The door was huge
and battered, weathered by hundreds of years of wind and rain
on the exposed hillside. The child examined the peaks and troughs
of the aged portal, losing her breath as the marks spoke to
her, and she recognised every grove. The clatter and thunk of
metal on metal as the enthusiastic young property dealer began
to struggle with the lock brought the child back to earth, and
reality ridiculed her musing. Her father had drummed common
sense into his daughter, and, determined to represent him well,
she decided to be adult about the new business of house-viewing.
The diminutive creature frowned at herself, shook her wavy locks,
and forced her hand to pry itself from the protective hold of
the tall, elegant woman beside her. The youngster raised her
chin, and glaring defiantly at the dark brown oak, struggled
to banish the strange ideas at the back of her mind.
this, Mrs Galois," the youth apologised, catching Villette's
stern face and taking it to be disapproval, "old doors,
you know, can be stiff. A bit of oil will see to it. It just
hasn't been opened in a long time, about forty years, I believe.
The owner is a local woman, her parents died and she moved out
of here when she was eighteen, but wouldn't sell. Then, last
week, she wrote to our office saying something about it being
time for the inheritance to move on. Don't really know what
she meant, the market being in the state it is now, but she
was insistent that we sell. So, you see, you're very lucky to
have an opportunity of a place like this, and at such a reasonable
price. Layurosbrude's foundations date back to Saxon times,
and before that there was a pagan temple on this site. There
are still some remains in the back garden."
The adult woman smiled
politely, nodding patiently as the door still refused to unlock.
is a place of historical interest, Mr Stuart?" she chose
to make conversation in her light, public-school accent.
The green professional
saw a chance to produce a patter, and launched excitedly into
his response. Villette didn't take much notice, things were
moving inside her head again. Time - it was a fascinating concept
to the young spirit; how could anything be so old? She glanced
up to the pinnacle of the house immediately above the door,
the rusting protuberance of an ancient sun-dial set in the wall
above her suddenly made history seem very close. Thin, white
wisps of cloud high above the thin bar moved with a separateness
which held her enthralled, something so still against so much
natural energy, it was seductively attractive.
The girl started
violently and took a hasty step backwards as the lock grated
harshly. Mr Stuart was taken by surprise as his efforts brought
success, and his weight was fully on the door as it swung in
with unexpected ease. As a result, the young man tumbled helplessly
to the floor, and Mrs Galois knelt quickly to help him.
gaze was left transfixed over their heads into the open, dusty
interior. It was dark, the shutters keeping out most of the
light, and the blackness was cold compared to the bright life
of the outside. The dank atmosphere of a place long deserted
swamped the child's resolutions, and she shuddered involuntarily.
The shadows sunk back in of depths of deeper and deeper grey,
swirling on each other in the errie dance of something disturbed.
Any light which had battled through the heavy shutter was lost
after a few feet, strangled by the dense night; the main hallway
was a hole on the face of time. The slight child was weak as
she felt the centuries escape past her and fold themselves behind
her back. Her mother and companion became mists of emptiness,
distant and separate. They were there, stumbling over each other
into the darkness, but their outlines were indistinct. The adults
were a dream away from the small, daunted girl, out of reach
for her present consciousness. The force surrounding her was
now in control, and it drew her into a different world to that
which the grown-ups entered.
The house had a presence,
no, the house was a presence; Villette could feel existence
oozing from the darkness. She was tiny and adrift in the inky
surroundings, a child facing an eternity even longer than the
history that men knew. Her mortal emotions shrank from the aeons
of being, but its immortal dominance held her stock still in
the centre of it all as the shutters were swung back and the
day explored an old friend. Light flowed over the floor and
up the walls, drenching everything in golden shades of brown.
The girl gasped in wonder as the fear lifted away, even as the
consciousness remained. She was stood in the middle of a tall,
wood-panelled hall which stretched up for the full two stories.
A passageway led off to the back of the house, and four doors,
barely visible among exquisite carvings stood two to either
side. A magnificent, wide staircase in front of the child caught
her attention, and her grey eyes followed its gentle spiral
up to a balcony set halfway up the wall, accessing a second
level. The overhang ran round the four walls, there being three
passages leading off it, one for each inside wall, and more
shuttered windows promising a beautiful view of the garden and
valley beyond at the front of the house.
