"LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT VIII" by RFK

"For the last session," Olivia said, "I want to return to the subject of the Law of Three. Or the Threefold Law." The Charmed Ones groaned. "Oh, come on," the redhead continued, amused by the sisters' reaction, "this is a simple subject. At least on the surface."

Piper said, "I thought we had discussed everything we could about the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Three."

Olivia gave the oldest Halliwell a crisp smile, which drew a slight frown from the younger woman. "Piper, we've barely skimmed on the subject. Now, I'm sure you guys remember telling you that the Threefold Law basically claims that that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times. Whatever action you perform or enact, you will receive or face the consequences of that action in threefold. Karmic payback. Not all Wiccans believe this. Those who don't believe in this law, feel that it is based on Christian morality and not worth believing in."

"Well it does sound something similar to what Christians believe," Phoebe replied. "'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'? Book of Matthew?"

Nodding, Olivia said, "You know the Bible. Pretty good. The Law of Three and what is said in the Book of Matthew is what we would call the 'ethnic of reciprocity'. And it is believed not only among Christians and some Wiccans, but also by practitioners of other religions – modern or otherwise."

"So, if you commit some crime or dark deed," Paige said, "you'll pay the consequences for it, one way or the other?"

"It's not just about doing wrong."

"Before you continue, Livy, I have a question," Olivia's mother said, interrupting. Everyone glanced at her. "For Paige." The youngest Charmed One's dark eyes grew wide. "Why did you give up your job at the Social Services office?"

A long pause followed, as a frown appeared on Paige's face. "Didn't Olivia or Barbara tell you?"

"I just need to hear it from you."

Paige sighed. "My job was interfering with my duties a witch. And I decided it was best to become a full time witch." Paul Margolin coughed slightly, earning a glare from the young woman. "Yeah, I know. It was a stupid thing to do. Which is why I took up Barbara's job offer."

"I see." Gweneth faced the two older Halliwells and Leo. "And why didn't you three say anything?"

Phoebe's mouth hung open. Piper quickly replied, "There was nothing we could say."

The middle-aged witch nodded. "I see." Once more, she turned to the youngest sister. "And Paige, I understand that you had first received a promotion before you had left your job?"

"Oh . . . that." Paige released a gust of breath. "Yeah. Um . . . after I had helped this woman to get custody of her child from an abusive ex-husband. She was a friend of Darryl's."

Olivia frowned. "Wait. Are you talking about Caroline Seldon? I heard about her ex. She's a clerk at my precinct."

Paige nodded. "Yeah, that's her."

"What exactly happened?" Gweneth demanded.

The youngest Charmed One recounted the incident regarding police clerk Caroline Seldon. Darryl Morris had approached Paige for help in acquiring legal aid for the battered clerk, who wanted sole guardianship of her son. Through one of the Social Services attorneys, Caroline managed to get a hearing. On the day of the hearing, Caroline appeared with Darryl at the manor with a bruised face. "She was worried that the judge would take one look at her face and assume that she had resumed some old bad habits. So . . ." She took a deep breath. "I used a spell to get rid of her bruises. Caroline got custody of her kid. Her ex was sent to jail and my boss offered me a promotion from assistant to social worker."

Olivia added, "And so, you had decided to resign from the office, months later?"

"No, I turned down the promotion the next day," Paige answered. "Mr. Cowan ended up promoting me, several months later. Around the time when Cole had returned from the Wasteland."

"Why?"

Paige frowned. "Huh?"

Olivia sighed. "Why did you turn down that promotion after helping Caroline?"

Piper answered for Paige. "Uh, personal gain? Because of the spell, this Caroline person won her case. And Paige ended up being promoted over someone else. We thought . . ."

"Are you bloody serious?" Gweneth's outburst drew stares from everyone else in the garden. She shook her head with a sigh and added, "Oh dear. Sorry about that. I believe I may have overreacted. I just . . . I cannot believe that you turned down the promotion."

