The following story by Diana Read won joint 3rd place in the second week of our 2014 Celtx Competition. The theme was Sabbats.
The Quail Goddess by Diana Read
“Come along, darlings, it’s time for dinner.”
To human ears the remark would have sounded like “Chirp-chirp,” but the ten children of Mrs. Theodosia Quail immediately awoke from their afternoon nap on this autumn day and scurried after her.
“Bob-WHITE, Bob-WHITE,” Theodosia’s husband, Aloysius Quail, called. By this he meant, “After dinner, we’re joining a covey and making for that thicket of huisache over there. That’s where we’ll spend the night.”
All ten chicks cheeped assent and followed Theodosia. Aloysius, always impatient, had already finished dinner and was now scouting the route to the thicket.
Overhead the South Texas sky glinted with a harsh gray light; the terrain below was as brown as the quail foraging on it for weed seeds, roots, and anything else they could find.
“Eat your insects, children,” Theodosia reminded her chicks. “They’ll make you grow up big and strong.”
At last everyone was ready to leave. Dust was shaken off wings, feathers were smoothed with beaks, and toes scraped clean. Theodosia, Aloysius, and the chicks joined the covey moving slowly toward the sheltering huisache.
“Don’t like the look of that sky,” Aloysius whispered to Theo as they settled themselves for the night. “Too bright.”
“You’re such a worry-wart,” Theo said. “Everything’s going to be fine. Now hush, they’re all asleep except Paprika and Parsifal.”
Two hours later Theodosia woke suddenly with a premonition of danger. In the distance she could see a party of humans and a dog approaching.
“Chirrup-chirrup,” she said. “Children, there are predators on the scene—get ready to fly!”
The hunting party of three men and a dog strode briskly through the metallic afternoon light.
“I like hunting,” Leopold Spottiswoode said. “This is the first time I’ve ever hunted quail, though. What else do you have on the ranch, Willis?”
“White-tailed deer,” Willis, the guide, said. “Wild turkey.” He looked up at the sky, frowned, then squinted at the sacahuista grassland stretching before them.
“Wild turkey,” Rufus Meany said. “Makes me think of bourbon. Some of that would go good with pan-fried quail, country gravy, and biscuits for dinner tonight.”
“What about quail in rose petal sauce?” Spottiswoode said. “That would be good too.”
“Hell, no,” Meany said, with dark memories of a film in which the ingestion of that very dish had driven people into a sexual frenzy. “Don’t hold with that fancy stuff.”
“Don’t like the look of that sky,” Willis said. “Could be a blue norther on the way.”
“Never known a blue norther to hit at the end of October,” Meany said. “Don’t be stupid.”
“You’re the one who’s stupid,” Spottiswoode said. “A blue norther can hit on the last day of October or the last day of February.”
Brutus, the English pointer, suddenly stood still and sniffed the air.
“He’s scented the quail,” Willis said. “All right, when I give Brutus the signal, the quail will fly up so you can shoot ‘em. Here, boy!”
At that moment Theodosia invoked the Quail Goddess.
“Oh, Asteria, Goddess of falling stars and prophecy, of night and the realm of the dead; you, Goddess, who fled from Zeus by transforming yourself into a quail and diving into the sea to escape him; Asteria, Quail Goddess, I invoke you at Samhain, when the veil parts between the worlds. Help us escape from the hunters, Quail Goddess!”
The sky turned blue-black, the air temperature dropped thirty degrees, and rain pelted the parched earth. The quail hiding under the huisache were invisible in the unnatural darkness.
Brutus barked, Willis swore, and Meany shot Spottiswoode in the face.
Accidentally, of course.
D.M. Read is a writer living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Herb gardening, reading, and cooking are among her interests. She is about to publish The Deer at Lammas Tide: Nine Sabbat Tales with Smashwords. D.M. Read enjoys writing about everyday Witches whose lives are touched by magick.