Shadows & Lights
All Rights Reserved; This publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part, nor transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy nor otherwise without the express consent of the Publisher.
Valiant Digital © 1995 in Association with Aberdare Multimedia © 2009
Copyright © 2006. Johanez Johnston
This First Edition Published in Canada in 2012 by Valiant Digital.
The author asserts intellectual property rights of all materials contained within.
I woke before the clock chimed the hour and in keeping with my routine I dressed for exercise and headed out onto the estate grounds long before anyone else was awake. My wand bounced along behind me before bounding onto my shoulder, then snaking around my back and into the hidden pocket. The solitude of my run helped to clear my head of all thoughts save one. Tonight. It was to be tonight.
I had found a note on my dressing table from James, telling me that all the preparations were finished. I continued to my run, and my mind could not have been more clear. I arrived back at the estate as the hour chimed. Everyone else was only now beginning their morning routines. After a quick shower, I dressed in school robes. I stopped briefly to admire the robes reflecting the light beginning to stream thru my window. Three sets of robes. Three witches, Tres Virtus.
I found Ferule in the kitchen speaking quietly to chef as I seated myself at the small table in the alcove inside the kitchen. There would be much to do today, but very little of it would directly involve me until later.
“Today is an important day, Mistress.” Ferule mentioned, as he served a simple plate of some cheese and tomatoes with several pieces of toast.
“I can’t help but feel I should be doing more, Ferule.” I quietly spoke with my plate untouched.
“Miss Annie and Miss Cathie will be going to the bookshop today.” Ferule spoke. “Why don’t you join them?”
“There is so much to be done before tonight, Ferule.” I answered. “How can you be so calm?”
“I have a responsibility to those I have serving this household to always appear to them that I know what needs to be done.” Ferule stated.
“Ferule, there are times I do not understand you.” I replied. “But I am beginning to.”
“I know you are, Mistress.” Ferule stated. “There will come a time when you must make difficult decisions, to maintain order amongst the other houses. It is one thing to claim your birthright. It is something else entirely to keep it from others who have their own agenda.”
“The Chamberlain is one.” I calmly spoke. “But he is not our true enemy.”
“There is only greed and evil in the minds of many Fabers.” Ferule openly confided. “They speak of peace, but only if it is their idea of peace. They speak of freedom, but the only freedom they offer comes with conditions.”
“I understand, Ferule. That is why we are in exile.” I added.
“It wasn’t always this way, Mistress. There was a time when Kings and Queens feared us and left us in peace. There was once a time when Fabers mimicked us in order to gain favor. They called themselves Sayers, and Seers. Some of them even possessed the power of the craft, while others did not. There was once a time when all who possessed even the smallest amount of magic, sought us so they could live as we live.”
“Then starting tonight, we will seek them. Give them sanctuary and teach them our ways.” I spoke clearly with conviction. “Starting tonight, Kings and Queens will not fear us, nor be aware we are among them. Our world will not collide with theirs.”
“You speak as though you already know what is to come, Mistress.” Ferule replied.
“I do, Ferule. I do.” I answered. I left my plate untouched and quickly gathered myself a cloak.
As I slipped thru the servant’s passage and into the morning air, the sun broke thru the bare branches overhead. The sound of the leaves beneath my feet echoed my passing. The borrowed cloak I wore was grey and with the hood up, I easily hid my identity from everyone who passed me. I walked calmly into town and slipped into the alleyway that separated the Inn from Karl’s new bookshop. With a quick flick of my wand, the lock on the door sprang and anyone who had been watching would have sworn I had used a key. I found my way amongst Karl’s inventory and found a small blank journal, and a pencil.
I spent my morning in quiet seclusion, writing in the journal I had begun. Even Professor Riedesel would have been proud of how well written every sentence was. Throughout Karl’s inventory I made the occasional forage for references and had a modest stack of texts sitting on the desk when Karl finally arrived to open the bookshop.
“Good Morning, Narissa.” Karl greeted me, and with a swish of my wand, I lit the fire in the stove signaling that someone was now inside the bookshop.
“Good Morning, Karl.” I replied and with another wave of my hand, the kettle floated to the water closet and returned filled with water for tea. My pencil remained the only sound other than Karl’s footsteps as he busied himself before lifting the shades covering the windows and unlocking the front door of the bookshop.
