The Golden Panthers
Susanna Lehner

Arian Books Note from the author

I would like to thank you for choosing my book, I hope you enjoy it!
Feel free to contact me and let me know what you thought of the

Copyright © Susanna Lehner, 2013 (Kindle Edition) All characters appearing in this novel are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, organizations or events is purely coincidental.

Translated by Tímea Boglárka Abonyi

Revised by Delilah & Tracy Brown

Cover art by Yohhanan Graphics

ISBN 978-963-08-5908-0

All rights reserved“Rota taro orat tora ator”
/The wheel of Tarot speaks the Law of Ator/

Tarot is an ancient initiatory symbolic system. Its origin is lost in the mists of time. Its symbols are the archetypes of the soul, so they are timeless just like the human spirit. The person who shuffles and deals the cards – whether it is a witch, a magician or an alchemist – can gain insight into the mysteries of fate with the help of this spiritual map and find the path of inner development.

The cards are the following:
Tarot – Major Arcana
1. The Magician – one who seeks knowledge, magical abilities
2. The High Priestess – helpfulness, intuition, inspiration
3. The Empress – femininity, beauty, creativity
4. The Emperor – masculinity, action, sobriety, awareness
5. The Hierophant – good advice, advocacy, moral values
6. The Lovers – love, decision, choice
7. The Chariot – overcoming obstacles, results
8. Justice – justice, right attitude
9. The Hermit – loneliness, withdrawal, wisdom
10. Wheel of Fortune – fateful turn, eternal recurrence
11. Strength – courage, ambition, inner strength
12. The Hanged Man – case of necessity, trial
13. Death – change, transformation, something ends
14. Temperance – austerity, compassion
15. The Devil – passion, temptation, lust
16. The Tower – unexpected event, painful collapse
17. The Star – great expectations, achieving aims, joy
18. The Moon – volatility, uncertainty, fear
19. The Sun – affection, pride, wealth, success
20. Judgment – salvation, liberation, resurrection
21. The World – fulfillment, triumph, happiness
22. The Fool – fate, the beginning and the end, the bright side of life

Chapter 1
“The High Priestess”

