Chapter 1


I am Ravenna, and Morghan comes to me, stepping her spirit from her body to travel through the mists of time back to the stone circle when age was only beginning to pit the stones with wear.

I greet her from the tree line, from the sidelines, for what is playing out is a story neither of us were there for in the flesh of our current incarnations.

A woman screams, high and anguished in the rushing breath of the day and I want to cover my face with my hands so that I do not have to see. I will not, however, for we are here to look and to watch.

None of us can turn our faces away anymore. We must see the truth, be able to trace the scars.

And so the past replays itself in front of us.

More screams, shrill in the thinness of dawn. A bright, blank, and innocent dawn, the sky bluing above us even as blood spills upon the ground. The young women of the Grove run, some with dresses already torn, their faces pale with fear, eyes wide like the doe startled in the forest. 

Men chase after them, scooping them up with a thick arm around the waist, to carry them off, or to lean over them, the better to pierce their flesh with the cold iron of their knives.

Morghan’s hands whiten around her staff, as, I imagine, do my own. These are our kin, our sisters, and although the life we lived at this time was played out elsewhere, we knew these women then, and we recognise them now.

The scent of smoke reaches us where we stand in our spirit bodies, unseen but not unfeeling. There is a hot breeze upon my face, and I know that flame leaps and roars down the hillside as the Grove’s dwellings are set alight.

By the tallest of the stones, a young woman, the spirals of our Grove etched blue in woad upon her cheeks, is thrust to the ground, and a soldier fumbles with himself above her. I allow myself a prayer for her, a wish to take this suffering from her.

Morghan reaches for me and her fingers are cool against my own. We pray together, to the Goddess, in sorrow at what has come to pass.

Men – soldiers in their short tunics and bright armour – have overrun our Grove, and now Grandmother Oak suffers a blade as sharp as those that bite into our Grove mates’ flesh. I hear her scream as her sap spills, as she is toppled, our beloved mother whose songs have woven in and out of our own for a hundred or more years.

And then the fire is come closer, the trees of our Grove turned to tinder, and Morghan and I must turn to look through the smoke to see the rest.

The maiden, raped upon the sacred ground of our circle is dragged away. She is our only survivor, the only one of our own to live through the destruction.

There is a boat, and a strange land far away where our Grove maiden is taken. A land where she does not speak the language, where she is kept prisoner, unable to steer her own fate, unable to walk outside and away.

Her belly grows round, and a daughter is born nine months into her new exile. The baby is small, and luminous as a pearl. I hear her mother whisper the old prayers and songs as she nurses the child at her breast. She does not forget. She will not forget. Her heart and life belong still to the Grove.

Her child is almost grown to a young woman when they leave their imprisonment, heads down under the light of a wan and distant moon as they run.

They know where they are going. They have been long in planning this.

The land of the Grove still bears the scars when our Grove mate returns. But she remembers. The songs live on in her heart, on her daughter’s lips. Their magic burns inside them, and another oak is planted beside the stones, and blessings breathed over her.

So that what was begun might continue.

So that what was harmed might be healed.

So that the truth might be carried down the years, generation to generation.

She sang the wheel in its turning, as I did in my time, so that Morghan may still in hers.

So that you may in yours.

The wheel turns.

The ancient path leads us onward.


Chapter 2


Charlie had her eyes open, watching the dim figure walk along the path towards them. Except, whoever it was, she thought, was not walking – they were slinking. There was something shifty in the woman’s movements, something furtive, that reminded Charlie of the dark rustlings of an animal restless and on the prowl.

It was a woman though; she was sure of that.

Charlie glanced over at Morghan, but Morghan was still…wherever Morghan had gone. Eyes closed, hands loose and relaxed around her staff. Every part of her looked relaxed, but she still wasn’t there.

Someone else was, though, and Charlie narrowed her eyes, watching the woman creep her way up the path to spy on them. Was it Minnie, she wondered? Then decided not. Minnie didn’t skulk around following them anymore, or not usually.

