The Witch in the Mirror – Part 41

The mountain peaks were shrouded by mist at this time of year. The sun was a soft golden globe hanging low in the sky and the water of the stream was cold and grey. All was quiet except for the faint sound of a girl’s voice singing as she made her way along the path toward the stream.

Ailis’ heart was full of love and her face shone in the dull morning light. Only last night Rogan had proposed to her and she had been breathless as she replied with a whispered ‘yes’.

She had woken early in the morning so she could get all of her errands done before her father returned from his blacksmith’s forge to have breakfast. She wanted to put him in a good mood for when Rogan comes to ask for her hand.

Ailis stopped to pick some wildflowers and placed them in her hair. She walked with a light-hearted step and smiled as she thought about the secret kisses Rogan had showered her with last night. She was excited to think of being the first of her friends in the village to be married. Most of them still hadn’t even held hands with a boy yet.

She reached the edge of the lake and stooped to fill the heavy wooden bucket. As water streamed over the edge of the bucket she struggled to lift it again, when a rough hand closed over hers. She turned with surprise as Rogan placed his lips against hers and the bucket fell back into the water.

‘Rogan, look what you’ve made me do!’ The bucket had begun to sink and Ailis pouted with her hands on her hips.

‘You are out early my love. I was hoping I might catch you before I saw your father.’

‘You will catch it if my father sees you with me.’ Her laugh was musical and Rogan grasped her around the waist and kissed her again.

‘Stop that,’ she squealed. ‘What about my bucket?’

Rogan bent to retrieve the sunken bucket. ‘Come, my sweet. You have work to do.’ He took Ailis’ hand and together they walked back toward the village.

The village was nestled around a small, windswept cove. Through the mist could be heard the roar of dark waves crashing on the pebbly beach. A path led away from the village toward the mountains where the shepherds took their flocks during the warmer months when the grass was flush and green. But they returned to the valley farms when the autumn mists began to descend.

Rogan was one of the shepherds and he had recently returned from several months in the mountains. But there was wasn’t much to occupy a shepherd during the winter months and he spent his days finding excuses to be alone with Ailis.

Ailis looked at him secretly as they strolled along the country path. He had wild black hair that shaded his mysterious eyes. Those eyes always seemed to be looking straight through her and Ailis shivered every time their gaze met. She never knew what he was thinking, but she felt hypnotised by his eyes; trapped by his gaze like a frightened deer; stripped naked so that he could see her soul — and then the spell would be broken by his rough kiss.

As they reached the door of Ailis’ cottage, Rogan bent to kiss her again.

‘No more until you have spoken to father,’ she said. Rogan grinned and Ailis curtseyed as she slipped through the door into the white washed cottage. Ailis closed the door and leaned against it with closed eyes and sighed. She had never been so happy and now all her dreams were coming true.

She pushed a lock of hair back into place and began to tidy the kitchen and prepare breakfast. The cottage was simple as befitted a blacksmith, but Ailis always kept it neat and tidy. She had been the housekeeper since her mother had passed away. Ever since then it had just been Ailis and her father.

Rogan stayed outside the door of the cottage for a moment, listening to Ailis singing as she worked inside. He picked up a stone and began tossing it in the air and catching it again. The ringing of the blacksmith’s hammer on the anvil punctuated the peaceful village air and Rogan turned away from the forge. Now is not the time to face the blacksmith, he decided.

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 40

Bea hurried to catch up with Emily.

‘Emily, wait up. We need to talk.’

Emily tried to hurry away. She didn’t want Bea to see the tears that were forming.

Bea grabbed Emily’s hand to stop her.

‘We have to get to class.’ She turned but Bea held her hand tightly.

‘What’s going on, Em?’

Before Emily could reply, Anar appeared in the corridor.

‘Well!’ exclaimed Anar. ‘If it isn’t the lesbian witches. You two disgust me.’

‘Why don’t you just leave us alone, Anar?’ Beatrice quickly let go of Emily’s hand.

‘Just leave it, Emily.’

