For those of you who do not know Alexis Dorian and Samantha Riley, they are soulmates who live in Laguna, California, in a beautiful penthouse overlooking the Pacific Ocean and above their clinic, Alternative Paradise. Alex is tall and dark-haired with striking blue eyes, like someone most of us can associate with, and Samantha is smaller and blonde with eyes the color of a spring meadow (that would be . . . Green <G>), and also like someone most of us have seen on more than one occasion. The timeline is definitely askew from Laguna Nights and Sedona Rain, but that does not mean that this will not appear in a chapter somewhere later in their lives <VBG>.
This story has an interspersing of Wiccan truths within, along with a great deal of fanciful imaginings. It was written in the spirit of Halloween, and no offense to anyones beliefs was ever intended.
Samantha was showing a great deal of impatience as she waited for All Hallows Eve to arrive. She wanted the clinic decorated a few days before the promised party, but each time she brought up the subject, Alex would smile and shake her head, insisting that Alternative Paradise was a place of business. Conversely, Sam would counter with the statement that people tended to get better quicker in an atmosphere of fun. Finally, Alex gave in and told Samantha to stop pestering and just go decorate.
It was impossible for the dark-haired executive to keep a solemn face when dealing with her lover, and she purposely teased the younger woman for the anticipated reaction. She had every intention of letting Samantha get the center into the holiday spirit. After all, theirs was now also a business partnership, and Samanthas desires counted, even if the blonde still had a problem realizing that.
Alex figured if she acted enough like a domineering boss, Sam would eventually get tired of it, tell her off, and remind her that she had an equal say in what was happening. But Alex was the one who had to finally give in to the pressure without Samantha ever so much of accusing her of being a tyranta meanie maybebut not a tyrant.
Her heart swelled with pride every time she thought about Samantha, and the dark-haired beauty loved what Sam had brought, not only to her life but to her dream clinic as well. It was difficult now to envision the center without Samanthas input and commitment to making it the best it could possibly be. The vivacious woman added personal touches that Alex would have never dreamed of adding, and their clients thrived in the atmosphere of exuberance that seemed to be contagious.
The next few days saw the transition from the normal business appearance of Alternative Paradise to that of a toned down haunted house. Black and orange balloons floated aimlessly from room to room, as did helium-inflated ghosts and witches. The night maintenance person was asked to change out the pool and Jacuzzi lights from clear to those of orange and yellow, and the shades were drawn partially over the already sun-screened windows in order to allow the clients the full impact of the eerie lighting.
A pile of pumpkins graced one corner of the gym area, and not a child left the center without a fistful of candy corn and an accompanying adult carrying a decorated pumpkin.
As the anticipated event drew closer, Samantha had Alex carry one of the larger pumpkins up to the apartment where, after deciding that carving was much more original than painting, they spent the entire evening sculpturing a macabre façade on the innocent fruit. It was an activity Alex had not participated in since leaving her parents home, and it brought back a flood of happy childhood memories.
Smiling with pride, she was afforded the honor of placing and lighting the candle in the center of the hollowed out pumpkin. Alex carried their masterpiece into the unlit living room where she scooted one of the small end tables over to the window and placed the piece of glowing art on it. As the candle flickered, an eerie light in the shape of the gruesome face shone into the window and bounced back into the room, giving the illusion of more than one pumpkin as the inanimate jack-o-lantern scowled down on the shore below.
"That would scare the bejeebers out of anyone looking at it," Alex announced with complete satisfaction.
"Good, now we have to think about costumes. You have to be something scary at the party," Samantha insisted as she finished cleaning up the pumpkin mess and placed the salted seeds into the oven to roast.
"I didnt realize that a costume was a necessity," Alex balked, walking back into the kitchen.
"Of course; its a requirement of all the employees who are attending."
"Im not an employee; Im an owner."
"Owners are included in the center personnel." Without looking in Alexs direction, Samantha continued the conversation. "Youd make a marvelous vampire," she mumbled.
Alex choked on her wine and glared at her partner. "Did you say vampire? Please tell me you didnt say vampire!"
"Really, Alex, you know, like Elviraall sexy and slinking and . . ."
"Samantha, dont go there. I wouldnt be caught dead in an outfit like Elvira, and you know it."
"But Alex . . ."
"No! Thats final. Think of something else."
"Okay, how about the Count? You could go as Count Dracula and I could go as . . ." she put her fingers to her lips, her eyebrows rippling as she concentrated. "Wait, lets go as witches!" She smiled up into shocking blue eyes.
"Is that supposed to make me feel more like participating?" Alex chuckled. "You go from something sexy and slinking to something ugly and decrepit."
"We dont have to be ugly witches. We could go as modern day witches; you know, like the ones on that television show, Charmed, and Rainbow could be our familiar."
Alex laughed and drew Samantha close to her. "You do have a way of twisting me around that little finger of yours, dont you? What happened to you have to be something scary?"
"I guess I was just thinking out loud, making statements before I really thought them through."
"Oh," Alex laughed. "And that is so unlike you." She gave the smaller woman a hug. "I think I could manage to attend as a modern day witch, especially since I dont have to don a pointed cap and put a wart on the side of my nose. Besides, I know a few people who might call me that and really mean it."
Ignoring the sarcasm, Samanthas face lit up. "Great! Ill go to work on making us a Book of Shadows and . . ."
"Its just a party; you dont have to go to all that trouble."
"Its Halloween; I want to go to the trouble. Itll be fun finding things to put into the book and giving us tools to work with like glitter dust for magical potions and . . ."
Samanthas mind was leading her far beyond the kitchen walls, and the brunette couldnt help but laugh.
"Oh, dear, Ive awakened the craft monster again," Alex teased. "As long as you dont insist that I spend countless hours helping you with your folly, you can make whatever you wish."
"Okay, I promise to leave you alone, until I have a list made up of everything Ill need. Then will you go shopping with me?"
"Um . . . you havent seen Suz for a while," Alex tried to save her sanity by reminding her lover. "Why dont you ask her to go with?"
