To play during reading : America's Stonehenge - Laura Sullivan
Francis looked back funny at me at my comment. "Well, it's not exactly a new house, even for me, I lived there for years. It seems like you are more excited about this than me. Do you want to go to my house?" He asked with a mischievous glimmer in his eyes.
"If you invite me, yes, I would really like to go explore your house. It really seems to have a lot of history and lore that could help us with the task Master Fox gave us. Lead the way." I said, inspired. I also spotted that he said, "my house" clearly showing his attachment to it.
While we were inside, the sky had clouded over and the temperature dropped. We huddled together, walking side by side, in sync with our movement, sharing our heat and companionship. Despite the pitch black sky, and the dark atmosphere, there was something in the air making it joyful.
We walked along the old city street, laced with history: the cobblestone road, the Ursuline Monastery of Quebec City, the fortifications. The wind blew through the dead leaves, rolling on the streets. We felt alone in our own city, ignoring all the people around, being apart from them.
Eventually, our steps lead us to the house, quite unassuming from the outside, merging nicely with the surroundings, inconspicuous. Francis took out the key and opened the door. The air inside was still, without any light except from the outside street lamps. Death could be felt permeating the aura of the place. It was in dormancy, waiting for life, energy, to come back and animate this place. The floor wasn't dusty or dirty, having been kept during the estate delay. The inside was really cold, heating having been kept low when not inhabited.
We explored the house. It clearly was built during the British rule period1 ("The British brought with them and adapted, after the conquest of New France, their townhouse design of London to the French street planning of Québec City and gave rise to a unique style of building, essentially only present in Québec City. <a href=\"https:\/\/journals.lib.unb.ca\/index.php\/MCR\/article\/view\/17826\/22137\">https:\/\/journals.lib.unb.ca\/index.php\/MCR\/article\/view\/17826\/22137<\/a>"). The building was quite extensive, built around the four sides of a small inner garden, with a single large tree in the middle of it, which would probably shade all of the space during the summer months. Once inside, you could see the generations of occupants moulding the space for changing needs. For example, the ancient stable and door, was converted to be a car garage. There were 4 floors to the building, including the converted attic and a finished basement. The house was clearly the composite of four separate buildings, being combined over time. But it still kept most of its historical flair and aesthetics. Most of the rooms were not really furnished, only being storage for furniture and other things. It was obvious the space had more life and residents in it in the past. There only was a clear section, near the front of the building that was actually organized and had been lived in. The Order had done a good job of putting back where there were originally the different objects, nothing felt has it had been moved since Melbourne died. Only one room piqued my interest, a somewhat large room in the attic, with a series of six windows, three on each side, and a quite high ceiling. The structure of the room was partially apparent and would probably be a nice space to work in, luminous, spacious. I prefer my current apartment though.
Francis went downstairs to put back on the electricity. When he came back, we sat at the kitchen table, devoid of any food, but still the homeliest part of the house at this point.
"I am really confused about my feeling for this house. I am, at the same time, excited about coming back in this house and depressed by the death that brought me back in. I love this place, bringing back love and happy memories, but tinged with sorrow. Will living here only further my isolation or will I be able to move on from my grief? And more practically, it's a way too big space to inhabit alone, haunted by the ghost of the past, the weight of my legacy. Every generation of my family has lived in this house, at times splitting it into multiple units, but still keeping it in the family, extending it to allow for the growth and the privacy. But now, most of my relatives have moved on elsewhere, or are dead. What should I do with this?" He said while pointing at all of the space.
"Would you feel lonelier here or in your current apartment? Even if it's more modern, this house feels more alive, has more of a soul. And yes, you will be reminded of your father and your legacy all the time in this house, but it's still really recent. With time you will make peace with it. And logically, it would be a shame to split up or sell a house of this kind in Old Québec. This house probably is worth 1-2 millions at this point. But yes, it would be quite empty." I answered.
"Would you be interested to come live here? There's enough space." He cheekily said, still with a hopeful tone to it.
"I am not sure. I really love my current apartment. And I don't know if it's best that we live apart or together at this point." The last phrase hurt me to say, but it was better at this point. I was not sure myself about what I should do. I genuinely love my apartment and I know I couldn't find anything better at this point. And at the same time, I shouldn't fight change if it's what my fate is pushing me toward. I needed to think more on it.
"Anyway, should we go look for the secret room?" I asked to change the mood and subject.
"Yes, let's go." He answered, with a bounce to it that felt a bit forced or at least, clear he wanted to change subject.
