Chapter 2: The Oubliette
Hieronymous awoke drenched in a cold sweat. He had heard her voice and something nagged at his soul. She had screamed out to him with terror in her voice. Her Husband reached out his senses to her, but could not find her.
Leaping out of bed and grabbing his robe, he ran to the basin of water in the corner of his room. He began to scry. Blue and white light filled the bowl of water like fingers reaching out.
"Where are you Mary..." he said aloud.
The liquid became dark. He could feel the evil emanating from the basin. The whispers started softly at first, and then escalated to a roar.
A face appeared in the in the bowl, blurry before coming into focus. It was repulsive. A girl child's face that was long since dead and rotting.
"Grabiner," the face said. He thought he recognized the voice. "She is now mine. This is your punishment."
An image of Mary prone on the floor shackled in magic in the dark filled the water of the bowl. He resisted the urge to reach out to her. There were traces of tears tracking down her face. Seeing her defenseless condition his heart felt like a rock forcing its way into his stomach.
"Mary," he called out to her willing his voice magically through the small window. She did not respond.
"MARY!" he yelled into the basin.
Though he thought she stirred she did not open her eyes.
He summoned a small mirror no bigger than the palm of his hand and imbuing it with all of the power he could muster, he plunged it into the water, praying with the last bit of his energy it would reach her.
The water in the bowl went clear the mirror was gone and he collapsed to the floor.
There was a knocking sound.
The knocking came again.
"Sir, are you well?"
There was no response.
Padded feet ran away from the door and down the hall.
Later the door opened and a voice called in, "Hieronymous?"
Petunia paused as she looked in and saw him crumpled on the floor. She rushed over to Hieronymous noting a basin of water spilled around him and grasped his shoulders. Petunia gently shook him and when he did not wake she reached out with green magic to see if he was okay. His heartbeat and breathing were slow but steady. His magic was nearly depleted. Her eyes became saucers as she looked back at the bowl. She motioned to the girl at the door to leave. After levitating the unconscious man to his bed and covering him up, she cast Spirit Echoes near the fallen basin.
She frowned at what she saw, she had been hoping to get more answers but she was left with more questions.
Neither medical nor magical intervention needed, she left him to sleep and recuperate.
The sound of knocking woke Hieronymous and his heavy lids began to open. He quickly sat up but his head spun and he fell back.
"Hieronymous, how are you feeling?"
It was Petunia.
She walked in and sat in a chair at the side of his bed.
He blinked at her.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of this disruption? I have a test to give the students today." He asked.
Petunia eyed him wearily.
"Hieronymous, your classes have been canceled for this week."
"Why?" he growled as he looked at her smiling face. "And why are you in my room?"
Determination filled Petunia's face.
"Think Hieronymous," she said, urging him to remember.
"Do you remember what happened to you?"
"What are you talking about?"
A throbbing headache began to form behind his eyes. He tried to sit up again and this time he did so without feeling dizzy but the headache got worse.
"Hieronymous, we found you on the floor. You were not responding and your magic was almost depleted.
He began to rise out of bed.
Petunia pushed him back into bed with ease.
"Hieronymous, you are not going anywhere 'till you tell me what happened."
He was shocked as he realized how weak he was and his brow furrowed in concentration.
"How long have I been in this weakened state?"
"I found you three days ago on the floor.
"What can you remember?"
He blinked at her in confusion.
As she realized he was at a complete loss for explanation, the headmaster looked at him and smiled gently.
"Hieronymous, the basin do you remember what you were doing with the basin?"
Privately, she assumed he was scrying but she could not be sure.
"What about the basin?" he asked.
"You really don't remember what you were doing at all?" she sighed. "When I found you, I used Sprit Echoes and I saw you force an object I could not identify into the bowl."
Curiosity piqued him.
He shook his head, confirming he had no memory of what she was stating.
"I have been out for three days?"
"Well today is day three. It is late afternoon.
My head is still spinning as I open my eyes trying to focus in the darkness with no luck. The frantic whispers still echo all around me.
I felt something on my chest. It was warm. I reached for it but I still felt restrained. I could only move slightly, my head pounding against the assault of the whispers. I was able to shake myself enough to slide the object to my hands. It was some kind of small disc.
'Where did this come from?' I thought.
I clutched the disc and it began to pulse with magic. Blue and white light danced along the surface. The light was so bright it was blinding in the void.
The disc felt oddly familiar; though I was sure I had never held such a thing.
"Hello… anyone? Answer me!"
Squeezing the disc, my pulse began to quicken as I felt tremendous power vibrating beneath the tips of my fingers.
Magic crackled to life and flowed from the it into my body. Enormous pressure began to build around me causing tears to form in my eyes. The power emanating from the disc overwhelmed my senses.
