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.
The final bell of the day rang as I exited the office and I quickly found Annie, Cathie, Deanna, Rachel and Valerie preparing to depart the school for our daily duties at Karl’s Bookshop. We waited a few minutes together in the library before we departed the school. We walked in our usual two by two and arrived at Karl’s Bookshop just in time to have him pouring seven steaming cups of tea. I began my twenty minutes of silence while practicing my levitating once again. The other five found it amusing to whisk paper under my shoes to make sure I was still levitating. I had given serious thought to walking onto the ceiling, but it would have been too annoying to make sure my skirt didn’t allow gravity to expose myself. Several students made it a point of stopping in, as everyone knew that Karl’s bookshop was fast becoming the social hotspot for the students of Linwood. We even had several Deer Lodge students come by, if even just for a cup of tea. I was pleased that everyone was doing their part to ensure my continued safety.
“Narissa.” I heard James’ voice behind me. I made a sign of a finger over my mouth to signal I was being silent. Being the brute he was and to keep up appearances, he patted my bottom as he passed behind me. To this I rewarded him with all of his pockets sewn shut with his shoelaces, as my heels clicked onto the floor. My other five companions started roaring with laughter as the piece of paper now under my feet was released as I rose back off the floor while trying to maintain my concentration. James talked as I listened for the next twelve minutes. My coven started laughing hysterically as I rose just over an inch off the floor. James departed a short time later but I did manage to hide a smile long enough to send him a wink as he noticed his pockets. I noted as a gentleman, he had a long way to go, but as a friend he was already there. Together, the others made short work of the bare shelves and restocked them from the storeroom. We even managed to find enough time between cups of tea to wash the insides of the windows and put everything away before it was time once again to depart for home. After changing into robes for our evening study and depositing our wands into the rack, we had Ferule announce that study that evening was cancelled by Professor Montay, but we remained in our suite until dinner. I was pleased Professor Montay was waiting for us in the dining room when we came down for dinner at the appointed time.
“Good evening, Professor.” We all sang as we entered.
”Good evening, Ladies.” She greeted us back equally affectionately.
Ferule served dinner almost immediately and I waited to find my cutlery was not on the ceiling. I smiled and gave Professor Montay a wink to which she returned. Annie, Cathie and I joined in asking Uncle Vlad if anything exciting happened in his day.
“My day passed not nearly as eventfully as yours did.” He spoke between his roast beef and potatoes. “It is interesting to note that the detectives have pressed their attention onto the students of Deer Lodge at the present time, and I suspect they will conclude shortly that what or whom they are wanting to find, must be somewhere else.”
“And I apologize for having cancelled your lessons for this evening but something requiring my immediate attention had come up.” Professor Montay added into our dinner conversation. “Though I need not have worried about you three as I am sure you found something to do in my absence.” That much was true as both Annie and Cathie had both perfected their own ‘forget-me-nots’ and had bound them to their wands before dinner, though for some reason Annie had a little more trouble casting her binding.
“Professor…?” I asked. “I think it may be time for Annie and Cathie to have a familiar choose them. Don’t you think?”
“Their Familiars,” Professor Montay stated openly, “Chose them the day they were both born. But they are not yet ready as you are, my dear.”
“So we can expect them to show up when?” I asked.
“Soon I suspect,” Professor Montay quipped. “Very soon.” She added with a nod. This latest information excited both Annie and Cathie and they finished their dinners and excused themselves before I did. I caught Professor Montay send me a wink as I departed the dining room and headed upstairs. As I slowly climbed the stairs I felt a presence standing with me I had always longed to feel again.
“Hello, Mother.” I projected warmly, though knew not a destination to send it.
“You have done more than I could ever hope to have taught you, Narissa.” The presence seemed to project back to me.
“I miss you.” I projected firmly, this time I was rewarded with a misty shape ascending the stairs with me.
“I know.” I received back. “Professor Montay loves you too, and has told me so.”
“I know, Mother.” I continued to project. “She can not forgive herself…”
“You, Narissa,” I received back towards myself, “Are allowing her to do that. Keep being yourself and you will succeed.” I felt my mother’s presence leave as though called back from where she had come. The immediate emptiness of her departure left me with a hole within my heart, large enough to drive a lorry all the way through. I felt Professor Montay enter the hall in search of the same presence that had just left, as tears began cascading down my face. I raced the last few steps up the stairs and stopped long enough to return to the stairs just in time to find Professor Montay weeping. Together I shared my tears with her.
“Enough of this nonsense,” Professor Montay finally noted with the dainty swipe of a handkerchief. “We have much to do if you are to retrieve the last text tonight.”
“Professor..?” I asked, also wiping my tears.
“Annie and Cathie need to be with you,” she stated as she continued to wipe her eyes with her handkerchief. “And none of you know how to fly yet.”
Professor Montay and I approached the suite, where upon entering through the doorway, we found what appeared to be absolute mayhem in progress. Annie and Cathie were each trying to control besoms that seemed to not want to have anything to do with them. A third besom stood leaning against the wall like an aircraft standing on an airport apron. Professor Montay’s entrance along with me resulted in the other two besoms returned to where the third stood waiting. I mused as Annie and Cathie stood now in silence and relieved they had been rescued from their attackers.
“VIRGA, SIRSUM!” I shouted, as I held out my arm. The third besom shot into my hand and vibrated like a finely tuned engine waiting to have the throttle lever depressed.
“You have been reading ahead, my dear.” Professor Montay noted affectionately.
“Actually, mother taught me this a long time ago,” I replied. “But she insisted that it only be used in an emergency, or as a last resort.” I noted my besom must have been in storage, safely locked away for a time when I may need it once again. My father had dutifully taught me the art of binding the power of flight into each and every straw, how to carefully choose the handle wood, and insisted the thatch wrapper be nothing less than my own hair.
