Once the chant was over and the spinning had stopped, the girls turned to each other and excitedly hugged themselves. "Did we do it?" the shorter one asked eagerly. "Did we break the spell?"

Turning to the taller of the two males, the tallest female cocked her head inquisitively and whispered in his head -Did we do it love? Do you feel the connection with... it?- Several moments passed and then the reply they had been dreading came. -Yes.-

Along with the reply came an intense flood of pain and sorrow. "I'm sorry." he whispered aloud to no one in particular. "I'm sorry I failed you all." Hurrying over, the shorter male placed his pale hand on the sobbing warlock's shoulder.

"You didn't fail us brother. We will face the THING we created together. No one failed alone, we failed together." The shorter of the two females, Magdalene, nodded and removed the hood of her cloak. Her dark brown hair fell down to her waist and covered half of her pretty face. Her jade green eyes were sorrowful and yet had a determined glint to them.

"Yes." she said in a firm voice. "We will face it together." Taking the shorter male's hand, Thomas, and the other witch's hand, Aisling, she nudged Aisling to take the taller warlock's hand. Grabbing Marcus's hand, Aisling glanced over at him, her sapphire eyes prodding him to look at Magdalene as they prayed. Tears soaked her tan cheeks and her shoulders shook with sobs.

Breaking off into pairs, Marcus and Magdalene headed off towards their small cottage at the base of the hill and at the beginning of the forest that surrounded them. Thomas and Aisling headed towards the huge mansion at the opposite end of the forest.

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Aisling's flaming red hair shone in the soft gas light as she pulled the ivory brush through it. Looking at her husband through the small mirror she held up, her eyes were concerned. He wasn't a natural warlock, not like her, Marcus and Magdalene. In desperation for her love she had performed the forbidden rites and made him into a warlock. The spells they performed together often took a huge toll on the thin male and he was bedridden most times for days. It was Aisling's skills as a midwife that kept them from having to sell everything they owned during those times.

Because she was a witch, Aisling often used her powers to get the young couples of the small town across the river to conceive when they mated. She also sped up the maturation process so that the babies were born several months early at the size they would be at full turn. All in all it took about four maybe five months for the babies to be born there and because of it many people had moved to their small town. The townspeople claimed it was the water from the river that made the babies be born so early but everyone knew it was because of the young witch.

No one dared to burn the four because of how they kept the evil things away that lived in the forest. It was an entrance to hell at the center of the huge forest and they often were called away in the dead of night to fight the demons. It was there that they met Osiris. Or his shade anyways. The shade had convinced them that it was not evil and that it would bless them with tremendous powers if they just created a body for it.

Stupidly they had done it and created a monster. A local man had died only a day before when a tree had fallen on him when they were felling it for a cabin for one of the new families in Aethgarra. They had rushed him to Magdalene and Aisling and they had worked feverishly for two straight days to keep the man's soul in his body while they healed him but in the end it was useless. He would die and they could do nothing to help it.

That night the townspeople came and had tried to torch their houses but in desperation Aisling had been forced to induce one of the pregnant women into early labor. To save the screaming woman from dying, the townspeople promised the two witches that they would leave peacibly and never try it again.

The next morning they had met Osiris and, using another forbidden rite, had forced his shade into the dead man's body. The four had changed the body's appearance so that no one would know it was the same man that had died and become a corpse but it was easy to tell the similarities of the two. The nose was still the same shape and it had many of the same scars on the arms and legs that the dead man had had.

Of the four there, Marcus had a special connection with the shade and its host and always knew where it was. It had taken a long time for them to convince Osiris to hide out in the forest and it was because of the connection they were able to keep him there. A few times he had tried to escape but they were lucky enough to get there in time to keep the monster they had created inside the deep bowels of the forest.

Shaking her head to get rid of the horrible memories that came with her thoughts of Thomas's transformation, Aisling stood up slowly as her creamy white satin shift fell from her thighs to a long train behind her. "Dear are you okay?" she asked, her husky voice rich with concern for her beloved. When he nodded, she sank down on the huge feather-filled matress and started to massage his shoulders to relieve him of some of the tension he carried in his third and fourth vertabrae.

While Aisling massaged, Thomas fell into some of his own memories. These weren't painfilled like Aisling's were, they were happy ones. He remembered when he first saw his beloved. It was on the dusty streets of Aethgarra and she had stepped out of the general store her red hair streaking behind her as the wind tried to whip off her wide-brimmed straw hat. She'd had a necklace made of flowers looped three times around her neck and the pale blue dress she wore was just barely too short and stopped at mid-calf and was extremely tight in the bodice eccentuating her full breasts. Her face was dirty and slightly sticky from the candy she was sucking on. A small girl clung to her hand and had the same flaming hair that Aisling did.

