Authors: Jennifer Carson
Tags: #Hapenny Magick
Copyright Â© 2011 by Jennifer Carson
Sale of the paperback edition of this book without its cover is unauthorized.
Spencer Hill Press
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Contact: Spencer Hill Press, PO Box 247, Contoocook, NH 03229, USA
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First Edition: December 2011
Second Edition: April 2014
Carson, Jennifer, 1975
Hapenny Magick: a novel /by Jennifer Carson - 2nd ed.
Summary: The smallest hapenny must find a way to save her village from a troll invasion.
Cover design and interior illustrations
by Patricia Ann Lewis-MacDougall
ISBN 978-1-937053-91-8 (Paperback)
ISBN 978-1-937053-86-4 (e-book)
Printed in the United States of America
For all those who believe in finding the magick every day
Mae peered out the front door, scanning the forest at the edge of the farm. Mother Underknoll had been missing for a week, and rumors of troll sightings near the village were spreading like poison ivy. She scratched at an itchy spot and pulled a tick from the fur on the back of her ear.
The mud squished between her toes as Mae headed for the henhouse. Mist clung to the still morning air, making her hair curl like a goat's beard. The rising sun dappled the bark of the tree her home was built beneath.
She rolled up her frayed sleeves, the cuffs soft and worn from many washings. Mae unlatched the henhouse door and pushed it open on creaky hinges. She pulled the stool along, its legs squeaking across the wooden floor. The basket for gathering the eggs teetered on the seat as Mae climbed the rungs.
“What have you got for me today, Bernice?” she asked the youngest hen in the brood. The hen had roosted on some peculiar things lately, like rocks and acorns and a red marble Mae thought she'd lost.
Her hand slid under the warm feathers and closed around a single egg.
The hen clucked softly.
“It's okay, Bernice.” Mae pulled the egg out from under the hen. “At least it's an egg this time. Soon you'll be laying more eggs than youâ”
She stared at the egg in her hand. It was a vibrant shade of purple.
If her guardian, Gelbane, saw it, she'd fly into an all-out, henpecking fit.
Mae's ears perked at the sound of hooves pounding outside the henhouse and her guardian's shrill scream.
“You little twit!” Gelbane screeched from the house. “This is the third time the pigs have escaped this week!”
“Day-old biscuits!” Mae cursed and dropped the purple egg into the basket, jumped off the stool, and scuttled out the door.
The pigpen gate swung on its rusted hinges. The once securely- tied rope dangled from the top crossbar. Piglets chased each other around the well. The boar rooted in the vegetable patch. The sows feasted in the flowerbeds.
Dropping the basket, Mae dove for a squealing piglet. She hugged him so tight his bristly fur pricked through the thin cloth of her dress. The piglet kicked and squirmed as she stumbled under his weight. Mud streaked her clean apron. She tossed the squealer into the pen and slammed the gate shut.
How had the rope come undone? She'd tied it properly this time. She'd even triple knotted it!
Forgetting the escaped piglets, Mae froze as her guardian stormed across the yard.
Gelbane's double chin wobbled. Her tattered, homespun skirt flared. The brass buttons on her green vest flashed. Catching the end of the rope between her sausage-like fingers, Gelbane narrowed her small, dark eyes. “How many times have I shown you how to tie the gate proper-like?”
Mae peered through her thick bangs as she hung her head. “More times than a cow chews its cud, ma'am.”
Gelbane looked so cross, Mae thought she saw fangs sprouting out from under her upper lip. She snuck a second peek, just to be sure she'd imagined it.
“Then why do we have piglets trampling the yard again?”
Mae shuffled her feet, toes digging in the soft dirt. She wished she could sink down into the mud and disappear. She sniffled and ran a ragged sleeve under her nose.
“Speak up!” Gelbane screeched.
“I'm sorry, ma'am. I don't know what happened. I tied the gate shut before slopping the pigs like you taught meâ”
Gelbane's jaw jutted forward. “If you had done as I taught you, we'd be eating breakfast by now.”
Breakfast! Mae scanned the ground. The basket lay tipped on its side, trampled and muddy from the runaway pigs, but the purple egg lay undisturbed in the grass.
Mae hoped her guardian didn't follow her gaze.
“Out of the kindness of my heart, I took you in when your ma took off,” Gelbane sneered over her bulbous nose. “I've treated you like my own kin for six long years because your mother was so sweet in my time of need. But you've caused me nothing but grief!”
Tears formed in Mae's eyes, but she blinked them away. She wouldn't let them fall. Her fingers closed around the blue pendant tucked away under her blouse.
Gelbane wiped her hands on her skirt as if even the thought of Mae was disgusting. “You all but stopped growing when your ma took off. It's not like you don't get enough food. Odd you are. Too small and twitchy, even for a hapenny.”
Tangled red hair spilled forward as Gelbane bent to poke a finger into Mae's shoulder, punctuating her words. “You'll have no breakfast and no mid-morning bite. I don't care if you starve until midnight nibble. Nothing until you catch all those pigs!”
Mae nodded. “Yes, ma'am.”
Gelbane shuffled her vast weight past the pigpen and across the yard; her wide feet made sucking noises as she slogged through the mud and back into the house. Mae gave one last squeeze to the pendant under her blouse and picked up the lone purple egg.
If she threw it at Gelbane's head, what a satisfying splat it would make! But it wasn't worth the beating she'd get afterward. She stomped over to the crumpled basket and settled the egg into the bottom. Her fists clenched into tight balls. She was always getting into trouble for things that weren't her fault.
“So much for starting the day out clean.” Mae sighed and flicked the clumps of mud from her apron. She tried to scowl at the pigs, but it just wasn't in her heart to be mad at them. It wasn't their fault she couldn't tie a knot properly.
The farmyard was in shambles. The grass was trampled deep into the mud. The mud had a thousand little ditches from the pigs' hooves. At least the piglets had stopped chasing each other when Gelbane started yelling. Most of them now rooted in the vegetable garden at the edge of the small farm.
“Here, pig-pigs!” Mae called.
She took her mother's old flute from her pocket and turned it in her hand. The sun shone on its walnut finish. It was one of two things belonging to her momma that she'd managed to keep from Gelbane. She was only six when Momma left, but she had been smart enough to know that Gelbane wasn't like the other hapenny villagers.