I noted my mother’s besom slowly bouncing itself along the wall behind Annie like a hungry orphan calf trying to sneak up behind another cow. The other besom must have belonged to Professor Montay at one time as it stood against the wall much in the same manner my own besom had done previously. I inspected the besom I had made for myself. It was exactly as it appeared the day I had completed it, but had never flown it. Carefully stroking the smooth handle, darkened with my own blood, rubbed over with so many coats of bee’s wax that I never thought there was enough of. Inspecting the thatch I found the small bundles of carefully chosen flax, and rosewood intermixed with the veneer strips harvested from a cabinet maker’s refuse bin that were castaway after finishing a casket. Closer inspection of the thatch wrapper, I noted the long hours I had spent weaving my hair into the specific pattern needed to not only allow the thatch to remain together, but to bind my besom to me, like the key for a lock.
Mine was made specifically for speed. I noted the Falcon feathers still packed into the centre core of the thatch, were exactly as I had first wrapped them. I shed a silent tear with the memory of the almost endless hours under my father’s strict supervision. I mounted my besom, placing my feet into the stirrups made from the forge of a master artisan, and placed the handle in the centre of my chest. Grinning at both Annie and Cathie I gently leaned forward and floated horizontally a few feet forward where I waited with my besom vibrating underneath me.
“Coming…?” I giggled and shot forward thru the open window with the same velocity as a flame spreading across an open pool of petrol. My hair whipped behind me as the wind cascaded across my face and seemed to want to tear my clothes like a poorly wrapped tarpaulin on a speeding truck. I rose swiftly into the night sky, circled the house and slowly returned to the window I had exited like a motorbike needing to return for a pit stop. I ground to a halt back inside the sitting room, while Professor Montay began to instruct Annie and Cathie on how to follow my lead. I dismounted my besom and proceeded to find some clothing more appropriate for flight.
Both Annie and Cathie under Professor Montay’s Supervision began their preflight checks and soon returned after each completing their first solo. Ferule must have known what I was going to be doing this evening, as he had spread carefully chosen garments on my dressing table that fit me perfectly. My ensemble reflected light in almost the same manner as flat textured paint on a wall and I noted what appeared to be fiber plates and caps tucked into folded pockets making the garments resemble armor. With a quick flick of my wand, I had my hair woven into a tight dual braid resembling horns and wrapped around the back of my head in a tight bun.
I wedged my head into a skullcap with a pair of goggles to protect my eyes before wrapping my torso into a form fitted warm jacket with hood. The coat of arms embroidered in black thread on my right breast was almost invisible to the naked eye. A pair of mid-calf leather boots would protect my lower legs from any debris should we have to fly low across the treetops. Lastly, my wand bounced into a hidden pocket woven into the jacket sleeve before I walked briskly back into the sitting room. Professor Montay stood waiting patiently in the same manner, as a Field Marshal would have, prior to sending troops into battle. Annie and Cathie bounded excitedly back into the sitting room before noting my somber demeanor.
“We have a job to do tonight, that must be swiftly executed.” I briefed them. “We have the last text to retrieve and it is probably now very heavily guarded. It will be your job to provide cover while I retrieve it.” I made a mental note of our previous lesson about teleporting, and it was Cathie who actually displayed more prowess and skill at this than I did. I was the one to try attempting the text’s retrieval first, as I had marked the location previously with Ferule. Should I be unsuccessful, then it would be Cathie’s job, though it would be as equally as difficult for her as for me. Professor Montay regarded us as we stood facing her.
“VIRGA, SIRSUM!” I commanded, to which Annie and Cathie both mirrored my action with their own confidence. Now ready, our flight time would have us approaching our target with the darkness of the night sky upon us. Little did any of us know, the others already waiting for us high above the house, similar to a fighter escort waiting for the last bomber to leave the ground and rendezvous with them. Before Professor Montay could cancel our flight, we shot into the slowly approaching evening and its protective darkness.
“Foot loose and fancy free.” I heard James’ voice echo in my head, as our escort closed in on us. A little shocked to find them accompanying us, but pleased to know they too were part of the assault, I put my hand to my mouth signaling silence as we rose above the clouds. James gave an understanding nod and signaled for everyone to maintain silence as though it might give away our position as we sped further into the darkness. The flight of my besom leading provided a navigation marker to which everyone fell into a flying-V formation and together we descended to a more appropriate altitude to that of a flock of geese heading south, though we were heading almost due east.
I adjusted my air speed as James drew up along side me. Both Annie and Cathie remained closely behind me as everyone else flew protectively above and below us. It was to be a long flight as we began heading towards our target and we settled nervously into maintaining our intended disguise. We perilously approached our target co-ordinates from the north and began our decent. I accelerated and dove towards the ground, with Annie and Cathie hot on my tail, as our success depended solely upon the speed of our approach. Visually confirming my direct heading, I focused a narrow projection to begin a teleport and found Cathie and Annie focusing their thoughts in the same manner, as they sped close behind me as we frisked the treetops.
Passing just a few feet above the ground, I managed to teleport the text from its resting place beneath the surface of the ground, into Cathie’s path to which she barely managed to scoop the text from the air. Annie was in hot pursuit behind, should Cathie have failed to firmly grip the text. The shadows of our passing alerted the guards to our presence. Our escorts quickly neutralized the guards, but not before the alarms were raised. I noted the others provided us with cover as we sped back across the treetops before ascending to meet them and begin our return flight. Our old-fashioned transportation left no clue as to our intended heading as we communicated with hand signals and I had everyone survey any damage to their besoms before we pointed ourselves back to Victoria Estates with several detours in between to mask our destination.
I was forced to take Rachel aboard my own besom, as we had to abandon her own due to damage. She clung protectively behind me as our group sped home on our final leg. We rendezvoused at the Linwood sports field and set down before we gave ourselves any respite.
“James.” I spoke as my heart continued racing with Rachel slumped on the ground beside me.
“Yes?” James responded, though he must have known I wanted to be introduced to the other pilots who had joined us.
“Would you mind making introductions?” I asked. Every one of us removed our headgear and skipping anything so formal, to just state our names aloud as we all continued to lay in our anarchic manner upon the ground. All future members of our inner circle were James, and his entourage, along with Deanna, Rachel and Valerie. Our introductions included Nyssa, Tessa, Vijay, and Zoë. The lot of us had completed a singularly dangerous mission with the only loss being a besom. I congratulated everyone on a job well done. Having rested ourselves long enough with Cathie still clutching the text, we departed the sports field on foot and dispersed ourselves home. We found Professor Montay nervously pacing the front porch as we approached.
