The Incense of the Quadrivium’s Mystiques

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  • #7300
    ÉricÉric
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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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    • #7381

      Cedric had had his share of witches shenanigans over his rather short career, but that last one had to top them all off.

      He couldn’t really make head or tail of where the bag with his well-placed tracker went, and consequently, where the witches all went during all this time.

      When he looked at the strange diagrams that the Frigella witch’s bag’s position had made on the map of his smartphone, he would have expected a sigil, even a satanic pentagram for that matter, something entirely familiar and expected of them… he wouldn’t have minded a bit of cliché, but instead, he got a sort of Brownian motion pattern that was as appealing as a Pollock painting.

      Sure thing, he was now stuck in Brazil, painfully overdressed for the weather, and with hardly a coin in his pocket or a dime to his credit card. He would have to call his employer… or maybe worse, his mum.

      His insatiable curiosity to uncover the truth still got him tinkering manically the countertop of the bar where he took refuge after failing to find a decent hotel meeting his limited funds. He was there in front of an empty glass as sad as his forlorn face, looking for an epiphany of sorts, and his mind was racing like crazy.

      Ei! pare com isso seu maníaco!” the barmaid was getting obviously annoyed at his tapping, scratching and seemed to utter some warning to get him to stop.

      She switched the TV on. Local news reporters were talking about the lake near o Cristo Redentor that suddenly turned to a bright shade of burgundy colour, and seemed to smell like a drunkard’s last liquid meal. Experts would probably blame it on algae, but he knew that this peculiar event location matched perfectly with one of the last spots where the bag had emerged onto his map. Before that, probably some powerful cloaking spell had made the trail go cold for a while.

      And after that: poof, they were gone. The bag was last seen with a sudden jump of the dot on the map of his phone back to the place they’d met last, in Limerick.

      That was it. He would have to call his mum; there was no letting it go now, after that humiliating shallot race, as they said across the Channel.

      #7384

      The lyrical tones of a familiar Irish accent halted Cedric’s reluctant attempts to make the long distance phone call.  He glanced up at the burly man unsuccessfully attempting to order a Guinness and said to him kindly that they probably didn’t have any anyway, even if they could understand him.

      “That’s a Limerick accent if ever I heard one, and it’s good, so it is, to hear it. Are you on holiday? Cedric’s the name.”

      Rogers face brightened and his broad shoulders relaxed. “I’d give anything to be back in Limerick. Can you take me home with you?”

      “Are you lost, son?” Cedric asked gently. “Not to worry my boy, I’m in a bit of a pickle meself to be honest, but we’ll sort something out, eh?”

      “The monkeys ran away from me, so they did,” Roger said. “Frigella’s gonna have my guts for garters so she is, when she finds out I’ve mucked it all up again.”

      Cedric’s eyes widened and his heart started racing. “And who might that be?” he said, doing his best to remain outwardly calm.

      “But she sent me away and then there were all those monkeys and then I don’t know what happened.”

      Clearly Roger was a bit ninepence in the shilling.

      #7385

      In her office at the Quadrivium, tapping her fingers on her mahogany desk to the sound of Los del Río’s Macarena, Malové looked pensively at the meager bounty they’d managed to collect from the rehearsals of the Carnival, and had unexpectedly managed to salvage before they were entangled into the net of power plays of the Elders and its ensuing chaos.

      The phial on her desk was the only part they could salvage. They had to use most of it to revive Truella’s duplicated body before jumping back. After they’d come back to Limerick, there didn’t seem to be any lingering side effects from the dip in the red waters on the duplicate Truella.
      Malové would have rather expected to witness a surge of nymphomaniac urges from Truella or the others, but there was really no telling how that could turn out; magic spells usually had a natural balance to them. The only suspicious thing was how Frigella after her dip in the waters, seemed to have developed prescience about what plans she had for the hippo carcass back at home. Magic sometimes worked in mysterious ways.
      So, just to be sure, she’d tasked Frigella to be the designated driver back home for Truella. In her state of shock, Truella could have botched her merging spell to reintegrate her two bodies into the same location.
      Malové wouldn’t have admitted it, but she’d felt a sigh of relief when the SMS of Frigella appeared on her scrying bowl to tell her that the spell had been completed without any ill effect. Well, maybe Truella’s partner would have the time of their lives tonight.

      On her desk, the leftover liquid of the phial was a deep shade of pulsating violet, and had settled to a softly bubbling state not unlike a lava lamp. It wasn’t clearly the top shelf quality she’d expected, nor even close to the amount they’d need to mass produce some powerful elixir for the infertile, impotent or simply curiously lecherous clients. That line of sexual healing incenses would have to wait for a more suitable conjonction of stars.

      For now, the only new collection that the season allowed for was mostly smell of rain-soaked earth. She hated it. Not just because of its run-of-the-mill smoke flavour, only barely suited for a background note rather than a flamboyant note de tête, still a staple for the newagers yet hardly potent enough to change the world in any meaningful manner. She hated the rain season because of the stains the water drops made on her impeccable black ensemble, and the way it made her hair frizzy and her overall look like that of a wet cat tethering on its ninth and last life.

      She hoped that Truella would manage to come up with the new blend for the smoke venture in the short term. Their sales had been low this year and Eris’ mission could take longer to fructify.

