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.
Together, Annie, Cathie, Valerie, Deanna, Rachel and I, walked down the corridor to the auditorium to await assembly. Clutching my besom, we waited as the students began to slowly file past while wondering what we were all doing with besoms, especially since the besoms all appeared to be well above anything they might have ordinarily seen. Zoë, Vijay, Tessa and James, then Nyssa, Rachel, Deanna, and Valerie soon joined us. They were all carrying their new Excalibur besoms. Our entourage was causing quite a stir. The majority of the students recognized the Excaliburs, but what impressed them more was the sleek style of the other three carried by Annie, Cathie and myself.
I made a mental note of the heavy security now visibly present in the school. But what astounded me more was the number of them who were women. As James had mentioned previously about new faces coming into Victoria Estates, was now evident with the security force present. Every one of them I happen to pass, or be in proximity to, made a point of acknowledging me similar to a soldier paying a compliment to an officer. The almost invisible embroidery of the coat of arms in black thread blended well with their dark suits. Principal Marriott approached with a woman in black.
“Good Morning.” Principal Marriott greeted the eleven of us. I noted Nyssa’s reaction to the woman in black. Their resemblance to each other and their proximity in age could only mean they were sisters. Being as mischievous as I could sometimes be, my wand snaked into my hand and with a flick, a pair of Lieutenants bars appeared on the lapels of Nyssa’s school blazer. I also added the same effect to Tessa, Vijay and Zoë’s apparel with Subaltern’s bars. James on the other hand received no such adornment, except the buttons of his blazer all now sported the coat of arms. For reasons that immediately escaped me, I felt this woman needed to know her place in the food chain.
“Good Morning, Principal Marriott,” We all responded, though not in complete unison. My wand snaked back into the hidden pocket as Principal Marriott began to introduce the woman with her.
“This is Master at Arms, Robyn.” Principal Marriott spoke. “And she shall be your escort.”
“Robyn, thank you for your offer.” I responded. “But your younger sister already has my confidence.” It was then I sensed immediate envy from Robyn, as I was sure Robyn had noticed the Lieutenants bars adorning Nyssa’s lapels. Nyssa had not moved except to perhaps straighten her shoulders slightly in response to her sister’s presence.
“Ma’am, The house decided who should be your escort.” Robyn commented.
“Again, I thank you,” I responded. “But I think your skills may be better employed by directly supervising the other members of the Black House in attendance here today.” To this comment, Robyn’s envy vanished as her field promotion seemed to envelope her with a newfound confidence. That simple lesson of ‘give and take’ was very useful at redirecting focus to things that may be more immediately important to others. By promoting Robyn to directly supervise the other members of the Black house, I would gain an ally and also an additional avenue for communications, to supplement the resource already available thru James and the others. By Nyssa becoming a lieutenant, we were creating an invaluable security resource within the school.
“By your order.” Robyn responded and excused herself politely to attend to her newly appointed station as head of school security. The remainder of the student body quickly filed past us into the auditorium, along with an almost endless stream of hushed whispers. Principal Marriott returned once more to escort the eleven of us into the Auditorium. Each of us carried our besoms as though their mere presence conveyed a higher purpose. Everyone fell into silence as we paraded ourselves down the isle with everyone except me taking a seat. Principal Marriott stood in front of the podium, with the silence of the auditorium broken with only the sound of breathing.
“Good Morning Students.” Principal Marriott shattered the silence with. “Today and for the next week or so, it has been decided that each and every one of you will be tasked with construction and assembly of personal transportation.” The silence now broken erupted with excited whispers amongst the entire student body. Taking my queue, I placed my feet into the stirrups of my besom and floated effortlessly until I was in front and slightly above the podium.
“Good Morning.” I greeted everyone, while I remained hovering on my besom. The excited whispers grew slightly, though still barely audible. “Master Kovar has assembled all of the necessary materials for construction in the gymnasium. Everyone will re-assemble there in five minutes. Thank you.” The excited shuffling of feet began with an orderly mass exodus to which the other ten besoms had pilots hovering behind me. We slowly proceeded out the open auditorium doors and headed directly into the gymnasium at nothing more than a slow walking pace. I remained hovering in the center of the gymnasium while the others all dismounted their besoms and placed them into the storage racks provided for use.
“Master Kovar?” I now spoke to completely hushed silence.
“Yes, Mistress.” Amos responded.
“Your students, Master Kovar.” I now addressed to both Amos and everyone else. The doors of the gymnasium were closed and sealed. The noir maison members sealed the doors from the outside. Just one hundred fifty three students and staff stood waiting for instruction from the Master Artisan.
“First order of business,” Amos began with, “Is for everyone of you to have in your possession, enough hair to weave approximately twelve meters of braided wrap for the thatch.” The curious glances from the shorthaired male students made me chuckle slightly.
“For everyone, you may use the horse hair we have available.” Amos stated. “Scissors are available at each work station. Proceed with a small quantity to start.” Everyone proceeded in an orderly fashion to a large crate filled with horsehair then filed quickly to a workstation.
I took a moment to dismount my own besom and place it into the storage rack along with the other ten besoms. As I may also be in need of another besom for myself, I too retrieved a lock of horsehair from the open crate. I immediately sensed the horsehair had been generously sprinkled with a portion of the ground dragon scales provided from Ferule. Everyone stood impatiently waiting in front of the small weave looms at each of the workstations. The school staff wandered amongst the students without having received any other direction.
“The first three inches of your wrap is most important, and must be woven as tightly as possible.” Amos instructed. “Begin with twenty strands of hair and lay them into your looms.” To this everyone began to diligently place the horsehair into the looms. I however overlapped seven additional strands in a loose weave opposing the others crosswise. I knew this simple step would make the end of the thatch easier to mount to the handle later. Memories of my father’s supervision flooded back to me, and I advanced quickly beyond everyone else with the first few inches of the thatch wrapper.
The braid of the wrap was pre-ordained and was soon at the point where the first of seven carefully chosen feathers would be inserted. I rose from my workstation to hear Amos continue his instruction as well as provide further direction to the staff to assist in supervision. Passing the anxious stares of my classmates, I quickly found a closed crate filled with carefully organized bundles of feathers. I chose four Owl feathers, two Falcon feathers, and one that almost seemed to beg for me to take. The last one, from an albatross, provided an almost perfect balance to the other six. I selected fifteen very thin veneer strips, and grabbed a bundle of flax straw along with two bundles of rosewood twigs. I returned to my workstation and worked ahead of everyone with weaving portions of the flax straw and rosewood between the seven feathers. I soon had the first seven inches of the wrap completed and I proceeded to finish the next fourteen inches with the available flax and rosewood until I had consumed just under a quarter of the horsehair. I had barely half of the flax and rosewood used at this point. I then backed up and offset wove more horsehair seven inches from the edge of the thatch wrap, while also inserting more rosewood. The bell sounded what would have normally been end of first period classes as I completed what was to become the center core for the thatch I was weaving. Over twenty inches constructed from nothing more than memory.
“Master Kovar?” I asked, shattering the din of noise blanketing the gymnasium. “I have need of your quill.” As a Master Artisan, this was now the point where each besom constructed would be given its model name. To be written in the dragon’s blood provided by Ferule, this was a task singularly suited to only Amos to perform. Stepping away from the loom, I waited patiently for Amos to approach and inspect the wrap I had completed so far. Amos smiled and winked at me, as he now knew what made my besom so special. To this he wrote simply ‘Duchess’ on the thatch wrapper, along with the date and his signature. His own skill as a Master Artisan was now clearly apparent. He had chosen to honor me back with the name he was now giving this besom model. Placing my open palm near where he had written, I could feel the strength his scroll had impregnated the thatch wrapper and core with. I once again sat and continued tirelessly until I had completed another forty inches of wrapper and thatch before the sounding lunch bell broke my concentration. Almost exhausting my initial supply of thatch material, the thatch resembled nothing more than what could have been part of a very short grass skirt. I felt Amos presence standing behind me as I stood up in response to the lunch bell.
