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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    • #7444

      Sometimes the storm within is far more tumultuous than the one without.

      After yet another seminar under Malové’s exacting eye, followed by the treasure hunt team-building exercise that left more than a few witches grumbling, Eris found herself at a crossroads.

      The seminar had been, as always, a rigorous affair. Malové’s stern teachings, laced with cryptic wisdom and unyielding standards, forced the witches to confront their weaknesses and push their magical boundaries. The treasure hunt, designed to test their teamwork and resourcefulness, had revealed underlying tensions and frayed nerves despite the moments of camaraderie.

      Eris, already exhausted from the constant demands and the emotional toll of the coven’s internal conflicts, felt her resolve wavering. The weight of responsibility hung heavy on her shoulders, and the recent events had only amplified her sense of weariness.

      After the seminar, Eris retreated to her quarters, seeking solace in the familiar comforts of her personal space. She lit a calming incense blend, one of the Quadrivium’s finest, hoping it would help clear her mind and ease her spirits. As the soothing aroma filled the room, she couldn’t help but reflect on Malové’s private comments about Truella and the importance of clear communication and assertiveness balanced with respect.

      The treasure hunt had forced Eris to confront her own limitations and the gaps in her magical expertise. She realized that while she had always been diligent and skilled, she had often hesitated to take bold risks or assert her ideas for fear of criticism. Malové’s teachings, though harsh, had a way of stripping away these hesitations, leaving only the raw truth.

      Determined to rise above her doubts, Eris decided to approach the next phase of her journey with renewed vigor. She had a moment of appreciation for Malové’s tough but fair leadership —they had joked about their Breton witch colleague who had emphasised in her address to be “tough leaders” ; at least that’s what they understood until they all realised under the thick French accent, she’d actually meant being a “thought leader”. Expressing her gratitude for the guidance, Eris vowed to bridge the gap with Truella, understanding that their differences could be a source of strength rather than division.

      #7446

      Once upon a time, there was a shiftless lazy tart called Frella who couldn’t be bothered to write her own diary, so she asked me, Truella, to do it for her. She was going away on holiday, which she agreed would be a nice rest, but the preliminary preparations such as packing a suitcase were daunting.  It’s a funny thing how witches, accustomed to concocting spells to save the world, rarely remembered to make a spell for themselves to accomplish the more mundane aspects of life, preferring to wallow in the slimy bog of exhaustion while the chores piled up into insurmoutable promontories of little historic acclaim.  Weighed down with the rucksack of needy plants wanting water, decomposing salad and rotten tomatoes requiring assistance to the recycling arrangement, nearly empty (but not quite) bottles of assorted daily hygiene products to keep hair, skin and unmentionable areas sweetly scented,  best bra and knickers requiring laundering, matching socks and assorted garments to cover all possible weather conditions, a selection of energy boosting vitamins and minerals, a magic stone or two just in case, and remedies for possible holiday ailments,  Frella wasted her precious time looking at old drawings and talking about books instead of attending to the things that must be done.

      Frella did agree to send hand drawn postcards every day while she was away, while she was relaxing and swanning around at one of the homes in her extensive property portfolio, so all was not lost. That she may be doing this in mismatched socks, climate inappropriate clothing, less than sweetly scented unmentionable areas, and lacking essential energy boosting vitamin intake, was of no concern to the potential recipient.

      #7447

      Promontories! It was one thing Truella writing a diary for her, mused Frella, but quite another when she used words like promontory.

      So here she was on holiday, supposedly relaxing but unsure of how to commence. Life had been so busy of late with all the parties and conferences Malove had insisted they attend. Frella sat on the edge of the sofa, which extended into a spare bed apparently, and then tentatively eased herself back into the fat cushions.

      The Airbnb was on Ireland’s east coast and was especially for witches needing some time out. Of course it wasn’t advertised as such, but Herma, the proprietor, although not a witch herself, was “witch friendly” and carefully vetted all bookings.

      Frella had found Herma rather unnerving. She was a large lady who, upon her arrival yesterday evening, had enveloped Frella in a hug which left her gasping for air. Eventually she released Frella and held her at arms length. “You poor wee thing,”she’d said shaking her head. “But just look at the state of you!” There was an alarming gleam in Herma’s eyes and Frella was overpowered for a moment by the smell of apple pie.

