Word Count: 3334 | Estimated Reading Time: 14 Minutes
In Chapter Eleven, the penultimate episode, Xanthe is recovering after nearly being drowned by Melanie, who has gone missing. The Truth Weaver realises that evil is at hand and Melanie is possessed by the ashes of Toovah which she stole from Kit’s bedroom. Xanthe has to go and help save Melanie who is trapped in the temple and is dying.
Xanthe peered back at Melanie. “Ashes? Kit’s room?”
Melanie shrugged. Her face was pale, black streaks ran down from her eyes, and her nose was red. Her hair, usually perfectly tied back, lay in lank strands around her neck. Xanthe had never seen her look so… disassembled.
“Yes, in a small jar. They seemed important to him. Like that stone he has.” She lowered her gaze. “He told me about the Kingdom. About you being a Moon Princess.”
Xanthe gaped like a goldfish. “He told you?” She didn’t believe her. Even now, Melanie was using lies to get between her and Kit. Would she stop at nothing?
Xanthe scrabbled to her feet. “Whatever, Melanie. I have no idea what is going on any more than you do. I’m glad you’re okay. Even though you tried to drown me.”
“It wasn’t me, honest! It was that voice in my head.”
Xanthe regarded the two scratch marks down Melanie’s face that looked like a line of bloody tears. She wondered if she’d be scarred for life. Serve her right if she was. Melanie reached for Xanthe’s arm and, in a furry flash, suddenly flew past her and knocked Melanie to the ground. She lay on her back with Cobweb paused with his paw, claws fully extended, hovering over her throat.
“Cobweb, it’s okay. She’s okay. She will not hurt me.”
Cobweb observed her with a steely look before stepping down and weaving his familiar path through Xanthe’s legs.
The Truth Weaver moaned, and they all turned to the noise. Xanthe ran over to her, took her arms, and helped her to her feet. She stood unsteadily and gazed unseeingly in front of her. “We got it all out?”
Xanthe nodded. “I think so. No smoke.” She looked over at Melanie. “You hear that voice now?”
Melanie shook her head and stood with her hands folded in front of her. “No, it’s definitely gone. Made me feel really weird.”
“So where did it go?” Xanthe asked, not wanting to give the demon or the voice the name that was so familiar.
“Where’s my staff?” asked the Truth Weaver. It had rolled over the floor towards the door. The skull was glowing a phosphorite green.
“I’ll get it.” Xanthe picked it up and swirled it around to the Truth Weaver.
“Careful,” she scolded. “We need to bury the skull. Just to make sure.”
Xanthe peered through the empty sockets of the once grand animal. “It’s in there?”
“Yes, and still a danger. We can only minimise her opportunity, not stop it.”
Xanthe cocked her head to one side, the pieces all fitting together. “Kit brought back the ashes from the kingdom. Why?” She couldn’t believe he could be so macabre. Would need a reminder of that evil dryad, and now he had put her in danger.
“I need to speak with Kit,” she said, stringing out of the door. The Truth Weaver lowered her staff to prevent Xanthe from leaving.
“First, we need to bury this in the catacombs below.” She pointed to a brass ring on the floor. “There is an urn with an exclusion charm. It will be safe down there. Now wait. While I perform the extraction.” A small puff of green spat out of the skull and fell to the floor. Cobweb lowered arched his back and then lowered his tummy to the ground, his tail sticking out right behind him. The form settled, as still as anything, as if waiting. Xanthe held her breath and glanced at the Truth Weaver, who had two fingers to either side of her head. Cobweb’s tail twitch once, twice, seven times and then as the green blob moved, he pounced, and the skull swung down and scooped it up.
“There is too much energy here. I need to act now, before it grows.”
Xanthe nodded and scratched Cobweb’s head. “Well done.” He rubbed his nose and chin against her skin, his purr reverberating through her. His wings fluttered as he basked in his glory.
The Truth Weaver disappeared down some stone steps as Cobweb stood guard.
Xanthe counted to seven. Several times. She didn’t know why she had to wait here. She had things to discuss with Kit. Like why the hell had he not told her?