London, England – 30 August 2014

Sunlight refracted languidly through the waves of the River Thames, while on the other side of the river, the ferris wheel, the London Eye, sluggishly revolved. Near the Twinings Museum, a  girl stepped out of an antique gate onto Milford Street. As she was hurrying towards the bridge, a  gentle breeze, coming from the river, stroked her alabaster-colored face, which was framed by  fiery red hair. She was a teacher at a school in Camden, and no one would have guessed she was more than twenty-five years old. She lived a few minutes away from the flowing river, which she loved very much. This day, as on the last Saturday of every month, she was rushing to a coven on the other side of the river. Although the night was falling, the late-summer evening was pleasantly warm. She was wearing an almost ankle length, olive green, sleeveless dress and a cashmere shawl around her snow-white shoulders. While walking across the Waterloo Bridge, she delightedly watched the silvery lights, swinging on the surface of the water. On the other side of the river, she accelerated her footsteps. She wanted to get there in time. She was excited because she knew that it was not an everyday topic that was going to be broached. As she turned from Waterloo Road onto Sandell Street, a cool hand touched her shoulder. The cold penetrated through the thin shawl and the girl felt, as if it squeezed her heart. She knew whose hand rested on her; she knew this touch well. She knew it for thousands of years. Suddenly, a picture flashed into her mind: Southern France, the mid-1500s. She felt a rough grip on her wrist, and was dragged towards the main square of the city. Terror cut like ice through her heart, since she knew exactly what happens to those, who are put on trial for witchcraft. In the center of the square stood a huge pyre. The marauders pulled her up to the top of it; her hands and feet were tied to the thick pillar. Then, she saw the man in the crowd: immense pain reflected in his eyes, but he did not move. All in vain anyway. She saw that they set the logs of wood on fire with torches, and then she heard the sound of fire crackling too. However, before the flames started to lick at her body, the smoke wrapped around her, and she fell into a deep sleep.A violent shiver ran through her, which pulled her back to the end-of-summer London. She turned around, and looked into the steel blue eyes, but she could not stand the bone-deep look for long. She dropped her eyes, but the burning gaze of the man detained her. She was forced to reconnect with him. It was Morgan, the tens of thousands year old vampire. In fact, they were the same age, and they knew each other from an ancient sunken world.
“I have been expecting your arrival; I always feel it a few days earlier.”
She nodded, and was scanning the man’s finely chiseled face.
“Just to see you again, Amrita, I missed you so much! Recently, my busy duties called me to the other side of the world unfortunately,” said Morgan with a disarming smile, while his look slid from the emerald-green eyes to the curved lips, then to the snow-white, smooth neck. From the blood vessel, almost invisibly pulsing under her skin, his eyes moved down, and shamelesslyrested on the bosom, showing from underneath the thin clothes. He felt the blood rush to his head, and then wander further down.
“You’ve always been very busy, but this did not prevent you from chasing after me earlier,” replied the girl, and she tried to make an indifferent face.
“As for so many things, I have a gift for setting up an order of importance as well,’ nodded the man. ’I’m glad you realize it.”
“There is always an abundance of ‘items’ on your to-do list - that can't ever escape my attention.” The girl puckered her lips.
She was born a child of a witch couple long ago, but when she reached the age of twentyfive, she did not age any longer. Of course, there are older looking witches as well, since all of them finish aging at a different age, depending on when they manage to acquire all the abilities of witchcraft. This is for a minimum of twenty-one years, so Amrita was particularly talented.“I love it when you’re jealous.” The man leant closer to her, breathing in deeply the girl’s stupefying fragrance.
“Don’t be ridiculous! Last time I felt something like this for you was in Atais,” retorted the witch, though she did not like lying.
“Good old days...” whispered Morgan, as he recalled their first encounter of a thousand times.
At first, he could not decide if what he felt was love or just overwhelming, visceral desire. Anyway, when he first saw her ivory white neck and red hair floating and falling around her shoulders, the color of which reminded him so strongly of blood, he had such a flaming desire for her that it almost hurt. Amrita was collecting herbs along the stream bank, when the man appeared. It was an early afternoon heat wave. The girl was wearing a low-cut, strappy top. She hauled up the bottom of her long skirt on both sides, and stuck it in her belt, so as not to get caught in the bushes or get wet when she wades through the stream. So Morgan’s eyes could crawl down freely from her slender neck, bulging breasts, through her curvy hips to her thighs, and then to her shapely calves.
“I see it in your eyes that you’re thinking of that afternoon again,” waved Amrita, but she also could not stand travelling back to the island spiritually.
When there, on the bank of the stream, she looked up from the half-filled basket to the tall, broad-shouldered, handsome man, who was standing in front of her, and her eyes met the piercing glance of his eyes, her face burst into flames in a second. She knew exactly what the black-haired, blue-eyed stranger was thinking about. She also knew, however, she was dealing with a vampire. Her heart sank immediately, because even though the man was stunningly attractive, his species was taboo for witches. As puberty started, she was taught that if she makes love to vampires, she loses all her magical powers due to their indwelling dark energies. She doesn't need to renounce her magical abilities forever, but only slowly, roughly over one hundred years, she could recuperate all of them. And, she thought, that even such a heady embrace is not worth that much either. Even though Morgan besieged her in vain for many years, she would not surrender to him. Of course, the man could have abused her, as many of his kind did with other humans – with witch women and even fairies also, but he considered this to be below his rank. Otherwise, he did not need to use physical violence: with his charisma, he could get any woman he wanted. Only Amrita was able to resist him, which, of course, just added fuel to the fire. He  almost became obsessed with the girl, and this did not go away with the destruction of Atais either.