The woman on the path stepped momentarily out of the shadows, saw Charlie staring at her, gasped, then turned and hurried back down the hill.

Charlie barked out a cough in disbelief, leaning forward on her own staff to peer between the leaves to watch the black figure scuttling down the hill.

‘Don’t break a leg,’ she whispered, watching the woman hurtle down the path that was thick with ropey tree roots easily able to trip you up.

‘Who’s going to break a leg?’ Morghan asked, blinking, coming back to her body.

‘You wouldn’t believe it,’ Charlie told her, shaking her head.

Morghan breathed in the crisp air. Imbolc had just been and gone, spent quietly for the Grove, each on their own rather than in ritual, due to the lockdown. They’d had much to contemplate, sinking into the season’s first stirring, the new pregnancy of the world, giving thought to what they wanted to birth with the turning of the wheel, both individually, as a Grove, and as part of their village community.

She lowered her gaze to the path between the trees that would lead down to the village if followed for long enough. Almost she sniffed the air, but she wasn’t looking to catch a scent of tree or bud. Morghan closed her eyes and looked for the energy of the fleeing person.

‘Huh,’ she said, then sighed. ‘Has she been making a habit of this? Following us?’

Charlie glanced at Morghan. ‘You can see her?’

‘Sense her. As you can too, I’m sure.’

Charlie looked back down the path. Mariah Reefton was out of sight now. ‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘This is the first time I’ve spotted her.’ Charlie closed her eyes and reached out with her senses, relaxing into them, sending her spirit wider, searching.

And she found Mariah. The cloud left behind by her, already shredding and dissipating in the early spring air.

Charlie wrinkled her nose. ‘She’s like a cloud of rancid smoke.’

‘She’s an unhappy soul,’ Morghan said. ‘She nurses her resentments even though they twist her and make her miserable. They have become what she’s comfortable with, because of their familiarity.’ Morghan rolled her head on her neck, stretching the muscles there. Was it a coincidence that Mariah should show up while she was travelling, seeing the vision that had been shown her? Morghan decided not. Things were moving, she thought.

An image of a millstone grew in her mind and she frowned at it, seeing the two giant stones turning against each other, heavy, ponderous, relentless. Grinding what was between them to dust.

‘What do you know of mills?’ she asked abruptly.

Charlie was taken by surprise. ‘Mills?’ she asked. ‘What sort of mills?’

Morghan lifted her shoulders in a shrug. ‘Flour mills, I suppose.’

‘Old or new ones?’

‘The ones that used stones to grind the flour.’

‘Ah,’ Charlie said. ‘Old ones, then.’ She thought for a moment. ‘Almost nothing,’ she said. ‘Only that the wheat was ground to flour between two heavy and round stones.’ She blinked. ‘That’s it. That’s as much as I know.’

Morghan nodded.

‘Okay,’ Charlie said after another minute. ‘Why are you asking about that?’ 

Morghan turned in the stone circle where they stood and walked slowly over to Grandmother Oak, feeling the old tree’s sturdy vitality, the dreaming self that was readying to wake, to bud with the new spring. For now, her branches were still bare, but soon, Morghan knew, in a few weeks, the old tree would become tinged in a bright green cloud of new clothing. She reached and touched the stout trunk with reverence and apology.

‘Grandmother,’ Morghan said, her voice low. ‘Grandmother, I’m sorry.’

She lifted her eyes and looked over at Charlie.

‘Once upon a time,’ she explained, ‘Grandmother Oak felt the bite of an axe and was felled and burnt while the women of this Grove and all the others were chased down, captured, raped, slaughtered.’ Morghan looked up at the sky, smelling smoke from a fire that was centuries old.

Charlie looked at her.

‘Only one woman from this Grove survived, and they took her across the ocean, kept her captive until she escaped, came back here to this isle, and picked up her work where she’d left off.’

Morghan looked back at the old oak tree. ‘She replanted Grandmother here, and along with her, tended and grew the Grove back to life.’

‘This is true?’ Charlie asked. ‘This is what you just saw?’

