Golden Bridge Chronicle

Chapter 4: New Dawns

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Music accompaniment

To play during reading Respite – Esther’s dream – Emunator (Original : Dearly Beloved – Kingdom Hearts – Yoko Shimomura)

I was troubled by what I had painted. I thought I would sleep on it. I collapsed on my bed, exhausted by the long day, but sleep didn’t come right to me. I didn’t want to dream again about the Renaissance. I didn’t wanted to compound my subconscious desire that was bursting through my mind. Eventually I fell to sleep. It was a dreamless, unrestful night.

The moody sky hadn’t changed from the previous day and it even felt worse. The dawn barely could pierce the cloudy sky. But there was no snowfall yet, just menacing to rain. I stood, going to my kitchen, averting my eyes from the painting, to make me some tea. That done, I took a cup and inhale the scent, relaxing. I turned and looked at the transgressing painting. It wasn’t an awful painting, not exactly in my usual style, more romantic than I tended to be. But it was what it showed, the sexual desire for Francis that sickened me. I couldn’t deny my lust for him, but my rational mind couldn’t allow it. I didn’t even know if he felt the same way. And he certainly couldn’t see this painting, for fear from his judgement. I took the frame, about to crush it, but I couldn’t summon the will to do it. Instead, I took it and put it in a storage room, behind older paintings I kept.

That done, I could concentrate on my morning routine. Having some actual paid work to do, I started to paint the sketches I had done before. It was a couple’s portrait they wanted to give themselves for their fortieth wedding anniversary. They had commissioned a painting forty years ago but the original was at some point damaged. I had to repair the original and paint a new updated one, with the same look, style and pose but with their current age. I had already gone to their home and did the sketches there. They were lovely, warm in their welcome even if they clearly were well off. Both were patrons of the arts and I hoped to have them as my patron eventually. The original was already repaired and the new portrait was advancing well, I was adding the finishing touches, when my phone rang. It startled me a bit.

“Hello, Beldro Mercier.” I answered.

“Hello Beldro, it’s Charles. Have you finished the appraisal?” He asked, skipping the small talk.

“I am well, by the way and yes, I have finished the appraisal. But I haven’t written the report yet. I wasn’t expecting to have to give one, only 2 days after having received the painting. It is not normally a short process. Would you prefer a vocal one or wait for a written one?” I answered, irate by his tone.

“You can come to the Athenaeum and tell it to me, I will add it to my report. I’m happy you did work on it and didn’t take an unnecessary delay.” He said.

“Ok, I am coming. I have a stop to do before, but I will come by today to tell you my report. I have to go back to my other work.” And I ended the call, not waiting for his answer. He can wait for me, he isn’t my boss, and pushing me won’t help him.

I went back to the couple’s painting, looking at it for anything to add. I judged it was finished and of good quality. While packing my things, Master Fox called to me.

“I heard you spoke to that weak-minded kit about me. What is your plan of attack? I don’t need to remind you that I don’t want to go back to him. I don’t know his intent but I am a lot more secure here or with the young Melbourne.” Master Fox asked.

“I don’t think Francis is ready to have you yet. He seems to be interested in you and magic, but not quite ready to accept his imposed destiny. But I don’t know yet how I can keep you. I have no reason to give Charles or his boss to do it. Maybe Charles’s boss would be more open to the suggestion, but Charles won’t let me reach him easily. You will not come with me to the Order, but I don’t know the outcome yet. Are you against me casting spells on you?” I asked.

“I don’t enjoy it but if you think it is necessary. Give me some of your blueberries and you can do it.” Master Fox answered.

“No problem, but why do you like my blueberries and how can you eat them?” I finally asked him, while picking some from the shrub.

“Your blueberries are full of Mana and as a spirit, I can feed on Mana. It is part of my purpose to accumulate as much Mana as I can. Thank you.” He munched on the blueberries I gave him.

I hadn’t realized my blueberry bushes were becoming magical. I would have to investigate eventually.

I started casting a protecting sigil, protective runes, for preventing someone else to try to take the object, whether in the room or from afar. I traced, with my brush, sacred geometry to enhance the protection. Any sustained attack would go through, but it would have to be enough for the time being.