“More often now, I think I’m nostalgic; I’m getting old.” As he ran his fingers through his thick black hair, in which not a single grey hair indicated the passing of time.
But life was completely different ten thousand years ago. The residents of Atais, the prosperous island state, were still in possession of the ancient knowledge, and they had such magical power that only a few have nowadays. Vibrant cities, friendly villages, stunning mountain ranges, silvery lakes, gurgling streams, crystal clear springs, lush forests and meadows, dotted with fragrant flowers, formed this beautiful island in the middle of the present-day Pacific Ocean. On the land of eternal summer, not only were people living, but fairies, witches, vampires and demons as well. The society was governed by strict rules, and thanks to this, civilization flourished for a long time. As time progressed, the residents became dizzy with success, and increasingly abused the power given by their knowledge. When they have crossed all boundaries and the Father of the World had enough, the purifying power of the Universe had been activated. 
Massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tidal waves devastated the large island, and was swallowed by the ocean. Only a few escaped, and the survivors had to hide. The fairies – otherwise known as angels – chose another dimension to live in, so the human eye cannot detect them. Vampires – who fed on animal blood, during the years before the disaster, took to human blood – could not see the sun anymore, they could only start a journey under the cover of darkness. Hard times came to the witches, too. They tried to thrive as they could. Some of them have committed themselves to black magic. Curses, hexes and love bonds accompanied their activities. Others practiced white magic, and used their power to heal, teach, create abundance and to remove hexes – Amrita was one of them. Malicious forces took a dim view of this, and dodged until they achieved that people began persecuting and burning goodwitches. Of course, this was only to destroy their physical bodies, since their soul was immortal, and they were reborn later. Reaching the age when they were burned at the stake, they did not age further in their new bodies either. Unlike humans, they could remember all of their past lives, and preserved their acquired knowledge and experience. However, they had to slightly change their appearance, since it is useless to change their place in ten-fifteen years, they can bump into people who knew them from decades before. So the good witches shape their appearance with the help of small, but effective modifications. Over the years, their skull shape and height change gradually, they become slimmer or fatter, their straight hair became curly, and their curly hair became smooth. Roughly, over fifty years, however, they return to their original form because by then little chance remained that they would meet old acquaintances from the world of mortals. 
Evil witches chose a less sophisticated solution. They show different faces to various inhabitants of the Earth. In front of those, whom they would like to seduce or impress, they appear as long-haired beauties with a gorgeous body, but those whom they want to frighten, would see them as dreadful, ugly bags. They can show their two types of appearance even simultaneously and in the same place – depending on who looks at them. Their allies, the demons, settled down on the porch of hell, but from time to time, they take human form, and return when their dark dealings call them to the surface. Among all creatures, the wraiths are the strangest: originally, they were fairies, vampires, witches or demons, who trespassed against their own kind so severely that, as a punishment, they could only exist in a physical body under the ground, in dark caves, cellars, dungeons or vaults, far away from all natural light. After night falls, the condemned souls sneak into nightmares, and try to come alive there. Finally, the descendants of the survivors of the cataclysm became warlocks and shamans. 
They solicitously guarded their knowledge, and passed it onto their children. Nowadays, they live primarily around holy places. They are the ones, who are able to tune into the celestialchannels, penetrate through space and time to get important information, convey spiritualmessages, heal with the help of powerful energies, transfer faith and knowledge and to promote the emergence of positive forces in the world.
When the island sunk into its watery grave, Morgan was thirty-two years old and his body stopped aging forever. After the catastrophe, he lived the ordinary life of vampires for thousands of years. During the day, he slept in a cave, in a vault or in the cellar of a castle, and at night, he departed to extinguish his everlasting hunger with fresh human blood. In the 1400s, however, vampires gained so much strength that they did not have to hide during the day either. They lived a civilian life, became leaders, rulers or mitigated their bloodlust in bloody wars as soldiers or warlords. Moreover, they have even wormed themselves into church dignitaries. Their power became so great, that no one dared to oppose them, even if hundreds of thousands of people disappeared in their lands. Along with the development of civilization, however, they had to become more cautious and from the 1900s, they could shamelessly pick their victims only in isolated and underdeveloped parts of the world. Therefore, from time to time, some ferocious vampires appeared in Europe and in America as well. They became dictators or serial killers. By the end of 2012, however, the ancient, destructive energies gradually lost their power,and a new era began on Earth. Pure energies started to dominate, and the Golden Age dawned. But after its birth, a world is still fragile like a baby. Not every evil was terminated on Earth either; it was just thrown into the background. Vampires were weakened too: many of them moldered away for good, others returned to the consumption of animal blood, and some thought that it is more appropriate to the voice of the new age, if they suck the life force out of humans, instead of their blood. 
