B.D. approached the Celtic Reconstruction table, decorated in greens and triskeles. One of the two young men attending the booth was engaged in conversation with a female student wearing a similar triskele around her neck, while the other appeared to be making notes on a clipboard. B.D. picked up an “About Us” style pamphlet, also printed on green paper, that included meeting dates and contact information for their local Recon group. The action caught the writer‘s attention, and he put down the clipboard and smiled.
B.D. couldn’t help but smile back at his boyish good looks; strawberry-blonde hair, bright green eyes, a smattering of freckles across his round face. The barest hint of a five o‘clock shadow a shade redder than his hair that stretched over his chin and upper lip was the only indicator of his age of twenty-two. He stood and extended his hand.
“Hi, I’m Colin, how can I help you?”
Appropriate enough name, B.D. thought. She took his hand, giving it a single shake. That hand, she noticed then, lead to a gracefully muscled arm that moved like water flowing over silk. She cleared her throat before mustering her courage and speaking.
“B.D.. I actually do have a few questions for you…” B.D. produced her mother’s journal from her black messenger bag, and Colin gave a friendly nod. Handling the papers with almost reverent care, B.D. laid them out on the table. “See, I know it’s Gaelic, but except for this, ‘An Mhor Rioghain,’ the Morrigan, I have no idea what any of it says.”
Colin looked thoughtful as he turned the papers around to read them right-side up. Taking a cue from B.D.’s delicacy with them, he followed the lines of writing with the tip of his pinky, hovering it above the page rather than touching it. He mouthed the Gaelic words to himself in a whisper and after a few moments raised his smile back to his guest.
“Well, you were right, the Morrigan is talked about quite a lot. In fact, this passage here looks to be a personal dedication to Her: ‘As the night consumes day, so will An Mhor Rioghain consume my heart. Upon my death may She find me, and honor my battle through life.’ Otherwise…” he turned a few pages over and scanned them briefly, “Most of the rest of these look like herbal lists, or recipes maybe, since some of them list amounts. Couldn’t tell you what they’re for though, you’d have to ask an herbalist to figure that out. In fact, there’s a great place to visit, Magus Books. They‘ve got a table the next aisle over. I haven‘t seen their herbalist there yet today, but I bet whoever is there could tell you how to get in touch with her.” He flashed B.D. another smile. “Do you mind if I ask where you got these?”
The question caught B.D. off guard, and Colin must have noticed her expression because he opted to explain.
“I ask because they’re obviously a few decades old, but not anything I’ve encountered in my own studies. I mean, they’re not historical or anything, so I guess I’m just curious where they came from.”
B.D. scowled, but couldn’t rationalize why his dismissal of the material as “not historical” bothered her so much. True, they were part of her own history, but she didn’t assume that was of any importance to anyone else. She stumbled over the words as she tried to answer him anyway.
“I umm, I mean they’re family heirlooms. Ah.. I’ve uh, only had them for about a year.”
Colin nodded again, reading her apprehension. He guessed it took a lot of stirring herself up for B.D. to even ask about this, and knew better than to press the issue. An understanding smile curved up his mouth again. “Hope I was helpful,” he said, gathering the papers for her. “If you need anything else, my email’s listed on the pamphlet.”
B.D. smiled back and returned the nod, thanking Colin for his time, then turned to scanned the room for the shop’s table before walking away. What she saw instead was the girl with wild, curly, flaming red hair. She seemed to be evaluating B.D. from the end of the aisle, leaning on a pillar with an air of amused nonchalance about her. The curls fell to just past her shoulder blades, and she looked to be about Lucy’s age. She wore oversized clunky black boots, untied, over black nylons full of holes and runs. The black denim skirt hanging askew from her slender hips was obviously homemade from an old pair of jeans, and the leather jacket on her thin shoulders was second-hand but clean. Under the jacket the girl wore a black Lycra tank top, the only garment that wasn’t at least a size too big; in fact, it was skin-tight and displayed the girl’s ample yet proportional bosom.
B.D. couldn’t comprehend why, but she found herself staring at this other young woman, who after a moment shrugged her shoulders to push herself away from the pillar. She began to weave through the other patrons, B.D. her obvious destination. When she came within an arm’s reach, the redhead stopped and the girls locked eyes. B.D. thought this stranger must have been wearing contacts, because her irises perfectly matched her hair. Those red eyes studied B.D. for moments that seemed endless before the accompanying voice sounded.
“Enjoying the event?” she asked in French-accented but still fluent English. Her voice was deep and raspy, but quiet and captivating. B.D. felt a sensation sizzle through her thighs at the sound of it, and repressed sudden visions of tackling this girl and demanding she speak again. When the red eyebrows rose slightly, B.D. realized she hadn’t responded yet. She blushed.