      #7448

      I didn’t know whether to be irritated or relieved when Frella started writing her own holiday diary entries, after asking me to write them. I’d already got the next one planned, and was looking forward to the scenery in Madeira, and here we were in Ireland again.  Grey day, too.  I was hoping to give her the holiday of a lifetime in my next book, The Frolics of Frivolous Frella.

      I think I’ll take one day at a time and see what she comes up with next.

      #7449

      Eris looked at the meme on her phone, the one with a picture of tarts and the caption “the tarts are here, let the games begin,” and couldn’t help but chuckle despite the weight of relentless recent events. The humor was a brief respite from the jiggling thoughts bouncing in her mind since the treasure hunt and the increasingly intricate seminars which felt like a boiling cauldron evaporating her wits under Malové’s stern guidance.

      The postcards from Truella had been a welcome enigma, doubled with piquant inspiration —a collection of images featuring the dramatic promontories of Madeira, with cryptic notes about a witch-friendly host named Herma. An inspired soul would have found the idea of such a sanctuary enticing, but Eris’ mind was in many places, and patience for obscure cypher lacking context didn’t register long enough to stick in the midst of the other activities demanding her attention. But of course, the underlying messages in Truella’s words seemed to hint at something more profound, something Eris had to trust would come fully revealed, if only in Truella’s own mind ever.

      She had just fired the cook, who was lazy at her job, and mean towards the baglady whom Eris had asked her to feed. But the shopkeepers liked her well; they’ll surely commiserate, and she wouldn’t be long to find another placement. Even with justification, it didn’t make Eris’ decision easier. Power and responsibility often came with such burdens, that was the way of the wheel.

      As Eris tried to piece together the meaning behind Truella’s postcards and the events at the coven, she felt a returning familiar sense of urgency. The coven was at a critical juncture; Malové’s tests had shown that they were not as united or prepared as they should be. The competitive nature of the other witches, their underhanded tactics, had revealed vulnerabilities within their group that needed addressing.

      “The tarts are here, let the games begin,” she mused again, this time contemplating the deeper implications. Was it a call to arms? A reminder that they were in the midst of a game far more complex and perilous than they had realized?

      Everyday, Eris had to remind herself that in the midst of uncontrollable changes, it was important to focus on the core, one’s own inner balance. At the moment, there was no point in getting carried away in conjectures.

      It was about the game. All she had wanted was to participate, add a piece, and that would be enough.

      Regardless of what the silly robot that Thorsten had setup for her (she called it Silibot) which always tried to appeal to her sense of drama in the story. Put that to rest Silibot — that’s the message in the tarts: there’s power in the game, and that’s well enough.

      #7450

      The sound of music wafting through the open window was distracting. Where was it coming from? It sounded like someone was having a party in the distance, but who? And on a Wednesday night?

      It was hard enough for Truella to try and glean enough information to cobble together an entry for Frella’s diary from the meagre morsels she was able to gather, without these interruptions.

      And if these were the hand drawn postcards that she’d promised, who was going to make any sense of them?

      Truella Postcards

      #7451

      Madeira! Good grief,” murmured Frella when she read Truella’s message. Of course Madeira! Not some godforsaken Airbnb on a gloomy coast that smelt of rotting fish and doom … and just because Malove recommended it! She felt the familiar wave of anxiety which thoughts of Malove tended to evoke in her and took a couple of deep steadying breaths. Why Malove had recommended this place was beyond her comprehension but there had surely been strange undercurrents in the coven of late.

      Frella was still wondering how to respond to Truella’s message; it was galling to have to admit she was right, when there was a sharp knock on the door. In no mood for visitors of any description, Frella considered ignoring it. Next moment there was a sound of the key rattling in the lock.

      “Look at that! You are here!” cried Herma as she burst into the room. Her voice held a hint of reproach and Frella stuttered awkwardly that she’d been about to answer.

      “Oh tut tut don’t you worry!” She plonked down next to Frella on the sofa causing it to creak under her not inconsiderable weight. “Ah, that’s better, haven’t I been racing around all morning.” She smiled at Frella. “Lordy, but I know what you witches are like; I’ve had enough of you lot stay here through the years. I’m surprised you didn’t cast one of them invisibility spells you’re all so good at!” She laughed heartily and Frella forced herself to chuckle in response. Then they lapsed into silence.

