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Aradia Gates was born on Wednesday, October 31, 1973 at 3:33 AM. That was the exact time of the death of her mother, Aurora, as well. Robert Gates gained a daughter and lost a wife on the same day. As happy as Robert was with the birth of someone he created, the loss of the love of his life was soul-numbing. He would be fortunate that he would not have to feel this pain for long.
Robert was born of Polish and German parents during World War II. Tragically, they were killed, and he was sent to an Orphanage where he was eventually adopted by an affluent elderly couple that wanted the joy of raising the child they were unable to have. Robert was raised with the New York elite, but was never fully accepted by his peers as he was seen as a poor immigrant, robbing the Gates Family of their money and stature. He truly never felt as though he fit in. He was tall with the deepest blue eyes and a solid square jaw that would be considered attractive by most people’s standards. Yet he still had that Eastern European look that made him stand out as not one of the American Blue Bloods.
Robert found solace in architecture. He devoured everything he could about the engineering feats of the ancients that still stood to this day. Be it the Egyptians to the Chinese, he was astounded. He wanted to see these great works of art before he died, to touch them, to make them real in his life. He went to Yale—to make his adoptive parents happy—to study ancient architecture. He wanted to become a professor and writer. Robert wanted to be accepted for his mind and discoveries, things that can only be earned, that no amount of wealth could buy.
It was not too long after Robert graduated from Yale that his father died. His mother died six months after from what was probably a broken heart. She was advanced in age, but had exceptional health. She loved her husband so much that Robert believed she could not go on without him. Robert hoped he could be part of something that powerful one day.
To get over the loss of his adoptive parents, he decided it was time to see the works of his dreams in Europe. He wanted to connect with something now that he was alone. He wanted to be part of something bigger than just himself. He started in England, and would work his way south into Italy, and then finish with Egypt. Fortunately for Robert, his plans took on a decidedly different turn.
Robert was in France at a café, overlooking the Seine River, having coffee and reading about the construction of the Pont Neuf, when a woman bumped him from behind. The bump was jarring enough to knock his coffee into his lap. He jumped out of his chair immediately with fresh coffee burning his leg, to see who could be so rude to slam into him. And he turned, and he lost his breath. She was beautiful. Her brown eyes showed concern and empathy to what she had just done—she had fallen off her bike and landed against him. When Robert saw what was an obvious accident, his pain immediately went away, and turned into complete concern to the vision in front of him. He reached out a hand to help her up as she was apologizing in French, rapidly, and repetitively.
Robert had studied French for years so that the conversation between the two was fluent. He was immediately entranced by the sparkle in her eyes, and her wavy dark brown hair. But when she spoke, her words were like air. He felt to breathe he needed to speak with her more. Apparently, she was learning how to ride a bike, and her friend had suggested the best way to learn was to just go and ride. She introduced herself as Aurora Toscano who was on holiday. She was visiting from Rome for the week to celebrate graduating from University.
When she noticed the coffee stain on his lap, she apologized again, and offered to take him to dinner to make it up to him. She would meet him that night at the same café at nine o’clock, where they would go to this local French brasserie that she knew. Robert was told to dress casual so as not to upset the locals. She told Robert that sometimes to feel the joy of something new, you must blend in and become part of those that are enjoying themselves. Aurora said the word for it is la mescolanza in Italian as she knew it. Until then, he was told to rest up and get dry as they would have a long night.
Robert arrived as planned, and he was awestruck at Aurora’s beauty. In his eyes, she simply glowed. She brought him to Le Procope, a brasserie known as much for its historic guest list as much as the cuisine. Aurora knew that Robert would be thrilled about the place as she saw that only one, enamored with the Pont Neuf architecture, would adore being in the same place as Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. They shared wine and food, and spoke for hours. The more she spoke, the more he fell for her. It was not her beauty; it was what she had to say. Her words carried depth and meaning. Ideas laced with wisdom that made the mind wander and thirst for more knowledge and understanding of life itself. It was her voice that made it all the perfect recipe for his heart.
Robert learned that she studied literature at University. She loved the writers of the past, and how they could weave words on looms of ideas to make the clothes for the mind, that was how Aurora phrased it. She had an incredible ear for language as she spoke so many. The older the language, the more she wanted to learn it. Aurora believed that the ancients had secrets that only those, that could live by La Mescolanza, would find the real truth behind the words and meanings. Robert felt like they were going into a dark place the way she spoke about some books; the rarity, the subject matter, why people were not allowed to read them. The subject matter was always about the occult. Aurora said that it was the uneasiness she felt when approaching some texts that was something that made her feel most alive. But mostly because she knew that at the end of the day, she would be able to be wrapped up in a blanket of sonnets and rhythmic cadences of the true master bard, Shakespeare.
