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Chapter 18: New Horisons
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On the day that Helga told Rowena her brilliant idea; Rowena realised how she was moving on. Rowena sat in her private quarters, having had just seen her children off to bed. She was just falling asleep in her armchair, a book of notes that Salazar had complied on his theories of the origins of the Sickening balancing precariously on her lap. Rowena was just falling gently into a dream about herself, Helga, Salazar and Godric sitting at a long table when there was a loud knock on the door.
Jumping, Rowena’s papers fluttered to the floor. “Coming!” she shouted as she scrabbled around picking up the carefully annotated notes. Placing the parchment on the little table that sat by her chair, she walked towards the door, wondering who would be calling at this hour. She unbolted the door quickly, and on the other side was Helga, her faced blushed with enthusiasm and a beaming smile on her face.
“Good evening my lady,” said Helga cheerily, “I hope I haven’t woken you?” Rowena let out a little smile and said, “no, of course not. Come in.” Opening the door wider, Rowena stepped back to allow Helga to step into the room. Helga, totally at ease in Rowena’s company, went and sat on her usual chair, and following the normal routine, Rowena sat in her chair, the more expensive and luxurious of the two.
“You looked quite determined,” said Rowena conversationally, noticing the unfamiliar glint in Helga’s eye, “what has you so awake at this time of night?” Rowena guessed that Helga had come here to talk about Adrian as she looked so happy, so she was taken aback by what Helga came out with next.
“I have had an ingenious idea,” she said, her green eyes alight with excitement, “and you are the one person able to make this idea a reality.” Rowena was intrigued. Normally, it was her who came up with the ideas and Helga just facilitated them. Rowena watched Helga for a moment before saying, “go on then, tell me this wonderful idea of yours.”
Helga gave her a nervous smile before saying, “look at us Rowena. If you hadn’t found me in the forest that night our lives would have been very different. You would have been a great witch, all kinds of tutors and magical books to learn from. I would have either died in the woods or know little to nothing of the wonders of magic.” She paused for a moment, and Rowena confused with what she was trying to say.
“Look at Godric; he would be great as he had access to learning. However, people like me and Adrian would have been taught the things our parents knew, and if that was very little we would lose the chance to enhance our magic. Witches and wizards born to Muggles for example would never know what powers they had because they would never have the chance to learn.”
“Yes,” said Rowena slowly, “and it is a very sad case of affairs,” she said slowly, trying to gage Helga’s reaction. Rowena was a little apprehensive of what Helga was trying to say, but she listened like a good friend should. Helga gave a beaming smile at this and dusted her hair out of her eyes ready to continue with her idea.
“Well,” she said happily, her eyes gleaming with passion, “we have the chance to change that if we open a school of witchcraft and wizardry.” Rowena was totally taken aback by this. Helga was saying this idea as if it was the most obvious thing to do in the world. However, Rowena thought it would be a hard task to accomplish.
“Helga,” she tittered, “you can’t be serious? Where would we have this school? The Castle is used for the royal court. And where would we get the teachers? The two of us are twenty two years old and we hardly have enough life experience to look after ourselves let alone an entire school!” Helga looked hurt, and she sounded slightly choked when she replied.
“I didn’t envisage we would do it alone,” she said stingingly, “I’m sure people would be thrilled to help us. It is for the greater good. We would be educating young witches and wizards and be preparing them for what life has in store for them and therefore creating a better future and a stronger Alba!” Rowena suddenly felt so much older than Helga. How could Helga have so much youthful idealism about her when Rowena so clearly saw what the world was and what it stood for?
“Helga,” said Rowena tiredly, “it would be a wonderful idea if it was achievable but it is not and it will never be.” Rowena obviously showed her discontent on her face, and Helga clearly saw it. Rowena watched as her friend got up and gave a curt nod before mumbling, “Good evening my lady,” and walked out the room so defiantly that Rowena surmised this was the first huff that Helga had ever been in.
Rowena let out an audible sigh. If it had been several years ago, Rowena would have been deeply upset that Helga was angry with her, but now she almost didn’t care. Her actions seemed meaningless now. Whatever she did people would be angry with her. She was stuck in a stalemate with everyone in her life. That was the burden of having a responsibility.
Helga was angry with her for not having the resources to support her idea, Queen Emma was disappointed in what a terrible regent she made, her advisors were angry with her bad decisions and Godric would never forgive her for choosing her duty over him. Even Salazar gave her glances some times which seemed to show that he was disappointed with her, but Rowena did not know why.
She was so jealous of Helga for her happiness. She didn’t begrudge Helga for having it, but wanted it so much for herself that sometimes she could barely look at her friend. Her mother no longer made any sense. She would either be vengeful and screaming or unbearably loving. With Godric it was the same. Rowena knew she could never prove to him how much she loved him, as the only way she could do that was marrying him, which she could never do as she was already married.
