Fire! Its Alive!

When I first started writing Farfadel novels, I did not have access to a fireplace. Fire was a fun thing to dabble with via candles on occasion.

But now? Its been two years of living with a wood burning stove, and this winter I’m actively trying to keep it alive and burning to heat our tiny home. And, well, I’ve noticed a large change in how I approach fire.

Maybe its my overactive imagination, but I’ve started enacting rules from my Farfadel novels around my own fire! For example, I do not speak to the fire, unless I am certain what I say cannot be taken out of context to cause damage or silliness. I am cautious, really, not to speak disrespectful things around the fire. You wouldn’t want the Fire Lady to appear, in spirit of course, but I wouldn’t want to piss off the element of fire!

It sounds silly, right? But I’ve really come to see the fire as a living entity within my home. I cajole it quietly some days, trying to get it to burn higher. It burns my hands when I try and feed it without my thick gloves on. I wake up grudgingly to feed it at nighttime, and relay the care thereof with my wife.

Now, I can’t say this has affected my writing that much. But it has brought my writing about fire to be more… alive? For me, at least. It has brought what I thought of as a silly, fun thing, into a real life application!

I dont have great shards of wisdom to share about this. On one hand, I do feel like this brings my novels eerily into a realm of reality im not sure I want them to be. In another, it reminds me cozily of the truth and reality that permeates all things. So… I have no great conclusion. But I wish you well, wherever you are, and hope you are warm and safe 😊 ❤

All Hail the Fire Lady!

She’s the occasional kidnapper, occasional heroine, but more than often always fiery – It’s the Fire Lady of Farfadel!

Why yes, her magnificence has now graced the page in … watercolor? What an odd medium for her!

All joking aside, I’m super pleased with how this painting came out. The Fire Lady is one of my most beloved characters in Farfadel (I would get messages from reader friends like “IT’S THE FIRE LADY!” when they finally met her in the pages), and I feel like I managed to capture her changeling personality in this piece. It may not be perfect, there are certainly technical errors in it, but I am allowing myself to be pleased!

But who is the Fire Lady? As I said, occasional kidnapper, occasional heroine. A friend of mine suggested ‘chaotic neutral’ and I find that suits her perfectly!

In a more technical sense, the Fire Lady is the youngest of the Great Ladies at the time of the ‘Tale of Two Queens’ and the ‘Tale of Adelaide and Shadow’. She was an apprentice to the Great Lady of the Mountains, but caused sufficient havoc to become her own Ladyship. How exactly she gained that title is still disputed, and has yet to be written.

So that means there is much mystery to her still! How did she romance her beloved Oracle? Why is she always fighting with the Fairy chief? And why oh why does she not hand out magical goats any more?

So much mystery! So much left to discover! And I am SO pleased to say that I am working on a trilogy of Farfadelian shenanigans with her -> her eminence the Fire Lady <- at the center of it. She isn’t the main character, but her character arc fuels the plotline like a gasoline trail. But maybe one day I shall write a tale with her as the main character! That would certainly be fun. Maybe a whirlwind romance, a tale that is tugging at my mind lately…

Anyways, I will return to painting portraits of my characters. I wish you all the best! Fellow writers: do you have any chaotic characters? Do your readers like them? Do you?

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Three Part Two

The fire licked up the oil, and I jumped back. Amethyst screamed, and suddenly the chair was a fire pit, flames jumping a foot in height.

“Move!” Sapphire was at my side, drawing us back from the fire. “Get back! There’s water in there!”

“My- my – my,” Amethyst tried to reach at the fire, but Sapphire was herding her away. I took the cue and backed away, ushering everyone else to back away. I didn’t quite get what Sapphire meant by the water thing, until I heard the ‘pow!’ of the mason jar of sacred water breaking.

With a giant hiss, the flames burst three feet higher and out to the sides at the contact with the water. It was an inferno.

The chair collapsed sideways, tipping everything onto the grass in a haphazard pile. Having learned our lesson this time, we all backed away even more. But the theatrics were done with. The chair smoldered, the horrid smell of burning plastic filling the air. Amethyst sobbed, hands pressed over her nose and mouth, eyes spilling over with tears as she watched her shrine material burn.

Ouch. Yeah. Nevermind the emotional attachment, there was hundreds of dollars worth of material that had just gone up in flames. During her own ritual. Ouch, ouch.

Trying not to think of all the emotional disaster, I turned to Amethyst. She was sagging against Sapphire, who looked like she didn’t know what to do, but was still holding up Amethyst.

