Chapter 6 pt. A
That one night was arguably the worst night of my life. I stood in my room as the night melted into the day. I continued standing as the sun began to peek through my windows. I was too horrified to move. When the sun rose, I moved forwards. I had to move forward and forget what I did. A day passed, and I remained silent. No one asked me what happened. No one knew what went down that night. No one knew anything, and it was driving me crazy. Several days passed, and it was like it never even happened. No one asked what happened later that night. Everything moved forwards as it was supposed to. The only one who couldn’t move forward was me, for my mind was still on that one evening. It was stuck holding a sword over Brinley. I couldn’t move forward because I was stuck in the past.
This morning I woke up later than I intended to. The sun was already shining high in the autumn sky. If you looked outside, you would think it was a warm day, but it wasn’t. It was the type of day where the brisk air would knock the wind out of you if you let it. I used to love these types of days because the cook would make warm drinks and serve them in the dining room at all hours of the day. Now, whenever I looked out my window, the autumn colors and the cold wind reminded me of the death of the life outside.
Our flowers probably wouldn’t last much longer if we continue having weather like this. I got up and out of bed and examined my room. Everything looked the same. When I saw my sword on its pedestal, it made me feel sick. I had to look away. I quickly glanced over to where Brinley slept. She wasn’t there. The bed was neatly made, and so I did up the other side to match.
As I finished tidying the room, there was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” I called as I fluffed the last pillow.
“Cons Ronin. Let me in, please!”
I dropped the pillow on the bed and opened the door for Ronin. He walked into the room and admired it. I suppose he hadn’t really seen my new room before. Usually, we met at breakfast, but since I slept through that, I suppose he finally had reason to come and see me in my bedroom. It had been a while since I had seen Ronin. After the night of my wedding, I left Fyn to return to see Genevieve about the increasing intensity of the voices. Other than me, she is the only other person who knew what had happened. After seeing Genevieve, I traveled around the Shires for four weeks. I only returned home three days ago, but I hadn’t seen Ronin since he was busy planning his own wedding.
“Wow, your room is a lot tidier than your last one.” Ronin commented as he walked over to fix the curtains.
“Yes,” I smiled, “Haven’t you heard? I’m an adult now.”
“You’ve been an adult for nearly 2 years.” Ronin rolled his eyes.
“Ah, well, perhaps it’s just Brinley’s influence.”
Ronin gave me a once over and returned to fixing the curtains.
“That’s one intense influence.”
“I hope you know I heard that.”
“Oh, I know.” Ronin replied sarcastically.
Ronin looked around the room quickly to see if there was anything else he could do. After 11 years of knowing him, I have found out he is never comfortable talking unless he is fidgeting or doing something else. I guess it’s just one of the little quirks about him.
“So how is wedding planning going?”
Ronin reached up to straighten the sword on the pedestal.
“Don’t touch that!” I exclaimed quickly.
Ronin pulled away with a confused expression on his face.
“It’s just, well, the pedestal is broken. It’s hazardous. It could fall on you. I’ve been meaning to call someone in to fix it. I haven’t gotten around to it.” I picked a lie, and I decided I would stick with it.
Ronin stepped back from the pedestal, “Well I could call someone to fix it. It’s no hassle, Chi Lucian.”
“No, it’s fine.” The pedestal was most definitely not broken. “I can do it.”
“ Chi Lucian, we may not share a room, but I’m still your Cons for the next week. Are you sure you don’t want me to call someone in to fix it?”
“No, I’ll get around to it. Shouldn’t you be wedding planning? Weddings are a lot of work. Go find Andromeda, I’m sure she wants your help.” I began walking him out the door.
“Wait! You distracted me! I came in here to tell you that Genevieve is here. She showed up at the front gate this morning, requesting to see you.”
“Really?” When I returned to see Genevieve, she told me that I should come back as soon as I could get away from the Fortress. I didn’t think she would ever come to visit me. Maybe she found something alarming. “Well, you must send her up!”
“I’ll call for her, but, Chi Lucian, I don’t know about this.” Ronin once again expressed his concerns.