“Uh, yeah... s’my first time… Celtic Studies major though…” she stammered, lightly waving the pamphlet in the girl’s line of sight.
“Ah, I see.” The redhead replied, knowing B.D. couldn’t have said much more right then if she wanted to. She introduced herself. “M’called Scorch... cuz of my hair, oui?” The girl twirled a lock of curls around her index finger.
“Yeah, guess that figures... I’m B.D.”
“B.D.. Does that stand for anything?”
“Um, yeah... Belladonna.” The name came out a mumble. “My mom was some kind of hippy, or somethin’.” Even though this was Pagan Pride, she somehow hesitated to mention her mother’s apparent interest in Celtic Witchcraft. It still seemed too personal a thing to talk about with strangers, especially since she’d just learned it herself.
Scorch raised her eyebrows again and grinned. “Belladonna, eh? Why hide such a beautiful name with initials?”
B.D. snorted. “You wouldn’t think it was beautiful if you’d had people give you shit about it your whole life.”
Scorch’s grin broadened and her eyes flashed in amusement. “Perhaps you are right. I think that girl... your friend? ...wants your attention, Belladonna.” She nodded over B.D.’s shoulder to where Lucy was standing, her curls bouncing with the motion. B.D. turned her head in Lucy’s direction, somehow hesitant to break eye contact.
“Uh, yeah, that’s Lucy,” she confirmed, a bit annoyed at the use of her given name. “I guess I gotta go then... Be right there Luce!” She turned to walk away, and Scorch, still grinning, watched the movement of her hips as she went.
Lucy had meant to tell B.D. the drum circle was starting in about ten minutes, but was distracted just then. She was curious and a bit wary of the girl to whom her friend had been speaking, and looked in the stranger’s direction. But as the flame-colored eyes locked with Lucy’s browns, all her doubt seemed to melt away. Must be someone from the Celtic Recon group, she found herself thinking, I’ll bet she’s even a student here too.
“Hey, umm, if you want to invite that girl to come to the drum jam with us, that’s alright, she’s from that Recon group,” Lucy said, her voice low. Even though she kept her eyes on Scorch, she tapped the pamphlet in B.D.’s hand.
B.D. looked curiously at Lucy, wondering how she knew. She’s more into this Pagan stuff than I am, she thought then. She probably knows a few people. B.D. turned her head back to Scorch, who hadn’t moved an inch. She decided that must be the reason, and trotted to re-join the other girl.
“Hey, uh, you wanna come to the drumming with us or somethin’?” B.D. fidgeted with the strap of her bag, not knowing what response to hope for. Scorch did something to her, to her mind and body alike. Every time those eyes turned to B.D., she felt as though they were burning through her, penetrating into the very essence of her being. Scorch made her feel exposed, naked, yet somehow as she wished to be. The deep gaze of those oddly colored eyes instilled in B.D. the sensation that she was her true self, that everything she had ever endured was gone, and that she was... happy. It was something she hadn’t experienced since before she could remember.
Scorch gave B.D. the once-over. This American seemed to be just what she was searching for. After all, the Look and the Voice she’d been taught had worked, right from the beginning. Of course there was some hesitance, only to be expected. If the Dark Lady was correct though (and when hadn’t She been?), B.D. wasn’t hers for the taking anyway. Yes, things were definitely progressing just as they should.
“Sure, that’d be cool,” she replied, giving B.D. another smile. She slipped her arm through B.D.'s and the pair walked back over to Lucy. Scorch was proud of the affect everything she did had on the other girl, and knew everyone would be pleased.
Scorch became B.D.’s nearly constant companion over the next few weeks, since she could read and translate Gaelic and so helped her to understand what her mother’s journals had really been. Lucy had called it a “Book of Shadows, a Witch’s collection of spells, lore, and rituals.” Through Scorch’s knowledge it seemed undeniable that B.D.’s mother was in fact a Witch, and the Morrigan was her patron Goddess. The herbal recipes were for spells mostly, and a few of them were brews for drinking. Scorch suggested B.D. try one of them some time, the one that purported to allow someone to access Other realms, to get more first-hand knowledge of what her mother had been up to. B.D. was wary though; somehow her teenage experimentation with marijuana seemed safer than something that might put her in contact with an ancient, magical War Goddess, despite the fact that both catalysts were plants. They were discussing that very thing in the dorm room B.D. and Lucy shared, when Lucy broke into the conversation.
