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.
After my previous late night escapades, I was woken late, almost ten minutes exactly, to find Ferule already gone and Professor Montay’s steel grey eyes greeting me.
“You have much to do today, Narissa.” Professor Montay spoke, and she swiftly departed. I quickly dressed for morning exercise and jumped into the hallway with my wand trailing in the air behind me, while I hopped down the hallway trying to finish getting my running shoes onto my feet. My long red hair flowing like held by a strong wind was unbound. This morning we walked briskly to the sports field and began our warm-up while we waited for our three companions to join us.
It was striking to see that they were so closely attired to us as to have been more than just a coincidence. This morning we ran two by two around the clay track to find we had matched our previous timing for the twelve laps as the six of us paced back and forth following the chirp of Professor Montay’s whistle. Working heart rates and recovery rates for all of us were well within acceptable limits as all six of us dashed back to the house while we noticed there even more familiar faces partaking in similar activity to the one we had just completed.
This morning, I didn’t even bother taking off my shoes as I stepped into the shower’s warm spray. Everyone else just followed my lead, so as not to waste any of the time available. As I did the day before, I collected the wet clothing from the shower floor, to find Ferule had added a wringer to the commune area. Of course I squeezed the water out of the clothes as they fell out the opposite side and into the waiting basket. Our companions relished the warm towels while the six of us now paraded down the hallway to climb the rear stairwell and our suite above. It was curious to note I had a total of six wands bouncing behind me as I followed the rest of them upstairs. Valerie, Rachel and Deanna, were similar in stature to us, so having each of them wearing one of our spare uniforms was no problem. I also noted Ferule had not missed a single detail and even had spare pairs of matching footwear for our companions. Valerie, Rachel and Deanna were in awe as to our suite.
“So this is how the other half lives.” Rachel joked, before I noticed Valerie shoot a look at her.
“Ladies, while you may have never had to endure some of the things I have, you’ve at least always had each other.” I stated plainly. “I would gladly trade places with you, if even for just one day to have what you’ve always had.”
Valerie nodded approvingly, while Rachel was only now beginning to understand. We soon finished dressing and very close to schedule, and showed our new companions the hidden pocket for their wands. Rachel was impressed with how I was able to make my wand dance along behind me as we exited the suite and headed for breakfast.
“It’s a ‘forget-me-not’ mixed with a simple binding.” I replied to her enquiry.
“Simple?” Rachel answered back. “That’s very advanced stuff, and you do it like anyone would sharpen a pencil.”
“We don’t have very many guests, so guess what I get to do instead?” I offered back.
“Oh, school work, revision and more study, huh?” Rachel returned.
“Yup, but as they say, practice makes perfect.” I quipped.
“Our parents would freak if they knew how much you actually know, compared to what they think you might know.” Rachel mentioned, adding to our conversation.
“I know more than they could possibly even imagine.” I softly replied.
“And speaking of being a know-it-all, Narissa,” Professor Montay’s Voice boomed quietly behind me. “A word if you may.”
“Yes Professor.” I answered as my wand bounded up, across the back of my skirt and into the slender pocket with out taking my eyes off Professor Montay.
“I trust I need not to remind you to not give these three any instruction, lest they let slip to their parents.” Professor Montay warned.
“Yes Professor… Ten minutes?” I replied and asked at the same time.
“Not today, Narissa.” Professor Montay softly spoke, as I caught her wink “Your breakfast and your coven are waiting.”
With the six of us now crammed into the small kitchen nook, Ferule had prepared breakfast and served it on a communal plate along with just six forks and napkins. We all dove into it, like a wave passing by along the shore. The huge mountain of scrambled eggs, sausages, sliced ham, buttered toast and large cut fried potatoes, disappeared along with the cherry tomatoes he had rimmed the platter with.
I personally cleared the table as I heard several belches emanate while I gave Ferule a huge hug as he prepared breakfast for Professor Montay, Uncle Vlad, and Karl. We took our queue, and collected our book bags and cloaks, before passing the front door portal and into the morning sun. Similar to during exercise, we now walked briskly and confidently two by two, starting with myself and Valerie, then Rachel and Cathie, with Annie and Deanna taking up the rear. This morning we seemed to have an entourage forming behind us as we approached the Linwood grounds.
Our nemesis seemed to have a proportionately larger group than they were yesterday at the book shop. They stood between us, and the front doors, as we approached with the precision of a military parade. We halted forming a single rank instead of two by two files. We stared them down waiting like the calm preceding a storm.
“So, look who we have.” Their ringleader and most obnoxious one spoke. We remained silent. “What’s the matter? You too afraid to say anything?”
“It would be too impolite to actually reply to someone who is obviously lacking the necessary social skills of anything beyond consuming a piece of chewing gum.” I spoke ever so commandingly. My wand crept up my back under my blazer and rose thru the collar under my untied hair. I had sensed something about to happen that I really did not want to take place, as I stood almost toe-to-toe with my adversary. To my great relief Professor Montay appeared, rounding the corner of the school.
“I trust no one here needs a map to find their classrooms this morning.” Professor Montay’s voice commanded. My wand swiftly retreated back into the hidden pocket.
“No, Professor.” I answered, though I remained firmly rooted to the spot I commanded.
“You two,” Pointing at myself and the head bully. “Detention.”
