A/N: Finally. It is done!!! (dun-dun-duuuuuuunnnn)
The Burning Time
They came to her doorstep, the two; side-by-side, their hands laced and heads bowed. Jana saw their approach from the window, and the sight made the corners of her mouth turn slightly upwards. She had foreseen it, but the irrefutable proof of what had transpired in il Campo before her was a welcome comfort.
So. It has finally happened.
"Jana." Robin had released her partner's hand, and came running up the stone steps toward her, throwing her arms around her. "Nonna…"
"Mia bambina." She held the girl tightly, smiling over the chestnut-blonde head tucked next to hers. Her dark green eyes lighted on Amon, as he stood at the foot of the cobblestone stairs watching them, and his own gray eyes met hers. A brief nod passed between them; this time not of recognition, as had been their first meeting on Jana's porch—but one of acknowledgement, and forgiveness.
Robin clung to her fiercely, and her breath gave the slightest hitch as she whispered in her grandmother's ear. "Nonna…Juliano…"
"Lo so, bambina, lo so." Jana patted her back comfortingly.
"It shouldn't have happened that way," the young Witch whispered, "I should have stopped them, I shouldn't have let—"
But Jana was shaking her head as she pulled her granddaughter back to look into her face. "There was nothing you could have doneIt had been his choice to stay behind in Pisa. He knew they would come for him. He was only hoping to delay them, to buy as much time as possible." She stroked the chestnut-blonde hair gently. "It was part of the exchange, bambina."
"I don't expect you to understand now, Robin," Jana said gently, knowingly. "But someday, you will."
They quietly packed what little belongings they had left at the farmhouse. She kept close observance as they did, packing a small basket of food in the kitchen for their trip. As Robin went to check another room, Amon found himself briefly alone with Jana, and they shared a moment of respectable silence.
He spoke to her lowly, their backs to one another. "You foresaw everything that happened?"
"Yes." Her voice was serenely quiet.
He turned to regard her out of the corner of his eye. "The knowledge of Juliano's fate weighed heavily on you."
Jana was wordless for a few moments, during which he debated the wisdom of his question. Finally he heard her sigh.
"Everything that happened, did so as according to the cosmic design of things. Juliano's sacrifice, when Robin was weak, necessitated her surrender. Her surrender and her impending death were what triggered your memories. Your memories facilitated your awakening."
"It's a high price to pay for what has been given to me." His voice held a trace of guilt.
Jana turned toward him at his words, and crossed the few steps that separated them to lay her hand reassuringly on his shoulder. "You are blameless. Don't trouble yourself because of it. His gesture was not in vain—he died knowing he was fulfilling what needed to be done." She met his eyes firmly and evenly, as she squeezed his shoulder. "It is my burden, Amon; and mine alone to know."
Their countenances, momentarily darkened, began to lighten again as Robin re-entered the kitchen. Jana stepped back to the basket she was preparing, directing her question to Amon, who looked as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "How will you travel?"
"We'll take the car as far as we can," he answered, as he watched Robin cradling Bast in her arms. "It may give us away at some point, so we're prepared to take a route by water if we must."
Jana stopped packing, and turned to face them. "I still do not think it is wise to leave Italy now. Not with what is coming on the horizon—"
"It's only for a short time, Nonna," Robin reminded her. "We can't allow them to trace us here—not yet. It's too dangerous for you right now, if we stay."
"We need to throw them off for a while," Amon continued as he finished tying things up. "We'll return when it's safe for us—and you—to do so."
"Don't be gone long," Jana warned gently. "There will be a gathering here, soon; the likes of which have not been seen for thousands of years. They will come, in search of you both." Her voice dropped with gravity. "They will look for you to guide them."
"We will be back," Robin promised, returning to her grandmother's side and laying a comforting hand on the older woman's arm. "We promise we will."
Jana looked at both, from one to the other. "Where will you go?"
Now Robin paused, and turned to her partner to glimpse his expression. What she saw, as their eyes briefly met, traveled to her lips; but it was not only her mouth that smiled.
"Anywhere," she answered softly, before her voice strengthened as she turned back to her grandmother. "We can go anywhere."
Amon shut the backseat of the BMW, after loading the last of their articles into it. Robin and Jana watched him from the porch, Bast seated near their ankles. Amon had loathed the idea of leaving the cat behind; but on the run was not an ideal condition to bring a pet. She would be safer in Sovana, for now.
The young Witch put her arms around her grandmother once more and held her tightly. "Arrivederci," she whispered. "We will see you soon, si?"
Jana hugged her warmly, and pulled back to hold her by the shoulders. Her expression turned momentarily serious. "Remember they will be looking, all of them, towards you now to help them," she said. "Teach them what you know. Teach them of the responsibility of having such power." Her eyes lightened again, overflowing with mirth and love.
