The Witch-Mother’s Charge
Compass RoundPart 2
Time: Evening - 8:00 PM - One Day After Satellite Attacks
Location: Salem, Massachusetts.
The spooky tourist destination was alive with its nightlife. Guided tours, bar crawls, street vendors out, the energy was infectious. Magical or lively otherwise. A muggy sea breeze rolled off the bay after a rather hot day. The pavement was still hot to the touch.
In the receding shadows of a church, briefly bright light casted shadows up the brick wall. Across the street, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s statue stood proudly, posed thoughtfully staring into the distance. When Marie and Holt crossed through the portal, Odette quickly shut the door, the portal disappearing. They looked around checking for witnesses, but something fell over the pair of them.
Odette felt a tingling in the tips of her toes, sharing the odd look with Marie confirming she felt something strange as well.
“Do you-!” A force beneath their feet sprung up, easily shooting them up into the air soaring past birds in flight. Their shrieks of surprise followed them through the air, having no control - flailing. Force and momentum sending them head over heels. They arced over the city covering significant distance, crossing the town border before making a relatively soft landing with magical assistance. They tumbled to a stop, Odette rolled to her back staring up. Covered in grass stains.
“It seems to me they have a sense of humour.”She said drily. Sitting up she brushed her sleeves free of grass clippings. Frowning at the green marks on her elbows and shoulders.
”What the hell was that?” Marie exclaimed, dusting off her robe and sheer gown, noticing a slight tear in the fabric caused by their abrupt removal. The dress wasn’t hers, but she felt poorly at having ripped Odette’s clothing, even if it wasn’t explicitly her fault.
”Holt?” Marie turned to find her familiar collecting her bags from the dust, wispy black tendrils closing around the collection of duffels, pulling them in and arranging them on the back of his saddle. A strange sight, Marie thought, for a horse to do something so unnatural; one that would certainly unsettle any unfortunate onlookers.
”I might have known,’ Holt responded dryly, trotting up to Marie and helping her steady herself. ”I should have warned you, my lady. The witches of New England are rather territorial. Their roots run deep, especially those who lay claim to Salem. I should have expected protective measures to be in place.”
Marie rubbed her hand gently across his muzzle before moving closer to the street leading into the city. Staying just out of sight, she tried moving forward only to find a force barring her entry.
”That’s one hell of a ward . . .” Marie commented, looking for the tell-tale signs of witchery or cunning craft. Sure enough, overhead Marie noticed wooden and iron talismans dangling from far reaching branches. In the dirt, obscured by brush and fallen leaves, she found pieces of magical squares and palindrome formulae, along with what she assumed were names of spirits written in a script she couldn’t make out.
Bach offered a hand to help Odette stand. She took it gratefully. While Marie found witchy wards in the trees and the ground, Odette saw mounds of earth with the tell tale sign of fae in neat little circles of mushrooms. Fairy Rings.
“Not without help from Good Neighbours.”She commented approaching one of the nearby fairy rings, a tiny adorable sign in blocky text read
MIND THE MUSHROOMS
A crude little happy face was below the words.
Bach whispered, “Sidhe. They do make for fantastic gatekeepers.”
Odette turned to Marie, “One moment, I’ll speak to Salem’s Good Neighbours. See if they can let us in.”
Odette crouched down, clearing her throat. Speaking in Common Fey, “Good folk of the Mound, if one has interest in speaking with me I can offer generous amounts of bone meal for your time.”
There was silence, Odette waited patiently.
Slowly, the soil shifted, the white capped mushrooms were sucked back into the ground - one at a time. Silence stretched then a pair of eyes gazed up from within the mound, regarding Odette with scrutiny.
“Hello, my name is The Ambassador of the Fair Folk.”
The soil shifted more as a head pushed up from the Earth, a bark wooden hand shot out pushing on the solid ground, then another hand. Shoulders, a torso, and finally legs stepping out of the soil. Standing fully in a long wispy sheer dress a woman with fiery red curly hair idly brushed dirt from her arm. She offered Odette a hand to help stand. She took it, coming to her feet, a few inches shorter than the Sidhe. Her hands were maple wood.
