Illustration by Shigeru1313.

Where Angels Dare to Tread

by Cori Falls


Chapter 3 -- Secrets of the Past

When James reached the spot where Jessie had been struggling against Ayesha, he fell to his knees and buried his face in his hands. "" he sobbed. Just as he was about to break down completely, however, he took a deep breath and stopped himself. "Wait a sec," he muttered, smoothing his mop of hair from his tear-stained face. "None of this is real -- it's only a nightmare I'm having. All I have to do is wake up, and Jessie will be okay...."

"I wish it were that simple, James," a new voice interjected. "But I'm afraid it's not."

Brushing his tears away, James saw another woman emerging from the forest. She had the same face as his mother, only her hair was red instead of purple, and it was wavy. With the tiny pair of golden crescent moon earrings and the flowing emerald-colored gown trimmed with swirling spiral patterns that she was wearing, the woman looked like a Druid from an old Celtic folk-tale, but when James gazed into her gentle brown eyes, he knew exactly who she was.

"Grand-mama," he whispered.

Rose Morgan knealt next to her grandson and put her arms around him. "James. Oh, sweetheart," she whispered back.

The warmth of his grand-mama's embrace was something that James hadn't felt since he was a child. As he hugged back and rested his head on her shoulder, he was reminded of how much he missed his grandparents, and he began to cry again.

Rose held James closer and stroked his blue-violet hair. "Shhh. Don't cry, my darling," she said softly.

James looked up at her and sniffled.

"I know. I know you miss me and your grand-papa," she told him. "But we've been with you all along because you've kept us in your heart. We've been watching over you, and we're very proud to see what a wonderful young man you've become, James."

This made James smile a little. "I remember...about a year ago, I had a dream where I saw grand-papa, and he told me the same thing."

"That's because it's the truth," Rose replied. "Jim and I couldn't ask for a better grandson than you."

James blushed. "Thanks, grand-mama."

Rose smiled tenderly at him and planted a kiss on his forehead.

"Grand-mama...what's going on?" James asked, changing the subject. "Why did that woman take Jessie? And why won't waking up make this nightmare go away?"

"Those are good questions," she said. "And I'm here to answer them. Come with me, James."

As Rose took him by the hand, James got to his feet and followed her into the forest. After a few minutes of walking along a dark, narrow path, they found themselves in a clearing. A small pool surrounded by mossy stones was at the center of the clearing, and the fragrant green cedar trees of the wood formed a perfect circle around the area.

James gasped as he took in his surroundings. His grand-papa's mansion had always reminded him of Elrond's palace in Rivendell, and the forests had always reminded him of Lothlorien...and now, he felt as if he really were in Galadriel's glade. "What is this place, grand-mama?" he asked breathlessly. "I don't remember ever seeing this part of the forest before."

"That's because I never brought you here before," she told him. "This is the place where I sometimes came to work my magic...and the place where my coven gathered whenever there was a full moon. Do you see the faerie ring that surrounds this clearing?"

James looked to where Rose was pointing. The ground was carpeted with soft, spring-green grass, but around the edges of the clearing, the grass was a darker shade of emerald-green and dotted here and there by clusters of mushrooms. The circle of dark green grass was as perfect as the circle of trees that surrounded the clearing. "Yes, I see it."

"This is a place of great magical power. The spirits of nature concentrate their energies here -- the ring is a physical manifestation of that energy," Rose explained.

"Why are we here, grand-mama?" James queried. "Can the power that this place holds help me find Jessie? Can it help me save her?!"

"Yes, it can," came her reply. "James, I know you want nothing more than to rescue Jessie...and I know how urgent the situation is. But you must listen carefully to what I'm about to say. An important battle lies ahead of you, James, and if you go into it without the knowledge you need, then you're sure to lose."

James closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm not afraid, grand-mama. I'll do anything to save Jessie...anything," he told her. "Please tell me whatever you can. I'm listening."

Rose nodded approvingly. "Look into the water, James."

Doing as he was instructed, James went to the edge of the pool and peered into the deep, crystalline waters.