“I can see you have a very distinctive weave pattern.” Amos noted while we both admired the work I had performed so far. Only another thirty or so to have the first layer of thatch ready to be assembled to a handle before adding the second, then final top cover. The three layers had to be carefully interleaved with wrap so that when assembled onto the handle, they would stay put and allow the brass mounting rings for the stirrups to be pounded on. Valerie, Deanna, Rachel, Annie and Cathie all looked a little disappointed that I was so far ahead.
“At the rate you’re going,” Annie mentioned. “You’ll have your thatch completed in a couple of days.” I knew I would be done the first layer, but the second layer would leave me well behind them as it was going to be very difficult to produce. The specific pattern of my own besom had been carefully supervised as to both the weave and the folds of wrap. Re-creating it was definitely going to slow me down considerably, but as a gift, it would be worth it. The lost part of the craft of besom making, taught to me by my father. Amos’ skill combined with the intricate yet simple patterns of the second layer would become his trade secret.
We departed together and headed to the cafeteria. My lunch detention continued in silence, but this time in solidarity. Everyone remained respectfully silent during lunch and we soon sequestered ourselves back inside the gymnasium once again with the peal of the afternoon warning bell. I returned to the loom at my workstation with another bundle of flax and another bundle of rosewood. At this point I added strips of veneer every few inches. The core was beginning to take shape and was even slightly floating as it came out the end of the loom. By the afternoon break I had almost completed a full meter of thatch. Amos inspected my progress and commented on the absolute simplicity of the pattern I had created. Only another twenty to thirty inches of wrapper would be needed, but the exact length would be determined by the thickness of the besom handle and where the pattern repeated itself. I pushed the loom aside and stood up to enjoy afternoon break. I noticed a number of other looms around the gymnasium also had thatch wrappers beginning to gently float while remaining moored by the looms.
My wand snaked up my back as I walked past the racks of unfinished besom handles stained with dragon’s blood. I walked outside with a besom handle bouncing lazily behind me. My wand jumped into my hand as the now chosen besom handle began to float higher into the air before bouncing onto the ground almost immediately. My wand quickly snaked back into my pocket as the besom handle lay motionless on the ground just a few feet away.
“How do you do that?” Rachel quipped. Everyone else began to giggle, as the besom handle remained grounded.
“Just wait until it’s assembled.” I added back. “The command bindings are going to be interesting.” To my last comment everyone erupted in laughter, as the besom handle remained motionless. The warning bell signaling the end of afternoon break had the chosen besom handle staying close to me as I re-entered the school. The unfinished handle would need to be cut down and shaped, but the knotted curve of the handle seemed to just vibrate as to the potential this besom might be capable of. Before seating myself back at my workstation, Amos inspected the chosen besom handle and marked a serial number with his wand into what was to become the base of the handle. The heat he generated scorched the wood deeply and bound basic flight commands into the now committed handle. ‘Duchess 001’, was now official and I began to anchor the end of the thatch wrap into the base of the handle before beginning to tightly wrap the thatch around it.
The heavy anchor block and chain provided at each workstation prevented the unfinished besom from floating to the ceiling when left unattended. Counting the number of wraps for the besom core I quickly finished another four inches of wrap to complete fifteen full turns of thatch. After removing the final few inches of wrap, I used the remaining horsehair to bind the end of the first layer firmly in place. The still unfinished besom gently floated in the air like an ocean liner tugging at its mooring lines. My wand snaked up my back and poked thru my collar like an affectionate puppy wanting to play. The unfinished besom and my wand seemed to attract one another and repel themselves at the same time. Knowing the next step was mine alone to do, my wand leapt into my hand and holding as though it were a pencil, I wrote a name into the handle shaft. My scroll glowed briefly before fading to match the color of the dried dragon’s blood. The act of writing a name into the handle now bound this besom to the person I was to make a gift to.
With less than a full period left to the afternoon, I began to mill amongst the other students. I made a mental note of the weave pattern Amos had everyone using. It was that pattern I remembered I was going to be using for the second layer, but the doubling with pleats was what would slow me down, as each of the pleats had to be carefully woven shut with a strip of veneer inside the apex. A total of seventeen-seven inch pleats would comprise the second layer, each pleat just over a quarter of an inch apart served to also direct the besom’s energy. The final layer, when completed, was nothing more than a weather cover, but was also meant to have its inner layer be generously coated with dragon’s blood and ground scales to repel hexes, thus protecting its rider from harm. I estimated at least another full day, and the besom I was constructing would be ready to have its mounting ring and stirrups assembled onto it before beginning the last task of rubbing several layers of beeswax into the handle.
I continued to aimlessly wander around the gymnasium and was beginning to marvel as the simplicity of Amos’ besom design. I passed by a lonely loom next to Amos’ repair station and was greeted with an almost exact copy of my own weave design. Amos had meticulously recreated over two feet of wrapper with a matching core of Owl, Falcon and Albatross feathers. An almost identical besom handle was already moored with the heavy anchor block. Passing my hand over the base of the unfinished handle ‘Duchess 002’ glowed briefly before fading. I did however notice that Amos had produced a forge iron neatly engraved with both his monogram and the model name. His Final stamp of approval for each and every besom once they were completed. No one else was yet ready to assemble their thatch onto a handle, but a few were close and could possibly be at the same point as I was earlier, sometime tomorrow morning. I began to muse slightly as I noticed Amos return to his repair station loom once more and try to get another inch or so completed before being called back to the floor once again.
I mischievously smiled knowing that if I used my wand to speed up the process, the besoms would not be of the highest quality, and could perhaps even be unstable. I suppressed a giggle knowing that if I did that, then Amos would wonder where he went wrong, perhaps even wonder if he’d missed a line or two in the weave.
I continued to mill around everyone as they all tirelessly worked. The final bell of the day was fast approaching, and Amos signaled for everyone to securely moor any handles they had chosen and to anchor their thatch and wraps to their looms. He also directed everyone to secure all unused portions of construction materials into the lock bins provided at each workstation. The school staff secured the open crates of materials while a few students assisted Amos to anchor the un-chosen besom handles to the drying racks. Amos had everyone exit the gymnasium and into the hallway before making one last inspection of our impromptu besom factory. He exited the gymnasium and allowed the black house guards to secure and seal the gymnasium until tomorrow morning before he addressed all of us.
“A very productive first day, everyone.” Amos stated proudly. “As students you are all very worthy apprentices.” To that the final bell of the day rang signaling the daily explosion of the student body to exit the school once again. Amos departed after sending me a wink while Annie, Cathie, Deanna, James, Nyssa, Rachel, Tessa, Valerie, Vijay and Zoë remained with me before we exited the school together with our besoms slung over our shoulders. After exiting the school, we quickly parted our company with the promise to meet this evening after sunset, and then Annie, Cathie and I fled on foot to Karl’s bookshop where our late afternoon tea was brewing.
“It would seem that you three have had a very eventful day,” Karl mused, “And I suspect the additional delivery I had today will come in handy in the near future.” Not wanting to wait to find out more about Karl’s most recent delivery, we rushed the storeroom door. Inside the storeroom was crates filled with flying suits, much like the ones we already had. I noted each and every suit was individually packed along with nametapes. I was only able to conclude that all this clothing was destined to be worn by each and every Linwood student sometime in the immediate future. Also included, with the clothing was footwear matching the boots I already had. It appeared that nothing was forgotten, which to me could only mean that Ferule felt these items would be needed sometime in the near future.
Returning from the storeroom, the three of us had little else to do as the bookshop had been devoid of any customers the entire day. We were now officially bored after such an invigorating day.
“You three could always open one of the texts.” Karl suggested.
“That’s a perfect idea.” We all responded though not quite simultaneously. Remembering I still had to serve my twenty minutes of silence, I opened one of the texts and revealed the pages before beginning my imposed silence while levitating myself a fraction of an inch off the floor. Placing our hands in the center of the open text, together we willed for the subject of the curse. To this end, the pages advanced to the first mention of it.
