rosemary edghill: Met by Moonlight

Met by Moonlight


Met by Moonlight [?]
by Rosemary Edghill
Pinnacle Books (February 1998)
ISBN: 0-7860-0482-7

Some time back, I wrote a time-travel romance titled MET BY MOONLIGHT. In it, a 20th Century book-restorer and Wiccan, Diana Crossways, is transported back in time to Sussex in 1647, courtesy of an antique Book of Shadows she is sent for restoration. She's taken in by a local coven, but soon finds herself running afoul of the notorious Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General (and evil fraud). Since the book is hard to find, and since many of my Wiccan friends aren't interested in reading Romances, I decided to excerpt the specifically Wiccan parts of the book here. This first section occurs just after Diana has opened the door of her Salem Massachusetts book shop in October 199- and found herself in the spring woods, in England, over three centuries before. . . .


At last, exhausted muscles betrayed her. A fallen tree blocked her path. She jumped and failed to clear it; rough bark scored the skin from her instep and she twisted, scrabbling for a balance she couldn't retain. She fell, and the book -- the precious book -- slid out of her grasp, sledding across the short-cropped grass of the clearing. Diana uttered a despairing wail.

The drumming stopped.

Diana raised her head and stared around her, only belatedly understanding the information her mind had registered while she ran: the light from bonfires and lanterns; the sound of the drums, now silent; the people gathered there.

Rough hands grabbed her and lifted her to her feet. Diana struggled feebly, but her blood pounded in her ears and the world wavered as if it were under water.

"Peace, Jankin, is she not one of ours?" The voice held the same swallowed inflections that the young bike messenger's had: English. Diana looked down and saw the silver pentacle she always wore -- the five-pointed star-in-circle that marked her as a Witch -- lying against the speaker's leathery hand.

"She do be wearing the goosefoot cross -- who else would dare these woods at night bearing such a sigil?" The hand released her pendant, and it fell back against Diana's skin.

"Oh, you're Witches!" gasped Diana, giddy with relief. "Thank the Goddess!" Another wave of relief-fueled dizziness swamped her senses, and she slid gracefully to the grass as her handlers released her. After a moment she was able to raise her head and look around.

She wished she hadn't.

The clearing was about the size of her living room back in Salem. It was lit by fire and candles. Most of the people gathered in these midnight woods were women, dressed almost identically in long dull-colored gowns with full skirts and long sleeves. Close-fitting linen caps concealed their hair, and over the caps one or two of the women wore high-crowned flat-topped hats that made Diana think of Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. Two of the men wore thigh-length tan smocks and leather breeches that came to just below the knee. Their feet were bare. Diana looked around instinctively for her chance-met companion of the woods, but he was not there. She could not tell if the sharp pang that struck through her was relief or loss.

And against her will, Diana could see that the trees that the dancers had filled with lanterns were in full summer leaf; thick and green and impossible to find anywhere in the autumn she'd just stepped out of.

"Please-- Who are you?" Diana whispered.

"Thou hast named us, Mistress," said a deep voice.

The man who spoke wore black square-toed shoes with silver buckles, and white silk stockings that disappeared into silver-buttoned knee breeches of soft dark cloth. His long matching full-skirted coat had wide white cuffs, and a narrow sword was belted at his waist. In his hand he carried a tall carved wooden staff, and his face was covered by an elaborate mask of carved and painted wood. Horns -- the antlers of the Forest Lord -- branched out from a hide-covered helmet. The deerskin cascaded down his back like a medieval coif. The mask's eyes were round holes, and through them Diana could see the eyes of the man beneath. The carved face stretched longer than a human face; the chin of the mask, with its grimacing mouth, brushed the wearer's chest below the wings of the starched white linen collar that covered his shoulders and chest.

For one mad hopeful moment Diana was certain she had stumbled across a coven of historians who had decided to take up Wicca. She'd read about costumes like the one this man was wearing; two centuries ago it would have marked him as the High Priest of the coven, only they hadn't used to call them that--

"Magister, it do be the Book!"

"Hey! Give me--" Diana started to scramble to her feet at the sight of the book in the hands of strangers, but a wave of weakness forced her back to her knees. "--that back," she finished faintly.

But the Magister already had it, flipping through it as carelessly as if it weren't a priceless antique.

"It is the book that we did set into the Summoner's hands, he that was slain at Landsdown in the King's service four years gone," he said. His voice was deep, made hollow and echoing by the mask, but with the same swallowed vowels as the other speakers'.

"And how came you to this grammarie, child?" asked the woman who had first spoken to her.

"A messenger--" Diana said, and stopped. A murmur ran through the party, and all at once a tension Diana had not realized was there vanished. The woman smiled.

"Then be welcome here," she said. "Will dance with us, Maiden?"

The Maiden was one of the officers of the medieval coven, Diana remembered, along with the Summoner and the Magister. She opened her mouth to reply, to protest, to demand some reasonable explanation, but the woman seemed to take this for assent.

"No, wait--" Diana said, but the Magister pounded his staff on the ground and the rhythm of the wooden drums began again. Strong arms pulled her into the dance, spun her and caught her, robbing her of speech.

After a few moments she stopped fighting and let the dancers do what they would. Her heartbeat was the beat of the drums, and her mind drifted far above her battered, exhausted body. She didn't want to ask questions. She didn't want answers. She was safe now, and now was all that mattered. Diana threw herself into the dance that spun and whirled about the fire, until all that was left was the memory of the burning black eyes of a fallen angel met in a midnight wood, and at last that memory rose up and enfolded her like a lover, bringing the oblivion she so desperately craved.


After dancing most of the night, Diana falls asleep on the ground. When she wakes up, one of the coveners is still there.


"So thou'rt awake."

Diana recognized the voice as the woman who'd done most of the speaking the night before.

"Where is the man in the mask?" And the man in the wood? Where am I, come to that?

"The Forest Lord is gone back to the forest, and best we be to our houses before good Christian folk are afoot."

"I'm from Salem!" Diana blurted out desperately.

"And I from the town hither and best be on my way. Merry met and merry parting, good mistress." The woman turned away.

"No, wait!" Diana cried. "I don't know where to go -- I don't know where I am -- I was in my shop and the messenger came with the book and there was a storm so I ran out -- I didn't mean to come here -- and there was the man in the woods and I want to go home!" Diana finished in a rush.

The woman stared at her, weighing Diana's words more carefully than she had.

"I'm not from here," Diana whispered again. "I don't belong here."

"My grandam did say that those that come out of the Hollow Hills don't find it so easy to get back in," the woman said at last. "Art banished from Erlhame then, girl?"

"I don't know," Diana said miserably. She didn't even know where Erlhame was.

The woman sighed. "Then best thee stop with me until thy own come for thee, for thee did do a great deed for our Covenant in bringing back our grammarie." She held out her hand.

Diana took the outstretched hand and got stiffly to her feet, wincing at the pain from aching muscles and battered feet. She looked down. Blood from thorn-scratches had mingled with mud and sap to coat her injured feet in a sticky glaze. There was a spectacular blue bruise across one instep that hurt her just to look at it. The effect was rather colorful, really. And it hurt.

Diana looked up again to find the woman regarding her clothes with disapproval, as though seeing them for the first time. "Thou'rt best rid of those seely clothes, if thee'd go about the town unremarked."

Diana had no idea what "seely" clothes were, and the woman's accent gave her the treacherous unreal sensation that she was an extra in a Monty Python skit. But at some time in the night just past, Diana had abandoned the hope of this being some dream, some hoax, some spasm of her imagination.

"I don't have anything else," she admitted miserably.

The woman sighed, as if she'd only expected as much.

"Then bide here until I come and bring thee suitable dress. I shall say thou'rt my niece. How did they call thee in the Hill?"

"My name is Diana. Diana Crossways. What's yours?" Diana said.

"They call me Mistress Fortune that do speak of me, and my parents did see fit to name me Abigail when they stood before the town priest. As for thee, 'Diana' is too unchancy a name for these times. I shall call thee Anne, for my sister's child who died, though thee might find it best to take a new name that those who name themselves 'Pure' will approve of."

"Like what?" As Mistress Fortune had just renamed her, Diana hardly saw the point of changing her name yet again.

"Oh they do call their children by all manner of unchristian newfangleness, as Praise God, or Helpmeet, or Preserved. It might do thee good to have a name that no one could find fault with. I shall think on it."

The names Mistress Fortune had told her woke dim frightful memories in the back of Diana's mind. "What is--" she began, and could not force the words past the dry horror in her throat. What YEAR is it? Automatically she clutched at the silver pentacle around her neck for comfort.

"And bury that deep, Mistress Anne, for it is plainly out of Erlhame, and to wear the goosefoot cross where townsfolk can see it is to wear the halter."

"What?" Diana said blankly. She simply didn't understand.

Mistress Fortune stared at her in exasperation. "Do they know thee for elfborn and witch, Mistress, they'll hang thee for the sin of witchcraft."


Of course Mistress Fortune agrees to help her. She goes home and comes back with clothing for Diana, who slowly manages to figure out that she's in 1647 England. . . .


Mistress Fortune took the pentacle and gazed at it reverently. "Do not fear to lose this, Mistress; we but keep it safe for thee. And should thee wish, I'll stand thy sib and prick thee into our company at the next Covenanting."

Diana stared at her, knowing that she should say something, even if only to mention that she didn't understand a word Mistress Fortune was saying, but she was too bewildered by shock and exhaustion to respond. Mistress Fortune grimaced at her confusion and hauled up her mass of skirt and petticoat. She pointed at a mark beside her knee, her sunburnt earth-stained hands dark against skin never exposed to the sun.

Diana saw a faint blue smudge, and leaning closer, made out the blurred tattoo of a five-pointed star.

"Sealed to the Covenant with the goosefoot cross," Mistress Fortune said proudly, dropping her skirts. Something stirred in the back of Diana's mind, a flicker of bright fear gleaming through the fog of shock.

"What year is this?" she forced herself to ask once again. This time she was determined to get an answer.

Mistress Fortune regarded her balefully. "'Tis four years gone that we did send the book to Landsdown, and not five months past did the King come into the Great Nose's tender keeping, he that was plain Noll Crummel ere he stooped to treason."

