Instead, each lady dreamed of their deceased parent. Mr. Morland came to Catherine bathed in a white glow and bade her go to the woods behind the east garden. Mrs. Bennet ordered her daughters there as well. Jane obeyed readily enough, but Elizabeth was too sensible even in her dreams. At length, as she felt as though her limbs were on fire, she determined the cool autumn air would bring relief. The ladies stood around a neglected fountain currently covered in overgrown ivy. They looked at each other in confusion.
“Lizzy, do you remember how we used to play here? I think I was about eleven when we stopped coming,” Jane asked.
“Yes, we would dance around it with Mary. I used to pretend the most fantastical things happened. The trees and flowers would dance with us and sing a special song.”
“Why did you stop?” Catherine questioned.
“Mary had a nightmare and then we were not allowed to come here anymore.”
“I used to have bad dreams,” Catherine said. “Sometimes it seemed like they came true.”
“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked while Jane gasped in alarm.
“It started with small things. I dreamed my cat had kittens and the next day she did.”
“That is rather explainable,” said Elizabeth. “Someone probably told you she would soon have them.”
Catherine nodded her head. “I dreamed of a man in a carriage during a terrible storm one night. There was a large rut in the ground, and it broke the carriage wheel. The man came to no harm, but one of the horses went lame.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “Did that come to be as well?”
“Yes, my uncle came to visit us the next day, and the exact scenario happened to him.”
“What else?” Elizabeth asked as her curiosity grew. Jane trembled beside her.
“The last dream I had was of my grandmother dying. She sang some strange song to me as she held my hand.”
“Did…did…that come true?” Elizabeth could barely say the words.
“Yes. I was so upset and terrified. I was weeping at her side, and I remember thinking that I had caused her death because of my dream.”
“Surely that was not so!” Jane cried.
“It was my last dream.”
“How old were you?” Elizabeth asked.
“Eleven. We soon came to Hertfordshire and…” Catherine trailed off as each girl knew what happened afterward. An illness swept the county and claimed their parents.
“Did you dream tonight?”
Catherine slowly nodded her head. “Yes. My father told me to come here.”
Jane spoke up. “I have never had such strange dreams before but my mother asked me to come to the fountain.”
Elizabeth laughed. “How strange that I should dream the same thing. I am sure you obediently went, even while still asleep, whereas I argued with her!”
“What made you leave your bed then?” asked Jane.
“I suddenly felt so hot. It was as if I held my hand over a fire too closely.” A breeze rustled in the nearby trees, and Elizabeth shuddered. “Now I feel cold.”
“Come, share my wrap,” Jane said. She held out her other arm to Catherine. She suddenly felt as though their youngest sister was very much in need of comfort. “You too, Kate.”
The three young women huddled together before the fountain when a great rush of wind parted the sky. The moon shone so brightly they had to cover their eyes.
“Look up, children,” Elizabeth and Jane heard their mother say.
“Kate, all is well,” Mr. Morland said.
The light lessened and at last, the ladies could see before them their departed parents.
“This cannot be!” cried Elizabeth.
“It is real,” they heard Mr. Bennet say from behind them.
“Do not fear,” Mrs. Bennet was at his side.
“Are we dead?” Catherine asked in confusion.
“No, dearest,” Mrs. Bennet explained. “The time is now right for your powers to be returned. You are descendants from great lines of witches.”
“I see your fear,” Mr. Morland said. “There is good and evil in this world, tended to by witches fighting for either side. It was a curse from the dark side which brought illness here five years ago. A family of great female witches had been prophesied about. They would have the powers of empathy, fire, and premonition. That family was the Bennets of Longbourn.”
The girls gasped and Mr. Bennet continued the tale. “We did not know how the prophecy would be fulfilled. Our family name was never reported. We grew nervous as each successive daughter exhibited more traits to fulfill the prophecy. When Mary began having premonitions, we advocated the High Council of Witches for protection. A traitor was amongst them. Instead of having protection, your youngest sisters and mother met their demise.”
