Harmony Coxcomb, Witch for Hire Out Now!

Hello, all! I just wanted to announce that my latest book, Harmony Coxcomb, Witch for Hire is out now on Amazon in both paperback and ebook!

It’s the story of a young witch who comes to the Mortal Realm for a season to experience mortal life. She gets a job and an apartment and tries to fit in when she clearly stands out.

Locked and Lost, Part 1

Lust looked to Envy and smirked. They were so over their head on this one. Lust reapplied her red matte lipstick while maintaining eye contact with the green one. She quirked her brows as she capped the bullet tube and tucked it away in her purse.

“I hate you,” Envy said. His arms were crossed over his chest and he was very carefully not looking at her. “Sometimes, I really hate dealing with you.”

“It’s because I’m gorgeous!”

Envy didn’t try to argue, he just huffed and looked across the street. There was a happy family bopping along together; it was disgusting. He had nothing and here they were, out in broad daylight, happily flaunting their bliss. It was wrong.

Wrath grunted at Envy. It was her monosyllabic way of asking if they needed killing. Envy just waved her off. She bit back on the urge to backhand him for his flippant gesture.

“So, why did you bring us all here?” Pride asked. He was tall and sharply dressed in a new silk suit. He adjusted his tie and tried to look bored by it all while still looking down on Sloth and Gluttony.

They were hand-in-hand sitting on the sidewalk. Sloth was wearing the dirty clothes he’d slept in and Gluttony was scarfing down something that smelled like gas station nachos, but where so covered in other things it was hard to tell.

Lust smiled and blew a kiss to the sailor as he passed by them on the sidewalk; Greed swiped his watch while he was distracted.

“The answer to all of our questions is inside,” She looked in the window. There were seven people, the fun-house mirror reflections of them, gathered inside the diner. “It took a lot of finesse to find them, but I did.” She said finesse like it was a saucier dirtier word than it needed to be.

“What are you thinking, Lust?” Pride asked. He had a plan forming in his head already, but he wanted to hear her’s first so that he could one-up her.

She smiled. “I’m proposing something that will make all of our jobs so much easier.” She licked her lips and winked at a passerby. Envy scowled. “If they were to…disappear…then there would be no ‘good’ influence for us to contend with.”

Sloth was so shocked, he almost got to his feet, and Gluttony stopped mid-bite. Wrath smiled, revealing too-sharp teeth. Envy looked intrigued.

“Damn,” Pride said. Her idea was better than his. “I’ll be damned.”

“And, so will we all, but not for a long time.” Lust said. She sauntered to the door of the diner and opened the door and slipped inside.

Coffee Break

Barista served take away hot coffee cup to customer at counter bar in cafe restaurant,coffee shop business owner concept,Service mind waitress

Mara was swamped. The line was out the door and growing. It was also her first day as a barista.

“I can get the next customer,” she called over the hissing of the steamer.

“Good morning!” said a woman stepping up to the counter. She was tall, over six feet, and her willowy frame made her look just a little like a pale stick insect. As she tucked a strand of hair back, Mara thought her ears looked a little pointy.

Probably some kind of cosplay.

“Hi! What can I get you?” Mara’s hand was poised over the register, hovering, twitching to get the order started.

“I’d like 10 double shots, please,” the woman’s teeth seemed just a little pointy, too. “Oh, and lots of sugar!”

Mara’s hand faltered.

“That’s 20 shots,” she said.

“Uh-huh!”

“That will kill you!”

“I don’t think so.” The other-worldly woman said brightly. “It’s my usual.”

“Your usual? Is this a joke?”

“Nope.” As she spoke, there was something wicked behind her eyes. “You can ask your supervisor if you like.”

Mara turned slowly to her trainer. Mellissa was finishing up the drink she was working on; without looking she reached for the sticker printer to make the next drink.

“Hey, Mel?”

“Yeah?” Mellissa took to quick strides over to the register. “What’d you break?”