After midnight, and much wine later, the brasseries turned into a competition where the patrons would stand and deliver a recital of literature past. Robert picked up that the most obscure and profound was the audience favorite. Aurora insisted that Robert deliver a passage. As he was an architect by nature, his best verse in French was an old dirty limerick with very suggestive content that was able to draw some laughs, but he was quickly heckled back into his chair. The current leader of the evening was a gentleman of some snobbery by the name of Constantine, who was very proud of the way he navigated a poem by the Surrealist poet Paul Eluard. Then he began to heckle Aurora. Robert, for the first time in his life was angry on behalf of another. He cared for the way that her intellectual honor was at stake, and he knew that in this arena that was meant for those with literary weapons whose words would cut deeper than any knife ever could, he was un-armed. He felt useless. Knowing that devolving to the physical would make her look just as weak as himself, he restrained himself, but for the angry glare he shot at Constantine.
It was at this moment that Aurora looked away from her tormentor and stared at Robert, an enormous smile crossing her face. Her eyes lit up, and a calmness swept over him. Without a word said, his anger turned to empathy for the emotional hurt Constantine was about to receive for the unneeded misogyny that he piled upon what he thought was his fragile Aurora. He knew from her smile that she would never need anyone to act as shield or protector for her. That Aurora was a lioness, the hunter of her pride. And with the slight touch of her hand on his, Aurora stood up to some applause, and began what would be spoken of for years to come.
With the clearing of her throat and a little calming of the crowd with her hands, she started her assault. First Aurora started with Le Jeune Parque by Paul Valery, which brought the crowd to a multitude of cheers. By itself the recitation would bring down the house. But before the people finished clapping, she walked over to Constantine, and put her hand on his shoulder, and looked him squarely in the eyes. She slowly began Alphonse De Lamartine’s La Chute D’un Ange. Upon finishing, Constantine was red in the face and sat down in his chair. He knew he had brought this embarrassment on himself, and she was tormenting him with every syllable, so sweetly divine coming from her lips. He was equally angry and in awe at what he was witnessing. While the din of the crowd came to an end, Aurora looked down upon Constantine, like a mother soothing a child, and smiled. Then she turned to face the brasserie and recited "Ballad des Dames du Temps Jadis" by the fifteenth century poet Francois Villon.
Upon finishing, Aurora walked back to the table with Robert staring in amazement. She sauntered back like a lioness hunting her prey, smiling with every stride. She took his head in her hands, and kissed him firmly on the lips. She was in control of their relationship from that moment on. Whatever thoughts he may have had that he was taking the lead, they were dashed right away. It occurred to him then that the moment after their meeting that afternoon, she easily got on her bike and rode off down the rue. She picked him up. She was always in command, and he was comfortable with it. He smiled broadly, and told as much about her cycling skills. Her head slung back in laughter, her hair in tow. Yes, yes she had played him, and he was the better for it.
To show no bad intentions, she invited Constantine and his friends to come with them for the rest of the evening. He accepted and the troupe was now at seven. Seven people walking the streets of Paris, drinking wine, and spouting poetry. When the darkness of night was beginning to fade, the Troupe went their separate ways, and Aurora had Robert walk her back to her apartment. She invited him inside where she kissed him again, hugged him, and told him it was time for bed. They curled up together in her small bed, and very quickly passed out to the rising sun.
The next few days flew by as Robert and Aurora were inseparable. She was his personal tour guide to Paris. She was due to head back to Roma, and resume her life when Robert asked if he could see her there. She kissed and hugged him. Yes, a million times yes. He insisted he get a hotel room to make sure that she was comfortable, and that they were not moving too fast. She flatly said no. She gave him a deep kiss. The kiss that is the sign that lovers know. Again, she was taking the lead.
One week in Roma turned into a month, then six months. Before long, Roma was Robert’s home. With all the money that was left to him by his parents, they wanted to live small. They knew all of their neighbors. Robert had met all of her friends, who were all women. They all had a different interest that occupied them; botany, metallurgy, geology. There was nothing too small that her friends did not know. As long as Aurora had her monthly outing with her friends, everything was happy at home. The more time that passed, he wanted to know what it was that she did with her friends. He was usually given some excuse that was typically beneath her level. But he insisted and was stubborn about it.