She kissed her granddaughter on the cheek once more and sent her off, nodding in Amon's direction. "Ciao cara. Your consorte awaits you." Robin headed down the steps two at a time to where he waited, the engine purring as he started the car. With one last look at Jana standing before the farmhouse, the young chestnut-haired girl smiled again and opened the passenger door, sliding in before shutting it behind her. The car pulled out of the driveway in reverse and headed onto the main road, picking up speed as it went.
They passed the archway, the entrance into the via de Mezzo, and Robin saw that many of the Sovanan villagers had come to the crest of the hill underneath the arch to watch them depart. They had recognized the car, and were waving and shouting.
Robin gave a soft gasp of startled pleasure, which caught Amon's attention. She laughed quietly at some of the children, running as though they made to chase after the car despite its distance from them.
He watched her for a long moment; then without a word he removed one hand from the wheel and covered hers, which rested on the middle console. He entwined his fingers with her own, squeezing gently.
They rode on in amicable silence, out of the boundary of Sovana.
Alone in her kitchen, Jana stopped before the table and looked down at the sealed and unopened envelope that had arrived several days earlier by mail. She picked it up, turning it over and re-reading the scrawled handwriting of her name on the front before finally opening it to read.
My darling Jana,
Forgive me for not contacting you again sooner. I am under close scrutiny at the monastery here in Pisa, and I was afraid this letter would be intercepted. I am designating a special carrier to deliver it for me to ensure that will not happen.
I have many such apologies to make to you, and many trespasses to ask you to forgive; so numerous to count, that I do not know where to begin. I will start by requesting your forgiveness for my rash decision of placing you in danger, by sheltering our granddaughter and her warden. But this decision has a purpose: and that is, to fulfill what it is that Toudou and our daughter, Maria, wanted so badly that they willingly sacrificed their own lives for it.
Most of this you already know. I have never doubted your powers of intuition and foresight. But I believe my own mind has been something of a mystery to you, since you have known me; and I wish to elucidate my reasons for doing as I have done.
You are well aware that when Maria confessed on her deathbed in Japan to what she and Toudou had done, I was enraged. I was infuriated. I took it upon myself to end Robin's life, then and there…but when I saw her little face—so angelic, just as her mother's had been—I was made weak, and could not do it.
Maria had made me promise to her, before she took her last breath, that I would do one thing for her. 'Make sure she finds him,' she had said, 'he who she was meant for.' She told me his name, a man of Japanese descent—just a young boy of ten at the time. She said the boy was the product of the experiments of Toudou's mentor, an Italian scientist named Benedetto. She told me that Robin, when old enough, must meet this man—at all costs—and that she would need to awaken him. She told me nothing more.
For so many years, I did not understand what she could have possibly meant by this. I was raising Robin in a convent under the tutelage of SOLOMON, as a bride of Christ. I had no intention of allowing her to be 'meant' for anyone. Seeds and Witches, as you well know mia cara, are solitary creatures, not only by choice but by a mandate of the organization.
But with time I remembered something you had taught me…and that was the duality of nature, as it related to la vecchia religione, and the dynamic between the male and female energies. What Maria had said, made me think that somehow Benedetto's and Toudou's work were connected.
I delved into research, into the Vatican's dusty archives. I read the Latin translations of the Sephir Yetzirah and the Zohar, the ancient founding texts of the organization; and there in combination with the information collected from Toudou's journal, I stumbled upon what I believed to be the truth of both scientists' ultimate endeavors; indeed, I realized the true source of SOLOMON's indoctrination, concerning the ancient Arcanum of the Craft.
The Adam Kadmon—the Perfect Man, the Primordial Man…in our terms, the Perfect Witch. Only, it was not one single Witch—it was two, comprised of male and female, united. In even more archaic texts, this Perfect blending of the male and female is known as the Divine Androgyne.
This is Robin's destiny. As the female half of this 'Perfect Witch', she is to reinstate order in the world of Witches. She, as well as her counterpart, will allow the revitalization and resurgence of Witches—who, in ages past according to Toudou's journal, were known as gods.
I fought with my conscience for many years after this discovery. To even unearth such information, in SOLOMON's eyes, is heresy. To continue with Toudou and Maria's plan now, in the face of such knowledge and wisdom, was something far worse. And yet, I could not imagine sacrificing her for the good of the organization. Though she was not like Maria in many ways, I loved her as my daughter and as my granddaughter, just the same. Her heart is pure.
When Robin's powers finally and inevitably awoke, in a fiery proclamation that the time was come—I began training her as a Hunter. I did not allow her to kill, but instead gave her every available tool I had in my disposal, to allow her to survive. A year later I fulfilled Maria's dying wish, and I sent her to Japan, directly into Amon's care. I maintained constant, vigilant contact with her during her time in Japan, under the guise of instructing her with regard to the 'Arcanum'.