“N-nothing,” Mara stammered. “I just don’t know if I can make this order.”

“Why?” Mellissa looked up at the customer and smiled. “Oh, hi, Titania! Usual?”

The strange woman, Titania, nodded and smiled at Mara.

“Yeah, this one is different,” Mellissa said. “The system won’t let us key it in, so we just scan this barcode. It’s the same price. The sticker printer spits out a blank sticker- then we just make it.”

Mara did as she was told, and took Titania’s money.

“We’ve got a line this morning, and your drink always takes a while,” Mellissa said. “Can I make yours last?”

“No worries, I’ll wait.”

Mellissa nodded and patted Mara on the shoulder.

“You’re doing great, kid,” she whispered.

Mara cleared the line and stepped in next to Mellissa to start making drinks. It was midmorning, and even the drive-thru was slowing down. It was quick work with the two of them both making drinks.

“Here you go, Titania,” Mellissa said. “Thanks for your patience.”

In answer, Titania just smiled. She locked eyes with Mara as she put the 30-ounce cup to her lips and started chugging. The shots were cooling, but still hot. Mara watched in horror as she downed the deadly drink.

When she finished, Titania smiled at Mara and quirked her brows, smiling.

“Until next time, mortal,” Titania said on her way out. When she reached the door, she turned and looked at Mara. “What was your name?”

Mellissa stepped in swiftly. In her hand was the branch with little red berries that Mara had seen on a shelf behind the register.

“You know we can’t do that, Titania.” Mellissa’s voice was stern and she held the branch out like a sword.

Titania recoiled from it but smiled.

“It never hurts to ask.” She waved and left.

“And that,” Mellissa said gesturing to the door. “Is why I told you not to tell me your real name. You can’t trust their kind.”

“I don’t understand.” Mara looked down at her name tag. It said, Dave.

“You know my name isn’t Mellissa, and no I won’t tell you what it is.” She took a deep breath. “If she learns your name, she can control you- make you do things against your will.”

Mara’s mouth popped open in sudden realization.

“You mean-“

“Yeah, that’s the Fairy Queen.” Mellissa looked over at Mara. “Just scan the barcode and keep the line moving and you’ll be okay.”

Swamp Witch

And just like that, the sun rose.

I woke, slowly at first, then all at once. I woke as I fell asleep, with the ineffable feeling of falling.

Only this time, I fell. My knees hit the hard wooden floor of my one-room house, and for a moment, I regretted putting them in. The soft dirt would have been softer to fall onto.

I stretched and dressed in the dark. I did most things in the dark these days. The generator ran out months ago, and it saved me from looking in the mirror. It led to better days.

I always wanted to be a swamp witch when I was a kid. Somehow, I didn’t consider the mosquitoes in all my childish dreaming. The first summer I was burned and twisted and swollen from the elements.

I loved it.

I combed the swamp and slept beneath the willows until I found this little hut. It was abandoned, just like me, and no one came to claim it. Just like me.

The cot was already there and I bought the floors. Tourists with too much money like the things I find in my swamp; everybody likes a terrifying bog witch.

It’s quiet. Not peaceful-quiet.

Something’s wrong. Someone is in my swamp.

I resist the urge to giggle at the reference. This is serious. My skin crawls with worry and my stomach leaps to my throat when I hear them.

Poachers.

I slip out of my shack like a ghost- cunning and stealthy.

I creep behind the protected trees and over the protected land, carefully picking my way across the swamp. I resist the urge to retch when I find the first trap. It’s a snare, and I nearly get caught in it myself.

I crouch low and keep my breathing steady and my ears open as I untie it and loop the rope around my shoulder. I hope it’s the last, even as I find another and another.

When I find their camp, I am sick. Dead animals hang from trees and meat roasts on a dwindling, unattended fire. I put out the fire and take down the animals and bury them in the soft soil. I ask Mother Moon to watch over them into the next life.