On their second anniversary, Robert was set on marrying Aurora. The ring was made from her Birthstone of Opal; so special was this cut that it was fluorescent in some lights. It was cut like a diamond, and inlaid in platinum. It was nothing more than perfect for Aurora. When she came back from work that night, she told him that she needed to show him something before he said another word. Again, with her being able to sense things and take the lead. She brought him to a small shop down the street from their apartment. The doorway was fairly dark and uninviting. It looked to be an antique shop for the very eclectic. The store was closed, but Aurora took out a key and opened the door for them, and quickly locked it behind them.
As Robert looked around the room, he could see that the items appeared to be used in the occult or some kind of paganism. These looked to be very genuine. Aurora led him through an old burgundy door that had flakes of paint missing, showing that it was originally black. The door was very old, like it was the salon of an old manse at one point, but the house was no longer there. The door opened to stairs that went down for two flights. She lit a large black candle, and led him down the stairs. Because he was so nervous about asking for her hand, he hadn’t really noticed that she was wearing a black cape that also had a hood that she had put over her head.
As they got to the landing at the bottom of the stairs, all the candles whose light he could see from the stairs were lit all the way around the room; black, white, and red candles of varying height and thickness. On the floor, in the middle of the room was, a large image of three large triangles intertwined with a large circle drawn around it. Each point of each triangle had an icon on it made of colored chalk. The entire image was mesmerizing. Aurora turned to face Robert, and looked him squarely in the eyes. She told him her story, as she was a witch. She had been practicing all her life. She was a master of tongues and the written word. She was able to learn any language and decipher any text. She could feel the emotions of a writer by merely touching a page. She could hear thoughts in the ink. She was the witch that made sure that the past was never forgotten. Her job in life was to find the oldest of texts and decipher them for today to be read and understood.
Robert was stunned at first, but this revelation made everything make sense. Aurora told him how she knew he was right for her the moment she saw him. His eyes were so pure and kind. How open his mind was to the world around him. She had felt his soul on a page he wrote years ago in New York while she was there, searching for texts. His notes from an old architecture script were left inside the text by accident… and they spoke to her. She looked for him ever after only learning who he was while reading about the death of his adoptive parents. She was able to follow him from there. But at the end of the day, she was a witch. A witch that was part of a coven that went back millennia. If she were to wed, she would need to find a man whose soul could bound off a page, and whose written words were a love letter to his art. A man that had some little bit of magic in him. A special man. Robert Gates. She asked then, removing her hood with her soul looking up through her eyes to his. Would he marry her? Not tomorrow, not in a year. Would he marry her right then and there?
Robert was stunned. He was at a loss for words. So much was going through his head. If he married her, he marries the coven. The coven would come before him. Could he accept that and make the decision now. He had been with her for two years. In that time, he had traveled the world with his best friend. She was able to teach him things that weren’t in books about the architecture that he so loved. He had made friends with the women in her coven, and that made sure that no harm came to her. She just opened up a door that could not be closed, and he was being welcomed inside. The only change in his life is that he would know.
Aurora asked him that, if he was willing to take this leap, he would have to step into the middle of the circle with her to be bound for eternity. Instead of thinking, he felt. And he recognized that the emotions he was feeling were excitement, eagerness, and wonder. And with a grin, Robert carefully stepped into the center of the ring, and took her hands in his. At this moment, the rest of her coven came into the large basement room wearing white cloaks with the same hoods. Fiamma came to them, and circled both their wrists on each hand with ivy, rosemary, and yarrow. In Aurora's left hand and Robert’s right, a rose was placed for them to hold. In the opposite hand, a bouquet of sunflowers, iris, and peony. The rest of the coven spread around them at specific parts of each triangle. There were thanks given to each element of the earth, and to Mother Nature herself. And then they were wed. Fiamma had to remind Robert that there was a ring in his pocket that he should probably give to her now. Aurora, of course knew that he had a ring, but like this, it was perfect. Aurora and Fiamma took their perspective places on the circle, and that is when a warm breeze swept through the circle with aroma of a wet forest after the rain, so clean and fresh.
The 1970s started off so well. They were always traveling; Aurora looking for old books and manuscripts while Robert was enjoying the architecture where they would find themselves. He often used his credentials as being an accepted academic and writer in the more accredited universities around the world. This would give Aurora the access she was once denied, but also the motivation that Robert needed to keep writing.