I was beginning to grow tired of his concerns. He’s expressed them all before and none of them have made me change my mind. At least Genevieve has a potentially viable solution. Ronin’s only response to the torment I’ve been going through for the past two months is to sleep better. If his option hasn’t worked then obviously it’s not going to work. I can at least try Genevieve’s solution. Besides, my mother was friends with Genevieve.
“Ronin, we’ve discussed this. I’ve been gone for a month, and sleeping better, getting out of the Fortress, or whatever your next ‘solution’ will be is obviously not working. Please at least let me try Genevieve’s way. She said her option was working for my mother. Maybe it will work for me.” I begged him.
“Chi Lucian, your mother died while on that treatment.”
He didn’t understand, “Those two things are not correlated.”
“You don’t know that. The only person who told you they aren’t correlated is the person trying to sell you the treatment.”
“It could work Ronin,” I insisted.
Ronin walked closer to me, “Or it could kill you twice as fast.”
“You don’t know that.” Ronin was pushing my patience. He had seen me snap, and when I snap, I snap hard and fast.
“Exactly! You don’t know anything about this lady except that she supposedly knew your mother. You shouldn’t put your life in her hands for that.”
“It’s my life, Ronin! Not yours! I’m not going to sit here dying because I don’t trust Genevieve. I’m not going to sit here because I don’t like the risk. If I die twice as quick, oh well. At least I’m not going to suffer as long. If I get cured, great! You don’t seem to understand, Ronin. I don’t care.” I spit at him.
“I care about you! I don’t want you to die because of some faulty witch potion. I’m not the only one. The Fortress is full of people who care about you.”
“Stop being selfish.”
“I’m the selfish one? I’m selfish for wanting to keep you alive?” Ronin’s voice rose with mine.
“Yes, you are selfish. I feel like I’m going insane because in my head I have a little voice whispering to me to do horrible things. I don’t want to have to listen to it but I can’t get rid of it. I get throbbing headaches. I’m in pain all the time. So yeah I’d rather go through 6 months of that rather than 12.”
Ronin stayed quiet as he contemplated my words.
“Go get me Genevieve.”
“No,” He whispered.
I walked deliberately over to Ronin. I stood before him and he had his head hung. He knew he had made a mistake.
“Get me Genevieve. That is an order.” I spit the words out sharply.
“She will be the one to kill you, Chi Lucian. I hope you realize that.”
I paced my room as I waited for Genevieve to come up. I had been harsh on Ronin but this was something I wouldn’t tolerate. He was blatantly disrespectful to me and challenged a direct order. You do not challenge a direct order from your superior. For that simple “no” he could have gotten hung in the gallows. Ronin is a good person. We all understand that. There are just times when he needs to understand he isn’t invincible here. There is always a pecking order and Ronin is on the bottom.
My door opened and there was Genevieve in her signature flowing robe. On her face, she had wrinkles lining her forehead from intense concentration or frowning. Either one fit. I stopped pacing to face her.
“Lucian! It’s nice to see you again,” Genevieve smiled.
“As to you. I didn’t expect you to come all the way to Fyn. What are you doing here?” I asked as I guided her to a chair.
As we walked over to the small table in my room I noticed a case she dragged behind her. I hadn’t noticed it when she first entered the room. Genevieve sat down in front of me and clasped her hands together.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Yes, Lucian. Something is very wrong.” Her voice dropped and sounded very grave and nearly dangerous. It sent a chill down my spine but I leaned in closer, almost as if to hear her better.
“Alright, what has happened?”
“Remember when you visited me the second time? When you told me what happened to your wife?”
“I had a vision the night after you visited.”
I looked at her intently. I tried to get her to go on. I needed to know what she had seen. I wanted to know if it was good or bad news.
“Of course. Go forwards.” I urged her.
Genevieve sighed and continued. “I saw 3 black roses, 3 lilacs, 1 tree, a thornbush, and a storm.”
She saw plants. It isn’t much wrong with that. Then I caught sight of Genevieve’s face. She looked almost as if she was in mourning.