“Yes, Professor.” I answered, with my eyes never leaving my quarry. “Ten minutes?”
“Twenty, Miss Narissa.” Was her stern reply. It was for my own good I know, but I also suspected Professor Montay was providing me with some one-on-one time with the bully. My coven dispersed into the student body while his thugs milled about aimlessly lost with their leader heading for detention before the first bell even rang. I walked confidently thru the hallway and directly to the detention room with the bully following like a servant, between two to three steps behind me the entire way. I entered the detention room and remained standing while the bully just lounged himself into a desk. I remained silent as Professor Montay entered shortly after.
“I daresay you need to learn some discipline, young man.” Professor Montay commanded. “And some manners might be in order too.” The bully remained sitting.
“She can be very nasty.” I offered as information to him.
“How would you know,” The bully quipped back. “You’re nothing more than a spoiled little rich kid who does everything she’s told.”
“Ten minutes, Professor?” I calmly asked.
“As I said before, twenty minutes Miss Narissa.” The professor replied while she exited. I waited patiently to hear the lock on the door click as one would wait for the hammer of a pistol to strike the primer cap of a cartridge. My wand was instantly in my hand and the bully flew from his seat to be pasted a full inch from the clean white wall as I gave it a full wave. A simple flick and twist and he resembled a spinning tire on an overturned car. Then I stopped with him upright. Frozen in place both by my binding and his own fear, I levitated myself so we were now eye-to-eye. The sweat began forming on his brow.
“I trust I shall never again be solicited by you or anyone you associate with in the future?” I coldly spoke with icy breath while I purposely made my eyes glow like sparking emeralds
“Y-Y-Yes!” Was his only reply.
“And not a second more!” Professor Montay finished, as I ever so ladylike sat while my wand disappeared back into its pocket. The bully thought the images he had just experienced were a dream.
“Think you’re such a tough one, huh?” the bully spoke not believing it had been real, as I made the chair I sat in rise gently from the floor a few inches. The bully relieved himself and tried to remain dignified for the next nineteen minutes and fifty seconds. I stood, and prompted him to do the same, as Professor Montay entered precisely on time.
“Very good.” Professor Montay noted, with the bully standing at attention as the professor passed. “You are dismissed.” Showing complete decorum I picked up my book bag and departed, leaving my brutish companion behind. I just managed to get to class before the final bell rang signaling the start of study, I had missed Principal Marriott’s address in the auditorium. While apologizing for my tardiness, our Professor bade me to take my seat and he began an instruction on physics I found fascinating where two objects could not occupy the same space. I giggled slightly with the memory of detention. The young man, with a completely new outlook on life, knocked patiently on the door ten minutes later and waited before the professor admitted him into the classroom. I also noted the crisp, clean uniform he now sported with a degree of dignity. He avoided my gaze completely, though on Professor Montay’s suggestion, I did send a note, asking Ferule to provide a lunch setting for two. The remainder of the morning passed uneventfully, though Cathie and Annie queried me about what happened in detention.
“Lunch should be fun.” I smiled to Cathie and Annie. Together we waited just outside the cafeteria doors for the student body to finish milling in. I was rather shocked to see everyone still standing while everyone else but myself was ushered to his or her tables. When I entered, I heard Ferule in his persona as Mr. Drago for everyone to take their seats. In the middle of the Cafeteria stood a lone table set for two with my brutish companion standing next to it. The Cafeteria had been arranged so that today could be conducted as a lesson on table manners and dining etiquette. My brutish companion and I were to be Ferule’s teaching aides.
“Ferule…” I softly projected while he dutifully explained how a gentleman offers a lady a seat at a dining table. “I’m not going to forgive you for this.”
“Of course, Mistress.” He quipped back into my thoughts in reply as he demonstrated to my now dining companion then offered him to repeat it. He made everyone stand and repeat the entire process. He also added that a gentleman rises from his seat when a lady excuses herself from the table, and also does so again upon her return.
“You’re enjoying this immensely,” I projected softly to Ferule. Aren’t you?”
“Every second of it, Mistress.” I heard his voice echo in my head as I naturally hooked one ankle behind the other, to which Ferule pointed out to everyone, as I also placed my hands together in my lap. I heard the shuffle of feet and shifting of skirts as the ladies all did the same, some of them having to uncross their legs to complete the task. Lunch was served promptly.
“I would like to ask, if we could burry the hatchet, err…” I politely asked as I put my fork to my plate.
“Brule, James Brule.” He politely replied back.
“You have an older brother named Jeff?” I enquired now.
“Yes, to both questions.” James now spoke in reply.
“Your earlier note of me being a spoiled little rich kid hurt my feelings.” I politely mentioned, quietly. I sensed Jeff becoming nervous. “And please contain yourself, Mr. Brule. We don’t want to repeat how we started our day, do we? And you may call me Narissa.”
T-T-Thank y-y-you, N-N-Nar-rissa.” He stammered in fear.
“Very good,” I replied. “See how easy it is to get along with other people and not be unsociable?”
“Y-Y-Yes.” He spoke still stammering. I was trying my very best to calm him without having to resort to using any of my powers.
“You can help me, and I can help you.” I offered.
“How could you possibly help me, and why would I want to help you?” He spoke, his fear slowly leaving him, but his anger was hiding him from being who he could be.