"In order to win this battle, you need to know who you're facing," Rose began. With that, she touched the surface of the water, and the image of a great city appeared. At the center of the city was an immense stone tower, and atop the tower stood a woman who was wearing a golden mask and holding a large staff. "This is Ayesha. 2,000 years ago, she was the queen of Yew. She used her staff and mask to control the minds of pokemon and rule her city with an iron fist. But in their wisdom, the gods made it so that Ayesha could only use her powers within the boundaries of her city. This didn't satisfy her, though -- Ayesha spent her entire reign trying to find a way to circumvent the will of the gods and extend the reach of her powers beyond her city. She didn't achieve this goal during her lifetime, so when she was dying, she enlisted the services of a powerful sorcerer and paid him to make a spell that would enable her to return to life. When Ayesha died, the Necromancer sent her soul to the Astral Plane...."

"The Astral Plane?" James interjected.

"There are many different planes of existence in this universe, James," Rose told him. "There are the higher planes like Heaven and Tir Nan Og, where good souls go after death. There are the lower planes like Hell and Gehenna where evil souls go after death. There are middle planes like Limbo and Purgatory for those who weren't really good or evil. But the Astral Plane is something else entirely -- it exists parallel to your own plane. It's the world of dreams. Every dream and out-of-body experience is simply a journey that the soul makes to the Astral Plane."

"So, we're on the Astral Plane right now?" James ventured.

"Yes," she replied. "And for the past 2,000 years, Ayesha's soul has been here, too. She's been using the energies of this plane to strengthen her powers, but without a human body to inhabit, she's trapped here. That's why she wants Jessie. You see, when Ayesha's soul was sent here, her Necromancer wove another spell -- he created a gateway in Ayesha's temple that she could use to return to your plane, and he turned her mask into the key. But even though she yearns for life once again, Ayesha has been biding her time, waiting for her powers to increase to their fullest...waiting for an age when the powers of the gods and peoples' belief in magic have waned. She's also been waiting for the right person to come along. She only calls to somebody when she deems them worthy of being host to her soul. She has decided that the time is ripe for her return, and when she saw how beautiful, strong, and graceful Jessie is, Ayesha called out to her. You found the temple and the staff and mask so easily because Ayesha was leading you there. She wanted Jessie to find her treasure, and since none of you knew of the danger, there was nothing you could do to protect yourselves."

"So that's why Jessie was acting so strangely when she was wearing the mask!" James concluded. "She really was possessed when she put it on!"

Rose nodded. "Indeed. When Jessie donned the mask, she opened the gateway. Ayesha returned to your world at that moment and took possession of Jessie's body. Jessie tried to fight it, but when the two of you fell asleep, her conscious mind became powerless, and Ayesha took over. That was what you saw just now, James -- while you were watching the vision of Ayesha abducting Jessie, she really was usurping control of Jessie's body once again."

James hung his head. "And that's why waking up won't make this nightmare go away -- the dream is just a reflection of reality."

"In all likelihood, Ayesha has returned to this plane and brought Jessie's soul with her," Rose continued. "You see, in order for her to return to life, she needs absolute control of her new body...and in order to have that, she needs to get rid of the soul that already inhabits the body...."

"You mean she's going to destroy Jessie's soul?!" James cried.

Rose shook her head. "Nothing in this universe can ever truly be created or destroyed -- all it can be is altered. Now that the staff, the mask, and Jessie's soul are in her possession, I fear that Ayesha plans to open a gateway to the lower planes on the night of the full moon and banish Jessie's soul there. If she does, she'll be able to return to life in Jessie's body and wield her powers with far greater might than she ever could 2,000 years ago."

As he listened to her, tears welled up in James's eyes again, and he covered his mouth with his hand to stifle a sob.

"I know what you're thinking, James," said Rose. "You want to know how to find Ayesha and stop her before it's too late."

James looked back at her and nodded. "Please, grand-mama. Please tell me how."

