Check out our episode here! Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
The story opens in late evening. It’s fall and trees in colors of orange, gold, brown and green surround a small town. A lone figure looks down from a hill and down in the streets is a wandering white wolf, reminiscing about when they used to live there. They moved around a lot as a kid, but this place always felt right. The wolf thinks about visiting someone, but first, they have to find something.
Nova lives with her grandmas, Nana and Nechama, and helps them in their shop, the Black Cat Bookseller Café. This isn’t an ordinary bookshop café though. Nova and her grandmas are witches and have a back room filled with rare magical books. Nova’s friend Tatyana, or Tat, is not magical; she's all about science but believes in her friend's powers. Tat calls Nova, which means she has to take her hearing aids out, but then immediately comes in the café to tell Nova she is seeing weird lights in the trees at night and a white wolf coming out of the forest. Nova plans on checking it out that night, but grumbles at Tat for making her take out her hearing aids. Tat’s just keeping her on her toes.
In the forest after the sun has gone down, Nova spots the white wolf and remembers another from her childhood. When she says the name “Tam,” the white wolf dashes off. Nova catches up and finds it battling a horse-demon! Using a spell, Nova is able to help the wolf drive the horse-demon away. After it's gone, Nova finds a beaten and naked Tam on the ground. Nova insists that Tam come home with her and stay while they are in town.
At home, the grandmas are delighted to see Tam again and welcome them to stay as long as they need to. Once healed and settled, Tam explains why they are back. There are theories that wolf magic can be used for more than transformation if the energy could be harnessed. There is a bound demon buried in the forest that only the power of a wolf can raise, and Tam wants to stop that from happening so they came back with the intention of doing just that. Unfortunately, they got stuck as a wolf and didn’t know how to make their magic work. Nova promises they will work this out together and stop the demon.
The next morning, Nova and Tam explain to the grandmas what is going on over breakfast. The grandmas are encouraging and suggest some things to research, then Nechama suggests they should just experiment. Tat visits after breakfast and Nova explains to Tam that Tat knows everything and is probably the only scientist who’ll ever respect them. Tam reveals that they are the white wolf which blows Tat’s mind. Together, the three hit the magic books for research but they find nothing. Nova suggests to Tam they try experimenting like the grandmas suggested which Tat takes as her cue to leave, giving Nova and Tam a meaningful look on her way out.
Later that day, Mrs. Crawford, a local witch, comes into the shop to collect a potion ingredient order and gossip with the grandmas about the commotion in the woods. Shortly after she leaves, Nova and Tam announce they are off to experiment. The grandmas turn to each other, giving each other significant knowing looks and then decide to look into the demon themselves. They head to Witch Wood State Park and go through a huge, ornately-carved magical door and into a magical forest filled with wonderful spirit creatures. In exchange for some trinkets, the spirits agree to help them. As they leave the forest, the grandmas hear a growl.
Meanwhile, Nova and Tam are sitting on their old bench. They’ve missed each other over the years. Tam was pretty much living off the grid so Nova could never find them. If one good thing has come from this mess, it's that they’ve been brought back together. They share a kiss.
In the forest, the grandmas are battling the demon-horse and are able to purge the demon from its horse host and imprison it in a magical cell. They wonder if Nova and Tam have made progress, and yeah, they have, but with their lips, which isn’t a bad thing. The grandmas are definitely cool with this progress when they find out. Over tea, the grandmas explain what happened in the forest and that they definitely agree Tam’s wolf magic will be needed. This really worries Tam because they don’t know how to use their magic, but at least they have the support of Nova and her grandmas.
As they are waiting for the next full moon, Tam falls into a routine with Nova and her family and helps them prepare for the mid-autumn festival, building the Sukkah where they’ll eat mooncakes with Nova’s extended family. It’s been a long time since Tam has celebrated anything. Their stepdad, pretty much they're only family, isn’t a happy person.
On the day of the festival, the table is laden with good food and drink and they are joined by Nova’s Aunt Dawn, Uncle Joe and cousin Terry, who has a pigeon head and coos. Nova’s parents are also there, well “there” as they are ghosts. Overall the celebration goes wonderfully, though there is a moment when Nova’s parents question why Nova is still at home and not off doing her witch apprenticeship. Nana points out that Nechama is teaching her magic and they should be proud of her. This upsets Nova who hides in the bookstore until Tam finds her and offers her comfort and explains their own family stuff. As they hold each other, Terry pops in and tells them he and his family are leaving. Wait. He talks?!
The next day is the full moon. Nova and Tam are headed to the forest when they encounter Mrs. Crawford. While Nova is wary of her, Tam embraces her. Mrs. Crawford was always nice to young Tam when things got rough with their stepdad. When they reach the forest, Nova and Tam find the imprisoned demon, then Tam transforms into the white wolf.
