It was Samhain and the sky was full of fury. Lightning flashed amidst billows of grey clouds. The moon was full, a circle of cold light held high in the dark heavens. The wind was a wolf’s howl, echoing across the shadow-strewn standing stones.
The elements knew well what day it was and what was expected of them. Like supporting dancers in a ceremony, they fulfilled their roles to perfection.
Yes, the woman thought, standing in the center of the ancient circle. Everything is as it should be. All is as I have foreseen.
She heard their voices whispering to her, growing louder and louder. They were an off-key song, strange and disembodied.
The sidhe. My allies. They wait only for the ordained moment.
The storm reached a climax. Thunder roared. The lightning was bright as the sun, but somehow only made the landscape seem darker.
Then there was a foreign sound, a sound that didn’t belong: horseshoes beating upon the dirt road.
He’s come, she thought. I knew he would. He had to.
He knows what this day is as well as I do. He can deny it all he likes, but he knows the primal power that races through all Britain, spreading like wildfire amidst dry brush. He knows that this day is mine, not his.
They looked so out of place as they rode towards her, the knights on horseback.
They’re creatures of cities and swords, not magic. Almost Roman.
“Sister!” their leader called out to her. “This can stop now! It doesn’t have to go any further!”
She laughed. “Do you really expect me to turn back now, Arthur? Just because you asked nicely?”
“Morgaine,” he said. It was a whisper, but somehow she heard it above the storm.
The word brought in a flash of memories and feeling. Just for a moment, she wondered what would happen if she turned back, if she abandoned her path, if she returned to his side.
Could we be a family? Could we find what we never had? Could we-
“Strength, Morgaine,” the sidhe whispered to her. “Britain will be yours. You will take the crown from your brother, as is your birthright. You will rule over this kingdom and set all to right.”
The thoughts of family and love fled from her, melting like ice in a forge. Her will was iron: unbreakable, unchangeable, unyielding.
“This is Samhain, brother,” Morgaine said. “When the gate between worlds is weak.”
“Morgaine, don’t!” Arthur yelled.
“Too late,” she said.
She spoke the words, the dark and ancient prayer, and ripped the sky like a cheap veil. The sound was deafening, like a thousand lightning storms at once. Thick mist spilled out, leaking like blood from a wound. The stench was of a hundred rotting things: the smell of death and maggots and worms.
“Stand strong!” Arthur shouted to his men. He drew Caliburn from its sheath, holding it high.
He was a torch, burning in the dark. He was a dam, holding back the flood. He was a gatekeeper.
This was his part in the scene, in the play. It was his role, just as Morgaine had hers.
The darkness stormed through the gate, but he was ready for it. With the cross upon his shield and his sword in his hand, he stood against the tide.
This is Samhain, Hallowe’en: the dark before the dawn, when the blackness threatens to overwhelm all.
But it doesn’t. It can’t.
The darkness tries. It always tries. At times, it looks as if it has succeeded.
But the dawn always comes.
This is Hallowe’en: we remember that the night cannot last forever, that evil cannot always hold sway.