"Then let's search as a mage now," I said, standing and activating my mage sight. I could now see the Resonance of the place, intricate and complex, filled with history, drama and joy, weaved together through time. And it would take a lifetime to untangle it, as a magical ley line Gordian knot. But I could clearly feel the stillness in the network. Following around the network, we eventually arrived in an old study on the ground floor. The windows wall was to the garden. It clearly was part of the used part of the building by Melbourne. The furniture was old oak, clearly handmade and of good manufacture. The main piece was a large pedestal desk at about the middle of the space, with two fauteuils in front and an impressive desk chair behind the desk. The main colour of the environment was wood and green, with splashes of silver. It gave an impression of power and control.
"Quite imposing," I exclaimed.
"Yes. I still feel small when I come in here. I still remember the times I was summoned by my father in here, him sitting behind his desk, relaxed but fully in control. I felt so small." He said, while moving around the desk to sit in the chair. There was a moment of restraint just before he sat.
"I see how the effect was made. He was never hard on me and I remember the lesson he tried to teach me in here. Maybe there was a bit of fear in it that made me learn. But anyway, why are we here?" He asked, fidgeting with the marquetry on the edge of the desk.
"I feel that the Resonance, the energy of the space directs to here. Why, I have no idea. I know you cannot see it yet, since you have not been trained to consciously activate your Mage sight, but you can still use it instinctively, you are a mage, you have the sight. Try to look beyond sight, what is the nature of what you see? What's its component? What is its soul? Try to taste the space, feel the time. Go beyond your senses." I replied, sitting in one of the facing chairs. I observed Francis and the room, trying to pry the secret of the room. Then at some point, I saw the gaze of Francis changing to one of interest and questioning. He was still tracing the edge of the desk.
"I think I saw something. Come and look." He said, not moving his sight. I stood and came around to look at what he was looking. The edge of the desk was made of an intricate Celtic weave of vines made out of marquetry. While looking at it, you saw it move and turn slightly, nothing you would notice except if you specifically searched for it. And at where Francis was pointing, you could see periodically the vines outlining the shape of a keyhole, just about the size of the jagged old key. But it was made of a solid object, why would it be also a keyhole?
"I see you seem to have found the keyhole for the magic study, put it in it," I said, probing his preconceptions.
"But it's only a shape, there is no hole to put the key in?" Francis answered, questioning my sanity in his demeanour.
"Why not try? What do you have to lose? Humour me." I probed him. He took out the key, clearly being sure that it was pointless. He approached with the key and at the moment he touched the shape, the key went into the keyhole shape.
"Wow. Ok, I must apologize, I doubted you. Clearly, I have to put aside many assumptions of reality now that I'm dealing with magic. Lots to learn. Now should I turn it?" Francis responded. He kept his hand steady, waiting for any indication on my part.
"No problem, you are learning, and go for it, let's see what awaits." I eagerly responded. Francis turned the key and after two full turns, we heard first the action it caused. We were so focused on the desk edge and the keyhole, that we didn't see the carpet in front of the desk, between the two chairs, starting to extend in the middle, moving the chairs to reveal a staircase going a level down towards the inner court.
"I never suspected there was a staircase here. There is a floor under here, with rooms." Francis exclaimed, while standing, incredulity written on his face.
"Well, mages know how to hide their sanctum. Lead the way." I cheekily answered inviting him to lead.
We descended in the sanctum of Melbourne. It was coherent with the room being built for many mages. After a short corridor, we arrived in a circular room directly under the inner court. There was an inner circle, surrounded by 10 stone columns, each marked by the symbol of one of the Arcana. Then there was an outer ring. The ceiling was of masonry and wooden arches. But the details of the arches looked like the roots of the tree planted above, organic, fractal, contrasting with the order, the symmetry, and the artificiality of the masonry. But the wood part snaked around the columns to root itself, in the floor without blocking any access. There were one-way skylight windows in many places, allowing to see the sky, while it didn't show outside. There were small offices outside the ring, all of them filled with notes and documents. All of it was covered by a thick layer of dust, having not been disturbed during the estate evaluation and for some time before that. At the moment, there were no other light sources except what little came from outside. It tinted the space in sharp light surrounded by shadows in a blue haze. Moving around the circle of columns, I could see 10 empty canvases hung to each columns, directed toward the inside of the circle. The floor was perfectly even, made of a stone of some kind, surprisingly not cold, but there was not enough light to see if there was a pattern to it. In one of the offices, the dust had been removed and it was the only one looking like an actual working space, with shelves with books on it, a workbench and a chair. And it also seemed to have electricity, since there was a light switch, but it didn't work.
Francis was as fascinated by the space as I was. I didn't dare to do it, but he walked to the middle of the main room and looked above, towards the night sky. And then, out of nowhere, he started laughing. It started out as a nervous laugh but rapidly morphed into a full-on uncontrollable stress relieving laugh, the kind you have to give into after much strife. It even felt a bit like a maniacal laugh, at points, but when he slowly fell backward on the ground still laughing and smiling, looking at the sky, I knew something just happened to Francis. I came over him and smiled back at him.
