Thanks for reading folks.
The woman stood still before the huge window of the laboratory that overlooked the concrete gardens below, holding onto the last piece of the puzzle that would be her salvation. Tall and thin the woman was a silhouette as the sun filled the window with light and illuminated all around her form. A young dark haired girl stood before the grayed hair lady eyeing her apprehensively. The girl was worried. Something was up. But as she gazed at the old woman who had taken her in out from the gloomy cold several years ago, she felt reassured. Despite being old, Lady Serena Noble still possessed strength and a fiery will that had kept her going on for many years. Kallista adored her and would do anything for her. She would even die for her.
“Lady Noble?” Kallista questioned in a small voice, not sure what Her Grace was talking about. “What would you have me do?”
Lady Serena was brilliant and Kallista always hated interrupting her when she was thinking. But it seemed different today. Never had she seen Lady Serena so excited. Serena looked up reluctantly from the priceless artifact in her hands. Before her stood the girl who was her ultimate goal. Serena had felt fortunate when she had spied the young beauty a few years before, lost and alone without any family. She was like a gift from above. It had been a clear sign that she was to proceed with her dreams; long awaited dreams of eternal youth. By tonight, she would have youth, beauty and power at her disposal. The world would be hers. The one regret she had was that the faithful Kallista would be no more. Faithfulness did not come around like that every day. But it was a price she was willing to pay.
“After tonight, all this will be over.” Serena whispered with barely contained excitement. “All the years of waiting will have paid off. Finally, I have the last artifact.” Looking back down in her hands, Serena once again admired the priceless jewel. Large and purple it shimmered as the rays of the sun reached it.
“The Eye of the Lioness,” She breathed as she spoke the name if the fabled jewel. “Well done Kallista. It could not have been easy obtaining this from Egypt.”
“I had a few problems but nothing could keep me from obeying your wishes.” Kallista answered humbly.
“You are sure you were not injured.” Serena raised her eyebrows, concerned. “I can't have you becoming damaged on me.”
“Nothing serious, my Lady.”
The elderly lady's voice barely shook as continued. “You have been faithful to me all these years and have retrieved for me all these priceless artifacts. I know it has not been easy. But your greatest test is yet to come. Will I still find you faithful?”
“Of course Lady Noble,” Kallista stepped forwards eagerly. “I would do anything for you, It was no trouble!”
“Follow me child,“ Serena walked into the next room where the equipment was set up for the Transformation. “We don't have much time. A storm is coming and Beltane is almost upon us.”
A dread filled Kallista as she obediently followed her guardian. Pausing at the door she turned back to look out the large window one last time. It was as Lady Serena had said, a storm was coming. Already the distant sky was forming a dark angry hue.
“Kallista,” Serena called to her. “Come child. I need your help once more.”
Obedient, Kallista hurried over to the lady and helped the older woman as she set the artifacts in their chosen places.
The last to be placed was the Eye of the Lioness. Just as it was fitted into the slot the first sound of thunder sounded.
“Hurry child. We don't have much time. Now help me into this seat.”
Kallista did as she was told, puzzled but still obedient. But when the old lady commanded the girl to belt her in, Kallista bulked.
Serene laughed softly.
“Come now, Kallista. Are you really going to disobey me now; after all this time? I thought you would trust me better than that.”
Chagrined Kallista hesitantly did as she was told.
“Good girl.” Serena smiled. “Now listen close. I want you to place yourself in the other seat. See that drink there? I want you to drink that.”
Despite her doubts Kallista did as she was told. She didn't understand but Lady Noble had never done her wrong before.
Carefully she sat down on the cold leather seat even as more thunder roared across the sky. Shadows deepening in the room distracted her momentarily. Dizziness made her sway as all her senses seemed to tingle and go into overdrive. An unseen presence filled the room. She didn't know how she knew. It was just something she became aware of.
“There is something here with us.” Kallista spoke uneasily. Her little “errands” that she had done for Serene when fetching the artifacts had taught her never to ignore such things.
“Drink, Kallista.” Serena's voice became strained.
Startled, Kallista glanced at her. Serena nodded reassuringly and pointed to the drink. Sighing Kallista did as she was told. Looking into the steel cup she saw it was a clear liquid. Kallista tasted it tentatively. Blue eyes widened as the sweet beverage slid over her tongue. Eagerly she finished it off.