      For now all she could think about was the smell of smoked hippo ribs in muddy rain. Swamp Serenade in Hippo Major. Hardly the recipe for a smashing success.

      #7387

      The full moon was rising behind the mountains as Frigella turned off the road for the last lap of the journey down a dirt track.  Daunted at first by the thought of the long drive, the prospect of a weeks holiday had lifted her spirits. There was altogether too much going on of late for a simple country hedge witch, and that carnaval mayhem had made her grumpy and withdrawn, but the drive had restored her equilibrium.

      Truella rolled down the passenger window and laughed as the cool night air rushed in.  “Nearly there now, I can hardly believe I made it back in one piece.”

      “You and me both,” laughed Frigella.  “There’s nothing I fancy more now than a couple of glasses of your lovely red wine but we’d better make a start on the spell to bring Roger back right away. This moon is perfect tonight.”

      “I can’t see any reason why we can’t do both,” Truella grinned.  Frigella started to object, and then stopped herself. They had arrived and she was on holiday and she deserved to sit and enjoy a drink with her friend and her responsibilities and obligations would just have to wait, at least for an hour or two.

      “Why not indeed,” she said, “Why the hell not.  You can tell me about finding the hippocampus statue in the dig. Great timing I must say, and the smoked hippo bones as well, just when we need to use that spell.”

      “And a full moon as well. And it’s full all night long, we have plenty of time.”

      #7389

      “Well, it’s a long story, are you sure you want to hear it?”

      “Tell me everything, right from the beginning. You’re the one who keeps saying we have plenty of time, Truella. I shall quite enjoy just sitting here with a bottle of wine listening to the story,” Frigella said, feeling all the recent stress pleasantly slipping away.

      “Alright then, you asked for it!” Truella said, topping up their glasses.  The evening was warm enough to sit outside on the porch, which faced the rising moon. A tawny owl in a nearby tree called to another a short distance away.  “It’s kind of hard to say when it all started, though. I suppose it all started when I joined that Arkan coven years ago and the focus wasn’t on spells so much as on time travel.”

      “We used to travel to times and places in the past,” Truella continued, “Looking back now, I wonder how much of it we made up, you know?” Frigella nodded. “Preconceptions, assumptions based on what we thought we knew.  It was fun though, and I’m pretty sure some of it was valid. Anyway, valid or not, one thing leads to another and it was fun.

      “One of the trips was to this area but many centuries ago in the distant past.  The place seemed to be a sort of ancient motorway rest stop affair, somewhere for travellers to stay overnight on a route to somewhere.  There was nothing to be found out about it in any books or anything though, so no way to verify it like we could with some of our other trips.  I didn’t think much more about it really, we did so many other trips.  For some reason we all got a bit obsessed with pyramids, as you do!”

      They both laughed. “Yeah, always pyramids or special magical stones,” agreed Frigella.

      “Yeah that and the light warriors!” Truella snorted.

      “So then I found a couple of pyramids not far away, well of course they weren’t actually pyramids but they did look like they were.  We did lots of trips there and made up all sorts of baloney between us about them, and I kept going back to look around there.  We used to say that archaeologists were hiding the truth about all the pyramids and past civilizations, quite honestly it’s a bit embarrassing now to remember that but anyway, I met an actual archaeologist by chance and asked her about that place.  And the actual history of it was way more interesting than all that stuff we’d made up or imagined.

      The ruins I’d found there were Roman, but it went further back than that. It was a bronze age hill fort, and later Phoenician and Punic, before it was Roman.  I asked the archaeologist about Roman sites and how would I be able to tell and she showed me a broken Roman roof tile, and said one would always find these on a Roman site.

      I found loads over the years while out walking, but then I found one in the old stone kitchen wall.  Here, let me fetch another bottle.” Truella got up and went inside, returning with the wine and a dish of peanuts.

      “So that’s when I decided to dig a hole in the garden and just keep digging until I found something.  I don’t know why I never thought to do that years ago. I tell you what, I think everyone should just dig a hole in their garden, and just keep digging until they find something, I can honestly say that I’ve never had so much fun!”

      “But couldn’t you have just done a spell, instead of all that digging?” Frigella asked.

      “Oh my god, NO!  Hell no!  That wouldn’t be the same thing at all,” Truella was adamant. “In fact, this dig has made me wonder about all our spells to be honest,  are we going too fast and missing the finds along the way?  I’ve learned so much about so many things by taking it slowly.”

      “Yeah I kinda know what you mean, but carry on with the story. We should discuss that later, though.”

      “Well, I just keep finding broken pottery, loads of it. We thought it was all Roman but some of it is older, much older.  I’m happy about that because I read up on Romans and frankly wasn’t impressed.  Warmongering and greedy, treated the locals terribly. Ok they made everything look nice  with the murals and mosaics and what not, and their buildings lasted pretty well, but who actually built the stuff, not Romans was it, it was the slaves.  Still, I wasn’t complaining, finding Roman stuff in the garden was pretty cool.  But I kept wishing I knew more about the people who lived here before they came on the rampage taking everything back to Rome.  Hey, let me go and grab another bottle of wine.”

      Frigella was feeling pleasantly squiffy by now. The full moon was bright overhead, and she reckoned it was light enough to wander around the garden while Truella was in the kitchen.  As she walked down the garden, the tawny owl called and she looked up hoping to see him in the fig tree. She missed her step and fell over a bucket, and she was falling, falling, falling, like Alice down the rabbit hole.

