A witch who wants to live in the shadows. A dandy who feels he has failed. To protect their friends, Selene must battle a corrupt magician, and survive.
Artist Selene feels overwhelmed by life, and their Goth club friends are dropping like flies. But when the witch realizes the situation involves handsome dandy they've been avoiding, they don't know what to think. As Joshua keeps showing up trying to help, Selene realizes they can't hide from a trauma hidden in their past…
With the help of their coven, Selene must uncover the root of the tainted magic that has put one friend in a coma and killed another. A magic that threatens Selene. What ––or whom–– stalks the community? To figure it out, Selene must risk exposing heart and soul to cast the spell that will save their friends, and maybe even themself…
In T. Thorn Coyle's By Moon, Selene feels overwhelmed by life, and just wants to live in the shadows, but their Goth club friends are dropping like flies. Something is stalking the community, but whom? Or...what? – Jamie Ferguson
"…an exciting read and so much more!"– Reader review
"What a fabulous story this is. By Moon, the latest in T. Thorn Coyle's Witches of Portland series, focuses on Selene, a witch of mystery and great magic. We learn their story as the plot unfolds, and wow—does it ever."– Reader review
"The Witches of Portland has quickly become my favorite series."– Reader review
The scent of oil paint, turpentine, and linseed made Selene feel at home, chasing away the sense of unease they'd carried into the studio. The lights from the Morrison Bridge winked outside the chipped frames of the warehouse windows, lighting up the span and casting bright globes that sparkled on the waters of the Willamette.
The moon was almost full, and cast its own light across the dark ribbon of river.
The large studio space was quiet, the only sounds being the soft whoosh of cars heading toward the bridge, some laughter from the bar on the corner, and the tinny sound of music played too loud in someone's earbuds.
Only two other people were in the whole shared arts complex. People had better things to do at ten o'clock on a Friday night in June. It had been a hot day at the tail end of a scorching week, which meant the patio bars and outdoor cafés would be doing brisk business. Considering the sun didn't set until 9 p.m. at this time of year, and light faded later still, only a fool would be inside by choice.
Well, Selene was one of those fools. Happy to have found a studio they could afford, and driven inside by the will to paint. And the need to escape that sinking feeling in the pit of their gut they'd been carrying around for the past few weeks.
Something was wrong, and Selene hadn't been able to pinpoint what. Oh, there was the backwash from the coven fighting off white supremacists the month before. The fallout from that was going to take time to settle, both in the coven and in the city itself. They'd won that battle but were under no illusions that they'd won the war.
And then Selene had to defend their thesis in order to graduate, which had been frankly harrowing. Because of a disagreement with their advisor, Selene almost didn't make it through.
After that, a person would think that Selene would take a break, but the opposite was true. Selene needed to prove to themself and their muse that art was paramount, grades and degrees or not.
Besides, art sometimes felt as if it was the only thing keeping Selene alive.
There had been way too much despair lately. Trans friends resorting to suicide to stop the hurting inflicted on them by a world that could not comprehend their beauty. Black boys murdered. Indigenous women missing. Hate crimes of all types on the rise. And Selene?
Selene was just a non-binary Goth femme, longing for love and not knowing where to find it. Or if they could even take the risk.
Love required too much exposure. Body and soul. That was the hardest thing about completing their thesis. Their advisor kept pushing Selene to dig deeper. To show more of themself.
That was how great art was made, Ms. Monroe said. "You bare your soul to the canvas and paint it with your spit and blood."
Those stirring words sounded great in theory. But then Selene had to put them into practice and it really had about killed them. Exposing the inner landscape required vulnerability. And for an empath, vulnerability was always followed by the intrusion of other people's emotions. After the final thesis show and graduation ceremony they needed space. Selene only crawled out from the aerie of their attic home a week ago, anxious to get brush in hand again.
Luckily, Art Commons Collective had studio space available for non-members on a drop-in basis. Selene was trying it out, figuring they could always join in a month or two if they liked it. So far, they did.