“Is it done?” she asked. I only responded with a nod, still feeling as though I had just finished a marathon. “Was anyone hurt?”
“No, but we did lose a besom, Professor.” I responded.
“I take it, that besom of yours was more than capable of carrying a second rider?” Professor Montay noted.
“Yes, Professor.” I answered. “I think I put a lot more into this, than I thought was possible.”
“You may have to provide instruction to one of our master artisan’s on how you did that.” The Professor quipped back.
“I was thinking,” I added, “If I am supervised, we might be able to construct one for everyone in the school.” I had made note that our escorts had used brooms that if the situation had not been dire, could have possibly resulted in more of a loss than just the single one.
“The availability of mass transportation might indeed be useful.” Professor Montay noted. Together we all passed the front portal and headed directly for the peace of the remainder of the night between warm sheets. I had not even bothered to undress as I crawled lazily into my bed. The familiar scent of brimstone filled my nostrils and I drifted off to sleep with my hand playfully scratching the thick leathery skin of Ferule’s head. The morning sunrise seemed to approach much too quickly.
Our morning routine remained unchanged, even though it was Saturday. I awoke still feeling rather sleepy and fumbled with my clothes so that I might be able to dress myself for morning exercise. Professor Montay met the three of us yawning in the hallway as my wand bounced lazily on the floor waiting to be picked up. I was still so tired that I almost fell asleep once again. But after our brisk routine and shower after, I began to feel much more like myself. As it was Saturday, it was just the three of us seated for breakfast. Famished, I dove into my plate and was just finishing when Valerie, Rachel and Deanna arrived. The three of them seemed to match us, though a good hearty breakfast served by Ferule had them equaling us, before we all departed to open the bookshop with Karl. We stood impatiently waiting outside as Karl opened the front door.
“Good Morning!” The six of us greeted Karl.
“Morning, Ladies.” Karl replied, to which he politely sat with his morning plate as we busied ourselves with duties for the day ahead. We soon had an almost endless stream of customers, which made the morning pass so quickly we completely forgot about lunch and soon found Karl pouring late afternoon tea for us. Karl busied himself with a very large delivery while we settled into some relaxation. I took this time to endure my twenty minutes of imposed silence along with a concentrated effort to remain parked above the floor in front of the text stand in the middle of the reading lounge. Karl returned to tea with us, as my silence period concluded. Excitedly, Karl poured himself some tea and exited to the storeroom without stopping to invite us. We thought this to be curious when we heard the storeroom door being locked, and Karl returned with his teacup half empty.
“Karl…” I curiously noted before asking. “You never lock the storeroom door.”
“Sorry, Ladies.” Karl quickly replied. “This last delivery must be kept secured, lest anyone should accidentally discover what it is.” The heavy boxes and crates, which Karl had now in storage, peaked my curiosity, but I knew better than to try to snoop. Professor Montay and Uncle Vlad arrived a short time later, and were escorted into the storeroom by Karl. They all emerged just a few moments later and beckoned the six of us into the storeroom.
“Now...” Professor Montay began.
“The six of you have a workshop to start…” Uncle Vlad interrupted.
“…To begin manufacturing new besoms for yourselves.” Professor Montay concluded.
“And Narissa, you will…” Uncle Vlad began.
“…Supervise the others in their completion.” I finished, while not only becoming excited, but also noting Professor Montay’s frustration for not having been able to complete either previous sentence.
“It has been decided that your suggestion of mass transportation, be implemented.” Professor Montay concluded, now being able to finish her sentence completely. “It seems that as you are the only person available who has completed the successful construction of a besom, that you are the only person who possesses the necessary skill to complete the process for your classmates.”
“But, Professor.” I noted. “That store room is far too small for even one person to build a besom, let alone the entire student body.”
“That is why,” Professor Montay replied. “Starting Monday morning, the school resources have been reallocated so that the entire school can have besoms completed before the week is out.”
“Professor…?” I meekly asked. “Am I to assume, I am going to supervise everyone?”
“You,” Professor Montay added. “Will be instructing the staff as to how to produce each component, they will share in the supervision, but you will be directing the pace so that each and every completed besom can be inspected by both yourself and the master artisan.”
“Professor…?” I asked getting a little more confused.
“We had your besom inspected by a master this morning, and he refused to even touch your besom, though he did manage to have it stop long enough to actually be inspected.” Professor Montay continued in explanation. “That who ever constructed your besom had the skills which far exceeded his own.”
“So, that means…?” I asked still very confused.
“He will make himself available, but wishes to know how a young girl managed to produce such a finely crafted instrument, when it took him years as an apprentice to achieve anything that approaches what you have done.” Feeling very proud and excited, I immediately wanted to know the complete contents of the inventory now once again firmly secured inside the storeroom.
“Starting Monday morning, Narissa.” Karl winked. Now feeling like a thoroughbred racehorse biting at the bit, I was forced to impatiently wait for Monday morning to arrive.
“Until then,” Uncle Vlad made us promise. “Complete secrecy.” Now feeling very excited, all six of us perused thru Karl’s entire inventory and were only able to find four books containing any amount of usable information as to the techniques of constructing a flight worthy besom. The only component that was surely too far advanced was the manufacture of stirrups. That I was certain would remain the master artisan’s task.
With our excitement for the day still fresh with us, we departed from Karl’s bookshop and headed for home with the promise from the others to return tomorrow morning. Our studies for that evening consisted of a review of teleportation along with some more practice before dinner, followed immediately afterwards with primary flight basics. Though this lesson seemed somewhat post compliant, Professor Montay felt was necessary as a prelude to tomorrow when she announced the lesson would be some advanced flight techniques, and if time permitting, some aerobatics theory.
