The Crossing Point
Lillis woke up first, with a strange feeling, as if someone had called her too. Lightheaded, she went downstairs. Arabel followed behind slowly, Lillis in the main room first. She spotted a black tarantula and as she headed for it, Arabel gasped. She knew the symbolism, pointing at it and shaking her head. Lillis noted her reaction, and her whimper alerted Indigo and Jelixa to follow.
"What?" Lillis asked, moving her hand towards it. "I'm sure he's harmless. Probably just wants to get warm."
"Do you remember Indigo's exact words?" She asked, eyeing it and coming closer to her new sister.
"No one has passed through here, not even a spider," Indigo repeated, coming down the stairs.
"I'll take him outside then," Lillis answered, as if annoyed at the touchiness or her new comrades. The other three silently knew what it meant, hoping this wasn't a sign of their magick failing.
As Lillis went outside to free their pest, she saw a man riding near in a black cloak. He recognized her and removed his hood so she knew who he was. Darkness followed, his shadow lengthened and suddenly he lost control of his horse. Lillis closed the door, turning towards the others as the storm began. It would have felt natural if it brought rain, but it didn't.
"It's Nolan," she started, shouting over the sounds of wind and thunder. Jelixa sighed, holding her glowing talisman.
"Let him in," she gave. She knew it had to be something important for him to have found her, to have used the mirror and followed her so far.
Arabel opened the door for him as the storm progressed and winds picked up. Indigo took his steed into the stables with her own. She ran quickly back to the cabin, and as they got inside she heard a howl. They all knew what it was and what it wasn't. It certainly was no animal and no foul. It was a hellish sound, followed by a deeper growl that seemed to heighten the sounds of thunder, and lightning cracked the sky. A cloud emerged like a ghost but the image was a contorted face, wrinkled, grotesque and terrifying, certainly from only one origin. It opened its mouth and all four sisters shut the door as it came closer.
"Angelica root!" Jelixa called, knowing the perfect spell. They knew it too, and Indigo went for it as the evil spirit pounded at the door. Now all the animals were calling, terrified screams and warnings from crows, even their horses. Somehow they remained calm, Jelixa catching the jar of herbs and pouring it in a perfect line around the threshold, and by instinct Nolan took it from her as Arabel led.
"Michael, Michael, burning bright, protect us now with burning might. Michael, Michael, burning bright, protect us now with burning might…" Jelixa and Lillis chimed in. "None shall pass this fiery wall, none shall pass, none at all. None shall pass this fiery wall, none shall pass, none at all…"
The four continued, and each second it cried in misery, the storm drew back as it was pushed and burned, taking off away from the sisters. Jelixa was the last left chanting, as the protective person she was. They stepped back, knowing it had worked. Still, they couldn't leave the thing to do any more damage, there or elsewhere.
"Wind, sweep away," Indigo commanded. Thusly it did so, blowing him farther away and tossing him about.
"Rain," Arabel chimed, "Wash away." Where there had been no rain it began, almost as holy rain, tinging him and making him run. But he wouldn't be able to; the elements where everywhere, at the sisters' call.
"Earth, open and take him inside," Jelixa sternly commanded. It did so, rising as a volcano and taking him inside as it closed.
"Fire," Lillis began, with righteous rage this time. "Consume him."
It did so, and the storm ended. They each took a deep breath and Nolan met their eyes, lost. Or maybe he just pretended he was.
"What was that?" He asked, almost nervous.
"A demon," she began, pausing and starting again with the same distrust and sarcasm as he had when he addressed her for the first time. "You led him here," she finished, taking a seat at the table, facing him.
"I don't know if it was sent by you, someone who controlled him or of his own will, but he wanted you. We would've been the second course."
"I am truly sorry." She knew he was. No amount of tone change would make it sound anymore genuine, it would lessen it.
"No worries," she began. "He's gone now, for good."
Jelixa eyed Nolan closely as she read into him. There was a similar feeling to him as she felt with her sisters, as though she'd known or seen him before. She knew what it meant, but she wouldn't trust it just yet. "Something from your past is following you, " she began, knowingly concluding the reason. "Something you haven't made peace with."
"I wouldn't doubt it," he answered with a shrug. "No offense, but I didn't come here to talk about my past," he finished, leaning forward in his seat.
"Then what is it?" Arabel asked, knowing it was something grave for him to be there, considering they'd just banished a demon. He met her eyes, all of theirs knowing that were all equals, and they all deserved to know.
