Read an Excerpt
When You Wish
To thine own wish be true. Do not follow the moth to the star.
So says the message in an exquisite green bottle. Is it a wish? A warning? A spell to cast over a lover? In six charming love stories, a mysterious bottle brings a touch of magic to the lives of all who possess it.
The moon rode high against the soft blackness of the night sky. The great stones of the circle threw their shadows across the sleeping plain. The girl waited in the grove of trees. He had said he would come when the moon reached its zenith.
She shivered despite the warmth of the June night, drawing her woolen cloak about her. The massive pillars of Stonehenge held a menacing magic, even for one accustomed to the rites that took place within the sinister enclosure. The thought of venturing into the vast black space within the circle terrified her as it terrified all but the priests. It was forbidden ground.
Her cars were stretched for the sound of footsteps, although she knew that she would hear nothing as his sandaled feet slid over the moss of the grove. She stepped closer to the trunk of a poplar tree then jumped back as she touched its encrustation of sacred mistletoe.
"Move into the moonlight."
Even though she'd been waiting for it, the soft command sent a thrill of fear shivering in her belly, curling her toes. She looked over her shoulder and saw him, shrouded in white, his hood pulled low over his head, only his eyes, pale blue in the darkness, gave life to the form.
The girl stepped out of the grove onto the moonlit plain. She felt him behind her. The priest who held the power of the Druid's Egg. She stopped, turned to face him. "Will you help me?"
"Are you certain you know what you're asking for?" His voice rasped, hoarse as if he'd been shouting for hours. The pale blue eyes burned in their deep sockets.
She nodded. "I am certain." With a sudden movement, she shook off her hood. Her hair cascaded down her back, a silver river in the moonlight. "Will the magic work?"
A smile flashed across his eyes and he reached out to touch her hair. "It has the power of desires and dreams."
"To make them come true?" Her voice was anxious, puzzled.
He said nothing, but drew from beneath his cloak a thick-bladed knife. "Are you ready?"
The girl swallowed, nodded her head. She turned her back to the priest. She felt him take her hair at the nape of her neck. She felt the knife sawing through the thick mass, silvered by the moon. She felt it part beneath the blade. And then she stood shorn, the night air cold on her bare neck. "Now you will give it to me?"
He was winding the hank of hair around his hand and didn't answer as he reveled in the richness of the payment. The hair of a maiden had many useful properties but it was a potent sacrifice that few young virgins were voluntarily prepared to make. He opened a leather pouch at his waist and carefully deposited the shining mass inside, before taking out an object of green glass. It lay on his flat palm.
She looked closely at it. A green glass bottle with a chased silver top. Vertical banks of chased silver flowed down the bottle from the stopper, like liquid mercury. There was something inside it. She could see the shape in the neck behind the glowing glass. Would it work? It had to work. Only the magic of a man who held the power of the Druid's Egg could enable her to make the right decision.
She reached out and touched it tentatively with her fingertip. "The spell is within?"
"You will read it within."
"What must I do? Must I open it in a certain way? Read it in a certain way?"
"You will read it as it is meant to be read." The smile was there again as he took her hand and placed the bottle on her palm. "As it is meant to be read for you," he added.
Her fingers closed over the bottle. She frowned, wondering what he could mean. A spell was a spell, surely. It could only be read one way.
When she looked up, the priest had gone.
The Druid's Egg was hatched by several serpents laboring together. When hatched it was held in the air by their hissing. The man who had given her the spell had caught the egg as it danced on the serpent's venom. He had caught it and escaped the poison himself. Such a man...such a priest...had the power to do anything.
Holding the bottle tightly in her fist, the girl turned her back on the stone pillars. She tried to walk but soon was running across the plain toward the village nestled in a fold of land beside the river that flowed to the sea. She had never seen the sea, only heard tales of vast blueness that disappeared into the sky. But the river flowing between sloping banks was her friend.
She sat down on the bank outside the village and with trembling fingers opened the bottle. A scrap of leather, carefully rolled, lay inside. She drew it out, unfurled it, held it up to the bright moonlight.
Runes were scratched into the leather at the top, and at the sight of the magic symbols her heart leaped. She hadn't sold her hair for nothing. Here was the incantation she had bought. She squinted at the strange marks and wondered what she was to do with them. Only when she turned the leather over did she see the writing in legible strokes inked onto the leather.
"To thine own wish be true. Do not follow the moth to the star."
The girl stared in disbelieving dismay. What did it mean? It told her nothing. There was nothing magic about those words. She looked again at the runes and knew in her bones that they would add nothing to the message. They were decoration for a simple truth. She thrust the scrap of leather back into the bottle and corked it.
Be true to her own wish. Was it telling her she must face the consequences of her desires? If she wished for the stars, she would burn like the moth at the candle.
Slowly, she stood up. She held her hand over the swift flowing water and opened it. The little bottle dropped, was caught by the current and whisked away toward the distant sea. As distant as the stars.
The choice was still hers to make. The road still branched before her. She had sold her hair for the druid's power and she was left, as always, with only her own.
Excerpted from When You Wish... by Jane Feather, Patricia Coughlin, Sharon & Tom Curtis, Elizabeth Elliot, Patricia Potter and Suzanne Robinson. Copyright (c) 1997 by Jane Feather, Patricia Coughlin, Sharon & Tom Curtis, Elizabeth Elliot, Patricia Potter and Suzanne Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.