Morghan looked around the stone circle, at the trees that crowded forward, their roots toeing the clearing. The grass between the stones was kept short by the dancing steps of the Grove members, and in the shadowed light between the trees, yellow celandine flowers swayed silently as though hearing the echoes of Maxen’s faerie flute.

But she could also see the Grove razed to the ground. The forest blackened and laid low from fire, the dirt scorched, a wide swath of destruction.

There was no outward trace of the damage now, on this sunny early spring morning, almost two thousand years later. The scar of it was carried deep in the soul of the land.

And in the souls of those who had been there.

‘This is what I was shown,’ Morghan said.

Charlie gazed around, imagining the trees being torn down, the Grove burnt around them. She shivered despite the sunlight on her. Suddenly its warmth and light seemed wan, barely there at all. She cleared her throat.

‘When was this?’

Morghan closed her eyes again. She had thought she was done with that terrible time. And yet, here it was once more, coming back to haunt her. When she answered, her mouth was dry.

‘Around 60 AD.’

Charlie turned and looked at her. ‘That is remarkably specific,’ she said.

‘Yes.’ Morghan walked over to the nearest standing stone and touched a hand to its pitted surface.

‘Wait,’ Charlie said, shaking her head. ‘That’s when the Romans invaded Anglesey.’

‘And massacred the Druids, yes.’

Charlie looked around, as though she could catch a glimpse of the past looming over them.

‘They also took out any of the women’s woodland Groves they happened to stumble across,’ Morghan added, seeing the stone under her hand with blood spilt across it.

‘It is a wonder this Grove or any has survived,’ Charlie said on a long breath. Then she looked over at Morghan. ‘But why were you shown this?’ she asked. ‘It is ancient history, surely.’

‘Not so long ago, really,’ Morghan said. ‘Sometimes I wonder if there really is anything such as ancient history. The land remembers everything.’ She touched her heart. ‘We remember everything. We carry our ancestors’ wounds.’

Charlie nibbled a moment at her lip. ‘Were we there, then, do you think?’ she asked. It was possible, after all. Sometimes Charlie felt as though she’d always lived here on this land, tended it, and loved it year upon year, lifetime upon lifetime. She’d told Martin flat out when he asked her to marry him that she would never be leaving Wellsford. She’d have kids and the rest of it, but she wouldn’t leave her home. And they hadn’t.

Morghan’s gaze was far off. ‘I wasn’t,’ she said flatly. ‘I was nearby, dealing with…other things.’

Making the mistake of lifetimes.

She sighed. That mistake had been rectified, healed, forgiven.

Charlie watched her, watched the flicker of some deep emotion pass over Morghan’s usually serene features. She’d known Morghan, at least from a distance, since she was in her teens. But it had been only the last few years that they had grown closer, that their work in the Grove had brought them together, and since Teresa’s passing they were now the two oldest women in the Grove – and wasn’t that the oddest thing to think on?

‘Okay,’ she said, pulling herself together and speaking with a briskness she hoped would wipe the sudden shadows from Morghan’s eyes. ‘So, you were shown a terrible part of our history here – the slaughter of the Grove, so long ago.’ She paused for a moment, the hairs on her arms standing up at the thought of the young women who had been hounded to their deaths.

Charlie found her voice again. ‘Why were you shown that, though?’ she asked. ‘And why now?’

The image of the millstone rose in Morghan’s mind again and she listened to it turn, to its creaking, grinding turning.

Her eyes found Charlie’s. ‘There are stirrings in the village,’ she said. ‘We’ve felt them, both of us, I’m sure. We contribute to them, with our plans for the village, the things we’ve been doing to make the community healthier, stronger. Not everyone is so pleased with us taking such an active role.’

Charlie nodded. ‘Mariah Reefton,’ she said bluntly. ‘That woman is against everything we try to do, even those things that will directly benefit her.’ She looked down at her hands, nails short and skin rough from farm work. ‘Maybe even especially those, if we are behind it.’

Morghan inclined her head in agreement. She thought of the young woman she’d once been, hanged in this very county in the 1600’s for witchcraft. Remembered Mariah’s link to that lifetime, her familial link to the one who had instigated the hanging. And she sighed. Things always came back around until they were dealt with.