"That I will. Watch carefully, James," Rose replied. With that, she touched the surface of the water again, and the image transformed into one of herself and another woman standing together in a circle of bluish-white fire and watching in fear as the spectre of Ayesha reached for them.

James gasped as he watched the scene unfolding. "Ayesha called to you, too?!"

"Forty years ago, Jim and I accompanied our friends, Samuel and Vivien Oak, on an archaeological dig in Yew. Ayesha must have been drawn to our magical abilities because she called to both me and Vivien. But together, we resisted her call. Ayesha preys on the mind...on both desires and fears. When Vivien and I created a psychic shield against her, we became deaf to her call and therefore immune to the danger," she explained. "But just because we were protected from her didn't mean that others would be. We convinced Samuel to call off the dig, and he and Jim discouraged other researchers from exploring the area as well. After that, the stories of Queen Ayesha and her enchanted staff and mask became myths once again and remained that way for many years.

"But some lessons from the past that should have been remembered were forgotten. When that girl, Tierra, began exploring the ruins last month, Vivien and I tried to stop her with a run of bad luck and a few accidents, but she just wouldn't take the hint...and when those three children showed up and helped her find the temple, all was lost. Vivien and I knew that you and Jessie were nearby, but we didn't know that Ayesha had called to Jessie until it was too late. By then, there was nothing we could do to warn you of the danger or stop Tierra or those brats."

James rolled his eyes. "It figures the twerps would screw everything up."

Rose frowned. "Those kids disgust me -- they hide their true selves behind masks of virtue. Vivien, Jim, and I have seen the way they treat you, and Jessie, and Meowth, and your pokemon in the name of heroism, and it makes us sick. Never in our lives...or afterlives have we seen such cruelty or hypocrisy! I tell you, if it were still within my powers, I'd send their evil back on them threefold and make them suffer a run of bad luck like you've never seen!"

James snickered.

Seeing that she'd lightened her grandson's mood a little, Rose smiled, too. "Our ways forbid the use of magic to harm others...but there's nothing wrong with protecting yourself and your loved ones from a tormentor or sending evil back to one who gives it."

"That'd sure be a handy power to have," James remarked. "I can't even count the number of times those brats have hassled us when we were just minding our own business...or even trying to be helpful!"

Rose's smile became a smirk. "I'll let you in on a little secret, James. Vivien tells me that Samuel doesn't really like Ash, either. He's nice to him and takes an interest in how well he does as a trainer, but that's what he does with all of the trainers who get their starter pokemon from him. If anything, Samuel just feels sorry for Ash -- he has all these dreams of becoming the world's greatest pokemon master, but he doesn't have the skills or the gumption...or the brains to achieve that goal. But enough about that twerp -- we have far more important matters to discuss."

James snickered again. Then, he smiled. "It's cool that you and grand-papa were friends with Professor Oak and his wife. Jessie, Meowth, and I became friends with Gary awhile back...."

Rose placed a hand on his shoulder. "Yes, I know about that," she said. "Vivien and I were so happy to see that our grandsons had become friends, just as we had."

"Well, we're happy to call Gary our friend," James told her. "He's one of the few people who actually saw us as something other than Team Rocket. That means a lot to us."

"You and Jessie and Meowth did a very heroic thing when you rescued Gary from Clay and Allison and protected him," Rose went on. "The alliance...and friendship you forged means a lot to him, too. And now, he's going to return the favor and help you rescue Jessie from Ayesha."

James's eyes widened. "Gary? How can he help?"

Rose smiled again. As she touched the surface of the water a third time, the image changed to one of herself handing a pair of books to Vivien. The two women looked much older than they had in the previous scene -- Vivien Oak's auburn mane now had several shocks of white in it, and Rose's long, wavy hair was completely silver. The Rose Morgan in this scene was the grand-mama that James had always known.

"Ever since you were born, I've wanted for you to learn about the old ways," she told him. "I would never have forced my religion upon you, James, but I wanted you to understand it and see beyond the falsehoods that cloud the ancient paths. Jim and I were overjoyed when you chose to accept it of your own free will. Unfortunately, your parents were not. That's why I gave my two most important books to Vivien shortly after your birth -- if anything ever happened to me, and Quentin and Judith destroyed all of my Pagan paraphenalia, I at least wanted those two books to be safe."

