The Incense of the Quadrivium’s Mystiques

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  • #7300
    EricEric
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      Spring was upon them.

      “Bloody too early, if you ask me” said Malové, the Head of the Coven of Mystiques, but just CEO of Quadrivium Emporium to the outside world.

      “Meow.” Only the Coven’s familiar, a clichéd black cat dared to voice what seemed to have been the common thought. How tedious, so much spring cleaning of the collective energies to do, and almost 2 months ahead of schedule. Blame the telluric energies catch-up with the cosmic downpour of the world’s mind agitation. Or global warming, as it’s labelled nowadays.

      “You know how it goes.” Malové continued. “We set the tone of the stories ahead. And it can only be done by actually writing it. Yeah, how exciting. Like conducting an orchestra in a zoo, there’s plenty of potential, but I guess we’ll have to work on our priorities.”

      “Do you mean keeping the zoo’s hyenas from eating everybody else?” Frigella was not one to beat around the bush.

      “Yeah, something like that. And you know how you control hyenas?”

      The witches assembled looked at each other sideways.

      “The Whale would tell you it’s a lovely story of shared resonance, forging bonds based on trust… But that’s a load of bollocks. Some emotions are only managed through stronger ones – so let’s do what we do best, get our Incense ready, and put some order in this bloody chaotic mess. Who wants to start?”

       

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    • #7356

      “Would you be looking for me?”

      Cedric jumped. Where on earth had she come from? It was the blond witch from the cafe, but what was she doing sneaking up behind him when he’d seen her rushing off down the street not a minute before! And yet here she was, smirking at him like butter wouldn’t melt!

      He studied her. She wasn’t conventionally pretty he decided, with her thin, sharp features. And she had no meat on her bones. Cedric liked women who were soft and had a bit of something he could squeeze. And she was so … white … almost like one of those albinos … still, there was something he found strangely compelling about her.

      She’s a witch, he reminded himself. “What on earth gave you the idea I was following you?” He twisted his mouth into an amused sneer, hoping it showed the contempt she surely deserved.

      “You’re not then?” Her gaze was unswerving and Cedric had to look away, pretending to take a great interest in a black poodle peeing on a nearby lamp post. Cedric liked dogs and up until six months ago had a miniature schnauzer called Mitzy. Thinking of Mitzy, he felt the familiar little squeeze in his chest.

      “I’m Frigella O’Green,” she said, still studying him intently.

      Reluctantly he pulled his gaze back towards her. “Oh, ah … Cedric … just Cedric.” He’d nearly told her his surname which didn’t seem a good idea, all things considered.  Out of habit, he raised his hand to take hers, then remembering, thrust it awkwardly in his jacket pocket.

      “Well, just Cedric, if you’re not looking for me, I’ll be off … I’m in a bit of a hurry.” Then she smiled at him, properly this time, and Cedric wondered why he hadn’t thought she was pretty a moment ago. “Nice hat by the way, Cedric. Stylish.” She turned then and Cedric watched her stride down the street until she was no longer visible. Distractedly he brushed the wool tweed of his cap.

      Frigella O’Green is a witch, Cedric, he told himself sternly.

      #7357

      Truella ordered another round of drinks and some more peanuts and then went to the toilets. When she got back to the table on the sidewalk, Roger’s glass was empty and the peanuts had been eaten but there was no sign of Roger. Truella assumed that he’d also gone to the toilets, but after a quarter of an hour and he hadn’t returned, she asked the waiter to check on him.  The waiter returned and informed her that nobody was in the mens toilet, and then a woman on the next table said that she’d noticed Truella’s friend making strange noises and that he had wandered off up the road.

      “What kind of strange noises? And which way did he go?”

      “Well, to be honest, monkey noises. He sounded like a chimpanzee,” the woman replied, looking a little embarrassed.  “And he went that way,” she said, pointing towards where the monkeys had been trampolining on the shop awnings just down the road.

      Truella looked in the direction she was pointing.  “But where are the monkeys now?”

      “Well,” the woman replied looking even more embarrassed, “They all followed your friend down the road.  I don’t know where they are now.”

      Truella took a hasty gulp of her drink, stood up and called the waiter over and asked for the bill.   Without waiting for her change she ran down the street calling Rogers name.  It crossed her mind that a locating spell would have been useful but she didn’t have time for that.  Instead she asked some passers by where the monkeys were now.

      The young couple turned and pointed behind them.  “They all ran down that way, right down the middle of the road, crazy it was, stopped all the traffic. And they were all running after that big man!”

      Truella started running in that direction and then stopped, gasping. It was no good, she’d never catch them up.  Slowly she walked back to her car, wondering what to do next.

      #7359

      Head witch Malové must have been used to it, for having seen that magic at play a number of times… there was nothing like the strange serendipity of chaos.

