Chapter One: Verba de futro
Christmas Eve, 1975
Isle of Avalon
There’s a place, so I heard, not so long ago
Troubled souls, welcome there, far from all
A chorus of children’s voices rose
inside the snowbound building, its white marble reflecting the light of the
snow sharply as if it was a beacon of hope for the hopeless and weary.
Inside the building, in one of its
many stone rooms, a woman sat by her warm fire, her light blue Roman tunic
flowing to the ground. Normally bound
silver hair cascaded down her back and her moonstone crown rested on the
fireplace mantle instead of her head.
The woman’s face, lovely in her youth, had grown more majestic as the
years passed. Indeed, she had seen
thousands of summers in her lifetime and expected to see many more before she
But while others were celebrating and
preparing for a lively revel of holiday cheer, her forehead was winkled with
worry as she stared emptily into the flames, her jade eyes having lost their
usual serenity, and a hopelessness so deeply ingrained in her delicate features
that if any of her followers had saw, they too would have succumbed to the same
despair that threatened her of late.
Fear, discouragement, and despair all played across her face: they were
the feelings she fought hard to hide by day and the ones that caused her tears
can we prevail against one so strong? He
has already penetrated our secrecy, broken vows forged by an ancient power,
made one of our own betray us…I ask, how can we win this war?’ she though
to herself. The woman did not react in
any way when a voice answered her thoughts aloud.
“By doing what I say, Nimuë,” replied
a disembodied male baritone voice that echoed in the room. Nimuë looked sharply away from the fire. “The war against the Dark One will be won by
Avalon if you do exactly as I say,” the voice repeated as if Nimuë was slow on
“No, I will not. Not at the cost of more lives.” Nimuë
clenched her hands in defiance.
“You dare disobey me?” The baritone
voice sounded vaguely amused at her revolt.
Nimuë was not pleased.
“I will not make Hannah give up her
daughter,” Nimuë said fiercely.
“The separation from her mother is
unfortunate, but even family ties must yield at times to a greater cause. You should well know this, High Lady.”
“Even so, Hannah cannot possibly be
ready for it; not after what you put
her through with Agathocles. My husband is still with me! My daughter was of age when she left my side;
it is nothing compared to what you ask of Hannah! I cannot expect her to fare well with her daughter
gone as well! I will not send Alice
away. I simply will not!”
“In the end you will,” the voice
informed her. Even though Nimuë felt she
had to make the Source understand her reasoning, she refrained from further
comments and bit back her reply. She was
not foolish enough to make the Source angry with her.
“As to other matters,” the baritone
voice said curtly, but a firm female alto interrupted him rather rudely.
“For Source’s sake, you shouldn’t be
so hard on her,” the alto scolded the baritone before turning her attention to
Nimuë. “Now, High Lady, you may act as
you see fit for the moment. But
remember, you are bound to the Source — and Alice
must be raised in the Outer World if the Dark One is to be defeated.”
Nimuë sighed and ran her hands over
her face before replying softly, “I never seem to have a choice, do I?”
“You always have a choice Nimuë,” the
alto replied gently. “But what are the
consequences you have to face for your choices?” Her companion cut in, saying, “I was under
the impression that I was to address
the Lady tonight.”
“I feel it’s my duty to intervene if
you are incapable of doing so gracefully,”
the alto snapped back in reply.
“Why must Alice
grow up in the Outer World? Why at this
time? Why, when the tide of Darkness is rising?” Nimuë asked, still looking
down at the floor, her voice betraying her frustration with the Source.
“She will eventually grow to become a
liaison between your Outer World ally, Professor Dumbledore, and Avalon. It is for her own protection that she must
learn magic as it is used in the Outer World if she is to work successfully
between two worlds.”
“We have no Outer World ally,” Nimuë
pointed out flatly, looking away from the ground.
The Source let out an embarrassed
chuckle before corrected Itself, saying, “You will
have one soon through the connections of Master Harold and Mistress Ruth
Berkeley.” As if sensing Nimuë’s
continued unease, the Source added, “Alice
is still young, her role is for the future.
She will not leave her mother for now.”
Nimuë nodded reluctantly as if the
Source could see her agreement.
“As to more pressing matters…the Dark
One has sought out the ways of immortality,” the baritone said grimly. Nimuë’s breath caught. ‘Immortality? The Dark One dares to disrupt the Balance? He seeks something that is not even granted
“Yes, Voldemort dares to disrupt the
Balance and seek what is not his. Nimuë,
long life has been given to you and your followers.”
“Both boon and burden,” Nimuë
whispered softly. The Source continued
as if she had not spoken.
“But everyone has a time to die. That holds true for all, even for the
“I know. Six have proven it.” Nimuë returned her glaze to the fire. There was silence in the chamber as all
remembered the fallen: Actaeon, Eugenie, Gavin,
Evangeline, Sonya, and Brandon. All six
were loyal to the end. One was lost in a
fatal accident, the others lost in war: two in battle and three because of betrayal.
