.:: Navigation ::.

Stories marked with a * contain MATURE CONTENT and if you are under the age of 18 you are forbidden to view these stories.

~:: A Proper Schooling - Chapter V ::~

“Greetings to you, DeLara,” the woman said. “Please, enter.”

She motioned with her hand towards a door at the end of the dimly lit hallway. They entered the small parlor where she bade them sit on the chairs that were arranged in a small half circle.

The woman pulled the ancient carved mahogany pocket doors closed with a grating rasp, and locked them with a skeleton key. She turned to them and gave them a thin smile. “I,” she said in a solemn tone, “am Mary Macomber. I am the leader of the group of sorceresses known as the Cabal. We have an outstanding program in arcane studies here, which we quietly oversee for the local branch of the Paragon City University. We are rather particular when accepting new students. Let it suffice to say that I do not take those who wear the label of 'hero' at face value. The title does not impress me. What does impress me,” she paused as she turned and faced the child directly, “is a willingness to learn.”

Adara looked up at the woman with a mixture of fear and admiration.

“Let us see what you are capable of, my dear,” Mary said as she motioned the girl to stand and approach her. Waving her hands and muttering a few guttural syllables into the dry air, she summoned a ghostly apparition. Adara took a step back.

“It can do you no real harm, my child. Show me how you might deal with it as if it posed a threat.”

Adara cocked her head to one side, assessing the level of danger. Raising her small fist, she used her demonic power to drain strength from the spectre and add it to her own. Taking a step back, she channeled a burst of cold, negative energy. The first flare of dark power missed, but she instantly widened her stance and fired a second shot which struck the apparition dead on. As it tried to dodge her assault she manipulated the kinetic forces surrounding it, slowing its movement while accelerating her own.

The wizened elder woman exchanged a knowing smile with the child's mother. “Demonic, she is. But pure in thought and deed. Why then does she command the energies of darkness?”

Azazela bowed her head politely as she spoke, “Her father is a Warshade. The dark quantum energies he exposed the both of us to while the child was yet unborn caused her to emerge with this inherent control over negative energy.”

Mary turned to Cale and smiled. “Interesting. This may prove a subject worthy of further investigation, sir. It is my understanding that before you were joined to the Nictus, you were, yourself, an Archmage?”

He nodded as he shifted in his chair. The subject of his former title was still somewhat painful for him as he had not willingly given up the ways of the arcane. He still harbored some sense of resentment towards Balregu for so rudely ending his career just as it seemed to reach a pinnacle of success.

“Though you no longer have the unrestricted access to your magics, the knowledge is still within you. I expect you to impart to your child all that you can in order to help her develop her potential. Your choice to have a child with a demonic being who bears an inherent supernatural power was a wise one. This child will benefit not only from the knowledge of the arcane arts, but will be able to magnify her knowledge with raw power that is part of her supernatural heritage.”

Cale swallowed hard, not wanting to go into the small detail that the mating had not necessarily been his idea. He shot a look towards Azazela who was blushing furiously and intently studying the intricate pattern in the well-worn ancient rug.

The woman's voice softened, taking on an almost grandmotherly tone as she dismissed the ghostly image she'd summoned. “Miss Adara Westmarch, you are accepted into the ranks of our small academy. I will expect you to do your very best as you complete your studies here.”

“Yes'm,” Adara answered meekly as she smiled at the elder sorceress.

“Now,” Mary said, smiling at Dawl, “we shall all have a lovely cup of my favorite brew. It is a mixture of exotic teas, rich spices, with just a sprinkle of enchanted powder mixed in. It is guaranteed to cure all that may ail you.”

Dawl grinned and stood to shake Mary's hand. “Thank you, Mary.”

“No need for thanks, DeLara,” Mary answered, her tone turning sober. “You impressed me long ago with your skill and your caring spirit. I do not take such things lightly. How is young Zakai? And little Sheken?”

“Zakai does well. I can't keep him away from the books. Sheken, on the other hand…” Dawl sighed deeply. “Well, let us just say that she is reaching a difficult, rebellious age. She isn't so little any more.”

“Ah, I understand,” Mary said knowingly with a wink. “She's discovered the other gender, I take it.”

