Now on Tapas!

I just wanted to pop in real quick and let y’all know that I have decided to repost at least the beginning of my novels to Tapas! This way readers can get a nice taste of the novel without having to buy them 🙂 Follow the link HERE to read the Tale of Adelaide and Shadow on Tapas!

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Six, Part Two

The next morning, I woke before any alarms went off. For a moment, I just lay in bed, wondering where the hell I was. Then, when I remembered where I was, I wondered what was about to go wrong. I sat up, half expecting an alarm, a whack across the head, or some evil spirit to go boo.

Nothing of the sort. I was a clear half an hour before anyone else was to wake, and so I cautiously crawled from bed. Seeing that I had the time, I sat down for some meditation and to finish my witch’s ladder. Again, nothing bad happened. Sure, I was a tad sleepy, but nothing was catching fire.

Once my ladder and meditation was done, I felt refreshed and happy. Today was going to be a good day it seemed. I slunk away to an early shower just as the alarms started going off and people began waking.

As I left the showers I ran into Bjorn. “You’re up early,” he said gruffly, his breath smelling like a dragon’s butt. I nodded with a smile. He grinned. “And you remembered the hair this time. No conditioner.”

I sighed. Was I going to be known as ‘the dude who forgot the conditioner’? But I shrugged and went on my way. It was nothing, really. Not enough to make my day suck.

Once more in my room, I found myself relaxing. Maybe not everything was destined to explode or catch fire in this place. Maybe, just maybe, the ritual had worked and today was going to go harmlessly.

Yes, I thought that maybe things would go smoothly.

Breakfast was a gentle affair. Sapphire told everyone that the rest of the staff were arriving this morning, and that we had better memorize school rules in order to enforce them. To which Amethyst hung her head miserably and nodded to her toasts.

To lighten the mood, Crystal lifted a foot on the other side of the bench she was sitting on. “I remember one!” she said, pointing to her shoe.

“Excellent,” said Sapphire with a wisp of a smile.

There really was nothing more to note about that breakfast. Coffee was had, Cheryl left early for a smoke (strictly off campus, as smoking was not permitted on school grounds – which led me to wonder what she had been doing smoking on the lawn last night). Bjorn started raving about a new book he was reading, and Paulette was happily announcing that she was all ready for the students to arrive.

Cool, cool. All was good. Groovy. Swimmingly. I was half-way back to my room to finish class prep work when an email dinged in on my phone.

It was from the principal, succinctly reminding the staff to have student greeting procedures memorized and be ready to greet and guide the parents tomorrow.

I froze, a hand on my doorknob. We were greeting the parents and new students? Ugh. Somehow this had flown over my head, because apparently this was the second email she had sent on the topic.

Okay, okay, that didn’t mean that today was going to shit. That just meant I had more than enough work to do. Okay, I could manage this.

I was seated at my desk and mid-way to lighting some incense to help me concentrate when I remembered last nights fiasco, and the no-incense rule. Right.

Dumping that incense into the trash (just so I wouldn’t be tempted to light it later), I sat down and decided to work, incense-less.

The day crawled by. I finished my course work by noon and was attacking the emails about greeting the students when ding! My alarm went off to notify me about lunch. Groan. With one final skim-through of the page I was reading, I was just about to get up when a knock was heard at my door. Ah?

Part of me hoped it was Sapphire. Part of me dreaded it being Sapphire, because that would probably mean I was in trouble.

But it was Paulette. “Hi!” she said, waving nervously. “Just reminding you that it’s lunchtime. In case you were too busy.”

“Oh, thanks,” I said, jangling my keys out of my pocket. “Uh, I was just going.”

“Oh, great!” she said with that nervous pep that anxious people have when they enter social situations.

We walked quietly to the lunch hall. As we entered it, Paulette piped up again. “The new teachers should be here by now. Have you seen them?”

“No,” I said, just as I laid eyes on them.

They were with Sapphire, standing before the cafeteria, talking. They all just looked so professional together. There was Sapphire in her black suit that was, really, just amazing on her. She looked like an FBI agent here to kick ass and steal your identity or something.

There was a woman who was short and portly, with a big grin and a calm aura. She was dressed in a button up shirt and a pair of jeans. Her skin was olive and she had soft eyes.

Then, there was ‘her’. She had dark purple hair that cascaded down her shoulders in perfect curls. She was curvy and sculpted in her suit. She was pale, in a sort of Irish way. Beside her, Sapphire’s darker hues came out.

Wow, I thought, crushing on both of them so hard I almost missed the last step that descended into the hall. I didn’t even notice the two other dudes, security guards both of them, until I was passing them.

“Oh, this is Thunder and Paulette,” said Sapphire, gesturing to us as we slid up to the group. “This is Amanda,” she said, gesturing to the purple – haired woman.

What was it with me and women in suits? Gorgeous. Heart-stopping. She looked at me like I was an interesting speck of dirt. I instantly wanted to be the dirt on her shoe.

“Hi,” I said robotically, lifting a hand.

“Hi!” said Paulette at my side excitedly.

Amanda was our school psychologist. The nurse was named Phoenix. The security dudes were named Fred and Jason. One of them had a Thor’s hammer tattoo on his beefy forearm, and the other didn’t. That was how I was going to tell them apart.

“Food!” barked Cheryl, lifting up the grid that closed the cafeteria to indicate it was closed.

“I hope you’re going to be more charming when the students arrive,” said Sapphire staunchly as we turned to the food.

“Abracadabra! Food! That charmin’ enough?” sniggered Cheryl as she began to hand out frilly sandwiches.

Sapphire gave her a ‘look’ and Cheryl swallowed that comment. “I’ll try ma’am,” she said to her sandwiches.

“Good,” said Sapphire tartly. Then she took her tray and marched away to the staff’s usual table.

The rest of the staff arrived in a burst. There was Amethyst and Maria who were chatting up a storm, and who immediately grouped around the newcomers like they were fresh coffee.

“I just love your hair,” said Amethyst, gushing.

“Thank you,” said Amanda, completely composed, as if she was used to people gushing over her all the time.

“You look so professional,” said Maria.

“That’s because I am a professional,” said Amanda tartly.

Okay, maybe I liked her a little less now. Which was a good thing anyways. I didn’t need to crush dramatically on every woman around here in a suit.