Green eyes sparkled as they looked up into the face Samantha adored. "Alex, thats so sweet of you."
Alex shook her head from side to side realizing that the excuse she had just come up with to get out of going shopping had been wasted on Samantha. All the blonde had heard was a selfless suggestion that she spend some fun time with an old friend.
"I think I will ask Suz. Of course, youre still more than welcome to come along with us . . ."
Alex waved her hand in the air, fending off the invitation. "No, no. You two will have a much better time of it if I just stay home with Rainbow." She picked up the cat that had meandered into the kitchen to get a drink and some petting. "Well be just fine by ourselves, now wont we, my little familiar?" she purred into the cats ear, stroking the soft black fur.
"Well, thats settled then," Samantha concluded. "You about ready for bed?"
"You betcha," came the response as Alex put their furbaby back down onto the floor.
Samantha opened the oven door to check on the pumpkinseeds she was roasting. "As soon as I get these out of the oven, Im through for tonight. Ill make out a list in the morning and give Suz a call. We only have a few days to get everything together. I shouldnt have waited so long to decide who we were going to masquerade as."
"Itll be fine, Samantha," Alex assured her. "You have all of downstairs decorated; theres no one new coming in to lecture before the party, and the caseload is low right now. So, why dont you take a day off and finish up all your last minute stuff?"
Samantha threw her arms around her lovers neck. "Alex, you always know what to say to make me stop stressing. I just might take you up on that."
With a crooked smile on her face, Alex bent down and kissed the smaller woman gently on the lips. "Its getting late; you finish up here and Ill check the security."
As Samantha relinquished her hold around the brunettes neck, she turned and grabbed her oven mitts. "Meet you in the bedroom."
Minutes later with an arm wrapped around Alexs waist and snuggled into her favorite position, she sighed and mumbled that she was sorry Kelley and Aurora werent going to make it up for the party and that Sonny and Ray were not going to make it down.
"You know better than to try to tear Sonny away from San Francisco on Queens Night, Samantha. And you know Mom and Kelley would have been here if Mom hadnt scheduled a book signing for the weekend in New York. Unfortunately, she does have a problem being in two places at the same time."
"I know. Its just that special times always seem even more so when the four of them share them with us."
"I agree, Honey." Alex kissed the top of the flaxen head. "But . . . now its time to get some rest. You have a busy day ahead of you."
"Yeah. Night Alex, sweet dreams."
"Same to you, Samantha. See you in the morning."
Within minutes, visions of witches, goblins and ghosts began sifting through Samanthas dreams. More than once during the night, soft moans and groans awakened Alex. She would gently nudge the sleeping woman in her arms to shake away the dream and then hold her closer until she fell back into a peaceful slumber.
The next morning Samantha kept babbling about witches and covens and being persecuted. Alex tried her best to deter the conversation and confirm that it was merely a figment of Sams imagination. "There was just too much discussion about the topic before we went to sleep. You fussed all evening, tossing and turning. Its a wonder you feel rested at all."
But Samantha would have no part of Alexs practicality.
"It was more than a dream, Alex. I can feel it."
"Honey, youre just letting your fantasy run wild. Halloweens almost here and you have all these things on your mind. Do you think that the minute you fall asleep all your waking thoughts vanish? They dont. They follow you into your dreams."
"Maybe so, but they were terribly vivid, and the emotions that went with the dreams were just as real as if everything was happening to me in the here and now."
"Then perhaps you should think of something less sinister to be than being a witch. Maybe we should . . ."
"No! I think being witches will be fun. No." Blonde locks shook in disagreement. "Im being silly. Nuff said. Im going to go fix breakfast." With that she hopped out of bed and headed toward the kitchen.
The next few days were a flurry of Samantha scurrying into the center with bags of party prizes and bits and pieces of witch information that she had either pumped out of one or more of the eclectic storekeepers in town or had found on the Internet.
Alex had insisted that they cater the food to keep the stress level on both herself and her partner to a minimum. The blonde still had to pick and choose the menu, and she insisted on a gingerbread cake in the shape of a haunted mansion with ghostly snowball cakes surrounding the bottom of it. The tables were scattered with pomegranates, and a huge bucket filled with water for a dunking was loaded with bright red apples. Dry ice gave a cauldron of cider the appropriate illusion of a witchs brew, and the scent of allspice, sage, and apples filled the air. Everything was coming together in a last minute frenzy of excitement that was in keeping with the tone of Halloween.
Last minute changes to attire was something Alex had become accustomed to, and tonight was, of course, going to be no different. The party was to begin in thirty minutes, and Samantha was still putting the finishing touches on her costume.
Standing in the living room with a glass of wine in hand, Alex looked out over the moonlit ocean and marveled that a night as glorious as this could have diabolical connotations.
Insisting on dressing herself, Alex had smiled as she discarded each of Samanthas suggestions, preferring to portray the slightly dominatrix version of a modern day witch. Out of her old wardrobe she pulled a pair of tight, black leather pants, accompanied by nothing more than a matching vest, which she made sure was modestly concealing, as there would be children at the party.
Days before she had rummaged through some old boxes in one of the storage rooms and found a diamond-studded leather collar with matching armbands. She had even bought a small harness for Rainbow that was dotted with tiny silver rivets. For added affect, she had purchased a removable tattoo and had affixed it to her forearm. It was a multi-colored triskelion, representing the three fates, and she was sure Samantha would love it. With her hair slicked back and donning dark lipstick and eye shadow that enhanced the blue of her eyes, she looked quite menacing, merely standing and looking out the window.
Even though she was a room away, the blonde couldnt keep from gabbing on about everything she had learned about the holiday in which they were about to partake.
"You know before this week, I always thought of Halloween more as a childrens holiday. Was I ever wrong. Do you know . . . can you hear me, Alex?"
"Yes, Samantha," Alex smiled and cocked her head to better keep in touch with what her lover was saying, for fear of a quiz upon her entrance into the room if she thought she wasnt paying attention. "I can hear every interesting word."
