All Hallow’s Eve
By Wendi Sotis
October 31, 1811 – All Hallow’s Eve
Elizabeth Bennet strode quickly into the night. Grateful that this year the path was lit by the full moon, she headed for a particular meadow near the outskirts of her father’s land, surrounded by a grove of apple trees on one side and woods on the other. There, years ago, her grandmother had instructed her on how to perform an ancient ritual—much more complicated than any other she had been taught.
Although she knew she would perform her duty tonight in a way that would make her grandmother proud, she wished Grandmama could be here walking beside her now as she had for the past seven years on All Hallow’s Eve.
While gathering the herbs and berries that were required to be freshly procured for the brew she must drink tonight, she thought back to her thirteenth birthday—the day Grandmama had revealed to her the family secret and spoken of their shared destiny.
That day, and every other in which she would perform an official duty, her grandmother had worn a simple dress underneath an elegant, maroon cloak, fastened near her collarbone with a pennanular broach. The cloak was long, almost brushing the ground, traditionally designating her family to be of very high rank among the ancient Tribes, according to her grandmother. The broach bore two symbols: a family seal and an elaborate design indicative of her position within the Tribes—the High Priestess of Sanun.
As Elizabeth’s fingers moved automatically to the same pennanular broach at the base of her own neck, an echo of her grandmother’s words rang out in her mind.
“My dear Elizabeth, you have now reached the age where you must be told of our past and of your future. Along with many of our ancestors, you and I have been ordained by destiny to perform an ancient and solemn ritual, the ceremony of Sanun. We alone can give the dead the gift of communication directly with the living for a few short hours.
“But, be warned! Should we make even the smallest of errors, the rite not only would allow the Harmless Souls to be free in the world, but we would set the ‘harmful’ Olc souls free as well.”
The familiar pulling sensation and unique vibration of the meadow demanded her attention, rousing Elizabeth from her ruminations. Even as a child, she had felt there was something special about the meadow and grove, as if it called out for her. Years later she realized that on All Hallow’s Eve, these sensations became much stronger.
As she entered the grove and gazed upon the meadow through the trees, Elizabeth reminisced about the first time she had witnessed her grandmother perform the Sanun. She had met her ancestors that night. Also introduced were the antecedents of those who would become important to her in the future, but only by first name—she was not permitted to learn the identities of those she would come to love, especially not those of her Soul Mate.
Nervous excitement coursed through her as she began to gather the wood that her sisters had helped her conceal around the outskirts of the meadow over the past several weeks. This was the first All Hallow’s Eve since her grandmother had passed into the Otherworld, leaving Elizabeth with the title of High Priestess of Sanun, the highest position within the Tribes. It was also the first ritual that she would perform alone.
Using only her hands and two sticks, she lit the bonfire in the ancient way. The Sanun had begun.
More than any other night of the year, Fitzwilliam Darcy looked forward to his slumber on the final night of October. Though he would never admit it to anyone, beginning the year that his mother had died, every All Hallow’s Eve, William had experienced a realistic dream during which he seemed to be able to converse with his mother. Years later, after his father had passed on, both his parents would appear together in his dream.
The need to speak to his parents seemed more urgent tonight than in years past, and so he retired earlier than was his habit. Anticipating the dream too greatly, he did nothing but toss and turn for hours before deciding to go for a walk in an effort to exhaust himself.
Exiting the house, he stopped to admire the blood-red Full Hunter’s Moon rising from behind Oakham Mount, filling a good portion of the sky. Always the efficient, planning sort of man, he felt that even though he had become well acquainted with the area after spending such a great deal of time riding to escape his hostesses’ unwelcome attentions, having an obvious landmark while walking out at night would be prudent. He headed toward the Mount.
As his feet wandered the land, his thoughts wandered to the place they could often be found of late—a pair of fine eyes and the superior lady to whom they belonged. He had thoroughly enjoyed closely observing the lady over the past weeks, and no matter how hard he had tried, he could not find her wanting—other than the deficiencies in her social standing, connexions, and dowry. Strange that the moment he had laid eyes on Elizabeth, he had begun to doubt this philosophy of which he had previously been convinced—that these three qualities were the most important a lady could possess.
