Time: Evening - 10:00 PM - One Day After Satellite Attacks
The Witch-Mother’s Charge
Location: Cotting-Smith Assembly House – Salem, Massachusetts.
Marie concisely requested, looking to Odette for confirmation, who eagerly nodded her approval. ”The former Faerie Queene is of special interest to the Ambassador and I. Before I aid you in renewing your pact with Salem’s sacred Land, we’ll need everything you can give us on Mab and her involvement with Andover.”
“Very well,” Maryann conceded, visually pleased by the rather simple negotiation. “All it will take is time. I’ll look through our records and see what I can find. As I’m sure you’ve been told, I am also an heir to Mary Eastey, her several times great granddaughter and one of the only biological heirs to Salem’s former coven. If all else fails, I’ll conjure her spirit and gather her recollection of events. In the meantime . . .”
Maryann turned to her assembled witches.
“Victoria, ready the space on Gallows Hill. Form the compass as you’ve been taught, and scatter any would be viewers who might linger in the trees. We don’t need an audience.”
Victoria nodded, patting Marie’s shoulder before seeing to her duties elsewhere.
“Jordan,” Maryann continued, “gather the vessels and the braziers. And remember, it’s nine braziers, Jordan, not six.”
Jordan nodded, mumbling something under his breath that made Maryann playfully swat him as he passed her by.
“Have my familiars conjure the corners and collect the herbs,” Alexander interrupted, nodding as he left the room.
“It’s three parts foxglove to one part mugwort!” Maryann called after him, “we don’t want Jordan passing out again!”
Maryann shook her head, letting out a deep sigh.
“I swear, they never appreciate the work I do,” she smiled, turning back to Odette and Marie.
“While they prepare the ritual, I’ll away to the town’s library. All of our records are hidden among more mundane volumes, some are even on display. They’re all locked, of course, but they certainly lend an air of mysticism to the town’s atmosphere. Meet me there in an hour’s time. I should have everything you need by then. Talk amongst yourself, tour the town, whatever you please.”
Maryann sped off, heels clacking on the hardwood floor, echoing off the high walls of the ballroom.
Holt let down his ethereal cloak, floating about the room as a jet-black raven, the faint glow of ephemeral light lingering on his wings. He once again took to banners draped over historical displays, perhaps trying to place them. Were they familiar? He had once served a witch in New England not far from the trials in Andover; she was his master before Joseph Mathers, whom he served for nearly three centuries. Was it nostalgia that caught his eye, or grief?
Marie left her familiar to his own devices, taking a seat at the center table, pouring herself a glass of water. She was beginning to feel the wine she’d had both at dinner with her parents, and in her meeting of Salem’s finest. But it wasn’t the time to be caught in alcohol induced delirium. Marie needed to remain sharp.”What are you hoping to gain from Maryann?”
Marie posed the question to Odette, filling the silence that had come over them after the other witches’ departure. ”Seems like as close a link to Gwyneth as we’re likely to find, and I trust your judgement, but I’m betting you’re not interested in history alone.”
Odette relaxed into the chair eating more on her plate, standing up getting more fruit on her plate. “Anything really. I need clues, I need hints, last whereabouts - anything I can learn. You are right, history isn’t all that interests me.
” Odette agreed, spearing a slice of kiwi. “While I am sure the connection to Mab is relevant for Gwyneth, other connections to her do not concern you, Marie. Rest assured knowing that Mab’s connection to Gwyneth is my priority.
” She fluttered her hand at Marie, dismissing the question. Eating more fruit, breads and sipping on the wine. Unlike Marie, Odette’s tolerance for it was far higher. It was all fuel for her spells.
“Take the moment to breathe and eat. We haven’t had a proper meal tonight, I am unsure what toll your witchcraft takes upon you but mine requires calories. I prefer the silence to eat and think.
” She said texting with one hand and spearing a cherry tomato with the other. ”Fine,”
Marie sighed, plating a handful of strawberries and a croissant that was strangely still warm, ”keep playing the mystery game for now. But if you won’t talk to me about Mab, what about you?”