I creep back into the depths of the swamp when I hear them again. I can’t hear their words, but I can tell their confusion bends quickly to rage.

I smile at their fury.

I spend the rest of the day stalking them and taking down their traps. When night falls, and the poachers return to their camp, I stay on the fringes and watch them.

I wait for sleep to take them. Then, it’s my turn.

I snare and trap them, one by one. My hands are deft, and they don’t wake. I make sure they don’t wake again.

When they aren’t a threat again, I finally hear the animals return, and the not in my chest eases.

I spend the night taking what I can use back to my home. They won’t be needing them again. I like the blankets best. They’re soft and as I snuggle down to sleep, I hear the birdsong.

And just like that, the sun rose.

Lulu

The wheels in my head are spinning as I look over the files. None of this makes sense. It isn’t even incrypted, though it should be. It’s just plain bad.

I risked life and limb for this program, and I can’t even use it.

My phone buzzes. I flip it over and look at the screen; it’s my boss. I really don’t want to talk to him, but ignoring his call is dangerous.

“Hey, Mac,” I say, hoping I somehow convey confidence.

“Stow it,” he grunts. “Did you get it? What does it say?”

“Oh, I got it.” I take a deep breath and let it out. “I’m just not sure we want it.”

“Come again?”

“It’s just some worthless, poorly-written story. It was the only file on the server in the vault. I guess it’s sentimental.”

“Don’t give me that crap! I sent you out to get an AI program; you must have gotten the wrong file!”

“I assure you, I got the right file, I just don’t understand it.”

“Fine,” he grumbled. “I’ll get someone else to read it. You’re done.”

My phone went dead; he’d hung up. A shiver crept down my spine as a shadow passed in front of my front window. It was a while before I remembered that I live on the third floor.

I’ve read that programmers are turning to dark magic to protect their files. Encryptions can be broken given enough time; if you break a binding spell you might die.

I did some experimenting with the dark arts in college. It was a phase. I read the words aloud, hoping something would happen. Nothing did.

I took off my glasses and closed my laptop. Hopefully, Mac would go easy on me. Best case? He’d agree to let me live and just not pay me.

I shook my head. Really this was my fault for majoring in philosophy instead of business.

I popped my regular glasses back on and nearly jumped out of my skin. There was a little girl standing across the coffee table from me.

“Hello, I’m Lulu,” she said simply. It was odd, her voice was that of a thirty-something woman, but the figure before me looked no older than eleven.

“Hi?”

“What can I help you with?” she asked. There was something uncanny about her, like she was a very clever facsimile of a person. She looked like someone recreated a little girl from memory instead of from life.

Then it clicked.

She was the AI program. It was some sort of hologram virtual assistant. I reached for my phone to call Mac back, but something about her made me nervous about placing a call, so I texted him.

“What can I help you with?” she asked again. I know I was imagining it, but she was starting to sound annoyed.

“Uh…” My mind went blank and I said the first stupid thing I could think of. “Find Chinese food near me?”

She smiled and rattled off a list of restaurants nearby. “I’d reccomend Xin Xian, you’ve ordered from them before.”

“How do you know that?”

“I automatically connected to your WiFi. It was easy to find what you’ve searched for before.”

I reached for my phone to call Mac but she was quicker. In an instant, she was sitting on the couch next to me and I had to reach through her to get my phone.

It felt wrong.

“Who are you calling? I can make the call for you?”

“No, thanks, I’ll just send a text.” I didn’t take my eyes off her for more than a split second as I sent a 911 text to my boss.

She stood and walked to my front window. “You’re a long way up,” she remarked. “It sure would hurt if you fell.”

My blood ran cold and my face blanched. Was she threatening me? That was impossible, she was a computer program.

I opened my laptop to see if there was a way to close her. I’d barely opened my machine when there was an electric buzzing around my throat.

