If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: EARTHWITCH CHAPTER 1: The house that wasn’t
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“What – he’s not here?” said Justin. Then: “God, no.”
Grandma Rolie beckoned them inside and closed the door. They moved into the kitchen and sat down at the table. Grandma Rolie and Justin were grim-faced.
“What?” asked Agatha tentatively. “Where is he? *Where is he!!!*”
“Agatha,” began Grandma Rolie, more quietly, more gently than Agatha had ever known her to speak. “There’s something you need to know.”
Agatha waited, refusing to meet her grandmother’s eye. She felt numb.
Justin cut in. “Those boys we met – the Mordred -”
“- I should have warned you about,” finished Grandma Rolie. “It’s my fault. I told you to be in before dark. I told you not to let anyone know where you lived. I told you not to invite anyone into this home. Now the seal to this house will be broken, and there will be nothing we can do. David will be Sundered by the time he gets home in the morning. It’s too late for him. It’s possibly too late for us.”
“What do you mean?” cried Agatha, rising to her feet. “What does that mean – ‘too late’?”
“I told you briefly about the Sundered Ones, the Mordred,” said Justin quietly. “I think we need to tell you the full story. We need to tell you the truth-”
“-About who I am and what I do,” said Grandma Rolie. “And about who you are, too.”
Grandma Rolie drew breath and began.
“I’m a Waykeeper – a keeper of the Ways. Here in Australia they are sometimes called Dream Lines. In China they are called Dragon Lines, and in Europe they’re called Ley Lines, which is the name by which most people know them best.
“There are many Waykeepers in the World, and we each watch over one of the doorways to these lines. The Ways have been marked as ancient pathways by which people in distant times walked the land, but that is only a surface understanding of what they really are and the power they hold.
“The Ways are shortcuts – paths of power by which any person who holds a Key may travel the globe without having to cover distance. In simple terms, the Ways are outside the normal circle of the world, and the normal rules of space and time do not apply to them.
“You can enter a Way, with the appropriate Key, and minutes later you can be on the other side of the world. There is no distance, and onl a short space of time that our minds create to help us understand and deal with the complexity and beauties of the Ways.
“As I said, the Ways are ancient. They are older than the Aboriginal Dramtime, although Elders have known of their existence for millenia. They are older than the sacred sites of the world that men have created – older than Stonehenge, Avebury, and Newgrange. They stretch to every continent, and link every race and colour of people together.
“Door Ways exist on every continent too, and near each Door there lives a family, chosen for their wilingness to protect the Ways and keep them safe for the powers of Good. Our family – *your family, Agatha* – is one of these Waykeeping families. Our family – the family of Roland – has been guarding out local Door for ten generations. Before that, we were part of the family watching over the Door at the Weyland Smiths, in the south of England.
“But ‘Roland’ is your Christian name,” interrupted Agatha. “Our family name is Bartholemew.”
“No,” replied Grandma Rolie. “‘Roland’ is my title, as the Matriarch of our family. My given name was Louise. It means ‘Warrior.’ I took the title of Roland when my mother died, when I was young, and I have been a Keeper of the Ways ever since I was seventeen.
“For many, many generations the Keepers of the Ways watched over the Ways, guarded the Doors, and helped travellers to pass to and fro across the lands. But when the Mordred rose in the Dark Ages, and claimed one of the Keys to the Ways, darkness fell and the Ways became disused. The first of the Mordred soon learned that they could not walk the Ways without pain, because their souls were diseased and tarnished, and their hearts were impure, so the purity of the Ways burned them. So they devised a way to Sunder humans of good heart and mind, splitting soul from body, and using their bodies as empty shells to pass within the Ways.
“Although they now can pass through the Ways without pain or loss, and they have claimed more than one of the Keys so many Mordred now have access, they cannot navigate through the Ways, and they often become lost within the maze of the Ways, and some never find their way out into the clear sky and the sunshine. So those who have the Knowledge and the right to travel the Ways can usually travel in peace, and are not often waylaid by Mordred who dwell within the paths.”
“But who were those boys who tried to bully us?” asked Agatha. “And what have they to do with this Mordred? I know the name – Mordred was the evil son of King Arthur. He killed the King, and I htink he seized the throne, but the stories became confused after the battle where he fought Arthur, and I can’t really remember what happened.”