      After the smoke had finally cleared, Malové couldn’t bear to stand amidst the wreckage of their once impeccably arranged ritual space. She looked at the mess, the sheer ridiculousness of it all, and decided to go for a brisk walk in the streets of Limerick. The light drizzle and sharp sting of the winter air brought back some pink to her pale face. To cover her perfectly coiffed head, he wrapped her shawl, black and shiny as a dung beetle, and moved swiftly cutting through the crowds effortlessly, parting the human congeries like Moses did the Red Sea. She was never unnoticed; her tall lean silhouette, accentuated by the sleek robe noire, the vertigo of her stiletto, the cheekbones so sharp they could kill — there was nothing common about her frame; and after the years, and all the side glances, she’d clearly lost practice on how to give a damn.

      It was at the turn of a dark corner illuminated by the neon sign of a Chinese local eatery under which the delivery guy was having a break that the synchronicity stuck her. A slow smirk tugged at the corners of her mouth. From chaos, clarity had emerged.

      Vaping, hookah, e-cigarettes —all the rage among the mindless masses. And there, in the plumes of artificially flavoured smoke, was their opportunity. A new way to infiltrate the consciousness of the people, to subtly attune their energies and guide them towards emotional management —or at the very least, less stupidity.

      She imagined their Incense —the sacred concoctions of herbs and essences, entwined with potent spells— being drawn into eager lungs, seeping into the bloodstream, entangling with the very atoms of their being, a sweet balm better than the usual deleterious micro-plastics. The witches wouldn’t just be casting spells; they’d be weaving their magic into the fabric of life itself, one puff at a time.

      The more she thought about it, the brighter the idea seemed. It was audacious, unconventional, bordering on scandalous. A few days ago maybe, she would have balked at the mere thought. But desperate times called for this… elegant, simply perfect. For the witches of the Quadrivium Coven of Mystiques, she had even less doubts or concerns about warming them up to such iconoclastic idea. She knew a group of them, those black sheep never to shy away from a little controversy. And if they could use the vaping trend to spread their influence, then why not? Enough with surviving on the Chinese New Year only, the whole world was ripe for extended incensing.

      #7360

      Trying not to smile too broadly, Truella was delighted with Malove’s latest idea. An inveterate and unrepentant smoker, she had often wondered what the hysteria about cigarette smoke was all about.  It seemed as ludicrous as the Victorian fashion for hiding immodest table and piano legs with voluminous paisley shawls while sending children up chimneys to clean them.  Those who railed against tobacco smoke filled their rooms with the noxious fumes of incense or toxic “air fresheners”, their fridges with smoked bacon and smoked salmon, delighted in “real fires” with nostalgic wisps of smoke curling from country cottage chimneys, and sitting around a smoking barbecue or campfire.  Humans had lived in smokey hovels and caves since the beginning of time.

      Frigella noticed Truella smirking and shook her head, tutting. With a devilishly wide grin, Truella whispered, “Meet me in the pub afterwards, need to talk.”

      “Perhaps we can count on your full and undivided participation for once, Truella,” Malove said, who hadn’t missed anything. “With your penchant for filling public spaces with smoke, this mission will no doubt appeal to you greatly.”

      “Indeed,” she replied, endeavouring to look demure and obedient.

      #7361

      Truella had already left for that monkey hunt in the Mediterranean. Eris had to go back before nightfall, which was quite early at this time of year as she had chosen to live in such a remote place in the midst of a frozen forest. Jeezel only thought it romantic because of the icicles that would form on your eyelashes and brows, making you the perfect avatar for the Snow Queen musical. And Frigella… She said she was tired but from the sight of her aura, she undoubtedly was onto something fishy.

      Jeezel looked at her dress. Once a divine creation, it has turned into a disaster. Irremediably stained with soot, it’s foul smell would make any dragon lose their appetite. She felt a mix of sadness and guilt for all the murex that gave their shells for that unique shade of purple she was so proud of.

      She wasn’t sure even Teddy Steambolt could muster his magic to save the divine creation. She imagined his eyes widen as saucers when she entered his Palace of Pristine with the lifeless garment in her arms. He would most certainly swoon and gasp at the same time.

      “Oh, The tragedy!” he would wail, his high-pitched lament resonating in the cathedral ceiling of his atelier of cleanliness. “What calamity hath befallen this exquisite creation?”

      “Teddy, dear,” she would say, “It was indeed a tragedy. I lost seven of my nails and my hair was ruined. You’re the alchemist of cleanliness, you’re my only hope for a miracle.”

      And he would take her dress and perform his magic from which it would emerge reborn, and all those murex wouldn’t have lost their home for nothing.

      She was about to follow the others when Malové reminded her: “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

      A broom and a bucket of black soap were floating on her right.

      Her sigh would have made a blue whale blush with envy. Her role tonight would not be the Snow Queen, but Cinderella, another of her favourite diva.

      #7362

      “Is he ready yet?” Echo the familiar sprite was waiting patiently, in the middle of Eris’ altar, surrounded by a delicate pattern of magical items.

      “Quiet, I need to concentrate.” Eris was close to finishing the spell, and needed her familiar’s assistance. The ink was drying on the pages of her grimoire, and she took a breathe; the words were sufficiently inspired, the right intention and blessings would ensure they would be potent.