One afternoon, Robert was asking questions about witchcraft and demons, angels, and everything. Aurora knew this time would come, and she was prepared. This caught her bit off guard as the timing was perfect for what she had to tell him. Magic can only be done by those who are strong with it. No person can just pick up a spell book and summon a ghost or god. The book itself had to be made with magic on special paper with special ink. Most spells are not very strong or don't last long, and will disappear upon uttering the incantation. But there are grimoires that were made by the wisest of all the witches and wizards that can never be destroyed. Most of them were written to help with health in farms and animals. To heal someone from strong sickness or bad humors, otherwise known as curses. And there is the other side to magic; the dark side. There are demons and evil warlocks that do their bidding. There are witches that do cruel magic to live in this plane as their power is very weak on the other side. The spell will demand what it needs to come into existence. Only very few can make the strongest of spells or grimoires. And depending on the subject, the demands will always take a toll on the author. As Aurora had explained before, your soul goes into your writing, and if that was done for evil purposes, your soul would go mad with distortion and cruelty. So as you write on paper, you carve into your soul. And this will come with you to the next plane… forever.
You see, those with magic do not go to the same place as those without. There are different planes. As long as you have just the tiniest bit, you will move on the other planes. Robert has that tiny bit. Just enough so that when they both move on from this world, they will be able to find each other in the next. No matter the plane, no matter the time, they will always find each other for eternity. Robert was not born with it, but with the way he spoke about his adoptive parents, Aurora believes that they somehow instilled it into him. It would have been strong magic, something that would have taken two people to do, but it was obviously out of love.
Magic is usually passed down generation to generation. Sometimes it may skip, but it will continue as long as you have a daughter. And with that said, Aurora looked up into Robert’s blue eyes and smiled. It took him a moment, and then he realized what Aurora was saying. She was having a baby. To Aurora, it was a miracle, as she never thought she could conceive. But it was also a girl. Aurora was going to have a baby girl that she would be able to teach as her Nana had taught her. She was also not prepared with the pregnancy as well. Aurora had to learn and be prepared for the changes that would occur while pregnant. First was to find a replacement for her in the coven, as she could not give them her full time as needed, especially having to raise a child. The coven was happy for her, and they would always be there if she needed help. Aurora would still look for and decipher texts, but her main duties to the coven would now be done by Becca, a twenty-nine-year-old witch with abilities to communicate with animals. She was a bit flighty, but she knew what came in the winds by having ears in every corner. Becca took her place on the new angle just as Aurora was entering her fourth month.
This is when she need Magdalena the most. Magdalena had been a mother before with a daughter who had abilities. When Aurora came to her about her first dream, Magdalena sent her away as she needed to do some research. Aurora said she saw a little girl with dark brown hair, like her own with the big blue eyes the color of the purest sea. The little girl told Aurora in her dream that she liked the name Aradia, and that she wanted that to be her name. She then told Aurora that she had to sleep some more before the next time they chat. It is said it is not uncommon for the unborn child to come to the mother in dreams as visions, but usually in the last week of the pregnancy. And never had the child spoke. Magdalena looked through all her materials and reached out to other coven mothers for answers.
This curiosity reached several ears, and specifically one pair that changed everything for the perfect couple. Those ears belonged to Lamia, a cursed witch that had been banished by the first woman of Eden herself, Lilith. Lamia had a talent to glamor those around her so that she could get what she desired. She used her power to gain favor for position, and to feed her more primal desires, regardless of who that person may be. When she used her charms on her entire coven to become their sorceress, Lilith stepped in and banished her from all covens in the future. She was able to keep her powers, but she was a pariah in her small part of the world. When Lamia heard of the talking unborn, she thought only to speak with Lilith to get back in her good graces, and get a coven of her own. A coven that could practice the dark arts as she believed that her power bestowed. Lilith is known among all religions and practices as many things. She is known as the first wife of Adam, and for being thrown from Eden, because she would not yield to a man, insisting equality. She is said to have turned into a serpent, and also the one that gave knowledge to man through the test of the apple. Lilith was also cursed with a barren womb. Because she could not have children, those that worshipped her could not either.