“For starters, you use fear as a tool to gain respect.” Noted to him. “Second you hide your courage behind a wall of anger. Lastly, your courage is easily shattered if you have to confront your fear. A big vicious circle that you need to break for you to become a respectable young man like your older brother is.” My astute observations were making him become angry while he shrank into a shell.
“How would you know anything about my older brother?” he now spat angrily.
“How I know your brother is not the subject of conversation, you are.” I spoke calmly. “I can only offer you, that if you provide a service to me, then I will promise to prevent a recurrence of the one-sided conversation we had this morning.” As I, having finished my lunch plate, offered it to the cafeteria staff for its removal. His fear returned, but hiding behind his anger. “Do we have a deal, Mr. Brule?”
“What did you have in mind?” he asked, though still very angry and definitely a little afraid of me.
“I need for you to be my eyes and ears.” I asked. “To provide me with information, of course with confirmations of your sources, as to the movements of any strangers coming in to, or out of Victoria Estates.”
“It’s a deal.” He spoke calmly. Having concluded lunch, I rose from my chair, to which he hesitated, before realizing the manners he was failing to display to also stand. I extended my hand across the table and with the entire student body present they witnessed him shaking my hand.
“Deal.” I confirmed. “And Mr. Brule, I trust that any deception on your part will not cause me to think poorly of my decision to have promised to us not having to endure detention together again?” His silence as I departed the table was more astute than the silence in the cafeteria. I felt the eyes of every student upon my back in the wake of my exit, with my coven close behind me. We sequestered ourselves in the library as the five of them pounded me with questions.
“Don’t ask me how, but I think no one in the school will have to worry about Mr. Brule and the rest of his clan for a long time.” I concluded to everyone. Just then the address system crackled.
“Students are to gather in the auditorium for an address following afternoon break.” Principal Marriott’s voice cracked along with the address system then switched off.
“Gee, are we going to have more lessons in manners.” I heard being groaned across the library, while some students shot dirty scowls at me. I sensed something else was in store for us. I spoke softly almost in a whisper about how the announcement made me feel.
“Be on your guard.” I offered as we went to our early afternoon class. When the bell sounded for afternoon break, Rachel and I were summoned to Principal Marriott’s office along with what appeared to be every other red headed female student in the school. Separated from the others, I felt a little vulnerable. And for good reason too. I sensed a strong presence emanating from within Principal Marriott’s office. I whispered what I felt to Rachel and she concluded that also, though we did not know who or what it might be.
There were a total of eleven of us waiting in the foyer to be summoned into Principal Marriott’s office. We were paraded into her office and made to stand as Principal Marriott spoke with a man whose back was facing us. He was a wizard that much was certain, but there was a presence around him I had trouble to define. Almost like dancing shadows, as I continued to survey not only the man sitting but the other men also in the room. They all wore very expensive suits. I then made a discovery of the outline of a shoulder harness under one man’s suit coat. They carried Firearms. Only a few people did that. Police were one of them, and these men were not locals. It was just too small a town for anything more than the forty or so uniformed officers for these three to be a part of them. Just then Professor Montay joined Principal Marriott, and the man sitting stood. Together they all turned towards us.
“Ladies,” Principal Marriott spoke as though she was worried. “These gentlemen are detectives from the capital. And wish to ask you some questions.”
“Hello, my name is Detective Sergeant…” The man began to speak.
“Excuse me detective,” I interrupted. “But is it not prudent to display your identification while introducing yourself, especially if you address them for the first time?”
“My Compliments, Principal Marriott.” He answered. “…For how astute your students are.” To which the detective produced his Identification and presented it.
“My name is.” He continued. “Detective Sergeant Hobson.”
“That identification expires within the month,” I noticed. “You’re not really a full detective are you?”
“Quite the astute group of girls you have here.” The detective retorted, then continued. “We have reason to believe that red headed women and girls are being systematically stalked and that the person, or persons responsible, may have come here to Victoria Estates.” That was when I noticed the binding. The detective was the eyes and ears for someone. This was not a science experiment to figure out. While he was in his capacity as a detective, he was not doing this of his own free will, but rather he was an unwitting pawn possibly being used by the Chamberlain to collect information.
“Detective.” I now asked. “Why should that worry us? Have there been any problems?”
“Sorry, ladies.” The detective replied. “But that is a police matter. You do not need to worry about that. What we’ve come here for is just to collect some information so that if there is a problem, we’ll know how or where you ladies are if anything does happen.”
“Sorry detective.” I affirmed. “But if there is a problem, then isn’t that the responsibility of local law enforcement to take care of as they already all know who we are and where we should be?” The detective was a little taken back at my assertiveness.
“Well?” I asked, with a slight flutter to my eyes.
“Be that as it may, we are here to assist local law enforcement.” The detective offered.
“I think you’re a liar.” I conclude aloud. “I think you’re here because your superiors want you to locate every female with red hair so they can pass all that information on to someone else. Your story of a stalker is a ruse to have access to information.”
