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Matriarch of The Witch Clan
Book One
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-659-9
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Science Fiction
eBook Length: 227 Pages
Published: March 2009

From inside the flap

The child’s DNA is mostly human. It’s the Sidhe part that raises questions that are not easily answered. Emma must retrieve and raise her unwanted hybrid grandson to put things to right between her ancient witch clan and the even more ancient race of Sidhe. The story begins with her mother’s vision for her clan in modern America in the 1950s and a pact gone horribly wrong. The resulting backlash begins claiming the lives of family members and with the last adept matriarch gone, Emma must find a way to preserve her family and raise the dark child as a proper witch. It is a fearful thing to offend the Sidhe, but it is very human thing that Emma finds in her relationship with her grandson.

Matriarch of The Witch Clan (Excerpt)


PROLOGUE

Ella’s Story August, 1939

"Let me tell you a story about an ancestor;" Ella Mae began, her conversational tone belying the storyteller’s magick that made the teller and the told all one.

Although Emma had heard this family tale a thousand times. She gazed on her mother’s aging form, how she held the tea cup, closing her eyes and drawing up the tale. The humble enamel topped kitchen table faded and from the shadows emerged an ancient court, the linoleum floor transformed into the thresh strewn flagstones, the window that offered a glimpse of the backyard garden melted into the heraldry of the court that Emma knew as well as she did her well tended kitchen. She closed her eyes, succumbed to her mother’s magic.

"A king, the High King in Ireland," she went on, "in Tara, the seat of the Earth. Had no male heir, but three daughters. Three cherished daughters."

In Emma’s mind’s eye the daughters emerged, resplendent in green and yellow kyrtles, one with hair of raven’s wing, one of henna red and the last the palest blond, gleaming from the powder of limestone she had washed it with. Emma never knew why they looked that way, her mother had never said such a thing, but it was how she always saw them.

"So you may imagine the relief when the prince of foreign court came visiting," she continued, "professing his love for the youngest of the damsels and how the King, knowing the true measure of love, granted them to wed. It would be some time, they would be long married, before they found just how foreign this prince truly was."

Emma always had a hard time seeing the prince, the older she got, the more shadowed his face, first a dark and swarthy youth, reminiscent of Clark Gable, but no, a lad, hair pale and blond and eyes that at a flash of thunder went from gray to blue to gray again.

"In the course of married life, the prince’s secret was found out. He was not fully human, as his mother was foreign royalty and his father was even more so, of the court of the ancient Tuatha Danaans. These were a supposedly divine race of beings that the early Celtic settlers displaced in the land, mostly at sword point," she said taking another sip of tea.

"As it happened, the prince was not a bad sort of fellow. He genuinely loved his princess bride and they raised children. To be precise, they raised daughters. His contribution to the royal family line was no small affair, as these were very wise and talented women, to be sure. But as the number three is a potent number in Celtic magic, it also happens that every third generation produces an adept of exceptional craft and power.

Thus, a tradition of matriarchal succession has come down to us in this clan. The reigning matriarch usually being an adept born with this inherited trait."

"Our next matriarch will probably be born of one of your daughters, Emma," she concluded. "If we’re wise, we’ll prepare for her to improve our clannad’s station in the world."

"Are you proposing we marry one off to a foreign prince?" Emma laughed.

"Not exactly…" Ella Mae said. "I’m saying we should consider the things that make us what we are, and do all we can to enhance our chances. At several points in our lengthy family history, our clan was all but wiped out by witch hunters. But, in this liberal modern country, where women vote for presidents and own property, the right woman, in the right place, at the right time can change the world. With the right mate, we can insure that our next matriarch comes out perfect in every way. Just imagine the effect of an alluring, blue eyed, vision of loveliness, with the power to move men whither so ever she will, in a country with all the promise of modern America," she expounded. "Imagine, one day, colleges formed, where men and women go to learn not just knowledge, but wisdom. Imagine the changes they make to their worlds, when they take it home with them."