So I sat down and hoped to finish lunch, get the hell away from all this sexiness, and bottle back up inside my room.

“So what kind of Wiccan are you?” Ivy was asking Amanda as they sat down with the rest of everyone around the table.

“I’m not Wiccan,” Amanda said scornfully. “I’m a reconstructionist. Kemetic.”

“Orthodoxy?” I hear Aurora ask.

“No, independent,” said Amanda tartly. “I don’t take well to being told who my deities are, and that’s part of entering into the Kemetic Orthodoxy.”

There were agreeable hums from around the table. “Well!” exclaimed Amethyst. “I’m not one for structure either. I like things to be free, creative, and whimsical!”

“Oh, I like structure,” said Amanda coolly. “I just like choice too.”

Amethyst was baffled. Amanda was smug. I was starting to think that Amanda was secretly a jerk. Bjorn leaned forward, trying his hand at the newcomer. “Have you heard that this place is haunted? It was a residential school?”

“Oh?” asked Amanda, wholly undisturbed.

“I had it cleansed by a Mohawk shaman,” said Sapphire calmly, eating away primly.

“And it wasn’t enough?” asked Amanda.

“Oh no it wasn’t!” gushed Amethyst. “The vibe was awful! I tried to do a cleansing ritual but it was too powerful – my altar caught fire!”

Amanda’s eyebrows rose. “It was too close to the fire,” muttered Sapphire as an explanation.

“It ex-ploded!” enunciated Amethyst tearily. “All my statues! Gone!”

“Oh,” said Amanda quietly. “That is awful.”

“Yes,” sniffled Amethyst dramatically before saying mournfully. “So we had to bring in an expert. We brought in Madame Hoffier.”

“Who?” asked Amanda.

“A local,” said Paulette with a squeak.

“Oh,” said Amanda, as if locals were cheap and useless. My dislike for her grew by ten percent. I tried to tune out the conversation, but kept being dragged in by quips of this and that. As it turned out, Amanda was some sort of big-wig psychologist who was speaking at this and that conference. She name-dropped a few psychologists she was presenting with, and I guessed it was supposed to be impressive, but it was just getting on my nerves.

I was clearing up my tray quickly, trying to escape, when Paulette flashed me a smile. “Back to getting ready?” she asked.

“Ready for what?” asked Amanda as if she was automatically included in all conversations.

“The apocalypse,” I said as a joke, but it came out serious.

“Oh, so you’re a christian witch?” asked Amanda, laying those professional eyes on me.

Sapphire looked at me at the same time. The whole table looked at me. Amethyst gasped in awe, as if I was a rare specimen.

“Uh, no I, don’t talk about my personal beliefs,” I stumbled, trying to dig my way out of that hole. But it was too late. Like tomato sauce on a white shirt, I was stained now by the touch of Christianity.

“Oh? Why is that?” asked Amanda, sipping her coffee with such a professional air that it was grating.

“I thought you were Gardnerian,” asked Crystal curiously.

Sapphire cleared her throat. “No one is under duress to talk about their beliefs.”

I flashed Sapphire a smile, turning to drop off my tray and leave. As I walked away I heard Amethyst whisper “He says ‘Jesus’ all the time!”

Oh, great, I thought as I walked out of the hall. Now I’m the Christian witch in a group of traditionalists. Great.

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Six, Part One

That supper, after the madame left, everyone waxed on about how the ritual had been so ground-shaking. Everyone meaning Amethyst, Paulette, and Crystal, that is. Paulette, who had never attended a ritual before, was blown out of her waters.

Eyes wide, Paulette gasped for the umpteenth time that “There was just so much energy!”

“I told you she was good,” gloated Amethyst, digging happily into her shepherd’s pie.

“I felt so much!” continued Paulette, eyes about to pop out of her head.

“It was such an experience,” gloated Amethyst, obviously so pleased with herself.

Sapphire cleared her throat. “So are we all pleased? No more worries?”

“Oh, the air feels so much better! Everything is fresher! It’s just – cleansed!” said Amethyst, gesturing grandiosely and almost whacking Cheryl on the back of the head.

“Oh yes,” nodded Crystal around a mouthful. “I think the place is cleansed.”

Sapphire nodded, smiling patiently as Crystal and Paulette raved on some more. Then, Bjorn popped up a word.

“I think we can get started on moving along,” he said with a nod. “Nothin’ bad should be coming down the pipes now.”

I knocked firmly on the wooden table. “Knock on wood,” I muttered savagely as everyone stared at me.

“Well! That’s good,” said Sapphire with a dry edge to her words. “Tomorrow the last of our staff arrives. Then the next day, our students. I trust you will all be ready.”

Crystal looked like she was facing down an angry boar. Amethyst looked like she’d just pooped herself.

Paulette was nodding along happily. Trust the math teacher to have everything organized already.

“I think with tomorrow, we should be able to get everything in order,” I said with a nod.

“Yeah,” said Amethyst with a waver in her voice.

Sapphire nodded like a snake staring down a very squeaky mouse. The mouse was Amethyst in this case, and she was busily not looking at Sapphire in favor of her plate.

“Well,” said Bjorn, clapping his massive hands together. “I am so glad not to be a teacher!” and then he belly laughed. Ivy high-fived with him and then with the security guard.

Yeah, well. Us teachers all looked like we’d been kicked in the teeth. Just – ugh. I was sure that if tomorrow was a good work day, I could tie up all my loose ends and get my laundry done and do a private ritual for success. Provided no more shenanigans occur, of course.

Of course, right? What could go wrong? Now that the place was ‘cleansed’ there was nothing for us to worry about, right?

I didn’t believe that for one hoot, as my grandma would say. I was going to do my own protection ritual tonight, and wear an amulet or something. We’d see where the spirit moved me, but I was definitely doing something.

So it was that after supper, I locked myself in my room and took a deep breath. I opted against doing my rituals in the nude, seeing as there was still no curtain over that glaring window, and I didn’t want to flash the security guard.

I cast my circle, did my invocations, and was sitting cross-legged on the floor before my altar, braiding a witch’s ladder for protection when the fire alarm went off.

My head popped up, and I realized that this was either a drill, or… something had caught fire. Again with the fire element?

Tucking my half braided ladder into my pocket, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t in the nude for this.

