Drawing the Goddess Down
In twilight it seems, the necromancer dreams, of myriads of things that moonrise brings, with silvery beams that ever gleam, upon the face of the queen, the one who is deemed... most worthy to draw down the moon
"By the blood of the sisters who came before, in the name of She who prevails, Under the power of the new blood moon tonight, oh Goddess please hear our travails."
Daylight had come and the bad dreams ended. Jemma sat on her grandmother's porch on a Saturday morning, as October's breath lifted strands of wheat-colored hair from her face. The nightmares from the night past had disappeared and she smiled, breathing deep the smell of Indiana Autumn.
Raising her gaze to greet the heavens, she was confronted by a wedge of dark clouds that suddenly muted the sun.
Gazing curiously at it, her thoughts were interrupted by a small black puppy tugging at her shoe laces. She looked down at him and giggled.
"Oh how cute!" she squealed with delight, reaching eagerly for him. Before her hands could close around him, her grandmother's arms folded around her.
"Don't touch it!" Her grandmother cautioned as she lifted her onto the porch.
Grandma Frankie, (nicknamed for her uncle, Francis), looked up at the sky with foreboding.
Shifting her gaze to the pup at the foot of the stairs, she frowned.
"Lovey?" Frances called to her. "Go inside."
"It's okay, Grandma." Jemma assured her. "He's just a baby."
Concern furrowed Frances's brow as she turned to her granddaughter.
"Jemma." She reiterated with force. "Get in the house, now!"
"Aw man!" She complained. "I just wanted to hold him!"
As the door closed, Grandma Frankie turned thought-darkened eyes to the pup.
He yawned, licking his lips, and laid down at the foot of the stairs with his curly tail lopped over to one side on his back. Clouds began rolling away and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well come on if you're coming." She said, putting both hands down to him.
He hopped up and quickly ran into the woman's embrace. After whispering a few odd words into his ear, she closed her eyes, waiting. No response came so she turned to call Jemma back, but realized she was still standing at the screen with her face mashed against it.
"We have to check with the police, Lovey and see if someone lost him." She explained to the sad little face. "If you lost such a sweet puppy you'd want him back. Wouldn't you?"
Jemma stepped out onto the porch looking at the dog in her grandmother's grasp, and her heart leapt when he locked eyes with her.
"Ok. But if they can't find his family, can I keep him?" She asked, running her fingers through his soft fur.
"You can." Grandma Frankie replied, then before Jemma could get too excited she added : "IF you clean up after him!"
"I will Grandma!" she exclaimed. "I promise."
"You had better. If he piddles on my new carpet he's done for." She grumbled, handing the puppy to Jemma and heading inside for her purse.
As she returned, Jemma was sitting in the old rocker, stroking the pup and humming a happy tune to him. Jemma looked up and "shushed" her grandma.
"He came a long way grandma, and his feet hurt." she whispered. "He needs his rest."
Frankie laughed quietly at her granddaughter.
"Come on, Lovey." She told her, "Let's get him to the police station."
Once they were in seatbelts, Grandma Frankie fired up the sedan.
"It's okay Hector." Jemma whispered to him. "I won't let them get you."
"You probably shouldn't give the little guy a name. You don't want to get attached to him if he belongs to someone else." Her grandmother told her.
"I didn't." She replied casually picking Hector up and kissing his nose.
"Okay." Grandma Frankie chuckled. "Like I didn't just hear you call that dog, Hector."
"But that's his name. He said he's scared someone will come get him and he won't see me again."
Grandma Frankie slowed the car and pulled over, looking quietly at her granddaughter and the orphan. Normal puppy things transpired before her; yipping, bouncing, chewing... but when he made eye contact with her, it was different.
"In my day, young man, a black dog on your doorstep was a bad omen. Hecate generally sent them to warn us... but to just send one on a Saturday morning with no portent of doom is something entirely new to me."
She turned her body toward Jemma, and Hector bounded across the front seat, big paws barely able to keep up with his excitement. He jumped on her and began licking her face.
"Alright, alright." She fussed. "You can stay. You're obviously here for Jemma and I accept this gift, but... if you potty on my floors it's outside in the cold for you!"
