Murder at Solstice

                                        By Sarah Harrison
Elizabeth frowned at the computer screen.  The email from Graywolf was
rambling as usual.  So the summer solstice is going to be held at the Roaring
Waters Campground this year.  "Pretty place, good positive energy there."
She thought.   Solstice, also first day of summer, is the time of the longest day
and shortest night.  A time to rejoice in nature's bounty.  It's a celebration
time for pagans and this gathering was for all the local Wiccans or Witches.  
Elizabeth sighed.  As a newly initiated Wiccan Priestess, Graywolf wanted her
to cast the circle.  The protective circle of energy that was cast before every
Wiccan ritual.  "I guess I need the practice, but I hate doing things in front of
a large crowd," she said out loud to her kitten, Salem.  Salem rolled on his
back and yawned.  "I guess I'd better take my robes to the dry cleaner and Oh,
I need to call White Crow and see what she's bringing food wise.  I think I'll
just get some potato salad from the deli."  Salem winked and purred his

Elizabeth called her friend White Crow, otherwise known as Mary Thomas to
the mundane world.  Taking magical names is a very common practice in
Pagan spirituality.  Animal names are common and so are historical names
such as Merlin and Morgana.  She was hoping that Mary could help calm her

"Hi White Crow, it's Owl.  Did you hear that Solstice is at Roaring Waters
Campground?  I'm supposed to cast circle at the opening ceremony and
frankly I've got a bad case of stage fright." Elizabeth said.

"Oh you'll do fine, I've seen you do rituals and you do them great.  You have
alot of power,  you'll cast a terrific circle!  Guess who is going to be there.  
Dragonseer!  He sent me an email and wants to get together.  He's been so
busy that I haven't seen him in more than a month."  Mary breathlessly said.

Elizabeth groaned inwardly at the thought of HIM watching her, a new
priestess, casting circle. She could imagine the smirk.  Dragonseer had a
very high opinion of himself.  His ego was the size of Texas and what he
wanted, he got, or else.  He wouldn't take no for an answer and had been
known to spread vile lies about any woman who rejected his sexual
advances.  White Crow  was crazy about him but Elizabeth couldn't imagine

"That's great White Crow, I hope you have fun." Elizabeth lied.  "I'll pick you
up on Saturday."

Mary seemed unusually quiet when Elizabeth picked her up for the gathering.
 "Everything Ok White Crow?" She asked.  "Yeah, I'm fine,  just feeling a little
tired is all, it's been a crazy week."  Elizabeth centered her thoughts on the
upcoming ritual,  not really noticing how glum her friend looked.

After arriving at the gathering, Elizabeth dropped Mary off to set up the tent
and deliver the food to the kitchen witch, the woman who was overseeing the
food preparation for the event.  Elizabeth wanted to visit the ritual area,
meditate and mentally prepare herself for the nights ritual.                                  

She was watching Graywolf and Raven start the bonfire when she heard a
voice behind her  "Hello Owl, I hear that you're casting circle for tonights
opening ceremonies.  I hope you realize what an honor it is for a novice to be
doing that." Dragonseer said with his characteristic smirk.  Elizabeth gave
him a withering look and turned back to the bonfire.  "I've been studying for
four years, that hardly makes me a novice!"  She said, instantly wishing that
she hadn't risen to his bait.  "Ho, Ho, I guess you'll be teaching us High
Priests a thing or two with all your years of learning,"  snickered Dragonseer
as he walked over to tell Graywolf and Raven everything they were doing
wrong building the bonfire.  Elizabeth glared, she really hated that arrogant
son-of-a-bitch.  Then she caught herself and remembered the Three Fold
Law.  The Three Fold Law in Wicca states that any evil you do against another
brings evil back on you three fold, that includes evil thoughts.  "Well, that
man would try the patience of the Dali Lama."  She thought.

It was nightfall, time to start the ritual.  Elizabeth nervously removed the ritual
dagger or athame from the sheath at her belt.  She held the athame up and
started casting the circle.

"I cast the circle around about,
No evil shall enter our sacred space,
By the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water,
As above, so below,
So mote it be!"

She stepped back, relieved that it had gone so smoothly.  Graywolf and
Singing Wren, a High Priestess, stepped up to the altar to start the blessing
of the water and salt.  As Graywolf held up his athame with the ornate wolf
head handle, Elizabeth relaxed and looked around.  It was a warm summer
night, she could see the outlines of the mountains as the last rays of the
setting sun disappeared behind them.  The crickets and tree frogs were
starting their night chorus.  It was a beautiful night for solstice and nothing
could ruin it.

