Continued from part two:
Spaemann, Morwenna, and the circle of friends have gathered in Guildford Cathedral with Spaemann arriving shortly after, wearing a robe of plain hessian, with a sword held by the cord tied around his waist. None recognized it as the Sword of Avalon.
“My friends, so good of you to come,” said Spaemann with an uncertain smile. “Morwenna will have explained to you by now that I have asked you to come together to help me in a little encounter that I fear is pending. It is difficult for me to explain, but I hope you will accept my word that it is of the utmost importance to everyone that we are here.”
“But what do you want us to do?” piped up one of them.
“Nothing, really. It is enough that you are here. I suggest you form a circle facing inwards and think nice thoughts.”
“Yes, that’s all there is to it, really. I would strongly recommend, however, that once you have formed a circle you do not break it for any reason until this thing is over.”
“Anything else, I am sure Morwenna will guide you.”
“And where will you be while we are holding hands and thinking there’s no place like home?” asked Tristan, a little bemused.
“Me? Oh, I will be outside, battling the dark forces. That is why I need you inside this place of peace and safety, where said dark forces cannot harm you and where you can focus your inner energies on ...”
Spaemann was interrupted by a panicked shriek from Angela, who was pointing at the altar.
“The cross! It’s gone!” Spaemann followed her gaze.
“No, it isn’t,” he said. “It is a trick. It is still there. Look!”
All of them had turned to face the Cathedral’s altar, where a simple gilded cross had stood between four large candles. As they focused their attention on the space where the cross should have been, it reappeared, only to dissolve again, this time transforming into a dancing, serpent-like creature with arms waving about, mocking the cruciform shape. All were mesmerized by the sight, except Spaemann, who tutted impatiently.
“Bah!” he said. “Begone, imp, you have no place here.” With that, the serpent vanished, leaving the cross in plain sight, in the place it had been all the time.
“Sometimes our eyes deceive us,” explained Spaemann. “Which is why it is best to focus our attention on what matters most.”
Morwenna held up her hands, inviting the friends to join her, to form a circle. They looked at each other anxiously, a little shaken by the imp’s trickery. Angela began to sob a little.
“Is it alright if I say a prayer?” she asked of nobody in particular.
“You go ahead, babe,” said Morwenna. “You are in the right place for prayers.”
All listened respectfully as Angela said the words of the Lord’s Prayer, joined at the end by one or two self-conscious whispers of “amen.” There was a pause before Morwenna spoke a prayer to Artemis, her guardian. Tristan mumbled something too.
All the while, Spaemann was looking at the door. Satisfied that everything was in order within the Cathedral, he strode, purposefully and without a word, down the nave and out into the open, closing the door firmly behind him.
Raising his head to the darkening sky, he spoke aloud.
“Maiden Mother, Maiden Mother. I feel your presence and I feel the strength of our sisters’ circle.”
“We are here,” came the disembodied reply. “And we will hold strong for you against the dark forces. We are joined by our sisters of the West, the East, and the North. You are not alone.”
Each of the covens had met and made their circle at each of the four points of the compass radiating from the Cathedral located on a hillock above Guildford town center. Unknown to most, it was built at the intersection of the Ley Line of Waverly and the Southern Ley Line, a source of immense temporal strength.
For a while there was silence and stillness, nothing happening, before darkness fell like a hammer blow, blotting out all light, even the faint light of the stars. All light from the surrounding town immediately vanished. It was as if the sky had absorbed all visible energy.
Inside the cathedral, the electric lighting faded and then was blotted out completely, as Morwenna was speaking to the circle of friends.
“Empty your mind and concentrate on a point at the center of our circle ... Think about a blue flame.” Each of them focused their attention on the same point and tried to imagine a flame growing from within. They each caught a breath as they saw a flame emerge at the center of their circle. It was a flame that gave the merest hint of light and no heat at all. The flame continued to grow, dancing and shimmering and beginning to bathe the cathedral with its cool glow, chasing out the darkness.
At that moment, the heavens erupted in an unholy cacophony of sound. A mixture between an infernal barking, a roaring screech, and an ear-splitting whine. It could be heard within the Cathedral but was not as loud as the mind-boggling din that assailed Spaemann outside. One or two in the circle looked up, but most kept their attention fixed on the flame. The ones looking up returned their gaze and continued to focus. A similar scene took place among the circles to the North, South, East, and West, with the assembled witches chanting their support and focusing their energies.
Spaemann was at the focal point of their prayers and incantations as he raised the point of Excalibur to the invisible skies. The tip of the charmed sword burst into a light that radiated into the heavens, the only light to be seen outside.
