Chapter 1


Selena woke up in her dream and pressed her hands to the darkness above her. Something was there, close, looming over her – she could feel it there, even if she could not see it. She squirmed and moved her fingers over the darkness above her.

It was soft, a silky blackness under her fingertips.

Why was it so dark?

Flattening her palms against the fabric, Selena smoothed them over it, seeking edges, curves, anything that would tell her what it was.

She breathed in, deeply, and smelt something sweet, pungent, and she blinked in the blackness.

Flowers, she thought. Slightly past their best.

And something else.

More flowers? Decaying in this darkness?

Or something else?

Recognition came with a sharp shock.

She was in a coffin.

Selena closed her eyes, breathed in through her nose, out through her lips, forcing her mind to calm, stay clear, open.

A coffin. She shifted slightly and there was a rustle that she put her hands to. Flowers. She traced a stem, catching a finger pad on a thorn.

Roses, then.

A petal fell off into her palm, soft, like a whisper. Selena shifted again, and her hips bumped up against the side of the satin-lined box.

Not much room in a coffin, she thought, eyes still tight shut so she couldn’t see the darkness. But at least she knew where she was now, and she relaxed.


Well, that was unexpected, but not the worst thing in the world. She’d thought she had a few more years on her – she was only sixty-five, for Goddess’s sake.

But if it were her time, then she would lie her bones here and go on with grace.

Her eyes sprang open. Dead!

But she couldn’t be. Shaking her head, she repeated the thought. She couldn’t be.

For one thing, she had express orders written down. They were with Block & Ward, the Grove solicitors. No one would dare go against her wishes. Morghan would never let them.

The rose petal fell from her palm, and she touched the satin lining above her.

Not her coffin.

She’d expressly said she wanted a woven wicker one. A nice comfy basket made with branches from the trees of her grove.

And not roses. She liked roses – who didn’t? But not for her funeral. She wanted something a little different – which was also written in her will.

Herbs, not roses.

Specifically, Lady’s Mantle. Alchemilla Mollis.

Selena smiled in the darkness of someone else’s coffin. Lady’s Mantle – prized by alchemists of old, for it was said that the dew from Lady’s Mantle was necessary for the Philosopher’s Stone.

Teresa had laughed when she’d told her that when the time came, that was what she wanted inside her basket. A good joke, Teresa had said. For of course, the Philosopher’s Stone granted a lengthier lifespan to those fortunate enough to have procured one of them.

Life was lengthy, Selena knew. Even if she had been laid out prettily in her willow basket, the yellow flowers of Lady’s Mantle tucked about her slack flesh, she would still be living on.

Moving on.

Which begged the question – why was she in someone else’s coffin?

Of course, she knew now, she was dreaming, but dreaming was also travelling, and knowing.

Her fingers plucked another rose petal and she wondered vaguely what colour roses they were. Red, from a lover, to symbolise their passion? White, for the purity of remembrance?

Yellow, she thought, or maybe that was simply coloured by her own Lady’s Mantle.

Oh, Selena chided herself, shifting slightly upon the satin cushion. What did it matter what colour the roses were? Here in the darkness of this coffin, they had no colour.

One thing she was sure of – this was no Grove funeral. She lay back on her satin cushion with the smell of the flowers in her nose and tried to ignore them. She reached instead for the shifting of air, for the visions it would, if she were lucky, bring her.

‘Grant me your far-reaching sight, spirits of Air,’ she whispered.

Someone cried, off in the distance. Muffled, so that Selena had to strain for it. Sobbing, as though a heart were breaking.

Selena suppressed a whisper of impatience. Crying at a death was hardly a telling detail.

The sobbing continued, turned into wailing. Childish wailing.

Selena opened her eyes and stared up at the blackness of the coffin again. A child. Far away, in a place that called to her on wind and wing, a child sobbed for its…mother?

Yes, for its – her – mother.

Selena closed her eyes again. Of all things with which she’d had no experience, children were top of the list. Her eyes flicked open to gaze again into the darkness. There was Clarice, wasn’t there? She was a child, only a mite of five when her mother had arrived in Wellsford.

There. Not completely unused to children, then.

No, not completely.

The crying went on, following Selena as she drifted back to sleep and out of the dream.

A small child, crying for her mother.