‘No,’ Emily almost shouted. ‘I’m done with running away. It’s time you learned a lesson.’ She reached out and stroked Anar’s hair. ‘Such pretty hair —it would be a shame if it all fell out.’

Anar’s eyes smouldered.

‘—and that pretty face of yours, Anar—I would hate to see it all covered in spots before your next party. Too bad you don’t know any protection spells.’

Emily raised her hand and began chanting, ‘Princess, princess, let down your hair. By the light of the moon you will find yourself bare. By light of the moon you’ll be covered in spots.’

Light shone in Emily’s eyes. She finished and laughed as she took Bea’s hand and walked away.

‘How dare you!’ she heard Anar call after her, but she sounded more distressed than angry.

Miss Elizabeth stood at the window of her classroom and watched the girls go their separate ways. This was getting out of hand.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 38

Rogan was a tall, solid man. His thick black hair curled to his neck and framed his rugged but handsome face. He was a shepherd and spent the summer months with the flocks on the mountain pastures while dreaming of the maidens in the village. The time would soon come when Rogan would take a maiden of his own and settle into one of the cottages of Nangle Farm. As a married man he would get privileges that weren’t available to the single men.

He watched the girl from the edge of the crowd. She intrigued him. After that initial shock when he realised she was a witch he had found himself more and more drawn to her. That first vision had been several weeks ago and lately he found he couldn’t stop himself from watching her through the trees as she fetched her pail of water each morning.

Now it was the May Day dance and all the neighbouring villages had gathered on Nangle common to celebrate the spring solstice. All of the young women from the villages were gathered in a circle around the maypole. With colourful streamers in their hands they danced with the spirit of life – body and soul celebrating the renewal of the Goddess.

Ailis’ face was glowing with rapture as she pirouetted lightly behind the other dancers. Her white gown floated like a butterfly in the breeze. Her voice rose and fell as she moved around the circle.

Rogan moved to the other side of the square and climbed on the wheel of a cart to get a better view. From his vantage point he could clearly see Ailis’ face framed by that auburn hair that entranced him so much. It seemed that energy flowed from the centre of the circle through each of the dancing women. The watching crowd was also affected by the energy and groups of young men began to be filled with desire for love.

Ailis was giddy from the emotion and energy that filled her. The colourful crowd spun past her eyes with dizzying speed. Gradually the dancers slowed. The chanting of the crowd grew louder. Ailis was breathing heavily as her footsteps came to a standstill with her arms outstretched like a cross. In one hand she held the ribbon connecting to the maypole. The other held a posy of flowers. Ailis looked up to see clouds swiftly passing the crescent moon. The stars nearby were shaped like a silver wheel. She felt the joy bursting in her heart.

Ailis lowered her eyes until she was suddenly looking directly into the face of a young man standing on a cart wheel. For a moment his eyes locked on hers and she felt of thrill of electricity run through her chest. She quickly looked away.

The young woman beside Ailis was laughing as she grasped her hand. Her eyes were bright, framed by blue-black hair that curled past her shoulders.

‘Which of the young men do you have your eye on, Aily? I feel tonight I will be blessed by the Goddess.’

Ailis blushed and looked at the ground.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 37

The day of the fireworks started out fine and sunny after a week of rain. Late in the afternoon people began to gather on the lawns in front of the school. The ruins of Pemblebury Castle provided a medieval backdrop to the night’s entertainment. A stage was setup in front of the school steps and the band members were slowly arriving and unpacking their instruments.

Emily and Bea spent the afternoon wandering around the shopping centre before going back to Emily’s apartment to get ready. Neither bothered to dress up so it didn’t take long to have showers and then get back into their usual clothes.

The two girls walked the couple of blocks to the school and Bea could already hear the band warming up as they came through the school gate. It was a mixture of orchestral instruments and modern electric guitars and drums. The air was filled with the sound of excited chatter punctuated by instruments being tuned. The notes from a piano solo drifted on the breeze to where Bea stood with Emily looking for a spot to put a blanket. She wondered if Josh would be there with his cello. The sound was kind of cool and Bea found herself relaxing as Emily found a spot on the grass toward the back of the square.