"Dont be sarcastic," Samantha replied, with a definite giggle in her tone. "As I was saying, did you know that Halloween is also known as Samhain to the Celts? And, its one of the four major Sabbats of the witches? Its also known as the Witches New Year because its the most magical night of the entire year."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. After I found that out I thought maybe about dressing up as Morrigan because the Celts associate her with Samhain but decided it would be more fun to be a modern day witch."
Through the glass Alex watched Samantha as she entered the room, and the brunette turned to behold a transformation that reminded her more of a fairy godmother than a witch. Her intake of breath was matched by Samanthas, as verdant eyes focused on the tall, brooding woman on the opposite side of the room.
"Wow!" Samantha exclaimed.
"Ditto!" Alex replied. She put her glass on the table and walked to meet Samantha halfway. "Let me look at you! Come here, turn around."
The blonde smiled and then began to turn, ending with her back to her lover.
"Continue, Samantha, make it a 360, I need to take in the entire picture. You look beautiful!"
The low-cut dark royal purple, velvet dress showed cleavage that Alex was beginning to worry about having others admire. Gracing her lovers pristine neck was the lavender jade unicorn necklace Alex had purchased for Samantha on their first trip to San Francisco. The necklace was accessorized with the matching earrings.
Watching Alexs eyes, the smaller womans fingers began playing with the symbol for luck. "I know this isnt a Chinese holiday, but I just thought that perhaps I could transcend the cultures and wrap them all together tonight."
"Honey, it goes perfectly. I dont think anyone will question your choice, but Im not sure they will think thee a witch," Alex chuckled.
"Well, Ill just have to make sure I carry something to designate that then, but thanks, for the compliment." Samanthas hands swept down over the soft folds of her skirt. "I found this the second time Suz and I went out shopping. Believe me, it took everything in my constitution to keep from pulling it out of the bag and showing it to you. But Suz said the look on your face when I put it on would be worth all the anticipation." Green eyes sparkled as she looked at her lovers face. "I dont think she exaggerated one little bit. So, you really like it, huh?" She made another full turn and then stopped to take in her lovers attire.
"Absolutely. If thats how witches had dressed back in the days of Salem they would never have been persecuted."
"By the Goddess they would have," Samantha countered. "If they had dressed like this they would have been banished from the town, probably tarred and feathered," she giggled, looking down at her own cleavage.
Alex began to take Samantha into her arms when the smaller woman paused and put her at arm's length.
"Its my turn to play the admiration game and your turn to spin around slowly and let me take a good look at you." Samantha whistled low and long, as Alex did as she was asked with as slight an amount of sarcasm as she could muster, doing an exaggerated pirouette.
Sam shook her head and breathed a deep sigh. "Damn, I dont know if I want to share you with an entire party of people tonight!"
"My sentiments exactly . . . what do you say we let them have the party and we just . . . "
"Oh, no, my leather witch, you are not getting out of this evening that easily. But you do look hot in that outfit. How come Ive never seen it before?"
"I didnt know you went much for the leather-type," Alex chuckled.
"When the leather is on you, I do!"
Alex gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and offered her arm. "Well, Mistress of All Hallows Eve, Halloween, Samhain (sow-en), Feast of Spirits, All Saints Eve, are you ready to go meet your subjects?"
"Alex, how did you know how to pronounce Samhain . . . ah . . . how did you know all those names for Halloween?"
"My Darling, did you forget who my mother is?" Alex laughed. "Aurora made sure I had a bit of everything in my upbringing, and each holiday carried a new and interesting lesson. Shall we?"
"Yeah, just let me run back into the bedroom and get my basket."
"My basket; you know it has some little witchy-like stuff in it."
Alex shook her head; she knew that trying to convince Samantha that she didnt need a basket full of potions, spells, and incense to let people know she was supposed to be a witch would be futile.
Her attention turned to Rainbow who had been rubbing on her leg, begging for attention. The tall brunette bent down and picked the cat up. "I promise to give you a huge bowl of milk, after parading you around in front of all the young children tonight. Be patient with us. You will be rewarded," she whispered into the cats ear. Rainbow looked up and continued to purr, as though she understood every word.
When Samantha came out of the bedroom with her goody basket over her arm, she held an eye mask made of purple feathers and adorned with peacock plumes in one hand, while in the other, and quite coincidentally, she carried a plain black leather mask.
"I didnt have any idea what you would be wearing," she assured Alex as she handed her a mask, "but I definitely knew that feathers were not your style." She smiled and took the proffered arm as the two women and their familiar made their way down to their party.
Beyond expectation would be the only way to describe the success of Alternative Paradises first Halloween Bash. It seemed that most of the town of Laguna paid respects and had an incredibly fabulous time in the offing. Costumes ranging from the hideous to the exquisite marched past judges in the various contests, and not a goblin, ghoul, vampire, fairy princess, or superhero went home disenchanted.
Toward the end of the evening, a striking middle-aged woman dressed in a flowing burnt orange gown, the color of a raging fire, with hair almost matching the color of her dress and flowing freely down her back approached Samantha to thank her for being such a gracious hostess. Samantha couldnt help but notice the intensity of the womans hazel eyes as she surveyed her hostess. Normally Sam would have thought the almost too familiar attitude of the woman as an intrusion, but for some reason the blonde felt comfortable with the smiling woman, who was holding her hand almost as if she were an old friend.
Sam wasnt totally listening to the words coming from the womans mouth. She was finding herself distracted by the warmth of the matronly touch. She knew that the woman had spoken her name, but she couldnt for the life of her remember what it was.
". . . I just wanted to thank you for instigating this extraordinary affair this evening. I dont think the town has ever celebrated quite as exuberantly as it did tonight."
A bit taken back by the outpouring of praise, Samantha looked nervously around in search of Alex. When she saw her making her way toward them, she attempted to switch the topic so she could introduce the woman to her partner.
