I felt myself smiling again as I carefully took my favourite fountain pen and wrote the following words on the invitation card, beneath the print which read:
Adela Bach Docem
Sincerely Requests Your Presence For Cocktails
In Honour Of The Potentials For The Festival Of Blessings
On Friday, the sixteenth of December, At half past eight o’clock
Twentyseven Emery Place, London Black Tie.
“Dear Steve, I hope you can make it to this orientation meeting. I look forward to seeing you there, ME”
The act of writing these words evoked his presence strongly to me; so much so that I could nearly feel him in the room. I was proud and delighted to have found this one.
He was special.
So special in fact that I can’t help thinking he might be the one – my first one, my first transformation. The beginning of my own house.
I shiver most deliciously at the thought and I can feel a power building inside of me, a power and a need both, a wanting and a yearning.
Adela was quite right.
My time had come.
I was ready to take the next step, become Docem, the master of my own house. Lovingly, I replaced the cap on the fountain pen and laid it on the table, next to the invitation.
I leaned back in the chair and closed my eyes.
Giving the first release to Steve Burrows had been a most extraordinary experience. I had done this many times before, of course, many, many times since I first arose to my new life as a Cestra, a walker between the worlds, a messenger, a student and a servant both to the young, and to the old.
But this one had been different.
It had been so easy!
Easy, delightful, instantaneous.
He had been so ready, to completely aligned to me, and he had given up his human burdens so willingly and so readily, I’ve not encountered that before.
It could be that I’m just better now at doing it.
I smile as I remember the difficulties and struggles that used to surround my early attempts at releasing.
Weeks, sometimes months spent with the candidate; endless talking, endless arguing. Endless emotional outbursts and struggles. Toing and froing. Back and forth before finally, finally they would succumb and give it all up, what remained, bit by bit, time it took and so much attention.
It was hard work back then.
Nothing compared to the instantaneous flow of release that happened with Burrows. He was lucky to have encountered a Cestra Ta Docem instead of a newly fledged, wide eyed youngster who hadn’t seen the light of day in a decade, or two, or three.
Of course, I am immensely fond of all of my conversions and some of them still write to me, once in a while; sometimes I attend their funerals. I love them all most dearly, and no less because they did not go on to be chosen and join the house, or any other. The act of conversion is a wonderful benediction and an amazing gift, either way.
I admire the elders who, in days past so long that it must have been more than a hundred thousand years ago, decided to make it so that every potential will walk away with this extraordinary gift, and never feel that they lost out because they were not chosen in the end to become a member of a house, and a being of our kind.
Gently and with loving precision, I take the invitation and insert it into the thick linen envelope. I take care to address it first to Mr Steve Burrows before I turn it over to seal the envelope with the official seal of the house of Adela Bach.
It will be delivered by hand. A nice little errant for Alexandra, our fledgling Cestra to perform, not too challenging, no direct contact required, a mission that may take place in the dead of night and under gentle distant supervision.
It will be delivered and of course, Mr Steve Burrows will attend the cocktail party. He will look entirely transformed in a tuxedo, possibly the first time he would have ever worn one.
A pre-festival orientation was certainly the first time I had, when I attended a similar gathering, in a house in Westwood, Virginia, nearly two hundred years ago.
I can’t help but smile again and must shake my head. I always associate with my potentials, but this one …
I put out a strong and clear thought command to Satari, who is my personal assistant at this time and would most likely come with me to assist me in running my own house. She is not one of my own conversions and considerably younger than I am, but we have a good understanding and I know that my Lady Adela chose her for just such a purpose.
Satari appears near instantaneously at the door. I don’t have to tell her what to do with the invitation, she knows and will see to it that it will both be delivered, as well as being a most beneficial exercise for our youngster to aid in her unfoldments.
At this time of year, she will need all the stabilisation she can get. We will be attending the Festival of Blessings soon, and that can be an incredibly overwhelming experience which can push a fledgling Cestra back by a century or more if they’re not sufficiently stabilised.
Satari nearly glides towards my desk; she is both dark and fair at the same time, light and slight, but that entirely belies her power and her purpose. I wonder if Burrows will like her too, feel that affinity I have with her in preference as I do, and there we are again.
I’ve been thinking about this one since first I saw him at the art exhibition. There was really no reason for me to be there, we were so close already to the festival and it wasn’t as though we didn’t have a good crop of potentials to send to the occasion. We always do.
London is one of those places where they seem to gather quite naturally, from all around the world; there are five houses here, and that’s more than you would find anywhere else, and for good reason.
This year, I was as sure as one might be about a future that has not yet come to pass, that the house of Bach would end, and in its place, the house of Edwards would come into being.
Lady Adela was ready to go.
In truth, she had been ready to go for a decade or so; she was waiting for me. Ten festivals I had already attended, allowed to share the Docem’s level, the only time and place there is an exception to the strict segregation according to age and rank that exists at the festival.
Only the Docem up can choose; and I can’t be a Docem unless I choose and thus, become a Docem.