"That was a good idea," James muttered. "Mom never destroyed any of your stuff after you died, thank goodness, but she did throw your magic books into a big junk pile in one of our store-rooms."

Rose placed a hand on her stomach and let out a hearty laugh.

James raised an eyebrow. "I don't see what's so funny, grand-mama. I think it was very disrespectful of mom to do that to your books!"

"James, those books were worthless!" she chuckled. "I gave the books that mattered most to Vivien, and before we died, Jim and I put our other important things in a safe-deposit box. The books that Judith threw in the junk pile didn't have anything to do with real Pagan witchcraft -- all they contained was that eye of newt and wing of bat nonsense. Jim and I put those fake books in our library on purpose...because if Quentin and Judith were going to destroy anything about witchcraft, we wanted it to be the myths and the lies."

Now James was chuckling, too. "Clever!"

"To this day, my diary and Book of Shadows are still in the library at Professor Oak's house," Rose said, getting back to the original subject. "As we speak, Vivien is explaining all of this to Gary. He knows that Jessie is in danger, and he wants to save her just as much as you do. That's why Vivien is sending him to find my books and bring them to you. My Book of Shadows contains all of my spells and rituals, and the entries in my diary will show you what you need to learn in order to protect yourself from Ayesha and rescue Jessie."

"Good old Gary," James said, brushing away the fresh tears that were stinging his eyes.

"But before Gary arrives, you have lots of work to do, James. Magic isn't as simple as reciting a chant and getting what you want -- it requires a lot of tools and even more discipline. Before you can begin to use magic, you need to prepare yourself. You need to clear your mind of all really and truly believe that you have this power inside of you, and that you can use it. Magic doesn't work if you go about it half-heartedly or don't truly believe in it," Rose continued. She smiled again and gently placed her fingers on James's temples. "Throw away all of the negative things you've heard about yourself during your life. Everything you've ever heard about being stupid, or clumsy, or ugly, or improper, or evil, or inferior -- those are all lies told by your enemies and those who don't understand you. Instead, think about why your friends love you, and remember that the pure of heart find faith in themselves."

James closed his eyes and nodded. As he seated himself on the ground, he formed an image of his grandparents in his mind. He concentrated on the things he remembered most about them -- their affection and warmth, the way they listened to him, how they'd always lavished praise on him and let him know how proud of him they were. James held those images and feelings in his mind for as long as he possibly could...and when they began to diminish, they were replaced by an image of Jessie and Meowth. His smile grew even wider than it already was, and tears began to spill down his cheeks as he thought about his friends and how happy they made him. After his grandparents, they were the only people who could accept him for who he was -- he loved them with all his heart and soul, and when he was with them, he knew that anything was possible.

"I see you've already mastered the first step," Rose remarked.

James brought himself from his reverie and looked up at her.

"Visualization and concentration. Those are two essential elements of spellcasting," Rose told him. "In order for magic to work, you need to be able to form an image of what you want and hold onto it...and it seems you do that exceedingly well. Now try it again. Only this time, picture a white mist enveloping everything around us until only you and I remain."

Doing as he was instructed, James closed his eyes again and imagined a white mist rolling through the forest and obscuring the grass, the pool, and the trees from view. After a moment, only Rose was visible in his mind's eye.

"Good," said Rose. "Now picture the mist receding, and imagine that instead of the forest on our estate, we're amidst a circle of large, standing stones. Torches are mounted atop the stones at the cardinal points of the circle -- a black one in the north, a white one in the south, a red one in the east, and a gray one in the west. A long, oval mirror with a simple golden frame is also mounted on the easternmost stone, and a fountain of perfumed oil is at the center of the circle."

