Ten-year-old Meredith bounced in through the door and slammed it behind her, plopped onto the divan with her arms crossed firmly over her chest. “Ma will not let me attend the Witches Ball, again. It is a holiday! Our greatest celebration, the festival of Samhain, the hallowed evening when we dress in costume and gather to give thanks while the mortal children go door to door, trick-or-treating. Ma won’t let me do anything… Nothing at all! Not even trick-or-treating with my friends.”
“Your Ma has her reasons, I’m sure,” Agatha said, although she knew why her sister would not allow Meredith out tonight.
“She said I can’t go until I am older,” Meredith scoffed. “I am planning to ask for redress. Perhaps a year away from the Coven and her magic will allow her to remember she has a daughter!”
“You don’t mean it, Meredith. You can’t ask for redress because you are mad at your Ma. She has her reasons.”
“If she does not relent… or at least explain… I will make my redress tonight on All Hallows Eve at the gathering of the Covens… at the Witches Ball… even though she has forbidden it.”
Agatha levitated a cup of warm chocolate to Meredith with just a wee scant of magic to calm her nerves.
“Thank you, Auntie.” Meredith took a sip. “Ma probably doesn’t even remember I like warm chocolate.” She sat back feeling sorry for herself. “I don’t understand what happened. We used to be so close and now she has entirely shut me out. I’m sure it would be different if my Da were here.”
“Have you asked her about it?”
“I have. She told me I was talking nonsense. Let’s go for a ride, Auntie.” Meredith smiled at Agatha. “Ma won’t mind if I am with you. She snapped her fingers, and they were at the family tree. “Let’s go,” she called and zoomed out of sight.
Agatha joined her, surprised. She is quite accomplished. She’s been riding when her mother strictly forbade it. I wonder what else Meredith has been up to. Agatha watched her laughing and shouting and racing with her friends above the clouds. Yes… it is as I feared. At Meredith’s age, we were into all kinds of magic mischief… but we did not have a curse looming over us.
“I am chilled to the bone, dear Meredith. Let’s pop home for some warmed chocolate and cookies.”
Meredith grinned at her and snapped her fingers. Agatha found herself in the Coven House watching while Meredith conjured a blazing fire. She went to the kitchen for chocolate and cookies to hide her amazement. The pair lounged on the rugs before the fireplace to ward off the cold.
“Did you show me your prowess today in defiance of your mother for a reason, Meredith?”
“No, I am tired of hiding and skulking. I have a friend who advised me to speak to her first. I won’t pretend anymore, and she won’t notice anyway, Aunt Aggie… she’s never here.”
“Notice what?” Adelheid said in a shocked voice.
“I don’t understand why you are so angry all the time.”
“You won’t tell me what’s wrong. I know something is wrong, Ma. Maybe, if you were home more often…” Meredith levitated the snacks to the kitchen. She stood and snapped her fingers, dressed for riding, she announced, “I’m going out.”
Adelheid stood, mouth gaping and stared at her daughter. “You are not going anywhere, young lady, except to your room!” she said, waved her hand and Meredith disappeared.
Adelheid looked at Agatha. “What is going on?”
“That won’t hold her… Meredith has been honing her magic and hiding her skill. It is time for you to tell her the truth, at least you would be close to her if she needs you.”
“Absolutely not!” Adelheid scoffed. “I might put her in danger too. I can’t.”
“Better the devil you know…” Agatha insisted and left her to it. Agatha found peace in the forest. She walked in the shaded canopy of the far-off wood listening to the voices of the trees.
“Agatha,” Adelheid cried, jolting her from the peaceful meandering. “Agatha come quickly.”
Adelheid was in a furor, pacing back and forth. “She’s gone.”
“Did you call her?”
“Of course, I called… I tried to go to her with no result and then I scried for her. It’s All Hallows Eve… she is especially vulnerable tonight.”
“She’s worked up a personal protection spell,” Agatha chuckled.
“When did she learn that?” Adelheid shouted in frustration. “You know what I have to do… There is the greatest chance I will find him this year as they turned ten…”
“What good will it do to find one and lose the other?” Agatha said. “Why won’t you share with her? Tell her she has a brother who is missing and let her help.”
“I can’t do that, she is in danger too,” Adelheid sneered at her. “I’m calling the Seven.”
“Do what you must, but this may not end well.”
Meredith landed in the far-off wood near the Coven Circle and the ancient ritual stones. “Chevrón are you here? Chevrón,” she shouted as he appeared before her.