That night I lay upon my bed too excited to sleep, though still exhausted from the night before. Both Annie and Cathie also still far too excited to sleep, crept into my room. The three of us decided to stretch our boundaries, and dressed ourselves for a midnight flight. Our besoms waited for us in the sitting room as my wand bounced up and into the hidden pocket while Annie and Cathie demonstrated their forget-me-nots for their first time.
“VIRGA, SIRSUM!” I commanded, mounted the stirrups and waited for Annie to do the same, while Cathie had a little difficulty coaxing her besom to follow us. Together we shot into the night sky one after the other. We rounded the sports field at low altitude and set down. We did not wait long for our escorts from the previous evening to join us, though I noted Rachel was sporting another besom of equal age to the one she had last night. I remained hovering on my own besom near the ground while everyone else took off then dove back as though trying to entice me to join them. I felt Professor Montay nearby and her gentle affection she was beginning to show, with allowing me this simple pleasure before I shot vertical right through their midst and kept climbing before the air thinned out too much.
The air at that height was so still that I wished I could have remained there. Smiling to myself I dove straight down and into the wash of a passing small aircraft. With my most mischievous intentions I crept underneath the fuselage and matched their course and heading. I was close enough to overhear the conversation between the pilot and occupant as I withdrew to the rear and followed their descent onto a small airfield. It was these two that my mischief this evening was worth the effort. As they landed, I veered off the field and snuck in behind one of the hangars. I did not have to wait long for the aircraft to advance to the hangar I now hovered above as my escort arrived behind me and dismounted onto the hangar roof. Using hand signals, we spread out across the roof to listen. The voices of several men spoke clearly below me, and I could not resist urging my besom to hover lower to the ground until I was just a few feet above the ground and just a few more away from them.
“Looking for me, gentlemen?” I politely quipped. The men spun around towards me and I locked my eyes with them. I knew my escorts had their wands already drawn and separated them from their firearms before they could hurt themselves as both magazines and barrel slides fell onto the ground.
“Tsk-Tsk-Tsk… such behavior from gentlemen such as yourselves.” I said sarcastically. “You can tell your master to leave me alone, or I will become the nastiest bitch he has ever met.”
“Just who, do you think you are?” one of the men asked.
“I am no one.” I stated calmly, and then finished with, “But I am sure you already knew that.” In a very sarcastic tone. With a wave, my escorts descended onto the ground with wands drawn and formed a semi-circle around me, keeping a respectful distance from the men.
“Before we depart, I want you to deliver a message.” I stated in a commanding tone.
“We don’t take orders from you…” One of the men spoke.
“But you do, and you will.” I replied, along with. “Tell your master, I will wait for him to come alone, or I will not be alone. You can also tell him that as long as he keeps sending you, I will make it my promise to lead you to places you do not want to be.”
“Just who, do you think you are…?” the man spoke again.
“I told you already, I am no one.” I replied sarcastically to which I waved off my escorts and they flew back into the night sky. One of the men, tried to reassemble his weapon quickly, to which my wand leapt into my hand.
“Uh-uh, uh…!” I spoke, drawing his attention to my wand as I remained hovering on my besom. “That’s not being very nice. Is it?” noting my escorts had now been given a sufficient head start, I let the men watch my wand bounce up my arm and back into my pocket before I launched vertically and out of their sight. Annie remained hovering over the hangar roof just out of sight and I circled the airfield several times before she joined me. We sped along following the contours of the ground at nothing faster than a quick running pace.
“They were so shocked at your appearance and subsequent disappearance that they discussed widening their search pattern. They are still over fifty miles away and heading in the wrong direction to be giving us any concern.” Annie reported.
“Good, that will give enough time to have everyone on new besoms before we can start laying ambushes to lead them away from Victoria Estates, and letting them think they are getting too close to us.” I concluded. Annie and I sped up and caught the others before they approached the sports field. We all rested, while I sensed Professor Montay still close by, before she too departed. Everyone else quickly sped off home while Annie, Cathie and I remained staring into the night sky. The bell signaling the second hour of the morning pealed from the school tower. We walked home with our besoms over our shoulders, while bright green eyes watched over us. Professor Montay met us on the front porch.
“Ten minutes, Professor? I asked.
“Not today, Ladies.” The professor replied. “And well done.” She added after, as together the four of us passed thru the front portal, and headed to our waiting beds. This time I folded what I now called my flight suit and placed it with my besom in a special closet hidden in my bedroom wall. I noted Annie and Cathie were doing the same, before we all turned in. I playfully scratched Ferules forehead as he belched brimstone while I drifted off to sleep, curled up under one of his giant wings with his tail flicking back and forth. I found myself lying on the floor as the sun streamed thru my open window.
The Sabbat. I always referred to it as such, but never really had stayed in any one place long enough to have actually have allowed my parents to do anything more, but refer to some very old scriptures written in an equally old book. Today was different, or at least it seemed to me. Today I was actually going to be setting foot in a real church, not just a chapel. Dressing myself in the wardrobe that Ferule had once again dutifully set out before me. Absolutely brilliant white floor length dress robes. I giggled slightly as after trying it on, the only thing missing was a veil to make me appear looking like a bride. The form fitting sleeves and high collar seemed to draw attention to anyone who might have ever worn it. I also noted, that though it fit me perfectly, it had not been made for me, nor was it new.
The matching tailcoat with wide flowing sleeves framed me completely leaving no doubt to anyone that I was indeed the twenty-seventh of my line. The Coat of Arms was almost invisible but in stark contrast in pale gold thread upon my right breast. My wand bounced up and landed perfectly within the tailcoat’s hidden pocket. My red hair flowed around my head cascading over my shoulders as I stepped into a pair of complementing high boots. The only accessory I allowed myself to wear was my ring. It had never left my finger since I had received it following my parent’s death. The only other person to my memory to have ever worn it was my mother. Now, I was ready. Today, those who did not know who I was would know exactly who I was. It mattered not, if anyone in attendance was an agent to the Chamberlain, as today was the Sabbat, and all hostilities were laid aside. Today there were no differences, only solidarity. Today, I was to sit with the Family and they with me.