“Ambassador of the Fair Folk, Bach of the Yew.” She said in common fey, Bach bowed his head in acknowledgment. Maple Sidhe a cousin to his Yew clan. “If I heard right, you attempted to gain entrance to Salem without permission.”
“That’s correct. We mean no ill intentions.”
She stared at Odette with pitch eyes - no visible white could be seen. “What of your friend?” She turned her heavy gaze onto Marie.
Marie could make out more of their conversation than she would originally have believed possible. Perhaps her proficiency in Faerie languages was returning along with her other memories? Regardless, Marie knew she was being talked about and would need to answer for herself.
Without asking for confirmation from Holt, Marie removed the pouch of tokens from her bags atop Holt’s saddle, presenting it the Maple Sidhe as a sort of badge of office, ensuring that the labyrinthian wheel on the front was visible.
”I am The White Witch of Maine,” Marie introduced herself in English, knowing the Sidhe could understand her even if she weren’t inclined to respond in the same tongue. ”sent by Genevieve Lachance of the Lachance coven on behalf of the Regent of Las Vegas, Lydia Velis, and other witching lines. I come in response to recent attacks by the Hounds of Humanity, bearing tokens of the Regent’s design to the four recognized covens of Salem.”
The fey loved politeness and tradition, especially those hailing from Europe and the Isles. Marie felt a little silly, giving in to the formality of her introduction, but she knew it would be well received.
Holt simply bowed his head, not feeling the need to announce himself.
The Sidhe said, switching to English as well. “I recognize those names, White Witch of Maine. If you are here for business allow me a moment to deliberate your access to Salem.”
She bowed her head disappearing back into the mound of Earth.
“I didn’t know you could understand common fey. ” Odette said. “She is probably bringing a message to the other witch covens.”
”I was vaguely familiar with it and other fey dialects, but I guess Gwyneth knew them fluently.” Marie replied, putting away the pouch and pulling out the small journal given to her by Genevieve. She flipped to the pages detailing the four covens of Salem. Just as in El Paso, their summaries did little to inform Marie of anything beyond their numbers and locations. Luckily, she was familiar enough with Salem’s unwritten history to make a few inferences.
Marie recalled questions she’d posed to Puck regarding Salem, as well as the witness accounts she’d read, those that weren’t submitted in trial, and those from witches unaffiliated with the trails altogether. According to her sources, the trials in Salem were politically motivated, as evidenced by their abrupt end after the accusation of the governor’s wife. However, though only two real witches were executed in Salem, Mary Eastey and Bridget Bishop, there were dozens who went unknown to the judges and townsfolk of Salem Village.
”Maryann Douglas,” Marie read aloud from the journal, ”heir to Mary Eastey, head of the Essex Wyrd in Salem; Jordan Merritt, head of the Pewter Wyrd; Alexander Gavil, head of the White Willow Wyrd; and Victoria South, head of the Gallow Wyrd.” she looked up at Odette.
”These witches are members of some of the oldest living traditions in the states,” Marie remarked with awe. ”The coven in Andover is the oldest. If I’m not mistaken, I believe it was also the first to form in the colonies.”
Marie looked to Holt for confirmation, who nodded in agreement.
“What does that tell us? They are likely to be very proud, they may be rightfully upset at our intrusion.” Odette said thinking out loud, she squinted at Salem beyond its city limits. “We will have to see the verdict when the Sidhe returns.”
The Sidhe returned after twenty minutes, Odette checked her phone -twenty-one minutes had passed since she left. The Sidhe appeared from her mound as she did before. She pointed at long barked hand at Marie.
“You have permission to enter Salem, your business reasons were verified. However. . .”
Odette raised an eyebrow at the pause then realized why.