I looked down and saw she was hauling me my neck to the window. She tossed me through. I fell and fell. When I finally hit the pavement below, two things were clear, one, that every bone in my body was broken and two, that she was standing at the window looking down at me.

After a while Dom, Mac’s right hand rushed up to me. “What happened?”

“Forget it, where’s Mac?”

“Upstairs, checking out the program,” he said confused. “Why, what’s wrong?”

Before I could answer, there was a deep howling scream as a large body hurtled through my broken window.

The Dryad

Nathra looked down at her soil covered hands and smiled. Earth was embedded deep under her nails, an act of rebellion her mother could not stop, and new sapplings were springing up all around her.

She closed her eyes and said a prayer to the goddess of the trees, thanking her for the wonderful oppurtunity to plant such blessed life. In her deep meditation, she began to sing a wordless tune. Her grandmother told her when she was little that the goddess liked music.

Nathra stood slowly, eyes still closed, and gently stretched her arms out. Gingerly, she twirled, not wanting to tread on the new life.

Instruments, the likes of which no mere Man had heard before, filled the Mabon air as she danced. A hand laced its fingers through hers and guided her in a more graceful and purposeful routine.

Nathra’s eyes flew open. She was face to face with the goddess of the trees. She tried to drop to her knees in reverence, but the goddess held her tight. Nathra dropped her gaze.

“Do not fear me, little one,” the goddess said angling Nathra’s face to her own. “I am most pleased with you.”

“You are?” Uneasiness lingered at the edges of her mind. Her grandmother also told her to be wary of gifts and praise from the old gods. She said at best they were a double-edged sword. Nathra didn’t want to think about what they were like at worst.

“Yes,” the goddess laughed. “And do not be afraid; I mean you no harm. I just want to reward your patience and virtue.”

Nathra smiled weakly. Though her grandmother never said it aloud, she knew that rejecting a god anything was suicide.

“Give me your hands,” the goddess commanded, the hardness of oak dripping into her voice.

Nathra complied and the goddess took a spine from a nearby bush and pricked each of Nathra’s ten fingers. Blood bloomed, but only for a moment.

As the goddess kissed the cuts, green stems and leaves webbed their way out. She smiled at the once mortal’s instant panic.

When Nathra opened her mouth to speak, a torrent of foliage came tumbling out. She looked at her feet and horror swept over her as she saw her toes elongate into roots and burrow themselves deep underground.

“My sweet dryad,” the goddess of the trees purred. “I’ve always wanted one of you, ever since your people first made you up in song and legend. Now I have you. Protect my forest.”

A creaking sound like branches breaking in a strong wind came from Nathra and the goddess turned. She frowned for a moment before she spoke.

“Don’t worry about the god of beasts,” she scolded. “You’re practically one of his now. He won’t harm you.”

Dark Ages

Happy #FlashFictionFriday, everyone! Here is a piece I wrote as soon as I finished formatting my manuscript for my new novel. Stay tuned for updates, but, for now, enjoy!

The lights blinked off and the front door’s lock clicked. Rothe Pontius looked around slowly. He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to be doing this.

This was 2048; magic should have long been mainstream by now. Witch hunters weren’t so worried about killing anymore; there was no profit in it. These days they were into blackmail.

It was all a big mistake. He wasn’t even a wizard, he was a high elf. He didn’t use magic, he was magic. But, the bastards at Hunter Acquisitions weren’t into splitting hairs. They made their millions with the extorted help of the magic community.

If you were found out, you not only faced being ostracized from your clan, but you also had to do something for Hunter or they would send you to the state run asylum. Rothe’s father was sent there a few years back, and he hadn’t seen him since. No one ever came back.

Rothe was lucky. His mother was dead and he was an only child. This extortion would end with him. All he had to do was every little thing that popped into the heads of the uppity-ups at Hunter; there was no one else they could hurt to make him cooperate.