“It wasn’t Kit’s fault,” Melanie whispered, standing by her side. “I took the phial, and it smashed when we came off the bike and I hit that tree. Before you came and found us, I dreamt that this strange woman helped me. She said she could… well, I don’t know what got into me, Xanthe. All I know is that I don’t want to go back to my mother. And you, well, you seem to fall on your feet whatever. It didn’t seem fair.”
Cobweb listened with one ear cocked. Xanthe didn’t understand.
“Take her over to the mirror,” Cobweb suggested. “See if the truth finds you there.”
Xanthe had nothing better to do, so lead Melanie over to the mirror and stood behind her. She freed her mind of everything else and Melanie dipped her head as if in a trance. Their images in the mirror swirled and whirled and, in the glass, Xanthe saw a little girl. Melanie was a small girl with her hair in pigtails. By her side lay a woman and the little girl was using all her strength to move the woman onto her side. On the left were two empty bottles and on the right a syringe, which lay half in the woman’s hand. She watched as the tiny girl took the syringe carefully, picked up the bottles and hid them in a big box. “Things will be different this time, mummy.” The child said in a tiny voice.
Melanie sobbed, and the image vanished. She turned and fell into Xanthe’s arms. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“Shush now,” Xanthe said, patting Melanie’s back. “Its all behind us. We will find a way. I promise.” Xanthe sighed. What a life Melanie had. No wonder she wanted to create a different path for herself. A mother who was present but in all the wrong ways. She realised she wasn’t the only one with a past she wished she could change.
“Come on, let’s see Kit.”
The Truth Weaver returned from the crypt and the air in the temple seemed fresh and light. As they stepped out of the door, the sun shone through the clouds, warming their faces and promising light.
Xanthe made her way to the house. Melanie ran up and grabbed her arm. “Wait, there’s something else. Well, two something else’s actually.”
Xanthe laughed. “What are you talking about, Melanie?”
Melanie fumbled in the pocket of her skirt and retrieved a folded piece of paper. It was covered in scribbles and words in Kit’s handwriting, but she couldn’t decipher the dreadful writing. She smoothed it open and read the piece. It was an obituary. Of Stella Rivers. And a photo. Xanthe stared at her face, staring back at her from the wrinkles in the article.
Xanthe swung around to the Truth Weaver and crossed her arms.
“You keep telling me to seek the truth yet is seems you rarely tell it.” A thousand thoughts were rushing through her head. Could she trust no-one? Not even Kit? Why was everyone so intent on telling her what to do? That they knew what was best for her. She’d had enough. Witches, demons, the bloody Seventh Coven. A wolf howled. She put her hands over her ears and screamed. “Shut up, Malik. I can’t help you!”
The Truth Weaver took Xanthe’s hand in hers. “Tell me what you hear.”
Xanthe snatched her hand away. “I’m not telling you anything. Not until I get some answers.” She shoved the piece of paper at the Truth Weaver. But of course, she couldn’t see. The witch ran her fingers over the paper, hovering over the image, tracing the outline like she had with Xanthe’s face.
“Your mother,” she stated flatly.
“Yes, my dead mother,” Xanthe spat the word dead out as if it offended her. This was the very reason she had not wanted to know. Then she couldn’t be disappointed or let down. That’s what she’d told herself every foster placement. Don’t let them in. Depend on no one or nothing. The anger bubbled up inside her.
“I’ve just been wasting my time here. You have lied to me.”
“I have told no lie,” said the Truth Weaver. Cobweb jumped up and curled around Xanthe’s neck. She pushed him off and he fell awkwardly and walked off, giving her a filthy look. Melanie followed Cobweb, not wanting it seemed to hear Xanthe’s wrath.
Hot tears threatened at the back of Xanthe’s eyes. She had believed, like in the Kingdom, that she would meet her mother. Like Nokomi had told her. She had believed that maybe, just maybe, her mother had some explanation. She had believed that she was not a bad person, abandoned because of something she had done. Now she would never know. She snatched the paper from The Truth Weaver’s hand and curled it into a ball. The tips of her fingers warmed, and the ball combusted into flames and fell to the floor at her feet.
“Come with me.” The Truth Weaver turned and walked towards a small gate in a long hedge full of roses in bloom. They were a blood red, and some petals littered the ground below like pools of blood.
“Why should I?”
“Because it’s time for answers. As you say.” The Truth Weaver continued to walk towards the gate.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth this time?”