When Lilith found out about the talking unborn from Lamia, Lamia would get her coven, only if the rumors were true. One night, while Aurora was sleeping, she dreamt of a beautiful woman with fiery red hair suckling a child with dark brown hair. She could not see the child’s face, but the woman glared at Aurora nonetheless. The child seemed to drink more voraciously until it stopped, coughed very hard, then fell limp in the woman’s arms. The head was tilted back to show the face of the unborn Aradia. The woman screamed at Aurora in unearthly tones that she was Lilith, Queen of Hell, and that no Practicer of the Arts in her name would every carry a child to term. The unborn had drunk deeply from the bosom of death, and she would now be stillborn with her poison soon to rot the mother from the inside out. She started to scream in her dream, and it carried over as Robert was shaking her awake. She was sweating and shaking violently. Robert could only think to call Magdalena who came over immediately.
Aurora told Magdalena about the dream after having a specially-made herbal tea. Magdalena became concerned, and thought that there was only one sure place to go for the safety of the unborn. The only compromise was that Robert could not go with them as he would be perceived as a threat. Robert had always trusted Aurora, so he would agree to this journey. He would be given sanctuary for the time being with a warlock friend of Fiamma, Gwydion. Gwydion was considered an elder who had lived for centuries, if not millennia. He was very strong with the Green Arts, and was fabled to rejuvenate each spring to maintain his youthful appearance. The coven would be no place for the father of the unborn talker. Not that the coven would harm Robert, but what could happen to the Coven by Lilith’s hand. Since they had removed her at the first signs of pregnancy, and have had no hand in helping with the unborn coming to term, they should be considered safe.
Aurora and Magdalena set out the next day for Ronda, Spain. Driving would not be possible for a time, so they took a chance and flew into Gibraltar, and drove the rest of the way. They were to meet with Bes, an Ancient. He would be able to know what to do if there was a problem. He was well-versed in the ways of childbirth and protecting the innocent. They arrived at his Vineyard late in the evening that first day. Bes greeted them at the door. He looked to be a distinguished man with rugged looks and lightly greyed hair. His Spanish accent made him very charismatic, that made them both feel sage. Bes had already heard of the unborn talker and was thrilled that Aurora was there at all. After a few shared exchanges of kindness, Bes was told about the nightmare. He immediately placed his hands on her belly to feel if there was something wrong. After a few minutes, a look of concern came over his face.
Bes told them that in order to help, he will have to go into her dream and speak with the unborn. At this point she corrected him, and told him it was Aradia. That her daughter would be called Aradia. Bes gave her a tonic that relaxed her, and shortly thereafter, put her to sleep. Her last waking vision was of Bes sitting next to her, eyes closed, with his hands on her belly. She seemed to have traveled through a fog until she came to a serene shoreline with white sand and blue waters. Aurora could see a large, muscular man with a very long dark beard that had long dark hair. He did not look it, but she could tell it was Bes. She felt it. He was talking with Aradia who was picking up seashells and bringing them to Bes to inspect. Aurora heard giggling and laughter from them both. She tried to walk to them, but something was blocking her from getting closer. The harder she tried, the more difficult it became to move. She saw Aradia sit down in front of Bes, and appeared as though they were talking to each other. Suddenly, Aradia turned to her and waved, telling her she loved her mommy. And then it was dark with deep sleep.
Aurora woke the next day late in the afternoon. She woke to an amazing breakfast, with the freshest of fruit and vegetables she had ever tasted. With every bite she felt a strength come to her that she had never known. She felt reborn. She went for a walk with Magdalena outside the villa along the ancient streets of a small town that was know for its ancient conquest and battlements that still exist today. Aurora thought how much Robert would love this place. The Roman Baths alone would have made for a case study. But this town was small and safe. Bes repetitively apologized that she was unable to sample from his vineyard. He joked how he had to slow his efforts on most of his yield so that his wine was not too good to draw attention to himself, or his vineyard. But his personal label; it literally was the gift of a god.
Aurora eagerly waited for when she could speak to Bes about the dream. He summoned her later that night, and placed two glasses in front her of what looked to be two types of wine. Bes looked up to Magdalena and asked for her to leave, as this moment was for Aurora and Aurora alone. Whatever decision that she makes, will have to be for her and her alone. Bes was not privy as well. When Magdalena left, Bes turned to Aurora and explained the options in front of her. When he finished, Bes left her with only her thoughts and her tears. She left that night by car. She preferred to drive now. The journey would take a couple of days, but it would afford her the time to think. Bes had told Aurora that regardless of her decision, she would forget all that happened when she reached home. Robert would be just as aloof.
