The Coven, PartXVI

sunmoon

I didn’t notice the sun rising, nor did I remember extinguishing my desk lamp, but when Hope knocked on my study door, I found that I was seated at the low table by the window, my pencil scratching at rose-tinted paper as I continued my work.

“Come in,” I said absently.

The door creaked open, and Hope entered.

“When you didn’t appear at breakfast, I’d thought that you were sleeping late, but Mercy told me you didn’t go to bed last night.”

“I’m sorry to worry you. I’ve been working.” I stopped writing, reviewed the last few calculations, corrected an error, and continued.

“All night? You are still wearing last night’s gown.”

I finished and leaned back, stretching my tight shoulders. “There! There’s still much to do, but the framework is complete.”

“What have you been working on so diligently?” Hope asked.

I looked up into his innocently puzzled face and almost laughed. It seemed to me as though everyone should already sense the revolution that had taken place- that we weren’t living in the same universe where we’d lived the night before. Unfortunately, Hope didn’t seem to feel it, yet.

I stood and gestured for Hope to take my place, putting my notes before him. “The idea came to me last night, and I had to put it to paper while it was still fresh.”

Hope leaned over the paper, “this is…”

“What do you think?” I interrupted, feeling like an impatient child. “It seems too radical to be true, I know, but if you go over my calculations, you will find that everything fits.”

“…this is complete gibberish, Grace. What do these symbols mean?”

“Those are degrees of arc- oh, never mind. Look!” I took the large parchment containing my diagram, and placed it in front of the calculations. “This is the Sun, and this is Lystra, Miriam, Tigris, and… here, between Miriam and Tigris is our earth.”

“Why did you place the earth here, instead of the center?” Hope asked.

“Because it isn’t in the center. Don’t you see? The wandering stars don’t go around our world. The wandering stars, as well as our world, orbit the sun. We used to think the wandering stars were suspended on little gears called epicycles, which cause them to loop backward. But when the wanderers loop backward in the sky,  it only looks that way because we’ve passed them on our orbit.”

Hope looked up, an astonished expression on his face.

“Tigris, Miriam, and Lystra are other worlds, just like ours. You see- the little stars we found around Tigris are its moons.”

“How did you discover this?”

“My biggest clue was Lystra. Lystra reflects the sun’s light, so when she’s between us and the sun, her near side falls into shadow.”

“I see- this is why Lystra has been diminishing.”

“Exactly. Lystra is going through phases, like the red moon.”

Hope laughed, tossing his black hair out of his eyes. Then he stood and picked me up, spinning me around.

“Grace, you mad, wonderful girl! You’ve thrown the order of the universe on its head. The church will crumble away into nothing when we’ve done with it.”

“I didn’t do anything to the order of the universe; this is how things have always been. We’ve just never seen it before. Besides, this model is simpler than the previous. It’s humbling. We’ve lost our place of privilege among the stars.”

“You must publish. There is a press at the monastery. Will your writings be complete by next week?”

“Oh no- certainly not! I’ll try to arrange what I have here, and I’ll add the other wanderers to my model. It will take me some time to go through all of Boromir’s observations, though. My first model will be based on guesswork.”

“They are better than guesses. You already seem to have a good deal of evidence,” Hope said.

I nodded and went to the window. “I must present enough evidence to convince others without including my telescopic observations. I’ll be able to sway more people if I don’t admit to heresy. There won’t be much time between packing and engaging a governess for Celeste- what in the world is happening?”

Outside, I spied a scene strange enough to distract me from my discovery. On a grassy lawn near the shrubbery, Mercy and Chastity were circling each other, their swift steps kicking the glittering dew into the morning sun.

They were wearing long, loose bloomers, and each one was holding a quarterstaff. Mercy suddenly advanced toward Chastity, attacking with a flurry of blows that Chastity dodged with grace. Then, with a speed so great that I saw little more than blur, Chastity darted forward and struck Mercy with a series of blows. Mercy fell onto the grass.

“We must call for a doctor,” I gasped.

“Why?” Hope asked in a languid voice, coming to stand beside me at the window. “Mercy is quite alright.”

“But-”

Even as I began to protest, Chastity stepped forward and offered Mercy a hand. Mercy waved Chastity’s help away and sprang to her own feet. Then Mercy nodded, and the two began to fight once more.

“You see? Mercy is well. The two often spar before the sun rises, though I suppose they’ve gone late this morning. Only one of them may accompany us to St Blanc, so Chastity will stay to guard Rowan Heights. I think she wished to test Mercy’s strength before we take Mercy away with us.”

“I must congratulate you on your choice of guards,” I said. “I never suspected that Mercy had such strength hidden away, until she had pinned me to the rug.”

“Yes- that’s one of the reasons Mercy is coming with us. She’s a much better actress than Chastity, which will be useful at court. In addition, Chastity is far stronger, so I need her to guard my home and daughter.”

“Have you any ideas for a trustworthy governess?” I asked.

“I have a few, but I worry that I won’t be able to engage them on such short notice. Have you any ideas?”

“Just one. This morning, after I’ve called on Lady Willoughby to thank her, I will see Mr. Filius and ask him to tutor Celeste.”

Hope’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“You trust Mr. Filius a great deal more than I. He has no love for the church, I grant you, but he has many secrets of his own. I would advise caution.”

I danced a little away from Hope and then spun to face him once more, delighting in the bemused expression on his regal face. “Oh! But this morning the world has turned upside-down. The earth orbits the sun, maids fight with greater skill than soldiers, and I trust Mr. Filius not because of his candor, but because of his secrets.”

#

I left Hope in my study and went to my rooms to change out of my ballgown. As I was putting my silk gloves away, a slip of paper fluttered from the gloves and onto the floor.

I cursed myself for forgetting. Last night, there had been a golden-haired girl, who’d slipped this paper into my hand before disappearing into the crowd. My scientific discovery had put the incident out of my head. No- actually- if I were to be honest, Hope’s kiss had first put the incident out of my head.

I stooped to pick up the paper, steadfastly ignoring the butterflies that fluttered into my stomach when I thought of the kiss.

Demons kill and angels lie,

Only trust in your own eye.

“My own eye,” I whispered as I read and re-read the message. The word eye triggered something in my mind- Mr Filius? The oculist guild? Mr. Filius had given me a card with the picture of an eye, and had promised that he would tell me a secret when I solved Lystra’s riddle. Now that I had solved it, it seemed  imperative that I meet him.

The note sender seemed to know many secrets, whether it had been Mr. Filius or not. They were warning me about danger from the coven- Demons kill– yet they did not seem loyal to the church, either. They didn’t implore me to trust the note-sender, merely to rely on myself.

It seemed like good advice, I thought, regardless of the note-sender’s intentions. I decided that it was best to continue observing the game around me, and remain cautious. Thankfully, though I had promised to keep Hope’s secrets, I had promised no action.

I took a deep breath, put on my riding cloak, and opened the door. Now was the time to make use of the liberty I’d purchased at the cost of my soul.

 

This week’s clue can be found in Queen Mab by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

There was a little light
That twinkled in the misty distance.
None but a spirit’s eye
Might ken that rolling orb.
None but a spirit’s eye,
And in no other place
But that celestial dwelling, might behold
Each action of this earth’s inhabitants.
But matter, space, and time,
In those aërial mansions cease to act;
And all-prevailing wisdom, when it reaps
The harvest of its excellence, o’erbounds
Those obstacles of which an earthly soul
Fears to attempt the conquest.

 

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