I'd been practicing for months now. Well, at least since that spring when the Madame first took interest in me and began to teach me. But I still wasn't certain I was practiced enough for this. Not this night, not this mirror, not this exercise she'd wanted me to attempt. We'd started months ago with looking at the clouds, seeing what shapes we could, and making up stories about them. Stretching my mind, she'd called it. And while we were doing that, Madame taught me how to slow my breathing, how to pull my mind away from my body and see and dream of shapes and forms while still awake.
From there it went to studying still, deep pools of water, the spray of a fountain, and even the patterns of dew that were as early morning jewels on a spider's web. All the time looking for patterns that seemed familiar, ones that could tell a story. A story of the past, or the future. But now, to sit and attempt to scry using the Madames' own mirror, brought from her home abroad and placed in her private bed chambers so long ago? And, more than that, to do it on Black Vespers, the eve of La Toussaint? The eve of All Saint's day when the veil between the worlds thin and the dead allowed once more to walk in the night? That was more than beyond my knowledge, or my abilities I felt. And it truth though I did not tell her, I was so very afraid. Afraid of failing her, yes. But even more? I was afraid of succeeding.
I'd spent most of that day in church with my Grandpapa, hours upon my feet and on my knees with head bowed. Praying to the Father and the Son, reciting words memorized in French and in Latin. And though I knew I was supposed to pray for the souls of sinned and the departed, I could not help but add my own silent prayers that my Maman and Papa were kept alive and safe, unharmed by war, or hunger, or ill health. Or the invading Germans.
This past spring, during Le Premier May, the first day of the month devoted to the Mother of God, the day I gave her a bouquet of lilies of the valley for good luck, the Madame asked me what I had prayed for that day. I told her of my prayers for my mother and father, and for an end to the war, for the freedom of France from her conquerers. And then she asked who I prayed to, even as she extended one of the delicate, white belled flowers to me, to keep for my own. With eyes downcast and feeling quite shy I told her that I prayed to the Father for some things, and the Son and holy Spirit for others. Still other things had me praying to Mary, Mother of God for her intercession. And then, in the silence that drew out between us, the Madame and I? I whispered that I prayed to the Lady as well, as my mother had done, and her mother before her. It was a secret though, one me and my Grandpapa kept, and I begged her not to talk of it to others. Looking up at her from under my lashes, I thought I saw the trace of a smile cross her lips swiftly before she once again took on that regal, distant facade.
And then she asked me. Who was it that I prayed to for which things? My answer came in a shrug as I told her that I prayed to whoever would listen. Sometimes I felt the Holy Father would hear me, and sometimes his Son, who had sacrificed himself that I may get to heaven. And sometimes? Sometimes the only one I felt would listen to my pleas was not the trinity of the Holy Roman Church; but instead the Lady of the Stars. It was then I think, that she made the final decision to teach me the ways of the Lady. The ways of her people, and, as I learned later? The ways of my own as well. And this then was the end result of that decision of hers. That and studying, and hours of rapt attention, of me sitting by her knee or her feet, learning. Doing. All to make me ready for this, tonight. And in this dark and foreboding chateaus she wanted me to call out a name, and see what I could in this mirror of hers.
I sat in a straight backed wooden chair, staring into the mirror. As always, after nightfall the heavy curtains were closed and only candles were being used, so it was only candle light that I could see by. In fact, there was a candle on a table behind me, casting my face in shadows as I looked at my reflection. But around me? Was like something out of a fairy tale. Or perhaps more of a fairy tale with some of it's glamorous wings stripped of magic. The walls were still painted; scenes of hunting, and hawking. People on horseback, and others on foot. Wild animals cavorted in the trees, and lovers held goblets to each other to sip and enjoy. The bed was huge and covered in down quilts, thick and heavy. The bedposts were near as high as the ceiling, but where once I imagine it held heavy curtains of velvet and embroidery? Now hung sheets of a light linen, just enough to make a netting and keep the bugs away as she slept. Indeed the room seemed strangely empty, stripped of much of what I could imagine was once it's former glory.
Of candles there were many, but they were melting to the quick, slivers of wax in old, beat up wooden candle holders where there should have been sconces and graceful sticks of gold or silver. Of paintings, there were only the outlines left, as if traced upon wood – darkened squares next to the lighter panels. Of rich cloth, and gold edging, there was only the hint that it had once been there. It was still beautiful, still entrancing. But somehow less than it ought. Like a beautiful woman, who's jewels and clothes were gone – she was still tres belle, but – somehow you knew she was meant for more than she had. Like – like the Madame herself. Or perhaps it was all in my mind?
I relaxed my body, lowered my eyelids to slits, and began counting my breaths. In and hold, and out and hold again before another breath would cross my lips. Each time I breathed out, I would concentrate on telling myself to relax, willing my feet to rest, then up to my knees, then my thighs and above. Finally, taking longer than I should have, I nodded that I was ready. Bending down from behind, the lady whispered into my ear, staring at my near-closed eyes in the mirror. "Call Sebastien, Amarante. Call him home to me."
Sebastien? What name was that? Who… I closed my eyes slowly, counting between breaths and gave the barest of nods. And then I spoke, my eyes fixed upon our reflection. "Sebastien. Sebastien where are you? Come Sebastien, Madame calls you." For a long time, nothing. No sound, no sight. No shadowed image came to mind of past event or future foretelling. And in the mean time, I slipped further and further into that state of wakeful sleeping, separate from my body. Finally the Madame leaned down once more, whispering a name again in my ear, urging me quietly to summon the sight of him to the mirror."