I whisked over to Amethyst’s side. “Dismiss the fire and air,” I said gently. “That’s going to help. Maybe some things can still be salvaged.”

Like a snowman in hell, but hey, it did the trick. Amethyst drew herself back up and, in a tremulous voice, she said “I dismiss you, element of fire! In perfect love and,” here she sobbed “perfect trust.” And then she seemed to pull herself together a little more, repeating the phrase for the element of air. She detached herself from Sapphire and, pointing out her finger, drew back in the circle. Then, stunned, we all stood and watched the smoldering fires.

“A fire extinguisher,” said the security guard, nodding his head. “That’s what we should have on hand.”

“Definitely,” said Sapphire coolly, in a tone that said ‘thanks, Watson’.

Amethyst peered into the rubble. There was no salvaging those poor statues. They had been plastic, and were now twisted lumps of charred yuck. The white sage was still burning with a tiny flame, the shell beneath it cracked. The pyramid was still alive, at least. So was the polymer clay decorations that had been on the wand, which was completely gone.

“Well,” Crystal put an arm around Amethyst’s shoulders. “At least they weren’t summoned into the statues yet.”

Amethyst nodded, eyes tearing again.

“Wow,” muttered Aurora. “I’ve never heard of this sort of thing happening.”

Sapphire was having none of it. “Oil catching fire? Happens in every kitchen. Now-”

“This is a sign!” wailed Amethyst, drawing herself up to glare at Sapphire. “My statues have been burned!”

“Oil catches fire,” said Sapphire tartly.

Well, that drew scowls from even me. Calling this an accident was, well, a bit like saying someone accidentally slapped you in the face. Sure, it can happen, but…

“Alright, look,” Sapphire held up a hand. “It’s late, and we’re all upset. Let’s go to sleep. Meditate on this, collect your thoughts, and we will see what needs to be done tomorrow, alright? How about that?”

Grim nods were held all around. Slowly, we all began to trickle away. I hung back with several others to walk with Amethyst, murmuring comforting words to her. Crystal did the best of it though, an arm around Amethyst and telling her not to worry. “We’ll sort this out,” she said, as if murder had just been committed.

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Three Part One

The sun was beginning to set. It wasn’t quite hitting the horizon, but it was definitely on its way there. We had about, maximum, an hour of light left. I told myself that we should be well done and over with by that time, but I knew it was a lie. We wouldn’t be done until three am, if Amethyst didn’t insist on doing something else special for that occasion.

It was then that I wondered if I was getting paid enough for all this drama. Seriously, I thought, I’m holding ritual with a bunch of random pagans who aren’t even of my particular faith – it’s like a very strange pagan gathering. A very strange one, I thought, taking a look around and especially at the corgi-turned-witch.

“Merry meet, everyone!” cheered Amethyst as our little troupe of mish-mashed pagans arrived at the fire pit. A fire was already crackling there, a bit crooked and piled precariously high. “Brightest blessings and -” her eyes landed on me, then flicked to Sapphire. “No ritual robes?”

I shrugged and held up my wand. “Brought a stick!” I said playfully.

There was several snorts, as my wand was a bit more than a stick. It was a carefully carved twist of wood with engravings → but it might as well have been a stick for the big frown that it brought up on Amethyst’s face.

“No robes?”

I waved my wand feebly, hoping to redeem myself. But it flopped like cold spaghetti onto the floor. Amethyst looked at me with a frown. “You’re not even wearing black.”

I looked down. Green t-shirt, jeans, brown shoes… Okay, maybe not the witchiest attire but… one look to Sapphire’s gray suit and I figured it couldn’t be all that bad.

“Ritual robes are not necessary for many of the faith,” said Sapphire primly.

“Yes, actually,” said Aurora.

Amethyst’s frown settled on Sapphire, then hopped around. Then, just as she was trying to smile, she looked down. Her eyes landed on the irreverently dressed corgi. She paused. Her eyes looked to Sapphire, who smirked.

Ruffling her shawls around herself, Amethyst cleared her throat. The group began to settle around the fire pit. I tentatively stepped to her side, but that wasn’t good enough. “You go here,” and she positioned me beside her, then began flitting around positioning people. I stared on in abject shock as she had Bjorn stand switch places with the math teacher, then ordered Crystal and Aurora to swap sides of the fire. Then she fretted, frowning at the principal. “I just don’t know where you go,” Amethyst huffed, wringing her hands.