My Lady Adela would hold me and tell me that she loved me and that to wait with me until my time had come was not just an honour to her, but a bittersweet pleasure that was even more poignant because soon enough, it would be over and we would never again be together like we are right here, right now, a Docem and her chosen Cestra, completely in love, completely aligned and in a wonderful maturity of experience.
We would never be this close again.
I wonder sometimes if it is this reality that made me hold back at the Festivals past, somehow, without me doing it deliberately. But Adela smiled and said that it was all just as it was supposed to be – if there was no-one there who would draw my attention more strongly towards them and thus break my absolute fascination and singular attachment to my own sweet Lady, then it was not to be and none of us were ready to proceed.
I think of Steve Burrows again.
So much sorrow. So much sadness was inside of him, it was near enough overwhelming. It was exploding from him, lit up the room with violent flares of suffering, he stood out like a torch to me and he fascinated me completely.
The stronger a prospective is, the more powerful their emanations are, for the better, or the worse. It is also true that there is a direct relationship between those who would make the best prospectives and their suffering; sometimes it is too much and we are too late to find a most extraordinary candidate and they implode into their own catastrophes and then are lost to everyone.
The thought that I might have missed Burrows is quite painful; I am amazed to notice that it might be even terrifying.
Is he the one? Will I choose him at the Festival? What will happen if another claims him, one that is far higher in the ranks than I am? I’ve asked my Lady and she smiled and shook her head. “It cannot happen, my darling,” she said and touched me with such love, with such delight. “We choose by love, we live by love. The one who loves the most will be the one who will succeed in choosing, and there is never any doubt. It doesn’t matter if you are Cestra Ta Docem, or Cardor, or even Essem – the greatest affinity, the greatest connection, the greatest love will always win the day.” I feel her absolute conviction and even though I have no grounds upon which I could make a decision either way, I trust her and I go with her decisions, as I always do.
I sigh away my reservations and my nervousness.
Either it will happen, or it won’t.
Either I will find someone to love, to choose and to engage, to make my own and thus, to make them like we are, or I will not; next year this time, I will be with my own first love, or with my oldest and my best.
And if I thought of it like that, of course, I was entirely blessed, which ever way unfoldments should succeed.
My Lady Adela My Lady awaits me.
She is completely Docem, the most evolved stage of the mistress of a house. She has such power that if you close your eyes, you can feel her far and wide, and you want to flow to her like a river, you want to give yourself to her, a wonderful tide of home coming and of absolute blessing in every sense.
She is in complete control over her desires and over her hungers; she is exquisite and as finely tuned as she can be. To engage with her is a rapture, pure and simple; but what makes this rapture even more intoxicating still is the fact that our union can never be entirely completed.
If we were to let the safeguards go and take just one more step, she would instantly devoid me, and absolutely so – I would flow to her and all I am would be a breath of air to her and nothing more, and nothing would be left of me at all.
When we engage, we have to dance and I have my responsibility to withhold myself from her, to give her room so that she can relax and take as well as I control the flow from me to her as best I can.
I am the most evolved stage of Cestra, but I am no match for her, will never be; and so our unions are excruciating, terribly delicious, sometimes starburst wild and yet there is an unknown territory into which we cannot enter, not if we would wish that I should live.
And I don’t know how many times I cried and begged her to have mercy, to just let it go, to make an end and take me all and all at once, so we can be together, even if together lasts for just a fraction of a moment, a single splinter made of time, it would be all eternity and finally fulfil my endless need and hers, at that.
I do not know how many times she cried and held me close and showed me once again that this was as it was for our kind; a learning and progression, a test of our strength, of our love indeed for we do have a path, a purpose and a road to travel, each and every one of us, and we must live to do our duty by our kind.
And of course, we do.
But it isn’t about duty, in the end.
Unless it could be said that it is the duty of our kind to experience different levels of awareness and of splendour all the while.
I cannot imagine what it will be like to be as Adela is right now. She is evolving beyond the need for taking life from humans, and from her own kind, or should I say she has evolved beyond that now and only engages in that now for pleasure, hers and ours in equal measure.
She will walk forth from this what was her house without a backward glance and enter her time of Ferata, living alone and wild and becoming of the land, of the sky, the sea, the air and drawing all her sustenance and learning directly from the Universe itself.
She will walk forth and will be gone to me, will be unreachable for centuries perhaps, and when she does return, she will be very different and other than in every way, and not the Lady, not my Docem, not the one who took me in so lovingly and did transform me from a man into an other.
But I shall not grieve, for I am told that I will be entirely occupied with my own loves, with my own Arada and my Cestra, and with the running of my house, with the safety of everyone in my responsibility, and with their evolution.
I find this hard to understand.
I know the theory, of course I do; I have observed and I am faithful that it all should come to pass just as was explained to me and yet, I still cannot conceptualise a state of being where I would be far from Adela and not miss her so much that I would think I’d tear apart.