Emily spread the blanket on the ground and then sat with her arms cradled around her knees. She turned and smiled as Bea sat next to her. ‘I’m really glad we came, Bea.’

‘Yeah, me too.’ Bea smiled back.

Emily rested her head on her knees and she hummed in time with the music. The band had launched into a rendition of ‘Running in the Shadows’ and the sounds of electric guitar and drums filled the air. Emily watched Bea’s curly red hair spilling over her shoulders and wondered about the reason Bea had asked her to come.

Emily touched the locket around her neck. She could feel it tingling and it gave her confidence. A small smile danced across her lips. She felt the chill in the air against her arms but the warmth radiating from the locket kept her from the cold.

She looked over the crowd. Anar and Heather were sitting amongst a group of boys. They were drinking from plastic bottles but Emily guessed what was really in there. Anar was wearing a short black dress. Her shoulders and arms were bare. ‘She must be freezing,’ Emily thought to herself.

Bea turned and saw Emily’s darkened face. She laughed, ‘What are you thinking?’

‘Nothing.’ Emily looked away. She couldn’t look at Bea anymore without feeling butterflies in her stomach. She wished she hadn’t come tonight after all.

Heather and Anar walked toward them, whispering together. Anar laughed as she stopped in front of Bea and Emily.

‘Shouldn’t you witches be home boiling your faces in a cauldron?’

‘Yours is the only face that will boil.’ Emily’s face glowered. Bea touched her arm.

‘They’re not worth it, Em.’

‘Come on, Heather. Let’s leave these lovebirds to themselves.’

Bea’s face went red and she quickly pulled her hand away from Emily’s arm. Emily blinked back her tears. This was becoming the worst night of her life. She hugged her knees tighter and rested her head on her forearm. It still tingled from where Bea’s hand had touched her.

‘Don’t worry about them. They’re just evil.’

Overhead the sky began to fill with darkening clouds. Bea was worried about her friend’s mood swings. She seemed to be getting gloomier than ever lately.

Bea closed her eyes and let the music wash over her. She lost track of time. Then she felt Bea’s fingertips accidently brush gently against hers. It was like an electric shock ran up her arm. Emily quickly opened her eyes but Bea was still in the same position, rocking in time to the music. She looked down at her hand on the blanket. Maybe she had just imagined it.

Emily glanced at her friend’s face again, trying to guess what she was thinking. Floodlights from the stage cast a shadow across half her face. She followed the direction of Bea’s eyes to the stage where Josh was sitting with a cello between his legs. The music slowed and the electric guitars were replaced by a slow and sensuous rhythm on the cello. Emily ground her teeth together. She felt depressed again. If only she could make that love spell work.

Josh was bent forward and long curls tumbled across his face, just the way he looked in the music room. The tune reached out to Bea and she felt each note punctuating her breathing. Suddenly she realised she was standing and swaying in time with the music. Emily watched her from the blanket for a moment and then stood and joined her.

Bea looked at Emily and smiled dreamily but she didn’t smile back. Her eyes looked sad, but Bea didn’t really give her another thought because she was so absorbed by the music coming from Josh’s cello. Suddenly she felt herself floating again. There was mist and she could see the mountaintop from her dream. The dark-haired woman was holding her hand out to Bea. ‘It’s time. We need you.’ And then she was falling, falling, falling.

‘Bea, are you okay?’ Emily’s voice sounded concerned. She was near tears.

‘I guess—I just fell. I think I need to get a drink of water.’

‘You stay here, Bea. I’ll go and get it for you.’

Before she could protest Emily had disappeared into the crowd. Nobody else seemed to have noticed her falling. She sat on the blanket and tried to control her breathing. Then she heard a cough.

‘Are you okay?’

Bea looked up to see Josh standing above her.

‘Oh, yeah. Sure. I’m fine.’

‘I saw you fall from the stage. You were just dancing and then suddenly you were on the ground. I thought you might have hurt yourself.’

‘I’m fine. I guess I just tripped.’

Josh knelt down on the grass beside the blanket. ‘Your ankle looks swollen. Do you mind if I have a look at it?’