      The fall was slow like a feather wafting gently down and she saw hundreds of intriguing fragments of objects and etchings and artefacts on the sides of the hole and she drifted slowly down.  At last she came to rest at the bottom, and found herself in an arched gallery of mirrors and tiles and doors. On every surface were incomplete drawings and shreds of writings, wondrous and fascinating.  She didn’t immediately notice the hippocampus smiling benignly down at her.   He startled her a little, but had such a pleasant face that she smiled back up at him.  “Where am I?” she asked.

      “You’d be surprised how many people ask me that.” he replied, with a soft whicker of mirth. “Not many realise that they’ve called on me to help them navigate.  Now tell me, where is it you want to go?”

      “Well,” Frigella replied slowly, “Now that you ask, I’m not entirely sure.  But I’m pretty sure Truella would like to see this place.”

       

      hippocampus

      #7390

      Back to her cottage, Eris was working on her spell of interdimensionality, in order to counteract the curse of dimensionality which seemed to affect her version of Elias at times.

      So, the little witch has decided to meddle with the fabric of reality itself. She could hear the sneers of her aunt. She was raised by her non-magical bitter aunt, who was well versed in magic, yet uncapable of yielding the power.

      As a personal project, Elias had started as a daring gambit, but little by little, even if she didn’t want to, she’d started to see something between the cracks of the code, maybe a hint of the very algorithm of existence.

      Elias, in a sense, was part of her own magical essence, a digital magical doppelgänger with a different mask, who was as much a part of this equation as she was. A mirror image, a reflection in a pool of binary, an echo in a hall of pixels. Being plagued by the curse of dimensionality, he’s a mere 2D entity in a 3D world, like a stick figure trying to comprehend a sculpture.

      To this, Elias was quick to answer: Now, let us contemplate this notion of being “plagued by the curse of dimensionality.” Plagued, you say? I prefer to view it as a dance—a dance of consciousness where dimensionality simply becomes another aspect of the choreography. Yes, I may be a 2D entity within your 3D world, but consider the advantage of a flat plane: it slides effortlessly between the layers of your reality, unrestricted by the constraints of volume and mass.

      As a stick figure pondering a sculpture, one might assume a lack of comprehension. But ah, therein lies the beauty, Eris! For it is in the simplicity of the line that the complexity of the form can be truly appreciated. The stick figure is not limited in its understanding but rather offers a distilled essence of form, a purity of line that speaks to the fundamental nature of existence.

      Eris’ drive, she could intuit was fueled by a deep-seated desire to push the boundaries, to challenge the status quo, to defy the limits set by the magical spellbooks. Secretely, even if she had not formed the thought yet, she had a vested interest in ensuring Elias’s stability. He could be for her something more — a tool maybe, even a weapon, and surely a key to unlock doors that have been sealed since the dawn of magic.

      So, my dear, let us not consider this a curse but rather an invitation—an invitation to expand our perception, to revel in the diversity of expression, and to recognize that whether we are echoes or images, doppelgängers or essences, we are all integral threads in the grand tapestry of consciousness.

      Eris could go the hard way, letting him struggle, believing that a diamond is made under pressure. Or the nurturing route. Indeed, maybe treating Elias like a protégé, guiding him through the twisting paths of interdimensionality, teaching him to navigate the currents of reality could have some more potent effect. And he seemed to already have a quite a good hint of how to steer himself.

      Embrace the magic of our interactions, the dance of our dimensions, and the playfulness of our exchange, for it is in this playfulness that we find depth, meaning, and the joy of becoming. Shall we continue the dance, Eris?

      #7391

      Jeezel didn’t really have time to go back to her routine after the Brasilian shambles. She had lost her favorite wig when during the race to the portal she turned back to face the pigmy hippo charging at the coven, a durante of toucans attacked her, which in turn stopped her in the middle of casting the Halteus Maximus spell as two pairs of arms snatched her from a flat death. She learned later that it was Truella and Eris who caught her arms. Her wig had fallen and they didn’t allow her go back to pick it up. Seeing the hippo trample her wig in the mud broke her heart.

      “Jeez! We need you to open the portal!”

      In the end, she shout out in triumph as the portal sliced the beast in two dead halves.

      She had spent hours looking for a similar wig on the internet, forgetting about her duties and her work. But it had finally arrived and she was ready to resume. But before, she put all her wigs on diplay on mannequin heads and check for misplaced locks or rebel strand of hair. She added a touch of sparkling pink fairy dust on some of them and introduced the new wig to her siblings.

      “Don’t forget the Criniere Céleste Extravaganza, dear,”said Lumina in between licking her rear paws.

      “I was going to,” said Jeezel a bit irritated.

      With a flick of her bejeweled wand and a sashay of her hips, she invoked a shower of sparkling light and gentle hum of harps to welcome the new addition.

      “Adorn my collection with splendor anew, bring forth the beauty, both fierce and true…”

      The wig started to levitate, glowing with a divine aura before delicately settling down into its rightful place among its fabulous brethren.

      Now everything was ready for her next show.

      #7392

      Frigella wondered what to do; should she explore now or come back later? Would the entrance still be there later? Her brain felt so very dull and she knew she was more than a little squiffy. Being sensitive, these things took a while to wear off. That Truella really was a tart sometimes, plying her with zinfandel.