But nothing happens. The demon remains. Tam as the wolf runs back to the Black Cat Café where Nova finds them next to the sukkah. The next day, Nova tells the grandmas what happened. Nova is worried about Tam who is still upstairs dejected and frustrated. Nova suggests they try a magic that allows witches to enter each other’s minds to strengthen their connection. Tam agrees, so they sit on the floor in a circle of crystals and hold hands.
That night in another house, Tat is at her nannying job. After she puts the children to bed and sends a sassy text to Nova, she notices a strange green light coming from the house next door. Phone still in hand, Tat sends another message to Nova, this time telling her there is weird stuff happening and asking her to come over.
Meanwhile, Nova and Tam are deep in the spell. Nova shares her memories of Grandma Nechama teaching her magic and nonverbal communication that would allow her to handle the real world better when her hearing aids could not. Together they dive into the spell deep to figure out Tam’s wolf magic. Hours pass and they don’t even realize but it seems to have been worth it. After they have dinner, Nova gets the frantic texts from Tat and heads over. The weird lights have stopped, but they were the same ones Tat saw coming from the forest. The house belongs to Mrs. Crawford. As Tat starts needling Nova for information about her and Tam, they hear a loud bang that shakes the house from outside. Mrs. Crawford is calling the demon and freeing it from its cage, but Nova can’t allow that. She takes one of her hearing aids out and holds it at the top of her wand, sending a spell through it knocking Mrs. Crawford out.
Nova bursts through the door of the Black Cat Café. Everyone is stunned when Nova explains what has happened. Nova had the forethought of bringing the imprisoned demon with her which they lock into the shed. Over tea and cookies, they discuss next steps, but Tam is in shock. Mrs. Crawford was always so nice to them but it seems it was with purpose. Tam’s stepdad is a member of a cult who wants to use werewolves as hosts for demons, which is one of the reasons Tam ran away. Their stepdad wants to use Tam as a host which is why he married Tam’s mom. Mrs. Crawford must be a member of the same cult. Nova and the grandmas are badass witches—Mrs. Crawford can bring it!
As Nova and Tam get ready for bed, it’s really obvious how bothered Tam is by everything. They want to try and fix things now, not in the morning. Waiting until Nova is asleep, Tam sneaks out taking the key to the shed. They are going to try to use their wolf magic to end it tonight. Sitting on the fence next to the shed with her opera glasses in hand is Mrs. Crawford anticipating a good show. Tam blasts her, knocking her down before stepping inside the shed to face the demon. And nothing happens. The wolf magic doesn’t come. Instead, Tam is blasted by Mrs. Crawford and is knocked out, magically carried with the caged demon off into the forest.
One of the black cats of the Black Cat Café spots the empty shed and with its fellows, goes to wake Nova. Groggily Nova investigates, but once she notices the shed is empty, she runs to the grandmas in a panic. As soon as Nova is dressed, and despite her grandmas’ protests, Nova runs to Mrs. Crawford’s house... but it is empty. When she returns to the Black Cat cafe, Nova finds her grandmas preparing a spell to locate Tam.
Tam wakes up locked in a cage within a cavern and the demon is suspended a short distance away. Mrs. Crawford is below in red cultist robes, a proper stereotype. Tam tries to break out, but it’s no good. The grandmas nearly have the location spell ready only needing the final component, something of Tam’s. Nova retrieves a sweater and when she returns to the kitchen, she finds Tat has arrived. Tat gives Nova the rallying pep talk all best friends are worth their weight in gold for. The location spell is performed and Tam’s location is highlighted on a map. As Tat puts it, “Nerd to the rescue!”
By early morning, the three witches and one scientist are loaded with potions and spells, and the grandmas have even brought magical forest creature backup. Mounting brooms, they head off to rescue Tam, sort out the demon and lay the smack down on Mrs. Crawford and the cult.
Back in the cave, the rest of the cult have arrived including Tam’s stepdad. The cultists take Tam from their cage, strap them to a dais and begin to chant. As Mrs. Crawford starts to brag, the forest spirits attack, distracting the cultists, and Tat starts throwing bottles of potions with abandon. Nova frees Tam from their chains, but unfortunately Mrs. Crawford is up and about and finishes the chant which forces Tam to change into the white wolf as the demon enters them, taking control. Nova is able to make the wolf stop and we glimpse what is going on with Tam and the demon on the inside.
Tam is talking to a wolf spirit. The demon wasn’t a demon after all but a forest spirit who had been corrupted by the cult. The wolf relinquishes control of Tam and they can both hear Nova calling to them as Tam changes back to human. The wolf spirit is renewed, the corruption is gone through Tam’s powers and will return to the forest with the other spirits. Mrs. Crawford will face the witches’ council.
Two days later, Nova makes a decision about her future. When her ghost parents come for a visit, she tells them and her grandmas that she is going to leave for an apprenticeship. They’re proud of her and support her choice. While on a walk with Tam to visit the house they lived in when they were a kid, Nova tells them her plans. Tam, handing Nova the bracelet they had buried under a tree on the property as a keepsake, tells her they will come with her. They declare their love for each other and kiss.