The Witch in the Mirror – Part 35

Beatrice decided she wanted to get to know Josh. The way his music moved her—she needed to learn more about this boy. She had found out his name from Emily. Bea had casually asked Emily to tell her about some of the kids in the class.

Emily said she didn’t know much. She usually kept away from them, she said, because they were mostly the children of rich parents—spoilt children whose parents could afford this expensive school. She didn’t have time for any of them.

‘What about that scruffy guy over there?’ Bea had said, casually pointing at Josh. ‘He doesn’t look rich.’

Emily had admitted they weren’t all spoilt. Bea suspected it was a way for Emily to justify her attitude to herself.

‘His name is Josh. His mother is the school librarian. That’s how he can afford to come here and why he’s always hanging about the school late in the afternoon—waiting for his mum I guess.’

The librarian! Bea made a plan.

That afternoon as soon as the final bell went Bea packed her bag and rushed to the library. Sure enough, there was Josh sitting on a bench just outside the library. The cello case was on the ground beside him.

Bea stopped for a moment to catch her breath then walked casually up to him.

‘Hi, is the library shut already?’ She knew it was.

Josh was startled.

He just nodded.

‘Oh, damn. I’ll just have to take these books back tomorrow.’ She had several books tucked under her arm.

Josh was looking uncomfortably at her.

‘Is that your cello? I heard you playing in the music room the other day.’

Josh’s face relaxed a little. ‘Yeah, it’s new. I only got it a few weeks ago.’

‘I think the cello is the most amazing instrument. It produces such beautiful music. It makes me want to sing.’

Josh was amazed. No girl had ever spoken this much to him before.

‘Do you sing?’

‘Not really,’ said Bea, ‘At least—I don’t think so.’

Josh frowned.

‘Do you ever perform in public? I love hearing the cello played.’

‘I’m in the school orchestra. Actually—’ Josh hesitated. He could feel his heart racing. ‘I’m playing at the Fireworks Spectacular on the weekend. Are you going?’

‘I haven’t decided yet. Emily wants me to go.’

‘Oh—yeah—Emily.’

Josh lowered his eyes.

Bea looked at him curiously.

‘Well, I guess I should be going. I have to catch my bus. Maybe I’ll see you at the fireworks on Saturday.’

Josh nodded and Bea smiled as she turned and walked away. Her red hair bounced against her shoulders as she moved and Josh felt a warm glow spread throughout his chest.

He reached into his bag and pulled out a notepad and began scribbling down some music—this piece was going to soar like magic spinning across the sun. He needed to get home and begin practicing it so he could play it for Bea on Saturday night.

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 34

Emily was smiling as she sat on the edge of the bathtub. Candles illuminated the bathroom. Flower petals floated on the steamy surface of the water. She had been left alone in the house while her mother was out with Dave. That was her chance to study the book she had found in her locker. She assumed it had been a present from Bea.

The book had a single crescent moon printed on its cover. No title or anything to indicate what it was. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she realised it was a notebook. The pages were covered in handwritten scrawl and drawings, just like the one she had found in the cottage.

But unlike the other book this one was full of spells. Emily took off her coat and threw it on the sofa. She curled up with her feet underneath her bottom and began to flick through the book. A small packet fell out and when she opened it Emily found a silver chain with a pendant in the shape of a crescent. It was the same as the pendant she’d gotten from the antique shop. She stood at the mirror and placed the chain around her neck.

When Emily went to bed that night her head was full of happiness spells, love spells, wish spells—but best of all was the page titled memory spell.

 

Herbs for sleeping and dreaming – hops (dream pillow), passion flower, camomile, lavender, peppermint, poppy seeds, willow

 

Emily let her gaze return to the steaming bathtub. She could still picture the tattoo on the back of her neck.

Emily whispered.

‘Goddess, send me your gifts.’

She looked around the room and her eyes came to rest on the chair. Even in the dim candlelight she could see the book propped against the back of the chair.

Through the thin walls of the apartment she could hear children playing.