“The Ambassador of the Fair Folk is not permitted to enter without a toll. You infamously carry chaos with you wherever you roam - especially with your portal sorcery, the witches do not feel comfortable allowing you into Salem without a price. You understand, yes?” She said turning her attention to the sorceress. “Regardless of your connection to the White Witch of Maine you are not permitted to follow her.”
Odette pursed her lips, then relaxed. “What is your price?”
The Sidhe levelled her heavy gaze upon her once again.
“It is safe of me to presume the witches left that decision to you? Name your price, I will pay.” Odette offered, boldly. “You know I am good for it.” They could haggle, but really a toll to get into a city would not be much to expect.
The Sidhe paused then gave the Ambassador a wicked grin. “I am pleased you asked, Ambassador.” Rough bark-like hands caressed Odette’s cheeks. She never broke eye contact.
“Name it.” Odette’s gaze held then shifted to Marie’s. There was always give and take in dealings with the Fey. Hoping she understood what she could learn from seeing this first hand.
Take note, Marie. She thought. Her eyes glided back to the Sidhe.
Her voice lowered, her touch became gentle the bark softened as leaves grew from her palms. “A kiss, I want to draw on a memory. Word travels fast, a unique individual such as yourself is bound to have a satisfying memory to share with me. Close your eyes, think of a lost love while we kiss and I will be able to see it.” She explained. “It will, humbly, be my secret and mine alone to keep.” She tilted Odette’s face up.
See all that I give to faerie, Marie. It has never been simple. She thought closing her eyes.
“A kiss and a memory to pay for my toll into Salem. It’s a deal.”
The Sidhe nodded solemnly, leaning in she pressed her lips to Odette. Odette thought of a lost love, a woman’s face fleeting across her mind’s eye - spots of paint on her chin, hair tied up in a messy bun. The fiery hair of the Sidhe reminded her of the dark auburn. Her stomach twisted into a knot, remembering how cold and angry she had been the last time she saw her. She held the Sidhe’s hands, fingers curling over the bark. The moment stretched then ended abruptly with a bite and flinch. The Sidhe drew blood from Odette’s lip then let her go. The Ambassador took several steps away patting her lip seeing the blood on her fingertips.
Marie watched with no shortage of fascination. She had experience with the fey, yes, but only in passing. She’d witnessed plenty of deals with Faerie, or their aftermath, but to see such a strange ritual unfold before her . . . there was something familiar in it. A kiss to seal a deal, well documented in lore and replicated in many a magical transaction, including in the exchanging of vows and initiatory rites of several witching traditions. It was both a horror and an honor.
Satisfied, the Sidhe drew out a long sigh, “Very good Ambassador. The toll has been paid, allow me to be your guide to Salem.”
Location: Cotting-Smith Assembly House – Salem, MA
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Marie and Odette, led by the invisible Maple Sidhe, climbed up the steps of the Assembly House, a well maintained federal style building, and one of many historic sites in Salem. Generally, the House served as a tourist spot for those looking to delve into the city’s non-witch related history. As a communal place for balls and feasts, the hall could be rented for entertainment purposes; though it was most often home to church groups and religious conventions. Perhaps unbeknownst to Salem’s denizens, it was also the center of the witches’ gatherings.
Inside, the pair were greeted by high walls filled with paintings of the city and its founders, along with general patriotic memorabilia and obligatory scenes form the witch trials. Its rooms were divided among several floors, all but the main assembly room, or ballroom in some instances, were littered with busts and displays set out for tourists. All of Salem’s old buildings had been turned into museums.
The assembly hall, however, was far less busy. As Marie and Odette wandered in, they found all monuments to the past covered by large banners, four in total, bearing esoteric symbols representative of the four reigning covens. Atop a slightly elevated platform sat four menacing figures, their presence imposing not because of their physical appearance, but because they were perhaps the most important men and women in Salem, and without question the most powerful.