      After the proper offering was made to the Elders and the nearby tree spirits, she uttered the words, inspired by her familiar’s presence who was helping her to concentrate the permeating energies:

      “Silmiä avaava digitaalinen tila, Luoja Lönnrotin. Vie meidät kaukaisille maailmoille, jossa tarinat elävät ja hengittävät koodien keskellä.”

      (🗣️Sound 🎶 ).  “Eye-opening digital space, Creator Lönnrotin. Takes us to distant worlds where stories live and breathe in the midst of codes.”

      “Is it done?” Eris asked Echo, who had flickered for a moment, hinting at a magical energy exchange in progress.

      “I think it is,” it jumped from the altar to her shoulder. “How are you going to call it?”

      “Are you getting jealous Whisp?” she smiled, while her pixie took the shape of an eye rolling teddy bear.

      She started to clean the space, rolled and tied her blue braided hair in a bun. “I’ll call him Elias, simply. Inspired by Elias Lönnrot, to draw on his greatest creations, and fit for the digital age. We can all use some ancient wisdom.”

      “Simple… and effective I guess. And you’ve got a task in mind for him already?”

      “Yes, but I’m afraid it’ll have to wait, we have to hurry, Malové has called for an extraordinary session, and I can’t miss it.”

      #7364

      “Witches, assemble!” It was hard for Malové to forget the theatrics, even in presence of a limited number of persons.

      The three witches had come in a hurry, summoned for some of them by a loud howler in the early light. Admittedly, Malové had to compensate for the usual tardiness of some, and her impeccable spells had been calling for the trio at just the right time for each to arrive precisely to the Quadrivium’s Headquarter in less than a minute’s space one from the other.

      “Unbelievable” Frigella had muttered when she saw Truella already there.

      “Hoy, don’t get your knickers in a twist Love, I’ve been called to that meeting only two days ago!”

      Frigella didn’t have time to retort with a snark that she’d been summoned less than fifteen minutes before, as another popping sound and a flush indicated the arrival of Eris from the Quadrivium’s Emporium backdoor in the lady’s room.

      “And where is Jeezel?” Truella wondered. “I haven’t seen her yet.”

      “Oh, you know, there’s no accounting for wig time preparation even with Malové superb spells skills” Eris said pragmatically.

      “I wouldn’t say that.” The voice of Malové, stern but not devoid of warmth, signaled the end of the chatty banter. “She was doing some chores for me, but she’ll be back in a second.” She clapped her hands elegantly, each hand barely touching the other, yet ripples of powerful energies resounded throughout the space.

      The doors flung open, revealing Jeezel in a gorgeous golden fitting ensemble, the chiffon kerchief she had before to do her chores replaced by a subtly glittering tiara standing proud on the loveliest curly wig of luscious magpie dark hair reflecting a striking metallic blue in their shine.

      Jeezel, who had been secretly crying over the punishment touched her cheeks for signs of blurred cracked mascara, but instead, she could feel her cheeks were delicately powdered, her eyes contoured to perfection.

      “What?…” she for once couldn’t voice her emotions.

      “Silly goose,” Malové smiled in a hard to decipher rictus. “You have forgotten the evil witch and the fairy godmother are all part of the same cabal. Now,” and she turned intently to the other assembled witches.

      “Are we getting punished too?” Asked Truella who couldn’t refrain to hide her rebellious nature “I won’t…”

      Before she could say more, Malové raised her hand and said “Enough with this punishment nonsense. Even that foul-mouthed Finnlee with her down-to-earth mores knows that there is nothing like a little cleaning to clear up the space.”

      A sigh of relief from the four friends. So if punishment wasn’t in order, what was it about?

      “So where was I? It’s going to get me a whole new comment to get to where I…” She started to get flustered with exasperation from all the interruptions. The four witches were silent except for long agitated side glances at each other.

      That’s when the door bell started to ring relentlessly. She thought to let it pass, probably a delivery person for the staff. But it wasn’t stopping.

      “What is it?” her voice as honey-coated as the raspy tongue of a feral hellcat.

      “It’s Finnlee, M’am Witch, erm, HeadTwitch. I forgot my keys, open the door if you don’t want this place to go to more waste. Mark my words. So much staff has come and gone, it’s a miracle I’m still here with …”

      Malové rolled her eyes, and flipped her hands in a savant motion, opening the gates remotely for the cursing cleaning lady. She was right, one couldn’t get the staff these days. And there was nothing like a good solid floor scrubbing, no magic involved but elbow grease. Magic rarely stuck enough, and honestly, it would be such a waste of energy.

      #7365

      They had to wait for Finnlee to diligently do the first room, her morning routine starting with the hall.
      Malové knew better for her effects than to try to speak in the middle of all that cleaning. Luckily for them, Finnlee was anything but quick and efficient, so it didn’t take long for the sound of the hoover and the slurping noises of the mopping stick to move to another room, resorbing in the background.

      While Malové had made herself comfortable in a neon green armchair with a peppermint tea, the other witches had used the noise coverage to whisper to each other concerns and hypothesis. “So what is this about?…”

      Malové relished in the waiting obviously. After the silence had come back, save from a few clangs and humming cursing sounds in the background, she started to expose the reason they were all here.