“This is dated the twelfth of May, sixteen-o-eight.” Annie announced.
“And it appears to be different handwriting from the proceeding pages.” To this Annie flipped the page to see if the entry was signed. It was not. I also noted something very strange, as the pages seemed to shimmer slightly as though it was hiding something the reveal command was not allowing to be seen.
“So,” Cathie began. “Before we go any further, let’s confirm any information we may already know.” I remained silent, but remained focused and listened.
“We know these texts were all created around the same time.” Cathie noted.
“And from the reading at the chapel, we know that was sixteen-o-eight.” Annie added.
“We know that the three copies are somehow bound to each other, and only allow one to be open at any time.” Cathie added as well. Good so far, I though to myself.
“We could check to see if each text has identical entries.” Annie stated, and that was a perfect idea to which I closed the text that was open and Cathie opened the text adjacent to it. Cathie quickly flipped thru the pages and found no such identical entry, but there were entries with the same series of dates.
“This is a little odd.” Annie noted while looking over Cathie’s shoulder. “The handwriting is different from the first text.”
“This can only mean that this entry was written by someone else.” Annie concluded. I had to agree with both Annie and Cathie, and only nodded my head in agreement. I was almost ready to burst, but if I spoke aloud or even projected my thoughts, Professor Montay would know and I would have to begin serving my twenty minutes all over again. I merely motioned for Annie to open the last text after Cathie closed the second.
“This is also different from the other two,” Annie commented. “But not only is it dated, it is also signed.” This new information was important. Annie tried to decipher the signature but could only clearly make out the letters ‘A, N, T, and an E’. The signature appeared to be several more letters than that.
“Oh, hell…” I quipped excitedly, “I’ll start my twenty minutes over, but think about it… each of us can only open one of the three. Sign your full name Annie.” To this Annie grabbed a pen from the sales desk and wrote her name on a scrap piece of paper.
“This is way too weird.” Annie concluded after comparing the signature in the text and her own specimen. “They are almost a perfect match.” Motioning with my hand across my mouth that I was beginning my silence once again, Annie closed the third text and Cathie reopened the second. Cathie quickly flipped to the dated entry and wrote the same thing as was in the text on a separate piece of paper.
“This is even more weird…” Cathie noted. “It’s almost as if I wrote this entry.”
“Do we want to conclude the same thing for the first text?” Annie asked. To this I nodded my head, but remained silent. Seeing as how the second text was open, I motioned for Cathie to read the entry.
“May twelve, sixteen-o-eight.” Cathie read aloud.
“Mother has taken ill and with father taken away by the chamberlain’s troops, my sisters and I have taken it upon ourselves to write these new entries. The Aunts do not think mother will be able to fight the curse much longer, and it has been decided that the three of us will separate and travel abroad before the chamberlain’s troops have any chance of finding us. We have fled across the channel to a village along the coast where a small escort of the King’s Musketeers met us. I noted the coat of arms marking the leather casings of their sword scabbards. Their Captain, I rewarded his discretion and his vow of secrecy with nothing more than a copy of the boot knife I carry and several pieces of silver. We have found out that one of us could possibly hide amongst an expedition bound for a colony located more than a month’s travel west. This will be my younger sister’s part so that she can safely transport the few possessions we managed to salvage from the estate before Father was arrested. Along with a meager stipend from the bank, she will make the journey while my little sister travels with me by besom ahead and wait for the ship to make port. Each of us have agreed, if any of us feel the need to ask for assistance from the other houses to do so with the greatest degree of caution, as they may be watched. Though I do not wish to leave mother behind when it may appear she may need us most, the extended family is in too much danger for us to remain in hiding amongst them. The ship is due to leave port in three days.”
Cathie finished and closed the second text, before Annie opened the third text once again.
“May twelve, sixteen-o-eight.” Annie read from the third text. I noted I still had another seventeen minutes of silence to endure.
“The next three days are going to be the hardest I have ever had to endure to date. Mother’s reaction to the curse cast upon her, has the rest of the family in a state of emergency as they are trying to find a way to reverse the bindings. Mother’s familiar has not left her side since the curse had been bound upon her. It is comforting to know he had willingly taken a portion of the curse in an attempt to weaken it enough that our aunts may be afforded the opportunity to break it. This is clearly not possible as mother’s condition is worsening. I made one last final trip back to the estate to retrieve father’s ring, which bears the family seal. The chamberlain’s troops were watching the estate and I had to sneak in as though I were a common thief under the cover of darkness. Mother’s last gift to me was her broach, which tells me she is willingly sacrificing herself so that we may escape safely into exile. Though Father’s portrait was already defaced by the chamberlain’s troops, mother’s portrait was left untouched. We reluctantly left it behind at the estate, but we are hopeful that the black house will be able to retrieve it for us. Our travel plans have yet to be finalized though I know it will mean we will be separated, if only for a short time. The aunts have both asked if we will be in need of any more assistance. It is difficult to know at this point, but mother’s condition worsening daily will have them pre-occupied. The last clear projection I received from mother has me very worried, as I fear she may not last the night. This I keep from my sister’s lest they worry more about her than I already do. Her last instruction to me was to give her broach and father’s ring to each of my younger sisters. Being the eldest, mother has entrusted me with her wand, and explicitly instructed me to never allow it to be destroyed. My youngest sister has brilliantly created a series of simple ‘forget-me-not’ charms so that our own wands will always return to us should they be confiscated or forfeited, if either of us should be detained by the chamberlain’s troops. With my candle slowly burning away, my sisters are both sound asleep and I feel it is my turn to watch over them as I have so often seen mother do for us.”
The two entries read by Annie and Cathie tell the three of us a great deal, but I feel that the text sitting firmly locked in front of me held the key to unite the other two entries with any missing details.
Twelve more minutes of silence to endure. Annie closed the text in front of her as I realized the text in front of me must contain dated entries from the youngest sister. This revelation I barely managed to stifle from speaking, to which my heels firmly planted themselves on the floor as I broke my concentration. Cathie re-opened the second text and flipped to the next entry.
“May thirteen, sixteen-o-eight.” Cathie spoke softly.
“Mother’s portrait arrived under escort from the black house. I met them at the ship to ensure it was safely loaded aboard. I sequestered myself from my sisters in a local rooming house close to the pier. Our other possessions arrived by cart late this afternoon from the warehouse, and were also loaded aboard the ship. Knowing they are able to read my entry is a small comfort, but I miss them already as I departed from our hiding place after receiving the message about mother’s portrait without even waking them. I found my elder sister slumped over her closed text with the candle next to her nothing but a stub. My younger sister was awake, but only barely as I mounted the courier’s horse and headed to the pier. Mother’s broach was pinned to the inside of my bodice, and upon finding it I know the worst is to be inevitable. I have hidden father’s dagger and sabre amongst my travel clothes and I hope I do not need to use them. My own boot knife I keep close should I need it. My younger sister’s ‘forget-me-not’ charm bound to my wand is the only thing that allows me amusement as I watch it lazily dance around me if I do not have it hidden against my forearm. I may perhaps be able to see my sisters before the ship leaves port, but I dare not risk returning to our hiding place during the day, and at night there are too many hiding places where agents to the chamberlain may be hiding in the hope I lead them. The stipend withdrawn from the bank was converted from notes to gold and I have sewn the gold pieces inside my undergarments. I will not have need for anything else save the pieces of silver I have set aside in my purse.”
“May fourteenth, sixteen-o-eight.” Cathie continued.