“Mordred was the First to learn how to Sunder – how to split soul from body, and turn the body to evil purpose. He learned, through the arts of Dark Magic, how to create his own army of soulless, willing agents of Darkness, who would traverse the Ways, fight against the Light, and hopefully win the struggle between light and Dark. Mordred himself was vanquished, and his body died, but he learned how to keep his evil soul alive, and now the Mordred – those boys you saw and many more like them – are driven by a little of Mordred’s own evil soul, residing in each and every one of his servants.
“David has been captured,” said Justin softly, for Grandma Rolie was silent and looked away. “He will be Sundered, his soul split apart from his body, and he will become like those boys – a servant of the Evil One.”
“I don’t believe you!” screamed Agatha. Her throat was tight with a hurt and a fear that she couldn’t express. “I don’t believe that! He is late, that’s all. He’ll be back.”
“He will be back,” said Grandma Rolie slowly. “He will be back, but you will not know him. Once a person has gained access to this house, he cannot be turned away. He was welcomed into this house, and the moment that he crossed the threshhold he secured his welcome here. Now that he is Sundered, he is still welcomed by this house, and I can do nothing to stop him – and his fellow servants – from entering. I am so, so sorry.”
Agatha said nothing. Everything that had happened in the past hour seemed like a dream, a nightmare from which she would surely wake. It couldn’t be real. Tears slipped down her cheeks, and she tasted saltwater on her lips.
“It’s not true,” Agatha whispered. “Tell me it’s not true.”
“I’m sorry,” Grandma Rolie repeated. “There’s nothing we can do to save him. It’s too late.”
“No!” said Justin. “It’s not too late. There is a way we can save him – I am sure of it. I have heard of Sundering being reversed. The Gatekeeper may be able to help us.” He sat, deep in thought, for several minutes, and the silence echoed in the room like the diminished throb of a bell.whose tolling has ended.
“Rolie – can you do a binding?” asked Justin. Grandma Rolie suddenly sat up straight in her chair, eyes opened wide, then nodded. “Yes – you mean to bind him?”
“He will walk through the door. He will cross the threshhold on the first light of day. There’s nothing we can do to stop that,” said Justin. “But we *can* bind him here, and create sch a bind that he cannot leave at will-”
“-Nor will he be able to invite others in,” finished Grandma Rolie. ” I see what you are getting at.”
Agatha was suddenly made aware that somehow this Justin – this stranger who had saved her yet by his carelessness condemned her brother – was more powerful, and higher in some sort of rank or power, than her own Grandmother. Age didn’t seem to matter. Despite her fear, despite her despeair, her curiosity wakened, and she asked: “Who *are* you, Justin?”
Justin said nothing. It was Grandma Rolie who answered.
“Justin is the son of the Gatekeeper, the Woman highest in our order, whose task it s to assign the Keys and order attempts to retrieve Keys that have been stolen by the Mordred. As you can see, he wears a Key: the sign of the Dragon.”
Agatha’s gaze was drawn once more to the green stone necklace Justin wore, engraved with a Dragon.
“That’s a Key?” she asked.
“It is,” answered Grandma Rolie. She reached into the neck of her blouse and drew out a similar necklace, carved from bright blue opal, engraved with a Phoenix. “And this is the Key that I hold, that your mother would have held, and that you may one day hold as well.”
“Why wasn’t I told about any of this?” demanded Agatha. “Why was this all kept silent? I knew *nothing* of this. Nothing! And now you say my brother is worse than dead-”
“There is still hope, Agatha,” said Justin.
“You mentioned a Gatekeeper, and said she could help us. Is she your mother? That’s what it sounds like. Well – bring me to her and I’ll force her to help! It’s your carelessness that got my brother caught by those Mordred people. It’s your fault!”
“I know it is,” said Justin. “And if I could retrace my steps and turn back time to save him, I would do so. As it is, maybe my mother can help us. Whether she can or not, it is my duty to ask, and to try to bring your brother back. It is not your responsibility.”
“If you’re going to try to save David, then I’m going to help you. He’s my *brother*.”
