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Awakening Heart by Sophie
An original story.

 

Villette clung to her mother's hand as the youthful estate-agent led them up towards a large, old house. The drive was wide, and gravelled, the long advance to the horizon dominator, and gave the child plenty of time to take it in. The immensity of the building's two stories plus ample attic space dwarfed the nine-year-old's perceptions; it was so much bigger and grander than the 1960's semi in which she had grown up. The diamond panels of the leaded windows shuttered from within, reflected the bright summer sun, making it seem to the awed girl that the structure was repelling the day. Huge blocks of reddish stone created the walls which stretched up, seemingly forever, to the gabled, wooden roofs. Two would-be towers stuck out from the front of the ancient, fortified farmhouse, guarding it like rotund, sunburnt soldiers, one window in each making a grotesque, Cyclops-vision which spoke to the child's imagination. Despite mentally chiding herself for being so babyish, as the glass glinted ominously at her, Villette couldn't help hiding behind her long dark hair, barely daring to look up at the massive house. A feeling had been creeping up on her ever since her mother had pointed out the distant black silhouette set up on the craggy hill above the modest, valley village, and now, as the uncomfortable child approached the door, it hit home; it was a sense of belonging. The slender, shy girl knew that it was her father's new job that had brought the small family sudden prosperity and relocation to the middle of nowhere in Wales, but somehow, she felt that they had been expected for a long time, longer than she could contemplate. A maternal Kentish ancestry and a paternal French one were irrelevant and alien to the young mind as Villette breathed in the atmosphere that she sensed knew her; it was a daunting, worrying consideration.

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.

"Sorry about 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.

"So Gwynfed 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.

Villette's uneasy 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.

"Be careful. 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.

The End