Maryann Douglas stood from her high-backed chair, turning her gaze to her surprise guests. She was a tall woman dressed in an expensive suit, her dark hair draped over her left shoulder, the thick, raven curls contrasting with the white of her attire. Her face was gaunt, cheekbones high, lips full and tinted crimson red. Marie thought she could see the subtle signs of age on her face, lines on the forehead, wrinkles by the eyes, but none were visible. Maryann carried herself as a wise woman, someone well learned and aged, yet her outer appearance was eerily youthful.
“Welcome,” she greeted the duo, her voice low and melodic.
The Maple Sidhe gave Maryann a slight bow before disappearing, returning to her post outside the city.
“So,” Maryann continued, “our saviors have come at last, have they?”
The assembled witches laughed in unison, not mockingly, in fact their intent was unclear. Perhaps jovial?
“Maryann Douglas,” she gestured to herself, “but I’m guessing Lydia already gave you our names?”
She caught a glimpse of the pouch at Marie’s side, waving her forward with its contents.
Marie could feel the weight of Maryann’s words, as if everything that escaped her lips was dripping with witchcraft, bathed in magic. She’d never put much stock in auras, but there was an unmistakable field of power around this woman that sent shivers down her spine, like a static field that enveloped the four of them.
”Tokens,” Marie said sheepishly as she retrieved four bewitched coins from the pouch. She cleared her throat before speaking again, finding her voice in the silence.
”Tokens from Lydia Velis, pieces of a blessed vessel. They’ll provide protection from your enemies, or so I’ve been told.”
Maryann gingerly plucked the relics from Marie’s timid hand, briefly running a finger over her palm before turning and passing the tokens to her allies.
“Interesting,” she mumbled to herself.
“We do not pretend to understand what form Madame Velis’ protection will take, delivering the tokens was the favour White Witch took upon herself.” The Ambassador spoke, “We truly hope Salem has been spared from the Hounds of Humanity’s sorid violence. We have seen a fair share of blood spilled in the streets of Las Vegas.” A good first impression was The Ambassador’s goal of showing solidarity.
“Our Good Neighbours have had a large red target painted on their backs, as well. There have been major plays being made quietly.” She said, speaking comfortably from each witch to the next. “Fortunately, the metahumans of Lost Haven have struck a rather devastating blow against them as of yesterday.”Her gaze settled on Maryann, admiring her appearance.
She was completely correct in her first assumption of the Salem witches. While Marie felt an aura of power, Odette saw their pride. Old, traditional - pride. Odette found herself admiring that as well. They rightly earned to hold themselves in high regard and did well to show for it.
“How very poised and polite,” a man on the platform spoke up. He was a few heads shorter than Maryann, more pale, with a fiery red beard and messy red hair swept all to one side. He too held Maryann’s look of invigoration. “The Ambassador of the Fair Folk, I take it? I’m Alexander Gavil. The Sidhe and their kin speak of your exploits elsewhere in the states. You’ve done well for yourself, so I hear.”
“And The White Witch of Maine,” the other woman on the platform added. She was darkly complected, stouter than Maryann and a little shorter, dressed in fine silks and hair arranged in thick braids that fell elegantly over her shoulders and down her back. Her eyes were almost completely white, making her the most visually stunning of the lot.
“Or is it Chinatown more specifically? Seen you on the news couple months back. Touched by the Witch-Father’s hand, I can feel it. Victoria South,” she introduced herself, nodding to Marie, “it’s a pleasure.”
“Seems our dear Regent has the gift of foresight,” the final witch spoke up, a man visually older than his companions, with short, greying hair and more chiseled features, weather worn, yet still vibrant and youthful despite the signs of age. “How fortuitous. I’m Jordan Merritt.”
“And now that we’re all acquainted,” Maryann interrupted, turning to Odette, “Salem’s been marked by the Hounds before, but trust me dear, the enemy we face, the one these trinkets help protect against, is much older. But right now, they’re the least of our concerns.”
That caught Odette’s attention and curiosity. What were they hinting at?