"Thats okay, dear, I just wanted to let you know that myself and my friends had a marvelous time." The woman turned to walk away, decided better of it and retook Samanthas hand. "I almost forgot; we brought you a gift, dear."
Samantha looked down at her palm to discover a small piece of candy that looked strangely like a mushroom with its red cap covered in white dots.
"Sweets for the sweet," the woman smiled. "Its a specialty of ours, Samantha." A hand swept across the crowd and Sam spied two more women dressed in similar attire, but of different colors, on the other side of the room. "Best eaten right before bedtime because it induces sweet dreams." Again the woman smiled and then continued, "Just a little Samhain tale, my dear, from one witch to another. Merry parting, Samantha."
Before Alex had a chance to join them, the woman let go of Samanthas hand and headed toward her friends.
"She looked like she was in a hurry to get away from you, Samantha. Did you scare her?"
"Quite the contrary," Samantha answered. "She was the one who initiated our meeting. Look," she held up the piece of sweet for Alex to see. "She gave me this piece of candy."
"Candy, huh? Do you think you should be taking candy from strangers on this night in particular?" Alex teased, examining the small object. "Are you sure this is candy? It looks an awful lot like a red amanita mushroom."
"Come on, Alex. Are you trying to scare me?"
"No, no. Im not. Im really quite serious. I dont think you should eat this." She started to throw the piece of sweet away when a small hand grasped her own and objected.
"First off, tell me what this red whatever mushroom is and why I shouldnt eat one. Then tell me why an innocent piece of candy should be discarded just because it looks like that. I would have been very upset tonight if people had not eaten the snowball cakes merely because they looked like ghosts. Come on, Alex, lighten up, its Halloween." Her winning smile melted her lovers scowl, and Alex placed an arm around the shoulders of her hearts desire.
"Youve got a point, Samantha. What do you say we bid goodbye to the rest of our guests and continue this enlightening conversation upstairs?"
"I could be talked into that," Samantha agreed as she turned her attention to the last of the party people coming towards them to say goodnight.
While Alex was securing the property, Samantha lit a few candles in the living room and poured them both a glass of wine. She stood looking out at the ocean, caught in the spell of the moment as the mesmerizing ebb and flow of the waves crashed upon the shore far below. Although the party had been a blast to initiate and pull off, she was glad that it had started early and ended well before midnight, nothing like the days-long affair Sonny and Ray were celebrating up in San Francisco.
Out of the corner of her eye she thought she noticed the beginning of a flame down on the beach. She leaned closer to the window to get a better look when Alex approached her from behind and scared her.
"Damn, Alex. You should announce when you come into a room."
"Why?" the brunette asked, putting her hands on Samanthas shoulders and kissing her lovers neck. "Were you expecting someone else to come up behind you?"
"No. Its just that I was otherwise occupied and didnt hear you."
"By otherwise occupied, do you mean spying on the people down there in the sand?"
"You see them, too? At first I thought it was just the play of moonlight on the beach."
"Samantha, its Halloween; you see lots of strange things on the beach on Halloween."
"You mean youve seen them out there before, Alex?"
Alex nodded and smiled.
"Really, what are they doing? Are they real witches?"
"You have witches on the brain, my Love."
"No seriously, Ive heard of Wiccans having ceremonial circles on the beach; do you think this could be one?" She pointed down to the area of sand where the flame now flickered more noticeably. "Lets go down and watch." Samantha started for the door, only to be pulled back by a strong, determined arm.
"I dont think so. Its really best to view them from a distance, Samantha. Getting too close could get you into trouble."
"Nonsense. I want to see what theyre doing and hear what theyre saying."
"Would you like someone sneaking up on you when you were in the middle of something very private and sacred?"
"Did you have to put it like that?"
A crooked smile crossed the dark-haired beautys face as she gave her precious a squeeze. "I knew you would do whats right, my little witch," she murmured into her lovers ear. "Lets get to bed; its been an exhausting day and my face is sore from smiling all night long."
Samantha jabbed her lover in the ribs and laughed. "Come on, admit you had a good time."
"Yeah, it was okay," Alex confessed. "Ive got to hand it to you for getting everyone involved."
On the way into the bedroom, Samantha picked up the piece of candy she had laid on the counter when they entered the apartment and felt the soft white bumps with her fingers. "Before we go to sleep, Alex, you promised to tell me about that red mushroom. We kind of got sidetracked with the witches and all."
"Right. And its the red amanita, Samantha. Ill tell you all about it in bed," Alex professed. She looked over at the clock and shook her head. "I cant believe were going to bed before midnight on Halloween."
"It was an exhausting day, Alex," Samantha chimed in. "I dont believe its written anywhere that we have to be awake at the witching hour."
Giggling, she climbed in bed next to her lover. Lying there, wrapped in each others arms, Samantha once again breached the mushroom topic.
"You sound like a broken record; do you realize that?"
"Well, you piqued my curiosity and then left me in the lurch; what in Tarnation do you expect?"
"From you, my Destiny, nothing less. Let me think a minute; its been quite a few years since Ive studied sacred mushrooms. Hmm, the red amanita is a class of mushroom that has been known to carry hallucinogenic properties, that much I remember easily. I also remember that its part of the fungi family. People need to be extremely careful when harvesting the amanita because its relativesthe virosa, verna and one other I cant remember the name of are extremely poisonous, but the muscaria is less so. The red amanita is often used by Shamans for healing and séances because of its hallucinogenic properties." She looked at Samantha who was sitting up, her mouth hanging open.
"Youre just a treasure trove of information."
"I told you once before, my mother is the Queen of Trivia. I had to listen to her ramble endlessly on every car trip I ever took in my youth." Alex chuckled. "Seriously, though, Samantha, you really have to be careful with fungi; they can be lethal and . . . "
"Its simply a piece of Halloween candy, Alex," the blonde smiled and looked at the sweet she had placed on the table on her side of the bed.
Satisfied with the explanation, she kissed her lover goodnight and curled up against her once more in her sleeping position.