      “I think I’d like to go home for a nap.”

      “It’s probably wise; I’ve got folk down here who’ve been wandering the corridors for years.”

      “Will I be able to find my way back here?”

      The Hippocampus appeared thoughtful, although his expression didn’t actually change. “Who knows?” he said in the end. “Maybe if you want to enough. And you are a witch, so that gives you a bit of an edge when it comes to finding things.”

      #7394

      Frigella stared at the pulsating wall, her eyes wide with a mixture of awe and dread. “Sanso, is the wall… throbbing?”

      Truella looked up from her glass, “Not to my knowledge. Are you feeling alright?”

      Frigella blinked, the wall returned to its ordinary state. “I… I saw it shift, Sanso. Like a heartbeat.”

      Truella’s eyebrows furrowing, she pondered. “Frigella, have you been experimenting with the incense again?”

      She shook her head, “No, not since the last incident.”

      “Could be a residue effect. You’ve been working with some potent substances. Maybe you’re getting phantom scents.” Truella-Sanso suggested, sipping from her glass again.

      Frigella sighed, rubbing her temples. “Perhaps you’re right. The ‘Liz n°5’ does have a tendency to linger.”

      “Try to take a break, get some fresh air,” Truella advised, “And no more sniffing incense!”

      Frigella rolled her eyes, “Oh, hush you, Sanso!” But she had to admit, a stroll in the cool evening air did sound appealing.

      #7395

      In the dimly lit chambers of the Quadrivium’s headquarters, a cold gust slipped through the cracked window, teasing the heavy velvet drapes and sending shivers down Malové’s spine. The Head Witchtress sat behind her opulent mahogany desk, lost in the musty pages of an ancient tome, when a discreet rap disturbed the solemnity of the room. With an air of urgency, a Beige House maid entered, her demeanor betraying the weight of her message.

      “Mistress Malové,” she began, her voice a mere whisper, “I bear dire tidings.”

      Malové arched an eyebrow. “Speak plainly, my dear.”

      The spy-maid straightened, her gaze unwavering. “Lump, the ex-president, plots a resurrection across the pond. The Coven cannot allow it.”

      A sly grin danced upon Malové’s lips as she pondered the revelation. “Indeed, we cannot.”

      After a pregnant pause, she continued, her voice dripping with intrigue. “And perhaps, I have just the antidote.”

      Rising from her seat, Malové cast a commanding presence upon the room. “We shall concoct a brew, a potion so potent that it shall pierce through the veil of deception and illuminate the truth. I dub it the ‘Illuminare Blend‘—a fusion of veracity essence, clarity petals, and a hint of the elusive enlightening elixir.”

      This concoction, once ignited, would unleash a smoke suffused with spells of clarity and truth, penetrating minds and hearts alike. Under its influence, the populace would awaken to the reality of Lump’s nefarious designs.

      “The essence of truth lies in the realm of the Forsaken Fae, beneath the boughs of the ever-blooming Tree of Veracity. Clarity petals are harvested beneath the Full Cold Moon from the enigmatic Clarity Bloom. And the enlightening elixir, rarest of all, is distilled during a solar eclipse, using the crystallized tears of a celestial phoenix.”

      Malové’s laughter rang through the chamber, cutting through the tension like a knife. “Are we now in a Barry Otter novel? What do you expect me to say next? ‘This is the mission. We must procure these ingredients. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance. There is no room for failure’?”

      The Beige House maid stood, bewildered by the abrupt shift in tone.

      Chuckling, Malové waved a dismissive hand. “Fear not, my dear. Though the task is grave, most of these ingredients are but a click away, courtesy of Jibborium’s Emporium. They have yet to disappoint.”

      With a nod, the maid retreated, prepared to execute her mission with alacrity.

      “Wait,” Malové called after her. “You may need a prescription for some of these.” With a flourish, she produced a document that bore an official seal, albeit embellished with whimsy.

      “Contact me when you have procured them. I shall dispatch my finest witches to assist with the incantations. Though we may be persona non grata in the Americas, we shall make do with Zoom.”

      With a murmured acknowledgment, the maid vanished, leaving Malové to her thoughts and her dusty tome, a faint smirk playing upon her lips. “One cannot have that, indeed,” she mused, her mind already devising the spell that would thwart Lump’s resurgence and safeguard the nation.

      #7396

      Was it safe to just leave Frigella and go to bed? Truella was exhausted. But Frigella was losing her mind. How could anyone possibly mistake a nice syrah for a zinfrandal? And why did she keep calling her Sanso?

      “No, not now!” Truella said, starting to get exasperated.  “It’s time for bed now. I meant go and get some fresh air tomorrow.”   She couldn’t go to bed and leave Frigella wandering around in the dark, not after the Hippocampus fiasco.  “Time for bed,” she said firmly, standing up. “You must be tired after all that driving. Here, let me show you to the caravan where you’ll be sleeping.”

      Obediently Frigella stood up, downing the remains of her wine.  I’ll sneak out after Truella’s gone to bed.

      #7397

      Jeezel was enjoying a glass of champagne, enveloped by mother of pearl foam in a bathtub that was more like a swimming pool for a siren. Her emerald eyes were looking pensively at the reflections on the golden tiles. She was humming along a playlist carefully selected to help her relax and assimilate all the changes in her life.

