There Is No Song In My Heart
/Author's Note: Hello there! I'd welcome you to my new fanfiction, but this is only… half-new. This is in fact a reboot of one of my older HM fanfics; one you might remember was called 'So Close To You'.
That story barely took off, so don't fret if you haven't read it – I never got past the first chapter. Then, one day recently, I was in the mood to write something a bit darker than I usually do, so I revisited So Close To You and considered continuing it – but then I remembered why I stopped in the first place: it was extremely poorly planned out and I had no idea what the plot was anymore. I had completely forgotten! So instead, I decided to take the basic premise, reboot it, write out the backstory a little more thoroughly, then give it another go, and this is the result.
This fic stars Lumina, and takes place mostly in Forget-Me-Not Valley. It is not going to be of epic length, but it will be multiple chapters and will take place over the span of multiple years.
It is largely based on DS, but as that game is largely based on A Wonderful Life, you can expect just as much to be taken from there. Expect this story to serve as my take on who the Witch Princess is, what she's doing locked in Romana's shed, and why she became a witch. And finally, expect this fic to be significantly more serious than my other stuff.
BUT, that's not to say it won't be fun. There's a lot I want to do with this fic, and I'd be honored to have you guys along for the ride. End Author's Note/
- Prologue -
The Final Rite of passage was upon her. In mere moments, the ritual would be complete, and one more soul would be indoctrinated into the world of the occult. The last rite was, in many ways, the most painful, and the one that many tenderfeet balked at, turning on their heels at the very last minute.
"Step forward, Mistral."
The one named Mistral did as she was told. Her hair, normally a sleek straw-colored sheet, rippled in the wind like currents running through a normally still river. She felt the unified gaze of the people surrounding her as if it, itself, was a gust of autumnal wind. Though their faces were hidden under shadowy cloaks, their collective gaze was no less piercing. She didn't let it break her look of utmost determination.
"Bring forth that which aids in the shedding of one's life of banality, that which severs earthly ties and spurns the mundane," the same voice commanded, shuddering slightly.
A shadowy figure stepped forward, but Mistral kept her eyes steady ahead of her. She gazed forward, over the small body of water she and her company faced. Though evidently devoid of life, something stirred in the pond before them – something not of this world. She saw an ornamental knife appear out of the corner of her eyes, being held by an outstretched arm.
"Bear the blade," the shuddering voice commanded again.
Mistral took it in her own clammy hands, steadying herself and taking a step towards the pond. She already knew what the last step entailed.
"Besmirch the Goddess' Pond before you. Rend the deific hold on your body!"
The purpose behind this particular rite was a simple one; to sully such a holy ground was nearing the epitome of blasphemy. Such an act of blasphemy was part of the ritual in order to spurn the Harvest Goddess and her dominance over the land, to both defy and defile her. In plainer terms, they were going to stick it to the Goddess.
The circle of bodies around the pond tightened, as if expecting the blonde in the center to make a run for it, like so many before her. This fear was unjustified, this time; Mistral had waited too long for this moment.
She took in a breath of the cool night air and steadied her shaking arm, raising it upwards with her palm outstretched. In her left hand she brandished the knife, its cold steel handle pressed into her skin.
In a swift flash of silver, a shallow cut appeared in the bare flesh of her outstretched arm. Before the cool October winds had a chance to sting, Mistral swiped again and another, shorter cut appeared on the end of the first one. The upside down cross now formed on her arm simply looked red at first, before beads of blood began to push their way through to the surface.
'It is done.' the young woman thought to herself, battling to keep her eyes from clenching in pain. She refused to blanch at the sight of her own blood; she had seen worse. Once the blood began to flow, she turned her arm over, and allowed the dark, ruddy liquid to run from her cold, shaking body into the water beneath her. As soon as the blood touched the surface of the pool, it seemed to fade into a crimson smoke beneath the pond's glistening surface. It may have just been her imagination, but Mistral could have sworn she heard a faint hiss issuing from the Goddess' Pond, as if the pristine water was tormented by its contact with the blood.
It seemed as if a collective breath was released once the deed had been done. They, and Mistral now knew, there was no turning back. The closest cloaked figure rushed forward, breaking the stillness of the scene, and began to wrap Mistral's arm in a tight bandage.
"You've done well," she mumbled, sounding evidently pleased, "It's been so long… and now, we can officially welcome you."
One of the cloaked figures suddenly hobbled forward, peered over the side of the Goddess' Pond, and let out a mirthless laugh. The others followed, and soon the dark forest was filled with the cackles of the elderly women.