Noll Crummel. Some quirk of Diana's mind allowed her to unriddle the name given in Mistress Fortune's old-fashioned dialect. Noll Crummel. Oliver Cromwell, ruler of England's Commonwealth government, who'd lived three centuries before Diana had even been born.

Mistress Fortune plucked the watch and earrings from Diana's hand and dropped them into the hole along with the pentacle and the scraps of Diana's clothes, then set the turves back into place and began to walk back and forth over them, pressing them into place. Diana picked up the dress and began to pull it over the smock.


She was in the past.

"Nay, child, stay! Anyone would think thee a babe unweaned, for all thee can dress thyself." Grumbling amiably, Mistress Fortune helped Diana into the bewildering array of garments, lacing Diana fiercely into a canvas stays that flattened her bosom and pinched her hips before tying several petticoats and a cylindrical pillow around Diana's waist. Only then did Mistress Fortune drop the gray dress over Diana's head, smoothing down the narrow fitted front absently as if Diana were a dressmaker's dummy.

"There," she said in satisfaction.

Diana looked down at the sweep of gray cloth, pushed out from her hips by the layered petticoats to fall in wide folds about her legs. She had an apron tied about her waist; the dress was obviously one of Mistress Fortune's; instead of hanging to Diana's ankles as the other woman's dress did, it came to mid-calf.

"Happen we will let that down betimes," Mistress Fortune muttered, staring at Diana's ankles. The small cap that she handed Diana to wear on her head made Diana feel like one of the Pilgrim Mothers in the Thanksgiving play. The only thing missing from the costume was the starched linen collar and cuffs.

She wondered if the Pilgrims had left for America yet.

"Nay, not that way, child! Thee would leave thy hair a snare to catch angels in," Mistress Fortune scolded next. Diana knelt so that her mentor could unlace the cap and tuck every scrap of Diana's shoulder-length blonde hair safely out of sight before tying the cap firmly beneath her chin again.

The last item of Diana's new wardrobe was a pair of clogs like Mistress Fortune's. She slid her feet into them and stood gingerly, but the thick sheepskin lining made them bearable on her bruised feet, if still not something she'd pick to go jogging in.

"Well come if thou'rt coming, Mistress Anne," Abigail Fortune said briskly.


Since there's no sign of Diana going back to her own time immediately, she moves in with Mistress Fortune in the small Sussex village of Talitho and tries to fit in.


One day melted into the next for Diana as the full moon waned and then waxed again. Long periods of dull peace were interspersed with stretches of jarring strangeness. She woke each dawn in the bed she shared with Mistress Fortune -- the only bed in the house -- and after a while Diana stopped expecting to see her own familiar bedroom when she opened her eyes. Her own time and place began to seem almost mythical; something so strange and unlikely that it wasn't even worth talking about. America wouldn't even exist as a sovereign nation for another one hundred and twenty-nine years.

Shock as much as prudence led Diana to immerse herself in her assumed identity, until at times she forgot that Diana Crossways of Salem, Massachusetts, had ever existed. There was only Mistress Anne Mallow of London, niece to Goodwife Fortune. If Diana let herself think about anything else she felt she would surely go mad.

But despite her determination not to think and not to remember what had gone before, she found herself pinning her hopes for returning to her own time on the approaching Sabbat -- or, as Mistress Fortune referred to it in her infrequent comments, the 'regular night'. Surely when the moon was full once more and the coven had gathered Diana would be able to go home to her own century. After all, what she'd apparently been sent to do -- to return the book to the coven -- was done, wasn't it? Surely now the power that had sent her here would return her to her proper place?


But Matthew Hopkins shows up in Talitho, summoned by the Puritan divine Grimsby, and Diana discovers that the guy she's fallen in love with at first sight (this being a romance) is an agent of the witch-hunters. Despite the danger, she and Mistress Fortune prepare to attend the Sabbat.


It was twilight by the time Diana returned to the cottage, and Mistress Fortune was not there. She set the heavy jug of cider down with a sigh of relief -- she wished these people would invent the backpack -- and looked around the room.

Tomorrow she would look back on this as if it had been a dream, Diana told herself hopefully. She tried to summon up the memory of her sunny apartment, the Salem bookshop, but the memories would not come. Instead, the sights and smells of the cottage around her presented themselves with sudden vividness.

The loom in the corner had been strung a few days after she had come, and now held a half-finished piece of cloth. The spinning wheel opposite it stood with a half-full spindle of fine white thread upon it -- Mistress Fortune's work, as all Diana's attempts to spin an even thread so far had been worthless -- and a puff of carded flax lay on the bench beside it.

A cauldron of soup simmered over the fire, heating the already close air, and the room was heavy with the smell of recent baking. Diana sniffed appreciatively, and then followed her nose to a covered basket set by the back door. She lifted the bright kerchief that covered it and looked inside.

Most of the inhabitants of Talitho bought their bread from the baker, whose closed brick ovens ensured a superior product, but these cakes could not be bought there. Diana stared down at the basket full of hand-sized cakes. The recipe was in her own Book of Shadows, handed down through the centuries -- honey, wine, salt, meal -- and just as Diana would three centuries from now, Mistress Fortune marked each cake she made with a five-pointed star.

No matter what happened here in the Burning Times, Diana knew that the Craft had survived to her own time, slowly changing as it was handed down through the centuries until it took on the form she knew. But knowing that didn't make her any more content here.

I want to go home, Diana thought with a sudden burst of homesickness. Home, away from this -- away from him. She sat down at the table and put her head on her arms. Why couldn't she have kept her illusions? Why couldn't he have stayed a pleasant dream instead of a disappointing truth? When she'd seen him again she'd been able to believe, even if only for just one shining moment, that her dark woods-lord, her demon lover, was real . . . .

"Ah, Mistress Anne -- I did not look to see thee before nightfall," Abigail Fortune said, coming in from the garden. She brushed her work-coarsened hands on her apron. "Did'st go about the town so uncovered?"

Slowly Diana raised her hand to her head. Her cap had come off in the scuffle in the alley, and she'd been so upset she'd managed to forget that the first thing she should have done coming in was go and get a fresh one from the clothes press. Everyone in Talitho had seen her walk back here without it, too.

She shrugged helplessly.

"Ah well, that's gossip for another morning," Mistress Fortune decided. "Did get what I did send thee for?"

"The hard cider," Diana said, indicating the jug. The disturbance at the inn returned to her in a rush. "They're talking about . . ." She faltered for a moment, surprised at how hard it was to go on. "About having Matthew Hopkins drive the Devil out of Talitho," she said helplessly.

Mistress Fortune snorted derisively. "Out through the door and in through the window," she said, "until the Lambs have had their fill. But there is nowt we may do to stay the Lord of this World. Tell me instead, Mistress, would be pricked into our covenant this night?"

Pricked into the covenant. Diana stared at her mentor in confusion, until the memory of the faded blue star Mistress Fortune had showed her on their first meeting came back to her. Pricked into the covenant. Initiated into the coven.

"But I already am. . ." Diana faltered.

"Under hill among the firstborn of the Hidden Queen," Mistress Fortune supplied for her. "Wilt go back there this night, then?"

'Under hill' -- Diana remembered that Mistress Fortune believed she was one of the Fair Folk, the elves that the countryfolk still believed in though their city brethern had discarded such outworn knowledge, and she wanted to know if Diana was going home again, now that the moon was full.

A wave of homesickness that seemed more like terror shook Diana. She would go back. She had to! She couldn't stay here, in this crazy world where they hanged Witches and witch-hunters rode through the countryside like travelling gunslingers. She didn't belong here. This wasn't any of her business.

"I don't know," Diana said raggedly.

Mistress Fortune sighed. "It is not ours to will, but theirs -- but I would thy seely brethren came for thee soon, Mistress. But now eat thy soup and then rest a while. We do not stir from here until the moon shall show us our way."

Mistress Fortune ladled soup from the kettle into a pewter bowl and set it on the table beside a wide-bowled carved horn spoon. Diana accepted the soup reluctantly and dipped her spoon into the bowl. Mistress Fortune turned to the sideboard to cut slices from a loaf of bread and pour Diana a cup of goat's milk.


"Are you sure it's safe?" Diana said, when they were nearly finished eating. "To go out tonight?"

Mistress Fortune set down her own spoon and looked at Diana as if she'd gone mad.

"I mean, with Hopkins in the village. I mean, if they're just looking for an excuse. . ." Diana's voice trailed off.

"But 'tis never safe, child," Mistress Fortune said quietly. "Each time we go forth by night there is that risk of discovery; we can but trust in our Queen to protect us from the Lord of this World."

Their Queen: the Hidden Queen, the Goddess of the Wicca. Diana couldn't even begin to speculate who the Lord of this World was, though the phrase sounded familiar somehow. She looked into Mistress Fortune's stern shining gaze and felt vaguely ashamed. In her own time, to be Wiccan only meant risking a little ridicule. For her beliefs, Mistress Fortune faced death every day of her life.

"And now that thee has supped, thou must rest, for there will be much gaiety at the regular tonight."

A 'regular' was what Mistress Fortune called the coven meeting; for all her questions, Diana had not been able to find out a regular what. Diana had never felt less like gaiety in her life, but if she stayed downstairs she knew she would only end up telling Mistress Fortune about the man who'd dragged her into the alleyway: how she suspected him of being in league with the bloody-handed Matthew Hopkins who was going to drive the Devil out of Talitho. And that, she knew, would gain her nothing but a fierce scolding.

Diana set her bowl in the bucket full of water to await later washing and trudged up the ladder to where the solid four-poster bed lay beneath the open window. After giving her dirty feet a cursory scrub in the basin on the washstand, Diana undressed to her smock, relishing the play of the cool air over her damp skin.

For a moment she stood before the open window, staring out at the mirror-bright sea in rebellious confusion, then she flung herself down on the bed and tried not to think. Finally, unwillingly, she slept.


Diana swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stood, reaching for her clothes. She had been here so long that the clothes no longer seemed strange; she pulled the sleeveless stays around her ribs and tightened its front-lacing with a single expert pull. Not too tight, she cautioned herself. She'd be dancing tonight.

The thought of dancing brought back her humiliating conversation that afternoon with a vivid immediacy. His talk of dancing would make sense -- if he had spied on the coven at its last meeting. If he had. . . .