“What was this?” She asked in wonder, licking her lips.
Serena rolled her eyes at the girl's slowness and decided to ignore her.
Suddenly Kallista's body felt heavy. In a daze she lowered herself back into the chair, the cup falling from her limp hand. The weird feeling she had just moments before faded away from her as her eyelids dropped.
“At last,” Serena beamed as she stared at the girl. “This is my last mercy to you Kallista. It's been lovely knowing you.”
A flash blazed across the room as the storm hit directly over head of Serena Noble's private laboratory. A few more moments and Beltane would officially have arrived.
Now even Serena could feel the pressure growing of an unseen presence, the same one Kallista had felt. The source seemed to come from the Eye if the Lioness itself. The old woman could not keep her eyes of the jewel as it pulsed with power. Dimly, Serena became aware of voices whispering within the sounds of the rainfall and thunder. She knew what it was. The soul of the jewel was speaking and searching. It was a magical force searching for its next owner.
Over the centuries the tale of the Lioness became myth and then became forgotten. Only few who studied things of ancient nature would know. Serena had known over forty years ago that it would be she who would obtain it.
The older woman knew it would latch onto her, the only one with an active conscious. With barely disguised excitement she prepared her mind for the wish she knew the Jewel would give her. Only one wish could be given by the Eye of the Lioness once every thousands of years. Her wish for youth and beauty would be finally a reality.
Kallista lay in a dreamless sleep. But when the last if the lights failed in the room and the light of the jewel blazed forth, Kallista jerked awake, gasping. Then sighing she settled back on the chair, unconscious.
Sweat lined the forehead of the wrinkled old woman. Something was wrong. Then a beautiful but unearthly voice pieced through her mind.
“I do not choose you.”
Almost choking on her own panic Serena half shrieked back, her thin voice breaking. “I don’t understand! I am your owner. You are supposed to give me what I want!”
“I do not choose you.” The voice spoke again, cold and powerful.
“What do you mean?” Serena screamed wildly as she watched in disbelief as the Jewel dethatched it’s self from the bindings and orbited to Kallista. “I CHOSE YOU! You are supposed to be MINE!”
Unseen energy whipped around the room, so thick Serena could feel it pressing upon her. It should have been a warning to her. But as she watched the chances of her dreams grow smaller, a rage broke through her normal regal reserve.
“You WILL BE MINE!” She struggled futilely out of her bindings while casting withering glances over at the sleeping girl. “You CAN’T go to her. She is NOTHING!”
“I have chosen Kallista Pendragon.” The Jewel declared, unmoved by Serena’s rage as it settled over the sleeping beauty. It sank into the girl gently and encased it’s self over her beating heart.
Serena gasps as Kallista’s surname was revealed to her for the first time. The fact that Kallista was not just a nobody wasn’t lost on her. The fact that Kallista was descended from ancient royalty, the true royalty was the last thing that Serena thought before the seizure took her.
As she breathed her last, the words of the Jewel floated in her ears.
“I and Kallista Pendragon are one.”
Kallista woke up to the feel of someone shaking her gently.
Almost lazily she opened her eyes. She had been having a good dream. Her eyes met those of Dr. Tyler, Serena’s own personal assistant.
“Kallista,” The doctor’s eyes were kindly. “How do you feel?”
“I feel fine.” She answered puzzled. Usually the doctor took no notice of her. “What is going on?”
“That is funny. We were going to ask you that.” The accusing voice belonged to Professor Harris, the managing assistant for Serena Noble’s facility.
“Now, Jacob.” The Doctor half turned with a quiet warning voice to calm the agitated man. “She has just woken up.”
“It’s been two days since Lady Noble died, Doctor.” Jacob snarled. “That is what you said when you examined her just now. How is it that Kallista is ok while Lady Noble is dead. It sure looks suspicious to me!”
“I recommend looking at the security tape, Jacob.” The Doctor replied mildly with a nod towards the camera that was somewhat hidden from view. “I think all our answers lie there.”
Kallista had been listening in shock. Serena Noble was dead? It could not be. But there she was, lying still on the table where the doctor had placed her. Serena’s eyes were still opened in anger and horror, seemingly frozen that way.
“You have been here unconscious apparently for two days, young lady.” The Doctor informed her gently.
Kallista felt her head swim. But she did not faint. It felt as if her heart had been ripped from her. All that mattered was that Serena was dead. Feeling alone again for the first time in several years, Kallista set shell shocked.