Marie positioned herself directly across from Odette, moving a few of the serving trays so that her vision wasn’t obscured. ”I’ve had limited interaction with the supposedly famed Ambassador of the Fair Folk, yet I keep hearing about your numerous accomplishments from strange corners of the world. Who is she, the Ambassador? What’s her story? And before you try to dodge the question, you literally know my life’s story at this point, both of them. I think it’s only fair.”
Odette gave the witch a withering look, chewing through more vegetables. Bach shrugged behind her, refusing to comment. Odette knew how he felt about oversharing. In reality it was just sharing, period. She finished her text, placing her phone facing down. Marie wanted a resume, intentional or not attempt to open Odette up to list off her accomplishments - an appeal to her ego. “Everything you have heard of me is true. I earned the title of Ambassador of the Fair Folk a handful of years ago. I have connections in every seasonal court, I have favours and alliances built from the isolated fair folk that make their nests in nightmares to nobility that lounge upon beautiful thrones made of bones. I have treated with duchies of light, luck and chaos.
Leveling a curious gaze at Marie, resting her chin on the back of her hand. “I scrapped every ounce of my influence and power from scratch. As I’m sure you have no doubt noticed, I take great pride in my work. It has taken significant time, but-
“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.
” She pinched her fingers around a cube of cheese. “Not to mention my own vestments outside of the needs and wants of the fair folk.
Vague still, Odette hoped this would give Marie plenty to think on and allow Odette back to her own thoughts and food.
Marie chuckled. She expected as much from Odette, always working an angle, keeping something hidden, wording her sentences just so. Marie was familiar with the practice of secrecy, of holding one’s tongue, it was a necessary part of her job at The Red Devil, and something she’d picked up from the fey who frequented. ”How about this then,”
Marie responded, not letting silence settle for too long. ”immortality. That’s Gwyneth’s aim, or something vaguely similar. Have you thought about what might happen once I achieve my goal, assuming I still mean to? Were you offered the same opportunity when we last spoke?”
Odette sighed shortly through her nose. “Gwyneth clearly found some success in preserving her soul, if this entire quest is not the very definition of conditional immortality then,
” She shrugged, dropping the cheese to the plate. “I would not be interested in it, our agreement was alliance in exchange for helping you regain your memories-
” Odette slipped, intentionally pushing to blur the line further between Marie and Gwyneth. “I mean Gwyneth’s memories. Mutual immunity from the other, as you already know.
” She began slowly. “The more I learn of Gwyneth and yourself I believe she would be capable of crafting unconditional immortality for herself. I do not know the theory or ideas she has but I believe it is within her capacity.
Marie whispered in response, shaking her head to let loose any reservations. ”Myself,”
she said louder, ”It is within my capacity, something I can craft for myself. There’s no longer any sense in trying to separate the two of us. I am Gwyneth, just short a few memories. Amnesia, essentially. So thank you for the vote of confidence, I appreciate it, but that’s not quite what I asked.”
Odette counted a point in her favour at that.
Marie leaned in closer. ”What happens to you once I’m back on the track of immortality? Mutual immunity is all well and good, but from everything you’ve told me and everything I’ve heard, that’s not nearly enough for you. To have Gwyneth Owens as an ally would be a great boon. And at the risk of sounding overly confident, I think you’ll need me, especially when it comes time to deal with that little prophecy of yours. Achieving immortality for yourself might change things for you. Apparently I was searching for it to live in peace and escape persecution, but for you, it might be the difference between your survival, or your destruction.”
Marie leaned back, pulling apart her croissant and taking a bite. Odette’s eyes flicked down at the pastry.”Just something to think about,”
Odette squinted at Marie, recognizing this tactic. “You are trying to use the same leverage I had used back at the grocery store. I am well aware of the advantage I would gain from unconditional immortality. I certainly do not need you to tell me what I need and what I stand to gain.
” She pressed her forefinger on the back of her phone.
“If you managed to figure out immortality, offer or not the cost would be high. I do not put all of my eggs into one basket thinly pinning my hopes of surviving the prophecy onto a singular thing.
” She sipped her wine, “As if I haven’t already been searching for a way to immortalize myself.