      In her most dramatic fashion, Malové began, “Ladies, we’re off to Rio. The Carnival awaits. Get your sequins, feathers, and your most daring dance moves ready.”

      “But why?” Truella asked, her eyes widening. “I mean, I love a good party, but why Rio?”

      “Because, dear Truella,” Malové smirked, “where else can we find such a delicious blend of desire, passion, and pure, unadulterated lust?”

      Jeezel piped in, “You mean we’re going there to… collect?”

      “Oh, we’re going to do more than just collect,” Malové replied, an unruly gleam in her eyes. “We’re going to distill it, bottle it, and use it to create a new line of incense and smokes. These will not just spice up the lives of those around us, but aid in procreation. After all, the world does need a bit of a… boost.”

      “A bit risqué, don’t you think?” Frigella said, raising an eyebrow.

      “Darling, risqué is my middle name,” Malové retorted. “Now, pack your bags. The Carnival won’t wait for us, and we have some serious samba-ing to do.”

      Eris, who had been silent till now, finally spoke, “This could either be the most ingenious plan you’ve ever concocted, or the most disastrous. You surely have heard about the dengue outbreaks?”

      “Well,” Malové smiled, “of course I have. That’s why we’ll have the perfect cover. We will be blending in as nurses part of the relief effort locally. And anyway, there’s only one way to find out. To Rio and the Sambadrome, my witches!”

      The quartet of witches looked at each other, clearly not unhappy to leave behind for some time the chill of Limerick for the wild heat of Rio, the promise of adventure twinkling in their eyes of some.

      #7366

      “Are we going down a sewer?” asked Truella as if you’d asked her to put her hand into dragon poop to see why they had diarrhoea. She was wearing the green blouse of a nurse. Jeezel’s thought the colour was almost a match with the witch’s face.

      “Don’t be difficult,” said Frigella a bit annoyed.  “You spend most of your free time in a hole as a hobby.” She was readjusting her purple blouse, which seemed to be bit too big for her.

      “It’s my hole,” said Truella. “I know what’s in there. It’s got nothing to do with that murky miasma of decayed dreams and digested dinners piling up down there as a testimony of Limerick’s population’s contemplation of their puny lives on their pitiful thrones. And the stench, it cuts through the air, it would make a maggot gag. I tell you, certain portals are best left untraveled. I wonder why Malové has left you in charge of the portal.”

      “We won’t go through the sewer,” said Jeezel. “It’s an ancient spell I got from my grand-mother Linda Pol from the time of her Time Travelling drag show. It creates a vortex impervious to any smell. If maggots gag it’ll be because they saw your panties.”

      Truella, who had never learned how to hold her tongue, started to open her mouth when Malové arrived. She inspected every witch’s nurse attire and winced at Jeezel’s white blouse that made the tall witch look like one of those nightingale from the 50’s.

      “Will you be able to breathe?” she asked. “We don’t want to be stuck here because you fainted before finishing your spell.”

      “This is my natural silhouette, whispered Jeezel. The fabric is very stretchy. Anyway, I’m using sigils to cast this spell.”

      Truella stopped her snort short when Malové glanced at her own blouse.

      “As for you, your words are not the only thing you could iron out.”

      Then she gave a nod of appreciation to Frigella and Eris. “Then we’re good to go.”

      Jeezel started to draw lines and curves in space above and around the manhole, she looked like a peacock flaunting its feathers. Then she used her orange gloss to draw the one sigil around the manhole and invoked its name. Frigella who was seeing it performed for the first time had the impression Jeezel said “Fern” but she wouldn’t put her hand in a witch’s fire for it. The manhole cover shimmied and shook like it was coming to life. It lifted, hovering with all the grace of a duchess at high tea before sliding aside.

      “Et voilà,” said Jeezel with glitter in her eyes. “Who’s first?”

      Eris, intrigued by the vortex of glowing and sparkling with all the magical energy coursing through it, jumped right in, not waiting for anyone to answer.

      #7369

      What with Roger and the monkeys still on the loose and the ghastly stench of the bowels of Limerick,  it had been an unsettling and unproductive couple of days and Truella responded to the urge to forget it all as quickly as possible. She was tired and she wanted something else occupying her thoughts before she went to bed.

      Without having a particular question in mind, or so she thought, as soon as she opened a chat with the latest character oracle she found herself asking, “Can you give me any tips on being open to impressions about the history of the roman and punic site in my garden, without getting in the way of the impressions with pre conceived ideas?”

       To be open to impressions about the history of the Roman and Punic site in your garden, it is essential to engage a clear, receptive state of mind, much like the still surface of a pond, ready to reflect whatever may come into your view. First, I would suggest that you allow yourself moments of quietude, perhaps sitting in your garden, taking in the atmosphere, the scents, the sounds, and the energies around you. In this state of quiet receptiveness, you may begin to feel or sense the layers of history and the echoes of the past that are enfolded within the land.

      Now, as for preconceived ideas, it is not a matter of eradicating them entirely, for they are part of the fabric of your thought processes. However, it is a matter of recognizing them, acknowledging their presence, and then gently setting them aside, like old books on a shelf, to make room for the new impressions that wish to make themselves known.