“The kettle is almost at a boil now.” I mentioned to Karl. “Join me for some tea?”
“It’s been a long time since just the two of us had tea together. Shall I pour?” Karl asked.
“Please, Karl.” I replied. “I’m almost done.”
“What could possibly so important that you’re not preparing for the Sabbat with your classmates?” Karl asked.
“Just some information from the Sachsenspiegel that may sway the Council from following the Chamberlain’s contradictory directives.” I stated quietly, but with earnest determination.
“Some of your references are dated to the Cardinal.” Karl stated.
“Some of his last edicts prior to Cardinal Mazarin succeeding him.” I added. “Edicts that have never been repealed or rescinded, although there are some edicts that were amended by the Jean Oliver Briand, as Bishop in 1783.”
“It sounds like you have no intentions of allowing the Chamberlain’s Troops to arrest you.” Karl stated.
“They will not.” I replied with a giggle. “I don’t think they would want to join the Chamberlain in cells once this journal reaches the Council.” Karl poured the contents of the kettle into the teapot as I began wrapping the journal in plain brown paper and closed the folds with red wax before affixing the seal from my ring.
“Can you see to it, that this is in this morning’s post, Karl?” I asked as we waited for the tea to steep.
“Of course, I will see to it personally.” Karl answered, and removed the wrapped journal from view as Annie and Cathie strolled into the bookshop.
“We thought we’d find you here, Narissa.” Cathie stated. “Been busy?”
“Very, but you came just in time.” I answered back. “Give me a hand cleaning all this up and we can have tea with Karl.” After just a few minutes all the texts I had removed from Karl’s bookshelves were restored to their original locations.
The remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon silently slipped past us inside the reading room of Karl’s bookshop. It was a refreshing treat from our usual haunting of the library at Aberdare Manor. I was safe from the Chamberlain and his allies on the Council, but even that could change at a moments notice. I had my face buried inside the cover of Professor Albert McVicar’s text on Basic Alchemy when Annie and Cathie decided to try to cheer me up by trying to mimic how I made my wand dance.
“Can you two please stop that!” I exclaimed. “You’re doing it wrong.” And I promptly made my wand dance across the table of the reading room with ease. They were right, it did cheer me up, somewhat.
“Ever since the Council made their declaration, you’ve been hopelessly lost in though.” Annie mentioned.
“And since you’re supposed to be Head Girl, the least you could do is set a good example.” Cathie stated.
“I am setting a good example.” I replied. “Being studious.”
“That’s not the same.” Cathie retorted. “You even missed Vijay mix it up in the music room this morning, and everyone knows you’ve got a better voice.”
“Come here, pretty please.” I sang without accompaniment.
“Yea, that’s it! Annie yelped.
“Tell me, when did everything start to go wrong?” I continued to sing. “And why was I the last one to know?”
The sound of the music from the wireless and my own voice seemed to evoke the deepest of magic and did so much more than brighten my spirits. Even the comical sight of my own photograph on the Council’s wanted poster used as a dartboard, seemed trivial. The Chamberlain was not going to drive us deeper into exile after we’d come so far.
Annie, Cathie and I decided to wear the robes we’d found in the hidden closet. The cut of the robes resembled the uniforms we’d so often seen worn by the Chancellery Guards. Karl interrupted our discussions with several long wooden boxes that he’d placed on the desk. After several grunts with a short prying bar, he opened each of the boxes to reveal their contents.
Inside the boxes were what appeared to be pair of short swords in one, a set of seven matching blades with scabbard that resembled a vest, meant to be worn under a cloak in the second, and the final box contained a leather harnesses that I immediately recognized could be strapped over a boot and securely hold a scabbard.
“If you ladies are going to the Capital this evening, you will need these to carry the relics of your stations with you.” Karl announced. “Cathie, these are definitely most appropriate for you, and I must say that Lady Cordula would have approved” Indicating the pair of short swords, and followed with. “Annie, these blades were once carried by Lady Hannah herself. And for you Narissa, you will be needing this to carry the blade you made whole again.”
“Thank you, Karl.” We all thanked him.
