How are you holding up? I hope this letter reaches you and that you have the opportunity to write back, but I imagine that you would respond with some snide remark and then complain about the horrible rules you now have to live under. We haven’t known each other for a very long time, but I feel confident in saying I know you that well.
I know this not easy for you, and I wish you were still here at home where you belong, but we’ve got to do our best and believe that we will see each other again. I think, by now, you have realized that it might be longer than we first anticipated. Aisling and I both miss you very much, but it is our wish that you stay where you are and do your best to stay out of trouble. Do what they ask of you, don’t ask too many questions, and don’t draw attention to yourself. It would be best if you lay low, it is not your job to “take down” the order, you don’t have enough experience or knowledge, it’s your job to be safe.
Since I know you very well by now, and since I know Eylion, I expect you two have already gotten into a spot of trouble, and let me just say that you are lucky not to be within swatting distance and that you better pull yourself together right now, young lady. Do as you are told and stay out of trouble!
Now, lecture over, I will give you an update on things back home. Albert is doing fine. As you might have expected, Aisling has taken on that responsibility, and she takes very good care of him so you don’t have to worry. He gets enough to eat, plenty of exercise and lots of love. He’s a very happy horse, but I’m sure if he could talk he’d say he misses you a lot.
As you also might have expected, we were not the only people who were upset by the way you girls were taken, and there are a lot of unhappy and heartbroken mentors out there. A couple of days after you were taken, all the young wizards disappeared too, but this time people were prepared. However, unlike with you, we have no clue as to where they took them. It would have been easier if they had just taken you all to the same place, but your dear Headmistress is a little too old fashion for that.
Alexis has become somewhat of a leader among those who are unhappy, and there are many. We have tried to solve this peacefully through communication for a long time, before even you came along, but we’re speaking to deaf ears and so we’re taking it a step further. It’s time we formed a resistance to overthrow the order. This is not an invitation for you to do something stupid, by the way! I’m actually glad you witchlings are out the way so you don’t get caught in the middle, but I tell you this because we also fear you will be used against us and I want you to be aware of what is going on in the outside world. You just stay put and stay safe, we’ve got this. We have plans and Alexis is in charge, though sometimes I think my mentor has many more plans inside her head that she shares with me. It’s infuriating, actually, but I do trust her, and I think she is the best for the job.
So that’s what’s been going on, I hope that helps with all the questions you must be having. Be good. Oh and do you still have your locket? Don’t lose it! And destroy this letter when you’re done reading it.
I miss you, and I love you. Aisling says she loves you too.
Annabelle read the letter one last time, tracing her fingers over the word ‘love’ written in Gwen’s handwriting. She then took a deep breath before she put the letter in her paper bin and waved her hand over it causing the letter to burst into flames. It hurt, seeing Gwen’s words on the paper crumble together and turning into ashes. She wanted to see her so badly, she wanted to see all of them. Her eyes stung with bitter tears that ran down her check, hot and wet.
She hated the order! She wanted to mess things up for them so bad, yet Gwen expected her to do nothing, expected her to just stay out-of-the-way. Alexis had plans, she said, plans that she kept from Gwen. Annabelle gave a snort of laughter as she thought of the irony as Gwen complained to her that Alexis kept her in the dark, when that was exactly what she was doing to her. What was so important about her locket? Everyone kept saying that she had to keep it safe, but they never bothered to tell her why.
But she knew something that Gwen did not, because Alexis had mentioned to Christophe that Annabelle could go find Andromeda. Apparently she had not mentioned this to Gwen because Gwen was telling her to stay where she was. If she had known of this idea to find Andromeda, what would she say? Would she tell Annabelle to go? Probably not, which was probably why Alexis had only told Christophe, because she knew Gwen and Aisling would say no.
Annabelle got into bed and looked up at the ceiling of her four-poster. She wondered what Eylion’s letter said. Would her letter have the same information she got, or would Leda tell her more than Gwen had told Annabelle? Would Leda know of this plan of possibly running away to see Andromeda? She was her mentor, after all.