"She had to," Leo calmly replied. "Paige had received that promotion due to magic. That's personal gain."

Annoyed by the whitelighter's smug reply, Olivia retorted, "It's horseshit, Leo! Like I told them, there is no rule regarding personal gain in the Wiccan Rede."

"That rule is made clear inside their Book of Shadows!"

"Considering that good number of entries in their Book of Shadows is wrong, the whole matter of personal gain is irrelevant!"

Gweneth spoke up. "Paige, did you have any intentions of receiving a promotion when you helped Ms. Seldon?"

"No!" Paige replied breathlessly, as she shook her head. "I only got involved, because Darryl asked for my help."

"Did you have any intentions of using magic to help her?"

Again, Paige shook her head. "No, I . . . it was a last minute thing."

Olivia's mother leaned back into her wicker chair with a sigh. "Now, the Threefold Law clearly states that whatever you do – good, evil or otherwise – will come back to you in threefold. What you would call karmic payback. Or paying the consequences of your actions. Paige, your intentions in regard to Ms. Seldon's situation was honorable. You got involved because she and Darryl needed your help. You had no idea that you would be rewarded for your actions. And you only used magic as a last resort. The offer for a promotion was the consequence of your actions. The karmic payback. There was no need for you to reject the promotion. Frankly, I think you should have accepted it."

"But the spell resulted in personal gain!" Phoebe insisted.

"There is no personal gain rule that is part of the Wiccan Rede," Gweneth coolly replied. "Didn't Livy make that clear?"

Paul spoke up. "But if the whitelighers . . ."

"Mr. Margolin," the older woman continued, "personal gain is a whitelighter's rule. It has nothing to do with being a witch. At least not as far as Wiccans are concerned. Why the whitelighers have insisted that witches follow this rule . . ."

"Because it prevents them from abusing their powers!" Leo insisted.

Gweneth glared at the whiteligher. "Perhaps your bosses are the ones who are abusing their powers! They're supposed to be whitelighers, Leo. Guardian angels. Guardian angels SHOULD NOT dictate the moral compass of any witch or other mortal. You are not supposed to treat witches like supernatural soldiers in your little war against the demonic world! Your job is to offer guidance and protection via the consent of your charge. You can only do this by consent only. I feel that your superiors have failed to remember this." Olivia noticed the red flush that had crept across Leo's face. And the embarrassed expression on his face. Paul and the Halliwells simply looked stunned.

"Wait, so you're saying that I should have accepted the promotion?" Paige asked.

"I'm afraid so, dear." Olivia's mother took a sip of lemonade before she continued. "The real problem in regard to the Threefold Law is that it can be rather vague. And we might find ourselves faced with situations that force us to fill in the blanks as we go along. This is where it gets a bit tricky."

Phoebe frowned. "What do you mean?"

Olivia shot a glance at her mother before she added, "I think Mom is talking about scope. Considering how chaotic and complex this universe is, I think I can say that none of us can imagine all of the consequences of our actions or decisions. Sometimes, we'll end up making an honest mistake."

"Of course," Gweneth added, "we also have to remember that we do have brains. And sometimes, ignorance is not an excuse for a mistake. If you have an instinct to make a certain decision or commit an action, one also has a brain to consider at least some of the consequences. Or look into the matter to determine if you're making the right choice. For example . . ."

Piper's voice interrupted in a tone that bordered on hostility. "This is about Cole, isn't it?"

One of Gweneth's brows rose questioningly. "I beg your pardon?"

"Cole. This is about Cole."

Coolly, Olivia's mother replied, "I see that you have your family's talent for making assumptions, Piper. But since you did mention him, I suppose that his time as the Source and your reaction to it could provide an excellent example."

"Maybe we shouldn't . . ." Phoebe began nervously.

It was obvious that Gweneth barely heard the middle Charmed One, as she continued, "Paige, I understand that you were the first to sense something about Cole."

Sighing, Paige replied, "Well . . . yeah. I tried to convince Piper, Leo and Phoebe, but . . . no one listened." Piper rolled her eyes. Leo's faced became a deeper shade of pink and Phoebe turned her head away.

