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 fully refreshed. The lingering odor of brimstone surrounded me, as I was sure Ferule had remained the entire night in his true form as a Green Dragon. Having released him from his imposed prison, he was now free to transform himself back and forth at will as the Gentle Butler I have known him as my entire life and the Familiar he offers himself as. The sorcery inherent to his species is evident around me, as strong barriers protect my room. These same barriers, I will find later, are to extend to envelope the entire house belonging to my Great Uncle, thus positively reinforcing the portals the house already has in place. I stretched while continuing to lounge under the warm covers. I scratch Ferule’s massive head and he snorts a short blast of his hot breath scorching the wall beside my nightstand. With a quick wave of my hand, I erase the evidence of his indiscriminate damage and a familiar thick cloud rolls around him as he rises from the floor.
“Good Morning, Mistress.” Ferule greets me.
“Good Morning, Ferule.” I warmly greet him back.
“I took the liberty of…” Ferule begins.
“…Of setting out my wardrobe for today.” I finish. I accompany my conclusion with a wink that he returns, as he dutifully excuses himself to wake Cathie and Annie. I quickly dress in the exercise clothing set out for me, which was nothing more than a simple tank top and pair of shorts with a wrap over resembling a skirt. Lady like to the end, it seems that decorum is to be imposed in every way possible.
I quickly spin my long red hair into a simple pony tail and proceeded to the female undergarments meant to hold everything in place while still allowing freedom of movement as I finish dressing myself. I enter our sitting room, which doubles as our private classroom and waste no time in tying a pair of running shoes onto my feet. I begin a slow steady stretch routine before Cathie then Annie appears, similarly attired. Together, I lead them thru a complete pre exercise warm-up before we exit into the hallway lastly placing our wands into the slender pockets hidden in our clothing for the purpose. We are completely shocked to find Professor Montay dressed in the same style of clothing as ourselves, and already waiting patiently.
“Good Morning, Ladies.” Professor Montay greets us. “Are you ready to begin?”
“Yes Professor.” We state, though not in unison.
“Then today your exercise program will consist of a paced run, so I may evaluate each of your levels of fitness.” Professor Montay instructs us. “And no need for a tail this morning, shall we Narissa?”
“Yes, of course, Professor.” I answer with a smile that Professor Montay returns with a wink. We proceed to the staircase single file and the thru open front door with Professor Montay leading, and then step out into a leisurely running pace as we hit the front sidewalk. Remaining single file, Professor Montay leads us to the sports field at Linwood grounds where she halts herself, and allows us to pass still single file to proceed onto the clay running track. The physical activity serves a dual purpose to clear our minds while allowing our bodies to remain healthy. I find the paced run this morning to be refreshing as well as invigorating and together we form up abreast of one another as we now begin to pace each other. With out any communications between us, we circle the track in solitude. The two hundred and fifty meter track passes under our feet a total of twelve times before Professor Montay blew her whistle.
“Take your pulse, ladies.” Professor Montay instructed. I knew from the Linwood coaches that the best place to take a pulse was from the neck, and the three of us paced back and forth gulping air into our lungs as we replied by taking our pulses. She then chirped her whistle once more, signaling us to report.
“One-sixty” Annie panted.
“One-fifty-five” Cathie huffed between breaths.
“One-sixty-five” I also panted.
“Well done, Ladies” Professor Montay praised. “A quick cool down, then you can hit the showers.” Together, I led Annie and Cathie in a cool down routine, after which Professor Montay signaled once again with a quick chirp from her whistle.
“Eighty” stated Annie, calmly.
“Seventy-five” Cathie called out.
“Seventy-five” I replied, equaling Cathie’s pulse rate. Our recovery pulse rates were well within acceptable limits for females our age and weight. Professor Montay led us single file from the sports field and we headed towards home with sweat dripping, as our bodies continued to cool down after having paced ourselves to the three kilometers in just under twenty minutes. I felt as though the physical activity while demanding, had allowed me to relieve the stresses of the past few days. I was feeling very much invigorated, but more importantly not ready to indulge in any mischief that would cause me to have to endure another ten-minute punishment’. I was famished. We arrived uneventfully at home, though we did see other students we recognized also partaking in early morning fitness.
