The Burning Time

Chapter 6: Touch

Three weeks had passed since their refuge had begun in Sovana.

Robin walked underneath the bright Tuscan sun, calming in its warmth; and faintly smiled to herself. She had come to the realization, walking through the village during the morning, that both she and Amon were finally beginning to adjust to their new lives in Italy. They had even settled into somewhat of a predictable, if not comfortable, routine.

There was breakfast every morning---always prepared, unquestioningly, by Jana, who encouraged morning discussions over coffee---followed by long walks into the via de Mezzo in the late morning and early afternoon. Most days, Amon accompanied her, and they would spend the afternoon browsing among the villagers, who were more than happy to welcome them. On other days she went alone, Amon choosing to remain behind at the farmhouse, monitoring news in cyberspace and allowing her to continue to bond with the Sovanan townsfolk on her own comfort level.

Often during the week, Robin helped her grandmother with tending to the large garden behind the farmhouse, where she had discovered that Jana nurtured a vast repertoire of vegetables and roots. The two women would spend hours amidst the crops, digging and pruning, talking softly the entire time. Jana would spin stories of her mother, Maria, from the early days of her youth, as well as stories of Juliano; and Robin would listen, smiling and nodding at her grandmother's happy reminisces. The memories were fond ones, and Robin felt grateful that Jana had chosen to share them with her.

In the late afternoons, if they had not spent their mornings together, Amon would seek her out, or she would seek him, and they would take walks together. Sometimes they would head back into the village to shop for items or food that they needed for dinner, but more often than not there was no purpose, other than to simply be in one another's company.

The change that she now saw in Amon---after their argument and their oceanside confessions weeks ago---was strangely comforting to her. No longer did she feel as though she burdened him with her presence, as an unruly and misbehaving charge would to a warden; instead it seemed as though he sought the quiet pleasure of her company, just as she did his. She realized that she had now in her possession the knowledge of his deepest and darkest secrets, which he had been up until recently unwilling to share with her...that of his heritage, and the fear of the potential awakening of his Seed. She treasured those kernels of understanding, cradled them and tucked them away in her mind as evidence of his trust in her, his belief in her. He would not have told her otherwise.

They had made two more trips into Siena for supplies, but not during either trip had Amon allowed her to seek out the white cathedral again, to look again at the inscription on the mysterious silver cross that had been strangely familiar to her. He had insisted it was not safe to explore such a place sacred to SOLOMON, and Robin reluctantly acquiesced to his wishes, seeing the dread that had crept into his dark gray eyes each time she mentioned the church.

It was almost as if he was imperceptibly aware of something which she was not....

Despite his caution in that regard, he had not reacted as she had feared when she confessed to what occurred in the village weeks ago---the townspeople having witnessed her Craft. He had nodded his head, his eyes lowered, when she'd told him. He seemed to have begun to accept the fact that there would be people who knew about her powers, regardless of where they were.

She looked up now as she saw him approach her from across the square of vendors, the long ends of his black trench coat fluttering gently in the breeze around him like lingering shadows, his eyes dark and unreadable. In one of his hands she spied a small dark bag, which he quickly concealed in a side pocket of his coat.

She lifted her delicate eyebrows at him in interest. " Che cos'è quello? " she asked, her hands laced together in front of her.

" Niente ," he answered coolly, his expression unchanging. She marveled again at his intuitive grasp of her language, before her curiosity returned.

"I saw a bag in your hand," she protested softly, a light that he thought resembled amusement dancing in her green eyes. "What is it?"

"It's not important," he asserted, his eyes beginning to reveal something akin to a glare, and she backed down, although no less curious.

"If you had wanted to buy more fruit, you should have just mentioned it," she said, her lips curling in a gentle smirk. "We could have just gone back to Gennaro's stand." She thought back fondly on the kindhearted vendor who had insisted weeks ago that she accept an entire bag of fruit, as a gift on his behalf, free of charge. They now bought fruit from him during every visit to the village, and he welcomed both of them with pride and gratitude each time.

Amon's voice was lightly scolding as he fell into step beside her, ducking his head. "So that you could take advantage of his generosity again? You're going to put the man out of business, Robin."

She opened her mouth in protest, only to close it again with a faint smile as she realized, as evident by the look in his eyes, that he was teasing her. This, too, was a relatively new development.

