When I woke it was dawn and I was lying in my bed with the anxious faces of my brother, mother and maid hovering above me.
   “Oh, sweetheart, you had us so worried! Why on earth did you sneak out to those woods! You know they’re dangerous, especially at night!” Momma’s face was filled with relief when she saw my eyes flutter open
   “Little Pixie!” cried Soph, “You gave us a right scare. It’s a good thing Miss Marksons found you.” I sat up and took in my surroundings. Edward was perched on the bed beside me holding my hand. Momma was sitting in a chair close to the bed on my other side and standing by the bed behind Edward was Soph. She leaned in and hugged me very gently as if I was as fragile as glass. When she pulled back Momma leaned in to hug me briefly, too, before pulling back. Edward squeezed my hand. It was then I took in the rest of my surroundings. Sitting in a chair as far away from me as the room permitted with a look of utter contempt on his face: was Father. Standing by the door was Miss Marksons; she smiled and winked at me. Then her face was very serious. Suddenly her voice was in my head
   They are going to ask you what happened, why you left et cetera, you must pretend you remember nothing. You left the house for some fresh air and found yourself walking down the road and into the woods. You had a lot on your mind and so weren’t paying much attention to your surroundings. Something hit your head and you remember nothing after that.
I kept my face smooth not even allowing my gaze to flicker to her. I concentrated on her hearing my thoughts
   Shouldn’t be too hard. After all I did leave the house for fresh air and found myself walking down the road with a lot on my mind. And the other part, well let’s just say are you sure something didn’t hit me on the head?
Miss Marksons flashed me a blinding smile to let me know she got all of that and walked towards my bed after a glance at Father and his reluctant nod of consent, “Glad you’re awake. I was worried I’d found you too late,” she said
   “You could easily have been too late,” came Father’s cold voice, “why did you leave, girl? What prompted you to leave, without permission and go to those woods?”
   I met his gaze and held it, “I left because I had a lot on my mind as did everyone. Everyone seemed busy or somewhat engaged and I didn’t wish to interrupt,” I wasn’t even lying, “I grabbed my shawl and put on my boots intending to walk in the garden but I had spent all day in that garden receiving condolences, I couldn’t bear staying there so I was going to just walk up the street. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going; I had a lot to think about, and the next thing I know I’m in the woods. I… I think I hit my head,” I stuttered for effect, “I don’t remember anything else,” I concluded. Soph hugged me again, Momma looked sympathetic, Edward wasn’t fooled but he knew better than to let it show. Father fixed a hard scrutinizing gaze on me as if trying to detect a lie. I kept my face smooth allowing only a little confusion to show to prove I didn’t remember anything.
   You’re a good liar Miss Marksons voice trickled into my head I almost believe you myself
   Good practice
I responded plus I don’t feel guilty because I don’t believe in God anymore. I haven’t for a while. It was hard for Miss Marksons to keep the surprise of my comment off her face.
   “I see,” Father said eventually, “be assured you shall still be punished for leaving the house without asking or alerting anyone you were going. Now Miss Marksons,” Father turned to her with a smile; you could tell he wished she were his daughter instead of me, “why were you in the forests? Surely your father wouldn’t approve?”
   “She wasn’t too far in, Mr. Masen; I was just walking with a friend, on my way home, when I heard young Miss Masen cry out in pain. Together, my friend and I entered the woods in the direction of her cry. We found her not to deep into the trees and I recognized her immediately, and using what medical knowledge I have I checked her over before sending my friend for help. She found several women she knew and together we brought her home,” Miss Marksons smiled, “thank you again for allowing me to use one of your servants to send word to my father where I am”
   “Not at all, Miss Marksons, you found our daughter, it was the least we could do,” Momma said
   “My pleasure, Mistress Masen. Perhaps – if you wouldn’t mind too much – I could come back later to visit young Miss Masen? With my friend who found her. My friend was highly concerned for Miss Masen. Of course you may not approve of my company, but she knows much about herbs and their medical properties”
   “A Wise Woman?” Father asked sharply. Edward glanced at me.
