“And then Mom would kill me,” he added, laughing. I laughed, too.
“Your mom said I was an unusually powerful witch, this morning in the car,” I said. “So witches have different strengths of power? In one of my Wiccan history books it talks about some witches being more powerful than others. Does that mean that they just know more, or does it mean something about their innate power?”
“Both,” Cal said. He put his feet on either side of mine under the table. “It’s like regular education. How accomplished you are depends on how intelligent you are as well as how much education you have. Of course, blood witches are always going to be more powerful than humans. But even among blood witches there’s definitely a range. If you’re naturally a weak witch, then you can study and practice all you want and your powers will be only so-so. If you’re a naturally powerful witch, yet don’t know anything about Wicca, you can’t do much, either. It’s the combination that matters.”
“Well, how strong is your mother, for example?” I asked. “On a scale of one to ten?”
Laughing, Cal leaned across and kissed my cheek. “Careful. Your math genes are showing.”
“Let’s see,” he mused. He rubbed his chin, and I saw a flash of bandage on his wrist. My heart ached for the pain he had gone through. “My mother, on a scale of one to ten. Let’s make it a scale of one to a hundred.And a weak witch without much training would be about a twelve.”
I nodded, putting this mythical person on the scale.
“And then someone like, oh, Mereden the Wise or Denys Haraldson would be up in the nineties.”
I nodded, recognizing the names Mereden and Denys from my Wiccan history books. They had been powerful witches, role models, educators, enlighteners. Mereden had been burned at the stake back in 1517. Denys had died in 1942 in a London bomb blitz.
“My mom is about an eighty or an eighty-five on that scale,” Cal said.
My eyes widened. “Wow.That’s way up there.”
“Yep. She’s no one to mess with,” Cal said wryly.
“Where are you? Where am I?”
“It’s harder to tell,” Cal said. He glanced at his watch. “You know, it’ll be dark soon, and I’d really like to put some spells on your house and car while Sky’s still in town.”
“Okay,” I agreed, standing up. “But you really can’t say where we are on the Cal scale of witch power? Which reminds me: is it Calvin or just Cal?”
He laughed and brought his mug over to the sink. From upstairs we heard Mary K. blasting her latest favorite CD. “It’s Calhoun,” he said as we walked into the living room.
“Calhoun,” I said, trying it out. I liked it. “Answer my question, Calhoun.”
“Let me think,” said Cal, putting on his coat. “It’s hard to be objective about myself—but I think I’m about a sixty-two. I mean, I’m young; my powers will likely increase as I get older. I’m from good lines, I’m a good student, but I’m not a shooting star. I’m not going to take the Wiccan world by storm. So I’d give myself about a sixty-two.”
I laughed and hugged him through his coat. He put his arms around me and stroked my hair down my back. “But you,” he said quietly, “you are something different.”
“What, like a twenty?” I said.
“Goddess, no,” he said.
“Thirty-five? Forty?” I made my eyes look big and hopeful. It made me happy to tease and joke with Cal. It was so easy to love him, to be myself, and to like who I was with him.
He smiled slowly, making me catch my breath at his beauty. “No, sweetie,” he said gently. “I think you’re more like a ninety. Ninety-five.”
Startled, I stared at him, then realized he was joking. “Oh, very funny,” I said, laughing. I pulled away and put on my own coat.“We can’t
be magickal wonders.We can’t
“You’re a shooting star,” he said. His face was serious, even grave. “You
a magickal wonder. A prodigy.You could take the Wiccan world by storm.”
I gaped, trying to make sense of his words. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s why I’ve been trying to get you to go slowly, not rush things,” he said. “You have a tornado inside you, but you have to learn to control it. Like with Maeve’s tools. I wish you’d let my mother guide you. I’m worried that you might be getting into something over your head because you’re not seeing the big picture.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said uncertainly.
He smiled again, his mood lightening, and dropped a kiss on my lips. “Oh, it’s no big deal,” he said with teasing sarcasm. “It’s just, you know, you have a power that comes along every couple of generations. Don’t worry about it.”
Despite my confusion, Cal really wouldn’t talk about it anymore. Outside, he concentrated on spelling Das Boot and my house with runes and spells of protection, and once that was done, he went home. And I was left with too many questions.
That night after dinner my parents took Mary K. to her friend Jaycee’s violin recital. Once they were gone, I locked all the doors, feeling melodramatic. Then I went upstairs, took out Maeve’s tools, and went into my room.
Sitting on my floor, I examined the tools again. They felt natural in my hands, comfortable, an extension of myself. I wondered what Cal had meant about not seeing the big picture. To me, the big picture was: these had been my grandmother’s tools, then my mother’s; now they were mine. Any other big picture was secondary to that.
Still, I was sure Selene could teach me a lot about them. It was a compelling idea. I wondered again why Alyce had urged me to bind them to myself so quickly.
I was halfway through making a circle before I realized what I was doing. With surprise, I looked up to find a piece of chalk in my hand and my circle half drawn. My mother’s green silk robe, embroidered with magickal symbols, stars, and runes, was draped over my clothes. A candle burned in the fire cup, incense was in the air cup, and the other two cups held earth and water. Cal’s silver pentacle was warm at my throat. I hadn’t taken it off since he’d given it to me.
The tools wanted me to use them. They wanted to come alive again after languishing, unused and hidden, for so long. I felt their promise of power. Working quickly, I finished casting my circle. Then, holding the athame
I blessed the Goddess and the God and invoked them.
I looked into the candle flame, concentrating and relaxing at the same time. I felt my muscles ease, my breathing slow, my thoughts drift free.Words came to my mind, and I spoke them aloud.
