Authors: Bernadette Walsh
A rush of warm moist air burst forth from the center of Shari’s chest, as if from the center of her being, and into my waiting open palms. My returning magic traveled up my arm, settling into my chest. I pulled from Shari everything she had stolen from me: her own small kernel of magic, even her quick wit and her poetry. I pulled her essence from her. Her eyes glazed. I closed my fist and Shari collapsed onto the soft waiting sand.
Claire’s eyes were wet and pleading as I opened my palm. My skulled throbbed as the Devlin magic coursed through my veins once again. I took back all of my magic, draining Claire as she had once drained me, of all her magic, both innate and learned. I sucked from Claire the fluidity of her limbs, her physical grace. The soft lilt of her voice. And then I took from her what she prized most: her beauty. I opened both palms and with all my power pulled the beauty from every cell of her body. Her brilliant blue eyes dulled to a watery blue, her lush lips shriveled into a thin line and her long blond locks turned as gray as the clouds that hovered above us.
After Claire joined Shari on the sand, I turned to my lover. Unlike Claire, his face was a waxen mask, his black eyes betrayed no emotion. Neither fear nor regret. Hate nor love. Suddenly I was overcome with a fury like I’d never known before. His words, his words echoed in my head. “
Don’t be greedy, girls. Save some for me.
My outstretched arms almost touched his chest, the chest I had covered with kisses as I betrayed my husband. I thought of his smooth skin beneath my fingers. And I thought of his head between my legs as he stole from me.
And then I pulled from him all my Devlin magic. As the most skillful witch, he had taken twice the magic the girls had, and my ears buzzed with the sharp intake of that amount of power. I drew every last drop of my magic back into me. And then, as if drinking from a cool waterfall, I felt the essence of his first element, water, flow up my arms. I pulled all of his father’s element and all the magic of the Gardiners into me. Images of white-capped women swinging from the hangman’s scaffold flew into my mind’s eye as I drank from him, the sole surviving male of the Gardiner line. And when all his Gardiner magic was extinguished, his mother’s element, air, as light and sweet as cotton candy, flowed through my fingertips. White billowy clouds of power entered through my veins as I drained him of his essence.
Once the last vestige of magic left his body I should have closed my fist, but I could not. The sound of him laughing as my body, inert, weak, powerless, lay sprawled on the cold wood floor rang in my ears. His grunts as he’d fucked those two whores beside my broken body echoed in my head. I pulled everything from him. His laughter, his sexy grin, his intellect. I consumed his very reason.
“Stop, Orla. You’re killing him. You’re killing him!” Caroline tackled me, knocking us both from the circle. Simon’s eyes rolled back in his head and then he too collapsed onto the waiting sand.
The Devlin witches stopped. They looked at me, their green eyes opaque, reflecting neither approval nor judgment.
“Enough,” Caroline panted.
I sat up and shook the sand from my hair. “You’re right. It is finished.” I looked over at the raven-haired woman,
, and said, “
Go raibh maith agat. Thank you.
They nodded, joined hands and disappeared into a mist.
Caroline noticed the mist. “What was that? Who was that?”
We picked up the Book, walked to Caroline’s minivan and left my treacherous coven mates to their fate.
* * * *
I slept for twenty-four hours straight. Declan, convinced by my flushed face I was suffering from the flu, took the day off from work and minded the boys. When I woke, all the magic settled within me, integrated into the cells of my body. There was no buzzing in my head, no pain. I had asked for this power, demanded it, taken it into my very being, and the power must have realized it was now housed in a willing vessel.
Declan dropped the boys off at school and left hot coffee in the pot. I wrapped his soft flannel robe around me as I sat in my warm kitchen, savoring the hot coffee left by my loving husband. I closed my eyes and appreciated the silence in my home and in my head.
Cold fingers touched my cheek. I opened my eyes.
“Yes, Granny. It worked. Thank you.”
Roisin smiled. “’Twas a hard lesson for you to learn, but one I think you won’t soon forget. Trust no outsider with your power. Serve only those who share the blood.”
Her cheeks were pale, and for the first time it occurred to me how much energy Roisin must expend coming through to me. She looked tired, bone weary.
“What now, Granny? What is it you want me to do?”
The doorbell rang. “It is Caroline, love. Let her in and then I will tell you.”
Caroline wheeled in her twin sons, asleep in their buggy. “Hi,” she whispered. “Is there somewhere I can leave them?” I beckoned her into Declan’s home office then led her into the kitchen.
Caroline rubbed her arms. “It’s cold in here.”
“Don’t freak out, we have company.”
Caroline laughed. “Freak out? After your performance on the beach I’m a little past freaking out.” She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down across from me at the table. “I’m not sitting on anyone, am I? This is worse than Aidan’s imaginary friend.”
Roisin smiled. “She’s a grand girl, Orla. I don’t know why you don’t like her.”
“No, you’re fine,” I said, ignoring my grandmother’s commentary. “My grandmother’s sitting in the other chair.”
The smile left Caroline’s face. “Really? No joke?”
“Has she seen your mother or Bobby? Have you seen them?”
“She mentioned my mother was, uh, recovering. She didn’t say anything about Bobby. I haven’t seen either of them.” I looked at Roisin.
Roisin shook her head. “I can’t tell her anything. I’m sorry, but I’m here to help the living, not the dead. We don’t have much time. Do you think seeing me would upset Caroline?”
“I think she can handle it.”
The air around Roisin shimmered.
Caroline gasped. “Oh my God.”
“It’s okay, Caro. It’s only my Granny.”
Roisin took Caroline’s hand. “I need you to be strong, Caroline. I need you to be a strong Mountain woman. Can you do that for me? For your daughter?”