In the hallway, the staff were poking their heads out of their rooms. A twinge of white sage smell wove through the air, and I had a good idea what was going on. Someone was burning sage, and it set off the fire alarm. Typical.

Sapphire marched down the hallway, fire glinting in her eyes. “Everyone out,” she ordered coolly as she strode down the hallway. She shooed everyone and marched towards the only door that was still closed. “Get out-” she was saying as she pulled the door open.

A giant cloud of black smoke erupted over her as she pulled it open.

“Help!” came Amethyst’s cry. “It’s on fire!”

Sapphire yanked a fire extinguisher off the wall that just so happened to be there. Then she pulled the pin and hosed down the room. From inside the room there was a sound of Amethyst coughing and spluttering. Sapphire marched into the room, still hosing away.

Without thinking, I found myself by the doorway and poking my head into the smoke-filled room.

The bed was completely covered in white mousse. Sapphire was pulling it away from the wall and checking the wall for fire, hosing down tiny flames that were on the floor. Amethyst stood to the side, coughing and waving her hands before herself.

“I was just trying to sage the room!” she wailed to us, the cluster of onlookers who had certainly not evacuated.

Sapphire turned. “Didn’t I say to get out?”

I snapped back like I’d whacked. Bjorn began to usher us all out, Amethyst tearfully joining us.

And that was how we spent that evening out on the grass, sitting around while the firemen (who were alerted by the fire alarm) poked around the building.

“I was just sageing my room,” sobbed Amethyst for the umpteenth time. We were all sitting on the grass, whacking at mosquitoes, and the mood was generally low.

“It’s against the rules to sage inside,” I muttered under my breath as I pulled out my witch’s ladder and began to finish braiding it.

“How did you know?” wailed Amethyst at me while Crystal rubbed her shoulders.

“It was written in one of those emails about all the rules,” I said tartly, trying not to be bitter but, really, I was pissed. “Burning incense indoors was specifically prohibited. Wax melts were suggested as a solution.”

Amethyst’s mouth flapped, and she burst into tears. “It’s okay,” soothed Crystal. “You didn’t know.”

I raised my eyebrows. Aurora raised her eyebrows. Paulette raised her eyebrows, sucking in a breath. Cheryl sucked on a cigarette and huffed out smoke. “She’s gonna eat you alive, kiddo,” she said to Amethyst.

I nodded, flinching at the same time. Yeah. Sapphire must be downright pissed.

Except when the firemen were leaving, Sapphire marched over to us. “Everyone back inside,” she said, sounding exhausted and frustrated. “It’s safe. It only touched the surface of the walls, didn’t get inside.”

Everyone nodded and began to rise up. My knees popped and I was up. Amethyst had her head down and looked like a kid trying to sneak past the adult. I was expecting Sapphire to bark at her, to take her aside and lecture her angrily. Except that wasn’t the case.

“Amethyst, a word please,” said Sapphire with a sigh.

Amethyst nodded tearily. The rest of us slunk away. While we walked, I caught snippets of sounds on the wind, and none of it sounded harsh. In fact, Sapphire just sounded tired.

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Four Part Two

“Next,” Sapphire nodded to the security guard, who was at my other side.

“Well,” he said, leaning back and puffing himself up. “I did say that a fire extinguisher should have been nearby, and I’m going to repeat that. And I think it’s a downright bad sign for an altar to go up in flames-”

And I just tuned it out after that. He wheedled on and on, saying how safety should always come first and not actually sounding sad or thoughtful at all. After five minutes, he finished with “yeah, safety.” And then he smiled as if he’d actually said something.

Next was the phys ed teacher, Maria. “You know, I’ve got native ancestry,” she said boldly. “Not sure from which tribe, but definitely in there somewhere, way back where.”

Always a good start to anything. Claim ancestry to back up your claim.

“I think it was the shell that did it,” Maria continued. “You’re not supposed to burn it in a shell. It’s offensive. I think there’s a connection there between burning offensively and your shrine catching on fire.”

“But it was white sage!” Amethyst declared, as offended as could be. “It would have purified-”

“Not your turn to talk,” muttered Sapphire, still writing.

“It can’t be that!” finished Amethyst, crossing her arms over her heaving bosom.

Maria held up her hands. “Just taking a native’s perspective on it.”

“This was a residential school,” said Sapphire cautiously. “Perhaps we need to be extra cautious to be respectful of native traditions. There has been enough harm to them committed on this land.”

Maria nodded righteously, but Amethyst burst up. “But it was not disrespectful!”

“Sit down. Next,” demanded Sapphire.

Amethyst thumped down, face crinkling with restrained tears.

Bjorn was next. He mumbled that it was ‘quite the fire’ and that he ‘wasn’t sure what to make of it’, which was all lies. Except for it being a big fire. That it had been. But not having an opinion? Despite his big beaming smile at the end, the guy was obviously just not wanting to tread on toes.

After Bjorn was Crystal, who went on a similarly cautious walk-around of the issue. Then there was – MoonRaven, our nurse.

“I think it shows a deep disturbance in the psyche of this place,” she said with a nod. “Definitely wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some native burial grounds here or something.”

“Children were sometimes buried on the residential school lands,” said Sapphire with a nod, scribbling away.

Great! So now it was official-ish! We were on a native burial ground. Just perfect.

I barely heard the thoughts of Ivy, Sapphire’s secretary, but Paulette drew herself up with gumption. “I think we didn’t exercise perfect caution, and it bit us in the butt,” she said defiantly.

Amethyst looked away angrily.

“We are all to blame in some part,” she went on to say. “But good ritual is like math. I know math, and so ritual,” she paused “I think I second what Thunder said. It didn’t quite go right. We ought to look inside instead of just outside. What did we do that made them, the spirits, want to set our stuff on fire?”

Not just ‘our’ stuff, but Amethysts’ stuff specifically, I noted silently to myself.

Then, it was Amethyst.

Sapphire designated her with a hand, and the entire table held its breath. Probably, even the wood of this table literally stopped being porous for a minute. That’s how the energy was in the air right then.

Amethyst stood up, clearing her throat. Pen still scribbling, Sapphire said “You can sit down,” in a very flat voice.

Amethyst sat down with a face. Sapphire completely ignored it, still jotting down stuff. Then she looked up, just to see the whole table holding its breath and amethyst staring angrily at Sapphire.

