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The Once and Future Witches / (by Alix E. Harrow, 2020) -

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The Once and Future Witches /     (by Alix E. Harrow, 2020) -

The Once and Future Witches / (by Alix E. Harrow, 2020) -

1800- , . " ". 1893 . , , , , , , , . , -, , . , , - , , , , , . . ! , , , .

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: 439
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The Once and Future Witches / (by Alix E. Harrow, 2020) -
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2020
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Alix E. Harrow
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Gabra Zackman
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upper-intermediate
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16:03:44
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

The Once and Future Witches / :

.doc (Word) alix_e_harrow_-_the_once_and_future_witches.doc [8.6 Mb] (c: 20) .
.pdf alix_e_harrow_-_the_once_and_future_witches.pdf [3.48 Mb] (c: 29) .
audiobook (MP3) .


: The Once and Future Witches

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To my mother and grandmothers and all the women they burned before us An Introduction Theres no such thing as witches, but there used to be. It used to be the air was so thick with magic you could taste it on your tongue like ash. Witches lurked in every tangled wood and waited at every midnight-crossroad with sharp-toothed smiles. They conversed with dragons on lonely mountaintops and rode rowan-wood brooms across full moons; they charmed the stars to dance beside them on the solstice and rode to battle with familiars at their heels. It used to be witches were wild as crows and fearless as foxes, because magic blazed bright and the night was theirs. But then came the plague and the purges. The dragons were slain and the witches were burned and the night belonged to men with torches and crosses. Witching isnt all gone, of course. My grandmother, Mama Mags, says they cant ever kill magic because it beats like a great red heartbeat on the other side of everything, that if you close your eyes you can feel it thrumming beneath the soles of your feet, thumpthumpthump. Its just a lot better-behaved than it used to be. Most respectable folk cant even light a candle with witching, these days, but us poor folk still dabble here and there. Witch-blood runs thick in the sewers, the saying goes. Back home every mama teaches her daughters a few little charms to keep the soup-pot from boiling over or make the peonies bloom out of season. Every daddy teaches his sons how to spell ax-handles against breaking and rooftops against leaking. Our daddy never taught us shit, except what a fox teaches chickenshow to run, how to tremble, how to outlive the bastardand our mama died before she could teach us much of anything. But we had Mama Mags, our mothers mother, and she didnt fool around with soup-pots and flowers. The preacher back home says it was Gods will that purged the witches from the world. He says women are sinful by nature and that magic in their hands turns naturally to rot and ruin, like the first witch Eve who poisoned the Garden and doomed mankind, like her daughters daughters who poisoned the world with the plague. He says the purges purified the earth and shepherded us into the modern era of Gatling guns and steamboats, and the Indians and Africans ought to be thanking us on their knees for freeing them from their own savage magics. Mama Mags said that was horseshit, and that wickedness was like beauty: in the eye of the beholder. She said proper witching is just a conversation with that red heartbeat, which only ever takes three things: the will to listen to it, the words to speak with it, and the way to let it into the world. The will, the words, and the way. She taught us everything important comes in threes: little pigs, billy goats gruff, chances to guess unguessable names. Sisters. There were three of us Eastwood sisters, me and Agnes and Bella, so maybe theyll tell our story like a witch-tale. Once upon a time there were three sisters. Mags would like that, I thinkshe always said nobody paid enough attention to witch-tales and whatnot, the stories grannies tell their babies, the secret rhymes children chant among themselves, the songs women sing as they work. Or maybe they wont tell our story at all, because it isnt finished yet. Maybe were just the very beginning, and all the fuss and mess we made was nothing but the first strike of the flint, the first shower of sparks. Theres still no such thing as witches. But there will be. A tangled web she weaves When she wishes to deceive. A spell to distract and dismay, requiring cobweb gathered on the new moon and a pricked finger Once upon a time there were three sisters. James Juniper Eastwood was the youngest, with hair as ragged and black as crow feathers. She was the wildest of the three. The canny one, the feral one, the one with torn skirts and scraped knees and a green glitter in her eyes, like summer-light through leaves. She knew where the whip-poor-wills nested and the foxes denned; she could find her way home at midnight on the new moon. But on the spring equinox of 1893, James Juniper is lost. She limps off the train with her legs still humming from the rattle and clack of the journey, leaning heavy on her red-cedar staff, and doesnt know which way to turn. Her plan only had two stepsstep one, run, and step two, keep runningand now shes two hundred miles from home with nothing but loose change and witch-ways in her pockets and no place to go. She sways on the platform, buffeted and jostled by folk who have plenty of someplaces to go. Steam hisses and swirls from the engine, curling catlike around her skirts. Posters and ads flutter on the wall. One of them is a list of New Salem city ordinances and the associated fines for littering, profanity, debauchery, indecency, and vagrancy. One of them shows an irritable-looking Lady Liberty with her fist raised into the air and invites ALL LADIES WHO TIRE OF TYRANNY to attend the New Salem Womens Association rally in St. Georges Square at six oclock on the equinox. One of them shows Junipers own face in blurred black and white above the words MISS JAMES JUNIPER EASTWOOD. SEVENTEEN YEARS OF AGE, WANTED FOR MURDER and SUSPECTED WITCHCRAFT. Hell. They must have found him. Shed thought burning the house would muddy things a little more. Juniper meets her own eyes on the poster and pulls her cloaks hood a little higher. Boots ring dully on the platform: a man in a neat black uniform strolls toward her, baton slap-slapping in his palm, eyes narrowed. Juniper gives him her best wide-eyed smile, hand sweating on her staff. Morning, mister. Im headed to She needs a purpose, a somewhere-to-be. Her eyes flick to the irritable Lady Liberty poster. St. Georges Square. Could you tell me how to get there? She squeezes her accent for every country cent its worth, pooling her vowels like spilled honey. The officer looks her up and down: hacked-off hair scraping against her jaw, dirt-seamed knuckles, muddy boots. He grunts a mean laugh. Saints save us, even the hicks want the vote. Junipers never thought much about voting or suffrage or womens rights, but his tone makes her chin jerk up. That a crime? Its only after the words come whipping out of her mouth that Juniper reflects on how unwise it is to antagonize an officer of the law. Particularly when there is a poster with your face on it directly behind the officers head. That temper will get you burnt at the damn stake, Mama Mags used to tell her. A wise woman keeps her burning on the inside. But Bella was the wise one, and she left home a long time ago. Sweat stings Junipers neck, nettle-sharp. She watches the veins purpling in the officers throat, sees the silver-shined buttons straining on his chest, and slides her hands into her skirt pockets. Her fingers find a pair of candle-stubs and a pitch pine wand; a horseshoe nail and a silver tangle of cobweb; a pair of snakes teeth she swears she wont use again. Heat gathers in her palms; words wait in her throat. Maybe the officer wont recognize her, with her hair cut short and her cloak hood pulled high. Maybe hell just yell and stomp like a ruffled rooster and let her go. Or maybe hell haul her into the station and shell end up swinging from a New Salem scaffold with the witch-mark drawn on her chest in clotted ash. Juniper declines to wait and find out. The will. Heat is already boiling up her wrists, licking like whiskey through her veins. The words. They singe her tongue as she whispers them into the clatter and noise of the station. A tangled web she weaves The way. Juniper pricks her thumb on the nail and holds the spider-web tight. She feels the magic flick into the world, a cinder spit from some great unseen fire, and the officer claws at his own face. He swears and sputters as if hes stumbled face-first into a cobweb. Passersby are pointing, beginning to laugh. Juniper slips away while hes still swiping at his eyes. A puff of steam, a passing crowd of railroad workers with their lunch pails swinging at their sides, and shes out the station doors. She runs in her hitching fashion, staff clacking on cobbles. Growing up, Juniper had imagined New Salem as something like Heaven, if Heaven had trolleys and gas-lampsbright and clean and rich, far removed from the sin of Old Salembut now she finds it chilly and colorless, as if all that clean living has leached the shine out of everything. The buildings are all grayish and sober, without so much as a flower-box or calico curtain peeking through the windows. The people are grayish and sober, too, their expressions suggesting each of them is on their way to an urgent but troublesome task, their collars starched and their skirts buttoned tight. Maybe its the absence of witching; Mags said magic invited a certain amount of mess, which was why the honeysuckle grew three times as fast around her house and songbirds roosted under her eaves no matter the season. In New Salemthe City Without Sin, where the trolleys run on time and every street wears a Saints namethe only birds are pigeons and the only green is the faint shine of slime in the gutters. A trolley jangles past several inches from Junipers toes and its driver swears at her. Juniper swears back. She keeps going because theres no place to stop. There are no mossy stumps or blue pine groves; every corner and stoop is filled up with people. Workers and maids, priests and officers, men with pocket-watches and ladies with big hats and children selling buns and newspapers and shriveled-up flowers. Juniper tries asking directions twice but the answers are baffling, riddle-like (follow St. Vincents to Fourth-and-Winthrop, cross the Thorn, and head straight). Within an hour shes been invited to a boxing match, accosted by a gentleman who wants to discuss the relationship between the equinox and the end-times, and given a map that has nothing marked on it but thirty-nine churches. Juniper stares down at the map, knotted and foreign and unhelpful, and wants to go the hell home. Home is twenty-three acres on the west side of the Big Sandy River. Home is dogwoods blooming like pink-tipped pearls in the deep woods and the sharp smell of spring onions underfoot, the overgrown patch where the old barn burned and the mountainside so green and wet and alive it makes her eyes ache. Home is the place that beats like a second heart behind Junipers ribs. Home was her sisters, once. But they left and never came backnever even sent so much as a two-cent postcardand now neither will Juniper. Red rage swells in Junipers chest. She crumples the map in her fist and keeps walking because its either run or set something on fire, and she already did that. She walks faster, faster, stumbling a little on her bad leg, shouldering past wide bustles and fashionable half-capes, following nothing but her own heartbeat and perhaps the faintest thread of something else. She passes apothecaries and grocers and an entire shop just for shoes. Another one for hats, with a window full of faceless heads covered in lace and froth and frippery. A cemetery that sprawls like a separate city behind a high iron fence, its lawn clipped short and its headstones straight as stone soldiers. Junipers eye is drawn to the blighted, barren witch-yard at its edges, where the ashes of the condemned are salted and spread; nothing grows in the yard but a single hawthorn, knobbled as a knuckle. She crosses a bridge stretched over a river the color of day-old gravy. The city grows taller and grayer around her, the light swallowed by limestone buildings with domes and columns and men in suits guarding the entrances. Even the trolleys are on their best behavior, gliding past on smooth rails. The street pours into a broad square. Linden trees line its edges, pruned into unnatural sameness, and people flock around the center. why, we ask, should women wait in the shadows while their fathers and husbands determine our fates? Why should wewe doting mothers, we beloved sisters, we treasured daughtersbe barred from that most fundamental of rights: the right to vote? The voice is urgent and piercing, rising high above the city rumble. Juniper sees a woman standing in the middle of the square wearing a white-curled wig like some small, unfortunate animal pinned to her head. A bronze Saint George glares down at her and women press near her, waving signs and banners. Juniper figures shes found St. Georges Square and the New Salem Womens Association rally after all. Shes never seen a real live suffragist. In the Sunday cartoons theyre drawn scraggle-haired and long-nosed, suspiciously witchy. But these women dont look much like witches. They look more like the models in Ivory soap ads, all puffed and white and fancy. Their dresses are ironed and pleated, their hats feathered, their shoes shined and smart. They part around Juniper as she shoves forward, looking sideways at the seasick roll of her gait, the Crow County mud still clinging to her hem. She doesnt notice; her eyes are on the strident little woman at the foot of the statue. A badge on her chest reads Miss Cady Stone, NSWA President. It seems that our elected politicians disagree with the Constitution, which grants us certain inalienable rights. It seems that Mayor Worthington disagrees even with our benevolent God, who created us all equal. The woman keeps talking, and Juniper keeps listening. She talks about the ballot box and the mayoral election in November and the importance of self-determination. She talks about the olden-times when women were queens and scholars and knights. She talks about justice and equal rights and fair shares. Juniper doesnt follow all the detailsshe stopped going to Miss Hurstons one-room schoolhouse at ten because after her sisters left there was no one to make her gobut she understands what Miss Stone is asking. Shes asking: Arent you tired yet? Of being cast down and cast aside? Of making do with crumbs when once we wore crowns? Shes asking: Arent you angry yet? And oh, Juniper is. At her mama for dying too soon and her daddy for not dying sooner. At her dumbshit cousin for getting the land that should have been hers. At her sisters for leaving and herself for missing them. At the whole Saints-damned world. Juniper feels like a soldier with a loaded rifle, finally shown something she can shoot. Like a girl with a lit match, finally shown something she can burn. There are women standing on either side of her, waving signs and filling in all the pauses with hear-hears, their faces full of bright hunger. For a second Juniper pretends shes standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her sisters again and she feels the hollowed-out place they left behind them, that emptiness so vast even fury cant quite fill it. She wonders what they would say if they could see her now. Agnes would worry, always trying to be the mother they didnt have. Bella would ask six dozen questions. Mags would say: Girls who go looking for trouble usually find it. Her daddy would say: Dont forget what you are, girl. Then he would toss her down in the worm-eaten dark and hiss the answer: Nothing. Juniper doesnt realize shes bitten her lip until she tastes blood. She spits and hears a faint hiss as it lands, like grease in a hot pan. The wind rises. It rushes through the square, midnight-cool and mischievous, fluttering the pages of Miss Cady Stones notes. It smells wild and sweet, half-familiar, like Mama Magss house on the solstice. Like earth and char and old magic. Like the small, feral roses that bloomed in the deep woods. Miss Stone stops talking. The crowd clutches their hats and cloak-strings, squinting upward. A mousy-looking girl near Juniper fusses with a lacy umbrella, as if she thinks this is a mundane storm that can be taken care of with mundane means. Juniper hears crows and jays calling in the distance, sharp and savage, and knows better. She whirls, looking for the witch behind the working And the world comes unsewn. Sugar and spice And everything nice. A spell to soothe a bad temper, requiring a pinch of sugar and spring sunshine Agnes Amaranth Eastwood was the middle sister, with hair as shining and black as a hawks eye. She was the strongest of the three. The unflinching one, the steady one, the one that knew how to work and keep working, tireless as the tide. But on the spring equinox of 1893, she is weak. The shift bell rings and Agnes sags against her loom, listening to the tick and hiss of cooling metal and the rising babble of the mill-girls. Cotton-dust coats her tongue and gums her eyes; her limbs ache and rattle, worn out from too many extra shifts in a row. One of those nasty fevers is spreading through New Salems disorderly edges, festering in the boarding houses and barrooms of West Babel, and every third girl is hacking her lungs up in a bed at St. Charitys. Demand is high, too, because one of the other mills caught fire last week. Agnes heard women had leapt from the windows, falling to the streets like comets trailing smoke and ash. All week her dreams have been crimson, full of the wet pop of burning flesh, except its a memory and not a dream at all, and she wakes reaching for her sisters who arent there. The other girls are filing out, gossiping and jostling. You headed to the rally? A huff of laughter. I got better ways to waste my time. Agnes has worked at the Baldwin Brothers Bonded Mill for a handful of years now, but she doesnt know their names. She used to learn their names. When she first came to New Salem, Agnes had a tendency to collect straysthe too-skinny girls who slept on the boarding-house floor because they couldnt afford beds, the too-quiet girls with bruises around their wrists. Agnes tucked them all under her scrawny wing as if each of them were the sisters she left behind. There was one girl whose hair she brushed every morning before work, thirty strokes, like she used to do for Juniper. She found work as a night-nurse at the Home for Lost Angels. She spent long shifts soothing babies who couldnt be soothed, loving children she shouldnt love, dreaming about a big house with sunny windows and enough beds for each little Lost Angel. One night she showed up to work to find half her babies had been shipped out west to be adopted by settler families hungry for helping hands. She stood among the empty beds, hands trembling, remembering what her Mama Mags told her: Every woman draws a circle around herself. Sometimes she has to be the only thing inside it. Agnes quit the orphanage. She told the boarding-house girl to brush her own damn hair and started work at the Baldwin Brothers. She figured you couldnt love a cotton mill. The bell clangs again and Agnes unpeels her forehead from the loom. The floor boss leers idly as the girls file past, reaching for skirts and blouses with pinching fingers. He doesnt reach for Agnes. On her first shift Mr. Malton had cornered her behind the cotton balesshe was always the pretty one, all shining hair and hipsbut Mags taught her granddaughters ways to discourage that kind of horseshit. Since then Mr. Malton saves his leers for other girls. Agnes watches the new girl flinch as she passes him, her shoulders sloped with shame. She looks away. The alley air tastes clean and bright after the humid dark of the mill. Agnes turns west up St. Judes, headed homewell, not home, just the moldy little room she rents in the South Sybil boarding house, which smells like boiled cabbage no matter what she cooksuntil she sees the man waiting at the corner. Hair slicked earnestly to one side, cap clutched in nervous hands. Wholesome good looks, clean fingernails, a weak chin you dont notice at first: Floyd Matthews. Oh hell. His eyes are pleading at her, his mouth half-open to call her name, but Agnes fixes her gaze on the apron-strings of the woman in front of her and hopes hell just give up and find some other mill-girl to pine after. A scuffed boot appears in her path, followed by an outstretched hand. She wishes she didnt remember so precisely how that hand felt against her skin, smooth and soft, unscarred. Aggie, love, talk to me. Whats so hard about calling a woman by her full name? Why do men always want to give you some smaller, sweeter name than the one your mama gave you? I already said my piece, Floyd. She tries to edge past him but he puts his hands on her shoulders, imploring. I dont understand! Why would you turn me down? I could take you out of this placehe waves a soft hand at the dim alleys and sooty brick of the west sideand make an honest woman out of you. I could give you anything you want! He sounds bewildered, like his proposal was a mathematical equation and Agnes produced the incorrect response. Like a nice boy told no for the first time in his nice life. She sighs at him, aware that the other girls are pausing on the street, turning to look at them. You cant give me what I want, Floyd. Agnes doesnt know what she wants, exactly, but its not Floyd Matthews or his little gold ring. Floyd gives her a little shake. But I love you! Oh, Agnes doubts the hell out of that. He loves pieces of herthe thunder-blue of her eyes, the full moon-glow of her breasts in the darkbut he never even met most of her. If he peeled back her pretty skin hed find nothing soft or sweet at all, just busted glass and ashes and the desperate, animal will to stay alive. Agnes removes Floyds hands from her shoulders, gently. Im sorry. She strides down St. Marys with his voice rising behind her, pleading, desperate. His pleas curdle into cruelty soon enough. He curses her, calls her a witch and a whore and a hundred other names she learned from her daddy first. She doesnt turn back. One of the other mill workers, a broad woman with a heavy accent, offers Agnes a nod as she passes and grunts boys, eh in the same tone she might say fleas or piss-stains, and Agnes almost smiles at her before she catches herself. She keeps walking. She dreams as she walks: a home of her own, so big she has extra beds just for guests. Shell write her little sister another letter: Youve got someplace to run, if you want it. Maybe this time she would answer. Maybe the two of them could be family again. Its a stupid dream. Agnes learned young that you have a family right up until you dont. You take care of people right up until you cant, until you have to choose between staying and surviving. By the time she turns on South Sybil the boarding house is lit up, noisy with the evening talk of working girls and unwed women. Agnes finds her feet carrying her past it, even though her back aches and her stomach is sour and her breasts feel heavy, achy. She winds up Spinners Row and down St. Lamentation Avenue, leaving the factories and tenements and three dozen languages of West Babel behind her, lured forward by a strange, half-imagined tugging behind her ribs. She buys a hot pie from a cart. A block later she throws it away, acid in her throat. She heads uptown without quite admitting it to herself. She crosses the Thorn and the buildings get grander and farther apart, the faded advertisements and tattered playbills replaced by fresh campaign posters: Clement Hughes for a Safer Salem! Gideon Hill: Our Light Against the Darkness! She falls in behind a flock of pinch-lipped women wearing white sashes with CHRISTIAN WOMENS UNION embroidered on one side and WOMEN WITHOUT SIN on the other. Agnes has heard of them. Theyre always hassling street-witches and trying to save girls from the whorehouse whether or not they want to be saved (they mostly dont). Their leader is named something like Purity or Grace, one of those ladylike virtues. Agnes figures shes the one walking out frontslender, white-gloved, her hair piled up in a perfect Gibson Girl poufwearing an expression suggesting shes Joan of Arcs tight-laced sister. Agnes would bet a silver dollar that her maid uses a little witching to keep her gown unwrinkled and her hair neat. She wonders what Mama Mags would say if she could see them. Juniper would growl. Bella would have her nose in a book. Agnes doesnt know why shes thinking of her sisters; she hasnt in years, not since the day she drew her circle and left them standing on the outside of it. The street ends at St. Georges Square, framed by City Hall and the College, and the white-sashed ladies begin stamping around the perimeter, chanting Bible verses and scowling at the gathering of suffragists in the center. Agnes should turn around and go back to South Sybil, but she lingers. A woman in a white wig is speechifying about womens rights and womens votes and womens history, about taking on the mantles of their fore-mothers and marching forward arm in arm. And Saints save her, Agnes wishes it was real. That she could just wave a sign or shout a slogan and step into a better world, one where she could be more than a daughter or a mother or a wife. Where she could be something instead of nothing. Dont forget what you are. But Agnes hasnt believed in witch-tales since she was a little girl. She is turning away, heading back to the boarding house, when the wind whips her skirts sideways and tugs her hair loose from its braid. It smells foreign, green, un-city-like. It reminds Agnes of the dark interior of Mama Magss house, hung with herbs and the bones of small creatures, of wild roses in the woods. The wind pulls at her, searching or asking, and her breasts ache in strange answer. Something wet and greasy dampens her dress-front and drips to the cobbles below. Something the color of bone or pearl. Ormilk. Agnes stares at the splattered drops like a woman watching a runaway carriage come hurtling toward her. Dates and numbers skitter behind her eyes as she counts up the days since Floyd lay beside her in the dark, his palm sliding smooth down her belly, laughing. Whats the harm, Aggie? No harm at all. For him. Before Agnes can do more than curse Floyd Matthews and his soft hands six ways to Sunday, heat comes searing up her spine. It licks up her neck, rising like a fever. Reality splits. A ragged hole hangs in the