Chapter 2


Selena rounded the last curve of the path to the top of the hill behind Wellsford, where it looked out over the vast greyness of the ocean. She heard it before she could see it, a dull roar, as though something mindless growled in frustration. She shook her head. The ocean was not mindless, but strong in its tides, in its mysterious travels around the globe.


She looked up from her passing thoughts and saw Morghan ahead of her. ‘Morghan,’ she said. ‘What are you doing up here this fine morning?’

Morghan laughed, because fine it was not. The wind was aswirl with energy and flung a drizzling rain all about it. She looked out from under her hood at the Lady of the Grove. ‘If that is what you can call it – I came to stand on the edge of it and feel small, slight, caught up in it.’

Selena nodded, and lifted her face to the sky, closing her eyes against the wind and the flying rain. She breathed in, smelling the world upon her breath, all its far-flung secrets.

All its callings.

‘May I stand with you?’ she asked, moving up to Morghan who gestured to the ground next to her.

They were quiet for a long minute, listening instead to the wind and rain and the deep-throated song of the sea. Somewhere out above its waves, a gull screamed, wings out, letting the wind buffet it about the sky.

‘I have never despised feeling small, standing here looking at the vast strength and size of this world,’ Morghan said, her voice low, musing, the edge of a song in it. She shook her head. ‘Nor when looking up at a skyful of stars, the stretching of the Milky Way, across eons of space and time.’

‘People do, though,’ Selena said. ‘They do. They look at it all and hate to feel so small.’

‘The problem is that they feel insignificant along with it,’ Morghan agreed. ‘If only we could teach them differently. That they are…’ She cast about for the words. None of which ever seemed quite right, quite enough. She took a breath and salt coated her nose and throat.

‘That they are vital,’ she finished. ‘That all is alive and interconnected.’ She spread her arms and tipped her face to the sky and Hawk flung open his wings behind her, rising up, rising up on the cold breath of the wind that laughed and danced around the dawning of the day.

Selena nodded and gazed out across the ocean to where the water called to sky and joined, dancing together on the curving of the horizon. Somewhere out there, she thought.

Yes. Somewhere out there. Past that blending dance of sea and sky. The wind sneaked cold fingers under her hood and tugged at her hair. She let it play, cold against her skin, for the wind had plenty to say and show, given the chance.

‘Whisper me where,’ she murmured over the crashing of waves beneath them. Over the piercing shrieks of the gull, over the wind’s own rush and roar.

Out there, the wind answered, blowing into her ears, slinking fingers over her closed eyelids. Out there, faraway, your kin calls.

Selena’s eyes blinked open. Kin? Her kin?

‘What is it?’ Morghan asked, watching Selena now, seeing how her lips moved in invocation, and how her eyes suddenly opened as if an answer had been gained.

Selena turned to look at her. ‘My kin,’ she said, then frowned.

‘What kin?’ Morghan asked, then raised her eyebrows. Her arms were tucked back into the warmth of her cloak now. ‘Which kin?’

The wind had all the answers, Selena thought, and reached for them. She pushed her cloak back over her shoulders so that the wind could wind its way around her, cold with winter coming, cold with ice and snow from its northern travels.

She bared her heart to it, let herself go.

Morghan watched, knowing what Selena was doing, taking a step back to give her space.

The visions tumbled around Selena as though carried on a great storm and she straightened her legs, her back, battered by them. It was always like this, so many memories, coming hard and fast so it was an effort not to turn away, not to be overwhelmed.

Her lips moved. ‘Wind of many journeys,’ she whispered. ‘Show me the memories that are mine.’

The coffin. Blackness, the feel of satin cushion and silk rose petals. And beyond that? Selena shook her head, both reaching, and letting flow. A child wailed.

Sobbed for her mother. And the mother cried out for the child, even from the grave.

This was the one, Selena thought. The one that gave her no rest. She sensed movement. The child again, and a different scent on the wind. The hot, florid smell of summer and plants blooming that she did not know the names of. Wild plants with stalks of great sticky red, trees with tufts of spiky flowers and the birds were iridescent as they fed on the flowers, sucking the nectar as a curl of white feather bobbed under their chins.

But the child. Hungry. The murmur of a voice trying to soothe.