How a handsome lady of her low social status could have developed such an advanced mind as Elizabeth possessed was beyond him. Most of the population of Meryton did not understand even half of the true meaning of what she said. He was certain the same could be said of the inhabitants of the highest social circles of London if she ever had the opportunity of spending much time in their company. Her wit and vivacity mesmerized him. That she had not spent every meeting chasing after his financial and social assets was in her favour as well. No, he could not deny his attraction to her in every way possible.
Looking about, he found that he had walked farther than he had intended. Hoping to be able to catch a glimpse of her home while he was there, he began to climb Oakham Mount.
At the very moment William reached the crest and looked up at the full moon, he realized he could no longer deny what he felt—not to himself, not to anyone. Thinking of a future without Elizabeth Bennet at his side was physically painful to him, and he could not force his mind to make the attempt any longer. He would pursue the lady who held his heart in her hands! Relief swept over him as it never had before, and he knew this decision to be the correct one.
Staring over the treetops at the spire of Longbourn’s roof, he wondered if, by chance, she was dreaming of him. Unexpectedly, the sound of Elizabeth’s unmistakable voice echoed through the woods, returning William’s thoughts to the present.
The song she sang was in a language unfamiliar to him. It was beautiful, almost magical somehow. Her sweet chants resonated throughout the surrounding woods, making it seem as if it originated from all directions, though he could tell she was some distance away from him. His eyes were drawn toward a movement in the sky—a single plume of smoke rising from within the trees. Without conscious thought, his feet took him in that direction.
The closer he drew to her voice, the more he felt that what he was doing was ridiculous, and the less he cared. Only when he saw the light of the fire through the trees did he realize how large it was—more like a bonfire than the campfire he had expected. Reaching the edge of the clearing, he stopped, captivated by the vision before him.
Elizabeth was alone, wearing a thin, low-cut gown that clung to her every curve most alluringly. With the fire behind her, it was apparent that she was wearing none of the usual undergarments that he purchased for his sister. She was dancing an intricate, graceful dance, still singing the same song that had acted on him more like a siren’s call. Her hair was loose, her dark curls flowing freely well past her waist, winding about her torso and floating out behind her as she danced. She was absolutely magnificent!
Fearing that if she became aware of his presence it might hasten an end to this vision, he lowered himself to sit on a fallen tree. Here, he would be hidden from her view if she happened to look his way, but he would be able to continue to observe her every movement.
The song and dance slowed, and seemed to be ending. Elizabeth came to a stop and slowly raised her face and arms up to the sky.
As the last note faded, William rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Fearful for Elizabeth’s safety, his first impulse had been to rush forward and protect her, but something was keeping him rooted in place—instinct stronger than any he had experienced in the past told him that he must not interrupt what was unfolding in the meadow.
He watched, wondering if this was all a dream, as Elizabeth began to glow with a white light almost blinding in its intensity. Small fragments of light began to break off from that surrounding her and travelled through the air around the meadow. When it came to a stop, each portion of light swelled into the shape of a person. The light would fade, and in its place there would be a lady or man, and occasionally a child, where none had been before. Though not quite solid, William could recognize some of the clothing they wore from sketches and paintings he had previously examined in books and museums. These beings seemed to represent places spanning the world and extending across time, past and present—judging from some of their costumes, perhaps even before recorded history.
The meadow continued to fill with people who would bow to Elizabeth, transform once again into tiny lights, and then float off into the sky. Every time a light would leave, in turn, another would take its place, and the meadow would fill again. After a great number of minutes, the quantity of lights began to taper off. it seemed that soon he would discover her fate, and his fear for Elizabeth grew again. A small group of people remained in the meadow speaking to each other, some of whom lingered very close to where she stood. Finally, the flow of lights ended, and the glow surrounding her faded.
When he saw Elizabeth begin to collapse, William jumped up with the intention of rushing toward her, but he held his ground after noticing an older lady, who suddenly appeared more solid than she had before, moving into position behind her. The lady caught Elizabeth and lowered her to the ground, leaning her back against a tree stump. She helped Elizabeth to drink from the cup that he had seen resting on the stump when he arrived. It was odd to see the lady’s hand that held the cup remain solid while the remainder of her body became opaque once again.