air, that wild wind rushing through it. Another sky gleams dark on the other side, like skin glimpsed through torn cloth, and then the hole is growing, tearing wide and letting that other-sky pour through. The evening gray of New Salem is swallowed by star-spattered night. In that night stands a tower. Ancient, half-eaten by climbing roses and ivy, taller than the Courthouse or College on either side of the square. Dark, gnarled trees surround it, like the feral cousins of the lindens in their neat rows, and the sky above it fills with the dark tatter of wings. For a moment the square stands in eerie, brittle silence, mesmerized by the strange stars and circling crows. Agnes pants, her blood still boiling, her heart inexplicably lifting. Then someone screams. The stillness shatters. The crowd floods toward Agnes in a screeching horde, skirts and hats clutched tight. She braces her shoulders and wraps her arms around her belly, as if she can protect the fragile thing taking root inside her. As if she wants to. She should turn and follow the crowd, should run from that strange tower and whatever power called it here, but she doesnt. She staggers toward the center of the square instead, following some invisible pull And the world mends itself. The wayward sisters, hand in hand, Burned and bound, our stolen crown, But what is lost, that cant be found? Purpose unknown Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood was the oldest sister, with hair like owl feathers: soft and dark, streaked with early gray. She was the wisest of the three. The quiet one, the listening one, the one who knew the feel of a books spine in her palm and the weight of words in the air. But on the spring equinox of 1893, she is a fool. She sits in the dust-specked light of her little office in the East Wing of the Salem College Library, flipping furtively through a newly donated first-edition copy of the Sisters Grimms Children and Household Witch-Tales (1812). She already knows the stories, knows them so well she dreams in once-upon-a-times and sets of three, but shes never held a first edition in her own two hands. It has a weight to it, as if the Sisters Grimm tucked more than paper and ink inside it. Beatrice flicks to the last page and pauses. Someone has added a verse at the end of the last tale, hand-lettered and faded. The wayward sisters, hand in hand, Burned and bound, our stolen crown, But what is lost, that cant be found? There are more lines below these, but theyre lost to the blotches and stains of time. It isnt especially strange to find words written in the back of an old book; Beatrice has been a librarian for five years and has seen much worse, including a patron who used a raw strip of bacon as a bookmark. But it is a little strange that Beatrice recognizes these words, that she and her sisters sang them when they were little girls back in Crow County. Beatrice always thought it was one of Mama Magss nonsense-songs, a silly rhyme she made up to keep her granddaughters busy while she plucked rooster feathers or bottled jezebel-root. But here it is, scrawled in an old book of witch-tales. Beatrice flips several onion-skin pages and finds the title of the last tale printed in scrolling script, surrounded by a dark tangle of ivy: The Tale of Saint George and the Witches. Its never been one of her favorites, but she reads it anyway. Its the usual version: once upon a time there were three wicked witches who loosed a terrible plague on the world. But brave Saint George of Hyll rose against them. He purged witching from the world, leaving nothing but ashes behind him. Finally only the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone remained, the last and wickedest of witches. They fled to Avalon and hid in a tall tower, but in the end Saint George burned the Three and their tower with them. The last page of the story is an engraved illustration of grateful children dancing while the Last Three Witches of the West burned merrily in the background. Mama Mags used to tell the story different. Beatrice remembers listening to her grandmothers stories as if they were doors to someplace else, someplace better. Later, after she was sent away, she would lie in her narrow cot and re-tell them to herself again and again, rubbing them like lucky pennies between her fingers. (Sometimes she can still see the walls of her room at St. Hales: perfect ivory, closing like teeth around her. She keeps such things locked safe inside parentheses, like her mother taught her.) A raised voice rings from the square through her office window, startling her. She isnt supposed to be dawdling over witch-tales and rhymes; as a junior associate librarian shes supposed to be cataloging and filing and recording, perhaps transcribing the work of true scholars. Right now there are several hundred pages of illegible handwriting piled on her desk from a professor in the School of History. Shes only typed the title pageThe Greater Good: An Ethical Evaluation of the Georgian Inquisition During the Purgebut she can tell already its one of those bloodthirsty books that relishes every gory detail of the purges: the beatings and brandings, the metal bridles and hot iron shoes, the women they burned with their babes still held in their arms. It will be popular with the Morality Party types, the saber-rattlers and church-goers who rather admire the French Empires bloody campaign against the war-witches of Dahomey, who are eager to see similar measures taken up against the witches of the Navajo and Apache and the stubborn Choctaw still holed up in Mississippi. Beatrice finds she doesnt have the stomach for it. She knows witching is sinful and dangerous, that it stands in the way of the forward march of progress and industry, et cetera, but she cant help but think of Mags in her little herb-hung house and wonder what the harm is. She looks again at the words on the last page of the Sisters Grimm. They arent important. They arent anything at all, just a little girls rhyme written in a childrens book, a song sung by an old woman in the hills of nowhere in particular. An unfinished verse long forgotten. But when she looks at them, Beatrice can almost feel her sisters hands in hers again, can almost smell the mist rising from the valleys back home. She pulls a notebook from her desk drawer. Its cheaply madethe black dye fading to murky mauve, the pages coming ungluedbut its her most beloved possession. (It was her very first possession, the first thing she purchased with her own money after she left St. Hales.) The notebook is half-filled with witch-tales and nursery rhymes, stolen scraps and idle dreams and anything that catches Beatrices eye. If she were a scholar she might refer to her notes as research, might imagine it typed and bound on a library shelf, discussed in university halls, but she isnt and it wont be. Now she copies the verse about wayward sisters into the little black book, beside all the other stories shell never tell and spells shell never work. She hasnt spoken so much as a single charm or cantrip since she left home. But something about the shape of the words on the page, written in her own hand, tempts her tongue. She has a wild impulse to read them aloudand Beatrice isnt a woman much subject to wild impulses. She learned young what happened when a woman indulges herself, when she tastes fruits forbidden. (Dont forget what you are, her daddy told her, and Beatrice hasnt.) And yetBeatrice cracks her office door to check the College halls; she is entirely alone. She swallows. She feels a tugging somewhere in her chest, like a finger hooked around her ribcage. She whispers the words aloud. The wayward sisters, hand in hand. They roll in her mouth like summer sorghum, hot and sweet. Burned and bound, our stolen crown. Heat slides down her throat, coils in her belly. But what is lost, that cant be found? Beatrice waits, blood simmering. Nothing happens. Naturally. Tearsabsurd, foolish tearsprick her eyes. Did she expect some grand magical feat? Flights of ravens, flocks of fairies? Magic is a dreary, distasteful thing, more useful for whitening ones socks than for summoning dragons. And even if Beatrice stumbled on an ancient spell, she lacks the witch-blood to wield it. Books and tales are as close as she can come to a place where magic is still real, where women and their words have power. Beatrices office feels suddenly cluttered and stuffy. She stands so abruptly her chair screeches across the tile and she fumbles a half-cloak around her shoulders. She strides from her office and clicks down the tidy halls of Salem College, thinking what a fool she was for trying. For hoping. Mr. Blackwell, the director of Special Collections, blinks up from his desk as she passes. Evening, Miss Eastwood. In a hurry? Mr. Blackwell is the reason Beatrice is a junior associate librarian. He hired her with nothing but a diploma from St. Hales, based purely on their shared weakness for sentimental novels and penny-papers. Often Beatrice lingers to chat with him about the days findings and frustrations, the new version of East of the Sun, West of the Witch she found in translation or the newest novel from Miss Hardy, but today she merely gives him a thin smile and hurries out into the graying evening with his worried eyes watching her. She is halfway across the square, shoving through some sort of rally or protest, when the tears finally spill over, pooling against the wire rims of her spectacles before splashing to the stones below. Heat hisses through her veins. An unnatural wind whips toward the center of the square. It smells like drying herbs and wild roses. Like magic. That foolish hope returns to her. Beatrice wets her wind-scoured lips and says the words again. The wayward sisters, hand in hand This time she doesnt stopcant stopbut returns to the beginning in a circling chant. Its as if the words are a river or an unbridled horse, carrying her helplessly forward. Theres a rhythm to them, a heartbeat that skips at the end of the verse, stuttering over missing words. The spell shambles onward, careening, not quite right, and the heat builds. Her lungs are charred, her mouth seared, her skin fevered. Dimly Beatrice is aware of things outside herselfthe splitting open of the world, the black tower hanging against a star-flecked sky, hung with thorns and ivy, the crows reeling overheadher own feet carrying her forward, forward, following the witch-wind to the middle of the square. But then the fever blurs her vision, swallows her whole. None of Mama Magss spells ever felt like this. Like a song she cant stop singing, like a bonfire beneath her skin. Beatrice thinks it might become a pyre if she keeps feeding it. She stutters into silence. The world shudders. The ripped-open edges of reality flutter like tattered cloth before drawing together again, as if some great unseen seamstress is stitching the world back together. The tower and the tangled wood and the foreign night vanish, replaced by the ordinary gray of a spring evening in the city. Beatrice blinks and thinks, That was witching. True witching, old and dark and wild as midnight. Everything tilts strangely in Beatrices vision and she tips downward into darkness. She falls, half dreaming there are arms waiting to catch her, sturdy and warm. A womans voice says her name, except it isnt her name anymoreits the lost name her sisters used when they were still foolish and fearlessBella! And it begins to rain. Juniper is howling like a moon-drunk dog, reveling in the sweet heat of power coursing through her veins and the feather-soft beating of wings above her, when the tower disappears. It leaves the square in teeming, shrieking chaos. Every hat is blown askew, every skirt is ruffled, every hair-pin failing in its duties. Even the neat-trimmed linden trees look a little wilder, their leaves greener, their branches spreading like autumn antlers. Juniper is chilled and dazed, emptied out except for a strange ache in the center of her. A want so vast it cant fit behind her ribs. She looks up to see two other women standing near her, forming a silent circle in the middle of the screaming stampede of St. Georges Square. In their faces Juniper sees her own want shining back at her, a hollow-cheeked hunger for whatever the hell it was they saw hanging in the sky, calling them closer. One of the women sways and says oh in a hoarse voice, like shes been standing too long over a cook-fire. She blinks at Juniper through fever-slick eyes before she falls. Juniper drops her staff and catches her before her head cracks against stone. Shes light, feather-fragile in Junipers arms. Its only as Juniper lays her down and resettles the crooked spectacles on the womans nose, as she sees the freckles scattered across her cheeks like constellations she thought shed forgotten, that she realizes who she is. Bella. Her oldest sister. And Juniper looks slowly up at the other woman, the first cold flecks of rain hissing on her cheeks, her heart thundering like iron-shod hooves against her breastbone. Shes just as pretty as Juniper remembers her: full lips and long lashes and slender neck. Juniper figures she takes after the mama she cant remember, because theres nothing of Daddy in her. Agnes. And just like that, Juniper is ten again. She is opening her eyes in the earthen dark of Magss hut, already speaking her sisters names because thats how they were back then, always hand in hand, one-of-three. Mags is turning away from her, shoulders bowed, and Juniper is realizing all over again that her sisters are gone. Oh, theyd talked about it. Of course they had. How they would run away into the woods together like Hansel and Gretel. How they would eat wild honey and pawpaws, leave honeysuckle crowns on Magss doorstep sometimes so shed know they were still alive. How Daddy would weep and curse but they would never, ever go back home. But Daddys mood would lighten, sudden as springtime, and he would buy them sweets and ribbons and they would stay a while longer. Not this time. This time her sisters cut and ran without looking back, without second-guessing. Without her. Juniper took off down the mountainside as soon as she understood, stumbling, limpingher left foot was still blistered and raw from the barn-fire. She caught a single glimpse of Agness sleek black braid swaying on the back of a wagon as it jostled down the drive and shouted for her to come back, please come back, dont leave me, until her pleas turned to choked sobs and thrown stones, until she was too full-up with hate to hurt anymore. She limped home. The house smelled wet and sweet, like meat gone bad, and her daddy was waiting for his supper. Never mind, James. Hed given her his own first name and liked to hear himself say it. Well get along without them. Seven years she survived without them. She grew up without them, buried Mama Mags without them, and waited without them for Daddy to die. But now here they are, wet and hungry-eyed, smack dab in the middle of New Salem: her sisters. Little Girl Blue, come blow your horn, The sheeps in the meadow, the cows in the corn. Soundly she sleeps beneath bright skies, [Sleepers name] awake, arise! A spell to wake what sleeps, requiring a blown horn or a good whistle Agnes Amaranth doesnt feel the cold hiss of rain against her skin. She doesnt see the two women crouched beside her, freckled and black-haired, like reflections hanging in a pair of mirrors. All her attention is inward-facing, fixed on the live thing sprouting inside her, delicate as the first fiddle-head curl of a fern. She imagines she feels a second heart beating beneath her palm. Agnes. She knows the voice. Shes heard it laugh and tease and beg for one more story, pretty please; shes heard it chasing after her down the rutted drive, begging her to come back. Shes heard it in seven years of bad dreams. Dont leave me. Agnes looks down to see her baby sister kneeling below her, except shes not a baby anymore: her jaw is hard and square, her shoulders wide, her eyes blazing with a grown womans helping of hate. J-Juniper? Agnes becomes aware that her arms are outstretched, as if she expects Juniper to run into them the way she did when she was a child, when Agnes still slept every night with her sisters crow-feather hair tickling her nose, when Juniper still slipped sometimes and called her Mama. Junipers lips are peeled back from her teeth, her face taut. Agnes looks down to see her sisters hands curled into fists. The shape of themthe familiar white knobs of her knuckles, the twist of tendons in her wristschases all the air from Agness lungs. Wheres Daddy? He with you? She hates the hint of Crow County that surfaces in her voice. Juniper shakes her head, stiff-necked. No. A darkness flits across the leaf-light of her eyes, like grief or guilt, before the rage burns it away again. Agnes remembers how to breathe. Oh. Howwhat are you doing here? Deep scratches score Junipers wrists and throat, as if she ran through deep woods on a dark night. What am I doing here? Junipers eyes are wide and her nostrils are flared. Agnes remembers what happens when Juniper loses her tempera serpent the color of blood, flames licking higher, animal screamsand flinches away. Juniper swallows, draws a shuddering breath. Had to leave home. Headed north. Didnt expect to run into you two strutting through the city like a pair of pigeons, without a care in the damn world. Her voice is bitter and black as burnt coffee. The Juniper Agnes remembers was all feckless temper and careless laughter; Agnes wonders who taught her to hold a grudge, to feed and tend it like a wild-caught wolf pup until it grew big and mean enough to swallow a man whole. Her attention snags on the number Juniper just said. Two? Surely Agnes is still merely one. Surely the baby in her belly is too small to count as a whole person. Agness brain feels like a jammed loom, threads snarled, gears grinding. Juniper narrows her eyes at Agnes, looking for mockery and not finding it, then looks pointedly down. Agnes follows her gaze and for the first time she sees the woman lying between them, her spectacles spattered with rain. Agnes feels the world collapsing around her, all the years of her life folding together, accordion-like. Their oldest sister. The one who betrayed her and the one she betrayed in turn, eye for an eye. The reason she had to run. Bella. Juniper is shaking Bellas shoulders and Bellas head is lolling, limp. Juniper lays two fingers against her forehead and swears. Shes burning up. Yall got a place nearby? I havent seen Bella in seven years. Didnt even know she was in the city. Agness lip curls. Didnt care, either. Juniper glares up at her. Then how come But Agnes hears a sound that every person in New Salem knows well, a sound that means trouble and time to go: the cold ring of iron-shod hooves on cobblestones. Police in the city ride tall, prancing grays specially bred for their vicious tempers and shining white coats. The sound makes Agnes abruptly aware of how empty the square has become, abandoned by everything except slanting rain and drifting feathers and the three of them. She ought to run before the law shows up looking for someone to blame. She ought to gather her skirts in two fists and disappear into the alleys and side-streets, just another nothing-girl in a white apron, invisible. Juniper climbs to her feet with Bellas arm hauled across her shoulders. She staggers on her bad leg, toppling sideways Agnes reaches for her. She catches her wrist and Juniper clutches her arm, steadying herself, and for a half-second the two of them are face-to-face, hands wrapped around each other, flesh warm through thin cotton. Agnes lets go first. She bends and hands her sister the red-cedar staff, rubbing her palm against her skirt as if the wood burned her. Without quite deciding to, without thinking much at all, she shoves her shoulder against Bellas other side. Their oldest sister sags between them like wet laundry on a line. Agnes hears herself say, Come with me. Beatrice is drifting, burning, floating like a cinder above some unseen fire. Voices hiss and whisper around her. Hurry, for Saints sake. Her feet wobble and slide beneath her, mutinous. Her spectacles swing madly from one ear. She blinks and sees the coal-scummed walls of west-side alleys passing on either side; laundry strung overhead like the many-colored flags of foreign countries, dripping in the rain; the darkening sky and the hot glow of gas-lamps. There are two women running beside her, half carrying her. One of them limps badly, her shoulder falling and catching beneath Beatrice. The other swears beneath her breath, fingers white around Beatrices wrist. Their faces are nothing but bright blurs in Beatrices vision, but their arms are warm and familiar around her. Her sisters. The ones she missed most at St. Hales, the ones who never came to her rescue. The ones who are here now, running beside her down the rain-slick streets of New Salem. Juniper never thought much about her sisters lives after they left Crow Countytheyd just walked off the edge of the page and vanished, a pair of unfinished sentencesbut she thought a lot about what shed say if she ever saw them again. You left me behind. You knew what he was and you left me all alone with him. Her sisters would weep and tear their hair with guilt. Please, they would beg, forgive us! Juniper would stare down at them like God casting the first witch from the Garden, fire and brimstone in her eyes. No, shed say, and her sisters would spend the rest of their sorry-ass lives wishing theyd loved her better. Juniper doesnt say a word as they lurch through the twisting streets, turning down unmarked alleys and slanting through empty lots. She says nothing as they arrive at a grim-looking boarding house with stained clapboard walls and wooden crosses hanging in the windows. She is silent as they shuffle Bella past the landladys apartment, up two flights of creaking stairs, through a door bearing a brass number seven and a cross-stitched verse (Let a woman live in quietude, Timothy 2:11). Agness room is dim and mildewed, containing nothing but a thin mattress on an iron frame, a cracked mirror, and a rusty stove that looks like it would struggle to heat a tin cup of coffee. Brownish stains bloom on the ceiling; unseen creatures scuttle and nibble in the walls. It makes Juniper think of a jail cell or a cheap coffin. Or the cellar back home, black and wet, empty except for cave crickets and animal bones and the long-ago tears of little girls. A chill shivers down her spine. Agnes heaves Bella onto the thin mattress and stands with her arms crossed. The lines on her face are deeper than Juniper remembers. She thinks of witch-tales about young women cursed to age a year for every day they live. Agnes bends to light a puddled stub of candle. She shoots Juniper a prickly, half-ashamed shrug. Out of lamp-oil. Juniper watches her sister stumbling around in the flickering light for a minute before she pulls the crooked wand of pitch pine from her pocket and touches the end of it to the slumping candle. She whispers the words Mama Mags taught her and the wand glows a dull orange that brightens to beaten gold, as if an entire summer sunset has been caught and condensed. Agnes stares at the wand, her face bathed in honeyed light. You always paid better attention to Mags than us. Juniper pinches the guttering candlewick between her fingers and shrugs one shoulder. Used to. She died in the winter of ninety-one. Juniper could have told her more: how she dug and filled the hole herself to save the cost of a gravedigger and how the dirt rang hollow on the coffin lid; how every shovelful took some of herself along with it, until she was nothing but bones and hate; how she waited for three days and three nights by the graveside hoping Mama Mags might love her enough to let her soul linger. Ghosts were at least seven different kinds of sin and they never lasted more than an hour or two, but sin never bothered Mags before. The grave stayed still and silent, and Juniper stayed lonely. All Mags left behind was her brass locket, the one that used to have their mothers hair curled like a silky black snake inside it. Juniper doesnt say any of that. She lets the silence congeal like grease in a cold pan. You should have written. Id have come home for the funeral. Theres an apology in Agness voice and Juniper wants to bite her for it. Oh, would you? And where should I have addressed your invitation? Seven years, Agnes, seven years From the bed beside them, Bella makes a soft, hurting sound. Her skin is a damp, fish-belly white. Juniper snaps her teeth shut and crouches down beside her, peeling one of her eyelids back. Devils-fever. Juniper would like very much to know what the hell her sister was doing to get herself burnt up with witching. You got a tin whistle? Or a horn? Agnes shakes her head and Juniper tsks. She says the words anyhow and gives a sharp, two-fingered whistle. A spark of witching flares between them. Bellas eyes flutter. She blinks up at her sisters, face slack with shock. Agnes? June? Juniper gives her a stiff little bow. Saints. A sudden fear seems to strike Bella. She struggles up from the bed, eyes skittering around the room, lingering on the shadows. Wheres Daddy? Not here. Does he know where you are? Is he coming? Doubt it. Juniper runs her tongue over her teeth and lays out the next words like a winning hand of cards, a heartless snap. Dead men usually stay put. She lets her eyelids hang heavy as she says it, hoping her sisters wont see anything lurking in her eyes. They stare at her, barely breathing, their faces empty. Juniper knows how they feel. Even right afterward, when Juniper was scrubbing the guilt and smoke off her arms in the Big Sandy River, she remembers thinking, Is that it? Her daddys death was supposed to feel like vanquishing a foe or winning a war, like the end of the story when the giant crashes to earth and the whole kingdom celebrates. But the giant had already stomped everything flat. There was no one left to celebrate except Juniper the Giantkiller, all alone. Agnes lowers herself slowly onto the floor beside Juniper. After a while she says, So how come you left? Whos watching the farm? Juniper answers her second question. Cousin Dan. That dumbshit? He owns it now. Daddy left the whole thing to him. Even Magss place. A little hut dug into the mountainside with a dirt floor and a cedar-shake roof gone green with moss, worth less than the land it sat on. People in town gossiped and clucked their tongues about Mama Mags, wondering to one another how a person could live all alone like that, but it sounded alright to Juniper. Shed never had any interest in boys or betrothals or the things that came after; she figured shed spend her days clearing henbit and cudweed from the herb-garden and chatting with the sycamores. In the fall-times maybe she and her red staff would go walking in the hills with a basket over her arm, collecting foxglove and ninebark, snake-skins and bone, sleeping beneath the clean light of stars. Daddy took that away from her, like he took everything else. IIm sorry, Juniper. I