The puppy scooted down to the seat, sat up on his hind legs with his paws clasped together in front of him, and Grandma Frankie turned the car around, heading straight for the pet store.
"Where're we going?" Jemma asked.
"We're going to get things puppies need, and you're going to learn how to take care of him."
Jemma hugged him close to her, breathing in that puppy smell when a thought occurred to her.
"Hey Grandma? Who's 'Hecate'?" she asked.
"I'll tell you when you're older." Her grandma replied, scruffing Hector's head as they turned down the street toward the store.
Locking the door to Grandma Frankie's house, Jemma closed the biggest chapter of her life. The sale would soon be complete and her aunts would share the funds, leaving Jemma only memories of her grandmother.
Grandma Frankie had lived there since 1950. As she got on in years she'd come to depend on Jemma and Hector to help with upkeep, but couldn't change her Will to let Jemma have the house. She was deemed not to be of "sound mind and body" in court, thanks to her daughters, and now Jemma had nowhere to go but college.
Grandma Frankie lived a full life, passing at 93, but Jemma's heart still ached. They'd always talked about driving to their favorite viewing spot for solstice after she graduated and celebrating with a glass of wine.
Turning from the door, Jemma breathed deep the smell of autumn in the descending sun as Hector leaned into her for affection. He had looked like a tiny bear when he showed up 14 years ago, but was now a full-blown Spitz. He'd grown so much larger than most of his breed that Jemma mused he'd inherited a mutant gene, but she understood he was a rare gift that the universe sent just for her. Stroking his fur, she smiled.
"Come on Hector." She told him with a sigh. "Time to start over."
They headed down the stairs toward the light blue Beetle it took her two summers to earn, but were stopped short by the sight of her aunt Meg stepping between them and the vehicle.
Meg's beautiful skin and radiant green eyes jaded the perception of her 62 years. Red-dyed curls cradled her round face, shielding the novice eye to whatever "work" she'd had done over the years, and her tall leggy form gave her a younger, more agile appearance than most women her age.
"Where're you headed?" She asked, folding her arms across her chest.
Hector growled, but stopped when Jemma scratched behind his ears.
"Off to college, I guess." She replied, smiling.
"Mom would have been pleased." Meg replied putting her arms out for a hug.
Jemma hugged her aunt, as she was the only one of her mothers' six sisters who ever took an interest in her. Jemma had no hard feelings, though. She accepted that seeing her brought back the pain of the car accident that took her parents.
Grandma Frankie immediately made the decision to raise her, which drove a wedge between her and the girls. They were already jealous of the attention she'd given to Jemma's mother, who had been the baby of the bunch as well and got most of the attention. Her mother was the only one to deliver a grandchild, which was hard enough on the family. In the Prentiss lineage, females had birthed at least seven children. Meg was the eldest and somehow managed to get past her envy to occasionally drop by.
Jemma hadn't seen a car, and wasn't sure how Meg even got there.
"Where's your car?" She asked.
"John drove back down to the store to get us some groceries. We're staying here tonight so we can meet the new owners in the morning. Here." She said, pulling an envelope from her purse and handing it to her niece.
"This is for you."
"What is it?" She asked.
Jemma slowly pulled out a letter from her grandmother. It was short, but made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.
Hecate came to me in a dream. She said the veil is changing and her protection wanes. I suspect that's why she sent Hector in advance of this. She said to tread lightly into this season. Do not cast unless absolutely necessary and even then, try not to. I'm sorry that I had to go, Lovey, but please know I am always with you. I'm enclosing a check with a command to my lawyer that if any of my daughters open this envelope, they get nothing. It's the money I've been saving for you since before you were born. Don't let anyone know how much it is, especially Meg.
Love always, Grandma Frankie"
Jemma tearfully shoved the letter back into the envelope. She'd look at the check later. She dared not read that in front of Meg, not even in silence. Meg was the strongest of the six. If she saw the check and if Jemma knew how much it was, she'd know it too.
"Where are you staying tonight?" Meg asked.
"I found a pet-friendly Airbnb in town."
Blankness stole Meg's facial features and Jemma laughed.