As I am thinking these thoughts it becomes apparent that at this moment, I would rather be with her than anywhere; soon enough, the time will come when I can never be with her again, not like this, and this time is precious, so precious, and so rare.
So I leave my rooms and make my way to hers.
The house is unusually noisy tonight.
Downstairs, there are the human caterers at work to set up for the party in a few hours. Their voices, their noises and most of all, their emanations spiral through the entire house, fill the corridors and the stairwells with the scent of their youthful, innocent existences. It is like walking through a multi-coloured fog, but now, I think of it in terms of a decoration rather than a distraction as it used to be when first I re-emerged to face all that again, from this new vantage point as was.
Adela knows that I am coming, and she knows why I am coming.
I do not pause before her door but make the effort and de-stabilise, precisely and just enough to pass through the door without having to open it. Adela sits in her bedroom, at the far end by the heavily curtained bay window, in front of a great mirror, clad only in a clinging garment of pure and subtle silk. Her eyes are in the mirror, and she is reflected perfectly and looks at me through the mirror; I smile and manifest a little more tightly, and so my reflection then arises behind her as though I stepped out from a morning mist and I go to stand behind her.
Adela is incredible.
She is simply the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, tall, strong and subtle; as fair as a glacier at dawn with her clear blue eyes and white blond hair that falls in natural waves across her bare shoulders, cascades down her back, light and electric, a mermaid under waters of an ocean that is cold and so pure, so eternal, bright white and blue, dancing with life and ancient awareness.
I close my eyes and melt into her presence as she accepts mine with equal admiration. She enfolds me, she empowers me and it is true that I have never known to be of worth or value until Adela showed me what she saw and tasted when she touched my heart, my soul.
I place my hands on her fair shoulders, my mouth into her hair and breathe her in, drink her in, her state of being that holds an amusement on this night, a tingling expectation that lies like an emerald strand alongside the rivers of her usual existence.
Beneath my hands, my mouth she is turning, and I turn with her, so we kiss; she takes my breath and I take hers and so we both pass knowing of each other to each other and combine, and there is the temptation, the urge to take it on, to take it further, to connect more deeply and more deeply still, one circuit after the next, one exchange flowing after the other, until it is a rushing storm, becomes a tumbling cascade that takes on a life of its own, a desire and power for fulfilment that is beyond the scope of words to understand.
Regretfully, oh! Always regretfully we call a halt and disengage enough so that we might be conscious once again of our surroundings and on this night, Adela choose to address me through her voice, in words that resonate with layers, levels, meanings and instructions up and down and far and wide.
“How long is it to go?” she asks, and that is not a question for she knows exactly just how long an interval remains before we both will royally descend the stairs and take our places in the drawing room, and watch with mounting joy and much amusement as the potentials slide into the room, half aware and full of life, and full of questions.
What she is doing is to ascertain that I am in the flow, and if I need her help to both be present and aware, with all things ready and arranged, so that the evening will be wide open and a good event for all who gather on this night.
There was a time when that would not have been required; we were stable and completely functioned in our roles and places, a dream team she had called us and we worked together in that way for more than a century, before the changes started to unbalance what had been the perfect situation and she moved ever more towards her next unfoldment as Ferata, and I as Docem.
Still, Adela feels entirely responsible for me. In some ways, I know that she remembers me as that – not as a dreaming Arada, not as a fledgling Cestra, not as her chosen mate but just as these potentials we will see tonight, a new and frightened being that is so vulnerable, so excited and so absolutely in her power.
Love at first sight.
It is true, and I am intrigued by the fact that this has never changed. I only know first hand how the unfoldments change you, and still it is the first moment, the first meeting that is the clearest and brightest of all the memories, the first time you saw a one, the first time you felt that resonance, that drive to union and to absolute submission.
I share this with her and she laughs, turns away from me, picks up a brush and begins to stroke her bright hair. It shines and sparkles in the gentle light provided by two candles inside a crystal shade that sits to the right of her on the dressing table, the only illumination in this room.
Adela says, “I can’t wait to see your Mr Burrows. You certainly are most impressed.” I smile from behind her and she takes my smile into her shoulders, lets it flow between her shoulder blades and down her spine, down her back.
“I keep thinking about him,” I say. I know she knows, for when I think about him, she will think about him too, thus is our connection. A thought occurs to me.
“What would happen if you were to choose again, at this festival?” The brush stops in mid sweep and Adela looks up into the mirror, finds my eyes.
“Then, I will stay a while longer.” It is strange how that possibility had never occurred to me before.
Of course. If Adela should find a one to make a union, she could not move on and leave them, new, naked and vulnerable. She would have to stay and see them through to Cestra – and that would change everything.
My heart beats faster as I consider the possibility of what it would be like if both of us were Docem, the leaders of separate houses and we would come together … “You know that is not allowed,” she says softly, regretfully and I think this was the first time that I had felt from her a direct and absolute resistance to the Covenant, the eternal laws that govern our kind.
The Covenant In the times when I was Arada, the not-yet-born, drifting in white silence and in never ending comfort, I learned many things.