"Taste our blood, O Benevolent Goddess!" the hag had cackled, voice rife with sarcasm and a cruel tone of humor. Jeers and hoots followed, and the gaggle of cloaked women were reduced to juvenile infants in a moment, taking great pleasure in the symbolic sullying of the Goddess whom they so resented. Mistral joined in, though her laughter was strained and half-hearted, for the pain in her arm was, at the moment, outweighing her disdain for the Harvest Goddess.
Once the tumultuous laughter and jeering had quieted, the eldest of the women approached Mistral and the attention was once more on the young fledgling.
"You've done it, You're… one of us." Her voice shook, due in equal parts to the cold and to her own emotions.
"Not yet, not yet!" shrilled one of the women on Mistral's right, "Let her recite the pacts once more, Lady Gwennan."
Mistral had been expecting this, but it still took her a moment to find her voice.
"My witchcraft, both blessing and product of my earthly toil, remains a secret 'til death claims me. My allegiance, always to the High Witches of this circle, as I owe them my gift and my unwavering strength. My life, theirs to take should it be required for a higher purpose … or should a pact be broken." Mistral finished, her voice dwindling and her head feeling faint.
Her recitation was met with such heavy silence, she would have thought she had been struck deaf if not for the howling winds overhead. Though none of their faces were visible, she could feel the hardness of their expressions, and Mistral knew at once she had made a mistake – she could have slapped herself, had her arm not been in searing pain.
"You forgot one," said the witch whose voice was previously shrill, now a deadly whisper, "Before the Pact of Life."
She could tell at once by the tension in the circle that the witches were taking this hiccup to be some form of omen – the superstition of a witch knew no bounds, after all – but Mistral was simply tired and in pain. Struggling to speak again, she recited the first two pacts once more, and before continuing on to the last, corrected her mistake: "…My blood, not to be passed on through copulation, the ultimate purpose of a woman rejected for the sake of the arcane."
Again, she felt the urge to slap herself. This pact – the one not to sire any children – was of utmost importance to the witches. A witch forced through rituals and pacts and oaths was guaranteed to be under the control of the Circle of Witches, her power always kept in check by the various High Witches – but an outlier, a girl born with magical powers, would not be bound by the same pacts that regulated witchcraft, and would be free to wreak havoc. Not that the witches minded havoc, of course, but chaos within their own Circle could be deadly; their minds and hearts must act as one for such powers to be properly put to use.
The eldest woman, the one named Lady Gwennan, stepped forward, sufficiently pleased with Mistral's correction. She finally lowered her hood, her withered face illuminated by what little moonlight made it through the canopy of leaves overhead. Mistral saw her look into her eyes and recognize pain, and she knew that Lady Gwennan had come to the right conclusion – that the mistake was only made on account of Mistral's intense pain.
"Your powers have accepted you. Touch your arm, young Witchling."
Mistral did as was told, and as soon as her fingers touched the spot where the cut had been made, she instantly felt more awake. Her vision and clarity of mind returned to her in an instant. The bandage unraveled at her touch and fell unceremoniously to the earthy ground, and to her astonishment – and subsequent elation – the wound was gone, or at least sealed up, as if it had been made years ago and now only left a faint scar.
Mistral looked at her own fingertips with dawning realization. She had done this.
"Then," said Lady Gwennan, pleased that all had passed successfully, "The ritual is complete. On this day, the 31st of Fall, I welcome into our ranks, into our Circle of Witches… Young Mistral Wyndham."
- Chapter 1 -
The Pumpkin Festival
As autumn's rosy face bleeds through th'land
And chills and winds we doth withstand,
Th' line, it blurs, and when it does
We find 'round us, the air's abuzz
The sound of chariots fills th'night,
And here 'rrive the spirits, O frightful sight!"
The children laughed and ran around the Villa's square, circling the large fountain at its center. The typical noise of a social gathering was punctuated by the singing of Gustafa, the local minstrel, of sorts. The night was a cold one, and many of the villagers were draped in shawls or scarves, but just as many wore a smile on their face. The children, and some of the younger-spirited adults, danced and ran around the square in their fanciful costumes. It was, as it was known to the world at large, Hallowe'en Night, but to the village of Forget-Me-Not Valley, it was simply known as 'The Pumpkin Festival'.
True to its name, pumpkins (and their close siblings, Jack-o-Lanterns), littered the courtyard, shedding their ominous light and filling the town with that their unmistakable raw smell.
"Always found it a rather grizzly tradition, I'll admit; cutting something open from the top of its head, scooping out its innards, then carving some twisted face into its exterior," chuckled the Villa's butler, Sebastian, good-naturedly. He was tall and lanky, and wore several argyle sweaters over each other to buffet the cold. His long face was almost always in a kindly smile, especially when talking to the young Lady Lumina, possibly his favourite person in the Valley.