Sapphire straightened, shaking out her hand. “It’s your turn to talk. So talk.” Let us have it, she seemed to say. I braced myself mentally, deciding that I would keep in mind that Amethyst was a … fully fledged adult who ought to be in control of her emotions? Eh, oh well. Good luck to us all.

Amethyst sucked in a breath, then said with a broken voice damp with tears “I can’t believe you all have been attacking me!”

Sapphire kept a very neutral face, but she wasn’t writing this down.

“I, held that ritual,” Amethyst was breathing in heaves and starts. “Out of the goodness of my heart!”

“We weren’t questioning that,” started Paulette, only to be interrupted by Sapphire.

“Not your turn,” Sapphire said flatly, still not writing anythign down.

“I, do NOT see the point of all these ad hominem attacks!” Amethyst wailed, tears beginning to stream down her face.

“They were not ad hominem attacks,” said Sapphire matter of factly, clasping her hands over her notepad.

Amethyst wasn’t listening, gulping and sobbing. “I did my best! And you,” here she looked directly at me “Attacked me! After my shrine burned! And you!” she glared at Sapphire. “you brought us all to this evil infested place!”

Sapphire raised just one eyebrow in a very unimpressed way. It was sexy as hell. But now was not the moment to dissolve into a pile of goo at her feet.

“I can’t imagine the sorts of trauma that the children who come here will have to endure!” she wailed. “This place is dangerous! Haunted! And you,” she looked around the table “Will blame them for their own problems!”

Amethyst rose up to her feet, glaring Sapphire down. “I can’t believe this place! I can’t believe you!” she shrieked at Sapphire. “I am a high priestess! I know how to do ritual! And you are all doubting me-”

“Actually, it is because you are a high priestess that we are holding you responsible for the results of your ritual,” said Sapphire tartly. “You led a ritual that, according to some of us, may have been poorly done. Surely if you weren’t powerful your mistakes wouldn’t have had such a catastrophic result.”

Was she- trying to compliment Amethyst? Was she? Was it working? Amethyst was standing there, mouth ajar.

Sapphire looked down at her paper, tapping her notes with her pen. “Your ritual’s result was dangerous, and seems to have greatly upset you. However, it is not an attack against your personality or powers or will. I think everyone here will agree that you did it out of goodness and concern. We all appreciate your presence, I am also sure. I think that, what I have mainly heard around this table, is that your ritual’s disaster was caused both by your own accident as well as the spirits of this land. The spirit’s actions are not your fault.”

Amethyst sniffled. Sapphire pressed on. “No one here wants to attack you.”

With a sob, Amethyst plunked back down onto the bench. It squeaked loudly, or was that her?

“We are all worried,” Sapphire insisted. “The way the ritual ended was a powerful sign. I think what we need is to work together to solve this issue, instead of letting it divide us.”

Amethyst nodded with another squeak. She held out her arms for a hug from Sapphire. Sapphire cleared her throat. “I uh, not the hugging type but uh?”

“Group hug!” declared Crystal, lurching up from her spot.

Oh, good Goddess. Cries of ‘Group hug!’ went up, and the table mobilized itself. Like a swarm with Amethyst as the wounded bee, everyone rushed to coagulate around her.

I sat there, me and Sapphire exchanging a look while everyone else patted Amethyst and exchanged body warmth. I shrugged. “Not a hugger,” I said. Sapphire nodded, smiling awkwardly at this display.

After a few moments of hugging and patting and laughing through tears (in Amethyst’s case) everyone took their places again.

“Alright, we have one more person to hear from, then we brainstorm solutions,” said Sapphire before handing ‘the floor’ to the woman sitting at her right.

The woman, who I recognized as the detention teacher, merely shrugged. “I think it’s all been said,” she said warm-heartedly. “I really hope we can find a working solution, and make sure that this place will have good luck and protection going on.”

Everyone nodded and hummed appreciatively at that.

“Alright, good,” Sapphire said with determination. Flipping through her notebook, she drew a packet of cue cards from the back and set them before herself. “We are now going to try and find solutions.”

Everyone leaned forward eagerly.

Once again, the air was full of suspense. Possibilities! Endless opportunities!

“So,” Sapphire flipped through her notes. “It seems like we need to fix whatever it was that caused the upset. Maybe a ‘we’re sorry’ sort of ritual, to pacify the spirits?”

There were hums and haws around the table. I nodded vigorously. Sapphire wrote in large ‘we’re sorry’ on a cue card and set that before herself. Then she took another and, while talking, wrote ‘banish’ on it. “We could banish all negativity-”

And that, that’s where it went screwy, if you ask me.

“That’s what we need!” declared Amethyst, gasping in awe at her own revelation. “A banisher!”

“M-hmm,” said Sapphire, “we can-”

“No, we bring in a real expert!” exclaimed Amethyst.

Sapphire just looked at her, shoulders heaving in a sigh.

Amethyst waved her hands as if ushering us all to lean in and share this secret. Except she was now talking super loud and fast. “I know a lady! A real witch! And I mean- she teaches!”

Uh, okay? You’re saying that to a room full of teachers, but okay?

“M-hmm?” Sapphire set down her pen, face completely nonplussed.

“We can have her come and – we don’t even need to tell her what we think! She will just,” Amethyst swept her arm sideways as if clearing the table to spite the floor. “Everything! Clean it all! She’s intuitive!

“Oh, that could be nice!” chirped in Crystal.

Aurora nodded.

“A real expert!” claimed Amethyst. “And she’s cheap! Only a hundred an hour!”

“A hundred an hour?” asked Sapphire tartly.

“Oh yes!” said Amethyst. “That’s cheap!”

I … wasn’t so sure. Neither were several others. And yet – Amethyst was passionately ranting on, declaring this woman a ‘friend in the Goddess’ and a ‘good, strong soul’ and a ‘really skilled banisher’!

“It won’t hurt to try,” suggested Bjorn.

Sapphire raised her eyebrows.

“I will message her!” Amethyst began rifling in her bosom and pockets. “If she’s available, we must have her come before the children get here-”

“If we decide to call upon her,” said Sapphire tartly.

“I think it’s worth a shot,” said Paulette slowly.

Aurora nodded. “Sometimes a blank slate, without judgment, is the best thing.”