I carefully wrapped the couple’s paintings and went to their home to give it back to them. They lived in Sillery, an old upper class neighborhood of Quebec City. I took the bus to approach the neighborhood and then walked in the old tree-lined streets. They seemed on fire by the colors of the leaves, then a gust of wind blew them across the street in a rain of ginger leaves. Out of the corner of my eyes, I spotted a woman who caught my attention. I don’t know why, but she felt hidden, out of place, and at the same time wasn’t standing out. She was relatively young looking, but with her pearly white hair, it felt odd. She wore stylish and appropriate looking clothes and at the same time there was an edge to it that felt incorrect. She seemed to be following me and I felt less and less secure. I had my hands full with the paintings, so I couldn’t take my phone out to take a picture, but I tried to put to memory her face. When she looked back at me and saw I had spotted her, she nodded and seemed to continue her way in another direction, away from me. I was near the couple’s house and hastened the pace to get there and get out of sight.

By the time I arrived at the door, I was panting, from the speed and having to transport the paintings. I took a moment to recenter myself and focused on steadying my breath. I took a look behind me, searching for the woman. Seeing no one in the street, I rang the doorbell. After a few moments, I was greeted by Mrs. Bellavance.

“Hello M. Mercier. Come in.” She ushered me in their house, in the lobby, where she took my coat off and hung it on a coat rack. A simple, homely house. There was arts piece everywhere, from different time, artist and styles, but it mesh nicely, never ostentatious, but not hidden.

Then, she directed me to their homely living room. You could already see the space they had created on the walls for the two paintings, they would take a place of honor in the space. Mr. and Mrs Bellavance came in and sat on a simple couch, seeming quite used and comfortable, inviting me to sit in an old burgundy leather armchair facing them. I took the covered frames and unwrapped them without showing the result. After it, I steadied myself.

“Mr. and Mrs Bellavance, here are the two paintings, I hope you will like them.” And then I turned the two paintings, showing them with a bit of showmanship flair.

“Oh wow! Those are lovely.” Mrs Bellavance said. “Exactly what I had imagined they would look like. Similar but different. And the original, repaired; it has been a long time that I wanted it back to it’s former glory.” She exclaimed. She stood and came to me, putting her hands on both sides of my jaw and kissed both sides. She was really liking them and wasn’t afraid to show it.

“Dear, let the poor man alone, you are embarrassing him.” Mr. Bellavance teased his wife. “But in all seriousness, you really have a talent young man. Could you put them in their place?” He continued, really appreciating the work. I took the paintings and hung them. I took a few steps back to let them appreciate the display. I was really enjoying the painting’s compliments they were saying between themselves. And their comments clearly showed they had a trained eye for arts. After some time they turned back to me and Mrs. Bellavance came towards me, offering me a motherly hug to show her gratitude. I took it and hugged her back, drifting for the shortest of time back to my mother’s hug. Then Mr. Bellavance offered a handshake, clearly showing his appreciation of the work.

“We really appreciate your work and we will retain your service for the future. Do you plan to do an exposition in the near future? We would really like to help you continue your art. We saw your bachelor’s final project and it was really impressive. You have an eye.” Mr. Bellavance complimented, going to a business-like stance.

“I will keep you aware of my plans. At the moment have nothing to show. I know you have an eye for it, so if you are interested, you could visit my studio sometime to browse through my previous works.” I said, committing more than I thought I should but I hoped it brought results.

“I am very sorry, but I have to go, I have another meeting to attend to and I am already a bit late.” I excused myself while standing. They thanked me again and told me to go and they would contact me again to see what other paintings I had. They also gave me the last payment I was due. I was given back my coat and I got on my way back to the bus stop. I was floating on a cloud while I walked. There was a happy spring to my steps and I was even whistling to myself. It was really going well and everything will be fine. I arrived at the bus stop and got on the bus and went to the Old Quebec, to meet Charles.

Arriving at the Athenaeum, my spirit was still up from the previous meeting. The sun was tentatively piercing through the clouds, basking the streets with rays. I had a smile on my face when I saw Charles in the lobby. He had that same pose as last time, nonchalantly looking at his phone.