Her only saving grace was the gem that she had discovered in Salazar. He was a sturdy and trusted friend, always offering cautious advice and full of knowledge. When she looked at Salazar, she found her looking at every single quality that Godric did not possess; patience, caution and a studious nature.
Rowena had mused in quiet moments the sudden intensity of her friendship with Salazar; it reminded her of the brief but passionate nature of her courtship with Godric. She saw Salazar as no more as a friend, but she already knew that she didn’t want him to leave as much as she wanted Godric to stay. She assumed that it was because Salazar’s friendship was for her mind, whereas Godric’s love was for her soul.
The library was incredibly dark that evening, so Helga had brought a lantern along for company. She could not understand why Rowena did not see the genius of her plan, and felt so annoyed that she wanted nothing more than solitude and she knew that this was the place to get it. Nobody came to the Library this late at night.
Helga threw herself onto an empty chair and placed the lantern on the small table next to her. Part of her wanted to see Adrian, but she knew he would be asleep and she didn’t want to disturb him. Undoing the ribbon that tied her hair back, she let her loose blonde curls fall lazily onto her shoulders. Rowena did not like Helga looking casual, but for once Helga did not care what Rowena thought, and part of her didn’t want to care what Rowena thought ever again.
“You are talking to yourself you know.”
Helga jumped from her chair with a little squeal and turned to face the source of the voice. The shadows seemed to converge on him, with only his tight facial features catching the light. Her mind whirred for a moment, not recognising the face in front of her. Then she remembered his name. It was Salazar Slytherin.
“What are you doing here?” asked Helga, piercing him with what she hoped was a mean stare. He gave her a curt smile that was half mocking, half jovial. He had infuriated her from the moment she had met him because she could not understand what he was thinking. Helga had always found men incredibly simple characters, always wanting one thing or another, but Salazar never showed his motives and Helga had to admit it made her slightly uneasy.
“The same question could be asked to you,” he said wryly before pausing for a moment, “I am just doing some reading for the Princess Rowena, someone you seem well acquainted with.” She watched him for a moment, he seemed to want her to give him some information about Rowena, so she obliged.
“I went to see her this evening,” she said cautiously, “I wanted to present an idea to her, something that is so vitally important, but she just did not see the merit of it.” He raised one eyebrow at her before saying, “I’ve met women like that. They are just worried of the consequences of what will happen. Sometimes it is worth the extra evaluation.”
It was at that moment that Salazar betrayed the first sign of genuine emotion that Helga had seen from him. His eyes seemed saddened for a moment, but then he returned to his usual blank face. Then Helga was resolved to trust him. Up to that moment she had seen him as not quite human. He did not seem to have the ability to show emotion, he was neither man nor beast, only a statue.
“What was this idea,” he asked casually, looking at Helga with interest. Helga told him instantly. She had it all mapped out in her head; how every intricacy was to work. The only thing standing in her way was Rowena’s obstinacy. As an Alban Princess she had raised to be stubborn and to know her own views, but Helga thought this sometimes left the Princess extremely narrow minded.
Salazar was still gazing at Helga with that benign look of interest. “That is a truly enlightened idea,” he said, throwing himself onto the chair opposite, “I just cannot understand why dear Rowena doesn’t see the merits of it.” Helga blushed at these words. She wasn’t used to such flattery. Even Adrian did not laud her intellectual feats, as he was a man of simple words.
“She won’t listen to me,” said Helga dejectedly, “no matter what I do she will always see me as nothing more than her handmaiden!” Quite unexpectedly, she suddenly felt tears stinging her eyes for the little Rowena thought of her, but Salazar leant forward and took her hands in his. They were ice cold, but were smooth, and Helga felt instantly comforted.
“Don’t cry,” he said earnestly, “it is a truly wonderful idea. Rowena is quite attached to me at the moment; we have built up a firm friendship. I will talk to her and I’m sure she will begin to see the merits of your argument.” Helga was taken aback by this show of kindness, so gave him a beaming smile.
“Thank you,” she whispered, “so, you will help me in all my endeavours to make this dream come reality?” she said, gazing him with such an intense look she wondered he didn’t quiver. He let go of his hands as he stood up, his heavy cloak twisting round his narrow frame as he turned away from her.
“Yes, of course,” he said, fixing his piercing green eyes on her, “I will see you again Helga, after I have persuaded dear Rowena to our cause.” He gave her a curt nod before disappearing into the shadows of the library. Helga watched him go, happy that she had made a friend who she could trust with all her heart.