I learned these things not in words, and often not even in visions or in sounds, but they were knowings that became a part of me as my Lady and her Cestra drank my humanity away, a little bit at a time, and replaced my structure from the inside out with their own.
I remember a story, very clearly and in preference to many other things I learned and I was taught, knowings and inscriptions, some of which felt so old, so very old … I remember a story of two Docem, who met and fell in love, and entered into a union from which neither could escape and which destroyed them both, and all their line, their houses and all their dependents.
A union between two equals is impossible.
Neither can safeguard the other; neither can resist the other; and as each begins to feed upon the other, the circuit becomes faster and faster, rushing ever more out of control until it tears them both to pieces.
It was one of the very first things that I learned, and truly understood because I knew just how it was, what it was that happened when your Docem starts to feed from you and takes your life force from you, and what is most astonishing about the process is that you would give it up so willingly, and more, that you would rush forward, throw yourself in wild abandon at your Docem, even at a Cestra, for it feels so good to be relieved of that, it feels so *right* and just as though it was what you’d been waiting for all your life.
I don’t know just why that should be so; but I will learn in my own time, when as Cardor I will help to shape and to police the Covenant. I will learn everything there is to know about our kind, and our purposes, our path. Instead of knowing certain things and wondering just how I know, I will experience clarity.
This time will come; it isn’t here and there’s no need for me to wonder or to worry; for now, all I have to concern myself with is to follow the Covenant, and to enjoy my existence in every way and whatever stage or challenge might be with me at the time.
The Covenant protects us, it guides us, and it gives us a way to handle the enormous time spans that are part of our unfoldments. The first law of the Covenant is that we are ruled by love.
When I became aware of this, the basic law of the Covenant, I knew it to be true at once. I knew this in a very different way from how a human might perceive this statement; for our kind does not consider love to be a concept, an idea or just a word.
To us, it is reality.
Reality of such power and such force that we both live and die beneath its cruel and glorious wings.
Only those who are loved are chosen to be amongst us; only those amongst us who can love will choose. We fall in love with power and with a passion that is unknown, unheard of amongst humans but for rare and distant tales and incidents which are repeated for the youngsters through story, song and tale.
It is this love which guides our conduct, binds us, holds us tight and it prevents us from transgressions even if we wanted to commit them.
My Lady Adela cannot hurt me. She cannot kill me, not even by accident; she cannot choose to kill me, hurt me or destroy me for she loves me far too well and my well being is beyond her own.
And so it is for me as in return, I love her just the same – she is my alpha, my omega, the rising sun and all the heavens and there is no higher power that could sway me from my course to help her, to protect her in all ways and yes, including from myself as well.
Adela made me. She chose me from more than a hundred thousand, for she had not chosen in a hundred years when first she saw me at my Festival. She chose me as I chose her and our bond of love is thus unique amongst our kind.
Yet everyone within her house and everyone who is connected as we all are through our unions and exchanges is in love as well, as there would never be a one amongst us who was not conceived in love to start with, raised and reared in love and with the time that passes, the bonds are ever strengthening, ever deepening – none of us can transgress against another, no matter what the rank, and we all serve each other, one and all.
The second law of Covenant is that of evolution.
No thing should ever get between a one and their unfoldments; unfoldments are what make the Universe remain alive and to transgress against unfoldments is a death, a deadly sin indeed.
We are exquisitely aware of the unfoldments, and even though they move so gently that it may appear that nothing changes for eternity, this isn’t so; we have our time, but it is different from what we once knew when we were human still.
Our time spans are far greater yet and at the same time, they are infinitely more precious as each moment, every second is a step upon the path from here to there – we’re growing, learning, and unfolding all the time.
I often think how blessed we all are that these two laws in action do create a situation where not only there is love, but it is new love all the time – as I change, as I grow, so does my Lady and each time we come together, each of us is new and there, we fall in love afresh, bright new and so exciting! It is as well that first when we are new and young, we sleep and dream for many years, for our skill to move from one excitement, from one joy into the next without a backward glance or wanting to repeat a something that has gone and is now of the old is something we all have to learn, a human life entrainment that must be dissolved and absolutely laid aside or else we waste our wonderful eternities.
My own unfoldment is my highest duty; but also bound by love and service, it is my responsibility to assist in the unfoldment of the others that I love, and all others of my kind in every way I can.
I understand the Covenant; it is alive, it is within me and all around me. It is who I am and what greater joy or pleasure could there be? And yet, my Lady spoke in true regret when the idea of the union of two equals came to me – the Covenant forbids this, but here is the question.
This law is not the first.
The first law of the Covenant is love.
I understand, and I shiver.
Love overrides all.
If our love was to dictate it, we could enter into the union of two equals.
And we would not have broken any law.
In the mirror, my Lady Adela smiles at me.
She initiated this train of thought and catalysed my understanding to perfection. “Ah, my lady …” I sigh and go to her, kneel before her and place my head into her silky lap.