Emily thought about her mother. The long hours she worked to keep food on the table and Emily in school. When she could, Emily would create a money spell and her mother would never have to work again.

Emily stood and slipped off her robe. She turned to see if she could see the back of her neck in the mirror. She couldn’t see it, but it was still tingling. Instead she studied her body. She could see the outline of her ribs, the soft layer across her stomach. She sucked it in then ran her fingers across the tattoo that was tingling at the back of her neck.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 33

The town of Pemblebury had settled down to silence after the bustle of market day. Only the taverns still rattled with the noise of drunken traders being pushed out the door after last drinks. Decent citizens were safely home tucked up in bed because the nights were no longer safe.

The king’s guards roamed the streets, occasionally looking up at the stone castle perched on the hill overlooking the town. None of them were game to go near it even if they could. Some soldiers had tried in the early days of the king’s reign and their burnt bodies were later found in the woods. The king himself had decreed that the castle be left to rot—nobody was to go in, nobody was to come out.

The grassy parkland surrounding the castle had grown lank and weedy. To the west the woods were still wild and untamed. To the north was the crystal clear water of Pemblebury sound. The town of Pemblebury surrounded the eastern and southern edges of the castle.

The captain of the guard stood at the edge of the town square and watched a couple of drunks staggering home. A curl of red hair crept out from under his hat. The darkness hid the cruel smile on his lips. He would have some fun with those two later, just like he usually did. Nobody would ever miss peasants like that and if a body or two turned up in Pemblebury Sound in the morning nobody ever asked any questions.

But right now he was scouring the streets for signs of magic. There were still pockets of witches hiding amongst the villagers. The captain of the guard prided himself on the ability to smell witchcraft. It left behind a tang that was disgusting to him. He barely remembered the night his mother died giving birth to his younger sister but he could still remember the tang of magic left behind as the healer tried to save her life. She failed, though, and ever since Aran had hated witches until he could feel it boiling inside him. It was that hatred that had made him flee to the north, away from the rule of the witch queen and her blasted magic goodness.

Aran spat on the ground. He was only ten years old when he had reached Glaston Rock and fallen in with thieves and murderers. Then he was taken one night by the prince’s recruiters and trained to be a killer. His hand stroked the sword attached to his side. He loved nothing more than killing witches—killing drunks just kept him in practice and satisfied his thirst for blood.

A burst of light hit the street as the tavern door opened again. A few more drunks stumbled onto the cobblestones. Sailors this time. Aran could tell by the way they walked, as though they were bracing their drunken legs against a rising deck.

Aran never missed anything that happened on the streets usually, but he didn’t notice the figure in the dark cloak pausing at the end of the alleyway. Even when he turned his head and looked toward where the figure was standing in the shadows he saw nothing.

The cloaked figure waited until Aran turned his head again and then it melted back into the darkness. Leaving the town square, the figure paused again by a row of workers cottages. The face was obscured by the cloak but its head turned as though it were sniffing the air. Then it moved quickly toward one of the cottages in the middle.

Aeilin and her husband were fast asleep. Neither of them heard the latch on their cottage door unfasten and the door creak slowly open. Only the sound of the husband’s snoring carried through the tiny room.

The cloaked figure waited a moment and then moved toward the sleeping child. Alyce pulled back the hood to reveal her long silver hair plaited into a knot on top of her head. She hesitated. Guilt ran through her body. Could she do this? Then she remembered her sister and silently knelt by the child’s bedside.

With her healing talents it was just as easy to steal a child’s magic as it was to cast her own magic. Alyce pressed her hands together until they were warm and then lowered them to hover above the child’s heart.

Instantly Alyce could feel the tingle of the little girl’s magic running through her fingers and up her arms. It felt so good.

She kept her hands steady until she could feel the magic start to wane. Suddenly she realised the girl’s eyes were staring at her in horror—but what disturbed Alyce the most was the vacant look in the girl’s eyes. They were empty.

Alyce’s heart was racing as she quickly ran from the cottage and melted back into the night. She didn’t stop until she had safely reached the secret entrance to the castle. She paused and looked up at the full moon. It was shrouded in dark cloud.