The ritual was drawing to a close.  Elizabeth's stomach started growling and
she was looking forward to the feast.  The drummers started beating out a
rhythm and people were dancing.  Elizabeth saw  White Crow in the crowd,
she instantly felt guilty for ignoring her friend all evening.  Suddenly, a shriek
pierced the air, a man wearing a stags head headdress had leaped into the
circle.  The man was stark naked and it was Dragonseer.  Now, nudity is quite
common with Pagans and very few are offended by it.  Some covens preform
rituals skyclad or nude.  However, this display was disgusting.  Dragonseer
was doing nothing more than showing off his "assets" to everyone present.  
As Dragonseer leaped and danced around the circle, Elizabeth looked over at
Graywolf.  The muscles in his jaw were tight and the look in his eyes showed
his irritation.  Graywolf called an end to the drumming and started the closing
ritual.  Elizabeth stepped forward to open the circle.  The Solstice ritual was

Elizabeth was talking to Raven at the picnic area, trying to decide whether to
have the Veggie burger or go for the cow burger.  A horrible, soul piercing
scream shattered the night.  She was stunned for a moment, then recovering
her senses, Elizabeth ran toward the sound with everyone else in camp.  As
she rounded a group of trees, she saw Singing Wren.  Her eyes  focused on
the body lying on the ground at Singing Wren's feet.  It was a nude man
wearing a stag headdress.  Sticking out of Dragonseer's chest was an ornate
wolf's head handle.   

"Aunty-what?" Asked Lieutenant Gibbons.

"Aunty-may." replied Sargent Feldman.  "It is some sort of dagger that they
use in their rituals.  They probably use it to sacrifice animals when it's not
sticking out of some guy's chest."

"Actually, it's pronounced ah-thaw-may.  It is used for ceremonial purposes
only.  Many are not even sharp.  By the way, Wiccans do not sacrifice animals.
 Having an athame touch meat or blood would be a desecration."

Lieutenant Gibbons turned around and studied the young woman in front of
him.  She was wearing a black robe with a large pentagram hanging around
her neck.  His eyes took in her deep green eyes and long auburn hair.  "So
you're a self-proclaimed witch." he said with a smile.

Elizabeth smiled back.  "You know lieutenant, I have never liked the term
self-proclaimed witch.  You don't call yourself a self-proclaimed Christian, in
fact, I have never heard Richard Gere called a self-proclaimed Buddhist."

"Touche".  Please call me Steve." he said intrigued.  "After you tell me your
name, maybe you can tell me what happened here tonight.  And where you
were when the naked man wearing deer antlers was stabbed with the

"Well Steve, what do you make of these characters?  Any theories on the
murder of the guy with the ten point rack on his head?" asked Sargent

"What we do know is the wolf head dagger, excuse me, anthame, belongs to a
gentleman named Graywolf, AKA Harold Richards.  The woman standing over
the body is called Singing Wren, or Jessica Edwards.  The woman I was
speaking with earlier is named Owl or Elizabeth.  Jeez, all these different
names are giving me a headache."

"Yeah that lady witch was a real looker, did she invite you back to see her
cauldron?" Sargent Feldman smirked.

"Down boy, we have a vicious murder here to concentrate on.  Denigrating
their religious beliefs is not going to make our job easy.  If they clam up, we'll
get nowhere.  We have at least 50 suspects at this point."

"What about the owner of the murder weapon?  It was last seen in this guy's

"He states that he placed the anthame in his tent and went straight to the
picnic area.  We have dozens of witnesses that say he was eating a burger at
the time of the murder.  Singing Wren states she heard a thud, walked around
the trees, and found Seeingdragons or Dragonseeker .......Oh Heck!  Found
the victim already dead.  I have two witnesses who can confirm her story.  
They were helping her pack up the altar. Nobody saw  who removed the
anthame from Richards' tent.  As I said, we have at least 50 suspects," sighed
Lieutenant Gibbons.

Elizabeth threw her tent and other belongings in the trunk of her car.  No way
was she going to stay here one more minute!  "Oh shit, White Crow!  How
could I have forgotten her?  She must be hysterical."  Elizabeth went in
search of her friend and found her at the dying bonfire, staring into the

"White Crow, it's me Owl, are you alright?  Why don't you let me take you
home?  If you have given the police your statement, you don't need to stay
here any longer.  Let me help you to the car."  White Crow slowly turned to
look at Elizabeth with a blank, emotionless expression on her face and then
returned to staring at the embers.  "Oh dear Goddess, she's in shock,"
thought Elizabeth.  "Come with me White Crow, let's go to the car now.  We
need to go home."