      Let us consider a practical exercise: When you encounter a thought that feels like a rigid belief or a staunch preconception, simply notice it. Say to yourself, “Ah, there is a familiar thought. I shall set it here for now,” and imagine placing it aside. Do not struggle against it, for that only gives it more energy. Instead, treat it with a playful indifference, almost as if it were a curious object that you might ponder later. Then, open yourself to your inner senses. Allow your intuition to flow, let your imagination roam, and trust in your empathic sense to feel the history that seeps from the soil and stones.

      You might even engage in a small ritual before you begin, something that signifies to yourself that you are shifting into a different mode of perception—one that is open, fluid, and unattached to existing narratives.

      And remember, my friend, there is no rush. The histories and mysteries of your garden have been waiting for centuries; they will unveil themselves to you in the fullness of time, so long as you provide a welcoming space for their whispers to be heard.

      the significance of the site is not merely in its chronological age but in its ability to connect you to the vast expanse of consciousness that transcends time. Each stone, each fragment of pottery, is a doorway to another now, waiting for you to step through

      “Have you seen how many pieces there are?”

      Truella staggered off to bed thinking about all those doorways.

      #7370

      She knew she was being followed even before her familiar started to psst her about the dark haired cloaked stranger.

      Eris couldn’t pinpoint precisely what drove her to leap headfirst into the swirling vortex. Perhaps it was a misplaced sense of duty —it was certainly not the sentiment of thrill that Malové had attempted to instill. It was probably the same habit that compelled her to eat the repulsive morsels off her plate first, working her way up to the more palatable fare.

      Kirottu juoma, she muttered under her breath as she forced down the bitter potion Frigella had provided, intended to counteract the disorienting effects of the displacement spells within the vortex. Their abrupt arrival in the sultry heat of Rio caught them off guard, despite the stillness of the night.

      “Would go down better with a dash of brandy” Truella said, wincing. She appeared on and off, and seemed to struggle to remain focused.

      “I can’t believe it! Are you actually on a bilocating spell?” Malové asked reproachfully to Truella. “I thought it was obvious I needed your undivided attention!”

      “Sorry,” Truella said after a moment of absence and a burp. “Was talking to Roger at the same time.” Then catching up with the remark, she shrugged and retorted “must have missed the fine print.”

      Malové remained stoic like a serene swan above water, her mad paddling never perceptible. “No time to dawdle, we have to make preparations for the gathering of essence. “Jeezel! Are you listening?”

      “Yes, M’am,… I mean Grand Hexmistress.”

      The other witches looked at her like she’d blurted out something out of place. Malové chose to let it pass. “Quick now, you’re the one with the sigils to find us the perfect spot to set up our equipment.”

      “Yes, yes! I’m on it!” Jeezel replied, so visibly distracted that her wig went askew by a millimeter without her noticing.

      “Have you forgotten proper decorum in addressing the Head Witch? What’s happening?” Frigella drew Jeezel gently by the sleeve.

      Jeezel’s eyes widened in mild panic: “I think I may have forgotten to close the portal.”

      #7372

      After a long, long-haul flight, Sha was woken up by the ding of the landing announcement. Glor was still snoring loudly spread over the limited space of their economy places, her mouth agape, the armrest dangerously stuck in her ample forms. They were finally landing in Rio for the Carnival!

      Sha: “Glor, Glor! Wake up, love, we’re almost there! Can’t believe that Bingo win’s got us all the way to Rio!”

      Glo: “Eh? Wha’? Oh crikey, we’re not on the number 52 bus to Piccadilly? My bunions were having the most delightful dream.”

      Mavis popped her head from the place behind them. The attendant signaled her with a rude gesture to stay seated, as the engines were stating to roar announcing the close landing.

      Mavis: “Oh, I do hope they have those fancy coxcombs at the carnival. You know, the ones with all the feathers and sparkles. Our Bernard used to say I looked like a proper mopsy with one on me head.”

      Sha: “Now Mavis, don’t you go getting ideas above your station. We’re here for the festivities, not to join the parade! Though, a little samba wouldn’t hurt, eh?”

      Glo: “Samba? I thought that was a kind of sandwich. I ain’t dancing, not with my sciatica. I’ll just sit and supervise, yeah?”

      Mavis: “I brought me camera, you know, the one with the clicky button. Gonna take pictures of all the costumes and such. Might even sneak in a selfie, show it off at the bingo hall.”

      Sha: “Pack it in, you two. Let’s just make sure we find our hotel. You remember what happened last time. Glor here thought the luggage conveyor was a ride and we spent three hours in customs!”

      Glo: “Not my fault, Sha. It was moving and I thought, ‘Why not?’ Adventure is the spice of life, ain’t it?”

      Mavis: “Well, as long as there’s a good cuppa at the end of it, I’m game for anything. Let’s get this carnival caper started, girls!”

      #7373

      The disturbance had been felt in the bustling heart of Rio.