He went on, as they walked side by side through the street. "I received another message from Nagira," he said. He had been in constant contact with his half-brother through email for the last couple of weeks, since Nagira had responded to his first message.

"Did he answer my question about STN-J?" she asked softly, looking up at him as they walked.

"No recent developments since the last Hunter returned to SOLOMON," he informed her, his voice lowering as he turned his head to glance in her direction, discreetly catching the downcast look of her eyes at hearing the news.

"I told you, the Hunter didn't appear to be looking for you," he reminded her softly, looking forward again.

" Si, lo so. " Her face still seemed troubled somehow, and a part of him sought to wipe away her doubt.

They walked in silence for a moment before Amon spoke again. "We know we can rely on Nagira's contacts from the Walled City with confidence...they've provided us with solid information since the beginning." He bowed his head again as he walked. "It doesn't appear that anyone knows of our---" He had begun to say more, when they were suddenly interrupted by a woman running up to them.

It seemed to Amon that he and Robin were rarely left alone anymore to browse the streets at their leisure during their village strolls---the villagers were constantly bombarding Robin with gifts, requests for blessings, and other trivial things that he thought were little more than nonsense, but that she seemed to take in calm stride. Their reactions to a professed Witch puzzled him. Most of them had personally witnessed a display of Robin's power....why weren't they afraid of her? Perhaps malevolent Witches who abused their powers, as some of the ones he'd Hunted in Japan, were not as common as he'd thought in Europe.

" Scusi, Pellegrina, " the woman beseeched, her eyes pleading as she stepped before them. Her eyes flicked to Amon, standing off to the side, and she gave him a respectful nod before directing her attention back to the chestnut-haired witch. " Per favore , you must come with me, to see mi figlia ."

" Perché? " Robin asked, "What is wrong?"

"She is very sick," the woman whispered, her voice trembling as she spoke. "She will not eat, not speak, not walk....she is feverish, and all she do for past days is lie in bed...she is only seven years old, Pellegrina..." Her voice trailed off as she looked at the visitors imploringly. " Per favore must help her."

Robin had been asked often enough by the villagers in the last few weeks to do small favors during previous visits, such as blessing someone's harvest, or kissing their child....but this had crossed the line. Amon stepped forward, his expression neutral, as if he meant to shield Robin from the crazed village woman. "Robin is not a healer," he started to explain, the tone of his voice stern; but a gentle hand on the sleeve of his coat stopped him.

" Amon ," Robin said, softly, and he slowly turned to look at her, his disciplining words cut short by the breathy whisper of his name. He still had not been able to figure out how his name on her lips seemed at the same time to both immobilize him and strengthen him.

There was a warm light in her green eyes, dawning as though she were just coming to a realization....and as she looked at him, he could almost hear her soothing words. It's all right.

Robin faced the woman standing before her.

"I don't know if I can do anything to help," she began modestly, "but I would like to try. Prenda mi a lei ," she said with gentleness. The woman's eyes filled with tears of gratitude, and she nodded, turning to lead the way to her home.

Robin looked once more at Amon, who watched as she turned to follow the woman further into the village. After a moment of hesitation, he fell into step behind her.


They entered into the woman's modest home on the outskirts of the village, and the woman immediately led them to the girl's room.

She opened the door to reveal a red-faced young girl on a bed, her eyes closed, and her blonde hair fanned out on the pillow underneath her head. Robin entered the room behind the girl's mother, reluctantly followed by Amon.

Robin approached the bed slowly, kneeling next to it as she looked upon the girl lying against the pillows. The child looked asleep, although her breathing seemed labored, and her brow was puckered in pain. Robin reached out and took the girl's warm hand, lying on the blanket, in her own.

" Come la chiami? " she asked the mother, who was hovering behind her, watching anxiously.

"Lucia," the mother whispered.

Amon watched impassively from the other side of the room. He didn't understand what Robin intended to do for the girl, if there was anything that could be done at all.

Robin stroked the girl's hand in hers gently, feeling the heat from the child's fever emanating into her own skin. She put a hand up to Lucia's overheated forehead, nearly shrinking back from the extreme warmth.

