We had been dismissed from the kitchen at nine pm that evening. We were both exhausted, and I was looking forward to a bath before bed. Abigale laughed at my naivety.
“We get to bath on Sunday morning before we are allowed out to the village. We share a bath, you know? There is a big iron tub that gets filled up, and we use it in order of seniority. I was the most junior, before you came along.” She giggled in that disarming manner of hers. “Now, you will be. So, you will get to use all of the water that we have all been washing in. It is a bit dirty you know, but you will get used to it!”
We made do using the porcelain bowl that Abigale kept under her bed. The water was icy, but at least we could get into bed having washed our face, hands and feet, and freshened up wherever else we saw fit.
I lay sleepless in bed that night, trying to make sense of the impossible. The night was cool, and it was a relief to have Abigale cuddled up against my back in the bed we now shared. She had an arm flung over me, and her hand cupped my breast. Every now and then, her fingers would involuntarily search for a better grip, but she must have been as exhausted as I felt, because she fell into a deep slumber the moment we got into bed.
It was pitch black when I heard the door open.
A young voice whispered out urgently: “Sandrine, Sandrine! Lady Sirena has summoned you; she wants you in her chambers immediately!”
I slipped out of bed and pulled on my chemise and just a few seconds later, I was following the chamber maid back to the main house, and up the back, servants’ stairs to the second level where Lady Sirena had her chambers.
She hustled me through an antechamber into a small, but luxurious bathroom. Large ornate marble floor tiles, delicate cashmere grey painted walls. A white tub with ornate sliver clawed feet stood against a wall, blowing off a steam of sensual aromas: sandalwood and vanilla, rose and bergamot. Two red candles flickered on a marble shelf, a stick of smoldering lavender incense adding to the heady mix.
“Purify yourself, Miss Sandrine, the white robe is for you to wear afterwards. But please make haste, Lady Sirena is waiting in her chambers for you.”
I was stunned by her deferential tone, but hastily slipped off my chemise and stepped into the bath. It was heaven, a world removed from the slum of the servant’s quarters from which I had just been led.
I bathed under the chamber maid’s watchful eye, and as I stepped out of the tub, she wrapped me in the largest, fluffiest white towel I have ever come across. She would not let me dry myself; that was her responsibility. She was hurried yet thorough, firm yet gentle. She combed my hair back and tied it at my neck with a white ribbon.
Satisfied that I was clean and dry, she opened a white, silk robe and helped me into it, before tying it in front with a bow.
“Come Miss Sandrine, let us go and present you to Lady Sirena.” She took my hand and led me back through the antechamber, and through to Lady Sirena’s chambers.
Lady Sirena’s Chambers
As the chamber maid pushed open the heavy door, the first strains of the music reached my ears; it was bewitching and haunting, an underworld melody that was so pure that it made me hold my breath in order that I did not miss a note of the magic.
The room was large, and tiled in the same marble that clad all of the upstairs floors. At the center, was a large pentacle, the star colored a blood red, the circle enclosing it was a midnight black.
Outside of the circle, at the top end, was an altar of oak, its surface covered with a red velvet cloth, I could make out the shape of a pentacle carved out in relief on its front. On it were an assorted collection of artifacts laid; I was sure they were laid out in some scheme, but I could not immediately determine what that was. I saw a red and a green candle, a chalice, a knife and a vase with herbs. There was a short rod, (perhaps a wand?), and an incense holder with a glowing stick of incense that was filling the room with a sensual vanilla scent. An assortment of stones and crystals and other articles lay on its surface.
Four ornate candelabras that were placed at the center along each of the walls offered a flickering, subdued light.
Lady Sirena was sitting on an ornate wooden throne against the wall, looking out across the circle towards the altar. She was wearing a bright red cloak whose hood had fallen back across her shoulders. She at once reminded me of the mermaid, the motif on all of her jewelry. Her posture reminded me of royalty; her back was straight, her knees and ankles held tightly together and her legs were slanted to the side. Her elbows were up, and the flute was held gently to her lips. If the music had not bewitched me, the picture she posed would have; I was absolutely mesmerized.
I just stood in the door watching and listening; it was if time had stood still.
“Come sit in front of me, Sandrine” Her voice woke me from my trance. We should talk.”
I walked slowly towards her, prepared to settle on the floor at her feet. Suddenly it was there; I could not explain it. A low, velvet cushioned bench materialized a few feet in front of her. I sat down as elegantly as I could, clasped my hands on my lap, and looked up at her expectantly.
“I expect that you have a lot that you wish me to explain? Where do you wish me to begin Sandrine?”