””So you search for Mab, the long lost Faerie Queene who, coincidentally, is somehow involved with my past, which is all the better for you because, and this is only a guess, I get the feeling you’re trying to expand your reach. Ties to the seasonal courts is fine and all, but a former Queen, one who, if I’m not mistaken, is a member of the oldest tribe of Fey in existence. The Tuatha, right?”
Marie took a sip of water. Holt grew ever conscious of Marie’s overextension. It was unlike her, but in truth, Holt wasn’t entirely sure who or what Marie was anymore. ”If you were on their good side,”
Marie continued, ”well, then you could dodge just about anything, couldn’t you? Reach greater acclaim than is possible through the courts, have you name and image truly immortalized. Am I close?”
Marie held up a hand.”And before you try to be dismissive and let that famous paranoia dictate your answer, know that I’m not playing any games, despite what you might think. There are no tactics here, nothing other than sheer curiosity. Convince yourself otherwise if it helps, but I stand to gain nothing from knowing, other than to offer you a little peace of mind, as I’m sure, in your line of work, that’s hard to come by. I can’t have my ally plagued by worries that could jeopardize our mission. I’ve let go of my baggage, now it’s your turn.”
Odette leaned forward about to retort with a barb of her own, then sat back. As she was Odette was appalled at Marie’s attempts to dig for more information curiosity or not, good intentions or otherwise - Odette hated that Marie thought herself to understand her. No amount of empathy could help.
She folded her hands on the table, unaware of the way she gnawed on the inside of her cheek. “As if, I would allow something as useless as ‘baggage’ to hold me back from completing anything. It’s about as useless as being told to just - let it go.
” She scoffed at the idea of it. “If you truly understood why I feel the need to keep details to myself we would not be having this conversation. It may not seem like you gain anything from knowing more but I know information, no matter it’s form or method of collection - is power. A healthy dose of paranoia has kept me alive for years.
“You say I can trust these details to you and perhaps I can, but until you have gained all of your power and memories you are just as vulnerable,
” She said, “Vulnerable to anyone attempting to mine for information by manipulation or forcefully cracking that head of yours open to find out everything you know. The Former Faerie Queen Mab may just do that and you are right she is Tuatha.
She continued, standing - the control she was exerting over her tone to remain even was extreme. Marie’s prying aggravated Odette, severely. “I would very much like Former Queen Mab to be my ally but facing her is a daunting task, even for one such as myself. I have an ego, yes. I have a string of accomplishments that have built my status but I know exactly what I am capable of and I understand the Fair Folk. You act as if my baggage is volatile when right now I am looking at the most unstable witch in salem.
“Do not, I repeat - do not assume to know or understand why I act as I do.
” She warned, the temperature in the room dropped several degrees.
Marie couldn’t place the emotions she felt after hearing Odette’s rant. It wasn’t fear, they were both past that. Was it shame for having potentially alienated an ally, sorrow? Or was it amusement at having pushed someone, exploiting a weakness or exposing their limitations? Should she frown and apologize, or grin and remain silent? ”Alright,”
Marie finally responded in a softened tone, ”I might have overstepped, I’m sorry. This is . . . new for me. I’ve never done well in teams, and now that I have a partner . . . I’ll leave this alone.”
Marie pulled out her phone to check the time. Nearly an hour had passed; Maryann was likely waiting for them.
Standing up, Marie hailed Holt with a hand and began walking toward the exit.”It’s just about time,”
Marie called back to Odette. Before the two had left the assembly house, Marie turned back around, only a few paces from Odette and Bach.”I’ll be civil moving forward,”
Marie spoke in a hushed tone, ”But let’s not pretend that threatening me does you any favors. I can’t hurt you, you can’t hurt me. That’s the deal you made.”
Gradually the temperature climbed back to normal as Odette pulled back. She averted her gaze. It reminded her of what Silence once said, did she want pawns or partners? Odette felt that memory wash over her. She wanted her boundaries to remain intact but Marie was climbing over them. For the first time, Marie was finally standing her ground against Odette but not as enemy.
She clenched a fist then let it relax. “That is the deal I made and as this is new to you, it is new to me.
She felt Bach’s eyes burrow into the back of her head. “I have more than enough puppets and-
” She gestured to Marie. “Not enough partners.