Just then all hell broke loose. Me, and my big fat mouth. The girls all broke into laughter, while the Detective completely lost his composure as his colleagues started laughing louder than anyone else. Professor Montay dismissed us from the office very quickly as an argument quickly ensued between Principal Marriott and the Detective. I overheard Principal Marriott being scolded for having such rude students, and that they would be back with a warrant if they did not get some cooperation. Principal Marriott’s phone rang into the switchboard and was given an outside line. I instantly recognized it as being to Deer Lodge, as everyone knew the two numbers. The detective must have used the other phone in the office. Together we waited for the detectives to leave before we were sure to be called back into Principal Marriott’s office.
Detective Hobson shot me a dirty look as he passed, to which I couldn’t resist removing his shoelaces and he tripped over his own feet as his shoes fell off. Then his pistol fell out of its holster onto the floor along with his extra magazines, and scattered cartridges all over the floor. I sensed immediately that even without a wand, it was sometimes difficult to rein in my abilities when I was angry or scared.
With the seemingly comical parade of actions before our eyes, we started laughing even harder than before. Together we started picking up the cartridges, and offered them all back to the detective, who just stuffed them back into his pocket. I could tell he was feeling like a complete idiot, and we probably would not be seeing him personally or anyone in his capacity in the immediate future. I did however note, he would probably still end up having access to the information they sought. Forest for the trees, I thought to myself.
We all got called back into Principal Marriott’s office where we all received detention, but for my part I was awarded an additional week’s worth to be served in silence during lunch. I received an additional twenty minutes a day from Professor Montay personally, dedicated to standing silently. This last part was to be served at Karl’s bookshop in front of the text. This last one I deduced was to keep me focused and learn three important lessons. First – think before you speak. Second – to pick my battles, and three – to never abuse authority or trust. My punishment however did give me time to read. And read I did. Upon exiting the school that afternoon, I headed directly to Karl’s Bookshop where I found everyone else already enjoying tea with Karl. We also discovered that when the third text was placed near or anywhere near the vicinity of, the first one would close and remain locked. Detective Sergeant Hobson visited at Karl’s while I was serving my detention and he was furious that I refrained from answering his questions until he finally figured it out.
My detention finished shortly after that, but just because I really did not want to talk to him, I pretended I was still being punished until he was frustrated enough that he left. I was sure that he would return, but I did however wish him well. Or at least I thought about him being in a wishing well. No matter, I didn’t have to worry about anything more than my teacup at that point. My twenty minutes of silence also proved very useful at control. I would spend a minute at a time perfectly stationary exactly one sixteenth of an inch, off the floor. I later demonstrated this to the others as they passed paper under my feet. That in itself was a skill I was mastering quickly and far exceeded Valerie’s, Rachel’s, Deanna’s, Annie’s and Cathie’s skills that begged and pleaded for me to teach it to them. I soon found with that much control I could easily float across a room, though Annie and Cathie both insisted to call it ‘gliding’. But as it may have been fun, time at the Bookshop was quickly approaching our times to depart and once again our companions departed as we headed for home, leaving Karl with the solitude of his bookshop.
Evening lessons continued as per normal, and I even earned a few minutes of my cutlery adorning the dining room ceiling. I was making it harder for Professor Montay not to scold me. But she did manage to stifle herself so many times, and I even managed to crack that rough outer shell of hers to reward me with a warm smile. I knew I was slowly approaching the same place my mother once shared and it made me very happy. This evening’s new lesson was teleporting. Though I had indeed learned this lesson already, there were some finer points that required some skill and concentration to master it completely. Multiple objects, or people or combinations thereto, as an entire group was the easy part. Doing them as separate objects was a little more difficult, especially when you could not see them.
That night, lights out found my head hitting my pillow so hard that I was asleep in seconds. In my dream I was walking alone, the path filled with rough stones and I tripped many times. Bleeding and confused I was almost at a point of despair. Such was the memories spilling out of the place I had them, all safely locked away, though I could not actually remember these places that bounded back and forth thru my dream. Feeling trapped I was not aware of the alarms I was raising while I slept. Very soon however, I found the image of a green eyed, red haired woman, which I might have thought to be myself if she had not been much older than I was. The look on her face soothed me and I returned to a gentle sleep. I remained focused with my own eyes but had subconsciously concentrated not to become the image I was seeing. I continued to sleep, and the memories bouncing thru my mind made their way one piece at a time back into that safe space, locking them inside. I awoke that morning remembering every single detail about my dream. I was slowly beginning to understand the images retrieved from Ferule were meant for me and me alone. I opened my eyes to Ferule’s stare and I playfully scratched his head.
“You worried me, Mistress.” Ferule softly projected into my mind.
“I’m fine, Ferule,” I projected softly back. “Thank you for being there.” Realizing the rough stones that left me bleeding was actually Ferule’s scales.
You gave Professor Montay quite a fright before I arrived.” He projected affectionately.
“I appreciate you telling me this Ferule.” I projected once again.
“But… if the professor was here before you arrived, and you managed to calm me so quickly, the she must know…
“I had no choice, Mistress.” Ferule projected. “Though she has always known who and what I was.”
“But…” I started to project.
“As your mother also knew, but…” He softly calmed with his projection. “They were not able to release me as you did. Though they did try.”
