I heard nothing from either Sylvia or Frannie about the blood-tie ritual for around four months. I saw them both, of course, and they would both smile and nod at me, more often than not Frannie would stop to give me a hug or say hello. Then there were the Wiccan circles at which I would see them. My first invitation was for a Full Moon ritual. It was there I learned there was at least two circle castings a month: at full moon and at new moon. I also attended a Samhain circle where we each gave an offering to the spirits of the Otherworld. I offered an extra special offering of blood. It hurt like six shades of hell, but as it was my first Samhain; I wanted to offer something special. The other Wiccans had welcomed me warmly and I felt I finally belonged. Whenever there was a circle, I would sneak out around one in the morning when everyone was in bed. I cast my first spell when I left for my first circle. It was so no one would come in my room while I was gone. I would go to the woods and come back by four in the morning. Easy. On the day after circles, though tired, I was feeling the after effects of the magic. The air around me buzzed with my exhilaration. We also discovered, in the coven, that I may have more than one gift but my strongest connection was with the shadows and darkness; so I was most comfortable at night. Momma and Edward had looked at me often during the days after circles but I was even better at concealing my emotions that even Edward didn’t know my feelings anymore. He didn’t like that, not knowing.
   I was filled with anticipation and anxiety over the blood-tie ritual but I was more anxious about seeing Mr. Liades again. I saw him a month after our… meeting in the woods. He was leaving the Brigant’s house as we were arriving. We, Momma, Edward and I, were visiting them after hearing of the safe birth. Father had left three weeks ago after Momma persuaded him not to give me punishment. Mr. Liades fixed a hard look on me and frowned. I met his gaze and shook my head ever so slightly, letting him know that I’d told no one of what had happened. He nodded, almost unnoticeably, and left without a word. Mid-October he left leaving Mr. Brigant with assurances that he would send some people to work for him every so often.
   The new Brigant addition was a little girl, Eleanor. Violet was disgruntled as she thought her father would stop calling her princess and call Eleanor his princess instead. Violet and I, although we had mended our differences, things would never be the same between us again. I also noticed that Felix had taken to talking to me more often than usual. Felix was very good looking, tall for his age with brown hair and hazel eyes.
   December came and our household was preparing for Christmas. It was about a week until the 25th when Sylvia came to visit. Edward and I were putting up decorations, he was chatting about school and his friends and lessons. He was home for the Christmas holidays and had only been home a few days. Momma was out with friends and Father wouldn’t be home until the 23rd – just two days before Christmas. Antoine, our head servant who overlooked everything, came in interrupting Edward’s torrent of words
   “Excuse me, Young Master and Young Mistress Masen, my apologies for interrupting but there is a lady called Sylvia Wilkington asking for you Mistress Masen”
   “Oh, good,” I said hopping down from the chair I was standing on and smoothing out my skirt. I followed Antoine to the hallway, and there she was, Sylvia smiling, pleased at my obvious joy. My respect for Sylvia had grown considerably since I’d seen her cast a circle, she was awe inspiring and powerful. She taught me many things, including how to cast a circle correctly, “Thank you, Antoine, you can leave us now,” Antoine bowed to me and left
   Surprising me thoroughly, Sylvia hugged me, “It is good to see you, child, are you keeping well?”
   “Very well thank you. Please, come this way,” I said. I directed her to Grampy’s old drawing room allowing her through the door first and then entered in behind her. I closed the door and locked it. Sylvia was muttering something and I felt magic pass by me, I turned to her and raised an eyebrow
   “I have cast a spell so no one can hear us in here,” she explained, “I have come to tell you that we have a ritual at midnight on the 22nd of this month. Wear the usual appropriate attire,” Sylvia had given me the most beautiful dress I’d ever owned. It was black and very long. It was ruffled at the end and around the wrist and v-neckline were dark purple sequins. The dress also had a matching purple, velvet ribbon to go around the waist. I kept it in a box in my wardrobe. I forbade Soph to look in there since it also contained my necklace and circle casting candle. The necklace was a Celtic circle to represent how we live for eternity. Embedded in the heart of the necklace was an Amethyst, “The circle is being cast because it is Yule, the longest night of the year,” continued Sylvia, “appropriate for you. The blood-tie ceremony will take place then. The circle is being cast earlier than usual – at midnight – but you need to get there for eleven thirty so we can brief you properly on the blood-tie ritual, and here really isn’t the place”
   “Eleven thirty,” I muttered, “that’s going to be more difficult than usual but I think I can make it,” I flashed a grin to Sylvia, “give me five minutes leeway?” Sylvia rolled her eyes
   “You always ask that and then your ten minutes early!” she chuckled, “We like efficiency. Alright, alright, five minutes leeway. Good luck escaping,” she reversed the spell and I accompanied her to the door. We hugged again
   “Goodbye, Night,” Sylvia whispered as she left
   “See you in four nights, Healer,” I responded, “and blessed be”
   “Indeed, blessed be,” and she was gone.