‘Before Erin arrived in Wellsford,’ Morghan said, choosing her words carefully, ‘I was reaching out to a past lifetime that was bothering me.’ Her grey eyes flicked towards the sky, then back at the ground. Earth, sky, sea, she thought, anchoring herself in the landscape around her.

‘Blythe Wilde, as she was.’ Morghan’s lips lifted in a slight smile, then flattened. ‘Hanged for witchcraft – brought to the gallows by the testimony of the woman who is now our own Mariah Reefton.’

‘This is recorded history?’ Charlie burst out, appalled.

‘Oh yes,’ Morghan replied. ‘Although not, of course, my knowledge of Mariah being set against the Grove then as she is now.’

Charlie nodded her head slowly. ‘I think I’ve heard the stories, now that you mention it. About the hanging.’ She walked a few steps to one of the stones and leaned a hip against it, grateful for its solidity, the serenity that she could feel inside the stone. ‘But that was Mariah?’ Charlie shook her head, touching her fingers to the rock. Without waiting for a reply, she answered her own question. ‘Of course it was – it explains just about everything about her – her almost pathological hatred for you, and the rest of us. But you in particular.’

‘History is a convoluted thing,’ Morghan said, gazing down at her golden hand, seeing the way it gleamed and wondering still, months after she had been given it, why the Queen of the Fae had done so. She’d had no answers then, and she had none now.

‘Love endures,’ she said, moving to the centre of the circle and lifting her arms to the sky. She stretched her fingers toward the sun, digging her roots down deep into the coolness of the earth. By sky and root, she reminded herself. By sky and root we dedicated our lives.

She lowered her arms and turned to look at Charlie.

‘Love endures,’ Morghan repeated.

‘But so does hate.

‘And pain.’


Chapter 3


Today, Winsome was going solo. It made her stomach churn, and she looked longingly towards the kitchen and the teapot sitting on the big, scrubbed table.

Another cup of tea to settle her nerves. One of Stephan’s blends. She’d pretty much become addicted to his passionflower tea. It always made her feel just a bit calmer.

And she could certainly do with a dose of serenity right now.

Winsome shook her head, wiped her palms on the thick black fabric of her cassock, and took a deep breath.

‘Come on, you ninny,’ she told herself, then bared her teeth in a wince. She was supposed to be watching the language she used with herself. A glance at the dog standing by the door waiting for her, and she swallowed. Huffed out a breath. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘You’re not a ninny.’ She grimaced again. ‘I mean, I’m not a ninny.’ Another puffing breath. ‘I’m understandably nervous. This is my first time doing the work alone.’

The dog lowered his head and looked at Winsome from under wheaten, wiry eyebrows.

‘You’re right,’ Winsome apologised hastily. ‘Not alone. Of course not.’ She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, feeling the spirit dog’s silent gaze upon her.

‘Okay,’ she said. ‘All right, Mr. Guardian of the Mysteries, let’s go do the deed, shall we?’

She’d brought the dog back with her apparently, after helping poor Minnie Abbott back in December. It was February now, the snowdrops were out, and the dog had followed her back into the real world.

The waking world, she hastily corrected.

It was actually quite nice having the company. Once she’d gotten over the quiver of nerves at having a dog almost no one else could see trailing around after her most of the hours of the day.

It gave her someone to read her sermons to before she had to get up and deliver them. Not that they were very long, these days. With the lockdown, she could still hold services, but felt terribly obliged to keep them short – and as sweet as possible.

She was still prevaricating, standing in the hallway, her hand on her little bag of equipment. Why was she nervous? She’d done this, more or less, with Morghan more than once now, and good grief, she was even taking a course online for it.

Soul midwifery.

She liked that name for it, and the course was very good. She’d been surprised how closely it backed up what Morghan had been teaching her. It didn’t go quite as deep, but then, Morghan didn’t give her a certificate and official qualifications at the end of things, either.