She started saying a prayer to the goddess but an image of the young child’s eyes popped into her mind. She stopped praying. Then she remembered how good it felt as the magic ran up her arms.

She needed so much more.

Alyce swept through the secret door of the castle.

The moon disappeared completely behind the clouds.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 32

Bea watched Josh climb the stairs and walk into the music room. He was skinny and his clothes were worn out. Black curls dangled over his collar and he was carrying a beat up cello case. He stopped at the door for a moment and turned. Bea quickly looked away when he caught her looking but she could sense that he was studying her. Then she heard the door close and when she looked up again he was gone. A few minutes later that haunting cello melody began to ripple through Bea’s body. She found her hips swaying in time and her feet started moving. She just couldn’t help it.

Bea saw him again later that day in the library. She was sitting again at the desk in the back corner when she noticed him moving along the bookshelves. His lips were moving silently, as though he were counting the numbers on the shelves. When he reached the end of the row he suddenly jumped when he saw Bea sitting there. She smiled. Hi.

Hello. Their eyes met for a second and then he quickly looked away.

‘Do you need help finding a book?’

He quickly looked up and once again their eyes met. This time he kept Bea’s gaze for a few seconds. He looked at her long enough for Bea to see that his eyes were hazel, a dark hazel with hidden depths that looked hopeful. Then he looked down again and his long hair fell across his face.

‘Yeah, I’m trying to find the music section. The librarian said it was down here but all I can see are chemistry books.’

‘It’s on the other side of the shelf.’ Bea pointed.

‘Oh, okay. Thanks.’ And then he was gone.

Boost your glow

Boost your glow
With herbs and flowers
Fruits of the forest
Roses for your cheeks
Then run through the trees
Under blue blue skies

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 31

Anar was deep in thought as she found herself staring at her own reflection in the window of Margrit’s Old Wares and Antiques. She had been forming a plan of how she could get back at Emily and Bea. This shop was perfect because it wouldn’t have the security cameras and scanners of more modern stores.

A bell tinkled as Anar pushed the door open. The inside of the shop was dry and dusty and she couldn’t help coughing.

‘Good morrow, lassie. May I help you?’

‘Oh—hi. No thanks. I just wanted to browse.’ This is the perfect place, Anar thought to herself.

‘Take your time, dear. There is plenty of time to find something—or it will find you.’

The old lady behind the counter chuckled hoarsely. She peered at Anar from behind a tiny pair of glasses. Her long grey hair was tied in a single plait that hung down her back.

Anar felt a superstitious shiver. The old woman looked like a witch, particularly with those dried herbs hanging above her head.

‘There are books out the back as well. Some are quite old but you’ll find them interesting,’ the old lady called out to Anar.

‘Okay, thanks.’

Anar walked through the door and into a little room at the back of the shop. It smelt like old mushrooms and Anar held her scarf over her nose. She was amazed to see so many books stacked haphazardly from floor to ceiling. Those that were on shelves were just a jumble and she didn’t know where to begin.

She was about to leave the book room when an old green book caught her eye. The cover was faded with age but in the centre was a silver crescent moon that sparkled brightly. Anar reached up for the book but it was too high. She found a footstool and moved it closer. Dust rose off the top step and made her sneeze. Anar grabbed the book and looked over her shoulder to make sure the old lady couldn’t see her. She quickly shoved the book into her shoulder bag and arranged her scarf so it was covering the book.

Anar walked back into the shop and strode up to the counter.

‘Could I please have two of those scented candles? They’re a present for my gran.’

‘Oh, what a lovely granddaughter you are. My grandchildren have never bought me presents with their pocket money. Would you like them gift wrapped, dear?’

Anar nodded. She was thinking about the next phase of her plan.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 30

High Street in Pemblebury was long, narrow and rambling. Lined with a mixture of new and old buildings, High Street still followed the medieval wagon track that had once led to Pemblebury marketplace. There are no more remnants of those ancients markets but the medieval traders left their mark in the way High Street still follows the twists and turns around long forgotten rock outcrops and low lying swampy ground. The road had been closed to traffic years ago and now featured six city blocks of paved shopping mall.