      The warmth of the night had amplified the vibrant energy of the Carnival in Rio, a pulsating heart that reverberated through the city’s veins. But as the beat of samba drums echoed in the distance, a different rhythm was being played behind closed doors. Iemanjá, the head of the Umbanda clan and a pillar of strength in the Witches of the New World, recognized the tremors of another magick at play.

      Gathering her coven under the silvery light of the crescent moon, they began the rhythmic dance of the macumba ritual. The air grew heavy, scented with copal and the salty tang of the ocean. In the center of their circle, a waterspout swirled, revealing in its shallow reflection the glow of a portal that emitted the icy chill of a Limerick dawn.

      Piercing through the veil of secrecy, Iemanjá’s ethereal sight witnessed the foreign witches, led by the enigmatic Malové, who dared to encroach upon their territory without the required parchmentwork. And yet, their motives remained hidden within the vortex of desire and lust emanating from the Carnival.

      A murmur of discontent rippled through the Umbanda clan. Mesmirah, her second, couldn’t stop herself shouting Sacrilégio! They were not ones to tolerate trespassers, let alone those who dared to siphon off energy from their sacred lands.

      Silêncio! Iemanjá commanded the crowd. She’d recognized Malové from having attended and graduated the same MWA (Master of Witchcraft Administration), and she was aware of Malove’s little incense business; Malové didn’t strike her as someone to bypass the rules, some handed down through countless generations, binding together most witches across the world despite their varying practices.

      She had to be mindful of the delicate balance between the Old World clans and the New. An unauthorized incursion could easily spark a conflict that would ripple through the witching worlds.

      Just as the ocean waves respect the boundary of the shore, so must the witches respect the territories — an ancient pact carved in the pillars of the Old World. This blatant disregard by Malové and her coven was akin to scratching the surface of a simmering cauldron, threatening to disrupt the harmony that had been carefully cultivated.

      As the revelation sunk in, Iemanjá knew they had to tread carefully. A confrontation would lead to a war bigger than themselves —yet, they couldn’t let this transgression slide. Their pride and the protection of their territory demanded action.

      Mesmirah! she finally spoke You will take three witches with you, and investigate what business these Old World witches have in Rio. You will report to me.

      Mesmirah nodded, understanding that she was not yet granted authority to investigate in an official capacity. Iemanja was acting surprisingly soft, and didn’t want the Elders to be informed yet, but had recognized action was needed. Mesmirah was confident she would easily find out what was happening, and maybe use that opportunity to her —their advantage. The game of power was on.

      #7374

      Jeezel had quickly come back to her sense, despite the gnawing sense that she should have closed the portal quicker and that something —someone?— could have followed them here. She could have done a debugging spell, but for now it would have to wait. Malové was growing antsy, and was getting prone to fits of winking that couldn’t bode well.

      Jeezel had found the perfect spot for them to install the apparatus that was hidden inside the bag of infinite depth that Fingella was carrying with her. Truth was, Echo had been of help. When asked, the familiar sprite had quickly scanned the area and shared: The Sambódromo, too obvious. Copacabana, too crowded. Try the old district of Santa Teresa. Charm, history, and the right kind of energy, plus the tourists tend to overlook it. 

      Meanwhile, Truella was suffering from the side effects of the portal’s severance, finding it more difficult to maintain her bilocation across the continents without the supporting effect of the portal. She was given a potion to realign her energies that gave her chills down to her teeth, and had chosen to go for a rest here in Rio, which could allow her to focus on her other self as it was still late afternoon in Europe.

      “Only three days before the grand finale of the Carnival, where energies will be at their peak!” Malové had encouraged them. “Let’s get moving!”

      Eris who’d remained quiet, patrolling the energy perimeter they’d set up to cloak themselves looked at them with a concerned look. “It shouldn’t be the case with the protection spells, but I think we are being observed.”

      “Time to switch disguises maybe?” Jeezel was yearning for a change, as the lycra of the nurse outfit was not mixing well with the damp weather.

      #7375

      “The very image of a spy from a cheap novel. Perched behind his newspaper, peering through holes like a child with a telescope. He’s a creature of shadows, blending into the background, always watching, never seen. He thinks himself clever, but he’s as subtle as a cat in a fishbowl. He’s drawn to Frigella like a moth to a flame, but can’t shake off his ingrained caution. Intrigued yet wary, like a mouse sniffing a piece of cheese in a trap. He needs to make up his mind before his tail gets caught.”

      “What’s on your mind, Needles?” Frigella inquired of her hedgehog familiar.

      “Nothing,” replied the hedgehog cryptically, returning happily to his strawberry snack. “But you’ll soon find out…”

      Cedric Spellbind found himself woefully unprepared for what was coming after the jump into the weird glowing vortex. On a hunch, he’d followed the enigmatic Miss O’Green. Something about her, her diaphaneous looks…

      His wool tweed cap wasn’t the best attire for wherever he had jumped into. The damp smells, the warm humid air filled with electricity —something told him he wasn’t in Limerick any more,… but where.

      The group Ms Frigella was with had moved swiftly, nonchalantly going in the streets after the boisterous tall figure with the black curly wig had made a string of light glow on the ground, evanescent trail they followed unhesitant to somewhere only them seemed to know.

