“The center of our sphere is here, and I denote it with the coordinates zero, zero, zero. For this working, it is the center of all things. It has a radius, r, that is large enough to contain this Shrine and our working. I denote this sphere as the circle, and will bless it with the elements.” I picked up the incense from the altar and walked clockwise around the circle with it. I did the same with the lit altar candle, lighting the candles on the pillars. I sprinkled water, then salt around the circle, then said, “I cast this circle and see it as a shell of bright blue energy. So mote it be.”
Katy mumbled “So mote it be,” but Noise-Maker only watched, curiously. It had been a long afternoon and evening of explanations from them about Navigation and me making extensive notes and drawings to put it all together with my magical teachings. I hadn’t been sure if what I came up with would work, but once I said the final words of the casting, the circle I had made felt almost tangible, like a membrane. Noise-Maker moved their head back and forth, wide-eyed. In the circle, I could feel their feelings more intensely, and they were wary and confused, but still curious and, to my surprise, completely trustful of me.
I’d better start the banishing before we get Spirits we don’t want in here, returning my focus to the tasks at hand. I made a sphere with my hands and visualized a ball of fire in it. “There are no Gods, Spirits, or Demons within the sphere but Ourselves! So mote it be!” I spread my arms wide and released the ball of fire, pushing out any wayward spirits. When the sphere of fire expanded and met the sphere of blue fire it flared white in my mind’s eye, and suddenly the circle around us became utterly silent. Katy flinched and Noise-Maker curled in their legs as all the forest noises stopped. Nothing had really changed otherwise: the incense was still burning and the candles were still lit, but it was the first time in my life a magic circle had felt this solid and real. I had never cast a circle where it was so cut off from the rest of the world before, and it was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. If I knew the right things to do, I probably could Navigate the stars with this!
“Now what?” whispered Katy, pulling me out of my thoughts.
I cleared my throat and said, “Well, now I call back in the Spirits we want to help us.”
“Which ones?” the girl asked.
“I’m thinking tonight, I’ll call in the ones that I work with the most.” I picked up the small basket I had next to me by the fire. I pulled out the mandrake root, threw it into the fire, and said, “Hecate, I call on you to be with us tonight to help us protect Katy and Noise-Maker from those who would seek to do them harm.” I took out the cup of oats from the basket and tipped the oats into the fire. “Dagda, I call on you as my patron, to lend us your power and strength.” Lastly, I pulled out three pieces of candy and some tobacco, and threw those in the fire. “Papa Legba, I call on you to open the ways for us so that we can find the ways to protect Katy and get Noise-Maker home.”
Yes, child, I’m here, but my, what a strange place you’ve created, said Papa Legba.
You’ve been learning from the alien. I approve, said Hecate.
I’m here, Daughter, said The Dagda. He didn’t say anything about the circle, but He was looking around and testing the boundaries, which moved like a thin, plastic membrane at His touch. I grinned at His curiosity.
Katy’s head swiveled around, as if she was hearing things. I let her be for the moment and said, “I also call in the Ancestors to protect Katy and to help Katy break her connection to the egregore of the city-state.” Katy focused on me again, and I pointed to the bowl with her hair clippings.
“What do I do?” she whispered.
“Throw the clippings in the fire and ask the Ancestors for their protection and help,” I said.
She dumped the bowl over the fire and made sure to get every piece of hair out, then said, “Uh, Ancestors, please protect me from the city-state, the city-guard, and my parents. They want to force me to be a mother and I don’t want to be! And protect Noise-Maker, too, from them, too. They don’t deserve to be–” Katy froze, then dropped the bowl by her side.
I looked with my inner eye and saw the deities and Ancestors we’d called in, but surrounding Katy were six aliens like Noise-Maker, looking extremely bewildered.
Papa Legba grinned. I told you they were coming. They are quite confused. You should probably explain–
Before I could do or say anything else, Katy began talk in Noise-Maker’s language. Not in the halting way that she had done before with Noise-Makers name, but rapidly and fluently. The translator didn’t translate it, but when Katy stopped talking, Noise-Maker said, “How can this be?”
“Who is talking to you?” I asked.
Noise-Maker motioned with their arms in a way that I interpreted as confusion. “Katy is speaking as if they were one of my partners!” Their eyes were wide and I could feel their fear and confusion rise. “I don’t understand, Elizabeth!”