And Winsome preferred the term soul midwife to what Morghan called it with her characteristic bluntness – death worker. Winsome shivered. That gave it an extra level of spooky she liked to do without.

She picked up the bag before she could dither any further and walked to the front door. The dog disappeared and she unlatched the door of the vicarage, stepping out into a morning that was cold and crisp and somehow clean. It was still early in the season, but Winsome could feel spring’s breath over the village already. She glanced at the ancient yew tree in the neighbouring churchyard, like she always did now, and took in its fine head of greenery. It stood proudly in her churchyard, with its needle-like leaves, as though it owned the place.

This was Wellsford, Winsome thought. Wellsford and Wilde Grove. The tree probably did own the place.

The thought made her smile, and she nodded a sort of greeting to the tree. Later, she decided, she might wander over to it and ask if it needed anything.

She shook her head quickly – what was she doing thinking like that? Honestly, Morghan was rubbing off a little too well on her. But still, Winsome’s gaze lingered on the wide-spreading green tree, as though it might impart a little of its strength to her. Yew trees were, after all, a symbol of immortality. She’d looked that up, just like she’d looked up the attributes of spirit dogs, and it seemed just right. Once, it had been custom to carry yew branches on Palm Sunday. Perhaps she ought to reinstate that custom?

‘Or not,’ Winsome said, and turned her face away from the tree. She decided to walk to the care home and not take her car. The home was only down the street, and Winsome was becoming embarrassed by her old petrol-guzzling car. The next one she bought, she promised herself, would be electric.

Or maybe the lockdown would go on forever, and she’d never need to drive anywhere again.

Putting on all the PPE gear flustered Winsome, and she had to spend an extra minute calming herself again, taking deep breaths, holding them, counting to four.

In, one, two, three, four.

Hold, one, two, three, four.

Out – slowly – one, two, three, four.

The dog stood and watched. So far, he’d proved to be the strong, silent type.

Mary let her in, nodding her head. ‘Thanks for coming, Vicar,’ she said.

‘Of course,’ Winsome replied around the lump in her throat. ‘Of course,’ she repeated, not knowing what else to say.

‘He lapsed into silence some time ago,’ Mary told her, leading the way to Bernie Roberts’ room. ‘I think he hasn’t long left.’

Winsome nodded. ‘I’ll make him comfortable,’ she said. ‘Be with him as he passes.’

Erin stood white-faced outside Bernie’s room. Even behind the face mask, Winsome could see she was distressed. She wanted to reach out, touch Erin on the arm.

She didn’t, of course. Winsome smiled instead, knowing it was barely visible, but her eyes still crinkled, didn’t they? That was now how you could tell if someone smiled, not by looking at the lips.

‘He’s going to be fine, Erin,’ she said. ‘He’s been ill for some time. This is the natural progression.’ She didn’t know why humans were so fragile, why their bodies wore out so soon, but maybe that was okay. It wasn’t the end, after all, except of one adventure.

Erin shook her head. There were tears in her eyes. ‘I’ve grown fond of him, that’s all,’ she said.

‘Then he will go on his way knowing he was loved,’ Winsome said. ‘And that will be of great comfort to him.’

Erin nodded, looked down at the floor for a moment, then straightened, as though taking a deep breath of her own. ‘May I help?’

Stephan had told Erin about helping to sing Teresa on her way, and hadn’t she done that herself for Kria at Midwinter?

Winsome didn’t know how to answer. She hadn’t been expecting this – someone in there with her, watching what she did. Or didn’t do, as the case may be.

But it was Erin, and she was attached to the old man. How could Winsome say no?

Morghan’s voice spoke in her ear. You have the authority in this work and must agree or decline according to what you need. Morghan. Winsome wished she were here too.

Her mouth was dry when she spoke. ‘Perhaps you could warm a bowl of water for me,’ she said.

Erin nodded immediately and hurried away to the kitchen. Winsome put her hand on the door and closed her eyes for a moment.

‘God be with me,’ she said. ‘God guide my hand and my heart.’