An exclamation of
delight came from the reality out of reach to Villette as Mrs
Galois took in the Great Hall, but she saw only wood carved
into pretty patterns and pictures on the walls. Her daughter
saw more as she wiped a long fringe out of her eyes and examined
the panels. The reliefs told an ancient story written and illustrated
in the language of the Heart long since forgotten and unrecognised
by most. The awed youngster had never seen such forms before,
but as her gaze swept over them, she knew every meaning. Yet,
there was no time to read; the rest of the house beckoned and
the story would have to wait. Reluctantly drawing her eyes away
from the delicate runes, the captivated creature took a few,
unsteady steps towards the staircase to test the exact guidance
of the eternal will. Excitement tingled through her as the instinct
proved correct, and she moved more confidently.
You can go exploring, but be back when I call," her mother's
voice sounding hollow with the distance, floated across to her.
Entranced by other
needs, the child barely heard; the house was dominant now, and
it demanded she follow its lead up into the mysteries of the
second floor. Only the soft pad of her plimsolls ruffled the
velvet silence which enfolded her as she made a careful progress
up the dusty, wooden steps into further gloom and damp air.
Life had been denied this structure for an age of years and
the girl could feel its impatient, relentless call to her. It
was smooth, but urgent, and Villette detected desperation behind
the monotonous strength; the building was pleading to become
a home. The newly awakened sense inside the child returned that
longing, and promised to fulfil it. Her heart was warmed by
a perception of belonging and the under-sized girl smiled to
herself as she reached the balcony. She turned, and for a moment,
took in the area below her. Disturbed dust speckled the friendly
beams of light and, because of its density, dappled the diamond
patterns the glass made on the red-tiled floor. The sight was
breathtaking to a young soul, and she reached over the banister,
standing on tiptoe to manage it, to try to touch a ray; but
not even an adult could have leant down enough to bathe a hand
in the misty light and the will pulled her back.
Villette turned and
stared into the half-light that was more uncertain than the
original black shrouds; it distorted shapes and disoriented
the child. Yet, she stood waiting, confident that her new friend
would show what it required. The small body held no fear now,
only expectation of something pleasant that the old timbers
would reveal in their own time. Her mortal eyes were lost in
the mystery, but she trembled as her companion gave her other
eyes to see. She was surprised to hear the sound of her breath
catching in her throat and of her racing heart beat as the power
shuddered through her young body. Slowly, to her right, the
gloom cleared, giving way to a metallic coloured world. Her
vision was still dim, but the silvery way became obvious and
easy. It led around to the passage in the right wall, which
was smaller that the other two. Villette laughed happily at
how clever the house was, and trotted along the wide balcony.
She was excited now, her emotions tight with anticipation. The
girl barely noticed, but with every step, she increased her
pace. Her trot became a canter and the canter an all- out run
by the time she reached her passageway.
The magic worked
as fast as she moved and it lit the corridor for her. The place
was very thin, not wide enough for two adults to pass and barely
wide enough for a man to walk upright, and yet, despite her
helter-skelter speed, the girl passed perfectly between either
plastered wall not even catching her baggy T-shirt on the crumbling
substance in need of repair. The closeness of the partitions
around her only helped the youngster to feel at home, and added
to the thrill of her quest as her silver world revealed an eventual
dead- end. She ignored a door to her right, it was black, unlit
by her vision, and so not her goal. The fascinated being was
so close, and the pull was growing stronger moment by moment.
If it had been a cry, it would have been screaming and it hurt
Villette's mind as she reached a pair of doors opposite one
another. Left was lit, and she grabbed the handle excitedly.
She tumbled into a modestly sized, beamed and plastered room
which was totally empty. The sense of anticipation was still
there, this was not the place. The child was momentarily confused,
until she noticed a door in the far left corner leading back
up the way she had come. It was tiny, at most four feet high
and had only width enough to allow an adult to pass sideways.