But he couldn't have, Diana realized with a pang of relief. If he knew anything of the Talitho coven, surely he would have reported it weeks ago. She'd seen him in the forest, true -- and while she didn't know how far she'd run after she'd seen him in the woods, he obviously hadn't followed her. All his talk about dancing was just Puritan party line.

He doesn't know anything. Diana felt herself relax. She reached for her petticoats and bumroll and tied on, first the sausage-shaped pad stuffed with horsehair, then the layers of cream-colored petticoats -- one, two, three -- stitched to a wide linen band.

She groped about for the hated linen caul-cap, before remembering once again that she'd lost it in town. She was sure Mistress Fortune had another, but she wasn't going to bother with it tonight. To be caught in the woods at all tonight would be disaster -- she couldn't be twice as dead for not following the dress-code.


"Cover thy seely head until we're away," was Mistress Fortune's only comment when she saw Diana's freshly-brushed and uncovered hair. Despite the summer heat, she handed Diana a large square shawl, dyed a dusky gray-green with lime-slaked woad. Grimacing, Diana wrapped it around her head under Mistress Fortune's demanding gaze, pulling it well forward. Mistress Fortune did the same with her own brown-and-red shawl, and picked up the basket of cakes and a covered lantern to guide her way. Diana tucked the cider jug under her arm, and the two women slipped out the door, heading across the downs to where the forest met the fields.

Diana had no idea of what time it was -- full dark, and with the moon that would be overhead at midnight just rising, a fat golden pearl over the church spire to the east. It had been weeks since she'd been up this late, a seeming lifetime, and the roads and meadows that looked familiar by day took on a whole new appearance here at night. Without Mistress Fortune to lead her, Diana would not have been able to find the coven's dancing-ground again at all.

It took longer to reach there than Diana remembered -- perhaps Mistress Fortune was taking the long way around, or perhaps her own memory was at fault. When they finally reached the clearing some others had already arrived -- men and women in the plain simple clothes of farmers and laborers, come to keep faith as their mothers and fathers had before them, back to the dawn of time.

In her own coven Diana would have known just what to do, but here everything was strange. There was no altar, no candles, no High Priestess with her silver crown; only a bonfire already burning merrily, providing as much light as the scattered lanterns did, the country people in their everyday clothes, and two leather-wrapped bundles at the edge of the circle. All the trappings of High Magic that Wicca had picked up between this time and Diana's were stripped away, leaving behind only simple fealty to the Great Goddess and her Horned Lord.

"What am I supposed to do?" Diana whispered to Mistress Fortune as they went to place their offerings of food with what others had brought. Suppressed excitement made her hands shake; was it possible that she could just walk out of the woods and be back in her own place? Home as simply as that?

"Dost worship the Queen in the Hills no longer, then?" Mistress Fortune said at last. "When it was we who had it from thee, Her first children?"

Diana remembered that Mistress Fortune still believed that Diana came from the Hollow Hills -- a member of the Court of Elphame.

"We . . . do it differently there," Diana compromised, remembering with a sharp pang of longing her own coven. They met at whoever's house had the largest living room; with their incense and Lady-statues, they'd probably be taken for Catholics here, not witches!

"Take no fear," Mistress Fortune told her, "we owe the seely kind a great debt -- for all that they have sent us thee," she added with harsh fondness.

Diana had puzzled for a long time over that word, "seely". For a while she'd thought it was merely Mistress Fortune's way of calling her a silly girl, but finally she'd ferreted out the truth. Celidhe -- blessed. Folk tradition held that the Fair Folk had once been angels; they had fallen from Heaven with Lucifer, but had not been wicked enough for Hell, and so they remained on Earth, neither good enough or bad enough to leave it again. Non angles sed angelii.

It seemed a very few minutes until the clearing was full. There were a dozen people, only a few of them wearing the leather or wooden masks in the shape of animal faces. This time, unlike the last, Diana recognized many of the unmasked faces -- some of their identities surprised her, some did not.

At some signal unknown to Diana the whole congregation stilled, turning northward and watching with hushed expectation. Two of the coven pulled the leather covers from the shrouded objects, revealing drums. Squatting behind them they began to play softly, an echoing rhythm as deliberate as a heartbeat.

A figure appeared through the trees. Diana gasped. For one stark transported moment she was convinced it was her dark man, but this angel's beauty was from a more voluptuous Renaissance, his dark eyes and dark curls merely the legacy of some Spanish grandfather shipwrecked on these shores in the time of the Armada. Unlike the others, he was no one Diana could remember having seen in the village -- he was dressed in the height of fashion, and his silk stockings were held up by the silver-belled red garters that proclaimed him one of the coven's officers -- the Summoner, the one that the trial records usually called the Man in Black.

He was followed by the Magister, in carved antlered mask, who carried his tall staff and wore a sword belted at his side. His face was covered, but this time Diana wasn't night-dazzled and disoriented. She knew him.

Blessed Lady- that's Reverend Conyngham! No wonder the local coven had felt itself safe for so long, if Edmund Conyngham, the parish's own priest, was its leader. But if he were, indeed, so sympathetic to the Old Ways, how had Matthew Hopkins ever gained his invitation here?

It must have been Grimsby. Simon Grimsby of the endless sermons, the more-Puritan-than-thou visitor whom Conyngham had hosted so reluctantly. Grimsby's unquestionable orthodoxy had protected the little hamlet from the doctrinaire inquisitions so common to these troubled times. Until now. And I bet Grimsby's got Squire Alcock wound round his little finger. Nothing like a good witch-trial to pump up revenue. But tragic as it was, after tonight none of this would matter to her, Diana reminded herself. She'd be gone.

Pastor Conyngham -- only here she must think of him as 'Magister', Diana corrected herself -- stepped forward, to the urgent patter of the drums. In the bright light of the fire and the lanterns, the carving of the mask of the Forest Lord seemed to take on a sort of harsh oracular beauty, as if something more than human invested it. The assembled worshippers bowed. The Horned Lord of the Forest had come to his flock. Diana curtsied awkwardly, still watching him.

"As the sun rises in the east to open and govern the day, so do I open and govern this meeting which sets the Craft to work and gives it its proper instruction."

"So mote it be," chorused the villagers.

The Magister unbuckled his sword-belt and held out the belt and the sheathed blade it bore it to the Summoner. "Receive the implement of your office," he told the younger man, "to keep and discharge your duty."

The Summoner bowed low, taking the sword and disappearing into the trees.

"Is there any communication to be made?" the Magister said.

A woman several years younger than Diana stepped out of the circle and came to his side. She wore a plain boxy gown of unbleached linen; it made her look like the angel in a Christmas play. On her head was a wreath of wildflowers. With a deep curtsy, she took the forked staff from the Horned Lord's hand and stood beside him.

"That the Hidden Children have kept to the Covenant from regular to regular and have set the Craft to work."

"And otherwise?" he said again.

This time it was one of the congregation who answered him. Each time someone finished speaking the Magister asked again, to be told of the fruition of some spell worked at the previous covenmeet, of some small intercession, or to answer what seemed like ritual questions about the blooming of the flowers or the ripening of the grain. Beneath the murmur of question and response the drums beat, quiet and regular as a ticking clock, and despite her best intentions, Diana's attention wandered as she waited -- for what, she wasn't quite sure.

The clearing was lit by the lanterns the coveners had brought, illuminating the pale trunks of the trees and the tall summer grass. Beyond the rim of the firelight she could glimpse fugitive movement, and -- once, low down -- the shine of some night-roaming predator's eyes. Did her road home lie somewhere out there, beyond the light?

A change in the Magister's voice claimed her attention.

"As the sun in the south is the beauty and glory of the day, I call the Craft from labor to refreshment to labor again, that they may have pleasure and profit thereby."

"There is one in darkness who seeks light, who comes free born and duly qualified, seeking us out with no thought of gain," the Maiden beside him said.

"Children of the Hidden Queen, is it your wish that she stand forward?" the Magister said.

There was a low rumble of assent, and a girl stepped into the center of the clearing. She was barely out of childhood; daughter of a local farmer, looking small and determined in dove-gray homespun and the nearly-universal cap. She strode boldly up to the Magister, and pulled her skirts up above her knee.

"I be Sarah; Mam Forster is my dame and gossip," she said, her soft voice clear and steady.

"I take away the name of the Lord of this World; among us you will be Id'ho, the Yew."

"Mark me -- I shan't squeak," Sarah/Id'ho said, taking a deep breath.

"I receive you then upon the point of a sharp instrument," the Magister said.

The operation that followed took only a few minutes and produced a mark similar to the one Mistress Fortune had showed Diana: as the coven watched, a patch of the girl's skin was covered with a woad paste, and the outline of a goosefoot cross pricked into her skin with a sharp skewer.

Id'ho dropped her skirts and kissed the Magister upon the mask's grimacing mouth. Lettice Forster came forward, and stood beside her daughter with pride as the Magister took out the great book and wrote both Id'ho's names in it and Id'ho made her shaky mark in witness. There was a brief exchange too low for Diana to hear, then the Magister closed the book again and set it aside.

He closed his hand about the stave that the Maiden held, and thumped it sharply upon the ground. The congregation turned toward him expectantly.

"Is there any further communication to be made?" he asked.

There was a stirring among the people, but nobody spoke. After a moment, the masked man went on.

"A great trouble has come among us," he said. "As ye well know, we are harried like hares in the fields by this Witchfinder-General who comes to take us up like a heron feeding among frogs. Be brave, keep faith. If you are taken, tell nothing, or, if you cannot keep silent, tell any but the truth. Help will come. It is a dark time, but never doubt that you are the Stepchildren of the Moon, beloved of the Harvest, and if you die it is only to come again to live among those who love you."

"So mote it be!" the worshippers replied.

"Then dance for the Lord and Lady!" the Magister cried, and the complex double-valued rhythms of the drums surged up.

Though everything about the evening's ritual was strange to Diana, it was obviously quite familiar to the witches of Talitho. The people on either side of Diana took her by the hands, and round and round they went in the spinning twisting dance that, Diana remembered, would someday become the waltz.

When the moon was visible directly overhead at midnight, everyone was glad to rest, to sit in threes and fours upon their grassy dancing-floor and share the bread and cakes, mutton and hard cider, they had brought. The mildly-alcoholic cider went directly to Diana's head; she sat on the grass and regarded the people around her giddily.