"It's a small vacation rental. Just for tonight. I'm off to Ball State in the morning."
"And what did you finally decide on growing up to be?" Meg grinned. For many years, Jemma had so wanted to be a dog when she grew up, that her aunt had stopped asking her.
"I'm going for my Master's in Architecture."
"Impressive!" Meg exclaimed. "Hey. Why don't you stay here tonight?" She offered. "It's free. You could sleep in your own bed and we'd have a chance to catch up."
Silence hung between them.
Jemma would've loved to connect with family but the truth was, that Grandma Frankie's letter said "especially Meg". Jemma didn't like the idea of sticking around. Every moment that lingered made her more nervous about the check hiding inside the envelope.
"I appreciate that", Jemma answered, "but if I'm honest, I just don't think I want to go back in there. Feel free to call any time if you want to visit, though." She put in, trying to smooth things over. "I'd love the chance to reconnect."
"Alright." Meg relented, stepping aside. "I'll do that. Be careful on the road and take care, sweetie."
"Thanks Aunt Meg. See ya soon."
Jemma almost opened the passenger-side door for Hector to get in, but he walked around to her side of the car. Making a sucking sound with her teeth she took a deep breath, letting her eyes roll.
"He's so spoiled." She told her aunt, who giggled. Jemma opened the driver's-side door and Hector stood looking at her like she was nuts.
"Maybe he wants you to stay." Meg supplied.
Jemma laughed nervously. No way in hell was she staying after reading that letter, but she had no answer for Hector's behavior. The truth was that he was still in good health, and in his right mind. He'd never acted this way before.
"It's ok." She told the dog. "Go ahead. I'll get in right after."
No movement. Hector looked at her, sat down and yawned. Jemma pulled the seat down to see if he wanted to get in back with the bags, but he wouldn't get in.
"Ok." She threatened politely. "I'm gonna leave you here." She planned to get in the front seat, pretending to leave him, then get out so he could jump in, but it didn't work. The very second her butt hit the seat, Hector was in her lap, making the horn honk and her aunt nearly jumped out of her clothes.
"Sor-ry." Jemma called out through a mouthful of dog hair.
"Jesus, Hector! You're too big to sit on me." She grumbled, spitting and sputtering the fur out. "Get into your own seat!"
Hector jumped into the passenger seat, putting his foot down on the door lock at the same time. The doors locked and he sat nervously surveying his surroundings.
Jemma slipped on her seatbelt murmuring "crazy dog" and cranked the car. Whether she actually got the car in gear or not, she wasn't sure. Someone slammed into her from behind. She heard Hector's yelp as her head collided with the steering wheel.
The adrenaline ran through her so fast, that she barely got her bearings long enough to ensure that Hector was alright. He'd managed to get his rear-end into the floorboard with his front feet on the seat.
"It's okay baby." Jemma was saying when someone hit them again. Thanks to the rear-end collision, the airbag wasn't opening and Jemma's head hit the steering wheel. This time, she could taste her own blood running down her face, stinging her eyes. She tried to sit up, but her body ignored her. Fumbling across the seat, she could hear Hector growling, but when she touched him, he stopped. He climbed out of the floorboard and stood as close as he could, whimpering and licking her face.
"It's okay." She told him. "I'm okay.
Running her hands through his fur, she thanked God he wasn't cut. If they'd been hit from the front they'd have crushed him.
'Where am I?' she wondered. Then the memory of Meg and the envelope came rushing back. Pushing softly at Hector, she tried to sit up a little straighter and looked out the window.
Grandma Frankie's house stood before them and Meg was nowhere in sight. She quickly tried cranking the car, but it wouldn't start. Hector whined and once again something rammed them from behind. This time, Jemma's face went straight into the steering wheel, sending debilitating pain through her body. The last thing she heard after some muffled talking, was Hector growling, then screaming... then silence.
Night had fallen by the time she could open her eyes. Blood crusted in her tear ducts and Jemma made a move to wipe them, but she couldn't. She squirmed a bit then realized that her hands were bound behind her.
She stopped moving, focusing on sounds and smells. The atmosphere of a forest stood around her along with the familiar smells of mossy trees. In a moment, the woodsy smell of a campfire touched her senses and as she focused, soft murmuring began to materialize. She was not alone.