It was late August of 1939 as Ella Mae sat at her daughter’s kitchen table having this discussion while making jam and canning tomatoes. Emma’s youngest daughter, Lorry, was helping her mom and grandma by sweeping the kitchen floor.

"Be careful so near the stove with that broom handle," Emma called out.

On top of the wood burning, kitchen stove, a variety of pots bubbled with grape jam, and tomatoes stewing for canning. As six year old Lorry looked up at her mom, the broom handle she wielded hooked the handle of a pot of boiling grape jam, and it toppled over, spilling its entire contents over her. The women gaped and jumped as Lorry shrieked her pain and danced hysterically around the kitchen in front of the stove.

Ella Mae, as matriarch, was quick to take matters in hand, and with a stern word to Emma, she did the unthinkable.

"Do as I do, and the child will be fine," she said. "I know this."

She took Lorry by the shoulders and began turning her in a widdershins circle and blowing on her, chanting between breaths. Taking her cue, Emma did likewise while speaking words of comfort to her daughter. It seemed an eternity, and they were getting light headed from all the puffing. As her grandchild’s sobs subsided, she pulled off Lorry’s shift and took a cool damp towel and began daubing away the sticky jam from her face and body. The skin beneath was a healthy pink and completely unblistered.

"Mom, I was so afraid she’d be horribly disfigured," Emma sobbed.

"Her kind of beauty doesn’t fade or mar easily," Ella Mae said thoughtfully, looking at her granddaughter.

Ella Mae Shaw was a lovely, green eyed, red head with a white forelock. Her husband, Robert, was away much of the time on council business as an Iroquois chieftain. During these excursions, she would stay in her own room at her daughter’s home. Her daughter, Emma, got her iron black hair and dark eyes from her father. It seemed that adepts were incapable of passing their superficial traits on to their offspring. No matter, it was the deeper things that really counted.

Words like "witch," or "coven" were never used in this household, even though it was the enlightened Twentieth Century, the persecution was sure to follow. Christian terms were used instead. A witch was a herbalist, a healer, or a midwife, and in place of a coven was the women’s circle. Every parish had one of those for bake sales and ladies’ auxiliaries and such. Outsiders never had a clue, though close kin and friends might have suspected these women were a bit too knowledgeable to be rank amateurs. In fact, husbands rarely suspected their spouses, and were content to leave women things to the women. Dinner was good, the children were well cared for, and the house was clean. What more could a man want to know?

Of her three daughters, Emma remained the closest to Ella Mae, to learn her craft.

A fine rural midwife and still called often in emergencies. She had a singular gift for the healing arts. Emma idolized her.

Emma had four daughters and two sons. Mary, Margaret, Evelyn and Edward Junior had their mother’s dark, native features, while Johnny and Lorry were blond haired and blue eyed, the spitting image of Emma’s husband, Edward Senior.

Little Lorry doted on her father and had little time or inclination to learn the family craft. She was a tomboy and a heartbreaker, and enjoyed fitting in her own social circles.

Ella Mae watched her carefully, considering what traits a non-adept like Lorry might pass on to an adept daughter.

Over the span of the next decade, Lorry blossomed into womanhood. When she dressed to go out for the evening, everyone remarked how she looked so much like the actress, Loretta Young. She would have the young men eating out of the palm of her hand like tame birds, but the only man in her life she really loved was her father. He was diabetic and had suffered a stroke that had paralyzed his left side. Lorry was there to faithfully administer his insulin shots. All the time, Ella Mae watched and noted her granddaughter’s progress as a woman.

It was the time of the summer solstice when she confided to Emma about her full plans for Lorry.

"I think Lorry will be the mother of our next matriarch," she said.

"But Mary, Margaret and Evelyn are so much more active in the craft, " Emma pointed out.

