Table of Contents
A dangerous temptation . . .
I closed my eyes and murmured the words that would let me access the cats’ power. Within seconds I felt their feline life forces. Without thinking, I coiled my muscles. I crouched and jumped easily to the top of our seven-foot brick wall. I landed on my toes, arms out for balance, but felt solid and secure.
Laughing aloud, I raised my face to the sky. I saw differently, heard differently, tasted the air more powerfully. I smelled other animals, damp brick, green leaves and decaying plants and dirt. I was giddy with sensation, thrilled, with fierce anticipation about exploring the whole new world opened to me. My night vision was amazing, and I gazed at everything, seeing every dark leaf, every swaying plant, every cricket in the grass, one crisp, clear snapshot at a time.
I was super-Clio, bursting with life and power, and a dark and terrible joy rose up in me.
I sat down again in my circle, trying to still my frantically beating heart. I didn’t
to lose this feeling, this incredible, exhilarating extra-ness. It would be so easy to just take it, take it and keep it, and not care about the consequences.
BY CATE TIERNAN
A Chalice of Wind
A Circle of Ashes
A Feather of Stone
A Necklace of Water
Book of Shadows
Balefire 3: A Feather of Stone
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Copyright 2005 © Gabrielle Charbonnet
eISBN : 978-1-101-15723-7
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With love to Fiona Morgan,
who supports me in so many ways.
I heard a faint sound behind me and froze, my hands inside my canvas bag. I waited, sending my senses out more strongly, but felt nothing out of the ordinary: only sleeping birds, neighborhood dogs and cats, mice. Insects.
I let out a deep breath. It was a new moon, which meant this cemetery was even blacker than usual. I was tucked into a remote corner, kneeling on the grass between two tall crypts. I was invisible from all directions, unless someone was right in front of me.
It was almost midnight. I had school tomorrow and knew I would feel like crap in the morning. Too bad. This was my chance, and I wasn’t going to waste it.
Quickly and silently I drew a five-foot circle on the ground with sand. Inside the circle, I set four red candles at the four compass points. Red for blood, lineage, passion, fire. I was in the very center, with a small stone bowl filled with chunks of coal in front of me. I lit the candles and the coal, blowing on the coal until it was glowing red.
Then I sat back, gently rested my hands palms up on my knees, and tried to calm my nerves. If Nan woke up and found me gone, I would be dead meat. Or if anyone else found out what I was doing, again, there would be much of the brouhaha.
But two nights ago, at a circle for Récolte, I’d been blown to the ground by a huge surge of power. My own power had been taken and used by someone else. I was still pissed at Daedalus for doing it. So here I was, trying to find out how he’d done it.
I’d practiced magick, the
, pretty much my whole life. I hadn’t had my rite of ascension yet, but I’d had great teachers and knew I was pretty powerful for my age. I’d seen any number of grown-ups work magick, for years. But I’d never seen anything like what had happened at Récolte.
Where had Daedalus’s power come from? Was it from being immortal? Tonight I was going to try to go to the source: my memory. For some reason, my sister, Thais, and I could tap into memories of our ancestors, the line of witches twelve generations long that led back to the rite, the first rite, the one where the Treize became immortal and Cerise Martin had died.
what had happened that night. At the time I’d been too freaked to see the big picture. But now that I knew what it was, what had happened, I would find out
I stilled my whirling thoughts and focused on the burning coal. Fire was my element, and I concentrated on the glowing red heat, feeling it warming the heavy air. On the ground I drew different runes:
, for birthright and inheritance,
, for my journey,
, for knowledge and psychic power. I slowed my breathing. The barriers between myself and the rest of the world slowly dissolved; our edges blurred. I took on an awareness of everything around me: the inhalation of a blade of grass, the microscopic release of old, weathered marble on a tomb. In my mind I chanted a spell, one that I’d spent the last two days crafting. It was in English, and I’d totally given up on trying to make it rhyme.
Chains of time, pull me back
Let me sink into memory
Follow the red thread of my blood
Back through the ages
Woman after woman, mother after mother
Giving birth, succumbing to death
Back to the first one, Cerise Martin
And the night of Melita’s power.
Show me what I need to know.
I had never done anything like this before, never worked a spell this big. Also, I was deliberately invoking a memory of someone I knew to be evil—Melita Martin, my ancestor. In my earlier visions of that night, I’d been both terrified and horrified at what I’d seen. Now I was going there voluntarily. No one with any sense would think that was okay. But part of being a witch was having an ever-present thirst for knowledge, a desperate need to have questions answered, an overwhelming desire to understand as much as possible.
Of course, part of being a witch was also accepting the fact that there were many, many questions that could never be answered and many things that would never be known.
I began singing my song, my unique call for power. I sang it very, very softly—this cemetery was in the middle of an uptown neighborhood, not far from my house, and was bordered by four narrow residential streets. Anyone walking by might hear. A thin shell of awareness was distracting me—I still felt the damp grass I sat on, heard the faint drone of distant grasshoppers.
Maybe this wouldn’t work. Maybe I wasn’t strong enough. Maybe I had crafted the spell wrong.
Maybe I should ask Melita for help.
That last thought startled me, and I blinked.
It was sunny, and I was standing in the middle of a small garden patch. I held my long apron up with one hand, and with the other I picked tomatoes, letting them slide into the pouchy sling my apron made. I saw that fat green tomato worms were eating some of the vines. So my anti-tomato-worm spell hadn’t worked.
Maybe I should ask Melita for help.
But now I had enough tomatoes for Maman’s gumbo. I hitched up my apron so they wouldn’t spill and headed back to the kitchen. My bare feet felt the warm earth, the slightly cooler grass, the rough, packed oyster shells of the path to the barn. My back hurt. My big belly stuck out so I could hardly see my feet. Two more months and the baby would be born. Maman said my back wouldn’t hurt anymore then.
I’d heard the English looked down hard on a girl unwed but with child. Our village was more accepting. Maman did want me to choose Marcel, to make my own family with him. But I wanted to stay here, in this house, with Maman and my sister. Papa had left long ago, and since then, we were only women here. I liked it that way.
I climbed up the wooden steps to the back room. We cooked outside, everyone did, but we kept our kitchen things in the workroom. Maman and my sister were inside.
“Here.” I lifted the tomatoes onto the table, then sat down in a wooden chair, feeling the relief of not carrying the extra weight.
grows big, no?” my sister said, going to the pail of drinking water on the bench. She dipped me up some, filling a cup, and brought it to me. “Poor Cerise.”
“ Thanks.” The water was warm but good.
Melita knelt in front of me and put her hands on the hard mound of my stomach. She soothed the tight muscles, and her movements calmed the baby, who was active and kicking. One big kick made me gasp, and Melita laughed and tapped the plain outline of a tiny foot.
“You’re full of life,” she murmured, and smiled up at me, her eyes as black as mine were green, her hair dark like Papa’s.
I smiled at her, then caught a glimpse of Maman’s face as she snapped green beans. She was worried, watching us. Worried about me and the baby, about Melita and her magick. People said that she worked dark magick, that she risked her soul pursuing evil. I didn’t believe them and didn’t want to think about it. She was my sister.