Sapphire nodded slowly while Amethyst typed away at her phone. “This is an emer-gen-cy,” said Amethyst, probably narrating what she was typing. “We need this woman straight aways!”

Sapphire raised an eyebrow. “And, what accreditations does she have?”

“Oh!” Amethyst raised her hands. “She does it all! Fairy reiki, dragon summonings, elf shamanism, elder channeling, you name it!”

Sapphire, to her credit, kept on a very composed face. “Elf shamanism?”

“Yes!”

Uh.

Sapphire stared off into the void as if somehow broken. “Hmm,” was all she said.

I tried to rescue this situation. “Well, I’m sure that if we were to put our heads to it, we could do another ritual that would fix things.”

“I’m not leading another ritual,” said Amethyst tartly.

Sapphire looked to Aurora. “You could, if you’d like. Or I could.”

Amethyst looked pointedly at Aurora. “How experienced are you at banishing? It can get gritty sometimes!”

Aurora kept her cool. “I haven’t led many rituals.”

Amethyst, eyes bulging, pointed to her phone. “This lady has seen it all! Demon summonings, oh!” the phone buzzed and Amethyst grinned. “She says she can be here today!”

“Alright, all in favor of this raise your hand,” said Sapphire grimly, as if she already knew the outcome.

Most of the table raised their hands, to my surprise.

“Hmm,” said Sapphire grimly. To Amethyst, she said “So where was this lady trained?”

“Oh, she’s intuitive,” said Amethyst. “Do I tell her to come?”

Sapphire smiled grimly, like she was telling someone to nail her inside a coffin. “Yes. Do it.”

img_20200518_191530_5901418745261696850283.jpg

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Four Part One

I slept awfully that night. An oppressive force soaked through my troubled dreams, and I woke in the middle of the night with the feeling of a weight on my chest.

‘Sleep!’ an angry voice in my head order. ‘Go to sleep you little rat!’

‘Yeah, I’m trying!’ I thought back angrily before flipping over and pressing a pillow over my head.

After that, I slept like a rock, but a rock that was at the bottom of a river, covered in turbulence and being crawled over by bottom feeders and creepy crawlies like that. It was deep, but unpleasant.

I couldn’t remember what had made it so unpleasant when I woke up to the sound of someone else’s alarm going off. No pleasant chimes and chirping of birds from my phone. No, Bjorn’s beep-beep was a full five minutes of sleep ahead of mine.

I wanted to throw a pillow across the room. Five minutes of sleep stolen from me! Five! Whole! Minutes!

Deteremined to get my night’s worth of shut-eye, I put the pillow over my head and rolled over. Blissful rest sifted over me for maybe, oh, a minute? Just enough for me to feel rested and charmingly happy. Then, a woman’s wail belted out, complete with crystals and chimes and healing twang-twangs in the background. I couldn’t recognize any words, but I was sure it was from some chakra awakening disc or something.

I bolted up, smacking my pillow over my legs. No sleep! No sleep for me!

Grumpy beyond reasoning, I rolled out of bed. Grabbing up my stuff, I made my way to the communal men’s bathroom where I had an aggressive shower. About halfway into it, I realized I was throwing a tantrum over five minutes of sleep. A bit ridiculous, if you asked me on a normal day.

So I tried to calm down. I figured this was leftover bad vibes from last night, both from the ritual and my strange sleep. Why would a spirit try and wake me up, only to tell me to go back to sleep? Weird.

I visualized white light coming down from the water spout, hosing me with cleansing properties and washing all my nastiness away. Relaxing, I just stood there and rested, feeling blissful and spiritually happy.

It worked for about five minutes. After that, for whatever fucking reason, the water turned ice cold in a snap. Maybe it was on some sort of timer that was meant to save hot water or something like that. Well, it worked. I got out of there, cursing and swearing under my breath like a very unhappy christian.

Once more in a bad mood, but doing my best to control it, I slapped my clothes on over my damp body and left my hair to its thing and marched out of there.

I got out of there, head down and scowling to myself. There was the math teacher and Sapphire milling around while Crystal and Aurora were lazily making their way to the showers.

“Shoes,” was called after me, and I half smiled to myself before shutting myself into my room. There, I passed a hand in my hair – my very gooey hair. My very, very, conditioned hair.

“Fuck!” I exclaimed, realizing that while I had let the water bathe me from the face down, I’d wholly forgotten to rinse out my hair. Which, by the way, had some very manly conditioner in it. It was supposed to make my hair flex and do push-ups on its own or something.

But I was hell-bent on not going back into the shower, sulking it like a child and feeling like my very adult patience was already running thin. So I toweled off my hair, hoping that that would be enough.

Hint: it was not. But I wasn’t in the habit of checking my reflection before leaving my rooms or apartments. Usually, my hair was fine from the bathroom reflection → where I had obviously not done a check-up, now had I?

Deciding that I was going to be patient and kind today whether I wanted to or not, I left my room, locking it as I went.

“Hey,” said Crystal, walking up to me. She was also freshly showered and just leaving her room, smelling like palo santo and had a big grin on to boot it. But over her shoulder, I saw Amethyst approaching, solemn and dressed in black with no silver.

“Hmm,” I said, deciding that this was going to be an interesting day.

It was. Amethyst walked with me and Crystal and Bjorn, emanating an air of solemn drama. Crystal tried to smile and comment on the beauty of the day (which was beautiful. All sunny and stuff.), but Amethyst gave her a cold stare. Crystal muttered that it was a beautiful day anyways, and that was that. We made our way to the eating hall, where the other teachers and staff were trickling in.

Breakfast was a muted affair. At least it was for me – until someone commented on my hair. I lifted my head at that.

“Done something to your hair?” asked – what was her name again? The math teacher. Paulette! She was sitting across from me in boho styled clothes, her mousy hair in a shoulder-length frizz.

Frowning, I reached up to my hair. It was still slick, but should have dried by now. I made a face. “I forgot to rinse out my conditioner,” I muttered under my breath. Then, with another face, I asked “Does it look that bad?”

She began to giggle hysterically. I couldn’t help but grin at myself.

“Just don’t do that when the students are here,” she said, half-laughing. It made me grin more. Life was fine, I decided. There was stuff to laugh about- and then a loud voice clearing made our faces drop.

Amethyst was standing imperiously, looking around the table as if we were all about to be judged by herself.