And then the child’s dreaming mind turned its attention to Selena – she felt it – and there was curiosity, and then…

Selena clapped her hands to her ears, staggering back a step to be caught by Morghan.

The child had cried out, and her voice had been strong, even across oceans.

‘What is it?’ Morghan asked, hands steadying Selena. ‘What did you see?’

‘Hear,’ Selena croaked, and she shook her head, dropping her hands, straightening, taking a shaking breath.

‘This is to do with the dreams,’ Morghan said, and it wasn’t a question.

Selena nodded anyway. ‘Every night now. Every night I wake up in another woman’s coffin and there is a child crying.’

Morghan glanced around, feeling the wind whoop and swoop up and down the cliff’s edge. She didn’t have a talent to see the secrets the wind collected on its travels, but she did not doubt Selena’s.

‘What do we do about this?’ Morghan asked.

Selena looked at her with her gaze steadying. A slight smile curled at her lips. ‘We,’ she said. ‘We must do these things – I must go and find the child, and you must carry on here.’

Morghan’s frown deepened the grey of her eyes. ‘Do you know where this child is, or why you must find her?’

Selena laughed as she turned her steps away from the cliff’s edge and back down the path towards Hawthorn House. She flung a glance back at Morghan.

‘I must find her because she and her mother call me to do so.’ She shook her head and drew the cloak’s hood back over it so that the rain would not dampen her any more than it already had.

Morghan stared after Selena for a moment, then hurried in her footsteps. ‘But where is she, this mystery child?’

Selena slowed her steps and turned around to look at Morghan. ‘Across the ocean,’ she said. ‘The child is across the ocean – and I do not think it is this one, either.’

Morghan’s frown deepened. ‘I’ve not heard of this,’ she said. ‘Going helter-skelter across the globe on the hunt for a child. This is the way things are done?’

‘Why not?’ Selena asked. ‘Our soul families incarnate in many places, and when one needs aid, should they not call their kin? Was that not what happened with you and Grainne?’

Morghan debated on this logic for a moment, then shook her head. ‘I can’t answer no to that,’ she admitted. ‘But who is this child?’

Turning, Selena began retracing her steps back to the house, Morghan on her heels. ‘Who she is, I don’t know, only that she is important in our soul family, and so I, who hears her cry, cannot ignore it.’

That made Morghan tip her head to the side and listen. For a far cry of a child. But all she heard was the wind. ‘Why then, cannot I hear her?’

Selena reached out, took Morghan’s hand, and squeezed it before tucking her own back under the cloak. The rain was falling more heavily, the wind slinking off to play between the leafless branches of the trees. She would not be surprised if the weather turned to sleet later in the day.

‘I’m serious, Selena,’ Morghan said, keeping pace. ‘Why can’t I hear this child?’

‘She calls on the wind,’ Selena said.

‘I hear the wind.’

‘Yes, although you are more aligned with water, I think.’ Selena lifted her shoulders in a brief shrug. ‘Which also carries information and memories.’ She glanced at the younger woman, who she had spent training in the ancient ways all these years. Morghan was graceful and strong, born to be exactly what she was – a Lady of the Grove.

‘But this is my call to hear,’ she finished. ‘Your purpose is different, is it not? Can you go harum-scarum off across oceans?’

Morghan paled slightly. ‘You’re really going to go?’ she asked, then shook her head. ‘We’ll talk about that in a minute.’ She watched her step for a moment, her booted feet crunching softly on the stone and soil of the path. ‘Of course, you’re right. My purpose unfolds here.’

With her family. With Grainne and all they had achieved. And with Clarice.

‘Grainne needs you. You two have done wonders together, and there has been so much healing, lifetimes worth for the pair of you; but she needs you to be where you are. We all need you to be where you are. The Grove cannot be without its priestess, since for centuries now, it has been little more than a single priestess who is the Grove.’

‘Grainne goes away for days at a time sometimes,’ Morghan said. ‘Sailing all around the place.’

‘Yes, but that is not you going away, Morghan, and you know it. You are made with your roots in Wilde Grove land.’

‘You make me sound like the biggest stick-in-the-mud ever,’ Morghan said without rancour.

Selena shook her head. ‘You are what is needed for the times we are in and those coming.’ She blinked and smiled at her protegee. ‘And to be deeply rooted is no curse. Ask any tree.’