"Hieronymous…." was all I could manage before I felt my body give way to sleep.
At the same time...
The basin began to glow in blues and whites.
Hieronymous lurched up and Petunia twisted around both of them aware of the power entering the room. A voice, almost a small cry really, left the bowl. They heard Mary call out his name.
"Mary," with a rush of adrenaline he jumped out of bed and ran to the basin. Nothing else came from the bowl. The last of the magic was gone and there was nothing there.
Hieronymous turned to face Petunia, both of their eyes glazed over for a moment.
"I feel recovered enough to resume my classes tomorrow," he said slowly, the adrenaline wearing off and leaving him tired.
"Why did you run to the bowl?" she asked. She approached it and looked into its depth and saw nothing.
Petunia asked herself, 'Why am I staring at this bowl?'
Unable to remember, she dropped the line of thought and looked at Hieronymous.
"Okay, if you are sure you can manage I will approve you resuming your duties."
Something nagged at his mind. He had a feeling he was forgetting something, and felt a sense of emptiness, but let it pass. Becoming very aware of how hungry he was, he dismissed Petunia and began dressing for the dining room.
The next day, while walking to his class, he passed by a young girl from Horse Hall.
Without blinking, she turned to him and said, "She needs your help."
Hieronymous stopped her, grabbing her by the arm.
"What?!" he demanded.
Startled, the girl looked up at him.
"I said g-good morning, Professor Grabiner," she stuttered.
He shook his head trying to remember what the frightened student had done to disturb him so.
Slowly, he looked down and noticed he was holding a student by the arm.
He then released frightened child and she gratefully darted away from him.
Touching his fingers to his brow, he shook off a feeling of confusion and headed to class.
Briskly entering the room he went to the board and wrote several questions. He pointed to the first one.
"Do any of you care to answer this question or am I wasting my time? He paused. "You there, answer this for me."
The girl from Butterfly Hall looked up.
"If you do not help her, she will die."
"What did you say?!" he said, panic reaching his voice.
"Professor, I said I would use blue and white magic to make it into a location spell," the girl stammered, now unsure of her answer.
"Um...Yes, that is correct… Class, I will leave you to self study for the remainder of the period." He grabbed his book and made his way toward the door. He knew something was wrong now. He could feel it. However, as soon as he stepped out of the room, he could not recall his purpose for leaving.
"Bloody hell," he muttered, as he headed for his quarters.
Opening his door he crossed the room. He was on edge and did not know why.
He grabbed a book from a shelf and began to read. His head began to throb. He could not focus on the book. Frustrated, he went to his desk and pulled out some parchment. Taking a quill, he began to write in a state of discomposure.
After a few minutes, he began to come to his senses and looked at what he had written. It was a letter to Mary.
I hope this finds you in good health.
Though you did well in your academics here; do not let yourself be idle and sabotage all the hard work you have done.
The students here do not appear to want to learn anything. I will be lucky if more than half complete the summer session.
How are you getting on with your parents? I recall you having trouble during spring break. Perhaps I must insist to the board that Wild Seeds remain at the school during their formative years. Do not hesitate if you feel the need to return to school.
I will send you some materials to review before Fall Session resumes in September.
Do try and stay out of trouble.
I will find you,
He reread the closing.
'What? Why did I write that?' he thought to himself, looking over the paper.
Picking it up from the corner, he held it as though it would bite him. Dropping the missive, he walked over to the scrying bowl and stared into it. Realizing he still did not have the energy to look for Mary, he headed out of his room to speak to Petunia.
Although she would be teaching class at this hour, he had a feeling she would not mind the disturbance.
Nearing her class door, he felt a chill run down his spine. After a brief hesitation, he knocked once then opened the door.
"Miss Potsdam, may I have a word with you, please?"
Before waiting for her reply, he closed the door and waited expectantly in the hall.
After a few moments, Petunia appeared and stepped out into the hall, shutting the door behind her.
"Yes, Hieronymous, is everything alright?"
Her fluffy hat drifted to the side as she tilted her head in question.
"Mary is in trouble," he replied simply.
Petunia looked at him.
Feeling a sudden sense of urgency, she took him by the arm and headed to her office.
The aging teacher sat down behind her desk and gestured him to sit across.
"I can't explain what, but I know something is wrong and I am still too weak to scry her."
From behind her desk, she pulled out a crystal ball and placed it on a small stand.
"I have always loved the classics," she said, smiling faintly.
More intent on solving the problem at hand, the cliché was lost on him. He sat there staring intensely at nothing while rubbing his thumb and index finger together.
She began to weave her spell over the sphere and it crackled with blue and white energy.
"Let's see how our Mary is doing, shall we?"