Dozens of small, twisting paths – where roots intertwined under last year's leaves – led to a clearing in the woods where forty-eight stones, each taller by half than a tall man, stood in a circle. The northernmost stone, which was called the Mother-stone by those who knew of it, had a circle carved through its center. On the ground before the Mother-stone was yet another stone, close to three inches thick with bits of quartz flickering in the torch light.
Laid out on that stone was a body wearing a blue dress that was embroidered with a subtle pattern of green and white waves. While the face was covered by a white veil, the figure was obviously that of a woman. Her pale hair stretched outwards from her head, like rays of moonlight.
Three women stood around the body: to the west, above the body's head was the Maiden in white, to the south stood the Mother in red, and to the east, the black-robed Crone. Reaching down to her chain-link belt, the Maiden pulled out the small curved blade that had been sheathed at her left hip and cut off a lock of pale hair. The Mother held out a silver box. As the Maiden mixed the pale hair from the corpse with the reddish-brown hair in the box, she chanted, "At both birth and death, we enter the gateway. Alone."
Bringing the box back around to the center of the slab, the Mother called out, "Three drops of amber mark the passage of the deceased: one for the child she was, a second to guide her to the Summerland, and a third to lead her soul back when the time is ripe for rebirth." As she spoke, she dropped the nuggets of amber into the silver box.
The Crone's hair shimmered like gray smoke in the torchlight. Chanting, she leaned over and cut two toenails, one from each foot, two fingernails, and a lock of hair from the body.
The Mother stepped into the darkness, beyond the circle of torches, and brought a cauldron, overflowing with scented smoke. "The souls that are ours, are ours and may not be lightly traded away." As the Crone spoke, she dropped the nails and hair into the cauldron. Small sparkling flames shot up as they hit the smoke. "Bettina Andrea Campbell was ours in life, as she is ours in death. Her bargain with the dark is null, void; she was not given what she had bargained for." The Maiden stepped into the darkness, returning with a birdcage that held a dove. Reaching into the cage, the Crone pulled out the dove and held it to the sky. "Her soul is ours. Here and now, I offer you sacrifice." She snapped the dove's neck.
As the Crone laid the dove outside the stone circle, she said, "You who are none of ours, this is yours. Payment is made in full. We owe you nothing." The dove vanished.
When the Crone returned to the circle, the Maiden removed the veil, revealing Betty Campbell's face. In silence, the three women moved to the Mother-stone. The Maiden, at the right of the stone, passed the veil through the hole to the Mother who stood behind the stone and to its left. The Mother then stepped forward to the front of the stone and passed the veil through the stone to the Crone, who stood behind the stone and to its right. The Crone passed the veil to the Maiden, who had moved behind the stone and to its left. They continued their dance-like pattern until the veil had been passed through the stone nine times. "It is finished," they chanted as one.