She wished she could see Eylion right away, but she couldn’t as the door to her room was locked, and it would only be opened when someone came to deliver her meals. She still had four days left of her confinement. It was so boring she had started looking forward the homework she was given every day to keep up with what the other girls were learning, just so that she’d have something to do. The punishment had sort of worked, because Annabelle had no desire to do anything bad for a while, because being confined to her room with no one to talk to was torture. She sighed and rubbed her temples.
“Just four more days.”
“We’re alive!” Eylion said as she saw Annabelle for the first time after a week a part. “I thought I would die in there!”
“Me too!” Annabelle said hugging her. “I’ve missed you! Let’s not do anything like that for a while, okay? I say someone else can get in trouble next time.”
“Well someone might have gotten in trouble while we were away, how would we know?”
They hadn’t. Being given an update by their friends over breakfast, they learned that the other girls had been exceptionally good for the week they had been gone. They hadn’t even questioned Ms. Spryt’s abysmal history knowledge.
“No one dared to!” Jean said frowning. “The day after you two caused trouble, we all got punished for laughing at your prank!”
“What? No way!”
Annabelle looked at the other girls who all nodded.
“We did! Everyone had to go to the headmistress office in groups where we all got six whacks with this enormous paddle. It really hurt! And all because we all thought it was funny when they talked backwards.”
“We felt that paddle too, didn’t we Annabelle? Is was this long and this thick.” Eylion measured with her hands. “But we never meant for anyone else to get in trouble for what we did,” she said sullenly. “We just wanted to cheer you guys up and to get the teachers back for being mean.”
“Oh it did cheer us up,” Tilly said grinning for ear to ear. “I’d take a paddling to see that any day! You two should get an award, it was brilliant.”
Eylion got up and took a bow. The others laughed.
“What is going on over here?” The sharp voice of Octavia Spryt rang in their ears as she came over to their table.
“What do you mean? We’re just talking,” Eylion said giving her a defiant look.
“Don’t talk back, missy. You two better be on your best behavior or I’m sure the headmistress will not hesitate to order you back to your rooms for another week.” She gave an evil smile. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”
No one said anything as she walked back to the teacher table.
“That hag!” hissed Eylion. “She’s out to get us, it doesn’t really matter if we behave ourselves or not. We ought to teach her a lesson.”
“Yes, but we’re not going to, not right now,” Annabelle reminded her. She leaned closer to Eylion and whispered in her ear so that no one else could hear. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you in private. About… ya know… the letter.”
Eylion’s eyes widened like she had totally forgotten about the visit they had both gotten from Christophe. She nodded.
“Oh and… we need to explore the passages further,” Annabelle said. “Maybe we can use them to our advantage.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Jean asked suspiciously.
“Nothing,” they both said in unison.
“Right…” Mina said. “I bet they’re planning something else. What are you two going to do?”
“Nothing,” they both said again.
“We’ve decided to be good for a while,” Annabelle said. “At least… we are going to try to be good. Besides… how come we have to be the ones to cause trouble? Someone else might pitch in a bit.”
“Here here,” Eylion agreed. “If we’re the only ones causing trouble, then all those hags have to do is remove us and the problem is solved. I think what we need is to team up and take it in turns to stir things up. And if there are more of us, it’ll be easier to get away with things because we can back each other up and cause confusion.”
Eylion looked around the table seriously as though expecting someone to say something. It was quiet for a while.
Jean broke the silence, but she spoke quietly so that all the other girls gathered closely together.
“I agree. We should group up. What if we ask around discretely and see who might be on our side? If we feel we can trust them, we can invite them to join us. We can create this network of trouble makers to make things difficult for the order. It will also help if we can meet and talk about what is going on. It’s not good to be alone in our anger and confusion. If we can talk about it with each other, it will be difficult for the order to brainwash us because we’ll constantly be on the alert and be critical to anything they say. If people are afraid to voice their concerns it will be so much easier for the order to get to them.”