“You are my dearest friend, and I shall be needing your help getting thru all of this,” I whispered aloud. “And I know what the price may be if I fail.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Ferule responded with a snort and spun into a cloud to begin his daily duties. I quickly gathered my thoughts and prepared myself for the day ahead before leaping into my exercise clothing and putting my running shoes onto my feet. Cathie and Annie anxiously paced back and forth as I emerged from my room. Their morning greeting seemed unusually warm and friendly with my sister streaming tears.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“You gave us such a fright!” they spat at me. “We heard you calling out and then Professor Montay came. Then…”
“Then what?” I asked.
“You had this huge Dragon in your room all night!” They yelled together.
“Ferule, May I?” I projected quickly.
“Yes, Mistress. They need to know.” Ferule projected softly to me.
“OK, OK, OK!” I implored upon them to calm down. “That dragon… is my familiar.” To which I bounced myself out and down the hallway with my wand bouncing along behind me. Cathie and Annie caught up with my wand and I before my feet landed on the front lawn. Slowing to a walking pace, my wand bounced up, poked me on my bottom before finding the hidden pocket. I noted that maybe I over did the ‘forget-me-not’ and added something by accident.
“Your what?” they exclaimed together.
“That is my best friend, my faithful servant, and he is a four hundred year old green dragon… I stated very calmly, with Cathie and Annie almost expressionless. “Familiars choose their Witches, not the other way around.”
“WHAT?” Annie exclaimed. Cathie had no idea.
“You have a…” Cathie began.
“Yes, I do.” I interrupted.
“What’s his name? He must have a name.” My sister wanted to know so badly.
“Sorry, Annie.” I admitted. “To give a familiar’s name or reveal their identity, in the case of a dragon… would defeat a familiar’s powers and render them venerable.”
“Mistress…” I heard Ferule’s voice inside my head. “That’s not entirely true.”
“But it will do for now.” I added back into his projection. “I know it’s a little more complicated than that.” I began to race ahead of them as we approached the sports field with Professor Montay waiting with what appeared to be half the school, in attendance. I almost stopped dead in my tracks.
“Looks like we started something.” I mentioned to Annie and Cathie. As we had a set routine for our warm-up, I started running thru it, until we were ready to start. Professor Montay chirped her whistle and we began a leisurely jog to start, then slowly began increasing our pace with each successive lap around the clay track. I also noted it was only the female half of the student body that was in attendance.
After completing our twelve laps, we started our cool down with a good portion of the runners still finishing their last lap. Professor Montay’s successive whistle chirps were at fifteen-second intervals. Since we were done, we just leisurely paced ourselves along with Valerie, Rachel and Deanne back to the house for a shower and breakfast. I noted they brought their own uniforms today, and the ones they borrowed yesterday. Somehow, their laundry always got left at our place, but they never took it with them. I deduced Ferule was just being himself and made sure it was delivered to them. Once again, I didn’t even stop to take off my running shoes before I jumped into the shower, before stripping down. The warm towels greeted us as we stepped from the shower and our little parade of bouncing wands followed us upstairs. With nothing less than absolute perfection, Ferule had laid out six complete school uniforms and we were dressed in record time.
“Any idea how many people will be waiting to see if the Bullies have anything to say this morning?” I quipped while tying my shoes. With a wave of my hand, my wand bounced out of the rack and jumped perfectly into my hidden pocket completing my ensemble.
“Never mind that, I just wonder how many of the girls have dyed their hair red after yesterday’s fiasco.” Stated Rachel. Though I really did not pay that much attention during exercise, we all burst into laughter as Rachel’s comment made perfect sense to us. With a flick of my wand, all of us had red hair. We headed for the kitchen and of course breakfast. Ferule once again had a huge mountain piled on top of a communal plate for us. And just for good measure, my fork was stuck to the ceiling for ten minutes. We all giggled while I enjoyed two pieces of toast with ham and cheese pressed between them, instead. The six of us all gave Ferule a huge hug before we departed the kitchen to collect our book bags and cloaks. Professor Montay greeted us near the front door portal.
“Good morning, Ladies.” The professor fondly spoke. “I shall be accompanying you this morning.”
“Want to keep an eye on us professor?” I spoke softly in return. “Or just to keep an eye on me.”
“Both.” She curtly replied. “Ladies.” And she motioned for us to proceed. We fell into two by two files and with the same precision as a military parade we began our uniform march towards Linwood. I began to notice the differences as we approached the school, with Rachel’s prediction jumping out at me first.
The sea of red hair amongst the female students almost overwhelmed me. The biggest subtlety that was clearly becoming apparent was the small splashes of color worn with the school uniforms. Black, brown, red, orange, green, grey, yellow, blue and violet all cleverly mixed in. Though white was represented with the ties for the males and tights on us females, with the bold red and white stripes, the almost endless handkerchiefs, scarves, backpacks, even gloves and the lining of cloaks all made me begin to wonder. White was still the only color unrepresented by itself. Valerie, Rachel, and Deanna all had brand new grey colored book bags.
“Professor,” I projected warmly and proudly. “May I address the student body this morning?”
“Of course, my dear.” Professor Montay projected back in the same manner. “We have all been wondering when you would ask.” Our small parade of two by two halted as a single rank almost exactly one pace from our now former school bullies.
“Good morning, James,” I spoke firmly yet politely. “Anything to report?”
“Nothing of note.” James proudly beamed. “Excepting of course the Detectives from the Capital, but everyone already knows about them.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “Lunch today?”