Thankfully, the shower had been built large enough to accommodate more than just us with a total of six showerheads, and more than enough warm fluffy towels waiting for us to dry off. Ferule had not missed a thing with luxurious hair conditioners, and an individual bar of soap for each of us wrapped and waiting for use. I turned on the water valves and all six-shower heads began to spray warm water into the shower. I stripped down while enjoying the warmth bouncing off my body and I pampered myself with some perfumed shampoo on my hair. Cathie and Annie dismayed I had just stepped into the shower with my clothes on, had stripped down before entering the shower.
“Couldn’t wait, huh?” Annie noted.
“Definitely” I spat back with my face partially doused from one of the showerheads. “Besides, it’s not like I’m going to be wearing those sweaty clothes again today.”
“Good point.” Cathie concluded, as with such a head start from them, I could enjoy the spray of warm water that much longer. I soaped myself down completely while the mineral oil I had folded into my hair was given the time to work. The personal razors set out in our bathing sets gave me beautifully smooth legs, while those nasty underarm hairs began to be washed down the drain along with the sweat from our exercise. I felt refreshed as I began to rinse the mineral oil from my hair.
“First day of classes at Linwood today” Cathie broke the silence with. I was enjoying the warm water far too much at this point to want to be distracted by anything other than breakfast.
“Breakfast anyone?” I asked, as I began to leave the sanctuary of the warm shower stall. “I’ll see you two in the kitchen.” Leaving Cathie and Annie to finish up, water dripping, I stepped onto the warm bath mat waiting to caress my feet, and grabbed a bath towel from the warmer tray.
“Fabulous!” I exclaimed. Annie and Cathie followed close behind me and I tossed each of them a bath towel in turn. Drying off I was only now slightly ahead of them as I raced into a bath robe and slipped my feet into a pair of bath slippers before I exited and headed directly to my bedroom, with my wand floating in the air behind me. A hand towel wrapping my hair became my only modesty as my wand dropped into the rack and I began grabbing undergarments from my dressing table. My victory soon wrapped each of my legs and conveniently covered my bottom as I proceeded into garments above my waist. The Linwood School uniform I had on in almost lightening speed as I fed my feet into the most hideous shoes I have ever seen before slipping into my school blazer.
I spun the towel off my head and wove a braided hair wrap around my long hair leaving me with a single thick tail of hair running down my back. Now completely dressed, I paraded into the sitting room to find Annie and Cathie had unceremoniously followed my lead and deposited their own towels on the floor to which I shuffled them into a linen basket sitting against the wall, and had my wand follow me down the hallway towards breakfast. I arrived in the kitchen just in time to have my wand disappear into its hidden pocket before I sat at the breakfast nook. I dived right into the huge mountain of food piled neatly onto serving dishes still warm from the ovens. Ferule knew exactly what I liked for breakfast and seemed to know exactly how hungry I was with my plate double what it usually was. I was halfway thru my plate when Ferule brought serving plates for Annie and Cathie.
“As usual Ferule,” I spoke politely with my mouth empty. “You have prepared nothing less than perfection.” To which I affectionately blew him a kiss as Both Annie and Cathie entered the kitchen. Their breakfast plates equaled my own. I slowed my pace from shoveling so as not to be impolite as they sat down at the table. I leisurely gnawed away at a piece of toast while Annie and Cathie attacked breakfast.
“I guess I’m safe as long as I keep my hands and feet at a distance.” I giggled. Both Annie and Cathie stopped long enough to realize they were both as hungry as I was, and joined me in some polite conversation as we planned our preordained day.
“You two ready to make our debut in style this morning?” I asked mischievously.
“I think we should make a definite impression with the matching shoes we all have.” Cathie noted.
“By the way, did either of you choose these hideous things?” Annie quipped.
“They were Professor Montay’s suggestion, Ladies.” Ferule added from behind the cooking range as he prepared plates for Uncle Vlad, Professor Montay and Karl who would be a guest for breakfast this morning. Ferule I noted always ate by himself, and there were times when I really did not want to know what his diet consisted of, but I had a pretty good idea that a whole goat or a small cow was not beyond the usual meal for a dragon.
“We shall have to find a way to thank her.” Annie offered back to Ferule, as the three of us grinned. Breakfast soon drew to a close, as Ferule prepared the breakfast nook for the next serving, and we each gave him a hug before we departed to gather our bags and school texts. We unceremoniously draped our cloaks over our arms as we fled thru the portal and into the bright sunshine rising above the trees. We walked three abreast as though commanding the walkway.