Maryann turned to speak with the assembled witches, their hushed tones filling the ballroom for several minutes before silence set back in. Returning attention to Marie and Odette, Maryann motioned for the two to join her on the platform, having two seats brought up by workers they’d only now realized were stationed in the corners of the room. The seats were arranged in a circle with a large table at its center, atop which were tea cups, mugs of coffee, a pitcher of water, two bottles of wine and three of champagne, baked treats, finger foods, and fresh fruit, to name a few.
“Help yourselves to anything on the table,” Maryann graciously offered while taking her seat.
Marie took her place, seated next to Victoria, who poured a glass of wine and offered it to Marie. The lifestyle these witches led, Marie noted, was a far cry from that of the witches in El Paso, more akin to those of the London witches from her memories. It was both comforting and unnerving to Marie, perhaps because such hospitality was always preceded by tragedy, at least in her experience.
Odette supposed they were destined for appetizers for the evening, she did just that taking a share of fruit with a glass of red wine. Tucking some slices of fresh bread alongside some cheese. Waiting for the hosts to take the first bite, she sat in her chair. The little snacks and meals would not count well if she needed to complete heavy spell casting later but it was certainly better than operating on an empty stomach. Bach stood behind her, fully aware that he could not skulk around at his leisure. His eyes were focusing elsewhere.
“Thank you. It is curious that the Hounds of Humanity are not on your list of priorities.”
“What is taking precedence?” She asked, “Especially to involve the pair of us, happening to pass by at an opportune time?” Puzzling out why they weren’t simply sent on their way after giving the tokens. Pleasantries aside.
“Coincidences don’t exist in our world.”
Maryann smiled, taking a sip of wine before leaning forward on the table and clasping her hands together, resting her chin on her interlaced fingers.
“They have been a bit of an inconvenience, truth be told. Set in motion something dangerous that our gifted Regent has apparently picked up on. But before I unleash all our woes onto you girls, how much do the two of you know about Salem’s history, its true history? The reason why there are witches here in such abundance. Care to guess?”
Marie was honestly stumped. She often wondered, in the early days of her tenure at The Red Devil, why witches in the colonies mobilized at such a turbulent time in history, why they migrated from Andover to Salem instead of heading further inland to a yet uncolonized portion of the country. She had plenty of guesses, none of which she cared to voice. The most likely reason, in Marie’s mind, was the aftermath of the trials, how the public, years later, became so ensorcelled by the mystery and intrigue of Salem’s sordid history.
Odette thought while she chewed through some cheese and bread. Did someone important in their inner circle die? Was a sacred space desecrated by the Hounds? Why did witch families decidedly stay in a town after the locals put them to trial generations ago? There must be something more important tying them to the land. Truthfully, Odette knew little about Salem and its witches; she erred away from such places. Witches were an entity she rarely tangled with, her time with Marie being the first.
She sipped the wine washing down the cheese, “Personally, I know very little. What I can infer is that someone very important was killed by the Hounds or they tainted some sacred grounds? They have made a habit of salting the Earth wherever they show up.”
“Christian May, dubbed the Official Warlock of Salem. Though not technically one of ours, he was well respected within our communities, a member of an Inner Court tradition of British Traditional Witchcraft, or Wicca, as most know it. He was our . . . public relations affiliate. He owned two shops in town, one that catered to tourists and general practitioners, and another that acted as a safe haven for many of our kind. Christian was well respected by the Land, and his untimely death, while tragic, is overshadowed by a need within our collective covens to renew a pact made centuries ago.”
Maryann could see the confusion on Odette and Marie’s faces. There were holes missing in this story, pieces of the puzzle that had yet to fall into place.
“Our ancestors, not those whose magic we covet, but those whose blood we trace in our own, arrived in this country with a simple goal in mind: to live freely, separate from the confinements and corruption of the Old World, hungry for the boundless riches of the New. The spirits who followed, the witches who carried and communed with the unseen world, were no different. Long had they been made to toil under the boot of the Catholic world, pushed to the very edges of society where they could thrive, yes, but under constant threat. So they flocked to the New World, hoping to take a place for themselves, a country all their own. They hoped to find their Eden.”
