Chapter 2 : Scarlet In the Midst Of Monochrome
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As always, I own nothing. It all belongs to the illustrious J.K.
A brightly lit corridor greeted me as I stepped out of the gloomy night. Lamps were burning at frequent intervals, illuminating faded photographs in frames on the burgundy walls. It exuded a sense of cheer and gayety, but it was all a façade. Somewhere inside the house, in a room that was most likely dark and ominous, the members of the Society waited to finally harness all of my power for the benefit of the organization. There was nothing good about this house.
He waved her away and grabbed my arm roughly. “Come along, Persephone. They’re all waiting for us now.”
Before he pulled me down the hall, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror on the wall. I barely recognized the girl I saw in the reflection. My scarlet gown was magnificent and the jewels at my throat gleamed in the light, but I no longer looked like a girl of eighteen. I looked like a woman who had everything to lose and no inclination of losing it.
On the outside, I looked confident. On the inside, I was still so insecure. My nerves trembled as we paced down winding corridors and staircases, but I remembered my striking reflection and tried to be strong. I couldn’t let them see how afraid I was.
We passed by doors that hid a thousand secrets. Who knew what evils were lurking behind
the locks? The corridors grew darker and narrower as we descended into the depths of the Society’s headquarters. I could feel my perilous fate getting closer, but I held my composure.
Finally, we could go no lower. We turned a corner and faced the last door. It was the largest and most formidable of the ones that we had seen in the house, and inside were men who thought they ruled the world. Before we could go any further, Arnold grabbed my shoulders, turning me to face him. His expression was no longer bored or guarded; now, it seemed that he was finally allowing his true emotions to show.
His grey eyes were flashing more than ever; his physiognomy twisted into a look that seemed on the verge of fear.
Finally, he spoke. “In a few minutes, you will become a member of the Society. You have passed through many trials to get to this moment, and as your mentor, I am supposed to commend you for your strength and ability to overcome the challenges you have faced.” His voice dropped to a gruff whisper. “But I know what they did to you and I know why you’re here. You have no choice but to give your life away to this… Society, this… this monster. I can only hope that you will not break under anything else they choose to test you with.”
Here was a man who had been nothing but rude to me for a whole year, halfway apologizing for what was about to happen to me. For someone who seemed so dedicated to the organization, he spoke of it now with revulsion and terror. I was appalled, but in that moment, I almost liked him. Almost.
I kept my voice level and my tone civil. “Mr. Moore, thank you for your words of wisdom. I will never forget what you have done for me, and I hope that I will not disappoint you in my career as a Society member.”
He chuckled darkly. “You’ve learned well, lass. I’ve no doubt you’ll do well for yourself in our Society, provided that you are able to keep up your charade. Now come along. We mustn’t keep them waiting any longer.”
Ominous, ominous words. They echoed in my mind as we approached the door. It was ornate and formidable, black wood inlaid with wrought-iron spirals for decoration—or to keep unwanted things out. A brass knocker reposed pretentiously in the middle. Now why would a door inside a building need a knocker?
I reached to open the door, but Arnold stopped me. “We have to knock, duckie. We mustn’t keep them waiting, but they can make us wait as long as they like.” He reached up to knock. I noticed that his hands were shaking. Whether with fear or fatigue, I could not tell.
Rap, rap, rap. As soon as the three knocks sounded, the door opened from the inside. “Come in,” a voice called from deep within.
I noticed the staggering height of the ceiling first. It must have been enchanted to appear taller than it actually was; otherwise, there could have been no room for the many floors that we had descended.
The room was a vast circle, surrounded on all sides by risers filled with black armchairs. Well-dressed men from all age groups occupied every chair. My scarlet dress was the only spot of color in the room of black-and-white suits. I took care not to acknowledge their steely glares as Arnold led me to the circle’s center and stood beside me, his face a mask of nonchalance.
In the bad lighting, I saw a tall stand, behind which sat the highest of the high: the three Directors of the Society. I had never met them, but I knew who they were.
Theodosius Bramble, Director of Action, sat in the middle. In his youth, he was a ruthless fighter and a formidable adversary. It has been said that no one could fight him and live to tell the tale. Though his body had not held up against time, he was responsible for the instruction of the Society’s deadliest recruits.
Arburton Knockturn, Director of Motive, was seated directly to his right. The old man was once a brilliant strategist who created elaborate plans and traps for stronger men to carry out. Even in his extreme age, his eyes glinted with a cold light, and I nearly shuddered to think of what he had planned for me.
Mordecai Warrick was not quite as old as the other two. He was the Director of Experimentation, what Muggles might call a “mad scientist.” His work with Dark Creatures and humans were well-known by all those who chose—or were forced—to join the Society. He peered down his long nose at me, a small, sinister smile tugging at his mouth.
I could feel the dark stares of a hundred men on my figure, but I gazed only at the three who were responsible for my fate, my head high. I knew that every single person in the room was displeased to have me, a woman, in their midst, but the three despicable Directors had “collected” me for a purpose which I knew not.
A clock struck midnight and the room stirred with shadows of whispers. It was time for the ceremony to begin. How stereotypical it was for magic to take place at “the witching hour,” especially magic such as this.
Director Bramble wheezed as he prepared to speak. “Members of the Society. Welcome. It has been long since we have all come together, but tonight is of great importance to us. Tonight, we will add another to our number, one who will enhance our power and hegemony over the whole of Britain, provided she is willing, of course.”
A few shadows chuckled sinisterly at his emphasis of my gender. I narrowed my eyes, but did not turn my head. All too typical of such powerful men.