Dawl made a dour face. “That is putting it mildly. She doesn't have the love of learning that Zakai has. She only wants to seek fun and pleasure. I blame myself in part for this.”

Mary laughed. “I am sure she will outgrow this phase and develop into a fine young lady.”

Dawl embraced Mary in a warm hug, thanking her again. Azazela and Cale rose from there seats. Adara approached her mother and clung to her leg. “Mommy, do I have to stay here now?”

Az looked questioningly at Mary. “Not yet,” the woman answered. “Classes are not in session at this time. They will being again next week, upon the rise of the full moon. You will report back here an hour before moonrise. At that time you will be given all you need to begin your studies.”

“Thank you,” Azazela said softly as she shook the elder woman's hand.

Mary shuddered involuntarily. “It be as though a ghost passed over my grave,” she whispered urgently to the statuesque blonde. “Azazela, I must need speak with you before you leave. My girls will see to the needs of the others.” Turning, she withdrew the skeleton key and unlocked the massive doors, pushing them open. She clapped her hands and two young Adepts appeared bearing trays filled with steaming mugs of Mary's infamous elixir. “Excuse us, please,” Mary addressed the others as she took Azazela's hand. “I have a few details I must discuss with the child's mother.”

Azazela followed her out the back door and down a small path that led to a quiet glen in the dense woods.

“I dare not say this in front of your family,” Mary intoned in a hushed voice. “As I took your hand, I had a vision of your not too distant future. I cannot tell you all that will happen but I foresee a terribly bad omen approaching. But there is light, a great light, following it closely, at the space of three very dark days.”

Azazela looked into her eyes and saw years of power and experience. Her empathic senses told her that the woman bore her no ill will. She was merely speaking the truth.

“Thank you for being forthright with me in this matter, and thank you for sparing my family from this information.”

“May it be that all will end well for you. Your service to those of humanity will not go unrewarded.”

With that, the woman turned and walked briskly back the path, leaving the demoness to follow her with as she considered these things that had been revealed.

Cale gave her an odd look as she followed the sorceress back into the cozy parlor. Her slight shiver was not a product of the damp cool of the forest. “Everything okay?” he asked quietly.

Az nodded with a twinge of guilt. She hated feeling like she was being deceitful.

The brew was indeed warm and delicious. Az felt much more calm after a few sips. Adara crawled up into her father's lap and within a few minutes was sleeping soundly. Mary and Dawl chatted about times past as old friends do. Finally it was time to leave and they bade goodbye to the ladies of the Cabal. Azazela took the sleeping Adara from her father's arms and held her close as they retraced their former steps down the darkened street. In addition to the soft glow of the occasional street lamps, a few oddly placed trees seemed to burn with a mystical fire, indicating that things were not always what they seemed in this place.

As they boarded the train, she leaned close to Cale and instinctively took his hand in her own. He looked up at her with a smile. “Tired?” She merely nodded in answer.

“I am tired, too,” he said quietly. “It's been a long day. What do you say to tucking the little one in and going to bed early ourselves?” He gave her a wry smile. “Err, going to sleep early.”

She smiled down at him and nodded. Suddenly she felt very drained. “Thank you for suggesting that we enroll Adara in this school. I feel we have made the best choice.”

He smiled. “I only want what's best for our child.”

As the train pulled into the station at Talos, Az turned to Dawl. “We are going to use the telepad in the base to return to Kings Row. Thank you for your help in this matter.”

Dawl blushed. “It was nothing. Really.” She kissed the sleeping child gently on her forehead. “See you in the morning?”

“Perhaps,” Az murmured. “I was considering taking tonight and tomorrow off and just spending some time with Adara, before she must go away to school.” Her eyes began to mist up at the thought. Cale squeezed her hand gently.

“I think that's a great idea. Perhaps we can take her to Perez Park for a picnic,” he said.

Entering the base, he followed Az to the telepad that would transport them nearly to the front door of her building in Kings Row. Within minutes, they were inside the small flat. Adara fussed sleepily as her mother pulled off the dress in a rustle of chiffon and lace. Once she was bundled in her warm pajamas, and safely ensconced in her small bed, Azazela took Cale's hand and led him towards her bed and the promise of peaceful sleep.

The family slept soundly, blissfully unware of a malevolent force that was at that very moment making dire plans to destroy the peace that reigned over their existence…