“You don’t,” replied the Truth weaver as she disappeared through the hedge.
Xanthe looked back towards the house where Cobweb and Melanie waited and then back again to the hedge where the witch had gone through. She kicked at the charred pieces of paper on the ground and then brushed her hands. Not a mark from the flames. She had controlled the fire spell for the first time.
She counted to seven and then ran after the Truth Weaver.
As she went through the gate, something shifted in the surrounding air. She wasn’t sure what it was, but there was definitely something different. She stopped and listened. Silence. A peaceful silence. Somewhere restful. In the centre of this hidden ground was a circle of stones. She blinked and refocused. There were seven around the outside and one in the centre. She took another step forward and then stopped. They were headstones. This was a burial ground.
She looked beneath her feet, half expecting to see a pile of bones, but the path was paved with crystals of all colours, shapes and sizes. They glowed beneath her, radiating a lovely soft light. The Truth Weaver was standing in the middle, her hand resting on the centre stone. As if in prayer.
Xanthe picked her way across, mindful of the fact there were those sleeping their eternal sleep. And whilst she didn’t really know what she believed in. She had respect for those that had died and left.
She wandered around the stones, trying to read the inscriptions on the graves but couldn’t make out what they said.
“The stones have an encryption spell. Only those from the Seventh Coven can read them.”
“Oh,” said Xanthe.
“In fact, this whole place is only accessible to those of the Seventh Coven.” She pointed to one tomb with her staff. “That is my resting place.”
Xanthe followed the stick.
“But you’re not…”
“Dead? No, not strictly speaking.”
“Right,” said Xanthe, not understanding a thing. “So the answers are?” She hadn’t time for this. And she felt odd being here, yet it seemed so familiar.
“This one,” she tapped the stone she was standing by. “This one is where they buried Stella Rivers. It’s the only one that can be seen by those not within the Coven.”
Xanthe bit at her lip. Now she was getting confused.
“I told you the truth would not be easy. Stella Rivers died here at this house many years ago. At least that was her father. Lord Rivers reported what happened.” She cast her gaze at the house behind them. “He owns the estate. All of it and more.”
They had given her the name Rivers, as there was no information about her when she had been left at the centre. Now, it seemed the one thing that connected them.
Xanthe stepped over to the stone and, sure enough, she could read the inscription which mirrored the obituary.
“So, it’s true then.” she felt deflated, like a balloon that had popped before its prime. She stroked the stone.
“Well, that depends on what you believe.”
Xanthe turned to the Truth Weaver. “I wish you’d stop talking in riddles. It’s making my head ache.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “This is solid proof that my mother is dead. It says so. Right here.” She tapped the letters which were carved on the stone and withdrew her hand sharply as if she’d been stung or electrocuted.
“That may be so, but not everything you see is true. Your mother is not in here.” She tapped her toe on the grave. Xanthe gasped. “Your mother is not dead.”
“And how do you know?”
“Because she is the High Priestess of the Seventh Coven.”
“And none of the members of the Coven die in reality. And certainly not placed in a grave that has not been cast with the encryption spell.”
“So who is in here?”
“I don’t understand?” Xanthe wished she hadn’t burnt the paper now. Though she could depend on Kit to remember everything.
“Neither do I. And that is why you are so important.”
“As the direct descendant of the High Priestess, only you can find her.”
Xanthe blew out her cheeks. “Highly unlikely.”
“You will and you can. One person knows the truth.”
“Who?” asked Xanthe.
The Truth Weaver looked towards the house and raised her hand to the attic. “The man who faked her death.”
“Faked - but why?”
“Because he was frightened of her powers. A non-believer.”
“And where is he now?”
“You’ve already met him. Your grandfather. Lord Rivers.”
Some minutes later, after climbing the steep stairs to the very top of the house, Xanthe stood in the attic looking at the old man who had saved her. Her grandfather, by all accounts. He was backed into the corner of the room, surrounded by newspaper cuttings and small artefacts. The tremendous bear of a man regarded her with suspicion and fear and waved a fat finger at her.
“Get out, get out, and take your filthy magic with you. You are no daughter of mine!” His jowls wobbled and spittle formed at the corners of his mouth.
“My mother, what did you do with my mother? With Stella. With your daughter?” Xanthe demanded, but knew deep in heart she would not get any sense out of this old man. He’d lost his mind.
