Oracion had been warned not to go near the new castle that was already old, that stood in danger of crumbling at the end of the wood. It was there the wicked priest had taken the sun a long time ago, on a night so dark it lasted the length of three nights, and if not for the light of the moon, her kind would have died of grief.
Happy to be released, Oracion had made her new home in wood and flower, to trod upon moss and fragrant violet, ponder the graceful movement of heliotrope, and listen to chimes in the wind.
The three fairy godmothers that Father had given her were with her still.
Athough Oracion appreciated their companionship, she had to take care of them like little children, because all fairy godmothers will be, in some ways, little children. Subsequently, they often got tired and clung about Oracion’s neck heavily during the day, or pulled at her hair. Chagrin was the oldest, and was often found wandering off into the dangerous parts of the wood where the fog was deep, and had to be fetched before the child fell into the moat, or worse – got mistaken for Oracion.
If anyone found Oracion, the old priest would have her murdered instantaneously. If any of his servants dared to speak to her first, they would be executed as well. And she felt it would have been her fault, although she didn’t think it was.
But she missed her friends.
The thought of burning at the stake didn’t frighten Oracion, but stoning did. For her kind would be found guilty of knowing whatever sins the old priest had committed, and she would have been stoned for each one of his sins, as well as each one of her gifts, and each one of her fairy godmothers, the priest pocketing these things like plucked pansies into his robe.
And the moat into which she feared Chagrin would fall, was not like regular moats that Oracion had read about in story books when she was little (many lifetimes ago) or the one that had surrounded her own home in the Other World, but one that ran deceptively through pine and leaf throughout the forest floor like a giant, tangled snake set out to catch its prey.
Now that Oracion was even younger, she was very wary of this slippery inlet’s particular danger, and the fog that rose up from it in cloudy mists. It was the type of poisonous fog that had blinded some.
But the nights in the forest were beautiful because the fog never reached the sky, or obscured the moon. And although the stars were falling now at regular intervals, the nights were getting brighter than ever before.
Some said these bright nights were day, and of course they had always been, to Oracion.
For it was in the night that Oracion could shape shift like the other children into invisibility and fly.
Sometimes, after securing Chagrin, she would gather Alacrity and Velocity to her, and together they would slip into mysterious places forbidden, all walls dissolving in an instant at the touch of her hand. She saw books lining shelves that contained the hidden things, and passage ways that were really there, but hidden from plain sight, invisible to earth. Once she found a bracelet of baguettes of exquisite clarity the old priest had stolen from her when she was just little. Then, as if he found it useless, he had tucked it into his bedside table drawer.
Yes, it was as if the priest just stole out of jealousy, yet when obtaining what he wanted, could not understand the things he had stolen, in spite of their brilliance. Or perhaps, jealous of the shape shifters (who could turn matter into other forms good) he had stolen the power to turn, but could not turn them good.
She hoped it was not that. For for the first she had pity, but not for the latter.
And sometimes, during the night, Oracion found her real Father here and there in the woods like Aslan the Narnian beast, from a tale told in other demensions, and he drew her to him with more tenderness than ever expressed this side of heaven.
It was those nights Oracion liked the best.
But on one night, when the moon’s fullness made the castle more ominous and dark by comparison, Oracion found herself suddenly standing within its transparent walls in a place she did not wish to be, to view something she did not wish to see. For Oracion was standing beside the dresser drawer that contained the stolen diamond baguettes she had once worn around her own tiny wrist, laughing, once upon that time.
Only the priest’s drawer had been pulled roughly open and the bracelet was missing – or changed. And, as if in desperate attempt so her kind would never find or want to look for such a priceless bracelet again, a monstrous black snake slithered out, raising its ugly head at Oracion to strike.