There was no town doctor to come to the girl's was possible the nearest one was in the town of Siena, which being miles away, was not an option for the mother and sick child to attempt to travel to.

She dimly recalled, from having spent time assisting with the care of patients years ago in the convent's infirmary, that a fever that did not break could be deadly, especially to the young or old.

To break the fever, the child needs to keep warm. It is the only way the body can maintain a high enough temperature to kill what it needs to and recover, she thought.

She looked around the room, observing the shabby blanket covering the girl's body, the threadbare dress she was clothed in, the chill of the room despite the windows being closed and curtains drawn.

She turned back to Lucia, covering the girl's hand with both of hers, and closed her own eyes. She envisioned conjuring not fire, but its heat and warmth.

"Lucia," she whispered, focusing her thoughts on the young girl.

The girl's mother gasped as the room became distinctly warmer, and she watched in amazement as Robin's form, kneeling by the bed, began to take on a warm glow in the dim light of the room.

" Madre di Dio ," she whispered in the stillness.

Amon felt the skin on the back of his neck prickling. He too had felt the temperature in the room increase suddenly by several degrees, and he watched Robin, his eyes glued to her in fascination.

Robin saw her Craft emerging from behind closed eyelids, visualizing flames dancing in her mind's eye...and she lifted one of her hands, placing it on Lucia's chest.

The blonde girl winced at the touch, the heat rousing her from her slumber, and she began to whimper. Beads of sweat rolled down her small face.

"Lucia," the mother whispered nervously, seeing her child's discomfort, and moved towards the bed. Amon stopped her with a firm hand on her arm.

" Aspetta ," he told her quietly, and the woman acquiesced.

The child's breathing became heavier and more labored for several moments, until finally she exhaled softly, her body having lost its tension and her brow relaxed. Robin lifted her hand gently away from the girl's chest. Her own skin had already begun to cool, and she had felt the girl's temperature begin to lower underneath her fingers.

"Lucia?" the mother asked, anxiously.

The girl did not stir. Robin stood slowly from her position at the child's bed, and turned towards the mother. "She is sleeping," she said quietly.

" Che é bene? " the woman asked, and as Robin nodded, she exhaled in relief.

"Keep her warm," Robin said softly, as to not awaken the sleeping girl. "I will return later this evening to check on her."

The woman's eyes filled slowly with tears, and she grasped Robin's hands in her own, as Amon watched curiously. " Molto grazie, " she whispered.

The girl's mother stayed by her daughter's bedside, her hands clasped together as if in prayer, as Robin and Amon made their way out of the room.

Once out of earshot, Amon turned to her. He could not believe what he had just seen. " did you know what to do for the girl's fever?" he asked, his voice not without a hint of suspicion. He wondered idly if she had such a power all along.

Robin shook her head, her eyes downcast as they walked back to the via de Mezzo . "I don't know," she answered honestly. "I remembered from my days in the monastery that children with fevers needed to be kept warm in order for the body to recover. I gave her seemed to be the only way to help her."

"I had no idea your Craft could be used like that," Amon admitted softly, realizing she had not kept anything from him.

Inwardly he berated himself. Hypocrite. You are still worried about what secrets she keeps from you...when you have not laid all yours bare for her to see.

She turned to him again, something akin to wonderment mixed with hope bubbling in her eyes. "Neither did I."


They returned to the farmhouse, still talking softly about what had happened.

Jana met them at the door. She observed their expressions, the furtiveness with which they stole glances at one another, the body language between them.

She smiled mysteriously.

" Bentornata ," she said jovially. "I just prepare lunch, come in and have a bite." She waved them in, encouraging Amon to shed his ever-present dark coat.

"We're not---" Amon began, but the quick-witted older woman cut him off.

"Is always the same story---I know, you're not hungry." She nodded impatiently and gave Amon an affable smile. "You should know by now, I don't care if you hungry or not. Sit and eat." She shooed him towards the kitchen, and Robin had to stifle her grin at her grandmother's handling of her reticent partner. Jana seemed to have a knack for knowing how to push his buttons without angering him. In a strange way, she reminded Robin of Nagira and his dry humor...perhaps Amon felt the same, she thought, as she watched him scowl halfheartedly and head into the kitchen.