Suddenly Josh’s fingers were gently lifting her foot. ‘Does this hurt?’

‘Ouch, yes.’

‘I don’t think it’s broken. You must have twisted it as you fell.’

Bea could still feel his fingers around her foot and she looked up into his eyes. She felt a sharp shock run through her body.

‘I got you a drink, Bea.’ Bea looked up to see Emily standing there with a bottle of water. She wasn’t smiling anymore.

‘Oh, thanks, Em. You remember Josh—from class?’

‘Yeah, sure. Hi, Josh.’

‘Why don’t you join us?’

‘Oh, thanks, but I have to get back. I’m on again soon.’

Emily sat back down on the blanket as Bea watched Josh disappear into the crowd. Emily handed her the bottle of water.

‘What was that all about?’

‘Oh, nothing, I guess. He said he saw me fall.’

‘So why were his hands all over you?’

‘I hurt my ankle. He was checking it out.’

‘Yeah, that’s what it looked like.’ Her voice was harsh.

‘What’s the matter, Em?’

‘Nothing. The fireworks should be starting soon.’

Emily brought her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them. She wished they had never come tonight.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 36

‘I know what you need, Bea.’
‘What’s that?’
‘A real solution to your problem.’
Bea blinked. She looked at Emily sitting across from her.
‘Which of my problems are you talking about?’
She took a sip from a can of soft drink. It still tasted strange to her. She didn’t know why.
Emily sat at the table with a notepad in front of her.
‘We need to get some things.’
She began to make a list:

Candles – red and black
Flowers
Incense – other magic stuff

Emily wasn’t really sure what she was doing but she was trying to make it up to Bea for dredging into her past. She had an idea but Emily thought if she could sneak in a memory spell as well then everything would be perfect.
Bea sighed. She didn’t believe in any of this magic stuff, but she wanted to humour her friend. Bea thought about Josh. She knew Emily didn’t like him but she couldn’t help being drawn to him. Josh had invited her to hear him play at the Fireworks Spectacular. He said he had been playing for several years but this was his biggest event yet. Bea wondered if what she felt for Josh was something more than just friendship.

Bea talked Emily into going with her to the Fireworks Spectacular. The school band was playing and it was meant to be a huge party. At first Emily didn’t want to go. She said she would feel out of place.
‘It’s not my scene either, Em, but I really want to go. Won’t you please come with me?’
She kept pleading so much that in the end Emily decided it wouldn’t hurt if she went just this once. Gwen was worried but agreed that Bea could stay overnight with Emily and catch the early bus home in the morning.
Bea answered fervently, ‘That makes me so happy.’ She laid her hand on Emily’s and looked cheerfully into her face.
Emily blushed but couldn’t bring herself to pull her hand away.
‘We should get back to the assignment.’
‘Yes, of course.’ Bea couldn’t stop smiling as she pulled the chemistry book out of her bag.
The evening passed quickly until Emily began to get restless again. ‘Would you like something to eat?’
‘No, I’m fine. Thanks.’
‘Okay, well I’m just going to make a cup of tea.’
‘I guess I should be going.’
‘Oh no, please—don’t go.’

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 29

The first thing Alyce needed to do was find a spell to break the king’s enchantment over her sister. It would need to be a powerful spell—more powerful than any that had ever been cast before on the Southern Isle.

Alyce sat in the library, her face lit by the flickering lamp, as she thought of all the things she had been taught about magic by her mother. The first thing was that magic was bestowed by the goddess. It was inside all living things and many things that weren’t living as well. The flowers, trees, birds, animals of the forest, all possessed their own kind of magic, just like the wind, water in a stream, clouds in the sky, the rocks and sand.

It took a special person to be able to use that magic, to control it. That was the lesson that Alyce had found the hardest to learn as a child. She remembered how all she wanted to do was make things move, but it was just too hard. It all seemed to come so easily to her sister, Alexandria. Katharine would just stand by and smile but she never helped. Alexandria was so full of excitement that she could control the wind, turn water into ice and create a fireball in her hand. But Alyce could do none of those things. Once again her mother calmed Alyce’s tears and patiently explained that magic came from inside.

