Word Count: 2914| Estimated Reading Time: 14 minutes
In Chapter 10 Xanthe, with the help of the Truth Weaver goes to help Kit and Melanie who have fallen off his bike. Melanie has been trapped by a tree and Kit is unconscious and has a snake bite on his leg just like Xanthe’s. They return to the house where Xanthe bathes in a potion to help reduce the poisin in Kit. But Melanie is acting strangely and she tries to drown Xanthe until a strange man comes to the rescue.
Xanthe put her head between her knees, still trying to catch her breath. Her chest hurt, as if being crushed by a heavy brick The Seventh Coven? Stella dead? She lifted her head just as Melanie sped past her and under the man’s arms as he stood framed in the doorway. He stared at Xanthe one last time. Those parts of his face not covered with wiry hair were wrinkled with age and sallow, like an old apple. His eyes were the palest blue and consumed with a sadness that filtered through to Xanthe. It was as if he’d seen a ghost. She tried to smile at him, and he stepped back, horrified. As if she had grown another head.
She scrambled to her feet and held out her hand. “Thank you, thanks again. For saving me.” Xanthe nodded back towards the bath, as water dripped from her clothes and formed a puddle around her feet.
The man shook his head, stepped back, and turned. He was a large man, and his movements were clumsy and messy. His feet were bare, and his toes gripped the floor.
“No, please don’t go. I want to talk—”
The man moved faster than his frame seemed to suggest, and Xanthe had no energy to follow him. She sunk back to her knees, pulling one of the soft, woolly bath towels around her. The air had cooled in the room and her skin prickled with goosebumps. She trembled and chattered her teeth as the full impact of Melanie’s actions hit home.
Cobweb and the Truth Weaver appeared by her side, the cat weaving around her body despite the wet ground. He lifted each paw as he did and shook the water from it. Xanthe rocked backwards and forwards.
“What happened?” Asked the Truth Weaver as she waved her staff in front of her, the skull dipping and diving as though providing her with sight.
“Melanie tried to drown me.” Xanthe said the words flatly, but she still didn’t believe that it was what Melanie had intended. She had seemed pretty upset about something. And it was as though she had been talking to someone. Someone only she could see.
Cobweb growled and sniffed and snorted, his bubble-gum-pink tongue flicking in and out of his mouth as though tasting something.
The Truth Weaver nodded. “Where is the girl now?”
Xanthe shrugged. “I don’t know. She ran off when the man—”
“Man?” The Truth Weaver interrupted and stood in front of Xanthe, crouching down to her level. “What man?”
“I don’t know,” said Xanthe through gritted teeth. “I’ve never seen him before. “This was not the time for an interrogation, for pity’s sake. She’d just nearly drowned.
“It’s important, Xanthe. I can sense something here. Some kind of evil.” The Truth Weaver narrowed her eyes and Cobweb’s whiskers trembled.
“I told you, Melanie tried to drown me. I must have lost consciousness and then when I came around, I was lying on the floor and an old man was beside me.”
Cobweb glanced at the Truth Weaver. “Go and check”. The cat nodded and padded out of the room, his tail held upright like a flag.
“Check on who? Is Kit alright?” Xanthe stood, but she felt dizzy. She sat back on her heels. She would get the answers, needed the answers. “You’re the one who keeps telling me to look for the truth. And I’m pretty sure you’re not telling it, despite your fancy name.” Her voice rose with her growing anxiety.
The Truth Weaver nodded and knelt in front of Xanthe.
“You are right. But first, tell me what the man said. Tell me everything.”
Xanthe sighed. She wasn’t getting anywhere. “I took the bath as you told me to. Melanie came in and looked…” She paused for a while, trying to recapture the mad look in Melanie’s eyes. “I don’t know, possessed or something. Melanie can be bad, horrid even, but this was different. She was talking to herself. Or to something else.”
The Truth Weaver held one finger in the air, then sucked at the skin and nodded. “Continue.”