Maryann paused, calling Odette and Marie’s attention to an old map of Massachusetts just visible through the heavy banners that covered the walls. Aside from Salem, marked by a star, the only other city visibly indicated on the map was Andover, a short distance northwest of Salem. It was marked with an “x”.
“Their mission began in Andover,” Maryann continued, her smile never fading as she recounted the tale she must have told a hundred times over, almost as if she’d been alive to witness past events. “There were solitary practitioners scattered throughout the colonies, but the first coven, the first true gathering of witches in the New World began in Andover. They were a cunning bunch, powerful, and in great numbers. Witches almost outnumbered the common folk in Andover. What records we possess tell us that Mab acted as patron to these witches. The Faerie Queene took special interest in their goals. United were they under Her rule, but they were too ambitious, too open in their schemes. When the trials began, cunning craft was turned against their witchery; they were undone.
“For reasons unknown, Mab fled shortly thereafter, perhaps weakened by the town’s efforts to be rid of her influence. Witches in her service, those who survived that is, heard of the arrival of a powerful witch in Salem, hoping to secure a place for themselves further south.”
Mab was in Andover? Would the witches here have a clue of where she was last spotted? Odette’s interest was renewed tenfold, she shared a knowing look with Bach, his face remained neutral but his eyes mirrored her own. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a waste of time.
Marie was also intrigued, having remembered Odette’s brief mention of Mab and Oberon. Apparently, Gwyneth was at least partially acquainted with them during their reign in the late 15th century. Perhaps Mab would also be the key to discovering another of Gwyneth’s lost artifacts, assuming any remnant of her yet remained in New England.
“Having learned from their mistakes in Andover, Maryann continued, “Salem’s witches were more prepared. In fact, they used an inevitable trial to their favor. While there are no records beyond a few obscure sightings omitted by the court, we know that Elizabeth Parris, wife of the reverend Samuel Parris, was the impetus for the trials. She and her husband’s house slave, Tituba, having pledged herself to the Witch-Father at some point prior to her arrival in Salem, bewitched Samuel’s young daughter and niece, bidding them accuse innocents of the crime of witchcraft. With the trial under their control, Elizabeth, Tituba, and their coven could operate in secrecy just beyond the trial’s reach.”
Maryann, Jordan, Alexander, and Victoria put on a wicked smile, marvelling at Elizabeth and Tituba’s stroke of magical genius.
“Unfortunately, two of the coven’s own, Bridget Bishop and Mary Eastey, were hanged as the hex ran its course, but their sacrifice wasn't for naught. Better that two should hang before twenty burn. The trial came to a rather abrupt end the following year, much to Elizabeth and Tituba’s surprise. However, the accusation of the governor’s wife was to their advantage. Folks began to question whether or not Samuel and his friends in the court coaxed the girls into accusing important members of Puritan society, hoping that by the trial’s conclusion, they would hold an elevated station. Witchcraft was no longer a concern, which, ironically, allowed the witches to take control of the city.
“After Elizabeth’s mysterious disappearance and her husband’s departure from Salem, Tituba led the coven as a free woman. In an effort to consolidate power and ensure her hold over the city, she entered into a pact with the Land itself, a feat no foreign witch had yet achieved. Tituba asked for protection from the world of man, that Salem would never again fall to petty squabbles, that she and her followers would hold dominion, that they would possess great powers in exchange for their loyalty and devotion. In exchange, the Land wished only for the power, after a period of time, be returned, a cyclical ebb and flow of magic.