know you always loved that place. Bella says it soft, as if shes trying to comfort Juniper, as if she cares. Juniper shucks her shoulders, ducking away from her caring. Howd you two end up in New Salem, anyhow? Neither of them meet her eyes. Bella removes her spectacles and polishes the glass with the bed-sheet. I w-work for the College, at the library. Agnes gives a small, humorless laugh and mimics Bellas chopped-short vowels, her schoolteacher voice. Well, I work for the Baldwin Brothers. At the cotton mill. Juniper sees their eyes meet, cold and cutting, and wonders what the hell they have to hold against one another. They werent the ones left in the lions den. She leans between them. And howd you end up in that square today? Now they look at her, wide and hungry. Bella touches her own breastbone, as if theres still something lodged there, towing her forward, and Juniper knows they felt it, too: the thing that tugged them together, the spell that burned between them and left a terrible wanting behind it. She can almost see the black tower reflected in their eyes, starlit and rose-eaten, like a promise nearly fulfilled. Bella whispers, What was it? Juniper whispers back, You know damn well what it was. Something long gone, something dangerous, something that was supposed to have burned up in the way-back days along with their mothers mothers. Bella hisses witching, just as Agnes says trouble. Agnes pulls herself to her feet, the sunlit wand drawing deep shadows around her frown. Theres no starlight in her eyes, now. All kinds of trouble. People will be scared, and the lawll get involved. Its not like it was back home, where people mostly looked the other way when it came to witching. You saw the witch-yard in the cemetery? They say in the old days it was ankle-deep with the ashes of the women they burned in this city. She shakes her head. And now there are these Christian Union women running around, and the Morality Party has somebody on the City Councilhes running for mayor now, I heard. He doesnt have a chance in hell, but still. Him and his people will eat all this tower business up with a damn spoon. But dont you want to Juniper begins. What I want is to get some sleep. I have an early shift tomorrow. Agness voice is clipped and cold as she rummages in a battered trunk. The police will be out looking, by now. You two should stay here. She tosses a stack of moth-eaten wool at Juniper, not looking at her. For the night. For the night. Not forever, not happily ever after. Of course not. Agnes spreads her own blanket on the floor and rolls a spare skirt into a pillow. Bella struggles upright, gesturing Agnes to her own bed, but Agnes ignores her. She lies down on the floor with her body curled tight, a nautilus-shell around her own belly. Juniper glares resentfully at her back before whispering to the pitch pine wand. The witch-light fades and the room darkens from summer-gold to winter-gray. Juniper lies on the floor beside Agnes and tries to keep her fists from clenching and her teeth from grinding. Her body is strung tight from a night and a day spent running, sleeping only in rattling snatches on the train. She shuffles and tosses and thinks of their old four-poster bed in the attic. She had trouble sleeping even as a girl, counting whip-poor-will calls and waiting for their daddys unsteady steps to fall quiet. On bad nights Agnes would stroke her hair and Bella would whisper witch-tales in the dark. You up, Bell? The sound of her own voice surprises Juniper. You still remember any stories? At first she thinks that Bella wont answer her. Will tell her shes too old for tales of maidens and crones and spinning wheels. But her voice rises above the creak and rustle of the boarding house and Juniper can almost believe she is still ten years old, still one-of-three instead of one-alone. Once upon a time THE TALE OF THE SLEEPING MAIDEN Once upon a time there was a king and queen who longed for a child but couldnt have one. They tried spells and prayers and charms, but after many long years the kingdom still had no heir. In desperation they held a grand feast and invited six witches to bless their kingdom. The six witches granted six fair giftspeace and prosperity, good health and good harvests, agreeable weather and biddable peasantsbut just as the feast was ending, a seventh witch arrived. She was young and graceful and had the sort of face that launches ships and eats hearts. She wore a coal-black adder twined around her left arm and a sharp-toothed smile on her lips. She told the king and queen that, since they failed to invite her to their feast, she brought a curse instead of a blessing: one day a young maiden would prick her finger on a spindle and the castle would fall into an endless sleep from which no one could wake it. The king took all reasonable precautions. He ordered all the spinning wheels burned and permitted no unwed women within the castle walls. He kept his throne for one-and-twenty years. Until the day a strange maiden arrived at the castle gates. The guards should have turned her away, but it had been too long since the seventh witch had been seen, and the Maiden knew the ways and words to make them forget their orders. She wore her familiar like a black-glass necklace around her throat. The Maiden strode unseen through the castle, smiling as she went, until she climbed to the top of the tallest tower, where a spinning wheel waited for her. She reached her pale finger to the spindles end. There are many versions of this story, but there is always a pricked finger. There are always three drops of the Maidens blood. Her blood touched the castle floor and a spell drifted through the castle. Every living creature fell into a sudden slumber. Pies burned in the ovens and spears clattered to the floor; cats slept with their claws outstretched toward sleeping mice, and dogs lay down beside foxes. In the whole castle only the Maiden moved. She stole the kings crown from his brow and settled it on her own head. The Maiden ruled for one hundred years. She might have ruled foreverwho can say what ways a witch might find to live beyond their years?except that a brave knight heard tales of a cursed kingdom and rode to its rescue. The Maiden retreated to the tallest tower and grew rose-briars around it, vicious and sharp-spined, so thick even the knight and his shining sword couldnt cut through them. The knight set fire to the tower, instead. As the witch burned, her spell was broken and the rest of the castle woke from its endless sleep. The knight plucked the witchs crown from the ashes and presented it to the king on bended knee. The king pulled him to his feet and announced that he and the queen had finally found a fitting heir. The knight and the kingdom lived happily ever after, although no rose ever bloomed for miles around, no matter how rich the soil or how talented the gardener. And there were still stories about a young woman who walked in the deep woods sometimes, with a black snake beside her. Sister, sister, Look around, Somethings lost And must be found! A spell to find what cant be found, requiring a pinch of salt and a sharp eye Agnes Amaranth lies awake long after her sisters story. She thinks about witching and wanting and thrones without heirs, babies unborn. She thinks about the second pulse in her belly and the memory of pennyroyal on her tongue. She must fall asleep eventually, because when she opens her eyes she sees sunrise tip-toeing into the room. Bile bubbles in her throat and she retches into the chamber pot as quietly as she can. Neither of her sisters stir. Bellas mouth is crimped tight even in sleep, as if her lips are untrustworthy things. The last time Agnes saw her she was weeping silently as she packed her things, watching Agnes with her eyes huge and sad, as if she didnt deserve every bit of what she got. Clearly shes landed on her feet, working in a fancy library with her beloved books. Juniper sleeps in a heedless, childlike sprawl, all elbows and knees. The toes of her left foot are curled with scars, the puckered flesh reaching up her ankle in a shape almost like fingers. Agnes wonders how long it took to heal and if it still hurts. Her eyes fall on the battered brass locket lying against Junipers collarbone. She remembers it swinging from Magss neck, the way shed hold it sometimes and look up the mountainside with her eyes misted over. Mags never talked much about the daughter she losttheir mother, who drew her last breath just as Juniper drew her firstbut Agnes could see her mother in the shape of her grandmothers silences: the scabbed-over places, the wounded days when Mags stayed in bed with the quilts pulled high. Agnes lights the stove and cuts butter into a skillet, letting the pop and sizzle wake the others. They stretch and yawn, watching her crack eggs and boil coffee. They take their tin plates in silence. Juniper eats like its been days since she saw a square meal. Bella picks at her food, staring out the window. Agnes breathes carefully through her mouth and tries not to look at the slick jelly of the egg whites. When the food is gone theres nothing to do but leave. Part ways. Settle back into their own stories and forget about lost towers and lost sisters. None of them moves. Juniper fidgets, trailing her finger through the runny yolk as it dries. So. Agnes pretends shes speaking to a stranger, just another boarding-house girl passing through. Where will you go now? Shes hoping Juniper will say: Straight the hell back home. Or maybe even: To find good, honest work like my big sister. Instead her mouth curls with a reckless little smile and she says, To join up with those suffrage ladies just as fast as I can. Bellas eyes swivel away from the window for the first time. She covers her mouth with her palm and says faintly, Oh, my. Agnes resists the urge to roll her eyes. Why? So you can wear a fancy dress and wave a sign? Get laughed at? Dont waste your time. Junipers smile hardens. Voting doesnt seem like a waste of time to me. Shes still fooling with her egg yolk, swirling it into gummy circles. Agness stomach heaves. Look, all that votes for women stuff sounds real noble and all, but they dont mean women like you and me. They mean nice uptown ladies with big hats and too much time on their hands. It doesnt matter to you or me who gets to be mayor or president, anyhow. Juniper shrugs at her, sullen, childish, and Agnes drops her voice lower. Daddys dead, June. You cant piss him off anymore. Junipers head snaps up, eyes boiling green, hair tangled like a black hedge of roses around her face. You think I still give a single shit about him? She hisses it so hot and mean that Agnes thinks she must give two or three shits, at least. Someone or some-witch worked a spell yesterday. The kind that hasnt been seen since our great-great-great-grandmamas days. It felt Junipers jaw works. She taps her chest and Agnes knows shes trying to find words to describe the swell of power, the sweet sedition of magic in her veins. It felt impossible. Important. Dont you want to know where it came from? Dont you think it maybe had something to do with the herd of suffragists running around the square? I know thats what the policell think. Half the papers already call them witches. Dont be a fool, June, please Agnes is interrupted by Bella, who lunges from her seat at the foot of the bed to seize Junipers plate. She clutches it, peering through her spectacles at the trio of yolky circles Juniper has drawn on its surface. Whats this? Juniper blinks down at the remains of her breakfast. Uh. Eggs? The design, June. Where did you see this? Juniper lifts one shoulder. On the tower door, I guess. Bellas head tilts, owl-like. On the what? You didnt see the door? On my side of the tower there was a door, old and wooden, all overgrown with roses, and there were three circles on it, overlapping. And words, too, but I couldnt make sense of them. Bellas face goes taut, intent in a way that Agnes recalls from their childhood, when Bella would get to the good part of a book. What language was it? And did the circles have eyes? Or tails? Could they have been serpents, do you think? Maybe. Why? But Bella ignores the question. Her eyes are searching Junipers face now. They land on her lips, where Agnes can see the dark blush of a bruise and the tattered red of torn skin. Bella lifts her fingertips toward it, her expression filled with wonder or maybe terror. Maidens blood, she whispers. Juniper flinches from her touch. Bellas fingers fall away. Junipers plate clangs to the floor. Excuse me. Im sorry. I have to go. Very sorry. She tosses the words behind her like coins for beggars, a careless jumble, as she reaches for the door. What? Youre leaving? Juniper is sputtering, cheeks reddening. But I just found you! You cant just leave. Agnes hears the unspoken again hovering in the air, but Bella is already gone, calling back carelessly, I rent a room in Bethlehem Heights, between Second and Sanctity, if you need me. Agnes watches her leave with a strange hollowness in her chest. Well. She scrapes her sisters eggs back into the pan with unnecessary force. Good riddance. Juniper whirls. And whys that? Because Bella cant keep her damn mouth shut! God knows what Daddy would have done if you hadnt Agnes shivers hard, as if winter has come early, as if shes sixteen again and her daddy is coming toward her with that red glow in his eyes. Juniper doesnt seem to have heard her. Theres a glassy vacancy in her face that makes Agnes think of a little girl watching her father yell with her hands pressed over her ears, refusing to hear. Agnes unpeels her fingernails from her palms and carefully doesnt look at the cedar staff propped by the door. My shift starts soon. Ill talk to Mr. Malton, see if they need another girl on the floor. You canshe swallows, feeling the bounds of her circle stretch like seams that might split, and makes herself finishyou can stay here. Till youre on your feet. But Juniper lifts her chin, looks down her crooked nose at Agnes. Im not working at some factory. I already told you: Im signing up with the suffrage ladies. Im going to find that tower. Fight for something. Its such a youngest-sister thing to say that Agnes wants to slap her. In the witch-tales its always the youngest who is the best-beloved, the most-worthy, the one bound for some grander destiny than her sisters. The other two are too ugly or selfish or boring to get fairy godmothers or even beastly husbands. The stories never mentioned boarding-house rent or laundry or aching knuckles from a double-shift at the mill. They never mentioned babies that needed feeding or choices that needed making. Agnes swallows all those horseshit stories. Thats all well and good, but causes dont pay much, I heard. They dont feed you or give you a place to sleep. You need to Junipers lips peel back in a sudden animal snarl. I dont need a thrice-damned thing from you. She takes a step closer, finger aimed like an arrow at Agness chest. You left, remember? I made it seven years without you and I sure as shit dont need you now. Guilt worms in Agness belly, but she keeps her face set. I did what I had to. Juniper turns away, pulling on her cloak, running fingers through her black-bracken hair. Bella knows something, seems like. Is Bethlehem Heights a county or a city? Agnes blinks. Its a neighborhood. On the east side, just past the College. Dont see why a city should need more than one name. So wheres Second and Sanctity? The streets are numbered, June. You just follow the grid. Juniper shoots her a harassed look. Hows that supposed to help if I dont know where Her face goes blank. Her eyes trace some invisible line through the air. Never mind. Dont need a damn grid, after all. She takes the cedar staff and limps into the hall as if she knows precisely where shes going. Which, Agnes realizes, she does. She feels it, too: a tugging between her ribs. An invisible kite-string stretched tight between her and her sisters, thrumming with unsaid things and unfinished business. It feels like a beckoning finger, a hand shoving between her shoulder blades, a voice whispering a witch-tale about three sisters lost and found. But witch-tales are for children, and Agnes doesnt like being told what to do. She shuts her door so hard the cross-stitched verse swings on its nail. She listens alone to the uneven thump of her sisters footsteps. Three circles woven together, or maybe three snakes swallowing their own tails: Beatrice has seen this shape before. Beatrice knows to whom it belongs. The Last Three Witches of the West. Its the sign the Maiden left carved into the trunks of beech trees, the sign the Mother burned into her dragon-scale armor, the sign the Crone pressed into the leather covers of books. Beatrice has seen it printed in blurred ink in the appendices of medieval histories and described in the journals of witch-hunters and occasionally mis-identified in Church pamphlets as the Sign of Satan. It doesnt belong in the modern world. It certainly doesnt belong in the City Without Sin, carved into a door on a tower that shouldnt exist. Beatrice escapes the labyrinth of the West Babel slums with her skin humming and her fingers shaking. She flags down a trolley and lets the electric whir drown out the rising hustle of the city, the calls of west-side street vendors and the misery of the mills and even the memory of her sisters faces, fresh and sharp as mint-leaves in her mouth. (Theyre alive and whole and their daddy is dead. The thought is deafening, a flood of hope and dread and hurt.) Mr. Blackwell isnt yet at his desk when Beatrice arrives at the library. Beatrice is relieved; there will be no one to see her pale-faced and rumpled in the same dress she wore yesterday. She left the window open overnight and her office smells cool and damp, as if she is stepping into a starlit wood instead of a cramped room. The Sisters Grimm lies open on her desk, its pages rippling softly in the breeze. Beatrice flips to the final page of the final story, traces the verse in faded ink. The wayward sisters, hand in hand. She thinks the spell looks somehow even fainter, as if its aged several decades since Beatrice last saw it; she thinks she might be losing her mind. She turns back to the title page: The Tale of Saint George and the Witches. Mama Magss version was nothing like the Grimms, all neat and cheery. The way she told it the Last Three had not flown to Avalon in terror, but in a desperate attempt to save the last remnants of their power from the purge. Theyd built somethingsome great construct of stone and time and magicthat preserved the wicked heart of womens magic like seeds saved after the winnowing. Sometimes Mags said Saint George had simply torched their working along with the Three themselves. Other times she said it had vanished along with the isle of Avalon itself, drifting out of time and mind, lost to the world. But, she would whisper with a wink, what is lost, that cant be found, Belladonna? (Mags had always called them by their mothers-namesthe old-fashioned second-names given by mothers to daughtersbut St. Hales had found the practice blasphemous. Eventually Beatrice had learned to forget the heathen indulgence of her mothers-name and become merely Beatrice.) Beatrice has heard similar portents and promises over the years, has even heard it given a name: the Lost Way of Avalon. Its an absurdity, she knowsthe Last Three themselves are three-quarters myth and witch-tale, generally only taken seriously by oracles or zealots or the occasional seditious schoolgirland Beatrice doesnt see how witchcraft could be bound to a single place or object. And yet. Yesterday Beatrice stood beneath the light of strange stars in the shadow of a black tower, where her sister saw the sign of the Last Three. What is lost, that cant be found? The words Mags taught them alongside a hundred other songs and rhymes. Senseless, silly, utterly insignificant to the grand warp and weft of time. Unless they arent. Unless there are words and ways waiting among the childrens verses; power passed in secret from mother to daughter, like swords disguised as sewing needles. Beatrice removes her little black notebook from its drawer and writes out the entirety of The Tale of the Sleeping Maiden. She stares out the window, thinking of maidens and drops of blood and tall towers surrounded by roses and truths wrapped in lies. Theres a strange wriggle in the corner of Beatrices eye. Her gaze flicks back to the desk: there is an odd, many-fingered shadow cast over the Grimms book. She draws the page cautiously away. Its unchanged, except perhaps that the ink is a shade paler and the paper slightly thinner. Older. The shadow-hand retreats as she watches, coiling back into a dim corner of her office and lying still, as if it were an ordinary shadow cast by a bookshelf or desktop. A cold foreboding spins over Beatrices skin. She has the sudden urge either to fling the book out the window or clutch it tight to her chest, but before she can do either theres a wooden knock against her office door. Beatrice flinches, picturing police or witch-hunters or at least Miss Munley, the secretary, but she feels a silent tug and knows, quite suddenly and illogically, who is standing in the hall beating her staff against her door. Her youngest sister glares at her as she opens it, mouth thin and eyes hot. If you wanted to run off, you shouldntve left a breadcrumb trail behind you. She waves her staff in midair, gesturing at the invisible thing between them. Oh! It must be a leftover effect of yesterdaysevents. A spell was begun but not finished, like thread that wasnt tied off properly. Beatrice can see from Junipers expression that she doesnt particularly care what it is or how it got there, that she is just a half-step away from an act of violence. Beatrice swallows. Ah, come in. Im sorry I ran off this morning. Its about that tower, isnt it? You know what it is. Juniper gives her a searching look. I think its the Lost Way of Avalon. The thought is heady, dizzying, too dangerous to speak aloud even in the soft-shadowed halls of Salem College. I dont know. Im considering some s-some possibilities, is all. Juniper watches her with a narrow-eyed expression that says she doesnt believe her and is weighing whether or not to make something of it. Alright. I can help you consider them. Im not sure And Im joining the suffrage ladies, like I said. You know where to find them? They got an office somewhere? Three blocks north, on St. Patience. But Beatrice wets her lips, unsure how much she should or shouldnt tell her baby sister who has become this prowling, perilous woman. But Im not sure the suffragists have anything to do with that tower, or the sp-spell we felt. She stumbles over the word, recalling the hot taste of witching in her mouth. Juniper shoots her another sideways look. I might not have a lot of fancy schooling like you, but Im not stupid. You dont get Devils-fever from standing around and watching, Bell. Mags said it comes of working witching stronger than yourself. Beatrice is opening her mouth in confession or denial, but Juniper is already looking past her. Maybe youre right, and they didnt have anything to do with it. Still. Seems to me theyre the same thing, more or less. What are? Junipers eyes reflect the bronze shine of Saint Georges standing in the square. Witching and womens rights. Suffrage and spells. Theyre both She gestures in midair again. Theyre both a kind of power, arent they? The kind we arent allowed to have. The kind I want, says the hungry shine of her eyes. Theyre both childrens stories, June. Beatrice doesnt know if shes telling her sister or herself. Juniper shrugs without looking away from the square. Theyre better than the story we were given. Beatrice thinks about their story and doesnt disagree. Junipers eyes slide to hers, flashing green. Maybe we can change it, if we try. Skip into some better story. And Beatrice sees that she means it, that beneath all Junipers bitter rage theres still a little girl who believes in happy endings. It makes Beatrice want to slap her or hold her, to send Juniper home before New Salem teaches her different. But she can tell from the iron shape of Junipers jaw that she wouldnt go, that shes charted a course toward trouble and means to find it. IIll take you to the Womens Association. After work. And I need a place to stay. What about Agnes? Frost crackles down the line between them at the mention of her name. I see. Well, I rent a room a few blocks east. Youre welcome to stay until She isnt sure how to end her sentence. Until women win the vote in New Salem? Until they call back the Lost Way and return witching to the world? Until the sullen red is gone from Junipers eyes? Until things settle down, she finishes lamely. Her sister smiles in a way that makes Beatrice suspect that things, whatever they are, will not settle at all. Hush a bye, baby, bite your tongue, Not a word shall be sung. A spell for quiet, requiring a clipped feather and a bitten tongue James Juniper wanted Bella to skip work and head straight to the suffrage ladies, but Bella insisted that she had obligations and responsibilities and made Juniper sit on a teetery pile of encyclopedias while she worked, which lasted until Juniper got bored and slipped out the door to wander the hushed halls of the Salem College Library. Its still early, and theres a stillness to the air that reminds Juniper of walking the mountainside just before dawn, in that silent second after the night-creatures have bedded down but before the morning-birds have started up. It feels secret, stolen out of time, like you might see the ragged point of a witchs hat or the gleam of dragon-scales in the shadows. Juniper closes her eyes and pretends the wood-pulp pages around her are wet and alive, pumping with sap instead of ink. She wonders if her sister ever stands like thismissing home, missing herand feels a fragile sprout of sympathy take root in her chest. She hears the rattle-creak of a library cart and opens her eyes to find a prissy, toothy woman hissing at her in a whisper thats several times louder than a regular old speaking voice. She goes on about library hours and permissions and the stacks, although none of the books looked stacked to Juniper, and Juniper is about to cause what Mama Mags would call a scene when an affable-looking gentleman with tufty ear-hair rescues her and herds her back to Bellas office. Bella blinks up at them through her spectacles and says, Whatoh. Im so sorry. Thank you, Mr. Blackwell. My sister has never been fond of the rules. Theres a little pause, while Bella attempts to glare at Juniper and Juniper attempts to dodge, before the hairy-eared gentleman says softly, I didnt know you had a sister, Beatrice. Juniper feels that fragile sprout of sympathy wither and die. The truth is that her sisters ran off and never looked back, never even spoke her name, and theyre only together now because of happenstance and a half-spun spell. Juniper feels Bella watching her and works hard to keep her stupid eyes from filling up with stupid tears. Mr. Blackwell