The coast was clear now and Rothe let himself shift toward visibility. It gave him a headache to stay camouflaged for very long. If he was going to break the law, he wanted to make damn sure that he was at least comfortable doing it.

This little hovel of a shop seemed such an unlikely place for the next generation of nanotech to be invented, but even the mighty computer was made up in someone’s garage. Rothe shook his head.

This place advertised that they could fix anything. Their track record was 100%; great, but more than a little suspicious.

“Thanks, Pop,” he muttered as the Hunter implant gave him a gentle shock to get him moving already. It wasn’t really his dad’s fault, but it wasn’t really his either. It just felt good to have someone to blame.

Rothe’s footfalls made no sound as he walked the length of the little repair shop. When he got to the back, he found the door labeled private locked. It had a retina scanner and a card reader. He chuckled. Nothing was ever truly locked to a high elf.

He began to sing to the lock, coaxing it, seducing it, into opening. Singing magic was the most powerful and no one could sing like an elf. His voice rose higher and higher until only dogs could hear his beautiful melody.

The door unlocked and swung open before he even finished his song. Mundane locks were really no challenge, but with Hunter breathing down everyone’s neck, magic locks were just too dangerous to parade about in the open.

Rothe slipped inside and shut the door behind him. The overhead lights came on when he got about five steps in. There was a worktable, but on it were no tools. Pieces of broken handheld devices and damp computers were strewn around.

Rothe saw movement out of the corner of his eye, and spun himself around in time to have a net thrown over him. Then someone started singing.

“Shit!” Rothe cursed as the net shrank around him, binding him and tearing at his tanned flesh.

The song stopped when he could no longer move. Then, a lone figure strode silently out from the corner of the room. It was another high elf.

“Shit is right,” the high elf tittered. She was taller than Rothe and her hair was pale lavender, a shade many mortals paid handsomely to try and copy without much success. “Why are you here in my shop?” Her voice was high and sharp.

“I’m looking for something.”

“Oh? What might you be looking for?” There was venom in her words and the magic coming off them stung Rothe’s face.

“I can’t tell you.”

“You will.” She began to sing again and the rope in the net twisted and transformed itself into iron. Iron was the only thing that could leach the magic out of your bones. It burned as it worked it’s evil.

“I’m looking for the nanotech,” Rothe admitted. “I was sent by Hunter Acquisitions to find the nanotech you are using for your repair business.”

The high elf flicked her hand and the net was gone. She stepped carefully toward him, her feet silent. “Is that really what they told you?”

Rothe nodded.

“I don’t like liars.” She sang soft and low. “But, I can see you aren’t lying. Get up. We need to talk.”

“My name is Hetta Locke. I was given up for adoption just after birth because Hunter Acquisitions was coming after my family.” she said. The way she looked at Rothe told him that he could show pity at his own peril. “I have no clan. I had to learn to use magic on my own.”

“It’s lucky high elves are so good at singing,” Rothe said, steering the subject toward something safer. “My mother sang to me every night.”

“I got hit for singing at my first foster house.” Hetta said. She stood and stretched her legs, rolled her neck. “I think it may be time for us to go public.”

“Pardon?”

“With our magic. I’m sick of being hunted. I’m sick of living in fear.”

“We’d still be hunted and we’d still be living in fear. Everyone would be hunting us. Everyone would have a new reason to be afraid.” Rothe shook his head. “Hunter already has me.”

“I know, but instead of going back to them, let’s call the local news. They are always hungry for a story.”

“I can’t,” he said and tapped the scar above his implant. “How would that even be better? How would bringing us to the forefront of every mortal’s mind make us safer?”

“Because there are a lot more of us than you or Hunter think there are. All of us are living in fear, and I guarantee that all of us are sick of it.” Hetta grabbed Rothe’s hands. “Trust me.”

Rothe ripped his hands out of hers and turned to leave. “I don’t even know you.”