Try as she would, she could not seem to quiet her thoughts enough to fall asleep, and Alexs rhythmic breathing with its accompanying snore was beginning to grate on her nerves. She figured if she tried writing for a little while, then she could get some of what was in her mind out on the paper. She might then be relaxed enough to join her lover in sleep.
Normally, Alex would have felt her every movement, but tonight she seemed to be sleeping more soundly than usual as the small blonde untangled her body from that of her lovers. She grabbed the controversial piece of confection from its place of rest and tiptoed into the living room.
The light from the full moon gave a silvery sheen to the ocean below, and she thought she could definitely see movement out on the beach around the fire that was now more than visible to the naked eye. The scene kept beckoning to her, erasing any memory of the reason she had gotten out of bed in the first place.
She stood mesmerized by the movements on the beach. After fingering the piece of candy she held in her hand, she decided to ignore Alexs warning and eat it anyway. It was sweet and tart at the same time, the outside having the consistency of chocolate dotted with nuts, but the inside smooth, like that of a peanut butter cup with an almost pungent aftertaste. That was a weird combination of flavors. Oh well, so much for wondering if it really was just candy. Guess Ill know for sure in a few minutes. She giggled to herself at the thought that it could have been anything other than what it appeared to be.
Sam continued to watch the commotion on the beach and began to get brazen about wanting to see more of what was actually happening. Alexs telescope was sitting beside the bar, and there was no one here to talk her out of using it.
There could be no harm in just looking from a distance, she assured herself as she pointed the mechanism in the direction of the shoreline just out of reach of the stairway spotlight, but still visible in the glow of the moon.
It was no secret that the participants were Wiccan, performing a celebration on the sand, on one of their high nights. Samantha was now able to see that the gathering was comprised only of women. They danced around the blazing fire, throwing something into it that caused rainbow sparks to emanate from the center outward.
Suddenly one of them noticed or felt they were being watched, and then simultaneously, all heads turned toward the warehouse. A feeling of dread overcame the blonde spy, who knew in that instant she had been caught. An eerie chill tingled her spine, and then, without warning, her body felt as though it was being touched by a multitude of fingers. Before she had the wherewithal to yell for Alex . . . zap . . . she found herself amidst the small group of women.
Not sure whether to try to run or to apologize for spying on them, she found herself frozen in fear. How in Tarnation did I get from the penthouse to here? She started to speak but was hushed by the appearance of the woman who had given her the mushroom candy earlier in the evening.
"Welcome, Samantha. I dont believe you heard it the first time I introduced myself, but Im Priscilla, the elder of this little gathering. We were hoping that you might join us on this celebration eve as the old year says goodbye and the new begins. Did you know that tonight time is maneuverable, boundaries are lifted, and normal laws are no longer in existence? Doors open on this special night that are normally tightly closed and guarded, as the souls of those long dead, those who are leaving this realm, and those who are in the process of reincarnating, pass at will through the Veil as it is lifted?" She threw some incense on the fire and Samantha could smell the odor of cooked apples, mingled with the tangy aroma of nutmeg and a hint of mint. The sparks flew and shadows danced around the fire.
"This is the time of death and rebirth, as the Veil lifts and the barriers between realms grow thin. We walk with the spirits of our loved ones on this night, as well as with those of our foes."
Samantha noticed that around the fire had been placed candles, apples, and plates of fruits and vegetables. There was a melody to the chant the women sung as they rounded the fire and passed in front of her and her newly encountered mentor.
"You already know, Samantha, that every life has a birth and a death and that after that death there is a new beginning. We celebrate all the phases of life."
Samantha looked on in awe, her mouth agape, trying to understand the meaning of what was happening before her.
"We know you asked questions in the town about Samhain, Samantha. We know you are a gifted healer and that you have the gift of prophecy if you chose to explore it."
Finally finding her voice, Samantha asked, "Why have you brought me here? How did I get here?"
"You were willed here by your own inquisitiveness with a little help from a special mushroom and your friends, both past and present.
We opened the circle here on this beachfront tonight in anticipation of you joining us. Look deep into the circle; there are friends from times gone by who have come to speak with you this night." Gently, Priscilla urged Samantha toward the warmth of the blaze. "You have been Wiccan before, my dear, you will surely be Wiccan again."
Conversely to what she would have expected, the closer Samantha got to the fire the darker the area directly before her became. Suddenly, the atmosphere changed and the air took on a different scent. No longer did the smell of the ocean, permeated by incense fill her nostrils, but the sweet odor of maple. Additionally, a crisp breeze chilled her to the bone and she shivered. Almost immediately she was draped in a warm cape and a soothing voice was whispering in her ear.
"Merry meet and welcome, Samantha, with patience we have awaited our reunion with thee."
There was no earthly reason why she wasnt afraid, but the sound of the womans voice was hauntingly familiar and soothing, even though the accent and wording were odd.
The older woman smelled of baked apples and cinnamon, and her arm around Sams shoulder was a comfort. "Im Cinthe, Samantha, and thou has been gone from us for an eternity. Tried we have on several occasions to come to thee, but ready thou was not." The elder smiled down at a confused young woman. "But welcome now, sister. Welcome home."
Samanthas eyes widened.
"Home? What do you mean home?"
"Doth thou not remember leaving us, Samantha? The lifting of the Veil shouldst have restored all memories of this lifetime."
"I . . . I . . . things are running crazy in my head," Samantha fumbled with the words. I should be scared to the bone, but . . ."
"Scared? Why in the name of the Goddess, child, should ye be scared of we who are thy family? When we sent thee into the woods with The Book, ye were supposed to return with help from the rest of the coven. What happened to thee, Samantha? We thought in the beginning that perhaps the mists did trick thine eyes and cause thy way to be hidden? When ye returned not to us in the morn, we searched the entire wood and cast the spell of revelation to no avail. Being such a new coven, the high powers were lost with ye and The Book, and we were like babes, being without a mother to follow. All these long years we have regained some of our powers, through the charity of our Wiccan sisters, but much was lost with ye and The Book."