Morghan nodded slightly. ‘All right,’ she said. ‘You are right. My purpose bids me stay here, and yours – where is the flow of your purpose taking you?’

‘I do not know,’ Selena said. ‘Although surely the jaunt will be brief. A child who can call this loudly and this far – and whose mother can too – must belong in the Grove.’ 

‘I agree,’ Morghan said. She took a deep breath, smelling the rain and the soil underfoot, rich with the dreams of new life. ‘It is Samhain tomorrow,’ she said. ‘A propitious time, perhaps, for helping to find this child?’


Chapter 3



‘Good morning, Clarice,’ Selena said, coming down the stairs to find the child pushing the heavy front door shut. ‘Where have you been before the sun has even risen?’

Clarice got the door to snick closed then grinned up at Selena. ‘I was setting my lamp,’ she said.

That raised Selena’s eyebrows. ‘Outside?’

Clarice lifted the knobs of her shoulders in a shrug that almost reached her ears. Her pale, elfin face split into a grin.

Of course outside, Selena thought. This was Clarice they were talking about. Keeping the child indoors was an almost impossible job. She nodded. ‘Well then,’ she asked. ‘Where?’

‘I hung it from my favourite tree,’ Clarice answered, puffing her thin chest out defiantly and crossing her arms over it as though to ask Selena what of it?

But Selena only smiled. ‘Which is your favourite this week?’ she asked.

‘I don’t change ‘em!’ Clarice looked horrified at the idea. ‘That wouldn’t be fair to the ones who weren’t my favourite anymore.’

‘Of course,’ Selena said. ‘That’s completely true.’

Clarice looked mollified by the answer. ‘It’s the big Oak along the path to the standing stones.’

‘Not Grandmother Oak?’

‘Nope. She gets plenty of attention.’ This was said with the supreme earnestness only a ten-year-old could muster. ‘I mean the Guardian.’

Selena leaned against the banister. This was interesting. ‘The Guardian?’ she asked, capitalising the word just as Clarice had. Clarice who had the knack of talking to the trees for sure.

Another shrug. ‘Well, that’s what she is. She warns the others when someone is coming.’  She brushed her hair impatiently back from her face.

‘Someone like who?’

‘Well, I don’t know. Someone who needs to be warned about, I suppose.’

Selena came down the rest of the stairs. She plucked a bony twig from Clarice’s hair and handed it to her. ‘Looks like the tree gave you a gift in return.’

Taking the twig, Clarice’s face split into a wide grin. ‘I knew she’d like to have the lantern!’ She turned the twig over in her fingers. ‘I’m going to wrap some string around this,’ she said after a thoughtful moment. ‘And wear it around my neck.’ She smiled at Selena. ‘Like a jewel. It can be a jewel, right?’

‘Gifts always are,’ Selena said. ‘Are you coming to the kitchen afterward?’

‘Yep,’ Clarice answered, and scooted away up the stairs in search of string and any other supplies she might need – some were always kept here at the big house for her. She paused at the landing and leaned over, looking back down at Selena. ‘Where’d you put your lamp?’ she asked.

‘In my room,’ Selena answered.

‘Your bedroom, or your ritual room?’

‘That one,’ Selena said.

‘In the window?’


‘To call the spirits home, right?’


Clarice’s face was suddenly shadowed, and she crept back down several steps then sat down on one, peering at Selena over her knees.

Selena waited.

‘What if the spirit was a bad person when they were alive?’ she asked. ‘We don’t want to talk to those ones, surely?’

‘No,’ Selena said. ‘But if they do come, then they come for our blessings, because that is what we offer all of them.’ She smiled gently at the child who had probably seen rather a lot before coming to the Grove. ‘Our blessings and our songs.’

‘So, if they don’t want those things, they don’t come?’

‘That’s the way.’

Clarice sat on the step thinking about this, turning it over in her quick little mind, then she jumped up. ‘That’s all right, then,’ she said, already disappearing up the stairs.

Yes, Selena thought, turning back towards the kitchen. That’s all right, then.

Such a simple thing to say, to think, and yet – it wasn’t said near frequently enough.


By breakfast, the Hawthorn House kitchen was ringing with laughter and chatter, as the members of the Grove who didn’t have obligations in their own households gathered together to bake the breads and pies that would be offered that day to the spirits, Clarice darting here and there around them all, nabbing the ingredients she wanted for her own small pie.