looks between the two of them with lines of concern crimping his brows. I never liked the rules much either, to be honest, he offers. Then he bows to Juniper as if Juniper is the kind of lady who gets bowed to. Lovely to meet you, Miss Eastwood. He leaves them alone together. Juniper perches back on the encyclopedia stack to wait and doesnt say anything. Neither does Bella. For a few hours the office is quiet except for the scritch of Bellas pen and the kick of Junipers heels against book-spines. At noon Bella screws the cap back onto her ink bottle and stands. Well. Are you ready to join the womens movement, Juniper? She gives her a small, not very good smile that Juniper guesses is supposed to be an apology, which Juniper neither accepts nor denies. Instead she shrugs to her feet, toppling the encyclopedias behind her. Bella looks her up and downmuddy hem to briar-scratched armsand sighs a little. Theres a washroom down the hall. At least brush your hair. You look like an escaped convict. Juniper barely suppresses a cackle. It turns out brushing her hair isnt enough. Bella produces a stiff woolen dress from her office closet. Its one of those respectable, pocketless affairs that obliges ladies to carry stupid little handbags, so Juniper cant take so much as a melted candle-stub or a single snake tooth with her. Bella informs her that this is the precise reason why womens dresses no longer have pockets, to show they bear no witch-ways or ill intentions, and Juniper responds that she has both, thank you very damn much. In the end Juniper goes to see the suffragists entirely disarmed, except for her cedar staff. She doesnt know what she was expecting the headquarters of the New Salem Womens Association to look likean embattled army camp, perhaps, or a black-stone castle guarded by lady-knightsbut it turns out to be a respectable-looking office with plate-glass windows and oak paneling and a pretty secretary who says oh! when the bell rings. The secretary is Junipers age, with hair the color of cornsilk and a crookedy nose that looks like it was broken at least once. Her eyes slide between Bella and Juniper and return to Bella, apparently deciding shes the more civilized of the two. May I help you? Her eyes flick back to Juniper during the pause, lingering on the sawed-off edges of her hair. Bella offers a polite smile. Hello. Im Miss Beatrice Eastwood and this is my sister, Miss Jame It is at that moment that Juniper recalls the wanted posters currently spelling out her name in all capital letters across half the city, and intercedes. June. Miss June West. She glances at her sister, who looks like a taller, skinnier version of her. Were just half-sisters, see. She can feel Bella giving her a what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you look and ignores it. She sticks her hand out to the secretary. Pleased to meet you. Bella clears her throat pointedly. Anyway, wewell, my sisterhalf-sister, I supposeis interested in joining the Womens Association. The secretary beams at them in a way that makes Juniper think they dont get fresh blood all that often, says, Oh, of course! Ill fetch Miss Stone, and skitters into the back rooms. Juniper catches an angled glimpse of desks and stacks of paper, hears the businesslike chatter of working-women, and feels a familiar lonesomeness well up in her throat, a sisterless hunger to be on the other side of that door. Please do make yourselves comfortable, the secretary calls as the door shuts. The two spindly chairs in the office dont look like they can hold anything heavier than a canary, so Juniper stays on her feet, weight hitched away from her bad leg. Bella stands statue-still, hands politely clasped. When did she get all proper, all ladylike? Juniper remembers her as a creature of sighs and slouches and soft-tangled hair. She watches the clatter of the street through the window, the carriages and trolleys and iron-shod horses. Sober black letters hover over the scene, painted backwards on the inside of the window: HEADQUARTERS OF THE NEW SALEM WOMENS ASSN. A thrill sizzles through her. A day ago she was lost and reeling, spinning through the world like a puppet with its strings cut. And now shes here, with the smell of witching on the wind and the promise of power painted on the window above her. And a whole pack of brand-new sisters waiting just on the other side of the door. Juniper shoots a sideways look at Bella, all prim and nervous, and hopes politicking proves thicker than blood. The secretary comes bustling back into the room accompanied by the white-wigged lady who made the speech in the square the day before. She looks older and tireder up close, all cheekbones and worry lines. Her eyes are a pair of brass scales, weighing them. Miss Lind tells me youre interested in joining our Association. Juniper ducks her head, feeling suddenly very young. Yes, maam. Why? Oh. Well, I was there yesterday at the rally. I liked what you said about e-equality. The word feels silly in her mouth, four syllables of make-believe and rainbows. She tries again. And what you said about the way things are. How its not fair and never has been, how the bastards take and they take from us until theres nothing left, until we dont have any choices except bad ones Miss Stone raises two delicate fingers. No need to do yourself a harm, child. I quite understand. Her eyes harden from brass to beaten iron. But you ought to understandwhatever your personal troublesthe Womens Association is no place for bloody-mindedness or vengeance. There are no Pankhursts here. Juniper doesnt know what a Pankhurst is. Miss Stone must intuit this from the blankness of her expression, because she clarifies, This is a respectable, peaceable organization. Yes, maam. Miss Stone pivots to Bella. And you? Me? Why are you joining us today? Oh, Im notthat is, you certainly have my sympathies. But Im awfully busy at work, and I just dont have time Miss Stone has already turned away from her. She addresses Juniper again. Miss Lind will add your name to our member list and discuss upcoming committee meetings you might join. Juniper tries to look eager, though she finds the word committee unpromising. And will you be making a contribution to our Association fund? A what now? Miss Stone exchanges a look with her secretary as Bella hisses, Money, June. Oh. I dont have any of that. Never has, really. What work Juniper did back in Crow County was paid in kindjarred honey or fried apples or cat-mint picked on the half-moonand Daddy never let them see a cent of his money. Im between jobs, see. Between? Miss Stone sounds puzzled, as if she is unfamiliar with the concept of jobs, as if money is just a thing a person finds whenever they reach into their handbags. Oh. Well. No woman is barred from our cause by poverty. She says it all lofty and generous, but her tone hooks under Junipers skin like a summer briar. Miss Lind launches into a lecture about all their various letter-writing campaigns and subcommittees and allied organizations. Juniper listens with her temper simmering, bubbling like a pot left too long over the fire. And then the Centennial Fair is coming up in May, of course, and we feel its an excellent opportunity for another demonstration. Get peoples minds off th-the equinox. Miss Linds throat bobs in a dry little swallow. Anyway. What projects interest you? The campaign for the vote is paramount, naturally, but we also promote temperance, divorce rights, property ownership, and various charitable Juniper tilts her head and says, Witching. It lands like a bare-handed slap, flat and loud. Beside her, Bella makes a soft, pained sound. I beg your pardon? Miss Stones mouth has gone very small and dry, like an apple left too long on the windowsill. The secretarys mouth is hanging wide open. Juniper is tired of this mincing and dancing, sidestepping around the thing they ought to be running toward. You know. You saw it: the tower and the trees, and the mixed-up stars. Both of them are blinking at her in horrified unison. That was real witching, the good stuff, the kind that could do a whole lot more than just curl your hair or shine your shoes. The kind that could cure the sick or curse the wicked. The kind that keeps mothers alive and little girls safe. The kind that might still, somehow, find a way to steal Junipers land back from her dumbshit cousin Dan. Juniper spreads her arms, palm up. You asked what I wanted to work on, thats it. Miss Stones mouth shrivels even smaller. Miss West. Im afraid Her secretary interrupts in a nervous little blurt. The men did it. Those union boys in Chicago last yearthey say machines rusted overnight, and coal refused to burn Miss Stone casts her the sort of look that turns people into pillars of salt and the secretary subsides. The Womens Association is not interested in what some degenerate men may or may not have done in Chicago, Miss Lind. She draws a deep, not very calm breath and turns back to Juniper. Im afraid you have entirely misunderstood our position. The Association has battled for decades to afford women the same respect and legal rights enjoyed by men. It is a battle we are losing: the American public still sees women as housewives at best and witches at worst. We may be either beloved or burned, but never trusted with any degree of power. She pauses, her mouth shrinking to the smallest, bitterest apple seed. I dont know who was responsible for the abnormality at St. Georges, but I would turn her in myself before I let such activities destroy everything weve worked for. Miss Stone extracts a ruffled copy of The New Salem Post from the front desk and flings it at Juniper and Bella. The splashy over-sized headline reads MAGIC MOST BLACK, with a smaller line printed beneath it: MYSTERIOUS TOWER TERRORIZES CITIZENS. Some imaginative artist has provided a sketch of a great black spire looming above the New Salem skyline, complete with brooding storm clouds and little bats flapping around the top. Juniper squints her way through the adjectives and hysteria, skimming past excitable phrases like terrified wailing of innocent children and malevolent apparition and landing on the last few paragraphs: While Mayor Worthingtons office has claimed there is no evidence of serious witchcraft and urges the citizenry to remain rational, others are less sanguine. There are rumors that the notorious Daughters of Tituba may be behind the occurrence, although the New Salem Police Department maintains that no such organization exists. Miss Grace Wiggin, head of the Womens Christian Union, points to the recent and virulent fevers that have run rampant through New Salem and recalls the ancient connections between witchcraft and plague. Surely we need not wait for a second Black Death before we act! Mr. Gideon Hill left us with this sobering reflection: I fear we have only ourselves to blame: in tolerating the unnatural demands of the suffragists, have we not also harbored their unnatural magics? The people deserve a mayor who will protect them from harmand there is no harm greater than the return of witching. Indeed. And Mr. Hillan up-and-coming member of the City Council and third-party candidate for New Salem mayormight be just the man for the job. Juniper tosses the paper back on the desk. Well, she offers, shit. Miss Stone regards her grimly. Quite. Who are the Daughters of Tituba? Bella opens her mouth, but Miss Stone answers first. An unsavory rumor. She stabs a finger at the paper. Listen, Miss West: you are welcome to assist the Association in our mission. Saints know we need every warm body we can get. But you will have to abandon your pursuit of this, thisshe taps the article devilry. Am I understood? Juniper looks at herthis little old woman with a powdered wig and a big office on the fancy side of townand understands perfectly well. She understands that the Womens Association wants one kind of powerthe kind you can wear in public or argue in the courtroom or write on a slip of paper and drop in a ballot boxand that Juniper wants another. The kind that cuts, the kind with sharp teeth and talons, the kind that starts fires and dances merry around the blaze. And she understands that if she intends to pursue it, shell have to do it on her own. Yes, maam, she says, and hears three sighs of relief around her. Miss Stone invites Juniper to report to the Centennial March planning committee the following Tuesday evening and instructs Miss Lind to add her name to the member list and give her a tour of their offices. She turns back once before she sweeps into the recesses of the office, her apple-seed mouth unshriveling very slightly. Its not that I dont understand. Every thinking woman has once wanted what she shouldnt, what she cant have. I wish Juniper wonders if Miss Stone was ever a little girl listening to her grandmothers stories about the Maiden riding her white stag through the woods, the Mother striding into battle. If she once dreamed of wielding swords rather than slogans. Miss Stone gives her shoulders a stern little shake. I wish we might make use of every tool in our pursuit of justice. But Im afraid the modern woman cannot afford to be sidetracked by moonbeams and witch-tales. Juniper smiles back as pleasantly as she knows how and Bella whispers yes, of course beside her. But theres a look in Bellas eyes as she says it, a struck-flint spark that makes Juniper think that her sister doesnt intend to give up her moonbeams or witch-tales at all; that maybe she, too, wants another kind of power. Beatrice Belladonna leaves the New Salem Womens Association headquarters with her cloak pulled tight against the spring chill and an anxious knot in her belly. She walks down St. Patience thinking about the way her sister looked as she added her name to the list of members, bold and foolish, and the way Beatrices fingers itched to copy her. Thinking, too, about the words she found written in the margins of the Sisters Grimm and her growing certainty that, in speaking them aloud, she had touched a match to an invisible fuse. Begun something which could not now be stopped. Because Beatrices eyes are on the limestone cobbles, her shoulders hunched around her ears like a worried owl, she doesnt see the woman walking toward her until they collide. Oh my goodness, pardon me Beatrice is somehow on all fours, feeling blindly for her spectacles and apologizing to a pair of neatly shined boots. A warm hand pulls her upright and dusts the street-grime from her dress. Are you all right, miss? The voice is low and amused, her face a blur of white teeth and brown skin. Yes, perfectly fine, I just need my Spectacles? A half-laugh, and Beatrice feels her glasses settle gently back onto her nose. The smudge resolves itself into a woman with amber eyes and skin like sunlight through jarred sorghum. She wears a gentlemans coat buttoned daringly over her skirts and a derby hat perched at an angle Beatrice can only describe as jaunty. The only colored women on the north side of New Salem are maids and serving girls, but this woman is quite clearly neither. The woman extends her hand and smiles with such professional charm that Beatrice feels slightly blinded. Miss Cleopatra Quinn, with The New Salem Defender. She says it breezily, as if The Defender were a ladies journal or a fashion periodical, rather than a radical colored paper infamous for its seditious editorials. Its office has been burned and relocated at least twice, to Beatrices knowledge. Beatrice shakes Miss Quinns hand and releases it quickly, not noticing the way she smells (ink and cloves and the hot oil of a printing press) or whether or not she wears a wedding band (she does). Beatrice swallows. B-Beatrice Eastwood. Associate librarian at Salem College. Miss Quinn is looking over Beatrices shoulder at the Association headquarters. Are you a member of the Womens Association? Were you present for the events in the square on the equinox? No. I mean, well, yes, I was, but Im not Miss Quinn raises a placating hand. Beatrice notices her wrist is spattered with silver scars, round pocks that almost but dont quite make a pattern. I assure you The Defender isnt interested in any of that breathless witch-hunt nonsense printed in The Post. You may be confident that your observations will be presented with both accuracy and sympathy. Theres a vibrancy to Miss Quinn that makes Beatrice think of an actress onstage, or maybe a street-witch misdirecting her audience. Beatrice feels exceptionally drab and stupid standing beside her. She smiles a little desperately, perspiring in the spring sun. Im afraid I dont have any opinions to offer. A shame. Suffragists have a reputation for opinions. Im not really a suffragist. I mean, Im not a formal member of the Association. Nor am I, and yet I persist in having all manner of opinions and observations. Beatrice catches a laugh before it escapes and stuffs it back down her throat. Perhaps you ought to join, then. She can tell by the flattening of Miss Quinns smile that its the wrong thing to say, and Beatrice knows why. Shes overheard enough talk at the library and read enough editorials in The Ladies Tribune to understand that the New Salem Womens Association is divided on the question of the color-line. Some worry that the inclusion of colored women might tarnish their respectable reputation; others feel they ought to spend a few more decades being grateful for their freedom before they agitate for anything so radical as rights. Most of them agree it would be far more convenient if colored women remained in the Colored Womens League. Beatrice herself suspects that two separate-but-equal organizations are far less effective than a single united one, and that their daddy was as wrong about freedmen needing to go back to Africa as he was about women minding their placebut shes never worried overmuch about it. She feels an uncomfortable twist of shame in her belly. Miss Quinns smile has smoothed. I think not. But the equinox, Miss Eastwood. Why dont you tell me what you saw? The same thing everyone saw, Im sure. A sudden wind. Stars. A tower. A door with certain words inscribed on it and a certain sign beneath them. Miss Quinn says it mildly, but her eyes are yellow, feline. Was there? Beatrice asks lamely. There was. An old symbol of circles woven together. Its of particular interest to me and certain of my associates. Would youa librarian, I think you said?happen to know anything about that sign? IIm afraid not. That is, circles are common in all sorts of sigils and spell-work, and the number three is a number of traditional significance, isnt it? It could be anything. I see. AlthoughMiss Quinn smiles a checkmate sort of smileI dont believe I told you how many circles there were. Ah. Miss Eastwood. I was just heading to the tea shop on Sixth. Wont you join me? As she says it, she gives Beatrice a particular kind of look through her lashes, heated and secret. Its a look Beatrice has spent seven years carefully neither giving nor receiving nor even wanting. (When she was younger she permitted herself to want such things. To admire a womans peony-petal lips or the delicate hollow of her throat. She learned her lesson.) She takes an anxious step back from Miss Cleopatra Quinn and her long eyelashes. IIm afraid I must get to work. She attempts a cool nod. Good day. Miss Quinn looks neither offended nor discouraged by her abrupt departure, but merely more intent. Until we meet again, Miss Eastwood. She gives Beatrice a sober tip of her derby hat and spreads her skirt in a gesture that is half-bow and half-curtsy. Beatrice blushes for no reason she can name. Beatrice walks the three blocks back to the College with her eyes on her boots, not-thinking about moonbeams or witch-tales or the thin wedding band around Miss Quinns finger. She barely hears the scintillated whispers of the passersby or the paper-boys darting like swallows through the streets, calling out headlines (Witches Loose in New Salem! Hills Morality Party on the Rise! Mayor Worthington Under Pressure!), and if the shadows on the streets behave oddlypeeling away from dark doorways and coiling out of alleyways, trailing after her like the black hem of a long cloakBeatrice does not notice. Bye baby bunting, Mothers gone a-hunting A spell to end what hasnt yet begun, requiring pennyroyal and regret Two weeks after she found her long-lost sisters and lost them again, Agnes Amaranth is standing in a dim back-alley shop just off St. Fortitude. There is no sign or title on the door, but Agnes knows shes in the right place: she can smell the wild scent of herbs and earth, just like Magss hut, out of place in the cobbled gray of New Salem. The proprietress is a handsome Greek woman with black curls and dark-painted eyes. She introduces herself, in an accent that rolls and purls, as Madame Zina Card: palmist, spiritualist, card-reader, and midwife. But Agnes hasnt come to have her fortune told or her palms read. Pennyroyal, please, she says, and its enough. Madame Zina gives her a weighing look, as though checking to see whether Agnes knows what shes asked for and why, then unlocks a cupboard and tucks a few dried sprigs into a brown paper sack. Steep the pennyroyal in river-waterboil it good, mindand stir it seven times with a silver spoon. The words cost extra. Madame Zinas eyes linger on the eggshell swell of Agness belly. Shes barely showing, but only women in a particular state come to visit Zinas shop asking for pennyroyal. Agnes shakes her head once. I already have them. Mags told them to her when she was sixteen. She hasnt forgotten. Madame Zina nods amiably and hands her the brown paper sack sealed with wax. Concern crimps her black brows. No need to look so glum, girl. I dont know what your man or your god has told you, but theres no sin to it. Its just the way of the world, older than the Three themselves. Not every woman wants a child. Agnes almost laughs at her: Of course she wants a child. Of course she wants to lay its sleeping cheek against her breastbone and smell its milk-sweet breath, to become on its behalf something grander than herself: a castle or a sword, stone or steel, all the things her mother wasnt. But Agnes wanted to take care of her sisters, once. She wont bring another life into the world just to fail it, too. She doesnt know how to put any of her foolish, doomed wanting into words, so she shrugs at Madame Zina, feeling the bones of her shoulders grate. Let me read the cards for you. Free of charge. Zina gestures to an armchair that looks like it was once pink or cream but is now the greasy color of unwashed skin. Ragged red curtains droop over the arm. No, thank you. Zina runs her tongue over her teeth, eyes narrowed. I could read hers, if you like. Her eyes are on Agness belly. Agnes sits as if something heavy has hit the backs of her knees. Zina settles herself across from her and produces a pack of over-sized cards with gold stars painted on their backs and edges gone soft with use. Her past. She flips over the Three of Swords, showing a ruby-red heart with three swords run cleanly through it. Agnes thinks of her sundered sisters and the terrible wounds theyve dealt one another, seven years old and still unhealed, and shifts uncomfortably in the chair. Her present. Zina lays out three cards this time: the Witch of Swords, the Witch of Wands, and the Witch of Cups. Agnes almost smiles to see them. The Witch of Swords even looks a little like Juniperher hair a wild splatter of ink, her expression fierce. Her future. The Eight of Swords, showing a woman bound and blind, surrounded by enemies. The Hanged Woman, dangling upside down like a sacrificial animal on the altar. Agnes avoids her gaze. Zina sets the deck on the table and taps it once. You draw the last one. Agnes reaches out her hand but a sudden wind whips through the open windownight-cool and tricksome, scented faintly with rosesand scatters the deck across the floor. The wind riffles like fingers through the fallen cards before whispering into silence. It leaves a single card face up: the Tower, shadowed and tall. Agness blood burns at the sight of it. Here She claws the cards off the floor and shoves them at Zina. Let me choose properly. Zina purses her lips as if she thinks Agnes is being a little stupid, but shuffles the deck. She knocks the edges on the table and presents it again. Agnes turns the card and the Tower leers up at her a second time. A black spire of ink surrounded by white pinpricks. Up close she sees the border is actually a tangle of thorned vines with smears of dull pink for blooms, like tiny mouths. Or roses. Agnes stands very abruptly. Im sorry. I have to go. She wants nothing to do with that tower or that wicked wind. She knows what trouble looks like when it comes slinking through the open window to tug at the loose threads of your fate. Oh, its not such a bad reading as all that. Shell face trials, but who doesnt in this life? Agnes can only shake her head and stumble backward toward the door. She hears Zina call after herCome see me when you change your mind. Im the best midwife in West Babel, ask anyonebefore she is out in the alley, turning right on St. Fortitude. She walks with one hand fisted in her pocket, palms sweating into the brown paper of the sack, cards hovering behind her eyes like portents or promises: the tower; the heart stabbed thrice over; the three witches. She can feel the edges of a story plucking at her, making her the middle sister in some dark witch-tale. Better the middle sister than the mother. Middle sisters are forgotten or failed or ill-fated, but at least they survive, mostly; mothers rarely make it past the first line. They die, as gently and easily as flowers wilting, and leave their three daughters exposed to all the wickedness of the world. Their deaths arent gentle or easy in real life. Agnes was five when Juniper was born, but she remembers the mess of stained sheets and the wet-pearl color of her mothers skin. The old-penny stink of birth and blood. Her father watching with a jagged wrongness in his face, arms crossed, not running for help, not ringing the bell that would bring Mama Mags and her herbs and rhymes. Agnes should have rung the bell herself, should have slipped out the back door and hauled on the half-rotten ropebut she didnt. Because she was scared of the wrong-thing in her daddys eyes, because she chose her own hide over her mother. She remembers her mothers handwhite and bloodless as the blank pages at the end of a booktouching her cheek just before the end. Her voice saying, Take care of them, Agnes Amaranth. Bella was older, but she knew Agnes was the strong one. That first night it was Agnes who washed the blood from her baby sisters skin. Agnes who let her suck on the tip of her pinky finger when she cried. Later it was Agnes who brushed her hair before school and held her hand in the endless night behind the cellar door. And it was Agnes who left Juniper to fend for herself, because she wasnt strong enough to stay. Because survival is a selfish thing. Now her sisters are here with her in the sinless city and their daddy is dead. Agnes ought to be relieved, but shes seen enough of