Autumn Ascending

“Cast the spell, child,” Councilwoman Dred ordered, voice as crisp as the fall wind.

Autumn Fade looked between the branches of the stone tree to the indigo robed woman striding forward, braided blonde hair unmoving at her waist. “The night is wearing thin, grow the seeds.”

Autumn pondered the merit of turning her into a pumpkin instead. Winter, her white-haired witch brother, stepped up beside her. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t like her.”

He ruffled her auburn curls. “No one does. The sooner you do the ceremony, the sooner she disappears.”

Frowning, Autumn gazed around the forest’s glade. The leaves had already colored beautifully for the season. Tonight she turned eighteen, and as a grown witch, must perform the ritual to receive her portion of the family magic. As a Hallows Birth, born on Halloween, this ceremony was special. Hence, the Councilwoman orchestrating everything, including the ritual site.

Autumn focused on the stone tree commanding the glade’s center. She felt the statue’s spiritual energy. It made her uneasy, but then again the Councilwoman said it held strong ties to the other worlds.

What was wrong? She could write and cast spells, and mix potions. That should be enough for her. But it wasn’t. Win, the poet, mastered spells. Her mother, the chef, perfected potions. Autumn’s forte? Neither of those. There wasn’t much left for a witch. Unless…the ritual revealed spiritual abilities. Her mother specialized in healing, giving back life, and Winter could see and aid the dead. Would she have abilities, too? Not all witches received them, but it was her only hope. Nervousness roiled inside.

She took a deep breath and looked at her family. Win and her mother, Lorelai, clad in lavender skirts and an emerald blouse, stood behind Autumn.

Lorelai smiled. “Blessed be, my child.”

Autumn turned back to the stone. Here goes nothing. A foot from the branches, Autumn chanted the practiced spell, “Earth’s children hear my call, take this nurture from the fall.” The wind bristled her long skirt and hair. Autumn looked at the now-full-size pumpkins sitting at even intervals around her and the stone.

She pictured the five elements as she traced the pentagram, repeatedly whispering, “Elemental essence show your presence.” Spirit at the top, behind the statue, fire at bottom right, air upper left, water upper right, and earth at bottom left. A light emanated from inside the pumpkins, colored for each infused element. Once they faded, the elemental symbols decorated the hollow pumpkins’ fronts.

At the star’s base Winter and Lorelai clasped hands. “Family dearest we give to thee our magic so yours can be set free.”

Their collective powers shot forward, lighting the jack-o-lanterns, their portions of the family magic mixing with hers. Excited, Autumn closed her eyes and paused to recall the memorized words from the Councilwoman.

“Magic combined to overcome the block set to confine the one. Mix our powers three, open the door for me. Bring forth what has been locked away, to set free on this hallowed day.”

The elements swirled together with the Fade family magic. Warmth, coolness, soothing caresses, earthy scents, and the spirit’s strength flowed through Autumn. This was it!

Then, the heat became too intense. The wind whipped at her hair and body as fire burned, oddly concentrated against the front of her.

Autumn opened her eyes. The wind raged, leaves and dirt blinding her. She turned, looking for Councilwoman Dred, and found her opposite Autumn’s family, hands upstretched to the statue.

No longer grey, the stone tree glowed red and abnormally hot—the heat’s source. Autumn tried to step away but was confined to the pentagram’s center.

Why was the councilwoman standing there? She should be with Autumn’s family to make the pumpkins a star. At the point, it was upside down making the demonic sign, not the five elements it should be.

“What’s going on?” Autumn cried at Dred.

“Halloween, the night of the dead, when worlds are closer,” Dred shouted into the wind. “A strong magical influx can widen the thin barrier. Your family’s combined magic, and a Hallowed Birth’s no less! You are the key to death’s door.”

“You’re calling forth the dead?”

“Not just the dead, but all the banished creatures. The ones witches fear.”

Lorelai gasped, and Autumn turned to her. “What is she bringing?”

“Demons.”

Dred cackled, “Far worse.”

“Demons are uncontrollable, Dred,” Lorelai yelled.

“One controls them.” Dred outstretched her arms, as if to embrace the stone’s scarlet haze.