“There’s symbolism in your vision, I presume.” I offered.
Genevieve nodded as she dried the beginnings of a tear on the sleeves of her dress. From that display, I believe I can safely assume that I’m not going to be having the happy life I dreamed of only a few months ago.
I took in a deep breath and prepared myself for whatever tragic story Genevieve had prepared for me.
“What does the symbolism mean?” I prepared myself.
Genevieve sighed, “ traditionally roses are meant to be forms of life. Red roses represent life. White roses symbolize birth or new beginnings. Black roses symbolize-”
“Death. Of course.”
“So 3 deaths. Lilacs are kind of hard to pin down. They could represent summer or fun. They also could be family or children. I think for the sake of this vision I’m going to lean more towards the symbolization of family and children. So 3 families.”
“Or children.” I pitched in.
“Right. 3 families or 3 three children. A single tree. Trees, like lilacs, are hard to pin down. It could be a life. It could be a family. It could be an eternity. The thornbush is pretty straightforward. It most likely represents evil. The storm probably represents change.” Genevieve finished.
“Alright, now we need to figure out what it all means, right?” I offered.
“Wrong. What we really need to do is cleanse you. If what you said happened the night of your wedding is true then we must cleanse you immediately. I’m sorry it took me so long but I had to find rare ingredients.”
“Then do we figure out what your vision means?”
“Yes, now I need to set this cleansing up.” Genevieve reached into her bag of items and began pulling out jars of all shapes and sizes.
Inside each was different assortments of powders and liquids. From how many she pulled out of her little case I can only assume that this cleansing is very complicated.
“Do you have a lit lantern anywhere?” Genevieve pulled out long matchsticks.
“Of course.” I got up from the table and retrieved the lantern from my sitting room.
When I returned into the room Genevieve was sipping a very strong-smelling liquid. It filled the room with the smell of rain, and I cannot complain about it.
I sat down and handed the lantern to her. She opened it so she had access to the flame and dipped her matchstick into the dancing flame. I watched as it transferred and her matchstick slowly began to burn. Genevieve pulled the matchstick out of the flames and pressed it down into a bowl of some kind of herbs. As the herbs began burning, they emitted a thick smoke that began twirling around the room.
“What are those?” I asked.
They smelled like basil only slightly mintier. I couldn’t place my finger on what it was, and it was bugging me. I recognized the scent, but I didn’t know where.
“You need not worry about them.” Genevieve brushed me aside, but I still wanted to know what they were.
I swear I recognize them from somewhere. Someplace deep in my brain, a memory began stirring and fixating. The smell was so deeply familiar and comforting to me. It made me want to shrink back onto my bed and bask in the deliciously pleasant scent.
Genevieve gingerly picked up the bowl of slow-burning herbs and moved it in deliberate circles, so we were showered in the thick smoke. It burned a little, but it was welcoming. It was like sitting near a fireplace on a wintery day. It was a pleasant little experience. The smoke and scent slowly enveloped me.
The combination of the two coaxed a deep calm to flood through me in waves. As the smoke got thicker, my troubles seemed to wane. No issue in the world could drag me from this experience. I closed my eyes and leaned back in my chair. All the noise in my head slowed to a stop. Responsibilities, troubles, chores, anything that was considered worrisome became a memory as they faded from the front of my mind.
I suppose I hadn’t known how troubled I really was until I felt it all melting away. With every new wave, I felt my spirits lifting and brightening. The experience was comparable to the sun rising on the horizon. The sun chased away all the darkness brought on by the night. As the sun chased, the darkness ran. Flowers picked up their heads as they felt the warm rays shining over them.
Just like the darkness, my worries soon only became distant memories. There was no need to worry so I didn’t. I remained with my eyes shut and felt the lull of sleep trying to pull me under but I resisted. I couldn’t sleep now. I had to remember what it felt like to be untroubled.