“Light of our forefathers, cast out the darkness that falls upon us,” he said. At this point there was a tumultuous roar and then a boom, reducing every window in the Cathedral to a shower of stained glass, falling like snow, to leave a carpet of multi-colored crystals. And yet, as the friends continued to concentrate their thoughts on the blue light at the center of the circle, there was movement among the glass fragments. Figures of each of the saints arose, reforming from the shattered segments of the windows and springing into two-dimensional life. There was Saint George, holding his red-cross banner high, a great lance held upright in the other hand. Saint Michael was wielding a mighty sword, Saint Ursula a single arrow, symbol of her martyrdom, which she had plucked from her own breast. A host of other saints formed up behind these three, with Saint Ursula leading the charge towards the door. Melting through the oaken barrier, the host formed up on either side of Spaemann, with Saint Ursula standing before him. They were a formidable force, lined up like the animated playing cards in the books of Alice.
With this huge show of strength, the darkness began to recede, the noise began to abate, and calm began to reassert itself. As the night sky began to show some fluffy white clouds, partially illuminated by the moon behind them, a shadowy figure emerged from the gloom surrounding the Cathedral.
As the figure became clearer, it showed itself to be a woman wearing a long, flowing white gown, a hood hiding her face. She seemed to float a little above the ground, as if on an invisible cushion of air.
Spaemann stared in disbelief as she swept back the hood to reveal herself, walking through the image of Saint Ursula as if it were not there. The Saint turned to face Spaemann, lowering her arrow. Likewise, Saints George and Michael turned and faced Spaemann, lowering their weapons.
Spaemann could hardly form the words.
“Isadora! Wha ... what ... how ...?”
“I have come to claim you, Spaemann. You are mine. You were always mine.”
“You speak of things that belong to the past, Isadora.”
“No, Spaemann, you are still mine, as well you know.” Looking at the glass saints, she continued. “I can see you are still fond of your little magical tricks. Send them away.” Spaemann waved his arm.
“Return to your church.”
At this command, the glass saints drifted off on the breeze, like multi-colored leaves returning to the tree. Up through the air they floated and back into the window spaces, to resume their rightful place as stained-glass guardians of the Cathedral.
Spaemann and Isadora were left alone, the mystical link to the four covens broken as Spaemann, shaking with emotion, dropped the sword. He sunk to his knees, head in his hands.
“What can you possibly want from me now, Isadora?”
“Just one thing, my lover,” said Isadora, grabbing the sword in both hands and raising it high above her head.
Spaemann looked up as the sword swung down towards him. He was powerless, unable to move and yet, as the blade was about to strike his head, he saw a shadowy feline form leap and push him aside, so that the blow struck, not Spaemann, but his friend, Trinity. The cat fell, the point of the sword running his little body through, pinning the stricken creature to the Earth.
As Spaemann found his feet, he saw the Sword of Avalon, released by Isadora, emerging from Trinity’s body, the blood of his friend upon the blade. As he stood there, he witnessed the heavenly aura surrounding the cat fade to nothing. Looking up to the sky, he saw that the glorious moon had broken through the clouds. Excalibur, bathed in the ghostly moonlight, reflected a single moonbeam at Isadora. She staggered back, gasping.
Spaemann saw for the first time Isadora’s true appearance. As the flesh around her face began to age and wither before his eyes, she let out a bitter scream.
“No, no, stop it, Spaemann, don’t let this happen.” Spaemann watched in abject horror.
“Isadora, if only I could, but you have brought this end upon yourself. You gave yourself to the dark forces and to their will. There is nothing I can do to help you now.” Spaemann stood powerless, as Isadora clutched desperately at her once-beautiful face. From the head downwards, her whole body began to solidify until cracks appeared in her skin. Quivering momentarily, she crumbled into a pile of dust and ashes, blowing away in the gentle breeze.
“May you find peace at last, my love.”
The night at once reverted to its natural beauty, the oppressive darkness chased away by the moonlight, shining from the inky blue-black heavens. It was now safe for the circle of friends to venture outside, no longer in need of the protection of the Cathedral and the blue fire within, which had faded to a single tiny flame as the friends emerged. Unseen, the flame rose and traversed the nave, taking its place at the altar, where it lit the candles on either side of the cross.
Outside, Morwenna looked at the lifeless body of Trinity, pinned to the ground by the Sword of Avalon.
“Oh! Trinity,” said Spaemann, tears welling up in his eyes.
“He gave his life for you,” said Morwenna. “A sacrifice for love. Could there ever be a more powerful magic than love?”
* * * * *
Dark Clouds Gather was first published in
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About the Creator
Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.