Teresa blew in through the doorway, arms laden with herbs. ‘Sorry I’m late,’ she cried, settling the trussed piles down on the kitchen bench. ‘Sorry, Mrs. Parker – are they all right there?’

Mrs. Parker shook her long-suffering head. ‘They’ll be fine.’ Then she relented and bent her head over, sniffing appreciatively. ‘This is a smell that gladdens my heart,’ she said.

Teresa nodded at her, then turned and looked around the room. ‘You need any help?’ she asked. ‘Can I put a pot of tea on?’

But Mrs. Parker had a good handle on her kitchen, just as usual. Teresa sidled over to Selena, who was helping Clarice roll out pastry for her pie lid, a slight frown on her face.

‘You’re miles away,’ Teresa said, and Selena looked at her in surprise. Then she glanced down at Clarice and nodded.

‘You’ll be fine now,’ she said. ‘It’s just right.’ She moved away from the big kitchen table, Teresa following her.

‘What’s up?’ Teresa said, blunt and straight to the point as usual.

Selena looked around the room, smiling a little wistfully at the familiar scene. Morghan, Grainne, Ambrose – with a dot of flour on his cheek – all bent over their dough or pastry, laughing at each other’s efforts while Mrs. Parker flapped around like the mother hen she was.

‘Let’s talk in the other room,’ Selena said.

‘That serious?’ Teresa closed the kitchen door and followed Selena, expecting to go to the sitting room, where she could hear the fire crackling away, talking to itself.

But Selena opened a different door, to the room she called her ritual room, and which Teresa thought of in her own head as the inner sanctum.  

And she closed the door behind them, too.

‘All right,’ Teresa said. ‘What is the problem, on this most holy of our days, then?’

Selena leaned against the solid table that spread its bulk across one good side of the small room. Idly, she touched a finger to the bowl of water there, sending ripples in miniature across the tiny pool. She shook her head. ‘It’s not a problem,’ she said.

Teresa leaned against the doorway, arms crossed as though she wouldn’t allow them to leave this room until the secret, or news, or whatever, had been spilled.

‘What is it, then?’ Teresa shook her head. ‘I can tell when there’s something on your mind. We’ve known each other long enough. My mother used to despair over the both of us.’ She sniffed. ‘Especially you.’’

‘I know,’ Selena said, smiling at her friend. ‘Your mother was a formidable woman.’

Teresa nodded. ‘So,’ she said. ‘Enough strolling down memory lane. What’s on your mind, Selena?’

‘I’m going away for a little while,’ Selena said.

Teresa looked at her, eyebrows raised. She paused only a minute. ‘This is about your dreams.’

‘And what the wind tells me. My visions, yes.’

Pursing her lips, Teresa considered the news. ‘Where to?’ she asked. ‘And when?’ Then, lastly, ‘Morghan knows?’

‘Morghan knows, of course,’ Teresa said. ‘And I’ll be announcing it generally soon, I expect. Perhaps after tonight.’ She paused, then nodded. ‘As to where – I don’t know yet. And when? As soon as I do know.’ Her gaze drifted to the window, to the grey, blustery day outside, the trees across the lawn waving their stick-figure branches at the growing day. ‘The urgency grows upon me.’

‘But you don’t know where?’ Teresa asked.

Selena shook her head, looked at her friend. ‘Far away. Across an ocean.’

‘The Atlantic?’ Teresa asked, looking in her mind at a map of the world. ‘What’s over there? Ireland, of course, or farther afield, Canada, the United States. There’s a lot of world to choose from, I hope you have a plan for finding out.’

Selena let the names of the countries Teresa mentioned sink inside her. She shook her head. ‘None of those, I think. I’m not sure it’s the Atlantic at all.’

Teresa gave a low whistle. ‘The Pacific? That is a long trip you’re talking about then. What? Japan, China, Indonesia? Australia, New Zealand?’

The list, right off the top of Teresa’s head made Selena grin. ‘You have a very good grasp of geography for someone who has never left the village she was born in.’

Teresa shrugged. ‘Plants come from all over the world, don’t they?’

‘That is true,’ Selena answered. ‘And as for a plan to find out which, I do have one, yes.’