The red glow dulled, withdrawing to the stone tree’s shape. The branches collided into two separate limbs. The trunk parted at the roots, a crack slitting up the middle. From the top, the small boughs retracted, resting where the two limbs met the trunk. The light faded until a body emerged, a tall man with jet black hair.

Inches from Autumn, Hades straightened. Eyes of pure fire glared, all of hell in their limitless depth. “Witch.” Hatred seemed to fuel the word, rather than a voice. “Who rose me?”

Dred readily answered, “The time of humans is over. They’ve controlled the world too long. Magic and mayhem will reign. You are the one, the only, to bring the revolution.”

“True,” he mused, then pointed at the councilwoman. She exploded in a harsh flash of crimson, coloring the ground she’d stood upon. “Rise!” he bellowed, commanding every space of the forest.

Dull red spirits appeared. Demons filling the glade in a cruel glow. Pale figures, ghostly shapes blurred the air.

Panic instantly set in. Okay, Autumn. I just have to defeat the god of the underworld, creator of all things demonic. On my birthday. Alone.

“Stay calm!” Lorelai called.

Not alone, Autumn reminded herself. She glanced at her family, unprotected. They’d given her their magic. So she’d return it. “Magic return to thee, make us one family,” Autumn chanted, and light spread between the three Fades.

“Don’t close the ritual!” Winter said. “You’re safe inside.”

Hades had moved outside the pentagram and paced the glade, relishing in his demonic warriors, and paying the witches no attention.

Autumn’s gaze flitted between hazy demons, and the white shapes of departed spirits. “What can we do?”

Winter frowned at the dead materializing and torn from rest. “Talk to them?”

“What? I’m not talking to demons!” Autumn watched one materialize right beside Winter, who didn’t bat an eye.

“No, the dead. Witches can’t see demons.”

Autumn wasn’t a normal witch, though. A Hallowed Birth had a stronger connection to the dead. A witch even more so. The demonic spirit bent to Winter, and Autumn shouted, “No!”

It stopped, pale face turned upwards, staring at her.

It listened to me! She’d been given a spiritual ability.

Hades’ strength was the dead and demonic. But now he wasn’t the only one to control them.

Autumn called, “Mom! Our abilities work together.” The Fades nodded, understanding, and converged to the pentagram.

“Hey, evil eyes!” Autumn yelled.

Hades turned, black hair slinging against his broad shoulders.

“What’s so great about demons? They must be as ugly as you or else why never be seen?” she taunted. Her stomach flipped as his hellish gaze narrowed, and she swore flames leapt within.

“You insolent little witch.” He stalked forward as he spoke. “Demons are fear embodied. They overrule any creature. No powers can fight them.”

Autumn eyed the red and white glows following their commander. He stopped before the pentagram. Inside it, she felt their magic swirling, contained within the star.

“You’re lucky you control them. Otherwise they’d destroy you, too.”

Hades laughed, the soundwave crushing Autumn to her knees. “Nothing can destroy me. I was only ever locked away.”

“I hope you liked it down there.” Autumn raised her hands to the thousands of demons, Winter to the ghosts, whom all faced them. “Because you’re going home.”

Red haze descended on Hades, demons advancing. He laughed again. “Foolish witches.”

“I’m a Hallows Birth. And our powers complete the spiritual circle.”

“The cycle of spirit never ends,” the Fades chanted. “Life—Death—and Demons. Combined as three we banish thee.”

Those red hatred pits widened as Autumn, Winter, and Lorelai pointed at Hades, and the demons and dead blurred together in one mass. They collided and pushed against him, sending Hades soaring towards the pentagram. Again and again spirits crashed into his form until he stood where he’d first appeared, directly in front of Autumn.

He sneered, and roared in defiance. Then the spirits converged into his body, creating a blinding red light. His roar ended abruptly, as did the light, and all that remained was a small stone sapling.

The pumpkins melded into the earth and the elements halted, returning to the normal fall night, the ritual over. The Fades embraced one another. Praise, love, and awe flowed between the three, words jumbled in relief.

The healer, the ghost whisperer, and the demon tamer. She’d found her magical forte.

Autumn laughed. “Have to say, best birthday present ever!”