Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 22

More revelations

I got a bit rushed when I was writing this part of the book … The eventual plan is to have a lot more details about the magic lessons, and some more sailing and stuff, before I get to the bombshell.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 22

After lunch, Betsy and I joined Jackson and a couple of the school’s senior instructors in one of the most tightly protected laboratory classrooms. “We should be well protected in here – and the school protected from you,” Jackson said. “You can’t even see my office from here.”

I checked this out, reaching out with my thoughts, and found that my vision ended at the walls of this classroom. “You’re right,” I said. “Even I can’t get through.”

“Meanwhile,” Jackson said, “allow me to introduce Ann, our best at illusion and telepathy, and Bill, who teaches attraction, repulsion, and rearranging.” Ann was a slender Oriental woman, unusually tall; Bill was a skinny older guy with wire-rim glasses and short hair, and he reminded me of an old-time accountant.

We spent all of that day, and the next few days, working on my skills. Betsy, too, was developing her talents. “This is much better for me than the regular class,” she said. “I always felt so unwelcome there – and I’m learning faster now, too.”

As the days went by, Ann taught about illusion and telepathy, building on what I had learned previously in Jackson’s office, while Bill taught the skills that involved moving things around. Attraction was the ability to draw things toward myself – whether inanimate objects, weather systems, animals, or people. Repulsion was the opposite, and covered the same areas, as well as magic. Much to Jackson’s satisfaction, I had already developed a strong ability to resist magic – not that anyone was all that surprised, since I had already fought off so many attacks of the Others. Rearranging was a complicated combination of attraction, repulsion, and a sort of directional control, useful for such things as precise control of weather systems, and I found that it took a lot of concentration. I also discovered that when I was rearranging complex systems, I had a sort of inner vision that acted as a zoom lens – for big things like weather systems, I could zoom out and take a wide view, and for smaller things, I could zoom in for a microscopic view. I could also see inside solid objects; I could imagine the automotive wizards of Michigan using that skill as a diagnostic tool.

About the third day of lessons, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Time and time again, one of the instructors would call me “Betsy,” or Betsy “Sarah,” as if he or she was having trouble telling the two of us apart. I asked Ann about it one afternoon after class.

“That’s the odd thing,” she said. “With Betsy’s – uh – face, I shouldn’t have trouble distinguishing you. But even when I’m looking right at you two, sometimes you seem to be exactly alike.”

“I wonder if there’s more to it than just us two both being orphans alone in the world,” I said to Betsy as we left the classroom. “Could we be related to each other?”

“Well, your mother and my supposed mother did seem to be a lot alike, too. Maybe we just bear the scars the same way – the emotional scars, that is.”

The time came for the regular monthly enrollment ceremony, at which Edna and a couple of other recently discovered talents were to be enrolled. Runyon, Sylvia, and Pierre were coming, too, Runyon and Sylvia as Edna’s adoptive parents. Even sillier than Sylvia being Pierre’s mother, Runyon himself was at an age appropriate to be Edna’s son, but the ritual was necessary, Edna’s real parents having passed on decades ago. I was really looking forward to seeing Pierre, after so much time not only apart but out of communication. Betsy and I were in the library when Pierre arrived; she was sitting at the table where she had been when I first met her, with her back to the door, and I was among the shelves, searching for a particular book.

“Sarah!” Pierre said as he came in the door, hurrying to the table where Betsy sat, stopping, aghast, as she turned to face him. “My God, what happened to your face?”

I stepped out from between the shelves. “If you’re talking about my face, well, it’s just fine,” I said, going to him and planting a kiss on his cheek. “Pierre, meet my roommate, Betsy. Betsy, meet my fiancé, Pierre.”

“Oh, Sarah! When I saw that ruined … oh, sorry, Betsy.”

“Don’t be. I’m used to it.”

“Anyway, Sarah, that was such a shock! I thought about that big disturbance a couple of weeks ago, and I thought something must have happened to you.”

“Let me show you my room,” I said. “We can talk in there.”

“I’m coming, too,” Betsy said. “I’ve got a feeling there’s something important happening here.”

