Fire

Mist. She can’t see through the mist.
She knew that she was walking through the woods beside her home but the mist made her doubt what should have been familiar. Carefully, she stepped through it, her hands reaching out in front of her.
She stopped.
Was that twig cracking, just a little to her left?
Squinting, she turned to where heard the sound. Slowly, quietly, she stepped toward it.
It burst out of the mist, startling her into stepping back. She slipped and fell on her back. A figure fell on her and strong hands squeezed her throat.
“Give it to me!”
Choking, trying to buck off the weight, she clawed at the fingers wrapped around her throat. It can’t be, she thought wildly. Her vision grayed and the last thought on her mind before it went to black was that she should have brought a flashlight.
~~~~~~
“A flashlight? A flashlight?”
“Well, it was really dark.”
“You’re getting choked to death and a flashlight is what you thought you should have brought.”
Andrea sighed. “It was a dream. Give me a break.”
Walking over to where Andrea sat on the counter, Manu reached out and gently cupped her chin with his hand.
“It’s more than just a dream when you wake up with your throat burning and with bruises on your neck.” He tilted her chin and inspected the marks around her neck. “How long have you been having these dreams?”
“About a month.”
“A month?! And you tell me about them just now.”
Andrea shrugged. “It was mostly me walking around in the mist, though. This is the first time it escalated like this.”
Manu reached for the ice pack Andrea was holding and held it up to her neck. “This figure. Was it a woman?”
“Yeah, I think. Old woman. But very strong.”
“What was she looking for?”
“Hmm?”
“You said she was screaming at you to give it to her. What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“But you have an idea.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Andrea.”
“Okay, maybe.”
Manu sighed. “Okay, you don’t want to tell me. What are you going to do about it?”
“Find out if I’m right, I guess.”
~~~~~~
She walked through her gardens, skyclad. Rolling azurite crystals on both hands, she glanced up at the blood on the moon that Manu oh-so-casually mentioned to her on the drive back to her house. An ominous warning of some sort, he said.
A challenge to be met, she thought.
And as much as she wanted to ask Manu to stay with her through the ritual, she contented herself with the memory of the music he made when she asked him to play the saxophone for just a little bit before he left.
When she reached the center of her garden, she took a deep breath and prepared to cast her circle. She waved her left hand as she called upon the elements and a thin ring of fire rose up from the earth.
Standing in the center of the circle, Andrea fisted her hands on the crystals and chanted:
Mother Goddess,
God of grace,
I call upon your heart
bless this circle and protect what’s within
let nothing pass through to harm
allow only myself to see
as I will, so mote it be
The ring of fire rose higher and then disappeared. Andrea, still gripping the crystals, closed her eyes.
At first, all she could see was the mist. Dark, suffocating mist. Then she heard footsteps and a figure appeared.
A woman? No. She felt cold as she saw the dark shadow of the figure transform into another.
A wolf. A pure black wolf with red eyes.
The hair at the back of her neck raised when she heard the wolf growl. What do you want, she asked.
The wolf growled, you know. Oh, you know.
Why? She saw the wolf haunch, as if preparing to attack. She was confident with the strength of her circle.
Because the dark devours the light. As I will devour you. With an obscene growl, the wolf leaped.
She took a step back, instinctively raised an arm to protect herself. The wolf’s growl turned into an almost human scream as a triquetra burned on it’s head as it passed through her circle.
But it passed through her circle.
She felt the burn as claws scored her chest and she was thrown to her feet. Summoning all her energy, she called down a blast of lightning.
~~~~~~
“So, yeah. It apparently wasn’t just a vision.”
Manu gritted his teeth as he watched her put ointment on the claw marks. “Apparently.”
“It’s stronger than I thought. I shouldn’t have worked outside.”
“Uh-huh.”
Andrea winced. She knew that tone. “Exactly how mad are you at me?”
“Very. Why the hell did you work alone?”
“Manu, I’m the only witch in town. I don’t exactly have a coven. I’m alone here.”
“You have me. There must have been something I could have done to help you.”
“I’m sorry.” Andrea said quietly. “It was my ego. I thought I could handle it.”
She walked over to where Manu was stiffly sitting and climbed on his lap.
Manu sighed, “You scared me, when you called.”
“I scared me, too.” Andrea leaned her head on his shoulder. “It was strong, Manu. It got through my circle. I felt that it wanted me. It wanted my soul.”
“But it’s not invincible. You marked it, you said.”