“I sense magick growing and swelling.
I visit knowledge in its dwelling.
For me alone these tools endure,
To make my magick strong and sure.”
Then I thought, I am ready to see, and then . . . things started happening.
I saw rows of ancient books and knew these were texts I needed to study. I knew I had years of circles ahead of me, years of observing and celebrating the cycles. I saw myself, bent and sobbing, and understood that the road would not be easy. Exhilarated, I said, “I’m ready to see more.”
Abruptly my vision changed. I saw an older me leaning over a cauldron, and I looked like a children’s cartoon of a witch, with long, stringy hair, bad skin, sunken cheeks, hands like claws. It was so horrible, I almost giggled nervously. That other me was conjuring, surrounded by sharp-edged, dripping wet stone, as if I stood in a cave by a sea. Outside, lightning flashed and cracked into the cave, shining on the walls, and my face was contorted with the effort of working magick. The cave was glowing with power, that other Morgan was giddy with power, and the whole scene felt awful, bizarre, frightening, yet somehow seductive.
I swallowed hard and blinked several times, trying to bring myself out of it. I couldn’t get enough air and was dimly aware that I was gaping like a fish, trying to get more oxygen to my brain. When I blinked again, I saw sunlight and another, older Morgan walking through a field of wheat, like one of those corny shampoo commercials. I was pregnant. There was no dramatic power around me, no ecstatic conjuring or anything-just peace and quiet and calm.
Now I was breathing quickly, and every time my eyes closed, I alternated between the two images, the two Morgans. I became aware of a deep-seated pain in my chest and throat, and I started to feel panicky and out of control.
I want to get out of this, I thought. I want to get out. Let me
Somehow I managed to wrench my gaze away from the candle flame, and then I was leaning over, gasping on my carpet, feeling dizzy and sick. I was flooded with sensation, with memories and visions I couldn’t interpret or even see clearly, and suddenly I knew that I was about to vomit. I staggered to my feet, breaking my circle, and lurched drunkenly to the bathroom. I yanked off my robe, slid across the tiled wall until I hovered over the toilet, and then I threw up, almost crying with misery.
I don’t know how long I was in there, but it was a long while, and finally I started to cry, aching, deep sobs. I sat there till the sobs subsided, then shakily got to my feet, flushed the toilet, and crept to the sink. Splashing my face with cold water helped, and I brushed my teeth and washed my face again and changed into my pajamas. I felt weak and hollow, as if I had the flu.
Back in my room, Dagda sat in the middle of the broken circle, gazing meditatively at the candle.“Hi, boy,” I whispered, then cupped my hand and blew out the candle. My hands trembling, I dismantled everything, storing the tools in their metal box, folding my mother’s robe, which seemed alive, crackling with energy. The very air in my room felt charged and unhealthy. I flung open a window, welcoming the twenty-five-degree chill.
I vacuumed up my circle and hid the toolbox again, spelling the HVAC vent with runes of secrecy. Soon after that, the front door opened and I heard my parents’ voices. The phone rang at the same moment. I sprang over to the hall extension and said breathlessly, “Hi. I’m glad you called.”
“Are you okay?” Cal said. “I suddenly got a weird feeling about you.”
He would not be thrilled to hear about my using my mother’s tools in a circle. Lack of experience, lack of knowledge, lack of supervision.And so on.
“I’m okay,” I said, trying to slow my breathing. I did feel much better, though still a bit shaky. “I just—missed you.”
“I miss you, too,” he said quietly. “I wish I could be there with you at night.”
A cool breeze from my room gave me a quick shiver. “That would be wonderful,” I said.
“Well, it’s late,” he said. “Sleep tight. Think of me when you’re lying there.”
I felt his voice in the pit of my stomach, and my hand tightened on the phone.
“I will,” I whispered as Mary K. started coming upstairs loudly.
“Good night, my love.”
“C’mon, last day before break,” Mary K. coaxed, standing over my bed. She waved a warm Toaster Strudel under my nose. I sat up, patted Dagda, and then staggered unhappily to the shower.
“Five minutes,” Mary K. called in warning. Then I heard her say, “Come on, little guy. Auntie Mary K. will feed you.”
Her voice faded as the hot spray needled down my skin, making me feel semihuman.
Downstairs, my sister handed me a Diet Coke. “Robbie called. His car won’t start. We need to pick him up on the way.”
We headed out and detoured over to Robbie’s house. He was waiting out front, leaning against his red Volkswagen.
“Battery dead again?” I greeted him as he climbed into Das Boot’s backseat.
He nodded glumly. “Again.” We drove on in companionable morning silence.
At school Mary K. was met as usual by Bakker.
“Young love,” Robbie said dryly, watching them nuzzle.
“Ugh,” I said, turning off the engine.
“Thanks for the ride,” Robbie said. Something in his voice made me turn and look at him.
“So I kissed Bree on Monday,” he said.
I sat back, taking my hand off the door handle. I had been so wrapped up in my own misery that I had forgotten to check in with Robbie about Bree. “Wow,” I said, examining his face. “I wondered what had happened. I, um, I saw her yesterday with Chip.”
Robbie nodded, scanning the school grounds through the car window. He said nothing, and I prompted him: “So?”
He shrugged, his broad shoulders moving inside his army surplus parka. He gave a short laugh. “She let me kiss her. It blew my mind. She just laughed and seemed into it, and I thought, All
And then I came up for air and said that I loved her.” He stopped.
I practically screeched.
“She wasn’t into
Dropped me like a stone. Practically pushed me out the door.” He rubbed his forehead, as if he had a headache. Silently I offered him my soda, and he finished it off and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.