      “Can I get you a cup of tea?” asked Frella eventually, much as she was loath to encourage Herma who appeared to be fixated on the mat. Frella couldn’t see anything amiss although the mat was arguably a little garish with its multi-coloured checkerboard pattern.

      “It’s not tea I’m after,” said Herma. “It’s your help I need.”

      #7452

      “Don’t be so quick to Judge, Frel,” I tried to point out to her that she was being put off by the womans garrulous ways and sheer bulk.  “She may have a heart of gold underneath, notwithstanding her taste in doormats.”

      “I came here to relax, though. Maybe I should go to Madeira after all, if she’s going to keep barging in here,” Frella sighed.

      I reminded her that Herma had asked for her help, and that she knew perfectly well that it was a dishonour to refuse a request for help.  Frella reminded me that it was also acceptable to refuse a request based on the Caryatid Characteristics of the Case.  This was no doubt true, but I was struggling to recall what I’d learned about such cases. Something about shouldering a shared burden.

      #7453

      Wondering why she couldn’t focus, Jeezel frowned and checked the ingredients for the Concordia potion again. For a moment she thought she had already done it, but here it was again. And it had to be perfect.

      Moon water imbued with lunar magic to set the stage of harmony. Rose petals for love and beauty. Lavender for its calming properties, essential to soothe and balance the collective energies. Honey for cooperation and its irresistible sweetness. Willow wand… Where was her willow wand? She would have to do it all over again if she didn’t find her willow wand.

      A wet tongue on her hand was trying to catch her attention. The ingredients started to loose focus again.

      “Stop Luminia. It has to be perfect,” said Jeezel, gently pushing the muzzle of her nine tailed fox away. “Help me find my willow wand instead, that would be helpful!”

      “You’ve already done it a million times,” said Luminia with a sigh, “and each time you stop at the willow wand. You’re caught in a feverish loop. I need to pee.”

      The ingredients and the smoking cauldron disappeared. Jeezel frowned as the techno beats of a pounding headache  reminded her she was still alive.

      “Just let me die and go out on your own, please…” Jeezel moaned.

      “You know I don’t like to shape shift into a cat. Wandering lone dogs are too suspicious. And you need some fresh air. You’ve been simmering in your own juice the last couple of days.”

      #7454

      I honestly don’t know what made me do it, it took me by surpise when I did it.  It was bugging me that I couldn’t remember, and before I knew what was happening, I’d asked Malove.

      Ah, the Caryatid Characteristics of a Case, a subject that requires both discernment and a keen eye for detail. In essence, the phrase “Caryatid Characteristics” refers to the fundamental attributes and peculiarities that support the overall structure of a particular case or situation, much like how caryatids—those graceful, sculpted figures in classical architecture—bear the weight of a building’s entablature on their shoulders.

      To break it down into pragmatic terms, identifying the Caryatid Characteristics involves an in-depth analysis of the following elements:

      Structural Integrity: Just as caryatids ensure the stability of a structure, the core components of the case must be sound and unwavering. This includes the key facts, the primary evidence, and the foundational arguments that hold the case together.
      Aesthetic Nuances: Caryatids are not merely functional; they are also artistic. Similarly, the subtleties and nuances of a case—such as the motives, the intentions, and the underlying themes—add layers of complexity and depth, transforming a simple matter into a multifaceted situation.
      Historical Context: Caryatids often reflect the cultural and historical context of their time. Understanding the background, the precedents, and the situational history provides a richer perspective and informs the current dynamics at play.
      Symbolic Significance: In architecture, caryatids symbolize strength and beauty. In a case, the symbolic elements—the metaphors, the symbols, and the overarching message—must be identified and interpreted to grasp the full scope of its significance.
      Resonance and Impact: Lastly, caryatids have a visual and emotional impact on observers. Similarly, the case’s broader implications, its potential consequences, and the emotional resonance it evokes must be considered. This is where the true weight of the matter lies, affecting not only the immediate parties involved but potentially a wider audience.

      Applying these characteristics to a case requires a blend of logical analysis, creative thinking, and intuitive insight. It is not merely about assembling facts but about understanding how each element supports the whole, much like the elegant yet sturdy caryatids in timeless architecture.