Faint chanting wafted in the night air and slowly her eyes cracked open into slits. Things were fuzzy at first, then took form. She could see her aunts circling in their black conjuring robes, chanting. Meg stood in front of them, black robes flowing in the wind, as she read from a small leather-bound book. They hadn't been to the family place in two decades.
Jemma tried to get her head around why they would do that but it hurt to think. They got all the money for the house. What more could they possibly want?
"Great Hecate, Carpe noctem. Igni ferroque luceo non uro. " Came the beginning of the evocation.
"Shit." Jemma half-whispered, her voice cracking. They'd already prepared a sacrifice and were reciting the rite.
"Hear the barking of the sacred dogs, and the quickening of my pulse." Meg's voice reigned above the chanting.
"Our kindred energy commands the breeze, attracting the smoke of time. Please speak through my lips, and enter the breath of my soul. Everlasting is the power of your names, almighty queen of the night. Let me see thee standing at the apex of the crossroads with the keys in your hand!"
It occurred to Jemma that she was being prepared as the sacrifice, though she didn't know why. As she considered it, Grandma Frankie's letter came back to her and she started chuckling. It hurt, but she didn't care. In a moment, Meg's hand slid under her chin and her face was raised.
"What are you laughing about?" Meg asked.
"Where's Hector?" She growled.
"He got away, but not before he took out your uncle John, so I owe you one!"
Shaking her head, Jemma started that low-laughing again.
"Then he did you a favor. You didn't even like uncle John."
Meg smacked her full on the face, but Jemma laughed even harder. She was pretty sure there were cracked ribs in there, but all she could think of was that Hector was free, and her aunt was in big trouble.
"Listen." She told Meg. "You shouldn't be conjuring right now. There's something going on in the Otherworlds."
"What would you know?." She laughed. "You'd say anything right now."
"I'm telling you." Jemma tried to reason with her. "The only protection we enjoy from night-spirits comes from Hecate, and her protection wanes right now."
"I might say as much if I knew I was going to die. " Meg retorted, returning to the pages of her conjuring book.
"Aunt Meg." Jemma told her. She didn't want to die, but she didn't want them to die either. "Just open the envelope. Read the letter."
"Oh!" the woman exclaimed. "You mean this?" She asked, pulling the check out of the envelope. "Like I'd let her millions go to a sniveling little shit like you!" She got right in Jemma's face. "You die tonight. Get it? And the money defaults to us." With that, she tossed it all into the fire.
"You're doing this for money?" Jemma asked, bewildered by the concept that they'd get some demon to make sure they got all Grandma Frankie's money.
"Of course not... well not entirely." Meg responded, unable to resist the taunt. "We're conjuring to get rid of you. You were born of the seventh daughter, Jemma. Your powers are more potent in youth than ours." Here her voice deepened as she turned a hand over the flames. "Kind of like a little rattle snake!" She shouted, slinging hot coals toward her that became a snake of fire and slithered around Jemma in the dark.
Jemma chuckled morosely as the flames dissipated into the night, essentially with no effect.
"I thought for sure you'd bring your "A"-game to a conjuring Aunt Meg, especially with a blood moon in the sky. You're slipping in your old age."
"You little shit." Meg nearly spat the words, grabbing Jemma's chin in her hand and squeezing. "If I didn't need you alive until the sacrifice I'd slit your throat right now."
"Bring it on, queen of the average." Jemma laughed.
"If you were half the witch I am..." Meg started, but to keep her off balance until she could think of something, Jemma interrupted.
"I am half the witch you are, tubby. Now get outta my face." She growled through gritted teeth.
Meg slapped her full across the face again, harder this time. Turning to one of the sisters she shouted.
"Bring me something to gag this little witch with."
"Still getting others to do your dirty work. Tch,tch,tch", Jemma shunned. "Poor uncle John."
Ignoring her, Meg returned to her place in the circle and began reading from her book.
Aunt Sarah returned, gagged her and went back to chanting.
Jemma closed her eyes.
