“Is that . . . you?” Sarah stared at the walls in amazement.
The walls were covered with images of me—weaving my first spell, calling forth a rowan tree, watching Corra as she flew along the Thames, standing beside the witches who had taken me under their wing when I was first learning about my magic. There was Goody Alsop, the coven’s elder, with her fine features and stooped shoulders; the midwife Susanna Norman; and the three remaining witches Catherine Streeter, Elizabeth Jackson, and Marjorie Cooper.
As for the artist, that was clear without a signature. Jack had painted these images, smearing the walls with wet plaster and adding the lines and color so that they became a permanent part of the building. Smoke-stained, mottled with damp, and cracked with age, they had somehow retained their beauty.
“We are fortunate to have such a room to work in,” Linda said, beaming “Your journey has long been a source of inspiration for London’s witches. Come and meet your sisters.”
The three witches waiting at the bottom of the stairs studied me with interest, their glances snapping and crackling against my skin. They might not have the power of the Garlickhythe gathering in 1591, but these witches were not devoid of talent.
“Here is our Diana Bishop, come back to us once more,” Linda said. “She has brought her aunt with her, Sarah Bishop, and her mother-in-law, who I trust needs no introduction.”
“None at all,” said the most elderly of the four witches. “We’ve all heard cautionary tales about Mélisande de Clermont.”
Linda had warned me the coven had some doubts about tonight’s proceedings. She had handpicked the witches who would help us: firewitch Sybil Bonewits, waterwitch Tamsin Soothtell, and windwitch Cassandra Kyteler. Linda’s powers relied heavily on the element of earth. So, too, did Sarah’s.
“Times change,” Ysabeau said crisply. “If you would like me to leave . . .”
“Nonsense.” Linda shot a warning glance at her fellow witch. “Diana asked for you to be here when she cast her spell. We will all muddle through somehow. Won’t we, Cassandra?”
The elderly witch gave a curt nod.
“Make way for the maps if you please, ladies!” Leonard said, his arms full of tubes. He dumped them on a rickety table encrusted with wax and beat a fast retreat up the stairs. “Call me if you need anything.” The door to the crypt slammed shut behind him.
Linda directed the placement of the maps, for after much fiddling we had found that the best results came from using a huge map of the British Isles surrounded by individual county maps. The map of Great Britain alone took up a section of floor that was around six feet by four feet.
“This looks like a bad elementary-school geography project,” Sarah muttered as she straightened a map of Dorset.
“It may not be pretty, but it works,” I replied, drawing Master Habermel’s compendium from my bag. Fernando had devised a protective sleeve for it using one of Gallowglass’s clean socks. It was miraculously undamaged. I got out my phone, too, and took a few shots of the murals on the wall. They made me feel closer to Jack—and to Matthew.
“Where should I put the pages from the Book of Life?” Ysabeau had been given custody of the precious sheets of vellum.
“Give the picture of the chemical wedding to Sarah. You hold on to the one with the two dragons,”
“Me?” Ysabeau’s eyes widened. It had been a controversial decision, but I had prevailed against Sarah and Linda in the end.
“I hope you don’t mind. The chemical-wedding picture came to me from my parents. The dragons belonged to Andrew Hubbard. I thought we could balance the spell by keeping them in witch and vampire hands.” All my instincts told me this was the right decision.
“Of c-course.” Ysabeau’s tongue slipped on the familiar words.
“It will be all right. I promise.” I gave her arm a squeeze. “Sarah will be standing opposite, and Linda and Tamsin will be on either side.”
“You should be worrying about the spell. Ysabeau can take care of herself.” Sarah handed me a pot of red ink and a quill pen made from a white feather with striking brown and gray markings.
“It’s time, ladies,” Linda said with a brisk clap. She distributed brown candles to the other members of the London coven. Brown was a propitious color for finding lost objects. It had the added benefit of grounding the spell—which I was sorely in need of, given my inexperience. Each witch took her place outside the ring of county maps, and they all lit their candles with whispered spells. The flames were unnaturally large and bright—true witch’s candles.