*  *  *

   The 22nd came much more quickly. When it did I was on edge and distracted. I planned and re-planned my escape. Edward and Momma went to bed at eleven and while Momma slept almost immediately Edward didn’t, he stayed awake until midnight. A simple silencing spell so he wouldn’t hear my feet pass his room would solve that problem. The servants stayed up until midnight and then went to their quarters to sleep after eating. They would all be in the kitchens. Soph… oh, Goddamnit, Soph stayed in my room with me until midnight sometimes later. My stomach clenched, I was going to have to cast a sleeping spell on her… a strong one, too. I felt sick at the thought but I was going to have to bear it. Though I was eager for the ceremony tonight I was not eager to cast spells on my friend and have my arm sliced open. I’m magical, not moronic.
   I had one small stroke of luck though. Momma and Edward decided to go to bed early, releasing the servants from their duties earlier too. Soph and I made our way to my room about half an hour after Momma had gone to bed. I entered in behind Soph closing the door. I suppressed a sigh and turned to face Soph
   “Do you mind staying in here with me tonight? Father coming home always makes me anxious, as you know,” I smiled at her, a little sadly. It was hardly an act.
   “Of course not, Pixie,” she smiled in understanding. My stomach twisted at fooling her like this
   “Thank you, Soph,” I walked to the bed and knelt as she went to sit in a chair, “I’m just going to pray first and Soph,” she looked at me, curious, “I’m sorry”
   “For what, Pixie?” I pretended not to hear her as I started whispering the spell. I knew it was unnaturally quiet so she wouldn’t hear what I was saying. I felt the magic shimmer around me questioningly before I directed it at Soph. A moment later, Soph’s head lolled back and her soft snores began. Within a fraction of a second, I was on my feet and opening my wardrobe pulling the box from the depths. I change silently and smoothly, tying the ribbon. I put the necklace on and pulled out my candle, tucking it in between the ribbon and dress so I wouldn’t have to carry it. I whispered the usual spells so no one would enter and walked briskly walking to the door, refusing to glance back at Soph. She would be asleep for the next twelve hours unless I lifted the spell earlier (of course I would, she needed to get up at six). I reached my magic out to the landing outside my door. There was no one there. Casting a silencing spell on my feet, I slipped out the room and headed for the stairs. I glanced all around me as I reached the entrance hall but there was no one there. Not hesitating in the slightest, I opened the front door and stepped outside closing it quietly behind me. Checking once more no one was watching, I whispered “shadows I need you. You and I are one. You become me and I become you” then I ran. As I ran I melted into the shadows so no one would see me. I became a shadow myself. I made it to the woods in record time since I move fast. I weaved my way through the branches and trees until I saw the familiar light of the circle’s fire. I hovered at the edge of the trees that surrounded the area. I could see that my closest Wiccan sisters were there. Frannie and Sylvia were there, of course. Standing with them were my next three favorite sisters. They were called Red, Kathryn and Rebecca. Red was a tall woman for her age and was a great inspiration to me. She was the most independent person I’ve met who feared almost nothing. She had ignored her father’s wishes and changed her name from Victoria to Red. She had long red hair (naturally) that fell in silky waves to her waist and sapphire blue eyes. Her face was a gentle one. She was my closest friend after Frannie and was only seventeen. She had a special connection to fire. Kathryn was twenty. She, too, was tall and her face was nearly always set into hard lines. She’d lost both of her parents at an early age and had been raised by a cruel aunt. She had been so pleased to escape and come here. I felt honored every time I saw her because she always smiled at me, something she seldom does. Her hair came to her shoulder blades and was a dark brown and she had hazel eyes. She was able to freeze time. Finally there was Rebecca, whom everyone called Bex or Becca. She was just fifteen but very short for her age. She too had dark brown hair which was almost black. Her eyes were dark brown too and were deep and warm. She was a perpetually happy person and had a special connection to the sun and day. She always knew the time and could make the sun brighten or get blotted out by clouds. All three women liked me, I could tell, Red possibly even loved me, and I loved them all in return. They were all wise and not easily fooled. As I hovered at the edge of the trees, Red turned to face me and laughed softly
   “Sylvia, the shadows over there have a magic about them I’m sure of it,” Red said and the other four women turned to face the same direction
   “Why you’re right, Red, the shadows do have some magic in them, which can only mean a certain person must be hiding over there,” Bex smiled at me
   “Come on out, Night, stop showing off your gifts,” Kathryn smiled too. Perhaps now would be a good time to mention we all received a Wiccan name related to our strongest gifts when we joined a Wicca Faith circle. Mine was ‘Black Night’ which was shortened to just ‘Night’.