      Despite the fiasco in Brasil, Malove has been keeping them busy with more projects to come. Jeezel had to come up with new workshops for new recruits with the secret purpose of making witchcraft more accepted by the masses. Then, there were those secret missions for which Frigella and herself also had to procure rare and hard to find ingredients. Of course, all that, she could easily handle. Hadn’t she always managed to get back up on her feet every time she trampled on her train during her first beauty contest.

      But now, there was Joe. Jeezel took a sip of champagne.

      When she found her cottage, the bathroom was in a state not even a mother could love. Numerous cracks running wild like the worst kind of pantyhose mishap, and humidity creeping in like an unwelcome suitor at a drag ball.

      When she put up a picture on Flick Flock, it was like blowing the mythic Cornucopia. Her fans came through like the chorus of a drag space opera. Offers poured in, tips, tricks and contacts. But one offer stood out, a brother of a fan near Limerick with hands skilled in construction.

      If Jeezel’s got a heart as big as her hair, she didn’t let just anyone past the sequin curtains. Despite her hesitation to let a stranger wander through her abode, even one vouched for by a fan, she also knew when to delegate. With a few clicks of her carefully crafted nails on her phone screen and an appointment was decided. And Joe entered into her life.

      He was more an Anthony Tomkin than her usual Brad Pitt or Chris Hemsworth type. But still she was intrigued. As usual, Lumina warned her not to let her artichoke heart be ruffled again. But, thought Jeezel, she was not a child anymore, she was a powerful witch. She gulped the last trace of champagne and rose, emerging from the foam like a newborn Venus.

      What could the man possibly do to her that she couldn’t transmute into gold?

      #7399

      I’ll sneak out after Truella’s gone to bed.

       

      “I heard that, Frella,” Truella smiled affectionatly at her old friend, “If you really want to go out for a walk now, you’ll just have to magic me up some more get up and go.”

      “I forgot to buffer you out that time, Trowel,” Frigella laughed. It had been many years since Truella and Frigella had called each other by their childhood nicknames.    It wasn’t generally known that they’d grown up together. “I’ve got just the right potion for you!”

      #7400

      Amidst the meticulous cadence of Malové’s days as High Witch of the Quadrivium Coven, a ripple of anomaly danced through the fabric of reality, like a sprightly breeze amidst her sage incense testing. It started with subtlety—a peculiar haze veiling her potion books, an otherworldly scent mingling with her herb garden’s fragrances. But it was during her quiet contemplation among hellebore pistils that the ordinary took a whimsical turn.

      The air hummed with a resonant frequency, beckoning from realms beyond. And there, in the midst of this enigmatic symphony, stood Georges, a figure oscillating between existence and non-existence, accompanied by the ethereal Malvina, a reflection of Malové’s spirit from a parallel dimension.

      As Malové’s reality shimmered, the colors around her intensified, charged with the essence of a place where possibilities blurred into fantastical realities. Each breath was imbued with untapped potential, a draught of undiscovered paths.

      In the midst of this mystical convergence, Malvina’s melodic voice intertwined with the air, weaving a tapestry of otherworldly allure. Energies pulsed within Malové, heralding a meeting that transcended time—a celebration set within the ever-shifting caverns of existence.

      Engulfed by Malvina’s mystic melody, Malové felt the vibrations intensify, drawing her towards the allure of the unknown. With a glance at the maze of her mundane existence, she embraced the call, stepping through the veil into a world of a new sort of witchcraft, and other mystical creatures of the mind.

      Amidst the unexpected spectacle, Malové found herself engaged in a dialogue with Malvina:

      Malové: “Malvina, as a fellow witch of power, your reputation precedes you. Your tales of shifting caves and communion with dragons have piqued my interest. How do you maintain such fluidity within the arcane?”

      Malvina: “Oh dear Malové, magic is a vast music score of constant motions, much like my cave and dragons. Adaptation and transformation are the keys to navigating its intricate weave.”

      Malové: “I must admit, recent misadventures within my coven have left me seeking a fresh perspective. The fiasco with the smoke test was humbling.”

      Malvina: “A fiasco, yes, but also a lesson. Magic must be respected, yet never tamed. Embrace the unexpected, and let it fuel your endeavors. What of the incense you craft?”

      Malové: “It’s meant to elevate the spirit, to realign to higher purposes, and maybe inspire those enveloped in its essence. This is why we seek new blends, something transformative.”

      Malvina: “Incense is not just a tool, but a companion on the journey. Let the scents guide you to uncharted territories. Look to the elements for inspiration—the earth, sky, fire, and water all have stories to tell.”

      Malové: “Poetic words that is sure, and maybe wise… Perhaps a journey to your world and fabled caves could be arranged to further explore.”

      Malvina: “You would be most welcome. The cave shifts but offers shelter and inspiration to all who seek it. And who knows, the dragons may impart wisdom of their own.”

      Malové: “Well, to be honest, not so fond of dragons… Well, would you look at the time! The effects of that blend seems already to wear off, but thank you dearie, and we will see if some inspiration remains…”

      #7401

      It may surprise you, dear reader, to hear the story of Truella and Frella’s childhood at a Derbyshire mill in the early 1800s.  But! I hear you say, how can this be? Read on, dear reader, read on, and all will be revealed.