"Oh hush, you don't need to spin such a morbid twist on a children's activity!" Lumina found she was laughing in spite of herself, "Besides, weren't you the one who helped Hugh with his Jack-o-Lantern?"
"You mean the one he wanted to model after his father, Wally?" Sebastian grinned knowingly, "It was in that very moment, when I was scooping out the insides of Wally's, head, that this morbid thought occurred to me."
The pair laughed all the more.
"Now then, a few of those Jack-o-Lanterns need their candles re-lit. If you'll excuse me, young miss, I must now go spend my time wrist-deep in uncooked, orangey flesh."
With a slight bow, as was his nature, Sebastian headed back towards the large manor to find a matchbox, and the girl with whom he spoke gave him a smile and a courteous nod.
Lumina, in her usual tartan dress, stood with her arms around her, hugging herself in an attempt to stay warm. Her chestnut hair, only slightly past her ears in length, was bound by her favourite yellow hair band, as it always was. She had not dressed up for the occasion, and no one had expected her to – she was now a young woman of twenty-one (but had established herself as an intelligent, well-mannered individual even in her youth, regardless of age). The manor in front of her was her home, owned by her elderly Great-Aunt Romana. The Valley had been her home since birth, and Romana and Sebastian her family.
The reason she had grown up in this opulent mansion on a hill overlooking a small country village was, as some might put it, tragic: her mother had died during childbirth, and her father, according to Romana, had left her at the mansion with her nearest relative and taken off without a second glance.
It was sad, to be sure, but Lumina found it hard to miss parents she had never known. She had seen pictures of her mother – an unconventionally beautiful woman with a mischievous face and sleek, straw-colored hair – but all of them were, curiously, pictures taken in her mother's youth; any picture of her mother past her teenage years seemed simply non-existent. There was the possibility that her mother had had her while in her youth – a possibility Lumina hadn't ruled out – but she still couldn't conjure up a mental picture of what she would have looked like today; that mischievous spark in her eyes was impossible to imagine on the face of an older woman. Still, aside from a curiosity so strong it almost ached, Lumina wasn't too phased by her lack of parents. The close-knit community of Forget-Me-Not was family enough.
Lumina walked over to the fountain in the center of her manor's courtyard and sat down, idly noticing just how many soggy leaves of various hues of red were floating about. Hugh and Kate, the village's only two children, raced around the fountain being chased by Popuri, a girl of about Lumina's age – though none would have guessed it, as she was still a child at heart and the years had been so gracious as to preserve her innocent teenage looks. Far too engaged in her game with the children to notice Lumina, the girl's vivid pink curls whirled around her as she turned herself mid-chase to run at the children from the other side.
Sighing contentedly, Lumina waved at another individual standing by himself on the other side of the square. Griffin, the barkeeper of the Valley's unique tavern, the Blue Bar, walked over, the front half of his hair jutting out like a pompadour and the back half tied in messy pony tail. A man in his mid-fourties, Griffin was a quiet and gentle villager, and one whom Lumina felt she could relate with on a level she couldn't with most others: apart from herself and Gustafa, Griffin was one of the town's only musicians. He would often reject such a term, however, for he was humble and didn't think strumming his guitar at the bar was considered musicianship, but Lumina needed only to speak with him a few times to know he had in him the soul of a musician, and it was this which drew her to him.
"You should have brought your guitar!" Lumina said amicably, "Festivals and music go hand-in-hand."
"Gustafa seems to got it covered," Griffin said meekly, and he was right; Gustafa sat against the other side of the fountain, strumming away and singing jovially, much to the children's delight. This was unlikely to be the real reason why Griffin didn't bring his instrument, Lumina noted. Playing in front of an audience didn't quite suit him. "Is he wearing a leprechaun costume…?"
"I think that's just his normal attire, Griffin." Lumina defied her mouth's inclination to curve into a smile.
Taking a seat next to her on the edge of the cold, stone fountain, Griffin stretched his legs and asked, "How about you? No jaunty Halloween melodies for the kids?"
"A few, but good luck to the soul that tries to get them to sit inside for a piano recital!" she grinned.
"Y'got a point." He laughed gruffly. "Say…" Griffin started, "Speaking of which, have you heard back from them yet?"
Lumina said nothing, her eyes momentarily glazed over as she watched the children, who had stopped running and were now speaking animatedly to one another, likely deciding the next game to play.
"The, uh, what're they called…? The Grace Orchestra?" Griffin pressed on, but needlessly so; Lumina had heard him the first time.
Realizing her silence would not be answer enough, she sighed softly, "No." Griffin opened his mouth to speak but Lumina quickly continued, "Not that I'll stop trying, of course. I'll make a few more trips to the city, especially as the holiday season begins to set in… They generally need more members around then anyway."