“Hi Beldro, you seem happy. Any good news?” Charles enquired.

“Just a good meeting with future patrons. So, where do you want us to talk?” I asked, still with a smile on my face.

“Let’s just go to my office here.” He directed. We walked into the storage space where all of Melbourne’s estate was. He took me to a desk to the side of the room and we sat.

“So any interest to the painting?” He asked.

“Nothing of interest to you.” I lied. Well, half lied.

“Good to know I was correct. But of no interest to me, what is interesting?” He asked puzzled.

“Well, it is an original work from the 15th or 16th century, probably not from one of the masters of the time. No Da Vinci. I couldn’t remove the canvas from the frame, because it is the original framing and quite fragile. The original painter is probably unknown. The painting isn’t signed, which isn’t uncommon for the period. The only identifying feature is a small identity tag added to the back, probably in the 1940s, saying Mister Francis William Morin, Esquire. It isn’t the mundane name of Melbourne, that I confirmed, it is his grandfather’s. If it was more thoroughly commercially appraised, it could be a quite valuable work in the right markets. It would need a few repairs, mainly to the framing to restore it back to shape. It is in remarkable shape for a 500 year old painting. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a magical restoration in the past. But the Resonance (the magical trace left by a mage after a spell, can also be an emotional trace left by a powerful location) of the painting doesn’t say.” I said expertly, sure in his knowledge.

“So quite interesting, but not for us. So, when will you bring it back here?” Charles asked, changing subject toward something he was more in control.

“Didn’t you hear me, the framing is really a fragile shape. If I had known, I wouldn’t have transported it out of here in the first place. Now that it is where it is, I would keep it at my studio until we restore the estate back to Francis.” I exclaimed, quite relieved to find a way out to keep Master Fox, but I slip my tongue in my enthusiasm.

“How did you know his name? Why did you search for it?” He enquired, quite surprised and even a bit angry at the revelation.

“Well, during my historical research, I needed context and a genealogy of the family and so I searched the archives and found Melbourne, his son, his father and grandfather. Quite interesting to see a long legacy of mages. And surprising the son isn’t one yet.” I answered truthfully.

“Yes it is and it wasn’t a knowledge for you to have. You were not ready to have it and it is a secret of the Order.” He became quite agitated, with this attack on his authority and his control of the information. “Your job was to appraise the painting, not to do a historical search of the family. If you needed information, you should have asked me and I would have given you what you needed to hear. You must follow the proper procedure and keep to what I give you.” His voice rose as he rose from his chair, trying to impose his authority on me. I wasn’t impressed by his outburst. At that moment, I saw him for what he was: a small man, past his prime, weighed down by his superior in his mundane life, weighed down by his age, by his lack of any meaningful accomplishment, grasping at straws to keep the little of control that he could, desperately seeking to create a legacy for himself. I pitied him. He also revealed in his sermon that the Order didn’t want the information about Francis and the Melbourne’s to be known. Why? I wasn’t exactly sure. Also that Charles superior, Censor Jean Coutu, was both testing me by giving me the information, but also testing his squire, Charles, for his reaction. Has I looked around the room, I saw M. Coutu propped on his office door frame, listening in. When our gaze met, he stood and walked toward us, from behind Charles.

“Mister Leclerc, I gave Mister Mercier the information about Francis. And it seems he did a good job searching the deeper meaning, behind the cursory review you did. Go back and finish the report about the estate. I know you have finished inventory days ago and I still don’t understand why we haven’t released the estate yet. After a month, since the end of September and it’s not finished? I want results. Mister Mercier, follow me.” He turned on the spot back to his office and I trod behind him.

“Sorry for my assistant’s attitude. He is good at what he does, but he has a real bureaucratic mind, meticulous but no originality, no instinct. So what have you learned about Francis? Considering who his father was, we have him under watch for an Awakening.” He said, relaxed in his chair. The old clock still opened and under a thorough disassembly, pieces knolled on the desk.