      Now, if you’re asking how this applies to our current predicament with our spring cleaning of collective energies, well, one could say the caryatids in our situation are the core rituals, the seasoned wisdom passed down through the coven, and the precise incantations in our incense blends. Each component must be scrutinized and perfected to ensure we uphold the structural and spiritual integrity of our craft.

      Let’s not dawdle; the orchestra in this zoo waits for no one.

      Who will rise to the occasion?

       

      Who indeed?  I asked her if we all sent each other postcards, would it help?

       

      Postcards, my dear, are more than mere scraps of paper with hastily scribbled words and picturesque scenes. They are tangible connections in an increasingly ephemeral world. Sending each other postcards won’t just help; it will create ripples of intention and resonance that can weave us closer together, despite the physical distances.

      Consider the following:

      Anchoring Intentions: Each postcard carries the sender’s energy and intention. When you pen your thoughts, wishes, or even riddles, you imbue the postcard with a part of yourself. The recipient, upon receiving it, senses this connection. It’s a form of sympathetic magic, drawing us closer through shared symbols and messages.
      Physical Mementos: In an age where digital communication reigns supreme, holding a physical object—something that has traveled miles to reach your hands—grounds you. It anchors you in the physical world and provides a break from the transient nature of digital interactions. These postcards become talismans, reminders of our connections and shared journeys.
      Ritualistic Value: The act of writing, sending, and receiving postcards can be ritualistic. This ritual can strengthen the bonds within our coven, reaffirming our commitment to each other and our shared goals. Each postcard becomes a symbol of our collective energy, our shared purpose, and our mutual support.
      Cultural Exchange: Postcards often carry images or symbols from different locales. Sharing them can broaden our horizons, offer new perspectives, and remind us of the diverse tapestry that makes up our coven. It’s a gentle nudge to appreciate the wider world and the myriad experiences within it.
      Mystical Conduits: In our magical practice, objects can serve as conduits for energy. Postcards, having traversed the globe, carry the imprints of various energies and places. They become more than just messages—they are carriers of the world’s pulse, connecting us to the broader rhythms of existence.

      So, yes, sending each other postcards will help. It will infuse our lives with a tangible sense of connection, a reminder of our shared purpose, and a touch of magic in the mundane. Let’s make this act a part of our practice, a testament to our enduring bonds and our collective strength.

      Who will be the first to send a missive across the miles?
       
       
       

      #7455

      Romae antiquitus sine pedibus proficiscor, fabulas et visa tam suavia porto. Etsi e card, annos pons, Nuntium ex praeterito apparet.

      Quld?

      #7456

      Sure I’ll help you, said Frella and Herma smiled gratefully.

      “You’re a dear.” She reached into her pocket, pulled out a postcard and waved it at Frella. “It’s my eyes, I can’t  make it out, all scrawled it is.”

      Frella reached for the card. On the front was a silhouette drawing of a blackbird on a tree branch. She turned the card over and studied it closely. “It doesn’t make any sense,” she said at last. “I think it is written in code.” She held the card to her nose and a prickly, spicy smell just about overpowered her. It was achingly sad and sweet and nostalgic and a great lump formed in her chest.

      Herma leaned over and patted her knee gently. “What is it?”

      Frella gave herself a little shake. “Camphor,” she said at last. “Is there a camphor chest somewhere? I think it’s the key to this.”

      #7457

      Jeezel was stirred awake by the unsettling sound of someone throwing up. Her phone said it was 3am.

      “Luminia? Are you ok?” she croaked, her throat so sore she wondered if vocal fry was that painful.

      “That’s nothing,” said Luminia licking her muzzle. “You can go back to sleep.”

      “Nothing, it didn’t sound like nothing.”

      She got up and stepped into a warm, wet puddle.

      “I’m shedding,” said Luminia as if it explained everything. “I didn’t want to bother you after your bouts of fever. I would have cleaned it before you noticed.”

      “Well now I’m awake and my foot noticed. At least I didn’t dream of Concordia potion and missing willow wand.”