"The order burned down their own temple. We had been there a few nights before, and out of nowhere a fire broke out."
"Only magick," Arabel interjected, looking at the others. It had to be. No other power could have.
"Exactly," Nolan added, eyeing her. "They had to know we'd been there. They did it as a last stand."
Lillis knew the symbolism, speaking it. "If any of you left traces of yourselves, they cursed you."
"Not so fast," Jelixa interrupted. "He's safe here. The curse can't follow him that far. Not now." Jelixa turned back to Nolan, and Indigo spoke for her.
"We found their plans," Nolan spoke, shaking his head. "I didn't tell you at first because I thought it was too deep. They've made eigthteen sacrifices that we know, six each time," He finished, meeting Jelixa's eyes.
"For what?" Jelixa couldn't wait to hear. She, like anyone with a brain knew the symbolism of the number six. She knew all of this had mounted for a purpose.
"They're trying to cross a demon onto our plane. Not like what we just saw, tangible evil, through either divination or possession." He took a deep breath before continuing. "You worship the lord and lady right?"
Jelixa nodded. She ignored the shock that he knew in suspense of what he'd say next.
"Well their lord is Sammael and their lady is Lilith," he answered. Both were the evil equivalent of the former, evil spirits who ruled in hell. "Their goal is to cross Sammael over first."
The why was obvious; to have their leader rule over all and follow him, take a portion of power as immortals and shifters. Though both were powerful, they had only one to worry about the prospect of one, but that one would not be nearly as easy to handle as any magickal situation either had handled before. And while this concerned them, they would not hesitate to rectify it to the best of their ability, and they had to be prepared.
This was indeed the work of black magick, Lillis' forte. While she wasn't proud of that, her knowledge would surely help the cause. It frightened her more than the rest, as she had once been told she was a perfect vessel for either, carrying a variation of the demoness' name. But nothing had happened yet, and she knew she was safe with her sisters.
"Anything else?" Jelixa asked.
"Nothing of anymore help," Nolan answered. "I have crime scene photos, the manual," he finished, handing them to her.
"Great," she replied, taking them in hand. She stood and walked to the fire and tossed them in. He eyed her curiously, and she answered.
"This is exactly the kind of thing you should burn, the things that should be cursed. No one outside these walls would believe your story anyway. To them, your evidence is fallacious."
He knew it, so he looked away with no more fight. It was the very reason paranormal investigations were shunned and laughed at. While Jelixa wanted to know more, she was more concerned about something else. His reason for coming was convincing, plausible, but for every one reason there was a second. Her concern was his past—how he knew so much and knew and why his past followed him in the form of a demon.
Jelixa gave the others a glance and a gentle smile. They recognized it and left, leaving her and Nolan alone.
"I apologize for that," he began, more for the intrusion than anything. "I had to tell you. It's kept me up all night. I haven't been able to rest yet."
"I imagine," Jelixa answered, giving him a manufactured smile. "I'll get something to calm you."
She stood up slowly, smiling as she left him to wait. She headed to the kitchen where the others had been, listening quietly. Jelixa paid this no more mind than a glare as she went for the herbs and to the cauldron. Indigo shut the door, and looking at her couldn't help but ask.
"What are you doing?"
Jelixa hushed her, pouring a long handled cup of water from the cauldron into a mug, setting a ball of tea inside and the other cup back into the cauldron.
"He needs something to calm him," She replied finally, knowing they had heard him. She reached for teaspoons and two jars as she finished, "And that is what I'm going to give him."
"Silence from outside these walls," Arabel chanted, aiming her hand at the wall, thinking quickly. Nolan knew too much already; knowing any more would only heighten the tension.
"How," Arabel asked, turning to face her. "By drugging him?"
"Heavens no. I wouldn't do such a thing," she answered, spooning in ingredients.
"Anything you use on him would be against his will and cause harm," Indigo interjected, matter-of-factly.
"No," Jelixa answered, stopping and whipping around to face her. "The moment he used my mirror and stepped inside these walls, he became subject to my magick—our magick—and he knew it."
They all went silent with that, knowing it was true as she continued on the concoction. Lillis stepped up, having been the silent one, watching her to see what she was adding, hoping to tell exactly what she was making. Jelixa added the heart of a snapdragon.
"Ah, so you're working a spell to ensure your wish for love will work. How sweet."