The moon was not there that night, but that didn’t deter Rachel. Nothing would. The days she had spent at Black Castle were the happiest of her life. Godric, Adrian and Salazar believed it was due to her love of Alba itself, but Rachel knew it wasn’t that. Although she loved the city, with its magical shops, its rolling fields and its magnificent architecture, nothing had enthralled her as much as he had.
And it had all happened so unexpectedly.
He had blundered into her life with all his surly angriness and his hidden thoughts. All her life she had known what she wanted from a man. She wanted him to be simple, attentive and loving, but Cadmus was absolutely none of those things. He was sulky and sarcastic, but this attitude made Rachel more intrigued.
That’s why every night she went down to visit him. Even at impossibly late hours he always seemed to be awake when his brothers were asleep, and this gave Rachel time to see him alone. Rachel thought that he was rather warming to her visits now.
Just as expected he stood in the paddock, in the process of leading a horse into the stable. Rachel recognised it. The horse was Midnight, Princess Rowena’s one, and Rachel thought that Cadmus spent his whole time devoted to that single horse as if he had a point to prove. He caught Rachel’s eye as she arrived at the gate, but didn’t move to open it for her, leaving Rachel to hop over the gate herself.
Rachel had noticed as she had arrived a hopeful look on Cadmus’ face when he first saw her face. Rachel decided to tease him and question him about it. “Cadmus,” she began, fixing him with a piercing stare, “you looked almost happy when you saw me just now.” She walked close to him, gently resting her hand on his arm, feeling the strength of the muscle beneath.
“It’s just you look like...” he began slowly, “oh, never mind.” He turned back to the horse, but Rachel dropped her hand to take his, and he seemed slightly taken aback. Stepping closer to him; she analysed him in detail for the first time. He was not high and mighty like everyone she was meeting recently; he was from a humble family and this reflected in the way he looked at her. He did not have the confidence that came with entitlement.
Rachel suddenly noticed the expression on his face, which was highlighted from the pitiful amount of light radiating from the Peverell’s House. He looked sad, and Rachel dropped her flirting for that look. “Cadmus,” she breathed, “are you all right?” Cadmus gazed at her, as if he wanted to say something. “Please tell me,” implored Rachel, stroking a strand of hair out of his eyes.
“It’s just...” he began, his sentence already fragmented, “it’s just...” she couldn’t help but stare at him, “you look so much like...” Then he did something that shocked Rachel. He grabbed her by the elbows and pulled her to him, and he kissed her.
When they broke apart, Rachel clasped her hands to her chest. She felt dizzy. It had been shocking but exhilarating at the same time. She knew what came next in situations like these, the man would declare his undying love for the women and would promised to be married to her within a day. Rachel watched him, waiting for him to say something.
“Well, goodnight,” he said sharply, instantly turning away from the startled Rachel. With that, he led Midnight away and over to the stables, leaving Rachel perfectly alone and perfectly shocked, in the darkness.
The next morning dawned cold and bright and Rowena awoke fairly early, not wanting to waste a second of the new day. It seemed clear and bright, but she did not want to go to the stables to retrieve Midnight like she had in her youth. For once, she did not think of a plan to ensnare Godric. Instead, she thought of Salazar, and the meeting she had arranged with him.
She got herself washed and changed, not wanting to wake Helga, and then made her way down to the library, the place that had become the automatic meeting place for her and Salazar. The early morning light was just seeping in through the windows, but when she arrived she already found Salazar sitting in his usual chair, a book of medical history in his hand.
“Good morning Salazar,” said Rowena cheerily, sitting in the chair opposite him, “it is shaping up to be such a wonderful day!” Salazar gave her one of his usual half smiles. Rowena had to admit that was the one thing she could say that she disliked about Salazar; he never gave an honest genuine smile and each half smile he gave seemed to be hiding some terrible secret that he was too scared to admit.
“Good morning my lady,” he said carefully, placing the book on the table next to him, “I hope you slept well.” All of this was just small talk, but Rowena had to admit that she was able to give him a positive answer. Rowena had slept better than she had in months. Usually her mind was whirring through ways of getting Godric back but last night, nothing but peaceful sleep.
“I slept wonderfully,” she said happily, clasping her dainty hands together, “you?” Salazar gave a pained look that took Rowena by surprise. Rowena had always taken Salazar to be the kind of man who never showed pain or weakness, instead he would always make himself appear strong and bold. It was the expected thing to do in court circles.
“No, I didn’t,” he said morosely. Rowena analysed him carefully. He didn’t have the blood shot eyes and dazed look of someone who had had a bad night sleep. In fact, he looked perfectly well rested. However, she didn’t believe he would be lying, he seemed too sincere to be a liar, and she thought there would be a valid reason to why he was awake.