The principal flashed a smile that was a bit nasty and gestured to the earth beneath her. “I go right here.”

The innuendo flew like an unseen dove over Amethyst’s head. “No, no, maybe over here?” And she gestured to beside Bjorn, then while the principal walked over, Amethyst shook her head and pointed a little more to the left. Biting down on her patience visibly, Sapphire stood there, which just so happened to be on the polar end of the circle from where I was standing. Our eyes met and I tried a feeble smile. She raised an eyebrow. My smiled widened.

“Ah! Perfection!” Amethyst crowed as she ran around the circle to come and stand beside me, to my right. “Now!” she turned around and gestured us back. “We need to include the altar! Widen the circle! Bigger circle, everyone!”

Indeed, just behind where I had been standing, outside of the circle of light of the fire, was one of the chairs, covered with a cloth beneath which poked up various things. Curious excitement and morbid realism clashed within me.

On one hand, I was all ‘ooo, flashy wiccan goodies! I wonder what kind of statues she brought!’, but the realistic part of me figured it was going to be badly painted plastic things with pointed breasts and giant phalluses that could knock out a satyr. Good grief, the stuff was probably a glitter fest and hideous.

Amethyst shuffled the chair/altar farther into the light of the circle, getting it dangerously close to the fire.

“Watch the fire,” said Sapphire, ever the grim voice of reason.

“It’s not too close,” said Crystal.

“Just close enough,” beamed Amethyst, rushing around to check its distance. I found it a tad bit close, but hey. It wasn’t catching on fire and it wasn’t my stuff.

Satisfied with her altar, Amethyst drew the cloth back from it, revealing all her goodies. A crooning of oohs and aahs went up from nearly everyone. As a whole, the group leaned forward to look.

There was several statues to say an understatement. There was a small army of statues would be more accurate.

There was a dragon statue. There was three fairies, one sitting on a moon and all with glittering wings. There was a chunky buddha, the lucky one that was laughing and with a bag slung over his shoulder. There was three goddesses on a stand, the triple moon framed behind them. There was a pan with (mercifully) no whack-a-mole penis. There was even a Kali, dancing on her husband’s body with a lolling tongue.

“We have everything we need!” cheered Amethyst, shaking her arms in the air as if this was the first step to victory.

“Did you buy all these today?” asked Sapphire, seemingly in awe of the army.

“Only some, the rest are part of my shrine,” said Amethyst with a cheerful flap of the hand. “Now,” she began pointing at the rest of the shrine things. “We have white sage, a seashell to burn it in, all the pink salt we need,” which apparently, was a whole jar full of the stuff “we have moon water,” a large jar of it “our candle holders for the elements,” which, oh goddess, were each sculpted things with pointy breasts and large phalluses “incense,” because apparently we needed stick incense as well. “The bell,” an ornate thing with leaves and twigs on it. “The sacred oil,” a little glass decanter full of what looked like seasoned olive oil. “a pyramid,” a pink crystal pyramid the size of a palm, because why not? “and!” she drew up the piece de resistance. Which was, just to rub Sapphire the wrong way, two circlets.

“To represent the Goddess and God,” said Amethyst, beaming as she held them up. “No one will be wearing them,” she flashed a smile at the very stoic Sapphire. “But they will remain on the shrine.”

Sapphire flashed back a similarly double meaning smile. Glowing with her victory, Amethyst placed them at the head of the shrine.

Aurora piped up. “You do know you’re not supposed to burn the white sage in the shell, right? It’s offensive to lots of Native American beliefs.”

“Yeah,” I muttered.

Amethyst flashed her beaming smile. “I’ve never heard of that. But White Sage is purifying, so it’ll destroy any negativity from the shell,” and she flipped a hand at Aurora to dismiss that idea.

The principal raised her eyebrows and folded her arms across her chest. It really was too bad she was straight across from me. Her face was just too expressive right now.

But Aurora wasn’t done. “Are you lighting a candle for each of the elements?”

Amethyst nodded as she rearranged everything on the altar a final time.

“So a flame is going to represent the element of water?” asked Aurora slowly.

The principal snorted, badly disguising it as a cough, then she seemingly did choke on herself and coughed. Bjorn was grinning widely.

Amethyst drew herself up, readjusting her shawl on her shoulders primly. “The flames represent their presence, their essence, and their spirit!” Then, waving her arms as if to dispel any more questions, she said “We are going to begin!”

Okay, well, that was a way to start things off.