the world to know he was just one monster among many, one cruelty in an endless line. Its safer to walk alone. The brown paper bag in her pocket is a promise that shell stay that way. She passes a tannery, eyes watering with acid or maybe something else. A butcher shop, a cobbler, a stable half-full of police horses idly stamping iron hooves. St. Charity Hospital, a low limestone building that smells of lye and lesions, built by the Church to tend to the filthy, godless inhabitants of West Babel. Agnes has seen nuns and doctors walking the streets, proselytizing at unmarried women and waving purity pledges. But girls who give birth at Charitys came out grayish and sagging, holding their babies loosely, as if they arent certain they belong to them. At the mill most women prefer mothers and midwives, when their time comes. Now St. Charitys echoes with the hacking sounds of the summer fever. Someone has drawn a witch-mark across the door, a crooked cross daubed in ash. Agnes wonders if the rumors are right and a second plague is coming. She crosses the street and distracts herself by reading the tattered posters pasted along fences and walls. Advertisements and ordinances; wanted posters with rain-splotched photographs; bills for the Centennial Fair next month. On the corner of Twenty-Second Street the brick has been entirely covered by a single repeated poster, like grim wallpaper. Its crisp and new-looking, the image printed in bold black and red: a raised fist holding a burning torch against the night. Smoke coils from the flames, forming ghoulish faces and animal bodies and distorted words: SIN, SUFFRAGE, WITCHCRAFT. Smaller, saner lettering across the top urges citizens to Vote Gideon Hill! Our Light Against the Darkness! Three men stand clustered ahead of Agnes, holding paste buckets and stacks of posters, each wearing bronze pins engraved with Hills lit torch. Theres something vaguely unsettling about themthe odd synchrony of their movements, maybe, or the fervid glaze of their eyes, or the way their shadows seem sluggish, moving a half-second behind their owners. Tell your husbandvote Hill! one of them says as she passes. Our light against the darkness! says the second. Cant be too careful, with womens witching back on the loose. The third extends one of the posters toward her. Agnes should take it and bob her head politelyshe knows better than to start shit with zealotsbut she doesnt. Instead she spits on the ground between them, splattering the mans boots with cotton-colored slime. She doesnt know why she did it. Maybe shes tired of knowing better, of minding her place. Maybe because she can feel her wild younger sister with her in the city, tugging her toward trouble. Agnes and the man stare together at the spit sliding off his boot, glistening like the snotty trail of a snail. He stands very still, but Agnes notes distantly that the arms of his shadow are moving, reaching toward her skirts. And then shes running, refusing to find out what those shadow-hands will do to her, or what the hell kind of witchcraft is on the loose in New Salem. She runs down Twenty-Second and turns on St. Judes and then shes back in Room No. 7 of the South Sybil boarding house, panting and holding her barely showing belly. She withdraws Zinas brown paper bag from her apron. Pennyroyal and a half-cup of river-water: all it takes to keep that circle drawn tight around her heart. To stay alone, and survive. She did it once beforedrank it down in one bitter swallow, felt nothing but rib-shaking relief when the cramps knotted her bellyand never regretted it. Now she finds herself setting the brown paper sack on the floor, unopened. Lying down in her narrow bed and wishing her oldest sister was here to whisper a story to her. Or to the spark inside her, that second heart beating stubbornly on. Queen Anne, Queen Anne You sit in the sun Fair as a lily and white as a wand. A spell to shed light, requiring heartwood and heat Beatrice Belladonna dreams of Agnes that night, but when she wakes only Juniper is there in the stuffy dark of her attic room. She knows by the damp gleam of Junipers eyes that shes awake, too, but neither of them mentions their middle sister. There are many things they dont mention. Yet Juniper keeps sleeping in her room and Beatrice keeps letting her, and she supposes it could just go on this way: Juniper spending her days busy with the Association and coming home with pins and sashes and rolled-up signs that need painting, Beatrice spending her library shifts following whispers and witch-tales toward the Lost Way, never quite telling her little sister what she knows or thinks she knowsmaybe because it feels too unlikely, too impossible; maybe because it doesnt feel impossible enough. Maybe because she worries what a woman like Juniper might do if the power of witching is won back. Spring in New Salem is a gray, sulking creature, and by the middle of April Beatrice feels like a tall, bespectacled mushroom. Juniper has taken to lighting her pitch pine wand in the evenings just to feel sunlight on her skin, talking wistfully about the bluebells and bloodroot in flower back home. Beatrice asks her once when she plans to return to Crow Countyshes sure their cousin Dan would let Juniper live in Magss old house for nothing or nearly nothing, even if he is a dumbshitbut Junipers face closes up like a house with drawn shutters. The witch-light fades from the wand-tip, leaving them in chill darkness. Beatrice adds it to the list of unmentionable things between them. The next morning Juniper leaves early for the Association and Beatrice reads her paper alone at the breakfast table. She has recently become a subscriber to The New Salem Defender in addition to The Post. This, she assures herself, is merely part of her increasing interest in political news and has nothing to do with the tingle in her fingertips when she sees the name C. P. QUINN printed in small capitals. She wonders what the P stands for, and if colored women have mothers-names. Beatrice is assigned to the circulation desk that afternoon. She helps a white-bearded monk with his biography of Geoffrey Hawthorn (G. Hawthorn: The Scourge of Old Salem) and lights lamps for a cluster of haggard students who look as if they would rather change their names and flee into the countryside than finish their spring term. By afternoon shes at the desk, supposedly processing recent arrivalsa new edition of Seeleys Expansion of England, an account of the East India Companys campaign against the thuggee witches of India; a bound version of Jackson Turners The Witch in American History, which argues that the threat and subsequent destruction of Old Salem defined Americas virtuous spiritbut is really watching the whale-belly sky through the mullioned windows, feeling her eyelids hinge shut. She wakes to an amused voice saying, Pardon me? She unpeels her face from The Witch in American History and snaps upright, adjusting her spectacles with mounting horror. Today Miss Cleopatra (P.) Quinn has her derby hat tucked politely beneath one arm. Her gentlemans coat has been replaced by a double-buttoned vest and her hair is swept into a braided crown. It must be raining, because water pearls over her bare skin, catching the light in a way that Beatrice has no name for (luminous). Beatrice manages a strangled What are you doing here? Miss Quinn adopts an arch, censorious expression, although a certain irreverence glitters in her eyes. I was under the impression that libraries were public institutions. Oh, yes. That isI thought You came to see me. Beatrice closes her eyes very briefly in mortification. She tries again. Welcome to the Salem College collections. How may I help you? Much better. The irreverence has escaped her eyes and now curls at the corners of her mouth. Im looking for information on the tower last seen at St. Georges Square, and the Last Three Witches of the West. Her voice is far too loud. Beatrice makes an abortive movement as if she might launch herself across the desk and press her palm over Miss Quinns lips. Saints, woman! Anyone could overhear you! So take me someplace more private. She gives Beatrice another of those highly inappropriate looks and Beatrice swallows, feeling like a harried pawn on a chessboard. Mr. Blackwell agrees to cover the circulation desk and watches the pair of them retreat to Beatrices office with a doubtful expression. He comes from broad-minded Quaker stock, but there are rules about people like Miss Quinn lingering too long in the Salem College Library. The rules arent written down anywhere, but the important rules rarely are. Beatrice clicks her door closed and turns around to find Miss Quinn reading the spines of stacked books and peering at the black leather notebook that lies open on the table. Beatrice snaps it shut. As I told you on a previous occasion, Im afraid I dont know anything about the events at the square, or the Last Three. You are of course welcome to search our collections. Oh, but I was hoping for a guided tour. From someone with more intimate information. Her tone is over-warm, over-familiar, over-everything. Shes doing what Mama Mags called laying it on thick. Why? What does she know about three circles woven together, three lost witches and their not-so-Lost Way? Beatrice puts frost in her voice. What do you want? Only what every woman wants. And whats that? Miss Quinns smile hardens, and Beatrice thinks this must be her true smile, beneath the dazzle and shine of whatever act shes putting on. What belongs to her, she hisses. What was stolen. Theres a different kind of wanting in her tone now, one that Beatrice believes because hasnt she felt it, too? She hesitates. Miss Quinn plants her palms on Beatrices desk and leans across it. You and I are both women of words, I surmise. We share an interest in truth-seeking, storytelling. Surely we might share those stories with one another? I am capable of great discretion, I assure you. Her voice is all honey again, oozing sincerity. Whatever you tell me I will keep just between the two of us. I promise. Beatrice manages a breathless laugh, dizzy with the clove-and-ink scent of her skin. Are you a journalist or a detective, Miss Quinn? Oh, every good journalist is a detective. She leans away, straightening her sleeves. What are you? Nothing, Beatrice says, because its true. She was born nobody and taught to stay that wayremember what you areand now shes just a skinny librarian with gray already streaking her hair, a premonition of spinsterhood. Miss Quinn raises her eyebrows and nods at the ratty notebook still clutched to Beatrices chest. And what of your work? Is that nothing? Beatrice should say yes. She should toss her notes aside and flick her fingers. Oh, that? Just moonbeams and daydreams. Her fingers tighten on her notebook instead. Its not much. Just conjecture so far. But I think She wets her lips. But I think I found the words and ways to call back the Lost Way of Avalon. Or some of them. She flinches as she says it, half waiting for the crack of a nuns knuckles or the cold draft of the cellar. Miss Quinn doesnt scorn or scold her. Really, she says, and waits. Listens. Beatrice isnt listened to very often. She finds it makes her heart flutter in a most distracting fashion. Its this rhyme our grandmother taught us. I thought she made it up, but then I found it in the back of a first-edition copy of the Grimms Witch-Talesyoure familiar with the Grimms? She tells Miss Quinn about wayward sisters and maidens blood and her theory that secrets might have survived somehow in old wives tales and childrens rhymes. It must sound ridiculous. Miss Quinn lifts one shoulder. Not to me. Sometimes a thing is too dangerous to be written down or said straight out. Sometimes you have to slip it in slantwise, half-hidden. Even if I pieced together the spell, I doubt any of us has enough witch-blood to work it. All the true witches were burned centuries ago. All of them, Miss Eastwood? Theres a hint of pity in Quinns voice. How, then, did Cairo manage to repel the Ottomans and the redcoats both for decades, despite all their rifles and ships? Why did Andrew Jackson leave those Choctaw in Mississippi? Out of the goodness of his black little heart? The pity sharpens, turns scathing. Do you really think the slavers found every witch aboard their ships and tossed her overboard? Beatrice has encountered wild theories that there was witchcraft at work in Stono and Haiti, that Turner and Brown were aided by supernatural means. Shes heard the scintillated whispers about colored covens still prowling the streets. But at St. Hales she was taught that such stories were base rumors, the product of ignorance and superstition. Quinn gentles her tone. Maybe even good Saint George missed a witch or two during the purge. How do you think your grandmother came to know those words in the first place? Beatrice has not permitted herself to ask that question out loud. To wonder who Magss mother was, and her mothers mother. Witch-blood runs thick in the sewers, after all. Surely its worth looking for these missing words and ways of yours, at least. Iperhaps. Beatrice swallows hard against the hope rising in her throat. But they dont seem to want to be found. She gestures at her desk, strewn with scraps and open books and dead-ends. Ive read the Sisters Grimm a dozen times, every edition I could find. Ive made a good start on the other folkloristsCharlotte Perrault, Andrea Langbut if there are any secret instructions or notes tucked inside them theyre faded, stained lost. She doesnt mention the shadow-hand she saw splayed across the page, or the creeping sense that someone doesnt want the words to be found, on the grounds that she wants Miss Quinn to continue thinking of her as a sane adult. Ive been looking. But Ive been failing. Miss Quinn does not look particularly distressed. She gives Beatrice a smart nod and sets her derby hat on the desktop. She unbuttons her sleeves and rolls them up, revealing several inches of pox-scarred wrist. Well, naturally. Oh? Miss Quinn perches on the same stack of encyclopedias Juniper occupied a few weeks before and extends her hand, palm up, toward Beatrice and her black notebook. Her expression is teasing but her eyes are sober, her hand steady. You didnt have me. Beatrice rubs her thumb along the spine of her notebook, stuffed full of her most private thoughts and theories, her wildest suppositions and most dangerous inquiries. Her own heart, sewn and bound. It should be difficult to hand it over to a near-stranger, even impossible. It isnt. Juniper didnt have any friends, growing up. The girls at school werent allowed to visit the Eastwood farm, either because of the whispers of witching that surrounded Mama Mags or the alcohol fumes that surrounded their daddy, or the ugly rumors about just how their mother died (awful suspicious, people muttered, I heard she was fixing to leave him). One way or another it was only ever Juniper and her sisters and the green, green mountainside, and after the fire it was just Juniper and the mountain. Juniper figured she wasnt missing much anyhow; her daddy said women were like hens, flocking together and pecking at one another, and Juniper didnt want to be a hen. But a whole month after signing up with the suffragists to end the tyranny of man, shes started to suspect her daddy was dead wrong. She doesnt like all of the Association ladieslots of them are fancy, fur-lined-cloak types who look at Juniper like a yellow dog that wandered into the wrong neighborhoodbut even the snotty ones are there for the same reason, have come to lend their white-gloved hands to the same work. It makes Juniper think of the quilting circles Mama Mags used to talk about, where a whole valleys worth of women would huddle in somebodys kitchen and all their tiny stitches would add up to something bigger than themselves. And not all of them are snotty. Theres Miss Stone, whos always busy and never smiles but inspires a fervent, infectious loyalty among her troops; the secretary, Jennie Lind, who keeps to herself but proves to have a surprising weakness for Junipers witch-tales; a fat, fashionable widow named Inez Gillmore who has more money than the pope and keeps offering Juniper various hats and bonnets to cover her sawn-off hair; an older woman, Electa Gage, who keeps muttering about chaining themselves to public buildings like the English ladies did. Juniper doesnt understand what this is supposed to achieve, but she admires the spirit of it and likes Electa very much. Sometimes when theyre all together, laughing and arguing, it feels like having sisters again. Juniper can almost forget that Agnes is a seething silence on the other side of the city, that Bella is so stiff and buttoned up its like living with a department store mannequin. Bellas been leaving early and staying late every day, working on some mysterious research that leaves her sleeves stained with ink and her eyes bloodshot. She comes home with a distracted, distant air, her little black notebook clutched in her hand. When Juniper questions herWhats she looking for? Does she know what that sign means? What called the tower to them, and what sent it away?she evades and delays and never quite says. Maybe Juniper wouldnt take it so personal-like, except last week she visited Bellas office unannounced and found a colored girl in a mens coat sitting on top of her desk. Bella blushed and said she was an interested party but didnt say what she was interested in or why. After that she figured shed wait until Bella was sound asleep some night and sneak that little black notebook out from under her pillow and find out for herself what that tower is and who called it. She has certain suspicions. In the meantime she has Jennie and Inez and Electa and an endless stream of committees and subcommittees to keep her busy. She didnt think throwing down the tyranny of man would take so many meetings, but apparently it does. After the third or fourth meeting that leaves Juniper facedown on her agenda, praying for the sweet release of her untimely death, Miss Stone takes pity on her and assigns her instead to the practical work of preparing for the march at the Centennial Fair. Its unglamorous to hang flyers and iron sashes and paint slogans, but it beats endless rounds of yeas and nays. Shes crouched in the back rooms of the Association headquarters, painting the final N on a VOTES FOR WOMEN sign and swearing every time the brush bristles break, when the doorbell jangles. An unctuous voice calls, Hello? Excuse me? and Juniper hears Jennie say, How may I help you, sir? Timid boot-steps entering the office, then a voice too low for Juniper to catch. She figures she can ignore itprobably just another monk come to complain about their heathen ways or a reporter come to provoke scintillating quotesuntil Jennie herself appears in the doorway looking pale. Miss Stone, come quick! Miss Stone marches to the front office with the polite, cold-iron expression Juniper has come to think of as her battle armor. Juniper and the others trail after her like squires or foot soldiers. In the front office they find a cringing, watery-eyed gentleman accompanied by his cringing, watery-eyed dog. Juniper thinks he looks like an aging, human-sized pill-bug, ready to roll up in a ball if anything startles him. He and his dog blink up at the ladies now filling the room. Apologies for calling unannounced, ladies, but Im afraid I come bearing bad news. He addresses his remarks to no one in particular, eyes skittering from frowning face to frowning face. I come as a representative of the New Salem City Council. We regret to inform you that the Council has, ah, withdrawn its approval for your march at the Centennial Fair on the first of May. In light of the current climate. Juniper doesnt see what the weather has to do with anythingwet and gray but warming fast, the promise of summer steaming up from the cobblestonesbut she knows horseshit when she hears it. Miss Stone crosses her arms. On what grounds, sir? Our petition was approved weeks ago by the mayors office. The man smiles at her. Its a repellent expression: wormy and crawling. His dog licks its teeth in a cringing grin. Im afraid the Council overrode Mayor Worthington on this issue. We wouldnt want to alarm the citizenry any further with such antics. He makes a hand gesture that might refer to the march or the Association or the entire concept of womens rights. Miss Stone starts to say something measured and polite. Juniper cuts across her. And just who the hell are you to tell us what to do? He and his dog swivel toward her, their eyes finding hers in the crowded room. The dog lifts its head cautiously, sniffing the air, and its owner smiles again. She likes his smile even less. I beg your pardon. This is Ladyhe tugs the leash and the dog flinchesand Im a member of the City Council, running as an independent candidate this fall. Mr. Gideon Hill, at your service. This is Gideon Hill? Juniper has seen his posters plastered all over town, read his nasty quotes in the paper. She thought hed be somebody substantiala handsome, square-jawed man like Daddy, capable of charming paint off a fencepost if he put his mind to it. But hes just a stooped, middle-aged man in a creased linen suit, with thinning hair and furtive eyes. A ripple has gone around the room as the other Association members rustle to one another. Miss Stone makes another attempt at civility. Were pleased to meet you, Mr. Hill. We would like to appeal the Councils decision in this matter. We dont want to make any trouble. She ignores Electas mutter of speak for yourself and Junipers snort. Im afraid it was a unanimous decision. Hill doesnt sound very sorry, though his shoulders are curved inward and his tone is contrite. It is the Councils duty to protect this city from sin and vice. New Salem must not follow the path of its namesake. Juniper figures he means Old Salem, the city taken by witches and devils in the seventeen-whatevers. Its a scorched ruin, now, good for nothing but ghost stories. Hill continues, Thus the Council is obliged to forbid And what if we dont give a damn what the Council forbids? Juniper hears Miss Stone give a soft sigh, but she doesnt care. Hill looks at her again. Shes expecting him to splutter with outrage, to gasp at her daring, but he doesnt. Instead he offers her another smile, even more sickly than the others. What did you say your name was again, miss? And just like that, all the fight goes out of her. Most of the wanted posters are sun-faded and tattered by now, but not all of them, and she knows Hill and his kind would love nothing better than a real live witch to string up. She swallows. June W-West. And where are you from, Miss West? Miss Stone rescues her, sailing between Juniper and Hill like a white-wigged ship. Thank you for informing us of the Councils decision, Mr. Hill. The Association will take it under advisement. Good day, girls. Mr. Hill bows his head and turns away, but his dog doesnt follow. She remains crouched, inky eyes fixed on Juniper, iron collar biting into her throat. Hill gives the leash a vicious tug and she follows her master out the door. The bell tinkles cheerily as they leave. Juniper limps to the window to watch them go. Mr. Gideon Hill scurries down the street with his hands clasped behind his back and his dog trotting obediently at his heels. In the late afternoon light their shadows are black and long, larger than their owners. As Juniper watches she sees Mr. Hills shadow ripple strangely, as if it isnt quite under its masters command. Fear slicks down her spine. She recalls that, by the evidence of the black tower, there is at least one unknown witch in the city working toward ends of her own. But why would she bewitch a sniveling city councilor? Rather than, say, quietly poisoning him in his sleep? She hears raised voices behind her, catches stray words. Unfair! Unjust! And then: Nothing we can do. Someone objects, almost certainly Electa. Nothing legal we can do, you mean! Someone else gives a little gasp. Juniper thinks it must be that Susan Bee woman, a mummified Victorian type who wears an honest-to-Eve monocle and treats Juniper like a cleaning girl. We arent criminals, Miss Gage! Electa starts to reply but Miss Stone cuts across her. Nor can we afford to become so, Electa. Theres no heat to it; she merely sounds old, and very tired. Ladies, do we have a quorum present? Let us discuss our response. She shepherds her flock into the back offices again. Only Jennie lingers. June? Mm? Juniper is watching Hills shadow disappear around a corner, trying to decide if it seems darker than other shadows, denser. Theyre calling a meeting. Dont you think we ought to join? No. Juniper turns away from the window. I dont. I think we ought to march at the Centennial Fair. To her considerable credit, Jennie doesnt gasp or squeal. She looks straight back at Juniper, level and hard, and Juniper sees a fierce spark in her eyes. She wonders for the first time how Jennies nose got broken, and if she was ever anything other than a part-time secretary with cornsilk hair. Miss Stone wont like it, she observes. No. Juniper likes Miss Stone, but shes gotten too used to hearing the word no. Itll do her good to see a woman take that no and shove it back down somebodys throat. The policell never let us in. So we disguise ourselves until the very last second, and disappear before they show up. I know the words and ways. Juniper can tell by Jennies flinch that she knows what kinds of words and ways Juniper means. And she can tell by the sly shine of her eyes that she doesnt mind it, that shes tired of no too. Juniper smiles, all teeth. I think youve already got the will. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust Yours to mine and mine to yours. A spell to bind, requiring a tight stitch and a steady hand On the last night of April, Beatrice Belladonna is curled in the round window of her attic room, reading Charlotte Perraults Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals by witch-light. She ought to use a candle or an oil lamp like a respectable woman should, but shes grown used to the honeyed glow of Junipers pitch pine wand in the evenings. Last week she came home to find a thin strip of holly and a note in Junipers uncertain hand: YOU OTTA KNOW THE WORDS BY NOW. Beatrice does. When she works the spell the wand-light is silvery and cool, nothing like Junipers midsummer blaze. She finds it restful. Its late. The moon is a pearl over the neat rows of north-side rooftops, and Bethlehem Heights looks like a cuckoo clock running along hidden rails, each piece in its place. Beatrice is thinking of abandoning Perrault, who seems to have no secret rhymes or riddles to offer, when she hears the thump-thump-clack of her sisters steps on the stairs. Beatrice remains curled in the window. Evening. Juniper grunts in response, leaving her staff at the door and tossing her half-cloak over the back of a chair, apparently not noticing the bread and broth Beatrice set out hours ago. Its gone cold, the surface skinned with fat. Juniper shuffles over to the window, scowls out at the pearl moon. She holds a ladies hat in her hands, fashionable and frothy, purest white. Beatrice cant imagine an article of clothing less likely to be worn by her youngest sister. Fair opens tomorrow, Juniper says. Yes. Were marching at five. After Worthingtons speech. I thought you said your permit was revoked? Juniper gives her a careless shrug, a crow ruffling its feathers. I thought that Stone woman was opposed to illegal activities. Another shrug. She is. I see. Juniper waits, spinning the white hat in her hands. So. Will you be joining us? Joining what? It takes Beatrice a second to understand that Juniper is referring to the highly visible and apparently unsanctioned march for womens suffrage. Oh, n-no, I dont think so. What would the library think? She can see Junipers lip curl, her teeth sharp in the moonlight. Right. Of course. Beatrice refrains from pointing out that her position at the library is the reason Juniper has a roof over her head and cold broth to ignore, nor does she invite her sister to trot over to the west side and beg for work in the mills. She merely wants to. Juniper is still standing beside her, still turning that absurd hat in her hands. You ought to come watch, at least. Its going to be quite a show. Beatrice hears the satisfaction in her sisters voice and feels a certain uneasiness run down her spine. The floorboards creak as Juniper turns away. Invite that colored friend of yours, if you like. Cleopatra. Miss Quinn? (Cleopatra has asked her several times to call her Cleo, but Beatrice cant imagine being bold enough to reduce the distance between them to four flimsy letters.) In the silence that follows, Beatrice pictures herself taking a long morning walk down to New Cairothe trolleys dont run to the colored end of townand strolling into the offices of The Defender. Casually inviting Miss Quinn to accompany her to a suffrage march, proving herself to be something more than a timid librarian. Perhaps provoking Miss Quinn into one of those sharp, honest smiles, rather than her charming lies. Beatrice finds herself suddenly more interested in the Centennial Fair. I suppose But shes been quiet too long. She feels the hot snap of Junipers temper through the line between them. Never mind. It doesnt matter. The door slams shut, limping steps fade quickly, and Beatrice is alone. She sits in the window for another hour, watching the moon, wondering what it would feel like to fly with moonlight on her bare shoulders, then stands abruptly. She writes a note addressed to Mr. Blackwell, explaining that she will not be able to work her usual shift tomorrow as she has developed a sudden fever. She lies awake in bed for a long time after, buzzing and nervy. She falls asleep thinking of the place where the trolley lines end. Agnes is not sleeping. She is tossing and turning, discovering all the new and novel ways in which her body can be uncomfortable. The baby inside her is still smallthe size of a spring cabbage, Madame Zina told her cheerilybut she seems to possess an uncanny ability to find every tender nerve and soft tissue in her body. At night Agnes feels her clawing and kicking, a cat in a too-small cage. She holds her palms flat to her belly and thinks, Stay mad, baby girl. Agnes threw the pennyroyal down the boarding-house privy weeks ago. She did it without drama or debate, as if it were any other brown paper sack of ingredients she no longer needed. When she returned to her room she sat on the floor and trailed her finger in a circle around herself. There were two of them inside it now. Sometime past midnight she hears uneven steps in the hall and feels an invisible thread winding tight. Paper rustles. The steps retreat. When Agnes rises she finds a white square of paper slid beneath her door: COME TO THE FAIR TOMORROW, 4 OCLOCK. IF YOU GOT THE GUTS. Agnes knows from the shaky shape of the capitals and the attitude that the note is from Juniper. She doesnt know whats going to happen tomorrow at the Centennial Fair, but, given the electric hum in the line between them, like charged air before a storm, Agnes feels confident it will be deeply stupid and possibly dangerous. She crumples the note in her fist and pictures tossing it down the privy, too. She wouldnt even need to make an extra trip; she always needs to piss, these days. Instead she smooths the note flat on the table. She looks at it a long time before she climbs back into bed. The day before the march, Jennie Lind asked Juniper if shed ever been to a fair. Sure, Juniper told her. Back home they had a cornbread festival every fall. Jennie laughed at her and Juniper thwacked her with a rolled-up poster and Jennie laughed harder. Its only as Juniper walks under the arched iron entranceway of the New Salem Centennial Fair that she knows why. The Centennial Fair makes the cornbread festival look like a church picnic. Its like a whole second city sprung up on the north end of New Salem, filled with smart white tents and gaudy stalls and salesmen hawking newfangled contraptions. Electric lights buzz and swing between the tents, singeing the top-hats and hair-dos of the crowd below, and a great metal Ferris wheel spins above them. The air smells rich and fatty, like sweat and fry oil and dollar bills. Inez buys seven tickets at the booth and passes them around. Juniper, Jennie, Electa; Mary, Minerva, Nell; each of them clutching a white hat in their hands, each of them wearing expressions suitable for the storming of castles. Juniper had hoped thered be more of them, but Jennie said they couldnt risk inviting anyone who might turn tail and report their plan back to Miss Stone, so they approached only the most discontented, troublesome members of the Association. Things always come in sevens in witch-tales (swans, dwarves, days to create the world), so Juniper figures theyll do fine. They spend the day jostling through the Fair, unremarkable in dull olives and sober grays, just seven more citizens come to celebrate the founding of New Salem. They pass knots of mill-girls and flower-sellers, students from the College and men from the tannery, a handful of policemen riding shining white horses. The girls eye them as they pass, linking arms and exchanging looks, perhaps stroking the white brims of their hats. Juniper thinks of wanted posters and murder charges and what could happen if shes caught, and resolves not to be. They dodge souvenir-sellers offering commemorative plates and historical pamphlets. They buy sausages on little wooden sticks and burn their lips on the grease. They walk so far that Junipers bad leg aches and she leans hard on her cedar staff. Her daddy never used a cane, though he should have; he said they were for grannies and cripples, not proud veterans of Lincolns war. Sometimes when he was deep in his cups hed give Junipers staff a mean, slanted look, like it was an old enemy of his, but he never laid a hand on it. They wander into a tent labeled Doctor Marvels Magnificent Anthropological Exhibition!, which features a number of natives wearing beads and feathers and bored expressions. Juniper pauses for a while to observe THE LAST WITCH-DOCTOR OF THE CONGO, PRESERVED FOR SCIENTIFIC STUDY, who turns out to be a withered African woman with an iron witch-collar locked around her neck. Her skin beneath the collar is whitish and dead-looking, like frostbitten fingertips; Juniper finds she cant meet the womans eyes. She limps out of Doctor Marvels tent and tosses her half-sausage away, uneaten. By four oclock she and the others make their way to the center stage, where a crowd is gathering beneath red-and-white pennants. Inez slips Juniper a bundle of cloth that might be a parasol but isnt, and the seven of them diverge, pointedly not looking at one another as they edge through the audience. They take places along the fringes, forming a not-accidental circle. A mustachioed man in a gray suit gives a short speech. Theres a polite patter of applause as the mayor replaces him at the podium. I must begin of course with a hearty welcome to all of you, the good citizens of New Salem! The mayor is a saggy gentleman with a red-veined nose and all the charisma of stale bread. Juniper finds Gideon Hill sitting behind him with the rest of the city councilors, sweating in the May sunshine and blinking far too often. Juniper wonders how a man like thatall pinkish and wet, like something recently shelledcould get elected to anything. His dog is curled beneath his chair, her eyes staring straight at Juniper, gleaming red in the first bloom of sunset. I must also thank the Council for their unflagging support of this project and valuable oversight. Juniper isnt listening. Shes watching the faces of her co-conspiratorsMinerva and Mary looking pale and slightly sick; Inez smoothing the already smooth pleats of her dress; Electa looking boredwondering if any of them are regretting the decisions that led them here. Wondering if anyone in the crowd has noticed the hats theyre clutching to their chests, each of them some shade of white: pearl or lace or clotted cream, beribboned or dripping with babys breath. Each of them spelled straight to Hell and back. But what is there to notice? Theyre only hats; you cant smell the witching on them unless you get right up close. Juniper herself carries three hats. She knows neither of her sisters are comingknows that Bella is too scared and Agnes is too selfishbut still, she brought three stupid hats. Just in case. Earlier she thought she caught a glimpse of sleek braid, a flash of spectacles, but she cant bring herself to feel along the invisible threads stretched between them. Its better to not quite know, to keep pretending they might have come. Worthington is leaning over the podium and sweating in a manner that suggests his speech must be drawing to its merciful end. I say to you now: let us put aside our petty grievances and differences, and celebrate instead what unites us. Let us enjoy the Fair! The mayor makes a gesture to the brass band perspiring silently behind the stage. The crowd is applauding dutifully and the first notes of Salems Freedom are rising from the band when James Juniper raises her white hat into the air. Six other hands follow suit. Juniper and the renegade members of the New Salem Womens Association lower the hats onto their heads and whisper the words. White cloaks cascade from nowhere and fall over their shoulders, bright and clean. They drape over their day-dresses and in an instant they become a single thing instead of seven separate women. Its a spell of Junipers own inventionnot exactly the good stuff, but not nothing, either. She disappeared the cloaks using Magss spell for vanishing her potions and herbs when the law came around, which required only a pair of silver scissors to cut the air and a muttered rhyme. Then she had to figure a way to call the cloaks back from nowhere. She lost several of Inezs nicest white wool cloaks, vanishing them into who knows where, before she thought to try a binding. Bindings are deep, old witching, governed by obscure rules and strange affinities. Even Mama Mags didnt fool with them much; she taught Juniper a rhyme to bind a split seam and promised to teach her more later, except it turned out she didnt have much of a later. Juniper did her best. She stole loose threads from each of the cloaks and stitched them into the brims of the white hats, whispering the words as she workedAshes to ashes, dust to dustjabbing her thumb every fourth stitch and swearing up a storm. She tested the first one on Jennie, jamming the hat on her head and ordering her to say the words. Jennie paled. I dont know. I dont think I can. Juniper swatted her with a spare hat. Jennie spoke the words. When the cloak settled over her shoulderswhite as snow, white as wingsJennie looked so stunned, so nakedly joyful that Juniper swatted her again just to keep her from floating away. Now Juniper sees Jennies face shining through the crowd, full of that same glee despite the rising panic around her. The crowd is surging away from the women in white, shouting and screeching. Theres a strange note in their voices, fear but also wonder. Witching is a small, shameful thing, worked in kitchens and bedrooms and boarding houses, half-secret. But here they are in broad daylight, calling white cloaks from nowhere. Juniper can feel the terms shifting around them, the boundaries bending. She can see facesmostly women, mostly youngwatching them with fascinated hunger in their eyes. Juniper figures theyre the ones who want, who pine, who long; the ones who chafe against the stories they were given and dream of better ones. She unties the bundled parasol and lifts it high, except its not a parasol at all. It unfurls into a long banner with the words VOTES FOR WOMEN painted across it in bright red. The crowd erupts. Salems Freedom devolves into a disjointed series of blats and hoots as the conductor stares, slack-jawed. Mayor Worthington bangs ineffectively on the podium. Whats this now? Quite uncalled for His voice is drowned by the thump of blood in Junipers ears, the burning heat in her chest. She wants to shout or chant or laugh, to shake her banner in their faces and bare her teethbut Jennie thought they ought to remain quiet, dignified. Silent sentinels rather than wicked witches. As one, the seven white-cloaked women turn their backs on the mayor and the City Council. Juniper raises her red banner in one hand and grips her staff tight with the other, and marches away from the stage, straight-spined. She feels the others falling in behind her, forming a single many-sailed ship. The crowd splits like a sea. Mothers tug their children closer and canny salesmen start packing up shop, eyes darting sideways, sensing trouble. Juniper blows them kisses, feeling daring, a little drunk, listening with one ear for the ring of iron-shod hooves. They plan to disappear their cloaks and slink into the crowd before the authorities can arrive, but there are no mens voices, no white horses prancing toward them. Yet. They pass beneath the high arch of the Fair entrance and into the darkening streets of New Salem proper. Juniper expects the crowd to disperse, but it presses closer against them as the street narrows. The well-dressed families of the Fair are replaced by working folk and young men, the genteel scandal souring into something meaner. A cluster of drunks unslouches from an alley to leer at them, calling lewd suggestions. Someone laughs. Juniper rests the iron pole of the banner on her shoulder and touches the locket beneath her blouse, the one Mama Mags gave her on her deathbed. At the graveside Juniper dug her dirt-crusted nails along the seam and popped it open like a brass clam, hoping for a message or a note or a voice saying, Its alright, baby girl, Im here. All she found was a thistledown curl of her grandmothers hair. This morning, Juniper added a pair of snakes teeth. She doesnt plan to use them, not really. Mags told her they were only for last chances and final straws, when every choice was a losing onebut Junipers borrowed dress is too fancy and stupid to have pockets and she doesnt like to be without them. For a dizzy second she hears the scuff of red scales across the floor, the hiss of triumph, of pent-up hate finally set freebut then someone shouts look! and she does. Another group of women is marching down the avenue, headed straight toward them. Juniper blinks twiceare they coming to join them? Is it the rest of the Womens Association?but then she sees the pale sashes crossing their chests. Oh hell. Its those Christian Union women who are always writing nasty letters to the editor and waving signs with slogans like WOMEN FOR A PURE SALEM and MICAH 5:12. How did they turn up so fast? Before the police, even? Juniper didnt exactly advertise her march in the Sunday classifieds. One of the Union womena willowy, white-gloved woman Juniper recognizes from the papers as Miss Grace Wigginplants herself directly in Junipers path, chin high and skirt starched. Theres a shine to her, a porcelain perfection that makes Juniper want to rub her powdered nose in the mud. We, the good and righteous women of New SalemWiggin gestures behind her to the other unionists, as if clarifying which women are good and righteousobject to the promotion of sin on our streets! Her voice is high, piercing. Oh for Chrissake, Juniper drawls. Dont yall have anything better to do? They claim they are harmless! They claim they want justice! But what justice was there in the dark days of our pasts, when thousands of innocents suffered in the Black Plague? Knitting, maybe. Charity work. Wiggins jaw flexes. If we permit these womenthese witches!to march freely down our streets, what comes next? Will our daughters want broomsticks and cauldrons instead of pearls and dolls? Will our sons be seduced by their black arts? Will a second plague strike us down? The Christian Union urges you to vote for Mr. Gideon Hill this November! She keeps speechifying, her voice getting higher, more strident. The crowd presses closer, nodding and muttering and sometimes hear-hearing. Behind her, Juniper hears Jennie curse softly, but she doesnt turn to look because shes looking at something else: Miss Grace Wiggins shadow. Its long and dark in the almost-sunset, flung black over cobblestones. At first it mimics Wiggins own gestures, like a good shadow should, but after a minute its hands fall to its sides. Its shoulders roll, as if stretching out stiffness, and thenlike a puppet shedding its strings or a train waltzing off its tracksit steps away from its owner. Juniper goes very still. She watches Grace Wiggins shadow distort, stretching into a creature with too many hands and too many fingers. It finds other shadowsdocile, well-behaved shadows lying in their proper placeand pulls them into itself. It swells and blackens; Juniper thinks of things left rotting in the sun. She remembers asking Mags when she was little if witching was wicked. Mags had cackled. Wickedness is in the eye of the beholder, baby. But then she sobered. She said witching was power and any power could be perverted, if you were willing to pay the price. You can tell the wickedness of a witch by the wickedness of her ways. Juniper touches the locket on her chest, full of poison. Mags never told her what went into the making of those teeth, but Juniper found the burned bodies of three snakes in the hearth and saw the bandages wrapped thick around Magss wrist, and knew the cost was cruel and high. Now she watches the shadow oozing through the crowd like spilled ink, coiling around ankles and sliding up skirts, and thinks the price for this must have been even higher. As the shadow spreads, the crowd shifts. Meanness turns to malice; heckling turns to hate. Juniper feels it as a prickle of fear along her arms, the kind that means a thunderstorm is rolling in or your daddys coming home with a bellyful of liquor. Juniper sees whitening knuckles, scowling faces, eyes gone empty and dim as closed-up houses. Its as if their souls were stolen along with their shadows. She looks back to Grace Wiggin. Shes smiling so wide and bright that Juniper understands two things in a hurry: number one, that theres a good chance the wicked witch wandering around New Salem is standing right in front of her in a white sash. And number two, that shes glad, for once, that her sisters forsook her, because at least they wont be here for whatever happens next. Beatrice is wishing very much that she forsook her youngest sister. Shes wishing she didnt invite Miss Cleopatra Quinn to accompany her to the Fair, didnt watch from the fringes as Juniper raised her banner, didnt trail after the white cloaks of the suffragists while the crowd soured like milk around them. Because then she wouldnt be standing here in the darkening street while a cluster of glassy-eyed men peel away from the crowd and lurch toward her, their shadows twisting and rippling behind them. Their eyes are on Miss Quinn, a colored woman dressed a little too well, a little too far north. Beatrice sees the shape of slurs on their lips, the promise of punishment in their fists. She hears Miss Quinn hiss a rude phrase beneath her breath. Then theres a hand in herswarm and dry, urgentand Quinn is pulling her sideways, shoving her against the sooty brick wall of a pub. Miss Quinn removes a stub of white chalk from her coat pocket and sketches something on the wall, a shape made of lines and stars. She whispers a half-song beneath her breath in a language Beatrice doesnt know, then grabs Beatrice by the shoulders and presses her hard against the brick. Miss Quinn places her palms on either side of Beatrice and hisses, Dont move. Beatrice tastes witching in the air, feels the sudden heat of it radiating from Quinns skin. She doesnt move. The cluster of men is very close now. Their eyes, which had been fixed with eerie, hunting-hound intensity a minute before, now slide harmlessly across Miss Quinns back. Beatrice watches them shuffle on, grunting to one another, pointing ahead. And then she looks at Quinns face (so near to hers that she can see the slide of sweat from her temple, the rust streaks in her yellow eyes) and gasps, That wasthat was witchcraft, Miss Quinn! By all means, please say it louder. Its not like theres a riot nearby. Miss Quinn is straightening, dusting chalk from her hands. But wherehow? Honestly, did you think yours was the only grandmother who knew words she shouldnt? Aunt Nancys recipes, my mother calls them. Her voice is light, careless, but Beatrice hears a certain tension running beneath it. I would be obliged if you would keep this to yourself, Miss Eastwood. Were not supposed to I dont know what came over me. She gives her head an irritated shake, as if Beatrice had personally forced her to work witchcraft in the middle of New Salem. O-of course. I wouldnt want to cause you trouble. Miss Quinn gives her a taut, crooked smile. Oh no? And if theres more than just exasperation and irony in her voice, a sly heat, Beatrice doesnt hear it. Shes distracted by the echoes of her youngest sisters pain. The pain is followed by fear, and the fear is followed by a terrible, killing rage. May sticks and stones break your bones, And serpents stop your heart. A spell to poison, requiring fangs and fury James Juniper has never in her life hoped to see an officer of the lawin her experience they show up just to hassle your grandmother over a stillborn baby in the next county and stay long enough to clink glasses with your daddybut she hopes for one now. The crowd is pushing closer, their mutters turning into shouts, their shouts turning into shoves. Miss Grace Wiggin and her followers have melted away, leaving the seven suffragists surrounded by red-faced men and shouting women. Juniper feels shoulders bracing against hers as the others turn back-to-back, facing the crowd. This isnt rightthey were supposed to be a slick spectacle, here and gone again, a scandalous headline for tomorrows papers. They were supposed to be scared of misdemeanor charges and Miss Stone, not a soul-eating shadow and a vicious crowd. Someone yanks on Junipers banner and she stumbles. Her damn legthe one with the puckered scar wrapped around the ankle, the silvered, sunken places where muscle and tendon never quite healedtwists beneath her and she sprawls sideways, palms skinning against the grit of the street, staff clattering on stone. She hears Inez call her name, but there are people shoving between them, and the white cloaks disappear behind bare fists and broad backs. Juniper looks up to see a man looming over her. A boy, really: scrawny and underfed-looking, like the leggy weeds that sprout down dark alleys, his face speckled with youth. His eyes are empty as promises. Hes holding the iron pole of her banner. He lifts it almost idly, as if he doesnt know what hes about to do. But Juniper knows. Shes had too many hands raised against her, too many bruises, too many long nights in the lonely black of the cellar. Hes going to hurt her, maybe kill her, because theres no one to stop him. Because he can. Juniper keeps a little flame flickering in her chest, a bitter, hungry thing just waiting for something to burn. Now it blazes high, a towering, terrible thing. A killing thing. She claws at the locket on her chest, pops it open. A pair of curved fangs rattle into her palm and she crushes them, feeling the bone splinter into flesh. She reaches for her cedar staff, slicks her blood along it. Her staff is tight-grained and oiled smooth from all those hours beneath her hand. By all natural laws the blood ought to bead up along its surface, but Juniper has never cared much for natural laws. The cedar drinks her blood up, every drop. The boy is watching her, head a little tilted. Hes not afraidwhy would he be? Shes just a young crippled girl reaching for her cane, hes a man with knuckles white around a weapon. Both of them know how this story goes. But oh, not this time. This time the girl has the words and ways to change the story. Hell be afraid, before the end. Her daddy was. The words wait in her throat like matches waiting to be struck. Juniper thinks she ought to care about the cost of speaking thema boys life, the lives of the fools shouting and shoving nearby, the six other girls whod followed her into this mess, who didnt deserve to wind up on the scaffold beside her But all the caring was beaten and burned out of her, and now shes just hate with a heartbeat. May sticks and stones break your bones. Agnes sees her sister fall. She sees her black-feather hair disappear, her white-wing cloak vanish beneath the mass of bodies, and she doesnt move. She stands on a stoop at the edge of St. Mary-of-Egypt Avenue, watching the crowd become a mob become a riot, thinking: Its her own damn fault. She has one hand on her belly, a half-moon heavy with the promise of a person still-becoming, already precious to her. Too precious to risk for the sake of a grown-ass woman who shouldve known better. Agnes grips the iron railing of the stoop and stares into the heaving crowd, looking for a glimpse of white, some sign of her wild, foolish sister. She knew as soon as she saw the note it would mean nine kinds of trouble. And yet: this afternoon she rattled north on the trolley. She waited outside the Fair gates, unwilling to waste a hoarded nickel on a ticket. She heard the distant roar of the crowd, saw the VOTES FOR WOMEN banner snapping bright against the sky. Watched her sister limping at the head of a line of women, like a pied piper dressed in white, and felt a swell of something suspiciously like pride in her chest. Agnes trailed behind them, her feet flat and aching from the weight of the baby. Maybe she was half hoping Juniper would look over her shoulder and see her. Maybe she was just spooked by the souring mutters around her, the resentful curl of lips and the coil of fingers into fists. New Salem is a well-behaved city, as cities go, but Agnes knows trouble when she sees it. And now here she is, standing on a high stoop beside a cluster of women with low-cut dresses and rouged cheeks. None of them look especially