As James listened to his grand-mama's description of their surroundings, he began to see them in his mind. He'd always been able to form clear pictures of Middle Earth, Narnia, and all the other worlds of fantasy that his grandparents had read to him about when he was a child, so he was able to conjure a mental image of this simple setting almost effortlessly now. And as he imagined the standing stones, James felt as if he really were sitting in the middle of an ancient Druid temple -- he could even hear the crackling fire of the torches and smell the sweet, floral-scented oil that bubbled up from the fountain at his side!

"Open your eyes, James," Rose whispered.

Much to his surprise, when James opened his eyes, he found that the scene was more than just a mental image -- he and Rose really were among the standing stones he'd pictured! "Wh-where are we, grand-mama?" he queried.

"We're inside a magic circle. You brought us here with the power of your mind," came her reply. She smiled and helped him to his feet. "You're a natural at this, James!"

He smiled back, but quickly became serious again. "What are we doing here?"

"Before you can begin to use magic, you must be initiated," Rose explained. "I fear there's not enough time for you to do a proper self-initiation, so I'll have to perform the rites here. This is the part of the Astral Plane where dreams of desire take place. Everybody comes here sooner or later, for everybody has desires. What you see while you're here depends on what you want, or what you need. This place only looks like a magic circle to us because of the ritual we're about to perform. To somebody else who's here, it might be something else entirely. I'll show you."

With that, Rose waved her hand, and the standing stones that surrounded them were transformed into a giant pokemon stadium. The four torches changed into one giant torch bearing the Pokemon League symbol, and the fountain of perfumed oil became a pool for water pokemon. The only thing that remained the same was the mirror.

James raised an eyebrow.

"The mirror is the only constant in everybody's dream," Rose went on. "All who look into the mirror see a reflection of their true self. Only the pure of heart or those who can accept themselves for who they really are have the power to make their wishes come true. And only those who already have self-awareness are able to remember the mirror and what they see in it."

"Looking into the mirror. That's going to be part of my initiation, isn't it?" James ventured.

Rose nodded. "Self-awareness is another important part of being able to use magic. Before you can be initiated, you need to see who you really are and accept it."

James hung his head as he listened to her. What if I don't like what I see? Will that mean that I don't have the power to save Jessie? he wondered.

Suddenly, Rose placed a hand on his shoulder. "Look! Here comes the one that this dream belongs to. Let's see how he fares!"

When James looked to where his grand-mama was pointing, he saw Ash strutting into the stadium. As he approached, an audience appeared in the stands and began to cheer for him, and a faceless opponent materialized in the trainer's box on the other side of the arena.

Ash grinned and waved to the crowd. "Heeeeeeey, fans! I'm Ash Ketchum from the town of Pallet! I made it to the top sixteen at Indigo League, I won an Orange League championship, and now I'm gonna win the Johto League championship and become the world's greatest pokemon master!" he boasted.

"Heh. Dream on, twerp," James muttered under his breath.

Rose chuckled at her grandson's choice of words.

Once Ash had finished bragging about what a great trainer he was, he began heading towards the trainer's box on his side of the arena. On the way there, he passed by the mirror. When he paused to look at his reflection, however, he didn't see a twelve-year-old boy looking back. Instead, he saw a hideous creature with scaly gray skin, the head and body of a turkey, the wings of a bat, and a serpent's tail which was tipped with three yellow feathers that were the shade of infected pus.

James gasped. "He's...he's a basilisk!"

Rose smirked. "Are you really that surprised, James? Did you really think the mirror would hold a good reflection for one such as Ash Ketchum?"

"Good point," James conceded.

"Whoa! What's that?!" Ash exclaimed when he saw his reflection. With that, he brought his poke-dex from his pocket and pointed it at the mirror.

"No pokemon data available," came Dexter's reply.

Ash grinned again and took out an empty poke ball. "ALL RIGHT!!! I just discovered a new kind of pokemon!!! I'm gonna capture it!!! Poke ball, GO!!!"

When Ash lobbed his poke ball, however, it bounced off of the mirror and hit him square in the face. "Augh!" he cried. "Guess I'd better try again...."