A smile curled the edges of Teresa’s mouth. ‘Of course you do. And my mother was wrong, you know – you make a very great Lady of the Grove.’

Selena inclined her head in thanks. ‘It is a position one grows into,’ she said, then waved a hand.

‘Okay,’ Teresa said, straightening. ‘So, how long will you be, and shall I come with you?’

Selena looked at her in surprise. ‘You’d come with me?’

A casual shrug. ‘Of course.’

‘Across two oceans to Goddess knows where?’

‘Your point?’ Teresa hitched up her jeans and tried to look offended.

Selena though, shook her head and stepped across the room to put her hands on Teresa’s shoulders, placing a kiss on her forehead. ‘You are the best of friends,’ she said.

Teresa made a grumbling noise and rubbed her knuckles against her jeans. ‘You know I’d come.’ 

‘I know,’ Selena said. ‘And I am grateful, but your garden needs you. Wilde Grove needs you.’

Teresa thought about this for a moment then nodded. ‘To keep an eye on Morghan,’ she said.

That made Selena laugh. ‘I did not say that. Or anything of the sort.’

‘No, but I will anyway.’

‘I won’t be more than a few weeks away, I should think.’ Selena looked out the window again, watching the wind chase its tail about the trees. ‘There is a child who needs us,’ she said.

‘A child.’ This was interesting. Teresa pressed her lips together, thinking of her granddaughter, who was now goodness knows where, growing up away from Wellsford and the Grove where she belonged. But the thought of the child was almost more than Teresa could bear, after the death of her daughter and any hope of finding out what had happened to the kiddie, and so she pushed it aside. ‘There are not enough children in the Grove,’ she said.

‘Although there is Clarice,’ she added and licked her lips. ‘Another child would be welcome here.’ She eyed Selena intently. ‘Do you think…?’

‘That she is important to the Grove?’ Selena finished, for this thought had already crossed her mind.

‘It’s a girl, then?’

Selena nodded. ‘Yes. That at least, I’m sure of.’ She drew a deep breath. ‘As for the other, I can only say that it is a soul family matter, and so there is a great possibility that this child may come to take her place after Morghan.’

‘Not Clarice, then?’

Selena shook her head slowly. ‘Clarice is perhaps too fey, and she shies away from mingling with anyone outside her family.’

‘Well,’ Teresa said briskly. ‘Not that it matters at this point anyway.’

Selena looked carefully at her friend. ‘You’ve had no joy finding Becca’s child?’

‘No.’ Teresa turned away from the question. ‘We should get back; there’s a lot to do in preparation for tonight’s ritual and festivities.’

Selena followed her thoughtfully out the door. Yes. There was a lot to do in preparation.


Chapter 4


Darkness came crowding in over the trees, snagging in their branches and pooling about the hollows in their trunks. When it brushed up against the windows of Hawthorn House, Selena went to the kitchen in search of Mrs. Parker.

‘Everything’s ready for your say-so,’ Mrs. Parker said before Selena could even open her mouth. ‘And what’s this I hear about your going away awhile?’

‘Oh.’ Selena found herself drawn up short, then pulled her mouth in a wry grimace. ‘News travels quickly even here,’ she said.

Mrs. Parker nodded and moved a pile of plates on the table a quarter inch to the left. ‘Especially when it means you going away so far.’ She moved the plates back again, her lined, worn hands restless against them.

‘I’ll be all right,’ Selena said. ‘I don’t think it will be for too long.’ Even as she said it, she felt the tug of urgency. The tugging grew stronger every time she went looking for it.

‘You’ve not been on an aeroplane before.’

‘No,’ Selena said, and gave a little laugh, pressing a hand to her heart which seemed to thud a little more loudly under her long woollen dress. ‘I’ve not left Wellsford for any length of time – I teased Teresa about that today, but I shouldn’t have, since I’ve done precious little travelling in my time.’

That made Mrs. Parker look across the laden table at Selena, a severe expression in place on her face. ‘Now, Selena, there are a great many ways to travel, as you well know. You’ve been places and done things most don’t ever dream of.’ 

Selena shook her head, smiling as she accepted the rebuke. ‘Of course,’ she said.