“The ship sails with the evening tide. I dare not risk projecting my thoughts to my sisters until perhaps later tonight once the ship is well out to sea. I have made note of the expedition passengers and their simple clothing gave me the perfect idea to attire myself in a similar manner. Finding suitable clothing was no trouble as a piece of silver bought me a complete costume from the pier quartermaster. A second piece of silver bought me his silence. My trunk was loaded aboard this morning along with the rest of the expedition passenger’s luggage. The Musketeers have discretely watched from a distance and I will remain the rest of the day making myself noticed amongst the expedition. The expedition being under a King’s Charter has their own worries as I notice their preparations have their minds preoccupied with the journey ahead. The coat of arms with its tri-fold knot embossed into the cover of my text copy, all seem to have the expedition members revere me as some sort of learned scholar and even their elders have offered to assist me in my studies. I find this more amusing than my wand. One of their matrons noticed mother’s broach pinned to my collar, to which I merely made reference to its use as a letter seal. This seemed to further confirm to them, I was more than just a scholar, but perhaps even a cleric or librarian sent to record the details of the expedition. This was doubly confirmed to them as they noted I was berthed in a private cabin on the aft deck next to the Captain’s cabin. The expedition is berthed in the forward cabins with the crew quarters below the main deck. I feel that if I sequester myself in solitude, then perhaps they will forget I am even aboard with them. For Dinner this evening, I have been invited to the Captain’s Cabin along with the ship’s officers and senior expedition members.”
This last entry, mused me as well, because the expedition referred to must be none other than the French Expedition under Captain Champlain. The ring and broach, mentioned in the previously read entries, obviously refer to none other than my ring, and Cathie’s broach. I mentally noted I still had another four minutes of silence. Cathie closed the text in front of her and Annie re-opened the copy resting on the stand in front of her.
“May thirteenth, sixteen-o-eight.” Annie read aloud.
“I was woken with my youngest sister sobbing into her pillow. The note from the courier was lying on the floor with our sister long gone. I can only hope she is successful at being able to remain hidden from the chamberlain’s troops long enough to be aboard the ship when it sets sail. Father’s ring was the only thing that seemed to console my sister as we both felt that the time had already passed for mother. The pieces of silver we had, bought us another meal and warm cloaks. Our besoms were hidden away by the Musketeers, but as we would only be returning to use them, we did not fear being caught by the chamberlain’s troops. We would be leaving tonight, and with the cover of darkness the two of us could easily command our besoms to us. Father’s skill and craftsmanship were unparalleled by any other master artisan and he had taught us his art with the love and patience only he could possibly have done. As we had no brothers, he had made us his apprentices and our besoms were our first. Created for only our use, they would remain anchored until we commanded them to us. From our hiding place we will wait until darkness descends once more before venturing out for the last time.”
“May Fourteenth, sixteen-o-eight.” Annie continued.
“We have been in flight for more than a full day, and though we know we have not been followed, we managed to make a safe landing on a very large iceberg. With the aid of my wand I managed to melt us enough of the ice for drinking water. The cloudy sky and calm water hints as to an impending storm, that we may perhaps be able to use to mask our direction as we head further west. From the trade winds, I am able to deduce our navigation may perhaps bring us within landfall by late day on the morrow. By remaining as far north as we can manage the temperatures, we could possibly find another berg from which we can extract drinking water from. I will be very glad to have firm ground beneath my feet once more. Our sister’s besom that we tethered between us is laden with the few clothes we had, along with our texts. The cloud cover also affords us a hiding place from any ships traveling on the water below, and any eyes that may possibly be lurking above us. We both feel that we may be too far from our sister to feel her presence, and we dare not risk sending her a projection as it may compromise her position barely a day out of harbor. All we can do now is to find landfall and then travel south along the coast to what could possibly be an approximate place for the ship to make landfall, then await our sister to arrive.”
The entries dictated by Annie told me so much more than I expected, including how my own besom was a marvel of craftsmanship as complimented by Amos. What I had learned as simple patterns from my father, were actually extracted from the skill and craftsmanship of a true master artisan. The potential of my besom from its design could now be traced back a full four hundred years. My imposed silence was now only a few seconds from completion and both Annie and Cathie patiently waited with me so that I could re-open my text.
“Five-four-three-two-one.” Annie finished counting down.
“APERIO” I commanded the text, to which it sprang open to the exact spot I needed.
“May twelfth, sixteen-o-eight.” I began.
“I miss father very much, and try not to show it while I am awake, being the youngest I always had his ear while both my sisters had our mother’s. With Mother’s instruction, I was able to divide her Great Volume into three equal parts. This, mother felt was needed so that the curse cast upon her could in no way spill into the pages. Being the first time I had ever tried something so complex, I had mother guide me thru it one-step at a time. I felt her familiar buy her some time by taking a portion of the curse, as the complexities of the task she had assigned to me, required both my complete attention and her guidance. Upon completing the separation, I bound the locks into place and disguised each text as though they were each distinct and entirely separate. The curse itself will prevent the three pieces from being recombined, while also protecting the parts from becoming the chamberlain’s spoils. Mother confided in me, that I was to keep this secret from my sisters, hence binding a reversal of a simple reveal command would keep these secrets from being read by those who were not intended to read them. Before mother broke her final projection with me, she told me how proud she was that the youngest of her girls was perhaps the most ingenious by being so intuitively devious. The simplicity of any binding makes it singularly stronger. The more complicated a binding, the possibility exists that a weakness could be found and exploited. While both my sisters are busy with the preparations for imposed exile the chamberlain has forced toward us, I also created ‘forget-me-not’ bindings to prevent either of us from ever being disarmed from our wands. From mother’s familiar, she granted to me the knowledge of his name and the prison he had allowed himself to be trapped inside. I extended his prison with a small window thru which he could escape, but more importantly allow someone to release him from within his prison. By my own hand, I command the text I hold to only reveal these pages should the other two be first read aloud within a twenty-minute span.”
“Oh my… how absolutely diabolical…” I spoke. “She thinks a lot like I do. Don’t you think?”
“W-E-L-L… Annie quipped.
“Never mind.” I added back, before I continued.
“To perhaps my daughter, or granddaughter, I congratulate you on having solved so many of the pieces to the puzzle that mother has instructed me to create. Your most dangerous tasks are several more steps ahead of you before you may be allowed to recombine these three volumes back into the Great Volume they once were each a part of. Father’s craft is bound hidden into the second piece. You may perhaps find a use for the simple bindings used in the creation of the stirrups, though you will only be able to reproduce them within a forge belonging to a master artisan. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the chamberlain has chosen to persecute father as he has repeatedly refused the chamberlain’s requests to manufacture besoms for his troops. As payment for his refusal, father has been detained and mother has been cursed. The chamberlain knows not that we have the knowledge of his art. As I have promised father, I will always guard this and never allow it to be taught or used by anyone other than a family member. This is one key that will keep the locks in place. Only a daughter who possesses a besom made from her own hair and with the same patterns will be able to open the first set of locks. If you are now reading this, you have sprung the second and third sets already. You still have an additional four sets of locks to complete before you may be able to recombine the texts and may Tres Virtus guide you to breaking the curse. While I know it was not her choice, mother willingly accepted the curse in the hope of having father spared. The chamberlain lied to her and while it was too late to save herself, mother did however manage to fight it long enough to allow us to escape. By my own hand I allow you my daughter, or granddaughter, to pass father’s art to a master artisan you feel worthy of receiving the secrets to the craft.”
The entry ended abruptly.
“Whoa.” Annie quietly quipped. “You two thinking, what I’m thinking?”
“Master Kovar now has three new apprentices, who might just want to make use of his forge.” Cathie added. I looked at both of them. At this moment I felt more like the three of us were sisters. With this I sensed Ferule nearby.
“Well done, Mistress.” I heard ferule’s voice inside my head. “You are so much like her in many ways.”
“Ferule, Thank you.” I projected back softly. “She succeeded and failed at the same time, am I not correct?”
“You are correct, Mistress.” Ferule’s voice echoed in my mind.
“She was the youngest daughter.” I responded, this time aloud instead of projecting. A strong smell of brimstone accompanied my last statement. “She’s the one buried near here. Not her mother who was the one who was cursed. She willed the curse upon herself so that her mother could be released.”
“You are almost there, Mistress.” Ferule’s voice echoed in my mind once again. The text began to glow with a luminance like I had never before experienced from a binding being released. I knew then what the final series of locks were.
“Tonight, we will have an important flight.” I spoke softly. Ferule almost immediately wrapped himself back into a cloud of brimstone and vanished. The text that was still glowing, now dimly, had revealed more script.