"Chin up, kiddo," her male companion said in his soft voice, "You've got talent and you've got your youth, you're a stone's throw away from making it big, if y'ask me."
Lumina smiled. "If only they would ask you. Maybe I should take you along for my next audition!" She half-joked, earning her a chuckle from the older man.
A pleasant silence fell over the two, and Griffin looked out over the hill thoughtfully. The dark sky was made only darker by the thick ceiling of clouds overhead, and barely a star could be seen.
Out of the corner of her eye, Lumina saw something that made her stir. She excused herself and got to her feet, Griffin watching her with mild curiosity.
"Oh, for Goddess' sake, they know better than to play around there – I'd better warn them before Aunty –" Lumina's self-addressed muttering ended abruptly as the Manor's doors swung open and her great-aunt, Romana, walked out bristly, exhibiting her unusual sixth sense for misbehavior. "…Well, they're in for it now," she finished grimly.
Hugh, Kate, and Popuri had abandoned their lively game for some exploring, it seemed, and were now inspecting the old garden shed that stood to the side of the manor, clearly expecting Romana to still be inside. Romana, together with her ornate walking stick, advanced on them like a three-legged lion stalking back to find its den full of gazelles. She was a remarkably tiny old woman – she only really came up to Lumina's chest, and even that was on account of her towering hair, white as snow. She was hunched over and her legs were stiff, but nothing deterred her when there were rules to be imposed and miscreants to discipline. Lumina's caretaker was a harsh disciplinarian, as many of the village children had learned the hard way.
"Away from the shed!" she barked, her voice somehow as loud and clear as always despite the scarf wrapped around her mouth, making the three of them jump, "Haven't I told you children a million times? Haven't I?" she struck Hugh's foot with her cane and just barely missed as he jerked it out of the way. Instead wheeling on Popuri, she grabbed the young woman by a handful of her rosy hair and pulled her face down to be level with her own. "And you! Shouldn't you know better? You're a young lady, now start acting like it!"
Popuri only gave a frightened nod.
It was true that if there was one rule Romana had bore into Lumina's head, and every other child in the area, it was to not approach her garden shed. She never said why, inviting theories that were (probably) wilder than the truth: some said she was a mass murderer who needed somewhere to hide the corpses, others said it lead to an underground mine where she enslaved Harvest Sprites. What Lumina had heard, through the means of Sebastian, was that her Aunty kept a reserve of bottled wines in there, using the otherwise useless shed as an improvised wine cellar. She apparently had some sort of cooling mechanism installed, which explained why the windows were constantly fogged up. Sebastian had simply said that a wine cellar was "no place for children to be running around in", and left it at that. It was a sound enough argument.
Romana said: "You've got the whole bloody Valley to run around, you don't need to go poking your snotty little noses into my things!" and the children scattered, removing themselves from the range of Romana's cane.
Lumina shook her head slightly, knowing her Aunty would be in a foul mood for the remainder of the festival. She had been a kind – if not firm – guardian to Lumina throughout the entirety of her life, and was a gracious and charitable citizen of the Valley, but nothing got her going quite like a good rule-breaking occurring right under her (slightly prominent) nose.
"Really, the children these days," Romana grumbled to her great-niece, "At least you knew better when you were their age. I swear, every generation brings our species closer to extinction by foolhardiness…"
"Well," Lumina tartly echoed Sebastian's words, "A wine cellar is no place for children to be running around in."
"I'm glad you realized that, my dear. It's encouraging to know that children still bear the capacity to learn."
The younger woman knew by this point to take everything her great-aunt said with a pinch of salt. There was not much to gain by arguing with an old, obstinate woman set in her traditional values. Adults were to be in charge, children were to be seen and not heard, and most certainly not to be seen around wine. Whether it was a lie or not, concealing what was truly in their shed, Lumina thought it a fairly clever one; no one would question why Romana wanted to keep children away from a veritable vault of alcohol. It had certainly kept Lumina away as a child, with the notion that no children should be near alcohol until they were of age, a notion ingrained in society.
Then, however, Lumina noticed something.
'I… am of age,' she thought slowly. Not that she had any intention to intoxicate herself on a supply of no-doubt ancient wine… But if there truly was something hidden in that shed, Romana's excuse no longer held any weight over the twenty-one year old Lumina.
The wind howled overhead, right as Gustafa launched into the next verse of his song, carrying on about the spirits and the specters said to be visiting them on that night. Pulling her shawl around her, Lumina came to the sobering realization that she was being silly; nothing was being kept in that shed, and her Great-Aunt was being her usual, vindictive self in attempting to keep the children out.
The Hallowe'en night air was simply getting to her head.