I entered the hallway and found Cathie and Annie waiting patiently with Professor Montay. Both of my roommates were dressed similarly but also differently. I noted a Cross Pattee Herald emblem on Cathie and what appeared similar on Annie in place of where the coat of arms was embroidered on the tailcoat I wore. Our wardrobes were the same brilliant white. Professor Montay’s robes were a bright emerald green, with the coat of arms in the same place as I wore.
“Good morning.” Professor Montay greeted. Cathie and Annie paused to close their mouths, which they did not realize were gaping.
“Shall we meet the Master of the House, Professor?” I greeted back.
“He has been waiting for us.” The professor concluded. We descended the staircase and I glided down the staircase last in line. With Ferule’s assistance, my uncle held a hooded over cloak for each of us in turn. Ferule wore a matching long coat to my uncle’s, though his had the coat of arms embroidered in plain white thread bordered with grey. My uncle’s attire included the coat of arms in the same pale gold as Professor Montay and myself wore. Distinct, yet all of us different just like the people we all were.
I was shocked to see open coaches waiting for us outside. The coach drivers all dressed smartly in matching grey uniforms while escorts in crisp black uniforms prepared to accompany us on horseback. This level of ceremony marked the distinction of today, as I rose into the open coach and seated myself with Cathie and Annie. Professor Montay and Uncle Vlad seated themselves in the lead coach. Our escorts spurred their horses as the coach drivers snapped their reins to begin movement forward. Our parade of pure ceremony began our short journey to the largest church in Victoria Estates, though modest in size was adorned as though it was a cathedral. The coaches glided to a halt and we alighted up the lined walkway filled with what almost appeared to be the colors of the rainbow and into the open doors. An equal amount of color greeted my eyes as I stepped nervously up the isle and seated myself in the centre front row with Annie on my right and Cathie on my left. Professor Montay and Uncle Vlad seated themselves behind us, and I curiously found Ferule had taken a place at the far right of the church’s outer walls. I also noted that everyone dressed in grey bowed or curtseyed as he passed them. By my estimates everyone in the entire town was turned out this morning. I also noted that everyone had to some degree or another a particular station based upon their position in the Family.
Seated, I was nervously playing with my ring as I focused my stare forward. It was then that three women all dressed in emerald green, escorted each with a woman in black approached the front of the church with book stands and to my amazement, the three texts. I did note however, that the locks on the texts remained firmly secured. I remained seated as each of the three women nodded to Professor Montay before seating themselves to the far left of the row behind us. The padre entered finally and I rose to my feet as he approached the podium. I noted the shuffling of feet and rustle of robes, as I was sure everyone else followed my lead.
“Good Morning.” The Padre nervously began. “It is of note to mention that I have never been privy to a gathering of worship such as this, and I welcome you all to this house.” The Padre was uncertain of what to do next, as everyone seated themselves except myself. I walked forward to the podium, and offered my own seat to the Padre.
“Thank you, Padre.” I offered. “Today we shall not need your guidance, but rather mine.”
“Yes, of course, Mistress.” The Padre nervously settled into the seat I had just vacated.
“I know everyone of you present knows now that there are actually three of these texts.” I stated as I pointed to the texts resting upon the stands. “Today is the first time, in a very long time that you may join and bear witness to their being open.” I walked over to the centre text and while gently running my fingers down the spine whispered ‘Aperio’ to which, with everyone’s gasps and whispers, I flipped the cover gently open. The green ink shimmered as I whispered ‘Ostendo’ and the written script became solid upon the pages.
“Welcome…” I spoke proudly and clearly. “Today, though your children already know who I am, I now present myself to you.” The whispers and rustling continued with a flurry of some women using hand fans as though to prevent themselves from fainting while trying to scold their children for having said nothing before today.
“My Birthright, provided by the proof I present to you, as your Matriarch is now your duty to protect and your pleasure to cherish. I now bind you to the faith and trust my Birthright compels you to do.” I spoke as I felt a sudden wave begin to envelop me. This time it passed thru me and spread across the faces of everyone present.
“Ego sum Narissa, Ducamen est Brougham, quod vos utriusque vestri rector quod vernula. (I am Narissa, Grand Duchess of Brougham, and now both your leader and servant.)” I spoke clearly in Latin.
“Vos es nostrum lux lucis quod Regina. Nos sudo nostrum famulatus vobis quod vadum non-palor ex pius nostri constituo. (You are our light and Matron. We swear our allegiance to you and shall not waiver from the duties of our stations.)” Everyone present responded while rising to their feet.
“Gratias ago vos. (Thank you.)” Was all I could manage to say, in response to the oath spoken. I returned to my seat, to which I offered the Padre the podium and the now open text. He was speechless.
“Pardon me Mistress.” The padre spoke. “But I am not worthy of the task you offer.”
“Padre,” I answered. “I offer you to read aloud the text for everyone to hear the proof they all yearn to hear.”
“Yes, Mistress.” The padre now proudly replied. He cleared his throat as he now stood in front of the text and while he tried to become comfortable, the text reminded him with the heating of his fingertips that he should not touch. The whispers started as though protesting my decision to allow the padre to read instead of perhaps one of the women who had carried the texts into the church. I raised my hand for silence, which quickly resulted in such complete silence that the click of a watch cover would have resembled a cannon blast. The padre read aloud without pausing excepting to accentuate the punctuation.
Created, by my hand in the year of our creator, Sixteen-hundred-eight, I do hereby make proclamation the reading of this text shall become the sole duty of my daughters and their daughters and descendants. I also direct a reading of proclamation should the chain ever be broken that a male member of the Family read first so that there can be no envy or posturing to place any one daughter before the other. While the birthright I pass to the second of my daughters, my eldest shall be the sole custodian and entrusted with the responsibility of safekeeping this and the copies I now make to ensure their survival from destruction. I command this and I make it so.
“It is signed – Grand Duchess of Brougham and affixed with her seal.” The padre read. He now moved back from the podium as I whispered ‘Claudo’ and the text shut and locked itself once again.