“I don’t have a daughter,” he said defiantly and turned his back.
The Truth Weaver put her hand on Xanthe’s shoulder and guided her out of the room and down the stairs.
“He’s a scared old man. That’s all. He tried to hide things when news broke about the Seventh Coven. Our secret place was exposed, and he couldn’t cope with the fact that his daughter was a witch. He doted on her. They went everywhere together, travelled all over the world. She was his precious daughter. But despite all his efforts, Stella could not betray her true self. And he hated her for that.”
Xanthe let the Truth Weaver guide her into the large sitting room where Cobweb, Melanie, and Kit sat at one end, waiting.
“On one trip, he went on his own. He brought back a remnant that was not his to keep. It had evil powers, and he knew that. He thought he could fight what he believed to be demons within his daughter and reclaim her as just a normal girl. But he was dealing with something much bigger than he thought.”
Xanthe lowered herself into a chair as the Truth Weaver continued.
“When he realised she was with child, carrying you, he became demented and said he would destroy you at birth rather than let you be possessed by pagans. He was demented and no matter how Stella tried, she could not convince him otherwise.”
Xanthe put her head in her hands. He wanted her dead. Before she’d even been born?
The Truth Weaver sighed deeply. “Stella had you in the temple just after midnight on the seventh moon of the seven month. The three moons had merged, and she knew you were special.”
Xanthe nodded. “That’s when she took me to the centre, left me by the wishing well.”
“Yes, because she believed her father would carry out his threat. And that’s when she disappeared, and he faked her death and continued to live his life as if she never existed.”
Xanthe felt her bottom lip trembling. “What if he killed her? I mean, really got rid of her?”
The Truth Weaver shook her head. “No, Stella came to the coven before she left and told us she could not stay and would not be back for some time. She refused to tell us where she was going so that we wouldn’t be put in danger. Her father was intent on seeking all of us. But she made sure that he could never do that.”
“The truth is, I don’t know. But two years ago, on the Season of the New Moons, our coven reconvened. Your mother came to us in the mirror and told us you would eventually seek us out. And that you were the only one who could set her free.”
“I don’t know that either, Xanthe. I’m sorry. All I know is you have to retrieve a key made of bone from the first of our kind. The key is hidden within the Caves of Tlaloc.”
Xanthe snapped her head around. “Where the Dark Lords live?”
The Truth Weaver nodded her head. “Malik has uncovered it and you need to release his spirit.”
“Malik? But he’s dead. I saw him”
Xanthe snapped her head up as the howl of a wolf resounded around the room. The Truth Weaver lifted her head, her ear bent towards the sound. She took Xanthe’s hand and turned it over, her fingers gliding over the tattoo.
“He’s marked you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are part of his pack. He won’t let you go without a fight. Malik will always, always revert to his wild side. He can’t help it.” She glanced at Kit. “You need to be careful about those you care about. They are a threat to Malik’s alpha status and no matter what he tells you, he can’t control those basic instincts. Be careful.”
The beads on Xanthe’s beads glowed and then faded. The Truth Weaver lifted her wrist and ran her fingers over the beads. “One is missing.”
“Yes,” said Xanthe, wondering why it mattered now. “The moonstone,” she glanced at Kit, who was looking at her blankly. “I gave it to Kit.”
“Well, you need it back to complete the circle and help you travel through the mirror.”
“Yes, Xanthe. You need to retrieve the key. To unlock Kit’s memory. He has the answers.”
Xanthe laughed. “Kit’s memory is fine, just fine I mean, he’s Kit.” She walked over to Kit, who backed into the window recess.
“Hey, Kit, what’s the matter?”
“Who is asking?” he said, looking nervously around him. “I do not know who any of you are.”
A howl rang out and Kit covered his ears with his hands. “Make it go away, make Malik go away.”
Xanthe gasped as she glanced at the mirror where the snarling jaws of a white wolf snapped at her.
This was the final instalment of Thunder Moon. This first part has been free and I would love to hear what you think. Please let me know!
You can catch up where Xanthe left off in Barley Moon (Part Two of Season One) which will be serialised from 7th January 2022. You will need to subscribe to access the episodes and all future episodes for the next year as well as extra freebies.