Bruised and battered, the young woman was dragged through
the screaming, unruly mob. Her wrists were bound behind
her by a rope as thick as the noose she now faced.
“Buidseach! Buidseach!” Witch. Witch.
She halted in front of the noose, unperturbed, for she knew
her death would end swiftly. The man who held the end of her
rope looked from her calm expression to the noose, and let out
a shrill laugh.
“A quick snap of the neck, aye, Bessie girl? You don’t think
you’re getting off that easy, do you? Nah, that there isn’t for
The ugly man, towering and troll-like, hauled her further on
like a rag doll, fi nally leading her to a pit loaded with broken
wood fragments, branches, and logs.
She was going to be burned alive.
In that instant, her body trembled with the fear she had been
trying so desperately to conceal. Of dying, no—she knew this life
would not be her last, and she was ready to part ways with this
physical body. But she would be lying to herself if she said she
hadn’t been hoping for a less painful demise.
He tightened the rope from her wrists around the wood
banister that stood erect in the centre of the pit, then secured
more rope round her ankles. “Spill your guts, now or never, buidseach,”
The woman scanned the crowd. Foolish, blind, she thought.
They had no idea what would become of their Earth. No, she
did not regret her actions. And if she had to burn for them,
then so be it.
She held her chin up and addressed the spectators. Her voice
was steady, knowing. “There will come a day when your fate shall
depend upon a witch such as me—and you will beg for mercy.”
The crowd cackled and spat back, simultaneously enraged
and amused. But no one laughed louder than the troll-man.
He lowered his torch to the base of the pit, and the flames
caught quickly. She watched them crawl towards her boots, but
her eyes were forced shut by the rising smoke. In an instant, beads
of sweat leaked like rain on her forehead, and her lungs swelled
to twice their size.
Just when she hoped she might pass out from the heat, the
flames grew larger, now licking the base of her legs. What followed
was an acute, unfathomable pain. The flames travelled higher,
higher, until they enveloped the lower half of her body—and she
could no longer bear the sheer agony of her skin melting away.
Abredonia Woods, Massachusetts
September 13, 1991
In the dead of night, Mckenna O’Dwyer’s screams forced Seán
and Andre up and out of bed. They rushed over to their daughter’s
“Shhh . . . sh, it’s alright, swan, you’re dreaming,” Seán said
as he stroked her hair and cradled her against his chest.
“Another nightmare,” said Andre, trying to steady his daughter’s
Seán shook her gently. “Mckenna . . . Mckenna, do you hear
me? Why isn’t she waking up?”
“She seems to be in pain . . . I’ve never seen her like—”
She let out one long, anguished cry.
“Mckenna!” her dads called out. Her eyes shot open.
She was alive. How? Where was she now? When was she? Who
were those nasty people?
The clock on her nightstand read 3:04 a.m. Relief swept over
her, but only briefly—a lump rose in the back of her throat and
rose out of her, making her sob like a colicky baby.
Andre squeezed her hand. “It’s alright, Mckenna. Oh, geez,
you’re drenched . . .”
“I—I’m h-h-hot . . .”
“You’re okay.” Seán rocked her. “It’s your birthday, swan,
you know that? It’s your birthday . . .” He said this as though
it mattered, as though it would make her forget somehow. As
though her skin weren’t just been crawling with flames.
“Happy birthday, Mckenna,” Andre whispered.
But all she wanted to do was weep.
The High Priestess’s arm was growing tired. She’d been dangling
her gold chain over the globe for nearly three hours, her faithful
stone secured at the end of it, sweeping steadily over every continent,
country, city. Carved from an ancient Irish stone, Misgaun
Medb, the pendant’s magnetic power could draw in whatever the
The High Priestess felt Pravadi’s eyes on her. “Won’t you at
least let me light the fire?”
“No. No fire.” The Priestess wasn’t fond of them. “You’re
sure it’s today?”
“Yes,” said Pravadi. “When has a vision of mine ever
The minute hand shifted. At 3:04 a.m., the log in the fireplace
sparked a solo flame, making the Priestess start. A warning
from the salamanders? She shuddered at the thought, and the
stone grazed the globe’s surface—only for a second. Then like a
magnet, it shot past Canada and affixed onto an eastern region
in the United States. “There you are,” the High Priestess said, her
mouth twisted in satisfaction.
Pravadi lowered her square spectacles on the bridge of her
nose. “She’s just turned of age,” said Pravadi, keenly. “I knew my
vision wasn’t mistaken.”
The Priestess didn’t mind her gloating. She leaned back,
revelling in the stone’s powers. The finest point of the stone was
pinned onto a small town in Massachusetts—Abredonia Woods.
She had been waiting a long time to locate the girl, known as
the Wise One. Too long.
“What about Abigail, the girl’s mother?” Pravadi said.
“Perhaps now the stone can track her, too, and we can be done
The High Priestess rolled her eyes, wondering how a seer
could be so forgetful. “The spell Abigail cast when her child was
born protects her from being traced by anyone other than the
Wise One. She is our only hope.”
“And if the Wise One finds her before the first Scottish Scroll
is fulfilled? And once she does, if they both disappear . . .?”
Really, she should get a head scan. “My protégé will see to
it that the Wise One fulfills the first Scroll before she locates her
mother, then will keep them both close ’til I step in. And so shall
it be,” she said with longing, imagining the hour the Scottish
Scrolls would be fulfilled.
“And if there are delays? We have until—”
“I ken our deadline,” the High Priestess snapped. “Have
faith,” she said mostly to herself as she tied the chain back
around her neck.