When the drumming resumed, a fiddler joined the music. Though many got up to dance -- this time in couples -- Diana saw others slip away in twos and threes to the edge of the firelight. She looked away from the fire, out toward the darkness, as if she'd been called.

Someone was waiting for her. Someone out there, somewhere, someone, something unlike anything that had ever happened to her before.

The sound of the drums was quickly muffled as she passed through the trees. The illusion of light persisted longer; it was only when she stumbled that Diana realized she was walking through the dark.

No. Not the dark. High above, the lady Moon glowed against midheaven, turning the sky about her the color of midnight velvet and picking out in sharp relief the trees and the fields beyond. Only the ground underfoot was dark; everything else was drenched in the illusory brightness of moonlight. Diana's skin glowed with it as though she were veiled in blue silk.

In the Tarot, the Moon is the mistress of illusion, Diana reminded herself. The drumming of the coven behind her was no longer any louder than the beat of her own heart. Everything around her looked familiar with the eerie, sharp-cut insistence of dreams.

It was near this place that she'd first set foot in Talitho. She looked down at her grubby, calloused, bare feet, then up at the moon. If she could set foot in that same place again while the moon rode high, could she go home? Back to her own life, her normal, quiet life, and away from all this confusion and harm?

Diana's heart raced with anticipation and a painful hope. Once she was past that stand of trees on her right, she'd be there. Beyond them was the open field; when she'd come, she'd run through it just to the edge of the trees.

The edge of the wood. It was where she'd come from.

But as she approached the spot her steps slowed; she hesitated.

She wasn't sure. That was what it all came down to. Until a month ago, her life had been composed of the same orderly certainties as anyone else's. Then in a flash of lightning and a roll of thunder it had been turned unthinkably upside down, and, standing here in the midnight wood, Diana realized that she was afraid, paralyzed with fear, some careless reckless courageous part of her cut away by a knife so sharp she hadn't even felt the wound.

Until now.


One of the Talitho coven falls into Hopkins' hands, as Diana discovers a few days later when she goes to the mill for flour. Mistress Fortune plans to help, but it won't be the kind of help Diana expects.


She heard the steady sawing drone of the spinning wheel even before she reached the cottage. Mistress Fortune was spinning. Diana slowed, hefting the sack of meal higher in her arms. She dreaded the thought of going inside and telling her mentor that Goodwife Skelton was in Matthew Hopkins's hands, but there was no help for it. Diana squared her shoulders and walked into the cottage.

"I'm back," Diana said. She found the flour barrel and opened it, yanking the sack open with a jerk and pouring the meal into the barrel.

"Ah, Mistress Anne -- I did not look to see thee before nightfall," Abigail Fortune said. She rocked back and forth as she worked the footpedals of the spinning wheel. There was a fluff of carded flax in her hand, a mechanically-even thread coiling on the spindle.

Was it Diana's imagination, or did she stress the syllables of Diana's assumed name? Diana glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching, but could see no one. She turned back. The older woman's head was bent to the task, her head turned away from Diana. "Did get what I did send thee for?"

"I went to the mill," Diana said, the fear and anger welling up afresh. "They've arrested Mrs.-- Mistress Skelton. For witchcraft."

"Aye, that tale has gone around the town. She did overlook the rye," Mistress Fortune said placidly. Diana stared at her in shock. 'Overlook' -- what Mistress Fortune meant was that Jemima Skelton had cursed the rye.

"Or so they say." Mistress Fortune made a face, as if the words tasted bitter. "But arrested? Nay; Master Hopkins only examines her for her soul's health, and maun bind her over to the Assize if he finds cause." The steady drone of the spinning wheel did not falter.

"Examining?" Diana said. Whatever reaction she had expected from the older woman, it was not this.

"Aye; they do here no more than what they have done elsewhere: wake the witch, or failing that, tie her so she may not find ease and see what imps come to her call."

Diana sat down quickly, fighting a wave of nausea. Hopkins's methods were the same tortures the Nazis had used: take a person, keep them moving, awake, unable to sleep, and when the hours stretched into days without sleep eventually the agony of sleeplessness would make its victim confess anything, admit to any crime, no matter how fanciful.

"They're torturing her," Diana said helplessly.

"And there's nowt that thee nor I can do to save her without bringing doom upon ourselves," Mistress Fortune said with harsh pity. She brought the wheel to a halt and stood up, shaking her skirts out. "I have it in mind to make a cased pie for Pastor Conyngham's supper and bring it to him. Thou mayest roll out the dough." Mistress Fortune crossed the room to the cupboard, and began removing bowls and measures to place them on the table.

"But--" Diana began.

Mistress Fortune ignored her.

"You can't just--"

"With coney and bacon, and onion for relish, twill be just such a savory dish as a man might like, and done to a better turn than his own cook might, with such evil doings beneath his roof."

Moving about her kitchen, Abigail Fortune collected eggs gathered fresh from the chickens that morning, goat's milk from a cheesecloth-covered jug, butter from the larder. The hares that Upright had brought to Diana the night before hung already in the chimney, skinned and cleaned and ready to be made into a pie.

With quick deftness Mistress Fortune measured ingredients into the large mixing bowl, and then handed the bowl and a wooden spoon to Diana.

"There. Twill be hard for thee to spoil that."

Reluctantly, Diana began the long process of mixing the dough. "Look," she said, when it was clear that Mistress Fortune considered the subject of Jemima Skelton closed. "If Hopkins isn't stopped he's going to rip through here tossing accusations around -- and some are going to stick -- and then just ride off scot free. We can't let him do that."

Abigail Fortune expelled her breath with an angry puff. "He is a godly man, a man of the Lord of this world, an' should we work against him in public, all are endangered, not merely some. 'Tis the Art that must survive, not we," Mistress Fortune said.

It was a measure of her distress, Diana knew, that made her mentor speak so plainly. Before she'd been one week in Talitho, Diana had learned that there was no surer way to cast Mistress Fortune into a towering rage than to say anything at all about the Wicca or rituals performed in the forest by night. But if Mistress Fortune was upset, then so was Diana.

"So you're going to just walk up to the noose and stick your head in it because you think he's sincere?" she said exasperatedly. "That's just stupid -- Matthew Hopkins isn't any more pious than your chickens, and he sure as hell doesn't have Parliament's approval to go around doing this! He's just another con man -- he's after the money, and he doesn't care what lies he tells to get it!"

Mistress Fortune studied her sharply. "Is this what thy kind says of him under Hill?" she asked.

"It's the truth," Diana repeated stubbornly, willing to use Mistress Fortune's belief in her otherworldly lineage if it would get her what she wanted now. "He's a self-serving fraud. And everyone's going to know it . . . someday," she finished lamely.

"Ah." Mistress Fortune seemed to come to a decision. "We do not work against the Lord of this world, Christ's twin who fell from Heaven for the sin of pride, for he is powerful and his servants are many. But if the witch-finder is not his creature, then it may be that we can work against him, and I shall tell our Master so."

"When?" Diana said eagerly.

"Why, when next I see him, child. But mind thy blending -- thou dost leave flour-lumps in thy dough."


It was several hours work to make the pie and its filling of rabbit, bacon, onion, and turnip, but at last it was ready. Mistress Fortune packed it carefully into a woven basket, adding one of her precious bottles of brandy. Last of all, she ascended the stairs as Diana watched curiously, and a few moments later came down carrying a tiny bottle.

It was glass, and no longer than the palm of Diana's hand, corked and stoppered with wax. The light of a candle gleaming behind it showed that the liquid it contained was a bright, startling green.

"A cordial," Mistress Fortune said curtly, when she noticed Diana staring. She did not add it to the basket, but tucked it into her apron instead.

"Get some soup for thy supper, and mind you not bolt the door against my return," Mistress Fortune said.

It was only then that it occurred to Diana that her mentor meant to go off on this errand alone.

"I want to go with you," she said quickly.

It wasn't completely true -- Diana had walked a long way that day, and she was tired -- but the thought of being here alone if Upright-Before-The-Lord chose to come back was enough to make her want to be anywhere else.

It was not that she was afraid of him. It was that she was afraid of what she might do if she saw him again.

"'Tis a long walk," Mistress Fortune said. Diana shrugged.

"Well come then, if thou art of such a mind. But none of thy cat-squalling or seely tricks. And thee mought carry the basket."


Mistress Fortune's good tin lantern gave a surprising amount of light, though the two women wouldn't really need its help until the return journey. Diana was a little surprised that they took the longer road that led down by the water, but Diana supposed that Mistress Fortune simply didn't want to pass by the inn. God knew she didn't, with Hopkins and his crew staying there.

The thought brought her mind inevitably around to Upright again. No matter how she tried, Diana couldn't make everything settle down into proper shades of black and white. He was one of the enemy. He spied on all of them in the woods by night. Then why did she feel as if he were her only ally?

Because you're a jerk, Diana, she told herself, trudging along in Mistress Fortune's wake. The basket was heavy and her muscles ached from all her healthy outdoor exercise. And once they gotten there and delivered the pie, there'd still be the long walk back.


When Mistress Fortune made a wide circle around the Rectory in order to come to it by the less-watched back door, Diana began to realize that their errand was a secret one, though for her very life she could not imagine what could be so secret about delivering a bunny pot-pie to the Parson.

Mistress Fortune knocked at the door, and they were admitted by a kitchen-maid who looked scared out of her wits. "Is thy master at home?" Mistress Fortune asked curtly.

The kitchen-girl bobbed a nervous curtsey. "Doctor Grimsby from London-town speaks a special lesson for our deliverance in the chapel, but Dickon and Hob that's own brother to Jenny -- they two are a-waking of the witch while Master Hopkins has his supper, and Pastor Conyngham prays over them that they be not taken."

The kitchen of the rectory was much grander than the one in Mistress Fortune's tiny cottage, with a flagstone floor, two hearths, and an oven. The hooks on the wall held enough oil lamps to make the room quite bright by local standards. There was a railing running along the lime-washed wall with shining pewter platters and cups upon it, a long wooden table running the length of the room, and shelves and niches and cupboards all around the room holding all the ingredients of a well-appointed larder. Suddenly it all looked unbelievably primitive to Diana.