All the other girls nodded in agreement around the table. Ms. Spryt who had been paying attention to them was walking in their direction again.
“We might know where we can talk in private, but Annabelle and I need to explore a little more to find out if it’s safe,” Eylion whispered quickly before Ms. Spryt came within hearing distance.
“Alright, girls,” she said as she approached. “I don’t like how close you are all sitting together, you look like you are up to no good. I think we better split you up.” She raised an eyebrow at them.
“We’re just talking,” Tilly said standing up looking angry. “Since when is it against the rules to just talk?”
“Watch yourself, girl,” Ms. Spryt said sternly. “Sit down, now.”
She pointed at Annabelle.“You. Go sit at that table over there.”
Then she pointed at Jean. “You, over there.”
Then she directed Eylion over to another table. When they got up looking angry, but having no choice but to obey, she said,
“I don’t want to see this group eating together for the rest of the week. If you all behave I might reconsider in the future, but for now this little group is banned at meal times. Now… go.”
It was around one in the morning that Annabelle heard a knock on her door. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to Eylion all day since they were separated at breakfast. She assumed that she’d come over at night to talk. She got out of bed, put on her cloak and opened the door to find Eylion waiting for her.
“Let’s go exploring,” she said, grinning.
“Just a minute,” Annabelle said. She quickly put a pillow under her duvet to make it bulge up a bit.“Just in case someone decide to stick their head in to check on me.”
They made their way through the corridors as quietly as they could. They were both bursting to talk about the visit from Christophe, but it wasn’t safe to talk until they had made it into the passages. They found the cupboard with the cleaning supplies, crawled behind the wooden crates and went through the tiny hole in the wall behind the old tapestry. It was so dark they couldn’t see a thing so they both conjured a tiny little ball of flames that they held in their hand. It was warm, but it didn’t hurt, it just tickled the skin.
“What if the teachers know about these passages?” Annabelle wondered out loud.
“It doesn’t look like it though,” Eylion said looking around. “You’d think if they did, Spryt and Lydia would have known to look further last time we were here. And it’s not exactly clean here,” she said looking up at a cobweb. “If they were using the passages, wouldn’t they have made sure they were cleaned?”
“You’re right. I just don’t want to get into more trouble just yet.” Annabelle looked around. “Should we walk the other way this time? We know we can get to the kitchen that way,” she pointed down the passage way.
“Yeah, but we got lucky. It split in some places, and I wonder what else we can find.”
“Well… okay… we know one way, let’s focus on one tonight as well. Let’s take it step by step and try to map out this thing.”
She pointed in the opposite direction from where they went last time. “This way, tonight?”
“Yeah, okay. Let’s go.”
As they walked through the narrow passage ways they talked about their visit from Christophe. Annabelle told Eylion about her letter and the little information she got out of it. She also told her about Alexis having mentioned finding Leda’s mentor Andromeda.
“Have you ever met her?”
“No, Leda doesn’t mention her that often. I have asked her where she is, but she always changed the topic.”
“So then Leda didn’t mention Andromeda in her letter either? I guess Alexis has hidden this idea from her too.”
“Actually… she did mention it.” Eylion stopped and looked at Annabelle seriously.
“What? Really? So then Alexis told her.”
“Well… I don’t know for sure, but maybe… maybe Leda was the one suggesting it? I don’t know, Annabelle, but in the letter she wrote to me Leda did mention the possibility of you going to find Andromeda.”
“You mean we.” Annabelle gave her a look.
“No, Annabelle… you.” Eylion looked at her with a sad expression.
Annabelle’s tummy made a lurch. She was going to have to go alone? Didn’t Eylion want to come?
“Eylion… what are you saying? Don’t you want to get out of here?”