That was about as close to an apology Marie was going to hear for the day. She made eye contact, nodding.
Location: Salem Public Library
Time: 11:00 p.m.
It was a short walk to Salem’s library, only a few paces down and across Essex Street, the red-bricked building signaled by a simple street sign in the colonial style. A few windows were lit up, possibly by emergency lights that kept the building filled with a dull luminescence. It was certainly well after the building’s hours, but Salem’s witches seemed to care little for the city’s boundaries or regulations. In fact, they were likely the ones who set such rules in place.
A slender woman sat at the front desk, nodding to Odette and Marie as they passed, expecting them. She moved around the counter and handed Marie a keycard to the third floor.
“Ms. Douglas is waiting for you in a private room upstairs,” the woman directed, “third floor, second door on the right, just behind a small memorial statue.”
They nodded, following the stairs up to the third floor to search for Maryann.
Upstairs, the interior was as much as would could expect from a public library. Rows upon rows of books separated by subject, title, author, etc. Dotted around the space were tables and booths for quiet study, as well as small rooms here and there for quiet escapes. Between particularly wide rows were the odd map of Salem, globe, or raised placard. Eventually, the pair found the memorial mentioned by the librarian downstairs, a small, carved figure of Tituba made by a local artist. Behind it were a set of doors, the second of which held the same number as the keycard.
Marie swiped the card, unlocking the door and revealing Maryann seated at a desk with a collection of books, journals, worn parchment, and a variety of witching tools strewn about every imaginable surface.
“Ah,” she said as she looked up at them. “Good, you’re here. I’ve come up with a few mentions across various texts. I hope it’s what you’re looking for. Just ask a question and I’ll see if I have an answer.”
Odette already knew some questions she needed to be answered, “What are the last recorded memories of Mab’s whereabouts?
“Even if your ancestor did not see her last, even her account of where or when she last saw her is a clue.
” Odette said.
“I have no need to recall Mary Eastey’s memories,” Maryann replied, “at least not yet. There is an account, although brief, from a witch named Peter Marberg in 1699. As acting head of the Essex Wyrd prior to the turn of the century, Peter’s personal journal has been kept in near perfect condition.
“During the Samhain ritual carried about by the four covens and Tituba on October 31, 1699, Peter recounts witnessing a female figure dressed in silken robes the color of freshly turned soil. He describes the spirit as having fair skin covered in a fine powder that shimmered in the moonlight, wearing the head of an owl, and sporting large, moth-like wings that held a golden iridescence. Peter’s description matches those of witches from Andover prior to the Salem trials. However, he reports having only seen her for a moment, ‘risen from brittle leaves’, before she vanished.”
Maryann shook her head.
“There is no other mention of Mab in the colonies after that night. It was assumed in later years that she returned to the Isles, but as you know, that’s never been confirmed.”
Odette nodded affirming that point. “Otherwise we would not be here asking.
” She pulled her phone free, thumbs typing her own notes. “What exactly was Mab doing prior to her departure? She clearly helped the witches settle but are there hints of projects, goals, anything that could possibly bring her back to Andover or even Salem?
“Capricious in nature but fair folk nobility always have something to occupy their attention.
Maryann took a second glance through a selection of loose pieces of parchment, all stacked haphazardly on the study room’s central table. Odette and Marie could make out vague images of Mab’s description on a few of the pages, likely taken from a grimoire years prior.
“This is heavy speculation,” Maryann qualified, “but from what I’ve gathered, it seems that Mab was acting on behalf of her sister, or whom the witches of Andover assumed was her sister. Nicnevin, the Witch Queen of Scotland.””Nicnevin and Mab are sisters?”
Marie questioned, slightly in awe. She’d heard plenty of tales of the witches midnight flights with Nicnevin in her early studies, and her name was mentioned a number of times in various trials from Scotland.
“Apparently, although I’ve seen no other records that confirm that suspicion. Either way, it seems that Mab was keen to reposition herself after her departure from the Summer Court only a century prior. Perhaps she hoped to regain her power and position through the witches in Andover; take a portion of the New World to act as her throne.”