   “Yes, Mr. Masen, Sylvia Wilkington, sir,” Miss Marksons gave him a persuasive smile he couldn’t refuse
   “I suppose it’s alright,” Father said, he rose from his seat. He glanced at me, “We will discuss your punishment when you are better.” He nodded to Miss Marksons, kissed Momma, ruffled Edward’s hair and left.
   Momma smiled apologetically, “I’ll see if I can dissuade his decision of punishment, after all; each of us deal with grieving differently,” she kissed my forehead and Edward’s; she nodded and smiled at Soph and Miss Marksons and then she, too, left. Edward hugged me, to our mutual surprise, and left knowing I wanted to be alone. Soph said she would get me some hot chocolate and toast for me leaving me alone with Miss Marksons
   “I don’t know if I should thank you or not; after all had you not used magic I wouldn’t have collapsed however if you hadn’t then Liades would’ve gotten me, so thank you, sort of,” I smiled
   “No problem, Willow. You don’t mind me calling you Willow? I wouldn’t be offended, we don’t really know one another”
   “I’d rather you call me Willow than Miss Masen, please. Also, we don’t really know each other but I’d like to be friends,” I admitted
   “I’d like to be friends, too,” Miss Marksons said. She was like my Momma, she always had a smile. It came from within and lit her face up. She was beautiful but when she smiled she became exquisite, breathtaking. Her smile faltered at my staring but didn’t fade completely
   “Excuse me,” I said abash, “I was just admiring how beautiful you look,” I grinned at her. She laughed
   “Look who’s talking! You’re the most stunning girl I’ve ever met. You’re more gorgeous than many of my adult friends and you haven’t even blossomed fully yet!” she laughed some more, “thank you, all the same”
   “When will you return later, Miss Marksons?” I asked to move off the subject of my looks, it made me uncomfortable
   “Please Willow, call me Frannie or Fran, like you, I prefer it to Miss Marksons,” she smiled again, “It depends, I have to hunt for Sylvia and that alone is a job and a half. If I can’t find her, I may have to round up a couple of Wiccans and use magic to hunt for her. Then I have to wait until she’s free to come. We’ll probably be round about dusk,” she patted my leg turned to leave; “I’ll see you later on with Sylvia then. Get some rest,” and she was gone. A few minutes later, Soph returned with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and two slices of toast on a tray. She set it on my lap and sat on the chair Momma had vacated.
   I ate the toast and drank the hot chocolate. The silence was solidifying. Soph stared at me persistently. I have a lot of patience though, I just waited
   “I often wonder if you’re more than what you seem. I also often wonder what you’re seeing and thinking when you gaze into the distance because it sure isn’t what most ten year olds are thinking about,” Soph cocked her head to the side with a puzzled expression. She shook her head and stood, “You know more about the world than anyone and have seen things that no child should and I pity you because this isn’t the end,” Soph shook her head again put her hand on my head and left, leaving me to think over her words.

*  *  *

   The sun was just setting over the horizons when Soph brought Sylvia and Frannie in. No one else had come in to see me all day, save Soph; who brought me lunch and dinner (more toast). Soph backed from the room, after curtsying to Sylvia and Frannie, with a worried expression. She closed the door behind her and the two women pulled a chair each to my bedside.
   “Good evening, Willow Masen, glad to see you so well. How’s your head?” Sylvia asked
   “Fine, thank you, Wise Woman”
   “Please call me Sylvia and I’ll call you Willow,” she said sternly (not asking to call me Willow – I guess she just knew to call me that, or maybe Frannie told her), “I’m glad my healing powers help you,” she added
   “I’m guessing you don’t mean healing with herbs alone,” I said
   “That’s exactly what I mean. I have healing powers and Fran here has the ability to pick up thoughts and send her thoughts to someone, as long as they possess magic,” Sylvia explained
   “Does everyone have different powers?”