When I heard from Inquisitor Cortion that she had killed to protect Amon in the heat of battle, I knew. It had been her trial, in my eyes. Cortion had not known what she was, and simply thought I desired to know the extent of Robin's powers, as well as the fact that she seemed to have become too close to one of her partnered operatives. In my concern that Cortion would leak such information to higher clergy, and draw their attention to her, perhaps even garnering an inquiry; I ordered Robin's hunt—but I directed Zaizen at STN-J to have it be led by Amon, himself.
This would test them—both of them. She was more than capable of protecting herself…but would he be able to carry out his orders handed down by Zaizen? Was he still Zaizen's minion? I felt degenerate for using Robin as a tool to clarify it; but I needed to know. If a man such as Amon—having been brainwashed nearly his entire life by SOLOMON—had been able to bind himself to her strongly enough to spare her life…then perhaps there was hope for Robin's survival after all. Perhaps in a way I believed more strongly in Amon's sense of judgment, having watched over him from afar since he was a child, than my own.
My hopes were confirmed when Amon left Japan to meet me in Rome, brandishing the letter I'd sent her absolving her of guilt, demanding to know what it meant. When I heard what had transpired at Raven's Flat immediately before, I knew. It was done. He would not kill her. He was hesitating—and from what Zaizen had told me of him, Amon did not hesitate, ever.
Part of me was filled with hope—the same hope that Maria had said her daughter carried within her—and for the first time in so long, my Jana, I realized what I had given up when I had joined the ranks of the organization so long ago. Besides you, and a warm and loving relationship with my daughter, I had sacrificed that which no man, Witch or human, should ever yield to anyone. I had given up my hope, my will; the parts of me that governed my destiny.
I sent him back to Japan with few answers, and sent Sastre and Cornelli, two of my best Hunters, after Robin, to do the job that Amon hesitated to do. I now knew where his loyalties lay…and it was not with SOLOMON. I accepted that; I even gave him hints of where to look for information regarding Robin's origins. He will ultimately have to find all the answers for himself, and I do not begrudge him or Robin to do so.
If what Maria confessed to me on her deathbed was true, that Robin was designed for him, for the Adam of their race—of our race—and he for her, and that together they will end this destructive cycle of oppression and bloodshed…then I wish it to be so. But for this to happen, he must become what he was meant to become…and you must see that it happens, Jana, my beloved, at all costs. If not, everything we have lost will have been for naught.
I wish to tell you something more. I know now, wholeheartedly, what I have suspected for so many years; and that is I was wrong, so wrong, Jana, to have abandoned you for the brotherhood. It was not enough to protect you from them. I should have stood against them. I was weak, and a fool. I did what I did believing I was a pious man of God. Instead, I drove away the two people I loved most in this world…something that I can never undo. I can only hope, my Jana, that you are more forgiving of my trespasses than I am.
The hour of reckoning is upon me; my own life is now forfeit. For when they learn the extent of my infidelity, I will not be forgiven…no matter how many Craft-users I have trained for them.
I will wait for you then, in that place of eternal summer; that green and quiet land you spoke of to me so long ago, when both the world and I were younger and I still believed in magic, and in love, and my heart was not so tainted with hatred and righteousness. I will be waiting for you there to join me.
I fear my time is short; their army moves ever closer in stealth. You know what must be done now. Be quick, my love.
She folded the letter gently, her hands lingering over the seam, looking out of the window of her home.
"Each soul and spirit prior to its entering into this world, consists of a male and female united into one being. When it descends on this earth the two parts separate and animate into two different bodies. At the time of marriage, the Holy One, blessed be He, who knows all souls and spirits, unites them again as they were before, and they again constitute one body and one soul, forming as it were the right and left of one individual."
—The Hebrew Zohar
"And when they are conjoined together, they appear to be only one body. Hence we learn that Masculine, taken alone appeareth to be only half the body, so that all the mercies are half; and thus also is it with the Feminine.
" 'But when they are joined together, the two together appear to form only one whole body. And it is so.' So also here. When the Male is joined with the Female, They both constitute one complete body, and all the Universe is in a state of happiness, because all things receive blessing from their perfect body. And this is an Arcanum."
—The Kabbalah Unveiled
mia bambina: my child
lo so: I know
arrivederci: goodbye (not final)
ciao cara: bye darling
buon viaggio: godspeed
la vecchia religione: the old religion
A/N: And it's done! Hope you enjoyed. Be on the lookout for the first chapter of the sequel, soon.
You guys are the best. Thanks for encouraging me through the finale of this monstrous fic!