"Enjoying ourselves are we? A penny for your thoughts?" I asked, looking over him.
"You really are my angel, now I can see it with your areola around you." He gave a genial laugh. "The window above is perfectly aligned." He pointed out. I smiled back at him, he was clearly letting go of something.
"And the laughs came because ..." I lead him to answer.
"I now see. I understand. Here, exactly here is the first time I am perfectly in sync with my surroundings, all the question of my fate, my destiny, being shown clearly. I feel at peace here, with a purpose, with a goal. This is my space and I will use it. And it is a beautiful space, teeming with life, with meaning, with a soul. Come, lay down with me and look." He answered, totally engrossed by the revelation.
I joined him on the ground and the first thing I saw was the snow. It had started to snow outside, the first snow, fluffy and heavy. Falling slowly on the skylights. Then I saw with my mage sight what Francis meant. I saw the intricate ley lines that I saw in the house join and resolve in this room, slowly dancing and interacting together, channelling an energy, a node to this very precise center point. It was beautiful to behold.
I also fell prey to the amazing display until I was brought back to reality when I felt a hand take mine. The warmth of this contact was soothing and calming. I felt the dance of our inner souls dancing a tango together, never uniting, but always connected. Then another shock, a kiss. Francis had kissed me on the cheek. I turned to look at him and he was the truest form of caring. I moved forward and kissed him on the lips, which was answered back, the moment was suspended in time, us two becoming one for the briefest of moments, experiencing the love and care we both had for each other. I didn't perceive it until after we released our kiss, that we had moved to entangle ourselves together. Our legs and arms intertwined in the closest of embrace we could give. We both had beatific smiles. There was a moment of suspense for what next, us both enjoying the close contact, the warmth. But it didn't end how I would have wanted. The old doubts of Francis came back and he untangled himself of me, ending the blissful moment, both smiles retreating to content smile, tinged with uncertainty.
We rose and straighten ourselves. Francis looked for the time and panic came to him.
"Wow, it's past midnight, I really must go back home to sleep. Tomorrow morning is starting really early." We hastily walked back upstairs, closed the room and then exited the house. I asked him for a spare key at some point to start researching through the notes, while he learned the basics. He accepted and promised to manage that in short order. We continued our way to his car and he drove me back home, mostly in silence, both in our own minds. I was still processing the kiss and the moment. When I exited his car in front of my house, I stayed in front of the door for I don't know how long until, someone bumped into me and brought me back to what I was doing. I was covered in a light dusting of snow by that point. I went to my apartment and directly went to sleep, still in doubt about what next in my mind.
I dreamed back to the Renaissance dream. I was back in the painter's studio. He was resting on his side, on a window bench, overlooking the city below. It was a cloudy day, the olive trees swayed under a looming wind. There were plates and goblets cluttering around the painter. He was looking out from what I could see from behind him. Naked all the way, his bare back and rounded bums plain to see. I averted my gaze to the rest of the studio. It was a mess, not the "I am in the middle of work and haven't stopped to clean yet" but the self-destructive "I try to start things, but I don't have the motivation to finish it". Most were sketches of the model, in different poses. But what was striking, was the lack of eyes, like he remembered precisely most of the details, but could not muster the image of the eyes of the model. And there were strange faded golden lines and symbols scattered across the paintings.
I walked around the painter and finally looked at his visage. I could read plainly a pain so deep, a depression so profound that nothing could fill back the void he was living. Neatly put in front of him on a coffee table there was a book, a journal, a letter and an official document. I couldn't read the title or the text. But I had the clear feeling I knew where they were now, in my time.
An indefinite time passed. Now night and rain and thunderstorm started to pour. Suddenly, a small boy burst into the room, dressed in a simple sleeping gown. He was at most 4 years old. He clearly was scared and went to the painter to cuddle and find comfort. The painter stance and demeanor changed instantly and he was the epitome of fatherly love, cradling the boy and consoling him. To the untrained eye, he was simply caressing the boy, but I could see his fingers on the boy's back were tracing specific arcane symbols and he was casting a spell of protection. Eventually, the thunderstorm calmed and the boy was sleeping in the arms of the father. For a brief moment, his shoulder sloped with a weight coming back, his gaze lost in the infinity of the space in front of him, but he stood and carried the sleeping kid in his arms. Crossing the door threshold, he closed the door behind him and his gaze looked at me, waking me.
I had the distinct feeling that I knew where the documents were. I had the urge to go, the need to find those book, to see the legacy of that painter. And I remembered the official coat of arms on the papers, I must search for it. And rather easily, I found it, the coat of arms of the Republic of Florence.
