A loud bang on the front door woke Tom. A short pause was followed by another loud bang on the hard oak. Tapping sounds came as high heeled shoes crossed the marble floor. Tom slid out of bed. There was a sharp click of the latch as the heavy door opened. Tom clenched his blanket and ran to the landing above the large hall. His small hand grasped the white bar as he looked to the entryway below. He saw a woman and man talking to the maid, Anna.
“We must see your mistress at once,” the woman said.
Tom wondered who the woman was. She wore a red dress, and her long black hair shined in the glow of the chandelier. He gasped seeing the huge man that was with her. The man’s short beard was neatly trimmed and light reflected off of his shaved head. His long sword shifted slightly on his black suit as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
Anna walked back down the hall and the woman turned to whisper to the man. Tom wondered what they were so quiet about. A few minutes later, he saw his mother hurry to the woman, holding her hands out. They clasped hands and his mother’s lips brushed the other woman’s cheek.
“We can talk in here,” his mother said, heading to the sitting room. The woman followed with the man close behind.
Tom dropped his blanket and crept down the stairs looking from side to side. At the bottom of the stairs he couldn’t see anyone, so he darted across the entryway and stopped just outside the sitting room. Peering in he saw Anna handing cups to the woman and the man and then to his mother. She set the tray on the table and headed toward the door.
Tom opened the coat closet, jumped in, and closed the door. He heard Anna walk by and he held his breath. The steps continued down the hallway and he sighed. He waited a moment longer, then opened the door a crack and pressed his ear to it. He heard only muffled voices.
He slipped out of the closet and closed the door, holding the handle so that it made no noise. He sank to his knees and crawled to the sitting room. When he reached the double oak doors, a woman shouted, “You have a responsibility, being entrusted with magic.”
“I know that, but all it has gotten me is sorrow. We now have witches everywhere who corrupt the laws of magic and destroy everything around them, why I am to be more responsible than they?” his mother challenged.
“Yes, that is true, but can you imagine what would happen if men once again possessed magic? We can’t take that risk,” she said. “You know the history of magic as well as I do. The Brothers of the Forsaken Petal gave everything to ensure that magic continued on and the responsibility is ours and ours alone. The women who sacrificed their lives in the trials should not be ignored. They were instructed that only women should possess magic.”
“I know the history. I know of the sacrifices that were and still are made, but there is something different going on that I do not understand. You know that I have already made the ultimate sacrifice once before,” his mother whispered.
“I sorrow for your loss, sister,” said the woman, “but there is nothing that can be done. The head enchantress demands that it is done again. You know our law. Without the law we are no different than the witches that now encircle us on every hand.”
Tom heard the cup clang on the tabletop and the sound of people standing.
“We will return tomorrow and collect the boy. There is nothing that can be done about it,” the woman stated.
Tom hurried to the stairs and dashed up them. By the time he reached the landing, the woman was heading toward the front door. The big man followed her quietly, moving with the grace of a giant cat. Tom’s mother was close behind. She looked up at him. He saw a tear in her eye and wondered who they were talking about. Her face was worn and her eyes, which seemed to always gleam, were dull. She opened the door and the couple left.
Tom’s mother hurried up the stairs brushing at her eyes. She smiled when she looked down at the small boy with his curly blonde hair. He looked up at her with a weak smile, hoping that he wouldn’t get in too much trouble for staying up. His mother bent down to him and held him tight.
“Tom, you have to go to a new home tomorrow. It will just be for a short time.” She looked into his blue eyes. “After your father gets back, we’ll come and get you.”
He whimpered and his mother gave him a stern look.
“Remember you must be strong. You are an Alerio.”
He nodded and wiped at his red eyes. “I know mother, I will be.”
She pulled him close again and then, lifting him in her delicate arms, carried him down the hallway to his room. She laid him gently on the bed and pulled the covers over his shoulders. She looked at him for a moment longer, leaned over, and kissed him on the forehead.
He reached up and grabbed her around the neck, holding her tight. “I love you mamma.”
She squeezed him. “And I love you, Tom.”