She strokes my hair with smiling fingertips, and so we are when from below, a bell is heard to ring and now I smile as well for we have truly lost ourselves in time tonight.
The first of the potentials has arrived.
Focus On Adela
My only personal conversion this year is Burrows. Our house is small, Adela has been keeping it to the minimum in preparation for her departure and to make it easier on everyone to find new arrangements. We only have seven Arada in the underworld, and apart from me, there are only two other Cestra – and none of these are Adela’s own, they are all fosterlings now.
Satari and Alexandra have found five potentials, so we are expecting six guests tonight – six bright new humans, grateful humans, confused humans.
When I was young, the house was much bigger still and there would be dozens of these; it was a big occasion back then, very lively, so much energy all around.
Tonight, everything is rather muted.
There is a silent expectation of the end of the house that has been getting ever denser these past few years, and with that comes a sense of sorrow of the passing of what had been a wonderful time in our unfoldments, coupled with the not knowing what would happen next.
My lady and I take our time to get ready, and when we are we get involved with one another, lightful and delightful playing to pass the time until Satari brushes us with the invitation to descend and meet the new potentials.
I smile and through me, Adela too becomes intrigued and then excited. I hope she will see what I did see when I invited Burrows; I hope she will find him a good choice and I hope my judgement has been sound.
Outside Adela’s rooms, Satari is awaiting us. She leads the way down the stairs and we remain in the hallway, outside the formal reception room, until we have been fully announced with name and rank, and then we step inside.
The reception room is splendid; softly yet radiantly lit with many candles in crystal chandeliers. At the top end, two elderly human caterers are standing quietly with serviettes across their arms before the buffet table. Alexandra is sitting in one of the corner sofas, looking amused and extremely haughty with two adoring male potentials, and the other four potentials are clustered together in a tight and frightened group by the great fire place, each one clasping a crystal glass of champagne and staring straight at both of us, then their eyes slide off me and focus completely on Adela.
I side step my focus and attune more to their state of being, and I don’t have to try very hard to remember just how amazing it is when first you meet your first real Docem.
With the Cestra, there is a sense of comfort there – well, they are a lot like us, the potentials would be thinking, this isn’t such a change, not such a big deal. But when they see their first real Docem, they begin to understand that they are dealing with something they have never known before at all.
Every one of them can feel Adela into the marrow of their bones.
Every one of them can hear her thoughts, and every one can see the radiance that surrounds her, beautiful veils of drifting colours, silken, pastel, winds of change and of pure beauty, of pure power.
With Adela, and especially on this night, there is still more to make it even more memorable an occasion for these humans – she is already part Ferata, and there are forests in her trail, soaring mountains in her wake and starlit nights, whispers of mysterious strangeness and universal knowing, wide flung wings of day and night in everlasting harmony.
I shift my focus to find Steve Burrows, who said he was an artist in the past tense, and I must smile.
He looks quite the part in his brand new tuxedo, and he has already moved a little into an acceptance of that form of attire, into a compromise; Alexandra’s two young men by comparison are still very much humans who are chafing uncomfortably in their hired evening wear.
Burrows is older than is usual or average for a potential. Most are found on or around my age, sometimes a little younger even, but he is already marked by time, by suffering. There are sharp lines in his face, around his mouth and around his eyes but they give him character and do not detract from a basic grace and inner strength that holds him upright and tense, even when he tries to appear relaxed in gesture and in stance. He must have been battling whether or not to get a hair cut; I’m glad he decided not to because his long, fine, untidy blond hair gives him a real artist’s flair and in this lighting, a halo, too.
Burrows is staring at Adela, his mouth is half open and like all the others, he is completely under her spell, completely entranced.
And then he shocks me completely by slowing closing his lids and when he opens them again, he is looking directly at me.
Not only is he looking at me, he is attempting a move towards a union! I am shocked again and my shock transmits to my lady who turn towards me and the entire room takes a breath, unravels, startles aware and awake and for a moment, no-one knows just what to do exactly.
I can sense Adela’s amusement, tinged with a little note of wonder and then she says, “Mark, Satari, Alexandra – please introduce me to our young guests.” I look to Burrows and nod to him, and he comes forward, hesitantly, clasping the champagne flute in both his nervous hands.
I smile at him encouragingly before I step aside and say, “Mr Steve Burrows, this is Lady Adela Bach, the Docem of this house. My lady, this is Steve Burrows.” Adela’s amusement deepens as she holds out a gloved hand to him, palm down.
Burrows takes it with utmost caution and I know for a fact that even in the presence of this extreme Docem, he has just debated with himself if he should shake her hand and refuse the kiss. I have to take a moment to contain myself, and Adela’s amusement is such now that it is hard to keep composure.
Burrows leans over my Lady’s hand and performs a bow over it, doesn’t dare to touch it with his lips, and when he straightens he has blushed deeply.