They sat down to eat at the table, where Jana had prepared a light lunch of insalata caprese ; large slices of feathery-soft cow's milk mozzarella, with leaves of fresh basil and oregano, probably picked from Jana's own herb garden; and thick slices of red ripe tomatoes, over which was drizzled olive oil and basalmic vinegar. Bread and white wine rounded out the meal.

They ate leisurely, their meal punctuated by casual conversation, until Jana mentioned their lapses in visits to Siena. She looked at Amon in surprise, as his brow clouded at the mention of the city.

"Are you not going to go back?" she asked him, curiously.

Amon folded his arms across his chest, sitting back slightly in his chair. Robin put her fork down next to her plate, turning her eyes towards her companion seated beside her.

Jana looked from one to the other, trying to discern their expressions.

"It doesn't seem as though it is wise to move about freely there," Amon reluctantly offered, his face drawn with concern, looking straight ahead and not at the young chestnut-haired witch next to him. "It is a larger town, and there are many places that might be associated with SOLOMON."

"Even so, I would like to see the cathedral again," Robin said softly, her gazed fixed on him. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, as the only response to her comment. She felt a stab of regret as she realized the discussion was causing him discomfort.

" Cattedrale? " Jana asked with interest, and Robin quickly explained their find near il Campo .

"Nonna," she asked thoughtfully after a few moments, "who is Aradia?"

"Aradia," Jana repeated, a flash suddenly appearing in her dark green eyes, and she leaned forward towards her granddaughter. "Where did you hear that name, bambina? "

"I read it on an inscription near the cathedral," she answered. "It was carved into a small silver cross planted underneath a tower next to the church."

Jana's eyes became faraway and distant, her smile contemplative. "I have not heard that name many, many years," she whispered softly. Robin and Amon watched her with interest as she slowly rose from the table, returning after a few moments with an old, worn-looking hardcover book, which she had taken from a shelf in another room.

"This a book passed down in mi famiglia from generation to generation," she said gently, placing it down on the table in front of her as she returned to her seat. She opened the cover, turning the worn pages gently as she thumbed through it. She stopped at a particular chapter, her eyes softening.

" La Pellegrina della Casa al Vento ," she said softly, reading from the text.

Robin stiffened slightly at her grandmother's words.


"It has been translated to English some time I will read you the story," Jana said, holding the book in front of her as she leaned back in her chair. Robin leaned forward, intrigued; Amon looked as though he were uncomfortable at the thought of having to listen to a long story that was likely an Italian myth, but nevertheless he stayed seated, fixed in his chair as though by curiosity.

Jana began to read.

"There is a peasant's house at the beginning of the hill, or ascent leading to Volterra, and it is called la Casa al Vento , or the House of the Wind. Near it there once stood a small place, wherein dwelt a married couple, a wealthy merchant and his second wife who had but one child, a daughter, whom they adored. The merchant's wife had many miscarriages. Being a pious woman, she purchased numerous masses said on her behalf that she might have a child. She vowed in her heart that any child born living would grow up to be a priest or a nun.

"Supposedly after one night of much fasting and prayer, the wife was suddenly ravenous, and she gathered and ate several walnuts from a tree in Benevento. Shortly thereafter, the wife discovered that she was pregnant.

"She gave birth at the full moon to a beautiful baby girl, whom they named Arabella.

"Though her mother adored the little girl, her only thought was one day Arabella should become a nun, a dedicated bride of Christ. Yet one day, while looking from her window, young Arabella spied a nest full of baby birds, singing in the vines and among the trees all so merrily. She said to her mother that she should like to some day have a family of little birds of her own, singing round her in a cheerful nest.

"Her mother firmly said 'No!' and explained that she was promised to be a bride of Christ, and that there was no higher calling.

"The little girl stamped her foot and declared she had made no such promise, at which point the mother was so angry that she struck her.

"Arabella blinked back tears and said boldly, to the further enragement of her mother, that on no account would she ever become a nun. She attempted to appeal to her father; the merchant, however, had already paid two handsome dowries for his two daughters from the previous marriage, and he had no desire to pay for a third. He told Arabella that she should be content with the life of a nun if that was indeed what her mother desired.