"Did you take any other action? Gweneth asked. "Did you try to figure out how Cole could have become demonic again?"

Another sigh left Paige's mouth. "No. I had been too busy trying to convince everyone that Cole was a demon again. And I . . . assumed that he became one again, because he didn't like being human." She paused briefly. "And when we found out that he was the Source. . . well, we just wanted him dead. Especially after Phoebe became his Queen."

"Cole had also killed an innocent!" Piper declared. "Remember Greg Conroy? We tried to save him after Phoebe told her about her premonition. But Cole got to him, anyway."

Gweneth stared at the oldest Charmed One. "So, you and your sisters decided to go after Cole. To punish him?"

"And save me from Cole!" Phoebe retorted.

Paige rolled her eyes. "We weren't interested in saving you!"

"Paige!" the oldest protested.

"C'mon Piper! Why don't you at least tell the truth?" Paige continued. "We were all pissed off at Cole for killing our innocent. We wanted to punish him. Nothing else. Hell, you even considered vanquishing Phoebe after she became his queen."

"WHAT??" Phoebe stared at her sisters in horror. "You were planning on killing me??"

Piper rolled her eyes. "C'mon Pheebs! I wasn't serious about that. And I was drunk at the time."

Silence surrounded the inhabitants in the garden. The McNeills' manservant, Davies, appeared bearing a tray filled with glasses of lemonade. As he served the drinks, he said to Gweneth, "Pardon me, Mrs. McNeill, but that was Mr. Bruce. He wanted me to remind you about the Palmer wedding reception. The ceremony itself had just ended."

"Thank you, Davies," Olivia's mother replied. The manservant nodded and walked away. Then she said to the Halliwells. "Did any of you bothered to learn how Cole became the Source? Did you not have time, considering your . . . innocent was dead?"

Leo protested, "Phoebe was in danger!"

With a shake of her head, Olivia replied, "But Paige just denied it, Leo. She just told us that you were all angry at Cole for killing this Greg Conroy person. And that you all wanted him to pay. Was she lying?"

The only sound that came from Leo's mouth was a grunt. Paul, on the other hand, came to the rescue. "Does it really matter, as long as they got rid of him? Even if his . . . death didn't last very long? At least the Source is no longer around."

Gweneth gave the male witch a cool look. "I'm afraid it does matter, Mr. Margolin." She drank some of her lemonade. "If the sisters and Leo had went after Cole to . . . rescue Phoebe or save this Mr. Conroy, I can understand why they would kill him. But according to Paige, they were angry over the death of Mr. Conroy and Phoebe's new role as the Source's queen. And because of this, they went after Cole to vanquish him. I hate to say this but their actions and the motives behind them sounds a bit like murder to me, not self-defense or the defense of someone else."

"We didn't commit murder! He did! He was an evil bastard!" Piper cried. "A demon! I see no reason why we would need any other reason to kill him!"

"How sad," the older witch said in a pitying tone. "I hate to say this, my dear, but you sound like a bigot. Are you saying that there is nothing wrong in killing another being in cold blood, because he or she is not a human? Regardless of whether or not that being an immediate threat? And to make matters worse, none of you had bothered to learn how Cole became the Source. You had failed to follow up on your instincts or discoveries with a little research. I wonder . . . would you all have made the same assumptions if one of you had become the Source?"

Piper's dark eyes flashed with anger. She quickly rose to her feet and placed her glass of lemonade on a nearby table. "I'm out of here," she muttered in a low tone. "Phoebe! Paige!" The middle Charmed One stood up. So did Leo and Paul. Paige remained in her seat. Piper stared pointedly at the younger woman. "Paige?"

Her eyes cast downward, Paige murmured, "Piper, I'm sorry, but Mrs. McNeill has a point. We made a big mistake in killing Cole. And we only did it out of anger. At least you and I did. Phoebe just helped us."

"Paige!"