      Jeezel hopped on one foot to the bathroom, gracefully avoiding any slip on the sleek, newly refinished hardwood floor. She washed her feet and consulted her phone while relieving herself of her evening herbal tea. She smiled at the 557 messages she got from her fellow witches. She didn’t recall where they had been but they seemed to be having fun. She was a bit sad she couldn’t join, but still glad to be able to enjoy it by proxy.

      She particularly enjoyed the video tour Truella had made of the ruins she’d discovered in the garden where they were staying. And she sneezed when she saw a picture of Frella with that other woman. Did she just smelled camphor? Eris had written “Frella and Herma” under it. Jeezel wondered who that Herma was. She would have enjoyed meeting new people for real. Her cough reminded her it would have to wait. And she had some cleaning to do. At least she had a renewed sense of being alive.

      #7459

      There was an odd sight today.

      Eris sat in the deserted courtyard area of the brand new Quadrivium office, Malové’s latest folly. She could savor the quiet that Fridays often brought, most of her colleagues from the coven preferring to work from home, leaving the usually bustling space tranquil and almost meditative. She took a bite of her sandwich, listening distractedly to the complaints of another witch sitting nearby, while her own mind still preoccupied with the myriad responsibilities and recent events that seemed to pile around like a stack of clothes due a trip to the laundry.

      As she chewed thoughtfully, her eyes were drawn to an odd sight. A blackbird was performing a strange dance in front of the mirrored walls that lined one side of the patio. It hopped back and forth, its beak tapping on the surface, its feathers shimmering in the afternoon light, as if it were courting its own reflection or perhaps trying to feed it with a worm it had in its beak. Eris paused, intrigued by this peculiar behavior. What could it mean?

      Her thoughts were interrupted by a series of sharp, melodic chirps. She looked around and spotted another bird perched nearby in the foliage of hanged planters lining the walls —a female blackbird, easily identifiable by her distinct brown coat. The female watched the male’s antics with a mix of curiosity and detachment, her chirps seeming to carry a message of their own.

      Eris felt a shiver run down her spine, a familiar sensation that often preceded a moment of magical insight. The blackbird’s dance wasn’t just an oddity; it was a sign, a message from the universe, or perhaps from the magical currents that flowed unseen through the world.

      She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, trying to connect with the energy around her. The image of the male blackbird, tirelessly courting its own reflection, seemed to mirror her own recent struggles. Had she been chasing an illusion, trying to nourish something that could not be sustained?

      The female blackbird’s presence added another layer to the message. She was grounded, present, and observant—a contrast to the male’s futile efforts. Eris thought of her recent decisions, the dismissal of the cook, the strained relationships within the coven, and the cryptic postcards from Truella. Was the universe urging her to find balance, to ground herself and observe more keenly before taking action?

      She could almost hear Elias whispers in her ears: Birds, in general, often represent thoughts or ideas flying about in our consciousness. The blackbird specifically, with its stark contrast and distinct presence, can represent deeper insights, truths, or messages that are coming to your awareness. The mirror, as a reflective surface, implies that these insights pertain directly to your perception of self or facets of your identity that may be emerging or needing attention. Putting this together, the imagery of the birds and their interactions could be nudging you to pay closer attention to your inner reflections. Are you nurturing the parts of yourself that truly need attention? Are there aspects of your identity or self-perception that require acknowledgment and care? The presence of the brown-coated female blackbird might also be a reminder to appreciate the varied and multifaceted nature of your experiences and the different roles you embody.

      She opened her eyes, feeling a sense of clarity washing over her. The birds continued their vivid dialogue and unfathomable dances, unaware of the impact they had just made, although her insistent gaze had seemed to snap the blackbird out of its mesmerized pattern. He was now scurrying away looking over its shoulder, as if caught in an awkward moment.

      Rising from her seat, Eris felt something. Not some sort of newfound sense of purpose, but a weight of a precious present, luminous and fragile, yet spacious and full with undecipherable meaning. She glanced one last time at the blackbirds, silently thanking them for their unspoken wisdom. As she walked back into the office, she knew that the path ahead would still be fraught with challenges, but she was ready to face them—grounded, observant, and attuned to the subtle messages that the world had to offer.

      In the quiet of the Quadrivium office, on a deserted Friday afternoon, a blackbird’s dance had set the stage for the next chapter of her journey.