A few minutes later, Elizabeth stood and embraced the lady, crying, “Grandmama! How I have missed you!”
Moving slowly, William returned to sit on the fallen tree in stunned silence as the two ladies conversed. A little while later, other people began to approach the pair. Each person bowed to Elizabeth and to her grandmother, and then waited to be addressed before speaking. Their behaviour reminded him of those in the presence of royalty when he realized that neither Elizabeth nor her grandmother had curtsied in return. Other than this, there was no difference in Elizabeth’s behaviour from the usual friendly, vivacious manner that he had become accustomed to observing.
Intermittently, lights began to return from their far destinations. Transforming once again into the forms of people, they would converse with Elizabeth and her grandmother or with one another.
Two of the lights in particular caught William’s attention. They seemed to be exactly the same as all the others, but to him in some way they stood out as different. When they transformed, he was shocked—there, just a few feet away from him, stood his parents bowing to Miss Elizabeth Bennet!
William strained to listen to their conversation.
Elizabeth greeted the couple with a brilliant smile. “Good evening, Lady Anne, Mr. George! It is such a pleasure to see you both again! Have you visited your children already?”
Lady Anne answered, “We have just come from visiting our daughter and will see our son soon, High Priestess.”
Elizabeth blushed prettily. “Please, I do believe, as the parents of my Soul Mate, you have the right to call me Elizabeth.”
William’s breath caught in his chest. Elizabeth is my Soul Mate?
Mr. Darcy bowed, “Thank you, Miss Elizabeth. After speaking to your grandmother prior to this evening, we have decided it is imperative that you learn our identities at this time. You have recently met our son, madam, and your relationship is not progressing as it should.”
Elizabeth’s eyes opened wide and lifted her eyebrows high upon her forehead. “Have I? I cannot imagine who it could possibly be!”
“Our son is Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
Elizabeth blinked a few times in surprise. “Surely you jest!” she answered with a chuckle in her voice. When she noticed that they continued to look quite serious, Elizabeth attempted to school her features, but she could not hide her embarrassment. “Well then, I feel it is my responsibility to inform you that what you suspect is not possible!”
At a look from the former High Priestess, his parents begged to be excused to visit their son.
As they began to move away, Elizabeth called after them, “Your son is quite close this year. He is staying at Netherfield Park.”
“Oh, we know exactly where our son is, Miss Elizabeth!” William heard his father assure her, his voice louder than was necessary. Knowing his father was speaking to him as well as answering Elizabeth, William closed his eyes for a moment.
Grandmama Bennet watched as the Darcys transformed into lights and departed the meadow, then turned to her granddaughter and said, “It certainly is possible that their son is your Soul Mate, Elizabeth. In fact, there is no doubt.”
“But, Grandmama, it simply cannot be possible that we are Soul Mates. Mr. Darcy dislikes me as much as, if not more than I dislike him! It would have been unfair if I had not put them to rights on the matter; their mistaken hopes must come to an end. From the first moment of my acquaintance with him, Mr. Darcy’s manners have impressed me with the fullest belief of his arrogance, his conceit, and his selfish disdain of the feelings of others!”
“On his side, with my own ears, I have heard him say that he found me not handsome enough to tempt him to dance. In fact he made it sound as if I were so low that I was not worthy enough for him to take notice of at all! If that is the case, I cannot believe that he would ever consider me acceptable as a wife. Whenever we meet, he stares at me with a disapproving gleam in his eye. I can only think he stands nearby listening while I am engaged in conversation to amuse himself by noting my style of conversing, which, judging by his reaction, I am sure he finds ridiculous. No! I am sorry, Grandmama, but you are indeed mistaken in thinking he and I could be Soul Mates.”
The ache in William’s heart became too much for him to bear, and he no longer wished to listen. He began to back away from his seat slowly, hoping not to draw any attention to himself. When he was out of Elizabeth’s line of sight, he walked off in the direction of his temporary home, Netherfield Park.
Grandmama Bennet allowed her granddaughter to finish speaking before she began, “Now, Elizabeth, I must speak to you of important matters. You are aware of the mask of serenity that your sister Jane wears in public. I am sure that you realize that those who do not know her well often mistaken her for being cold and unfeeling and that many people think her heart is not easily touched. Her quiet demeanor is sometimes thought of as indifference or arrogance, especially since she is touted as being so beautiful wherever she goes. Think, my dear, how many women who are as lovely as our dear Jane would you expect not to be self-absorbed and conceited?”