Grandma Frankie appeared in her thoughts, and Jemma's heart plummeted. Tears moistened her eyes, but she couldn't bear to open them for fear of what she might see. Jemma had long suffered nightmares of the stewards of the night. Ever they sought to possess her and now her aunt stood before her invoking them to do her will.
As her grandmother's face appeared, sunlight surrounded her. Her voice broke through the others, speaking directly to Jemma.
'Remember what I taught you. I didn't teach you dark conjuring so that you could be saved by the sacrifices made by our family. My refusal of the dark arts is what broke the seven-daughters and sanctified our family. I told no one else, Lovey. Only you.'
Jemma considered that night-spirits often conjured voices from memory to mislead the coven. Grandma Frankie was Jemma's coven. Her letter said not to conjure unless there was no other way and even then, to try not to. She'd tried... and Megan Prentiss-Jones left her no choice.
The chanting intensified as Meg read the incantation. She threw something into the fire and it burst into intensity.
Jemma remembered the spell she'd been given. Silently, her mind entered a place of reverence. She thought of Grandma Frankie, of Hector, and she thought of her parents. The revelation that one of her aunts had run her mother off the road swept through Jemma and unmitigated fury overtook her.
She screamed into the night, interrupting the coven. Everything fell silent for a moment. Jemma's bonds fell away and she found herself levitating above the altar. Untying the gag, she stared down at her aunts cowering together with their mouths open.
"Shame on you!" she screamed. "Your family is your coven. Do have any idea how many daughters of Hecate would kill to have what you have?"
Meg started reading louder and the sisters reformed their circle but to no avail. Jemma's arms floated out encompassed by crinkly white electricity as she she floated above them, reaching toward the moon. Her heart hummed in her chest as she reached toward the oversized moon at the apex of the dirt road leading into their valley.
Then... a howl caught the night and Jemma's spirit soared. Only one dog made that sound.
Jemma opened her eyes. Hecate herself, surrounded by her own dogs stood holding the keys to the universe in her hand.
Below them, Hector trounced the witch-sisters though they struggled to help one another. One by one, he tore their flesh into ribbons until he arrived at Meg, too petrified by fear to move. He held her down, his maw closed over her throat as he growled, threatening.
Jemma moved toward the goddess with no fear, in her heart the incantation thrummed with her heartbeat:
"By the blood of the sisters who came before, in the name of She who prevails, Under the power of the new blood moon tonight, oh Goddess please hear our travails."
Hecate handed her the keys. As she disappeared, so the moon went with her, then returned in Jemma's hands.
Turning white eyes to her aunt on the ground, she released Hector from his charge.
Meg rose, clutching her throat, a defiant look belying the tears rolling down her cheek. Jemma's form floated to stand before her aunt, the white orb of a moon enchanted in her hands.
"And my power is more potent the ten thousand rattlesnakes, Megan." She told her aunt. "You might have had the whole universe at your call if you'd had one kind word for me. None of this was necessary. What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I hate you." Megan said, seething with her malice.
"And I have done nothing but love you." Jemma told her. "It's such a shame I cannot say the same for Hector."
Jemma let go of the white orb. It floated before her, invoking Hector to consume Meg. Filled with the spell of the moon, he charged, pushing her to the ground as Jemma turned and walked away. Megan's screams fell on deaf ears as Jemma made her way out of the valley into the night.
The pale specters of Prentiss women from the past swept into the valley, devouring every sign of what had transpired, leaving only the natural beauty of the night in their wake.
Soon, Hector fell in beside Jemma, bumping his head against her hand for attention. She ran grateful fingers through his thick fur.
"I love you Hector." She told him as they walked toward Grandma Frankie's house in the silver moonlight.
Jemma passed the Volkswagon that would need repairs before she'd ever get to drive it again. As she started up the porch stairs, she took out the keys to the front door, turned to Hector and said:
"I wonder if churches are open on Monday."
Seemingly answering her, he fluffed out his cheeks with exhaustion and followed her inside.
About the Creator
I'm a mild-mannered project accountant by day, a free-spirited writer, artist, singer/songwriter the rest of the time. Let's subscribe to each other! I'm excited to be in a community of writers and I'm looking forward to making friends!
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