I felt warm. As the herbs progressed I felt warm. It was odd because my room was never warm anymore. Winter had begun to push through the fall which meant there was no more warmth. Except for in this moment. Somehow Genevieve had called warmth into the room and I was okay with it. As unnatural as it may have seemed, I was okay with it.
“Lucian?” Genevieve’s voice penetrated the paradise I had created in the silence. I didn’t want to respond to her call but what else was I to do?
“Genevieve,” I responded drearily.
Even talking caused some of the fogginess in my head, the fogginess that was blocking my anxieties, to leave.
“How are you feeling?”
“Unrealized,” I responded hoarsely.
How long had this been going on? My voice sounded strained from disuse. We couldn’t have been sitting there for more than a few minutes. The fogginess in my brain seeped outwards and I began thinking more clearly. I became distressed as I didn’t want this drowsy obscured state to leave. Even so, my distress went on the clouds faded. I was pleased to realize that the comforting silence in my head remained. I took a deep breath and released it. For the first time in a while, I felt alone. It felt wonderful.
“Derealized? Can you elaborate on that?” Genevieve’s voice turned soothing.
Genevieve had a very powerful voice that in my hazy state commanded all my attention. She had one of those voices that could rally forces for revolutions or she could lull you to sleep if she so wanted. What an extraordinary gift. It reminded me of my mother. I nearly forgot the question I was asked as I drifted away to memories of my mother. I remember her voice in the chamber. It was the first time my father took me to watch these political debates. My mother commanded all attention in the room when she spoke. All these powerful aristocrats stopped dead in their tracks when she spoke. No one dared speak over the Sor. Her voice was so sure and steady that it demanded everyone to listen and analyze what she said to you. That was just my mother for you.
Still, for all the power her voice commanded, she could be soft-spoken. She could talk down a beast. She could talk down my father. She could calm my outbursts. She could mediate any arguments she came upon. Her talents when it came to speaking, were unrivaled. Perhaps if I knew her for longer, I would have learned her secrets. I truly wish I could have learned. It would be great to know how to express myself to a crowd without the guise of poetry.
“Lucian. I know it is difficult to pay attention after the cleansing, but please focus.” Genevieve urged me.
My mind turned from the fleeting thoughts of my mother and returned to my bedroom.
“Right. I apologize.” I tried not to allow my mind to wander any further.
Genevieve was looking at me expectantly.
“I’m sorry, what was it you asked?” I apologized once more.
Genevieve bit her lip, “You told me you felt unrealized. I want to know what you meant by that.”
“Right. Unrealized. I suppose another word would be misconnected. My problems didn’t seem to be mine anymore. It was like they were a distant memory of a time further away. Everything became blurred but also lucid and calm at the same time. I felt blank. It was like I couldn’t react anymore. Does any of that make sense?” I pondered.
“Unrealized. What an odd experience, am I right? It’s used to describe an experience where you feel like you are looking upon yourself from another perspective. Or you are observing yourself as another person. Is that what you felt?”
“I suppose so. It wasn’t like watching myself from another person’s perspective. I always stayed with me, but there was just a very definite block between the person I was and the person I was before. It was like I was comparing and contrasting the present and the past. The oddest part about it was the time between the comparisons was only a handful of seconds and, yet, there was such an expansive difference.”
“Interesting. What an intriguing take on that experience.” Genevieve pulled out a giant book that was bound by leather.
The pages seemed to be old and worn but she continued writing in the book.
“What is that?” I asked as she finished writing.
“This?” She held up the giant book, “This is my grimoire.”
“Well, what is a Grimoire?” I was unfamiliar with the terminology.
Genevieve cocked her head to the side in wonderment. Then she laughed at me. It wasn’t an entirely pleasant scenario. It felt weird to be laughed at. Especially, by a woman who really didn’t know me well. The moment made me feel bad for not knowing pagan vocabulary. I didn’t know much about witches other than they exist.
“Well, Lucian,” She started her sentence as if she was speaking to a small child. For all the information I knew about paganism, I might as well have been. “A Grimoire is kind of like a recipe book for practicing witches. It contains step by step instructions for spells cast and created by the witch that owns it.”
