Ritual

The sun would soon be up, and when it rose, it would rise over a new world, and a new Seraphine. She wore a wreath of black hollyhocks atop her dark curls. Beneath the light of this same not-yet-set moon it lay upon Tryphosa’s head, and her blood, still warm, dribbled from the petals like rapturous tears and streaked Seraphine’s face.

She came to the clearing, a large circular gash in the canopy marked by thirteen primeval beech trees. The open space between them was free of stones and twigs and was covered in a thick moss that felt cold between her toes. They were waiting for her, each standing before a gnarled and twisted trunk, the ancient trees signaling the torment of time. One post was unoccupied: Tryphosa’s. It was Seraphine’s for the taking. Only the ritual remained between her and the new dawn.

She stood in the center of the clearing, her back to the vacant post. The High Priestess told her in simple terms what was required of her: hold in her mind that which she cherished most, and, as she concluded the prayer, let it go.

Seraphine was ready, and the voices of her twelve new sisters spoke aloud the prayer, each to a line, their order ricochetting along the lines of the sacred tridecagram they formed.

“The mud,”

“The sky,”

“The ocean deep.”

“The moon,”

“The sun,”

“The stars, asleep.”

“The dead,”

“The live,”

“The deeds of men.”

“The dark,”

“The light,”

“The dark, again.”

Now it was Seraphine’s turn, and from the depths of her mind rose Cale, that beautiful boy who had no need to steal her heart for she’d given it to him eagerly. Goodbye, sweet Cale, she thought. She finished the prayer. “And we, Coven, to birth the end.”

A mighty tumbling wave of thunder rolled over the forest, though there was no lightning, and the sun breached the horizon, casting pallid light of the misty morning. Seraphine felt the thorns of a dark flower claw at her mind and her heart felt aflame. A terrible truth was upon her. She hadn’t merely renounced her love as in an oath or a vow; she’d banished him from ever having existed. This now was a world that had never known Cale, and never would. He existed only as a memory, and only for her. Seraphine fell to her knees and screamed to rival the thunder.

The High Priestess came to her. “And so you have made a great sacrifice, as have we all. It is a private pain that only you will know. Help it grow. Nourish it. It is the source of your power, and the Coven is powerful beyond your understanding. But you will understand, in time, Sister.”

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