When Aurora made it home, she was a different person. She felt as though she and Magdalena had gone on a lady’s get away while her husband spent some much needed male bonding time before they had Aradia. Their apartment seemed different in a way, but change was in the air due to the preparation for the baby. Aurora was three months from her due date. She preferred to sleep, as every time she went to bed, she spoke with Aradia in her dreams. The tone of the conversations were more complex as the time went by. Aradia had questions about things she had yet to see. She told Aurora that because if she had seen it, then so will Aradia. All her thoughts and emotions, Aradia could experienced them. These complex emotions being explained to what amounted to a small child. But the closer the due date came, Aurora realized that Aradia was growing. She was no longer the small child, but she was an early teen, awkward and gangly. Soon she was a teen, and blossoming into womanhood. Every morning she would wake and give every detail to Robert where he added to a journal that he had started when Aurora started describing the dreams. Aurora went to sleep one night late in October, days before her due date. When she arrived, she saw Aradia, grown. Aradia was a beautiful young woman with her mother’s hair, chin, and nose, but had her father’s eyes and jaw. She was demure in stature, but moved with power and poise. She commanded respect by just a gaze. And when she smiled, the world around her lit up, and a calm came over Aurora. Aradia asked if Robert would be able to find the letter. Aurora was a bit confused, but part of her remembered mailing a letter that morning, as if it was a memory of a forgotten dream. This made her smile.
The pain started late in the evening, with the contractions getting very close together. Aurora woke from a deep sleep that she could hardly recall, but she still felt calm. Robert was able to grab her over-night bag, into the car, and onward to the hospital. Aurora was immediately checked in and their doctor was notified. She was two days early. When midnight came, a pain suddenly engulfed Aurora in every nerve of her body. The machines attached to her lit up and set off alarms. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Doctors and nurses poured into the room, shuffling Robert outside. His happiness and eagerness turned to dread in an instant. Everything started happening in slow motion. He called Magdalena who came immediately with Gwydion as he needed as much support as possible. They were all kept in the waiting room as the time on the clock slowly slipped by. The screams that Aurora was making chilled everyone to the bone. Gwydion had to restrain Robert to keep him from getting in the way of the staff. All who came out of the room were covered in one way or another with an inky black fluid that when smeared, turned to a dark shade of green.
And in an instance, the screaming stopped. A minute passed. Then two. Then the sound of a baby crying came loudly out of the delivery room. Magdalena turned to Gwydion to tell him that this changes everything. The delivery doctor rushed into the waiting room, and quickly ushered Robert into the delivery room. He offered his condolences and congratulations. The doctor said he had never seen anything like this. Whatever was in her womb was trying to attack the baby, and every time, it seemed as though Aurora absorbed it herself, causing all of damage that would have been to the baby, to her. The moment the baby was born, the attacks stopped and she died. The nurses had Aradia swaddled and cleaned in an incubator that was quickly being rolled to pediatrics. What was before Robert was the shell of a warrior that battled for life. Her skin was purple in color, and her veins could be seen through her skin that appeared to be that same inky back color. Robert knew Aurora. Every movement she made, every look, every smell. And he could tell that her dying thought that was expressed on her face was a triumphant smile. She had beaten something, and he would be cursed with not knowing for the rest of his days. The doctor gave him a card for a wealthy businessman who runs a support group for widowers. The card read that Joshua Corvo could be reached any time. He smirked and put it in his back pocket.
Robert was able to take Aradia home two days later. Magdalena was there to help as Robert had no one to help. Bes arrived about a week later to stay as well. The depression that Robert felt was debilitating. He could hardly move out of bed, eat, or sleep. He had to force himself to hold Aradia, and even then, there was a bitterness when she was in his arms. Not an animosity toward her, but a deep nausea that would overwhelm him. It seemed to get worse the longer he was with her. Then one day he received a letter in an oversized envelope that was post marked for one month after sending. It was in Aurora’s handwriting. For the first time in his life, he could feel the guilt and sadness in the paper; as though she had given him her gift for this moment.
He locked himself in his room and poured himself a tall glass of tequila and took it all down. He opened the letter and read. Magdalena, Gwydion, and Bes waited patiently for Robert to leave his room. It was hours later when he finally came out. He was clean and groomed. He seemed as though a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He thanked them all for helping him, and asked if they would not mind watching Aradia as he went to this support group. It was a sound idea. It would get Robert out of the house, and give him an opportunity to speak with someone about his loss. Especially someone who does not look like they came from the world that took his beloved.