"No," Jelixa replied. Love spells were too dangerous, and they all knew that. It often turned to infatuation and obsession instead.
Then she added three drops of wormwood.
"Are you going to make him a medium?"
"No," Jelixa replied with a smile, shaking her head. The chamomile she added next showed there was some truth when she said it would calm him, but with the addition of myrrh and iris root, Lillis was out of guesses. Jelixa looked at her, to give her the answer she'd been digging for.
"It's my own recipe for truth serum," she began. "He has a past, one he won't confess to, and one that brought that demon here. Since he won't tell me and felt the need to question me so harshly, I have some questions for him. Ones he can only answer with the truth."
They shared glances, knowing their leader never faltered. Jelixa stirred it, all along chanting.
"Divine the truth, enhance. Break the cycle of denial, open his mind. Calm and coax him, bring the past to light."
Arabel turned to the wall, pointing to it again and chanting, "Undo." There had been perfect silence for too long now, the kind that might make their visitor even more skittish. Jelixa stepped out, drink in hand. She touched the spoon just barely to stop it from stirring on its own, making it seem even more strange. She set it in front of Nolan and sat at the opposing end of the table, facing him as he took it in hand. As he took his first sip her eyes never swayed, and then she watched him sit it down and wipe his mouth.
"I know you put something in this," he began, grabbing the cup again.
"Did I?" she asked, feigning innocence.
"Yes, you did," he answered, taking another hearty swig. "It doesn't take that long for you to make a cup of tea, nor is it that silent," he finished. After holding his eyes for a beat, he took another. She met his eyes with a question, and though it wasn't part of her interrogation, she had to ask.
"If you know it's been tampered with, why are you drinking it?"
"I want you to see that I'm not afraid of it," he answered, sitting it down. It was empty now, and its intoxicating effects were sinking in.
She leaned forward, sensing it and asking her first intended question.
"Why call on me, a witch, if you fear magick so?"
"Two reasons," he began. "One, I know you have your ways to—divine victory. Two, I don't fear magick in itself."
"What does that mean?"
He could answer in circles, but it would get him nowhere. He knew what this was.
"That drink—it makes me tell the truth doesn't it?"
"Yes," she answered, smiling. She was getting to the heart of it now. "Please answer me."
He sat back with a deep breath. "Not all magick is bad or evil." Obviously. She changed the pattern.
"But you are afraid of black magick?"
"Yes," he growled out. But there was something else too, something she only had to ask to know.
"Because I know what it can do." He would've said more, but he stopped himself. This was the reason he couldn't blame Jelixa for hiding her secret….He had demons.
"How?" she followed. Nolan bit his lip and looked away, wishing he could storm off. Somehow the drink had made him too dizzy to move. He was stuck there, forced to answer her questions honestly.
"Firsthand experience," he answered, extending a hand, ironically the same one wearing the mysterious glove. She paused, trying to formulate the perfect question to get to it.
"How do you know?"
"Know what?" For once, he got to ask a question.
"How did you know I was a witch? How did you know my name? How do you know who we worship?"
It was the same answer for all of them. He ran his hands through his hair, frustrated that he had to say it. He pushed the cup to the center of the table, looking away and answering without meeting her eyes.
"Because I was one," he answered, finally meeting her eyes. It made sense now.
"You were a warlock?" she asked. While it made perfect sense, it shocked her that someone with such disdain for witchcraft had used it once. He barely nodded.
"Yes," he answered, pained. "I know, technically you're always one. Technically, I'm one forever," he finished, taking off his glove. He figured there was no sense in hiding it. The glove had been hiding a black and green tattoo stretching across his whole hand. It was a snake forming a perfect circle, biting the end of its tail. She knew it was a symbol for immortality, but at the price of self-damnation, definitely dark. She touched it, knowing it hadn't been for so long and he'd kept it covered to keep his secret. He gloved it again. "I didn't have the stomach to carve it off, so it's been with me since."
"Since you left your coven?"
"Yes," he answered. "Ten years ago."
"It's not all bad. Everything evil can be used for good."
"And vice-versa," Nolan warned.
"What made you leave?" She knew the reason had to be similar to the reason her and her sisters abandoned theirs.
He let out a cloud of deep breath and kept her eyes.