“Well then, what are you writing in there? You didn’t cast a spell, did you?” My eyes got wide with the possibility.
“No, I didn’t. This was just a simple cleansing ritual. Any person or thing can do it. It doesn’t require any magic of any kind. It’s just knowledge of plants. As for what I was writing, it was a detailed instruction of what happened during this ritual. You see, this Grimoire is a special kind. It’s also my Book of Shadows, which is kind of like a more personal version of a Grimoire.”
“Wow.” I breathed, “Does every witch have a Grimoire?”
Genevieve winced like it was a touchy subject, “Well, some of our people believe that the Grimoires are a bit dated. Most of them have inherited theirs from their grandparents and don’t feel the need to document the work they do. It’s mostly the new witches. In time they’ll learn how important they are. Especially if they start to perform more advanced spells.”
“Have you done any advanced spells?”
Genevieve bit her lips before continuing, “I don’t practice much actual magic. It is very draining for many witches, myself included. Magic doesn’t flow in my family very far. Mostly I just do protective spells and cleansings. Most of which don’t require much of my own magic and rely more on the ingredients.”
“So people don’t really change things in the world using magic?” I asked.
“No, I’m afraid not. There aren’t many pure-bred witches powerful enough to do so. It’s more of a memory.”
“So, how do we go about translating the vision you had?” I gently shifted the conversation back towards the matters at hand.
“Well, for a long time, witches were servants of Mallae, the Keeper of Prophecy.”
I had never heard of this being before. “Who?” I inquired.
Genevieve cocked her head to the side as if she was confused. Then her face shifted into understanding, “I forgot. You just got married. Of course, you don’t know more about this.”
I waited for her to explain, and Genevieve just smiled.
“Remember the cute little story they told you before you completed the blood binding?”
I nodded. It hadn’t been too long ago since I’d heard it.
“That story is the beginning of the knowledge you are now allowed to explore. Can you recall the part of the story where the being of the sky and the being of the sea conceived 24 children?”
“I suppose so,” I responded.
Perhaps we received a severely watered-down version of the story because I don’t recall the children being present so often.
“They all were born to rule different aspects of the world. For example, the oldest child had power over the storms in the sky. Mallae was one of their younger children and received Prophecy and Magic as her domain. She created the witches, and we became her servants. If I offer her a sacrifice, perhaps she will help us with this problem we have encountered with your future.”
“Perhaps,” I echoed, uncertainty.
I wasn’t sure about this. I could accept that witches existed. The fact that they were banned from my Shire seemed to be proof enough of this. I could accept that I’m on a dangerous path with this unknown entity in my head. It was acceptable. I could accept that there was a higher being creating and ruling this world like a puppet master. Sacrifices to unknown entities? I’m not so sure about that.
I had read about sacrifices in journals from years ago. They were never good things. Usually, they were very bloody, very painful, and very gruesome to witness. Perhaps it would be better to walk into my future blind then to know what happens already. At least then, I wouldn’t fight against fate itself.
“Lucian, do you have any finery in this room? Lady Mallae enjoys golden offerings.”
I leaned back away from the table as I contemplated. If I knew what was going to happen, I could change my future in some sort of way. From what we have translated of the vision, it doesn’t sound wonderful. Maybe I should know. This is what she had come here to warn me about. Might as well go all in and not look back.
I got up from the table and walked over to Brinley’s vanity near the door. I dug around through arrays of powders and scents before I found the drawer full of golden jewelry. I looked around before I found the necklace I was looking for. It had a heavy golden chain and a giant sapphire dangling from the chain. It was by far the most expensive piece that Brinley owned, but she hated the thing. She said it was too big. Brinley enjoyed smaller, less distracting pieces as opposed to this monstrosity. I brought the chain over to Genevieve, where she had already set up the sacrifice. Genevieve was now burning an herb that smoked a little but not as much as the first one.
“Give it here.” Genevieve gestured to the necklace I was holding.
I passed it over to her, and she gazed at the gem.