   “Only the supernatural,” Sylvia stated
   “Like Liades?” There was a pause after my words. Then Frannie and Sylvia chuckled
   “We should have known she’d know what he was,” Sylvia muttered and chuckled again
   “Yes, William Liades may possess some kind of power, but you must understand not all vampires have extra abilities. Just some of them,” Frannie said, “Each vampire’s power is never the same twice amongst their own kind. They may be the same as ours though, who knows? There has been much speculation over what causes the vampires to gain these powers when they go through the change”
   “Information overload,” I said halting her in her explanation
   “How did you know he was a bloodsucker?” Sylvia asked curiously
   “I have visions, when I’m asleep you know?” I said softly, “visions of the future. I had a vision of four vampires, three of them were feeding on a body, and the fourth was resisting feeding. During the dream the word ‘vampire’ was repeating itself in my head. My instinct was telling me what they were”
   “Interesting,” was all Sylvia said. Her and Frannie exchanged a glance, Sylvia nodded
   “Willow, we have come here to ask you to become a part of our circle, to follow our Wicca faith,” Frannie said, “You have already proven that your powers have manifested strongly beyond the norm. We believe that maybe, you are destined to be the most powerful leader of the Wiccans. We believe that you have a purpose. A great purpose and we want to help you with your abilities as much as we can. You saw, last night, the amount of respect the other Wiccans in our coven looked at you. Please Willow,” Frannie was pleading with me, “You are wise beyond your years, you see the future, you can teach us many things and in return we will teach you. We will prepare you for the secret world hidden within this one. Please, will you join us?”
   I sat there stunned. I could see the desperation on Frannie’s face. She wanted me to join not just to teach her and her coven but because she wanted to share her world with me. She really did want to be friends. If I said yes, I would be dragged into a dangerous world and I would risk losing my mother and brother. If they found out about my being a Wiccan they may disown me. Also, I would be at a risk of getting caught sneaking out to go to rituals. On the other hand, if I said no, Frannie may choose not to be my friend and I would be unprepared for the world I knew more about than I wanted. The world I wanted nothing to do with but was forcing itself upon me. Also if I said no there was a gut wrenching feeling in my stomach it was painful, the idea of turning my back on this. Hurt my heart by going against all Momma and Edward believed or hurt my soul by going against all I should believe because it was my true destiny. I could feel that it was my true destiny as well.
   “Other than the teaching, what else do I get from this?” I asked
   “A family,” Sylvia answered immediately, “All of us Wiccans are a family, sisters, we love each other,” she fixed her knowing gaze on me, “You will gain a family where everyone loves and wants you, where no one will try to turn from you because of your difference”
   “What do you mean?” I said with a sick feeling. Of course I knew what she meant. Sylvia looked at Frannie
   “You already know,” Sylvia stated clearly, “but by all means, let us tell you anyway. Fran, tell her what you heard from her parent’s minds” Frannie looked miserable and pitying… for me. A strange expression on her generally smiling face
   “I picked some things up while I was here earlier, Willow,” she began, “It is not our place to tell you things that have nothing to do with us,” she glared at Sylvia, “you have not chosen to become our sister so it doesn’t concern us. There is no nice way to put it, your father hates you and your mother is constantly trying to distance herself from you. When you were born, your magic was… apparent. This caused your father to loathe you and your mother tries to break herself from the magic you cast upon everyone – besides your father – when you were born.” I’d both feared and suspected this but to have it said out loud, that hurt. To know your father didn’t love you – never had loved you even from the moment you were born – and to find your mother didn’t want to love you; that cuts you: deep. I suppressed the tears attempting to well up in my eyes.