Alyce had closed her eyes and eventually conjured up a tiny ball of fire. She never got the hang of wind and water but she later discovered her real talent was as a healer. That wasn’t as satisfying to Alyce as making things move. That is why Alexandria was made the queen when their mother died, because she had control of all her magic and was a true moon witch.

But somehow the prince had been able to overcome that magic with his own darkness and it was now up to Alyce to save the islands—and her sister.

She moved the lamp to the desk. She could already hear voices whispering from the Book of Shadows. It was over a thousand years old and contained the knowledge of all the daughters of the moon that had come before her.

Alyce nervously opened the front cover as she whispered a prayer to the goddess. Rain hammered against the window and the pages of the book fluttered back and forth. Slowly they settled and Alyce leaned forward to see what was written there.

To undo what has been done

By the shadows of darkness

Begotten ruthless silence

To cast your spell takes patience

Alyce stared at the page. She had no idea what it meant. But two words caught her eye—darkness and patience.

If darkness had been used to cast the enchantment it would take all the magic of the three moons to break the spell. Or Alyce could just wait until she had gained enough power to break the spell on her own. And that would require patience.

She closed the book and sat back and thought hard. The castle was well protected against the king. Defense spells were one type of magic Alyce knew she was good at. That bought her enough time to be patient. The other problem was how to build up her magic. She knew of one way. The quickest was to take the magic from a young witch. Their magic was strongest, but also most vulnerable, on the third full moon after a witch’s sixteenth birthday. It was also when a young witch’s magic ran wildly out of control before she learned to harness it and take her place as a fully-fledged witch of the Coven of the moon. But where could Alyce find a witch that was just about to turn sixteen?

There was a slower way. Alyce remembered the fairy tales her mother had told her and her sisters when they were children. The one that sprang into her mind was the story of the evil witch that had feasted on the magic of the village children. The story was meant to be a warning to children to be home and safe inside before darkness fell. But if it were true…

Alyce shuddered to think of where those thoughts might lead her. But she had to rescue her sister. Besides—she convinced herself—the village children didn’t even use their magic. Most of them didn’t even know they had any so they wouldn’t miss it if she took a little from them. A little bit of magic at a time wouldn’t hurt at all.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 28

Rain was falling gently outside as Josh hurried through the door of the café. He pushed his wet hair back off his forehead and manoeuvered his cello case past the tables, careful not to bump his brand new instrument. Squeezing into his usual table in the back corner of the café he leaned the cello against the wall.

The café was dimly lit, which was exactly why Josh liked to come here. He could hide in the corner and watch the world passing by without anyone noticing him. Plus he loved the Belgian hot chocolates and marshmallows they served here.

Josh slung his backpack onto a chair to claim the table and then made his way to the counter and ordered his hot chocolate. The girl behind the counter didn’t even bother to look up at him as she took his money. He picked up the table number and turned to walk back to his table when he noticed Bea and Emily sitting at a table on the other side of the room. He recognised them from class, even though he had never spoken to either of them.

He slipped back into his chair and pulled a book from his bag. Throne of Glass. He had been enthralled by the book for weeks. He opened the book and started reading, but his eyes kept being drawn toward Bea and Emily.

He had known Emily as a classmate for years. She was kind of quiet and kept to herself. A strand of dark hair hung down over her forehead and partly obscured her face. Josh had never seen her in the café before.

He watched as Emily reached across the table and squeezed the other girl’s arm. She seemed to be upset about something. Josh looked at the new girl more closely. Her long red hair was tied up on top of her head. The frizzy hair that escaped caught the light and gave her a reddish-golden halo. He found himself drawn to her round face. Josh wasn’t usually attracted to girls but he couldn’t help thinking that Bea was one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen.

He wondered why she was upset. Even from this distance he could see tears forming in her eyes. He felt a lump in his throat and had an urge to help her, whatever it was. He didn’t move of course. Josh often had these urges but he was too shy to ever act on them.

Emily squeezed Bea’s hand and Josh looked away. He had to find out what had happened to the beautiful assassin in his book. The next time he looked up the table was empty. Bea and Emily had left.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 27

A few days later Beatrice sat in a cafe after school with Emily. They were meant to be putting the finishing touches on their chemistry assignment but neither girl was focused on her schoolwork as they waited for their coffees to be served. Beatrice could feel Emily looking at her thoughtfully. She pretended to be thinking about the assignment but her thoughts were on that haunting tune.

‘How about—’

‘Who is—’ They both began at the same time and stopped and laughed.

‘You go,’ Beatrice said.

Emily took a deep breath.

‘No, you go first.’

‘I was thinking about Anar and why she doesn’t like you.’

Emily’s face dropped.

‘I think she knows you’re afraid of her.’

‘I’m not afraid of her. She’s just mean.’

Emily didn’t want to argue about it.

Beatrice let it drop and went back to reading the textbook.

The two girls sat in silence for a few minutes as the waitress placed their cups on the table.

‘Will that be all,’ she drawled.

‘No thanks, we’re good,’ Beatrice replied. She dipped a spoon in the sugar bowl and began stirring her coffee.

‘So do you really not remember anything from before?’ Emily suddenly blurted out.

‘Nothing.’ Beatrice’s voice was flat.

Emily saw the look on Beatrice’s face. She knew Beatrice didn’t like talking about it and wanted to change the subject. She was never comfortable talking about herself.

‘I’m sorry, Beatrice. It’s just—well, I looked up a newspaper article about the accident. I thought it might prompt your memory. Maybe you need help.’

‘Gramma says I’m fine, it’s just the trauma. But then I have these—’ She was about to say dreams but she didn’t know if she was ready to share that with Emily. Beatrice was even wondering if she should have told Emily about her memory loss.

‘It’s just that, you know, the article doesn’t say anything about you.’ Emily pushed a newspaper clipping across the table.

 

The notorious stretch of road across the Pennines has taken another two lives. A vehicle driving east toward the Pennine Pass left an icy stretch of road at approximately 2:00 to 3:00 am Sunday night. The overturned vehicle was discovered but both the driver and passenger were pronounced dead by the time paramedics arrived. Police have withheld the names of the victims until relatives can be advised.

 

Beatrice finished reading and put the newspaper clipping down.

‘So? Maybe it was the wrong accident.’

‘But look at the date, Beatrice. It’s the same one you said your accident was.’

‘Maybe it’s just coincidence.’ She shrugged. Beatrice didn’t want to think about it. ‘Are you saying Gramma lied to me?’

‘Have you talked to her?’

‘Of course I have. She says I’m not ready.’ Beatrice twisted the coffee cup in her hand. Emily placed her hand on Beatrice’s forearm.

‘I think you should get professional help. It’s not normal to lose your memory. I’ve been researching about that too.’

Emily reached across the table and squeezed Beatrice’s hand.

‘I’m sorry, Bea. I didn’t mean to make you cry.’

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 26

Josh felt the magic as soon as his fingers stroked the maple neck of the cello. His mother had promised him a new instrument for passing his theory exams. Up until then he had to be satisfied with practicing on one of the old cellos that belonged to the school. Josh had been obsessed with the cello for years. While the other boys were out chasing footballs around the playground he had immersed himself in learning everything he could about this wonderful instrument.

Now he had his own cello and he took care of it like it was a new born baby. He ran his fingers over the instrument again and felt a thrill run up his arm. He held the bow in the other hand, waiting so he could savour this moment like he always did. He could feel the tension build in his body with the cello pressed against his legs and his fingers stroking its neck.

Josh closed his eyes and drew the bow across the strings again. Just three notes that sang with yearning and desire. He stopped and scribbled on the blank music page and then played a few more notes. He had a week to hand in a draft of this piece to his music teacher, but he wanted to make sure it was perfect. Josh always wanted it to be perfect.

The strings vibrated under his bow. When he closed his eyes Josh could hear the entire piece. Just relax and play. Getting lost in the moment was something Josh was good at. All of the tension washed out of his body and music filled the room as he worked himself to a peak.

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