Word Count: 2869 | Estimated Reading Time: 14 minutes
In Chapter Three, Kit admits more to Melanie than he intends to after losing his temper. Xanthe arranges to meet Kit in the woods and he tries to kiss her and sees the tattoo on her arm. She tells him she never wants to see him again and accidently sets fire to some dried bush.
Melanie took the stairs to her dormitory two at a time, all the while thinking about Kit. He was an odd boy, but intriguing. Different from the other boys, who only seemed interested in football. It was a shame he was friends with the witch.
She stood in the entrance to the large room where she had spent her childhood, on and off. It was a little regimented. All the beds separated at the same distance, the same small bedside table, identical single wardrobes. She quite liked the formal style. The organisation. Always knowing where something was. Not like at home. Home had always been chaos. A stream of gentlemen visitors, as her mother liked to call them. A home where the fridge was invariably empty or full of Corona beer bottles which, within hours, were emptied and strewn throughout the house. And the vodka in the orange trick, the alcohol had no smell and what could be wrong about a large glass of fresh fruit juice? Her mother gave her no credit at all when it came to the lies about the booze.
Her phone sat charging on her table and she checked the battery status. She could really do with a new one, but her miniscule allowance wouldn’t run to that. This one she had bought with a bribe from a client of her mothers. She hadn’t thought twice about snatching the notes from the scabby hand and making herself scarce. Melanie had long ago given up caring what her mother did. She just didn’t want to end up like her.
She cleaned the glass screen with the edge of her jumper. It was more than a phone. It was a symbol that she could just be like everyone else. Normal. Almost. She smiled as she slipped it into her back pocket and then ran back down the stairs which led to the entrance hall. It was a wide open space, filled with daylight from the long glass windows. The principles office was just off to the right and Melanie tip toed past. She was supposed to be on kitchen duty.
“Ah, Melanie. Just the girl I want to see.”
“I’m sorry, Miss. I forgot to check the rota. Just going now.” Melanie lied without a flinch. It was one of her more natural talents.
Miss Burgess, the Wishing Well Centre principal, opened her door wide. “Come on in, your social worker is here and has some good news.” The principal’s first name was Haven, but they all called her Heaven, behind her back. Melanie quite liked her. As adults go, she hadn’t had many suitable role models. Miss Burgess was neither young nor old and held herself as if she had something pulling her upwards from the top of her head. Her signature form of dress was a pair of blue cotton slacks and a white or navy shirt. Jazzy colourful headbands kept her wavy hair in place and off her long face, and drew attention away from a birthmark on her chin. Melanie quite liked her, but she knew nothing that ever came from any social worker was good news.
The social worker, yet another unfamiliar face, smiled at her. “Hi Melanie, I’m Jasmine, your new case worker.”
“Don’t need no case worker,” mumbled Melanie. The principal coughed sharply and smiled at Jasmine to continue.
“Your mother is well and out of rehab. She’s been asking after you.”
“So?” said Melanie, looking at her nails disinterestedly. “Why should I care?” She turned to a small ornate cage where a pair of lovebirds flittered and chirruped. They immediately stilled as Melanie stuck a nail through the gap. The birds were often allowed out to fly around the office, though never when there were visitors thought as the innocent-looking creatures seemed to scare some people.
Jasmine smiled and adjusted herself on the seat. “She’d like to see you, well, wants you to go back home. Surely you’d like that? You’ll be leaving the centre soon anyway... and this might be some halfway house for you.”
“You mean you want me to go back and look after my mum so you don’t have to any more,” Melanie stated flatly. She’d been told all her life that the best place for her was with her mother, but that was not true. It was the wrong place. So wrong. “I don’t want to go home and you can”t make me. My mother is nothing to me and I don’t care if I never see her again. Have you read my notes?”
Melanie’s gaze fell to the thick buff folder on the social worker’s knee. “You know that we’ve been here before and that every time she goes back to the drink?” Her rage bubbled up inside her, but it was more than rage. It was fear. She was afraid to go home. Afraid that she would end up like her mother.
The two women exchanged glances. Jasmine rearranged her smile. “But your mother is different this time. She says—”
“I wouldn’t believe a word my mother told me if you paid me to.” Melanie shifted from one foot to another. “I refuse to go back. You can’t make me. I’m over 16 now and I swear I will go anywhere but home.”
Jasmine tapped the file on her lap. “Your file shows how well you’ve been doing,” she said, trying to change the subject. “Your mother is so proud of you.”