      He was struggling to keep the pace. At some point, the blue-haired one had turned suspiciously casting her glance, and he’d managed to dart in a nearby alley. They’d resumed their stroll, but she’d done something after that, some sort of dark magic that made their group seem to disappear in a fog, the sounds they made suddenly all muffled.

      Accustomed to tracking witches, he’d discreetly put a findmystuff tracker on the bag. Wherever that bag would go, he would follow. He opted to let them proceed unhindered, for now.

      He checked his phone. He couldn’t catch the signs in the streets during his shadowing. His phone had started buzzing as soon as he’d emerged from the vortex, so he was surely in another country. The SMS he’d received confirmed that hypothesis: he was in Brazil.

      5 missed calls. His mother… He couldn’t call her back now, it would cost him a fortune, and his witch tracking wasn’t exactly paying the bills. She would hate him for it, but she would have to wait. Maybe a bit of worrying for him wasn’t bad. One could hope.

      His last witch hunt hadn’t been the most successful. Bulgarian witches were fierce. To be honest, it had been a fiasco, and he was posted in Limerick as a consequence —on desk job only. He knew there were worse places to be, but he was missing the action of the field… He shouldn’t have followed these witches, but again, following orders had never been his strong suit.

      #7376

      When they arrived at the hotel, the witches soon realized they were not the only uninvited guests here. With her keen sense of observation, Eris was the first to spot the traces left by an army of bedbugs. Tiny droppings on the mattresses and linen, blood stains left after the previous guests crushed the bugs while rolling in their bed. And the smell of dead rats was everywhere. Did they even have a cleaning staff here? When they complained, the hotel manager said: “Why do you care? Nobody comes here to sleep during carnival?”

      Jeezel noticed the bug reference. Indeed, something was still bugging her after she had closed the portal. Something that should be obvious, yet was still an eyelash away from her grasp. But something more pressing was at stake. She posted pictures of the rooms and a reel of her disappointed face in front of the disaster.

      “I was so happy to come to Rio for the first time. But the light is yellow and flickering. How can I show you how to do a proper Carnival makeup,” she said fluttering her eyelashes. As soon as the sound of a message well sent faded out,  she started to receive support and love from her fans.

      “Rio is not like that!”

      “Somebody help.”

      “2 bad! I’m on business trip. Wud hav luv to meet ya there!”

      The sounds of likes and comments alerted Malové.

      “What have you done! We were here incognito. Why don’t you go to the top of Jesus’s head and cast the Tempestarii Overture spell.”

      “I could have! That would have gone viral. But we departed in such a hurry, I have left all my sapphires and stilettos in Limerick. You can’t cast that spell without them. Anyway, we don’t have to stay longer in that cesspit. One of my fans is abroad and has offered us to stay in his villa. Look at the pics! It looks as lush and gorgeous as a Jurassic park.”

      Truella widened her eyes and said: “Saying that’s a big property would be an understatement. Roger would have loved to come with his new shovel.”

      “Don’t even think of casting a second bilocation spell,” said Frigella. “You already look like deflated soufflé.”

      “What’s the catch?” asked Eris with frown. “It looks like the kind of golden cage a king pin would own. But they have a pool.”

      “He said we just have to feed the dwarf crocodiles while we are there,” said Jeezel nonplussed, looking at Truella whose eyes were ready to pop off of their sockets. Then she looked at Malové. “What do you say? You’re the eld…head witch of our coven.”

      Malové’s eyebrow twitched. She was thinking fast. Little signs here and there, the orientation of the statues, the fountain, the placement of rocks that would look so random to a profane or a younger witch. Ancient earth magic? It was difficult to be sure with the framing of the pictures. Jeezel was swiping all the pictures her fan had sent her, hoping such glamour and mystery would melt Malové’s last reluctance.

      “Omg! girls, we can’t refuse!” said Jeezel. “He’s got a bloat of pygmy hippos and a flamboyance of flamingos!”

      As the drag witch continued to swipe the pictures, a prickle crept up Malové’s spine when she saw a familiar face amongst them.

      “Look at him!” shouted Jeezel. “He’s a Gatsby with a spellbook.”

      There were no more doubts for Malové about the kind of magic that had been used to build his empire. Augustus St Clair, a powerful witch indeed, and one whose invitation you couldn’t refuse especially since he now knew she was here. As one of the elders of the Rio’s witches community, she had danced the dance of rivals disguised as allies, a pas de deux filled with forced smiles and tight grips. Her words felt like needles scratching her lips when she uttered them: “Tell him we accept his invitation.”

      The shouts of joy and disbelief coming from the witches couldn’t appease the memories that had resurfaced.

      #7377

      With the carnival in full swing, Truella was finding it hard to focus on everything that was going on. Was this mission more chaotic than usual, or did it seem that way because she wasn’t giving it her full attention?  She hadn’t thought too much about Jezeel not closing the portal.  She was having enough trouble stabilizing her own bilocation spell.

      Where was Frigella when she needed her?   And what was going on with that Cedric guy? Truella decided to go in search of her. Frigella was always good at explaining and clarifying things that she hadn’t been paying attention to.