Our marching procession in such perfect time with one another that I am sure a regimental sergeant major would have thought we were veteran troops under his command. This time as the appointed ringleader, I marched with my lieutenants on either side of me as we approached the school. With other students milling about on the grass and benches, a path opened before us as we continued in unison. I felt the eyes and heard the whispers as we advanced. Just then, my least favorite group of students jostled themselves in front of us and stopped dead in their tracks. Confidence emanated from all three of us as they prepared to assault. Cathie and Annie mused themselves with several pairs of shoelaces as I stared down their leader.
“Hey everyone,” The bully announced, “Look who we have here.”
“How are your fingers?” I quipped, before he could offer any other smart-ass comment. His reaction was to quickly protect his splinted fingers from further harm. We stood our ground and had drawn first blood. We advanced forward to have the now tied shoelaces perform their trickery and the other bullies appeared to have tripped over their own feet as we passed thru their midst. I felt his hand tug against my skirt where my wand lay hidden to have him instantly remove his hand as though struck with a fireplace poker.
Our passing made the entire group of bullies look like bumbling fools to everyone else and we ascended to short flight of stone steps and into the main hallway of the school as the entrance bell announced a ten-minute warning to the start of classes. We commanded the hallway as we proceeded thru to morning assembly in the auditorium. The remainder of the student body followed like new recruits, including the entire senior class. Together Annie, Cathie and I sat confidently and prominently at front row center and hooked our ankles in a most dignified manner. The student body quickly filled the auditorium and filled the spaces around us like moths surrounding a bright light.
We remained silent as we overheard whispers of what had transpired between us and the most disreputable students of Linwood. Our combined silence held the flood of questions at bay as Principal Marriott entered the auditorium with the staff behind her. I noted the staff uniforms showed how they were set apart from the students by being crisply tailored and resembling business suits of both male and female distinctions. I was impressed with Ferule’s complete attention to detail, which incidentally included gold thread for the school crest, plain black stockings for the women, and a conservative black tie for the men. Distinctiveness thru simplicity. We continued to wait for Principal Marriott to address the auditorium as the teaching staff filed behind her. The verbal noise died out with a sudden swiftness as attention focused upon the podium.
“Good morning students.” Principal Marriott spoke loudly, shattering the silence. “And welcome back to another year. As everyone here has noticed, we have a new benefactor to the school whose generosity is clearly apparent. Some of our benefactor’s gratuity shall become more evident as you head thru the school, with an addition to the library and the school cafeteria…” Principal Marriott continued her address as I felt a familiar presence enter the auditorium.
“Ferule?” I projected to both Annie and Cathie and enquired. “What are you doing here?”
“Play along, mistress.” Ferule’s voice echoed back. “You shall know soon enough.” Principal Marriott was introducing the last of the staff now.
“And lastly, our school has a chef and dietician.” She announced. “Mr. Drago.” She announced Ferule to the auditorium and he graciously gave a short bow to everyone from the back of the auditorium where he stood, while heads whipped around to see who he was. I suppressed the urge to giggle along with Cathie and Annie.
“Now remember, Mr. Drago,” Cathie projected out. “We have never met before.”
“Of course, Miss Cathie,” Ferule projected back to us. “As do you, Miss Annie and you, Miss Narissa.” Ferule’s dry sense of humor was showing thru without any doubts he was to become a part of the school to watch over and protect us as a first line of defense.
“Thank you, Ferule.” I projected softly. “I will try so very hard not to be too informal.”
“I know you will, mistress.” Ferule’s voice softly echoed inside my head. It was precisely at that same moment that I heard ‘Duchess’ being uttered and instantly zeroed in on the person who uttered it. I projected firmly into the mind of a student I recognized from the reception dinner. I felt a wave of instant fear from the female student whose mind I had invaded. Her immediate silence was met with my direct stare. With the address now completed we all remained seated as the staff exited the auditorium.
“We have a problem.” I spoke quietly to Annie and Cathie as we rose from our seats. Annie had felt my firm projection to the female student. I proceeded to her and greeted her like an old friend, as Annie and Cathie waited close behind. My greeting startled her slightly in complete contrast to my protective reaction.
“Hi! I’m Narissa” I spoke.
“T-T-Thank you, N-N-Narissa.” She stammered. I wrapped my arm around her in a friendly manner and we walked ahead of Cathie and Annie. “I’m Valerie.”
“I need to ask you a very important favor,” I whispered, sensing she felt a little more at ease. “And to never mention ‘Duchess’ along with my name ever again.”