Now Samanthas head was spinning; foreign thoughts were swirling around in her subconscious, stirring memories that were deeply imbedded in her soul.
The confused blonde began to weep, tears flowing hotly, moistening her blanched cheeks, and stinging as a cool breeze whipped the air. "I think . . . I remember . . . oh . . . Goddess, help me . . . I do . . . I remember . . . I failed you. I failed you all." She slumped to the ground in a heap.
"There, there, child. Be not troubled. Ye can still bring the past to completion, if The Book be found."
"The Book, of course!" Samantha looked around at the strangely dressed women as they awaited her divulgement. The story poured forth from her lips as though she were reading from a novel.
"I remember . . . I was the youngest among you and very shy when you took me into your circle. I so wanted to prove myself. I remember also that is was on Halloween . . ."
"Im sorry Samhain . . . it was on Samhain just like tonight, and you, Cinthe, had just cast the circle, calling the Guardians of the East, South, West, and North and the powers of the elements to join us. Immediately after the blessing the voices were heard coming from out of the woods toward us. You instinctively knew they would do us harm and rather than try to dispel them with magic, you decided that the safety of our precious Book of Shadows was the most important feat to accomplish. I was entrusted with the ancient knowledge that had been passed down from generation to generation and was to take it to a secure place with the rest of our sisters in the neighboring town and to bring back help." Tears filled and overflowed the sea-green eyes, and gentle fingers of a long-ago friend wiped them swiftly away.
"Blessed be, my child, it was not as though ye left us at the stake. But twould do our hearts good to find The Book again; some of us are still in need. Please go on."
"Of course," Samantha sobbed. She sniffled, took a deep breath, and then continued with her story.
"I was running through the woods and making fairly good time when I suddenly had the feeling that I was being followed. I dont know why, I couldnt hear anyone, I merely had this tingling sensation on the back of my neck that made all the little hairs stand up straight."
"Thy Wiccan training, Samantha, it gave thee warning. Though a novice ye were, learnéd ye had become in how to protect thyself from danger by sensing it aforehand. Tell us, child, what was chasing thee?"
Samantha closed her eyes, sat down on the large stone beside her, and took herself back again to that time long ago, which now seemed so much like her present, and her tale continued.
"I can still remember the look of hatred on his face when he finally showed himself to me. He carried a gun and said not a word, just pointed in a direction he desired me to follow. Luckily, I had hidden The Book under my cape and it was still undetectable to him. I was too afraid to do anything but his bidding. It seemed as though we walked for hours . . ."
"Candlemarks," Samantha corrected herself, "we walked for candlemarks until we came upon an ill-kept cabin deep in the Maple woods northwest of where I had left all of you and opposite to where I had been running. He pushed me inside and told me not to try to leave, or he would kill me. I remember the look on his face and the tone in his voice . . ." Samantha stopped and cocked her head and then shook the thought away.
"What is it, Samantha?"
"Nothing . . . ah . . . where was I . . . oh, yeah . . . he left me alone, and I looked around as quickly as I could to try to find a hiding place because I wasnt sure how long he would be gone. I found a loose piece of board over by some shelving and stuffed The Book inside for safe keeping until I could either escape or at least find a better place to hide it."
One of the other women came between Samantha and Cinthe and handed each of them a cup of warm liquid. Cinthe thanked her for the both of them and encouraged Samantha to continue as she drank.
Again the green eyes filled with tears as she remember the pain her soul had endured at the hands of the evil hunter in the woods. Just as she was about to speak she let out a gasp, causing Cinthe to grab the cup of hot liquid as Samantha released her hold on it. With trembling hands Samantha covered her face. "I dont believe this!" she wept.
"Who, Samantha, the hunter?"
"Yes . . . I know him."
"Ye knew him then?"
"No! I know him now!"
"He hast followed thee into thy present incarnation?"
"Yes! As if he didnt do enough damage the first time! How could he do that?"
"Did ye think only love follows a soul from life to life, Samantha? Evil follows also, as it grows and changes its face and dies. Who is this person in thy life now?"
"Hes my father, and hes still the bastard he was in his former life. Hes still trying to possess me and control me. And he is still wicked."
"Aye, but I take it ye are winning the battle with evil this time around?"
"I believe I am, Cinthe; I believe I am." She looked up into gentle eyes that seemed to acknowledge the pain she was feeling in her heart. "Im sorry . . . it was just . . . such a shock. The face is different, but the feelings the same. When I look at the face of the hunter in my minds eye, I see my father."
"Tis the way of the Goddess to allow thee comfort in knowing thine enemies. But Samantha, wouldst thou please try to remember where The Book found a resting place?"
The younger woman smiled at the patience being afforded her. "Most definitely. Let me think." Closing her eyes to take her back in time, she grimaced as she relived the atrocities she had suffered at the hands of the maniacal hunter. She relayed to the women that he had not a single speck of kindness in him, and it was just by luck that she found a way to hide The Book while he was out hunting one day.
"All my hopes of escape had been beaten out of me, and I was so ashamed of what I had become. I thought that the best I could do was to save The Book from getting into the hands of a demon, and I very, very carefully pulled up a few of the floor planks. It took me days to dig a hole large enough and deep enough. It became the one thing in my life that gave me joy, and I spent the time each day that he was gone hunting, working on the hiding place. I made a kind of mortar to put around the dirt to keep decay from destroying the sacrament, and then I lined it with bits and pieces of wood and cloth and then more mortar. I encased The Book in cloth and then in wood and smeared mortar all over the box before finally lying the most precious thing in my universe into the secret place I had built." Samantha smiled at the woman sitting next to her.
"Well, it seems as though thee took much time and effort to make the object of our desire safe, but wouldst thou be able to lead us to the place beneath which it is buried?"
"It doesnt matter if youre going in the now or the then, Cinthe; I would indeed be able to tell you, that is unless the wood is gone."