"Does it not worry thee to abide beneath the same roof as the witch?" Mistress Fortune asked the servant girl with great solicitude. "Who knows what she might do to thee whilst thou sleep? And her imps likewise, if she cannot herself command them."

Diana, staring at Mistress Fortune in stunned surprise, barely saw how the girl's complexion faded to a pasty white.

"Well," Mistress Fortune said, still in that false-kindly way, "Happen the Malignant will not suck forth all thy blood, or ride thee as her horse to some Devil's Sabbath, at least while Master Hopkins bides beneath this roof."

The maid gulped, and bobbed up and down again. Mistress Fortune, seeming to see nothing of this, set her basket on the table and began emptying it.

"I-- I-- It is past time I'm gone home to my mother, and give you good evening, Mistress."

The terrified serving-girl scampered for the door and out into the night. Mistress Fortune calmly walked across the kitchen and bolted it.

"It wasn't very nice of you to scare her that way," Diana said reproachfully.

"I?" Mistress Fortune said innocently. "I merely said what all say. And now, since that witless girl has gone, I must go myself to tell our good pastor what I have brought." She walked away, leaving the basket on the table beside the rabbit pie and the bottle of brandy. Unwilling to be left alone anywhere in the house, Diana followed Mistress Fortune.

The door from the kitchen led into the dining room, which had an enormous carved sideboard and enough real glass windows shrouded behind its velvet curtains to make Diana blink. Though she'd left the basket of food in the kitchen, Mistress Fortune had retained the lantern, and by its light she guided them through the dining room and into the room beyond.

Although she supposed that the Rectory wasn't particularly grand by local standards, Diana could not help but be impressed: in her own time, original art, handwrought sterling silver bowls, and handmade furniture were marks of great luxury. Here, everything was handmade.

"He hath an unchancy dearth of servants," Mistress Fortune grumbled -- odd in one who had done her best to frighten off the only servant Diana had seen, "but he was ever a marvelous frugal man."

The next room was a small parlor. In it the candles had been lit, burning away brightly with no one to care, and -- even more sumptuous to Diana's eyes -- a rug lay upon the floor and tapestries hung over the polished oaken panelling. The trees that had given up their lives to these walls had been old when William the Conqueror had sailed from France; in building the houses and the fleets of England, King Henry the Eighth had deforested England to such an extent that the woodwork of a house like this one could never be replicated at any price by future generations.

They thought there would always be enough, Diana realized with a small shock of recognition, just as we do.

Mistress Fortune stopped in the middle of the room, scowling around herself fiercely. Coming to a decision, she thrust the lantern at Diana.

"Now bide thee here -- and touch nowt!"

Diana nodded and Mistress Fortune strode off to tell Pastor Conyngham about his pie. Diana looked around, mindful of her promise, and decided that there wouldn't be anything wrong with doing her touch-nothing waiting if she sat down to do it. She crept into the corner and the comfort of a chair turned with its back to the room. She heard a creaking from the floor above, and her skin crawled in horrified sympathy. Try as she might, Diana could not keep her imagination away from what was happening to Jemima Skelton at this very moment, only a few rooms away.

It wouldn't be so very bad yet, Diana thought cravenly. Mistress Skelton had been arrested only today -- yesterday evening at the earliest. If they were doing nothing but keeping her awake, it wouldn't be so bad yet, would it? Diana felt tears come to her eyes, and bit her lip to keep from making a sound. She'd always thought that when she saw something like this happening, she'd leap in and stop it. But now it was happening right in front of her, and all she did was wring her hands and whine that somebody should do something.

She heard the men's voices only an instant before they entered the room, and all she could do was lift her feet quickly up onto the chair-seat and hope they wouldn't see her.

"--want our dinner, too," the first voice said.

"I confess I thought it would be better sport. All the sow does is weep and pray. Why should she not summon her imps?" the second speaker said.

"She be too canny for that, but she fails hourly. And tomorrow Goodman Sterne will have her naked and prick her before the town --"

The voices stopped as they passed through the doorway and out of hearing, and Diana uncoiled with a strangled sob of relief. That must have been Dickon and Hob, Hopkins's assistant torturers. From what they were saying, Pastor Conyngham must have sent them down to the kitchen to eat -- leaving Mistress Fortune and the Pastor alone with Jemima Skelton.

Everything that had puzzled Diana about this became clear -- why Mistress Fortune should suddenly decide to cook dinner for the Parson and walk two miles to bring it, the surreptitious nature of their visit, why Mistress Fortune had taken such care to drive off what must be the only other servant in the house. It was so that she and Edmund Conyngham could be alone with Hopkins's victim.

They must be going to rescue her, Diana thought in sudden hope. Rescue Mistress Skelton, take her out of here, hide her somewhere until this madness was over. . . .

Diana's reverie was interrupted by the sound of footsteps upon the stair. She sprang to her feet, remembering only at the last minute to grab the lantern and take it with her as she walked out into the hall. Mistress Fortune was descending the great staircase alone, one hand clenched in her apron pocket.

"Come, we'll begone," she said, seeing Diana.

Diana stared at her, confused. "Where's Mistress Skelton?" she asked.

"Where should the witch be?" Mistress Fortune barked, "but hearing right humbly her lessoning in the Lord of this world's grace. And thou, witless seely child, must come away."

Mistress Fortune took the lantern from Diana's hands, and swiveled the tin shutters until the lantern was hoodwinked. Then she walked away, still holding the dark lantern -- to the front door. It was unbarred even at this hour, with so many of the house's inhabitants absent, and she tugged it open easily.

Diana followed her. With the louts occupying the kitchen, they had to go out by the front way, but the quenching of the lantern's light was proof that Mistress Fortune didn't want them seen. They'd be known to have come -- secrets were impossible to keep in a village the size of Talitho -- but the rabbit pie provided a cover story for the visit, even if it were a flimsy one.

Diana breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the sea-strand and Mistress Fortune uncovered the lantern again.

"And now home in good hour," the older woman said, "that we may rise up and be about our ways in the morn."

She reached into the folds of her apron and threw something out to sea; Diana saw the brief sparkle of moonlight on the small glass flask before it vanished beneath the waves.


The sun was noon-high when Diana awoke. It blazed whitely in through the open window, chiding her with remembrance of tasks undone. Why hadn't Mistress Fortune awakened her? Was something wrong? She'd meant to raise the question of what had been decided during Mistress Fortune's conversation with Pastor Conyngham the night before, but the pace Mistress Fortune had set coming home was too fast for idle conversation, and once they'd reached the cottage Mistress Fortune was in no mood to talk, merely all-but-forcing a posset down Diana and putting her inexorably to bed.

Without stopping to dress, Diana gathered her nightgown tightly around her and went to descend the ladder to the kitchen below.


"--aye, died as they waked her, and never uttered a word," the stranger who leaned in the cottage's door said. He held a mug in his hand -- common hospitality to any caller -- and chattered on amiably to Mistress Fortune.

From some impulsive reflex, Diana coiled herself into a small ball at the top of the stairs, crouching down to peer at the visitor.

He was too well dressed to be one of Mistress Fortune's friends. The sun gilded his black curls, and brought out the brightest possible colors from his neat plain dress. He was dressed in sober green, except for the May Day brightness of the red ribbon garters showing at the tops of his stockings. He held one hand awkwardly behind him, out of Diana's sight.

She'd seen him at the coven, Diana realized, though the garters this time were plain, without silver bells.

"--but I take his word, and have far to travel to do it, so I will bid thee and thine good day, Mistress Fortune." He handed back the tankard and stepped back onto the path, turning away and swinging himself up into the saddle of the horse he led. He chirruped to the beast and as it began to move away he began to whistle. Diana heard the fluid, birdlike notes overlaying the horse's hoofbeats for a few moments before both sounds faded away into the distance.

". . . died as they waked her . . . ."

With an awful premonition of what the words must mean, Diana scrambled to her feet and shinnied down the rest of the ladder.

"Who was that?" Her voice came out harsh and confrontational; not at all the way to gain the cooperation of the mercurial Mistress Fortune. "I mean, why did you let me sleep so late?"

But Mistress Fortune didn't seem to notice. She turned blindly away from the dooryard, the tankard in her hand, and sat down upon the bench.

"Jem Skelton is dead," Abigail Fortune said in a bare ragged voice.

As if it were suddenly before her now, Diana recalled the green gleam of the flask of cordial -- how Mistress Fortune had not trusted it to the basket meant for the village lads, how she had thrown the flask empty into the sea on their way back.

As if the flask had contained something so deadly it could not be reused.

"You poisoned her," Diana said in incredulous shock. "You killed her! But she was your friend! She was--"

"And could I have given her better gift than this?" the old voice said wearily. "They would have made her speak. She had time to lay hot iron on her mark and take it away, but she could not stop her tongue."

"Couldn't you have taken her away? You and Pastor Conyngham were the only ones in the house!" Diana cried.

"Take her to thy Hill, perhaps?" Mistress Fortune's voice was hard. "Thee did not offer that -- and there is no place of Man's device that would succor her. Could she seek Sanctuary in the church who stood accused of witchcraft? She had no kin to go to away from here, nor could she come back to us so long as that charge stood. And thee knows full well she could not be found innocent."

"So you just. . . ." Diana couldn't find the words to speak of it. She felt shock and anger, fear because anyone in Talitho could be next -- and guilt that she did not have the refuge to offer that Mistress Fortune assumed she had. Diana waved her hands in helpless agitation.

"You superstitious idiot!" she finally sputtered. "I told you Hopkins was a fake, a fraud -- he has no legal authority, he doesn't know anything -- half of England already knows he's a charlatan and the rest is going to figure it out soon, and you just--"

Diana felt nauseated with the violence of her feelings, as if she were going to cry or scream or go mad all at once. She'd been so sure last night that they were on a mission of mercy, that Mistress Skelton was to be rescued. . . .

"Why?" Diana said plaintively, gulping back tears.

"And could I leave my good-sister bereft, and her husband and children and those she might tell of? They would have names of her by eke or ill, did she live to tell them." Mistress Fortune bowed her head, and Diana saw the tears that etched the lined old face in silvery seams. Her own tears spilled over; Diana crossed the room, and knelt to put her arms around the older woman, knowing at last that there were no more words to say.