Morgan became such an energy vampire too. He lived as a Dutch flower merchant, and traveled all over the world. He grew special types of orchids which - with their stupefying scents - broke down humans’ mental defense mechanisms, so he could easily get hold of their energies. During the last few months, he traveled the world to promote and teach this method among his own kind, with which they can acquire a human life force much less dangerously, but even more efficiently than by the old method. The duty and the unquenchable passion finally called him to London.
“I know you still don’t have anyone.” He said again, looking deep into her green eyes. Over the past millennia, he compulsively followed in the wake of the red beauty, and decided that nothing could ever distract him from his intent to get her. He deliriously believed that the girl will eventually grow feeble, and will choose him instead of the enchanting magic.He paused, but the girl remained silent. 
“All right, let’s leave the slippery issues. Where are you going so alone at dusk?”
“I’m going to the usual coven, and I’m late. Let me go!” She tried to emerge from the captivity of his mesmerizing look. 
Her heart was pounding violently while she was talking, and looked into Morgan’s eyes. Although concealed, she was glad that the man emerged. She was in love with him from the first moment, for ten thousand years. If she could not see him for long periods of time, she missed him terribly. However, her mission was very important for her: helping people and protecting the interests of pure witches during the hard times around the turn of the millennium. In order to do this, she needed her magical abilities. She vowed that she will control her emotions, and will never give herself to the vampire. The abstinence made it extremely difficult for her to meet the man again and again, but she did not want to miss these moments because her heart fluttered every time she looked into his luminous blue eyes. And the everlasting, unfulfilled love prevented her from giving her heart to anyone else over the millennia. Morgan knew this perfectly well.
“All right, but let me accompany you.” He said in a kind but peremptory voice.Amrita shrugged her shoulder, and then hesitantly took off towards Isabella Street. Her movement aroused an irresistible desire for the man to embrace her, or at least to touch her. So he laid his right hand gently on the girl’s shoulder, who trembled for a second, but acted as if nothing had happened. They went side by side in silence for a while, and then suddenly Morgan leaned over to kiss her. The girl reflexively turned her head away, so the hot lips could only reach her cheek, but it was as if an electric shock had run through her body. She also had a desire to kiss him, but she was afraid that if it were to happen, her power would leave her, and she would not be able to stop herself. They have already reached this limit several times. She withstood the temptation of the vampire, but not only to protect her magical power. The other reason was that she knew: the skull, decorated with a beautiful face, feeds rotten thoughts and killer instincts dwell inside the muscular body. She did not understand why she loved this man, who is so different from her, and who brings only suffering, disease and death to people, for the help of whom she sacrificed her eternal life. She didn't want to love him, but she could not resist. 
The sharp sound of a car alarm got her out of her thoughts. Just in time, because 18 Isabella Street was already within eyeshot. She stopped to say good-bye to Morgan. She did not want to be seen together with him, since all witches recognize vampires, who only look into the eyes of people, as if they were humans themselves.She turned to the man, but did not look into his eyes, because she knew his eyes would not let her go, and she was in a hurry. She stroked Morgan’s face briefly with her right hand, then turned on her heels, accelerated her steps and headed towards the light-green building. She heard as the soft voice, which was vibrant with repressed emotions, called after her: 
“We have time… eternal life is long. Though, we will meet again, sooner than you think!” She tried to let the word pass over her head, because she did not want to think about how long she would have the strength to keep her vow, since this man will haunt her forever. She kept her mind on the upcoming coven instead. Like every insider, she knew that twenty months ago, they managed to fight off the negative forces, but that Evil has not been destroyed. Moreover, it is organizing to take its power back. She knew, however, that the situation now is not hopeless at all: more and more benevolent, pure-hearted people live on Earth, who need help to stop the spread of harmful forces and to prevent a new apocalypse. She loved this world, and she could not have endured if such a situation arose again, which, at that time, caused the fall of her homeland.She opened the gate, next to which, hung a brass plate with the following text: ’Green Planet Foundation’. They definitely could not have written ’International Center for Witchcraft’, but the foundation was not only a front organization: they did a committed job to protect the natural and historical values of the Earth. When she entered the hall, it was already full, so they pushed her next to the door, by the wall. Pretty faced witches from all age groups and with different physique – including natural health practitioners, masseurs, teachers, doctors, writers and actors, men and women mixed - gasped excitedly, but when the leader of the coven stood up, there was silence in a wink. Odile was a tall, slender woman in her forties. Some grey hair mixed with her raven-black hair, which suited her especially well. Her slightly almond-shaped, darkbrown eyes, delicate nose and relatively narrow lips surmised aristocratic origins. She was the owner of a gallery in Kensington, and she also dealt with astrology: she was one of the greatest experts in this field.