“Why?” she asked nonchalantly, picking up a book near her and beginning to flick through the pages. Rowena then looked back up at Salazar who she noticed looked very concerned. His brow was furrowed and he was wringing his hands.
“I saw Helga here last night and she looked awfully upset,” he said, indicating to the chair Rowena was now sitting in. The thought struck her that maybe she had been a bit dismissive with Helga the previous night, but she didn’t want to vocalise this as there was a possibility that she had been upset about something else.
“Oh, did she?” Rowena sad quickly, trying to cover the guilty expression that she was sure was now sliding across her face. She looked down at her hands nervously and bit her lip. Salazar was one of these people who seemed to be able to read your mind, and she didn’t fancy him being able to see her guilt.
“Yes,” he said slowly, his bright eyes fixed on the back of Rowena’s head. She knew he was trying to get her to look at him, but Rowena didn’t want to. If she looked into those intense eyes she knew she would tell him the truth. Instead she pretended to find a section of her skirt highly interesting, and she began to scratch it with one finger as if to remove some invisible stain.
“What was she upset about?” said Rowena conversationally, finally looking up at Salazar, her jaw tense with defiance. He looked perfectly relaxed however, but did not meet Rowena’s eye. Instead he took one long finger and began to draw large circles on the armrest of his chair, which he watched intensely. Rowena copied him for some unknown reason, bewitched by the even circles he was tentatively drawing.
“She was saying something about you not listening to her idea,” he said, as if he could not quite remember, “I couldn’t quite hear through all that sobbing.” The guilt felt terrible now. Rowena hated to upset Helga as she was so sweet and innocent, but she never thought of the problems to her ideas, and her idealism somewhat irritated Rowena.
“Oh why, that girl will get upset over anything,” Rowena laughed dismissively, desperately trying to cover her guilt. Stinging thoughts of all the times that Helga had been a good and loyal friend surfaced to Rowena’s mind, but she tried to bat them away, fearing that she would give in to Helga’s idea.
“What was her idea?” asked Salazar, fixing her with such a look that Rowena was obliged to tell him. She explained Helga’s idea for a school in which students would come to Black Castle to learn the intricate art of magic. She complained of the difficulties of it all. Where would we find them? Where would we get the teachers? Where would they sleep?
When Rowena finished explaining the idea to Salazar he fixed her with a pensive look. She could almost see his mind evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of the plan. That was one thing that made him dependable; he did not run into stupid passionate decisions like other men did. Godric for one seemed incapable of making reasoned judgement, and Rowena found herself resolved to depend on Salazar in the future. Suddenly, he gave a stiff little nod and said with feeling, “But that sounds such a brilliant idea!”
Rowena was taken aback by Salazar’s enthusiasm and a little too shrilly she squawked “No it doesn’t! Think of the logistics!” All she could think of was the mounting problems that would come with running a school here in Black Castle. Also, she had a kingdom to think about.
“Think of the intellectual stimulation,” Salazar pressed on enthusiastically, “You will be surrounded by intelligent children who share your passion for learning. They will be pushing the boundaries of knowledge and magic, they may even help you with your quest to find the cure. All that information shared between intelligent people. Rowena, doesn’t that sound perfect for you?”
Rowena suddenly felt herself become intrigued. It was true that before Godric and Salazar had arrived Rowena had felt incredibly lonely, with only Helga able to give her an intelligent stimulating conversation. With other skilled practitioners around, she could learn so much and impart her knowledge so well. It was strangely appealing. “I hadn’t thought about it like that,” she mumbled, stroking her chin with one finger.
“I’m sure there would be many who will want to help you,” continued Salazar, leaning over and clasping Rowena’s hands. Only then did Rowena notice how strangely cold his skin was “Helga and I for a start. With your friends help, it will be perfectly achievable.” He sounded passionate about the cause, and Rowena had to admit that having a purpose in creating something good was what she needed now to take her mind off her problems with Godric.
“Salazar, you know how to persuade me!” said Rowena jokily. He had conjured up images of how wonderful this school could be in a way that Helga had not managed to. For perhaps the first time, Rowena felt excited about something she was going to do as she would be doing it with Salazar and Helga, two of her best friends in the entire world.
“Alright then, I’m in!” she said, shaking Salazar’s hand happily. She gazed into his eyes, glad to know that at last she had found a dependable man in the ever shifting sands of her life. With that simple handshake, little did she know how much she was to change the course of history.
Hi, new chapter is finally up!!! I hope you like it. Important decisions are being made...next time...Godric is told of the plans for the school while Adrian discovers something that could end his blossoming relationship with Helga forever...