A few moments later Mistress Fortune pushed her away, and scrubbed at her face with the hem of her apron.

"But come! We must turn our hands to housework and our minds to pleasanter matters, or our neighbors will come and ask what reason we have to be mourning the death of a Malignant."

"Okay," Diana said. "You're right."

Diana sat back on her heels, wondering how she could ever have thought this place safe and peaceful. Her anger with Mistress Fortune was gone, but the grief and uneasiness of Jemima Skelton's death remained. And now they had to dissemble for their lives, just as if this were Nazi Germany, lest one of their neighbors decided that two women living alone had something to hide -- and denounced them to Hopkins.

"Break thy fast then, Mistress Anne, and remember that tomorrow is the Christian Sabbath, and we must to church to pray for the souls of all those stricken by witchcraft."

Diana stood up and went to the pot beside the fire to dish herself up some cereal. Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot and where are Kellogg, Nabisco, and Post when I need them? her mind rhymed idly. She took her pewter bowl to the corner and sat down on the settle, picking at the warm porridge with her fingers. Mistress Fortune handed her a horn spoon.

Diana took it. The spoon's all right, but there's lead in the pewter, her mind protested, and in the crystal as well. They don't know to pasteurize the milk, and there's no way to refrigerate the eggs. Salmonella, botulism, trichinosis, TB, something wrong with the rye . . . the real miracle is that anybody here lives long enough to be hanged. With the realization that she might never leave this time, all the things she'd forced herself to ignore suddenly demanded her attention. This wasn't a theme park attraction. Life in mid-17th century was a short hard thing, usually cut short by violence or disease. Even for the rich, the conditions of existence were brutal by 20th century standards.

"I'm not hungry," Diana muttered.

"Eat!" Mistress Fortune snapped. Diana jumped, startled, and stared at her.

"Would thee accuse, as well as being accused? Take care, Mistress Anne, that thou do not waste away, nor change color, nor fall down in fainting fits. For by such cause and no more are people hanged for witches. Eat."

Numbly Diana began to stuff herself with porridge, gulping it past the burning lump in her throat, though she choked and gagged on each mouthful.


Horrified, Diana tries to change the past, before Hopkins can claim more victims.


Mistress Fortune had put Diana to work weeding and tending the garden -- an act of charitable faith on her part, as Diana had shown no previous facility for telling weeds from what was actually supposed to grow there. With the industriousness of one who wished to blot out thought, Diana knelt and grubbed in the dirt, cautiously murdering anything that looked as if it did not belong. The sun beat down on her back, and the wind off the ocean was a constant cool stream.

Three hundred and fifty years would not change this. If she'd had a garden at home, Diana would have been down on her knees in the dirt in just this way, gently spreading the green plants that thrust up out of the pale sandy earth and searching among their roots for upstarts and outlaws. She'd done the vegetables earlier, now she was tending to the herbs.

Mint she recognized, and fennel, by its licorice scent; but was that flourishing thing parsley, or something worse?

'Fillet of a fenny snake' . . . Billy Shakespeare, a man for all seasons; quotes for every occasion . . . 'Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, lizard's leg and howlet's wing . . . .' Molly told me these were all old-time herb names--

Which of these herbs had gone into the cordial Mistress Skelton had drunk?

The sudden thought killed all the pleasure she'd been able to find in the day and her handiwork. Diana sat back on her heels and wiped at her brimming eyes with grimy wrists. Jemima Skelton was dead. Jem Skelton the miller's wife, whom Diana had seen at the mill, in church, in Mistress Fortune's kitchen, at the coven's meeting, a living breathing woman and not a nightly news statistic.

But Goodwife Skelton was only the first of many who would become statistics here. There might even have been other arrests today -- if she could bear to go into the village and listen to the gossip, Diana could know for certain.

Hopkins had to be stopped. Though she knew that the coven would not act without the Magister's permission, Mistress Fortune'd had the chance to speak to him last night. Diana hung her head in shame for being so pragmatic as to think about practical details in this time of grief. But maybe he'd given the necessary permission for the coven to act.


"Did you talk to him?" Diana asked. The inside of the kitchen was too dark for her eyes to adjust to its dimness quickly; she'd listened outside the door before she spoke to be sure Mistress Fortune was alone. How swiftly the habits of the persecuted come to us, she thought bleakly.

"To Pastor Conyngham? About Hopkins?" Diana persisted.

Mistress Fortune seemed to ignore the questions, seated at the great spinning wheel, her feet tirelessly working the pedals, spinning industriously until Diana despaired of an answer. Straw into gold, lies into truth, hate into love, and old age to youth . . . But fairy tales couldn't save them now.

"Aye," the older woman said at last. "I did speak with him on thy lessoning as to the Godly man being the poppet of the Lord of this World."

"And?" Diana prompted, when it seemed no more would be forthcoming.

Mistress Fortune considered for a moment, her lips pursed as though what she was about to say was entirely obvious to anyone, "Wherefore it has been said that we may summon a Grand Coven together upon this Lammas Night, there to raise havoc against this false ungodly witch-finder, which all may take for the judgment of the Lord of this World upon him."

It took Diana several minutes to digest and untangle this, and when she thought she had it figured out, she felt a sinking sense of despair. Lammas was the Wiccan festival that fell on August first, less than a week from now, and a Grand Coven was a meeting of all the covens within a certain area, but. . . .

"Raise . . . havoc?" she asked, hoping Mistress Fortune didn't mean what Diana thought she did.

"In the Hill did thee never work to call down favor to thyself and confusion to thy enemies?" Mistress Fortune asked curiously.

"Yes -- I mean no -- But you don't need any magic spells. I mean, if you just come out and tell everyone he's a fraud. . . . You just have to stand up to him, refuse to cooperate. Everyone doesn't believe in witches. . . ."

Diana's voice trailed off. Mistress Fortune snorted derisively.

"There's belief enough in Talitho to see half the town tried at the quarter-session, and what good does it do them to gain release in September, an' they come to find their neighbors' minds poisoned against them? No, it is better that the Lambs go at once."

Diana fought off the childish impulse to stamp her foot and howl with frustration. Whether or not she believed in her heart that Wiccan magic would have any effect upon Hopkins, Lammas was a week away, and much of the damage he could do would already be done by then.

"He's a fraud," Diana pleaded miserably. "He has no authority. You don't need magic to prove that!"

"We do only what we did in my grandam's time to keep the Spanish from these coasts by raising a great havoc upon them so that they could not sail," Mistress Fortune said soothingly. "Thee need not fear that our hand in it will be exposed to the sight of the common folk."

The drone of the spinning wheel did not falter. Mistress Fortune seemed to be able to feed in strands of flax and steady the emerging thread no matter what else she was doing. How many years had she been doing it? Diana wondered suddenly.

How many years more would she live to do it, if Hopkins were let to have things his own way?

"That wasn't what I meant," Diana said. "I'm sure it would work just fine," she added feebly. From Abigail Fortune's point of view, casting a magical spell on Matthew Hopkins was the logical thing to do. She thinks I'M the one who's crazy, Diana realized in despair. "But you need to do something more; all of you. If you'd just gather the villagers together, and--"

"I have said it was decided," Mistress Fortune said in a tone that plainly signalled an end to all discussion. "If thou would exert thyself upon a matter, then study how thee would return under Hill, or say when thy own will come for thee."

Diana closed her eyes. "I wish I knew."


The coven prepares to work against Hopkins on August Eve, but Diana discovers that their meeting-place has been betrayed by an informant.


If she kept the moon at her back, she was sure she must be going in the right direction; toward the forest and the Wiccans meeting there. Mist hung in the air, reflecting the moonlight and making everything strange. In her wake, the fog from the sea rolled over the land, offering concealment . . . and refuge? Please let it shield them. She'd never make it. She couldn't run far enough, fast enough.

She had to.

There were moments when Diana was sure this was some horrible hallucination; a dream before waking. 'How many miles to Babylon? Threescore miles and ten.' Scraps of poetry flitted like fireflies through her exhausted mind. 'She was a child and I was a child, In this kingdom by the sea.'

Diana ran, across the sheep-meadow and past the animals clustered for sleep in a wooly grayish pack, over the stile that kept them out of the ripening grain. Pausing to gasp for breath, the sudden rush of weakness she felt was a new bright layer to Diana's gnawing fear. She couldn't faint. She had only herself to count on -- if she failed herself, she failed everyone. She stood very still and gasped for air, forcing her will upon her body. After a moment the world steadied.

With quivering hands Diana ripped at the bodice of her dress, tearing it open. Buttons went flying as she dragged at the cloth, pulling and yanking until she could step free. She'd be less encumbered without it -- her petticoats and smock came only to the bottom of her calves; they wouldn't get in her way as the yards of heavy fabric in the dress would. And she couldn't afford to fall.

Diana kicked the dress away from her, biting her lips shut to stifle the sound of her own breathing so she could listen for drums, scanning the field with desperate eyes to find any trace of passage through it. Then like a white owl hunting through the night she ran again, driving herself past exhaustion, past the hollow fire in her throat and the pain that felt like iron bands around her chest, past the trembling weakness in her muscles and the sick pain in her heart.


She could hear voices, and the power they raised was a tingling wash over her skin, like the energy that precedes a storm. Even from this distance, Diana could hear the strike of the drums, see the flicker of movement as dancing bodies passed before the fire -- and the energy they raised was almost tangible; a golden fog of heat and passion that she could wind through her fingers like silk and lace.

She'd found them.

Diana was stopped before she reached them. She saw the bright flash of a blade in the darkness and realized it could all end here, on the Summoner's steel. When she stopped moving forward she seemed to lose all strength, swaying unsteadily on her feet and fighting for each inadequate breath. Finally she surrendered, gasping for air as she sank to her knees in a welter of ripped and grimy petticoats.

"Merry meet," his words were cautious, but he'd recognized her. "Mistress Anne?" he asked, putting up his sword and staring at her curiously.

"Run," Diana croaked. "They're here." She raised her hand weakly, as if to ward him off. Her voice was an inaudible whisper.

He could not even have heard her, but the Summoner did not hesitate.