“You think Mr. Drago may have some more to add to his previous lesson.” James replied.
“No, But I thought you might like to have lunch.” I replied.
“Don’t you have detention in silence for a week?” he asked in reply.
“Yes, in silence, but not solitude.” I quipped.
“See you promptly for lunch.” James replied, to which we now advanced forward and into the school. Assembly that morning was indeed going to be extra special. I was now ready.
“Will you meet me in assembly, Ferule?” I softly almost meekly projected. “And having the smell of brimstone would be appropriate.”
“Are you sure you want to do this, Mistress?” Ferule’s voice echoed fondly in my head.
“Yes, I do.” I now firmly asserted with my projected reply.
“Yes, Mistress.” Ferule replied and was gone. The warning bell sounded thru the hallways as the six of us headed for the auditorium. We quickly took our seats and waited for the remainder of the student body to follow our lead. From behind the Auditorium curtains I detected a very familiar scent beginning to float thru the air. The bell signaling school start sounded with Principal Marriott’s punctual entrance. We all stood and waited in silence.
“Good morning, Students...” Principal Marriott began.
“Good morning, Principal Marriott.” The entire Auditorium replied interrupting her. Taken slightly back, she paused then continued.
“As you may already know, yesterday we had a visit from some very unpleasant gentlemen from the Capital. I want to assure each and every one of you that your personal student information and records will remain firmly locked within the records room and your privacy will be maintained unless your parents give their individual consent to any release.” This policy was something I was sure was very closely connected to the binding I found on Detective Sergeant Hobson and Professor Montay’s wise counsel to Principal Marriott.
“Mr. Drago informed me of his continued interest in demonstrations during your lunch periods.” She continued. “And I trust that none of you will object.” I noted the approving nods around me.
“With nothing more, I have had a request for someone to address you this morning.” Principal Marriott announced. “Miss Narissa, if you would please.” Feeling butterflies forming, I slowly rose from my seat and approached the podium. The words from my thoughts jumbling all together, until I felt Ferule’s soft projection calm me. I now stood facing the entire student body and Principal Marriott stood aside.
“Thank you, Principal Marriott,” I spoke clearly, “Good morning.” I warmly greeted the students. I noted the staff was no longer present, and Principal Marriott was exiting the Auditorium thru the side door. I felt a strong wave overtake me as a very strong combination of individual wills protected the Auditorium as through creating a sanctuary.
“This morning I have the pleasure… No, Duty,” I corrected myself. “Of properly introducing myself to you.” My mind raced as my thoughts quickly collected themselves into logical sequences. “This morning when I arrived, I noticed many things which now show me the solidarity of trust and faith you have placed with me. It is my promise to always guard that solidarity and trust from being broken. I now introduce myself to you not as ‘Narissa’ your fellow student, but…” in pausing, my nervousness rose slightly. With a firm resolve I spoke…
“I am the Twenty-seventh of my line. I have the responsibility and duty to unite the great houses under one banner and return from a self-imposed exile thought to be the wisest choice made by my predecessors. I was born into the house of Brougham, and I am a Witch.”
The silence in the auditorium was deafening. As I began noting wands all being brought into clear view. It seems that Valerie did indeed keep her promise to not tell her parents. I sensed strongly that everyone wanted to have a confirmation of what I admitted to them was true. “I have brought with me a very old friend, and my most faithful servant. As each and every one of you may know, a witch or wizard never chooses their own familiar. I openly share him with you so you may know the trust you have in me, is reflected identically with his faith in me.”
The Auditorium curtains parted and Ferule stood with his wings spread and his mouth slightly open with a powerful snort of his breath. His bright green eyes glowing excitedly, to which he lowered his head and allowed me to affectionately, scratch the top of his head.
“Do you think I’ve made an impression, Ferule?” I calmly projected.
“You made that impression long before today, Mistress.” Ferule replied in my mind, as he snorted a small fireball followed by a huge cloud of brimstone. Ferule, I sensed wished to be excused, to which I gave him an affectionate hug and he swiftly spun himself into a cloud and disappeared into it. I noted a stream of projections being directed towards me, but they were not actually powerful enough to connect.
“Please…” I calmly, yet clearly projected to every mind in the Auditorium. “Part of our continued need for seclusion is to always follow one simple rule.” I spoke aloud. The silence in the Auditorium included the focus of every thought towards me.
“We must never show our enemies our strength of unity, until it is time. This rule extends all the way down to all of you. I ask you to assist in keeping my true identity a secret while you all strive to be yourselves.” With a wave of my hand holding my wand, everyone’s hair returned to their natural colors. My wand, having released it from my grip, scuttled down my arm, around my back and returned to the hidden pocket. “During study, you may never possess your wands unless directed by a professor to do so. I now must command your acceptance.”
The approving nods gave me my answer, and the signal bell for classes rang. We all began to leave the auditorium to join our patiently waiting professors. Annie, Cathie, Deanna, Rachel, and Valerie all stood and together we fled two by two into the stream of students heading for classrooms. Upon entering the classroom, everyone was standing. I followed suit and waited. Our mathematics professor impatiently tapped his feet on the floor as the bell signaling the start of class began to peal. He continued to tap his feet, before I noticed the wand rack near the door. Blushing and deducing I was not exempt from the rule, my wand floated quickly across the room over everyone’s head and found its place amongst the others in the rack.
