A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, the second summer of d...
The pair landed in a clearing in a grove of spruce. Henry handed one of the druids their portkey (a stick). "Step over here," another called in the Welsh they would be speaking for the entire time there. "Names?" he asked in Welsh.
"Who are your partners?"
"We're partners," Henry said.
"H'mm." The druid flipped through his lists. "How odd. We don't usually allow that." He shrugged. "I hope you both know to behave yourselves, and that we will keep a closer eye on the pair of you."
"Hut fifty-four. Off with you."
"What was that all about?"
"We stay in two-person huts."
"Oh. . . . OH!"
"Harry, it's not a big deal. You're one of my best friends. I know I can trust you. And we're here on a religious quest. We'll behave, and they won't have any reason to split us apart."
"All right. I just hope no one . . . gossips."
"Are you ashamed to be linked with me?"
"Then we won't worry about it."
The trail from the clearing opened into the top of a long valley. In a space some hundred yards wide and three hundred long, stood a hundred small stone huts. Beyond that, woods obscured the rest of the valley, except for some high towers in the distance.
"So many. . . ." Henry said in amazement.
"There is a field further down the valley, where most of the Hidden and some of the more exclusive Old Believer children meet, like we did last summer. From now on, we're in this together, no matter what our backgrounds."
"Please don't say that," Tabitha whispered. "Some won't like us, but we all belong to the Faith together. At least pretend to like them, and they should pretend to like us."
"Fair enough. What are these huts?"
"They're based on paleolithic agricultural huts, although they're a bit smaller than most. Here we are." She ducked through the drape that served as a door. Henry shrugged and followed.
The hut was an oval, perhaps 10x12 feet. Around the outside of the oval were a pair of short stools and a short table, a stone sleeping platform, and, partially obscured by a three-foot high stone partition, a toilet and a sink. In the center was a hearth set into the stone floor. The sleeping platform was covered with spruce branches, and there were four folded blankets and two pillows.
"I guess we're going to be . . . cozy."
"Would you rather be sleeping with a boy?"
"No, but . . . people will talk."
"If anyone 'talks' here, I'm telling them I don't know what they're doing with their partner, but we're just sleeping. Here." She tossed her knapsack to Henry. "Hang them up on those hooks, and we'll read our instructions."
Henry did so, noticing for the first time there was a piece of parchment on the table. "We have to report to cabin three. It doesn't say why."
"Then let's go."
There were nine cabins, alternating with nine pavilions. After standing in a short queue, a druid had them stand while he looked through his lists. "Well, you two are interesting. In case you are interested, you are the first boy-girl partnership allowed in ten years. While there should be no teasing in this training, it may happen. What will you say?"
"We are telling them I don't know what they're doing, snuggled up with their partner, but we're just sleeping," Tabitha retorted.
The druid smiled slightly. "You have everything it takes to be a druid, but that is no guarantee you will make it," he said to Tabitha. He turned to Henry. "You are outstanding in nearly everything you do, although you have some difficulties with rote memorization, which is a lot of what you must accomplish in this basic training."
He went back speaking to both. "Now, if you succeed this summer, since you do not already belong to any known clan, you may be asked to join one or more. You will also be asked to declare which sects you wish to be considered for. Now, I am aware you are both now associated with the Open Believers. I must remind you that we do not allow full druidical training for Open Believers. The only druids above the acolyte level associated with the Open Believers are those who move over to the Open Believers later in life. If you maintain your desire to only be associated with them, you are also declaring you have no interest in going beyond that stage. Are you interested in going beyond?"
"I can think of only two Paths I would wish to follow," Henry stated. "To be honest, I would not have made it this far without Tabitha's help, so I do not know if I will make it to Novice, let alone beyond. If I do, I would be interested in flowing with the River." This was the third largest, and second most liberal, sect. "I would also be interested in flying with the Dragons." This small sect specialized in meting out justice, and worked with the Confederation aurors and hit-wizards.