“What’s going on? What happened?”
“It’s my mother. We’ve had a row. If we don’t go back now… we won’t be able to. I can’t hide from her forever.”
Chevrón sat on the nearest stone. “You must be certain you are not doing this for personal gain.”
“What? You getting cold feet?”
“You know better than that. It’s difficult for a mature witch to go backward in time and come home. We’re more powerful when we’re together… especially for children… But that is why I ask… Are you certain this trip is not for personal gain? That would make it harder for us to come home again.”
“Something is wrong with Ma. If I find out what it is… then maybe I can help. Maybe it can be like it used to be…” Meredith explained as tears welled in her eyes.
“Well, let’s get to it then,” Chevrón said.
They stood at the ritual stone, shoulder to shoulder. Chevrón nicked his thumb and let his blood drop upon the stone…
“Now… me,” Meredith nicked her thumb and squeezed until her blood dropped on top of his.
He grasped Meredith’s hand and whispered, “All Hallows Eve, this most powerful night. All Hallows Eve join the power of Samhain,” he whispered and bowed his head. Then they chanted,
“Blood of blood… Bone of bone…”
“Look…” Chevrón turned his wrist and a crescent moon with three stars shone, the bright yellow light tumbling within as if it were burning inside the flesh.
“Mine too,” Meredith showed her wrist.
“I… don’t think this is supposed…” Chevron began.
The children disappeared and found themselves in the center of the Coven House surrounded by the Seven. The Seven High Priestesses of the Seven Covens. The children were silent knowing this was a powerful and solemn occasion when the Seven Covens gathered.
Adelheid stared at Chevrón. “Who are you?” her voice quivered.
He was trembling. “M… Meredith and I are friends.”
“Leave him be, Ma,” Meredith cried.
Adelheid ignored her and circled the children inside the circle of Seven.
“Of my blood and of my sight… Show me now… my children’s light.”
The Coven began to chant and circle the children. “Ouch. Meredith. It’s happening again.” Chevrón turned his wrist and the crescent moon, and three stars glowed brightly, but this time the tumbling, burning light was blue. Meredith’s also shone blue.
Adelheid pulled her collar aside and a smaller version of that same mark burned there on her shoulder. “It is the mark of our family. Your father and I devised it and you were both born under it. What is your name?” Adelheid whispered.
She wept, “You are my son. We have called my child, and two have come. My son, Chevrón, was born and stolen from my arms by magic’s curse,” she was overcome.
“I’m so sorry, Ma. I didn’t know,” Meredith cried and held onto her mother.
“When you came of age, I was obsessed. I looked for you everywhere. I knew I would find you when your magic matured…”
“No,” Chevrón interrupted Adelheid. “My mother died when I was three. You can ask the Maiden Doula at the group home.”
“It is a lie,” she spat. “The Doula attending your birth took you from my arms,” she whispered. “The Doula are nurses. Some light and some dark, but they are many.”
“No, it’s not true… No,” Chevrón looked at Meredith in a panic.
“It must be so Chevrón. Look at our wrists? We were both drawn to Mother’s call. You are my brother and my best friend.”
“No.” He grabbed Meredith’s hand, and they disappeared.
“Call them back,” Adelheid shouted. “They don’t know the danger. Call them back.”
The Seven called and called in vain. They couldn’t trace the children.
“It is the curse,” Adelheid said. “This is the night.”
She was a High Priestess, as was Agatha. Seven High Priestesses of Seven Covens called… The wizards and warlocks and witches of all ilk’s gathered against the curse. Each with their own children to protect.
“It is a summons to battle the curse with the power of the gathered Covens. We will meet at the Circle, near the ritual stones.” When all were present, they departed for the far-off wood. They arrived in time to see the children’s trace. They lit the sacred fire and gathered their magic to call the children back and battle the curse of darkness.
“Look, it’s Ma,” Meredith whispered. The Doula looked around and Chevrón put a finger to his lips. They watched as Chevrón was born and the Doula took him from his mother, said…
“This is the curse of the witching line… Now, your son will believe he’s mine.
Later I’ll take your daughter too, and there is nothing at all… that you can do.”
She laughed wildly.
Chevrón knew it was true. “Stop,” he shouted, and the Doula looked at them and a cruel smile played about her lips. She opened her mouth in a grotesque façade. All cavernous mouth with razor sharpened teeth, black gums, and tongue flapping wildly as she laughed. Her darkness spewed from that chasm and surrounded the children through time. In the time before, the Doula disappeared to Adelheid’s screams.
