Salem village, massachusetts
June 22, 1692
In the dark green shadows of the deep woods, an hour before moonrise, they met in secret. Soon the longest day would become the shortest night of the solstice.
There would be no celebration, no rite of thanksgiving for the light, the warmth, on this Sabbat of Litha. This midsummer was a time of ignorance, and of death.
The three who met, met in fear.
"Have we all we need?" The one known here as Air pulled her hood closer so that not a single pale lock of hair could be seen in the light of the dying day.
"What we have shall do. " Earth laid her parcel on the ground. The part of her that wanted to weep and to rage over what had been done, over what was to come, was buried deep. With her head bent, her thick brown hair fell forward free.
"Is there no other way for us?" Air touched a hand to Earth's shoulder, and both looked at the third.
She stood, slim and straight. There was sorrow in her eyes, but behind it lived a firm purpose. She who was Fire threw back her hood in a gesture of defiance. Curling waves of red spilled out.
"It is because of our way there is no other. They will hunt us down like thieves and brigands, murder us, as they have already murdered a poor innocent. "
"Bridget Bishop was not a witch. " Earth spoke bitterly as she rose to her feet.
"No, and so she told the court of oyer and terminer. So she swore. Yet they hanged her. Murdered over the lies of a few young girls and the ravings of the fanatics who smell brimstone in every breath of air. "
"But there have been petitions. " Air linked her fingers together like a woman preparing to pray. Or plead. "Not everyone supports the court, or this terrible persecution. "
"Too little," Earth murmured. "And far too late. "
"It will not end with one death. I have seen it. " Fire closed her eyes, saw again the horrors to come. "Our protection cannot outlast the hunt. They will find us, and they will destroy us. "
"We have done nothing. " Air dropped her hands to her sides. "No harm. "
"What harm did Bridget Bishop do?" Fire countered. "What harm have any of the others accused and waiting trial done to the people of Salem Town? Sarah Osborne died in a Boston prison. For what crime?"
Temper lanced through her, hot and keen, and was ruthlessly rejected. Even now she refused to let power be stained by anger and hate.
"The blood is up in these Puritans," she continued. "These pioneers. Fanatics they are, and they will bring a wave of death before sanity returns. "
"If we could help. "
"We cannot stop it, sister. "
"No. " Fire nodded at Earth. "All we can do is survive. So we leave this place, the home we made here, the lives we might have led here. And make another. "
Gently, she cupped Air's face in her hands. "Grieve not for what can never be, but celebrate what can. We are the Three, and we will not be vanquished in this place. "
"We will be lonely. "
"We will be together. "
And in that last flicker of the day they cast the circle-one by two by three. Fire ringed around the earth, and the wind lifted the flames high.
Inside the magic circle they formed another, joining hands.
Accepting now, Air lifted her face to the sky. "As night takes the day, we offer this light. We are true to the Way and stand for the right. Truth here is done, a circle of one. "
Earth, defiant, raised her voice. "This hour is our last upon this ground. Present, future, past, we will not be found. Strength not rue, a circle of two. "
"We offered our craft with harm to none, but the hunt for our blood has already begun. We will make our place away from here. " Fire lifted joined hands high. "Away from death, away from fear. Power lives free, a circle of three. "
The wind kicked, the earth trembled. And the magic fire speared through the night. Three voices rose, in unison.
"Away from hate let this land be torn. Lift it from fear, from death and scorn. Carve rock, carve tree, carve hill and stream. Carry us with it on midsummer moonbeam. Out past the cliff and out past the shore, to be severed from this land forever more. We take our island out to the sea. As we will, so mote it be. "
And a great roar sounded in the forest, a swirling torrent of wind, a wild leap of fire. While those who hunted what they never understood slept in their righteous beds, an island rose up toward sky, circled madly toward sea.
Settled safe and serene on quiet waves. And took its first breath of life on that shortest night.