Still grieving from the loss of her father, Dharma takes a job in a neighboring state with the hopes that the change in location will help her get on with her life and maybe find her faith again. She arrives to find the job gone and with it her hopes. She goes to a ritual on the Autumn Equinox, a time for thankfulness, and when a handsome man asks her what she’s thankful for, she finds she cannot answer.
Acting as a High Priest in the ritual changes Sid’s life. He’s making plans to move out of state and form a new Wiccan Coven, except he’s missing the other half of his circle–a high priestess. When he sees Dharma he knows there’s a spiritual soul hidden inside her grief, and he longs to bring her out.
But when Sid can’t wait any longer and has to move in order to keep his job opportunity, will Dharma go with him? Can Sid show Dharma that the Goddess hasn’t forsaken her, and that there’s a wider circle for them to explore?
The pungent aroma of burning sage and cedar poured through Sid’s nostrils and into his lungs like water over the Gersoppa Falls in India. Like when he visited his ancestors’ native India, his vision quest here would be spent searching. For what, he didn’t know. Of course, his ancestors had been Hindu, not Wiccan, and his beliefs were more those of his foster parents than from his heritage. He figured he’d find answers of some sort, or perhaps more accurately, they would find him. And then, perhaps, he could put the disparate pieces of his puzzled life together.
Sid breathed the smudge deeper into his chest. Sweat slid over his naked body, trickled down his back, between his buttocks. He heard everything. The wind whispered through the trees. Insects droned. Yet, he heard nothing. Sound dissipated until he existed in the enclosed womb of the lodge, apart from the world. His senses narrowed down to the simplest of things, the breath in his lungs, the heat radiating from the hot stones in the center of the lodge. And then, he simply was.
His friend, Lars, began to chant, the words old and full of power. Water sizzled over rock and sent another plume of heat through the sweat lodge. Sid’s chin dipped toward his chest. He let it, feeling his breath deepen in his lungs. Lars’ chanting drifted away, and then, he saw her.
Shoulders hunched, she sobbed by the side of the road. The setting sun cast burnished gold highlights on her strawberry blonde hair. Several strands had come undone from the clasp at the base of her neck. Wrapping her fingers around a cheap wooden stake adorned with silk flowers, he discerned only a single word: Dad.
Air whooshed from his lungs. She looked frail, as if the slightest wind would blow her over. A semi rushed down the road. Sid reached out, wanting to push her away. She didn’t even look up as the vehicle raced by, pelting her with tiny bits of gravel. For a moment her face turned, and he saw the tears running down her cheeks. Reddened eyes and cheeks didn’t detract from her classic beauty. Her eyes, a mixture of brown and green like Mother Earth herself, stared unblinking at him. She pressed her lips together in a thin line, shivered in the light jacket and cotton turtleneck she wore, and dipped her head.
Rising to her feet, she shuffled back to an old blue compact car parked on the shoulder. She got in, clenched the wheel, hunching over it. She took deep breaths and fingered the goddess symbol hanging from the rearview mirror. Snarling, she yanked on the leather thong. It broke. With a primal scream, she hurled it out the window. The ornament glinted against a pile of tall grasses, and then the woman threw the car in gear and sped away.
Sid jerked as if shot. The vision ended. Who was she? Her pain, her anger at the world, called out to him. She blamed the goddess, though she shouldn’t. Intellectually, he knew that the universe held plans that only our higher selves knew. It wasn’t the goddess’ fault her father had died, no matter how easy it might be to blame divinity. After all, they were deities and not subject to the mortal realms.
He drew a ragged breath into his lungs. Fists clenched, he struggled to relax. The need to reach out and comfort her with words and touch had him hoping, praying, that he’d get another glimpse of her. Who was she? And how could he help her?
He wordlessly beseeched the universe to show him the way. If she were a member of his coven, he’d know how to help her, for he’d know her. This woman was a stranger to him, one he wanted to find.
Just as quickly as the first vision faded, then a second one arrived. The mysterious woman stood next to him wearing a white robe tied at the waist with a belt made of braided silver, black, and white cords. A slim silver band sat like a coronet on her head, a sideways crescent moon with the points toward the sky sitting in the middle of her forehead. Two large lapis lazuli stones framed it, one on either side. It was a high priestess’ crown and it looked good on her.
She lifted her hands, a silver chalice suspended between them toward the sky. Feet shoulder- width apart, shoulders back, head held high, she looked different than the sorrowful woman of his earlier vision. Her unbound reddish blonde hair ran in waves down her back. With her lashes fanned against her cheeks, her crimson lips parted, she looked like he’d always imagined the goddess would look.
And he stood by her side. His black robe, belted with the same cords that marked him as a High Priest, made him look like a dark god next to her brilliant goddess. He held his ritual blade between his hands. Lips moving, he spoke an incantation to the goddess. Then raising the blade above his head, he plunged it into the cup. The Great Rite. Were they alone and skyclad, it could have been completed for real with him entering her body in a quick, smooth thrust.
Power shivered through his veins. The vision faded. Mentally he clutched at it, not wanting to let it go. As soon as it left another one took his place. The two of them standing in a park, laughing, a slim silver band glinting on his left hand, a small garnet ring on hers. Wedding rings, he wondered, though he never imagined himself getting married. At least not to anyone he knew right now. But then again, he didn’t know her.
The vision faded away with a finality that left him determined to find her. Lars had convinced him that as the second eldest priest in the coven, he needed to come on this retreat. Some time in the sweat lodge would do him some good, Lars had said. Until now, Sid hadn’t bothered to argue. Now that he’d seen her, he knew Lars had spoken the truth.
Whoever this woman was, she held an important place in his future. He just had to find out who she was.