Sapphire set down her spoon with a severe expression. “This can wait until after breakfast! Can’t it?”

Amethyst trembled in outrage. “Food is the time to discuss openly-”

“It is a time to rest,” said Sapphire tartly. “And we want everyone’s attention on the issue, not on their food. People might want to take notes.”

“Cakes and ale is always a time for discussion-”

“This is not cakes and ale, this is,” Sapphire looked down the table. “Soy milk and fruit loops. So sit down.”

Amethyst thumped down, eyes teary. She sniffled in a miffed way. I was grateful for the reprieve. I did want to eat in peace.

“This is going to be fun,” muttered Paulette to me as some small chit-chat rose around the table. I raised my eyebrows and nodded.

All too quickly, my bowl of cereal and toasts were gone. Trays were taken away. We were all sitting back down at the table, and Sapphire had taken out a notebook and pen, bearing a painstakingly patient expression.

“Very well,” she said, with the air of a long-patient military commander about to hear about all their troops’ shenanigans. “The floor is open. We will-” Amethyst shot up to her feet. Sapphire’s eyes narrowed but she continued, lifting her right hand “Go around the table starting from my right-”

“Counter-clockwise?!” demanded Amethyst as if this was an outrage.

Sapphire lowered her right hand to lift her left. “Starting from my left. But that means you’re almost last to speak,” she said pointedly at Amethyst.

Amethyst sat back down, nodding like a martyr. Sapphire looked down at her notebook. “So. Here’s how we will proceed. First we are going to discuss our thoughts on last night’s episode. Then, once we’ve all voiced our worries and impressions, we are going to try and brainstorm some ideas. Resolutions.”

Everyone nodded. “Sounds good,” chirped Cheryl.

“So, you have the floor.” Sapphire turned to Aurora, who was directly to her left. I realized with a dismal twist in my stomach that there was only Aurora and Cheryl, then it was my turn to speak.

Aurora took in a breath. Her makeup was on a savage point, all hued in red and purple, her corset laced tightly and her hair in a dramatic updo. But for all that explosion of personality, she was quiet for a moment.

“I think, theoretically, that last night was a disaster, in many senses,” she said. “We definitely started off from a space of impurity, hence the chaos happening, but by allowing such destruction to happen, we’ve made the situation worse. I think. And,” she took a pause, starign down at the table before herself. “I think that there definitely needs to be some action taken. Last night was an improbable coincidence, but I do think it was a sign that something is wrong. Personally, I do not have a big ‘radar’. I don’t sense much. But I do know that such things are often signs from the beyond. So,” and then she shrugged in dismissal. “That’s that.”

Sapphire nodded, scribbling away at her notebook. “Any particular fears? We will get to how to fix this later, for now we’re just focusing on expressing ourselves.”

“Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say,” she looked at Amethyst “that we are all terribly sorry for your loss. Those were cherished pieces for you, and it’s a huge loss to lose a statue, never mind several.”

The table nodded all around (even Sapphire) and Amethyst bowed her head tearily.

“Thank you,” said Sapphire. Then she gestured to Cheryl with a hand. “Cheryl?”

Cheryl inhaled like she was dragging on a cigarette, fingers pressing over her lips. Then she shook her head and let it all out. “It was a bloody frickin’ disaster. I don’t know what went wrong, but that’s bad vibes right there. If there wasn’t any to start out with, there certainly is now. How do fix it, I don’t know,”

“We’ll be getting to that later,” murmured Sapphire.

“Yeah, well,” Cheryl made a face. “We’ve got work to do. That’s where I stand.”

Sapphire nodded and jotted down some more stuff. Then she pointed at me with a palm.

I wanted to hide under the table.

“Uhm,” I fidgeted, then clasped my hands before me on the table. Staring at them, I tried to make sense of everything I felt. “From the perspective of someone who was helping to run the ritual last night,” I paused again, hoping this wouldn’t go over too badly. “I think that perhaps the ritual didn’t go over well.”

There was a pause. Eyebrows raised as if to say ‘you think?’ and I realized I’d probably missed the point.

“What I mean, is, uh, I think something about the ritual made it all go down in flames.”

There was a loud gasp from Amethyst. Everyone else cringed or remained neutral as best they could. Amethyst gawked and looked up and down the table. I cringed so badly.

“I’m sorry, but it didn’t,” oh gulp “feel? Quite right. I uh-”

“How can you say that?” squeaked Amethyst.

Sapphire held up a hand. “Keep on, Thunder.”

I cleared my throat and stared down at my hands. Focus, focus. “I think, and this is maybe just my opinion,” but I doubted it, but I also doubted anyone else would speak up on it. “that the ritual was poorly executed in some way, and that this discord of energy-”

Another outraged gasp.

I barrelled on. “This may have been what caused the fire to get going. It was definitely a sign, but a sign of what? We’ve got to think beyond black and white, bad and good. So, I think we should really, critically, think about ‘why’ the altar went up in flames.”

There was a dramatic pause. I looked around, watching the stiffly poised faces around me, and the shell-shocked look on Amethyst’s face. “I’m done,” I muttered.

“What are you saying?” shrieked Amethyst. “That it’s my fault?”

“Not directly,” I muttered, but the damage was done.

“How can you say that?!” Amethyst shrieked, up on her feet now and trembling with indignation. “I worked so hard on that ritual! I asked you to officiate! I tried so hard, even placing people correctly-”

“Please sit down, it’s not your turn to talk,” said Sapphire dryly.

“Am I not allowed to defend myself?” Amethyst railed.

“You haven’t been attacked. Sit down,” was the command.

Amethyst plunked down, breath heaving and tears barely restrained.

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.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 16 Part 1

Chaos POV

I was standing against the pews, my entire body tingling from the after-effects of the holy water. The evil me version ‘nun’ was still standing before me with that metal cross. Several nuns had now amassed behind her, terrified and clutching their rosaries. Then the mother superior arrived.

She was portly, short, and out of breath. “Goodness!” she exclaimed at the sight of me. “Goodness, goodness!”

Ah, I thought smugly. A genteel and kind ol’ lady. Good.

“I-” I said, just as she drew out a small bottle from her sleeve, dabbed her fingers against it, and flicked at me.

I got holy water in my mouth. IN ME. That burns, okay? Frickin’ nuns. I choked and gagged, the stuff burning me from the inside out.