“My dear friends!” She started, and all eyes were fixed upon her in a moment. “Two years ago, the time had come for a turn and the dark forces were pushed into the background. Thus, we managed to avoid the looming threat which was hanging by a thread over us: the Purifying Power has almost been activated, as it has occurred several times throughout the history of the Earth. Unfortunately, there are indications that we cannot feel reassured: the enemy does not give up, and tries to increase its power by all means. Our coven, however, is solicitous about the destiny of the Earth and mankind, a better future is in our interest as well. Since, you all remember: during the time of the spread of Darkness, we have always been persecuted, and we have suffered a lot. Therefore, with all of our abilities, we must peg away to help the flickering light to gain strength. We have to find and protect those people who may participate in handing the light and in the dissemination of the ancient knowledge.” She smoothed her forehead with her palm, and then continued: “I would like to announce that Thalvia, our contact person, received a message from the Father of the World. According to that, the task is waiting for us to go in quest of the twelve chosen pairs of twins and help them to find their magical relic. The twins, who find the holy object the soonest, will have to perform a special ritual. This rite is capable of generating such great positive energy in the souls of men, that the dark forces will nothave the chance to prevail.”
A quiet murmur ran through the hall.“However, the chosen ones are those, who have to figure out the site and the process of the ritual,” sounded Odile’s metallic voice again. “There is not much time left, we have less than a month until the appointed date. The date is September 24th, 2014, at the same hour and minuteswhen the Sun and the Moon align at the ritual site. Venus, otherwise known as the Morning Star, is also involved in the alignment, which – as we all know – is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. 
There are exactly twelve twins because each of them was born under one of the astrological signs. Their formulas are special: when they were born, the Sun and the Moon aligned exactly the same way as they will during the ritual. Furthermore, the Sun and the Moon align with their Ascendants as well. Thus, they represent the strongest essence of that zodiac sign. They are from different age groups, and live scattered all over the world, separated from their brothers or sisters. They are the descendants of the warlocks of the ancient civilization, sunk into the ocean. The Prince of Darkness knew well what magical power they have, and in order to forestall the force of goodness and purity, he abducted the children by demons when they were born. He could not have killed them because the positive energy, which releases from their souls when they die, would have been so powerful, that it would have meant a serious threat for the Evil. Therefore, he tore apart the twins, and exiled them to faraway places of the world, so that they do not know who they are and what they represent, and that they cannot unite their powers. Now, we face the task of finding the brothers and sisters and bringing them together with their twin pairs. An ancient, hidden relic belongs to each pair, which they can only find together. If they carry out the ritual with this, there will be such a great frequency increase on Earth, goodness and purity will become so powerful that the overthrow by the Dark World is going to be avoidable.”
After hearing the last words, the witches started clapping, but Odile called for silence with a single movement.
“From among you, I chose the strongest and the most talented twelve witches. Your mission will be to find and bring together those twins, who have the same zodiac birth sign as you have, and then you should help them to obtain their relic and to carry out the ritual. It will not be an easy job, since the Prince of Darkness does not surrender without a fight. He will mobilize all the malicious witches, demons, wraiths and vampires in order to prevent success, but I trust you.” She carried her eyes around the hall, then reached across the table, and lifted up a thick bundle of papers. “Now, come here those whose names I call out, and take the envelopes, which are necessary for the task: Adela, Maia, Corinna, Tristan, Marcus, Dylan, Robert, Christina, Annabel, Cornelius, Amrita and Florian.”Amrita would have liked to take part in the mission, but she did not really trust in that she could be one of those honorable witches, so she flinched when she heard her name. She froze for a few seconds, and then when she saw that the others set off towards Odile, she also started to move. She got to her last, and by this time, there was only one envelope in the prioress’s hand, which she handed over to her. As she walked back to her place, she felt that others’ eyes follow her a little enviously, but approvingly and encouragingly. She drew strength from this. The coven was over, and the witches started to recollect themselves. She stepped out into the street. 
The night was cold, she pulled the cashmere shawl around herself, shivering. It only occurred to her to find out what is in the envelope, when she was on the bridge over the River Thames. She stopped under a candelabrum, and unfolded the envelope in the dim light. In it, she found a platinum credit card and a sheet of paper with two names and dates of birth: Erik and Eszter, Budapest, 01.04.1984, 6:25. Before opening the envelope, she already knew that the twins were Aries-born, since she was also born under that zodiac sign. She was also glad that her mission would lead her to Hungary. From 1860, she lived there for a while, on the shore of Lake Balaton, and she had a glorious time in the country of grapevines and almond trees. She felt sorry that she had to move on, but she could not stay anywhere for too long because unlike those people who were living around her, time does not have an effect on her.
She felt fatigue settle on her shoulders like a leaden weight, and she could not wait to get home. She took a quick shower, and then went to bed. ’’I will figure out tomorrow, where to begin.” - this was her last thought before falling into a deep sleep. Of course, she dreamed about Morgan again.