“But…” Valerie began.
“For your continued safety and my own.” I interrupted. “You must never make the connection, as I am in seclusion so I may continue my studies.”
“I understand now.” Valerie replied. “But I can’t keep this a secret.”
“You must,” I concluded to her. “For your own safety, you must.” We would see Valerie again later that same morning, and though it pained me to do so, I was left with little choice but to project these findings to Professor Montay.
“You did what had to be done, my dear.” I heard the professor’s voice inside my head. “I shall make an inspection to ensure you did no irreparable harm to her and make any correction required to her memories.” I wondered just how many other times she had confided secretly in others about my identity. I hated gossip. Any damage, if it was done, was collateral. I was sure Professor Montay would be able to extract any memories about what Valerie had said to anyone, and thus be able to stop the spread of any information. The only question now, was how much did the student body already know.
Lunch soon arrived and similar to breakfast, I was famished once again. Together, we clicked our heels into the school cafeteria where we found Ferule dutifully directing the kitchen staff. The cafeteria was being run like the dining room of an expensive restaurant. It was absolute perfection to watch as Ferule demanded perfection from the staff with submission of the students to decorum. Together we waited patiently to be seated.
“Miss Annie, Miss Cathie, Miss Narissa. Your lunch, awaits you.” Ferule beamed.
“Thank you, Mr. Drago.” We sang together, as he ushered us to our table secluded near the kitchen.
“I’ve taken the liberty of including some guests with you.” Ferule whispered as we approached the table, and he departed to the kitchen. I surveyed the entire cafeteria, and noted that every student had a seat. These seats were now assigned by Ferule according to student age, sex, and grade point average. Our seating companions included Valerie and two other girls we’d never met before, but were with her earlier during Assembly.
“Hello Narissa,” Valerie greeted me. “I’m sorry, but I think Mr. Drago made a mistake.”
“Trust me… Mr. Drago does not make mistakes.” Annie quipped, “Hi, I’m Annie.”
“And I’m Cathie.” Cathie introduced herself. We seated ourselves at the table.
“I’m Rachel.” One of the girls introduced herself as.
And I’m Deanna.” The last girl spoke. We were all near the same age, but in different classes. I pointed out to our lunch companions that my sister was not my twin, but exactly nine months older than I was, and Cathie was our cousin, only three days older than I was. During lunch we ascertained that Rachel and Valerie were sisters and that Deanna was their cousin. I sensed no binding that Professor Montay had cast upon Valerie, and noted that the other two had not similar bindings either. Strange I thought…
“Miss Narissa,” Ferule announced. “You have a message from your uncle.” To which Ferule placed a silver tray upon the table with the note set upon it. I left it where it was as I thanked Ferule before he departed.
“Aren’t you going to read it?” enquired Rachel.
“It’s Monday, which means my uncle will be late for dinner because of business.” I lied. I knew full well that if I suggested the contents of the message and left the note unread, or even if our lunch companions looked at it, the message they would understand was exactly what they had already been told it would be.
Remember your mother’s letter
That was all it said. Of course! I realized immediately. After finishing our lunch I noticed the buttons on our dining companion’s blazers. I made a mental note as I placed my hands palm down on the tabletop, displaying my ring. The reaction from Valerie, Rachel and Deanna was instantaneous. I then gave a ‘sh-sh-sh-sh’ sign after. Everyone understood completely. Cathie displayed her broach, Annie displayed a locket. Valerie, Rachel and Deanna all thumbed their lapel buttons. So somehow, we were all family and knew the importance of the secret we had to keep. Together, we agreed to meet in the library during afternoon class break and to discuss their stations in regards to our own. The clock could not tick by fast enough as the bell signaling the start of afternoon lessons rang. We wiped our minds of the discovery from lunch and buried ourselves in our studies.
“You have any idea who they are, Annie?” Cathie asked, seeing as how Annie was a more logical source of information, when we emerged between classes.
“Absolutely no idea what so ever.” Annie fired back.
“Gris Maison.” I whispered. “They must be from the Gris Maison. Sent as decoys and with no idea the danger they are in.” we walked once again in stride as though we commanded the hallway, and arrived at the library. Valerie, Rachel and Deanna arrived as the three of us entered the library and we quickly sequestered ourselves deep within the library. We all noted our proximity to anyone who could possibly be close enough to overhear.
“We know who you are.” Valerie spoke first.
