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Wesley Lowe

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The Coven Initiates
by Wesley Lowe   

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Books by Wesley Lowe
· The Wiccan Path
· The Royal Quests
· The Griffin's Gauntlet
                >> View all

Category: 

Fantasy

Publisher:  Helm Publishing ISBN-10:  097230116X Type: 
Pages: 

412

Copyright:  Arpil, 2004
Fiction

After the plague of the Demon Wars and the following blight of Bain the Dragon King’s rule, peace has finally come to the land of the Pix and the heroes of the Griffin’s Gauntlet go their separate ways in search of their destinies.

The ancient witch Olden Jade and her young charge, Sharon of the Other World, establish the Blackwoods Coven and spend their days in solemn worship of the Goddess. Justin, the Last Knight of the Citadel, returns home to Kurault and is crowned king for his heroic deeds in the Battle of Bain City. The demon sorceress, Darklin Reed, broods alone among the Rune Mountains and is inspired to start a coven of her own.

But peace is shattered when a diabolical act of regicide occurs and a bloody coup follows. War is declared to avenge this treachery. Then key figures of both common and royal blood are guided by the songs of a mysterious bard who is heard, but never seen. Meanwhile, the Blackwoods Coven is reluctantly drawn into this escalating turmoil of political affairs by a dire prophecy of a massive calamity, one that would dwarf anything that the Pix has ever suffered before.

And only the Blackwoods Coven can stop it.

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Wesley Lowe - Fantasy Novelist

    


Excerpt

A warm breeze heralded the coming of spring as leaves budded on the trees and flowers bloomed about Olden Jade’s abode. When the last of the snow had finally melted away, the Blackwoods Coven celebrated the sabbat of Imbolgc to commemorate the rebirth of nature. Olden Jade wore the crown of lights, a magical wreath of leaves that glowed with faerie magic, which represented the grace of the Goddess and the transition from the chilly months of winter to the warm days of spring. Throughout this ritual, the Blackwoods Coven uttered prayers and wove spells of benign magic to augment the advance of the spring season by drawing upon the sun’s brilliant quintessence.

Three months later came Beltaine, the festival of rebirth that observed the beginning of summer. In celebration, the coven gathered around a maypole with ribbons of red and white secured firmly to its top to represent the male and female halves of the Spirit. Then the witches took turns taking up the ribbons and weaving them around the pole, holding the ribbons first high, then low, the red ribbons moving clockwise and the white ribbons moving counterclockwise. This ritual wove protection and bounty into their lives for the coming months. With the last few feet of the ribbon, they moved clockwise to seal prosperity and growth throughout the next season. Far from being a solemn occasion, the coven relaxed for feasting, laughter, and fun. And Sharon enjoyed dancing around the pole to the lively music of rattles, flutes, and drums.

At summer’s end, they observed the sabbat of Lammas, a harvest holiday that gave thanks to the Spirit for the abundance of the earth. The Blackwoods Coven spent the day harvesting the crops they had grown around Olden Jade’s abode and prepared a feast of celebration. Then they all sat together at a long table beneath the azure sky to enjoy the fruit of their labors. Once again, Sharon attempted to speak with her older wiccan sisters, but as usual, she was dismissed and patronized by the rest of the coven. So Sharon ate her meal quietly amid the boisterous chatter of the witches, feeling excluded once again.

With the arrival of autumn, came the greatest of all wiccan sabbats: Samhain, the most favored holiday of the Wiccan Order. Samhain was the wiccan new year and was the sabbat from which all others flowed. It marked the end of summertime and the beginning of autumn in nature’s endless cycle of change. It was also an eve of celebration in which dearly departed loved ones were remembered, for witches knew that those who died did not cease to exist, but lived on in spirit form; and Samhain was the one time in which the barriers between the realms of the living and the dead were lifted.

After a cool autumn day, eventide began as the sun sank toward the horizon. In the coming twilight, the Blackwoods Coven treaded the forest path in solemn prayer.

Leading the procession was the head of the coven and the most sage of witches, Olden Jade. Behind her was Olden Cane, who had lived in the Pix for over one hundred years and who was once head of her own coven before Bain the Dragon King had conquered the Pix.

Following the Oldens were six Maitrins. The first was Maitrin Graw, a black witch who had fought valiantly against the Thirteen Generations during the Demon Wars. She had then left the Wiccan Order to join Bain, only to abandon him when she discovered his evil nature.

Next in the procession was Maitrin Corn, a survivor of the demon enthralled Garsis. She had endured many excruciating tortures with the rest of her fellow city folk when the Thirteen Generations had flowed from Demon’s Pass and subjugated her city. With a little magic, and a tremendous amount of luck, she had managed to escape, bearing many terrible tales of torture and murder. Indeed, her scars and missing fingers testified to the truth of her words, banishing all doubts of her horrific accounts.