“And just how do you know we’re going to the Capital tonight?” I asked.
“Because I told him.” I heard Uncle Vlad’s voice answer.
“And just who told you?” I asked somewhat impolitely.
“I did.” James answered. “And don’t ask me why.”
“Of course, then you won’t have to tell me lies.” I giggled. “Is everything ready for tonight?”
“Of course it is.” Zoë answered. I turned to find Zoë along with Vijay, Tessa and Nyssa.
“Sorry we’re late.” Rachel announced. “We had a dickens of a time giving Alvida the slip.” The chime of the front door bell of Karl’s bookshop announced the entrance of not only Rachel, but also Deanna and Valerie. With them was Miss Julian and it pleased me to see her. Behind her was an entourage of dressers carrying robes, boots, brushes and everything anyone would need to get dressed for a formal occasion.
“Gentlemen.” Julian asked politely. “I must ask you to please wait in the reading room while everyone prepares for this evening.” Julian took charge and soon had all of us not only dressed, but also ensuring her staff gave us coiffed styles for our hair, and manicures. At long last we had all finished dressing.
“Miss Julian.” I politely commanded.
“Yes, Mistress.” Julian replied immediately.
“It is my pleasure to present you with something I have been entrusted with from your Grandmother.” I announced. “Your left hand please.” Julian did as I’d asked and allowed me to present her the last ring Professor Montay had given to me.
“As the new Domus of Jaune Maison, Join us.” I announced as Julian now admired the ring on her left hand.
“My wand is yours to command, Mistress.” Julian responded.
“Tonight you will join us when the elders retire.” I stated. “Until then your place is at the estate.”
“Yes Mistress.” Julian responded.
“And we expect your staff will tend to you as they tended to us.” Annie mentioned before Julian had the chance to direct her staff.
“It shall be done, Mistress.” I heard several of the dressers reply back before they whisked Julian back to the estate.
Together we paraded ourselves into the reading room to looks of complete disbelief from Uncle Vlad, Karl and James.
“James, Close your mouth.” I giggled. James immediately stopped gawking as all of us began hearty lauighs. It was impressive with Nyssa wearing black robes, Tessa wearing brown robes, Valerie wearing orange robes, Vijay wearing green robes, Deanna wearing red robes, Zoë wearing violet robes, Rachel wearing grey robes, with Cathie, Annie and I wearing the white robes we’d found last night. With the exception of our robes, everyone else’s robes were all cut and tailored the same. Only one more to wear white robes, and that would be Professor Montay’s successor. The only station left was Domus of Blue Maison but I thought for a moment that it would be Amelia’s Station. Together we waited patiently for the remainder of the afternoon, and escorted by Uncle Vlad, Karl and James we made our way to the estate. Ferule greeted me at the front door of the estate with the scabbard I had entrusted to him.
“Please allow me, Mistress.” Ferule motioned, as I lifted my cloak out of the way to permit Ferule to secure the scabbard to my right boot. Small crates next to the entrance were opened and inside were identical blades that Ferule presented to Nyssa, Tessa, Valerie, Vijay, Deanna, Zoë and Rachel in turn. Ferule directed several dressers to assist in securing the scabbards in the same manner as my own was.
“It is time, Mistress.” Ferule stated and stood aside as we made our way towards the courtyard. The regalia of the All Hallows Eve Festival was well underway as I walked calmly onto the estate gardens. My robes flowed around me, reflecting light in the same manner as a prism. The maestro, as though on queue, interrupted their present ensemble to announce my entrance.
My voice floated gracefully above the crowd as I descended the stone stairs down to the main courtyard. The music reflected my emotions as everyone present, quickly opened a sweeping path for me, as though the sabre I carried, bootstrapped to my right leg were a flaming torch. The music floated above the din as I approached the centre of the courtyard. My voice echoed against my now silent audience as my robes trailed in the soft grass. As though I was in a trance, I noted the expressions of pure love and joy on the faces of everyone present as their voices joined me in a chorus chant. Once again their voices fell silent as my own voice rang out clearly above the sound of the musicians notes to once again to have their voices joined mine, complementing the chorus as though our voices were invoking a spell. A sudden feeling of euphoria swept over me, attempting to render me unconscious, but finally passed thru me. The last few notes of a lone Cello echoed a final invocation. I immediately sensed a great weight lifted from the minds of everyone within the garden. What I thought was the portrait that had been previously hanging in the main foyer, now appeared to be shimmering against the dying leaves of the closest trees. The image of the young woman in the portrait became clearly visible, shackled with chains, seemed to dance amongst us as the shackles dropped around her.