As he continued to throw his poke ball, it continued to bounce off the surface of the mirror. After several failed attempts to catch the basilisk, Ash began to scream and whine and throw a tantraum because the "new pokemon" kept eluding him.

James sweatdropped as he watched the scene unfolding.

"Ash has this dream every night," Rose commented. "Every night, he thinks he's going to be a champion, but he can never get past that basilisk in the mirror. Once again, the dream is a reflection of reality -- he'll never be a pokemon master unless he can get over himself and change what he is...but that's never going to happen. As you can see, he's too stupid to realize that he's a monster, and he's too caught up in himself to care. Only those who are aware of themselves have the power to change themselves."

James's brow furrowed. "Grand-mama? Why are you showing me this?"

"To show you that you have nothing to fear, James," Rose replied as she waved her hand again and transformed the pokemon stadium back into the magic circle. "You're nothing like Ash Ketchum, so no matter what you see when you look into the mirror, it can't possibly be as bad as what he saw!"

As the image of Ash screaming at the basilisk faded away, James smiled again. "You're right, grand-mama."

Rose placed her hands on his shoulders and gave them an affectionate squeeze. "Are you ready now?"

James nodded. Then, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. No matter what I see, I won't be afraid. No matter how bad it is, I'll accept it...for Jessie's sake, he said to himself as he stepped towards the mirror. Once he was close enough, James slowly reached out and touched the cold, smooth surface of the mirror with his fingertips. After taking another deep breath, he opened his eyes again.

And much to his surprise, there was nothing evil or monstrous...or even remotely unpleasant about the image in the mirror! He saw himself walking through the rose garden on his grandparents' estate. Jessie was at his side, laughing as he twined roses in her crimson hair and gazing lovingly into his glittering emerald eyes. When he and Jessie joined hands and continued their walk through the garden, Meowth came to their side, too. And when James looked more closely at the image of himself with Jessie and Meowth, he could faintly preceive the translucent crystal wings on their backs and the tiny golden halos over their heads.

James smiled. "Well, that was unexpected!" he remarked.

"Do you like what you see?" Rose queried.

He nodded again as more tears spilled down his cheeks. "I knew that I wasn't going to see anything as horrible as a basilisk, but I was still prepared for something unpleasant."

"That's because good can imagine the possibility of being evil," Rose told him. "At some point, all good people wonder if the goodness in their hearts is genuine or if it's evil cloaked in the guise of goodness. Everybody has darkness inside of them, but it's being aware of that darkness and knowing how to control it that separates the good people from the bad people. James, I know that you're aware of your dark side, and I know that you think the Team Rocket uniform you wear makes you evil, but when all is said and done, you're still a kind, sensitive, caring person. You joined Team Rocket for the sake of friendship and love -- the two most noble and unselfish reasons imaginable -- and you've never allowed true evil to touch your soul or become a part of who you are."

"Still, I never would've imagined that the reflection of my true self would be an angel," James replied.

Rose placed her hands on his cheeks and brushed away his tears. "Jessie said that you're her angel. And Jim and I have always thought you're an angel, too. I think your reflection suits you perfectly!"

James smiled shyly at his grand-mama and blushed. Then, looking back at the mirror, "What about Jessie and Meowth? Is this image a reflection of their true selves, too? How come I can see them in my reflection?"

"That is, indeed, a reflection of who they are -- in your hearts and souls, all three of you are angels...though you'd all be the last to say so," came Rose's reply. "And the reason Jessie and Meowth are in your reflection is very simple -- it's because they're a part of you. Jessie is your soul-mate, and Meowth is your soul-friend -- you can't see a reflection of your true self without seeing them as well. If either of them looked into the mirror, they'd see the exact same thing that you see."

"All the more reason why I need to save Jessie!" James said. "I've looked into the mirror, grand-mama. Now, what do I have to do?"

"You've proven that you have the mind, the heart, and the soul for magic. Now, it's time for your initiation," Rose told him.

As she waved her hand, James's black t-shirt and red boxer shorts vanished and were replaced by a long robe of white silk.