concerned by the heave and froth of the riot below. Juniper falls. Agnes stays put. Until she feels her sisters wrath scorching through the line between them. She knows what Juniper is going to do because she did it once before. Shed been a girl then, full of little girls venom. She hadnt quite killed himmaybe she didnt quite want to, maybe she lacked the willand the truth was forgotten in the fire that followed. Lots of things could be forgotten back home, looked away from until they were lost altogether. Now Juniper is a grown woman with a grown womans will, and Agnes knows some fool man is going to die. But it isnt for his sake that Agnes stumbles down the steps and into the riot. Cities forget less easily. She elbows and claws her way through the crowd, one arm braced around her belly. Someone tears at her hair. A shoulder thuds against her jaw. She doesnt stop. Theres Juniper, looking up from the street with her eyes black and burning. A boy stands above her, iron bar raised high. Between them, there is a snake. Red as blood, red as lips, red as the rich heart of a cedar tree. It coils around itself, neck arching in a way that makes the boy take a step back, his weapon tumbling from nerveless fingers. Around them a circle of silence grows as the crowd watches, half-hypnotized by the subtle pattern of the snakes scales, the hot smell of witching. The snakes eyes glow like sun through sap, fixed upon the boy, and Agnes knows its going to strike. Its going to bury its borrowed fangs into his flesh and hes going to die screaming. And, in a few minutes or days, so will her sister. This city could never suffer such a witch to live for long. So Agnes does something very, very stupid. She doesnt think as she does it, doesnt ask herself why she would risk her life and more than her life, her everything-that-matters, for the sister who hates her. The sister she abandoned once before. Agnes steps between the boy and the snake. She meets her sisters eyes. Theres a tilted second when she thinks Juniper wont stop. That shes too full-up with fury to care if her serpent strikes her sister or a stranger, so long as someone pays, someone hurts like she does. Junipers eyes flicker, leaf-shadows shifting. She lunges and grabs the red snake by the throat. It twists in her hand, writhing like a live thing instead of a stray scrap of witching, before it goes rigid. And then theres nothing but a red-cedar staff in her sisters hand. Agnes becomes aware that she hasnt taken a breath in some time. She closes her eyes and sways, tasting the sweet soot of the citys air in her throat, feeling the spark still safe inside her, still alive. Then a voice behind herthe boy whose life she just saved, the ungrateful little shitshouts, Witches! Juniper isshe doesnt know what she is. Ashes, raked coals. Whatever is left when a fire burns itself out. Shes looking up at her sisterand what is Agnes doing here? How is she standing above Juniper with her eyes steady and cool as creek-stones?when someone shouts Witches! and hell, which had already broken loose, breaks looser. The word swoops through the crowd, batlike. Glass shatters against stone. Screams echo down alleys. Feet rush both toward them and away. Juniper lies there, wrung out with witching and will, until she sees hard hands shove against Agness back. Agnes falls, braid arcing, and Juniper hears the hollow smack of her body against the cobblestones. Then Juniper is scrambling to her feet, swinging her staff in wild circles, shouting, Get away, get the hell away from her! She loops a hand beneath her sisters arm and hauls her upright. Cmon, Ag, we got to move. She claws the white cloak away from her throat, feels it catch and tangle in the bodies behind her. She limps sideways through the roil of the crowd, tugging Agnes beside her. Theres a thin moaning coming from somewhere, like an animal in pain; its only when Agnes pauses to swear that Juniper realizes its coming from her sister. The riot is swirling and thickening around them, rising like floodwater, and Juniper cant find Jennie or Inez or Electa, all the other girls who followed her into this mess. She cant see any way out, any place to run. Agnes points to a high stoop where three ladies are watching the street through long lashes. One of them is smoking a thin-rolled cigarette. There! Juniper slants toward them, flinging elbows, crushing toes beneath her staff. She climbs the short steps, panting. A woman in red silk watches her with no particular expression on her face. She removes the cigarette from between her lips. You ladies in trouble? Juniper checks to see that the red-silk woman has a shadow beneath her, and that it seems to possess the correct number of arms and hands. She hitches a sideways, desperate smile at her. Might be. The woman gives her a motherly nod. Then youre in the right place, love. She reaches casually behind her to unlatch the door, knocking it open with one hip. The stale sweetness of perfume and liquor drifts out, and a few jangling notes of ragtime. Juniper dives into the dimness with her sisters hand in hers. Jane and Jill went up the hill To fetch a pail of water. Spill it thrice, say it twice, Or soon it will get hotter. A spell against burns, requiring clear water and a strong will The smell reminds James Juniper of a chestnut in bloom, sharp and sour in the back of her mouth. It hangs heavy in the shadowed hallway and grows stronger as they follow the red-silk lady up two flights of stairs and into a small bedroom. The wallpaper is rich and flowery and the bed is a frosted cupcake of pillows and feather-down. This place is awful nice, isnt it, Ag? Juniper offers. Shes thinking of her sisters mildewed room in the boarding house. Bet it costs a pretty penny, though. The red-silk ladywho introduced herself with a casual flick of her fingers as Miss Florence Pearl, proprietress of Salems Sin, No. 116 St. Mary-of-Egypt Avenuecracks a cackle. Cigarette smoke coils from her nose. Sure does. Juniper sees her shoot a knowing wink at Agnes, who snorts, then flinches. Miss Pearls eyes narrow. Ill send Frankie up. Her auntie taught her rootspeak back in Mississippi, shes ten times better than those butchers over at St. Charitys. And dinneryou picky about food? I was almost the whole nine months. She ticks her chin at Agness belly, and Juniper notices for the first time the way its pushed tight against her dress, the way her sister cradles it in her arms. Oh. Juniper sees her sister standing above her again, strong and steady, risking herself to save some stupid, vicious boyand risking a second someone, too. Agnes shakes her head, lowering herself onto the bed with white lips. Miss Pearl sweeps out. Then theyre alone together with the cupcake bed and the smell of blooming chestnuts and the careful sound of Agness breathing. A gluey silence falls between them. So, Juniper says, whos the daddy? It comes out meaner than she meant it to. She can almost feel Mama Magss knuckles on the back of her skull. Mind that tongue, child. Agnes shakes her head at the floor, still breathing thin through her nose. Doesnt matter. She looks up, meets Junipers eyes. Shes mine. Oh. Juniper feels a hot flare in the line between them, fierce and defiant. Is that what mothers love is like? A thing with teeth? Junipers mother was never anything to her but a secondhand story from her sisters, a curl of hair in a locket. Juniper never missed her much; she always figured if her mother was worth a damn she wouldve left their daddy or slipped hemlock into his whiskey, and she didnt do either. Juniper had her sisters, and it was enough. Until it wasnt. A second silence falls, thicker than the first. Agnes starts to speak just as Juniper asks, Why did you leave? Agnes frowns at the floor. Youre the one who left, as I recall. I mean before. Juniper already knows why she left. Their daddy was a mean drunk with hard knuckles who never loved anything or anyone as much as he loved corn liquor, and there was nothing for miles but coal seams and sycamores and men just like him. Any girl with a single, solitary lick of sense would want to get as far from Crow County as her feet could carry her, unless they loved the wild green mountains more than they loved themselves. Shes just too chickenshit to ask her real question: Why didnt you take me with you? Agnes looks up at her, then away. Had to, didnt I? I guess. Maybe its even true; maybe everybody has to survive the best they can. Maybe her sisters couldnt afford to haul a wild ten-year-old girl along with them when they ran. But later. You couldve come back later. Or written a letter, at least. Even a single smudged address wouldve been a map or a key to Juniper, a way out. Agnes shrugs one shoulder. Only if I wanted to spend the rest of my life locked in the cellar. Daddy told me hed skin me himself if he ever saw me again, and I guess I believed him. Hewhat? Agnes looks up again, but now theres a faint crease between her brows. When he sent me away. He told me he was through with me, that he did his best but God cursed him with wayward daughters, and he washed his hands of us. Juniper doesnt hear anything but the beginning: He sent me away. Her daddy sent Agnes away. What if her sisters hadnt cut and run? What if they loved her after all? Its too huge a thing to think, too dangerous to want. Juniper feels her own pulse rabbiting in her ears, her fingers trembling on the red-cedar staff. Why She stops, swallows hard. Why did he send you away? The frown between Agness brows goes a little deeper. You dont remember? Juniper limps to the bed and settles beside her sister. I remember I was running the mountain that day. The slant of sun through leaves, the bite of briars, the whip of sassafras and beech leaves against her cheeks. Some days it would take her like that, an animal need to run and keep running, and she would dive through the woods at a pace that would have killed a person who didnt know every stone and gully of that mountain. I was running and then I felt A tugging in her chest, an invisible need that made her turn around and run even faster. Well. I remember walking into the old tobacco barn, all dark and hot. You and Bella were there, and so was Daddy Juniper feels something vast slide beneath the surface of her memory like a whale beneath a ship. She looks away from it. I was sick for a while after the barn-fire. Mags did what she could, but my foot mustve got infected. I was hot and dizzy for days, and my head ached. Its aching now, a dull warning. Agnes is watching her face. Werent there ever any rumors about me? After? Of course there were rumors: people hissed that Agnes was a whore and a hedge-witch, that she cursed the ewes to lamb out of season and lay down with devils before running off to the city to fornicate. No. Agnes grunts, very nearly amused, then sighs long and slow. Well. Its no secret now: I got myself in a family way. You remember Clay, the Adkins boy? There was a whole pack of boys that used to trail after Agnes; Juniper and Bella used to come up with names for them. She thinks the Adkins boy was Cow Pie, or maybe Butter Brains. Sure I remember him. Well, he and I I was lonely and he was nice enough, and one thing led to another. Her voice goes young and soft. Mags figured it out before I did. Juniper thinks of all the girls she used to see slinking across the back acres to Magss house, looking for the words and ways to unmake the babies in the bellies. Not all of them young or unwedsome were too old for childbearing or too sick, or had too many hungry mouths already. Mags had helped them all, every one, and buried their secrets deep in the woods. The preacher called it the Devils darkest work, but Mags said it was just womens work, like everything else. Agnes is rubbing her thumb over the ball of her belly now. She helped me. It hurt, but it was a good kind of hurting. Like shedding a skin, coming out brighter and bigger. Afterward I buried it beneath a hornbeam on the east side of the mountain, and I thought that was the end of it. I told the Adkins boy to get gone and stay that way. I thought nobody would ever know. Juniper remembers all her daddys lectures on Eves curse and original sin, descending into slurred rambles about weak-fleshed women and their whoring ways. She remembers his eyes gleaming red in the gloom in the barn, his bones showing white through stretched-taut skin, and begins to understand. How did he find out? I didnt tell anybody. Not a soul except Mama Mags. Agness mouth twists, venom in her voice. And Bella, of course. I told her everything back then. She never She did. I was watering the horses because Mags said it was fixing to freeze overnight. Crow County slinks back into her voice, sly and drawling. Then Daddy turns up and I could see in his face that he knew, about me and Clay, about the pennyroyal and the thing beneath the hornbeam. And then I saw Bella creeping along behind him, all pasty white, and I knew what shed done. Juniper wants to argue. She remembers the feel of her sisters hands in hers on summer evenings, the circle they made between them; the promise that was never said aloud but was woven in their hair, written in their blood: that one would never turn against the other. Surely Bella would have died before she broke that trust. But then Juniper recalls the cold gray of her sisters eyes, the secrets she keeps safe in her notebook, and stays quiet. I told him it wasnt true, that Bella was a liar and a Agnes swallows hard, skips over something. But he just kept walking toward me. He wasnt even in his cupssober as a judge, Id swear. But he was looking at me likelike Juniper knows exactly how he was looking at her: like she was a colt that needed breaking or a nail that needed hammering, some misbehaving thing that could be knocked back into place. Juniper had seen that look. She came running into the barn, tangle-haired, sap-sticky, arms scored by the reaching fingers of the woods, and saw her sisters huddled against the far wall. Her father prowling toward them like a wolf, like a man, like the end of days And then That unseen thing swims too close to the surface and Juniper looks away. She goes someplace else instead, cool and green. Agnes calls her back. Juniper. June, baby. Juniper returns to the pretty wallpapered room, to the sister who watches her with wide eyes. Juniper bridles at the pity in that look. What? Agnes takes up her story like a woman knitting past a dropped stitch, leaving a gaping hole behind her. You remember the fire, dont you? For a sick second Juniper thinks Agnes means the second fire, the one she set the night she ran north, before she recalls the shatter of her daddys lantern as he fell, the spit of oil across dry straw and old timbers, the weeks and weeks of changing bandages and coughing up globs of char and blood. Of course I do. She falters a little. But I dont remember How she survived. How could she remember the inside of the barn as it burnedthe rafters bright gold above her, the hideous screaming of the horses, the wet snap of fleshwithout remembering how it ended? When I was younger I was always burning my fingers when I took the pot off the stove. Agnes sounds like shes treading carefully. Mags gave me some words and ways to keep me safe. I didnt know if theyd do any good, but Daddy was blocking the door and I still had the water for the horses I threw it in a circle around the three of us and said the words, and it worked. Nearly. Her eyes flick to Junipers left foot, then away, gray with guilt. Daddy reached in after you, but we didnt let him take you. Juniper always thought her scars look like split branches or spreading roots. Now she can see they look more like the fingers of a burning hand. Somebody must have heard the horses or seen the smoke. They dragged us all out, piled wet earth over Daddy to put out the flames. Mags took you awayyou were all hot and shaking, I thought you might be dying Agnes pauses to swallow again, still not looking at Juniper. We were sent upstairs while people came in and out. The preacher, the sheriff, half the county it felt like. Then Daddy called us down to his bedside and said it was all arranged. In the morning Bella would go to some school up north, and I would go live with our aunt Mildred. Their aunt Mildred was a sour crabapple of a woman who lived two counties north and spent her time collecting tiny paintings of Saints and complaining about the many sins of her next-door neighbors. I ran as soon as I could. Wound up here. Juniper wants to ask: How come you never came back for me? She wants to ask: How come you never even wrote? But shes frightened of the skipped stitches in the story, the things she doesnt want to see. Juniper, I Agnes is reaching toward Juniper almost as if she means to wrap her arms around her, and Juniper doesnt know if shes going to let her, when someone knocks softly on the door. The two of them sit straighter, tucking their unruly feelings back inside their chests. Frankie Black turns out to be a freckled colored girl with velveteen eyes and an accent that makes Juniper homesick. She has Agnes sit up straight and runs her fingertips over the small of her back, pressing and whispering. She lights a honey-colored candle and drips the wax in a pattern of lines and specks. She sings a spell that has a drumbeat rhythm running underneath it, shuffles her feet, tap-tap-tap, and straightens up. Its nothing like Magss spells, and Juniper watches with narrowed eyes. But Agness face loosens as the pain lifts away, so Juniper figures it must be working. It occurs to her for the first time that there might be more than one kind of witching in the world. The thought is an uncomfortable one, far too large; it reminds her of riding the train across the Crow County line and feeling the country unfold like a map beneath her, flat and endless. Miss Pearl says you two should stay till morning. Theres police out looking for two black-haired women. One of them with childher eyes cut to the cedar staff on the bedone of them with a demon-snake for a familiar. Juniper says, Its not a familiar, at the same time Agnes says, We can pay. For the room, and the lost business. Frankie makes a sound somewhere between offense and amusement. You couldnt afford us, sweetheart. Miss Pearl says were closed up for the night, anyhow. The men are all riled up, looking to prove something. They can look elsewhere. Theres corned beef and rolls if youre hungry. She sets a basket on the dresser top and leaves them alone again. The honey-candle is sitting in a waxy puddle and the food is nothing but crumbs caught in the valleys of the down comforter before either of them says a word to the other. Agnes is slouched against the headboard, her body slack in the absence of pain, the baby swimming soft inside her. Juniper has her arms wrapped around her knees. Her eyes slide over Agness belly. How come you came today? Agnes shrugs, because shrugging is easier than talking about guilt and love and the things that still stretch between them after seven years of silence. How come you invited me? Juniper shrugs back, sullen, and counters, How come you saved that idiot boy? Agnes almost laughs at her. For a quick girl, Juniper can be awfully slow sometimes. I wasnt saving that idiot boy, Juniper. Juniper narrows her eyes. Her mouth is half-open to retort when she realizes who Agnes was saving. Her face softens. Juniper glances again at the fragile swell of Agness belly. Buteven with I guess. Agnes attempts a smile. Mama told me to take care of you. Maybe Agnes owed her, for all the times shed failed. Or maybe it wasnt about debts or duties at all; maybe it was just that she didnt want to see her youngest sister strung up in the city square. Apparently shes said something wrong, because Juniper is bristling and sharpening again. I dont need you to take care of me. I was about to teach that boy a lesson. Teach them all a lesson. Her eyes are seething, shadowed. They make Agnes think of maiden-storiesthe kind about young witches who sing ships to their deaths, who hunt the woods at night with their seven silver hounds, who turn sailors into pigs and feast every night. Agnes wants to be angry at herfor being so careless and cruel and so terribly youngbut she cant quite manage it. Shes been all of those things herself; she knows the black alchemy that transmutes hurt into hate. She remembers climbing barefoot from the attic window, meeting some poor boy in the woods and tearing at his clothes with more than lust, digging her nails too hard into his skin. It felt so good to be the one hurting, instead of being hurt. So she doesnt tell her sister to shut her damn mouth and think for a second. Instead she asks, And then what? After you teach them all a lesson. After you burn them or bite them or curse them. What happens after that? Junipers mouth bows, petulant as a child. I know why youd want toSaints, so does every woman alivebut think what it costs. I dont care, Juniper spits. She never has. When she found them in the barn that day she hadnt cared what might happen to three nothing-girls found beside their fathers corpse; when she led those suffrage ladies into a riot she hadnt cared what kind of hell it started. Agnes rubs the ball of her belly with a thumb, thinking of the little spark inside it. I know you dont. But I do. The baby kicks in answer, a butterfly touch, and Agnes tilts her head at her sister. You want to feel her move? The baby? Juniper stares at her like shes never heard the word baby in her entire life. She reaches out a cautious hand. Agnes holds it to her belly and they wait together, hushed and still, feeling their hearts beat in their palms. The baby is motionless for so long Agnes is about to give up, until Junipers face splits in half with the size of her smile, eyes gone summer green. Ill be damned. That was her? Agnes nods, thinking how young and bright her sister looks right now, wishing she could stay that way. Wishing there was room for her inside Agness circle. The midwife says shell come by the Barley Moon, in August. Maybe sooner. Juniper seems taken aback by this information, as if she thought babies ought to abide by timetables and punch-clocks. She presses her palm to Agness belly a second time, and her expression is so hopeful and wide open that Agnes says, She could use an aunt. Juniper looks up at her, a quick darting glance, like she doesnt want Agnes to see the hope shining in her face. But youve got to be more careful. The march todayit was your idea? Juniper takes her hand away. Yes. You saw what happened. The crowd went mad. Agnes expects Juniper to turn sullen again, but instead her face creases with thought. I dont think they were in their right minds. Oh, dont be so naive No, I mean I saw something not right. Shadows moving in ways they shouldnt, twisting together. It was witching, but darker and stranger than anything Mags ever did. Agnes thinks of the shadowless men in the alley and feels the hairs rising on her arms. But what kind of witch would incite a riot against witches? Juniper purses her lips. That Wiggin woman would. If ever there was a person who would work hard against themselves, itd be her. I heard those Christian Union types all swear oaths against every kind of witching, even the kind to keep dust off the mantel or mealbugs out of the flour. Well somebody was messing with shadows. All the more reason to be careful. All the more reason to be prepared. To arm ourselves properly. A fey light comes into Junipers eyes and Agnes knows shes thinking of that black tower and those strange stars, of long-ago magics and long-gone powers. Listen, the tower we saw that day. I was thinkingyou remember the story Mags used to tell us? Saint George and the Last Three? What if its the tower? Their tower? I think thats what Bella thinks, anyway. But Agnes doesnt want to hear about witch-tales and wishes, and she especially doesnt want to hear about Bella. Oh, please. Its a childrens story. And anyway, you seem well enough armed to me. That snake Agnes swallows. Was it a familiar? Juniper snorts at her. Did you forget everything Mags taught you? A familiar isnt a spell or a pet. Its witchcraft itself wearing an animal-skin. If a woman talks long and deep enough to magic, sometimes the magic talks back. But only the most powerful witches ever had familiars, and I dont figure there are any of those bloodlines left. Juniper looks away, and Agnes politely does not mention all the hours Juniper spent in the woods as a little girl, waiting for her familiar to find her. Juniper gives herself a little shake and shoots Agnes a sickle-moon smile. But maybe that wouldnt matter, if we had the Lost Way. Just imagine what we could do. Before she can remind herself that the Lost Way of Avalon is a childrens story, Agnes does: she thinks of double-shifts and boarding-house fleas and all the nothing-girls whose highest hope is for a husband like Floyd Matthews, soft-palmed and stupid, and how it would feel to want more. She thinks of her daddys knuckles and Mr. Maltons leers and how it would feel to be the dangerous one, for a change. But then she thinks of angry mobs and scaffolds and all the things that would happen next, and the baby girl in her belly. Agnes meets her sisters gaze as steady as she can. And what comes after? Juniper doesnt look away. Come with me in the morning, she answers. Come join the suffragists. And find out for yourself. Agnes looks into her face, blazing with hope and hunger, young and wild and jagged-edgedand finds she cant answer. Instead she clears her throat and says, Its late. Time for bed, I think. Agnes manages not to look at her sister while they ready themselves for bed, unbuttoning and unclasping, taking turns at the chamber pot. Its only in the last second of light, right before Agnes pinches the candlewick between her fingers, that she sees the silent shine of tears in Junipers eyes. Juniper curls her spine away from her sister but she can still feel the heat of her, hear the steady rush of her breath. Long past midnight, when even the ceaseless bustle and clank of the city has finally gone still and Juniper thinks she might be able to hear the distant seesaw song of spring peepers, Agnes rolls over beside her. I should have come back for you, no matter what. I was scared. Of me. Juniper doesnt know where the thought comes from, why it sounds so certain and so sad. Im sorry, Juniper. Agnes whispers it to the ceiling, a prayer or a plea. If Juniper says anything, Agnes will hear the tightness of her throat, the salt-bite of tears in her voice. So she says nothing. Theres a pause, then: Ill come with you in the morning, if youll have me. Another pause, while Juniper breathes carefully through her mouth. Ill have you. It comes out too rough, a little strangled, but she hears Agnes sigh in relief. After that Agness breath goes deep and slow and Juniper lies wide awake, thinking about venom and vengeance, praying to every Saint that her sisters never find out how their daddy died. Bella isnt hereBella the betrayer? Bella the Judas?but Juniper wishes she were. She would ask her for a story and fall asleep on a bed