After Corn, were Maitrins Wren, the palm reader, and Almon, the thaumaturgical historian. Both were members of Olden Cane’s coven who had narrowly survived the Burning Times.

Next were the twins Maitrin Shale, and Maitrin Kayle. They had the unique ability to unify similar spells cast by each of them, doubling their power. They also could combine different spells for combination effects that no single witch could produce. This unique ability was not learned, but was developed and honed through many trial and error experimentations that had led to many new and unexpected effects. These twins had joined the Blackwoods Coven so they might improve their exceptional skills in witchcraft under the tutelage of more experienced witches.

Last in the procession was Younglin Sharon, the youngest member of the Blackwoods Coven and very inexperienced, even for one at her level of wisdom. Given her ineptitude and youth, she would have been rejected by the other witches outright if not for Olden Jade’s wholehearted support. As the coven treaded the forest trail, they chanted a prayer in honor of Samhain.

We go now to a sacred place,
And stand within a sacred space
With coven sisters we will sing
As autumn time nature will bring.

We mark the turning of the year.
The door to autumn now is here.
Earth and water, fire and air
We wish departed spirits fare.

This night we are between the worlds
We marvel as this year unfurls.
Earth and water, fire and sky
We pray to the Goddess on high.

At last, they reached a meadow at the edge of the forbidding Blackwoods. At its center sat a small hill, on which stood a black cauldron that contained a prepared concoction of bay, figs, garlic, rosemary, thyme, witch hazel, and many other herbs that provided protection against the evil forces that might encroach on their ritual. The Blackwoods Coven gathered around the hill and set about their duties in preparation of the Samhain ceremony. Once Younglin Sharon, Maitrin Corn, and Maitrin Almon had placed wood and kindling around the cauldron, Maitrin Graw set the wood ablaze with a whispered incantation and a tap of her broom. To have the ability to call up fire was unusual for a witch. Indeed, such a skill was an element of the black arts, and most of the witches found that unsettling for it confirmed that Graw was a black witch and thus different from the rest of the coven.

As the brew within the cauldron warmed, the Blackwoods Coven poured salt around the small hill, forming a sacred circle. Then, they placed four sticks of lighted incense upon the four quarters of the circle of salt, pointing north, east, south, and west while muttering prayers of protection and blessing. When this was done, Olden Jade stood next to the cauldron and rang a cowbell three times. At once, the Blackwoods Coven took their places around the hill within the circle’s perimeter, holding their broomsticks out with their ends pointing toward the cauldron. In response to their concentrated efforts, a sparkling translucent dome magically formed over the sacred circle, covering the witches with its protective influence. Once the sacred circle was complete, Olden Jade led the coven in a prayer to the elemental guardians of the north, south, east, and west.

Magic of Samhain dreams,
Spirits of mystical north,
O’ guardian of earth, heed our prayers
Throughout this rite, come forth.
As the stars crown your brow,
This song of wicca ye hear,
Open the gates that our loved ones may pass
And our words draw them near.

As they prayed, the witches closed their eyes and filled their minds with cherished memories of their deceased relatives. While the others thought of long dead husbands, children, and siblings, Sharon thought of Lazenbee Lite, the jovial minstrel who had guided her through the Blackwoods on her quest for the Griffin’s Gauntlet, only to meet an untimely demise. She recalled the bard’s kindly expression and cheerful manner as the coven continued their Samhain chant.

Magic of Samhain dreams,
Spirits of mystical east,
O’ guardian of air, heed our prayers
At behest of wiccan priest.
As on wings of warding ye soar
This song of wicca ye hear,
Open the gates that our loved ones may pass
And our words draw them near.

Olden Jade held her hands above the cauldron, focusing the magic that the coven wove with their chant into the magical brew. Steam seeped from the cauldron and the concoction glowed an eerie green as the coven continued to sing.

Magic of Samhain dreams,
Spirits of mystical south,
O’ guardian of flame, heed our prayers
And spare us lengths of drouth.
As your touch warms our souls
This song of wicca ye hear,
Open the gates that our loved ones may pass
And our words draw them near.

As the brew bubbled, a pulsing beacon of mystical emerald light emanated from the cauldron, piercing through the top of the amethyst dome and reaching toward the evening sky.

Magic of Samhain dreams,
Spirits of mystical west,
O’ guardian of water, heed our prayers
And deem we sisters blessed.
As your rushing rivers flow
This song of wicca ye hear
Open the gates that our loved ones may pass
And our words draw them near.