“Oh! Oh my!” the mother superior trembled, then steeled herself. She lifted her chin and looked to the nun version of me, who was looking downright evil with that cross. “This is your demon!” the superior exclaimed.

All other nuns nodded, murmuring. Evil religious me nodded, lips pressed together. “It certainly has taken on my countenance.”

“And you found it,” said the mother superior, looking at me up and down.

I, finally able to breathe, straightened on the pew and tried to speak again. “Sephira-”

“Hush, demon!” said the mother superior, flicking blessed water at me again.

AH! AH! I tried to shield myself with my arms. My rosary glinted in my grasp. On a gut feeling, I waved my rosary at them. “Look!” I exclaimed. “I’m not evil!”

They stared. I gulped. “I’m just – allergic – to – water!”

The mother superior’s eyes narrowed. She held out her hand. “Give me your beads, child.”

Child, that was a good sign, right? She was getting all matronly with me. I held out my beads, but kept them in my grasp. She fingered a bead and the moment she did a black cloud oozed out. Because why the fuck not?

“The touch of the devil!” she gasped, drawing back with a jump. Evil me lifted that cross and I cowered.

“Don’t!” I yelped.

They paused.

“I’m- I’m here for the Sephira,” I said. “I’m looking to meet her.” I glanced around. “I’m trying to redeem myself.” Because why not? It was close enough to the truth, actually.

The nuns gasped. Mother superior frowned. “You want to join our order?”

“No!” I yelped. Who’d want that? “I’m looking for the Sephira!”

The mother superior sniffed and drew herself up. “We are the order of the Sephira. Our aim is to commune with her.”

Oh. I looked around at the nuns. “Does it work?” I asked stupidly.

“Mother superior!” squeaked a tall nun with a shrill voice. “You cannot be thinking-” and she seemed to suffocate on the thought, making her sentence somewhat questionable.

Mother superior drew herself up. “I am.” She looked solemnly to evil me. “This is your demon. I have long since felt you were ready for a new challenge. Your indomitable spirit rivals the best.” She extended a hand to me. “Care for this demon. It is your new charge.”

Evil me squinted their eyes at me. I just fish guppied. “No, no. I-”

“Silence, demon!” the mother superior intoned. For good measure, she flicked holy water at me.

AHH!

She thrust out a hand to evil me. “Hand over your rosary!”

The beads were handed over without a question. Fingering them, the mother superior glared me down. “Demon, step forward!”

“Uh, I don’t think so,” I said, squishing back against the pews. “In fact, maybe I’ll go-” and I slipped backwards in the space between the pews, reaching for the black box.

The mother superior threw the rosary at me. I ducked, falling backwards as I tripped over the kneeling thingie and caught myself on the back of a pew, mid-sprawl.

Well, you wouldn’t fucking believe it. It shouldn’t have worked. But somehow, the rosary flew like a lasso (get it? A trap!) I snatched at it as the thing soared straight for my head (that nun had a good future as a cowboy in her next life).

Fwoomp. I felt the rosary land around my shoulders like a weight. Felt the crucifix land in my hand with a burning hiss.

I shrieked like, well, whatever. I shrieked. My hand was on fire and I just knew that something very, very, bad had happened.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 15 Part 2

Chaos POV

I needed to find the Sephira. So I set my intention to do just that when I pressed my palms to the travel-thingie and, well, traveled.

I reappeared inside somewhere dark. Real descriptive, right? But it took me a minute for my eyes to adjust. So I just stood there, in this hazy darkness with light spewing down from some (tiny!) grimy windows, illuminating emptiness around me. A floor, definitely. Cobble-stoned floor, to be exact. But what else?

My eyes adjusted slowly, allowing me to see in bits and glimmers here and there. Then, in a snap, I sort of realized where I was. I was in a church! There, behind me, was the entrance doors and a sort of holy water receptacle. There were some flimsy wooden pews and kneeling boards, and up front – a giant statue of Mother Mary, front and center.

Huh, I thought. Me thinks that’s a bit odd for a church, no?

Turning on myself, I made a final check-around to make sure there was no one about to jump out and attack me. But there was no one- and so I made my way to the altar and statues.

I stopped right before the giant Mother Mary. Cleared my throat. “Hi,” I said, awkwardly. “I’m looking for the Sephira. Do you know where I could find them?”

To my disappointment, there was no immediate answer. I cleared my throat and tried again. “So, it’s kind of important so, if you could help me out it’d be great.”

Still, no answer. I inhaled deeply to calm myself. It didn’t work.

“You fuckhead!” I yelled. “Where’s the Sephira?”

“Goodness!” someone squeaked from not far enough away.

I yelped most bravely and spun, glaring at a nun in humble black robes. Nun who – happened to look exactly like me.

She gasped, lifting a rosary to before her. “Demon! Demon!”

“Wait, I-”

“VADE RETRO!” she yelled, pushing the rosary before herself and doing the sign of the cross with it.

It was like a punch to the gut. I doubled over as energy slammed into me, winding me completely. Tottering, I reached out a hand to the base of the statue to regain balance.

Sizzle! My hand burned as I touched the statue’s foot.

Yelling, I jumped back and bumped into a pew. Thankfully that didn’t burn me. “Listen!” I yelped, trying to make sense of this whole mess.

The nun, now shrieking Latin verses at me, kept on waving her rosary and rushing at me. It was like energetic punches coming from nowhere, invisible, and completely painful. I deflected one, got whacked by two others, and fell over onto my back. It was completely unfair.

I blinked, and the statue of Mary seemed to be laughing at me as it and the world spun above me. The terrified nun’s head appeared above me, then vanished.

Oh good, I thought. She’s running away. Smart woman. Wouldn’t want to cross me in an actual fight –

There was a scraping sound. Some tingly sense of doom told me to get up. I did, grabbing hold of the pews to get up onto my legs.

Oh shit.

“VADE RETRO!” the nun screamed, carrying the holy water bowl and chucking it at me. Splash!

Oh, sweet Jesus on a stick. It burnt like disinfectant on a cut. But all over. All. Over.

I screamed, collapsing and sizzling like, well, someone who’d gotten on the ‘bad side’ and who’d been doused with holy water. Imagine that.