“Making roots in the new world is seemingly difficult then as it is now.
” Odette said, “Others, many others still cling to the ‘old world’. Mab was well ahead of her time. As to be expected. . .
” She trailed off in thought, Nicnevin was a mysterious figure to be involved in this in any capacity. Should they prepare for a powerful witch’s meddling as well? Mab was inevitably who Odette would focus on but she thought to put Marie on preparing for the Witch Queen. Powerful players waltzing onto the board was trickier to predict. “Naturally, she was seen on Halloween. We are still off from any major turn of the season, celestial events, save for a full moon. I wonder if The Land can give us some impressions of Mab… A spirit such as her would surely leave her mark centuries later.
“While the Veil is still firmly in place I have no issue pushing through if need be.
“I have something else that might interest you,” Maryann added.
Gently moving the other books aside, she brought out a large wooden carving depicting multiple scenes, along with pages taken from an illuminated manuscript that Marie and Odette assumed would explain the carvings.
“These pages,” Maryann explained, “are from a 13th century dictionary of spirits. I have no record of when they came into the Essex Wyrd’s possession, but, quite fortunately, they describe Mab in further detail, including a sort of prophecy regarding the birth of five distinct children.”
The first scene in the carvings showed a woman, not far from Peter Marberg’s description, cradling a small goat. A second scene presented Mab, or whom Marie and Odette assumed to be Mab, aiming a bow at a great stag. Another found Mab planting a seed, which sprouted roots upon touching the soil. Next, Mab lifted a child from, or perhaps lowered it into, a raging fire. Finally, Mab was seen dancing under a bright moon, drinking from a cup in the shape of a horn.
“How interesting,” Maryann noted, “pieces of the manuscript switch between Latin and a strange fey dialect. One that I unfortunately cannot read. The Latin, however, is roughly as follows: ‘Five borne from Malice, a jealous wife. The first a babe from Hell was brought, to offend her paramour, a good Christian was he. The second babe masked by cruel treachery, a regal beast turned wild in death. The third babe carried by cursed winds, borne of a mother’s weeping to the Earth’s fertile womb. The fourth babe turned ash, called back to the place where day and night yet linger. The fifth and last is both gift and curse, borne in celebration and jest with poisons unseen.’”
Maryann shook her head.
“I’m not sure I can elaborate much further. I’ve personally never known Mab to have any children, but I suppose it is one of the many facets of her being that remains a mystery. You’ll have to find more on your own, or ask the Land when the time comes.”
Odette leaned closer examining the piece, the carving. Five distinct creatures born of Mab, it rang a very distinct bell making the hair on her arms rise in a instinctive chill. “I would like to take pictures to tag along with my notes. This is very interesting for reasons outside of our current focus on Mab. I would love to study this carving in depth.
” Odette said raising her phone up taking several pictures in portrait and landscape, flash off of course. Bach illuminated a soft light giving Odette crisp, highly detailed pictures.
She flicked through them, a knowing curl to her lips. She typed away her notes. This may prove to be an actual one up in information, uncommon knowledge. Maryann hadn’t an idea. Marie however, only needed a hint. “Isn’t that right White Witch? When we have a moment we could study this, together.
””Sure . . .”
Marie replied, her mind trailing off, conjuring up a memory, a recent conversation. At first she hadn’t caught on to Odette’s fascination with the carvings, believing them to be scholarly, something useful in finding Mab. That wasn’t far from the truth. There was a twinge of something there, a subtle shift in her tone, inflection that felt out of place without reason. But not a moment later, Marie knew.”Right,”
she responded a second time with more enthusiasm. ”It should lend itself to an unrelated endeavor. Thank you, Maryann.”
Maryann nodded, tidying up the small room while speaking.
“Is there anything else? Midnight is nearly upon us. If you’ve any other questions, be swift.”
“I believe my questions have been sufficiently answered with the resources at hand. We have context now.
” the sorceress said, differing to Marie once again. “Yourself?
Marie shook her head.”We have everything we need for now. It should be enough to ask the Land for greater insight.”
“Well if that’s it,” Maryann replied, “I’ll show you girls to Gallows Hill. I imagine everything will be in place by now.”