The professor made sounds of impatience at her.
“Calm yourself Jacob, this is not the actions of a murderer. And as I have already said, Serena died of a seizure. It was not murder. I examined her myself.” Dr. Tyler turned steely eyes at the other man. “Or do you question my expertise.”
The other man gulped and left it alone at that. Shivering from shock, Kallista was glad.
The next few days passed in a blur, for Kallista. Serena’s face kept appearing before her in her memory. But she did not cry. She could not. It was all knotted up deep within her, fear and grief making her almost cripple.
Now sitting in the elegant office in what was once Serena’s home, Kallista pondered all that had taken place. She could barely remember the funeral. Not many people had showed up for it.
Then there was the reading of the will. To her surprise she inherited everything, the mansion, the other homes in various countries, the land, and to everyone’s surprise, an island north of Egypt in the Mediterranean. Professor Harris had gotten in her face then and went all postal.
“You MURDERED Lady Noble, you rotten faced gold-digging ungrateful BRAT!” He raged.
Others had to hold him back but the damage was done. The term murderer was now linked with her own name. To Kallista, it meant nothing. All she knew was that she was alone. The one she had loved most of all was gone. Now so were all her dreams.
It was that thought that broke Kallista’s thin layer of control. She folded in on herself and wept for the first time in days.
After a moment her wails turned into words of regret and loss and….
“I am alone!”
For a moment, all was still.
“You are never alone.” The gentle but firm voice spoke not aloud but in Kallista’s mind, startling her.
“Who are you?” She asked, confused. “Where are you?”
“I am part of you,” was the answer.
Kallista did not understand but kept silent and wondered at the warmth the spread throughout her body. It was like a gentle hug.
“Trust me and I will show you all you need to know.”
Even though Kallista didn’t understand what was going on, she found herself responding and agreeing to the promptings.
“Who are you?” She braved the question out loud.
“I am the Eye of the Lioness, child. But then again, so are you.”
The voice sounded almost amused.
“I don’t understand.” She cried out.
“In time you will understand.” A vision of a silver lioness appeared before her, radiant in beauty. Kallista gasped in awe at the power that exuded from the lioness. “But for now, know this. I am only a part, and not a whole of a royal soul. Your soul. I was made long ago to be part of the soul of a worthy queen. I was made first for The Queen of Sheba. Then I was destined for Cleopatra. I was made to be with a destined Queen. But no royal blood called out to me for the longest time so I slept. But then one day I awoke to the song of the birth of a new Queen. Her soul cried out for me even though she was not aware of it. I have been trying to get to her since that day. At last I have succeeded. That Queen is you. You are my other half. I have been chosen for you and you for me as it has been destined. Now our souls are complete and we are one.”
There was a lengthy pause as Kallista struggled to find words to say. Then she leaned forwards and whispered.
“But I am no queen. I am not even a princess or a noble.”
The Lioness smiled even as she faded from Kallista’s view. “But you are child, now that Lady Serena is dead, you are the last Noble. Did not the last will and testament say you were adopted by her? As for being royal, even if the world thinks it’s has wiped away your royal lineage, you’re pure royal. You have much power in you, child. I will help you with it. ”
An ornate silver and pearl door appeared and opened up in front of Kallista revealing a lush forest lined along the sands of a sparkling pristine beach.
“Step forward, Daughter of the Heavens. Fear not for what waits you. Nothing will harm thee.”
Daughter of the what?
Yet compelled, Kallista found herself doing as she was told. It was like stepping from one room of a house into another. Except now she stood on the beach of an island. Recognition flashed through her mind as she looked about. It was as if she knew this place!
Strangely, without needing to be guided, Kallista walked a path as if she had been here before. Past brightly colored flowers and thick green bushes and trees she followed the trail, not pausing till she reached a little inlet. Somehow she knew that it was filled with fresh water. A crystal clear waterfall splashed dramatically down the side of a small cliff. Tall thick trees stood grand and regal around the surrounding rocky ledge. Drawn to the waterfall, Kallista somehow knew that there was an entrance to the cave under. This time without any hesitation she moved to travel under the force of the waterfall. It was magic she realized when she made it through easily. The force of the water had moved around her instead of beating down.
Music filled her ears of which the like she had never heard before. It was lovely, enduring, and pulled at her till she walked further into the cave.