Director Knockturn spoke next. “The tides of change have washed over our isle, and we shall reap its benefits. Thus far in our history, we have never found a woman to be suitable for our purposes, those of missions and planning, naturally. However, seven years ago we stumbled upon a young girl with greater power than any of us had ever seen. She demonstrated great agility and sharpness of wit for someone of her age and sex. We put her under surveillance, certain that it was a misunderstanding.”
They were highly complimentary… Of my skills and mind. The disdain for my differences and the jibes at my sex, however, was painfully obvious.
“Yet it was not,” Director Warrick interceded, his tenor voice resonating high above the drones of the two older men. “For six years we watched and waited for a sign that would prove our hypothesis, but none came. She continued to grow more skillful, more powerful, despite being of the weaker sex. Tonight she stands before you, an equal in power but not in command. She has been tried as you once were and has proved herself to be worthy of our ranks. Tonight she joins you in our hunt for the greater good, the eternal quest.”
Murmurs swept through the hall again. Director Warrick must have been too complimentary of me for their liking. Or perhaps they were chuckling to each other about his odd words… The “greater good,” for which the Society allegedly fought, was a blatant lie.
Director Bramble raised his liver-spotted hand, and all fell silent. “It is a monumental change to accept, but accept it we must.” He made a motion with his wand and a yellowing piece of paper appeared. “Ms. Persephone Fay, tonight you shall join us, but first, you must learn of the gravity that your position holds. Our Society is effective only through the complete adherence to the customs that have withstood the test of seventy-five years. I shall now read them, to remind you and everyone else of their importance.”
He wheezed and lifted the paper. “First and foremost, one must never speak of the Society to anyone. Everywhere, there are spies just waiting to sabotage our operations. Second, one must commit oneself fully to the missions and deeds of the Society, even unto death. Treason is punishable by torture, and traitors of our purpose will never be allowed to die. Third, and lastly, if one perceives a child to have uncanny magical ability, one must notify superior officers immediately. The young ones will be surveilled throughout their school days and deemed worthy to join at age seventeen. These are the laws upon which every other law in the Society is built. One must adhere to them, so long as one should live.”
Director Knockturn raised his brow imperiously at me, as an owl would eye a prospective mouse. “Are you ready now to swear your allegiance to the Society, Ms. Fay?”
If I weren’t, I wouldn’t tell you. It would cost me my life, wouldn’t it? “Yes.”
“So be it, then.”
A man came out of the shadowy stands and stood in front of the Directors. He bowed deeply to them, as if he were in worship of their terrifying power. Slowly, he turned to face me, and at the sight of his face, I almost lost my composure.
Here was my final test.
“Ms. Fay,” Director Warrick began, continuing the rotation of speakers. “All of the members in this Society are linked by the most powerful pact: the Unbreakable Vow. Each new member is sworn in, by a fashion, in this manner. This man was inducted last month, and thus, the duty befalls him of making the Unbreakable Vow with you…”
He continued to speak, but I could not listen. An Unbreakable Vow, and with none other than this man… The agonizing slowness of the ceremony ground to a halt. His eyes met mine, and I saw no trace of empathy or friendship. He hated me for being who I was. I refused to break under the strain of his gaze, but my blood ran cold. His was a face that I knew too well, and that was no accident. The directors knew what they were doing.
“…Now, please extend your right hand, Ms. Fay.”
Like an automaton, I obeyed. The man stepped forward and grasped it; his fingers warm to my cold touch. Our gazes were still locked, his lamp-like emerald eyes burning holes into mine. He knew me, but he was ashamed of what he had to do.
I longed to whisper to him, to make him remember the past, but it was not safe to do so. The past was over, and here we stood. It was too late for apologies.
Wand light flared around us. Arnold, naturally, was the one to cast the spell that would bind me to my fate. He swallowed, the light from his wand casting grim shadows on his face. This was his last act as my mentor.
“Do you swear to forever uphold the laws of the Society?”
Arnold’s voice was muffled, as if he spoke from behind a thick curtain. I tried to read his facial expression, but I could not tear my eyes away from the eyes of the person whose hand was in mine. I wanted to communicate to this man how sorry I was, how much I wanted him to forgive our past…
We were good friends once, best friends. And now we were strangers. There was no compassion in his face.
“Do you promise to do what you are asked, no matter what the cost?”
“Do you henceforth swear your allegiance, body, mind, heart, and soul, to the goals and motives that we all must support?”
“Very well. It is done.”
The wand light vanished. His hand left mine quickly and he disappeared back into the shadows. He who was once so close to me was now all too eager to get away from me.
Director Bramble raised his hand again to quell the deafening murmurs in the room. He smiled sardonically, revealing crooked yellowing teeth. “Ms. Persephone Fay, we welcome you to our Society. May you never fail in your endeavors.”
I curtsied low, hating them for subordinating me. You’ve taken away my family, my friends, and now my freedom, you bastards. You knew I had no choice but to come when you called.
When I looked up at the Directors again, they were smiling wryly. Director Bramble cleared his ancient throat once more. “That is all. The ceremony is adjourned.”
Excellent. I turned to escape amidst the crowd of mumbling men, but Arnold grabbed my arm. “No, Ms. Fay. Your ordeal is not yet over.”
“Have they not taken away enough from me tonight?” I sighed, half-exhausted. “Can they not leave me my time in exchange?”
“They request that you receive a tour so that you will know the scope of our organization.”
“And who will guide me? You?” I laughed in derision. “You have suffered enough humiliation as my mentor.”
“Ms. Fay, this is David Weatherly,” Arnold glanced between us. “But I think you already knew that.”
He was right. The man I had just made an Unbreakable Vow with was the boy I had grown up with.
It seemed that he too had been caught in this inexhaustible struggle.