   “I’m sorry, Willow,” Frannie murmured. She was distraught at having caused me this pain, it seemed I wasn’t covering it up as well as I’d thought, “Let me make it better for you,” she begged, “let me be your sister, mother and child,” the shock on Sylvia’s face would’ve been priceless had the atmosphere not been so serious, “we have a powerful ritual in the Wicca faith. We become tied through shared blood. Neither of us really have a family, so why don’t we be family to each other? If you should decide to become a Wiccan then we can perform this ritual and we will be more of sisters to one another than our parents are parents to us. Please Willow?” And how could I refuse? The words she spoke were like a lifeline, I only had my brother what if I could have a sister too? Plus, the hope in Frannie’s face that I would go through a blood ritual with her, it was shocking in its depth. No matter how deep I looked into her eyes, the hope continued. There was no regret at her words, no fear and no panic; she truly wanted me to be her closest sister among all her Wiccan sisters. With her hope and mine tied together, I spoke the words that would change my life forever
   “I accept your invitation to join your Wicca coven and I accept your invitation to share my blood with you,” I said softly. Frannie’s face was stunned and then split into a huge joyous grin
   “Thank you, Willow, thank you,” she rushed out of her chair and hugged me tightly. I hugged her back slightly stunned myself. I could feel her love for me through the hug even though she barely knew me. Even more shocking, my love for her
   “Are you sure you want to have a blood-tie?” Sylvia asked, “Are you sure about this Fran? You know what this entails”
   “I am one hundred percent sure Sylvia. Willow is the sister I’ve been waiting for, I can feel it in my soul”
   “And you Willow? Are you sure also?”
   “Yes, I am, Sylvia. I don’t understand it but I love Frannie even though I don’t really know her. It’s a gut feeling that this blood-tie thing is the right thing to do”
   “Are you also sure you want to be a Wiccan? Or are you just joining us so you can be a sister to Fran?”
   “I’m becoming a Wiccan because it’s right. I am not normal but the thought of being a Wiccan seems to be the natural thing to do. I am joining you because it’s right not because I want Frannie as a sister, wanting Frannie as a sister seems to be additional to wanting to follow the Wicca faith”
   “Very well then, I shall make you both vow to go through the blood-tie now. Then we shall contact you to let you know when the next circle is. At a later circle we shall have the blood-tie ritual, so that you shall be familiar with our ways by then,” Sylvia rose from her seat and I climbed from the bed. Sylvia made us kneel opposite one another and grasp the others forearm with our right hands.
   “Frances Marksons, will you give me, Sylvia Wilkington; your Wiccan leader, your oath that you will share your blood with Willow Masen and allow her to become your sister, your mother your child?”
   “I, Frances Marksons, give you my oath I shall share my blood with Willow Masen so she may be my sister, my mother and my child”
   “Willow Masen, will you give me, Sylvia Wilkington; your Wiccan leader, your oath that you will share your blood with Frances Marksons and allow her to become your sister, your mother your child?”
   “I, Willow Masen, give you my oath I shall share my blood with Frances Marksons so she may be my sister, my mother and my child”
   “So it shall be done,” Sylvia smiled at us as our right arms glowed. We dropped one another’s arm and the glowing faded. We stood up, “I never thought I would live to bind two people in a blood-tie. It’s a rare ceremony that most think is inconvenient. You two must really love each other,” Sylvia continued, “We must be going now Fran. We’ve trespassed on the Masens hospitality long enough also I cannot wait to see the look on everyone’s faces when we tell them you are going to be blood-tied with Willow Masen,” Sylvia chortled. She shook my hand and turned to leave. Frannie hugged me
   “Thank you,” she whispered and let me go. Then she, too, turned to leave. In the next instant they were gone. I slipped back into bed to fall asleep, my arm tingling, my soul rejoicing and my heart warm. I was happier than I’d been in a long time; I was going to gain a sister in every aspect other than having the same parents. With that thought in my head, I fell asleep with a small smile upon my face.

The End

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