One of the women who had carried the texts into the church almost leapt forward as though trying to prevent the text from closing. The Padre led the family congregation thru several passages from several old text copies that I distinctly remembered from my parent’s teachings. The service concluded with a benediction that included a blessing of my station. I blushed slightly at the attention this brought, but managed to remain composed enough to exit behind the padre and into sun streaming thru the now open doors of the church.
“What am I waiting for?” Was now the only question left to ask myself. I stood beside the Padre with Cathie and Annie on either side of me while the Family members exited the church. Almost everyone took note of my ring, and of course our fellow Linwood students stood patiently waiting on the church lawn after having been excluded from the service due to the small space inside the church.
“Three-Hundred twelve, Narissa.” Annie stated, having counted everyone exiting the church. Cathie confirmed this number. The student body was more than half that number, making the total count approximately five hundred. There were more than two hundred Family members either already dead or missing. Formulating a plan, which was to include the entire family in one form or another, I began to whirl my mind into a mischievous and devious state while I continued to smile and wave to everyone while we prepared to depart in the coaches. The coaches, and our escorts departed with everyone returning our smiles and waves as we headed home.
The plan I deduced would hinge upon the collection of enough raw materials to have the fastest possible besoms made in duplicate. It would mean each and every Linwood student would need to assist in construction to almost assembly line precision.
“Ferule…” I projected softly.
“Yes, Mistress...” Ferule projected warmly back. “I have been harvesting enough in anticipation of your needs.”
“Scales too Ferule?” I projected.
“Of course, Mistress.” Ferule responded inside my head.
“Ferule, when will I one day be ahead of you? I projected warmly back to him.
“Perhaps one day, Mistress.” Ferule’s voice echoed in my head.
“But not today…” I concluded before Ferule could finish.
“You’re getting there, Mistress.” Ferule sounded in my mind.
Upon arriving back at home, the three of us quickly changed into black dresses with tail coats, and sped ourselves over to Karl’s to leaf thru the reference materials we had set aside yesterday. I paid particular attention to a second reference text on the subject of the significant properties of Dragons and their relation to besom making. I hovered over the floor in what appeared as a comfortable seating position, but I was not seated on a chair.
“Show off…” Annie quipped.
“Try it, you might find it comfortable.” I quipped back in an equal tone. Just then, James came into the Bookshop, and broke my concentration long enough for me to land smartly on the floor in a rather indignant manner.
“No thanks.” Annie giggled while I tried to pick myself off the floor without looking too embarrassed.
“You could have warned me, Annie.” I whispered, while now rubbing my backside.
“And spoil even a little bit of fun…?” She quipped back at me.
“…Hello James.” I greeted him.
“Hello Narissa.” James greeted me back and added. “I have some interesting information just come in.”
“Oh…?” I replied, trying to sound as though I was actually surprised more than embarrassed.
“It seems that your attendance this morning was quite a bit more than most people were expecting.” James reported. “Especially after so many of the elders were put aside with having the padre read from those texts that were brought in.”
“The only thing I can suggest…” I answered. “Is for them to get used to it. There has been too many people remaining comfortable and protecting themselves before worrying about anyone else.”
“Well…” James added. “I heard, there are a lot of people coming into Victoria Estates over the next several days.”
“As long as none of them are nasty.” I answered. “Then we can proceed with our plans.”
“Plans…?” James enquired.
“James,” Annie butted in. “Ever tried to catch a hornet with your bare hands?
“Well, no.” James replied.
“Imagine yourself trying to catch a hornet,” Cathie added. “While surrounded by a swarm.”
“And they’re very angry hornets.” Annie added. I just smiled as the confused look on James’ face was replaced with a look equally diabolical to our own.
“Just keep tabs on our newest residents.” I added. “We’ll need to know if they are going to try to catch any hornets.”
“Are you coming, for a flight tonight?” Cathie asked.
“Do we need everyone?” James replied.
“It wouldn’t be any fun otherwise.” Annie quipped.
“We’ll see you around ten.” I stated, before James exited the bookshop. I mused at Annie and Cathie as they both seemed to want me to query them about the flight tonight I had mentioned. Tonight would be fun to see what extent the Chamberlain was using Capital resources to find us. I also noted the last create that had been delivered yesterday was now missing. I was sure that we’d see the rest of them riding the crates contents tonight.
We finished up with restocking the shelves and putting away the last of our reference materials, when Professor Montay entered the bookshop and I noted the displeasure of the women in her company. They brought the texts in that had previously been at the church earlier today. I just could not resist being a little mischievous, to which both Annie and Cathie seemed to be thinking the same things as I was.
“Oh, they’re back.” I mentioned loudly, while trying to sound relieved. “Thank you.”
“Professor…?” Annie jumped in almost on queue. “Will we be assigning a security detail for these?”
“I don’t think that will be necessary, ladies.” Professor Montay replied, almost sensing the mischief we were trying to create.
“Yea, you know Narissa is the only one who can open these things.” Cathie quipped.
“Oh… Yea,” Annie replied. “I forgot.”
“And just in time, too.” I added in. “Almost time to open them up again.”
“Yea, I wonder when the texts will stop bouncing open to pages referring to a bunch of dead guys.” Cathie added. It was almost time to even an old score. I remembered one of the women as being very much a snob.
“Professor…?” I asked politely. Do you think these ladies might want to read from the texts with us?”
“I’ll check and see if they are available, my dear.” Professor Montay answered. The ladies almost seemed to be ready to dive over one another to try and be first to the texts.
“How do we open them?” The first asked.
“Do we need to open them in a certain order?” The second asked
“Are they really written by her?” the last one asked.
“OK, since it’s your first time, the texts are very particular.” I politely offered. “You must first be able to open the text yourself, or they will not reveal anything to you.” To this Annie, Cathie and I seated ourselves and waited very patiently while the three women all tried numerous attempts to open the texts and even had one of them stuck to the ceiling at one point, though I was not entirely sure if Professor Montay did not have something to do with that. One of the women tried to command one of the texts to ‘reveal’ to which it raised a very nasty and impolite comment before it faded, leaving the woman almost ready to faint.
We left the reading lounge and busied ourselves while Professor Montay finally managed to convince the three women to try again at another time. After the three women left, Professor Montay regarded the three of us in a very curt manner.
