Welcome! With this week's Tuesday's Tales prompt -- sky -- I've returned to Love Spells. I hope you enjoy this chapter.
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Ellie stood in the center of the room and glanced about. A small desk piled with books and papers sat against the far wall next to a few metal folding chairs. A shaggy, thread-bare carpet graced the scarred floor. Sky charts and drawings of constellations hung on the dull gray walls, giving it more the air of a stuffy schoolroom than a place where magic could happen. Ellie tried to hide her disappointment.
"Not what you were expecting, is it?" Stefan asked. Amusement danced in his sky-blue eyes.
She met his gaze with a forth-right look. "No, not at all. The grimoire I have says you need an altar, and the four elements. . ." Thoughts rattled through her head. Perhaps the wood plank flooring could represent earth, and surely the open window with the gentle breezing wafting in would symbolize air. But fire? Water?
Stefan laughed. "Don't believe everything you read, Ellie. True magic comes from within, and real power comes when you know who you are. That's the foundation of all magic, and wise men have taught that truth throughout the ages. Know thyself." The warmth of his smile soothed her. "It's only when people doubt themselves that they need rules to follow." He gestured toward the chairs, and for the next hour, he sat beside Ellie and talked to her of wondrous possibilities.
She could learn much from this man – how to cast horoscopes, how to read cards, how to contact other planes of existence – but he could not teach her the one thing she most needed to know.
"Who are you, Ellie Crawford?" he asked.
She would have to learn that on her own, Ellie knew. The question, along with the memory of Stefan’s deep voice, haunted her as she sat before her altar that night. She had opened the windows to let in the sweet, lilac-scented breeze. She drew in a long, deep breath, but nothing could soothe her restless spirit.
All she had done that day, all the changes she had made, all she had learned...none of it meant anything, really. She knew what she wanted, and she knew who she wanted to be, but she couldn't say with certainty who she was at that precise moment.
A lonely young woman pining for lost love?
True, yes, but there must be more to her that this. She could not – would not – define herself through David and all she had lost.
But if she stripped away that love, cast off all the memories of David, what would be left of her? She feared she might find nothing at all.
Ellie sighed and took her place before her altar. The candle's flame glowed in the darkness, casting a circle of light around her. Earlier she'd plucked a bouquet of fresh lilacs, and all was in readiness for the ritual.
As she had done the night before, she wrote David's name upon a fresh sheet of paper. Beneath it, with trembling hand, she wrote her name. Once again, she joined the names with a heart and recited the magical words:
"Our fate is sealed and we are one. My heart has power. It is now done."
As she stared into the burning flame and thought again of David and their love, Ellie’s pulse raced. Her temples throbbed and a heaviness settled upon her chest. She could scarcely draw a breath.
Pain shot through her head when she jumped to her feet and rushed to the balcony. Throwing open the door, she drank in great gulps of air.
The perfect spring night quickly calmed her anxiety, and Ellie stood outside looking up into the dark night skies.
Stars, planets, suns and moons. Other worlds, perhaps. All spinning silently in the heavens, held in place by unseen forces, their movements guided by something indefinable and divine.
For a moment, she felt small and insignificant, one tiny speck of being lost among the vastness of the universe. In the next moment, she felt grand and important as realization came.
I am a part of this. The same invisible forces that hold the heavens in order are coursing through my body and blood.
Stefan had spoken of such power; now, for the first time, Ellie felt it for herself.
She closed her eyes and gave herself up to the night, feeling the wind as it swirled around her.
A sudden burst of light flashed through her consciousness.
Tongues of flame danced across the curtains, leaping from one edge of fabric to another. She’d placed her altar too close to the window. Inviting the night breeze inside had brought disaster.
Panic rose in her throat, shutting off her voice. Her desperate cry for help came out as no more than a feeble whisper.
Flames engulfed the doorway, hissing and crackling like fiery serpents about to strike.
Ellie looked up to the night sky again. Where was that divine connection now?
Her knees buckled. She collapsed in a heap as the fire edged ever closer.