The witches repeated their prayer to the spiritual guardians over and over again until the spirits of the Blackwoods heeded their call at last. They appeared at the edge of the accursed forest in the form of numerous white wisps among the gigantic black trees as they gathered closely together in uncertainty. Normally, they would not be able to cross the barrier between the Blackwoods and the land of the living. But tonight was Samhain, and only on this night of all nights did the barrier between the worlds rise so that communion between the living and the dead could take place.

The witches continued their chant as one by one, the spirits left the Blackwoods and approached the magical lucent dome.

Finally, their song completed, the witches bowed their heads in silent individual prayer before lifting their eyes to view the throbbing green beacon. All was quiet, so very quiet. Not even the sound of crickets disturbed the solemnity of the sacred night. Then the coven acknowledged the spectral congregation beyond their sacred circle. If the witches felt uneasy in their presence, they did not show it. Sharon, however, was mystified. When she was told about this part of the Samhain ritual, she had never dreamed that the spirits of loved ones, visible for all to see, would actually come visit them. Sharon had expected such a reunion with the dead to be merely symbolic, even imaginary, but by no means real in the literal sense.

The first to cross the barrier of the amethyst dome was Maitrin Corn. Having experienced the unfathomably sadistic evil of the Thirteen Generations firsthand, her courage had been honed to heights unequaled by anyone else in the coven. It was of no surprise that she would be the first to walk amongst the dead this Samhain Eve.

Maitrin Corn moved through the spectral congregation, examining each spirit closely, before she stopped before a tall specter glowing softly in the night. A glint of recognition glimmered in her eyes, realizing that this was her long dead husband who was killed in the invasion of Garsis by the demon hordes so many years ago.

“Oh, my dearest,” said Maitrin Corn, choking on her words as her eyes brimmed with tears. “I have always known that we would be reunited one day. But I had never dreamed we would meet again in this world, even on this holy night.” “My wife,” the specter replied, “The unholy curse of the Blackwoods has cruelly denied me the peace of Summerland, as it does for all it holds in its thrall. But I am overjoyed to be able to see you again outside of its grasp if only for one evening.”

Then, husband and wife, flesh and specter, living and dead, drew close and held each other in love and reunion. Neither one felt any corporal essence from the other, yet their love had more substance than any physical form.

Then the rest of the Blackwoods Coven passed the dome’s barrier and approached the gathering of spirits, greeting their deceased loved ones in joyful, tearful reunion. The witches met with their dearly departed brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and fathers and mothers. Indeed, on what other night could such an event take place but on Samhain, the holiest of wiccan sabbats?

Sharon walked among the living and the dead as they intermingled, seeking the spirit of Lazenbee Lite. It would be wonderful to see him again and talk to him about all that had happened since they had seen each other last. He could also provide a sympathetic ear, something which Sharon needed right now. Over the months since the Blackwoods Coven was formed, she had been cast aside and estranged, considered secondary by the older women, for in their eyes she was too young for their order. If only she could speak to the kindly minstrel about this, her unhappiness might be alleviated and she could better abide being an outsider within the coven.

But Lazenbee Lite was nowhere to be found. Sharon checked every specter in the gathering, closely examining their faces through the haze of their ghostly light, but she could not find the minstrel anywhere among them. Discouraged, she once again felt abandoned and alone.

Fighting back tears, Sharon left the gathering at a brisk run eastward toward the woods. When she entered the forest, Sharon crouched in front of a tree and wept with unrestrained sobs. In this world, she was an alien, an outcast, a foreigner left here by a freak occurrence of chance. She wanted to go home to New Hampshire. She missed her father, she missed her younger brother Brian, and she missed her school. She even missed Gerald; the elfin voyager who had swept her away and had accidentally stranded her here with no way home. She remembered the pleasant moments they had shared in the New Hampshire woods. Even though they had last parted with hard feelings, she longed to see him again, for there was no one to relieve her concerns, worries, and distress - not even Olden Jade, whose attention was focused less on her young charge and more on her duties as head of the Blackwoods Coven.

As loneliness consumed her, Sharon felt a hand rest upon her shoulder. Sharon gasped, startled as she scrambled away, fearing to see Olden Cane standing above her with scornful eyes, smug in the evidence that she was too young and immature to deal with the discipline of witchcraft and the stressful demands of the coven. But to Sharon’s relief, it was only Olden Jade, her kindly expression regarding Sharon with concern.

“Samhain be a solemn holiday, lass,” the old witch said. “But it hardly be the time fer sadness. Indeed, the reunion between the living an’ the dead should be inspirin’ joy an’ hope, yet, here ye be in tears.”

“I’m sorry,” Sharon said, wiping her tears away. It’s just…well…I’m homesick. I miss my dad and my brother. I even miss Gerald! I was hoping to summon Lazenbee Lite’s spirit. But he hasn’t come, and there’s no one I can talk to.” “There be nothin’ to be apoligizin’ fer, lass,” said the old witch as she sat beside Sharon. “Olden Jade be noticin’ how the rest of the coven be ignorin’ ye an’ treatin’ ye like ye don’t belong. Aye, even Olden Jade hasn’t been givin’ ye the attention ye be needin’. It may not seem so, lass, but Olden Jade knows yer troubles jest the same.”