“Well, he has a lot of news to digest. His father revealed to him he was a mystagogue years ago and it wasn’t well received. It created a rift between the two that was never healed. Now that Melbourne is dead, he has to cope with never being able to find closure. He is quite lonely and I could see in his aura a destiny that he needs to accomplish. But he is not ready to take the mantle yet. At this point I don’t know where it is going, but I do feel he is on the fence on the subject. I think it is this lack of commitment that prevents his Awakening. I have discussed it with him and he isn’t keen on the idea that he has no choice in his destiny, considering his Legacy. He left his father because he couldn’t accept it then, and now that it comes back, is he ready? I don’t know. And I don’t know how to convince him to embrace his destiny.” I answered, having more questions and seeking guidance.

“I see. You had quite a good discussion with him and established a good rapport with him in relatively a short time. I would like to ask you if you would be interested to monitor and groom him for his Awakening. And after it, initiate and mentor him. It is quite an important task, and you would directly report to me. Before, I had Charles do some surveillance, but he isn’t that good with it. Are you interested? If so, I would take you as one of my assistants, but for other tasks as well. I have nothing else for you to do at the moment but if you find something, do tell me.” He told me.

“Thank you for the offer and confidence you give me. I accept and will watch Francis. Do you have any clues how to convince him? I asked, seeing he didn’t answer my first question.

“I don’t know what to tell you. We were all chosen, in a certain way, to accomplish a destiny when we Awaken. We now see the Truth of the World and we must seek out the true knowledge and prevent its disappearance. We chose to Awaken and link our soul. But we are still master of what we do with our new power. He must see following our destiny doesn’t mean having no choice. We mages keenly know the future isn’t written in stone, even the past isn’t perfectly fixed. Teach him this.” Mr. Coutu offered his hand to shake, indicating the end of our meeting. I had some things to think about. I thanked him again for the offer and left his office. Charles was at his desk, madly and angrily typing at his keyboard, but still emanated an aura of efficiency.

I left the storage area and went into the Library. I found a reading alcove, streaked in a soothing but artificial light, I sat and pondered how to tell Francis that he should embrace his legacy, his family’s work. I thought how to make him realize it and after some time I had the answer. I was quite pleased with myself because it even created an activity that we could work on together, to strengthen our bond. I called him.

“Hi, Francis Morin speaking” He answered cheerfully.

“Francis, you don’t have caller ID? Not very technophile of you.” I playfully jabbed a little at him.

“Sorry Beldro, it is my usual answer on the phone. So what can I do for you?” He asked, laughing it off.

“Well, I wanted to know if you would be interested in seeing a movie with me. I had an urge to see the Fellowship of the Ring and I wanted to know if you would be interested?” I explored, hoping he would accept.

“Normal or extended version? I will always be in to see it. I am a fan.” He cheerfully answered. “I suppose at my place. I have the screen and the couch for it, which I know you don’t, mister minimalistic furniture.” He jabbed back at me.

“Good to hear and I in fact was hoping that you had the film and be keen on it, considering my home setup and lack of the actual film. I will be coming to your house now, is it correct?” I asked.

“No problem, I have nearly finished my day’s work.” He answered. We ended the conversation and I made my way to his home, in anticipation of my plan.

The afternoon sky was slowly clearing of clouds, having rained while I was inside the Athenaeum, but it wasn’t yet fully cleared, it was waiting for something, but something good. The temperature was dropping sharply, winter announcing its impending arrival. As I arrived at his home, he answered the door before I knocked on the door. He clearly was expecting and waiting for me. He gave me a friendly hug that I reciprocated. The last time I came to his house, he was wearing pyjama pants, but this time he also wore a geeky t-shirt. He invited me in, hung my coat and directed me to his living room, where he had already set up the film. He offered me something to drink, and I chose water. He went to procure it and came back with a full pitcher of it with glasses. We settled in for the extended version of the film. I was expecting a specific part of it to trigger his acceptance of his destiny. When the Fellowship was going through the Mines of Moria and Frodo complained to Gandalf about receiving the Ring :

” Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times; but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”

I was watching Francis’ visage at that moment and I could see his expression change. He understood the words and they put his thoughts in perspective. His demeanor changed and after that point, he wasn’t giving much attention to the film. Then came the meeting between Frodo and Galadriel at the mirror :

” Frodo: I cannot do this alone.
Galadriel: You are a Ringbearer, Frodo. To bear a Ring of Power is to be alone. [holds up her hand to show a silver, flower-jeweled Ring] This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper. This task was appointed to you and if you do not find a way, no one will.
Frodo: I know what I must do, it’s just that… I’m afraid to do it.
Galadriel: Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Yet again Francis’ expression changed. His whole body expressed his inner turmoil. At that point he no longer listened to the film. At the film’s end he took his glass and emptied it in one go. Then he turned to me.