The reliefs carved into it were the same style as those in the
hall, and they shone with a marked brilliance under the silver
eyes. Villette whooped with exhilaration, and strode purposefully
forward. A tiny key, no bigger than a child's little finger
sat in an equally delicate lock, but the door swung in as the
youngster touched it. Without hesitation, the girl stepped through.
There was nothing
but the blindness that darkness after light brought. Her ally
and companion was gone, leaving her shivering and frightened
in the cold gloom after such intense warmth. Confused by the
sudden loss of navigational skill, Villette stifled a sob of
loss. Her father's grounding in common sense came to the abandoned
child's aid, and looking around, she spotted a thin wisp of
light which a shutter let in through a dirty window. Hastily,
she stumbled over to the portal and scrabbled with a bar which
held them shut. She toppled into an awkward kneeling position
on a hard window seat as she struggled with the heavy plank;
it had been a long time since this protection against the outside
had been removed, and splinters caught painfully in the desperate
creature's fingers as she pulled at it. With a relief, the youngster
felt the holder come away, and the shutters folded easily back
to allow in the sunshine. Breathing hard at the fright she had
experienced, Villette collapsed against the window and glanced
anxiously behind her at the small room in which she found herself.
The light gave the
girl back some confidence, and she allowed herself a feeling
of wonder as she took in a chamber perfection in miniature.
The walls were darkly panelled as the hall, but the runes were
reduced in size to fit with the tiny room, which was at most
six feet wide and five feet high. However, this time, the dazed
form couldn't understand them, and it made her feel alone and
excluded. Her heart yearned to follow the patterns and comprehend
so magically as she had before, but now she had to work to even
separate one swirling pattern from another. The reading was
a painful experience, and the child turned quickly away from
the task to glance around.
This place, too,
was empty, except for a piece of craftsman's art. In the far
corner away from the door stood a wooden chest. It was well
made, solid, polished, and in the room it felt right; yet, outside,
it would have looked impractically small. The curved-top box
was only the size of a slightly over-sized jewellery chest.
It drew Villette's attention, and she moved cautiously across
to it. The direct influence of her surroundings was gone, but
the child felt that she was still close to the power around
her, agonisingly close, just out of reach. The furniture emanated
a little of the wealth of feeling that had so recently been
hers, and was like a magnet to her starving spirit. Anxious,
unsure of her motives that were largely subconscious, the deserted
figure sank slowly down on her knees in front of the wooden
receptacle. Her fingers shaking with angst, but still coupled
with a touch of excitement, the girl reached for the key which
sat in the lock. The metal was lacy, hardly looking strong enough
to sustain a touch, let alone a turn, and very gently, light
fingers settled around it. The mechanism was so smooth, the
child didn't really feel it moving; the tiny key was like a
mist between her finger and thumb, a little cold on the skin,
but not quite there. Only a faint click told the opener that
her task was complete.
Villette lifted the
lid. A cry of pleasurable shock escaped her lips as power, more
intense and wonderful than before, ran instantly out of the
encasement and into her body. The chest rocked as the lid was
thrown back, away from a hand which raised in the involuntary
jerk of exciting energy. The girl's eyes closed momentarily
as she experienced the warm flood of pure knowledge; wisdom
centuries old, neat and uncorrupted by time coursed into her
veins and threatened to tear her mind away from her. The child
was vaguely aware that this was a cliff edge over which she
could easily tumble, but it didn't matter as she reached whole-heartedly
to embrace the brilliance. For a moment she struggled on the
edge of a dangerous chasm, hovering at the brink of extinction
as the power promised to engulf her. Yet, she was chosen, worthy
of the rite, and eyes snapped open as the will came under control.
A new being looked
down into the little box. Grey eyes now holding a spark of age
not becoming the years examined the contents of the red- velvet
lined container. The contents were as miniature as their holder,
and as perfect in detail as the reliefs which had surrounded
them for hundreds of years. Twelve cubes, their corners rounded
with age nestled comfortably on the plush interior, displaying
runes from the Heart. There were swirls, pictures, symbols,
all had something to say, one carved into each face of a stone
brick. Villette gazed down at the faces which lay upwards. These
were her casting runes, portals to past, future, instruments
in the magic of the ancients, her predecessors, and they would
always tell her something. She smiled contentedly to herself
as she read today,
Welcome Young Witch.