Andrea smiled, “oh, yes. I do have that satisfaction.”
“What are you planning to do?”
“Come up with a really strong spell.”
~~~~~~
She prepared for almost two months as she waited for the lunar eclipse. She rarely slept as her dreams got more and more violent. The more the wounds she woke up with grew severe, the more Manu worried about her and tried to convince her to enlist the help of others. She refused.
Every night during the preparation, Manu played the saxophone for her. And everytime he does, Andrea felt more power and less fear. On the night before the eclipse, as both of them lay in the dark, Manu held her just a little bit tighter.
“Don’t worry.”
“The light of my life is facing down, on her own may I just add, a beast who wants to devour her soul. How am I not supposed to worry?”
“Trust me. I know the past couple of months have been hard for you but I need you to trust me.”
“I do trust you. I’ve seen how hard you prepared. I only wish I could do something to help you.”
Andrea propped up on her elbows to look down on him. “Then stay here at the house while I go out there. And believe that I will come back to you.”
~~~~~~
She cast her circle, a wave of her hand creating a thin ring of fire on the earth around her. Another wave caused high winds to funnel around her. A stomp of her foot cracked the earth just outside of the ring of fire, and a flick of a wrist added drizzle to the already raucous wind.
The elements are complete.
As if on cue, as if it was just waiting, the growling began. She squinted her eyes against the dark and saw the black wolf stalking outside of the circle.
She held her hands out and chanted the spell she created. The wolf howled, bunched up it’s shoulders and leaped toward her.
Its scream as it was thrown back pierced the night.
She chanted the spell over and over again as she watched the wolf leap back up again, trying to get to her.
On its fourth attempt, its paw got through. Andrea felt the burning score of its claws run down her arm. And she was afraid.
The spell is not working.
The wolf seemed to sense her despair as it growled louder and leaped up again. This time, its jaw got through and clamped down on Andrea’s leg. It dragged her nearer the edge of the circle before it released her on a high-pitched growl as the fire burned through it’s side.
Helpless and in pain, Andrea blasted out fire from her hands to the wolf. The wolf evaded and leaped clean through the circle. It landed inside, visibly shaken. But inside. With a menacing growl, it stalked around Andrea, ready to pounce.
Energy spent, Andrea closed her eyes. I’m sorry, Manu. I’m sorry, my love.
As she prepared for the attack, she heard it. Through the raging wind and fire she heard the sweet sound of the saxophone.
Hold on, my light, it seemed to say.
The sound filled her soul and, with a sudden burst of clarity, Andrea knew what she needed to do.
She calmed down the wind. She waved out the fire. Just as the wolf leaped toward her, she met it with open arms and held it down.
Divine light, I call upon thee
drown out the darkness and illuminate me
My powers are spent but bid my soul safe
from the darkness’ attempt to devour the light
Calling the guardians of the north and the south
the east and the west guardians unite
the mother goddess, the god of grace, the divine light
drive out this evil that threaten the earth
i call down the light
i call down the light
i call down the light
as i will, so mote it be
The ring of fire rose up once again as a beam of light from the sky enveloped them.
~~~~~~
“Andrea. Wake up now, love.”
Andrea opened her eyes. Smiled. “I heard you playing.”
With a sigh of relief, Manu rested his head on Andrea’s shoulder. “Seemed to be the thing to do at the time.”
Looking around, Andrea saw that she was in her room. And it was morning. “How long had I been asleep?”
“Three days.”
Shocked, she gaped at him. “Three days?!”
“Yeah. I saw the light. Heard a scream. So, I rushed out and just about went crazy when I saw you lying on the ground with deep scratches on your arms and legs. But I figured you wouldn’t want to go to the hospital.”
“No wolf?”
“No wolf.”
Andrea reached out and rested her hand on his cheek. “I thought I’d lost. I was already giving up. Then I heard your music and suddenly I knew what to do.”
“It’s over, then?”
“No.”
Manu looked at her. “What do you mean, no?”
“This is just round one,” Andrea said with certainty. “I hurt it very badly. But it’s not yet gone. It will come back. Probably stronger.”
“When?”
“I don’t know. Maybe in a couple of months, maybe not in this lifetime. But it will come back, I’m sure of it.”
“What do we do?”
“Live. But best be prepared.”
Andrea looked out her window. Her gardens are blooming. The sky is a clear blue. She is in the arms of her love. Everything is right in the world.
For now.

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