"During initiation rituals, it's customary to wear either a magic robe or nothing at all," Rose explained when she saw the quizzical look on James's face. "I figured you'd prefer a robe since young men usually don't like their grandmothers to see them naked."

James blushed more brightly than ever and modestly adjusted his robe. "You figured right."

Rose chuckled, then became serious again. "Kneel, James, and we'll begin."

As James knealt down, Rose closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment. Suddenly, an altar with several magical tools arranged on it appeared at her side. Taking a wand from the altar, Rose pointed it at the stones and slowly began to turn in a clockwise motion. As she turned around, James saw that the magic circle was becoming outlined with bluish-white fire.

"Pay attention, James. Casting the circle where you perform your spellwork is an essential part of every ritual," she whispered when she opened her eyes again. Then, in a louder voice, "I consecrate this circle to the ancient powers! Here may they manifest and bless their child."

James watched intently as Rose held her wand aloft. "This is a time that is not a time, in a place that is not a place. We stand at the threshold between worlds, before the veil of the mysteries. May the ancient ones help and protect us on our magical journey."

Setting the wand down, Rose picked up a cone of incense and set it on the pentacle that was carved into the wooden surface of the altar. "I call upon the powers of air to witness this rite and guard this circle. May we always listen to the spirit winds that bring your voice of wisdom." After removing the cone of incense, Rose placed a small censer filled with charcoal on the pentacle. "I call upon the powers of fire to witness this rite and guard this circle. May we always remember the sacred fire that dances within the form of every creation." Once she'd finished her first two blessings, Rose put the cone of incense into the censer. Then, she took the censer by its chains and carried it around the circle in a clockwise motion, letting the smoke and the relaxing aroma of frankincense fill the area.

When she returned to the altar, Rose set the censer aside and placed a chalice of water on the pentacle. "I call upon the powers of water to witness this rite and guard this circle. May we always remember the cauldron waters of rebirth." Setting the water aside, Rose placed a dish of salt on the pentacle. "I call upon the powers of earth to witness this rite and guard this circle. May we always remember the blessed earth, its many forms and beings." After reciting these blessings, Rose sprinkled a bit of the salt into the water. Then, she walked clockwise around the circle again and sprinkled the salt water around the edges of the circle.

Once she'd finished consecrating the circle, Rose returned to James's side and placed her hand upon his head. "Behold this mortal, born of Mother Earth. He comes into this sacred place willingly, to dedicate his life to the ancient ways and learn the wisdom of the ancient ones, whose powers are still strong and vital. To follow the ancient paths that lead to true wisdom and knowledge. To be a stone of the ancient circle, standing firmly balanced upon the earth, yet open to the winds of the heavens, and enduring through time. James, do you give your word-bond that this is true?"

James met her gaze and nodded. "Yes, I do."

Rose smiled at him and dipped her hand into the perfumed oil. "May your mind be open to the truth," she said as she placed a drop of it on his forehead. "May your mouth be silent among the nonbelievers," she said as she placed a drop of it on his lips. "May your heart be filled with love," she said as she placed a drop of it on his chest. "May your hands work for the powers of good," she said as she anointed the palms of his hands. "And may your feet walk the secret paths of wisdom," she said as she anointed the soles of his feet.

When she finished, Rose smiled again and seated herself next to him. "Now it's time for meditation."

James smiled back and took her hand in his own. As he closed his eyes and reflected on what had just happened, he remembered the day he'd seen his grandparents meditating in their rose garden. He remembered how happy he'd been when they'd invited him to join them and how peaceful he'd felt. There had been something so wonderful and so right about that moment. It had been a moment of destiny. Like the moment he'd befriended Jessie, the moment he'd realized that she was his soul-mate, the moment he'd told Jessie that he loved her for the first time, and the moment they'd become lovers -- it was meant to be. And now, as he sat there and meditated with his grand-mama, he felt that same peace and happiness washing over him and a warm, white light filling his soul.

