by “URN My Power”
Sunlight sent daggers of pain stabbing through Hilda’s eyelids. She groaned, trying to bury her face in the pillow. Instead of the pillow, her head encountered someone’s arm. It took her a moment to realize it wasn’t hers. Steeling herself against the agony that the light sent into her skull, she managed to open her eyes, she found herself sharing a bed with Charlie, and tumbled out of bed in surprise. The fall didn’t help her head to hurt any less.
She wished she could take her head off and replace it. She slipped her head under the bed, since it was darker under there. The bed moved, the springs stabbing her ears with their high-pitched squeak, and Hilda whimpered.
“Sorry.” Charlie mumbled.
“Master, allow me.” said a submissive, female voice. It took Hilda some time to remember that that was Amelie. There was the sound of soft chanting as a spell was cast.
“Ah, that’s better.” Charlie said. Hilda groaned, wishing he’d keep his voice down. A hand snaked under the bed and touched Hilda’s offended head, and as the soft chanting was repeated, Hilda began to feel better. Her head cleared, and coherent thought came out of hiding. She realized she was naked, and wrapped herself in a blanket before emerging from under the bed. There was a musky scent to the blanket that recalled to her memory the events of the night before. Steve had kept the liquor flowing, getting many of the women drunk, and he’d tried to seduce her...along with all the other females. Steve, it seemed, wasn’t picky. Hilda had had eyes only for Charlie, however.
She blushed as she remembered how forward she had been with him. She still wasn’t clear on who had seduced whom first, but they’d ended up in bed and spent a rather enjoyable time together. Amelie busied herself rousing the other women, so they could have a choice of where they wanted to go to church. She reappeared almost half an hour later, interrupting Hilda’s search for suitable clothes by presenting her with a blue dress and suitable undergarments. The blue was gorgeous, and brought out her eyes perfectly when she tried it on.
She learned that Charlie was going to go to a service in America later. With the time difference, dawn wouldn’t be for several hours there. He napped leisurely on the couch as he waited. Hilda gave him a kiss on the temple before she left.
Father Hernando was always glad to have new faces in his congregation, so when he saw someone new, he made sure to greet them personally. The cluster of unfamiliar women drew his attention at once. Fortunately, he was widely travelled throughout Europe, so he could converse readily with all of them despite their varied backgrounds. After the sermon was over, they asked to be shriven, and he granted their request one at a time.
The first was the blonde German in the blue dress, and it set the tone for each confession to follow.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” she said in German. “It has been seventy years since my last confession...”
“Uh, excuse me?” Hernando asked.
“I’m sorry. I know it seems strange, but I spent all of that time under the spell of a witch named Amelie O’Fae. I don’t remember what happened while she kept me as her plaything, or anything I did, but I understand I was forced to do whatever she desired without question.”
“Ah.” Father Hernando said. “A sorceress. How did you get free, if I may ask?”
“That is my first memory since my capture.” the woman said. “I was rescued by an American boy named Charlie, who forced Amelie to free us from her spell. He explained what had happened, and why we had no memories of our lives as slaves. We...had some drinks to celebrate our liberation. I’m afraid I let Charlie’s friend, Steve, give me too much, and I ended up in bed with Charlie this morning. That is why I came to confess, Father.”
Father Hernando could see no sign in the girl’s face that she was lying. He gave her the usual pennances for overindulgence in liquor and fornication, and sent her on her way. The others had similar stories, though none of them took confession in the same language. Most woke alone, according to their stories, but three confessed to awakening with the boy named Steve. Again, Hernando gave fairly standard pennances.
Alone in his cell later, Father Hernando accessed the Church database, looking for any references to an Amelie O’Fae, checking several possible spellings. At first, the database returned an “ENTRY NOT FOUND” screen, but this was obviously overridden by someone, as it disappeared and was replaced with an order to pack for Rome and proceed to the nearest airport.
Hernando hoped to God he wouldn’t come to regret his curiosity.
Charlie saw the women off with a sad wave, since they had returned to the manor only long enough to pick up essentials before starting their new lives in the twenty-first century. He understood that they wouldn’t want to stick around here, given their history with Amelie.
Steve gave them an even sadder farewell, since apparently he had enjoyed the company of at least one of them the night before. Charlie headed off through the closet, out the dormitory door, and walked to church. Steve could show up or not as he so chose.
“Nice to see you’re not hung over this morning, Charles.” the pastor said at the end of the sermon. “Is it possible my messages on absinence are finally sinking in?”
“Charles is my dad’s name.” Charlie replied. “And before you remind me that the Bible says ‘Honor thy father and thy mother,’ you should know that both of them have called me Charlie my entire life. Even my driver’s license says Charlie on it.”
“All right, all right, I give. Charlie, then.” the pastor responded. “I probably wouldn’t pick on you so much if you didn’t always look like every syllable coming out of my mouth was a physical torment.”
“A price for every sin, right, Padre?” Charlie responded. The man’s left eye twitched slightly. “Sorry, remind me to tell you about my recent visit to Spain sometime.”
“Why not now?” the pastor asked.
“Because I need to make sure I’ve bought everything I need for Thanksgiving this week...before I spend my money on gas.”
“Ah, you’re going home for Thanksgiving? Give your parents my best.”
“Yeah.” Charlie responded. His gaze was drawn to the side, where he thought he’d seen a robed woman out of the corner of his eyes, but when he looked, she was gone.
Amelie sensed a presence nearby the instant she entered the dorm room from the closet. There was someone using stealth-magic very close to Master! She grabbed the grimoire and teleported to the church Master had been attending. He walked out, glancing around suspiciously. Good, he’s on alert! she thought with relief. She bounced to his side, weaving her fingers in his.