“Tituba agreed, separating the town’s witches into four separate covens, acting as the ambassador to each. She and four prominent members of each coven performed the ritual that would grant them the Land’s blessing. It offered protection from the elements, from foreign invaders, both mundane and magical, and taught them its secrets. As the witches grew stronger, however, the Land grew weak. At the height of the witches’ powers, they had to return it so the Land could renew itself. Years later, we uphold this tradition, and in doing so, have been granted great power and position within Salem. I, for example, have a seat on the city council and act as chairwoman to the city’s preservation society. We have the mayor in our pocket and the governor’s ear, all to ensure that our needs are met.”
Maryann sighed deeply, leaning back, eyes pointed down, burdened.
“We have a responsibility to Salem. The Land conjures lost spirits far more efficiently than we, it stirs old magic that keeps the city afloat. Tituba gave us our throne, provided us the means to have a place all our own in this country. Our pact allows both us and Salem to thrive. And in a moment of weakness, we allowed ourselves to become complacent.”
“In conclusion, Christian May was the key to renewing the pact. Like phases of the moon, your pact with the land cycles through peaks and wanes of power.” She fluttered her hand up and down, “The problem lies in May having no heir or successor to his position to renew the pact or speak on the behalf of the Earth for you?”
She gestured to Marie, “Where does the White Witch and myself fit into this tidy narrative? You wouldn’t go to these lengths to tell your histories to strangers.” Odette paused on that thought, adding - not unkindly, “As interesting as they are, I like a good story as much as the next. We have our own business to carry on with, including delivering the blessed vessels.”
As far as Odette was concerned her interest was firmly on Andover now. Knowing old covens, they obviously had a good deal to offer in return for helping with the pact. Obviously they needed outside help. Business was business, Odette never worked for free. She didn’t expect the witches to assume they would.
“Of course if you can make it worth our time to potentially be of help here. We’re open minded. Something as important as renewing the pact must be handled carefully.”
Maryann chuckled, leaning in, switching her gaze between Odette and Marie.
“Yes, there is a reason why we’ve kept you. Not just any witch can act as the fifth in the renewal of our pact. Christian was truly a pillar of our community. I doubt even he knew the weight his word carried. In being named Salem’s official Warlock, he gained the Land’s respect, earned its favor. May was our mouthpiece, our conduit and negotiator. If we thought any of our coven mates capable, we wouldn’t have asked you to stay.”
Maryann stared square at Marie.
“But you aren’t an ordinary witch, my dear. I felt it when you walked in the room, we all did.”
“Old magic,” Victoria interjected, taking Marie’s hand in hers, “old magic runs through your veins, a kind we rarely see naturally in the states. If you wanted, you could bend the Land’s ear. You share a common past, whether you know it or not. The cunning-flame burns brightly in you.”
“And we would gladly reward you for your time,” Maryann added.
Marie turned to Holt, who, for the entirety of the conversation had been pacing around the room as a black hare, stopping before each banner as if to pay respect or conjure some memory. Now, he looked to Marie, silent and stoic as ever. She could tell he was intrigued by the offer, but as always, his stance advised caution.
She then looked to Odette, who wore a heavier look of intrigue despite herself. Perhaps this was the push they needed to find Gwyneth’s next artifact.
”If I do this,” Marie spoke up, her tone unsteady. ”Won’t I be connected to the Land like the rest of you? Will I need to come back every few years?”
Maryann stood up and walked to Marie’s side, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“No, my dear,” she assured Marie, “you see, the fifth, our conduit, acts as a focal point for our collective power, the one who restores it to the Land. Not only this, they are our ambassador, our mediator, the one who defines the terms of our agreement. Tituba gave this role to herself, and May always had Salem’s best interests at heart. It is a vital position, yes, but it is more symbolic than our roles in the pact. However, if you become involved, the Land will surely reward you. So long as we receive the same benefits we do now, I care not what favor you would ask from us or the Land in return.”
Marie stood up, tapping Odette’s shoulder.
”Can we discuss this a moment?” she addressed Maryann but looked at Odette.
“Of course, come to whatever consensus you must,” she replied, taking her seat and chatting idly with her allies. They all seemed confident that Marie and Odette would agree.