He had made the mistake of thinking the child was hers and had almost cost him the thing that was most dear to him. He had asked if Aisling wanted help with handling her daughter and she had turned on him, her dirty face furious. He had barely dodged the incoming knee that was aimed for between his legs and instead had been hit in the kneecap. He crumpled to the ground and had blacked out.

When he awoke, Aisling was hovering over him, her pretty face worried and creased with concern. "You okay?" she asked him, her voice husky and yet lilting at the same time. Her accent wasn't Irish which he'd expected, but rather Scottish. He decided she had mixed blood. He also decided he was madly, head-over-heels in love with her. When he opened his mouth to answer her question, to let her know he was fine he blurted out "I love you!" instead. Aisling backed up, her sapphire eyes wide with fear. Without saying a word she fled, leaving the red-faced Thomas sprawled in the dust.

At home, Aisling rushed around the small cottage dusting and sweeping and wiping up every speck of dirt she could find in an attempt to keep her mind off of what the man in Aethgarra had told her. No one in her entire life, besides her family, had ever told her they loved her. She was too tall, too ungainly, too.... too.... boyish for any guy to like. She had felt a rush of strange emotions in her stomach when the man had said those... words to her. She had been tempted to say them back, but just for a second. Then she had done what she had never done before in her life. She ran.

Back in Aethgarra, Thomas slowly crawled to his feet ignoring the throbbing pain in his knee. Limping to his buggy, he climbed into it as best he could. Grabbing the reins he snapped them briskly and the two matching bays leapt forward. "Take me home Gaeia, Celia." he whispered then collapsed into unconsiousness once again.

When he finally awoke, a smiling face greeted him. "You're a fine sight to see." a familiar Scottish voice said cheerfully. "Aye, I was afraid you'd never wake up there. You've been asleep for nigh onto three days."

"Three days?!" Thomas exclaimed, struggling to get out of bed. When Aisling pushed him back into bed he got a devious idea. Grabbing her wrist as she pushed, Thomas pulled her into bed with him. For a few seconds Aisling felt as if that was where she was made to belong. Cradled against his body, hers melding to his like they were two puzzle pieces made to fit together. Grinning, Thomas pulled her closer and for another few seconds he kissed her.

Sparks literally flew between them and Aisling could have sworn she heard his thoughts. -Oh my goodness, she's actually letting me do this! Lord, this feels so right. I wish she knew how much she means to me!-

Gasping, Aisling pushed away from him and leapt off of the bed. "How dare you sir! I have taken care of you for the last three days when your buggy arrived at my house and the horse on the left practically had a fit when I didn't get into the buggy to see if you were okay. When I finally climbed in to check on you they took off running and would not stop for anything until they came here. I barely managed to drag you inside and heave you into bed. And then for the last three days I've sat here by your side listening to you babble on and on and on about nothing besides the movement of the stars and how they were aligning to some bobblecock thing. If my cousin Marcus and his wife Magdalene hadn't helped me with healing you, you'd still be in a fevered delirium! And then you have the nerve to kiss me!"

"But miss, you don't understand! I love you!!!" Thomas protested.

"How can you love me?!" Aisling screeched. "You've ne'er met me before in your life and you've only seen me once!"

"I just do! Now please, listen to me!" Thomas said impatiently.

"NO!" Aisling cried, and fled the room, tears streaking down her cheeks. Once again she heard something in her head. -Oh man, what is it going to take to convince her that I do love her? That I love the way her eyes glitter and sparkle when she laughs? That her hair is the same color as the sun when it sets? That when she speaks I hang on to her every word? I don't care that she's too tall according to her family! I don't care that she's too gangly and that her brothers say she can punch harder than they can and that she'll never be married off to someone!-

Sobbing, Aisling curled into a ball and clutched her head in her hands. "STOP SAYING THOSE THINGS!!!" she screamed. "I am too too gangly and too tall and I will NEVER be married to someone!! They all think I'm a monster!"

A grunt from the doorway behind her caused her to stop screaming. "Lady Aisling of Aethgarra, you are perfect in every way." Thomas said quietly, leaning against the doorframe. "If anyone can't see that then they aren't worthy of you. I DO love you and I won't stop saying them. I will say them to you every day of your life and every day of our life together. I want to marry you and make you happy. Please, Aisling, marry me."

Standing up, Aisling smiled a slight, shaky smile and nodded her head. Grinning, Thomas pulled her to him, wincing slightly as her leg hit his knee and kissed her possessively.

"Thomas?" Aisling said softly. Shaking his head, Thomas turned to his wife who was lying on the bed beside him now. She had long abandoned massaging his back and was about to snuff out the lamps. "Are you coming to bed dear?"

"Yes love." Grinning as Aisling turned out the lights, Thomas pulled her close to him and kissed her gently. "I love you Aisling, my beautiful perfect wife." he whispered just before sleep overtook him.

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Turning over in her sleep, Aislin muttered something and continued dreaming.