I tune to her more tightly and I am relieved to note that he does not only amuse her, but that she has a sense of fondness for him, feels a kindness for him and so she does not say anything else, just smiles gently and then moves on, between us, leaving her fragrance in her wake as she flows across the room towards the fire place, where Satari will make her introductions next.
“Tell me to keep breathing,” Burrows says to me and then blows out a long breath through pursed lips. I smile and go to stand beside him.
The next potential, an otherwise quite plain girl with tight, long brown curls kneels and nearly falls at Adela’s feet.
“Wow,” Burrows says. “So that’s what a vampire master – mistress …” and there, words fail him. He was going to say, “looks like” but then refrained from using that description; feels like, appears like, makes me feel like? That and so much more.
I wonder what he would paint, if he would try to paint her, the first time he saw her, just beyond the doorway here in this room, tonight.
“Would you like to sit down for a while?” I ask him and he startles out of his reverence, his fascination and nods immediately. “Yes, please,” he says. I lead him to one of the sofas that arranged in groups for privacy and intimacy, in the corner by the buffet so he can keep viewing the entire room and everything that happens here from a safe vantage.
As we sit, one of the waiters offers me a tray with champagne. I take a glass, nod my thanks and become aware that Burrows is watching me now, with an intent and hungry expression. He’s going to ask me if I’m going to drink this. If I drink, and eat, or if it is all blood … “Do you still eat? And drink?” Burrows asks.
I smile and answer in action, by first scenting and experiencing the wonderful tiny sensations of the champagne against my lips, under my nose. Then I close my eyes and take a long, slow drink, tracking all the small explosions of taste and texture all the way, and the energies as they disperse and intermingle with my own.
I like champagne. It is a miniature festival, every sip, every glass.
Across the room, Alexandra and her two potentials are getting ready to meet Lady Adela. I lay back and watch Burrows watching them, watching their reactions to Adela and how it reveals so much about them, both who they are and who they’re trying to be, two very different affairs of state, indeed.
Alexandra’s boys are very good looking. One is white, the other coloured; they are both strong, well grown and congruent. Eager to please, intelligent undoubtedly; young princes and I’m sure if they were to join us here and become Arada, I would grow fond of them in time, but as far as I am concerned they lack that special something that attracted me to Burrows.
“How have you been,” I enquire easily and he turns around to me. This time, our eye contact is brief, a flash, before we both withdraw and look somewhere else. This is a mutual decision, and that in and of itself is remarkable. I am Cestra Ta Docem, and he is only a potential. He has power, this one.
“It’s been amazing,” he answers me, returns to watch Adela with Alexandra and her boys but continues to speak. “It’s like I’ve woken up from a long, long sleep. A nightmare that used to be my life.” He pauses, puts his glass on the polished table before us, next to one of the many crystal coasters, then turns right in the seat and straightens, requests full eye contact. I steady myself and look into his eyes, and he says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but whatever it is, I wanted to make sure to thank you. Thank you.” I don’t know what to say to that. He is, if he knows this or not, a still, ancient stream, deep underground, full of clarity and strength. When he digs that deep, he will discover this about himself.
“It was a privilege,” I respond and then we both nod at the same time, sigh at the same time, lean back in our seats at the same time.
Adela is through with Alexandra’s boys. She moves into the center of the room, which causes everyone to focus on her exclusively once more, and says gently, “Your Cestra will answer any questions you might have about the Festival, or the Choosing. Please enjoy the stay in my house.” She smiles, turns and makes towards the exit; Satari rushes to open the door for her, and to close it behind her once she has left the room.
I feel Burrow’s disappointment at her leaving, as well as his inordinate relief at her leaving, which is reflected and amplified by all the potentials as though it was my own.
Now, we could get down to the purpose of this night.
Riversmooth I don’t get out much these days. To find potentials, amongst other errands, is a practice task for the young Cestra; to convert them is an essential training exercise that stabilises them in their new states of being, challenges them and teaches them about their personal otherness in comparison.
Like so many other things we do, the choosing and conversion of potentials is an exquisitely multi-layered thing with many meanings, many, many different strands of purpose. The third law of the Covenant is that of the preciousness.
It means that truly, between us there is no hierarchy, no rank of any kind. The potentials don’t understand this, they always misjudge the idea of there being unfoldments from one state to another as being a linear progression towards power and yet more power.
Of course, the older we become, the more we know and understand; of course, we become more powerful with the passing unfoldments in many senses.
However, it is the youngest Cestra who indeed decide who ever will become a Taray one day, for they pick the potentials, and they alone.
It is an incredible responsibility and I well remember just how astonished I was when I did move amongst the humans in their world and try and seek a one who would give me a resonance, an indication that they might be in potential one of us.
It has been a long, long time since I discovered someone and I did not expect to be doing so again.
For a hundred years or more, at this point of the evening, I would be with Adela, and we would exchange amusements and insights about the new crop of potentials, and about the young Cestra, and how they arrived at their specific candidates.
To be here with Burrows is like a time warp, or more precisely, a state warp.