“May fifteenth, sixteen-o-eight.” I began to read aloud.
“My sister and I have finally made landfall, though I fear we are far too exhausted from our journey to proceed south along the coast as we had planned, at least not for the time being. It drains my strength slightly but I am able to project a connection and locate our sister’s presence. Her journey will be far more dangerous as the ship travels much slower than our besom. We will have approximately a month to find a suitable location to build ourselves a more permanent home and a base from which to remain secluded. So as not to attract any of the indigenous people in this land, we have not lit a fire, nor erected ourselves a shelter. We shall conceal ourselves for the remainder of today, before we begin our final leg and head inland. Once we have established a new home, we shall need to begin to gather the most trusted members of the family, and hopefully prevent the influences of the chamberlain from following us. It may take some time, but eventually the entire family will be once again united. I know now, why perhaps it appeared as though mother was more strict with me than she was with my sisters. The four elements come easily to me, and I am able to direct them with purpose. This, when combined with father’s craft, adds something that father had never intended nor realized. This will prove to be valuable enough to keep hidden, even from my sisters. I can still feel Mother’s familiar, though I know it should not be possible. It almost seems that he is anticipating my needs and providing a path or direction to guide us. My thoughts with his thoughts, as though I accidentally created a permanent link between us during my creation of the window upon his prison. Thru him, I can still feel mother struggling to keep the curse at bay. I also know of a way to prevent the curse from spreading should the chamberlain make any attempt to do so. His own greed is a useful tool to turn against him should the need arise.”
“May sixteenth, sixteen-o-eight.” I continued.
“Under the cover of darkness, we abandoned our hiding place and proceeded inland, leaving no trace of our presence excepting perhaps our footprints. With my sister’s navigation skills, we found a suitable location near where an expedition was attempting to create an outpost. On the opposite shore, and much further upstream, I found a secluded place where I was reminded of the Hampton Shires adjacent to our Family Estate. It was here we decided to hide ourselves and await our sister’s landfall along with the expedition. I sensed she was moving as I concentrated on her. The presence of mother’s familiar grew stronger with the choice we made as to our proposed lodging site. The first foundation stones will be laid for the new estate once our sister returns to us. Until then, we have constructed a simple shelter utilizing the small alcove and the available raw materials. We will at least be comfortable while we can probe deeper inland in search of large deposits of stone and iron for construction of the foundations. Hopefully we may also be able to locate a few precious metals in addition to some brass and copper. Re-creating father’s forge is a singular task of great importance, as we will have need of steel to build the tools to construct simple trade items, so that we may perhaps earn the respect of the indigenous people, and also buy their silence.”
“May seventeenth, sixteen-o-eight.” I continued to read aloud. I made a mental note of the simplicity of their plans, and also the possible location they had first chosen.
“By casting a binding upon the location where I stand, I have both created a marker for our sister to find should we not be in the immediate vicinity, as well as provide a beacon for us to find our way back should we ever become lost or worse, separated from each other. The construction of a re-creation of father’s forge is to be completed entirely without any use of our abilities. This alone will allow us to more easily conceal it, if the need should arise. The location of a small deposit of coal along with some limestone has permitted us to build a hot enough fire to forge some hammers and tongs that we will be able to use to shape the moulds to pour ourselves some crude iron cauldrons. Father’s recipe for steel will wait until we have assembled ourselves enough materials and tools to cast the most important tool, an anvil. From this we will be able to begin to manufacture the rivets and bands to build a set of bellows to allow us to finish what we will need to finish constructing the complete forge. I know our sister will enjoy shaping and refining the first blade to be made. This first anvil will only be in service long enough to pour enough steel to make one large enough that only our wands may be able to move. I sense my sister worries about both myself and our sister, and her continued silence does little to ease the apprehension we both feel, but by concentrating our efforts on the simple tasks in the construction of the forge, our days have passed quickly. Though I enjoy the freedom our clothing allows us, the frills and sleeves have to be discarded in favor of more suitable attire when we re-light the forge again. The intense heat and our dresses are not a good combination. I suggested we find a suitable quantity of animal skin to make leather for gloves, boots and britches, to which my sister has agreed, but we’ve also agreed to only wear them when working around the forge. Tonight, we’ve agreed to take flight in search of enough large trees where we might be able to harvest some rosewood branches that we may be able to shape into handles for the bellows. I have taken notice of the eyes curiously watching us, and we have made it a point not to speak aloud. We have also begun the practice of teleporting ourselves in the hope the eyes watching us may become confused as to how many of us there actually is or disbelieve that we actually exist.”
This last entry made me wonder if the forge they were intending to complete might still exist. But no matter, if the secrets of the forge’s construction were bound into one of the other texts, we could possibly do as they did and with Amos’ guidance construct our own re-creation down to the last detail. I gently spoke ‘CLAUDO’ and the text snapped itself shut, firmly locking itself once again. Our teacups had been forgotten as we had dived into the discoveries contained within the texts.
“Shall I warm your cups, Ladies?” Karl broke the silence of our thoughts with. Looking at each other, we all smiled mischievously about the flight we desperately needed to undertake this evening.
“Yes, Yes of course.” I offered back to Karl, who seemed to know more about these texts than he appeared to have known before.
“Karl?” Annie enquired. “How is it exactly that the first text had been delivered to you?”
“It arrived exactly as I told you.” Karl offered in response.
“Yes, we know that.” I answered back. “But who was standing with it?”
“Ladies, do not ask me that.” Karl answered back, as I heard the bookshop door gently open then once again close.
“I was with it.” Professor Montay’s voice quietly answered. “But I deduce you ladies already knew that.” Professor Montay stood in the now closed doorway of Karl’s bookshop.
“I did.” I answered. “But why all the secrecy, Professor?”
“It was needed to ensure that you three,” Professor Montay spoke. “If you were in fact the Chosen Ones, then finding the secrets of the texts would be nothing more than a natural progression of events that would lead you successfully to this point...”
“Professor?” I began to ask.
“…You are in fact the true heirs, the texts have described.” Professor Montay interrupted. “Otherwise none of you would have in your possession the relics associated with your stations.”
“Professor?” Annie meekly stated. “I have no artifact.”
“But of course you do.” Professor Montay revealed. “Don’t you remember how your wand came to be yours?”
“Of course!” I exclaimed. “Why did I not see it before?”
“See what?” Annie added.
“Your wand, Annie.” I spoke calmly. “Has to be her wand.”
“But I got it from Attwood’s in Sudbury.” Annie quipped. “OH, of course!”
“The wand chooses the witch.” Cathie completed. “And didn’t you say that was the only wand he had in his inventory that he had never made himself?”
“Hidden amongst the trees.” I added. “Much like we hide ourselves.”
“So, it is time ladies.” Professor Montay noted, with the grandfather clock beginning to chime. Together we quickly cleaned up the tea tray, gathered our besoms to us and departed Karl’s bookshop so that we could once again prepare for our evening instruction. Though I really thrived on routine, collectively we were much too excited about our recent discovery, to want to concentrate on study. After finally entering the house, we headed to our suite almost dragging each of our besoms behind us. After preparing ourselves for study, I did notice a pull chord hanging from the ceiling. Before being able to satisfy my curiosity, Professor Montay entered punctually.
“We will need you to draw that down.” Professor Montay stated. Drawing the chord down, I noticed the huge map rolled above me begin to open. The markings on the map resembled the type of map a pilot or perhaps a flight engineer would use. My interest was immediately focused to the map along with Annie’s and Cathie’s.
“Professor,” I stated a little confused. “ How is this part of our lesson.”
“Navigation is a very important part of flying.” Professor Montay firmly stated. “Without a clearly defined flight plan, how are you to be able to direct your classmates to fly as an entire group?”
“Uhmmm…” I mused, knowing full well what Professor Montay was implying.
“I suspect you may also need some assistance this evening in choosing your new operations base.”
“Professor?” I stood facing the map, now completely confused.
“Narissa,” Annie quipped. “Don’t you see it?”