"Run!" he bellowed, in a voice like a sudden shout of stormwind. "We are discovered -- save yourselves!" The gathering power vanished, disappearing as the witches did, in a flurry like partridges exploding from cover. Diana heard the babble of their voices, and over them, a rising chorus of shouts and the high keen shrill of a signal whistle.

She was too late. Hopkins was already here.

The Summoner would have stayed for her, but she waved him away, shaking her head. After an instant he ran, a pretty boy in lace and velvet, the Magister's rapier naked in his hand. Behind him, the grass of the now-deserted dancing ground was trampled to its edges, littered with hats and caps and even an expensive embroidered glove.

Diana had thought she was utterly spent, but the sound of the trap closing gave her new strength -- the cold, chill strength of stark terror. She leapt to her feet as though jerked by on invisible strings.

Don't let them catch me; oh, don't let them catch me--

She ran with the flagging strength of utter terror through the edge of the wood, shock and exhaustion and disorientation all conspiring to make her reckless of the thorns that gouged their bloody track across her flesh. When she gained open ground at last, she saw the wind-whipped flicker of the torches carried in the hands of the hunters and shied wildly away, running in any direction that promised darkness and safety.

She seemed to be fragmented into a multitude: the one who ran; the one who wept and begged, half-mad with fear; the cold part beyond terror that showed Diana, in pictures of ripped flesh and splintered bone, what Hopkins's people would do when they caught her. They would torture her to death for witchcraft, and there was nothing she could do to stop them.

Behind her, Diana heard a cry go up and knew it was for her. She wished with frantic despair for the powers legend ascribed to her kind. Oh, for a horse of air, a broomstick, an eggshell boat to whisk her far away from here--

A flung stone struck her between the shoulder-blades and she staggered, unable to keep her balance. Another hit her and she fell, struggling to rise even as the heavy booted feet ran over the meadow toward her, as the hard hands yanked her to her feet and her captor cried his victory for anyone to hear.


With several other members of the local coven, Diana is captured and taken to Christchurch in order that Hopkins and his brutal assistant John Sterne can torture a confession out of her. Hopkins has heard of the Book that the Talitho coven has, and wants it for himself. After several weeks in prison, Diana makes a partial confession (useless for Hopkins' purposes) to save her lover's life.


The sound of the key in the lock was like a reprieve, ending the hours of fearful waiting. Diana was on her feet, turning toward the door, words of welcome on her lips before she saw who it was.

John Sterne entered the room.

His sheer size made the chamber seem small and threatening. He smiled, and the hope Diana had not even known she cherished died at last.

"Waiting on that hell-babe thy lover," Sterne said with grim satisfaction. "He'll not be joining thee, Mistress, this side of Judgment Day."

Sterne stood blocking the doorway, holding a short leather-covered baton in his hands and regarding her with calm pleasure.

"What have you done with him?"

She could not keep from asking, even though she knew that the question only gave Sterne further ammunition to use against her.

"Thou would do better to consider the state of thy own soul," Sterne said. "Tomorrow day thou shalt go before the judges, to purge thy soul in confession as thy body shall be purified in death."

Diana stared at him, only now realizing her own danger. With Upright gone -- she would not believe he was dead, she would not -- nothing stood between her and John Sterne's sadism. Nauseated denial made her senses waver so that she nearly missed his next words.

"I have here thy confession," Sterne said, pulling a roll of paper out of his coat. "Thou wilt sign it, Mistress Malignant, and when it is read out in thy name tomorrow thou shall not recant it. An' thee do, I shall see thee burnt alive before the sun sets, I swear on God's holy Name."

Sterne held the paper out to her and let it drop to the floor, where it curled against the cold stone like an autumn leaf. Her confession.

He can't burn me - he can't - Witches are hanged here, not burned, he can't-- Diana thought in terror. Her thoughts were a frantic whirl, tangled between the uncertain conviction that she'd made no such confession and the hysterical relief that this meant -- surely it must mean -- that he was not going to do anything to her.

"But what about the Book?" Oh, Bright Lady! Diana moaned inwardly. She had to be mad to tease Sterne with a question like that - no wolf he, but a rabid dog, slavering at the end of a very fragile chain.

"Ah, the precious book." Sterne slapped the end of the truncheon into his free hand, and Diana could almost feel its weight. Sterne looked at her, the slow weight of intention coalescing in his muddy eyes. "It is Matthew who seeks the Great Book of the Malignants, to his soul's peril. He thinks that with the King in Cromwell's hands, he must find high patronage or die, and studies that the Devil's own grammarie will gain it for him - but such mastery is the path to damnation."

And you're jealous of him, and you don't want him to have it, because if he gets his hands on something like the Great Book, what will he need with you? Diana thought. She did not dare to raise her eyes, lest Sterne see that knowledge in them. She stared instead at the curled parchment on the floor. The document glowed yellow with August sunlight. No, September . . . it was September now, if the quarterly Assize Court was meeting tomorrow. And the parchment contained her confession.

"Which wilt thou choose, Mistress Anne? Thy mark upon the paper, or to roast alive in the foretaste of hellfire?" With a careless motion of his boot, Sterne kicked the rolled parchment toward her.

Her fingers trembling with tension, Diana picked it up. It was hand-written, in that ornate, print-clear secretary hand that Diana had seen on the papers on Matthew Hopkins's desk a seeming lifetime ago. She scanned the writing quickly:

I, Mistress Anne Mallow, late of the parish of Talitho, formerly of London, have entered the Devil's service these fifteen years since, making my vow to Satan in the person of his agent Adrammelech, Grand Chancellor of Hell, who has given to me for my use and comfort certain imps or familiar spirits to the number of five, their names being-

Her eyes flickered over the rest of it. There was nothing here but a pack of witch-hunter's lies straight out of the Malleus Maleficarum.

"Don't jape that thou canst read," Sterne said, yanking the document from her hands as she flinched back. He stepped past her to spread it out upon the table, using the empty lantern and the sinister weight of the truncheon to hold it uncurled.


At the Assize Court, Diana and her lover, Shadow, escape. They live a primitive pastoral existence in the New Forest, but winter is fast approaching. Then, one day, she runs into an old friend . . . .


Diana had not recognized the Talitho coven's dancing-ground from the direction that they had approached it, nor had she realized until now that the pool that they had bathed in belonged to the same stream she had drunk from her first morning here. Mistress Fortune crossed the stream with them, waiting beside the pool while Diana rubbed herself quickly dry with one of the blankets and then dressed.

Diana kept darting glances at her mentor. She'd been so certain Abigail Fortune was dead, killed in the Lammas Night attack on the coven, or dead in prison thereafter, that to see her here, alive and whole, was a constant series of shocks.

"What are you doing here? What happened?" Diana said helplessly.

"I did but come to see that all was well for the dancing-"

"No!" Diana burst out in mingled frustration and relief. "What happened to you? Hopkins - those men-"

She took a step toward Mistress Fortune. Behind her, Shadow noiselessly retreated, stopping at the edge of the trees to gather together the materials for a fire. Mistress Fortune regarded the two of them steadily -- an act of bravery, since Diana knew that the older woman believed with absolute certainty that both Diana and Shadow were Fair Folk from the Hollow Hills, with powers beyond mortal comprehension.

"I thought you were dead," Diana finished helplessly.

Mistress Fortune turned her head and spat. "I take more killing than the likes of Hopkins could manage. Nay, I ran, as did all of us who could, and stayed well-hidden until Master Hopkins was well away about his mischief elsewhere. And now that he is dead-"

"Dead?" Diana echoed blankly. "Matthew Hopkins is dead?"

She ought to feel something - some triumph, some vindication or relief. But all she felt was a curious blankness, as if she looked into a part of herself that ought to contain something, and didn't.

"Aye -- swum as a witch at Christchurch with his own tricks and died of it before the warrant laid against him could be acted upon. T'was our own pastor, Edmund Conyngham, who was there and bears witness, and saw the body laid on the dead-cart. They'll bury him at Manningtree, though whether within the churchyard or outside remains to be seen."

To be 'swum as a witch', the accused was tied hand and foot and thrown into the nearest large body of water to see if he floated. Floating, supposedly, was an infallible proof that the innocent was a Witch; Diana knew that there were ways to arrange for the victim to float -- or drown.

"So everything . . ." Was all right now? Was that what she meant to say, when she knew how many had died even before the day of the trial? "What about Sterne? What about the other prisoners?" Diana said instead, trying to rally her emotions into some sort of rational order.

"Those who were taken up are freed, their confessions set aside by the warrant that Judge Merriam did bring from London to accuse Master Hopkins." Mistress Fortune shrugged. "Pastor Conyngham did not bring news of Sterne, nor of Goody Phillips, but I think they may lie quiet and low for many a year to come, now that thou hast exposed Hopkins's villainy."

"But I-" Diana began in automatic protest, and then stopped. That time was a jumbled haze, as if time had stopped on Lammas Night and only begun again weeks later in the forest, where she lived warm and safe with Shadow. She didn't really remember what had happened, what she'd done.

"I'm glad he's dead," Diana said at last. "Is everything- I mean, how is everything now?"

Mistress Fortune smiled sourly. "Oh, there are those who think they know aught, but time will heal that, do we but walk softly. Even so, we would not meet for a regular in these times, but tomorrow is All Hallows Eve, and we must dance."

"Samhain?" Diana said in disbelief. "It's Samhain already?" Samhain fell at the end of October - Halloween. She'd been here four months. The time seemed an eternity - and far too short for all that had happened in it.

"Aye. Sowwan, then, if thee would have the seely cant of it. 'Tis when the gate between our world and thine opens for a night. Wilt thee journey home then?" Mistress Fortune asked matter-of-factly.

Home. Samhain and home. It had been a Samhain night that had brought her here -- could one send her home again?

The clutch of homesickness that seized Diana then was shocking in its intensity, demanding relief as a drowning man demanded air. "Can you send me home?" she asked, in a hoarse voice she hardly recognized as her own.

"Raise up the power that thee may ride upon it?" Mistress Fortune asked, as if making certain of what Diana asked for.

"Yes!" Diana said, too distraught to care. However she could go, whatever it would take -- home!


Diana intends to try to return to her own time once more. Meanwhile, the coven presents her and her lover, whom they believe to be the Fair Folk out of the Hollow Hills, with some gifts.