“Ladies that was the most horrible display of hooliganism I have ever seen.” Professor Montay calmly stated.
“Ten minutes, Professor?” I quipped, with a wink.
“Ten minutes, Ladies.” The professor replied, with a very pronounced wink. The professor exited and we heard a few heated comments outside the bookshop, before we mussed ourselves as the three women and the professor departed. We finally broke into a chorus of laughter that left us snickering and giggling the remainder of the afternoon. Annie managed to retrieve the information from the text the one woman had used the reveal command with to find the text had written, ‘buzz-off, you old hag!’, we continued giggling hysterically long afterwards.
Our evening lessons were more on aerobatic flight maneuvers, in addition to some advanced hover techniques. I was guessing the professor was preparing us for another late night flight. The three of us however, did have our cutlery on the ceiling for ten minutes before dinner. As it was Sunday and we had already prepared our book bags for Linwood, we took the extra time to get into flight suits and waited for sunset, following dinner. Professor Montay asked us to be respectful and to not be out too late as tomorrow was school. This she stated with a wink as we launched out the window and into the quickly darkening sky. We rendezvoused at the spots field with James, Nyssa, Tessa, Vijay and Zoë along with Valerie, Deanna and Rachel. We rehearsed some basic hand signals to more easily communicate while in-flight. The eleven of us took off into the sky together, and proceeded to the furthest airfield in the county. This airfield was bustling with military aircraft. Flying close. We snuck in low and hovered just over a hangar roof and hid in the darkness. I made a hand signal to watch what was going on near the control tower.
We noted the latest bi-wing airplanes being towed onto the airfield apron. We could feel the vibrations in the air as two aircraft began rolling down the runway with two more turning from a taxiway and following close behind the first two. A fifth aircraft waited on the runway after the other four were in the air before it too took off at full throttle. Being absolutely mischievous, I motioned the others over to me.
“Let’s really have some fun with this.” I whispered openly. “Just follow my lead.”
We hovered over the roof on our besoms, which was worthy to note the other eight besoms were brand new ‘Excalibur’ racing besoms. Though no match in speed to what the three of us could attain on ours, they were still very fast. Valerie, Deanna, and Rachel sped off to the end of the airfield to set some pyrotechnics, while the others waited patiently hidden in the darkness of the hangar roof. We set off in search of the aircraft that had just left while we maintained watching the tower. The activity was intense as several more aircraft were being readied for take-off.
Annie, Cathie and I rounded the airfield before the pyrotechnics were set off, imitating an aircraft crash.
“Hey everyone…” I heard Rachel quip. “These guys are mad as hornets.”
“You think we disrupted their airfield enough.” Annie stated.
“Enough for now” I answered as emergency vehicles approached the end of the runway where the pyrotechnics were set off. We all started giggling as we all met on top of the hangar again, and remained hiding in the shadows.
“You hear something?” we heard a guard say from the ground. That just made me laugh harder and had everyone join me. Our laughter sounded absolutely wicked and echoed around the airfield. Having everyone watch me, I hovered over the edge of the roof and lowered myself down to the ground.
“Hey, what’s all the excitement?” I asked one of the guards, as I hovered on my besom a few feet from him.
“There was supposedly an aircraft down.” The guard responded without even noticing I was hovering on a besom. I noticed him do a ‘double-take’.
“That’s ok; they’re just cooling things off.” I quipped to him. The guard started to chuckle, then laugh, and then he noticed I was hovering on my besom. The guard stood frozen, not even reaching for his weapon.
“Oh, don’t worry.” I calmly stated. “I won’t tell anyone I was here, if you don’t”
“Y-Y-You’re on a…” he started to say. “I mean, W-W-WHO ARE YOU?”
“I am no one.” I stated. “But don’t worry, no one will believe you if you told them anyway.” The guard froze. His fear overtook him as my companions following my lead descended to the ground also.
“By the way,” I added. “We’ll be seeing you again sometime.” To this we all shot into the night sky and buzzed the tower at breakneck speeds, and left the lone guard with his mouth gaping open. We flew further away, before we turned and skimmed the ground contours back past the airfield, where we noted the absolute mayhem of recovery crews and emergency vehicles trying to find what they thought must have been an aircraft wreck that wasn’t even there. Our aerobatics of buzzing the tower must have had the controller wanting to know which pilot had flown past without authorization. I just could no longer resist the temptation, and on my mark, each of us descended into a Flying-V formation and cruised leisurely across the entire length of the airfield at an approximate speed of twenty knots.
We passed thru the airfield lighting, and clearly silhouetted ourselves against the night sky. We rotated our formation as we passed under fifty feet from the ground, before we streaked back into the night sky. The silence from the tower, as well as ground personnel lasted well after we passed, before erupting in a flurry of commands from the tower for aircraft to intercept us. We quickly dove to less than five feet off the ground and zigzagged around the airfield while remaining in formation. We halted and hovered next to a coppice of trees, shielding us from view. An endless stream of aircraft flew back and forth as they vainly attempted to locate us. Using hand signals, I indicated we break into pairs and strike off in different directions prior to heading to rendezvous at the sports field. Skimming close to the ground at nothing more than walking speed, I approached parallel to an aircraft getting ready for take-off. I halted just under the wingtip and hid in the shadow cast by the searchlights circling the airfield. As the aircraft began to roll, I matched its acceleration and rose with it into the air. Being so close to the aircraft, I was able to remain hidden. After several hundred meters, I flipped myself over and passed under the aircraft before diving. If anyone had been watching the aircraft, they would have thought they had seen something falling off the aircraft. As I approached the ground, I veered off and headed for the sports field.
Upon dismounting, we all lay looking up at the sky and laughing. I was sure if there was anyone nearby, they would be left wondering what we were all doing in the middle of the field. Deanna, James, Nyssa, Rachel, Tessa, Valerie, Vijay and Zoë soon departed for home while Annie, Cathie and I remained behind.
“What you thinking Narissa?” Annie asked.