The space was good, and the people seemed nice and left Selene alone, which was a good thing. Selene needed to ease into new social situations slowly.
Selene realized they'd been staring at the canvas, unseeing, for who knew how long. They sighed, then refocused on the still life taking shape. It was such a relief to paint something that, while it revealed something of the artist, didn't feel as if it were flaying them alive in the process.
So here Selene was, just post-graduation, with a fresh degree in graphic design, minor in fine art. Graphic design was interesting and paid the bills, and painting filled their soul.
The best paintings always drew them inside, working Selene like a perfectly executed magic spell, or a favorite song, thrumming through their body on a crowded dance floor.
But that was neither here nor there. Selene had this painting to complete. It was a challenging enough piece, an occult still life that attempted to convey the deeper mystery behind the objects gathered on the scarred walnut table. The deer skull. A black-handled knife. A spray of foxglove. And a chalice, painted as if it reflected a rising moon.
Limning a bright line along the edge of the deer's skull, Selene tried to tune in to the painting again. The moon was almost full. Selene could feel it. They had always been attuned to the moon. Their childhood fascination with the glowing orb was what led Selene to witchcraft, and, of course, to their name.
Selene, Goddess of the moon. Daughter of Titans, sister of the sun.
Selene had been raised by ordinary, flawed humans, and was an only child, but they felt as if they could be sibling to the sun. Maybe. Mostly, though, even though the full moon was gorgeous, Selene tucked themself away like the moon did behind the perpetually cloudy Portland skies.
Besides, darkness was good for a lot of the magic it turned out Selene was best at. Bindings. Uncrossings. Banishings. Oh, they could work the mechanics of prosperity or love spells, and of course collaborated with their coven on spells for justice, but…they were just more comfortable with working magic on the dark side of the moon.
Cassiel would give Selene shit if she knew her coven mate wasn't comfortable doing magic for themself. Not after Selene had given Cassie a hard time for not asking the Gods for help with her own little situation last winter.
They rubbed a long hand across their forehead, careful not to smudge any paint on their skin. Selene spent too much time on their makeup to mar it with the thick paint that slicked the horsehair brush.
Arrow and Crescent coven was a good fit for a witch dedicated to the moon. Coven members all had different deity affiliations, but the coven itself was dedicated to Diana, another Goddess with ties to the moon.
It was funny—gazing at the moon always grounded Selene more firmly on earth. It reminded them that they were on a rock in the middle of space, and that the rock was home. Just like Portland was, and likely always would be, home.
They stepped back from the painting a moment, trying to see the whole. The bright edge of the skull reflected the moon in the water. The blade edge needed drawing out to form a magic triangle created by the lines of light. A triangle of edges.
Just like Selene.
Sometimes it really felt as if they were nothing but edge. No center. No core. No soft, beating heart. No warm lips. No laughter.
It was as if Selene had been built to be a weapon. A sharp sword to be wielded against those who intended harm.
It wasn't a good feeling. Never had been.
Selene was a sharp sickle, not the lush fullness of the moon that practically set their long, dark hair afloat around their head.
"Fuck. May as well pack it in for the night," they murmured. Once this mood hit, there was nothing to do but drink or dance, have sex or sleep. No way were they ready for bed, and sex? Yeah, unless it was with Selene's own hand, that wasn't happening. It had been too long since they'd found someone interesting enough who was also interested in them.
"Drink and dance it is, then," Selene said. Setting the brush in the soaking jar, they began to scrape the paint off their palette. "I just hope you know what you're up to, moon."
Selene felt the small hairs on their arms stand up, as if something had just walked over their grave. They whipped their head around, looking for danger. Nothing. Selene's dark eyes rested on the still life. The water in the chalice on the table moved, rippling for a moment, as though a form attempted to take shape.
A trick of the eye? Or a message to pay attention? All Selene knew was, the studio didn't feel so homey anymore.
"Okay, Goddess. I'm listening. Just let me know what to do."
But please, don't make me be a knife right now. And don't expose me too much. I really need a break.