“Where are we? Is this for real or is this a dream?”
Her laughter was like the sound of burbling water tumbling over the rocks of an indoor fountain, pure and harmonious.
“Oh yes, Sandrine, this is for real; you are not imagining things! We have travelled back in time to my home in the Sussex countryside at Silver Birch Woods. The year is now 1845; perhaps some time, you and I will time-step to another period.”
Vaguely I recalled the chant she had used to draw me down into that bewitching ‘hypnotic’ sleep: “Step us back to my ancestral fief.” It dawned on me that this must be her ancestral fief.
“So we really are in the past now?”
The past? Time is all relative; I am sure some wise man will say that in the future!”
She laughed again, that clear expression of delight that exuded charm and warmth.
She continued, “Where we are is the present here; where we met was the present then. I am a time stepper. I can travel between times and I can take selected individuals with me. I chose to bring you with me on this journey.”
Her fragrance, her eyes, her beguiling manner. Yes, she was a witch indeed!
“You really are witch?” I asked at last.
“Yes...well actually, I am a siren and a witch; I have the powers of both.
Perhaps the names I have taken along with my motif will explain it.
I take the name Sirena from Siren, and my magical powers of beauty and music enable me to lure and entrap those who I desire.”
“Oh yeah?...I certainly know about that!” I blurted out.
“The nymphets on my motif dancing around me as if I was a maypole?” she continued, un-phased by my response, “represent my coven, whom I hope to introduce you to in due course.”
I realized then, that nothing about her dress or the accoutrements, or things that she said, was haphazard or without purpose. Everything surrounding her was full of symbolism, and that every phrase in that chant had deeper significance. I vowed to ask her, at some stage, to chant it again so that I could dwell on each phrase and understand its meaning.
“Why did we have to leave in such a hurry?” I asked. Suddenly I was aware of the gravity of the situation; I had left without warning or preparation. Bills and rent to pay, friends who might care, all the worries of the twenty first century.
“It is the beginning of May, Sandrine, the sabbat of Beltayne. You will recall that the name of this house is Beltayne of Silver Birch Woods. Beltayne is the time when my powers are at their greatest. All time travelling is steeped in risk and this is compounded when I bring someone along. It was for your wellbeing, Sandrine, that we had to leave so fast.”
She stared at me intently, but I had nothing to say.
At last she continued: “And what of you, Sandrine? When we met, I detected the most amazing latent, witch powers in you; even your name, which means "heavenly" or "divine, as in Celestial is a spiritual name, imbued with latent other-world powers. I decided to bring you back here, to this place and time, where we could develop your potential. You too, will become a powerful witch. It will take hard work and dedication, but with a little encouragement, I have no doubt you will succeed!”
“And how will I become a witch while working from the early morning to late at night in the kitchen as a scullery maid?”
“You won’t! From now on, you will live on my floor, learning and behaving like an initiate witch. I wanted to teach you a lesson; you can’t live here without knowing how the rest of the household live in order to keep those living on this floor as we do.”
“Well that Mrs. Beeton certainly taught me! My bottom is whipped raw with her birch!”
“Come and lay over my lap, Sandrine, let me make that right.”
I rose as gracefully as I could, and she gently pulled me forward over her lap. The gown caressed me as it was drawn up my legs and over my lower body. I wondered what she would think of the abuse my bottom had taken. I imagined the whispy blue tendrils that the birch rods would have left on my skin, the deeper blue and red contusions where the buds bit in. I thought of the wide deep bruise Mrs. Beeton’s baking spoon would have left, blue and red at the center, trailing off to yellowing tinges on the fringes. I wondered what the pinches would have done to my tender skin, those give in spite by the likes of Greta, the playful ones by Sandrine.
As Sirena’s hands rubbed gently against my bottom, she chanted, and I felt an incredible healing warmth suffuse my skin. I grew hotter and hotter, feeling it spreading down between my thighs. I struggled to control my breathing, but found myself taking in panting, desperate to release.
Her fingers moved deeper, caressing and probing, generating juices, inflaming my senses. I could not hold back and as I orgasmed, she chanted:
As Sandrine releases her energies to you,
Your own powers you can renew,
The birch rods’ marks you must negate,
Return her skin now to its pristine state!
Remove the bruises and every blemish,
Restore its state to one that I can relish.
I request of you Hygieia, heal it.
I lay there across her lap, knowing instinctively that my bruises would be gone; it seemed that the power of this witch knew no bounds. I felt better that I understood how I had got here and who this woman was, but the realization that I was trapped in another era of history in an unenviable situation alarmed me. How would I ever get back to the life I knew?
© Gail Fae 2020