“There’s a place, so I heard, where
the living’s slow…Pain, they say, ebbs away, as the rivers flow…There’s a
place, so I heard, waiting there for me…Free from care, life is there for
eternity…” Nimuë could almost see in her
mind the looks of innocence and blissful ignorance on the faces of the
performers. Avalon was their sanctuary,
their shelter from the storm of violence in the Outer World, their haven from
the malice of Voldemort.
“No more fear, no regret, there’s no
price to pay…Restless heart soon will ease when you know the way.” The voice of the choir soared through the
heavenly notes as if those in the Outer World would be able to hear the words
and take advantage of the refuge offered by the Isle.
“It is a very lovely song Nimuë,” said
the baritone, paying a compliment, “one that almost characterizes Avalon.”
“Thank you. It comes from the Outer World.”
“As to our original topic,” the
baritone said. Nimuë stiffened,
preparing to go through the same argument with the Source over the fate of
little Alice, who was barely half a year old, and her young mother, Hannah.
“It has been decided that a child will
be given the power to rectify the disruption that Voldemort has caused.”
“A child? Alice?”
Nimuë was alarmed and aghast at the Source’s intention.
“No, not Alice,
Nimuë. But, yes, a child. Have you an objection to voice, Nimuë?”
“Have I an objection? Of course I have am objection!” Nimuë’s grip
on her temper was slipping.
“The child will not be alone and
defenseless Nimuë,” the baritone said sharply.
It was clearly irritable at Nimuë’s defiance that night. “The Source will aid him as well as Avalon
and the Outer World. He will be the
downfall of Voldemort.”
“When will he come?” Nimuë asked,
still feeling heavy misgivings about the fate of the child.
“That is not for you to know yet. He will come eventually — if you do all that
Nimuë resisted the urge to tell the
Source exactly how much it vexed her that night with all the orders she had
been issued. She never liked it when the
baritone ordered her around. The alto
voice was much kinder and less galling when it came to persuading Nimuë to
agree to Its intentions.
“Is there any other piece of infinite
wisdom that you wish to impart to Your humble
servant?” Nimuë said, struggling to sound as collected and calm as she
could. There was no answer to her
query. The presence had vanished. The Source had gone. Nimuë sighed and rose from her sturdy
chair. She straightened her tunic,
pinned her hair up into a bun and placed her crown on her head.
A knock on her door made her turn
around with a smile. Merlin always had
such good timing when it came to dealing with her after a meeting with the
Source. He opened the door and entered,
taking her into his arms.
“Dearest,” he said softly, “are you
ready for the holiday celebrations? It
is Christmas Eve.”
“Of course I am ready,” Nimuë said,
drawing on the calming influence her spouse’s personality gave off.
Merlin studied his wife with a
critical eye, noting the smoldering irritability in her eyes and the stiffness
of her body despite all she did to conceal it.
He knew that her conversation with the Source had not gone well, or at
least, not to her liking. Both of them
chafed under the guidance of the Source at times. Merlin knew better than to question Nimuë
about what had conspired between her and the Source in the privacy of her
study. He was ask her later, when she
was in a better and more rational mood.
So he did what he usually did to
distract her from her brooding thoughts — he kissed her. Oh, it wasn’t romantic, if romantic meant a
long passionate kiss that was only an interlude to something much more
intimate. No, it was a simple brief kiss
that was filled with affection and empathy and the love that longtime spouses
share with each other; the kind soulmates share.
When they parted, Nimuë smiled knowingly
and lovingly at her husband of three millennia.
She reached to brush his cheek as he did the same with hers.
“You know me too well, dearest,” she
“I know,” he replied playfully. He took her hand, still lily-soft despite the
years, and raised her delicate fingers to his lips, his amber eyes never
leaving hers. His other hand dropped
from brushing her cheek down to catch her hand.
“I also know that if we do not hurry, we will be tardy for the
“Then let us go.” Hand in hand, they swept off in the direction
of the festivities, once more the stately High Lord and Lady of Avalon. The depressing and distressing issues of the
year were put away in some dusty corner to await the end of New Year’s
Author’s Note: The title of this chapter is Latin (and
apparently Spanish too). It translates
into “words about the future.” Many thanks to Ruth and Beth for their advice and suggestions.
Disclaimer: The lyrics used here is from the Opera
Babes’ debut CD “Beyond Imagination.” I
have drawn on ideas introduced by various authors. Anything you might even vaguely recognize
does not belong to me.
Actually, you are correct. Hogwarts is
in Scotland and
not Britain. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to mix up
the countries in the United Kingdom. The good thing is that one of my teachers is
Scottish and I’m getting it through my thick skull that the Scottish are never ever to be mixed up with the British.
Cameo Caelan: (Just as a note of warning) I am not going to
delve too deeply into Arthurian legend.
Well, maybe I should say that I’m dealing almost exclusively with Avalon
and that the ‘Avalon’ of King Arthur’s time (as portrayed in say, Le Morte d’Arthur) isn’t the ‘Avalon’ that I’m dealing with.