A little surprised at her choice of topics after what had just been discussed, it took Elizabeth a moment to gather her thoughts before answering, “But Jane is shy, Grandmama! She finds speaking to people she does not know almost painful. Jane does not share her feelings with others easily, but she does feel deeply, and she is the best person I know. Surely you know as well as I that it actually embarrasses Jane to be spoken of as so beautiful; it is one of her gifts that she sees the beauty in everyone she meets and feels that others should be recognized as well.
“In the past she has trusted people too easily and has been hurt by them. Men have used her beauty, her good manners, and her excellent nature. Knowing that she does not have a dowry, they would never offer for her—but still they are so vain they wish to ‘be seen’ with her on their arms. Being treated in this manner makes her feel as if the veneer is all that matters to most people, not the person she is inside, and so she has learned to protect herself.”
“Yes, my dear, I know it, and you know it, but those who do not know her as well as we do—and you must admit she does not allow many people very close to her—they do not know it, and they see her very differently than we do.”
Elizabeth had to concede that it was likely.
“Now, what would you say about a man who is just as shy as our Jane, who is as rich as he is handsome, and who has been actively pursued by almost every single lady of marriageable age with whom he has come into contact? How do you think that man would present himself to a room full of strangers?”
Understanding dawned upon Elizabeth, and she blushed deeply. “He would likely wear a mask, like Jane does, and others would misinterpret his actions.” She hesitated several moments before continuing, “I have never given him a chance.”
Her grandmother shook her head. “You have not, my dear.”
“Grandmama, I will begin again with Mr. Darcy, but I will promise you nothing beyond that. I mean no disrespect, but I will not marry him only because others tell me we are well matched. I am resolved to marry only for the deepest love.”
“I expect nothing less from you, Elizabeth,” her grandmother replied. “Now that it is settled, as time grows short, I must hurry off to visit other members of our family. I will return before sunrise so that we may have time to say goodbye before I must leave you for another year.”
As he walked through the woods, William heard his mother’s voice calling his name, and he stopped short, turning towards his parents. His mother’s form became less transparent a moment before she embraced him. William was surprised that she felt warm and soft, and her scent was just as he remembered.
“Mother!” he breathed, “I am so happy to see you!”
William and his father moved toward each other. The younger Darcy hesitated, but his father grabbed hold of him and embraced his son for the first time. When they parted, there was not a dry eye among the three of them.
“All these years, they were not dreams, were they?”
“No, William, they were not,” his mother answered. “We allowed you to believe whatever would make you feel most comfortable.”
A pained expression fell over William’s features, and he was no longer able to meet their eyes. “I have made a mess of things since I have seen you last year.”
“William, we do know what has been occurring in your life. We are often with you, son, but there is only one night of the year on which we can take a form that can be seen by you and speak to you, with the help of the High Priestess of Sanun, of course. Sometimes we are able to influence you to make choices, but it takes a great deal of effort to do so. Whenever you feel an intuition, it is usually one of us.” His mother smiled.
“So it was you who made me feel the need to go to Ramsgate when Georgiana needed me in August?”
Lady Anne placed her hand on his arm. “Yes, dearest. I know you feel that you failed her, but you did a wonderful job of rescuing your sister and protecting her reputation. If you had not listened to us, she would have been in a dire situation by now.”
“And all that has happened with Elizabeth? Do not tell me I have done anything right there!” His anger at himself was evident.
“You did hear what was said then?” Mr. Darcy asked.
“Yes, I heard it—in fact, more than you did.” William chuckled without mirth. “I have made quite the impression, have I not? I have often cursed my inability to perform to strangers, but this is beyond anything I have experienced in the past. I have been drawn to Elizabeth from the first time I saw her; never have I felt this way about any woman. While I hesitated and planned so that I could make a good impression, she has grown to despise me! How is it that I can manage estates, be master to more than a hundred servants, oversee countless tenants, outwit masters in their fields of expertise, and yet I can barely put together an intelligible sentence whenever I am near her?”