Then she pushed the door open, stepped through into the next phase of her life, and closed it behind herself.

Of course, at the bedside of the dying was a natural place for a clergyperson to be – but Winsome had come prepared to do more than just pray over the dying Mr. Roberts.

She was prepared to ease him, as gently as possible, from one life onwards to the next.

Soul midwifery. She liked the term even more.

‘Hello, Mr. Roberts,’ she said softly, going to his bedside and putting her bag down on the chair beside it. She touched him gently on the forehead, smoothed his silver hair back, and wished she didn’t have to be wearing gloves.

But at least he wasn’t on his own. She was there with him.

‘I’ve come to help you on the next part of your journey,’ she said, her voice calm, loving. ‘We’ll make the crossing as easy as slipping from one place to another.’ She glanced around the room, but it was empty yet, apart from Dog, who sat on the floor at the end of the bed, his toffee-coloured eyes fixed on Winsome. She would have found the gaze unnerving in any other animal, but the dog was like no other she’d met. His stare was lively with knowing.

‘First,’ Winsome said, turning back to the man in the bed, whose breathing was shallow, dry and rattling. ‘We’re going to make a nice safe space for you.’

The course she was taking had prepared her to do this part too, using scent and sound to clear any stagnancy and disturbance from the room, and to this, Winsome added the ways Morghan had been teaching her.

This was the first time doing it on her own, though.

Another deep breath, and Winsome closed her eyes, the better to concentrate. She let loose her spirit, feeling her energy spread unbounded, relaxed, her senses turning calm and sure. She made a bubble of energy with her mind and her will, spreading it to the corners of the room so that it became a warm, smooth cocoon, a safe place for Bernie Robert’s transformation.

Winsome raised her hands as though to touch the shimmering energy, then let them drop, satisfied. The room itself was clear now, a bright, warm, safe space. She hoped she could hold it there because that, she’d learnt, was the trick. She had somehow, to hold it with the back of her mind – or at least, that’s what it felt like – while she went about the rest of her business. She paused for a moment, examining the sensation. The back of her mind, the back of her head, her neck and shoulders.

Life had become very weird, she decided.

The door opened, and Erin slipped through. ‘I brought the water,’ she said, speaking softly. She closed the door behind her and sighed, trying to let the tension fall from her shoulders as Winsome took the bowl from her.

Erin looked at Bernie. Sometime in the last six weeks, he’d become frail, his body taking up less and less space in the bed, barely making a bump there under the covers.

She had become fond of him. And Burdock adored him.

Burdock was in the sitting room being comforted by the other residents right now.

Erin let out a long low breath through pursed lips, making herself relax, stepping clumsily, but stepping nonetheless, into that state she was coming to think of as far and wide. That relaxed, spread-out state where she was inside and outside of herself at the same time. Where she felt like she could see far. And narrow.  

Morghan said there was more to come after she’d mastered this far and wide, and whenever Erin thought about that, she shivered in anticipation. And anxiety. What if she ended up somewhere like the glen again?  

The room felt sort of shimmery around her and she closed her eyes, soaking up the sensation, then glanced over at Winsome.

‘You did this?’ she asked. ‘It wasn’t like this before, although I’ve tried to keep it clean and clear.’ She meant energetically, of course. After helping Stephan and Krista to clear the psychic gunk from Rosalie Busby’s house, she wasn’t keen on letting any of that stagnant dark energy accumulate anywhere anymore.

Especially here, she’d realised, at the care home. It quickly became stuffy in the corners, dirty with old memories and regrets.

Winsome smiled and nodded slightly. Of course Erin would be able to see, or sense, what she’d done, the soft cocoon she’d knitted together around the space.

‘Will you help me wash him?’ she asked. She’d tipped a handful of herbs into the water to steep. Morghan had given them to her. Elder leaves, for transformation and birth.

Erin came over and accepted the soft muslin cloth, dipping it into the warm water and whispering a prayer over it.

‘Let our friend be blessed and softened by you, water and elder,’ she said. ‘Let him be washed of fear and regrets, ready for the next world.’ Erin thought briefly of Kria.

