From Chapter 1 of Secret Lives:

Two of the women have barely escaped an attack on the street by gang bangers. They perform a ritual to help protect their neighborhood of Rose Park.

As the chanting and drumming grew to their howling, screeching climax, Herta stood up. She reached out with both hands as if to grasp the power, and she focused it on the covered basket on the teacart before her.

The chant peaked, an orgasmic release of energy skirring around the circle, an incandescent elemental energy—

There! Herta caught the almost visible power in her hands and flung it into the basket with all the force she and the circle now embodied.

“It is done.”

Silence now.

Breathing heavily, some of them still swaying, the women sat for many moments with their eyes closed. Herta sat with closed eyes, too, feeling the energy return to ground, feeling it flow back to its source.

“Girls,” she said at last, “we’ve done it. We have empowered our guardian. … As you all know, under the full moon in Cancer, I prepared a small nest in a box. I built it upon agate and jasper for strength and protection, upon petrified wood for transformation and great age, upon obsidian for grounded fire. I lined this small nest with the molted skin of a snake for rebirth, with bears’ claws and sharks’ teeth for ferocity, with owls’ feathers for swift and silent flight. I prepared this nest for three fresh eggs, laid on the day of the dark moon. One egg I painted white, one red, the third, black. Now we will see which egg hatches. And what hatches. We have birthed our avenger.”

She gestured toward the teacart. “Listen.”

They heard pecking and scratching, the splintering of an eggshell, the familiar sounds of hatching. And then unfamiliar sounds … a harsh bark, a cough, a rough hiss.

Herta lifted the large oval basket that covered the nest. “Look.”

There it lay, a box lined with gold cloth that cradled a bed of stones and a nest lined with snakeskin and claws and teeth and feathers. Two of the eggs lay intact, unfertilized, unhatched. But the black shell lay in pieces.

And sitting on the edge of the nest was a tiny, green, four-footed animal, its pale golden wings still plastered damply against its scaly sides. Its golden eyes were barely open.

“Our guardian. A creature as old as the heavens, as fierce as the fiery powers of earth.”

“Draco,” said Cairo. “The dragon. Symbol in the eldest times of the pole star.”

“The dragon,” said Brooke, “is older than humankind. And contrary to the teachings of men, it is not an evil creature. It is not an adversary that must be slain. The dragon is the all-powerful guardian of wisdom. Here is our fierce-flying avenger.”

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From Chapter 9 of Secret Lives:

Several of the women are visiting a psychic fair at the Psychic Spiritual Church of Abundant New Age Light and Love. Bertha and the cat are up to no good….

Then the candles—every candle in the room shot up into the air and whizzed overhead in a pyrotechnical stampede that threatened to scorch the acoustical ceiling. Then, still lit, the candles huddled briefly in one corner and, at an inaudible command, fanned out again in formation across the room, showering all below with sparks and flashes and flashy sparkles. Within minutes, tongues of flame were bouncing in rhythm above every person’s head.

Rev. Debbee couldn’t help but hear the commotion. She rushed out of her office and grabbed the first person she came to, which was Gwennie. “What’s going on here? Who started this?”

But Gwennie had no reply, because now the card tables and metal folding chairs were beginning to march around the room in a metallic grand promenade.

Rev. Debbee posed on the top step, one arm outstretched like Charleton Heston dividing the Red Sea. “Halt!”

Six of the tables began to dance little jigs, two more began an eight-legged pas de deux, and the rest bounced into a polka whose music only they could hear until some invisible hand suddenly turned up the sound: the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. Soon half a dozen chairs began warbling and pirouetting to Waltz of the Flowers, while a lone chair across the room broke into Gene Kelly’s big dance number from Singin’ in the Rain, using a dried-out bromeliad as its umbrella.

Bertha had disappeared. The cat was sitting calmly, transparently, in the center of Rev. Debbee’s altar.

All the tarot cards in the room—a dozen packs of seventy-eight cards each—broke free and, like a demented marching band at halftime in hell, began arranging themselves in intricate patterns in the center of the floor, taking care (of course) to keep well out of the way of two hundred and eighty-eight unrestrained furniture legs.

Books now came marching out of the bookstore, each reciting its table of contents in an appropriate voice or accent. Dodging through their ranks, Brother Melchizedek caught a volume of Gurdjieff declaiming in a thick Russian accent and tackled a grimoire chanting in medieval Hebrew. Rev. Les snatched up a yodeling Celtic songbook and tripped a whispering Dion Fortune novel, which fell flat on its back cover.

A brave young psychic tackled a howling White Goddess, another psychic picked up a rocking Seth book, and still another captured a soliloquizing Masters of the Far East, Vol. 5. Wendell neatly plucked up a droning Alice Bailey volume on white magic and threw a handful of paper napkins over Isis Unveiled. Someone else scooped up a whole parade of Edgar Cayce paperbacks as they wafted by.

Rev. Debbee forced her way through several copies of The Unobstructed Universe and The Quimby Manuscripts and reached her altar. There she stood, alone, facing kaleidoscoping tarot cards, orating books, clacking crystals, and frolicking furniture.


For all the effect her voice had, she might have been speaking into the wrong end of a wind tunnel.

Find out what else happens at this fair … and what the consequences will be.
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