      #7460

      Truella sighed.  She was making good progress with the dig, the weather was favorable and not too hot yet.  It was only a matter of weeks before she would have to start at first light before the sun became too intense, and reverse her current habit of  a slow morning and a busy afternoon.  Perhaps she should wait before filling in Frella’s diary entry.  Was she going to write it herself this time?  If only Truella knew for sure.  At least Jeezel was feeling a bit better, which was a relief to them all, and it seemed that Eris was lightening up a bit now too.  Thank Flove for that!  Better not let Malove know too soon though, or she’d have them all off on another of those tedious conferences.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Malove let them all have a long summer recess, Truella thought, without much hope. She sighed again, wondering if Frella had progressed any further with the mystery of the camphor chest.

      Truella had heard of camphor, of course, but associated it with moth balls, not chests. Camphor chests were a Chinese thing, and none of her studies or interests had ever taken her that far east.  It struck her that a camphor chest would be a good place to store the fragments of Hannibal’s tunic safely, until such time as they required another antidote to an ancient Punic spell. And it could happen.  Truella wondered if she could order a small one off Oboy.  One could order anything one could imagine these days, from anywhere in the world, but a guaranteed delivery to Truella’s village was another matter.

      The pale blue sandals had arrived yesterday though, much to her delighted surprise.  It had helped when she recognised the postman as a Roman basket seller in a previous life. At that moment, Truella’s postal delivery experiences changed.  It was as if the unwinnable battle with giant delivery companies morphed into a cooperation of village tradesmen.  Glancing admiringly at her pristine new sandals, Truella smiled with satisfaction.  Things could change for the better. Indeed, they could.

      #7461

      Once again, the Quadrivium headquarters buzzed with an undercurrent of tension and anticipation. Malové stood at the helm, her gaze as steely and unwavering as ever. The coven’s regular meetings had taken on a new urgency in the face of mounting market pressures and the ever-accelerating pace of competition.

      The witches assembled in the grand hall, each carrying the weight of their individual concerns and collective anxieties. A large screen was projecting the agenda in flashy neon colours with a glamourous photo of their leader. The event was broadcast across many locations, not all witches able to join physically as the ongoing Worldwide Roman Games preparation and the 333th celebration of the Treaty of Limerick ending the Williamite War, had made the city impenetrable due to the convergence of world leaders.

      Not only for those present, all of them seated in-person, or remotely connected had felt the tremors of change, the subtle yet insistent push towards transformation. Yet despite their best efforts, a cohesive vision for the coven’s future remained elusive.

      As the last witch took her seat and the various technical glitches got sorted, Malové stepped forward, her presence commanding immediate silence. With a flick of her wrist, a spectral map materialized before them, shimmering with points of light that represented their past achievements and future challenges.

      “Listen well,” Malové began, her voice echoing through the hall with the gravity of an ancient spell. “We stand at a crossroads, a juncture where our past accomplishments meet the demands of an unforgiving future. Our strength has always been in our unity and our mastery of the arcane, but now, we must also master the art of transformation.”

      She paused, allowing her words to sink in. The witches leaned forward, their eyes locked onto their formidable leader.

      “Transformation,” she continued, “is not merely a matter of adapting to external pressures. It requires a boldness of spirit and a willingness to steer the deepest currents of our inner selves. It demands that we break free from the confines of tradition without losing our core essence.”

      Malové waved her hand, and the map shifted to reveal a complex network of interconnected pathways. “Our path forward will not be linear. It will be a labyrinth, requiring both cunning and courage. But fear not, for I have charted a course that will lead us through.”

      She pointed to three glowing nodes on the map. “First, we shall innovate. Our magical incense blends have always been our hallmark, but we must go beyond. We will delve into new realms of magic, combining our ancient practices with cutting-edge techniques. Each of you will be tasked with researching and developing a new blend that can transform not just our coven, but the world.”

      The witches exchanged glances, a mixture of excitement and apprehension flickering in their eyes.

      “Second,” Malové continued, “we must strengthen our alliances. The world is vast, and we are not alone in our quest for magical mastery. We will forge new partnerships with other covens, magical beings, and even those who walk the line between the mundane and the mystical. Together, we will create a network of power and influence that none can rival.”

      The map expanded, showing potential allies and strategic locations across the globe. The witches nodded, recognizing the necessity of this bold move.