“Don’t ever speak aloud about who I am.” I projected softly to Valerie.
“We understand completely.” I heard Valerie, Rachel and Deanna’s voices echo in my head. “But we have been raised our entire lives, that if we ever met you, to tell our parents immediately.”
“You are to tell no one.” I heard both Cathie’s and Annie’s voices echo back to them.
“Not even our parents?” The other three replied looking rather perplexed.
“Especially not your parents.” I projected. “My mother secluded me away to protect me and paid for that with her own life.”
“And I have a duty to ensure that she remains hidden, until it is time…” I heard Professor Montay’s voice join into the projection. Upon hearing her voice in my thoughts I knew it would not be safe to continue projecting further.
“Ladies,” I heard Ferule’s voice behind me. “Please accompany me to the Principal’s Office.” I could tell that Ferule was using this as a ruse, as we’d been caught skipping our last period classes. Valerie, Rachel and Deanna were escorted into Principal Marriott’s office first and we all heard her voice being raised while imploring the importance of being at classes on time. Principal Marriott’s office door sprang open and the other three fled single file. We were escorted in moments later.
“Ladies, Mr. Drago informed me of your truancy.” Principal Marriott began loudly, much like she had stated with Valerie, Rachel and Deanna. “And as such the three of you will be joining the other ladies in detention. Being third years you should know better than to lead junior class members to share in your truancy.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” We answered together.
“Professor Montay is waiting for the three of you.” She concluded.
“Go Now.” Together we turned on our heels and exited the office. Single file we passed out of the office and headed to detention. We found Valerie, Rachel and Deanna waiting for us with Professor Montay.
“Professor…?” I began. “Just how much trouble are we in?”
“A great deal, Ladies.” Professor Montay began. “Truancy here at Linwood will not be tolerated. Have I made you ladies understand that your secret meeting is something you must swear to never repeat again.” Our three companions nervously glanced at one another.
“It’s my fault, Professor.” I admitted openly. “I take full responsibility for the others and beg your forgiveness… Ten minutes, Professor?”
“Ten minutes, Ladies.” Professor Montay confirmed, as she exited the detention room. I estimated that Professor Montay would envelop the detention room and that was as large a window as she could do without raising any alarms.
“Good, I don’t have a lot of time to fully explain, so you have to trust me.” I began. Cathie and Annie sat back, while Valerie, Rachel and Deanna listened intently. “I am the Twenty-Seventh Duchess of Brougham. You must swear to never reveal who I am or where I am to anyone at any time. I must have you swear this, as your own lives and the lives of your parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins depends upon my remaining hidden until my time to ascend comes.”
“Y-Y-Yes, Mistress.” They spoke sheepishly together.
“Do you so swear?” I commanded softly.
“I swear, Mistress.” Valerie responded.
“I swear it.” Rachel answered.
“As do I so swear.” Deanna said proudly.
“You are now bound by command, and if you should break your
vow, I will know it.” I softly responded. “You word is now your bond.”
“Professor…” I softly projected. I felt the room released from a powerful binding, much more beyond my capability to have produced. “And thank Ferule for me please.”
“You already have, my dear.” Professor Montay echoed back as the door to detention sprang open.
“Ladies, when a member of the staff enters a room you will stand.” Professor Montay commanded as though the past few minutes she had no part in, leaving our three companions believing she was nothing more than a regular member of the staff. We rose quickly to our feet in response. She walked to the front of the room and retrieved a notebook. “You have eight minutes, Ladies.” And she departed the room once again.
I noticed Deanna about to speak when Rachel kicked her swiftly in the heels and shook her head. We slowly sat and remained silent for a further eight minutes as Professor Montay had commanded. She returned punctually and entered the detention. Our response was ordained from her previous entry, to stand.
“You may now leave, Ladies.” Professor Montay spoke. “And I trust I shall not have you returned to me any time in the near future.”
“Yes, Professor.” Annie, Cathie, Deanna, Rachel, Valerie and I answered in a staggered manner, and we all fled the room.
“What a mean woman!” I heard Deanna mumble under her breath.
“We know.” Annie, Cathie and I answered. “She’s our tutor.”
“No way!” Valerie, Rachel and Deanna exclaimed.
“Yes way.” We responded. “If you want to see how mean she can really be, meet us on the sports field tomorrow morning.”