"We might as well be honest, Piper!"

An angry huff escaped from Piper's mouth. "Fine! You can stay here. I'm leaving." She started to walk away. Leo, Phoebe and Paul followed.

Before the four were able to take at least four steps, Gweneth said, "Do you mind if I say one last thing before you leave?"

The quartet paused. Then they slowly turned to face Olivia's mother. Phoebe coolly replied, I'm sorry Mrs. McNeill, but I think you've said enough. In fact, I don't think we need any more lessons. Right Piper?"

"You're damn right about that!" Piper snapped, glaring at the older witch one last time before stalking away from the garden and toward the McNeill manor. Phoebe, Leo and Paul followed closely at her heels.

A large sigh escaped from Gweneth's mouth. "Oh dear. I believe I may have said more than I should."

"No you didn't," Paige replied in a morose voice. "They're just not ready to listen. I wonder if they will ever be."

Olivia shot a quick glance at the remaining Charmed One. She wondered if these lessons in the Craft may have created a serious breach between Paige and her sisters.

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Later that afternoon, a wary Paige finally returned to the manor. She opened her mouth to call for her sisters. But she realized that they might not want to speak with her. A heavy sigh left her mouth, as she started toward the staircase. When she finally reached the second floor, Paige spotted Piper leaving one of the bedrooms. The two sisters stopped short at the sight of each other.

"How long have you been back?" Piper coolly asked.

A long pause followed before Paige replied, "I just got back."

Piper frowned. "You went to that wedding reception with Olivia and Mrs. McNeill?"

"Nah, I uh . . . I did a little shopping around Union Square and got some clam chowder at the Wharf." Sensing discomfort between her and Piper, Paige started for her bedroom.

"Are you going to continue the lessons with Olivia and her family?" Piper asked. Paige detected a slight note of disapproval in her older sister's voice.

With a sigh, Paige explained that she and Olivia had decided to discontinue the lessons. "She told me that if I ever need help or information on anything regarding the Craft or Wicca, just give her a call."

"You could always ask Phoebe or me."

An uncomfortable silence fell between the two sisters, once more. Paige wished she could escape to her room. But after her discovery regarding the truth surrounding Cole's tenure as the Source, she had decided never run away from the truth. "Of course. But . . . well, Livy knows more than any of us. I mean . . . there are some things she or her family might know and we wouldn't."

"Yeah." Piper gave Paige a long look. She started to head for the staircase, but hesitated. "Look, about today . . ."

Paige burst out, "I'm sorry, Piper. I'm sorry if you and Phoebe felt humiliated. I don't think Mrs. McNeill had meant to bring up Cole being the Source."

Piper sighed. "Yeah, I know. I did. I wish I hadn't." Again, she stared at Paige, making the latter feel slightly intimidated. "You still believe that we had made a mistake in killing Cole, do you?"

"Yeah, I do. I mean . . . I saw the visions. Cecile's visions." Paige took a deep breath. "Look, I don't like the idea that killing Cole had been a mistake, anymore than you do. It was very humiliating for me. Especially when I had to face Cole about the matter. But I had to face it, Piper. And one day, you and Phoebe will have to do the same. Cole has learned to face his crimes. I don't see why we don't have to, even if our . . . victim was a demon. Because if we don't, we'll keep making mistakes and not facing them until one day, we end up doing something incredibly colossal . . . and wrong. And we'll end up having to pay the price for actions. I just don't want to do that."

A gust of breath left Piper's mouth. "Wow," she murmured, "talk about a long speech."

A shaft of disappointment struck Paige. Typical Piper. Using humor to avoid a situation she does not want to face. "I'll be in my room," the younger woman grumbled.

"Paige!" Piper began. "I . . ." Paige stared at her older sister with hopeful eyes. "Uh . . . I'll have dinner ready in less than an hour."

Paige gave her head a mild shake. "Yeah. Sure. Thanks." Some things, she realized, never change. And some people. She turned away and headed straight for her room.

THE END