“I see what you did here. You knew what it would do to me. Thank you for showing it to me and not trying to debate it and convince me. It is now my time to take what is rightfully mine and continue my father’s and father’s father’s quest. So where do I start? I’m afraid of what is to come, but I can’t let fear control me.” He stated, now fully embracing his path. He emitted an air of assurance that he didn’t have before.

” I don’t exactly know, but I know who would, Master Fox. But at this time it is quite late after this film so I should go back home.” I looked at my phone for the time and it was passed the end of the bus service.

“I am too tired to offer you a ride, but if you don’t mind, you could sleep here and we could go together tomorrow see Master Fox.” He offered. He lived quite far from my home by foot, so I accepted his offer. We cleaned his living room. While I was putting the glass in his kitchen, he made a makeshift bed with his couch.

“You are the first person I have had sleep over, so sorry for the setup.” He grinned, wanting to please.

“Better than me so I can’t complain.” I grinned back.

“So good night then, I will let you prepare yourself for sleep. Need anything, don’t be shy to tell me.” He awkwardly said, trying to linger a bit longer, but eventually left for his room.

I undressed down to my underwear and went to the washroom. He was already there washing his teeth, also undressed to his underwear. I leaned in the corridor, waiting for him to finish. Eventually, he came out and let me use the room. I finished preparing myself, then went to the living room to sleep. I slept fitfully, but dreamless.

I woke with a shiver, the temperature having dropped during the night. It was really early in the morning, the dawn barely rising. There was frost on the windows. I rose to the window and did some stretching, waking me up fully. I then sat in front of the window and started to calmly meditate. My mind was wandering but I was able to filter out the thoughts. Then my eyes focused on the frost and I thought of a poem I learned in primary school :

Winter Evening (Emile Nelligan)*

Ah, how the snow has snowed!
My window is a garden of frost.
Ah, how the snow has snowed!
The brief spasm of life is lost
In the sorrow that I know, that I know!

Here lie the tarns all frozen,
My soul is dark: Where to go? Where stay?
Here lie its hopes all frozen;
I have become a new Norway
And all my pale skies are fallen.

Weep, you birds of deep winter,
The mortal cold hardens and grows.
Weep, you birds of deep winter,
Weep for my tears, weep for my rose,
From the branches of the juniper.

Ah, how the snow has snowed!
My window is a garden of frost.
Ah, how the snow has snowed!
The brief spasm of life is lost
In the void hours that I know, that I know!

Soir d’Hiver (Emile Nelligan)

Ah ! comme la neige a neigé !
Ma vitre est un jardin de givre.
Ah ! comme la neige a neigé !
Qu’est-ce que le spasme de vivre
A la douleur que j’ai, que j’ai !

Tous les étangs gisent gelés,
Mon âme est noire : Où vis-je ? où vais-je ?
Tous ses espoirs gisent gelés;
Je suis la nouvelle Norvège
D’où les blonds ciels s’en sont allés.

Pleurez, oiseaux de février,
Au sinistre frisson des choses,
Pleurez, oiseaux de février,
Pleurez mes pleurs, pleurez mes roses,
Aux branches du genévrier.

Ah ! comme la neige a neigé !
Ma vitre est un jardin de givre.
Ah ! comme la neige a neigé !
Qu’est-ce que le spasme de vivre
A tout l’ennui que j’ai, que j’ai !…

I wept a little from the internal recital. I wasn’t in so deep sorrow compared to the poem, but it was a reminder that I wasn’t away from it yet. It wasn’t chance that brought that poem to my mind. I recomposed myself and prepared for the coming day with Francis, a new dawn rising for him. A new dawn for us.

Author’s Note

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Thank you to Mark Christensen for his editing, review and comments.

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