Linda escorted Ysabeau to her place just below the south coast of England. Sarah stood across from her, as promised, above the north coast of Scotland. Linda walked clockwise three times around the carefully arranged witches, maps, and vampire, sprinkling salt to cast a protective circle.
Once everyone was in her proper place, I took the stopper out of the bottle of red ink. The distinctive scent of dragon’s-blood resin filled the air. There were other ingredients in the ink, too, including more than a few drops of my own blood. Ysabeau’s nostrils flared at the coppery tang. I dipped the quill pen into the ink and pressed the chiseled silver nib onto a narrow slip of parchment. It had taken me two days to find someone willing to make me a pen using a feather from a barn owl—far longer than it would have in Elizabethan London.
Letter by letter, working from the outside of the parchment to the center, I wrote the name of the person I sought.
T, N, J, O, W, T, E, S
T J WESTON
I folded the parchment carefully to hide the name. Now it was my turn to walk outside the sacred circle and work another binding. After slipping Master Habermel’s compendium into the pocket of my sweater along with the parchment rectangle, I began a circular perambulation from the place between the firewitch and the waterwitch. I passed by Tamsin and Ysabeau, Linda and Cassandra, Sarah and Sybil.
When I arrived back at the place where I began, a shimmering line ran outside the salt, illuminating the witches’ astonished faces. I turned my left hand palm up. For a moment there was a flicker of color on my index finger, but it was gone before I could determine what it had been. Even without the missing hue, my hand gleamed with gold, silver, black, and white lines of power that pulsed under the skin. The streaks twisted and twined into the orobouros-shaped tenth knot that surrounded the prominent blue veins at my wrist.
I stepped through a narrow gap in the shimmering line and drew the circle closed. The power roared through it, keening and crying out for release. Corra wanted out, too. She was restless, shifting and stretching inside me.
“Patience, Corra,” I said, stepping carefully over the salt and onto the map of England. Each step took me closer to the spot that represented London. At last my feet rested on the City. Corra released her wings with a snap of skin and bone and a cry of frustration.
“Fly, Corra!” I commanded.
Free at last, Corra shot around the room, sparks streaming from her wings and tongues of flame escaping from her mouth. As she gained altitude and found air currents that would help to carry her where she wanted to go, the beating of her wings slowed. Corra caught sight of her portrait and cooed in approval, reaching out to pat the wall with her tail.
I pulled the compendium from my pocket and held it in my right hand. The folded slip of parchment went into my left. My arms stretched wide, and I waited while the threads that bound the world and filled the Greyfriars crypt snaked and slithered over me, seeking out the cords that had been absorbed into my hands. When they met, the cords lengthened and expanded, filling my whole body with power. They knotted around my joints, created a protective web around my womb and heart, and traveled along veins and the pathways forged by nerves and sinews.
I recited my spell:
[des: author had centered on the page. Author wants it to look vaguely rectangular in shape.]
Lost and found
Where is Weston
On this ground?
Then I blew on the slip of parchment, and Weston’s name caught light, the red ink bursting into flame. I cupped the fiery words in my palm where they continued to burn bright. Overhead, Corra circled above the map watchfully, her keen eyes alert.
The compendium’s gears whirred, and the hands on the main dial moved. A roaring filled my ears as a bright thread of gold shot out from the compendium. It spun outward until it met up with the two pages from the Book of Life. Another thread came from the compendium’s gilded dial. It lit a spot on the map of England, then slithered off to a map at Linda’s feet.
Corra swept down and pounced on the spot, crying out with triumph as though she had caught some unsuspecting prey. A town’s name illuminated, a bright burst of flame leaving the charred outlines of letters.
The spell complete, the roaring diminished. Power receded from my body, loosening the knotted cords. But they did not recoil back into my hands. They stayed where they were, running through me as if they had formed a new bodily system.
When the power had retreated, I swayed slightly. Ysabeau started forward.