Everyone shuffled their stance a little wider, as if bracing themselves for what was to come. Deep breaths were had. But that was all before me, in the rest of the circle. Amethyst was already beginning, sweeping her arms out and upwards to the sky, letting out a warbling cry.

Warbling was the word for it. It wasn’t one note, nor was it several clear or distinct ones. It was a battle cry of sorts. Or perhaps a dying wail of all our prides and prejudices giving up the ghost.

Dramatically Amethyst thrust her hands down, as if flicking lots of goo off herself while uplifting her face to the stars that had begun peeking out.

Oh, I insanely regretted being here. I wanted to break circle and leave – would it really be breaking circle if the circle hadn’t been cast yet?

But already, it was too late for that. With a flair of the arm, Amethyst picked up her wand from the side of the altar. Gulp. Here we go.

Like a certain video game character, Amethyst struck a pose, wand up in the air and legs braced for war. In a large arc, she drew the wand down to point towards the ground at our backs. “Above, below, and in the in-betweens, I cast a circle! So MOTE IT BE!” she fairly boomed out the words.

Well, I thought as she began walking around us. She was stern-faced and stiffly holding out her wand to trace the circle in the air about us. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think that if there was wildlife observing us, they’d be startled by our strange social rituals. And, oh my, suppose a Christian was to drive by? It was a good thing the building blocked us from the view of the road…

My mind was racing with humiliated thoughts as Amethyst marched back. She drew the circle closed behind me, drawing the line up and seemingly sewing it shut with her wand. She then turned to face the rest of us, belting out “The circle is cast! As above, so below!”

Pretty sure that wasn’t how that phrase was supposed to be used, but oh well.

“Yay,” muttered someone, unironically.

Amethyst stood there, glaring off into the space between us. The fire crumbled on itself a little, shifting as it tumbled lower.

Amethyst placed her wand back on the altar. Then she selected the white sage, the shell, and drew a lighter from her bra. “Here, hold this in sacred trust,” she said, handing me the shell.

Uh, okay. I held it carefully in both hands, the papers tucked under my arm. On first try, Amethyst lit the white sage bundle. “Thank you,” she said loudly, taking the shell from me and setting the white sage in it.

Well if we had any hard of hearing spirits around, at least they could hear us.

Then, like a video game character having unlocked something, she thrust the sage and shell up into the air. “I cleanse this space, by the power of the ancients, ancestors of all, sacred lineage, and powers within!” She fairly bellowed before beginning to march around behind us, waving around the white sage that was still sitting in the shell.

The sage burned well (always a good sign), the smoke wafting out and out as Amethyst walked around. In fact, there was a lot of sage smoke going around. A heckton. A lot times a lot. The air was turning thick and mist-like when Amethyst finally placed the sage bundle back upon the altar. My nostrils were burning with the smell.

Amethyst straightened beside me, taking in deep breaths with her eyes closed and arms lifted a little at her side. Bjorn sneezed into his sleeve. Drawing a final deep breath, Amethyst opened her eyes. With purpose, one could say, she strode the step to the altar and picked up the incense. With a flick of the lighter, she set the stick a-burnin’. Again, she held it dramatically high, declaring that it was lit in so many words. “By this incense, living proof of fire and air,” say what? Everybody knows fire and air exist? “I cleanse this circle!”

Once more, she marched around, wafting the stick. I began to feel sleepy. And irritated. And bored. I looked down into my papers, and saw that I didn’t have anything to do until the elements, watchtowers, and Goddesses were invoked. Then I had to invoke the phallus-thumping god with flowery words and – oh my. Such words. Much phallus, much thump, as the internet would say.

I was still staring in dismay at these words when Amethyst returned, doing a final waft with the incense. It smelt sweet, but there was a hint of acrid in the air. Maybe it was cheap incense.

Humming loudly, Amethyst then poured a chunk of pink salt into the sacred water. She shook the jar, still humming with her eyes closed. Then, holding it aloft in what I was going to call the ‘hero pose’ she declared that she was, by this water and salt, “living proof of water and earth, consecrating this circle to the sacred work of the Goddess and God!”

Well, that was it. Now she was doing another lap and we were all just standing there. Boredom settled in even harder.

Alright, focus Thunder, I told myself. This doesn’t have to be painful unless you make it! Focus on the numenous! Focus, my friend!

So I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, and tried to feel. But there was that acrid smell in the back of my throat. There was no wind, there was just smoke. I felt irritated, like I was itchy all over. Something just felt wrong. Annoyingly wrong.