“See what?” I answered.
“This…” Cathie interjected, while pointing to an abandoned airbase on the map.
“I see you two are a little more astute to these things.” Professor Montay quipped. “You may want to check this location first, as the Blue House acquired that property some time ago.”
“Narissa,” Annie added. “Don’t you see how the flight paths seem to avoid this area completely?”
“Duh.” I quipped while smacking my forehead for not having seen it before. The abandoned airfield was the perfect choice with a degree of seclusion as the flight path markings showed the location to be well away from any overlapping paths while also having possibly been forgotten. With Professor Montay’s extensive experience in navigation techniques, we were able to deduce a series of possible location markers or ‘waypoints’ as she called them to completely circumnavigate the entire area of the map. This information, once I understood it, made perfect sense and would allow anyone piloting a besom, to safely and discretely avoid being detected while in flight. I now concluded that Victoria Estates had been chosen as a hiding place for its strategic value, more than as just in aiding to conceal the entire family. I suspected Professor Montay had a hand in this.
“Professor?” I asked, while pointing to another spot on the map. “When was this airfield last used?” According to the map, the spot I pointed to was near the county boundary, and could be confused with another, much larger airfield, almost five kilometers west inside the next county.
“Another excellent choice.” Professor Montay noted. “That was last used as a Capital Base for training pilots. And there is not even a runway, just a flat field.” I thought quickly to myself that this second choice might even be more appropriate as the disuse and abandonment could be used to our advantage. Being a former Capital Base there could be some barriers left in place that the chamberlain may not even be aware the location even existed.
“But, on to your other lessons.” Professor Montay announced. “Aerobatics theory.” To this, the three of us quickly paid attention to the instruction aides Professor Montay provided and their relation to physics, as well as the applied theory of centrifugal force and gravity. This later part had direct application to dropping payloads onto specific points on the ground.
“Are you implying ‘Bombing’, Professor?” Cathie asked.
“You ladies are catching on quickly.” Professor Montay stated. “But perhaps the word ‘Bomb” is too harsh. Consider instead a ‘Payload’ that could be nothing more than a brick with a message attached to it.”
“Of course!” I exclaimed. “Mass transportation, combined with simple communications can avoid having anyone eavesdropping.”
“Thus maintaining a degree of secrecy.” Professor Montay added lastly.
“One last question, Professor.” I asked. “Will you be joining us this evening, Professor?”
“That will not be possible.” Professor Montay answered. “As I have other matters to attend to.” Just then the clock struck, indicating dinner was soon at hand. We filed into the hallway, with our wands bouncing into our pockets as Professor Montay led our procession to dinner. Amos Kovar was our guest this evening along with Karl. Uncle Vlad was his usually astute, though I noticed some slight black staining to his fingers. Being so completely mischievous, I just could not help myself from making a comment.
“How is the forge progressing?” I asked.
“Very nicely.” My uncle answered, only now realizing I was not really supposed to know but he remained so very well composed.
“That’s good then.” I quipped back. “Master Kovar should be able to make good use it.” Amos dropped his fork into his gravy.
“Narissa,” Professor Montay began to scold me, with me looking completely innocent, she immediately changed her tactic with a mild kick to my exposed shin. “You three will have one of your own soon enough.” To this, my heart seemed to miss a beat, but at the same time I hid my feelings very well. I looked to Annie and Cathie and they both completely understood what Professor Montay meant. Inwardly, I was hoping the second location choice had at least something resembling the ruins of a forge. As I think there were more secrets to the craft hidden within the texts, then having our own forge would allow us to explore our discoveries in seclusion. Our dinner concluded quickly, and the three of us excused ourselves from the table and fled back to our suite. Professor Montay found us waiting patiently for her to enter, while the three of us had already changed into flying suits. Our besoms and wands waited close by the door for Professor Montay to give any final advice to us before we departed with the setting sun.
“Helping with the forge, Professor?” Annie asked.
“Yes Ladies.” Your Uncle and Master Kovar, have no clue how to make a forge anywhere near hot enough to mend steel.
“But you do,” I added. “Don’t you Professor?”
“And it is for a certain blade to be re-forged?” Cathie added right behind me.
“You are most certainly correct.” Professor Montay answered. “And since you three may also suspect which blade it is, you will also know how important this blade may be in the near future.”
“Yes Professor.” We answered together. A group of very intolerant expeditionary members had shattered the blade in question. The basket and hilt, along with the scabbard belonging to this blade resided in the foyer of the Chancellery. The blade itself, or at least all the pieces of shattered steel, while the exact location was unbeknownst to me, I was able to conclude that Professor Montay knew exactly where it was located and would be retrieving it this evening.
“Wish us luck, Professor?” Annie asked meekly.
“With you three, there is never any doubt of your success.” Professor Montay beamed with a smile. “Just bring each other back safely is all I ask of each of you.” With that, we did not wait for sunset, and sped out the open window before sunset had even arrived.
“Going to the sports field first?” Cathie mused as though she already knew the answer.
“Let’s check that older abandoned field,” I stated. “Having a little sunlight to help us locate it will give us a little time to make a better survey of the field. Besides, since were already out, we can stay out until after dark then meet up with everyone.” There were no complaints from neither Annie nor Cathie on this one.
“If anyone does see us flying, who is going to believe them anyway?” I heard Cathie’s voice project as we flew in a tight formation and skirted barely fifty feet off the ground at high speed. We sped straight across several flight paths, but so low to the ground, we were of no concern to any aircraft. We turned ourselves directly onto a flight path that would take us directly over the abandoned airfield. Annie noted the first landmarks as we approached.
“There’s one of the old hangars.” I heard Annie project to us.
“And what looks like a suitable clearing for what might have been an airfield.” I heard Cathie’s voice add.
“Circle once, then we’ll set down near the edge of the trees close to where the control tower was located.” I commented. With each of us signaling a ‘Thumbs Up’, we circled once then set down on what appeared to be an old hangar floor. The blackened concrete could only mean the old hangar had burned to the ground quite some time ago. There appeared to be no evidence that any of the Chamberlain’s Troops had been here in a very long time. I knew from having recently been at an active airfield, that there was always a bomb shelter in at least one, or perhaps all of the hangars. We were lucky enough to locate a small concrete staircase half hidden in charred debris and a large growth of moss. Annie marked the location with a quick flick of her wand, and we proceeded to the next hangar that was still standing. We clutched our besoms close to us just in case there was a trap. The hangar doors had fallen into a sad state of disrepair, and defied any attempt to try to move them by ourselves, but we did manage to find a large hole made from what appeared to have been the vehicle located several meters inside the hangar. The structure did not look to be too stable, but after sneaking inside, we found the concrete floor was in almost perfect condition. The lone occupant of the hangar stood facing us.
“Kewl, looks like this is someone’s home.” Annie quipped, almost mocking both Cathie and I.
“IT IS!” We all heard a very booming voice echo. The voice seemed somewhat familiar while also being distinctly different.
“Annie,” I warmly spoke. “Someone needs to meet you. LUX! ” And with my command, the darkness of the old hangar was instantly illuminated. The form of a large red dragon dominated the old hangar.
“Greetings to you, Sir.” I affectionately spoke to the red dragon.
“You should not have come here Mistresses.” The red dragon boomed.
“You know who we are.” I projected warmly to the red dragon. “Ferule has told me you would soon be making your introduction to us.”
“Ferule has been imprisoned longer than any of us.” The dragon boomed back inside my head. “You lie!”
“Good Sir!” I heard Annie project strongly to the red dragon.
“She’s been practicing.” I mused to both Cathie and myself. I heard Cathie stifle a giggle. I could tell that Annie must have felt the same warmth from this creature that I always felt from Ferule. If Cathie’s familiar was also a dragon, then we would indeed become a formidable force.
“You know who I am, so stop pretending to be so mean.” I heard Annie shout as she advanced closer to the center of the old hangar.
“Four hundred years is a long time without a friend.” Cathie and I closed in behind her, as she shook her fists at the dragon. She stopped directly in front of him, truly unafraid as the red dragon blasted her with a huge cloud of brimstone.