The two Mrs. Bennets stood next to each other now, hand in hand. The former Mrs. Morland spoke. “Kate was so upset over her powers that her father and I bound them just before we visited Hertfordshire. When Mrs. Bennet and her daughters succumbed to their sickness, we were visited by the High Minister. She said Catherine’s powers were not well known in the community and were sufficiently cloaked from The One wishing to harm the Bewitching Sisters. The power of the gift lies in the three women forming bonds of sisterly love and unity, not in a blood line. It was suggested she could take Mary Bennet’s place.”
“You sacrificed yourself so Mama could marry Mr. Bennet?” Catherine exclaimed to her father. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“It was for the greater good. I have never been too far from our family.”
The young ladies stood still, shocked in wonder. Elizabeth was the first to speak. “Why are we being told this now?”
“Because now,” her mother said, “it is necessary for you three to use your powers to defeat the darkness returning to Hertfordshire. General Tilney’s return to Netherfield was the signal that the Dark One has returned to complete his mission.”
“What is that?”
Mr. Bennet was the most knowledgeable and therefore answered. “We do not know entirely. But the Bewitching Sisters were prophesied as guardians of the Kingdom of Magic and Great Britain. He must mean harm to one or both of them.”
“And he dwells in General Tilney?” Catherine hated thinking poorly of anyone in the family.
Mr. Bennet answered again, “No, the General is a trusted council member. It is he who put the enchantment on Netherfield, as Longbourn’s closest neighbors. Should the spirit of darkness return, the house will be readied for occupancy again.”
“What has changed? What would trigger such a thing?” Elizabeth questioned.
“We do not know,” said Mr. Morland. “We have limited time for visitation this night. We could only appear long enough to explain the history to you and join your living parents in unbinding your powers.” The parents soon surrounded the girls and said a chant returning their powers and memories of magic.
“We must go, but I would caution you girls that enemies often enjoy hiding behind a friendly face. Now, we trust the love which has brought you this far will last as you work together to vanquish this evil,” the deceased Mrs. Bennet said. “Know you have our love.”
After tender embraces, the ghostly parents vanished.
In the following days, the sisters learned more about their newly awakened powers. They also learned that many of their neighbors in the area had magical powers.
“Perhaps I should not mention Mr. Darcy, knowing your power is the gift of fire, Eliza, but now that you know the truth, would you like me to give him a “tonic”? I could momentarily turn him into a goat!” Charlotte said to her friend the day after the ball.
Elizabeth laughed. “That was your thought all along! I confess many things in the past now make sense. Mrs. Long was once an oracle was she not?”
“Yes, but now you know her predictions are usually wrong.”
“Why would that be?”
Lady Lucas and Mrs. Bennet who had been in the room overheard this part as well. Mrs. Bennet explained, “The Council did tell us that by hiding the existence of the Bewitching Sisters it may affect the strength of magic for the entire area.”
“Like a cloaking,” Elizabeth suggested, and the elder ladies agreed. “Now there ought to be an increase of magical abilities for everyone,” she concluded.
“In that case, I shall turn Mr. Darcy into a hawk. His eyesight needs improving,” Charlotte said.
Elizabeth laughed, knowing her friend would never use magic for such personal and negative reasons. “Unless there is a spell to cure his pride, I am afraid there is nothing to be done.”
The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Allen. She had called to ask if the girls would like to walk with her into town. Catherine quickly agreed.
“I should like to stay home, Mama,” Jane said.
Elizabeth smiled. She guessed that Jane hoped Miss Bingley may call on them and likely bring their brother as well. She wondered why Catherine did not wish to stay as well and asked about it.
“I feel urged to go,” was her reply.
“Have you had a premonition, Kate?” her mother asked.
“I do not think so. Not like I had them before, that is. I did not see a scene unfold. Perhaps before I regain the ability to see I have the talent to sense?”