Once he was completely relaxed, Rose brought him from his reverie and returned to the altar. "By the powers of the ancient ones, I bind all powers within this circle into this spell. So may it be," she announced. Then, holding her dagger aloft once again, "Depart in peace, O powers of air, fire, water, and earth. Our thanks and blessings are with you."

After dismissing the elemental powers, Rose made a backwards cutting motion with the dagger, and the fires that outlined the circle vanished. "The circle is open, yet ever it remains a circle. Around and through us always flows its magical power," she said. Then, turning to James again, "And that concludes your initiation."

James was speechless as he got back to his feet. All he could do was stare at his grand-mama with wide, emerald eyes.

"I know it's a little overwhelming at first," Rose told him as she placed a hand on his cheek. "Gaining the ability to use magic is no small accomplishment, but before long it'll be like second nature. I promise."

"I know it will," James replied when he found his voice again. "I just hope it's enough to help me save Jessie."

"It will be. All you have to do is believe in yourself," she assured him. "And now that you've awakened the power within yourself, the next thing you'll need to do is obtain the tools necessary for spellcasting. Normally, a witch must find their own tools in their own special way, but you don't have time for a process like that. So, I'm bequeathing all of my tools to you instead. In fact, you already have two of them!"

James smiled. "I know. When I ran away from home, your pentacle disk and your wand with the crescent moon on it were two of the things that I took with me."

Rose smiled, too. "Yes. I was going to put them in the safe-deposit box with the rest of my tools, but I wanted to give you a couple of my things so that you could have a few years to fill them with your own energy and make them yours. I chose the pendant and the wand because they're two of the most essential tools. Jim put them with his bottle cap collection before he died so that you'd be sure to take them with you."

"I'm glad the hint wasn't lost on me!" James remarked.

"I've seen you use my pentacle and wand a few times over the years. Those two items are yours entirely now," Rose continued.

"But I'll have to get your safe-deposit box for everything else, won't I?" James concluded.

Rose nodded. "Jim and I deposited it at our local bank in Lilac Falls. The account number is 1313-634546-052202."

James listened intently as she told him the account number. If he entered that number into the computer at the bank in Rowandale, then he could electronically transfer the safe-deposit box there in a matter of seconds. "And where's the key?" he asked.

"You already have it, James," came Rose's reply. "I gave it to you a long time ago...and when you see the box, you'll know exactly what you need to open it."

James closed his eyes and nodded. "I think I know what it is...."

"I know you do. You've always been a quick study," Rose told him. She smiled tenderly and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You have the knowledge. You have the power. And soon you'll have aid. I think my work here is done. I wish I could stay longer, James, but...."

"....But my work is just beginning," James said, cutting her off.

"Yes," she replied. "James, you must stop Ayesha from returning to life...and not only for your sake and Jessie's."

"I understand. Don't worry, grand-mama -- I'll do whatever I can," he promised.

Rose folded her grandson into an embrace and planted a kiss on his forehead. "You've always made me proud, and I know you'll make me proud again," she told him. "Just remember that Jim and I are always with you and that we'll always love you."

"I love you too, grand-mama," James echoed.

"Good-bye, James," she whispered. "And remember that even when all is dark, you can find your way to the light if you believe in yourself."

James's eyes filled with tears again. "Good-bye, grand-mama," he whispered back as Rose Morgan faded away, and the standing stones that surrounded them became enveloped by mist once more. "Thank you...for everything. I won't let you, or Jessie, or anybody else down. I promise...."

To be Continued....

Author's Notes

The magic elements in this story are a combination of real Pagan witchcraft and high fantasy. While I do take a few creative liberties with the magic rituals, and a few things are from my own imagination, I did make an effort to remain as faithful as possible to the spirit of Paganism. The book, Celtic Magic, by D.J. Conway has been an extremely valuable source of information to me.

The line, "Good can imagine the possibility of being evil" is a quote by W.H. Auden. I think it describes J, J & M very well, which is why I had Rose say it to James.

Special thanks to Shigeru1313 for the beautiful illustration of Rose Morgan! ^__^


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