“Oh god! OH GOD!” was all I could manage, in between wordless screams as I sizzled and stung and writhed on the floor.

The nun, however, ran behind the statue and picked up a metal cross and came running back with it.

“STOP!” I shrieked, not wanting to know how much that would hurt. “It’s good! We’re done! I’m pure! I-I-” I drew out my own rosary and brandished it at her. “You’ve cleansed me! Okay?”

The nun hesitated. I wiped at my face with a drenched sleeve. Big mistake. I got holy water in my eyes, and apparently they weren’t pure enough. Ouch, ouch.

Trying not to curse, I managed to get up off the floor and stand (still holding my rosary out before me like a shield). “Listen,” I gasped and looked around for someone sane. There was three nuns who had appeared at the back entrance of the church, mouths agape. My evil nun look-alike glanced quickly from me to them.

“Fetch the mother superior!” she shouted. “There is a demon here!”

Oh god, I thought, sweet baby Jesus help me, they’re going to burn me alive!

/////////

Kuryo’s POV

There was a stark silence after evil me had spoken. The people (who were not human) just stood there and gaped. Evil me stood and waited. I looked to Aaliyah. “We can’t let him do that!”

But then again, had I spoken too fast? An idea clicked in my head.

“Think we can let him rewind us just a bit?” I asked. “Like,” I looked her over. “Until before you died?”

Aaliyah looked from me to the scene. A small smirk curled her lips. “Maybe,” she said slowly.

Then the being who was standing before the throne shuddered and spoke. “You will not be returned the baby. It is ours-”

“I’m going to count to five for you to change your mind,” snapped evil me, cocking his guns at the versions of us on the floor. “Five.”

The councellors exchanged panicked glances.

“Four,” he said.

Oh shit, he was counting fast! Uh-

“Three,”

The councelor who was being the unwilling spokesperson was tossed out of the way. The weirdo with the hair of doom stood up angrily.

Evil me didn’t even say ‘two’. He just fired as the weirdo brandished the scepter.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! I flinched for every shot. You could feel it in the air, rippling out and shaking the world, stronger and harder with every shot-

I was seized and yanked forward, jerked towards the weirdo with the hair.

Bang! The final shot and I heard evil me collapsed to the floor just before I was yanked into the weirdo.

Into? Yes, into.

I was suddenly in this person’s mind, just as Suzy had once been in mine. It was uncomfortable and icky, squishy and dirty feeling.

“Kuryo? Kuryo? Where are you?” I could hear Aaliyah as if through a tunnel, through ears that weren’t my own.

Crushed up tight, I tried to throw around my senses, trying to reach out of this body in some way. In a distant way, I saw the bodies on the floor, saw the spirits stepping out of them and wondering what to do with themselves. Suzy was among them, looking around like a lost child. Poor Suzy.

With a kick and a shove that made my host double over, I took control of the body. If people were going to die, at least they deserved a good afterlife, I figured.

So I reached out for them, stretching my arms out and welcoming them.

With a groan the spirits gave up and gave in, slipping into me and vanishing into another world. All except two. One was Suzy, in tears.

“Am I dying?” she cried out.

“Bastard!” cried out the other, very angry, spirit. We can all take a wild guess as to who it was, right? “Why aren’t you dead?”

“Just come-” but my host wrenched, fighting for power back. I struggled, reaching out one final time. “Come here-”

“Fuck you!” and evil me grabbed a hold of Suzy. And then I blacked out, losing control of the body and shunted away.

 

B-B-B-But What Happens NEXT?! (Spoilers and Frustration)

AHHHH! If you’ve at all been reading Chaos’ novel, you know that we’ve now come to ‘the hostage situation’, aka the part that is directly taken from my dream.

Y’all, I’ve been SO EXCITED and dreading this scene all at the same time. Mainly because, yeah, epic scene and wahhh and all that, but – what happens next?

Y’all, I’m really torn. If you’ve read ‘Blue Crow Rising’ (but I don’t think any of you have), you’ll know that it’s a bit of a ‘groundhog day’ kind of story. As in, things get undone and Kuryo keeps trying to fix things and he keeps getting shipped back in time to try it over. It happens several times to him and Charr.

So it would totally fit that, indeed, Evil Kuryo does kill everyone and send them all back in time to a pre-everything universe. It would just be, oh I don’t know, Fucking Nerve Wrecking for this author over here? I mean, I’ve built up several books of plot and then bam! This character is like “Hey bitch, I’mma undo all your hard work because I want my happy ending. Watch me.”

And I’m just standing here, holding the pen and shaking in my boots. Y’all!

I mean, with my author’s spidey-senses, I feel like something in the middle is going to happen. A sort of undoing but maybe not completely. But- that still sounds like a heck of a mess.

Why can’t I have a nice and basic story that moves in a straight line, I ask?! Not that I find those at all fun to write, but hey. A little less winding would be cool too.

I mean, theoretically, zipping back in time might be a great way to have that happy polycule come back into the story, too. But what about the academy? And Chaos’ plotline? and Charr?

I’m just confused y’all. Part of me wants this story to just end so that I can finally see the big picture and start tying it all back together. Part of me feels like I’m on a circus ride and I’m being made into the clown of the show. Undoing the plot? Again? Wouldn’t that just – invalidate everything? Just thinking about it is making me a bit frustrated, to be honest. This story feels like it’s going on forever and has got no spine guiding it.

I mean, I know deep down that this story will probably all tied in neatly together, all on its own. Because that’s what it’s done up until now. Suspiciously, this story has worked itself into neat little knots and not made too much a mess of itself (at least I don’t think so, too much).

But then, part of me feels like I’m an idiot who’s going nowhere, following a random story that keeps generating itself on and on, never ending. I doubt that’s the case. Kuryo’s arc had a very neat ending to itself. But still… I’m… unsure? Not annoyed, but hesitant?

I dunno. Maybe I just need to see where the story goes from here and just let it happen. And hopefully that won’t take another three novels to finish! Or if it does spawn more novels, does it really matter? I mean, I’m having fun, the story is pretty fun (I think) and some people seem to be enjoying reading it. So I guess I should just relax and let things go on their way.

But still… evil Kuryo, I hope you don’t take us all back in time. At least not all the way, please?

Lots of love y’all! Take care and, if you do read my stories, thanks so much for reading! I appreciate it very much 🙂 !