Many of the buildings along High Street shopping mall were new constructions of steel and glass that reached high into the sky and changed the city’s skyline so much that few medieval folk would recognise their old village now. Some of the buildings were older, however, surviving in more or less their original form for centuries. The dusty canvas awning of one of these old stone buildings advertised itself as a seller of old wares and antiques.

Crowds of Saturday morning shoppers hurried past as Josh walked along High Street, waving his hand like a conductor’s baton. He could feel the rhythm of the crowd and was trying to work out how he could use that in his music assignment.

Da da da dum, Josh hummed.

A truck roared past, shifting gears as it accelerated away from the lights. Josh waited for the lights to change before he could cross. The pedestrian signal beeped and Josh tapped his foot in time. If he could program that timing into his drum machine then he could work a fugue on the cello around it.

Beep—beep—beep.

Beep beep beep.

The lights changed and Josh stepped off the curb. A car screeched to a halt as he sauntered across. His long hair curled across his face and Josh kept his head down rather than making eye contact with the driver. At least the footpath wasn’t as busy on this side of High Street.

Josh looked up and noticed one of the girls from school walking towards him. He slowed down and began to pretend to look in the window of a shop. The last thing he wanted was to run into Anar. She was one of those kids at school that had made the past two years hell for him.

He knew it was her group that had started the rumours about him being gay—just because he didn’t play football. He had never been sporty and it felt stupid chasing a ball around the park. He much preferred being inside with a book or playing music.

The bullying hadn’t started with anything too obvious. It was just little things that people said and then they always said they were joking. He usually laughed with them, but only until he got home. Then he would bury his head in his pillow and try and stop the tears—the tears just proved that what they said was true. Maybe he really was gay.

But Josh was pretty sure he wasn’t gay. He liked to look at girls—was even attracted to them—but he just didn’t know how to talk to them. He became tongue-tied whenever a girl was around. His mouth went dry and he stammered. No wonder they all thought he was queer. But he had never felt that way around guys. He just had nothing in common with the guys in his class at school and he was definitely not attracted to them.

He repeated this to himself as he turned his head to see if Anar had gone past yet, but she had stopped. She was standing in front of that antique shop with the faded awning.

She was wearing a short skirt and tight fitting top and cardigan. He studied her face while she seemed to be deep in thought. Suddenly she smiled as though she’d had an idea and pushed the door open to enter the shop.

Josh was curious. Why would Anar be looking in an antique shop?

He moved closer until he could see her through the window. The old lady behind the counter was talking to her and Anar was looking around. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but he saw Anar nod her head and disappear into a room out the back.

He moved further down the street and waited for her to come out. A few minutes later she quickly walked through the door of the shop and hurried past where Josh stood. She didn’t notice him as she reached into her bag and pulled out a green book. He caught a glimpse of something silver glint in the sunlight. Anar was smiling as she slipped the book back into her bag.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 29

The first thing Alyce needed to do was find a spell to break the king’s enchantment over her sister. It would need to be a powerful spell—more powerful than any that had ever been cast before on the Southern Isle.

Alyce sat in the library, her face lit by the flickering lamp, as she thought of all the things she had been taught about magic by her mother. The first thing was that magic was bestowed by the goddess. It was inside all living things and many things that weren’t living as well. The flowers, trees, birds, animals of the forest, all possessed their own kind of magic, just like the wind, water in a stream, clouds in the sky, the rocks and sand.

It took a special person to be able to use that magic, to control it. That was the lesson that Alyce had found the hardest to learn as a child. She remembered how all she wanted to do was make things move, but it was just too hard. It all seemed to come so easily to her sister, Alexandria. Katharine would just stand by and smile but she never helped. Alexandria was so full of excitement that she could control the wind, turn water into ice and create a fireball in her hand. But Alyce could do none of those things. Once again her mother calmed Alyce’s tears and patiently explained that magic came from inside.