Xanthe took out her frustration on her inner lip and bit until she could taste blood.
“I tried to fight back. I scratched her face. But she was too strong, and she forced me down again. She kept calling me a witch. I tried to pretend and stopped struggling, hoping that she would stop. I couldn’t breathe, and I must have passed out.”
“And the man?” The Truth Weaver prompted.
“I have no idea where he came from. I saw something in the doorway just before I passed out. Like a shadow. When I came around, Melanie was in the corner muttering like some mad woman, and he was standing over me. He seemed to…I don’t know it sounds daft.” Xanthe shook her head. “He seemed to recognise me.”
Xanthe stood again, her strength recovering, and paced the room. “Melanie seemed scared. As though someone was talking to her. Telling her what to do. She kept screaming no.” She fixed her gaze on the Truth Weaver. “And then the man called me Stella.”
Xanthe waited and watched the Truth Weaver’s face as she took in the information. Not a twitch. “Stella was the name of my mother? Wasn’t it?”
The muscle in one cheek of the Truth Weaver pulsated.
“Wasn’t it?” Xanthe took another step forward, so her face was close to the woman’s.
The Truth Weaver tapped her staff. “Answers will come later. Please continue.”
Xanthe clenched her fists. “He said Stella was dead. He said it twice, in fact. And then he said—” Xanthe waited for a minute, hoping for some sort of reaction. But when nothing was forthcoming, she blurted out. “He said the witches killed her. Witches from the Seventh Coven.” She crossed her arms in finality.
The woman nodded. “And the girl, Melanie. Where is she?”
“I don’t know, and right now I don’t care.”
“I don’t believe you. I think you want to think that, but we need to find her and find her fast.”
“She tried to drown me!” shouted Xanthe. “And a strange man, who seemed to know who I was, has just told me that my mother is dead. Why would I care about Melanie, the girl who has bullied me all my life and just tried to drown me?”
The Truth Weaver took a step closer to Xanthe, and a calming effect, like being hugged, enveloped her. She took seven breaths. The answers would come. She would just have to be patient. There was no point in getting angry. Not with the Truth Weaver, who had powers far beyond Xanthe’s understanding.
“You said yourself that Melanie was different, possessed, maybe?”
“Possessed,” Xanthe repeated. That was exactly how it looked. As though something or someone had taken over Melanie, controlling her actions. Melanie could be mean, but she wasn’t that brave.
“The girl has not been honest with us. I had my suspicions when she was trapped by the tree. Now I think she has been possessed, but I don’t understand how.”
“Trapped? Possessed by what?”
“An evil force. From the Kingdom. From someone you, in fact, destroyed. But somehow…”
“Toovah? You are talking about Toovah? But I saw her engulfed. In flames.” Xanthe held up her hands in front of her.
The Truth Weaver nodded and swung her staff. “We must find Melanie, and soon. Before it's too late.”
And she swept out of the room
Xanthe picked herself up and followed the witch out into the grounds. The storm clouds had regathered, and the sky was streaked with dark bluish-purple spots, like a fresh bruise. She inhaled the earthy atmosphere and hoped that Melanie would be okay. Despite what she had said to the Truth Weaver, Xanthe wouldn’t wish any harm to come to Melanie. A wolf howled away in the distance and the skin around the tattoo on her wrist prickled. She rubbed at it and shivered. Xanthe realised she was still in her damp clothes, which were drying around her, sticking to her skin. She pulled at her jumper, which was heavy and had lengthened to her knees with the water. Where would Melanie have gone?
“Melanie!” she called, cupping her hands over her mouth, shouting with all her might. Her throat was still dry and sore from the retching, but she turned one way and then the next, repeating Melanie’s name. “It’s alright. Please don’t worry, we can help you.” She wasn’t sure she meant the words, but if Toovah was here, within Melanie, then she had to find her.