"Arabella did not like what her father had said, and she declared to both parents haughtily that she hoped to be married like the others, dowry or none. The merchant told her she should mind her tongue lest she were to be locked in her room, to which Arabella replied, 'Whether you lock me up or beat me, I will still find some way to escape.'

"The merchant's wife was full of fear at her daughter's disobedience; she knew the spirit of her child, and feared force might eventually push her precious maiden into the arms of some rake, ruining the girl and causing scandal. Turning it over, she thought of an elderly kinswoman, an aunt who was famous for her intelligence, learning, and power of persuasion; and she thought, "This will be just the person to induce my daughter to become pious, and fill her head with devotion and make a nun of her." So she sent for the kinswoman, who was appointed to be Arabella's governess.

"However, the lady was not in fact Catholic at all.

"It came to pass that one night, when the moon was full and round, Arabella thought she heard her governess's voice speaking or singing softly to someone. By the open window, Arabella spied the woman kneeling in the moonlight, apparently praying, but not a familiar Latin prayer of the Church."

Robin's eyes widened with sudden realization.

"When confronted by Arabella, the governess explained: 'I, like thee, was instructed to worship an invisible god. But an old woman in whose wisdom I had great trust said, 'Why worship a deity whom you cannot see, when there is the Moon in all her splendor visible? Invoke Diana , goddess of the Moon, and she will grant your prayers.' This shalt thou do,' the governess told her. Arabella was taught to learn many charms and conjurations of the worship of Diana, the last of which was one to bring admirable suitors. Arabella invoked the Moon, requesting young men of stations suitable to her father.

"The mother, who was far more bent on gratifying vindictiveness and cruel vanity than on her daughter's happiness, was infuriated at the parade of men showing an interest in her virgin child; and declared that a nun she shall be, or die. The young lady was shut up in a cell in a tower, with only a cold, stone floor to sleep on.

"Arabella prayed with tears to the full moon for deliverance, and a great storm came up. During the storm, Arabella escaped, for the house shook with wind and the door to her chamber opened. Some say Diana threw a spear of lightning at the tower; others say a lamp fell over, setting the tapestry aflame. A large portion of the tower was burned due to the fire, and the merchant and his wife thought Arabella had perished in the flames. They mourned her death.

"Arabella hurried away through the night, into the safety of the woods, where she heard the voice of Diana speak to her among the trees.

" 'You are a child of the moon, having been born when it was round and full. It is true indeed that you are a spirit, but you were born to be yet again a mortal,' Diana said to her. 'You must go to earth and become a teacher to women and men who seek to learn the religion of the old times.'

"The maiden said, 'As my mother is Diana, I am Aradia.'

"She sought out the poor and oppressed who lived among the groves and the woods; some who had been slaves, peasants and poor folk whom had been ill-treated and wretched, cursed by the Church and society. She heard the plight of these people, and from those who had kept to the old ways, she learned further healing crafts and enchantments than she already knew. She came to know the good women of Diana who believed in the King and Queen of the fairies; a beautiful lady as white as the Moon, and a young man red as the Sun. She heard the stories of kneeling before Fata Diana, in hope of being granted wealth, beauty, and young men to make love with."

Amon shifted almost imperceptibly in his seat. Jana pretended not to notice and continued reading:

"Aradia had such a passion for witchcraft, and became so powerful therein, that her greatness could no longer be hidden. The band she had traveled with was scattered by soldiers of the nobility one day as Aradia gathered herbs before dawn. She then obtained a pilgrim's dress, that she might hide out in the open as a pious pilgrim, wandering between Christian shrines...but in truth she sought the old places of power, some of which the Church had built upon."

Again Robin's heart lurched at the words. Pious pilgrim...wandering between Christian shrines....sought the old places of power....

Why does it feel as though I have felt this, lived this, before?

"She traveled far and wide. When she slept in people's homes, she would give them charms or perform healings, speaking of Diana as La Matrona, Regina della stelle, Donna Sophia, or Regina Fata.

"But some she taught, in secret.

"To those who were feign to learn the truth of sorcery, she taught its secrets: to bless and to curse, to make a good vintage, to cure diseases, to cool a fever---"

Amon looked quickly at the chestnut-haired witch next to him, an understanding suddenly dawning in his surprised gray eyes. Robin remained focused on Jana, her heart pounding in her chest.