of once-upon-a-times and happily-ever-afters and righted wrongs. She whispers one to herself, instead. THE TALE OF RAPUNZEL AND THE CRONE Once upon a time there was a woodcutter whose wife was with child. But she grew very ill, her golden hair turned brittle gray, and in his desperation the woodcutter went to the local hedge-witch and begged for a cure. The hedge-witch told him of a black tower in the hills covered in green-growing vines even at midwinter. Just three leaves from this vine would cure his wife. The woodcutter found the black tower and the green-growing vines. He stole his three leaves and brewed them as the witch instructed. Soon his wife was rosy-cheeked and smiling again, her hair the brightest gold. When their daughter was born they named her after the herb that saved her: Rapunzel. But as they named the baby there came a terrible wind from the east, smelling of earth and ash. Knuckle-bones knocked at their door and they found a bent-backed Crone hunched on their stoop. She wore a tattered black cloak around her shoulders and an asp around her wrist, like a bracelet made of obsidian scales. She came, she said, to take back what was stolen from her. When the woodcutter pleaded that his wife had already eaten the leaves, the Crone shuffled into the house and peered down at the baby girl. The baby girl peered back at her with eyes the color of green-growing vines. When the Crone left the house that night, trudging through the silent snow, she carried a baby bundled beneath her cloak. The Crone raised the girl in her high, lonely tower. Rapunzel grew to love the old woman, and, inasmuch as a witch loves anything, the Crone loved the girl. By the time Rapunzel was half-grown the only sign that she had ever belonged to anyone else was her hair: bright gold, long and shining. One day when the Crone was away, a traveling bard saw the shine of Rapunzels hair through the tower window. He sang to her: My maiden, my maiden, Let down your long hair, Braided tight and shining bright, A way where once was none. There followed the usual course of events when a handsome stranger sings to a beautiful maiden, and soon Rapunzel was climbing down a golden rope woven of her own hair, reaching her hand out for his. The Crone returned just as the pair took their first step away from the tower, hands clasped. If you would leave me, she told Rapunzel, you must return what belongs to me. Rapunzel raised her chin and agreed to pay any price. The Crone bade her close her eyes and touched two cold fingers to their lids. When Rapunzel opened her eyes once more the green-growing color had been taken from them, along with her sight. The Crone returned to her tower and watched the maiden and the bard stumble together across the hills. Rapunzel did not turn back or call out. The Crone wept, and as her tears touched the stone floor, the tower trembled and fell. Or perhaps it vanished outside of time and memory and took the Crone with it. Perhaps she waits still for her stolen daughter to call out to her. The only certainty is the tears themselves. My maiden, my maiden, Let down your long hair, Braided tight and shining bright, A way where once was none. A spell to escape, requiring three hairs and nimble fingers When Beatrice Belladonna runs from the riot on St. Mary-of-Egypts, she knows two things for certain: that her youngest sister is alive, and that her middle sister is with her. It shouldnt comfort her to know that Agnes is thereshe learned long ago that she couldnt trust her when it countedbut it does. If anyone could haul their little sister out of the mess she made and keep her alive through the night, its surely Agnes. If youre finished staring at nothing, I would quite like to keep running for our lives now. Beatrice makes a private note that Miss Quinn grows drier and more cutting under pressure, before bunching her skirts in her fists and following after her. For a woman born and raised in New Cairo, Quinn possesses an uncanny knowledge of the north side. She leads Beatrice down narrow alleys and nameless back streets, following a winding path that leads them somewhat mystifyingly to the respectable row house where Beatrice rents a room. How did you know my address? Miss Quinn gives a very unsorry shrug. Stay inside tonight. The police are awfully scarce this evening, which makes me wonder just whos behind this mess. Beatrice wants to say, Thank you for saving me, or Be careful, or Who exactly are you and what uncanny secrets are you hiding? but Quinn is already turning away, taking long-legged strides down Second Street. By the time Beatrice is in her attic room, peering down from her round window, Quinn is gone, vanished entirely from the neat grid of streets below. Beatrice dreams that night of witches and traveling bards and a golden-haired girl smiling from a tower window. Except her hair isnt golden at all, actually, and her smile is full of secrets. The following morning, Bella pins her own hair with unusual severity and stares hard at her reflection in the mirror, reminding herself that she is bony and graying and very boring. Then she feels the tug of her sisters through the linestill alive, still together, moving through the cityand wonders if perhaps she is growing less boring the longer James Juniper remains in New Salem. Beatrice steps into the street just after sunrise, when the shadows lie soft and the air sparks with dew, and hopes very much that Mr. Blackwell will forgive her for missing a second day of work. The headquarters of the New Salem Womens Association are already jammed full of bustling women and urgent whispers. Miss Stone stands behind the front desk like a small general overseeing her troops, wig pinned slightly askew. She is so surrounded by peoplea hand-wringing lady wearing a monocle, a roundish woman in a very fine dress, that young secretary girl sporting a bruised jaw and a sullen expressionthat Beatrice doesnt think she notices the chime of the bell as she enters. Until she looks up and fixes Beatrice with an iron glare. Miss Eastwood, wasnt it? I thought you were too busy for suffrage. Oh, Ithat is But Miss Stone is already looking back down at the papers spread before her. If youre looking for that sister of yours, shes not here. No, but And if she has any sense of prudence at all, she will not dare to show her face here again. Beatrice deduces from this that Miss Stone was previously unaware of Junipers little spectacle, that she has since become aware of it, and that she suffers from the mistaken belief that Juniper possesses a sense of prudence. She further deduces that the next several minutes are going to be uncomfortable ones. She manages a faint Oh, dear before the bell chimes again and Juniper herself strides into the office with all the swagger and charm of a prize-fighter after a winning match, staff clacking merrily across the floorboards. Agnes comes slinking in after her, looking like a woman with deep misgivings about her choices. The whispers wither and die. A dozen pairs of eyes land on Juniper. She gives them a beatific smile. Morning, ladies. Bella! What are you doing here? She doesnt wait for an answer. She grabs one of the spindly chairs by the window and perches on the very edge, knees wide and hands crossed atop her staff, still beaming. The smile dims when she catches sight of the secretary and the swollen bruise along her jaw. So you made it out alright. The others, too? The girl nods, a furtive flash of pride in her eyes. We think Electas got a busted rib, but shell be alright. It occurs to Beatrice to wonder how exactly they all escaped unscathed, and if perhaps the respectable members of the Womens Association have a few words and ways they shouldnt. Guilt crosses Junipers face, a foreign expression, but she banishes it with a little shake of her head. Well. I hope at least we can all agree. Miss Stonewho has until now been standing perfectly stillclears her throat to ask, On what, exactly? Juniper apparently doesnt hear the tension lurking in Miss Stones voice like an unsprung trap. She meets her eyes squarely. That we arent going to get a damn thing by asking nice and minding our manners. That we need to make use of every weapon we have, or theyll beat us bloody in the streets. Juniper leans forward, that swaggering smile returning. That its time for the womens movement to become the witches movement. The silence following this statement is so profound that Beatrice imagines she can hear the veins pulsing in Miss Stones temples. Juniper speaks into the quiet, heedless. It was witching that saved me in the street yesterday, and its witching that will win us the vote. More than just the voteback in the old days women were queens and scholars and generals! We could have all that back again. My sisterBella, I mean; this is Agnes, our other sistera look of genuine horror crosses Miss Stones face as she contemplates the prospect of another Eastwoodanyway, Bella has been doing some research about that tower we saw on the equinox. I think its Junipers eyes cross Bellas, and Bella knows that Juniper has guessed what the tower is, what the sign of three circles must mean. I think its important. That it might bring witching back to the world. Juniper looks around at the stone-still women. What do you say? None of them answer. Miss Stone exhales a very long sigh into the silence and lowers herself into her chair. She leans back, regarding Juniper with an almost bewildered expression, as if she cant understand how someone so young could be so powerfully irritating. Miss West. The Womens Association has no interest in your wild theories or dangerous ideas. The smile slides off Junipers face like frosting off a too-hot cake. Well, as a member of the Womens Association, I think Miss Stone produces a bitter ha of laughter. Oh, you are certainly no longer that. Excuse me? I, as president of the Association, do officially expel you from our company, and deeply regret ever having granted you membership. Juniper is standing now, fingers white around her staff. How dare you Miss Stone counts on her fingers, voice very cool. You organized an illegal assembly against the will of the Association. You made a public demonstration of witchcraft. You endangered the lives of the six fools who followed you into your treason. Saints only know what else you didthe rumors are nearly too wild to believe. Perhaps you have a pair of black horns on your head. Perhaps you can fly. Perhaps you set a demon-snake on an innocent child. Beatrice flinches. No one notices. Look, you wanted to get peoples attention, and we got it. If youre going to get upset that I defended myself, I dont Miss Stone raises her voice very slightly. Miss Wiggin, the head of the Womens Christian Unionand, I might add, the adopted daughter of a member of the City Councilwas injured in the riot. She claims it was an act of witchcraft, and I am disgusted to say I am unsure whether she is lying. Junipers mouth is open again, but Miss Stone ignores her. She leans forward over the desktop, hands knitted. I have dedicated the better part of my life to the uplift of women. I was there at Seneca, at the very beginning. Her fury seems to have blown itself out like a summer storm, leaving her winded and tired. They laughed at us. Derided us, mocked us, printed vicious cartoons in every paper. We kept working. We built organizations all over the country, saw suffrage laws passed in three states, brought attention to the plight of our sexbut now they are no longer laughing, Miss West. Nowthanks to you and your accomplicesthey are afraid. And we could lose everything. Juniper strides forward and places her palms on the desk, wearing a look of such blazing intensity that Beatrice feels it scorch her cheeks as it passes. Or we could win it all. If we stop worrying so much about what a woman should and shouldnt do, whats respectable and whats not. If we stand and fight, all of us together. Imagine if thered been seventy of us marching, instead of seven! Miss Stone looks faintly ill at the thought. Theres this book Bella used to read us when we were little, about these three French soldierswhats the thing they said? She throws the question sideways to Beatrice. Beatrice clears her throat, cheeks pinking. All for one and one for all. Thats it. Junipers face is lit now by some internal glow, a passion like the sun itself. It has to be all for one and one for all, Miss Stone. Every eye is on the young woman with the crows-wing hair and the long jaw and the summer-green gazelike and not like the feral girl-child Beatrice remembersand for a wild moment Beatrice thinks theyre going to listen to her. Miss Stone laughs. Its not a cruel laugh, but Beatrice sees it hit Juniper like a slap. Goodbye, Miss West. I cant wish you luck, for the sake of the city. Juniper straightens from the desk, all the glow gone from her eyes, face pinched tight, and gives the room a mocking bow. She limps out the office door without looking back. She never let their daddy see her cry, either. Agnes follows. She pauses to hold the door behind her and looks up at Beatrice, almost as if shes waiting for her. As if they are still little girls tumbling into the farmhouse, one-two-three, holding the door carelessly open behind them for the next one. Well? Agnes sounds annoyed, whether with herself or her sister Beatrice cant tell. Beatrice feels Miss Stones eyes on her face. I dont know you, Miss Eastwood, but you seem a respectable woman. That sisterthose sisters of yours will lead you astray. Beatrice hesitates. She thinks about the fates of girls who go astray in all the stories, the hot iron shoes and glass coffins and witches ovens. (She thinks about St. Hales, a prison built especially for straying girls.) But then Beatrice looks at Agnes still waiting for her, half scowling, and thinks about what else awaits those gone-astray girls: the daring escapes and wild dances, the midnight trysts and starlit spells, a whole worlds worth of disreputable delights. Beatrice bows her head as she leaves. So I hope, Miss Stone. Agnes is just about to give up and close the damn door behind her, to hell with Bella and the suffragists both, when Bella finally makes up her mind. She goes sailing past Agnes, spine uncrooked, cheeks pink with some private pleasure. Their eyes meet, then slide away. Juniper is already stamping down the street, clacking her staff with such aggression that passersby scuttle aside. Those thrice -damned boot -licking shit -witches! Too cussed cowardly to take a damn standto hell with them! She spins to face the plate-glass window of the Association headquarters and crosses her fingers in a gesture of such exceptional rudeness that Bella chokes, June. Juniper spins back to face her sisters. Her eyes are bright and green as fox-fire. So. What do you say? To what? Juniper looks at Bella like she wants to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. To witching! To the Lost Way of Avalon! Bella shushes her, casting worried looks at the genteel bustle of the street: mothers with their hats just so and children with their clothes starched stiff, maids with baskets of fresh white laundry and gentlemen checking their pocket-watches. It strikes Agnes suddenly how ludicrous it is that they should be plotting the second age of witching in the middle of a sunny, orderly street on the north end, surrounded by clerks and investors and clean limestone. Surely it calls for a haunted moor or a misted cemetery. Bella says, low and urgent, Juniper, I dont know what you know or think you know about that tower, but I assure you I dont have the secret recipe for Avalon stuffed in my socks. Juniper crosses her arms, runs her tongue over her teeth. I know you know more than youve told me. II Bella stutters, and Agnes marvels that she grew up in their daddys house without learning how to lie properly. Yes. Alright. I found some words, the day the tower appeared. I dont know what came over me, but I spoke them aloud. And then She gestures upward, recalling the splitting seam of the sky and the dark tower. Juniper stares hard for another second, then grins. You snake. I knew it was you. Why didnt you tell me? Bella fumbles for an answer, but Agnes perfectly understands why a person might hesitate to give a vicious, vengeful girl the key to a mysterious and boundless power. There were stories in the old days about whole cities put to sleep, kingdoms frozen over in endless winter, armies reduced to rust and ash. Juniper waves away Bellas stutters. Doesnt matter now. The real question is: why havent you done it again? Because it wasnt a complete spell. Its missing some of the words, and all of the ways. Then find them! What exactly have you and your lady friend been up to, all those late nights in the library? A flush creeps up Bellas neck. Shes not myMiss Quinn and I have been searching. Weve collected some scraps, some possibilities, but we have nothing but theories, so far. So lets test them. Bella looks doubtful and Juniper presses on, heedless. Listen. Ever since the equinox the three of us have been bound together, havent we? Bella tsks, sliding her spectacles up her long nose. An effect of an unfinished spell, I told you. And how come the three of us were pulled into that spell in the first place? After seven years apart, what drew us together just when our oldest sister got stupid and read some words out loud? Junipers voice lowers. And before thatdidnt you feel something tugging you toward the square? Agnes remembers it: a line reeling her in, a finger prodding between her shoulder blades. She feels it still, an invisible hand chivying her toward her sisters despite her better judgment. Mags always said anything lost could be found. Remember that song she taught us? What is lost, that cant be found? Bella blinks several times and murmurs, I do, yes. Well, I think maybe magic wants to be found. And I think maybe were the ones who are supposed to find it. What, like fate? Its the first thing Agnes has said since they stepped outside, and both her sisters flinch from the venom of it. Like destiny? Fate is a story people tell themselves so they can believe everything happens for a reason, that the whole awful world is fitted together like some perfect machine, with blood for oil and bones for brass. That every child locked in her cellar or girl chained to her loom is in her right and proper place. She doesnt much care for fate. Even Juniper looks a little cowed by whatever she sees in Agness face. Maybe not. Maybe its just luck that Bella found that spell. That the three of us wound up in St. Georges Square. On the equinox. A maidenshe taps her own chest. A mothershe nods to Agnes. Bella casts her such a baffled, owlish look that Agnes suspects she didnt notice the swell of her belly until this very second. Her mouth makes a small, perfect O. And a crone. Juniper points at Bella, who makes a disgruntled sound. Like the Last Three themselves. None of them speak for a moment. Juniper limps a little closer, until they stand in a tight circle of three, heads nearly touching. Maybe Agnes is right, and thats all horseshit. But what if it isnt? What if we could make every woman in this city into a witch, just like that? Juniper snaps her fingers. No more reading witch-tales in books, Bellyou could write them yourself! And no more shit-work for shit-money, Ag. No more being nothing. Her voice thickens on the last word. Juniper breathes hard through her nose and asks them a second time: What do you say? Alright. Bella looks stunned by the sound of her own voice. Yes. Juniper swivels to Agnes. And you? Will you help us? Her jaw is set, her eyes shining, and Agnes marvels at the contradiction of her: bright-eyed and black-hearted, vicious and vulnerable, a girl who knows so little of the world and far too much. A part of Agnes wants to say yes just so she can keep an eye on her. Except she doesnt get to choose for herself anymore. She smooths her blouse over her belly. I cant start any trouble. For her sake. Juniper looks down at her hand. Oh, I think youve got to. For her sake. She meets Agness eyes, challenging. Dont you want to give her a better story than this one? Agnes does. Oh, how she doesto see her daughter grow free and fearless, walking tall through the dark woods of the world, armed and armored. To whisper in her ear each night: Dont forget what you are. Everything. Agness throat is too full-up with wanting to speak. Bella offers, tentatively, You know the Mother herself started all sorts of trouble, in the stories. I wish Her voice lowers. I think it might have been better for us if wed had a more troublesome mother. Agnes looks between them, her wild sister and her wise sister. She nods her head, once. Juniper is whooping and thumping Agnes too hard on the back, already badgering Bella about the Lost Way, and Bella is shushing her to no discernible effect, when footsteps sound behind them. Agnes turns to see the secretary girl from the Womens Association, with her cornsilk hair and blue-bruised jaw. As she approaches, Agnes sees shes not as mousy as shed thought: her eyes are hard, shining with newborn conviction. Jennie? Juniper asks. What I want to join. Jennie says it very fast, like a person diving into cold water before they can change their mind. Thats nice, Juniper says. Join who? Jennie frowns as if she thinks Juniper is making fun of her. You. Her eyes skitter to Agnes and Bella. Your new society. Bella starts to say something calm and reasonable, like, Theres been some sort of misunderstanding! Were not forming a society at all. Sorry for your trouble, but Juniper is already reaching out a welcoming hand, smiling with all the glee of a missionary contemplating a convert. Why, Jennie. You can be our first member. Bella makes a wheezy, punctured-tire noise. Im not sureI dont know But Juniper has an arm slung over Jennies shoulder and Jennie is smiling a shy smile. Well. Bella sighs. There were really four musketeers, anyway. Tell your tale and tell it true, Cross my heart and hope to die. Strike me down if I lie. A spell for secrets kept and told, requiring bindweed and blood The Calamitous Coven. No. Eves Army. No! It ought to be about, I dont know, sisterhood or union The Ladies Union of Giving the Bastards Whats Coming to Them. James Juniper, if you cant be serious, at least be quiet. Juniper subsides, slouching lower against the wall. As a clandestine society of would-be witches, Juniper had anticipated that their first order of business would be exciting and magical, like burning the Sign of the Three across City Hall or turning the Hawthorn River to blood. Her sisters and Miss Jennie Lind apparently thought otherwise. The four of them have been stuck in Agness cabbagey room at South Sybil for hours now, discussing safe houses and membership oaths and other disappointingly unwitchy subjects. Jennie is even taking honest-to-Eve notes, sitting on Agness bed with Bellas little black book propped on her knees. Shes the one who suggested their society have a name, although she has so far ignored each of Junipers excellent suggestions. The Sisters of Sin. Jennies pen doesnt move. What about Bella begins, then bites her lip. What about the Sisters of Avalon? It takes less than a seconds silence for Bella to begin backtracking and hand-wringing. Perhaps not. It sounds a bit like the Daughters of Tituba, doesnt it, and we hardly want to be mistaken for make-believe. And its so provocative to associate ourselves so openly with the Last Three But Agnes is smiling and Jennies pen is moving across the top of the page, and Juniper can feel the name settling over them, shining in their faces. Juniper has a goosefleshed premonition that it will be printed in papers and on wanted posters, whispered through the alleys and mill-floors, passed like a lantern from hand to hand. The Sisters of Avalon, they call themselves. Did you hear? The looks exchanged, the flash of longing in their eyes. Excellent. Jennie finishes the last flourish of the name. And what about titles and duties? Should they be elected positions, do you think? Juniper finds that this somewhat dampens the shine of their new name. Positions? Well, I meansecretary, treasurer, president, vice president, press liaison, head of recruitment Jennie ticks them off on her fingers. Saints, theres only four of us. Sounds like a problem for the head of recruitment. Juniper flicks a ball of lint at Jennie and Jennie dodges without taking her eyes from her paper. Bella offers, tentatively, II could be the press liaison. I have acontact in the newspaper business. Bella doesnt look at any of them as she says it, and Juniper wonders if she means that colored woman in the gentlemans coat, and why that should cause her to blush such a vivid pink. She recalls a little uneasily that there were rumors back home about her oldest sister, too. Jennie writes something in the notebook. Full name? Beatrice Eastwood. Jennie hesitates. Why do your sisters call you Bella? Juniper says, Because thats the name our mama gave her. Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood. Bella shifts uncomfortably and Juniper sighs at her. Honestly, if we cant use our mothers-names in a secret society of witches, when can we? Jennie finishes writing and turns an expectant eye to Agnes, who looks very close to rolling her eyes. I can ask around, I suppose. She makes a circle with her index finger, indicating either the South Sybil boarding house, the neighborhood of West Babel, or the entirety of New Salem. Does that make me in charge of recruitment? Name? Agnes Eastwood. Juniper tosses a second ball of lint at her. Oh, fine. Agnes Amaranth Eastwood. Jennie records this, too, then says brightly, And whos president? Theres a brief exchange of glances between the sisters. Juniper asks, What does it mean to be president, exactly? Jennie makes a seesaw motion with her head, cornsilk hair swinging. Not much, really, if we agree to a collective decision-making process. The phrase recalls the endless meetings of the Womens Association. Juniper gives an involuntary shudder. But in the Association Miss Stone was the heart of us. Theres a gray note in Jennies voice, like regret, and Juniper shrugs away a prickle of guilt. It was Jennies own damn choice to follow her out the Association door. She was our direction. We all steered the ship, but she was our compass. Jennie looks at Juniper as she finishes, frowning a little. Juniper looks away. Well, we can vote on it later. Lets talk about getting some girls signed up, O head of recruitment. But Bella says anxiously, Im not sure how many people we ought to recruit. What would we be recruiting them to, exactly? Juniper says, Hell-raising, just as Jennie says, Yes, well need a constitution, and a declaration of intent. Juniper considers for several consecutive seconds and offers, To raise hell? The other Sisters of Avalon ignore her. She tries again. To bring about a second age of witching. To get back what was stolen from us. That might be a little much, dont you think? Bella clears her throat over Junipers muttered youre a little much. How

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