She smoothed the warm cloth over his brow.

Winsome let her tend him. They knew each other after all, had become friends. It was right for Erin to care for him at this hour.

And besides, Winsome had to concentrate on holding the space. It wasn’t as easy without Morghan there. Morghan did it seemingly effortlessly.

But then, Morghan had long years of practice under her belt.

Winsome forced herself to stop fretting over doing it, and just do it instead. She relaxed, and the protective cocoon steadied. She held space for the dying man with her calm mind, her strong back, her soft heart. She held him safely in it.

And she began to sing. Slowly at first, haltingly, her cheeks flaming momentarily with embarrassment. The song was wordless, a humming that reminded Winsome of the fresh early spring breeze that had pushed and tugged at her hair on her way through the streets of Wellsford. It reminded her of the deep well in the lawn at Morghan’s Hawthorn House. 

Erin dipped her cloth back in the warm water, and wiped it gently over Bernie’s neck, his wrists. She drew it down his fingers, knowing she was clearing away his hurts, his worries. She hummed as she worked, her voice twining in and out with Winsome’s.

Winsome came nearer and sat, taking Bernie’s hand as Erin put the cloth away and dried him with a soft towel.

‘That’s it,’ Winsome said, her voice full of a sudden, sweet tenderness. ‘You’re doing so well, Bernie. Letting go of it all. Leaving the mistakes and the hurt behind. Taking the love with you. Forgiving yourself for everything you’ve left undone, every hurt given and received.’

The words were those she’d learnt from Morghan, and they resonated within her heart. She spoke them, knowing them to be true.

‘You’ve no need to carry your burdens anymore. Leave them here, leave them behind you.’ Winsome licked her lips, carried on. ‘It’s time now to put on your shining brow, to become again what you and all of us truly are.’

Bernie drew in a rattling breath, his hand cool and dry in the palms of Winsome’s own. Winsome turned, sensing movement on the other side of the bed. Movement that wasn’t Erin, who stood at the foot, humming softly.

Bernie’s kin had come for him. His family. A smiling woman stepped forward, leaning over the bed, her face beaming. Behind her, a strong young man stood, eyes sparkling.

Winsome thought there were more behind these two, but they faded away into the shining light surrounding them. She drew a deep breath and watched as the woman reached for the dying man in the bed.

And she put a hand to her chest, felt the thumping of her heart as Bernie Roberts sat up, leaving his body behind in the bed like a husk, to go with his family. He stood beside the bed, strength returned, glowing, and turned a moment, glancing at Winsome with a smile before staring at Erin. His expression clouded and he turned to Winsome, aware that she could see him in his spirit form, that she would be able to hear his words as though he spoke out loud.

‘Take care of the girl, if you can,’ he said. ‘I’ve not had the heart to tell her my suspicions.’

Winsome’s brow knotted. ‘Your suspicions?’

Bernie nodded, his spirit glowing gently, luminous around the edges. ‘About her mother’s death. It not being an accident. I probably should have told her.’ He turned and gazed at Erin, who did not see him, then a moment later, he was with his family, being ushered onwards into the light and through into the next world.

Winsome closed her eyes, feeling her dog come to lean against her. She was troubled by Bernie’s words, knowing exactly what to make of them, and what was coming next for Erin.

The girl had a great trial ahead of her.

She wanted to think more upon it, but this was not the time. Closing her eyes, she sang Bernie Roberts over to the rest of his life. She sang the crossing like a prayer, like a sigh and a wish, a blessing.

‘Our Father, who art in heaven,’ she said, her voice low and lilting.

‘Our mother, whose body is the land.

‘Hallowed be thy name, blessed it be thy flesh.

‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

‘Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

‘Your bounty is also our own. We are in service to your needs.

‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

‘For compassion lives in our hearts and kindness moves our hands.

‘For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.

‘For we are eternal and connected and we grow in the spirit of love.

‘Amen,’ she sang, drawing the word out.

‘So it is, so it has always been, and so shall it remain, world beyond time, world without end.’