Now that I had found my answer, I busied himself with his morning routine, doing some overdue cleaning of his apartment, cleaning his brushes and supply, making lists for groceries and art supplies, anything to keep my mind off Florence. I went to do my shopping. I worked on some master's degree work. I was still at the start of my degree, doing some classes and exploring my avenues for a research subject, but at the moment only Florence and Renaissance Painters came to my mind, occulting everything else as potential options. But it stayed there, all day. After supper, I looked at Master Fox's painting and saw he was looking back at me, something I didn't spot all day.
"Good evening Master Fox, may I help you?" I asked it, offering some blueberries.
"Yes. I needed to recuperate after Francis' Awakening. I used a lot of my Essence2 ("Essence is roughly equivalent for Spirits what Mana is for Mages") to help him awaken. You have been busy today, something on your mind? Also, where is Francis and how is advancing the research for a source of Mana?" Master Fox asked.
"Francis is off at the Athenaeum to learn the basics of magic with an appropriate mentor. We just got access to Melbourne House yesterday so we haven't searched much yet. I have only told Francis yet, but I have been dreaming of the Renaissance and of a couple, but it felt more than a dream, more like a vision from the past. Yesterday's night, I dreamt again of it and I remembered something specific about it, and now I have the nagging feeling I must go find it, whatever it is." I answered puzzled.
"The notion of time and space is quite vague for me, so I know of your so-called Renaissance, it being about at the start of my collaboration with the Melbourne legacy, but it's more because I was told, then me remembering specifically the passage of time. And don't ask me where I was then, I couldn't tell. But I see that it is important for you and that it has a greater meaning. So follow the path that is laid in front of you, who knows where it will lead. Concerning Francis teaching, it's good that you thought of starting his education, but the service of the mentor won't be required in a short time. I am plenty capable of teaching Francis the rudiment of his craft. And when will I be released back in his care?" Master Fox questioned.
"I could give you back to Francis probably tomorrow, depending on his state. And thank you for the encouragement, I will explore the Florentine path in front of me. And don't worry about the mana source, I will continue that also." On that he nodded and sat quite still under his tree, signaling the end.
I started some price search for a trip to Florence, concluding quite quickly it was out of my budget to do. I knew I had a magical option, portal teleportation, but it was both dangerous, uncertain and costly. I needed more time to think about it.
I looked at the time and it was about time to go to sleep, but I needed to call Francis before that. It rang 4 times and I ended up on his voicemail. I was waiting for his opening message to end to give my message when Francis answered.
"Hi, can I help you? Who is it?" He said in a comically tired voice.
"Hi Francis, it's Beldro, how was your first day of training?" I answered, stifling my laughter.
"Ya ya, laugh as much as you want. It was extremely tiring, M. Dubé is a good teacher, but he has a quite physical way of training, body and mind to be trained kind of way. I am totally exhausted. I was even sleeping on my couch when you called, where I crashed when I arrived. I need to move to my new home, getting closer, and now, I need to eat something before getting back to sleep, it will start early again tomorrow." He said, yawning and busying himself doing what he just said.
"Then I won't keep you long. I just wanted to know when would you need me to do the moving, and when would it be convenient for me to give you back Master Fox. Also, I would like to remind you about the key to your house, so I can start the research." I said getting to the point to help him.
"Yes, the key. Come tomorrow afternoon, I will have it done. Bring Master Fox along so that you can directly put him back to his rightful home. I will move in tomorrow, but it will only be the strict minimum, the real move will wait after the teaching sessions." He deeply yawned into the phone. "It's not that I don't like to talk to you but I am really tired. So see you tomorrow and I am hanging up. Bye." He ended. I said my goodbyes and he hung up. I would need to congratulate him on his moving choice, but now wasn't the time.
I did my sleep routine. When I got to the bed, sleep eluded me, I was reliving the Renaissance dreams, all the story, the pieces of information I could find. Clearly, the painter and the model were lovers, that much was evident. But considering the sea view, they were not in Florence, since it's inland, but probably Pisa or another city along the coast under Florence's influence. Neither of the couple looked Italian, which probably meant they were from outside Italy, or at least from the north. Both were mages. At some point, the model left the painter, leaving with a painting. The painter fell into depression, longing for the model. And at some point, before or after he met the model, the painter had a child that he clearly loved. But his art was still obsessed by the model. Why am I linked to them? I didn't know.
Remembering the dreams brought back the sensuality and the eroticism of some of them. The love and union between the two. Leaning in my bed, I kept the mental image of them together, painting, living together, loving each other, on the bench, standing, on a couch, in a bed, in all kinds of crazy positions. My wandering mind eventually brought me a restless slumber. Images of eyes and being observed plagued my dreamscape. Followed on an infinite plane, nowhere to hide, nowhere to rest.
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