Wow, I thought to myself, I’m being such a jerk. I mean, this isn’t my way of doing a circle, but I really shouldn’t be so judgemental, right?

So I made sure to put on a smile when Amethyst finished her last lap, sprinkling salted water in all directions. She beamed at me, then at the circle, and placed the salt back on the altar.

She picked up the oil and struck a two-handed ‘hero pose’. “Oh, great Goddess and God! Bless this oil with your purity of thought and power, so that we may be like you in our essences!”

Then, solemn as she could be, she turned to me, tipping the decanter over with her finger plugged in it. So unsanitary. “Blessed be,” she said emotionally before reaching down and sprinkling my feet with the oil. She then repeated the phrase, sprinkling my knees, my hips, my chest, and my face.

It was a good thing I wasn’t wearing something that I didn’t mind getting olive oil stains on, I thought grouchily in the back of my mind.

On she went, blessing every one in the circle like that. Alright, I may be a stick in the mud, but that blessing was usually reserved for the high priest and high priestess to do to each other.

So guess what? I waited for my turn to bless her, watching attentively as she went around the circle and blessed every single one.

Except when she took her stand by my side, she didn’t hand me the sacred oil. Instead, she blessed herself, murmuring ‘Blessed be’ and sprinkling herself all the way up.

I had to stop myself from gaping. How? Why? What?

Then, beaming as if she was fully enlightened now, Amethyst placed the oil back onto the altar. Alright, okay, I thought. Let’s move on to – I checked my papers – the watchtowers. Good gods I was bored.

Of course, thinking you are bored in a ritual is just asking for trouble, right? Spirits love to play tricks and we seemed like the perfect victims.

As she reached for a candleholder, Amethyst knocked over the sacred oil with her arm. Splat! Oil splattered over the altar, dousing the Kali statue and beginning to pour out onto the chair.

“Oops!” Amethyst snatched up the bottle, chuckling to herself. “Guess they wanted a blessing too!” and she set the oil bottle upright. Then, smiling to herself, she picked up the candleholder.

It was painted with white swirls on a black background, with the silhouette of a hunky man on it. Perched atop it all was a tall candle.

Clearing her throat, Amethyst picked up her papers that she had folded into a corner of the altar. I groaned inside, thinking that if there was enough of an incantation that she needed to read it, we’d be here a while.

And I was right.

“oh, element of air! Brilliance of the mind, wind of the sky,

Oh, element of intellect! Element of the high mountains that caress the sky,”

I groaned inside, annoyed and so annoyed. Just annoyed. On and on Amethyst waxed, invoking the element until she dramatically lit the candle, culminating with a “I summon you!”

Oh, finally, I thought as she set that candle holder back onto the altar in the small puddle of oil that was collected there. Now only three times more of that to go. Ughhhh.

Amethyst picked up the next candleholder, which was fire, symbolized by bright orange flames painted all over the candleholder, which was in the shape of another hunky man. And then, lighter in one hand and candleholder in the other, the invocation began.

I sighed. Alright, I did it. I really, really, was fed up. I was tired, sick of this, and was it me or that acrid smell was just getting worse? What element of air had she invoked?

A wind picked up, wafting the fire towards us. The smell got worse, like the smell of burning plastic –

OH SHIT! I thought, as something clicked into place in my head and I stared at the altar chair, very much a plastic lawn chair coated in oil next to a fire that was blowing towards it.

Okay, stay calm, I thought. Just pull the chair away from the fire.

So I stepped towards the fire just as Amethyst finished her schpiel and lit the candle. “What are you doing?” asked Amethyst, still using her boombox voice mode.

“Just pulling this away from the fire,” I muttered as I tried to drag it back. But it wouldn’t drag. And just then, Amethyst set the candle of fire onto the altar.

I’mma go out there and say that, ritually speaking, it was a bad move. She set the element of fire onto the almost burning chair. What could go wrong?

Fwoosh. The tip of the chair, which I suppose had been smoldering until then (hence the horrible acrid smell), officially caught fire.

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter One, Part Two

The wind was cool as we stepped out of the building. The principal had been right, we couldn’t miss the fire pit unless we faced the completely wrong direction. It was the only thing out here, besides the sloping field. Actually, we couldn’t see the fire pit, more like we saw the people sitting around it.

We walked over, Crystal eagerly waving at everyone and Aurora holding a starkly gothic face on. I just walked over, putting on my best party-going smile and, discreetly, beginning to count everyone.