“Well done, my daughter’s daughter. You have finally freed me from my prison, and I am now free to seek my eternal peace. Rejoice at my passing and remember the lessons the past warns us not to follow. May the future struggles against our adversaries be rewarded with you returning to your birthright...”
The image of the young woman, whose features closely resembled my own, faded from view as quickly as she appeared. The complete looks of disbelief at what had just transpired began to register on everyone’s faces as they realized the curse had been lifted from our ancestor. The curse had previously empowered the chamberlain to defeat me in single combat, no longer had the power to do so. Broken, the curse lifted a seemingly invisible weight from the entire family. Broken, the pieces were scattered into the night sky above us.
As though the maestro had been saving his next piece for such an occasion, he tapped his wand upon his music stand. The steady beat of a drum interrupted by the crash of a cymbal, was soon joined by the keys of a piano. The accompaniment of the entire orchestra joined as I distinctly heard a familiar voice beckon us back to the celebrations of All Hallows Eve. The sound of a lone pipe began to float above us, enticing us all to rejoice in the knowledge of what we had all just accomplished. The combined power of our own individual strengths seemed to be flowing thru me as the notes continued. A powerful male voice that sang to us seemed to be coming from beyond the confines of the garden. Drawing my attention towards where the voice seemed to be emanating from, a figure I initially thought to be James entered the garden and slowly paced the distance to where the shimmering figure had previously stood. The figure was clearly waiting the return of the image of the young woman whose features starkly resembled my own. The stars above us sparkled along with the beams of light from the full moon.
Though I did not think anyone else had also noticed, the figure turned and bowed directly at me. I now realized the haunting of a previous life returned to join him, having waited three hundred years to once again be united. I curtseyed low as their now combined figures slowly began to fade slightly from vision. My own actions called the fading image to the attention of Cathie and Annie who now joined with me. The images of all my predecessors now joined the lone couple as their voices seemingly chorused in both greetings and farewells.
The spirits awakened by our celebrations of, this our most sacred of Sabbaths, began to disperse with the peal of a lone tolling bell. The deeply ringing tone announced the few seconds of our New Year. Barely faded, the bell pealed once again, repeating the last few seconds. The images of my ancestors slowly faded into nothing, many of them simultaneously, as the sound of the bell continued. The sound of the eleventh bell left just two pairs of images remaining. Seemingly locked arm in arm, the figures of our parents remained. A fifth and final image glided into view directly behind our parent’s images. As though praising a final lesson, Professor Montay’s image smiled widely at me. Though brief, her smile was distinctly unique and spoke volumes to me. Now returning my low curtsey, the final five apparitions offered the same as their figures faded into the darkness behind them, as the twelfth bell finally rang out across the garden.
Now silent, the garden stood tranquil. Contrasting sharply to the celebrations preceding the toll of the lone bell announcing the hour, a procession of my family’s elders made their way onto the grassy garden floor. Their stations clearly marked as the Domus of the other nine houses, our Rector Regina lead the procession towards the three of us kneeling in the centre of the garden. Carrying the robes previously worn by my tutor, she approached. I was a little confused as the elderly woman who now approached was not the same woman who I had thought was our Rector Regina.
“It is time, Mistress.” The woman’s voice spoke. “Please forgive me for having someone else masquerade as me.”
“You are forgiven, Adjudant.” I replied softly, having addressed her title informally. Her facial features begged familiarity as I raised my chin to look directly at her.
“My Uncle knew it would be you, who I would one day perform this ceremony with.” She spoke clearly, instantly telling me who she was.
“Why have you never introduced yourself before tonight?” I calmly asked.
“I promised your mother I would never endanger the three of you, by showing myself amongst the family, until it was time.” She replied.
“But your station was to govern the family.” I accused.
“Yes, but Professor Montay insisted your mother’s last wish be observed.” She returned.