“You’re too young-” Justin started, but Agatha cut him off.
“I’m not too young!” she said defiantly. “If I’m not too young to lose a brother, I’m not too young to try to save him if there’s any hope at all. I’m with you. I blame you, it’s your fault, but if you think I’m going to leave it to you to try to save david and possibly fail, you’re dead wrong. I’m going with you, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
“Agatha is right,” said Grandma Rolie suddenly. “She should go with you.”
“And what of David?” asked Justin. Can you bind him alone.”
“Oh yes,” said Grandma Rolie wearily. “It will not be a pleasant job, but I can do it.”
“Then I leave that to you,” said Justin. “Agatha and I will leave at daybreak for the Door Way at the Ponds, and you will wait until David returns and bind him fast. Keep him bound until we return, and summon any assistance you can to keep him within these walls.”
“I will do that,” said Grandma Rolie.
“And now, it’s time to sleep. If were starting at daybreak, we need to be refreshed. And you need all your strength in preparation for the binding.”
“It’s only 8 o’clock,” said Agatha petulantly.
“It’s time to sleep. We have a challenge before us, and it will not be easy.”
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Agatha didn’t sleep well that night. She kept seeing the events of the evening in her mind’s eye, and kept leaving her bed to wander into David’s empty room. It seemed preposterous to think that he might not ever return to it as the brother she knew and loved, yet she knew that she would fight for him to the end of her strength to bring him back safe and whole. Everything she had learned in the past few hours – the Ways, Gatekeepers, Waykeepers, Dragon lines, Mordred, the Sundered – it all seemed impossible.
The night seemed to stretch endlessly, yet eventually the eastern sky began to turn to dusty pink and soft yellow as the sun began to rise. After hours of watching the luminous hands of her bedside clock, Agatha decided it was time to rise and threw on a dressing gown before walking into the kitchen rubbing her eyes. Justin was still there, still sitting in the same chair as if he hadn’t moved all night. but there was an empty cereal bowl before him and a half drunk mug of cold coffee by it side.
“Sleep well?” he asked.
Agatha shook her head.
“I didn’t expect so,” he said wth a wry grin. “But we’ll be leaving soon anyway.”
“No sign of david?” asked Agatha hopefully. It was the question she had been bursting to ask for hour after hour through the long night.
Justin looked at her. “No. Which is good – we don’t want to be caught here by the Mordred. A Sundering takes many hours, and we have a little time left before it will be complete enough for the Sundered David to move into the open and lay claim to this house. Even if the Sundering is complete by now – which is unlikely – he will still be weak. Too weak to cross the threshhold of this house for a few hours yet. In the meanwhile, we move.
“Now have breakfast, then get dressed quickly. Pack lightly, but you will need some warm clothing and sturdy shoes. We may have a little time up our sleeve, or we may be caught and cornered if I am wrong. I hope I am not wrong.”
Agatha prepared a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice, and ate quickly before going back to her room and dressing. It was less than thirty minutes later that reappeared in the kitchen, ready to go.
She looked around. “Where’s Grandma Rolie?” she asked.
“In the back room, preparing the binding. She has been up all night, but the task will be completed soon.”
“David – won’t be hurt by this ‘binding’ thing, will he?” Agatha began tentatively. The thought had been on her mind all night.
“No,” said Justin. “It’s jus a spell to keep him in the once place, in the one room. He’ll be able to talk, to move about the room, to eat and drink – although the David that is to be bound s not the David you know and love. A binding will simply keep hs body safe and healthy while we search for a way to reverse the Sundering.”
“Can it really be done? The reversal, I mean? Grandma Rolie didn’t seem too convinced.”
“I’m not sure. Rolie is a talented woman. If anyone can do it, she can. Plus she is related to that which she will bind, so blood magic will be working on her side too. We can only try.”
“And this Gatekeeper? She *is* your mother, isn’t she? If anyone can help us, she can? Is that right?”
“That’s right. Now – are you ready? Go quickly into the back room, and say goodbye to Grandma Rolie. Then we will be on our way.”
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Chapter 3 word count: 2587
Total word count so far: 4307 + 2587 = 6894.