"Unlike you, I wasn't given the choice to practice or not. My father raised me into it. He practiced black magick while my mother practiced elemental. He lied, saying he used it only against evil. Behind her back he hexed, cursed and sacrificed many people, sometimes not even for power. I tried to practice with my mother, held on to what she'd taught me. She knew the truth, that I was walking a dangerous line but she loved me still. Father would have none of it, mother was just a trophy who'd forgotten her place. He sold her out to some church, who burned her at the stake, and I wished to God they'd burned him instead. I bound him, using the same black magick he taught me. I cursed him with the same magick, and sadly it was the only time I ever enjoyed it. When he died, I left."
"Your curse killed him?" Jelixa asked.
"Yeah," he slowly answered, looking away with shame and regret. It was just as bad as saying he had killed his father."After that I ran far away, undid every spell, every blood tie and washed every trace that I could. I burned my book of shadows and anything relating at all to magick," he answered, taking a deep breath. "I blocked it all out. Hell, I even forgot my protection spells. I changed my life, became a paranormal detective to solve cases like my own. For redemption, more or less."
"How did you block it out?" she asked. She'd wanted to once, tried but failed.
"Obviously I never could," Nolan bellowed, running a hand through his hair. "I suppose changing my life, stopping the practice did so. At one point, I told myself everything I saw, heard, knew, was a farce. I suppose it worked then."
"But you never forgot."
"It was strange though," he began again. "I stopped thinking of it, lied to myself knowing I was lying to myself, and through it all, nothing came back on me. Made me think I was right in disbelieving for a while," he finished, sighing. That was a comfortable thought, less complicated.
"The lord and lady saw to you," Jelixa answered. "They protected you because you needed to heal. But it all led you back here, to that unfinished road. All of what has mounted, the order, meeting us four—it means the time has come to make peace with it. For all the years you were free from the spiritual side of things , it's come back now," Jelixa finished, addressing the complication. "Times three."
"Damn, I bet you're right," Nolan gave with a chuckle, sitting up and running a hand over his face. He knew it too, well versed himself. His smile slowly faded as he toyed with the cup. "Please, don't let the others know. I know I have to face this, but I'm not ready to start again," he finished, looking away. He knew none of the sisters condoned or practiced black magick, and while he didn't want to himself, he knew practicing again would open the door to just that. He had been too fluent in it to not at least be tempted. It was the very reason he had stopped and while it seemed unfounded, considering he knew the heart of magick was pure, Jelixa understood. She touched his gloved hand and met his eyes.
"Thank you," he answered, as though a heavy burden had just been taken from his shoulders.
"One more question," she teased, lightening her tone. "Do you find me beautiful?"
He smiled wickedly, averting his eyes a moment and then back. She had been fighting her attraction to him since they met, though a master at hiding it. He knew it, but still, he couldn't lie to her.
"Yes, you're very beautiful. That's how I knew you were a witch."
Jelixa's brows furrowed, and then he explained.
"All beautiful women are witches, so they say. Able to enchant anyone."
"So by that logic, all warlocks are handsome."
"I suppose," he teased back, smiling.
He managed to stand and so did she, unsure where he was headed. As he moved towards her he leaned in. Jelixa couldn't help leaning back, teased herself by the thought. Still she held firm, turning away as he did.
"You were going to kiss me," she shot, glaring but in a coy tone.
"Yes," he answered, now slurring. "But I don't want to give you anything you don't want."
Oh Lord. He was at the final stage, before her concoction lost its effect and had another. She noticed that as he barely stumbled.
"In fact— "
Before he could finish, Nolan fell faint, collapsing with a loud thud.
It went without saying it was rare for a man to fall faint; it took something powerful, and that was exactly what her drink was. It was very potent, with higher doses than she'd ever used. This, however, was a common after effect of her alchemic serums, and she could deal with that. What she couldn't deal with was wondering if Nolan wanted her simply because if the drink, or it was of his will. That had been left to her imagination.
As the sound resonated, the other three emerged, knowing what happened and laughing. He wouldn't be happy she had done this, bnut at least he would feel some justice lying in bed. With a concentrated chant, the four had him levitating stiffly up the stairs, just above their fingettips as if weightless. They brought him to his room, lowering him on the bed.
Jelixa knew now, and she was satisfied. Now she could more clearly deal with the reason he'd alerted her. She left him to rest, unbothered as she thought. If he wanted no dealings with magick just yet she would give him that. He would be too sedated to hear, see or know what she and her sisters were up to downstairs.