“You cannot use logic to plan love the same way you would design planting the estate, son!” his mother chided. She waited until he looked at her before saying, “You have little experience with matters of the heart.”
Mr. Darcy cleared his throat. “William, we are usually not permitted to reveal one’s Soul Mate, but in this instance, it was essential that we do so. In any other circumstances, we would have allowed your relationship to take its course naturally, but the High Priestess will need your protection soon.”
William’s entire stature changed as he visibly tensed. “Are you saying that Elizabeth is in danger?”
His father responded, “There are some who are what we refer to as Olc—the innately evil souls. They will hurt her by harming those she loves—offering to spare their lives to encourage her to cooperate with them. We do not know how, but George Wickham will be able to recognize Miss Elizabeth for who she is.”
“Wickham!” William growled. “How is he involved?”
“We only know that he is not the leader, and it is imperative that you find out who is.”
An icy shiver ran down William’s spine. “Is Elizabeth aware of any of this?”
“No, and we cannot tell her tonight,” his father responded. “She must perform the second half of the ritual to close the portal after the souls return to the Otherworld. You saw how involved the first part was; the second part is no less complex. After speaking to her grandmother this evening, she is distressed enough already. We cannot risk upsetting her any further by telling her this news. This is the only night that we can communicate with her directly. You will have to be the one to tell her, William.”
“But, sir, Elizabeth despises me! Why would she listen to me of all people?”
Lady Anne looked off in the direction of the bonfire. A few moments later, she nodded and turned back to her son. “Her grandmother has spoken to her, William. She is willing to begin again. If you can just be yourself with her, you are guaranteed success; she cannot help but fall in love with you. You must be aware of what it means to be Soul Mates, son. You are two halves of the same soul, like your father and I. When you are together in harmony it will make you both much stronger than you could ever be when apart. It is important that the two of you join together as soon as possible to combat the evil that Wickham is bringing to harm Miss Elizabeth.”
William closed his eyes before saying, “I cannot even find my tongue when I am near her.”
“You must, William!” Mr. Darcy replied forcefully.
William let out a sigh. “When will Wickham arrive in Meryton?”
“He will join the militia in a little more than a fortnight.”
William stood up to his full height. “All right, then. I have a fortnight to improve Elizabeth’s opinion of me. I will put myself in her way as often as possible and speak to her as honestly and openly as is permissible within polite society.” He hesitated for a moment as a wistful expression overtook his features. “I will enjoy every minute I am with her and hope I will be successful.”
“You will be, son. Of that we have no doubt,” his mother responded sweetly.
“Father, how do I defend her from these wicked ones? What methods of defence will work best against them?”
“Do not expect that they will follow the rules of society, or even the law, as would be your wont. You may need to work outside the rules of combat to defeat them.” Mr. Darcy offered. “You must send word to Pemberley immediately and have someone trustworthy bring the Sword that you have always admired. Do you remember when you were a little boy, I had explained that we were holding it for another? Throughout the ages, that Sword has been passed down to the Soul Mate of each High Priestess. Whenever a Soul Mate of the High Priestess dies, the head of our family acts as the Keeper of the Sword until the next Soul Mate is discovered. Before your mother and I passed on, we had no idea that the successor was to be you!
“The High Priestess is well-trained in the art of the legionary, currently known as swordsmanship. Call on your cousins Reginald and Richard for assistance. Tribal legionnaires work best in groups of five; your friend Bingley will be contacted tonight as well.
“You all can learn much from Mr. Bennet. When I taught you and your cousins, it was as an Immun—a weapons instructor for the Tribes—but in his role as the Lead Immun, Mr. Bennet will train you in the ancient ways much better than I ever could. He will fight by your side when the time comes.”
William had been surprised to hear Mr. Bennet was an expert weapons instructor, let alone that Elizabeth was well-trained in what he had always thought was a gentleman’s sport, but then he realized not much around him was as it had always seemed to be! “Why had you not told me about this while I was growing up? I had no idea…” he trailed off.
