"Blessings, bright blessings, to all here present"
Timothy Spaeman spoke these words as he entered the hallway of the Links Hotel Guildford, in the leafy shire of Surrey, in the South-East of England.
It was the annual gathering of the Daughters of Damona. The official Covenstead of the Southern witches, but all were welcome. It was, after all, the time of the Feast of Divine Love and Compassion. The evening had just begun, and everyone was circulating, reacquainting, and generally catching up on the gossip.
This short story has been adapted from Raymond G. Taylor's three-part magical fable: Dark Clouds Gather
Heading off towards the center of the room, Spaemann had noticed the rather elegant lady of indeterminate age, adorned in a beautiful, yet discreet, evening gown, an exquisite silver amulet held by a delicate chain across the low-cut dress. She turned as he approached.
“Spaemann, darling, how delightful,” she exclaimed with a warm smile, holding out her arms to him. She always used his true name, and never his adoptive ‘Christian’ name. She had known him too long.
“Maiden Mother, to see you is a blessing,” said Spaemann deferentially, as he accepted the embrace. She held him to her for a moment before stepping back, holding him at arm's length, looking directly into his eyes as he raised his to hers.
“You honor me with your presence at Covenstead,” she said.
It was, in a way, a rebuke, as she knew how tiresome he found such gatherings. She smiled generously, nevertheless, indicating that she was only teasing, as she was wont to do.
“I feel strength grow within me at your touch, Mother.”
The ‘Mother’ was an honorific; they were not related. Formalities over, the two old friends embraced again, this time with a more familiar cheek-to-cheek kiss. They talked happily together for a while before the conversation moved to business.
“Do we have a foe in our midst?” he asked her.
“Oh, you saw it too?”
“Felt, more than saw, but yes, its darkness tore at my eyes as well as my soul.”
“A portent of the dark clouds gathering around us.”
“Are the sisters prepared?”
“I am drawing my circle around me, as you are with yours,” she said. “You make a good choice in Morwenna, by the way,” she said, nodding in the direction of a young woman who was standing with a group of younger people at one end of the room. “She might seem a shallow child, but she has hidden depths. Do not dismiss her mischievous ways. We cannot all be as serious as you. There is room in our lives for a little fun, particularly in our youth ... if you can remember that far back.”
“Your wisdom, Maiden Mother, is always a guiding light to me.”
They were back on formal terms now, as Spaemann bade permission to leave and prepare himself for what must come to pass.
Before she dismissed him, Maiden Mother had some gifts.
“I have sent the Sword of Avalon to your home. You will need it.”
“I had not known that it was real.”
“It is real enough, and you will feel its power when the time comes,” she said.
She then handed him a velvet pouch enclosing the most dazzling, brilliant-cut diamond, mounted in a golden filigree of Celtic origin, and held by a chain of superb and intricate workmanship. He weighed the jewel in his hand. It was no lightweight.
“The white crystal will guard you against dark forces. Keep it close to your heart. One more thing, Spaemann,” she said, handing him a paper wrap containing herbs.
“A potion?” he asked.
“No, silly. Some chamomile flowers from my garden, to make tea. It will help you sleep. Judging by the lines under your eyes, you need it.”
They both laughed, breaking the tension.
“Go in peace, my son, and guard yourself against the dark forces of nature.”
“I will, Lady. Be strong in your circle. Blessings to you and our sisters.”
As he arrived home, Spaemann saw the jewelled case lying on the table, his black cat, Trinity, curled up before it. The ornate tooled-leather case was a thing of great beauty, adorned with swirling silverwork of breath-taking artistry and encrusted with every shade of gemstone. He marvelled as he lifted the lid to reveal the Sword of Avalon.
“Excalibur,” he exclaimed, with a voice full of wonder. “I never dared to dream that I would one day behold your glory.” He whispered a prayer of thanks to Artōrius, who had wielded this very sword, and to the demi-gods who had forged it.
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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.