The other ladies looked at each other, hoping one may have the answer. Lady Lucas, at last, suggested, “It may be impossible to know since powers come to most as children, and they likely could not express it so well if it began in such a way.”
“I know before the ceremony last night I awoke to a burning feeling in my limbs, but I have yet to create fire,” Elizabeth said then sipped her tea. “Not that I have tried or would know how if I wished it.”
Mr. Bennet spoke from the doorway. “Go on with Mrs. Allen, Kate. When you return, if we do not have visitors, we will begin lessons. You are all bright enough girls and had your powers for many years before the binding, so I have no doubts you shall catch on fast.”
The ladies all agreed, and Catherine set out with Mrs. Allen while Elizabeth and Jane continued their visit with Lady Lucas and her daughter. One expected only misery and the other expected only joy should the Netherfield party visit.
Two hours later, Jane and Elizabeth sat with Mr. Bennet in his library. Both vaguely annoyed that the gentlemen—that is Mr. Bingley—did not call on Longbourn with the ladies of Netherfield. Catherine returned after seeing nothing of note.
“Ah, I see your dislike of reading serious materials has played with your mind. You felt “compelled to go” rather than sit home and read!” Mr. Bennet teased.
“Papa!” Jane cried. “You upset her by calling her stupid!”
Mr. Bennet came to Catherine’s side. “I am sorry. I did not mean it that way. I only like to tease.”
Catherine sniffed. “I know.”
Silence reigned in the room, and Mr. Bennet stood reflecting for a moment.
“He will do better in the future, Kate,” Jane said.
Catherine mutely nodded, and Mr. Bennet squeezed her shoulder. “Jane speaks the truth for she discerned my feelings.”
Elizabeth cocked her head to one side. “Is that why Jane has always seen the world so cheerfully?”
“Although her powers were bound, some residual bits remained. Empathy is a powerful and burdensome power to have. It should not be confused with telepathy for one may project feelings of goodness if they believe strongly in their actions, but have destructive thoughts and motives.”
“How is it burdensome?” Elizabeth was always the most defensive sister.
“She will be susceptible to the feelings of others even when they do not actively call on their magic. It can often make one nervous.” He paused a moment. “Your mother was an empath. At the time of the binding, Jane’s power promised to be even stronger.”
Jane and Elizabeth exchanged a look. It certainly explained much about their mother. She often lay abed afflicted with nervous flutters, and yet when one of her children needed her, she was like a lioness. Elizabeth allowed that had her mother heard Mr. Darcy’s insult the night before and perceived how it wounded her daughter, she would flay him with her tongue at every meeting. A half amused, half sad smile formed on her lips. She inherited her sharp tongue from her mother.
“With all the new changes, I never thought to ask if you and my mother have powers. It was simply enough that we were protected and accepted,” Catherine said.
Mr. Bennet smiled. “I have fire power.”
“Is Lizzy’s power stronger than yours like Jane’s is stronger than her mother’s?”
“When combined the three of your powers will be strong enough to defeat nearly any foe.”
Elizabeth noted he did not say her power was particularly strong. It seemed Jane was first not only in beauty but also in powers.
“Kate, instead of seeing the future, your mother can see moments of the past. It gives her a sense of great wisdom. She excels in sound advice and guidance.”
“And my father?”
“Ah, your father had the power to sense dark magic.”
“Is that why he was a clergyman?” Elizabeth asked.
“Indeed! Most of the world does not know about magic. We have to make our way in life as though it does not exist. Some are land owners, some ministers, some soldiers, lawyers, shopkeepers, or other laborers.”
“Powers are not hereditary?” Elizabeth, more than her sisters, desired to know as much as possible about their powers. She had a thirst for knowledge combined with good sense and wit that they did not.
“Sometimes they are. Obviously, in a family with more than two, there is a greater diversity of powers.”
“What about good and evil?”
“That is always a choice.”
Jane and Elizabeth shared another look, and Jane instantly perceived her sister’s feelings. Taking a deep breath, she asked, “What of our sisters? Did they have powers?”