“Oh, just thinking about the flight line tonight.” I answered. “They are no where able to follow us, if we all took to the sky at the same time.”
“Are you thinking about the missing Family members?” Cathie asked.
“Yes…” I answered. “We will need to practice before we do anything.”
“You want to let us know what you have in mind.” Annie asked another question.
“It will be time to go looking for trouble, of that we will find it easily.” I concluded. “We will need to find a secluded place that we can exercise our skills at flight and become a formidable air power.”
“You were thinking about Friday and Saturday nights?” Cathie quickly deduced.
“Of course,” I replied. “It will give us something to do, instead of moving out-houses.”
“And a much more constructive use of our time.” Annie added to my statement. We all continued to laugh while staring up into the night sky. The trap was now set, waiting to be sprung. The only major step we needed have completed quickly was starting tomorrow morning, so I reluctantly urged Annie and Cathie to head for home. We leisurely walked home and arrived before the clock had struck one. I had my face buried in my soft pillows before ten minutes more had passed.
I woke up with the smell of brimstone fading from my room, and dressed for morning exercise. This morning when Annie, Cathie and I left the house with Professor Montay, Valerie, Deanna and Rachel greeted us as we jogged to the sports field before beginning a warm-up. Mondays were truly the longest day of the week, or so it seemed to me. With the knowledge of what was coming today, I was feeling as though the day would not be long enough. Our physical training under Professor Montay’s coaching was already beginning to show with having lost an inch or so of body fat to have it replaced with solid muscle. After stepping out of the shower later, I checked my weight and found I was now almost two kilograms heavier. Looking leaner and meaner, the six of us fled wrapped in warm towels to get ourselves dressed before breakfast. This morning, the huge mountain of food Ferule served us disappeared while our cutlery adorned the ceiling. We left behind our book bags this morning, knowing full well what we were actually going to be doing today and carried our besoms with us into the morning sun. When we arrived at the school grounds, we were just in time to find a delivery truck unloading the last of the crates, which had previously been locked in the storeroom at Karl’s bookshop.
“You must be Miss Narissa.” I heard a voice from the man struggling with the trolley loaded with the last crate from the truck.
“Yes, I am.” I politely replied. “And you are?”
“Amos Kovar,” The man answered. “Master Artisan, and I am at your service.”
“I am pleased to meet you, sir.” I replied. “I am sorry if my besom gave you too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all,” Amos replied back. “There is a lot of love and pride that went into all three of the besoms you ladies are holding.”
“Thank you,” I answered to Amos. “Do you think we can recreate, at least copies of these?”
“Unless you have a few pails of Dragon blood,” Amos added, “It will be very hard to even come close.”
“We do.” I quipped. “Along with about a hundred kilograms of ground Dragon scale.” Upon hearing this, Amos lost control of the trolley and it careened into the doorframe he was trying to enter.
“Y-Y-You have dragon scales?” Amos stuttered. “Where did you get them?”
“If I told you that…” I began.
“You’d have to kill me.” Amos answered finishing my statement. “I know… trade secret. You don’t have to tell me, and considering where they are from, I really don’t want to know.”
“Good.” I quipped. “Then we have the basis of a new friendship, and I trust your continued silence about how many besoms we are going to construct.”
“One for every student, yes?” Amos asked.
“Two for every student.” I answered. “And don’t ask what the second besom is for, but I do want you to assign a model name.”
“I have never named any of my besoms.” Amos stated, while only now understanding the total number of besoms he was going to be inspecting.
“Then it’s about time you did.” Annie added.
“Any ideas for a model name?” Cathie quipped in.
“Can I answer that later, Ladies?” Amos enquired.
“Of course. Until after this morning’s Assembly, Master Kovar.” I politely noted a station to him.
“You honor me, Miss Narissa.” Amos politely spoke.
“Master Kovar, it is you who honor me, with your compliment.” I returned. Amos dutifully returned to delivering the crate and its contents into the school. The pails of Ferule’s blood and ground scales were surely already carefully hidden inside a locked room somewhere inside the school. The magical properties of dragon’s blood was legendary, but when mixed with ground scales from the same dragon would also make any object capable of reflecting any bindings or hexes, thus shielding the pilot, and also locking the flight bindings into an object in such a manner that it would actually increase its potency. Amos returned a short time later, and was astounded to find I had my besom hovering vertically behind me and never more than an arms length from me.
“Master Kovar.” I stated. “You look as though you’ve never seen a besom do this.”
“No, I have never, Miss Narissa.” Amos replied. “How is that possible?”
“I can do more with it.” I added along with. “Confuto!” (Halt) My besom remained where it was, as though I had placed it against a wall, or into a storage rack, and I walked several paces away.
“Amazing.” Amos stated aloud, though in complete awe. Amos had to remove his delivery truck from the entranceway, but returned a short time later. The students began to arrive and were soon milling around my besom. My besom remained exactly where it was and resisted any attempt by anyone to move it. Even Amos tried to move it, and was unable to make it even budge an inch. The warning bell rang, announcing Assembly.
“Virga Sirsum!” I commanded and my besom shot straight to my open hand.
“How wonderful.” Amos commented. “And does it do other things?”
“I’m not sure about its top speed, but it can carry more than one passenger without hampering its maneuverability.” I mentioned. This seemed to impress Amos completely and he departed into the school to make final preparations for the planned activities of today. I also noted the adult family members of the black house standing guard near the gymnasium entrance doors. Being ever so much inclined, I only took a few paces past them before turning on my heels.
“I see where some instruction on manners is in order.” I stated aloud, the men seemed amused being addressed by a student, to which I commanded, “Ostendo sum sepulchrum” (reverse gravity) with a wave of my wand. The men were immediately pasted to the ceiling in a most undignified manner. One of the three men convulsed, as his breakfast seemed to hover for a moment before being guided by gravity to the floor.
“P-P-Pardon M-M-Me, Mistress,” one of the guards mentioned. “I didn’t know it was you.”
“I suggest in the future to never under estimate anyone at anytime.” I answered back in a soft yet commanding tone. “Solvo redimio.” (release binding) To that, all three of the men experienced Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law.