in her voice is genuine.”
“What is so important about the three of us?” I question.
“You three represent generations, twenty-seven of them to be exact, of a prophecy decreed would one day come. Your stations are destined to be as the heads of the other nine houses of our family,” She spoke clearly and with conviction. “Your mother’s were both thought to have been a pair of the three, but with your birth.” Professor Montay states accusingly, while staring straight at me, “That we knew, we all knew, that it was you three who were the ones we have waited for.” Listening intently, my sister and cousin joined me in wanting to know more.
“But what is it that makes the three of us, what you think we are?” Cathie asked.
“Oraculum de Tres Virtus is a prophecy, written by your ancestor, that clearly defines...” Professor Montay replied.
“The significance of my birth.” I state aloud, realizing now I was the one.
“You are correct.” Great Uncle Vlad proudly states. “I have watched each and every female child born into the family since I was given the task, to match your blood lines with careful scrutiny against the clues our ancestor left for us to find.”
“You three have the power within you that, when combined, may hold the key to releasing the family from the exile our ancestor tried in vain to prevent.” Professor Montay explained.
“But how will we know if we can succeed where everyone else before us has failed?” Annie asks innocently.
“You will know, Mistress,” I hear Ferule’s voice in my mind. No longer listening to the conversation, I sense a deep affection from Ferule.
“Ferule?” I project to Ferule only. “How do you know how to do that?”
“You already know, Mistress,” he answers, with his voice softly echoing inside my head. “Your mother knew it too, that is why she sacrificed herself to save you.”
“I love you, Ferule,” I project most affectionately. “And I understand completely now.” I feel a sharp jab in my ribs from my sister, and break my communication with Ferule.
“Hey, stop dreaming and pay attention,” Annie quips. “You want to share anything with the rest of us?”
“Love,” I offer in reply. The puzzling look on my sister’s face tells me she does not understand as I did.
“You have mastered more in a few months than any of us have in centuries,” Professor Montay concludes, “and yet you remain modest in your displays of wisdom.”
I feel a similar wave of euphoria sweeping over me as I have experienced only twice before. This time it passes without even raising my pulse. I know exactly what I am capable of achieving. The only barrier in my way was learning how to break through that barrier and become the one witch to collect all the pieces scattered through the fabric of time itself.
“Love, it’s all we need,” I state quietly as I peer through the side window and into the night beyond.