Before Mr. Bennet responded, Jane felt a sense of mourning she had not experienced since just after the deaths of her mother and sisters. The binding helped remove some of the pain for her, but she now sensed her father carried it with him always. She quickly realized how difficult it would be to manage her sensitivity to the feelings of others. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Now, Jane, you must calm yourself. Think of happy memories instead. I will do the same, but there will come a time when you must use your own strength to overcome.” She nodded her head and her sisters hugged her close. “Kitty had a very unique gift. She could actually impersonate the qualities of others. She was still very young and had only gone so far as to learn how to be pleasing enough to get her way. Typically, she followed the strongest personality around her—that of Lydia’s—but a true master can change even their outward appearance.”
“That sounds very dangerous!” Jane cried.
“It can be. It is usually associated with dark magic, but light magic can use it as well. Lydia had the power of enchantment. Her passionate nature enraptured others. Enough questions for now. We must begin lessons.”
First, Mr. Bennet lectured on the general history of magic in England, lightly glossing over the dark years of witch persecution. “The Crown tried to be understanding of our powers, but light and dark magic were so unbalanced that mortals attempted to meddle. When William and Mary seized the throne, an agreement was reached. The magical community would see to its own affairs and contact the Crown only if things were beyond our control.”
“Was there ever a time when it was?”
“Nearly so. When the madness in France started, it was clearly of magical influence.”
“Democracy is evil?” Elizabeth asked, her disbelief obvious.
“Nothing is more English than representative government, Lizzy. The dark intent was clear due to the violence and intensity. A spell was cast upon the people, they unknowingly hurt themselves more with their radical passions than they were when abused by their royalty—also of dark magical influence.”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “Dark magic is tyrannical. It seduces with the promise of power and then makes you a slave to its own will.”
“Excellent! I knew you would be clever enough to see it.”
“We are still at war with France. They are now ruled by Napoleon, but the Council did not see the need to take matters to the Crown?” Jane asked.
“We pooled all of our resources. We have many in important military and political positions—such as General Tilney. The evidence of the existence of the Bewitching Sisters was what truly turned the tide, however.”
“But there is a new danger now,” Catherine said.
“Indeed. Our fight against Napoleon is as necessary as ever. We have not had a large victory since Trafalgar seven years ago. The Darkness grows stronger than ever, now is the time to return your powers and fulfill the prophecy.”
The sisters gulped to consider the importance of their powers. Rather than allowing them to wallow in concerns for the future, Mr. Bennet moved on to practice sessions. Elizabeth was given time in the garden to conjure her fire and learn to throw it. Jane was assigned poetry reading to learn to block moods and feelings of others. Catherine played chess with her father in an attempt to perceive his moves. After several lessons on the benefit of knowing when to alter the future and when to allow it to come to pass, she, at last, defeated him.
At the close of the evening, the girls went upstairs exhausted.
“I am sorry Mr. Bingley did not come today,” Jane confessed.
“I am glad Mr. Darcy was absent!” Elizabeth exclaimed.
“I daresay one of you shall be happy and the other dismayed at the dinner we will have with them on Thursday,” Catherine said.
Elizabeth scowled. “Mama mentioned no dinner!”
“I have foreseen Miss Bingley in our home in a green turban with seven peacock feathers and Mrs. Hurst festooned with bracelets and rings. Mr. Hurst’s face reddened with port, Papa and General Tilney in deep discussion while Mrs. Tilney attempts to converse with Mama.”
“And the other gentlemen?” Jane asked, her voice rising in hope.
“That is less clear. I see all three unmarried gentlemen. I only know one smiles, one scowls, and one laughs.”
“Elizabeth!” Jane said. “You should cease such ungenerous feelings immediately!”
She gave a sheepish smile. “I promise to keep any fire I throw at Mr. Darcy limited to glares from my eyes and darts with my tongue in verbal rebukes.”
“That is just as well for your aim needs practice!” Catherine called before ducking into her room. The faint smell of smoke registered from the other side of the door.