Part Three - A Look Back In Time
“Attention, students! Attention, les étudiants!” came the voice of Professor Gaspareaux through the small bullhorn he was holding, his French accent somewhat stronger due to the amplification of his voice. “We have arrived at the British and Irish Elemental Institute, and from now on, all announcements will be in English to familiarize yourselves with the language. Your luggage has already been taken inside and placed in the rooms you will be staying in, and I will now pass around sheets of paper with room assignments on them. Remember to be kind and gracious to your British and Irish hosts, for the purpose of these exchanges is to make friends within the international elementalist community. Make l'Académie Elémentaire and all of France proud through your actions and your words.”
The students on the bus started whispering amongst themselves as Professor Gaspareaux put the bullhorn down and began to hand out the sheets of paper he had referred to. At the very back of the bus, twenty-year-old Noëlle Moreaux flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder and leaned over to her best friend Antoinette Desmarais, who looked like her twin.
“I cannot wait to be done with Gaspareaux for the next two years. Can you?”
Antoinette bit back a laugh as the professor moved closer to them. “I can't wait to be done with him for the rest of my life.”
“Mademoiselles,” Professor Gaspareaux said as he reached the bench where they were sitting. “Your room assignments, and do remember not to cause any trouble.”
Noëlle and Antoinette both reached for the papers that the professor was holding out, quickly pulling them close and examining them as the professor walked back to the front of the bus.
“Oooh, Maximilienne and Célestine rooming together? That's asking for trouble,” Antoinette murmured.
“Forget about that,” Noëlle said, shaking the paper in front of Antoinette's face. “Look at the very last grouping, room three-twenty-six.”
Antoinette looked back down at her paper and broke out into a huge grin. “We're roommates.”
“We're roommates, with Philippine Prideux, which is alright, I suppose,” Noëlle confirmed. “And we are going to get to know these other three girls, and we are going to rule this school.”
“Arabella Smith, Sháuna Reilly, and Saoirse Nic Gearailt,” Antoinette said, glancing up as students began to leave the bus. “We're going to have to get the third one to teach us how to say her name, because I'm sure I butchered that.”
“That's why I didn't even bother trying to say it,” Noëlle said, reaching for her backpack and standing up. “Come on, we've got room three-twenty-six to find.”
Antoinette gathered together her things and followed Noëlle down the aisle, stepping off of the bus and immediately spotting her boyfriend standing there waiting for her. “Monsieur Rousseau,” Antoinette said.
“Mademoiselle Desmarais,” he answered back, holding out his hand for Antoinette to take.
“Hello Laurent,” Noëlle called out, walking past them. “Make sure you bring her to her room quickly! You two can make out all you want later!”
Noëlle heard laughter behind her as she followed some of the other students into the large stone building, smiling when she walked into a large entry way that was packed full of people. Looking around, she spotted a couple of girls standing off to the right holding up a sign with her, Antoinette, and Philippine's names on it, and she headed in their direction. Both girls had the long, shimmering silver hair of water-bearers, while the girl on the left was slightly taller and the girl on the right was slightly skinnier.
“Hello!” she called out as she approached them. “I am Noëlle.”
“Noëlle,” the girl on the left greeted. “An air-bearer, how groovy! I am Sháuna Reilly, and this is Saoirse Nic Gearailt.”
The girl on the right, Saoirse, reached out her hand and Noëlle shook it warmly. “It's lovely to meet you, Noëlle.”
“It's lovely to meet you as well,” Noëlle replied, “though I am not going to try to say your name until you tell me how to properly pronounce it.”
Saoirse laughed. “Not a problem. Sear-sha is the pronunciation.”
“Sear-sha,” Noëlle repeated. “Definitely never would have come up with that. I have no idea where Philippine is, but Antoinette should be in here in a minute if she stops kissing her boyfriend any time soon.”
“I resent that,” came Antoinette's voice, and Noëlle looked over her shoulder to see her walking towards them, the entry way much clearer than it had been a few minutes earlier. “Laurent and I were merely talking.”
“With one another's tongues,” Noëlle said, laughing and ducking when Antoinette took a friendly swipe at her.
“Stop being stupid,” Antoinette said, smiling at the two water-bearers in front of her. “Hello, I'm Antoinette Desmarais.”
“Saoirse Nic Gearailt,” she said, holding out her hand again. “And this is Sháuna Reilly.”
“Sear-sha?” Antoinette asked. “Did I get that right?”
“Perfect, An-twan-ette. Did I get that right?”
“Very good, yes.”
“Ah, my dear roommates, I presume,” came a voice from behind them, and Noëlle smiled.
“Philippine! This is going to be so much fun. Meet Sháuna and Saorise.”
Greetings were exchanged and then Sháuna smiled. “Well, let's show you to the room so you can get settled before the big orientation program they have scheduled for us tonight. Arabella is there. She had a big essay to write and instead of writing it was off dancing in the city last night.”