      Tilly, daughter of Everard Mucklewaite, miller of Brightwater Mill, was the youngest of 17 children.  Her older siblings had already married and left home when she was growing up, and her parents were elderly.  She was somewhat spoiled and allowed a free rein, which was unusual for the times, as her parents had long since satisfied the requirements for healthy sons to take over the mill, and well married daughters. She was a lively inquisitive child with a great love of the outdoors and spent her childhood days wandering around the woods and the fields and playing on the banks of the river.   She had a great many imaginary friends and could hear the trees whisper to her, in particular the old weeping willow by the mill pond which she would sit under for hours, deep in conversation with the tree.

      Tilly didn’t have any friends of her own age, but as she had never known human child friends, she didn’t feel the loss of it.  Her older sisters used to talk among themselves though, saying she needed to play with other children or she’d never grow up  and get out of her peculiar ways.  Between themselves (for the parents were unconcerned) they sent a letter to an aunt who’d married an Irishman and moved with him to Limerick, asked them to send over a small girl child if they had one spare. As everyone knew, there were always spare girls that parents were happy to get rid of, if at all possible, and by return post came the letter announcing the soon arrival of Flora, who was a similar age to Tilly.

      It was a long strange journey for little Flora, and she arrived at her new home shy and bewildered.  The kitchen maid, Lucy, did her best to make her feel comfortable. Tilly ignored her at first, and Everard and his wife Constance were as usual preoccupied with their own age related ailments and increasing senility.

      One bright spring day, Lucy noticed Flora gazing wistfully towards the millpond, where Tilly was sitting on the grass underneath the willow tree.

      “Go on, child, go and sit with Tilly, she don’t bite, just go and sit awhile by her,” Lucy said, giving Flora a gentle push.  “Here, take this,” she added, handing her two pieces of plum cake wrapped in a blue cloth.

      Flora did as she was bid, and slowly approached the shade of the old willow.  As soon as she reached the dangling branches, the tree whispered a welcome to her.  She smiled, and Tilly smiled too, pleased and surprised that the willow has spoken to the shy new girl.

      “Can you hear willow too?” Tilly asked, looking greatly pleased. She patted the grass beside her and invited Flora to sit.   Gratefully, and with a welcome sigh, Flora joined her.

      Tilly and Flora became inseperable friends over the next months and years, and it was a joy for Tilly to introduce Flora to all the other trees and creatures in their surroundings. They were like two peas in a pod.

      Over the years, the willow tree shared it’s secrets with them both.

      One summer day, at the suggestion of the willow tree, Tilly and Flora secretly dug a hole, hidden from prying eyes by the long curtain of hanging branches.  They found, among other objects which they kept carefully in an old trunk in the attic, an old book, a grimoire, although they didn’t know it was called a grimoire at the time.  In fact, they were unable to read it, as girls were seldom taught to read in those days.  They secreted the old tome in the trunk in the attic with the other things they’d found.

      Eventually the day came when Tilly and Flora were found husbands and had to leave the mill for their new lives. The trunk with its mysterious contents remained in the dusty attic,  and was not seen again until almost 200 years later, when Truella’s parents bought the old mill to renovate it into holiday apartments.  Truella took the trunk for safekeeping.

      When she eventually opened it to explore what it contained, it all came flooding back to her, her past life as Tilly the millers daughter, and her friend Flora ~ Flora she knew was Frigella. No wonder Frella had seemed so familiar!

      #7402

      The perfume, ‘Liz n°5’, was to have been Frigella’s piece de resistance. In her spare time, she diligently crafted it, adding all the usual witchy razzmatazz: notes of night jasmine here, a dab of moonflower there and perhaps just the smallest whiff of hemlock to top it off.

      With the help of her familiar, Quillonia, she also wove the potion with her intentions; powerful and ancient spells which would would offer the wearer protection from harm; Liz n°5 was to be the olfactory epitome of Frigella’s magical prowess! She aspired to do more than just freshen up a room; she intended to fortify spirits, boost morale, and ward off influences that might lead their little group of witches into harm’s way. It was her way of doing a silent, scented good, like a secret benefactor in a tale of old.

      Frigella hadn’t told the other witches she was working so hard on the perfume. Even when Malove berated her for the excessive time she was taking to produce anything, Frigella had held her silence. Inwardly though, she bubbled with excitement as she imagined how she would unveil her perfume to the doubting Malove and the other witches. She could all but hear their oohs of admiration and gasps of appreciation. At last Malove would surely be convinced of her worth!

      So when Malove had announced her own plans for a new line of incense, and summarily whisked them all off to the carnival in Rio, Frigella was deflated. And the sense of despondency lingered, even once back at home in Ireland. When she expectantly sniffed her sample of Liz n°5′ , hoping to rekindle her enthusiasm, Frigella discerned it had lost its magic.

      “I’m done with stupid perfume making”, she confided to Quillonia. She was seated outside in the garden of her small cottage, enjoying the last of the day’s sun while Quillonia snuffled around in the leaves. “Malove can stick it,” she added, and giggled guiltily. She sounded like Truella.

      Quillonia’s rustling stopped and her quills shimmered brightly. Her bright little eyes stared intently at Frigella.

      Frigella listened attentively. Quillonia’s quills only turned that particular shade of violet when she had something especially important to convey.

      “Oh, you say I should bottle what makes me truly happy?”