The doctor was not kidding when he said that Mr. Corvo was rich. A town car was sent to pick him up and bring him to the manse. Robert agreed to come early to get acquainted with the manse and to feel more at home. The idea is one can feel more secure when they have at least one person they can say is familiar to them. Joshua Corvo looked exactly as expected. Along in age, white hair, pale skin. But he was very well groomed, and his suit was obviously tailored for him. He insisted to be called Joshua. He then gave Robert a tour of the manse. The lower part was very humble and welcoming. The furniture and walls were set very middle class. The rooms appeared staged to help anyone feel safe and comfortable with items that most families would have. Joshua knew how to help people, and had probably been doing this for some time. Joshua said that he normally didn’t tour the second floor, but because of Robert’s background in architecture, he would love to get Robert’s opinion on some of his collections before the other guests come.
The second floor was covered in museum quality pieces that spanned millennia. Rich tapestries hung on the walls with marble busts and vases peppered throughout. Robert thoroughly appreciated this type of diversion. His adrenaline was pulsing for the first time in months over what historic treasure he was to explore next. The two walked into a dark room that had a wooden pedestal in the middle of what appeared to be a block of iron. An overhead light that was pointed directly on the iron was the only light in the room. Not that something like that was unusual, but the room was on the larger size, and could easily be filled with more historical treasures. Before Robert could ask about the significance of the metal, Joshua walked him through the history of this specific piece.
The pitted metal rock that was cleanly sheared off on one side was rather large, maybe six feet in length and two feet wide. The shorn part looked as though gold flecks were somehow part of the metal itself. The story goes that Leonardo Di Vinci was able to turn iron into gold using a special stone and alchemy. This was the actual stone with the gold in the iron as the proof. Joshua continued. What Di Vinci really did was use a magic spell that would turn iron into gold. Joshua was so serious and convincing, thrusting the ancient text in front of Robert to show the proof. He was only allowed to touch it with white gloves, and it could not be brought near the windows as natural light is one of the biggest enemies of old paper; hence the darkness of the room. Joshua sounded so naïve to Robert, as Robert was well aware of the Craft, and what it would take to create magic. Joshua asked Robert to give the spell a try, and said that if did turn to gold, they would split it fifty-fifty. Robert, knowing the rules of magic, chuckled to himself, allowing the thought that he would indeed entertain Joshua as this was some kind of a relaxation exercise or diversion to think of something that could bring hope, even if it was a small amount of hope. Robert looked over the paper to see the writing. It looked to be spelled out phonetically from some other source, so whoever read this did not have to know the language. This act alone breaks one of the cardinal rules of spell casting, so Robert knew this would not work. Joshua walked into the corner of the room to give Robert space. And so he proceeded with the incantation. He went through it once, not fluidly, but he did get through it and nothing happened. Joshua goaded him into doing it again, now that he knew what to say. Robert chuckled aloud, and began reading again. Five verses were on the page. By the time he made it to the third, the world was becoming a different place. The heat in the room became almost intolerable. A breeze began flowing through the room that only felt like hot air making him sweat through his suit. Inside, Robert could not believe this was happening, he did not have this power, this was not real magic.
Joshua was yelling at him to continue with a voice filled with excitement. Robert pressed on. The room began to fall away, and only the pedestal with the light on it remained. They were floating in some abyss with only darkness and heat as the only textures Robert could discern. One verse was left, one more to see if this was some trick. As he started with final words, he tucked the paper under his arm, removed the white gloves, and immediately felt the greed and pain that went into this page. The ink was made from the blood of a wealthy child and the page was from a section of the child’s back. All of it was taken while he was alive. This was not a magic spell. It was a summons. A summons for the High Demon Berith. No sooner did the name leave his tongue did the beast appear before him. Standing fifteen feet high, with two sets of bat wings that ended in prolonged fingers that reminded Robert of farming sickles. Berith had three sets of horns that protruded from his head with two sets of ink black eyes. The extended goat head had a chain through the nose that had mucus streaming down slowly and sprayed, as Berith snorted in obvious disgust. Robert was facing a nightmare while from behind he heard Joshua yelling for him to control Berith, to make the iron gold. To finish the job.