‘And you’re not nervous of the trip, are you?’ Mrs. Parker seemed to have forgotten her own hesitations in refuting Selena’s.

Selena thought about this before answering. ‘No,’ she said after a moment, and rubbed at her arms where the fine hairs were standing on end. ‘Not of the flying, or finding my way around a place I’ve never been, but…’ She trailed off.

‘But what?’ Mrs. Parker asked, then answered her own question before Selena could. ‘But you’ll be afraid of not finding this wee one who calls to you, is that right?’

‘Of not finding her in time.’ And there, Selena thought, was the crux of the matter.

Mrs. Parker picked up the stack of dinner plates and held them to her chest. ‘Best be going soon, then, I think.’

Selena thought so too. ‘I should have the rest of the answers I seek by the time this night is done.’

‘There’s planes fly out every day, so I’m told,’ Mrs. Parker said, then put the dishes back down and leaned over to touch Selena, fleeting as a breeze on the wrist. ‘If it’s a child that’s in trouble, then don’t tarry, Selena.’ She stood back. ‘We’ll be just fine here while you’re away. And you’ll be back by Yule, from the sounds of it.’

Back by Yule, Selena thought. Yes. That sounded just fine. She nodded.

‘Right,’ Mrs. Parker said. ‘We’ll get this table set, shall we?’

Selena nodded. ‘It’s time,’ she said. ‘Ring the bell, I think.’

Mrs. Parker nodded, looked down at the stack of plates, then blew out a quick breath and put them back, going to pick up the bell instead. Hers was a low-key participation in the rituals of Wilde Grove, and that was the way she liked it, despite her family being able to trace their relationship with the Ladies of the Grove going back generations and hundreds of years. But she relished the ritual ringing of the bell.

She glanced back at Selena, who had followed her.

Selena nodded.

Mrs. Parker took a deep, grounding breath, and rang the bell.

Its voice was clear and pealed out through the house. Always, when Mrs. Parker did this – and she did it every Samhain – she had the sensation inside herself that doors were being rapped upon, that windows were cracked open, that the very air troubled itself into doorways, ready to be stepped through.

Which of course, was what it was all about.

It also called those on the other side of the sitting room door, where they’d been waiting by the fire that blew sparks and hissed and spat before falling into a quiet crackling again.

Morghan walked through the door, her dark hair shining almost black on her shoulders, the deep blue dress she wore turning her eyes the same colour. She looked over at Selena and bent her head, then did the same to Mrs. Parker.

She didn’t speak, for none of them would until the meal was over, but she followed Selena and Mrs. Parker as they returned to the kitchen. She didn’t glance back over her shoulder, but knew Grainne fell into line behind her, felt the hot cinnamon of her energy as she always did, and behind Grainne, the small, cool otherworldliness that was Clarice, she who was already as at home in the woods of the Grove as she was inside the houses. Perhaps more so.

Clarice walked as straight-backed as she could behind her mother in her moss-green dress. Clarice smoothed her hands over the wool of her own long dress – hers was a deep, rich orange, the colour of pumpkins, which made her smile, even though they didn’t celebrate with pumpkins at all. Well, not usually.

She turned and shot a grinning glance at her Uncle Ambrose, who winked in the dimness at her, then put his finger to his mouth. Quiet, he reminded her.

She didn’t need reminding. She and her mother had been in the Grove for five years now. She knew her way around each of the year’s eight rituals. Although this was, she thought, always her favourite. She shivered. When the Fae came out of the woods to dance with them…nothing compared. She smoothed down her dress again, her heart beating faster in anticipation.

But first, there was the dinner to get through, and when she reached the kitchen, she picked up the stack of bread and butter plates and took them through to the big dining room. Her mouth fell open when she went through the door behind her mother – there were candles everywhere, and she could smell Mrs. Parker’s honey polish which made the panelling gleam in the candlelight.

There were dried flowers everywhere too, and she spied with delight the twigs and acorns she’d collected from the woods.

Grainne turned and raised an eyebrow at her, and Clarice made herself stop her gawping at the lights and everything else, and go to the table, laying out the plates where they needed to go. Then they’d go back to the kitchen for the food and the Samhain feast would begin.

Selena closed her eyes for a moment after taking her place at the head of the long table. She breathed in the scents of the food – the breads and pies they had all helped to make that morning, and the joint of meat the Parkers had cooked slowly most of the afternoon. And under that, the candles, and the dried, wintery scents of the flower arrangements.