“You know, there’s a store just off University Avenue that could tell you if this was dangerous. It’s called Magus, and they have bulk herbs for sale, plus books and ritual supplies and stuff.”
The name made B.D.’s eyes light up. “Ohmigod,I forgot all about that place! That guy Colin at the Celtic Recon booth at Pride told me about it, and I meant check it out and totally spaced it!”
Lucy gave a smug little smile, selfishly happy that she’d been of help to B.D. for a change since Scorch had monopolized so much of her time and attention.
“Well, let’s go then!” Lucy grabbed her purse and swung the door open before B.D. even stood up. “It’s almost Samhain anyway, they’ll probably be having a sale.” She’d pronounced the word more correctly, SOW-in, than some other American Witches did, SAM-hayne.
As the three girls walked in the cooling October air, Scorch spoke to B.D. in low tones, much to Lucy’s annoyance.
“I’m glad to have been of help with your mother’s works, Belladonna.” She ignored B.D.’s unconscious scowl at the use of her full name, the use of which having become habit for Scorch. “However, I and the other Celtic worshippers here can only help so much. I am from Dublin, and know others who can tell you even more. The old stories so much more alive in their native land anyway.”
B.D. considered the idea. Thanksgiving break wasn’t too far off, and seeing as she had no family to otherwise spend it with, the thought of taking a trip to learn more about her mother was tempting and seemed appropriate besides. She rolled things over in her head, rationalizing that spending money from her trust for the tickets and other expenses was justified, since it was related to her major, albeit a tad indirectly. Scorch watched her face with serene patience as she worked this all out.
“Yeah… you know, that sounds like a great idea. After we’re done here, I’ll get online and book a flight… But wait, your accent is French, how are you from Dublin?”
Scorch smiled at B.D.’s powers of observation. “I was born in Paris, oui, but now live in Ireland.”
“So, you’re an exchange student here?” B.D. concluded warily.
“Oui, something like that.” The answer was noncommittal, but after a look form Scorch’s eyes, B.D. accepted it without question. “Tre bien, though, the tickets and such.” Scorch flashed a smile as she put the conversation back on track, though effectively ended it. The rest of the walk was quiet until they reached Magus’ door and headed down the stairs to the basement property, the sound of an Enigma CD and the smell of sandalwood incense rising to meet them.
The owner and proprietor of the shop was an eccentric but kind Brit named Nigel. He claimed no particular religious or spiritual affiliation, but had had a life-long interest in the occult and had even authored a few self-published books on various supernatural subjects. A quirky smile accompanied his cheery, “Welcome to Magus Books!” as the three girls descended into the shop. The expression brightened when he saw Lucy, as she was a regular in this place. “Hey there, Love, how ya been?”
“Just fine, Nigel, how are you?”
“Oh, can’t complain, can’t complain. What can we do for you ladies today?”
It seemed nothing about Scorch nor B.D. fazed him, and B.D. figured he saw more than his share of human oddities in this line of work.
Lucy continued to speak for the trio en masse. “Well B.D. here,” she said, throwing an arm around the girl’s shoulders, “Is looking for some herbs for a spell. Is Cris around?”
Cris was the resident herbalist, a soft-spoken woman with graying hair and grandmotherly features. She’d spent years gaining every certification Minnesota would recognize in herbalism, and so was one of the most respected and knowledgeable people in the city. She’d even been consulted by a local publishing company as an expert editor for many books on both medicinal and magical herbs. Nigel had to shake his head though.
“Nope, sorry Love, she’s off today. But we can still help ya, what do you need?” he asked, turning to B.D..
Following Nigel to the other end of the counter, behind which jars of herbs were shelved in alphabetical order, B.D. pulled a list out of her pocket and smoothed it on the top of the glass display case. She noticed the sign inside, stating that those herbs were ones that would only be sold to persons over 18, and only with valid I.D.. She saw too that one of the herbs on her list fell into that category, and was glad she’d remembered to grab her wallet before they left the dorm.
“OK, um, I don‘t need a lot, so, like an ounce each maybe? Or even half if you can do that?”
Nigel nodded, his patience never faltering.
“So yeah, I need vervain, maguey, and um, mandrake.” She hesitated at this last one, since it was in the glass case, but Nigel only asked to see her I.D. with utmost cordiality. After inspecting it he nodded again and set to work, humming along with the CD to himself.
While B.D. waited, Lucy and Scorch both wandered the rest of the store, seeming to keep as far from each other as possible. B.D. had been uncomfortable more than once with the tension between her two friends, and while she could admit Scorch had demanded much of her time lately, she also felt Lucy should’ve understood that it was just to find out more about her mother, and wasn’t meant at all to be a personal slight.