“The forest for the trees.” I thought only to myself. “Hidden in plain sight.” It was moments later that the final bell of the day rang and the hallways exploded into a bustle of students trying to make their way to lockers and then make haste towards the doors. We once again commanded the center of the hallway as we exited the school in the same manner as we entered that morning. Following behind now was our three new companions instep with us. The school bullies made it a point to move out of our way, as we confidently possessed the walkway. We headed to our after school duties at Karl’s bookshop. Valerie, Rachel and Deanna completed their homework while we went about our duties and together we all finally sat with Karl for afternoon tea.
“Annie.” Deanna politely asked. “We know you three are witches, but why have you never attended an approved school like we have?”
“Deanna,” my sister politely, yet firmly replied with a hint of anger in her voice. “My mother gave her own life so my sister and I could live. She endured a self-imposed exile because, our father had been ostracized by the counsel for speaking out against them. Neither I, nor my sister, nor my cousin, nor even our uncle is allowed to set foot anywhere near a formal school or any place controlled by the council. Because of that, we learn our studies in secret. Do you now understand the privileges you have that are denied to us?”
“I understand.” Deanna spoke softly. I could no longer restrain myself, and the tears ran silently down my face. I remained staring straight ahead and resolved as the twenty-seventh of my line, to restore the entire family to what has been denied to us. No one noticed my sadness while I stood against the window as the rain outside gently began falling. No one noticed my tears suddenly cease, as I had no more to weep. I turned and resolved myself to solve two riddles. The memories given to me from Ferule and the mystery of the text sitting in the middle of the reading room were difficult challenges that I felt were most worthy of my attention. Rachel noticed my movement towards the text and reached it before I did. I had regained my composure completely and she had no clue how the honesty my sister displayed had affected me. I now stood before the text and stared at it.
“Narissa…?” Rachel asked. “Is this true?”
“It is.” Was the only answer I offered in reply, as I pondered the text. Somehow I felt the text calling to me as it lay reflecting what little light there was emanating from the fixtures in the reading lounge. I gently ran my fingers down the spine as though consoling a friend. Somehow, this text and the memories were connected, but I had yet to make the connection between them.
“Valerie… Isn’t this the text that mother said used to be at the museum?” Deanna asked. Startled slightly, I immediately focused my thoughts as Valerie came forward to inspect the text.
“No, it can’t be the same one, because the council said it was too valuable to remain on display.” Valerie answered. “And mother said it had been locked for so long that no one could remember how to open it.” Both Valerie and Rachel looked at me.
“I do.” I smiled as I stated it. The memory of the text held open in the hand of the woman who created it came flooding into view as clearly as if it had been my own memory.
“APERIO…” I commanded. My ring tingled slightly as the bound edges were released and I merely lifted the cover open. To everyone else the pages were completely blank. To me every word richly scrolled in bright green ink leapt out of the pages.
“There’s nothing written in it.” Rachel scoffed. Just then, both Cathie and Annie looked over the shoulders of the other two as Deanna stood behind the stand looking upside down at the empty pages. Both Annie and Cathie placed their hands along with mine in the center of the open text.
“OSTENDO!” we commanded, and the rich green ink began to write itself quickly across the open text showing the others that the pages were indeed not blank.
“Now…” I commented. “You have never seen this text, you have no idea where it is, and you are still sworn to secrecy. UNDERSTAND?”
“Y-Y-Yes, M-M-Mistress.” My younger relatives swore.
“I apologize, Mistress.” Valerie offered. “I… I mean, we did not know you… I mean, oh, hell… what am I saying!” And I did nothing more than gently close the cover to which the text firmly locked itself once again. “Wait, can I see…” Valerie quickly withdrew her hand as though she’d been badly burned, though her hand had no such mark from when she touched it. I once again smoothed my hand gently down the spine of the book as though I was affectionately stroking a pet. The power of three could reveal its contents, but alone, only I could read it, or even open it. The text remained reflecting the dim light of the reading lounge once more. I backed away from the text, and allowed anyone else to step forward. Reluctantly, Deanna tried.
Much like I did, she ran the tips of her fingers down the spine and was then allowed to be able to touch it. But the open command did not work for her, nor in turn did it work for Rachel, nor Valerie, nor Cathie, nor even Annie. Annie remained standing in front of the book and I meekly called out, ‘APERIO’ and Annie was able to lift the text’s cover. The pages appeared blank to everyone, but not to me. Feeling a little mischievous I spoke ‘CLAUDO’ and the text quickly snapped shut, once more firmly locked.