Roisin smiled and dropped Caroline’s hand. “All right, ladies, bring me the Book.”
I went down to the basement and brought up the Book. Caroline and Roisin weren’t speaking when I came back to the kitchen; Caroline looked shell shocked and I think Roisin was trying to conserve her energy. “All right, where does it tell us how to kill this thing?”
Roisin looked sad then. “Ah sure, love, if there was a spell for that in here don’t you think we would’ve used it long ago? No, the best we can hope for in here are some hints, some guidance. First we need to find out how to summon Him.”
“Well, how did you do it?”
“I seldom summoned Him, it was He who summoned me. Besides, we had a bond. He had, we had, well...”
My grandmother looked down. After all this time, her service to
still shamed her. “It’s all right, Granny. You don’t have to say it. I can’t summon Him because He hasn’t had me.”
“He’s had you, all right. Through Simon. But you haven’t been initiated as one of His women, so you cannot call him. Not alone, anyway.”
Roisin instructed me to turn more pages of the Book, since she herself no longer held that power. We’d reached midway through the volume, when she held up her hand. “Stop. Yes, now I remember. This is what I was looking for. The Summoning Ceremony.”
“Read it to me now, love. My eyes aren’t the best.”
On the page was an illustration of three women, enrobed in crimson, holding hands. I translated from the Irish for Caroline’s benefit. “I think basically this says we need three women who share the blood to summon
. Can the three of us do it?”
“No, love, I can’t. It must be three living women.”
“Where are we going to find the third woman here in the States by Friday?”
“The only woman I can think of is my mother,” Caroline said. “She’s up from Florida and staying with my brother in Westchester.”
“Will she do it?”
“I don’t think so. She barely speaks to me.”
Roisin stared at Caroline for a moment, as if reading her. She then said, “Bring the child to her. Tell her. Tell her everything He’s done to your daughter.”
“I don’t think that will make a difference.”
“You have to try, love.”
I turned the next page of the Book. “Okay, even if we do convince Caroline’s mother to help us and we summon Him, what then?”
“Well, I know you can’t burn Him, you can’t cut Him or drown Him, and you can’t banish Him. That’s all been tried before, with disastrous results for His attackers. The only thing you can do is trap Him.”
“Trap Him? How? With what?”
I continued to turn the pages. When I reached the last page of the Book, I read out loud, “
When He is returned to the earth then His daughters will be free.
Returned to the earth. Does that mean bury Him?”
Roisin rubbed her chin. “I don’t think He can be buried in this soil. I don’t know why, but I feel He can’t. I don’t think it will have enough power over Him.”
“Well, what are we supposed to do, move the Mountain over here and drop it on His head?”
Caroline cleared her throat. “I know where I can get some Mountain soil. It’s not much, only a coffee can full. Maybe it will work.”
“You and Conor brought dirt with you?”
“No, but my mother did. Everyone did back then. It was supposed to bring good luck. I remember I spilled some of it when I was a kid and she got so mad at me. It was in our garage. My brother bought my parent’s old house. I’ll bet you it’s still there.”
“Okay, Caroline will get us her mother and the soil. Now I have to figure out how to trap a demon who has terrorized my family for a hundred and fifty years in a coffee can. No problem. Piece of cake.”
“I never said it would be easy, Orla. I only said you had the power to fight Him,” Roisin said.
“Sure, I have the power to fight Him, but do I have the power to win? What do you think He’s going to do to me, to Caroline, if I fail? We have young children to raise. We can’t sacrifice ourselves for a pipe dream.”
Caroline looked me in the eye, her eyes steely blue. “We can’t afford not to. What, so I can let that thing have my daughter? And after that, who else? Maybe a granddaughter of yours? A great-granddaughter? No, if there’s a chance, no matter how small, that we can stop this thing now then we have to do it. Think about it, Orla. Think about what He did to your mother. Do you want that kind of life for Kathy? Is that what you think Bobby would’ve wanted for his daughter?”
“What if I can’t?”
“I saw you on that beach, Orla. You were magnificent.”
“But those were only people. He’s a– He’s...”
“He’s vulnerable,” Roisin said. “Or at least He will be, if we time this right. Samhain. When the veil is thinnest. That is when your power will be at its height.”
“What do I do, Granny? I still don’t know what to do.”
“The power is within you, my child. You can control the sky, the sea, the earth. The power is within you. Believe that.
I looked at the two of them and thought of all the women who shared the blood, both the living and the dead and, as Caroline said, those to be born. If there was a chance, no matter how remote, I could stop this madness, how could I not take it? How could I not save Bobby’s daughter, at least?
I reached for my last remaining pack of Silk Cut and lit up a cigarette. “Put on a cup of tea there, Caroline, and then we’ll go pick up your mammy’s magic coffee can.”
Caroline was quiet during the car ride to Westchester, and little Kathy was quieter still. I’d only met Caro’s mother the once, at Bobby and Caroline’s wedding. She seemed nice enough, although a bit nervous and especially jumpy around my mother. I remember Bobby mentioned there was some trouble there between herself and Caro, but I didn’t pay close enough attention, to be honest. To think that my fate, the fate of my family, rested in the hands of a woman I barely knew... Was I crazy trusting another stranger?
But she was not a stranger. Not really. She shared the blood. I finally had an appreciation for my blood tie with the Mountain’s far flung diaspora.
Caroline stopped in front of a tidy colonial and turned to me. “This is probably a waste of time.”
“No. She’ll do it. For Kathy’s sake.”
“You don’t understand. My mother hasn’t seen Kathy since she was two years old.” Caroline’s voice broke. “She’s never met the twins.”
I looked back at Kathy, her beautiful green eyes vacant, empty. “She’ll do it. Once she sees her, she’ll do it.”