“I don’t believe you for a minute.” Melanie crossed her arms and stared without blinking at the social worker fresh out of college. She’d met them all over the years and she was more than a match for any of them. She had to think on her feet. Getting angsty and uppity would not help.
“When did she go home?” Melanie slumped into the leather sofa, swung her legs around, and placed her feet on the armrest.
“No shoes on the furniture, Melanie, you know the rules.” She glared at the principal before placing them on the floor.
The social worker leaned forward. “A week ago, she’s got a new flat on the edge of town, near enough to the shops for provisions—”
“Far enough from booze?” Melanie finished flatly.
“Well, yes, she has to see her parole officer every other day, so she is being monitored.”
Melanie sat up straight. “Well, if she’s still dry within the month, I’ll see her. But not until then.” Rehab had never ever lasted longer than 3 weeks. Her mother was weak and unwilling to change.
Jasmine’s smile slipped.
“If you send me back now, I’ll run away and believe me you won’t be able to find me, especially after I go to the papers to tell them you want to send a young girl back to her mother to be sold to supply her habits.”
The two women straightened their backs and exchanged another look. Melanie knew how to look after herself and manipulation was a skill she had learnt well. With her mother’s track record, she knew they wouldn’t dare put themselves at risk.
“Well, I’m sure that in a week or so—”
“A month,” insisted Melanie. “Just give me a month. I want to do my work experience with Doc Stephens with no distraction. Surely you can understand that? I need to concentrate and put all my effort into my future. Especially if I have to support my mother.” She lied. She would never support or forgive her mother. Melanie would struggle to get the grades, but she had to try. She couldn’t go back.
The social worker stood up and placed Melanie’s file on the desk. “Three weeks, Melanie, I’m sure your mother will understand.” Jasmine buttoned up her jacket.” I promise you, she is different this time.”
Melanie shrugged her shoulders. The new ones always said that., her mother was good at putting an act on. “Can I go now?” She asked the principal. Not expecting an answer, she turned and left the office but lingered behind the door, which she half closed. She leant her ear to the crack.
“And what news on Xanthe Rivers?” asked the principal. “She’s been staying at Doctor Stephens since the incident, but she can’t stay there forever. Have you had any luck locating any of the family?”
Melanie’s ears pricked up. Xanthe Rivers didn’t have any family, so what were they talking about? She leaned in further.
“I’m afraid not,” replied Jasmine, rifling through some papers. “The birth certificate is genuine and the monthly allowance that she will receive from the estate will be more than enough to set her up. But we do not know the benefactor. All leads have gone nowhere, and the solicitor is insisting we must do as the deed requests. Client confidentiality binds him and there is nothing we can do about that.”
“Well, if anyone deserves a bit of a leg up, its Xanthe Rivers.” The principal sighed. “I’m worried about her, though. She’s such a loner. And the other girls… well, let’s just say they haven’t been kind. Melanie has been a particular instigator of this nonsense about witchcraft and the like. The sooner those two are separated, the better. I would hate to think that Xanthe will be taken advantage of because she’s got some financial security.”
Melanie straightened her back. Xanthe. Allowance? Why would a witch be receiving some money? That wasn’t fair.
The door swung open and Melanie held her breath as she hid behind it. The two women strode out without glancing back. Melanie let out a sigh. Well, well, well. Didn’t she know who would like to know this information about his precious little girlfriend?
The Truth Weaver moved around the house with a sense of familiarity. She felt her way, using her hands out either side of her and listening to the sounds of the walls that guided her. Cobweb watched her with admiration.
“I know you’re there, cat,” she whispered, turning to face him as if she could see. “You learned how to use those wings, yet?”
Cobweb bristled with indignation and moved away from her touch. He had only been a kitten, and she claimed it was the side effect of a healing spell she’d done to save his life. A cat with wings. Who had ever heard of such a thing? His mistress assured him they would have their day.
“You know full well that I disapprove,” Cobweb said and shook his tail so it thickened to twice its width. He padded over and wound through her legs as she tickled his head with a bent little finger. He stretched his spine, but his fat little body remained spherical.
“I do not seek your approval,” she reminded him. He spat and growled. She was always so superior. But he had great respect for her and honoured to be her familiar. They had worked together for some years and he had always been by her side. However, since the incident, they had been hiding in the shadows, looking and waiting for what he did not know. He trusted that one day, he would find out. The wings had appeared many moons past, and they had hurt at first. Like toothache. The feathers fluttered on his back. He would never get used to them.