It was when we reached the circle, everyone shuffling aside and saying hi, that I finished the count. We were thirteen. Seriously? Thirteen, unless someone was missing.

But the principal was here, sitting on a wooden chair with a very straight expression on. The security guard was here. There was a burly man who looked like a viking, who had obviously trimmed his beard to be exactly one foot in length. Beside him stood a portly woman who radiated through black shawls and glistening silver ornaments. A dark-skinned woman who looked ready to launch a soulful CD of some wiccany sort shook my hand and smiled. Oh, and there was no fire.

I mean, there was a pile of wood and everything there to light it in the middle of a brick pit, but it wasn’t burning.

The principal clapped her hands. “Everyone, please take a seat.”

I looked around for a seat. I sat. Slowly, chattering loudly, the portly woman moseyed over to a chair. Others sat, still chattering. It took Crystal a run-around to finally get to the last chair. One look to the principal, and I could see she wasn’t pleased.

But she didn’t bite any heads off. “Everyone,” she said, and the chattering slowed, petering out until it was just Crystal giggling. The principal waited. Crystal stopped giggling to grin expectantly.

The principal did not grin. She looked at the fire pit as if it was speaking to her (was it possessed?) and she seemed deep in thought. Then, composed, she looked at us.

My skin crawled with suspense. She took a breath and spoke with certitude. “Welcome to Circlet School. You are the staff, all of it.”

So there was really thirteen of us!

“I expect you all to get along, but to also maintain a level of professional demeanor within and without the school. Being the first Wiccan school, we will be under intense scrutiny. There will be rumors, there will be angry parents, and there will be drama. As mentioned in your contract, you are not to speak with any member of the press about what happens here. This includes pagan institutions as well. Even your covens. Rumors run fast, and I don’t want to hear about one of your sex lives at the next pagan moot. Is that clear?”

The circle nodded, laughed a little, and nodded some more. I felt an oppressive presence taking place. I couldn’t help but glance over my shoulder at the building behind us. It looked angry, if a building could be such a thing. A cold wind brushed up, rustling everything.

“Now,” the principal continued, serious as could be. “Religion is going to be a large part of your school life. Every day will begin with a morning guided meditation ritual and prayers, every meal will be led by a blessing of thanks, and every class will begin with a meditation. There is an evening ritual of guided meditation every night. Sunday contains theology courses, philosophical discussions, and time for personal rituals. As such, I expect you all to be on exemplary spiritual behavior and prepared to discuss spirituality with your students whenever they feel the need. You are not all Wiccan, and you may answer spiritual questions with your own beliefs, if the students ask for it. If not, you are to reference the beliefs as laid out in our theology courses. A copy has been sent to all of your emails. Is that clear?”

The circle nodded, much more serious now. The principal seemed satisfied. Did she relax a little? Just a little? “Are there any questions?” she asked.

The chubby woman held up a hand with a cheery smile. “When we lead these rituals, will we be allowed to wear our ritual gear?”

The principal’s gaze turned steely. “Circlets, belts of color, and reconstructionist clothing are all forbidden, as well as medals and necklaces that proclaim a rank or other. Aggressive magical talismans are also forbidden. Nudity is also forbidden. Attempts at invoking deities and attire that would suggest one has invoked a deity are also forbidden.”

There was a silence. The woman seemed to tremble a little. She drew herself up, tucking her shawls tighter around herself. “But circlets are symbols of the Goddess!”

“And are absolutely unnecessary to our means and end,” said the principal flatly. “You may wear whatever you wish to for your own private rituals, in your rooms. Any other questions?”

More silence. The principal raised her eyebrows. “Well then,” and she picked up a file folder from the grass by her chair. She stood, motioning with a flick of the fingers for us all to rise. “We will begin our first ritual then.”

Ah hah! A ritual! A tremble of excitement went through all thirteen of us. A ritual! And we were exactly thirteen! Perfection!

The principal rose to her feet, flicking her fingers to order the rest of us up. We stood, and more than one of us were grinning. The viking dude stroked his beard like it was a good luck charm. I couldn’t help but grin. What were we going to do? Would she be leading?

Of course she was leading, now that I thought back on it. But then, I wasn’t sure. It was odd for me to imagine someone in a suit leading a ritual or performing the Great Rite, no less doing the quarter calls.

As we stood, she drew several pieces of paper from the file folder. “We need someone to invoke air,” she said dryly.

“Oh!” the portly woman chirped up, waving a hand up in the air. “That’s my element!”