“It was not yet time, Mistress.” I heard the red dragon’s voice softly echo in my head.
“Look inside me, and you will know I do not lie.” I projected back. “Ferule will come if you wish it.” The red dragon stared down Annie, and she returned the same treatment. After only a few short minutes, Annie was playfully scratching the red dragon’s head as I so often show affection to Ferule when he is in his true form. A couple of taps from her wand and the shackles binding him fell to the hangar floor in a loud clatter.
“Free at last!” The dragon spoke, blasting a large cloud of brimstone.
“Ahem!” Annie stood impatiently tapping her foot with her arms crossed in front of her.
“Many thanks, Mistress.” The red dragon spoke to Annie. “But only you were meant to come.”
“I have no secrets from my sisters.” Annie spoke.
“You may not, but she does.” The dragon belched. “She hides a great deal from both of you.”
“Ferule!” I commanded. Ferule spun into view from a dissipating cloud. “This is one secret I can now share, as you are now here.” I spoke aloud and directed at the red dragon.
“It has been a long time.” The red dragon stared at Ferule while I stood in front of Ferule and playfully scratched his head.
”I can see you are still defiant even to the witch you choose, Brother.” Ferule’s voice boomed.
“If I am, then it is because of her.” The red dragon spoke, directing his comment back at me again.
“Annie,” I quipped. “He needs some manners, as he hasn’t even told you his name.”
“True.” Annie quipped back. “How very true.” Annie continued to stand impatiently.
“Gaff?” I stated very coldly. “Do I have to put those shackles back on you, and have us start all over again?”
“How do you know that name?” The red dragon asked.
“I know a great deal more than you give me credit for, Gaff.” I replied. “Now before I get pissed off, and become a nasty little bitch, I suggest you properly introduce yourself to my sister and we can all be happy.”
“Gaff,” The red dragon spoke, “I always hated that name. Your witch may speak the truth, but she has a lot to learn about what she did to all of us.”
“She did not do this.” I heard Ferule project to the red dragon I called Gaff.
“Ferule! Stop!” I commanded. “This posturing is getting us absolutely nowhere.”
“Gaff?” I heard Annie speak softly. “You can no more want to hurt my sister than you want to hurt me, and you know it.” I sensed the red dragon begin a very affectionate projection to Annie which Annie returned with equal force. The binding that went with the shackles was now lifted. The red dragon I had earlier addressed as Gaff seemed to be at peace now.
“Loire?” I heard my sister softly speak. “Do you feel better now?”
“I am much better now, Mistress.” Loire spoke, now very softly. “But both of them now know my name.”
“And that will never be a problem, Loire.” Annie spoke. “As I now trust you with my life, I will always trust both of them. Your secret will never pass outside of my sisters.”
“But that is not the way, Mistress.” Loire spoke.
“And you will have to accept that.” Annie spoke back once again. “Now stop being an ass, and get yourself something to eat, you great oaf!”
“We have waited for them to be ready, long enough.” Loire announced.
“But you should really have something to eat, and regain some of your strength.” Annie commented. “Besides, it is Cathie who will need to meet with her first.” Annie playfully hugged Loire and cut one of her fingers against his rough scales. A drop of her own blood stained the scale she cut herself with.
“Where is ‘Bootee’, Loire?” Cathie announced. “I know, you know where she is.” I sensed immediately from Loire, that Cathie’s deduction of her familiar’s name and sex was something that Loire did not want to reveal, least of all to any of us. Loire snorted a huge cloud of brimstone towards Cathie.
“If you are indeed worthy, mistress, then you will find her yourself.” Loire softly spoke in a very deep voice.
“Get yourself something to eat, Loire.” Annie mentioned once again. Loire wrapped himself into a furious cloud and disappeared leaving the three of us behind in the now empty and musty old hangar. It was only now that we began to survey the inside of the hangar and I noted that while the doors, roof and walls were in dire need of repairs, the structure itself was actually in surprisingly good condition. We explored the remainder of the hangar and found another bunker entrance, and just marked the location to be explored later. We departed the same way we came in and extinguished the light cast by the illumination. The sun had already begun to drop below the horizon and with the light beginning to fail; we departed for the other airfield choice.
“Are we just going to show up?” I heard Cathie’s voice echo inside my head.
“Seeing as how the Blue House had purchased this property some time ago, there will probably be a welcoming committee, or at the least a few guards.” I mentioned. Our direct flight path to the other airfield had us on approach with darkness cloaking our decent. We landed on top of one of the hangars that seemed to actually be in use, though no light was visible. We snuck in thru an open set of windows to find the darkness of the hangar impenetrable. I hovered on my besom and slowly lowered myself to the floor, before Annie, and then Cathie joined me. The hangar was completely empty, but the highly polished floor indicated the hangar was definitely in use for something. Still hovering on our besoms, we silently glided toward a set of doors, which with the markings on the floor indicated must be a main hallway. We dismounted our besoms and listened to voices coming from the other side of the door.
“Just how long are we supposed to be waiting here for?” We heard a female voice ask.
“Until we are relieved.” We heard another female voice answer. “That’s our orders.” Tapping my wand, I caught both Annie’s and Cathie’s attention. Using hand signals, I indicated the three of us quietly slip thru the doors and see how long it would take the two guards to notice us. I noted, the well-oiled hinges would not be giving our presence away, and we quietly drew ourselves into the hallway behind the guards. I motioned for us to just lift our goggles off and act as though we belonged there.
“Oh, there you two are.” I spoke as though finding the two guards was what I was supposed to be doing. “Got any fresh tea?”
“Yea, I could use a cup.” Cathie mused.
“And I really need to find the ladies room, badly.” Annie quipped. We dropped our besoms into what must have been a rifle rack, but we did it as though we had always done it.
“Washrooms are down the hall to your left.” One of the guards answered to Annie, with the two guards not even stopping to realize we entered the hallway from a locked hangar.
“There’s a fresh pot in the canteen.” The other guard answered.
“Alright, Be right back.” Cathie answered to the guard. “Want one too?”
“Just some honey, thanks.” The first guard answered, having returned from leading Annie down the hallway. “You three are new.”
“Yup, you could say that.” I answered, and flipped my skullcap off my head letting my ponytail drape down my back. “Who’s got the keys for the lock-up? We can’t be leaving those out.” Motioning to the rifle rack behind the two guards that they still had not noticed contained three besoms and not three rifles.
“We can take care of those for you.” The second guard spoke, and it was quite funny that she actually tried to lift Annie’s besom out of the rack, then realizing it was a besom reached over to the next item in the rack instead. She then realized all three were besoms.
“Don’t even think about it.” I calmly stated, with my wand at her throat. “You must show some manners as we’re new here.”
“Who are you?” The second guard asked while Annie had returned, to similarly persuade the first guard to follow suit. Cathie showed up second later with five cups of tea, along with some biscuits for the guards.
“Drop your side arms, and nothing as silly as trying to be a hero.” I commanded softly. The two guards dropped their pistol belts onto the floor, and Cathie offered each of them a cup of tea.
“Do either of you know who I am?” I asked as I removed my wand from the guard’s throat. My wand quickly scuttled up my arm and into my pocket while both guards watched.
“Mistress?” The first guard asked. “What are you doing here, and without an escort?”
“Do you two think for one minute that I actually need an escort?” I asked back.
“We were not told you would be coming here.” The second guard spoke.
“Of course not.” I quipped. “That would have spoiled the surprise.”
“By the way,” Annie noted, “You two should pay more attention to detail.”
“Oh?” The first guard asked. “Yea, that. Once I figured out you three didn’t really belong here, it was already too late.”
“When did you finally realize that?” Cathie asked politely, as she lounged herself on top of the guard desk. “Was it before or after you had a wand at your throat?”
“After.” Was the first guard’s only reply.
“Ok, seeing as how you know who we are,” Annie mentioned. “The least you could do is tell us who you are, and when do you expect your relief to be here?”