Lieutenant Gibbons watched Elizabeth half carry, half drag the young witch to
her car.  "That young woman seems to be the only one showing signs of grief
over the victim's death.  The victim certainly wasn't very popular with his
fellow witches.  Maybe in a couple of days she can answer some questions
about who may have hated this guy enough to kill him," he thought.

As Elizabeth was pushing Mary into her car, she felt the hairs on the back of
her neck stand up.  She turned to look at the ridge top.  Silhouetted against
the moon was the figure of a man wearing antlers on top of his head.  She
shook her head and looked again.  The figure was gone.  Elizabeth slammed
the car door and ran for the driver's side.

"OK Mr. Wolf, or would you prefer I call you Gray," said Sargent Feldman with
a less than friendly smile.  "Maybe you can shed some light on why your
dagger ended up in John Brightman's chest, that's Dragon what's his name, in
case you didn't know."

"You can call me anything you want, but enough with the snide attitude about
my spiritual beliefs.  To answer your question, I don't know  who stabbed
John, but I know I didn't.  I had no great love for the man, but I wouldn't kill

At that moment, Lieutenant Gibbons stuck his head in the door, "Can I have a
word with you David?"  As Sargent Feldman closed the door to the
interrogation room, Lieutenant Gibbons said, "This line of questioning is
getting us no place.  If he knows anything, he's not saying.  We have plenty of
people who didn't like the guy, but no evidence and no clear cut motive.  
There were no usable prints on the knife handle.  Cut the guy loose, I'm going
try another tack.  I'm going to have a informal meeting with that young woman,
Elizabeth.  She was cooperative and seemed to have a good head on her

"By informal, I gather that you are going to ask her out to dinner.  Better be
careful, she might put a hex on you," laughed Sargent Feldman.

"That's enough David, I thought you would be more open minded.  You are,
after all, Jewish, and don't you have a sister that's gay?  Well, anyway I hope
she likes steak."

"Hey, I'm open minded to a point, but this witchcraft thing is really creepy!  By
the way, there are more restaurants in town besides steak houses.  Be more
open minded," chuckled Sargent Feldman as he walked back into the
interrogation room.

Elizabeth sat on her front porch drinking a glass of wine, thinking over the
events of the past couple days.  White Crow was still not saying much or
showing any emotion.  "That's not healthy," thought Elizabeth, "she needs a
good cry so she can start to heal."

She was startled from her thoughts by the ringing of the phone.  "Hello Ms.
Collins, this is Steve Gibbons.  We met at the campground.  I was hoping to
ask you some more questions.  How about meeting over dinner?  I've been
told by a semi-reliable source that The Lighthouse Grill has excellent
seafood.  Or we can try something else if you don't like seafood it's, Uh...,
your choice."  "Oh great," he thought,  "I sound like a high school kid asking
a girl to the prom."

" The Lighthouse Grill sounds just fine, and please call me Elizabeth.  How
about tomorrow at seven."  

"I'm sorry that I could not be more help, Steve.  Dragonseer, excuse me,
John,  was arrogant and he had no problem hurting people.  Not many people
liked him, myself included.  But murder!  I have not heard any gossip in the
community about anything despicable he may have done to warrant revenge
like this.  And believe me, Pagans are a gossiping bunch.  There are rivalries
between covens that can lead to bad blood.  Bad blood can lead to petty,
immature behavior.  The three fold law is often forgotten when the feathers
are flying."  Elizabeth said frankly.

Steve stared into his coffee and frowned.  "Could this bad blood between
some covens have reached the point of murder?  This Dragonseer sounds
like someone who could stir up alot of hard feelings.  I know guys like him,
they start trouble between people and then sit back to enjoy the havoc
they've created."

"That's Dragonseer all over.  But he wasn't in a coven.  He was a solitary.  
That's someone who practices his craft alone.  If he had been in a coven, he
probably would have been dead alot sooner.  Oh, I shouldn't say things like
that!" Elizabeth said, ashamed at her gallows humor.

Steve chuckled,  "Don't worry about it.  The more I hear about this guy, the
more I'm surprised that he wasn't murdered before now.  I know that wasn't
nice to say either, but I have dozens of suspects but no one that I can narrow
it down to.  I know he was a "love 'em and dump 'em" type of guy.  Can you tell
me about some of the women he may have hurt recently?"