The paper was passed around to her. Fire, water, and earth were called out. I pointedly volunteered for none. I was going to just observe and shut my mouth.

The principal looked around, then up to the sky. She raised her arms, and silence fell. She bowed her head, eyes closed, and we held our breaths. Magic was about to happen!

Now, I might be a Gardenerian, but I’m not going to spit on others’ magic as not being ‘magic enough’. I still felt my hairs raise that moment, and was sure that something was about to go down, even if it wasn’t in the Gardenerian way.

The principal opened her eyes. “I summon the spirits of the God and Goddess to be here with us now. Cleanse this space, make it pure and beautiful.”

Summoning first? Alright.

“I ask each of you to summon your spirits of helping, those who aid you in your teaching, to be here with us now.”

Many closed their eyes. I left mine open, staring down at the grass. In my mind, I repeated a rhyme I’d concocted long ago to an ancestor, to ask them for their strength and bravery and speaking skills with teaching.

A familiar presence enveloped me, and yet, I sensed they were not pleased. Maybe because we had no offerings at the ready?

The principal had lowered her arms. “Elements!” she demanded. “Do the callings, beginning with the east.”

“East! Element! Of intelligence! Of Air! May this space be your home! May your presence be our guiding thoughts. Come here, and stay with us now!” The woman happily recited, definitely adding that many exclamation marks.

The other elements were called in similar words but different manners, some more somber than others. The principal was poised, her eyes glued to each one who recited as if searching for flaws.

Once the elements were called, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, her hands raised slightly at her sides. The wind blew over us, crisp and cool. My hairs raised and –

“Are we doing a circle at all?” piped up the chubby woman in the shawls.

The principal’s eyes snapped open. Were this an anime, she would have jumped into the air and slammed down a fist upon the insolent speaker.

As this was not an anime, the speaker kept going, gesturing widely so her shawls swished and swept around her. “I just – I feel the lack of a circle. We are losing energy and I just have this urge to cast one and I feel as if the spirits are speaking and-”

The principal’s face said so much, in such a succinct glare. It speared the woman- and went right through her, who was oblivious to it all.

“You know, in my coven we usually cast the circle first, just so that this sort of energy loss doesn’t occur. We usually do a triple casting with the salt-”

“We are not casting a circle,” said the principal angrily. “We do not need one.” She stretched out an arm, gesturing to the fields. “This whole land has already been consecrated.”

In the back of my mind, I wondered if she really had walked around the whole property, sprinkling salt and water and incense all around. Actually, probably.

The viking loudly cleared his throat, looking pointedly at the outraged woman (the one in the shawls).

“But!” she protested.

“We shall continue,” said the principal. “Now,”

The shawled woman sighed loudly, shaking her head.

The principal crouched down, drawing a fire lighter from the grass. She began murmuring an invocation as she clicked the lighter on.

Whoosh! Fire leaped up, dancing at the paper that had been neatly tucked away beneath the wood.

The principal rose, smiling in a grim sort of way. “Now,” she said, drawing the file folder to herself. “We are going to meditate, asking the Goddess and God to clear away any and all obstacles that will block us from success. Close your eyes.”

I closed my eyes in a snap. The principal’s voice turned into a gentler version of itself, guiding us through a breathing exercise and into a journey within.

I was surprised to feel myself sink within easily. I heard the crackle of the fire dimly as we journeyed to an inner space where we reflected on our paths with mirrors, seeing in them any and all obstacles.

It was about then that I saw a black shape in one of the mirrors. It was a piece of the building, and it jolted me out of the meditation.

My eyes opened and I looked around. Everyone else had their eyes closed, including the principal. I quickly closed mine again.

Again, the image of the window came to me, reflected in the mirror.

Strange, I thought. But okay.

Accepting it, I focused on the principal’s voice as she guided us to draw these obstacles out of our mind and into our hands, to cast them out to the fire to destroy.

Snap! Once more I saw the window.

Fucking window, I couldn’t help think.

Then, we went through a visualization of drawing energy from the earth and the fire and the air and the nearby pond, balancing ourselves with these elements and the presence of the Goddess and God. It was lovely, but I remember it hazily, so smoothly it went.

Once we were all balanced and had absorbed so much divine energy, she drew us back out to sit on the earth and ground.

After a few moments of more deep breathing and kneading the earth with our feet and hands, the principal ordered all eyes open.

“Now,” the principal clapped her hands. “Cakes and ale, everybody. While eating, we can talk about what we saw in the meditation.”

I couldn’t help but grin. Food!