“Sorry, Professor.” I apologized, as I made a mental note to know where my wand needed to be. “Ten minutes, Professor?”
“Ten minutes, Miss Narissa.” He replied back. I was going to have to thank Professor Montay for her strict standards at a later date, but that was not today. Our mathematics lesson proceeded without any further delay and I began the start of class standing beside my desk. I found it difficult to actually take notes and welcomed my bottom to be planted firmly in my seat where I could comfortably concentrate on the lesson while taking notes after my ten minutes was concluded. The signal bell announcing the end of class erupted into mayhem as everyone tried to attempt to retrieve their wands, I passed the rack to have my wand bounce along behind me. My wand finally bounded over my shoulder and into my blazer like a puppy hiding in a blanket, before slipping silently into my pocket. Several whispers followed my exit. Our next class repeated a reversal, though much more orderly. My wand took the first position at right of line and bounced in the rack like a billiard ball rattling a pocket before stopping. I made another mental note to adjust the binding slightly so my wand would not be subjected to any damage from stray hands.
“How does she do that?” I overheard, along with, “That’s so neat.” I smiled with some degree of modesty that my mischievous and imaginative mind was appreciated. I laughed as lunch approached as I noticed a lot of wands dragging themselves along the floor of the hallway behind their owners. I stopped as one wand raced right between my feet. That was the final straw.
“Please, pick them up before someone steps on one of them!” I spoke loudly, as another wand bounced against the heel of my shoe. I left my classmates and headed for detention, as I noted everyone meekly retrieving their wands from the floor. James was waiting patiently with two lunch plates. Together we had lunch in detention, though I waited ten minutes while my cutlery was stuck to the ceiling while I enjoyed a breadstick. In silence I finished my lunch, while James offered me a full report of information he had collected. I either just nodded, or shook my head in return. Occasionally I penned a question or answer on notepaper to which I had burst into flames after he had read it, and deposited the ashes into the wastebasket.
James it turned out was upon his graduation to be assigned as a member of the black house of the Family. The black house had the singularly important task. A task that his previously obnoxious behavior made him perfectly suited to be. Now that he had structure to give his focus to, he was actually quite a pleasant person to spend some time with, and mentally noted that I looked forward to lunch with him for the next week of my imposed sentence. Together we exited the detention room and departed to where I found Annie, Cathie, Deanna, Rachel and Valerie waiting patiently to tease me mercilessly.
“Solitude, huh?” Cathie quipped while giving me a playful nudge. And the teasing continued all the way to our first class of the afternoon. I also noted that everyone was placing their wands into the racks provided manually. I followed this practice, but I also noted the stares, as my wand seemed to appear in my hand at the last second. I stood with everyone else as the bell sounded and our professor bade us to take our seats. The Physics lesson we had to endure, was so boring I almost fell asleep, which might have been a welcome addition to augment the restlessness I had last night, but our professor concluded his lesson before I could actually embarrass myself. The bell sounded announcing our scheduled afternoon break. My wand bounced up from the rack and landed perfectly into my pocket as I slowly passed thru the door and into the hallway. As we strolled out into the afternoon air and sunshine, Detective Sergeant Hobson greeted me.
“A word if I may.” He demanded.
“I think not.” I answered firmly. “That would no longer be appropriate, Detective.”
“If you force me, I will get a warrant.” The Detective tried to intimidate me with.
“Sorry, Detective.” I firmly answered back. “Does Principal Marriott know you are on school grounds?”
“I do now, Miss Narissa.” I heard Principal Marriott answer from behind the Detective. “Detective Sergeant Hobson,” She firmly, and without any kindness, spoke. “I will have a word with you in my office.” She turned on her heal, and the Detective followed without protest.
“What’s he doing here?” Rachel asked.
“Not a clue,” I responded, “But I have no doubt it is not good… for anyone.”
“I wonder…” Deanna thought out loud. “If the detective is here, where are his little friends who were with him yesterday?”
“Pass the word quickly…” I mentioned, “Be on guard.” The other five fled quickly and together we managed to pass the note of the detective and his companions were back and to be on guard. Everyone quickly understood this and I soon had James reporting that the other detectives were found snooping around the records offices. James had his companions keeping them under very close watch. With the after break warning bell sounding, I passed the door of the records office between two of the other detectives. A quick flip of my hand and the entire door they had obviously been trying to discretely pick the lock for was sealed shut completely. I also mentioned to James to pass this information immediately to Professor Montay. I entered class and did not place my wand in the rack. I noticed no one else had done so either as the rack had been hidden inside the wall.
“Forest for the Trees.” I silently mused to myself as our professor began her lesson on chemistry. I was on edge the entire time, and my heart leapt into my throat when Professor Montay gently knocked on the classroom door.
“Excuse me, Professor.” Professor Montay asked politely. “May I have a word with Miss Narissa, please.” To which I was quickly excused and departed with Professor Montay under her escort to Principal Marriott’s office.
“Wait here.” Professor Montay commanded sharply.
“Professor…?” I began to say.