“I do, but… someone has to stay here. Someone needs to make sure that the others don’t get affected by the orders propaganda and brainwashing. Before I even got the letter I thought about it and we could never have run away with the other girls. It’s too easy to find a large number of people.”
“But we could have run together. Just the two of us.”
“But then who would make sure the others were alright? It’s not like we have found any great rebel leader here. They were without us for a week… one week, and they did nothing. They didn’t even object to being fed lies. Jean is right, we need a group, and we need to find a place for our group to meet and talk. We need to keep the thoughts of resistance alive, and I think I need to be here for that. I think that is what Leda wants me to do. Well… I don’t think she wants me to get into trouble, but I think she wants me to make sure the order doesn’t succeed.”
“But… she wants me to leave this place? Alone? Didn’t she say that I should stay put? That’s what Gwen told me.”
“I think I need to stay because I know a lot and I can teach the others things, things the order will not teach them. And I think they need me to keep their spirit alive.” Eylion brushed away a tear that ran down Annabelle’s cheek. “I think Alexis and Leda want you to find Andromeda because you have an important role to play elsewhere and Andromeda can help you with that.”
“What role?” Annabelle asked, her voice breaking from crying.
“I don’t know, Annabelle. I wish I did, but I think you might be special, and I think our mentors are suspecting this. I think Alexis knows more than any of us, but she has so many secrets it drives me insane. This locket of yours…. I mean… what the hell?”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking.”
“When you got it, Leda said they had it made for you, and I believed that because it is tradition to give a witchling something when she gets her powers, but it wasn’t made for you, was it? It’s old. Heck, you haven’t even been able to open it. It can’t be new.”
“Maybe it was,” Annabelle said thinking about it. “What if… what if the locket was made for me, but not by them? I’ve been thinking about it and I think they are suspecting something about me. Gwen said she didn’t know where I came from or who my parents were, but that was just a week after I got here. They could have found out more later, and I swear, sometimes when Alexis looks at me it feels like she is looking at someone she has known for a long time. She’s the one who keeps saying I should hide the fact that I didn’t grow up here. I know she knows more than she’s letting on, and it makes me so pissed that she’s hiding it!”
She banged her fist against the wall. There was a bang and a brick fell out and landed on the other side of the wall, leaving a hole.
“Shit! Do you think someone heard? Where are we anyway?”
“I dunno,” Eylion said looking through the hole. “Hey… it’s a library. With books!”
“Well duh…” Annabelle snorted.
“Let’s see if we can find a hidden hole in the wall that leads into it.”
They went a little further, checking the walls thoroughly so they didn’t miss anything. No lose bricks, no lever they could pull or anything like that. The only thing they could find was a little mark in one of the bricks closer to the floor, with a specific shape as if someone had carved it there.
“Wonder where this comes from, think it’s significant?”
Eylion crouched down to have a look. She rubbed the sleeve of her cloak over it to remove some dust. Then she looked closer almost pressing her face to the wall.
“What the… Annabelle, come down here!”
“What is it?” Annabelle crouched down too and looked closer as Eylion backed away a little to give her some space.
“Look familiar?” Eylion asked pointing at the mark.
“No… it can’t be. This symbol…” Annabelle stroked her fingers lightly over the mark in the stone. The symbol carved into the stone looked exactly like the symbol on her locket.
“Did you bring it?”
“Yeah…” she took off her locket and held it near the carved symbol in the wall, comparing the two.
“Well? What are you waiting for?”
“Place the symbol into the mark, maybe it is a key or something. I always thought that thing was kinda useless, it doesn’t even open.”
“Maybe it does open, but there’s a special way to open it.”
“Yeah, maybe, but for now let’s see if it can open this wall.”
Annabelle turned her locked to the symbol was facing the wall, then she pressed it into the carving in the stone. It was a perfect fit, almost as if the locket was a seal that had made the mark.
The mark and the locket lit up and a hole formed in the stone wall, it got bigger and bigger until it was big enough for a person to get through. Annabelle removed the locked from the mark and hurried through with Eylion behind her.