“Oh, it’s too bad. This is such a beautiful piece.” She brushed the gem off as if it was dirty and continued to look at it for a second longer.
I was about to ask her what was happening before she closed her eyes and began saying quick sharp words under her breath. When she opened her eyes, she looked at the necklace and then back at me.
“Oh, it’s perfect,” She sighed.
Genevieve went back to her sharp dialect that I couldn’t catch. I want to say she was speaking a different language, but she was speaking so quickly and so quietly that I really couldn’t be sure. She then took the gem and touched it to both her cheeks and then to her forehead in a quick motion. It almost reminded me of a cross. She kissed the gem and then set it in the smoldering ashes of the herb she was burning. She added a continuation of her mumbling. It nearly sounded like a prayer. To be honest, it probably was a prayer. I began to feel as if I wasn’t welcome here. This seemed like such a personal thing to witness. I shouldn’t be here for this.
Genevieve opened her eyes and smiled. The necklace was covered in soot and ashes from the herbs. It made me wince. I didn’t much enjoy the idea that I was defiling one of Brinley’s possessions, no matter how much she disliked it. It appeared the ritual was over. I wonder if it worked as she wanted it too. She told me that the necklace was the perfect sacrifice for Mallae, but it didn’t seem much had happened.
“Did it work?” I asked her.
“Well, let’s see.” Genevieve gave me a sly smile, “May I borrow some parchment and a quill set?”
I nodded. I swear if she sacrifices my good parchment and quill, then I might ask her to leave. I had a high tolerance for the destruction of my property, but there’s always a limit. Genevieve had begun to reach for it.
I got out of my chair for perhaps the fifth time since we had sat down to have this conversation and walked to a giant wardrobe in the sitting room. Unlike the wardrobe in my last room, this one was filled with clothing. It held all of Brinley’s summer dresses as it was getting colder. It also held my writing utensils. I grabbed an old quill, a plain black bottle of ink, and a sheet of the parchment paper. I walked back into the bedroom, where Genevieve was patiently waiting. I had begun to get annoyed with her persistence. I began to wonder how many of these remedial tasks were really necessary to her supposed power.
I handed over the three items, and Genevieve examined the quill as if it was the most important object she has held.
“Is the quill up to your standards, my lady?” I let bitterness sink into my words, but if she noticed, she didn’t show it.
“I suppose it will do.” Genevieve slowly dipped it into the jar of ink I had brought her and stared at the parchment.
I waited for her to take the quill and begin writing, but she just waited with it, still in the ink. I waited impatiently. We had already wasted a lot of time, and I wanted to know if I truly should be worried or not. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to be funny or not. She just sat there as still as a statue.
“Genevieve? Is there something wrong?” I asked as I waited for her to move.
Genevieve remained silent as a grave. She took the quill out of the ink, and I waited for something to happen. A single drop fell from the quill, and she put it back into the ink. I waited for this charade to end, but it continued to stretch longer and longer.
I was reaching the end of my patience for this waste of my time. I was about to tell Genevieve to leave my room, but then she answered me.
“There is nothing wrong. I’m just waiting for the influence of Lady Mallae to fall over me, for I cannot, myself, tell the future. It must be done with her guidance and direction.”
“Will it take all day? I have places to be, I’m afraid.” I apologized.
I didn’t really have anything that I direly needed to accomplish to do, but there were some remedial tasks that I could find to take up my time. Anything but sit and watch Genevieve concentrate on a single sheet of paper.
“Did the sacrifice work or not?” My patience had spread thin. If she didn’t bring the quill down on the parchment paper within the next five minutes, I was going to kick her out of the room. Genevieve’s head shot up, and she smiled a grand smile. I then knew that something had happened. She took the quill out of the ink and began scribbling out her translation onto the paper. After about five seconds, the sound of quill on paper halted, and I looked back at her. She had stopped writing. She was instead waiting with her eyes closed. After another 30 seconds, she picked it up once again. Then she stopped.
I soon realized that this process could take a while. I got up from the table and grabbed a journal from my nightstand, and began to read through it.