I looked at Katy again, and she was still surround by the five beings, one of which had their appendage on her shoulder. ‘“That’s your family?” I whispered in surprise. Katy’s body was staring at Noise-Maker, but I couldn’t see Katy’s spirit. Shit. “Um, so, uh, some humans can talk for the spirits of the Dead. It seems that Katy has that gift. I don’t know how to explain how I can see them, but there are five beings that look similar to you standing around Katy. One of them has their arm on her.”
“How is this possible?” they asked. “They are very confused!”
“Um. Well. I really don’t know how else to explain it, nor do I understand why my Spirits brought your family to talk to you.”
“My people do not have this kind of ability. We–”
Katy spoke again in Noise-Maker’s language. The translator only caught some of what she was saying: “Must… humans… child…”
I moved over to sit next to Katy. “Noise-Maker, can you tell them to speak slower?”
Noise-Maker waved in the affirmative and did so.
Katy stopped, then started again, much slower: “Noise-Maker, where is our child? Why are we talking to you in a Navigator’s sphere? What have the humans done to our bodies? Why are we not in the Deep?” Katy’s eyes started leaking tears as she began to repeat the questions.
“I do not know!” said Noise-Maker. “Travels-Far, I do not know what happened! I have humans helping me. We will find out what happened to you!” They turned to me, looking desperate, not knowing what else to say or do.
I returned their gaze. “I will help you the best I can, but I can’t promise anything. I can help them move on, though. Do you have a deities we could call on to help?”
They waved in the negative. “We go to the Deep, the darkness of space. Our bodies are just husks when we die, but they are not to be violated once the soul is gone. We liquefy the bodies and either we send the water into space, if we are on a ship, or give it back to the planet if we are home.”
I nodded. I’d heard of using water as an alternative to cremation, and a part of my mind was very curious about Noise-Maker’s people’s practices. You can get the details later, Liz, I told myself. I closed my eyes and looked again at the assembled Spirits in my mind’s eye.
“Hecate?” I asked, and the goddess moved closer until a bright flash stopped us.
“Wait!” interrupted Katy’s voice. “What’s going on? Is that me?”
The light receded. I reached out a mental hand for Katy’s spirit and brought her closer to me. “You’re channeling the spirits of Noise-Maker’s dead relatives, Katy. We need to put you back in your body soon, but we have to send Noise-Maker’s partners on, first. Will you help me?”
“Yes,” she said. “Of course!”
“Hecate, I ask that you take Noise-Maker’s people to the Deep so their spirits can rest.”
Hecate nodded under her cowl and lifted up Her torch. Instead of a flame at the top, there was the bright white light of a star. Noise-Maker’s family all turned towards it as if called by its light. Hecate lifted Her hand, and a rip in the spirit realm appeared, showing darkness lightly spangled with stars. One by one, the aliens moved towards the tear and disappeared, until only Travels-Far, the one who had been talking through Katy, was left. They approached Katy’s spirit, said something in their language, then, they, too, went into the darkness. Hecate disappeared, leaving only the Dagda and Papa Legba in the circle.
“Time to go back, child,” Papa said to Katy. “You can’t stay here.”
Katy stared at her body, then turned back to deities. “But…”
“You have much more to do in the world, Katy. You are the messenger, and you are needed,” said the Dagda. “If you stay in this realm, you will die. The body can’t live without it’s soul for too long.”
“I guess so. But it’s so beautiful here!” she replied.
“I know, lass, but time to go!” The Dagda blew a mighty wind, and suddenly I was flat on my back on the dirt, staring up at the stars through the trees.
“Elizabeth! Katy!” I hear Noise-Maker say. I felt something on my shoulder, then I saw Noise-Maker’s eye above me, sparkling in the fire light. “Are you well?”
I sat up slowly and took stock of my body. The normal aches and pains were there, but nothing out of the ordinary. I’ll probably feel it more in the morning, I grumbled to myself. My head felt a full, but that was normal after such an intense spiritual working. “I’m fine, Noise-Maker.”
“Katy fell over, too,” they said. “It was strange. When you closed your eyes you went very still. I tried to wake you for many of your minutes, but you wouldn’t move. Then, suddenly you were pushed away from each other.”