“Welcome amongst us once again.” I answered while stifling my tears.
“Our mother’s elder sister.” I projected silently to Annie and Cathie. There was no need to project any more thoughts as I rose to my feet along with Annie and Cathie.
“Mistress, as my station dictates, I herby acknowledge your station as the head of the family, Primus Regina.” Our elder aunt announced.
“I accept.” I proudly answered.
“As written long ago, within the volumes you three now possess, I therefore relinquish my station as Adjudant.” She spoke clearly.
“Miss Cathie, my robes now belong to you.” Our aunt spoke clearly and without conviction dropped her outer robe onto the ground.
“Thank you.” Cathie barely managed to reply. “And as my first act as Rector Regina, will you honor me with accepting Congressus as your new station.”
“You do me much honor, but I can not accept.” Our aunt replied. Instantly I understood.
“It is the time for new blood to lead the family,” Our Aunt respectfully added. “Listen to your heart. There is one whose trust you already have who deserves the station you offer to me.”
As though on queue, following Cathie accepting her new robes, the other nine Domus had relinquished their robes in favor of Rachel, Deanna, Valerie, Tessa, Nyssa, Vijay and Zoë. I quickly noted that two Domus had yet to relinquish their robes. Miss Julian now Domus of Jaune Maison and another young woman wearing blue robes was clearly the new Domus of Blue Maison waited patiently. Being relatively younger than their counterparts, the last two Domus were still older than we all were, though not by much, and having already inherited their stations. With only one last set of robes remaining, I scanned my mind with the choice my Aunt had implied.
“Amelia Griffin.” I announced. “Please step forward.”
“Well done, Mistress.” My Aunt whispered to me as she now passed behind me.
“Well, we must be family.” I quipped back. “We think alike.”
“You are more like your mother than I ever thought was possible.”
“You mean mischievous and modest?” I asked quickly.
“Uh… yes.” My Aunt replied.
“Your daughter will make you proud.” Cathie whispered to our Aunt. Now coming into view amongst the crowd in the garden, the former Lieutenant Griffin approached in her uniform.
“Reporting as ordered, Ma’am!” Amelia announced.
“Amelia, please take your place as Congressus.” Cathie asked.
“Yes, Ma’am. I accept.” Amelia answered aloud, and without further fanfare, Amelia took her place amongst us. With the first day of November barely minutes old, the promises made long ago were now being fulfilled. The continued celebrations and ceremonies, ending in a remembrance observed on the Fifth.
“Today, we mark three hundred years,” I projected strongly. I invaded the mind of every single person present with such gentle force, that they all accepted my intrusion willingly.
“You have awakened me from a nightmare and while I am one of many, I feel so alone. We are no longer innocent. We will not fall before the power of our conviction. We will stand united and oppose a common enemy. They have cut our skin, but they cannot touch what we have inside. You have all shown me, you have the will to be the last ones left standing, our voices strong, our futures ordained.” I continued projecting.
The final pieces of the memories imparted to me from Ferule now all made perfect sense, and only the whispering of the wind thru the trees marked our combined presence.
“Join with us in uniting the Family, follow us on the besoms we have present and tonight, fly openly to the Capital and release those of us detained as dissidents by the Chamberlain.” I projected with both Annie and Cathie accompanying me.
“VIRGA, SIRSUM!” I shouted, as I held out my arm. My own besom shot into my waiting hand as shouts rang out across the garden, almost in unison to my own. Without anything as formal as a command, we all ascended into the night sky and began our silent travel towards the capital. It was breathtaking to see more than two hundred besoms silhouetted against the lights from below as we raced into the sparse clouds. Looking below, I could clearly see those we left behind on the ground. They would be sedately traveling back to Victoria Estates and prepare the sports field for our arrival.
Soon we passed over the airfield, and the entire complement of Bleu Maison’s Sopwith Dragons roared into the sky above us, with us rising higher to meet them. Remembering my solitary flight to the Capital in Ferule’s saddle, my ceremonial robes flow in the wind around me
Our armada begins their descent at breakneck speed. Catherine fell in behind me, with Annie taking the rear. We soar openly towards the Capital. Flitting the treetops, we approach the target point. We are taking the war to our enemy and there is so little he could do to stop us. Our brooms laden with the latest our mischievous and diabolical minds could create. Seventy seconds, we drop our final markers, and our primary target approaches as we release our deadly bundles straight thru the centre of what is to become ground zero for the wake of destruction that is our sole intention to create.