In stunned awe she looked around. Every inch of the cave was spectacularly beautiful. Diamonds covered the walls of the cave and sparkled brilliantly with a hidden light. In the center of the cave was a small pool of water that shimmered from the light of the sun that shone down through an opening in top of the cave. It all took Kallista’s breath away.
“No other human can enter this cave or come on this island without your permission.” The Lioness spoke. “This is a place for you to come to when you need to renew your soul and refresh your spirit.”
Kallista had so many thoughts and emotions raging through her, she felt overwhelmed.
Something about this made her think about Japanese samurais and their teachers. Like the ancient esteemed warrior she turned and bowed formally to where she thought the Lioness stood. But one thing pressed on her the most.
“Thank you Great One.” She whispered respectfully, trying to hide her nervousness. “I do not know your name or why you are kind to one such as me. But I think you. May I have the honor of knowing your name?”
“I am Kallista Pendragon.” The Lioness responded with the sound of gentle amusement on her voice again. “And you, my child are The Lioness. You are me and I am you. We are one.”
“Okay,” Kallista let out slowly, “This will take time to get used to.”
A week passed and Kallista still could not wrap her mind around all the events that had taken place. So much had changed and it all was overwhelming. Today was no less so. Numbly she stood before an elaborate three story brick building. It was the elite private school for girls, St. Lawrence Dale Conservatory Academy.
Selena’s chauffer, now hers, stood behind her.
“You best go in Lady Kallista.” Mr. Samuels spoke kindly, “Now that Lady Serena is no longer here to guide your education, you are required to attend school. Doctor Tyler found the best one he could.”
Dressed in the school uniform, Kallista felt at a loss upon hearing her new title, formally Serena Noble’s.
Mr. Samuels saw the look on her face and understood. “You’ve got this, Kal. It will be okay.”
It was the use of her nickname that gave her courage. Squaring her shoulders she straightened her blazer and started walking up the stone stairway.
Whispers and stolen glances followed her. Tidbits of conversation floated within her hearing. “Lady Serena”, “death”, “murder”, and “guilty” seemed to be the keywords. Professor Harris came to mind and his accusations. It was as if what he had said stained her very being.
Shock and dismay filled her as she entered the immaculate building away from one set of whispers to another.
“Look at you, new and already infamous here!” A cheerful voice commented to her right.
Turning her head she met the sparling green eyes of a vivacious redhead. Judging by the same silvery blue and light grey uniform she wore the girl was also a student.
“Hi, my name is Silvia Roundtree.” Silvia held out her hand in a friendly manner. “I already know who you are; Kallista Noble.”
“Yeah, Nice to meet you,” Kallista replied with a smile, rolling her eyes. “I didn’t expect to be anything other than a new student. That’s all I am really.”
“We’ll see,” Silvia smiled mischievously. “The rumors already have you pegged as either a tragic princess or criminally challenged delinquent.”
“How charming,” Kal smirked slightly as she began to walk, all the while her strange and mysterious conversation on her mind. “I am just a girl who wants to find the main office.”
“Oh, you are nearly there!” Silvia exclaimed. “I’ll show you!”
It was easier to ignore staring fellow classmates when having someone by your side than enduring staring fellow classmates while feeling lost and alone.
With her new friend assisting her, Kallista obtained her schedule.
“Oh, Honors World Literature and Shakespeare for your first class, nice!” Silvia spoke enthusiastically as she read over Kallista’s shoulder.
“Yes, as well as World History and Geography, Music, Economics, Latin, and Earth Science.” Kallista spoke with less enthusiasm then Silvia as she headed to her first class. “I remember when I could learn while traveling.”
“Oh, don’t be so grumpy,” Silvia poked her lightly. “We all get a world class education here and in the end will have our pick from the best universities around!”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Kal smiled blandly. “It’s all new for me.”
“I have to go to my class now, but I have music with you later.”“Great, see you then.”
Turning, she entered her class and gazed around. Other students were beginning to take their seats and the teacher looked busy with a pile of papers on her desk. Mentally she shrugged and found herself a seat by the window. The view overlooked a mini courtyard and the school wing beyond that. Kallista was startled to see only boys through the window. Looking around her own classroom she realized there were only girls with her.