"True," she said, "but we need a matriarch with the Anglo features, so sought after by men, to be able to wield the kind of influence we’ll need to move into the circles of power and effect change for our kind in the world. A woman, a president would not hesitate to marry for fear of what some might say. Every bit of charm we can add to the mix, will only advance our cause that much more."

"Lorry certainly has those," Emma conceded. "How will we insure that she bears the next adept, and one of that kind of strength?"

"We’ve been making progress getting contacts of the Sidhe in the Otherworld, through the use of our gazing bowl," Ella Mae said. "From this well is where our traits originated, and from this well we will find Lorry’s husband."

"How will you cause a Sidhe prince to cross over?" Emma asked, wide eyed.

"Isn’t that dangerous to cross worlds like that?"

"Leave that to me," she said smugly. "There are some of them, in the Otherworld, who have been misplaced by humanity and feel their true heritage lies here. This and my own blood gives them a link to this plane. A human wife of Lorry’s caliber will give them an even better foothold in this world. Actually, we only need him here long enough to conceive a child."

"An unwed mother and bastard child won’t be an easy obstacle to surmount," countered Emma.

"The clan can take care of Lorry, my dear," she explained, "and men don’t think of girls as bastards. No matter, I was planning on an actual marriage and joining of worlds. A golden age of witchcraft and wizardry to dawn yet again on this world."

"Won’t they try to overrun the planet," Emma asked, referring to her favorite radio program, "like in ’The War of the Worlds’?"

"No, my sweet." Ella Mae laughed. "There will be only one of them, and his lot will be best thrown with those of fae blood, like ourselves. Our goals will be in their best interest. There may be a price for this crossing, but I don’t see much chance for failure, and everything is to be gained by it. I’m prepared to pay for my dreams."

She noted the look in her daughter’s eyes. Emma loved her, and had no reason to doubt her capabilities. Still, somehow, the mention of a price, seemed to trouble her daughter deeply.

"Don’t be such a worrywart, my dear," she admonished. "You’ll be right by my side when we make our parley this Midsummer."

At this, Emma brightened. It was just before sunrise on Midsummer’s Eve of 1952. Ella Mae was gathering her walking stick and belting a witch’s long knife under her apron. She and Emma had fasted since the day before and they would not break that fast until business was concluded later that day. Even then, it would be only a light meal before the real feasting began at Lughnasadh on the morrow.

The sun was barely peeking over the horizon as together they made their way into the forest at the edge of town. Ella Mae picked her way down a trail to a clear, north running stream with a large white oak on its banks. Emma was carrying a small iron cauldron with some coals from the stove, and a parcel wrapped in a cloth napkin tied to her apron strings. Where a game trail crossed the stream was a roughly rectangular stone about two feet high and three feet long. Ella Mae chose this spot to begin her calling ritual.

She crushed some rock salt with a fist sized stone from the stream on the crude altar. Emma scraped the resulting powder into a five inch circle filled by a cross aligned at the four cardinal directions. They set the cauldron at its base, on the altar, and sprinkled sandalwood onto the burning embers within. They centered themselves as the smoke from the incense arose. Raising her staff, Ella Mae spoke the agreed upon words of calling.

Over the crude altar a light sprang into existence.

"You have an offer for us, wise woman?" An androgynous voice called out in the Old Language.

"I have a fair bride, of my own children, to a worthy husband," Ella Mae responded.

"And your expectations?" Queried the voice.

"My clan requires a daughter of fae blood to lead our next generation in prosperity. The husband sought, would have a prominent place in our clan and in our world," she intoned.

"And your bond to this end?" Came the voice.

"The honor of a witch of the blood," she said. "As my word, so mote it be." With this she unsheathed her long knife and drew its razor edge across her left palm and squeezed a few drops of her own blood into the smoking cauldron on the rock.

"You will have your Sidhe husband for your daughter," said the voice, "and you will have your fae child of this union. By the next equinox you will know him by the storm in his eyes."

The light winked out over the altar. Ella Mae and her daughter cleaned up the evidence of their visit and returned home before the day was in full swing.