“I must apologize, son,” Mr. Darcy answered. “Those who are Destined Ones must be told earlier so they may be trained, but since the time of Great Evil several generations past, it has been common practice to wait until a child is of age to explain. We had taught you some of the ancient ways, such as longsword fighting, but as you know, by the time you neared the age, your mother was gone, and I had already had an apoplexy and was unable to speak clearly enough to explain it to you. Believe me when I say as I lay there ill in bed, not a day went by that I did not censure myself for not having told you when you were younger!
“As we are the end of the Darcy line, the task of explaining it all to you should have fallen to your Uncle Fitzwilliam, but he did not wish to follow the ancient teachings. When he came of age, he chose a different path, abandoning the old ways. As many others have done before him, he felt they had no place in the modern world. Your Aunt Catherine did not wish you to know for very different reasons.” His father paused and exchanged a knowing glance with his mother before continuing, “Since crossing over into the Otherworld, we have considered having others contact you. But you had so many other responsibilities thrust upon you at such a young age, we did not think you needed to know just then. Since we then knew you to be the Soul Mate of the High Priestess, we also understood that you would find out through Miss Elizabeth eventually. There was no way of our predicting that this would come.”
William nodded, looked thoughtful for a minute, and then his brow furrowed. “Mother, you say there is a second part of the ritual. I saw Elizabeth collapse after the first part and her grandmother caught her. Will that happen again?”
The Darcys looked to each other. His father shrugged his shoulders slightly and shook his head. Lady Anne replied, “We honestly do not know, William, but I imagine so. The Imol was an exhausting ritual to perform, and it is not nearly as complex as the Sanun. “
“The Imol? Of what do you speak, Mother?”
“When I was alive, I was the Priestess of Imol, William. Every year, I performed the ritual that provided protection for the people of the Tribes.”
“Georgiana is the Destined One, but she was too young to train when I passed. My mother said that Catherine and I, being identical twins, were both Heiresses, but I was the stronger of the two, and so I became Priestess. When I passed into the Otherworld, Catherine was the only one alive who could perform the ritual. My sister had always been jealous of my being chosen over her, especially since she was several minutes older than I, and she refused to train Georgiana. I am afraid she has not fulfilled her responsibilities well, dear, or you would not be called upon now to protect the High Priestess.”
“Aunt Catherine has denied Georgiana of her birth-right? Is there no one else who could train Georgiana?”
“The High Priestess could. She has been taught all the rituals, but she cannot perform any except her own. But William, there cannot be two Priestesses of Imol at the same time. Catherine would have to agree to the arrangement, and so far, we have not been able to convince her.”
William nodded and filed away this information for the future. His mind felt as if it were caught in a whirlwind with all he was learning tonight, but he had to ask as many questions as possible for he knew he would not have this opportunity again for another year. His thoughts moved back to Elizabeth, as they usually did since he had met her. “You say Elizabeth will probably collapse after she performs the second half of the ritual—will there be no one there to catch her?”
“Not unless you go to her, son. Although the High Priestess may be present at any of the other rituals, only an Heiress and the current High Priestess’s Soul Mate are permitted to attend the Sanun. The Fili, the medicine woman, will come to attend her when the sun reaches a certain point in the sky, but since she must be certain she does not interfere with the ritual itself, she will not arrive until hours after the ritual is complete. If any souls are delayed in returning, The High Priestess would need to keep the portal open, or else they will be trapped here. I cannot even imagine how exhausted she would be.”
“Then I shall return to the meadow. I cannot allow Elizabeth to become injured when she falls.”
The trio walked back toward the clearing where Elizabeth was now standing with her grandmother once again, but they stopped far enough away so that she could not hear them speak.
“It would probably be better if you remain out of her sight until the conclusion of the ritual, William. Now is not the time to confront her and urge her to accept your offer of assistance; we cannot risk upsetting her. The ritual must be completed perfectly!” his mother advised. Smiling, she caressed her son’s cheek. “Next year, you will be standing at her side throughout the Sanun.”
“I wish I could be as certain as you are, Mother.”
“It is time for us to leave you, William,” his father said.
“I will miss you both.”
“You will do well in your task, of that we have no doubt. We are very proud of the man you have become,” his father replied. Lady Anne nodded and smiled, her eyes filled with unshed tears.
As his parents returned to the meadow, William moved back to his previous hiding place.
All Hallow’s Eve is now available at