"---to stop blood, to know the secrets of herbs, to converse with spirits, to divine with cards and to call tempests with lightning and wind. Aradia had been taught to work all to destroy men of evil." She looked up at her granddaughter and her companion briefly, knowingly.

"She taught her people, 'When I have departed from you, when the moon is full, you shall assemble in the forest together, to adore the potent spirit of your queen, my mother, Great Diana.' She taught them to bake cakes for the moon, made of meal, wine, salt and honey, in the shapes of the crescent moon.

"To those with a willingness to learn the art of witchcraft, she taught under the moon of Diana. From her lips came the words of her Mother: 'You shall be the first of witches---first among witches in all the world. You shall bind the oppressor's soul with power. You shall teach the art of poisoning to poison those great lords feasting in their palaces while their serfs starve. Where a greedy peasant is rich at the expense of his neighbor's misfortune, teach to the witches, your pupils, how to ruin his harvest with tempest, thunderbolts, lightning, and wind. If a priest shall do you injury, you will return harm thrice, in my name, the name of Diana, Queen of all the Witches.'

"As the story around the daughter of the goddess grew, among peasantfolk, she became known as La Bella Pellegrina , the beautiful pilgrim; so renowned for her beauty, and wisdom, and healing arts. Some said she was an angel or saint. To have La Bella Pellegrina abide in your home was a blessing, for it was known folk had sometimes entertained angels unaware."

Pellegrina, Robin realized. The people of Sovana believe I am her.

"Eventually tales of La Bella Pellegrina reached the ears of the merchant's wife, who was now a widow. The merchant's widow sought out authorities and had them arrest La Bella Pellegrina as a wayward daughter.

"The widow greeted the young woman joyfully in prison, claiming God had sent a blessing by restoring her beautiful child alive and returning her as a holy pilgrim. She then asked if her daughter was at last ready to embrace her true vocation as a nun.

"Aradia responded stiffly, 'It is not possible for me to be a nun. I have left the Catholic Church and become a worshipper of the Moon. I have no mother, except Diana.'

"And the end of it was that the mother, regarding her daughter as lost, gave her up to the priests to be put to torture and death, as they did all who would not agree with them or who left their religion."

Robin's brow furrowed in sadness.

"She was locked in a tower near the Church that her mother had decreed, to be executed the following morning. Aradia prayed at the window by the light of the full moon to Diana that she might be delivered. Her mother and the priests remained in the cathedral to watch over the tower, lest she should again escape.

"When, lo! In answer to her prayer there came a terrible tempest and overwhelming wind, a storm such as man had never seen before, which overthrew and swept away the Church and the tower, leaving not one stone left upon another, nor one soul alive of all who were there. The gods had replied to the prayer.

"The young lady happily escaped, and wedded a man who had become her lover; and the house of the peasant where the lady stood is still called La Casa al Vento ."

Jana closed the book, a satisfied smile on her face, and looked up to the two seated before her, with mixed looks of confusion and recognition on their faces.

"Nonna," Robin said quickly, "the townspeople have been calling me that since I have arrived in Sovana."

" Come? " Jana asked curiously, smiling as though she already knew the answer.

"La Bella Pellegrina," Robin whispered, and Amon turned to look at her. "Why do they name me after such a woman?"

Something else flashed into her memory, from her conversation weeks ago with Giovanna. "Nonna, how did they know I was related to you?"

Jana smoothed her hand along the worn, leather hide of the book's cover, before she raised her eyes again to meet with her granddaughter's. "Because they know that I am a Witch, bambina ."

Amon's eyes narrowed, as Robin gasped. "They all know?" she asked.

"My mother was a Witch," Jana went on, steeling her gaze at Amon, whom she could see was ready to challenge her. "As was her mother before that."

"That is impossible," Amon interrupted, his voice neutral. "You must already know from Toudou's research; he himself said that the gene conferring direct inheritance of witchcraft had been lost thousands of years ago."

Jana nodded.

"Then how do you explain it?" he demanded, and Robin tensed at his reaction.

"He discovered the gene from my own lineage," she explained calmly. "I am, before Robin, the last surviving descendent of the true Bloodline of Witches...whose heredity was reborn hundreds of years ago, with the return of the Goddess." She paused as silence permeated the air.