   I stepped into the clearing thanking the shadows and they slipped away from shrouding me. I was grinning hugely and winked at I became visible to them
   “Slick,” Red remarked, “I almost didn’t notice you. You’re getting better,” she hugged me as I reached them. Frannie hugged me too
   “Ready for the blood-tie ritual, Night?” Frannie asked
   “Of course, Telepath”
   “Good,” Sylvia said joining the conversation, “It’s fairly simple, Night,” Sylvia said, “We have the usual circle casting and while the circle is active I call you and Fran from the circle’s boundaries so you may leave without breaking the magic. You have already given an offering of blood at Samhain and it’s very similar to that. We have a goblet with wine and we use the ceremonious knife to cut your arm where we did it before (my forearm between the elbow and wrist) and we cut Frannie’s in the same place. You both grip the other’s arms so your blood runs mixing in together and fall into the goblet of wine. I will perform the ceremony you say some words after me – like with your oath – and then drink the blood-spiked wine. I send you back to your places and close the circle. Simple,” Sylvia smiled, “Any questions? Telepath? Night?”
   “No Healer,” we chorused simultaneously
   “You’re forgetting…” Red murmured to Sylvia
   “Oh, of course. We are lucky to have Red in our circle. She will set the wine/blood alight and you must keep your arms above the flames. This will scar you forever as a symbol of your tie. Even if you should…oh I don’t know… become a vamp,” Sylvia laughed, “This scar will stay. It is a mark created by magic so nothing will make it go”
   I swallowed
   “It’s alright really,” Kathryn said reassuringly. Then she frowned, “we three were the only ones who volunteered to ease the pain the flames will cause. We will be concentrating on tying you together and numbing the pain”
   “Thank you,” I smiled at them, Red, Bex, Kathryn and Sylvia. Sylvia nodded and went to continue her preparations. The trio returned my smile and went to help Sylvia. I turned to face Frannie and grinned
   “This is it, Fran,”
   “It sure is. Thank you again, Willow. I will be proud to call you sister. The others will be arriving soon,” she kissed my cheek, “Love you, my sister,” she breathed
   “Love you, too, sis,” I beamed and kissed her cheek, too. I pulled out my candle and at the same time; Red, Frannie, Kathryn, Bex and I moved to our places in the circle. I stood between Frannie and Red, opposite Kathryn and Bex. The other Wiccans began arriving; soon all of us were there. All of them had smiled at me, a couple came to give me a hug or shake my hand. Both Fran and I got many ‘good lucks’ and support in our unusual decision. Only a couple looked dubious but most had figured out that Frannie and I truly did love one another.
   Finally we were assembled in our places in the circle and we pulled out our candles.
   “Merry meet, my sisters,” Healer’s voice rang out. That was one of the great things about circles, when it was cast all of us transformed from the people that others saw every day to stunning Wiccans. I went from Willow Masen to Black Night just as Sylvia became Healer. Red became Flames, Kathryn became Time Freezer (or ‘Freeze’) and Bex became Sunny Day (or Sun)
   “Merry Meet, eldest sister,” we responded dutifully
   Healer smiled, “Tonight is the night of Yule, my sisters, the night when we honor the darkness and moon,” she glanced at me, “when we honor night itself. Tonight our way of honoring night is in an unusual way. By tying night personified to the one she wants to be a true sister to. First though, we must dutifully light our candles and salute the Sacred Points,” Healer walked to each person greeting them. As she moved on, that sister’s candle would come alight and a golden thread began to form. It joined each sister to the ones next to her. When everyone’s candles were alight, Healer moved to the centre again. Raising her arms above her, looking powerful and stunning, she cried out facing the north
   “North and Earth! We honor and respect you! Without you we would crumble into nothing! Our circle needs you!” she turned right, “East, Fire and Sun! We honor and respect you! Without you we would be cold dead beings truly! Our circle needs you!” she turned again, “South and Water! We honor and respect you! Without you we would be dry of emotions and we wouldn’t be refreshed! Our circle needs you!” she turned a final time, “West, Air and Moon! We honor and respect you! Without you we would never escape to our dreams or breathe in the wonders of life! Our circle needs you!” she moved the middle again, “Finally Spirit and self! We honor and respect you! Without you we would be soulless shells, empty nothings! Our circle needs you!” The magic filled me, as always leaving me breathless.