Robert was scared silent. He could not move; he could barely breathe. His only thought was that if he had touched the paper with his bare hand first, he would be on his way home now. But here he stood in front of a High Demon. A demon that controls armies of hell. He was angry at himself now. He had been tricked and manipulated at a time when he was most vulnerable. As soon as he thought this Berith looked into him and understood ruse. He looked again behind Robert, as if Berith had the sun shining in his eyes. The anger in Berith’s voice shook the world. He knew Joshua and what he had done. What Joshua did not know was that the power Robert wielded, it let him undo the magic on a page… or destroy it. With both of his hands, Robert started ripping the ancient page to pieces; each tear unshackling Berith. Berith was free, and the summons was destroyed. But Berith had to have a sacrifice, that was the rule for destroying such strong magic. A death for a death. Robert was more than willing to go. There was nothing left for him now. He was holding out hope even after the letter. Robert had at least freed the soul of a young boy from an eternity of service locked in page made from his own flesh and blood. Robert shared the same grin as Aurora had when she had died. Berith took notice of the selfless act, and for the bravery, offered him one request. Only one request came to Robert’s mind. Make sure no harm would come to his daughter, Aradia. That was it. Berith agreed and in an instant, Robert had left the plane and moved on. Joshua stayed where he was, protected by the barrier that he made on the floor to protect him from all demons. Berith knew that the Prince already owned his soul, but now Joshua was trying to find ways out by controlling demons. The Prince will need to know of this soon. Joshua had learned how to extend his life by stealing it from others. He was long overdue for his new eternity. The world turned back to normal in the manse with the exception of the iron ore that was now a pile of ash. Joshua sighed aloud. He had another gentleman coming in a few hours that could add another 50 years to his own. The Dark Arts were kind to Joshua.
A scream came from Aradia’s room about an hour after Robert left. It was curdling. Bes and Gwydion were in the room way before Magdalena. The room started to shake, and the smell of sulfur and decay filled the air. They all knew that a Demon was on their plane and nearby. The shaking would continue for a moment longer when a beautiful voice seemed to bring it all to an end. The voice came from an obscenely handsome man with thick, long blond hair. He had very sharp features and his voice seemed sing more than speak. He introduced himself as Berith. He explained how he came to be there and who he came for. There was a problem now. Aradia should not exist. She should have died as the Queen of Hell had demanded. Had schemed. Berith let them know that he will protect her as was his oath. But not there. Not by them. In a blink they were gone. All that was left of the once-perfect family was the letter to Robert and his journal. Magdalena grabbed the letter from off the nightstand in the room. The letter went into the detail of the decision.
It started when Aurora went to see Bes, he found that Aradia had been poisoned by Lilith. Aurora had three options: There were two drinks in front of her. She could cure herself and Aradia would die. She could cure Aradia, but she would die. Or she could drink neither, and both she and the baby would die. She chose the second option. But it would also have a cost to Robert. The poison that Aradia grew up in would poison him as well over time until he would suffer the same fate as Aurora. Aradia had to live. She chose to come back. She will be the leader of the most powerful Coven in the history of the Craft. What that will look like will depend on her, and how she is loved. The letter was the only proof that the decision was ever made. Bes made sure no one would remember, not even himself, as Lilith can be very vindictive. Gwydion took the journal with him back to his plane for safe keeping. The ideas and thoughts of an unborn elder could possess many secrets, especially when the journal was written in a language the three could not recognize. The letter was burned. Nothing so sad should ever be read by anyone again. The trio went their separate ways in hope that one day they would see their little Aradia again.
The cracks of twigs and dried leaves on the forest floor signaled the arrival of a visitor. The ancient forest was something to behold, even to a High Demon. The magic contained in this plane could level most of the domains of Hell. No being was safe in this realm unless they had just cause to be there. Berith called out Hacate’s name several times before she made herself available to him. Hecate was the Queen of all witches. When most Ancients used their gifts to build armies, or torture the plane's people so they would build statues in their honor for fear, Hecate built this plane. A plane of pure magic; neither good nor bad. Just pure. Berith brought Aradia before Hecate. She was startled and serious. She knew that this was a sign of many changes to come. Aradia would be a big part to that change. But she would need to learn her Craft quickly, and in a plane where she was not meant to be. Hecate decided they would go to a plane in what was considered the New World. In a place where the Craft is still practiced and somewhat accepted. Hecate chuckled aloud at the perfect hypocrisy of what she was about to attempt. Hecate decided that she would take Aradia to Salem, Massachusetts to instruct Aradia herself. Berith would be there as well to protect her. It had been less than a day and Berith could already feel the power of Aradia, melting his heart. He was glamored by her. She would be his little Demon Child.