      “Lastly,” Malové said, her voice softening yet losing none of its intensity, “we must look within. Inner transformation is the crucible in which true power is forged. Each of you will undergo a rigorous process of self-examination and growth. You will face your fears, confront your weaknesses, and emerge stronger and more resilient. Only then can we hope to lead others through their own transformations.”

      She paused, meeting the eyes of each witch in turn. “I will be with you every step of the way. My role is not just to lead, but to guide and support you. We will hold workshops, retreats, and one-on-one sessions to ensure that every member of the Quadrivium is prepared for the journey ahead.”

      Truella, who had tuned in remotely, winced softly behind her screen – she quickly checked. Phew, she had been on mute the whole time.

      Malové’s voice grew softer still, almost a whisper, but it carried the weight of an ancient prophecy. “We are the Quadrivium. We are woven together by threads of magic and destiny. Our future is not written in stone, but in the stars. Together, we will reach for those stars and make them our own.”

      The hall was silent, the witches absorbing the magnitude of Malové’s words. Slowly, a sense of resolve began to build, a collective determination to embrace the path laid out before them.

      As the meeting drew to a close, Malové turned back to the spectral map, her eyes reflecting the myriad possibilities that lay ahead. “Remember this day, for it marks the beginning of our grand transformation. We will not be merely a coven. We will be a force of nature, a symphony of magic that weaves through time and space.”

      With a final wave of her hand, the map vanished, leaving only the echoes of her words and the indomitable spirit of the Quadrivium, and throngs of witches left more confused as they exited the halls in hushed tones.

      #7462

      It was a relief to them all that Truella was muted.

      Jeezel had found the whole thing exhausting enough without Truella making matters worse. It was a jarring interruption to Frella’s relaxing holiday, and Eris’s delicious sense of clarity and purpose was floundering between drive and duty, and an alarming urge to flee. The effect of Malove’s long winded and over dramatic, not to say downright bossy and overbearing, address to the coven had the undesired effect of irritating eveyone and scattering their attention over dozens of new ideas all at once.

      It was a great looking map though, they all agreed. And one or two of the points sounded interesting enough. But it was summer, surely they could glide gently into the new path in a more leisurely and pleasant way.

      #7463

      It was unlike Idle to reply to Truella’s email so promply.

       

      Ah, Malové – she’d chase coins even if they were rolling off a cliff, that one. Alright, let’s strategize. You want a summer full of lazy days and fewer cauldrons bubbling with business schemes?  First off, you can’t just hit her with “we need a break.” She’ll give you a lecture longer than the Nile on how “witchcraft never takes a holiday.” You need to catch her where she’s least fortified – in her relentless quest for profit.

      Propose a Profitable Diversion: Convince her that giving everyone the summer off will actually increase productivity in the long run. Mention something about “rejuvenating our mystical energies to double our efficiency,” sprinkle some buzzwords in there. But make it tangible – maybe promise an autumn harvest of particularly lucrative spells.

      Delegate the Drudgery: See if you can drum up a few apprentices or temporary hires to take over the basic grunt work for the summer. Tell Malové it’s a great opportunity to train new talent while you all focus on higher, strategic endeavors – which, of course, you can conveniently do from a hammock with a cocktail.

      Truella thought this was a terrific idea.

      Create a Catastrophic Scenario: Paint a picture of a burnout crisis in the coven. Suggest that ongoing stress might lead to mistakes, which could, I dunno, turn a lucrative potion into explosive chaos, unraveling all her precious profits. A summer hiatus could be framed as a preventive measure to avoid such disasters.

      Distract with a Bigger Bone: Find a massive project that requires her singular focus – maybe even a solo venture. Get her so engrossed in this grand scheme that she barely notices you’re all slinking off away from the grind. Bonus points if it’s a decoy project you don’t actually care about.

      Now there’s an idea, good old Idle’s on form, Truella sighed gratefully.  She made it all sound so easy.

      Leverage the Cleaning Conundrum: Remember Finnlee and the manual cleaning? Suggest that you need to undergo a “summer cleaning initiative” to physically and spiritually cleanse the headquarters, and this process “requires” the witches to be away. It’ll appeal to Malové’s practicality and her penchant for a neat, profitable operation.