I am not a little uncomfortable about all of this. I really should not have become involved with a potential at this late stage; this might account for the pure speed of the conversion when it should have taken a gentle time of learning, of exchange of information, many meetings, a slow building of trust and recognition, questions asked and answered, and most importantly, time for the potential to reflect on what it was they were about to enter here.
Burrows has missed out on all of that, and more to the point, there is no time left now to explain it all. He would have to decide on intuition – and what would happen should he come to regret his decision? Is this possible? As my discomfort grows, Burrows becomes more nervous and uncertain.
He can see that Satari and Alexandra are light and at ease with their potentials, drinking and talking, movements in harmony and familiarity. I can see that my Cestra sisters are very skillfully engaging in polishing their people, aligning and removing any left over disturbances, to make them more attractive still, a last minute intervention right here in their own house, with their own Docem lending insight, wisdom, strength and support at the other levels, so that the potentials should be as attractive as possible and represent the house of Adela Bach with dignity, and splendour.
I, on the other hand, sit in the far corner with my strange potential and I second guess myself, spiral about inside myself and question whether he should even be here.
This will never do.
That night, I made the decision to go outside. I wandered around and entered the exhibition. I had a sense that I should be there, and when I saw Burrows, I couldn’t help myself, I had to pick him. I didn’t even think about it much at the time. Adela was very surprised when I related the incident to her on my return but accepted the entire situation immediately as an unfoldment. I often wonder if I will ever flow as freely as she does, swim in time so elegantly, forward she moves so easily and not like I, who seems to spiral back and back and back again before I gain any distance at all.
I force myself to steady down and to become clear, clean and flowing, inside and out. Riversmooth. The first and simplest of all Cestra invocations. I am supposed to be Ta Docem and I really need this child’s device to keep my balance on this night.
As I begin to ripple and to flow into the perfect state alignment beneath a shield of flowing silver water, a sense of peace and safety begins to enter the entire room just the same, begins to spread across the house and everyone responds – I can feel Adela sigh with pleasure in her rooms above, Satari and Alexandra relaxing, even the two old human waitors who have been in this house on many previous occasions shift down and stand more comfortably.
The only one who seems completely untouched by riversmooth is Burrows. Actually, no, he isn’t untouched. He is responding badly. He frowns and leans further away from me, holds his champagne glass close to his chest and shakes his head.
“What the hell are you doing?” I can hear his thought as loud and clear as though he had shouted it into the room. It causes a ripple in my riversmooth, but only for a second.
In the spoken word, I respond.
“We are here tonight so that you may put questions to me, and I will answer them.” Burrows sighs but does not relax. He shakes his head again. He doesn’t know where to start. He plays for time, takes a drink from his glass, then another. Finally, he asks, hesitantly, “Does it hurt?” Even in riversmooth, I am amused.
“No. Not at all.” Burrows reflects on this and tries another drink from his glass, but his glass is empty. He places it on the table, again to the side of the coaster with absolute deliberation. I find that fascinating. It is a small protest, but a noticeable one and one which he has chosen to make.
As I am not saying anything, he sighs, sits back in the chair and looks at me. He has beautiful eyes, bright eyes, challenging eyes. In riversmooth, he cannot touch me or reach me from outside and I can see the bereavement this causes him, the disappointment, then, the anger.
That is an old anger and it has survived the conversion, which is quite remarkable. “So,” he says quite pointedly, “Tell me about the blood drinking, the people killing, and that whole immortality lark. If that’s why we’re here. Give me the low down, Mr Edwards. The managerial version.” He crosses his arms and then his legs as well and looks across to me a challenge.
I answer simply. “We do not drink blood. We transform people into our own. We are immortal.” Burrows draws a breath in through flared nostrils as he receives this information.
“No blood?” he asks, cautiously.
“No blood. I believe it is a metaphor for the flow of life inside a person, inside anything and everything.” “So you people are – energy vampires?” I shrug. “As good a description as any. But essentially correct.” “How is this transformation achieved?” “Over a period of time, we take the existing flows and slowly replace them with our own kind. When this replacement process is complete, so is the transformation.” “Over a period of time? How long?” he asks, curious, and his rigid posture of rejection begins to soften. “It depends on the individual and the house involved and it varies. It can be as short as ten years and sometimes, it takes centuries.” Burrow gasps and his eyes are wide in shock. “Centuries?” he says, helplessly.
“Centuries,” I respond lovingly and I can feel my state of riversmooth beginning to dissolve, shift and shape into another state, that of remembering the wonderful peace, luscious drifting, deep restoration that is the blessing of Arada.
“Come with me,” I say and rise. “Come with me and meet our beautiful Arada.” Mirror Transformation At the end of the corridor behind the staircase, there is a great mirror. It is clearly very old, but at the same time, it is immensely clear, brilliantly clear. It reaches from the top of the picture rail right down to the skirting board and is bordered by a thick frame of exquisite carvings inlaid in fresh, bright shining gold.
