The high summer sun shone fiercely overhead, its brilliant rays of light penetrating deep into the dense canopy of trees. Ariadne touched her crystal amulet to her lips and then to her forehead, the familiar spell tumbling almost silently off of her tongue. In front of her, the river sparkled with the bright reflections of light, which twinkled like diamonds in the merry current as it pushed forward downstream.
“For luck,” she whispered quietly, dipping a polished aventurine stone into the water. “And favor.” She reached down to the next stone in the pile, her hand hovering over them, looking for the right one to choose. “For…” She closed her eyes, listening to what the gemstones were telling her, and felt the flare of red under her palm. It brought a smile to her lips.
“Passion, yes, garnet, I feel you there.” She held it under the virgin waters, feeling the power that flowed into the stone and both into and out of her as she poised it there.
“Garnets are always demanding,” said a voice from behind her. “Like a certain witch I know.”
Without opening her eyes, her smile grew, and she could feel that he was reciprocating it. “Ishmael,” she whispered. Careful not to displace the stones, she turned to face him.
Hair dark as a raven’s wing and eyes red as a ruby, he stared back at her knowingly.
“How is it I knew you’d be here, playing with some rocks instead of coming to the coven meet?” He took a few steps forward until the tips of his boots met the playful splash of the river’s edge.
“Maybe because you know how I feel about the meets,” she said, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “Magic is wonderful and deep. To think it dangerous is foolish. I do not agree with their teachings. Their… restrictions.”
Ishmael knelt and touched the water with his hands, issuing a quiet greeting of his own. During the winter months the water froze over, but in late spring, it ran merrily down the hills toward the valley, and carried with it the drippings from the ice. Pure, unsullied virgin waters… perfect for cleansings and blessings. The water itself was a magical property, and Ariadne wanted to get in some time alone before every other witch came to do the same. Seeing as she was the only one who regarded all of the old Sabbaths and the only one who didn’t attend the meets, she knew that it would be the perfect time to cleanse her stones of the year’s troubles. Her luck, especially, had been running exceptionally low. As if reading her thoughts, Ishmael looked behind him.
“They’ll all be here soon, I’m sure,” he said with a sigh. “I suppose this is a better use of time than hearing what spells have been outlawed…” His voice was light, but it still worried Ariadne.
There had been many spells and arcane books that had been done away with lately. In fact, more seemed to disappear all the time, much to the chagrin of the witches and warlocks that used them. It enraged her to think of it.
A bunch of old men who don’t even keep the old Sabbaths anymore are telling us what we can and can’t practice? The witches of Myangamar’s day wouldn’t have stood for this, but here we are, meekly going along with whatever they say.
“Which parts of our heritage did they tell us to do away with today?” she demanded out loud. Her auburn hair whipped angrily in the wind that rose to match her temper, and the blue of her eyes mirrored that of the cloudless skies above. She knew that if her anger grew too great, there could be a sudden downpour. She fought to keep her mood under control.
Ishmael squirmed as he stood to his feet again. She put the garnet back in her pile, feeling its ardor pouring into her, feeding her fiery responses. Instead, she picked up the tourmaline, hoping it would help her understand the decisions of their coven’s leaders. Based on Ishmael’s behavior, she knew she’d need it.
“They… they want the Arcana Mortem,” he said uneasily.
Fury poured through her, and above, the cloudless sky suddenly darkened, angry storm clouds rushing in to answer her unconscious call.
“My mother’s book?” she seethed. “They want my mother’s book?”
Ishmael nodded miserably. “They’re calling for any of the major Arcana. Even hedge witch Isshiel had to turn in her Arcana Natura. We can’t be too careful though, Ari… with unrest between humans and our kind growing, we just need to play it safe.”
“Please don’t tell me they sent you to get it,” Ariadne pleaded. Above them, lightning rippled across the sky.
“Enough, Ariadne, don’t drench us like last time. They asked me to get it, but I refused. I would never do that to you.” He held out his hands and she rushed headlong into his embrace, her skirts held fast above the river waters in one hand.