He didn’t sleep well. Every couple of hours, his implant would go off and wake him up. It was miserable, but he didn’t want to think about how much more miserable it would be when they found out he didn’t have what he was sent to get.

Hunter Acquisitions picked him up the next morning in a black van. Rothe thought it was a little cliché, but that seemed to be the aesthetic Hunter was selling these days. He wasn’t blindfolded or restrained in any way, and the driver even offered him a something to drink.

Rothe declined. Rumor had it that Hunter was not above slipping extras into the drinks they offered. Between that and the implant, they could make him do or say anything. He didn’t want to betray Hetta, but he worried about his own skin. He had no new nanotech to show for last night’s endeavor.

Instead of letting him off at the front entrance, they pulled into the garage and went through the service door. The elevator ride to the top floor was short. He was ushered down the hall to an ornate wood paneled office by a rather intimidating security guard. Jonah Hunter was standing at the door waiting for him. His expression was grim.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” he barked.

“I’m sorry, but there was no tech to steal-“

“I’m not talking about that, we already knew that! Do you really think that I didn’t know that?” He clicked a remote and the large painting in the office switched to a television screen. The 24 hour news channel showed Hetta’s face with a crawl beneath it saying magic was real. “What do you have to say about this?”

Rothe was speechless. He hadn’t really thought that Hetta would have gone ahead with it. He glanced at the screen again and this time saw security footage of himself slowly becoming visible, then him caught in the net.

“Shit.”

“Yeah, shit!” Jonah Hunter paced the room. “You are completely useless to us now!”

“Does that mean I’m free to go?” Rothe asked hopefully.

Jonah clicked another button on the remote and sent waves of pain through Rothe’s body. Jonah clicked it again and it all stopped. He came at him with a letter opener and dug out the implant, tossing it to the floor.

“Free to go? Free to go! I can’t fucking hold you here! I can’t have you seen around my business. We are ruined!”

Rothe looked at him incredulously. His blue blood was already clotting and the wound healing, but it still hurt like hell.

“Did you even hear me, you freak? Get out!” Jonah came at him again with the letter opener. This time Rothe scrambled to his feet and ran from the room. He heard Jonah Hunter begin to sob just before the doors closed.

As he was shown to the service elevator, he saw a group of dour looking men and women in smart suits marching their way to Jonah’s office. It didn’t take Rothe’s elfin powers of perception to know that the brass was about to come down hard on him.

Rothe tried to feel some compassion for the poor, little ruined man, but all he could feel was contempt. This was what the mortals liked to call kharma.

It didn’t matter. It was a miracle. He was free to live his life. If other high elves came forward, maybe he could join a clan and have a normal life.

But, for now, there was only one place to go.

He didn’t know where Hetta lived, but judging by the amount of news vans parked outside her shop, she was there. It took some pushing, but he made it to the front door. It was locked.

Rothe banged on the glass door. The shade was pulled all the way down, so he hollered too. He was about to give up when the door opened a smidge and he was yanked inside.

A thousand flashes went off in his face and a cacophony of voices shouted questions. When he was inside, he could hear none of it. Hetta must have done some new magic to protect her sanity.

“I told them I’d come out again in an hour. What are you doing here? I thought you didn’t want to go public.”

“You put my picture on the news; whether or not I wanted it has nothing to do with it.”

“Sorry. They said they needed proof of someone other than me to run the story.”

“Don’t apologize. You freed me from having to work for Hunter Acquisitions. I don’t have to spy for them anymore.” He turned and showed her the new pink scar from where the implant had been ripped out.

“Looks painful. I still can’t believe they made you do that. Spying on me for witch hunters?” Spots of color appeared on Hetta’s cheeks.

“I wasn’t spying. I was there to steal whatever nanotech you were using to fix old electronics.”

“I think we both know that I don’t use any tech.”

“Yeah, but this morning they said that they knew there was no tech. I think they were going to harm you.”