Marie called Odette to a corner of the ballroom, bidding Holt join.
”What do we think?” Marie questioned in a low voice, obviously excited by the prospect of aiding Salem’s finest, but unsure of the most fitting reward.
“I think we stand to gain something significant. Power from the land, knowledge from the witches could reveal Gwyneth’s next item for us. That alone, however seems a small ask.” Thoughts of reward churned in Odette’s mind. Would it be appropriate to gain more clues on Mab’s whereabouts? It would certainly reveal her interest of the former Faerie Queen but not what Odette meant to do with it.
“I want to know more of Queen Mab, no one has seen nor heard of her in centuries. It’s interesting that she personally helped the witches in Andover. I believe information will be our reward.”
“Are you up to the task? This sounds like it will be a rather draining ritual, White Witch.” She spoke quietly as well, seeing faerie out the corner of her eye. They paid attention to the pair.
Marie wasn’t entirely surprised by Odette’s interest in Mab. As Ambassador of the Fair Folk, knowing about current and former Faerie nobility seemed like part of the job, and establishing a connection with a long lost queen would certainly be a powerful display of influence, commanding great respect from any unaffiliated factions of fey. In truth, Marie was curious herself. If she had truly known the former queen, perhaps she could shed light on Gwyneth’s life.
”I’ve pushed myself over the past several days,” Marie responded with determination. ”I can handle whatever’s in store.”
Holt leapt atop Marie’s shoulder, shifting into raven. He wasn’t sure how to take Marie’s new brazen attitude. She was so shy when they first met, so reserved. Powerful as she was, Marie wasn’t one to take up opportunities for fear of being noticed. Now, however, she couldn’t stop, jumping headfirst into dangerous ventures seemingly for the fun of it. She was motivated by her need to remember, sure, but there was a strange joy that filled her eyes, perhaps the joy of rebellious revelry that all witches came to know. Whatever the case, Holt couldn’t help but feel proud, if such a thing were possible.
Odette didn’t quite believe it herself, another good reason why Marie should be working with Odette. The sorceress had power to spare. Unconvinced she replied, “Very well. We need some context before we can tap into the Land’s power through the ritual. We ask Maryann for some details right now as payment in advance. Perhaps Mab is our connection to the next item, Gwyneth’s affiliation with the former Queen and Fey cannot go unexamined. Each item does not simply have passing significance, they all have some deeper meaning to your past life.”
“Maryann is a descendant of Mary, is it by blood or by tradition? If it’s by blood she can tap into her ancestor’s memory by scrying.”The witches here having connection to Andover and their time spent with Queen Mab directly.” She casted a critical eye over the witches. “I safely assume they’re capable of a simple spell like that.”
She continued, “Maryann could provide us with some details of what her ancestor remembers of Queen Mab. Perhaps the Land can illuminate further…” She said trailing off, unsure of what exactly to expect from the ‘Land’ was it the collective spirit of the souls resting here or a branch of world?
“Qui vivra verra.” She shrugged. “We will have to see.”
”I am in total agreement,” Marie replied, happy that the two were able to come to a consensus so quickly. It was nice, Marie thought, being on the same page as someone. With her former group, she was always worried, worried that her goals and ideals would clash with the people she was meant to care for. With the heroes, Marie had to be present, yet scarce so as not to get wrapped up into other feats of heroism. With Odette, Marie knew that, even though their motives weren’t always one and the same, they were working toward a common, mutually beneficial goal; and Odette didn’t care how they arrived.
She and Odette walked back up to the table in the center of the room to find Maryann and the others completely silent, all eyes firmly on Marie, awaiting her response.
“Well then,” Maryann spoke softly, “what have you girls decided?”
Marie turned to Odette before turning back to Maryann, a smile forming on her face.
”I’ll do it. I help you with the ritual. But we’ll need something from you first.”
Maryann grinned wickedly, sporting a fierce smile that could rival Puck’s own.
“Name it and it’s yours.”