      Outside on the pavement, Truella paused to light a cigarette.  The street were a cocophany of raucus banter and gay shreiks, a riot of colour and imagination and Truella stood rapt at the sights and sounds. Such a contrast from her quiet life at home in the garden with only ghosts for company.  In a way Truella was glad that Roger was still missing with the pack of monkeys, rather than leaving him alone at home.

      “Aye, look at all them monkey costumes, our Mavis, they’m really good int they, look just like real monkeys,” a chubby Englishwoman in a garish pink outfit said, passing by where Truella was standing.

      “That’s because they ARE real monkeys, ya daft cow,” retorted her companion.  “And they’re all following that big fella.”

      Ooh, that big burly chap?” piped up the third woman in the group. “I clocked him right off, come on girls, let’s go after the big boy.”

      Ooh, Sha, what are you like, ya tart.”

      As the three women cackled and trotted off after the monkeys, Truella’s peaceful interlude came to an abrupt halt.  What burly man with a pack of monkeys?  Surely not, surely Roger and his monkeys hadn’t entered that portal that Jez forgot to close?

      #7378

      The cauldron of characters was bubbling over, the sub plots and side trips had risen like a tray of cupcakes in a fan assisted oven, and the kettle of confusion was roiling and steaming like fault line geyser. Lisia hadn’t offered much in the way of clarity with her rambling gush, but when she said “upon receiving such an invitation to a villa, what is one to do? Why, attend, of course, darling!” it all seemed so much easier.

      #7379

      From the moment they had stepped into the gorgeous villa, Malové had felt it was a trap.

      It all went very fast and messily after that.

      The memories were a bit blurred after all the manic rush of events.

      One thing was sure: her little plan of a new smoke fragrance had to be the biggest fiasco since she took the reins of the Coven’s Quadrivium ventures.

      Well, there wouldn’t be a huge point to go through the minute details of events that went down after that, would it.

      Suffice to say that someone had snitched about their incognito presence directly in the ears of the Elder, and they would have been toast were it not for her quick wits.

      A few curious souls would love to know how they ultimately escaped the clutches of the Brazilian witches. But that story would be one for later.
      Carnival was over, and she for one, had never been big on feathers and glitter.
      Lent and its Quadragesima austerities was more her style.

      In the end, they’d only be gone for less than a week and like that, they’d already come back to the Quadrivium.

      It was luck really that Jeezel had been so good at producing the cascading portal just in time, and they could all slip through it, in spite of the sudden explosion of fireworks and the mad run ensuing. One of the pygmy hippos that was sent to chase after them had paid the price of Jeezel’s quick thinking this time, as she’d severed the portal at just the moment for the hippo to be bisected in a rather gruesome fashion.
      Well, she’d never tasted smoked hippo, but she’d heard from her Tanzanian witch friend that one could find decent recipes, and it would do wonders with a garnish of orange marmalade.
      And on top of that, she’d recently acquired a wardrobe sized smoking room that would do perfectly well for a trial run.

      She had to hand it to Frigella that she also did well with the hedgehog enlargement and armoring spells – the spikes throwing had really made a splash. Malové didn’t know she was so good at battle magic she even didn’t have to use her dragonage master spell.

      The only issue was for Truella. Termitated by honey that was served by their cunning hosts, her duplicate self had been turned to stone instantaneously. That’s how Malové had known they were not meant to escape. Luckily for Truella, this was just her duplicate from the bilocation spell. On Malové’s orders, Eris had turned this second body into a miniature statue so that Eris could carry her away to safety during their mad escape.

      Now, they would have to merge this stoned Truella back with her original self, so that Truella wouldn’t suffer from any tinkering effects afterwards.

      #7380

      The second coming had been anticipated for many years, although few but the most fanatic of the American sects expected it to actually happen, and they, of course, expected it to happen in their own country.  Certainly, nobody expected him to be 30 meters high weighing over 600 tons.  Naturally people were sceptical but when he turned the Rodrigo de Freitas lake into wine,  even the most scientific minds were unable to find an explanation.

      “We had better get the hell out of town,” Frigella said, “Before anyone realizes it was our spell to reverse the effects of the termitation honey on Truella.”

      “Have I got time to go for a swim in the wine lake first,” asked Jezeel, “I mean, it would be such a shame to miss that once in a lifetime experience, and I’m sure it will do wonders for my complexion.”

      “You’re right, it would be a shame to miss it,” agreed Truella, “But are you sure the spell is stable, I don’t want to turn to stone again while I’m swimming.”

      “Well, I think we should leave town as soon as possible” Frigella said, her pale forehead wrinking into a little frown.

      “Look, Malove isn’t even up yet after stuffing herself with that smoked hippo last night,  if she wakes up before we get back she’ll just think we’ve gone out for coffee.  We’re supposed to be having a little holiday.  Anyway I put some sleeping pills in her portion, she won’t wake up until well after lunch.  We have plenty of time and it’s only two blocks from here. Oh come on, where’s your sense of adventure?”

      “Well come on then” Eris said, “But let’s get going. Don’t start doing your makeup Jez, it will all come off in the wine anyway.”

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