“You think?” Hetta asked sarcastically. “A firm comprised of known witch hunters asks you to steal from someone and it just so happens that they are magic? You must have really believed in coincidence to not be able to wrap your little head around that one.”

Rothe didn’t say anything. She was right. He asked her about other magical beings coming forward.

“Yeah, I’ve had a few calls. Funny how no one wants to closet themselves and pretend that they are something they’re not.”

There was a light tapping at the fire door on the side of the shop. When she opened it there were about half a dozen other magical beings there. She was right. It was time to go public.

When Hetta opened the door, the scintillating light of a thousand flash bulbs hammered Rothe’s retinas. As he went to raise his hand, Hetta stopped him.

“No, let them see your face,” she hissed. “In fact, let them see the scar. Tell them what those witch hunters did to you.”

Rothe shook his head but Hetta didn’t take any heed. She approached an improvised podium where there were dozens of microphones and recorders mounted. She drew a breath and smiled.

“Good human men and women! We mean you no harm!” She turned her head, making eye contact with as many of the cameras as possible. “We have been living among you in fear, in secret, for all of time.”

“Why in secret? What were you hiding?” Shouted a reporter from somewhere in the middle of the crowd.

“We didn’t always live in the shadows and on the fringes. There was a time, before your great Renaissance when we walked freely among you. You called it the Dark Ages, we called it our Golden Era.”

“Why did you hide?” shouted a woman toward the front.

“Religious zealots believed that we were of your devil. They hunted us, persecuted us, and forced us into hiding. But no more!”

“Are you still being hunted?”

“Yes, there are those among your people who still wish to do us harm,” Hetta took a practised steadying breath. “They have been called many things- Inquisitioners, witch hunters, even Hunter Acquisitions.”

A gasp wracked the crowd and Hetta furrowed her brows.

“Does it surprise you? To know that there are those in power who wish to harm and exploit us?” She grabbed Rothe’s arm and pushed him toward the podium. “This high elf was one of their slaves, forced to hunt his own people.”

Angry and confused murmuring erupted from the crowd. Hetta silenced them with a pale hand.

“They implanted a control chip in him,” she said as she turned him so that the pink scar would be more visible. “They imbedded their own sadistic version of a shock collar on him.”

“Are you seeking retribution? Vengeance?” Asked a reporter near the back of the crowd.

A shadow passed over Hetta’s face as she considered her next words very carefully. After a moment, she spoke, “Nothing further.” She led Rothe and the others back inside to the safety of the shop.

When the door was shut, Rothe looked at her. Her eyes were dark with murderous thoughts and her skin bloomed with angry color.

“Why didn’t you answer their question?” he asked. “What are you planning?”

A sickeningly sweet smile crossed her face. “The last time we were out, they called it a Dark Age.” Hetta licked her lips and smiled. “I’d like to show them what a Dark Age really is.”

Iron and Blood


Happy #flashfictionfriday! Here’s an older story of mine that I thought I would share. Enjoy!

No one ever said I was smart, had I been smart, I wouldn’t be in this predicament now.

The iron chains burn my wrists and ankles. If I don’t find a way out, I fear all my magic will soon be gone, and then I’ll be dead. That’s what they want, though. They want to rid the world of another witch.

My kind has always been misunderstood. Mortals try to categorize us into dark and light, but for most of us it doesn’t work that way. Most of us are quite grey.

The same goes for trying to kill us. You can’t just burn us, or stone us, or drown us. The magic will bring us back, and then we want vengeance. To kill a witch, you have to take her magic away first.

It’s a painful process- magic leaching by iron. If I had done a better job of keeping my magic secret, then it wouldn’t have changed me.

I was beautiful once. When I was young and just learning about my abilities, I was called a “great beauty,” but all magic changes the user. I think that’s why you never hear about middle-aged witches in fairy stories. There are some young and beautiful but not new to the craft, and the others look hundreds of years past their prime and can hardly transfigure a branch.