“This is the girl’s wing of St. Lawrence,” A girl with blond hair and glasses spoke without looking at her. Before her sat her own laptop which she was busily typing away. “The boys have their own entrence on the other side of the school. Though the academy is connected, we are barred from mingling with each other except on special occasions. “
“Oh, well that explains some things,” Kallista replied. “My name is Kal-“
“I know who you are.” The girl looked up then revealing intellectual golden brown eyes. “I’m Alice Stacey.”
Kallista couldn’t tell at that moment if the other girl was being friendly or was a threat. Before she could say anything else the bell rang and the teacher looked up for the first time.
“Good morning class, today we will begin the study on the Meiji era in Japan,” She began then widened her eyes slightly when she finally noticed Kallista. “Oh good, our new student is here. Welcome! You must be Kallista Noble. I am Mrs. Whims. I hope you will enjoy your time with us at the academy.”
Everyone was staring at her, Kallista didn’t know if she should respond or make a speech. All she could manage was a small smile and a “Thank you.” The pretty teacher beamed warmly at her then proceeded to instruct the class, at the same time handing Kallista her own textbook. Glancing over at Alice she saw the girl was rapidly taking notes like most of the other kids. One girl stood out from her classmates. Instead of taking notes she stared at Kallista with intense hostile eyes, sending her unspoken words of warning. Kallista wondered if the girl’s pants were wound up to tight.
“That’s Clare Winterburn,” Alice spoke lowly without looking up, “She doesn’t like you because your prettier then she is.”
Looking at Clare reminded her of that old saying, something about looks that could kill. Shuddering slightly Kallista was glad it didn’t work that way. Clare’s dark eyes narrowed even more as if she heard what Alice had said.
“Don’t worry, she doesn’t like me either, but that is because I don’t dote on her the way other students and teachers do. She is the school’s sweetheart.” Alice spoke as if reciting facts. ”Besides, what can she do to me? Our dads are partners in a huge law firm; we have to be nice to one another. Chances are she will be nice to you as because you are wealthy.”
Blinking her eyes at the point blank statement Kallista didn’t know what to say. Shrugging her shoulders she opened the textbook for that class and thumbed through the pages.
Thankfully she didn’t have to deal with Clare in any other of her classes and by the end of the day had adjusted somewhat to unwanted attention she was getting from her fellow students. It still hurt to think about why she was in the situation she was in now. If people knew just how much she cared for Lady Serena no one would have ever accused her of murder.
The ride to her home seemed to pass in a blur. Mr. Samuels looked at her in concern but did not interrupt her thoughts. Instead of the home in the country, the chauffer drove her to the townhouse.
“I was instructed to bring you here, Lady Kallista. Dr. Tyler will meet you inside and help you get settled in.”
“Thank you Mr. Samuels,” She responded with mild surprise.
"We thought moving you here might be better for you since it’s closer to your school. But if you want, we can take you back to the estate tomorrow.”
“This will be fine.” She answered with rising excitement.
Only once had she been to the four story townhouse and that was a year ago. It looked the same as it did back then. Made strong yet elegant out of stone the house was build high so that the first story windows could be counted as second story windows. The grand double front doors were rounded in old European style, lending eager expectations to what was inside. Bay windows sat on each side of the double doors graced the front. The rounded windows on each floor reflected the afternoon sun, shining like diamonds.
She walked up the steps, the door opening before she got to the door.
“Welcome home, Kallista.” Dr. Tyler smiled.
Greeting him, she stepped into the foyer. On either side were the entryways into the living room and the library/office. Eagerly she walked into the library. She had not been allowed in there last time. Books filled most of the shelves in the two story room. Cozy leather chairs were placed near the window and close to the iron Italian railing. Eyeing the built in window seat with the pretty cushions, she sat down and allowed herself to finally relax.“I will bring in some hot cider Kallista, if you want.” Dr. Tyler said.
“Thank you, but you don’t have to wait on me.”
“You have been through a lot these last few weeks and today was a big day.” He smiled kindly. “Let me get some for you before I leave.”
In a few moments she had her cup of cider and sipped on it while looking out the window. It had been a while since Mr. Samuels had parked the car in the underground garage out back. Now he was probably in his home enjoying his time off, she mused. Rain startled to fall as she continued to gaze outside. Below her window and across the street people were hurrying home on the sidewalk. Shivering she was glad she was safe inside. Then she noticed something odd. Across the street someone was not moving. Instead they stood outside in the pouring rain staring right at her.