The Truth Weaver stood in the middle of the grounds and held her staff high, turning it slowly in one slow circle. She stopped halfway round and lowered it. She raised it again and pointed towards a stone building just visible in the distance.
“The temple, I think she’s in the temple.”
The sky rumbled and a rustling sound approached them through the lines and lines of trees, the foliage whipping the ground back and forth as the rain began to pour. Big, fat drops of water fell from the sky, soaking Xanthe through again as they made their way to the temple. The rain did not appear to bother the Truth Weaver. It was as if she carried an invisible umbrella. Xanthe’s gaze followed the tall stone building to its tip way up high. It was a thin, round building, made of a silver blue stone. She could not see any windows. They reached a small arch shaped wooden door, and Xanthe pulled on the handle, but it would not budge. She shouted through the door and then put her ear against the wood and listened. Not a sound. She closed her eyes and concentrated. “There!” She heard Melanie whimpering like a sick puppy.
“She’s in there.” Xanthe turned to the Truth Weaver, waiting for her instructions. None came. “So, what do we do?”
“We need to get to her before it’s too late. The evil is still here.” She pointed at the temple with her staff. “In there with the girl.”
Xanthe pulled on the door again, propping her foot against the wall as leverage and pulled with all her might, but to no avail. Cobweb appeared at her feet.
“There is a ledge, about halfway up.” He ran his gaze up the stone wall. The tower was huge. Taller than the tree canopy. Xanthe swallowed. She so hated heights.
“There are small footholds on the wall. Made for a child’s foot, really.” Cobweb swept his gaze over Xanthe’s feet.
“Or a cat?” Xanthe suggested.
Cobweb smiled and shook his head. “I can lead the way, but you will have to enter.” He threw a look at his mistress.
The Truth Weaver nodded. “He’s right. You need to be the one to enter. The evil wants you and only you. If you don’t, Melanie will die.”
Xanthe swallowed. “And then I’ll die.”
The Truth Weaver and Cobweb shook their heads. “You have defeated the evil before. You can do it again. Do not let it speak to you. Blank your mind of everything until you can open the door and let us in. I will then help with the exorcism.”
“Exorcism?” Xanthe squeaked. It sounded like some horror movie. With demons.
The Truth Weaver nodded as a piercing scream rang out from inside the temple. “It’s only an element of the dryad, even so dangerous enough. Toovah was no ordinary creature, as you know. She had powers gifted from the Moon Goddess.” Xanthe bit her lip and nodded. She knew all about Toovah.
“Go now. She does not have much strength left.” The Truth Weaver raised her stick. “I will provide as much protection as I can, but I cannot match those of the dryad.”
Cobweb leapt up onto the first ledge. Xanthe counted to seven and followed.
“Don’t look down,” he instructed.
“Don’t you worry, that’s the last thing I will do.” Xanthe’s footing slipped, and she grabbed the ledge as her skin scraped along the wall. “Just keep your focus on the window and keep quiet.” She had to concentrate hard to forget how high she climbed as she followed Cobweb's self-assured steps. How she would love the power to grow another two legs to give her balance.
Within a few minutes, after several slips on the slippery lichen, Xanthe pulled herself onto the windowsill. To describe the opening as a window was an overstatement. It was a small slit carved out of the stone. Cobweb slipped through with ease.
Xanthe peered through the tiny aperture and could see Melanie lying on a stone table. Grey smoke twirled out of her nose and ears, and she could hear a voice coming from somewhere.
“Block it out, Xanthe. You must not listen.” Cobweb waited as she breathed in, forced herself headfirst through the small opening. At one point she faltered, unable to move, so she concentrated on Kit, getting him better. Going out on his bike and visiting him at University. She thought about anything but the evil which now filled the temple and seemed to have invaded Melanie. Her muscles relaxed, and she fell through, landing on a stone step.