“Amelie, I didn’t expect to see you here.” he said calmly. Then he dropped to a whisper. “I think somebody’s watching me.”
“I sensed stealth-magic in use near you, Master.” she whispered back.
“It’s hard to pin down, Master.” she informed him. “That’s why it’s stealth-magic.” He laughed, and directed them down the sidewalk, always within sight of others.
“Was it wise to bring the grimoire? That may be what they’re after.”
“I thought only to defend you, Master.” she said. “Even holding the grimoire increases my power exponentially.”
“Enjoy it while you can.” said a female voice. A woman in the robes of the Order of Merlin appeared in their path, her eyes blazing with magical fire. “It shall not last.” She cast lightning from her hand. Acting quickly, Amelie opened the book to the marked page, bouncing the bolt off the protective charm. The archmage bounced it skyward from her palm. “Clever...or it would be if vaporizing you had been my intention.” She spoke two words in the High Tongue, and the book leapt from Amelie’s hand and into the woman’s. The pages cut Amelie’s hands as they slid through her palm, and she wasted a moment on a healing spell. “I think I’ll put an end to your resistance until the Circle decides what to do with you.”
If she’d just taken the book and left, Charlie would have written it off. This newcomer, as attractive in her own way as Amelie was in hers, began chanting a familiar incantation. Whatever doubts Charlie might have had about the spell were laid violently to rest by the appearance of the green cloud in the other woman’s hand. Acting by instinct, Charlie put himself between Amelie and the other sorceress just as the spell was released. He stuck his chest out slightly as the spell struck, and it sped up slightly. The surprised woman shrieked as the spell wrapped around her mind and body.
“How come she blocked the spell you reflected, but not that one?” Charlie asked Amelie, who had finished healing her papercuts.
“She was expecting me to do it—counting on it even.” Amelie replied. “You took her by surprise.” Charlie nodded, accepting her explanation. He took the grimoire from the other woman’s unresisting features.
“What is your name?” he demanded of the newcomer.
“Sanna al-Malik, Master, also called Iset Myrdhynn.” the sorceress droned.
“Myrdhynn? Seems I’ve heard that name before.”
“Myrdhynn is a title given to members of Merlin’s Circle, the ruling council of the Order of Merlin.” Amelie explained. “Archmagi of the highest caliber. The grimoire I tried to take from you when we met is that of Tashi Myrdhynn.”
“Seems like she should have been able to counter the spell I bounced back, then.”
“I underestimated you, to my detriment, Master.” the Myrdhynn droned. “I was too focused on apprehending the witch Amelie O’Fae for her crimes.”
“What is going on here?” demanded an all-too-familiar voice. Charlie turned to find the pastor running to meet them.
“It’s okay, everything’s under control.” Charlie assured the man.
“I see that.” the pastor said. “Tell me you haven’t turned to witchcraft!“
“Not as such.” Charlie responded. “It just so happens I can bounce back hostile magic and turn it against the person who cast it.” He handed the grimoire back to Amelie. “Instant pennance.”
“Or vengeance.” the pastor replied.
“I know a couple of theology majors who would say the two are interchangeable.” Charlie responded. “But that’s just them. Come on, girls.”
“Yes, Master.” Sanna droned, following behind him as he walked back to the dorms. Once there, he had Amelie ‘port them into the room itself.
“What will you do with her, Master?” Amelie asked.
“Well, it’s tempting to make her just like you, as an example to others, but they’ll probably just send someone better.” Charlie muttered. “Amelie, tell her what I did to you.”
“Yes, Master.” Amelie responded, approached the spellbound Myrdhynn, and began to tell her, embellishing here and there with emotional asides, the recitation giving Charlie time to think. He’d come to a decision by the time she finished.
“Sanna, once the spell is broken, you are going to take the Grimoire of Tashi Myrdhynn back to your Order, and tell them that Amelie O’Fae is taken care of. If you try to take revenge against me, even indirectly through others, all the changes I made to Amelie will be wrought upon you.” He nodded to Amelie, and she nervously read the counterspell from the book. “Now, give her the book.” Charlie said as the glow faded from Sanna’s eyes. Amelie did so, and Sanna opened a swirling vortex behind herself, disappearing through it in silence.
“That was scary.” Amelie admitted once the portal was well and truly closed.
“It was a risk, but I’d rather show them I can be reasonable than have me send their entire Myrdhynn Death Squad after me.” Charlie said.
“Um, there’s no such thing as a Myrdhynn Death Squad, Master.” Amelie said timidly. He looked at her, smiled, laughed, then hugged her, still laughing.
“Oh, honey, you should have seen your face.” he said mirthfully. “Honest, I’m not going to throw you out for correcting me.” She relaxed in his arms, then laughed at herself as well. “Come on, we’ve got some groceries to buy. I’d rather not fight the lines and traffic on Wednesday or even Tuesday.”
“Anything you desire, Master.” Amelie responded dutifully.
Iset Myrdhynn bowed to the head of the Circle, where Ali Myrdhynn stood, and reverently set the Grimoire of Tashi Myrdhynn in the empty place once occupied by its late owner before returning to her own place. “Amilie O’Fae has been taken care of.” she told those assembled.
“Yes, but not by you.” Ali Myrdhynn said.
“I...” Sanna began.
“You gambled, and broke even. Consider yourself fortunate. Does anyone else here consider the fate of Amilee O’Fae to be insufficient?” No one moved to answer. “Excellent. Unless anyone has anything further to add, I think it best if we all return to our own dominions until the next time.” The assembled Myrdhynns bowed and disappeared. Ali Myrdhynn summoned a Librarian to take custody of the Grimoire of Tashi Myrdhynn before himself retiring.
The Hall of the Circle became as dark as a womb, awaiting the next Assembly.
The Grimoire pulsed once, almost like the heart of a living being.