"In our now the wood is still most assuredly here, my sister. In the time of thee, I couldst not say."
"I was allowed one candlemark each day out in the sunlight. I believe he only permitted that to keep me from withering away in the damp and the dark. I would take a kitchen utensil out with me, and I carved deeply into the trees surrounding the cabin. I carved the precious symbols of the moon in all her phases, and of the sun, and the powers of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. I carved them into the bark and the heart of the trees, using the procuring of syrup as an excuse when I feared getting caught. As long as those trees live they will forever carry the symbols of my captivity on their skins. They may only be slight scars in my time, but in yours they will stand out as beacons for you to follow. So . . . if you go one candlemark west of where our circle was on that night and then another candlemark north, you will be in the vicinity of the forest where I was held captive until I died an early death in childbirth." Samantha grabbed her stomach and held it tightly. "Goddess, what a feeling. I am blessed that both myself and the child didnt make it through the birthing process." She shook her head and finished her directions. "Once you find the trees, The Book will be directly in the center point between the four trees that have the directional symbols on them."
She breathed a sigh of relief and finished the cup of herbed tea that had been given back to her.
"Sister Samantha, thou hath made me the happiest of women this Sabbat night. As the New Year begins, my sisters and I will be able to reinforce our family with the secrets that have for too long been denied us. It will give ye and all who are kin to ye the power to be all that ye shouldst be. The powers will have never been lost to thee and thine, as we shall restore all to its original intention. "
She kissed Samantha gently on the cheek and hugged her tightly. "A small token of our gratitude, Samantha, and a charm to help thee remember this night and the life thou hadst with us." Cinthe pressed a small, amber stone with the symbol of life carved upon it into Samanthas palm. It felt warm and it made Sams entire body tingle with energy.
"Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again, our Samantha. Blessed be." Cinthe then walked the younger woman away from the fire and back toward the area where she had first greeted her.
Before Samantha had a chance to say anything more, she found herself back on the beach in Laguna with the fire beginning to die down as the twelve women around it were simultaneously dousing it with sand.
"It seems as though your mission was accomplished, my friend," Priscilla commented as she greeted Samantha anew.
"Yes, I suppose it was," Sam acknowledged with a smile. "I learned a lot tonight; thank you."
"No need to thank us, Samantha, we are all sisters. It was your destiny to meet with your past tonight. Im glad I was able to have a part in restoring your familys powers. Join us again at the full moon if you wish, Samantha. One of your heritage is always welcomed amongst us. She opened Samanthas palm and smiled. I do believe you will have no need of the magic mushroom the next time, my dear."
The leader of the Wicca kissed Samantha on the forehead before turning and walking into the still dark morning with her sisters.
"You dont have to wait for Samhain to join us again, my sister. Merry part and Blessed be," she called to Samantha over her shoulder.
The morning sun was just beginning to filter through the windows when Samantha opened her eyes in disbelief. How could she be back in bed . . .and and . . . in Alexs arms? It was just seconds ago the sun was still below the horizon and she was walking on the cool damp sand by the waters edge. She must be dreaming. She pinched herself and squealed when it hurt.
"What in the name of . . ." sleepy blue eyes squinted downward in search of an answer.
"Hmm . . . I was just checking to see if I was still asleep," Samantha mumbled.
"Uh, huh," Alex remarked shaking her head and wiping the sleep from her eyes. "Its a little past dawn and you are somehow harming yourself to see if youre still asleep?"
"Yes?" Samantha answered meekly.
"Right. Nice try, Samantha. I know about the nightmares. Did you have another one?
"No! Honestly." Sam sat upright and stared into disbelieving sapphire eyes that were looking more than a little inquisitive. "It wasnt a dream; it was an adventure," the blonde insisted, getting out of bed to use the bathroom.
"Ah," Alex called after her, shifting her position in the bed to that of a sitting one. "You had a midnight adventure, all by yourself, on Halloween? Very interesting, Samantha, but dont you think I would have known if you . . . "
"No! Youve got to believe me, Alex," the blonde insisted when she re-entered the room. She didnt want to doubt herself and the absolute feeling she had that what she had experienced was anything but a dream. Then she remembered the piece of amber. Frantically searching the bed she found the small gem under her pillow. "Look, does this have a dreamlike quality to it?" She grinned, knowing that Alex would have to believe her now.
"Samantha, isnt that one of the little baubles you had in your witchs basket last night?"
"No! See here, theres a symbol on it." She thrust the small object into a startled Alexs hand.
"Okay, Samantha, why dont you tell me all about what you think was not a dream." She patted the bed next to her but Samantha was too excited to sit.
Taking the amber back, the blonde started to recount the events of the night before as she remembered them.
Carefully watching Alexs face for signs of belief and disbelief she told of eating the piece of candy, which received an immediate deep sigh and shake of the dark-haired womans head. Ignoring Alexs body language, Samantha continued with her tale. She paid careful attention to Alexs reaction when she spoke of the hunter, who, having been abandoned by his mother as a child because he was born out of wedlock in a time when women were severely punished for such acts, grew up to become a hermitic and misogynistic adult.
"But heres the clincher, Honey." Samantha sat down on the bed next to Alex. "While I was reliving my capture and torture at the hands of the hunter a strange feeling overcame me. I suddenly realized that I knew this man in my lifetime now." She watched as Alexs eyebrow raised and her head cocked slightly. Ive got her attention now!
"Alex, the hunter of colonial times and my father of today are the same soul."
Hands went up into the air and a dark head continued to shake as a smile crossed the beautiful face of her lover. "Alright, Samantha, I think Ive heard enough. This was a marvelous story, except for the abuse . . . you could leave that out . . . but its time to come out of LaLa Land and back to the real world."
"Honestly, Alex . . ."
"Honestly, Samantha! You want me to believe that witches teleported you onto the beach below the warehouse, took you through a veil in space and time, back to the days of the Salem witches, and then teleported you back up to the apartment?"
The blonde head in front of her simply nodded.
