Scenting Hallowed Blood
the sea roaring
secretly within it. The cowry shell was an ancient symbol of the
Watchers’ eyes. It was perfect.
    Tamara lifted the talisman up
before her face. ‘Shamir, I thank you for these images.’ She
smiled. ‘And did you know that I happen to have just such a shell
in my possession?’
    Once she was ready to leave the
cottage, Tamara summoned the flame of her inner strength to glow
brightly within her, then, using the talisman, folded herself
within the caul of invisibility, as she’d practised earlier.
    The clear day had been eclipsed
by a cold, rainy evening. Wind turned the lances of the rain to
blades. Tamara dressed herself in a dark robe, over which she threw
a heavy, winter coat with a hood. She did not want to use light or
incense, which might attract attention, but put handfuls of certain
herbs into a leather pouch. There was camomile, rosemary and agnus
castus, which were the plants associated with the female form, love
and gentle strength. Then, there was henbane and mandrake to create
the dusky, sexual power required to attract her golden prince;
blackberry for the dark sweetness of her essence; rowan to create
the illusion of a seeress and finally black ash, the plant of the
water serpent. These ingredients she secreted, along with the cowry
shell, into the deep pocket of her coat.
    Just before she was about to
leave her cottage, the phone rang. Tamara stared at it for a
moment, wondering whether to leave it ringing. Then she picked it
up. Her flesh prickled with cold when she heard Meggie Penhaligon’s
voice at the other end of the line, although she forced her voice
to remain cheerful and friendly. Meggie had rung to arrange a
meeting of the Conclave for the following evening. It had to be
coincidence she had called at this time, although Tamara did not
underestimate the older woman’s abilities, which was why she’d
taken so many precautions in veiling her intentions.
    Finally, she managed to end the
conversation and dash out through the rain to her car. She would be
a few minutes late for Delmar now, and hoped he hadn’t wandered
off, thinking she wasn’t coming.
    Her headlights picked him up at
the cross-roads. He wasn’t wearing a coat and was already soaked to
the skin, but then cold and wet never seemed to bother Delmar.
Tamara leaned over and opened the passenger’s door. ‘Get in.’
    Delmar slithered into the seat
like something that had crawled up off the beach. He shook his hair
and sprayed her with freezing droplets.
    They drove along the coast
road, following the curve of several coves. The road ran close to
the cliff edge here, and occasionally, there were lay-bys where
tourists could pause to take in the sights or eat picnics. Tamara
swung her car onto one of these and turned off the engine. A few
hundred yards up the road, the imposing bulk of High Crag was
visible above the boundary walls of its grounds. Lights could be
seen in many of the upper windows. It looked almost as if a party
was going on. Tamara was fascinated by the house and its occupants.
Did Barbelo live there? The woman had not deigned to reveal that
information to her, but now Tamara wondered whether Barbelo was
standing at one of the lit windows, her sharp sight focused upon
them. Delmar stared at the house, as a rabbit, frozen in the road,
might stare at the headlights of an approaching lorry. Tamara
didn’t bother to comment on his obvious unease. If there were
problems to come, she would deal with them when they occurred. She
leaned across in front of the boy and removed a powerful torch from
the glove compartment. ‘Come on, Del. Let’s get going.’
    She managed to coax him out of
the car, so she could lock its doors. The climb down to the beach
would be tortuous, but she trusted that Seference would help them
find a way. Delmar was sacrosanct: the elements and the land would
not harm him until the time came when, with due ceremony, he would
be given to them for eternity. The boy paused at the cliff

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