“Now, you be careful with these, Love. Don’t wanna read about some poor student poisoning herself in the papers tomorrow.” Nigel’s warning was a serious one, but he winked as he spoke, showing confidence that B.D. wasn’t so careless. She smiled and thanked him, turning to search out her friends. She saw Lucy first, perusing the incenses along the wall next to the stairs.
“K, I’m all set Luce. You gonna get something?”
Lucy didn’t look up from the incense packet that couldn’t have been that interesting. Her voice was low when she spoke.
“Seems you have a new best friend, huh?” She didn’t even try to mask her jealousy.
“Lucy, she’s just been helping me with my mom’s papers and stuff. You’re the one who told me to find other people who could help with that.” She put a hand that was meant to be comforting on Lucy’s tricep. “I appreciate all you’ve done for me, I wouldn’t’ve even met Scorch if you hadn’t brought me to Pride, and then I wouldn’t know as much either.”
Nothing seemed to be helping Lucy’s demeanor, and she started to move away. B.D. gripped the sleeve of her shirt and turned her around, staring into brown eyes seconds away from crying. Her own gaze softened at the sight.
“You were right, my mom was a Witch. I need your help with this spell stuff, I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Lucy bit her lip and took a deep breath, closing her eyes. As she exhaled, she dropped her head to the floor. Her next words nearly came out a mumble.
“The best time for just about any spell is the full moon. We just passed that this month, but the next one’s right before Thanksgiving Break. I’m going back home to Willmar for the holiday, but if we time it right, I can help.” She looked up again and rubbed away her tears with the back of her hand, a hint of a smile tugging up the corners of her mouth.
B.D. returned the expression. “Good.”
Waiting another month to go through with the spell left B.D. anxious, but it gave her plenty of time to discern how to make the herbal brew with more of Colin’s help, since Scorch had become less and less forthcoming as of late; it was almost as though she wasn‘t sure how much was safe to reveal. B.D.’d had little choice but to turn to Colin. Not that she minded seeing him again.
As it turned out, the herbs were to steep in a blush wine for at least two weeks, then boiled in water. The plant matter was then to be filtered out, and the water and wine mixed together. Since alcohol wasn’t allowed in the dorms, and both B.D. and Lucy were too young to buy it anyway, Colin’s age and off-campus apartment proved advantageous in obtaining the blush and concocting the elixir. Even while waiting for the herbs to steep, B.D. made frequent visits to the apartment, telling her roommate it was to pick Colin’s brain and peruse his library of Celtic myths, legends, and folklore.
Lucy had given her grief over spending so much time with the older man, insinuating that there was more than a working relationship between them. At first, the teasing had been baseless, but after a couple weeks, the “research sessions” did take a turn towards intimacy, and B.D. spent more nights there than at the dorm. It was during one such evening the week before Thanksgiving that Colin grew bold enough try and break through B.D.’s defenses. He turned his head up from its resting place on her bare stomach, dislodging the lithe fingers entwined in his hair.
“So, you gonna tell me why those papers mean so much to you?”
B.D. rolled her eyes but smiled. “Does it really matter?”
“Well, I could assume it’s the amazing sex that has you here five nights a week, but I’m not that cocky.” Colin grinned as he spoke, then planted a kiss just above B.D.’s navel. The girl gave him a playful chastising slap upside the head and they both laughed. Colin turned over to crawl back up B.D.’s body and settle his hips between her thighs, the warmth of her raising his desire again.
“So you trust me enough to ask for my help translating, and then sleep with me,” he pressed his pelvis against hers for emphasis then, “But not enough to explain your motives?” A teasing tone remained in his voice, but the question was a serious one.
B.D. gave a sigh of resignation as she slid her hands up Colin’s ribs and over his defined chest, finally enticing his nipples with her fingertips. He had point, and if she really was interested in his continuing help, it was time to come clean. Her voice was low as she spoke.
“Like I said, they’re family heirlooms. They were my mom’s. She died when I was real little, so obviously I can‘t ask her about them.” The rest of the story, right up through Scorch’s idea to try one of the spells, was interspersed with more foreplay-like touches, kisses and moans, until the emotional intimacy matched that of the physical, and Colin retrieved another condom from the drawer of his nightstand.
After their shared orgasm ended the act, Colin wrapped his arms around the girl and whispered his apologies for her trials in life. She chuckled and shrugged through his embrace, saying she’d dealt with the pain herself and now just wanted to reconnect as best she could. It was a half-truth, but then no one knew the hurt she always carried with her.