At least I wasn’t the only one grinning. One lady, who was absolutely scrawny and turned out to be the cook, stood and began directing us all to the kitchen’s hall at the end of the building. There we discovered with pleasure that she had made bunches of sandwiches and that there was juice.

Once we were all back around the fire, sandwiches and glasses of juice in hand, we sat back down in our chairs.

“So,” the principal turned to the unfortunate who was standing by her left side. “Did you see anything particular in the meditation?”

This unfortunate happened to be Crystal. Crystal gulped down her mouthful. “I saw so much in the mirrors.” Her eyes turned round. “My self consciousness, how I’m so shy. You know?”

The principal nodded, chewing thoughtfully while still staring like a hawk.

Around the circle we went, everyone sharing what they saw. Insecurities, strange shapes, it all got appropriate humms and hawws from the principal.

When it was my turn I wasn’t sure what to say. But, in the spirit of being truthful in circle (even though this wasn’t quite an official circle), I mumbled. “I saw a window.”

“A window?” the principal asked.

I nodded, pointing over my shoulder at the building. “From that building. Like the building was angry.”

The principal nodded. “That could be.” And she took a sip of her juice. Something about the action seemed defensive.

I paused, mind scurrying. “Does anyone else get a weird vibe from that building? Or is it just me?”

The principal’s eyes darted around as she lowered her cup.

“Buildings carry so much memories!” the woman in the shawls fairly exploded with eagerness. “It all depends on what has been there before and what kind of measures have been taken – I’m sure you’ve already cleansed and blessed everything?”

“Of course,” said the principal into her cup.

I frowned. “I get a weird vibe too,” said Aurora abruptly.

“It all depends on the history-”

“It was a nunnery,” said the principal. “A high school as well. It’s been cleansed.”

“Oh,” I said. That couldn’t be so bad. Maybe it was just the leftover Christian vibes that were unhappy at our activities.

Around the circle we went again, the shawled lady sharing how she felt her weight was going to be an issue, and the viking dude saying that he was feeling particularly inspired by his ancestors. Finally, it came time for the principal to share.

She stared into the fire deeply, cup at her lips.

“What did you see?” asked the woman with the shawls a little savagely (I really had to ask her name).

The principal stared some more into the fire. Her shoulders sank in a sigh. “Children. Very unhappy children.” She set her cup aside on her chair’s arm. “Nuns haven’t been very nice teachers, historically speaking.”

The shawled woman gasped, leaning forward as if to absorb all this drama.

I couldn’t help it. “As long as we’re not on a native burial ground, I think we’ll be fine,” I joked, trying to dispel the thick suspense in the air.

The principal glared at me. “It was a residential school.”

My stomach vanished into a pit of doom. My jaw fell open. The principal scowled at me, as if it was my fault that the secret was now out.

“What’s a residential school?” someone asked.

“It was when the Canadian government took a bunch of native children away from their parents and tried to educate the ‘native’ out of them in boarding schools,” murmured the viking.

There was gasps all around.

“Did any of the children die?” squealed the woman with the shawls.

The principal’s eyes narrowed. “Well of course they did. Many committed suicide.”

There was a horrified silence. “So this place is haunted?” asked Crystal with a nervous giggle.

The principal drained her cup. Then, matter of factly, she said “Of course it is.” She looked carefully around the circle. “I’m sure you can all deal with that. You’re spiritual people.”

Judging by our silence and the pit in my stomach, no. No, we were not prepared to deal with that.

The principal smiled fakely. “Put up your wards, bless your rooms, and everything will be fine. If anything gets out of hand, we will do ritual.”

The Great One- Character Reveal!

adelaide sketch.jpeg

I don’t want to get ahead of my story here, as I’m not sure if they’ve featured in what I’ve shared on this blog yet, but I finally drew a picture of them that I like! I’m so excited that  had to share it!

This character, also known as ‘The Great One’ is the baddest of all the badasses in Farfadel. They totally kick butt. And I don’t like them because of their power, but because of how they grow with their power. They learn to tear down their own blockages and move on, growing ever more.

Which is probably why I’ve made ‘The Great One’ a recurring character in many of my Farfadel novels. Considering that I’m sitting on a total of four unfinished Farfadel  novels, that’s a lot of echoing for one character. But hey- they deserve it!

Now I’m not telling you who they are… I’m going to let you stew on that mystery for a moment or two. But suffice to know that they’re an important character. If you can guess who the character is, you uh, get a virtual cookie? Let me know what you think!