The lights came back on the second she stepped back into the parlour. At once she sensed that something had changed, something was in the air, and it wasn’t only the sudden draughty cold. The front door was open. A man with a long white beard and a billowing cloak and a staff stood on the threshold. He seemed to be speaking to a couple of lights over his head, which promptly disappeared. It sure wasn’t Sinterklaas, not even the real traditional Sinterklaas. But Juno realized instantly that it was whom she’d seen seven years earlier. Right after this she realized that everyone else in the parlour seemed paralyzed and lifeless, like figures in a wax museum. Juno too froze.
Now the stranger in the door spoke. ‘Please excuse the dramatic appearance,’ he said. ‘Nothing to do with me, I assure you. It really was a power cut. But happily I have been able to fix it.’
All Juno could do was stare the figure up and down.
‘Please also forgive the outdated appearance,’ continued the visitor. ‘Regrettably it is still compulsory. Believe me, I and some of the chaps have been campaigning for a modernization of our look for years – what am I saying, centuries!’ He followed Juno’s wide eyes to her assembled family and neighbours. ‘Oh, don’t worry about them. They will be as new the very moment I leave.’
‘Who are you?’ managed Juno at last.
‘Beg pardon. My name is Rolf. I am here as your representative from the Sorcery Council. We are the cosmos-wide umbrella organization of all immortal practitioners of Magic. As a witch you are strictly speaking not our responsibility, but since you are what we call a foundling witch – meaning, if we don’t give you a few pointers, no-one will, he he – we do feel a certain obligation.’ Rolf took a breath. ‘Thirteen years ago to the hour, Miss Juno, you were born. From this moment on the powers that be regard you no longer as a child. This means that from now on you will be able to do proper Magic, with the exception of mind reading, which is not given to you, and the prediction of your own future, which is given to very few indeed. You may nevertheless be awarded occasional visionary flashes that are not of your own doing. I can also confirm today that in addition to standard witching skills you possess one special talent: the ability to detect Magic, or its absence, in others. All in all this amounts to witching licenses class B and class A with endorsement. Congratulations. However, it is also my duty to impress on you on this day that increased power comes at an increased cost.’