“Sergeant Valcourt.” The first guard spoke. “And this is Corporal Lindross.”
“Pleased to meet you both.” I answered, and offered my hand in greeting. “And your relief?”
“Should be here in about an hour.” Corporal Lindross answered.
“Good, we can enjoy some tea while we wait for them,” I mentioned, “then you can give us a tour.”
“And you won’t need those, while we’re here.” Cathie quipped, to which the pistol belts bounced off the floor and hung themselves in the riffle rack next to our besoms with the swish of her wand.
“How did you do that?” Sergeant Valcourt asked.
“Do what?” Annie asked.
“One second your hands are empty, the next second you have wands in your hands.” She answered back.
“You don’t want to know.” I answered quietly, as my wand bounced on my shoulder before snaking around my back then into my jacket pocket. Both Annie and Cathie giggled a little as their own wands did almost the same thing.
“How many guards are on station tonight?” I asked, “And who is the senior officer?”
“That would be Lieutenant Griffin.” Sergeant Valcourt answered, and there is a full compliment of fifty-six of us.
“Just two troops?” I asked.
“That is correct, Mistress.” Sergeant Valcourt replied.
“Tsk-Tsk-Tsk.” I spoke. “Very lax security if you ask me.”
“And just where might the good Lieutenant be?” Cathie Asked, ever so politely before we heard a set of footsteps enter the hallway.
“Speak of the devil.” I mused. “We’re not here, understood?” The guards nodded to us, as we quickly folded ourselves into the shadows next to three separate doorways with the footsteps approaching the guard desk.
“Just what in blazes is going on here?” I heard a woman’s voice ring loudly. The Sergeant and the Corporal stood at attention while the Lieutenant surveyed the security desk. “Having a little party, are we?”
“Yes, we are.” I coldly stated. The Lieutenant not knowing who had spoken started to become very angry towards the Sergeant.
“Who said that?” The Lieutenant ordered.
“I did.” I coldly replied to which I stepped into the dim light of the hallway. “And I must caution you, Lieutenant, that abuse of a subordinate is a chargeable offence. Furthermore, abandoning your post is also a chargeable offence.”
“Unauthorized Personnel in the Hangar, Sergeant?” Lieutenant Griffin almost shouted at Sergeant Valcourt.
“I suggest strongly, that your drop the charade, Lieutenant.” I coldly added as both Annie and Cathie emerged from the shadows with their wands drawn.
“Please, forgive me, Mistress.” Lieutenant Griffin apologized. “I had no idea you were here.”
“Forgiven, but not forgotten.” I stated.
“You really need to get out more, Lieutenant.” Cathie added into the very one-sided conversation.
“Yea,” Annie quipped. “Bitchy and blonde is no way to go thru life.” Annie’s last statement seemed to break the ice enough that the Lieutenant dropped her astute demeanor and was actually quite pleasant as we enjoyed the rest of our tea.
“Now, how about that tour you promised me, Sergeant?” I asked. “And I suggest you leave those silly pistols where they are.” The lieutenant tried to protest, but must have quickly thought better of it, as she remained silent. Sergeant Valcourt let the way out of the Hangar and into the now dark evening air. Our escorts descended around the hangar moments later.
Our escorts, wearing their new flying suits, along with rank insignia as officers, had Sergeant Valcourt snap a quick salute to Valerie, Vijay, Zoë, Deanna, Tessa and Rachel. I also noted the small white rectangular patch on each of their left shoulders. No one missed a single detail. The white patch would indicate to everyone that my escorts were assigned to the white house, and of course directly under my immediate command. I noted the similar blue patch on Sergeant Valcourt’s shoulder as well.
“Tsk-Tsk-Tsk.” I stated somewhat mischievously. “You’re out of uniform, Sergeant.”
“Pardon me, Mistress?” The Sergeant responded, to which I just snapped my fingers and the blue rectangle turned to white.
“There,” I quipped. “That’s much better, Sergeant.” Sergeant Valcourt did not notice the color change, but upon realizing it, made a very smart salute, and said nothing more.
“Annie and Cathie are inside,” I mentioned to the others. “Why don’t you all go enjoy some tea with Lieutenant Griffin.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Everyone responded.
“How about the rest of that tour, Sergeant?” I asked, and together with Sergeant Valcourt, I walked further away from the hangar towards the checkpoint gate, where there seemed to be a fair amount of commotion. I stepped around the corner of the next building to find two guards sitting in a patrol vehicle.
“Would you like the honors, Sergeant?” I quipped, and without any further response, Sergeant Valcourt stepped up to the patrol vehicle and opened the rear door to allow me to slide into the backseat. The look on the guards’ faces was priceless.
“Take a picture, it will last longer.” I noted as the Sergeant closed the door and rounded the back of the car, opened the opposite door and got into the vehicle as well.
“May I introduce Airman Stewart, and Airman Casteel.” Sergeant Valcourt politely spoke.
“At-Ease, Airmen.” I commanded softly. “How about stopping over to the main gate, and we can investigate the commotion.” The driver needed no further encouragement and after placing the vehicle’s gear selector into gear, the patrol vehicle sedately drove the short distance to the main gate. Upon stopping at the gate, Nyssa opened the vehicle door for me to extricate myself from the confines of the backseat, while James opened the opposite door for Sergeant Valcourt. Nyssa snapped a very professional salute as I rose from the vehicle’s interior. I noted the two station guards had their weapons disassembled on the ground under them as they hung by their heels from the guardhouse roof gutters.
“Very lax security indeed.” I quipped.
“Yes, Mistress.” Sergeant Valcourt answered. “That will be rectified immediately.” With a quick salute indicating the acceptance of the task to increase the security force, the Sergeant snickered slightly as Nyssa released the two guards.
“I hope this will not be a problem in the future, Sergeant.” I added, as both James and Nyssa skipped off the ground on their besoms while I got back into the rear of the Patrol Vehicle.
“Back to the Hangar, Mistress?” One of the two Airmen asked.
“Yes, Please.” I answered, and the patrol vehicle departed the main gate and headed back towards the hangar. The patrol Vehicle arrived at the Hangar with both Nyssa and James dismounting their besoms. I overheard one of the Airmen commenting on the Excalibur besoms.
“Ahem!” I cleared my throat, where the Airman in the passenger side seat, quickly realized to open the rear door and I once again extricated myself from the confines of the Patrol Vehicle.
“You two need to be concentrating more on your duties, than about a pair of racing besoms.” I commented, while the Airman snapped a smart salute. “And there’s six more of them in the hangar.” To my last statement, I walked back into the hangar to find everyone enjoying some tea and Lieutenant Griffin looking just a little frazzled.
“Hello, Lieutenant.” I greeted. “Please have the hangar doors opened.” I heard a jingle of keys, and footsteps rushing down the hallway we had come in, to hearing several electric motors started.
“Time to go?” Cathie asked.
“Yup, Time to go.” I quipped, to which I grabbed my besom as I went past the rifle rack, to have everyone join behind me. With a flick of my wand, my hair was once again soon inside my skullcap and I stepped into the stirrups of my besom. I momentarily waited as the hangar doors finished opening, before hovering forward into the darkness, with everyone else close behind me. Lieutenant Griffin was actually waving to us as we prepared to depart.
“We were never here, Lieutenant.” I stated in a soft yet commanding voice.
“Yes, of course, Mistress.” Lieutenant Griffin answered. “Will you be returning, since you were never here?”
“Tea tomorrow, same time?” Nyssa quipped.
“Aye, same time.” I added, with everyone nodding in agreement.
“See you tomorrow, Mistress.” Lieutenant Griffin confirmed, while snapping a very smart salute. To that, we sped off into the night sky and the sanctuary it offered us as we snaked back towards the sports field in silence. Upon setting down, we all laughed mercilessly as to how silly our little ‘inspection’ actually was. I stared into the night sky and wondered if the plan I was formulating in my mind was going to be able to succeed. We soon all, tired from the excitement of the activities across the entire day, needed to depart the sports field and find comfort in warm pillows and blankets.