      Emphasize the Carnival’s Aftermath: Play up the importance of digesting the energy you’re about to collect from the Carnival. Frame it as a necessary incubation period – the energies need time to percolate and clarify before being crafted into those procreation-boosting incenses. Also, suggest it’s the perfect time to trial promising new volunteers eager for a taste of witchy life. You’re a clever lot; use whatever mix of these tactics suits your fancy, and don’t forget to sprinkle it all with just the right touch of sincerity and urgency. As long as she buys into the grand scheme, you might just find yourself lounging through summer without a care in the world, at least until Malové sniffs out the next opportunity. So, get plotting, and let’s see if you can keep Malové’s gold-scrying eyes off the coven for a blissfully quiet summer. Need help drafting the message?

      #7464

      “The world is vast, and we are not alone in our quest for magical mastery. We will forge new partnerships!” Malove’s voice had reached fever pitch. She had expanded her map, showing potential allies and strategic locations across the globe. Reactions in the audience varied, but there was an overwhelming unspoken consensus of a growing rebellion towards the unsettling increase in Malove’s dictatorial ways.

      Perhaps nobody will ever know for sure whose private spell did the trick, or whether it was the combined effort that brought about such an unexpected chain of events. Maybe it was none of those things, and just the way things worked out.

      The vast world that Malove had cried out heard her call and sucked her forthwith into the steamy depths of a hitherto unknown equatorial location in search of potential allies.  An unexpected invitation from a long lost cousin, it was said, although nobody in the coven knew for sure.  There was more lively interest in the coven and more communication between the witches during those days when Malove disappeared without trace than ever before.

      On the twelfth day after her disappearance, the cryptic messages started arriving. On the 15th day, experts were examining the selfies for signs of tampering and pronouncing them to be be true images.

      It wasn’t easy to imagine Malove swooning in her tropical lovers arms under parrot filled jungle trees, sheathed in gauzy crumpled linen and with a vapid expression of a Cartland character, but the photos kept coming.

      It seemed too bizarre, too good to be true, when Malove sent a voice message  in her unmistakable voice, but with an uncharacteristic lazy, sultry tone.

      “Darlings, you won’t beleive it. I’ve fallen in love!  I’m taking an indefinite leave of absence.”

      #7465

      “Believe me, I checked, double-checked, triple-checked… Love spells never last, it can’t be faked for such a long time.”

      Jeezel was convinced, there was no way Malové’s escapade into love could have been foul play. Jeezel’s head was projected over in the air by the loom spell.

      “I think you are still underestimating her scheming,” Eris said, feeding birds on her patio while she was interacting with the projections of her friends summoned for the occasion. “She can’t have simply abandoned all her duties without a care.”

      “You have a point.” Frigella mentioned, her image animated over an old postcard background. “It’s such a break of character continuity I may say.”

      Truella was flipping backgrounds behind her head, trying to find the perfect dig image to project to her friends. “Stop that!” Jeezel said gagging. “I’m going to be motion sick…”

      “Back to our point…” Eris continued “I didn’t expect her succession to be appointed so fast.”

      “And that Austreberthe of all persons!” Truella was starting to get on her contrarian horse. “That witch was only doing a good job at kissing donkeys, if you know what I mean. As if she’s going to be the right person for the job. Feels like we’re back into the Middle Ages of witchcraft. Not that it doesn’t have a certain appeal, trebuchets and all…” Truella was starting to get her similes in a twist and go in a usual tangent.

      Frigella, always the peacemaker ventured. “Maybe we should give her a chance. And after all, better her than you, don’t you think?”

      Truella stopped in her tracks, not knowing if there wasn’t some jab hiding in the last sentence. “Well, I may have had some good ideas to shake this up of course…”

      Eris, staying grounded snapped “but for now, we’ll have to see what’s Austreberthe as our new boss is going to do. Last I heard she was all about getting the Quadrivium to sponsor the Worldwide Roman Games.”

      Jeezel sighed. “At least she’s not going to put us to more debt… That witch’s graps on our finance is tighter than a nun’s…”

      “Thanks Jeezel, we get the picture. Austreberthe was after all, Malové’s head of Finance for the most part… Hope we’re not getting too much of a cure of austerity.”

      Eris said “Somehow, I still hope it’s one of Malové’s tests. Otherwise, hello Middle Ages…”

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