There was an ostentatious crackling of twigs as Shadow returned. He was carrying a large basket in his arms, one of the tall cylindrical sort that Diana had seen used as backpacks or saddlebags here. The basket lid flopped open untidily; evidence that he had already investigated and knew what it contained.

Shadow set it carefully at her feet, as though it were fragile, and opened the lid. Diana could tell he was amused, but could not fathom the reason for it.


There was a loaf of rye bread studded with currants, a silver goblet, a wedge of cheese and a meat pie, a stone jug of cider. . . .

"Offerings," Shadow said, as if this were an explanation.

"Mistress Fortune!" Diana exclaimed.

"She did come and bring thee provision, as she did pledge," Shadow admitted.

Mistress Fortune had done far more than that, Diana realized as she unpacked the hamper. Beneath the food, there were clothes - a dress and underclothing for Diana, a coat and breeches for Shadow. He sneered when he saw them; a silent expression of scorn.

"Don't give me that," Diana said, holding the green wool dress up against herself to check the fit. "You'll be glad enough to have them on the way to Ireland."

The quick look of hope he darted at her was enough to destroy all her joy in the morning. He thought she'd changed her mind.

"Whoever you end up going with," Diana added quickly. "I mean, you're going to have to be able to try to pass as a. . ."

The look of betrayal on his face was too much for Diana to bear. She gave up the sentence and let it drop. Shadow looked away. To cover her shame, Diana turned back to the basket.

Shoes and knitted stockings - Mistress Fortune must have tithed the entire coven to gather these things together; there were far too many items -- and far too rich - for them to have been all her own gift. . . .

Shadow stood watching as she unpacked in a silence more eloquent than words. Diana's cheeks burned. She refused to look at him.

It wasn't fair that she felt so guilty. She couldn't go with him, she told herself as she dug down to the bottom layer. The last things in the basket were two leather-wrapped packets.

Concentrating fiercely on them to keep from thinking of anything else, Diana reached in and lifted them out. She could feel the shapes through the thin leather that wrapped them: a large ring, heavy for its size, and some kind of beads, oddly light. . . .

The morning light shone down on the ring as Diana shook its wrapping free. The sun's rays struck blindingly off the glistening yellow surface of a necklet of pure gold.

It was in the style the Celts called a torc - a hollow tubular shape of chaced and twisted gold, bent in a circle and ending in two finials of stylized dragons that snarled at each other across an inch-wide gap.

It was priceless - an antique even three and a half centuries before Diana's own time.

Why had they given it to her?

Shadow lifted the torc gently from her hand and stared at it intently. With uttermost caution, already suspecting what she would find, Diana opened the second bundle. Its contents were as familiar to her as the silver pentacle she once had worn.

It was a necklace. The beads were large round and acorn-sized, polished smooth. Half of them were as black as Shadow's hair, their surfaces showing the iridescent rainbows of oil-slicks and ravens' wings. They alternated with beads the bright straw-color of crystallized sunlight.

Amber. And the black stones were jet. It was an amber-and-jet necklace, distant ancestor to the one Diana wore in her coven. But when the coven had met here, she had not seen anyone at the regular wearing such a necklace, not even the woman who had acted as the Maiden.

"Di'anu." She thought Shadow was speaking to her, but when she looked up, he was staring at the necklace in her hands. He stretched out his fingers to touch it, then picked it up.

"Di'anu," Shadow said again, sliding the beads through his fingers. The amber glowed in the sunlight, and the jet glittered darkly. "Diw - di'anu."

"What do you mean? Shadow? Do you know why she gave them to us?" Diana said.

From his expression, he seemed to feel that he'd already made a complete explanation. He sighed faintly at her look of puzzlement, and groped for the words he needed. "Diw," he said, holding up the torc. "Di'anu." The necklace.

"The Lord and the Lady," Diana said slowly. "But why give them to us?"

"So that they may go home again beneath the Hill," Shadow said. Ignoring Diana's automatic yelp of protest, he twisted the golden torc open and fitted it around his neck. The metal glowed against his skin like sunlight on water.

He held out his hand, and for a moment he seemed to be about to ask for the necklace as well. Diana clasped it against herself, unconsciously unwilling to relinquish such a beautiful thing. Shadow dropped his hand and turned away, walking off into the woods.


At last the coven meets, and Diana discovers that she didn't actually want what she thought she did. In order to find happiness, she must follow her heart, not her head.


"Mistress Anne, it is time," Abigail Fortune said.

Diana blinked, unable to remember what she'd been thinking the moment before. She felt feverish, dizzy.

"Come, Goodniece," Mistress Fortune said again. She plucked at Diana's sleeve, and Diana followed her out of the clearing.


The coven was already gathering when Diana stepped unsteadily out onto the dancing-ground. Fewer were gathered here tonight than had been gathered for the last meeting Diana had attended, and there was a tense air of calm expectancy among all those assembled. Their faces and voices seemed to waver in and out of her sight like visions seen through candle-flame or mist, until Diana began to worry that they would all dissolve at any moment and leave her . . . where?

None of them would meet Diana's eyes, though all of them wished to touch her -- her dress, her hair - as if Diana were some talisman of unimaginable power; a changeling from the Hollow Hills in truth. She looked around for Mistress Fortune and didn't see her -- but surely the older woman had been right beside Diana a moment ago?

Diana felt flushed and feverish, certain now that some combination of food-poisoning and allergy was making her feel so strange. Breakfast seemed an eternity ago, but the rye loaf she'd eaten then seemed to sit in her stomach like a vengeful indigestible lump. And as for that unguent Shadow had rubbed into her skin - well, maybe it really was flying ointment, though he'd never seemed to show any effect from it.

Thinking of Shadow made Diana feel she'd left something undone. Where was he? She tried to remember if she'd seen him tonight, only to be distracted by the carved-turnip lanterns that were hung in the trees around the circle, casting their faint firefly-light. The flickering hurt her eyes. She looked away and saw that the flames of the bonfire were elusively blue with salt and sulphur, making the world before Diana somehow less than real.

Concentrate, Diana told herself fiercely. She had a sense that time was slipping through her fingers, that there was something forgotten, but what it was, she could not remember. She looked around at the members of the Talitho coven who had gathered here to dance this Samhain night. The gate between the worlds is open, Diana thought fuzzily, and the dead ride. It seemed as if it would take no Wiccan magic to cut her loose from this time and place and send her spinning through a tunnel of time, but there were something she had to finish first.

Diana sought out Mistress Fortune, finding her on the far side of the clearing. Mistress Fortune, at least, was solid and real, and met Diana's eyes unflinchingly. Diana stepped up to the older woman and hugged her hard.

"I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me," Diana said, and knew that no matter how trite the words sounded, they were the simple truth.

"Remember us to the Hill and to thy Queen, when thou hast returned there," Mistress Fortune said gruffly. The older woman hesitated for a moment, then said shyly, "of thy kindness, Mistress, before thou art gone -- do thy arts lend thee word of the King?"

"The King?" For a moment Diana did not know who Mistress Fortune was talking about, then comprehension came. King Charles I, the king who was now in Cromwell's keeping; the king for whom the witches of England had fought.

There was no reason not to tell Mistress Fortune what little Diana knew of the near future -- it was small enough payment for all that Mistress Fortune and the coven had done for her.

"King Charles will be beheaded, and Cromwell will become Lord Protector. When he dies, his son succeeds him, but only for a year or two. Charles' son will come back from France to be King, and England will never have a Commonwealth again."

It was not much, but Mistress Fortune's face glowed with joy.

"The boy is safe then? Lady praise him, that he will be our bonny king."

What else Mistress Fortune might have said was cut short by the rattle of the drums, and the coven turned as the masked Forest Lord stepped out through the trees.

"This night we meet together to perform a great working," the Magister began. Try as she might, Diana found herself unable to concentrate upon his words. They seemed to dissolve into a high sweet ringing, just as the fire turned from a ruddy gold with salt-blue lights to a strange deep indigo that rippled and billowed like cold silk.

The drum began to strike, and the coven to circle about her, but Diana stood as if she had been turned to stone. In the figures of the dance it was not the villagers of Talitho who frolicked about her, but weirdling creatures of the wood and forest, shining and animal-headed, horned and crowned and wrought of fire and shadow. The power they raised was a tangible weight upon her skin to do with as she chose; Diana was a part of it in a way that she had never been before, the source and the consummation of its force.

The dancers danced, and the veil between the worlds thinned, and all times and all places became one. Diana's doubts were gone as if they had never existed. She had only to step from the circle and she would be home.

But 20th century Massachusetts was home to Diana Crossways no longer. She had been obsessed with returning to her own time for so long that it had become a habit, a certainty she hadn't questioned, but she finally realized that she could not take up her previous life again. She'd just assumed she still wanted to go back to her own time, because she had wanted to in the beginning, but that life was not something she wanted any longer. Shadow had been right. It was over.


Diana opened her eyes wide, though the light seemed intolerably bright. The dancing figures were a blur, faceless and bodiless, and the edges of the clearing seemed to waver and retreat. The branches of the trees were now winter stark, now summer lush, spring flowers and autumn leaves following one after the other in an insane succession.

Move! Diana told herself desperately.

The ground seemed to have turned to quicksand beneath her feet. It was an enormous effort even to lift one foot from the ground, and with that simple effort her body was wet with sweat, burning even as Diana was racked with chill. As if she were poisoned.

The bread. Shadow wouldn't eat it. It was the bread. . .

Churning nausea rose up in her throat. All she wanted was to lie down in her tracks, to let the sickness have its way with her.

But she could not. There was no time.

It might already be too late. The ground lurched beneath her feet like the deck of a storm-tossed vessel, and no matter how hard Diana tried, the edge of the trees never seemed any closer. She was trapped beyond her power to free herself - but if she could not get free of the coven's enchantment, Shadow would never know that she had chosen to stay with him. He would think until the end of his days that she had left him willingly.

The anguish of that thought was like ice-water on Diana's skin, and for a moment the picture before her became distinct, the unearthly dancers only the Talitho villagers, no spirits here but what the Magister and his acolytes impersonated.

There would be no second chance. Diana flung herself forward against the wall of bodies with all her strength.


She finds Shadow once more, and goes with him in his attempt to return to his own people.