“No!” Sarah cried. “Don’t break the circle, Ysabeau.”
My mother-in-law clearly thought this was madness. Without Matthew here she was prepared to be overprotective in his stead. But Sarah was right: Nobody could break the circle but me. Feet dragging, I returned to the same spot where I’d started weaving my spell. Sybil and Tamsin smiled encouragingly as the fingers on my left hand flicked and furled, releasing the circle’s hold. All that remained to do then was to trudge around the circle counterclockwise, unmaking the magic.
Linda was much quicker, briskly walking her own path in reverse. The moment she was through, both Ysabeau and Sarah rushed to my side. The London witches raced to the map that revealed Weston’s location.
“Dieu, I have not seen magic like that for centuries. Matthew told me true when he said you were a formidable witch,” Ysabeau said with admiration.
“Very nice spell casting, honey.” Sarah was proud of me. “Not a single wobble of doubt or moment of hesitation.”
“Did it work?” I certainly hoped so. Another spell of that magnitude would require weeks of rest first. I joined the witches at the map. “Oxfordshire?”
“Yes,” Linda said doubtfully. “But I fear we may not have asked a specific enough question.”
There, on the map, was the blackened outline of a very English-sounding village called Chipping Weston.
“The initials were on the paper, but I forgot to include them in the words of the spell.” My heart sank.
“It is far too soon to admit defeat.” Ysabeau already had her phone out and was dialing. “Phoebe?
Does a T. J. Weston live in Chipping Weston?”
The possibility that T. J. Weston could live in a town called Weston had not occurred to any of us.
We waited for Phoebe’s reply.
Ysabeau’s face relaxed in sudden relief. “Thank you. We will be home soon. Tell Marthe that Diana will need a compress for her head and cold cloths for her feet.”
Both were aching, and my legs were more swollen with each passing minute. I looked at Ysabeau gratefully.
“Phoebe tells me there is a T. J. Weston in Chipping Weston,” Ysabeau reported. “He lives in the Manor House.”
“Oh, well done. Well done, Diana.” Linda beamed at me. The other London witches clapped, as though I had just performed a particularly difficult piano solo without flubbing a note.
“This is not a night we will soon forget,” Tamsin said, her voice shaking with emotion, “for tonight a weaver came back to London, bringing the past and future together so that old worlds might die and new be born.”
“That’s Mother Shipton’s prophecy,” I said, recognizing the words.
“Ursula Shipton was born Ursula Soothtell. Her aunt, Alice Soothtell, was my ancestor,” Tamsin said. “She was a weaver, like you.”
“You are related to Ursula Shipton!” Sarah exclaimed.
“I am,” Tamsin replied. “The women in my family have kept the knowledge of weavers alive, even though we have had only one other weaver born into the family in more than five hundred years. But Ursula prophesied that the power was not lost forever. She foresaw the years of darkness, when witches would forget weavers and all they represent: hope, rebirth, change. Ursula saw this night, too.”
“How so?” I thought of the few lines of Mother Shipton’s prophecy that I knew. None of them seemed relevant to tonight’s events.
“‘And those that live will ever fear / The dragon’s tail for many year, / But time erases memory. /
You think it strange. But it will be,’” Tamsin recited. She nodded, and the other witches joined in, speaking in one voice.
And before the race is built anew,
A silver serpent comes to view
And spews out men of like unknown
To mingle with the earth now grown
Cold from its heat, and these men can
Enlighten the minds of future man.
“The dragon and the serpent?” I shivered.
“They foretell the advent of a new golden age for creatures,” Linda said. “It has been too long in coming, but we all are pleased to have lived to see it.”
It was too much responsibility. First the twins, then Matthew’s scion, and now the future of the species? My hand covered the bump where our children grew. I felt pulled in too many directions, the parts of me that were witch battling with the parts that were scholar, wife, and now mother.
I looked at the walls. In 1591 every part of me had fit together. In 1591 I had been myself.
“Do not worry,” Sybil said gently. “You will be whole once more. Your vampire will help you.”