She followed Cobweb down the stairs as the smoke stopped twirling around Melanie and made its way over to her. As if it knew she was here. Xanthe closed her eyes. She was strong. She could do this. Melanie whimpered, her breath thin and fast. She looked as if she were dying. Xanthe stopped and counted to seven as the smoke swirled about her as she made her way to the door. Across the lock was a twig, a thick twig which resembled a dismembered finger. Xanthe hesitated to touch it. Melanie screamed again. She was being tortured. Xanthe grabbed the twig and pulled as the door swung open and the Truth Weaver barged in, staff first waving the skull around and chanting under her breath.
“The Book of Words.” Cobweb said. “It’s under the altar. You need to get it.”
Xanthe glanced over and pulled herself upright. She ran over to the altar, fighting her way through the now thick, acrid smoke which stung her eyes and clung to her chest, and dived for the book.
A voice in the distance sounded, and she almost stopped to listen. She clasped the book to her body and turned to run back towards the Truth Weaver.
Melanie screamed again and again. Piercing cries filled the empty space around her and she put her hands over her ears.
“What now?” asked Xanthe. “We have to do something. She’s dying! Help her.”
The Truth Weaver tapped the book with her staff. “The Book of Words will help you.” The empty pages turned over and over until one page where there were lines and lines of the same two words.
“Say them, Xanthe, you must say them and mean what you say.”
“I believe,” Xanthe whispered as the voice grew in her head. It was telling her to leave Melanie. Why should she care? Melanie was a mean and horrid bully. What did she care if she died? Xanthe moaned. Of course she cared. She didn’t want Melanie to die. Xanthe tried to repeat the words, but they wouldn’t come. She clasped her hands over her ears again, tighter this time, trying to shush the voice in her head.
Cobweb cried loudly and was suddenly flying above her head, trying to waft the smoke away from Xanthe. His tiny wings whirred and flapped, and he spluttered as he hovered about her.
Melanie’s breathing was laboured. She struggled for her breath, her chest almost bursting with the effort. Her skin was grey, a deathly grey, and Xanthe gasped as Melanie opened her eyes. They were blood-red and stared directly at Xanthe. Melanie opened her mouth and ivy crept out, slithering like a snake, winding itself around Melanie’s throat, pulling tighter and tighter as Melanie’s eyes became wider and wider.
Xanthe sobbed. “Please, I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.”
“You can, you will. Louder! Again!” said the Truth Weaver as the smoke consumed them all. “Don’t stop.”
“I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe.” Xanthe chanted the words and with each breath forced herself to think only of believing. The skull on the tip of The Truth Weaver’s staff glowed a deathly green as Xanthe chanted the phrase again and again.
“Keep going,” said the Truth Weaver. “We’re almost there.”
Xanthe repeated the phrase. “You’ll never free her.” A voice exclaimed. A raspy voice. “Your earth boy did me a favour all along.”
Xanthe shook her head.
“Shut up!” she screamed. “I don’t believe you!”
“Xanthe, don’t listen, just keep repeating the phrase.” The Truth Weaver’s voice was weak and far away, and Xanthe didn’t know if she could hold on. She stood fast and repeated the words until there was a loud bang and the smoke gathered in the skull’s centre and the Truth Weaver tapped her staff and fell to the ground. Silence now filled the temple, and Xanthe ran over to the Truth Weaver.
“Don’t touch her.” Cobweb instructed.
“But… what if… she’s not breathing?”
“Xanthe?” Melanie called from the altar as she sat up. The ivy withered and shrank around her neck, and she pulled it from her neck. Her colour changed from grey to a pink healthy glow and her eyes were still bloodshot but no longer demon-like. Xanthe could see the old stare of Melanie.
“You saved me?” She fell from the table and scrabbled over to her on her hands and knees. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. I stole the ashes from Kit’s room. I’m so sorry.”
The twelfth, and final, episode of Thunder Moon will be posted next Friday at midnight. This first book in the the serialisation of The Luna Legends is free to all my subscribers and I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for your support.