The children watched spellbound by the darkness as Agatha and the warlock ran into the birthing room. They saw Agatha help deliver Meredith while the warlock comforted Adelheid… for a witch is powerless while giving birth. They heard him promise to find their son.
“He is our father?” Chevrón asked.
“He never returned…” Meredith whispered. “I can’t move,” she spoke slowly.
Chevrón squirmed and reached for her. He saw her head loll and sway back and forth and shook her.
“Stop it,” she shouted at him. “Where are we?”
“Don’t forget,” he said, his voice soft in the gathering gloom.
She stared straight ahead, her body levitated, “Don’t forget,” she whispered. Chevrón fought the darkness, but he too succumbed and the children floated… concealed in the Doula’s darkness. Their mother called, they heard the chanting, but could not answer. They watched silently, horrified as particles of their bodies were consumed by the darkness…
“No. Fight it, Meredith… you have to fight,” Chevrón cried. He struggled to kick his legs and reached for his sister’s hand. She stared at him and he could see her spirit, her consciousness fighting to survive. Together they fell to the floor, the Doula’s magic challenged.
“Don’t let it take you Meredith… fight it with your mind and your magic.” Chevrón waved his hand in a protective spell around them. It sparkled momentarily and fell in ash as the Doula increased her attack.
“Together,” Chevrón whispered. “We are stronger together.” They lifted their hands and the protection sparkled around them and the gloom receded. It was easier to breathe but they did not lose concentration for each felt the power of the Doula increasing.
The warlock, Declan, trapped in the curse since he found the Doula ten years ago, stirred from the stupor he inflicted upon himself. The curse bound his magic and to save his essence, he lay dormant in a static state. She could not sense him, but neither could he escape her. He felt the strength of the darkness weakening. Declan transported to the Coven Circle near the ancient ritual stones in the far-off forest intending to enlist the aid of the Covens and found them already there.
“Declan?” Adelheid whispered… then shouted and ran to him. He was thin and considerably weakened, but there was no mistaking it was he.
“We must call the Doula to the Coven Circle among our gathered power,” he said. “She is many bound by black magic, ancient and strong, I could not overcome it alone. We must invoke the strength of the Ancients to ban and forever disperse her magic. If we are not successful, she will continue to take our children…”
The Covens took their places quickly around the wide circle and the High Priestess’ spoke the spell…
“In the gathered strength of the ancient runes, the Covens call beneath the moon. In the Mother’s bosom the children rest, the Doula has cursed that which is blessed. We call her now by this ancient rite to answer for this harm tonight…”
The covens chanted together, and a brilliant light rose around them as the ancients attended and lent their power. The Doula appeared… with her in the circle were Meredith and Chevrón who ran to their mother. In the circle appeared a spirit. None recognized her surrounded by the brilliant light.
An eerie voice lent itself to the Circle… “Doula, you have chosen a path of anger and hate and brought yourself unto this fate. None are to blame, no curse remains, disperse dark magic from whence it came.”
The Doula shattered into a million tiny particles in a cloud that exploded through the trees.
The spirit left and the light receded as the Covens gathered round Declan, happy for his return. While the adults rejoiced, Chevrón stole away, and Meredith followed.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know what to do, Meredith. I have never been someone’s son… or brother.”
“Without your courage, the curse could not have been broken. You were brave…”
“No. I was terrified…” he interrupted his sister.
“What will I do now? I don’t know where I…”
“You are our son, as you have always been…” his father interrupted him.
“I am afraid,” Chevron wept, and Meredith held him, weeping too.
“You will come home,” Declan whispered kneeling next to his children and taking them into his arms.
“Are you ready?” Adelheid asked while she stroked her weeping children.
He looked up at his parents and then at his sister. “Yes,” he whispered, and Declan took them home.
Elaine Marie Carnegie, formerly a Paralegal and Private Investigator, worked a side gig as a local Newspaper Journalist for many years before taking a hiatus from the P&PI day job and accepting a partnership in the Hill Country Publishing Company, and then Stone Pony Publishing. She has worked with both the FBI and the Texas Rangers, written for Discovery ID on Human Trafficking. Her articles have been used in the Texas Legislature as well as utilized in curriculum for regional Texas school systems. Writing full time now she lives in the idyllic East Texas Piney Woods in a hidden cove on a private lake, doing what she loves and living her best life! You can find her online at her website - Author Elaine Marie.