"I am a descendent of Aradia." She nodded at Robin. "As are you, having been cloned from mi figlia , Maria."

Robin's eyes were alight with realization, but Amon could not believe it.

"It is a myth, the story you read to us," he argued. "There was no such person."

"How can you be so sure?" Jana asked mysteriously. "How else would you explain occurrence of Witches in mi famiglia ?"

Amon had no answer.

Jana seemed to nod to herself in affirmation. "As well as this story, I think is time I showed you something else," she said, getting up from her chair again to fetch another book. "It is a book from that he knew he could not afford to leave in Japan."

Robin and Amon exchanged glances. "Jana, we have Toudou's journal already in our possession," Amon responded, as she returned to the table carrying another book.

"Not his journal," Jana explained, as she handed it to him. "This is a journal of another of SOLOMON's researchers, who was Toudou's mentor...who Toudou later followed in his own research."

Amon took the book from her, briefly opening it and thumbing through it curiously as Jana spoke.

"He gave it to me to keep here, before he return to Japan," she said thoughtfully, her eyes far away as Robin watched her. "He know SOLOMON would come looking for it, to hide its contents."

"What were they trying to hide?" Robin asked, watching as Jana raised her glance slightly upwards.

Robin felt a sudden chill, as she followed Jana's gaze to her partner, who was still thumbing through the small book.

A knock at the door disrupted their thoughts.

"Eh?" Jana asked herself, curiously. "Not many visitors, this hour." It was late in the afternoon, dusk not too far off. She went to the door, leaving Robin and Amon at the table, he still absorbed with the book, she watching her grandmother in confusion.

Jana opened the door to see the woman from the village, whom had entreated Robin and Amon to help her daughter. The woman recognized Jana instantly. "Ah, scusi, Donna Jana....parla mi a Pellegrina, per favore? "

Jana nodded, smiling. " Si ." She called out to Robin, the young witch appearing next to her in the doorway within a moment. Robin was startled to see the woman again so soon.

" Tua figlia, come è va? " she asked instantly, and was taken aback by the woman's outburst.

The mother clasped Robin's hands in her own again, her voice nearly hysterical with relief. " Sei un angelo, Pellegrina! She is already awake, and her fever gone." She took her hands away briefly to dig into the pockets of her peasant-like dress, bringing out coins and holding them towards Robin. " Per favore ...I have no other gifts to bring you to thank you.... per favore, accetta di me ."

Robin's eyes widened at the gift presented before her---she doubted the woman had much more money that what she offered---and she shook her head, gently pushing the woman's hand back. " Non accetto. " She looked into the woman's dismayed face, and offered with a soft smile, " Omaggio ."

The woman replaced her hurt look with a brilliant smile. "Then I pay my respects to you, Pellegrina, day after tomorrow." She turned to leave, her steps light, and she looked as though she was happy with her decision.

"Day after tomorrow?" Robin asked after her, curiously. " Come questa? "

" La Giornata di Diana, " she turned to answer proudly, before waving and continuing down the cobblestone path.

"Day of Diana," Robin whispered to herself, wondering.


Later, after dinner, Robin prepared her nightly bath. As she rinsed herself with a soft sponge in the steaming water, lost in thought, she recalled the story her grandmother had read to them, in vivid detail.

Aradia. She had done many good deeds, harboring freed slaves, protecting women and children, healing the sick...

And yet...she also encouraged wrongdoing, against people she deemed were evil... You shall bind the oppressor's soul with power.....You shall teach the art of poisoning...ruin his harvest with tempest....

Was such a thing right? Were the things she instructed her followers to do justified?

She recalled the Witches and Hunters she had burnt with her flame. All of them had been destroyed by her...because of their attempts to hurt others.

The Church gave her conflicting notions. Do no harm unto others. But as a Hunter under Juliano's instruction, she had learned differently. Witches abusing their powers must be eliminated.

Amon's words came to her, from when they had Hunted Masuda, the Witch who had been investigated by the Inquisitor as to whether he could be a Hunter. His true darkness had been revealed.

Everyone has some darkness within them, her response to him had been.

Did that include herself? Where did the judgement end, and the vindictiveness begin?...

A hesitant knock came to the bathroom door, and Robin started, jolted suddenly out of her thoughts.