“NEAT!” Annie exclaimed. Cathie stepped up to the text, after stroking the spine, simply spoke ‘OSTENDO’ and the three interlocked rings appeared as though embossed with the deepest of green ink upon the cover. Cathie stroked the spine once more and the image faded quickly, returning the text back to its original condition. In awe, Valerie, Rachel and Deanna wanted to know how we were able to do that without wands. Almost on queue, each of our wands began dancing above my head, Cathie and Annie’s after having slipped from our hidden pockets.
“What…!” Valerie exclaimed, “You’re allowed to have your wands?”
“We have to protect ourselves somehow.” Annie replied. “You’re not allowed?”
“No,” Rachel returned, “It’s a council rule.”
“Be a rebel.” Cathie noted, “If you’re going to be with us, you’re may need to be able to defend yourself.”
“And we do observe one rule.” I added. “No wands during study or lessons unless directed. It’s not negotiable and shall be strictly observed.” I remembered Professor Montay’s words. It was now fast approaching five-thirty, and we still had to change for our evening lessons.
We quickly cleaned up the tray from our tea, and ushered ourselves out after all six of us gave Karl a huge hug. Our three companions departed, but not before promising to join us on the sports field and we quickly headed for home. We barely had enough time to change into robes before our evening study began, so we wasted no time in heading directly for our suite, deposited our wands and made haste as clothes swiftly departed and we reappeared attired identically before the clock struck as we stood by our desks. Professor Montay entered the room punctually.
“Good evening, Ladies,” Professor Montay greeted us with the most affection she’d displayed to date. “You’ve had a very exciting day. And I must say that your three newest companions will be a welcome addition to morning exercise.”
“Professor…?” I asked. “How could you possibly know?”
“Don’t worry my dear,” She quipped back. “I’ll teach you that too… someday.” Together we expressed several giggles, while Professor Montay reviewed our previous lesson. She dutifully checked our work assignments before giving us extra study. I did however catch her smiling with approval as to the quality of each of our work, and the quantity of knowledge we each retained. And just for good measure she hung us upside down and forbade us from using our wands. It took us twenty-seven seconds to turn ourselves upright, but turned the remainder of the room upside down. That took us more than fifteen minutes to figure out, to which Professor Montay quipped if we were extending the usual ten minutes or not. For that I gave her a wink and no shoelaces. I only had to endure my cutlery on the ceiling for two minutes before dinner.
Our following lesson included how to use inanimate objects as portals. This was to become a skill I would easily master. Lights out that night once again found my nostrils with the familiar scent I was slowly becoming accustomed to.
“Ferule…” I projected softly as I rested my head on my pillow.
“You do not need to say it, Mistress.” Ferule answered affectionately inside my head as we silently communicated to only one another. I could feel my sister and my cousin were fast asleep, as was the rest of the house. I affectionately scratched his head while he snorted another cloud of brimstone.
“Take me to her.” I asked while I wrapped myself in a warm cloak and commanded my wand to me.
“Mistress, it is too dangerous.” Ferule projected into my thoughts.
“I know, but I have to know where she is.” I projected silently back, while pulling the hood of the cloak over my head.
“You have the same stubborn will.” He snorted, as a saddle appeared on his back, just in front of his massive wings. “Very well, Mistress, But beware.”
“We will together, Ferule.” I projected one more time, then did no more while climbing into the saddle before Ferule leapt thru my now open window and into the night sky. A storm front to hid us as he gained altitude and speed. I remained silent though Ferule seemed to sense what I was thinking. His flight was seemingly unimpeded by the weather as we approached her resting place. Ferule circled the lone field twice before setting down.
“We may not tarry long, Mistress.” Ferule snorted aloud. “And do not use any of your skills while we are here, lest we be detected. It is all I can do to remain invisible to them.
“I understand, Ferule.” I spoke almost in a whisper, as I hugged his massive neck. His rough scales cut one of my fingers as I dismounted the saddle. I knew my finger was perhaps almost too deeply cut, but I needed to bind myself to her so that I could more easily make sense of the memories. Yes, it was dangerous, but to me well worth the risk. I pressed my now bloodied finger into the simple weathered stone unceremoniously marking her place. It was done. My finger was instantly healed as my blood shrank into the stone and I rose back into the saddle on Ferule’s back.