Once we were in the room, Pierre went to Betsy’s desk and picked up the model she was working on. “My boat!” Pierre said. “What a close resemblance!” He turned toward Betsy. “There’s magic here. Your work?”

“Yes. Actually, I thought this was Sarah’s boat. You say it’s yours, too?”

“Yes, it certainly is.”

“I’ve never had a boat work on more than one person before. You two really must be soul mates.”

“Joining with Sarah is something I have been destined to do. We belong together.”

“Pierre, remember us talking about our past right after Runyon appointed you my guardian angel?” I asked. “Remember how you commented about us two being broken souls with messed-up pasts? Betsy’s another one.”

“I’m guessing the face is part of that?”

I went on to describe how Betsy’s face had come to be disfigured, and what had happened at her enrollment ceremony. “Betsy, do you have a picture of yourself from before the, uh, burning?”

“Let me see.” She got up and went to a bookshelf, where she picked up a photo album. “I was about twelve at the time …” She flipped through the pages. “Here,” she said, holding the book out to me. “That’s when I went to the beach with a friend whose mom was trying to rescue me from mine. That’s me on the left.” She pointed to a photo of two girls sitting on a beach towel under a beach umbrella. The one on the left was eerily familiar, pixie-like, with arched eyebrows, high cheekbones, and a slender nose, albeit a bit disfigured with a black eye.

Pierre was trembling. “That’s … that’s … Do you remember if anyone ever called you ‘Eliza’?”

“No … but it is from the same name, isn’t it? Elizabeth.”

“We need to see Jackson,” Pierre said.

We found him in the large ceremonial hall, helping to set up for the upcoming enrollment ceremony. “We need to talk,” Pierre said. “It’s important.”

Jackson could see the urgency on Pierre’s face. “Let’s go to my office,” he said. Once in the office, he asked, “So what is this all about?”

“You know how I have been searching for my daughter,” Pierre said to Jackson. “Now I think I’ve found her – I think she’s Betsy. Is there any way to test for parentage, other than the ropes at the enrollment ceremony?”

“Yes, there is. Come with me.” He led us to the small ceremonial chamber. From a cabinet in the back, he brought out a bowl, larger than the one used in the surrogate confirmation rituals, and a block about the size of a small bar of soap, which he took to the table. “Everyone, come close,” he said, and we all clustered around the table. He put the block into the bowl and then used a large pitcher to pour water into the bowl. The block dissolved, and the water immediately started steaming, sending up many-colored plumes. Gradually, the plumes came together to form a glowing purple column of steam that then bent itself to circle tightly around Pierre and Betsy. “Yes,” Jackson whispered. “Pierre, Betsy is your daughter.”

“That day in Jackson’s office, when I set out to find Eliza,” I said, “I could tell she was alive but well shielded – she was in one of the highly protected laboratories! She’s been here all along!”

Pierre’s face lit up. “Sarah, you found Eliza for me.”

“No, really,” I said. “She found herself. Just like you and I found each other – it’s the natural action of the magic force.”

Pierre reached out toward me, and then stopped abruptly. “But look!” He pointed at Betsy and me. There, glowing around the two of us, was a pale pink wreath of steam, much paler and more tenuous than the purple one surrounding Pierre and Betsy, but there just the same. “What does that mean?”

“Sarah and Betsy are related, if distantly. Cousins, perhaps. Since the wreath is pink, probably on their mothers’ sides.”

“Dora’s family,” Pierre said. “She never did talk about it much. If she had cousins, I never knew about them.”

“This blows my mind,” Betsy said. “My roommate is also my cousin and my future stepmother? How often does that kind of weird stuff happen?”

“I will admit, it’s highly irregular,” Jackson said. “I’ve never heard of anything like it. But you’ve all three clearly been drawn together by the magic forces for a reason, and I know the Others’ power has been rising. Your combined forces may be what we need to counter that.” He paused a moment. “Meanwhile, I need to get back to the ceremonial preparations.”

“We’ll come with you,” Pierre said. “We need to tell Runyon and Sylvia.”

That mission accomplished, Pierre, Betsy, and I returned to the dorm room. We spent the time until the ceremony exchanging stories of our lives; Pierre and Betsy, in particular, had a lot of catching-up to do.


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