September 12, 1974
The British and Irish Elemental Institute was located in the elemental city of Xendaine, and Noëlle was eager to go out and explore. Xendaine was one of the oldest elemental cities in the world, with architecture dating back to nearly 3500 B.C., and while Noëlle didn't particularly want to be an architect, she wanted to at least say she'd set her eyes upon some of the oldest things still left in the world. Antoinette had agreed to go exploring with her, but she'd brought Laurent along and Noëlle had eventually left them outside of one of the ice cream shops to go exploring on her own.
She ended up in front of Xendaine Cathedral, a towering structure of rock that was carved so beautifully that it nearly took Noëlle's breath away. She stood there and let her gaze drift over every sculpture, taking in the beauty that she knew had not been manipulated by tools but by a combination of earth-bearers and water-bearers using their gifts. She wasn't particularly artistic either, but she felt a sense of pride at possessing the ability to create such things.
She didn't notice the young man standing next to her until he coughed, startling her. He smiled and reached out a hand. “My apologies, Miss Moreaux. I didn't mean to startle you.”
Noëlle immediately grew concerned. “How do you know who I am?”
“We have a few classes together,” the young man said, still holding out his hand. “I'm Callan Murphy.”
Noëlle's defenses dropped as she suddenly recognized the man from her History of Elementalism class. “You sit with Saoirse. You're her boyfriend.”
“I am, yes,” Callan said, breaking out into a smile when Noëlle finally put her hand in his. He grasped it and brought it up to his lips, kissing the back of her hand softly. “But it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Noëlle felt something in her stomach flutter and she blushed slightly. “The same.”
“Do you want to see the inside of the cathedral?” Callan asked, letting go of her hand.
“Can we really go in? The cathedral in Kaladrine is only open on Sundays unless there's a wedding.”
“Same here,” Callan said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a set of very old looking keys. “It just so happens that my family has certain privileges here in Xendaine that others don't.”
Callan started walking towards the cathedral's side door and Noëlle followed him. “Why does your family have such privileges?”
He reached the door and quickly unlocked it, opening it slowly and then ushering Noëlle inside. “The Murphy family has a long history of fighting for our freedom. The people of Xendaine appreciate what it is we do.”
And then it clicked in Noëlle's mind. “Callan Murphy, as in the son of Ciarán Murphy, head of the Elemental Freedom Movement?”
“And grandson of Cillian Murphy, my father's predecessor, and great-grandson of Conchobhar Murphy, the man who started it all.” Callan locked the door and walked past Noëlle into the cathedral. “Does it scare you?”
Noëlle swallowed hard. “Does what scare me?”
“Being alone with me. Knowing what it is I am capable of.”
Noëlle took a couple of tentative steps forward. “No.”
“Why not?” Callan asked, leaning up against a stone pew. “Most people would be terrified to be this close to me. This alone with me. It took ages for Saorise to learn not to be afraid of me.”
“Why would I be afraid to be with someone whose beliefs match mine?” Noëlle said after a moment, her voice stronger than it had been before.
Callan looked over at her, intrigued. “You believe in the EFM's cause?”
“Yes,” Noëlle said, taking a few steadier steps towards him. “I live in a sapien city. I see the way they look at my parents and me. I want them to learn their natural position is beneath us. They want to enslave us? It should be them instead. I've just never really spoken that opinion aloud to very many people.”
“The more you talk, the more attractive you get,” Callan said, holding out his hand. “God, it took Saorise ages to get to this point, and I'm still not convinced that she's not just lying to me about it all.”
Noëlle blushed furiously but stepped forward and let Callan take her hand. “Why do I feel as though you've been planning this?”
“Because I have been,” Callan said, pulling her closely. “I really want to kiss you right now.”
“Saorise doesn't matter right now,” Callan said, waiting until he saw the slight nod from Noëlle before he pressed their lips together.
Noëlle broke away quickly, blushing again. “We shouldn't.”
“Oh, I think I have plenty of time to convince you that we should,” Callan said, staring at her for a moment. “But now, would you like to see the EFM headquarters?”
“I thought you were going to show me the cathedral?”
Callan grinned. “EFM headquarters, Xendaine Cathedral. Same thing.”
January 20, 1975
“Where are we going?” Noëlle whispered, trying not to stumble as Callan led her down a long, dark street. “You brought me all the way to Dublin to walk down dark streets?”
“Shhh,” Callan said, pausing at a street corner and looking down one way before quickly heading down the other. “Keep up.”
“You could have told me we were going to do all this walking, you know?” Noëlle muttered. “I wouldn't have worn heels.”
“We can't be seen or heard,” Callan hissed. “Not until we get inside.”
Noëlle quickly shut up and followed along silently as they rounded another corner and then approached a rickety looking warehouse.
“In here,” Callan said, pushing open the door and ducking inside. “Quick, Noëlle.”
Noëlle stepped into the warehouse and Callan shut the door behind them, then took her by the hand and led her through a few sheets of hanging black plastic. When they emerged, Noëlle was surprised to find the inside of a sitting room set up there.
“What is this?” Noëlle asked quietly.
“This is where my family lives,” Callan said, smiling at her. “I want you to meet my parents.”
“Your parents?” Noëlle asked shakily. “Callan, I don't know about this.”
“Callan, my dear,” came a woman's voice, and Callan and Noëlle both turned to see a woman with long brown hair walking into the sitting area with a platter of sandwiches. “I hope no one saw you come in.”
“I don't think anyone did, Mam,” Callan said, taking Noëlle by the hand and leading her over to where the woman was sitting down. “Mam, this is Noëlle Moreaux, the girl I was telling you and Dad about. Noëlle, this is my mother, Daireann Murphy.”
“It's lovely to meet you, dear,” Daireann said, patting the seat next to her. “Come, sit down and tell me all about yourself while Callan goes and finds Ciarán.”
“Yes, Mam,” Callan said, squeezing Noëlle's hand quickly before he let go and walked out of the room.
Noëlle sat down next to Daireann and cleared her throat nervously. “I'm sorry, Mrs. Murphy, if I seem a little nervous. I had no idea this was going to happen tonight.”
“Oh, nothing to worry about, my dear,” Daireann said, reaching towards the platter she'd put on the table. “Sandwich?”
“Thank you,” Noëlle said, taking one from the platter.
Daireann just smiled at her. “Callan knows how important it is that no one knows where we are located, especially since we are in the middle of a sapien town. And if he'd started to talk about how he was going to Dublin, that girlfriend of his would have tried to talk her way into coming. Saoirse may be a pleasant girl, but she's not ready to be part of the family business. You, on the other hand, sound like you are a perfect candidate for becoming a member of our organization.”
“I've already told Callan that I'm not sure I'm ready for that. It would be very disappointing to a number of people I know if I were to become a member of the EFM.” Noëlle took a nervous bite of her sandwich. “He said something about me being a silent member?”
“Oh yes, well, I suppose that would be an option,” Daireann said, setting the platter back down on the table. “We would, of course, very much prefer you to be an active member. But I suppose, especially with you still in school, that a silent member would work.”
“What would work?” came a gruff voice with a strong Irish accent, and Noëlle turned to see Callan and the man she assumed was his father walking into the room.
“Noëlle here being a silent member,” Daireann said, looking over at them. “Ciarán, dear, come meet the new recruit Callan has managed to get out of the exchange students at the school.”
“There's more to come, Mam,” Callan said, walking over to the sofa and sitting down next to Noëlle. “I'm just being very careful about the whole thing.”
“Good,” Ciarán said as he sat down in an armchair. “Now, Noëlle, we'll go through all the paperwork to sign you up in a little while. First, start by telling me everything you know about explosive devices.”
They talked for a few hours about different aspects of the Elemental Freedom Movement, what Noëlle was studying in school as an air-bearer, and her world views in general before Ciarán announced that she was perfect and all the paperwork to become a silent member of the Elemental Freedom Movement was signed. Callan excused them around eleven, and Noëlle smiled when Daireann gave her a hug as they left.
Once they were outside, Callan pulled Noëlle in an opposite direction to the one they'd arrived at the warehouse in, and soon they were on a brightly lit street and blending in with crowds of people wandering in and out of pubs.
“You were amazing tonight,” Callan declared as they walked down the street. “So much more impressive than Saoirse has ever been in any visit to my parents. They loved you.”
Noëlle smiled. “I just hope I can live up to your father's expectations.”
“Don't worry, he won't call on us at all during school. He knows that our education is very important. We have to be completely trained in order to do what it is we will need to do.” Callan looked over at her and smiled. “I just wish Saoirse would be totally on board with what I have to do. We have so many arguments about it.”
“Then maybe you shouldn't be with Saoirse,” Noëlle said softly, looking down at the ground.
“I sort of have to,” Callan said, reaching over and taking Noëlle by the hand. “Saoirse's parents are both members of the Movement, and they're both old friends of my parents. Saoirse and I have sort of been destined for one another since birth, I think. In any case, either of us wanting to be with someone else would be considered totally unacceptable, no matter how much my mother dislikes Saoirse's apathy towards the Movement.”
“Oh,” Noëlle murmured. “I see.”
“As far as I'm concerned, that has no effect on whether or not we can be together.”
“Noëlle, I'm serious. So it will involve secrecy and sneaking around. So what? If we really want to be together, then that's worth it to me.”
Noëlle just shook her head. “I'm not going to be your thing on the side, Callan. I've told you that many times.”
“You're going to give in someday. I know it and you know it. So why torture us with the wait?”
“So I can maintain my dignity for a little bit longer,” Noëlle said, taking a deep breath. “Enough of this. What are we going to do tonight? I've never been to Dublin before, and I want to see things before we go back to Xendaine.”
Callan sighed and let go of her hand. “Well, have you ever been inside an Irish pub, my dear?”
“You know I haven't.”
“Then I say we correct that.”