I could feel the smoke warming my lungs and tickling my heart, seducing things from the depths of my soul that had not stirred in the last decade. Magic does that—it whispers promises of ease and power to us, makes us think we can be more than we are.
And on the Solstice, sometimes it speaks the truth. Things shift on a solstice, and it’s only natural that we follow the same pattern.
Even as I followed Danny reluctantly, I could feel the magic changing me. I could feel it lightening my steps, and I thought, against my will, of my mother floating over the earth, literally high on her power. The sticky heat on my skin turned cold, clammy, but the beat of the drums compelled me onward.
Outside the circle, I put my bag down on the grass beside Danny’s. He turned to me, his brown eyes glowing with the heat of the power now coursing through him, and offered me his hand. Behind him, the dancers swirled in a sun-pattern, opening a gateway for the power, even as the drumming grew ever louder. Velvet darkness crept across the sky, and when night fell, the magic would really take over.
Driven by the force of the dance, I put my hand in Danny’s. More heat caught fire, this time our own, and he pulled me into the circle of dancers. My body fell into a rhythm I knew in my bones as my heart started beating to the cadence of the drums. Danny knew the steps; the dance was something greater than us, as much a part of the summer night as the stars above and the fireflies skirting the woods. It made us a part of the night, too, our heat and sweat blending into the moisture of the night.
I noticed the stones only after we had done two circuits of the fire. Round and white, they would be nondescript if they were not so strangely placed, close to the fire as if they had been casually cast aside, but so close to the dancers that I had to wonder.
They said, after my mother died, that she had reached too deeply into the well of magical power that summer night so many years ago. But things reach out as much as we reach in, and small gateways as well as large open on solstice nights. I remembered what Danny said about fairies and wraiths, and I felt a spear of icy fear pierce the warm veil of the summer night.
We whirled past the stones, and I wondered if they had grown from the ground there, or if someone had placed them. They glowed amber in the firelight, pulsing in the flickering light as if they were alive. While the rest of us danced to the drums, the soul of these stones moved to another music, something none of the rest of us could hear.
When I saw a man and a woman step from the darkness between the stones, their eyes feral in the firelight, I stumbled.