Hope

The room was large. Jehan had never been in here before. As a child, he had explored a lot of the palatial mansion that they and Ceyanne called home. It was the oldest wing of the house, which had been built god-knows-how-long ago. Of the wings in the house, this was the one that they had explored the least as children.

He had wandered into this room.

The room could easily fit a very large dinner party. During his stay here, he'd never seen Ceyanne hold a party, but he could imagine that this house had been built for the rich and famous who would definitely have many large events.

The room was, strangely enough, empty. He had expected at least a carpet, but no. There was only the wooden floor, polished and gleaming, and the wall.

It was a big wall. It ran the length of the room, and it was covered in a large white sheet, the kind that covered furniture that was to be moved. He fingered it carefully, almost afraid to touch it.

He didn't know why, but the room seemed almost oppressive. There was almost a power, presence that told him that there was something important here. There was nothing else, so that meant that whatever it was, it was hidden behind the sheet.

He fingered the sheet. Finally, after some consideration, he pulled it off in a big, sweeping motion.

Years of dust fluttered down as the sheet came off. It was heavy, and it came to a bunched rest by his feet. He stared in awe.

Jehan had never seen these before. Five shields were mounted on the wall. Unlike the sheet and the rest of the room they were gleaming. In the low light they gleamed silver, and he was almost overwhelmed by the presence he felt.

Below them were small pictures. The shields were mounted high on the wall, and below them were small images. All of them were arranged on long, spreading trees. There was one under each shield.

The shield each bore a familiar logo. They had seen these scattered throughout the house -- on silverware, mantelpieces, above the fireplace...None of them knew what they were, but they had seen them, but always in miniature. Now that they were so much bigger, it was overwhelming.

"I remember."

He whipped around, startled. In his stupor he hadn't noticed or heard Ceyanne. She came into the room now, almost seeming to glide across the floor. He tried to stutter an apology, but she beat him to it.

"I remember," she said quietly. She reached out to touch them, but didn't quite try. "It was so long ago."

"What are these?" he asked, almost afraid.

"Coats of arms." She looked almost sad. "All these are Clan coats of arms. Your fathers bore them, as their fathers did before them, and their fathers before. These go back so many generations. I was there the day they were forged."

She gave a small, quiet smile. She pointed to each in turn.

"Ailios, the summer leaf." She held out one thing, elegant arm, not quite pointing yet indicating which one was which. "They came from Rome long before Caesar was ever born. A powerful family in their day; masters of politics, manipulation, and business. Leaders of the arts. They ruled Rome throughout the generations."

"Dragonetti, the magical. They came from the land of the Celts, creating their magic since the dawn of our people. It is said that they created all the magic in the world, that they weaved the very fabric of our existence."

"Lyons, the brave warrior." She gave a little smile as Jehan let out a small gasp at his Clan's coat of arms. "A noble French family from so many years ago. Many of your ancestors fought in the Crusades. At every war, each empire would call upon them -- they were so fierce in combat and so cool in the boardroom."

"Libishomen, the persuasive. They have the Voice to convince people -- they have been diplomats since the times of peace and war. They would make love and not war. Many of them were present during the Spanish Inquisition; they convinced heretics to confess."

"Tiaen, the deadly. They work with stealth, quietly in the background. Always low-profile, yet when someone mysteriously vanishes or dies, everyone knows who it was. But they always stayed honorable. Ruthless, efficient, yet honorable."

"I remember every day since the Fall of the Great Clans," she said sadly. "I was there these coat of arms were forged, so many centuries ago. I remember the day you came to me, all of you so very young...James may remember. You were a mere babe then, still a child in arms."

"Your parents gave me to you, trusting me to keep you safe from Ngane. Oh, they fought so very hard to get you to safety...and they gave me these to keep safe until their children were old enough to claim their rightful place. To take these shields, these coat of arms, and to be so proud of their bloodlines."

She was a small woman, but he had grown up knowing that she wasn't to be underestimated. "I have lived a thousand years, Jehan, maybe even more. I have seen the future become the past. I have seen leaders go down in history, and yet I have seen talent gone to waste."

He kept silent, unsure of what to say.

"These will go to those who are worthy of them." She made a sweeping motion that encompassed the wall, the feathers in her top hat swaying. "Ailios, Dragonetti, Lyons, Libishomen and Tiaen...they are only names. They can only be as powerful, as noble, as those who bear them."

"You're asking us to be heroes," he pleaded. Her proposal earlier had scared the wits out of them, and they had all refused with good reason. "We can't be that. We're just us. We're nothing special."

"I am not asking for heroes," she said quietly. "I am merely asking for men and women who will not let the blood shed for their safety to go to waste. Your parents sacrificed all they had to save you in the hope that you would survive and continue their work."

"Hope won't win a war," he said, and then left. She stood there, alone, listening as his footsteps faded down the hall.

Ceyanne looked up at the coats of arms. She remembered that stormy night, the desperate hopes, the responsibility she had been given.

"It's better to let ghosts lie," a voice said. She didn't greet Nikolas as he hobbled his way to her, his cane tapping against the ground. He leaned against it.

"Have we failed, Nikolas?" she asked. She had to know. "Have we failed in our duty? Have I failed them?"

He kept silent. They regarded the shields together, the people who had kept these names alive through the centuries. They gleamed in the light, so very proud of their lineage.

"We haven't failed, Ceyanne," he said. He hadn't been there when these were made, but he certainly hadn't been around for six hundred years and not learnt anything. "They will assume their rightful positions when they are ready. Right now they aren't, but give them time."

"We can only hope, Nikolas," she said sadly. "Hope is all that these children have left."