“Wow! Holy broomsticks!” Eylion rubbed her eyes almost as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing.
They were in a room and there were books, literally everywhere. Hundreds of old tomes, maybe a thousand, and only they knew about it. The order couldn’t possibly know, if they did they hadn’t made much of an effort to dust them off. The only place not covered in books were a little corner where there was a big oak desk and a reading area with leather furniture.
“So… this is the library,” Annabelle said looking around.
“I thought it would be bigger, I mean… considering the size of this castle.” She had to be honest, she did.
“Yeah, I see your point, but it’s still bloody fantastic, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah, amazing, and I can’t believe my locket is the key. What’s up with that?”
“This is getting weirder and weirder,” Eylion said nodding.
“Maybe… maybe there is more to the library? I mean… look at that desk over there, it looks like this is a personal library, not a kind of library that a lot of people can use. I can imagine that a lot of people lived in this castle at some point, and wouldn’t many people want to use it?”
“Right, and why would you need a locket to enter the library? I don’t think there are many of your lockets lying around, I’m pretty sure there are few… maybe only one.”
“Fuck…” Annabelle sat down in an old chair and buried her head in her hands, a cloud of dust came of the leather. “What the fuck is this thing?” She looked at her locket? “Who owned it before me? Why do I have it now?”
“It probably belonged to a Glasegrove? Maybe the others think you’re from that family, which is why they don’t want you to tell anyone about your mysterious past.”
“Fuck them!” Annabelle shouted in anger. “Fuck those stupid…” She made a growling noise. She was so angry, it was hard for her to keep it together. “How could they do this to me? Why can’t they just tell the fucking truth? It’s my life, I deserve to know.”
Eylion sat down next to her and put an arm around her.
“On the bright side… this castle might actually belong to you.”
“Why would that be a good thing? It’s not exactly a happy place, the stupid order has it and they ruin everything. Why would I want to be a Glasegrove? By the looks of it, they’re all dead.”
“Well from a girl with no mother and the daughter of the town drunk, imagining your family super wealthy and walking the halls of their giant castle is not so bad. I mean… don’t get me wrong, I loved that bastard, but it didn’t help my reputation much.”
“We don’t know that I’m a Glasegrove. All we have is a locket that fits into a wall in some castle.”
“A castle owned by the Glasegroves,” Eylion added. “Well I think they were Glasegroves, since this is Glasegrove castle. Do people name their castle after their family name? Dang… why don’t we know more people who own castles?”
“The owner of the locket could have worked here or something. And we don’t know if I’m supposed to have the locket. Just because it’s mine now doesn’t mean that it was made for me, or that I am related to its previous owner. I just have it because of those bothersome hags at home.”
“Wow there, girl,” Eylion raised her eyebrows. “I know you’re angry at them holding back information, but they love you and you love them.”
Annabelle took a long deep breath and let it our slowly. “I know. I’m just tired of this.”
“I know you are,” Eylion said hugging her close.
“I’m tired too. You’re not the only one in a horrible situation. I’m not trying to say that you don’t have the right to be angry, but we are both locked up in this castle, and so are the other girls. None of us want to be here, and we all miss our mentors.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I just want to know where I’m from.” Annabelle yawned and leaned in closer to Eylion who rested her head on top of hers.
“And you will, one day. Right now we’re picking up clues that might be useful, and the fact that you have been given a locket that works as a key is this humongous castle seems like an important clue.”
She got up and brushed dust off her clothes.
“Let’s go to bed. You’re tired. We can explore more tomorrow night.”
Annabelle nodded in agreement and followed Eylion back out of the library. They used her locket on the mark to close the hole in the wall, and then they made their way back.
After following Annabelle back to her room, Eylion continued to her own. Annabelle climbed into her bed exhausted and with her head full of questions. How the hell would she be able run away from this place, not get caught and returned, and find Andromeda all on her own? And if she did get caught… would they kill her?