“They are so beautiful,” the Truth Weaver smiled and Cobweb folded the appendages back, annoyed that they drew her attention. He chased things with wings. For heaven’s sake, he didn’t want to be like one.
“We have a visitor, the one we’ve been expecting, and there is much to prepare. I’m not sure that she is ready for the challenges ahead, but we have no choice. The High Priestess has set the wheels in motion and we must follow the path.”
The High Priestess had been missing for some time, as far as Cobweb knew. Somehow, his mistress communicated with her, or someone who was in control, in the driving seat. They had been waiting for this particular visitor, and he knew better than to ask why. Cobweb spent most of his days finding the shade where he could sleep and his nights stalking prey. There were loads of mice to be had, and it kept him fit. And fed.
The Truth Weaver turned and climbed the marble steps that ran from the middle of the room and then divided in two. Cobweb followed without being asked. It was time for the ritual. The protection spell. She took the left, turning along a dark corridor, and felt her way along the wall. She pressed a lever, and the bricks separated to reveal a steeper set of wooden steps to the top of the house. Cobweb flicked the lever again as he passed and the steps retreated once more.
In the small attic with a ceiling that sloped towards the window, she drew a circle on the floor and divided it into twelve sections. She stood in the first section and chanted. Large church candles sat in iron candle sticks lined the edge of the walls and along the windowsill and as Cobweb passed them by, he touched each wick with the tip of his tail and a small golden flame appeared. When every candle had been lit, he joined the Truth Weaver in the circle.
She had stopped chanting and was staring at the centre of the circle.
“The Moon Princess, Ayla, has taken the first step, given in to her emotions and summoned the path from the Book of Words.”
Cobweb twitched an ear. He knew he had some role to play in bringing the Moon Princess to the Coven, but he wasn’t sure what yet. He would bide his time. The Truth Weaver would reveal all when ready. He yawned, his jaw stretching wide and revealing rows of sharp, white teeth. “She’s fought against her legacy since her time in the Kingdom. Her human nature prevents her from seeking the truth.” The tiny wings on his back fluttered, sending a funny sensation through his fur. This was his ninth life and he should be resting. But his mistress had other ideas.
The Truth weaver smiled, her face soft and glowing. “If only we were as wise as your felines, my friend, the world would be a better place.”
“She still needs to find the portal. She still has to want to come across.”
“I know, I believe she will, but she will need some… how do you say? Encouragement, I feel. We need to reveal the Narwhal Bridge.” The Truth Weaver turned to him. “She needs to take the portal to access the Coven. But she is angry. She has released the fire energy again. I cannot help her any more. She has to take the path shown but may need some help and encouragement.”
Cobweb stood proudly, his tail held high. He knew what he had to do. He would act as bait to bring the girl across. No big deal.
“You have a bigger part to play than bait.” The Truth Weaver flapped her cloak of burnt orange. “Come, we must open the bridge.”
Cobweb followed obediently, walking in the steps of the Truth Weaver, who didn’t need her sight. They walked through the Garden of Stones where statues, big and small, stood and observed their passage. They passed through The Fountain of Children as a mist of water soaked their skin and fur. and finally they arrived at the bridge, overgrown and unused.
“At the height of the Seventh Coven, this bridge was the only way in and out. Since the disappearance of the High Priestess, it has become redundant. Until now. She was clever, hiding it from her grandfather, but I’m afraid her deceit may have cost her dearly. Only the Moon Princess can find her. Only the Moon Princess can deliver her back.”
“But the old man,” Cobweb glanced back at the house.
“He does not know we are here. He is entrenched in the lies he’s woven to see anything else. But he must not meet the girl, Xanthe. The Moon Princess must not know who he is. Do you understand?”
Cobweb nodded. Though how he could control the actions of a demented old man and a novice witch was beyond him. His tail swished through the air.
“You will find a way, I know you will.” The Truth Weaver lifted her wooden staff. At the top was the skull of a stag, the antlers reaching out like claws. She waved the wand across the opening once, twice, three times. The foliage unravelled and part, revealing a small footbridge. Underneath, a small stream gurgled.
“We have done our part. Now you must wait and bring the girl to me.”
Cobweb stretched lazily. This could take some time and he would need to reserve his energy. He settled into a patch of long grass, which provided shade from the midday sun, and curled himself up, tucking his head under his front legs. The Truth Weaver turned back to the house and raised her head to the sky. A rumble of thunder travelled in the distance as she summoned a storm.
The fifth 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.