“Yes. Well, that hasn’t happened to me in a circle in a very long time.” I took a breath. I looked across the circle to see Katy on laying on the ground, unmoving. “Help me over to Katy,” I said.
Noise-Maker waved in the affirmative, then let me use their appendage to steady myself. The noises of the forest were loud again, and I realized that not only had the Dadga sent us back, he’d taken down the circle, too. That’s a first, I thought as we reached the girl.
I sat myself next to Katy and took her hand in mine. “Katy?” I said in a soothing tone, while pulling her back with my mental hand that still held onto her spirit. “it’s time to come back now.”
The girl’s eyes fluttered for a moment, then opened. She sat up, and looked around, staring wide eyed. After a few seconds her eyes focused on me. “Oh. Hello.”
“What’s your name?” I demanded.
“What. Is. Your. Name?” I demanded again.
She blinked a few times and said, “Katy?”
“I don’t believe you. Tell me your name.”
Katy shook her head. “Katy… um… Anderson?”
“One more time: Tell me your name!” I said, louder.
Katy flinched as if I’d slapped her, then said, “Katy Lynn Anderson! Jeez, Liz, you don’t have to yell!”
I breathed a sigh of relief and let go of her hand. “Thank the Gods!”
Katy’s face scanned the Shrine in confusion. “What happened? I remember you casting the circle, then dumping my hair in the fire, but after that it’s all fuzzy…”
“That’s normal after channeling a spirit, Katy. But let’s finish up here before we talk about it.” I turned to Noise-Maker, remembering what they’d said earlier in the day. “Wasn’t there something you wanted to do?”
“Oh! Yes!” they said. They turned their body and grabbed onto the end of their tail. The tail had three talons on it, one on the end and two to either side. Noise-Maker brought the one on the end to their mouth and bit down, taking off the talon. To my surprise, no blood appeared, the talon just seemed to fall off. They grasped it in their appendage and held it out to Katy. “My people don’t adopt other’s children very often, since rejecting a child is unthinkable to us, but from time to time when a child’s parental group has died, or a child’s parents are too ill or maimed to take care of their children, they are adopted into another parental group. It is customary for the leader of the parental group that takes the child in to give them one of their tail talons to wear as a symbol of their commitment to protect and care for them. I no longer have my family. And you no longer have your family. I would like to protect you, Katy. You should not be without family.”
Tears streamed down Katy’s face. “You mean it? I mean, what about when you leave Earth?”
Noise-Maker thought for a moment. “If I am able to leave, I would demand that the Elders allow you to come with me.”
Katy nodded, reached up, and took the talon. She stared at the talon in her hands for a moment. “I remember now… when I came back and saw them all… Travels-Far told me to accept this. How did I know that?” She looked up at me for an explanation.
I put up a hand. “Let’s put out the fire and the candles and go back to the cottage. We both need to get some protein in us before we go to bed, or we’ll feel horrid in the morning. Here,” I said. I crawled over to my basket, dug out a chocolate candy, and handed it to Katy. “Have this. One thing that some of the fantasy stories about magic always got right is that chocolate helps a lot after doing intense magical work.” I pulled another candy out, unwrapped it, and ate it. Katy stared at the candy for a moment, still looking confused, but then, she, too, unwrapped and ate it.
“I will put out the candles,” said Noise-Maker, standing up.
“Thank you.” I took a good look at the central fire, and saw that it had become mostly coals. “The fire is low enough that we can leave it to burn itself out. Katy, can you get the lantern?”
“Yup!” she said, springing to her feet, suddenly full of energy. I grinned. She’ll fall flat after we get back to the house and eat something. Amazing, though, that she has that kind of talent and power! I waited with the basket as the other two moved around. I didn’t trust myself to move very fast, as I was exhausted. I figured I had just enough energy to get back to the cottage, make a couple of sandwiches, and ensure that Katy was all right before falling into bed.
“Are you ok, Liz?” the girl said, holding the lantern carefully as she helped me up.
“I’ll be all right, especially after we have something to eat. That working was much more intense than I thought it would be.”
“We will help you, friend Elizabeth,” Noise-Maker said, taking my other arm.
“Oh, well, uh, you don’t have to–”
“We will help you,” said Katy, firmly, sounding much older than she really was.
“All right! Ok! Fine!” I said, surrendering. Katy lifted the lantern and we made our way slowly back to the cottage.