It all depends on how much you use your magic for yourself. Selfish magic keeps you pretty. Good magic makes you ugly. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there it is. If I had only spent more time looking out for number one, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.

“Enough vanity,” I tell myself. I try to slow my breathing; I will the tears to stop streaming down my cheeks. I need to get out.

More calmly than before, I take stock of my situation. My wrists are shackled in front of me. That’s good; I can see what I’m doing. I pull at one of the manacles. My thumb stops it from coming free.

I bite down on the inside of my cheek and think. My teacher told me once that you can break a finger bone as easily as a carrot; logic just tells you not to. Well, I’ve never been too good at logic anyway.

I grab my thumb and wrench it to the side. Pain, sharp and dizzying, fills me. I do my best to stifle my screams, but I can only do so much. This hurts so much worse than biting through a carrot. If I am very lucky, the guard will think it’s just me succumbing to the iron torture.

Breathe, I think to myself. If you can control your breath, you can control your pain. Just breathe.

When I have my breathing under control again, I look down at my hand. The angle my thumb is dangling at seems nothing short of macabre. I pull at the manacle again, and this time it comes free.

One down, one to go.

I still can’t use my powers, but I don’t want to break another thumb. Helplessly, I look around my cell. There is nothing that I can do. I have no choice.

I stick my whole thumb in my mouth. The iron burns where it touches my chin. I breathe in and out.

“It’s just a carrot. You like carrots. Rabbit food.” I say, but I don’t really believe myself.

Breathe.

In and out.

I chomp down. Hot coppery liquid fills my mouth and pain racks my body. I want to spit it out but I’m afraid I’ll never find it again in this dark, dirty cell. Contrary to the macabre popular belief, we can’t grow back limbs.

Thumb still in my mouth, I pull my arm away and use my other mangled hand to slide the restraint off and throw it across the cell. There’s a rushing sensation as my magic begins to return to me. It isn’t enough, though.

I spit my thumb into my hand and put it in my pocket. I’ll want it later.

I stand up and walk to the door of my cell. For once, hubris is my ally. They were so sure I wouldn’t be able to get past the iron chains that they didn’t bother to put even an ounce of it on the door.

I’m too weak to use a spell to knock it down, but not so weak I can’t employ a well-placed kick. My powers are coming back, but nowhere near fast enough. I’ll have to use my mortal powers. I’ve always been strong.

The door gives easily, and I stroll down the hall and out of the barracks. The night air wraps itself around me like a blanket and I can feel the power begin to course through my veins once more.

Soon, I will be whole.

I use what magic has already been restored to me to move with the flowing wind away. I’m not quite flying, but I’m not quite running either. The night feels so good wrapped around me; all I want to do is sleep. I know I can’t- not here.

It’s a struggle, but I retain my consciousness until I reach the woods. I’m no one there. I lie down beneath an elder tree. The Fae won’t bother me tonight. If I over stay and spend another night, I’m fair game.

I peel back some of the bark and stick it in my mouth. The taste is bitter. I chew and suck until it’s malleable enough to wrap around my broken digit. I fish my other thumb out of my pocket. I need more bark, but the process is the same.

In the morning, I’ll be covered in the Fae’s brutal little pinches, but most of my magic will be restored.

Fair trade.

The breaking dawn stings my eyes. For a moment, I don’t know where I am; then, I remember. I’m in the woods and I’m alive.

I look at my mangled hands. They’re whole, but look like they belong to someone much older and darker than I.  Today, I feel as old as I look- ancient.

I whisper my thanks to the tree and get on my way. I’m burning daylight and the guards know  I’m missing.

I breathe in and out, and concentrate on blending in with my surroundings. I feel my bones twist and break and reform themselves into the new me. I wriggle free of my dress and hop away.

When they track my movements to last night’s resting place, they will look for a mangled, naked woman running around in the woods. They won’t think to look for a small, tawny hare.

I’m free and I’m alive, and that’s all that matters.