“Maitrin Corn told me that the other witches wouldn’t accept me because I’m so much younger than they are,” Sharon said as she sniffled and wiped the last of her tears away. “That they would think that I’m not mature enough to start down the wiccan path. Well, she was right! They’re all right about me! Look at me! Crying like a baby!”

“Nay, lass, they be wrong,” said Olden Jade, confidence in her voice. “They be very wrong to be judging’ ye solely by yer age alone an’ not be seein’ the maturity an’ potential that be existin’ within ye. An’ Olden Jade be wrong fer not doin’ somethin’ earlier to be mendin’ the problem.”

“No,” said Sharon. “There was nothing you could have done. Their attitudes are firmly set against me and there is nothing you or anyone else could do to change that.”

“Mebe Olden Jade can, lass. With time an’ patience, ye can be accepted.”

“How’s that?” Sharon asked; her interest piqued.

“A ways from here, far to the north, be a city by the name of Hemmings. Do ye be knowin’ of it, lass?”

Sharon remembered seeing it on a map of the Pix. “Isn’t that near Gibbis?” asked Sharon.

“Aye, lass. An’ in Hemmings there be a school of magic fer young mages in training that teaches wiccan an’ faerie magic. It be an ideal place fer ye, Younglin Sharon. Aye, Maitrin Shale an’ Kayle be students there when they be younger. Fer in Hemmings, mage craft be studied freely without fear of persecution.”

Sharon considered this. She was eighteen now. If she were still living in New Hampshire, she would have finished high school by now and be in her first year of college. It might be a good thing to go away to study. And besides, it was clear that she would never be fully accepted in the Blackwoods Coven without formal instruction in the wiccan arts.

Sharon nodded her head. “All right, I suppose the learning experience would be good for me.”

“Wonderful, lass! Now come,” said Olden Jade as she rose to her feet. “Let us be returnin’ to the gatherin’.”

Sharon’s mind filled with exciting prospects for the future as she and Olden Jade returned to the Samhain celebration beneath the starry sky.



Professional Reviews

The Coven Layers
For all of you out there who love magic and faerie tales, this is the book for you. If you watched or read the book "Lord of the Rings," then you would love this book. It carries you the each character chapter by chapter, getting you more involved as you turn each page. Each character has a chapter dedicated specifically to them and the book goes in chronological order, so there are no weird flash backs or moments that leave you wondering when your actually going to find out what the meaning of a specific outburst was or what reason one character has for disliking another.

There are however some typographical errors and extra words, but those are easily overlooked once your really reading the book. You'll find that while reading the book, you might want to skip ahead to see what favorite characters are doing sometimes just because the characters are so well established that you get connected to a few characters in particular. I can tell you that I loved reading about Sharon, and Olden Jade, and Darklin Reed and Mephene. I found myself a little disappointed with Justin just because i expected better judgement on his part. I absolutely adored the traveling Bard and his songs which leand a great deal of mystery to this book.

For all you women who love books about empowered women, you should really read this one. It combines "Xena," with the magic of "Practical Magic" along with a "Lord of the Rings" feeling. Wesely Lowe is a great writer with an awesome imagination and I can't wait for the next book. Bottom line, "The Coven Initiates" leaves you wanting more.

W. De Leon "Webigail Duck"
Amazon.com
September 17, 2005


A Delightful Book
What a delightful book for those who enjoy the world of fantasy! To quote from the book’s back cover; “The ancient witch Olden Jade and her young charge, Sharon of the Other World, establish the Blackwoods Coven with the intention to spend the rest of their days in solemn worship of the Goddess. . . but peace is shattered when a diabolical act of regicide occurs and a bloody coup follows. War is declared to avenge this treachery. . .”

Mr. Lowe does a great job of developing his characters and fitting them into the plot of the story. Sharon, the human initiate, had been mysteriously pulled into this world from her home in New Jersey and is making the best of her situation. The characters of fantasy throughout the book are well imagined and given distinct personalities for their function in the story.

The only negative aspect is this book comes to and end with so many loose ends left undone that it leaves the reader literally hanging, hopefully, until the next book comes off the press. Mr. Lowe probably should have brought the story more to a close while leaving a few small openings for the continuation. However, again, I would recommend this book to anyone with a flair for the fantasy!

Jack P. Wise B.S., M.S.
Denise's Pieces
MidWest Book Review
June, 2004



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Books by
Wesley Lowe



The Royal Quests

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The Coven Initiates

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The Griffin's Gauntlet

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