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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 97: Hastings 75
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"There is one spell I have never used," Lauren said to Bethany, "that you must learn and use. Merlin taught it to me, but I learned it because I knew that you would need to know it."
"Wow, when you were Merlin's student you already knew you were going to teach me?"
"Yes. In fact, this may be important, so learn it. You are going to learn the magic that slows down your aging, that which wizards in this world use to extend their lives into many centuries. It is not something to share lightly with others; the world would be a much worse place very quickly if people suddenly all lived for hundreds of years. But when someone is chosen to learn magic, what they learn is important, and it gives them an importance. Within your lifetime, belief in magic will fade from the world; when we meet in the future, you will be a powerful sorceress, and no one will know who you are, or believe that anyone like you could exist. Even Merlin himself, the greatest wizard of all time, will be thought a myth, a legend invented by poets and bards. So you must learn to live while those around you age and die."
Bethany started to say something, but Lauren interrupted her. "In a short time from now, as centuries are counted, a man will sail across the Atlantic Ocean and discover another continent. He will not even know that this is what he has done, for some time. But the new continent will become the home of a mighty nation of many cities the like of which you cannot now imagine. The calendar will itself be changed at some point; I don't know when that will be, but it is coming. On that new calendar, it will be the autumn of the year 2005, and you and I will meet again in the air above the city called Philadelphia–the same name as the city in the Bible, but a very different place. I will not then remember you, but you will know me, and together we will fight against the powers of darkness."
Lauren wondered whether to tell her more about that; perhaps, though, she had said too much already. The point, after all, was to let Bethany know what she needed to know to live that long; Lauren turned her attention to the details of the rather complex magic which would slow the growth of her now sixteen-year-old student to something on the order of one year per century.
In the several years she had been here, there had been no sign or word of vampires. She knew they had not passed out of the world entirely; she doubted they had even left England. But neither humans nor wolves could give her any lead on where they were.
This left her again wondering why she was here. Certainly she had to come here to teach Bethany; there was almost an inevitability to that, since Bethany in the future had identified her as the teacher who introduced her to magic. It almost seemed shallow, though, as if there must be more to it than that. Her mind returned to the matter of Merlin–something Bethany brought up quite frequently, actually, in little ways. Did Merlin teach you this? Is this one of his tricks? What did he think of that? It was difficult to blame the girl; after all, Merlin was a legend among wizards, and if you saw it from Bethany's perspective, she was learning from someone who actually knew the legend personally, who had studied with him. It also kept Lauren's mind on Merlin, and she began to wonder whether perhaps she had returned to Wandborough at this time so she could make the return journey to Camelot, to find and free her teacher.
That winter, Bethany's father died. It was during a blizzard, and Bethany was asleep when it happened. Lauren thought she might have saved him, had she known he was ill. However, she could not know all things nor save everyone. The priest wanted to send Bethany to an orphanage in London; Lauren was concerned that such places in this age were not safe for young girls, and made her objections known. She was the girl's tutor; she would care for her. After all, Bethany was already old enough to marry, if she chose. She should be able to choose where she would live.
The disagreement created enough of a stir in the village that Lauren felt distinctly unwelcome thereafter. Now she never entered it without trying to shield herself from their stares, using the trick Merlin had taught her long before to keep them from noticing her. There was a sense in which Bethany mattered to her more than the entire village. Of course she was there to protect the village; the village, however, had not needed her protection recently, and did not appear to be in any imminent danger in the near future. Let them reject her and protect themselves, if it came to that. Bethany was too important to lose.
The priest made such a fuss about it, Lauren decided to try something drastic. Searching his mind, she built a wall around his memories, causing him to forget that he had wanted to do anything about Bethany. Not long after, she did the same with a the local sheriff, who seemed to think that an unwed underage girl was his concern, and therefore his property. Blocking his memories of her seemed a positively noble act, and while she was at it she blocked several other memories she thought he should forget. Then she blocked the mind of the innkeeper–whenever she went in for a mead, she had to reveal herself to him, and he always asked about Bethany; Lauren was not certain her other mental tampering would hold if someone brought her up in conversation, and she was determined to keep Bethany in her tutelage at this point.
Besides, by now she was the more convinced that a journey to Camelot was in order, and Bethany was eager to make such a trip and nearly ready to do so. The intensified training during the remaining winter months would assure that the student was able to handle herself. It opened the possibility that they would find and free Merlin.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #113: Character Movements. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: