“I will,” he said. Then he hung up. I hung up, too, feeling sad and lonely without him.
I walked through the hall and out the door, got in Das Boot, and drove to Red Kill, to Practical Magick.
The brass bells over the door jingled as I pushed my way in. Practical Magick was a store that sold Wiccan books and supplies. Although I hadn’t realized it until now, it was also becoming the place I went to when I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I loved being there, and I always felt better when I left. It was like a Wiccan neighborhood bar.
At the end of the room the checkout desk was empty, and I figured Alyce and David must be busy restocking.
I began reading book titles, dreaming of the day I would have enough money to buy whatever books and supplies I wanted. I would buy this whole store out, I decided. That would be so much more fun than being a relatively poor high school junior who was about to wipe out her whole savings to pay for a crumpled headlight.
“Hi, there,” came a soft voice, and I looked up to see the round, motherly figure of Alyce, my favorite clerk.As my eyes met hers, she stood still. Her brows drew together in a concerned look. “What’s the matter?”
My heart thudded against my ribs. Does she know? I wondered frantically. Can she tell just by looking at me?
“What do you mean?” I asked. “I’m fine. Just a little stressed. You know, school, family stuff.” I shut my mouth abruptly, feeling like I was babbling.
Alyce held my gaze for a moment, her eyes probing mine. “All right. If you want to talk about it, I’m here,” she said at last.
She bustled over to the checkout counter and began to stack some papers. Her gray hair was piled untidily on top of her head, and she wore her usual loose, flowing clothes. She moved with precision and confidence: a woman at ease with herself, her witchhood, her power. I admired her, and it broke my heart to think how horrified she would be if she knew what I had done. How had this happened? How had this become my life?
I can’t lose this, I thought. Practical Magick was my haven. I couldn’t let the poison of Hunter’s horrible death seep out and taint my relationships with this place, with Alyce. I could-n’t bear it.
“I can’t wait for spring,” I said, trying to get my mind back on track. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet. “I want to get started on my garden.” I walked up the book aisle to the back of the store and leaned against a stool by the counter.
“So do I,” Alyce agreed. “I’m already dying to be outside, digging in the dirt again. It’s always a struggle for me to remember the positive aspects of winter.”
I looked around at the other people in the store. A young man with multiple earrings in his left ear came up and bought incense and white candles. I tentatively sent out my senses to see if I could tell if he was a witch or not, but I couldn’t pick up on anything unusual.
“Morgan, good to see you again.”
I turned to see David stepping through the faded orange curtain that separated the small back room from the rest of the store. A faint scent of incense wafted in with him. Like Alyce, David was also a blood witch. Recently he’d told me that he was from the Burnhide clan. I felt honored to have gained his confidence—and terrified of losing it again if he ever found out what I’d done, that I’d killed someone.
“Hi,” I said. “How are you?”
“I’m all right.” He held a sheaf of invoices in his hand and looked distracted. “Alyce, did the latest batch of essential oils come? The bill is here.”
She shook her head. “I have a feeling the shipment is lost somewhere,” she said as another person checked out. This woman was buying a Wiccan periodical called
Crafting Our Lives.
I picked up on faint magickal vibrations as she passed me and was once again naively amazed that real witches existed.
I wandered around the store, fascinated as always by the candles, incense, small mirrors the shop contained. Slowly the place emptied, then new people came in. It was a busy afternoon.
Gradually the sunlight faded from the high windows, and I began to think about heading home. Alyce came up as I was running my fingers around the rim of a carved marble bowl. The stone was cool and smooth, like river stones. The stones Hunter had probably hit when he fell hadn’t been smooth.They had been jagged, deadly.
“Marble is always thirteen degrees cooler than the air around it,” Alyce said at my side, making me jump.
“It’s the property of the stone,” she said, straightening some scarves that customers had rumpled. “Everything has its own properties.”
I thought about the chunks of crystal and other stones I had found in the box containing my mother’s tools. It seemed like ages ago—but it had actually been less than a week.
“I found Maeve’s tools,” I said, surprising myself. I hadn’t planned to mention it. But I felt the need to confide
in Alyce, to make her feel I wasn’t shutting her out.
Alyce’s blue eyes widened, and she stopped what she was doing to look at me. She knew Maeve’s story; it had been she who’d told me of my birth mother’s awful death here in America.
“Belwicket’s tools?” she asked unbelievingly. Belwicket had been the name of Maeve’s coven in Ireland. When it was destroyed by a mysterious, dark force, Maeve and her lover, Angus, had fled to America. Where I’d been born—and they had died.
“I scryed,” I told Alyce. “In fire. I had a vision that told me the tools were in Meshomah Falls.”
“Where Maeve died,” Alyce remembered.
“How wonderful for you,” Alyce said. “Everyone thought those tools were lost forever. I’m sure Maeve would have been so happy for her daughter to have them.”
I nodded. “I’m really glad about it. They’re a link to her, to her clan, her family.”
“Have you used them yet?” she asked.
“Um—I tried the athame
” I admitted. Technically, since I was uninitiated, I wasn’t supposed to do unsupervised magick or use magickal tools or even write in Cirrus’s Book of Shadows. I waited for Alyce to chide me.
But she didn’t. Instead she said briskly, “I think you should bind the tools to you.”
I blinked. “What do you mean?”
“Wait a minute.” Alyce hurried off and soon came back with a thick, ancient-looking book. Its cover was dark green and tattered, with stains mottling its fabric. She leaned the book on a shelf and flipped through pages soft and crumbling with age.
“Here we go.” She pulled a quaint pair of half-moon glasses from her sweater pocket and perched them on her nose. “Let me copy this down for you.” Then, just like the women at my church exchange recipes and knitting patterns, Alyce copied down an age-old Wiccan spell that would bind my mother’s tools to me.
“It will be almost as if you’re part of them and they are part of you,” Alyce explained as I folded the paper and put it in my inside coat pocket. “It will make them more effective for you and also less effective for anyone else who tries to use them. I really think you should do this right away.” Her gaze, usually so mild, seemed quite piercing as she examined me over the rims of her glasses.
“Um, okay, I will,” I said. “But why?”
Alyce paused for a moment, as if considering what to say. “Intuition,” she said finally, shrugging and giving me a smile. “I feel it’s important.”
“Well, all right,” I said. “I’ll try to do it tonight.”
“The sooner the better,” she advised. Then the bells over the door rang as a customer came in. I hastily said good-bye to Alyce and David and went out to Das Boot. I flipped on my one headlight, blasted the heater, and headed for home.
Mary K. breezed in halfway through dinner. Her cheeks were pink. There was also something wrong with her shirt. I gazed in puzzlement at the two flaps of the hem. They didn’t meet—the shirt was incorrectly buttoned. My eyes narrowed as I thought about what that meant.
“Where have you been?” Mom asked. “I was worried.”
“I called and let Dad know I’d be late,” my sister said, sitting down at the table. Seated, her telltale shirt wasn’t so obvious.“What’s that?” she asked, sniffing the serving platter.
“Corned beef. I made it in the Crock-Pot,” Mom said.
Dad had glanced up at the sound of his name, pulled back to reality for a moment. He’s a research-and-development guy for IBM, and sometimes he seems more comfortable in
“Hmmm,” said Mary K. disapprovingly. She picked out some carrots, cabbage, and onions and conspicuously left the meat. Lately she’d been on a major vegetarian kick.
“It’s delicious,” I said brightly, just to needle her. Mary K. sent me a look.
“So I think Eileen and Paula have decided on the York Street house, in Jasper,” my mom said.
“Cool,” I said. “Jasper’s only about twenty minutes away, right?” My aunt and her girlfriend had decided to move in together and had been house hunting with my mom, a real estate agent.
“Right,” Mom said. “An easy drive from here.”
“Good.” I stood up and carried my plate to the kitchen, already anxious for my family to be asleep. I had work to do.
The spell for binding tools to oneself was complicated but not difficult, and it didn’t involve any tools or ingredients that I didn’t have. I knew I would need to work undisturbed, and I didn’t want to do it outside. The attic seemed like a good place.
At last I heard my parents turn in and my sister brush her teeth noisily in the bathroom we shared. She poked her head into my room to say good night and found me hunched over a book discussing the differences between practicing Wicca on your own and within a coven. It was really interesting. There were benefits—and drawbacks—to both ways.
“Night,” said Mary K., yawning.
I looked at her. “Next time you’re late, you might want to make sure your shirt is buttoned right,” I said mildly.
She looked down at herself, horrified. “Oh, man,” she breathed.
“Just . . . be careful.” I wanted to say more but forced myself to stop there.
“Yeah, yeah, I will.” She went into her room.
Twenty minutes later, sensing that everyone was asleep, I tiptoed up the attic stairs with Maeve’s tools, the spell Alyce had written out for me, and four white candles.
I swept one area clean of dust and set the four candles in a large square. Inside the square I drew a circle with white chalk. Then I entered the circle, closed it, and set Maeve’s tools on one of my old sweatshirts.Theoretically, it would be full of my personal vibrations.
I meditated for a while, trying to release my anguish over Hunter, trying to sink into the magick, feeling it unfold before me, gradually revealing its secrets. Then I gathered Maeve’s tools: her robe, her wand, her four element cups, her athame
and things I wasn’t sure were tools but that I’d found in the same box: a feather, a silver chain with a claddagh charm on it, several chunks of crystal, and five stones, each one different.
I read the ritual chant.
“Goddess Mother, Protectress of Magick and Life, hear my song. As it was in my clan, so shall it be with me and in my family to come. These tools I offer in service to you and in worship of the glory of nature. With them I shall honor life, do no harm, and bless all that is good and right. Shine your light on these tools that I may use them in pure intent and in sure purpose.”
I laid my hands on them, feeling their power and sending mine into them.
The same way it had happened in the past, a song in Gaelic came to my lips. I let it slip quietly into the darkness.
“An di allaigh an di aigh
An di allaigh an di ne ullah
An di ullah be nith rah
Cair di na ulla nith rah
Cair feal ti theo nith rah
An di allaigh an di aigh.”
Quietly I sang the ancient words again and again, feeling a warm coil of energy circling me.When I had sung this before, it had drawn down an immense amount of power—I’d felt like a goddess myself. Tonight it was quieter, more focused, and the power flowed around and through me like water, going down my hands into the tools until I couldn’t tell where the tools left off and I began. I couldn’t feel my knees where I was kneeling, and giddily I wondered if I was levitating. Suddenly I realized that I was no longer singing and that the warm, rich power had leached away, leaving me breathing hard and flushed, sweat trickling down my back.