"Uh, huh," Alex continued thoroughly unconvinced. "And the villain of this little story turns out to be none other than the villain in your life today?"
"Yes . . . but as bad as Daddy is now, he is still a better person than he was back then, so I suppose his soul is trying to make up for some of its past mistakes. Perhaps the reason we are together again is to put right some of the karma that was accumulated during that other life."
Another deep sigh and Alex asked Samantha if she was finished with her story. Sam shook her head no and finished the tale, explaining about The Book of Shadows that belonged to the coven and how when she came back to this timeframe again she was greeted by Priscilla, who invited her join the Wicca anytime she wanted.
There was a short silence before Alex spoke again. "I see. Did Priscilla happen to leave a phone number where she could be reached, Samantha?"
Alex watched as her lovers cheeks began to flush. Before she could say another word, the tears began forming in sea-green eyes. "No you dont, Samantha; dont do that." A long finger reached out and caught the first tear as it slid down the slightly freckled face. "Come here," Alex whispered as she put her arms around the sobbing woman. "Im sorry, Samantha; I dont mean to destroy what you think might have been a divine manifestation. But, my Love, I think you merely had an extremely vivid dream. One that felt so real you . . ."
Between sobs Samantha held out the small piece of amber, "Then where did this come from, Alex? This isnt one of the gems I bought in town the other day."
"I dont know, Honey, that has me a little confused right this minute, but Im sure theres a reasonable explanation. Let me get you a damp washcloth for your face."
Samantha stood, to allow Alex room to get out of the bed. "Reasonable explanation, huh?" Samantha queried. "Like the one we had for the Indian spirits we met in Sedona? I dont see you referring to them as figments of our imaginations or dreams."
"You know, Samantha, this is getting way too complicated. If you think you slipped out from my embrace without me noticing it last evening, and then took a trip into and back from the twilight zone between the hours of midnight and dawn, hey, who am I to deny you that?" She threw back the covers to get out of bed and stared at the sheets and then down at Samanthas feet, her mouth dropping open for a split second, before putting the sheet back over the bed. The motion was not lost on the smaller woman.
"What?" Samantha asked.
"What, what?" Alex bluffed.
"Whats that look for?" Samantha pulled the covers back once again to inspect the sheets.
"Okay . . . Samantha, how did you get sand on your feet?"
A Cheshire grin appeared on the blondes face as she looked at the residue in the bed and then reached down and touched the small amount of sand still sticking to her feet. "I knew it wasnt a dream," she mumbled. "Im not crazy. I was there, and it did happen, just as I described it."
"Calm down, Samantha, all a little sand proves is that you managed to slip out of bed and . . ."
"And . . . go down to the beach?"
"I suppose so, but I should have heard you disengaging the security system." Alexs demeanor became that of one very confused woman. This was not a situation she was comfortable with, and she certainly didnt like feeling like a fool.
"Are you ready to believe me?"
Alex cleared her throat and coughed.
"Youre stalling, Alex. You still dont believe me!"
Now Alex was rambling. "Youve got to admit, Samantha, if I told you that I had traveled through time and space, to a place that no longer exists, in order to help salvage a book, so that people in the present could have powers that would have otherwise been lost, you would think I had a little too much to drink, now wouldnt you?"
"If you told me that you were deadly serious, I would try my damnedest to find it in my heart to believe you."
"Well, youre a better person than I am, Samantha Riley. I know every one of my arguments has been shot full of holes, but this is really a stretch of my imagination to envision you walking into a blazing fire and then back out again."
"I didnt walk into the fire, Alex . . ."
"Whatever." Her hands went up in an I give up attitude. "Listen, can we drop Halloween Eve, just for a little while? How about some breakfast?"
Not wanting to start a family feud, Samantha nodded in agreement. Running the story over in her mind, she could honestly see where Alex would have a problem with the believability of itbut just at first. After all these physical reminders, how could she still think it was just a dream?
They passed by the bar on their way to the kitchen, and Samanthas attention was distracted by the Book of Shadows she had worked so hard at preparing before the party. The book was wrapped in a black cloth that seemed to shimmer in the morning sunlight as it cascaded into the room.
Suddenly, Sam stopped in her tracks, realizing that the book was nowhere near where she had left it the evening before. She had placed both the basket she had been carrying and the book in the kitchen on the counter, and her book was not wrapped.
Alex continued on into the kitchen as Samantha spun back around and walked over to the bar.
"Where ya going?" Alex wanted to know.
"I just want to look at something, go on, Ill be right there. Pour me a cup of tea, would you, please?"
Slowly and carefully Samantha pulled the object on the bar toward her. The covering was plush black velvet. Her heartbeat quickened as she unwrapped the outer material and disclosed a book that was at least three times the size of the one she had made for her Halloween affair. Her breath caught in her throat as she ran her fingers across the gold lettered title The Book of Shadows. Cautiously, she opened the cover and read the inscription on the first page:
May all ye who read here be warned! Secrets contained within these pages are only for the eyes of the believers and members of the Gloucester Coven and the heirs thereof.
I set forth my hand, on this first day of our Wiccan New Year and relinquish my authority as I give over the keeping of this, our Sacred Book, into the charge of Mistress Samantha Edwards and her ancestors to follow,
If ye have no right to these pages and if ye value thy soul ~ open not this book any further ~ keep thee to thyself.
Blessed be! Cinthe Matter ~ Massachusetts 1691
Samantha cautiously fingered the ancient parchment, as she turned the intricately adorned pages of the Sacred Book of her long ago coven.
"Would you bring me the Book of Shadows I made? Its on the kitchen counter."
Samantha waited patiently for her lover to be standing beside her with the dwarfed imitation of the book now lying open before her.
Alex brought the book with her and placed it beside the one Samantha had kept open.
"Is this another figment of my dreaming imagination, Alex?" Samantha smiled as she passed her hand over the title page.
"By the Goddess, Samantha . . . where did this come from?"
"By the Goddess, indeed, Alex. I think we both know the answer to that question."