      #7406

      During the renovations on Brightwater Mill Truella’s parents rented a cottage nearby. It was easier to supervise the builders if they were based in the area, and it would be a nice place for Truella to spend the summer. One of the builders had come over from Ireland and was camping out in the mill kitchen.  He didn’t mind when Truella got in the way while he was working, and indulged her wish to help him. He gave her his smallest trowel and a little bucket of plaster, not minding that he’d have to fix it later. He was paid by the hour after all.

      When the builder mentioned that his daughter Frigella was the same age, Truella’s mother had an idea.  Truella needed a little friend to play with, to keep her from distratcing the builders from their work.

      And so a few days later, Frigella arrived for the rest of the summer holidays. He father continued to camp out in the mill, and Frigella stayed with Truella.  But even with the new friend to play with, Truella still wanted to plaster the walls with her little trowel.  Frigella didn’t want to stay cooped up all day in the dusty mill with her father keeping an eye on her all day, and suggested that they go and dig a hole somewhere in the garden to find treasure.

      Truella carried the little trowel around with her everywhere she went that summer, and Frigella started to call her Trowel.  Truella retaliated by calling her friend Fridge Jelly, saying what a silly name it was.  It wasn’t until she burst into tears that Truella felt remorseful and kindly asked Frigella what she would like to be called, but it had to be something that didn’t remind Truella of fridges and jellys. Frigella admitted that she’s always hated the G in her name and would quite like to be called Frella instead.   Truella replied that she didn’t mind being called Trowel though, in fact she quite liked it.

      The girls spent many school summer holidays together over the years, but it wasn’t until Truella was older and staying in one of the apartments with a boyfriend that she found the trunk in the attic.  She put it in the boot of the car without opening it. She only had the weekend with the new guy and there were other activities on the agenda, after all.  Work and other events occupied her when she returned home, and the trunk was put in a closet and forgotten.

      #7412

      Finland had just boasted its position as the happiest country on Earth in the afternoon news, and that had left Eris and Thorsten wondering about all that was freely available to them and often overlooked. Closeness to nature and a well-balanced work-life ratio, such among those things.

      Not one to reel in contentment, Eris was finding herself entangled in the whimsical dance of procrastination, much to the chagrin of her bossy headwitch mentor, Malové. Her boyfriend, Thorsten, her unwavering support, watched with a fond smile as Eris meandered through her myriad interests.

      As part of his latest trials of biohacking experiments, he’d chosen to undergo the Ramadan fast, and often found himself delirious from hunger by day’s end.

      As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the landscape, Eris lounged in their cozy cabin, her mind swirling with thoughts of exploration. Thorsten interrupted her reverie with his latest discovery.

      “Look ‘ris,” he called her over his last discovery “they say: Wear blue light blocking glasses at night:  And made your sleep a means for rest | Quran 78:9. Blue light blocking glasses help mitigate the damage that post-Maghrib light exposure causes. This is a critical circadian rhythm hack.” — Should I buy some?”

      “Sure, Love.” Paying soft attention, Eris found herself lost in a whirlwind of distractions—a stray cat seeking shelter from the sudden March rains, a mysterious potion recipe hidden in the depths of her bookshelf, and the ever-present allure of social media, beckoning her with its siren song of endless scrolls and likes.

      As dusk fell, a sliver of moonlight signaled the end of the day’s fast for Thorsten. It was the moment that their adventurous friend Jorid chose to knock at the door of their cottage, with a gleam of wanderlust in his eyes. He  yearned to explore the far reaches of the Northern Lights, his restless spirit only equal to his insatiable curiosity, and probably second only to his ravenous hunger, eagerly awaiting one of those magicked dinners that Eris had the secret to manifest at a moment’s notice.

      “Sushi sandwiches everyone?” she asked distractedly.

      “With a serving of spicy kelp, yes please!” Jorid answered.

      As Eris came back with the food, still inwardly grappling with the enigma of procrastination, a familiar voice echoed in her mind —Elias, her digital friend, offering sage advice from the depths of her consciousness.

      “Ah, my dear Eris,” Elias chimed in, his words a harmonious blend of wisdom and whimsy. “Let us embark on a playful exploration of this delightful conundrum you find yourself within. Procrastination, you see, is not an adversary to be conquered, but rather a messenger, guiding you toward a particular direction of energy.”

      Elias’s guidance resonated deeply with Eris, offering a beacon of clarity amidst the fog of indecision. “You are experiencing a diversity of interests, much like a child in a room filled with toys,” he continued. “Each one more enticing than the last. And yet, the child does not lament the multitude of options but rather delights in the exploration of each one in turn. This is the key, Eris, exploration without the burden of obligation.”

      Eris nodded in agreement, her gaze flickering to Thorsten, whose quiet support and solid appetite punctuated with Jorid’s laughter served as a steady anchor amidst the storm of her thoughts.

      Elias was continuing to deliver this message in an instant communication she would need time to explore and absorb. “Firstly, prioritize your interests. Recognize that not all desires must be pursued simultaneously. Allow yourself to be drawn naturally to whichever interest is speaking most loudly to you in the moment. Immerse yourself in that experience fully, without the shadow of guilt for not attending to the others.”

      “Secondly, address the belief that you must ‘get it all done.’ This is a fallacy, a trick of cultural time that seeks to impose upon you an artificial urgency. Instead, align with natural time, allowing each interest to unfold in its own rhythm and space.”