When she opened them, she gazed down the table at Morghan, and nodded slightly before sitting.

Everyone else sat down too, except for Morghan, who went slowly around the table, putting her hands on the empty chairs and pushing them in towards the table, as though guests had sat down upon them. Nobody touched their plates, or reached for the food, instead watching Morghan as she made another round, this time placing meat and vegetables upon each dinner plate in front of the empty seats, and breaking bread rolls open upon the butter plates to their sides.

Selena watched, breathing slowly, as the shadowy shapes of their ancestors, those who had come before them, came in through the open doorway and took their seats to be served by Morghan.

She didn’t see their features, didn’t, for the most part, know their names, but that wasn’t necessary. She felt them there, welcomed through the veil for a meal together.

And she bowed her head to them in greeting.

Morghan went to Selena’s side then and served her. She could feel the presence of the ones come to the empty chairs waiting for them, and the silence was full of their swirling energy. She spooned vegetables onto Selena’s plate, a ritual she’d done every year since coming to the Grove to train under Selena. It was a ritual and a reminder, that her position was to serve. Above all else, to serve the Goddess, the spirits, the Grove.

Selena had done this before her, and Morghan expected that one day, another would do it after herself. She moved to the next place on Selena’s right and served food onto Jason Block’s plate, then dished up for Henry Block, Jason’s son. Then Ambrose, who had arrived at the door of Hawthorn House one day to introduce himself and announce to a startled Selena and Morghan that he was there to give his service to the Grove.

Morghan smiled at the memory, and moved on to serve Grainne, who had come to her brother when she’d had nowhere else to go and there, they, of course, had met. And been together ever since.

She breathed in the scent of her lover’s perfume – something clean and white and green – then moved on to dish up for Clarice next to her mother, and Teresa next to her, all scrubbed, the dirt out from under her nails, softened and smoothed in the russet brown robe she wore.

And then Morghan was back at her own place, and sat, helping herself to her serving, while around her, in silence, everyone picked up their knives and forks, and began to eat. They smiled at each other across the table, and although they didn’t speak, for that would have been discourteous in front of their guests who could not join in any chatter, they grew at ease and the food was delicious.

Morghan let her senses widen and felt the presences of those who had come from far to dine with them this Samhain night. Were they once each Lady of the Grove, she wondered? Had they once learnt and kept the same knowledge and practices she was tasked with keeping? Had they wandered the paths and danced between the stones of Wilde Grove, just as she did now?

These were the ancestors, the ones come to share a meal with them on this night of the year when the veil was thin and the world was a liminal place, if only for a few hours as the wheel was poised on its turning.

One day, she thought, she would be one of them. Perhaps, a voice whispered in her mind, she already was.

A strange voice, and a strange thought. She glanced over at Grainne, and as ever, the sight of her, of the gleaming green of her eyes, made her feel anything might be possible – for hadn’t they found each other, hadn’t they finally found each other, awake in this lifetime after fifty or a hundred of trying?

Grainne’s lip twitched, for she could see Morghan’s mind as easily, she thought, as her own. Morghan was thinking how they had come together, Morghan there to catch her when she needed caught. Morghan was thinking how she had trailed after her like a lovesick puppy all those many lifetimes since that one…that one that had driven a wedge between them. Grainne moved her head to look at the empty seats.

Except they weren’t empty, were they? Was Catrin sitting in one of them even now, looking around the table, looking across the table to where Grainne sat?

Grainne looked down at her plate, breathing deeply, and letting Morghan’s sweet, solid energy touch her. She had forgiven Catrin, because she must if she were to have Morghan, and indeed, hadn’t she got something of her own retribution? Hadn’t she forced Catrin onto one knee, to beg to be let back into the embrace of the soul family?

She shook off her thoughts. All that was an old story, and not the story for this night.

She finished her meal, her foot pressed against Morghan’s.

And Morghan was smiling, chewing food she barely tasted except to know it was delicious, as around them the past swirled, old lives lived, the ancestors come to be with them again, if only for a few hours.

She looked down the table at Selena, and a premonition prickled suddenly at her skin.

It would be a long time before they sat like this again.

All together.