"I do not know my Path," Tabitha answered. "I may be interested in flowing with the River, or flying with the Owls." This was a group of scholars who worked outside of the sectarian structure.
"It is clear you aid your partner," the druid asked. "Does he aid you?"
"I find memorizing the material easy," Tabitha answered. "And it is easy to understand the surface meaning. To understand how it speaks to the heart, I need only see it in Henry's eyes."
"Then you are both well-paired for the moment. I am to be called Master Rock, for that is both my sect and my nature. You are assigned to my pavilion, number three. Be early to meals, at least on windy or raining days, if you wish a good seat. All partners will come and leave meals together, and be together at all times unless you are told it is free time. There are no assigned seats. You are free to wander together until supper today, or go back to your hut."
Henry and Tabitha stood outside the door of cabin three, away from the queue, looking out over the field of huts. "I wonder how many of us there are," Henry said.
"A hundred and eighty-four," a voice came from next to them. The pair turned and saw two dark-haired, blue-eyed boys their age, one plump and smiling, one thin and scowling.
"Why speak to them?" the scowler hissed.
"We are all of the Faith, no matter our life-style differences," the slightly plumper, smiling boy retorted. "I am Cadfael ap Tudur ap Mawrth ap Rhys. This is my cousin and partner Puw ab Awstin ap Mawrth ap Rhys." The Old Welsh-style names showed them to be either Hidden or at least strict believers.
"I am Henry Dorff, and this is my partner Tabitha Spellman."
"Outsiders," Puw stated with a sniff.
"Outsiders to your culture, yes. Equal members of the True Faith," Tabitha retorted.
Puw's scowl deepened. "Women were never allowed into the Priesthood in the Old Days."
"In the Old Days, we were in the Old World and it was before the coming of Caesar. I would never dictate to your Sect."
"And I shall not seek to dictate to you," Cadfael answered.
Puw started to turn away, when Tabitha said sweetly, "I thought partners had to stick together?"
Puw halted. He was not about to destroy his chances to advance like this. "You are correct." He sighed. "Knowing my cousin's penchant for making odd decisions, let me guess. You are both Bydol-born."
"Huh?" Henry asked.
"Muggle," Tabitha answered. "My partner is of Pure-lines. . . ."
"Nearly all Colonial," he put in.
"Right. My father is high in the True Faith, but has not had contact with me, since my mother was a Squib born to True Believers," Tabitha said, giving her approved cover story. "You may make anything of that that you wish."
Puw glowered. Cadfael observed, "I've never heard of a mixed-gender team."
"We are good friends at school," Henry said simply.
"California?" Puw asked. That was the most liberal magical school in the Americas.
"The Ysgol," Tabitha replied. "I take it you are not allowed to tell us about your school?"
"No, we are not," Cadfael agreed.
"We're in hut Fifty-four. You?"
"We are in the hut in the row next to you, in Sixty-eight." Puw scowled again. The quartet moved off.
Puw remained rather stand-offish all day. Since he didn't seemed to wish to associate with anyone else they came across, he just grumbled about tagging along with his cousin, Tabitha, and Henry.
His parting shot had been, "I hope you two are comfortable together."
"And I hope you're just as cozy," Tabitha had teased back. Puw had wrinkled his nose, while Cadfael rolled his eyes.
Once inside, however, Henry looked rather nervous. "What's wrong?" Tabitha asked.
"Are you sure we'll be fine?"
"Harry, the partition blocks off the toilet, if you're shy about that. Now, look." She stripped off her robe, which was all they wore, other than sandals. "See? Not a hint of anything interesting to see. Nothing more than last year." She had not started to develop in any way.
Henry swallowed nervously while Tabitha slipped on her robe back on. "Now, if you get too excited, go into the toilet cubicle, and if I'm not asleep, ask me to step out. If you don't mind, I'm going to pee and get some sleep."