"Sebastien, Sebastien de Rochefort, come to the mirror, Comte Sebastien de Roche-" I near choked as realization of who's name it was I was calling. The man in black, the man in the portrait! I must have made some small sound in my throat or movement of my body, for suddenly her hand was there upon my shoulder, her fingernails digging through the thin material and pressing into my flesh. "Yes Amarante, do it. Do it, child, do it now!" I wanted to struggle, to cry out and halt what was happening. For indeed I could see a near web of golden threads starting to surrounding us, her and I. I opened my mouth to protest, but all that came out was a voice unlike I'd ever heard myself speak before. It was calm, so much calmer than I felt inside. The voice was forceful even as it was childlike and demanding. It was then I knew that I'd done what I'd been practicing, and succeeded in it too well. I was finally separate, mind from body. And I was trapped here, trapped as in a small room, only a spectator to what would happen next.
"Sebastien de Rochefort, Comte de Rochefort come forth. The Madame wills it, the Lady wills it. And I too, I will it, Monsieur. Come forth this night and show yourself."
Again a silence, and more threads were wound about us, threads that only I could see in the mirror, and I told her such. Threads that tied us together and bound into a braid. The braided golden threads floated off into the darkness, traveling to who knows where. And then I noticed it began to get cold. That itself was strange, as I'd never known this feeling while in trance state before. Cold, so cold on the inside and out that I could fair see my breath and the Madame's in the mirror. Still my body did nothing differently. My lungs filled, my heart beat, all was calm on the outside. It was only within that I felt this way.
A mist began forming behind us, and through two sets of eyes, I watched it grow. Even the Madame paused to rub her arms, for she too could now feel the chill that I was feeling so deep inside. The same sort of chill that would run through me when I heard those footsteps pass so close by my room at night.
"Is he here, Amarante?" She asked, searching for sight of anything in the mirror. But she could not see what I was seeing. She could not hear the heavy footsteps that even now echoed in the room beyond, coming closer. "Non, Madame" Came my reply once more, steady and sure. "But he is coming, and I – I am afraid." So simple those words sounded, issuing from my lips. So calm the voice that said them!
"Do not be afraid child. Keep willing him forward, closer. Close to the mirror, close enough that I may see him. Do you see him Amarante? Do you?" Her voice was eager, near desperate and her fingers grasped and let go my shoulder once and then again.
"I can always see him, Madame. Always. And I hear him as well. But, he cannot see me." That brought her head up and widened her eyes. With a soft tremble in her voice, Madame asked me to tell her more. And in that same steady and monotone voice, I at last relayed my secret.
"I see him in the library, Madame. He reads there, in the corner near the chessboard. And he walks the halls at night, his footsteps go by my room. He is very sad, Madame. Very sad and" I caught sight of something in the shadows and my words came out in a whisper. "Very sad and very, very angry." The Madame nodded, her eyes wise and thoughtful. And filled with a fire and determination I'd not seen of her before.
"Call him once more, Amarante. He cannot refuse you, he will not refuse us. Call him child, call him home to me!"
In the shadows, in the back of the room, a face was forming. High up from the ground, and far away it seemed. Almost a mask, white against the darkness. My voice remained a whisper, and my body remained calm. And somewhere, deep inside, I was frantically trying to get out and stop myself from talking, stop from summoning the man in black, the man from my nightmares.
"Sebastien de Rochefort, I – I see you there. Come to the mirror, Monsieur, come forward. Madame de Rochefort summons you, and I call you to us. Come, Comte, in your black garb with your black hat. Come Monsieur, your lady awaits" And in just as calm a voice, I spoke, not to the man in black cloak and eye patch who's steps were even now resounding in the room, but to the lady, his lady at my side. "Madame, I am so afraid… Madame he is here, he is here!"
"Where, Amarante, tell me where is he?" Her eyes were wild, staring about the room in the mirror, trying with desperation to see the fog and figure I could see so easily.
"Here Madame, Here, he's coming, he's…" My voice lost that eerie calmness, started cracking with tension. Somehow my hand was in the air, and grasping for her own as the gold threads bound us tight together; her, the Comte and I. The Madame's nails were sharp in my hand as I lifted both her hand and mine to the mirror to point. He was there, could not she see him! He was there, he was here, he was here, he was, oh god he was -
"Sebastien" The Madame whispered, love and longing so full in her voice, her eyes staring into the mirror at the man that filled all empty space behind us.
His eye, that had just been looking at his wife with such softness and devotion now stared down into my own. He could see me. He was so dark, so angry, so cold and dark and he could see me and he was reaching, he was reaching I could see in the mirror his hand coming from behind to grab me and I SCREAMED!
The huge mirror shattered.
It's pieces fell to the ground like sharpened slivers of rain as the lady pulled me back, pulling us both away from the shards of glass. We fell through the specter of the man in black and into the table behind us. That fell over as well, gutting the candle light, throwing us all onto the dark. I lay there curled up and shivering, sobbing out my apologies for breaking Madame's treasured mirror; my hair and clothes sodden with sweat. It was then that I felt the light, gentle touch of the Madame easing back my hair from my face.
"It is alright, Amarante. It is fine, child. Everything is fine. Good girl, such a good girl. You did fine. So fine." Her fingers dried my tears in the dark, and in the dark, like a child I reached for her, clinging to her as I cried.
"Good girl, you did so good. You are stronger than you know. And I… I am proud of you, Amarante. You gave me a gift, this night. One I'll not soon forget."
"You gave me reason to hope."
Fandom: OC, Historical, Mythological
fannyfae's character used with permission of her mun.