As we approach the mirror, Burrows sees that he alone reflects even though we are shoulder to shoulder, and he keeps looking at me and then back at the mirror which still shows only him, then he stops me, about ten feet away from the massive mirror.
Hesitantly, he reaches out and touches my upper arm, lightly, then more insistent.
“You – feel so real,” he says and shakes his head, looking back and forth between the mirror and me in the corridor.
“I am real,” I say, “I am right here. I am manifest, but there are many different levels of manifestation. Watch the mirror.” He looks into the mirror and I gently manifest more tightly; the mirror trick is a fine tuning that all young Cestra have a great time practicing with much giggling upon their first emergence. As I manifest, there appears a shadow at first; an undefined swirling that takes on more and more shape and form until the mirror reflects perfectly two men in black tie evening dress, one dark haired, one fair; one composed, and the other amazed, appalled and delighted in equal measure.
“Wow,” he says. “I get to learn to do that?” I find his eyes in the mirror and tell him very seriously, “There are many more potentials than will be chosen. There is a high likelihood that you will not be chosen at the Festival, statistically speaking. It is only a possibility, a potential, that is all.” Burrows nods and sighs. “I understand,” he says, “But …” and then he bites his lip and strangles the rest of the sentence.
I turn towards him and look at him directly. “Speak honestly,” I tell him. “We have not much time. The Festival is only five days away.” Burrows gives a small submissive nod. I gave him a direct command and he will have to obey it, then try and work out why he did at another time. He says, “I am thinking that you have already chosen me, and that I am not just any potential.” Gently and quietly I say, “All potentials feel that way.” Emotions pass in ripples across his face, his stance and bearing and there is an enormous sadness that sweeps up inside of him, crests across and falls on me in an instance; I am enveloped by it and it is such a strange sensation, such an old, old occurrence that has come back from the dungeons of the past to punish me for having been so unkind as to say what I did in the way I said it.
Speak honestly. There is not much time. The festival is only five days away.
I turn to face him squarely. “I am sorry,” I say. “I shouldn’t have said that. And it isn’t true. You are right. You are not just any potential. It is – extremely unusual, let me say – for someone like me to – recruit. And you are right in saying that I have already chosen you.” I was surprised at how difficult I found it to tell this human about my motivations. With another of my kind it isn’t necessary to explain yourself, your motives, your doubts and your insecurities; they know them intimately. We are of the house, we are family, we know everything about each other and the only thing that remains an everlasting mystery is the unfoldments yet to come. We are a single system in truth and if I don’t know something about myself, the others will and through them, I will know it too.
But here I realise that I did indeed go far beyond a simple potential recruitment; that what happened between Burrows and I in the street outside that gallery was a true breach of conduct, probably even a breach of the Covenant. This thought appals me so much that not only do I wink out from the mirror in an instant, but that Adela did instantly manifest in the corridor behind us, entirely alarmed at the sudden disturbance in my states of being, to which she is linked as though I was part of her own body.
“Beloved,” she says and resonates it across the levels and the layers, deep and wide and then there is only she, and she is strength and beauty absolute, safety and radiance all at once, movement re-established, flow regained.
“What have I done?” I ask of her in helplessness, and Adela is surrounding and soothing. “You are engaging an unfoldment,” she tells me, “Beloved, remember the Covenant. Remember the Covenant.” The first law. The first law is love. All else is secondary, subordinate, immaterial. “Are you telling me it is allowed to choose outside the festival?” I can’t believe where my understanding of the Covenant is taking me.
Adela is very still, very real and very serious. “It is only allowed if it should happen,” she replies with care. “Under any other circumstance, it is indeed, a serious breach of the Covenant.”
I am completely caught off guard. I thought I understood the Covenant, that I had learned a law that was both just and beautiful, a law that doesn’t exist to punish but only to protect and foster our development, a law that is there to guide us, allow us to be free of pain and fear inside its eternal halls.
But here, in this corridor, so ethereal that Burrows can no longer see us at all and hardly senses our presence, I begin to catch a glimpse of the true strength and unbelievable age of the Covenant, how it is not this one thing that I thought it to be at all, but instead, an organic structure that is as changeable as we are ourselves, and as evolving, all the same.
The Covenant itself *is* love, and it is unfoldment, and oh! so very precious!
As I begin to sense, and see, and understand, I also feel a different strength, a different level now begins to rise in me, this is the essence of the Covenant and it is causing an unfoldment, a transformation as I engage with it and through it, gain an entirely different understanding of its purposes, and even of its relationship with all my kind.
I am speechless, helpless in this newness, in this ancient brilliance and in this state of pure amazement, of humility.
My Lady Adela is behind me and beside me, either side of me, fountain columns of pure strength and of support, and as I change and I transform throughout my matrix, through my structures and my times, as I am Docem, newly born, we both then also know that it was true, that we had silently and deep inside created in our unions a treaty which decreed that we should stay together, ward off our subtle new unfoldments and remain, just where we were, but that in truth I have ascended – I am Docem and she is Ferrata.
Our transformation has occurred.