Henry's mouth was hanging open for several minutes during and after Tabitha's monologue. Then he watched her lay two blankets over the spruce branches. She climbed on and snuggled in. "Turn down the fire when you come to bed."
Henry blinked, lowered the level of the magical fire, used the toilet, and went to bed. Tabitha turned and snuggled up to her friend, and soon they were asleep.
"And how is our most interesting couple?"
"Very well, after a bit of a discussion. She is a most interesting girl. Does anyone know who her family is yet?"
"No, although the list for possible mothers is down to five. You spoke to her; is she really that bright?"
"I think so. She would be a fine addition to the priesthood, but I rather suspect her path will be other than with us." The druid paused. "It's interesting that young Cadfael struck up a conversation with them. I fear he will stray from the Stricter Paths to the more liberal."
"What do you suggest?"
"Nothing. He is a fine young man, and will lead whatever sect he finds his way to."
A week later, the students were enjoying some free time. Henry, Tabitha, and Cadfael were laying in the trees. Henry was exhausted. "Tired?" Tabitha asked.
"Yes. This is just plain difficult."
"It was worse until a few hundred years ago," Cadfael offered.
"Really," Tabitha agreed. "We have to learn the rituals and memorize the lore and songs, but we would have had to learn a lot of information that we learn in History of Magic and some of our other classes. We only have to memorize about half what they used to have to."
They laid in silence for a while, then Cadfael asked, "What's the outside world like?"
"Don't ask me," Henry said. "I know the spreads around the dragon ranch, and the Ysgol. We get the wizarding wireless, and some magazines, and that about it."
"That's more than we get," Cadfael said in turn. "I know our village and the fields around it, and Our School. We get a weekly paper, and some of the few students with more contacts with Outside say it's pretty censored."
"Do you get mail from outside?" Henry asked.
"I don't know," Cadfael admitted.
"Approved correspondents only. Censored coming in, possibly coming out, at least for the first few messages."
"Goddess, Tabitha, do you know everything?"
"No, but probably more than any one person should."
"When you get back, go to the head of the school's Ymchwiliad and ask if you may write to me."
"The what?" Henry's Welsh was still a bit rough at times.
"Inquisition. It's a committee that tries to keep Their School religiously pure."
"What reason can I give?"
"Say you like me and hope to get to know me better. I hope to join the Owls. They probably guess you're not happy right now. If you're going to have contacts with anyone, better a girl like me, who hopes to work with the Owls, than anyone else."
"But. . . ."
"No, I'm not interested in marrying you -- I swear our culture is a bit obsessed with the question of matchmaking -- but they'll think along those lines. And you can tell me anything, and I'll be careful how I write."
"Harry, what's wrong."
"Nothing. Go to sleep."
Tabitha sat up on the bed and looked at the sulking Henry, who was turned away from her. "Henry, are you . . . upset that I offered to let Cadfael write to me?"
"No," he said, pouting.
"Yes, you are." She hesitated. "May I trust you with a secret?"
"Yes, you may. You know I would never tell one of your secrets."
"I didn't have my thirteenth birthday last June. I had my twelfth."
"You're pretty powerful for being a year younger than you should be."
"I am. I'm just not ready to start thinking about dating, let alone anything more. I enjoy being with you. I feel . . . protected, sleeping with you. I don't know what will happen in the future. You might fall in love with someone else, one of us might decide to be celibate, we might fall in love together. I don't want to think about any of this for at least a year, maybe two. I am not interested in Cadfael for anything more than friendship. Alright?"
"Alright." He turned and hugged Tabitha to himself, which is how they fell asleep. Since they would now be Third years, they could go to the Spring Ball. He'd worry about asking her nearer to Christmas.
At the end of the second week, eight men and one woman sat around a ritual fire, going over the partners. "Hut Fifty-four, Henry Dorff and Tabitha Spellman."
"Have you been keeping a close eye on them?" the oldest druid demanded. "No fooling around?"