   “Night and Telepath,” Healer called to us, “On this night of Yule when the circle is cast, leave the boundaries and come here to the centre where we may tie you together through blood, soul and love,” we put down our candles and walked to Healer. Telepath took my hand, we saluted her as we approached by touching our necklaces and bowing our heads. She returned the gesture and directed us both to kneel opposite the other with the goblet between us. I was on the west facing side. Healer addressed the rest of the circle
   “Telepath and Night made an oath to be blood-tied together. This means that through their entire lives, whenever one is in need the other will be there. They will support one another through the darker of times and the brighter. They will keep any promises made between them. They will love each other forever and will always be proud to call the other their sister no matter what. They will be a mother to the other when they need love and comfort and child to one another when they need a little innocence, liveliness and smile. Telepath and Night,” Healer turned to us, “do you swear to uphold these terms? Should you break them then the penalty is to be subjected to excruciating pain and possibly death
   “I swear to uphold the terms of a blood-tie, as both Telepath and Frances Marksons”
   “I, too, swear to uphold the terms of a blood-tie, as both Black Night and Willow Masen”
   “Then, as you Wiccan leader, I shall tie you together through shared blood and magic. This is binding. I bless your tied lives,” she picked up the knife, “I have blessed this knife, no matter who may have possession of it, it is always rightfully both yours. Now hold out your arms,” we pulled up our sleeves and held out our right arms over the wine and quick as a flash, Healer slashed our arms deeply. We held the other’s arm with the cuts touching and it dripped into the wine. Suddenly the wine was in flames, the fire seemed too big for the goblet. The pain was bewildering. My arm was on fire but I barely registered it. Sure it hurt – a lot – but all I really noticed was Frannie’s/Telepath’s glowing face. She was smiling and tears, a mixture of joy and pain, were rolling down her face. It wasn’t until her face became blurred; I realized I was crying too. Everything was overwhelming, the magic, the night, the flames and Frannie’s love. Then the flames were gone and we wiped our eyes and glanced down at our arms. We both gasped. The scar went around the whole of the arm where the cut was. It reminded me of the circle with a line through it that Sylvia had drawn on Violet’s and mine foreheads all those months ago. As we watched the slashes healed over, becoming angry red scars like the burn scars. We glanced up at Healer and she smiled down at us. She picked up the goblet and indicated for us to rise. We let go of each other’s arm
   “To make it one hundred percent binding you must each drink from this sacred goblet which contains both your blood and some red wine. The red wine is part of our offering to the night. By giving it to you we are giving it to the night itself since you are night personified,” Healer said the last part to me. She handed me the goblet and I raised it above my head before drinking half of it. I repressed my gagging – it was vile – and handed it to Telepath; she drank the remainder. Grimacing slightly, she handed it back to Healer. Healer beamed at us
   “You are bound,” she said, “you shall discover much on your journey together, about the bond and each other,” Healer laughed, “Your love is strong and true. It’s astounding how you can love someone so much even when you barely know one another. Return to your places in the circle, my sisters,” we saluted her again and return to our positions. Healer closed the circle and we dispersed bidding goodbye to our sisters, until it was just Red, Fran, Sylvia and I left.
   “What’s the time, Willow?” Red asked. I closed my eyes tapping into my connection with night
   “02.45,” I answered, “I need to be going. One, I’m tired and drained (I realized later it was a bad pun). Two, I need to lift the spell on Sophia. Three, I have no idea when my father will be home, he’s been home as early as four in the morning before,” I hugged Sylvia and Red. Kissed Frannie and turned and left waving as I reached the edge of the clearing, “See you soon, my sisters,” I called
   “Hey, Willow!” Red called. I turned back around, “You need to call the shadows to conceal yourself”
   “Thanks for reminding me,” I lowered my voice to a whisper, “shadows I need you. Mask me, conceal me. Hide me from watching eyes,” I felt the familiar tingle through my body as I became the shadows. I walked home sluggishly, it took me ten minutes. I sent the shadows away as I entered the entrance hall. I tiptoed to the kitchen to get a drink of water. I glugged it down rinsed the glass and put it away. I sped up the stairs and slipped into my room. I shimmied out of my dress, cleaning it quickly with magic and folded it up and put it into the box I’d left on my bed. I took off the necklace and put it in the box also with my candle. I sealed the box (again with magic) and put it away in the wardrobe. I pulled on my nightgown, brushed out the tangles in my hair and climbed into bed after lifting the silencing spell I’d cast to silence my walking. I lay down settling into the sheets and closed my eyes as if I was asleep. I sighed and whispered the counter spell to the sleeping one I’d put on Soph, keeping my eyes closed. I heard her stirring
   “What..?” She whispered. I felt her approach my bed and touch my cheek. She pulled off the pillow on the other side of the bed and retrieved a blanket. She set up a make shift bed on the floor, “Dream sweet dreams, Pixie,” she whispered. And I did.

The End

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