"Robin." It was Amon.

Eyes wide, her face suddenly heated, Robin attempted to cover herself in the water, despite the door still being closed. " Ah...hai? " she asked, surprised.

"I opened the vent in Jana's chimney," his soft voice came through the door, "and Jana was wondering...if you wanted to..." He paused, uncertainly.

"Make a fire."

A slow smile crept to her face, and she was glad he couldn't see it....he would've demanded to know what she found amusing, and probably would have chastised her for letting something so trivial cause her so much contentment.

" Si, " she called out, sinking further underneath the water.


Jana had gone to bed early, instructing them to douse the fire when they were ready to go to sleep.

Robin and Amon sat on the floor, side by side with their arms on their bent knees, watching the flames lick the dry wood behind the mesh screen.

The warmth was comforting. Robin had donned a long-sleeved nightgown, given to her by her grandmother, and had combed out her hair after her bath...she was glad that it was drying quickly by the heat of the fire.

Amon was still in his clothes from earlier in the day, and he sat in front of the fire in his long-sleeved shirt and dark pants, his feet in socks after having removed his boots. Bast came up to them from across the room, curling up to Amon affectionately before settling inbetween them to enjoy the warmth of the hearth.

Robin glanced down at the cat, amused. "She really likes you," she noted softly. "She sleeps with you every night, doesn't she?"

Amon nodded absently, looking down at the silver cat before staring back into the fire.

"I wonder," she said quietly, "how much of that story was true."

Amon's brow furrowed. "It sounds as though it is a myth, handed down in Jana's---" He stopped as he corrected himself. "---in your family."

"Is it?" she asked, staring back into the fire, mesmerized by the glow. "It seemed as though the inscription at the cathedral that had her name on it was related to the story...and there was even a tower..." She trailed off, lost in thought.

"I have these memories, these thoughts of things that seem familiar to me, although there is no reason for them to," she said, her voice carrying a hint of despondency. "Why do I have these feelings?"

Amon did not reply. Robin stared into the flames as they burned, her thoughts churning, even as her tired body began to give in to sleep.

"Who am I?" she whispered softly to herself, her question not having escaped the keen hearing of her partner seated beside her.

Fatigue overtook her, and she closed her eyes drowsily, reopening them more slowly each time she blinked. Eventually after a few moments, her head began to droop.

"You are Robin," Amon said quietly in return, his voice certain as he stared in the direction of the fire, watching it intently.

He started in surprise when he felt her head fall against his shoulder. Robin had fallen asleep.

"Oi," he said softly, torn between waking her and allowing her to sleep on, her cheek resting on his upper arm. Part of him resented her closeness, still fearful of the intimacy that accompanied it...

The other part of him was strangely accepting of her nearness, and the comfort of her touch, even if it was unconscious.

That same part of him realized he would have to carry her to bed....which was not an unpleasant thought, when he digested it fully.

He stared back into the fire, feeling oddly complete, as girl and cat rested comfortably against him.



Next chapter:

Past buried in secrets....A Ritual of Remembrance....Stoking the embers of a slow burn. Chapter 7.

Che cos'è quello?: What is that?
Niente: nothing
Si, lo so: Yes, I know
Pellegrina: pilgrim
mi figlia: my daughter
Perché: Why?
Prenda mi a lei: Take me to her
Come la chiami: what is her name
Madre di Dio: Mother of God
Aspetta: wait
Che e bene: Is she all right?
Bentornata: welcome back
cattedrale: cathedral
mi famiglia: my family
La Pellegrina della Casa al Vento: The female Pilgrim of the House of the Wind
fata: fairy
stelle: star
Donna: this has a few meanings. It translates in Italian as the word "woman", but it can also mean "Lady". I'm using the Lady definition here. ^^
parla mi a Pellegrina, per favore?: may I speak to the Pilgrim, please?
Tua figlia, come è va?: Your daughter, how is she?
Sei un angelo: Bless you (lit. 'you are an angel')
accetta di me: accept from me
omaggio: free gift
Come questa: what is that
La Giornata di Diana: Day of Diana (also known as Tana's Day/ Beltaine)
hai: yes [Japanese]

The story of Aradia is from Charles G. Leland's Aradia: Gospel of the Witches , 1899.