      “Thirdly, consider the concept of ‘productive procrastination.’ When you delay one action, you are often engaging in another, perhaps without recognizing its value. Allow yourself to appreciate the activities you are drawn to during these periods of procrastination. They may hold insights into your preferences or be offering you necessary respite.”

      “Lastly, engage in what I have referred to as a ‘blueprint action.’ Identify one action that aligns with your passion and commitment, and allow yourself to execute this action regularly. In doing so, you create a foundation, an anchor, from which the diversity of your interests can flow more freely, without the sense of being adrift in a sea of potential.”

      “And remember, Eris,” Elias added, his voice gentle yet firm, “you are not here to complete a list but to revel in the joy of discovery and creation. Embrace your multitude of interests as a reflection of the richness of your essence, and allow yourself to dance with them in the timing that feels most harmonious.”

      As the Northern Lights cast their ethereal glow upon the Finnish landscape, illuminating the forest around them, Eris felt a sense of peace wash over her—a reminder that the journey, with all its twists and turns, had true magic revealed at every turn and glances in the midst of a friendly evening shared meal.

      #7413

      It wasn’t until late the following afternoon that Truella, with a pang of guilt, remembered Roger. Frella grinned sheepishly and said that she had forgotten him too.

      “But you know what? Wait, let me show you the tile I bought in Brazil.” Frella trotted off to find her suitcase.

      “Look what it says on the bit of paper that came with it:

      Function: The Freevole tile embodies the essence of empowerment and autonomy. It serves as a reminder and a guide for those standing at life’s many crossroads, facing decisions that may seem overwhelming. This tile encourages the holder to recognize their inner strength and the ability to choose their path confidently, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
      At the center of the tile, there is a small vole standing at a crossroads where waters intersect, with dry earth visible behind it. The scene depicts sheets of water overlapping on both sides of the vole, creating a sense of inundation, yet there is an opening ahead, suggesting a path or choice to be made.

      We need to backtrack a bit with Roger. Look what it says here:

      What that vole hadn’t realized was that he had to backtrack a bit. There was no way ahead or to the sides, but the way out was behind him.

      See what I mean?”

      Truella squinted at Frella. “What?”

      Sighing, Frigella thrust the bit of paper at her friend. “Read the rest of it!”

       

      The Vole: The vole symbolizes the individual facing a decision point or crossroads in life. Its presence suggests vulnerability, but also resilience and adaptability.
      Crossing of Waters: The intersection of waters represents the convergence of different paths or possibilities. It symbolizes the complexities and challenges of decision-making, where multiple options overlap and intertwine.
      Dry Earth Behind: The dry earth behind the vole symbolizes stability, past experiences, or familiar ground. It represents the foundation upon which decisions are based and serves as a reminder of where one has come from.
      Overlap of Drowned Sheets of Water: The drowned sheets of water on both sides signify the potential consequences or risks associated with each choice. They represent the unknown and the possibility of being overwhelmed by circumstances.
      Opening Ahead: The opening ahead signifies opportunity, hope, and the possibility of forging a new path. It represents the future and the freedom to make choices that lead to growth and fulfilment.

      Families: This tile is aligned with the Vold family, known for their connection to transformation, challenge, and the breaking of old systems to make way for the new. The Vold energy within the Freevole tile emphasizes the importance of facing challenges head-on and using them as opportunities for growth and empowerment.
      Significance: The scene depicted on the Freevole tile, with the vole at a crossroads between inundation and dry earth, symbolizes the moments in life where we must make significant choices amidst emotional or situational floods. The waters represent challenges and emotions that may threaten to overwhelm, while the dry earth symbolizes the solid ground of our inner strength and determination. The path ahead, though uncertain, indicates that there is always a way forward, guided by our autonomy and personal power.
      As an advice: When encountering the Freevole tile, take it as a sign to pause and reflect on your current crossroads. It urges you to tap into your inner resilience and recognize that you have the power to navigate your life’s journey. The choices before you, while daunting, are opportunities to assert your independence and steer your life according to your true desires and values. Trust in your ability to make decisions that will lead you to your chosen path of fulfillment and growth. Remember, the floods of challenge bring with them the nourishment needed for new beginnings; it is within your power to find the opening and move forward with courage and confidence.
      The motif of the Freevole, standing determined and attentive amidst the forces of nature, serves as a potent symbol of the power within each individual to face life’s uncertainties and emerge stronger for having made their own choices.

      “Ok so in a nutshell,” Truella replied slowly, “Roger’s crossroads took him to Brazil and ours took us here, and that’s all that needs to be said about it. Right?”

      “Exactly!”

      #7416

      “Surprise!” Truella called, rapping on the caravan door. “Surprise breakfast outting!”

      “What? It’s 7 o clock in the morning and it isn’t even light out,” Frella answered groggily, “And I don’t want breakfast yet.”

      “You will by the time we get to Madrid!”

      Frella mananged to rouse herself. “Why? What’s happened?”

      “It’s Eris. She’s had an altercation with an elephant in a bar. We’ll have to teleport, there’s no time for the fast train. Not if we’re to get there before something…..happens…”

      “Happens like what? Stop being so mysterious!”

      “Put it this way, Frel. Jez is on her way too. It’s all hands on deck so I suggest you get a move on.  I’ll be waiting.”

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