“Wait.” She curtly interrupted. I stood silently waiting while levitating myself less than a sixteenth of an inch off the floor. The door to Principal Marriott’s office opened moments later and I was escorted inside. I remained exactly one sixteenth of an inch off the floor as I walked into the office. My passing discretely made no sound, or even left an impression upon the carpet lining the office floor. By concentrating so hard to remain off the floor, I was redirecting myself and remaining calm.
“We have a problem, Miss Narissa.” Principal Marriott offered from the silence of her office. “These Gentlemen insist upon speaking with you, and unless we have the consent of your Uncle, we can not allow them to proceed, unless you wish to answer their questions.”
“I will consider it, Principal Marriott.” I replied. “But that would depend upon what the Detectives want to know. I can say that I am most certainly not going to tell them my dress size.” Professor Montay stifled a laugh and shot me a wink.
“You are a very uncooperative young lady.” Detective Hobson finally spoke. I remained firmly that fraction of an inch off the floor, but with my concentration I was also able to quickly deduce the exact type of binding that had been placed upon the Detective without having it affect me in anyway. The chamberlain had been very sneaky to have bound the detective in this way. Make the binding visible, but the trap very nasty and very dangerous. Knowing it was there I just simply added to it, making the trap more potent and since the Chamberlain would not be expecting it, it could deal a very nasty blow back to him. Childish perhaps, but very much in tune with my mischievous and imaginative mind.
“Name, Rank and serial Number, Detective.” I answered.
“So you’re not going to help us, help you?” Detective Hobson asked.
“Name, Rank and serial Number, Detective.” I returned once more.
“We have reason to believe…” he began.
“Detective, What part of the word ‘NO’ have you failed to understand completely?” I mused childishly but with a stubbornness matching Professor Montay.
“You leave me with little choice to take you into protective custody if you continue to be uncooperative.” Detective Hobson threatened.
“Detective, unless you actually provide some substantive proof that my guardian finds warranted, and also as the Headmistress of the school, Principal Marriott has been entrusted with my safety while I am in her and the school staff’s charge.” I concluded in a very grown up manner. “That unless you are willing to share information as to your predisposition to insist I provide you with some small degree of cooperation, then we have nothing further to discuss.”
“Miss Narissa,” Detective Hobson spoke with conviction. “My superiors and I have reason to believe that you may be in danger of being kidnapped, or possibly worse from a group of individuals that may wish to kill you.” The detective’s words were true, this much I sensed, but the binding confused me a little. Then I realized the binding was placed upon him as nothing more than a tag that, upon being identified would be released back to the Chamberlain. As the Chamberlain already knew of my identity, but not my location I was willing to concede that the detective was an ally, not an enemy. Knowing this new information I formulated a response while placing my feet now firmly back upon the floor.
“Detective, may I speak in private with Principal Marriott and Professor Montay?” I asked ever so politely. I waited for Detective Hobson to depart the office before I spoke.
“I think we might be able to use the Detective for our own purpose.” I concluded. “Does either of you know how to cast a tracker that can dispel a trace binding?”
“My dear, how do you know anything about those kinds of spells?” Principal Marriott asked.
“Don’t ask… I replied, “And I’ll tell you no lies. But we need to do it quick if this is to work.” I told them about the binding, and the trap, and what I had already done to it. Professor Montay was the one to cast the addition to the binding so that the tracker could dispel it, but let the trap proceed to its destination. We were ready for the detective, and Professor Montay opened the office door to allow the detective to rejoin us in the office.
“Detective sergeant Hobson,” I began, “I wish to speak and I shall only ever say this once.”
“Yes, of course.” Detective Hobson replied. He was also about to sit while I began to seat myself.
“Detective, while you are in my presence you shall never again speak to me unless being first given permission, and remain standing.” I spoke in a commanding yet almost whispering voice. “I have no reason to believe that you can provide me with any assistance, but I will offer you the following information for you to take to your superiors.” Detective Hobson nodded that he understood, and remained standing.
“I am the person these people are seeking, and yes they mean to kidnap me if they can, or kill me if they must. I represent the unity and strength which they seek to destroy and in doing so may keep me from my birthright.” I spoke in a clear voice. “I am the twenty-seventh Grand Duchess of Brougham and I am pleased to have you in my service.” I managed just in time to deflect the trap and shield myself while professor Montay traced the trap back onto the binding as it’s wave began to spread. The trap now firmly attached was speeding back to its creator. Detective Hobson was now able to speak freely and without the reservations he had before, now that I had provided him with the information he sought.
“Thank you, but I have a job to do.” Detective Hobson spoke. “If you are the person they seek, then…”
“You will do nothing.” I interrupted. “And you will not send a completed report to your superiors except to include information we provide.”
“You mean that I can not…” He began once more.
“You will be provided with information that will lead you elsewhere and never back to here.” I finished. “Except of course if we require your services.”
“Ah! Yes of course.” Detective Hobson quickly concluded.
“I might also add that I have been in hiding my entire life,” I added. “So my entire family is very good at seeing that I remain hidden.”
I rose to depart and bid Detective Hobson good day. Professor Montay shot me a wink as I left. The Chamberlain was going to be running himself in circles not realizing he’s following his own shadow with his own trap being sprung back onto himself. The only possible way for him to find me now, was to follow the path that had lead Detective Hobson here in the first place and hopefully move along the path quickly enough that he overlooks Victoria Estates as my hiding place.