“We will meet each other soon.” I whispered, as Ferule leapt back into the sky with my will surrounding us with clouds. “One more stop to make, Ferule, and this one I have to do alone.”
“As you wish, Mistress.” Ferule snorted in protest, but he knew to argue was pointless. I had made up my mind. Ferule gently and silently landed on the roof of an old mansion. Removing my wand, I transported myself into the Chamberlain’s bedroom with a swish. I surveyed the entire bedroom and checked for any hidden traps. I levitated his wand directly into Ferule’s waiting teeth, and took my first step towards him as he woke. He sat upright as I approached the foot of his bed and halted.
“I knew you would come someday.” He sarcastically spat at me.
“Surprised to see me so soon, Chamberlain?” I mocked him, “And don’t bother getting up on my account, I won’t be staying long.”
“How dare you mock me child!” he retorted.
“I came to deliver a message.” I stated plainly. I noted how defenseless the chamberlain appeared without his wand, but like me looks were deceiving. I sensed Ferule’s strong presence protecting me and I felt a wave of confidence. “Your time manipulating the Council is near an end, and nothing will stop me from producing the proof you have hidden from them.”
“You have no proof, otherwise you would not have come.” He hissed at me.
“True, but I ask only that you will leave us in peace.” I offered.
“What do you offer in return, child?” the chamberlain meekly asked, though I knew him to be lying. His quick offer of an exchange told me what I wanted to know. Professor Montay had indeed taught me well. His greed and evil helped me to deceive him.
“I have the text, and the means to wield its contents” I calmly offered him in return.
“You lie, child.” He mocked me back this time. “That text has been locked away for longer than you’ve been alive.” I had him; I projected and retrieved his thought so quickly he never even suspected that I’d been inside his mind. Inside a fraction of a second I had safely locked it away before Ferule shielded me once more.
“If that is so, then the power of three is no threat to you.” I mocked him with. Before he had a chance to cast his binding, Ferule launched a fireball, which with the chamberlain’s wand inside, was multiplied threefold. Wrapping myself protectively in a funnel cloud I spun myself out his open window and back into the night sky where Ferule joined me moments later. My heart beating quickly as I landed in his saddle, I unlocked the memory I stole from the chamberlain. I deduced the exact location and with Ferule’s assistance I retrieved the third text.
Together we raced so far ahead of our pursuers with heavy winds and rain behind us that they never caught up with us. I was never so relieved in my life to see my great uncle and Professor Montay standing on the front porch together with the rain shielding us from view as Ferule began his descent. Exhausted, Ferule landed silently in my room. With the third text firmly held in my hands I slumped onto my bed. My heart racing wildly, while Ferule snorted quietly. I managed to return my wand to the rack, and spirit my cloak back into the wardrobe before I heard quiet footsteps approach my door. Ferule snorted as I scratched his head affectionately before he spun himself into a cloud and departed. I pretended to be sleeping and to my relief, I heard my cousin step into my room.
”Narissa, you awake? Cathie asked, with Annie joining us. I rolled onto my back.
“Yes, I’m awake.” I softly spoke. “I’ve been busy.” My heart was still racing as I showed them the text I had rescued. They thought it was the text from Karl’s bookshop, but I showed them it was not, with not being able to open it. The third one belonged to Annie now. Now feeling completely exhausted, but with my heart pounding in my chest, I was not going to be able to get to sleep anytime soon. Annie carried her new prize possession with her as we snuck downstairs to the kitchen. Ferule had set us out each a midnight snack of cheese and fruit. Annie clutched the text as though it was glued to her hands. She refrained from indulging herself in opening it until it was reunited with the other two parts within the sanctuary of Karl’s bookshop lest opening it might somehow reveal the location it now resided. Finishing our snacks in silence we slipped back upstairs. I distinctly heard the click of Professor Montay’s door as we passed and motioned for Cathie and Annie to head back to bed, as I put my ear to her door.
“Come in, Narissa.” I heard almost silently from within the professor’s room, before I twisted the lock. “I noticed you have been busy.”
“Yes, Professor,” I replied with my head stuck thru her now open doorway. “Ten minutes?”
“We will talk in the morning, Narissa,” Professor Montay noted.
“And yes, ten minutes.”
“I do adore her sense of humor.” I mussed to myself as I gently closed the professor’s door and headed back to bed. Ferule was stretched out completely, making it difficult to find my bed. I dove into my warm, inviting pillows and blankets and soon found sleep was fast upon me.