A shock wave, traveling behind us, announces the primary detonation but we are already gone long ahead of the roof falling into the foundations of what used to be the chancellery. The Chamberlain will have no choice but to now become public with his secret war being silently waged. We rise and circle once to survey the damage, and note the seat of a secret world now a blaze of mayhem. Our compatriots piloting the dragons deliver their equally potent bundles on the secondary targets, thus preventing pursuit as well as disrupting their entire communications network, before speeding towards the Chamberlain’s own airfield to prevent any of the Chamberlain’s air forces from disrupting our mission. Our next wave advances with each pilot descending to the prisons. The cells will soon be emptied, with those not already escaping into the air, being joined with those that flee behind them. Markers placed upon their escape routes will dissolve soon after their passing.
I return to the rendezvous point to personally direct the last of our refugees and let them see me as the one commanding the armada we have orchestrated. As though cooling, the tail of my besom glows softly as though offering a path for everyone to follow. With the precision of a ticking clock, we have everyone accounted for and escaping into the darkness of the night as the curiosity seekers impede the Chamberlain’s troops from finding anyone missing from the carnage. Our careful planning and skillful execution of the mission will soon have everyone the chamberlain has held as a dissident or prisoner safely within our network. We have carefully chosen our targets for their value to the Chamberlain.
We have dealt him a blow he would not soon forget. Though we know wrong from right, everyone has suffered long enough. Her awakening has taught me that. I expect that the Chamberlain will be sending an envoy to discuss a truce, or if his support fell enough, then we would be having an envoy of the ruling council approaching us to replace him. Neither is acceptable and their complete surrender is the only message we are interested in receiving. It is going to be down to the last one standing, that much is certain as we also now flee into the sanctuary of the night. We quickly catch up and follow while maintaining a watch for any pursuers.
Before mid-morning we arrive at the sports field and I hover slightly above as each and every one of our new charges is given directions to the dispersal points and safe houses. Soon the requirements for the visible logistics dotting the sports field will be removed and anyone seeking to find any evidence of activity will find none. I finally admit our mission complete and find only the eleven of us remaining before I actually set my feet on the ground, and I collapsed onto the sweet smelling grass. One hundred fifty eight members of the Family now back amongst us.
Our swollen ranks, though no match for the Chamberlain’s seasoned troops, he still has no idea of our location and now he has a more troubling problem with us being able to bring the war to him. It means he is going to have to dedicate at least half his forces to defending the capital, while still trying to locate us. We’ve already proven we are adept at concealment, so his dedication to locating us will be fruitless.
In the plain light of day, we do not mask our retreat. If the chamberlain has managed to sneak a fox into our midst, by now they will have no idea where the rendezvous points and dispersal points are in relation to the staging point and our headquarters. We have everyone spread across nine counties. We wait for messengers to report the completion of the dispersals. If we do have a fox in the hen house, they will only have a few of us chickens to try to eliminate. We all now have very vicious claws.
I estimate the Chamberlain will be too preoccupied to be coming very soon. As I survey the scene one last time, my mind wanders to pictures of my past locked securely within my mind. James steps up behind me with own besom firmly within his grasp, as though beckoning me to alight into the sky one more time.
“Today marks the first time we stand defiant against the council.” James states aloud with a confidence that has been slowly growing within him. “Can you say goodbye to yesterday?”
“Aye, I do. If everyone loved as we do, then I can rejoice for being alive.” I softly project to James. I find my intrusion met with a level of trust and respect, but with it, I feel so much more.
“My brother gave me some sound advice.” James states openly as he slips his heavy boots into the stirrups of his besom.
“Oh?” I answer within the projection I keep open between us.
“I broke the circle today, and tomorrow will be too late to speak my mind.” I hear James voice echo faintly within my head. He does not block his emotions with his thoughts. In that brief instant, I know I have so much more than just a friend standing beside me, as I mount my besom and kick off from the ground.
With the others in hot pursuit behind James and me, we shoot into the sky and the destiny that awaits us.