"Very little," their overseer stated. "They sleep snuggled together. There has been no kissing or fondling, no flirting. Spellman has an iron will; if that's why she encourages no attention, or if she is merely still a child, I do not know."
"How do you evaluate her as a candidate?" the woman demanded.
"I would rank her near the top. She may be a bit lacking in faith. I believe her to be so honest, however, that she will drop out if she decides her faith is not strong enough. She is not pursuing this as a career step. She is searching for a Path."
"He is a leader. If he makes it to novice, he will wish to join the Dragons. If he fails, he will no doubt become a fine auror even without the Dragon connection."
"So you recommend we keep both of them?" the woman asked.
"Not an objection, merely an inquiry," another druid spoke up.
"They are friends with Cadfael ap Tudur ap Mawrth ap Rhys, hut Sixty-eight. My observations would say this was primarily at his instigation?"
"I would agree. Spellman seems to like him. He certainly likes Spellman. Probably a bit of puppy love on his part."
"I must ask, to inform the Board of Inquisition, do these two have any set interest yet, beyond the Open Belief? I believe you mentioned the boy is interested in the Dragons?"
"He is. Both are interested in the River, while Spellman is interested in the Owls."
"The next most open, and the two groups who try to fly above the sects with their service?"
"All three would require more of a commitment than the Open Believers ask," Henry and Tabitha's overseer from the Rock sect pointed out. "I know my opinion carries little weight with the Hidden, despite our own strict life-style, but I would say if you are to allow the boy to find his own Path, these are two for him to talk to. They will paint a true picture, not an overly pretty one."
"They must be special," another druid put in. "This is the most positive I have ever heard you be about any Outsider children."
"They will never feel comfortable in any traditional setting, let alone a Hidden one," the Rock druid replied, "but the boy's faith burns true. He will only make it to Novice with Spellman's help, but I believe he should be considered by the River and Dragons."
"Are they cheating?" another druid asked. Many students who had trouble with the oral memorization tried to cheat by taking notes or transcripts, which were forbidden.
"Not exactly. Spellman is a Dreamwalker, and I believe she helps him dream-learn."
That brought everyone up short. "That is allowed?" one finally said.
"She should not be in dream-contact until she is of age!" another declared.
"This was reported a year ago," the Rock druid stated. "The Tuatha itself declared that it is allowed, although they did not think it wise to tell the children. She was trained at the Ysgol by an Australian shaman known as 'Johnson the Dreamwalker,' who was doing a one year faculty swap with the Eagles. She is registered with the Shamans."
"It seems to me," Cadfael's overseer said thoughtfully, "that this girl is given a great deal of leeway."
"So she is," the oldest druid declared, "upon the orders of the Tuatha and the Council of Druids, and both opinions were unanimous. Do you wish to ask them to reconsider?" Since the three Tuatha members all came from the stricter sects, as did five of the seven Council members (two of whom were Hidden), that ended the discussion.
Friday, August 22, 1970
Tabitha and Henry arrived back at his family's homestead late Friday afternoon. They, along with most of their fellow students, had gone through an initiation at dawn, and they were tired. Each was wearing a small holly leaf made out of silver. While they needed three more years of training before they could lead anything beyond family prayers, they would now be able to attend most of the ceremonies, even if they dropped out of the program. This was especially important for Outsiders, like Henry. Children of Old Believers could apply to attend these ceremonies when they turned 17.
"Thank you," Henry said. "I never would have made it this far without you."
"You're welcome. It will be odd having some classes without you next month."
"We'll be all the same classes but one!"
"One for you, two for me. I'm taking Arithmancy and Runes and Magical Languages." They were both taking Muggle Studies, and Henry's family insisted he had to take Care of Magical Creatures.
"I wish you were taking Care," Henry said.
"So I could teach you something for a change! Speaking of changes, let's tell Mom we're back, and see if we have time to change and go for a swim."