Alyce had closed her eyes and eventually conjured up a tiny ball of fire. She never got the hang of wind and water but she later discovered her real talent was as a healer. That wasn’t as satisfying to Alyce as making things move. That is why Alexandria was made the queen when their mother died, because she had control of all her magic and was a true moon witch.

But somehow the prince had been able to overcome that magic with his own darkness and it was now up to Alyce to save the islands—and her sister.

She moved the lamp to the desk. She could already hear voices whispering from the Book of Shadows. It was over a thousand years old and contained the knowledge of all the daughters of the moon that had come before her.

Alyce nervously opened the front cover as she whispered a prayer to the goddess. Rain hammered against the window and the pages of the book fluttered back and forth. Slowly they settled and Alyce leaned forward to see what was written there.

To undo what has been done

By the shadows of darkness

Begotten ruthless silence

To cast your spell takes patience

Alyce stared at the page. She had no idea what it meant. But two words caught her eye—darkness and patience.

If darkness had been used to cast the enchantment it would take all the magic of the three moons to break the spell. Or Alyce could just wait until she had gained enough power to break the spell on her own. And that would require patience.

She closed the book and sat back and thought hard. The castle was well protected against the king. Defense spells were one type of magic Alyce knew she was good at. That bought her enough time to be patient. The other problem was how to build up her magic. She knew of one way. The quickest was to take the magic from a young witch. Their magic was strongest, but also most vulnerable, on the third full moon after a witch’s sixteenth birthday. It was also when a young witch’s magic ran wildly out of control before she learned to harness it and take her place as a fully-fledged witch of the Coven of the moon. But where could Alyce find a witch that was just about to turn sixteen?

There was a slower way. Alyce remembered the fairy tales her mother had told her and her sisters when they were children. The one that sprang into her mind was the story of the evil witch that had feasted on the magic of the village children. The story was meant to be a warning to children to be home and safe inside before darkness fell. But if it were true…

Alyce shuddered to think of where those thoughts might lead her. But she had to rescue her sister. Besides—she convinced herself—the village children didn’t even use their magic. Most of them didn’t even know they had any so they wouldn’t miss it if she took a little from them. A little bit of magic at a time wouldn’t hurt at all.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 28

Rain was falling gently outside as Josh hurried through the door of the café. He pushed his wet hair back off his forehead and manoeuvered his cello case past the tables, careful not to bump his brand new instrument. Squeezing into his usual table in the back corner of the café he leaned the cello against the wall.

The café was dimly lit, which was exactly why Josh liked to come here. He could hide in the corner and watch the world passing by without anyone noticing him. Plus he loved the Belgian hot chocolates and marshmallows they served here.

Josh slung his backpack onto a chair to claim the table and then made his way to the counter and ordered his hot chocolate. The girl behind the counter didn’t even bother to look up at him as she took his money. He picked up the table number and turned to walk back to his table when he noticed Bea and Emily sitting at a table on the other side of the room. He recognised them from class, even though he had never spoken to either of them.

He slipped back into his chair and pulled a book from his bag. Throne of Glass. He had been enthralled by the book for weeks. He opened the book and started reading, but his eyes kept being drawn toward Bea and Emily.

He had known Emily as a classmate for years. She was kind of quiet and kept to herself. A strand of dark hair hung down over her forehead and partly obscured her face. Josh had never seen her in the café before.

He watched as Emily reached across the table and squeezed the other girl’s arm. She seemed to be upset about something. Josh looked at the new girl more closely. Her long red hair was tied up on top of her head. The frizzy hair that escaped caught the light and gave her a reddish-golden halo. He found himself drawn to her round face. Josh wasn’t usually attracted to girls but he couldn’t help thinking that Bea was one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen.

He wondered why she was upset. Even from this distance he could see tears forming in her eyes. He felt a lump in his throat and had an urge to help her, whatever it was. He didn’t move of course. Josh often had these urges but he was too shy to ever act on them.

Emily squeezed Bea’s hand and Josh looked away. He had to find out what had happened to the beautiful assassin in his book. The next time he looked up the table was empty. Bea and Emily had left.

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