Elizabeth felt a momentary panic.  "The ones I know about have husbands or
boyfriends now.  I don't know anyone recent."  She felt throughly ashamed of
herself for lying.  She really liked this guy and was having thoughts about
what he looked like naked.  She shoved those erotic thoughts from her mind.  
"White Crow was too fragile to be questioned right now, especially if they
consider her a suspect."  She justified to herself.

" Well, I know a little pub not far from here that has excellent ale, brewed on
the premises.  Maybe, you can give me a crash course in Wicca over a couple
of drinks.  It would be helpful with the rest of my investigation.  I honestly
want to learn more." Steve said with a smile.

Elizabeth thought about her evening with Steve as she drove to White Crow's
house.  "Now he has real potential, a really nice guy.  And not hard on the
eyes either.  I bet he's a good kisser among other things." she chuckled to
herself.  She hoped he was serious when he said he would call her over the

Elizabeth found her friend sitting at the kitchen table eating saltine crackers
and drinking a cup of tea.  "Hello White Crow, you look tired, are you having
trouble sleeping?"

"Just a little, I'll be fine.  I  just need to meditate and center myself.  It's been
a horrible week.  I see that you brought me some of your wonderful home
made chicken soup.  That's exactly what I need, many thanks!"

Elizabeth was pleased to see her friend in better spirits.  It was a good sign.  
"I need to use the bathroom, I'll be right back.  You start eating some soup
right now,  I won't take no for an answer,"  she said with mock sternness.

As she entered the bathroom, her eyes fell on the bottle of Prenatal vitamins
on the counter.  Everything clicked into place.  "Oh my Goddess, Mary's
pregnant and the father.........?"  The realization of a now double tragedy made
Elizabeth's head spin.  It was more than she could bear.  "Why didn't she tell

Elizabeth walked numbly into the kitchen.  "Mary, I don't want to pry, but I saw
the vitamins on the counter.  You're pregnant aren't you?"

Mary looked up from her soup and said, "yes I am, but I didn't tell anyone yet
because I might have miscarried.  The doctor said everything is fine.  I may be
out of the woods."

Elizabeth felt awkward.  "Uh....., did the father know?"

Mary looked straight at Elizabeth, "The father was never in the picture, he
didn't want to be in the picture!  He laughed at me and ordered me to get an
abortion!  He said if I didn't, he would slip some Pennyroyal into my tea or my
food and make me miscarry!  It doesn't matter now, my baby is safe."  she
spat, eyes flashing and an expression that chilled Elizabeth to the bone.

Elizabeth's head swam.  "Pennyroyal!"  An herb that can induce miscarriages,
used in the old times as an abortifacient.

That night Elizabeth dreamed she saw a picture of Dragonseer, the one from
the newspaper.  The picture slowly filled with blood until Dragonseer could
no longer be seen.  She saw  Mary using a wolf head anthame to cut the
picture from the paper. "He's no longer in the picture." she said, her face
devoid of any emotion.

Elizabeth awoke drenched in sweat.  She started crying.  She could no longer
deny the truth, her dear friend, Mary, had killed Dragonseer.

Elizabeth stared at the phone.  She knew she had to call Steve and tell him
the truth.  Her best friend was a murderess.  She started thinking about what
Mary had told her.  Dragonseer had laughed at Mary and cold heartedly
ordered her to get an abortion.  He might have even denied the child was his.
 "Wait a minute, she said she hadn't told anybody because of a danger of
miscarriage.  Had Dragonseer carried out his threat of slipping her the herb,
Pennyroyal?" thought Elizabeth, feeling sick to her stomach.  "Was she acting
in defense of her child?  That still doesn't  justify......."  Elizabeth put her head
in her hands, she felt nothing but confusion.

Elizabeth meditated and asked her spirit guide, the owl, for help.  She opened
her eyes.  There were no easy answers.  "I do know one thing, this child is an
innocent victim of this horror.  This child will not be born in a prison hospital!  
He or she will be brought into this world joyfully and surrounded by positive
energy."  she said fiercely.  After the birth, she will tell Steve the truth.  "I will
find Mary the best lawyer. With all the facts known, maybe she won't get a
long prison sentence."  Elizabeth's mind was made up.

"I just hope that Steve finds it in his heart to forgive me when the truth
comes out."  Elizabeth sighed.