Authors: Lauren Quick
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Occult, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Supernatural, #Witches & Wizards
Table of Contents
Midsummer Night’s Mayhem
Copyright © 2014 by Lauren Quick. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: 2014
Editor: Elizabeth Buck
Cover and Formatting:
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
verhead the night sky was a black glass ceiling hung with glittery stars. The cool fresh air tasted honeysuckle sweet on her tongue. A blazing bonfire crackled in the stone fire pit as wafts of rich smoke mingled with the delicious smell of roasted meat and toasted marshmallows. Dozens of twinkling illuma lights floated like ghostly orbs woven among the trees and garden, giving her yard an enchanting glow. Party guests whirled to the pulse and thrum of music floating in the air with the leap of a fiddle bow dancing on strings. She couldn’t help but tap her toe as her heartbeat fluttered with the thrill of summer.
Tonight, Clover Mayhem was in paradise, or at least her little piece of it. It was her favorite time of the year—the summer solstice—and her famous midsummer night’s solstice party was in full swing with friends and neighbors from the Meadowlands and Willow Realm packing her backyard for a night of revelry.
When Clover first started having the party years ago, she’d made a couple of batches of fruity sangria, roasted a pig on a spit, and hired a wizard to play guitar. Eight years later the event had practically exploded with the help of local witches and wizards pitching in with food, drink, and entertainment, and in doing so, a spectacular summer party had been born. Clover didn’t even have to send out invitations anymore. All she had to do was post an announcement at a few local restaurants, like Nocturnes, with the date and the buzz spread. Word of mouth was powerful in Everland—witches loved to chat.
Earlier that day blankets had been spread out and tables, chairs, and tents had popped up like wild mushrooms all over her yard as the guests arrived. Arnica Delacqua, owner of Nocturnes, came bearing armloads of sinfully delicious baked goods, which she’d arranged on a checked tablecloth in the shade of one of many trees dotting the yard. Local brewer Bradley Adams served up bottles of his latest golden beer, which went down smooth and crisp, out of big round tubs filled with crushed ice. Clover’s not-too-distant neighbors and Sugar Snap Farms owners, Gwen and Grady Winter, had brought dozens of strawberry pies and shortcakes. And that was just a few of the delectable offerings her generous guests insisted on bringing to accompany the pig that Clover had roasted on an open spit.
Owner of The Evil Queen prophecy shop, Scarlet Card, and Clover’s sister Vivi had set up a fortune-telling tent and were giving away free tarot card readings. Clover’s other sister, Honora, was twirling around the yard, dancing with anyone in arm’s reach. Bear Griswold, owner of Goodspells Grimoire, was giving spontaneous performances of his favorite fairy tales. A local band played on a small stage at one end of the yard and dancing witches and wizards spun and wove through the garden, entranced by the magic in the air.
Clover swayed her hips to the music, a smile forming effortlessly on her face. Her fingers laced through her long golden blonde hair. She’d let the local hairstyling witch extraordinaire convince her into getting enchanted highlights, which she had to admit sparkled brighter than her dirty blonde locks ever could on their own. As the night progressed, she stared out over the lush garden and yard that was over an acre total, but a flicker of concern sparked in her stomach, reminding her she was on a schedule. Her moment to soak in the sights and sounds was short-lived; it was time to make sure tonight’s entertainment was ready to go.
Clover’s bare feet beat a quick pace up the porch steps and into her house that was practically empty, save a few witches yakking away in the kitchen. Clover slipped into the library and softly closed the door, locking it quietly behind her. She grabbed the story stone that she’d prepared earlier in the day for the show tonight. The stone was really a large chunk of crystal she used to capture scenes right off the page. She held it up to her lips and closed her eyes, whispering the words “mischief makers” over and over until the stone glowed, warming in her palm, activating the magic contained inside.
Clover’s gaze went soft as she envisioned a scene replaying in her mind’s eye while a few feet outside in the garden a hush fell over the partiers as the entertainment began—tonight’s story sprang to life.
An elegant queen and king strode out of the woods dressed in full regalia of the fairy court. Witches and wizards gasped and the crowd parted while the king, queen, and fairy guards made their way onto the stage. They were followed by a band of colorfully dressed fairies wearing masks.
“Good evening, guests of Clover Mayhem,” the king said, standing tall in a long silver coat. His skin was the color of pale moss, his ears squeezed into sharp points, his features pronounced yet distinguished. “Tonight I have a quest for your entertainment.”
The crowd cheered and clapped. Not to be distracted, Clover focused her attention on the illusion spilling from the crystal as she pulled it out of the imaginary world and into existence.
The king took the golden crown off of his beautiful queen’s head and held it high in the air for everyone to see. “A bandit has stolen the queen’s precious crown right out of my fingers.”
On cue, a delicate fairy girl with her hair tied into dozens of tiny white knots on her head leapt forward and snatched the crown. A slim black mask covered her eyes and a mischievous grin curled up her plump pink lips. She held the crown dramatically overhead and made an acrobatic dive off the stage, disappearing in a sudden puff of smoke.
The crowd clapped, attention riveted on the stage and the fairy king. “Your quest is to find the crown hidden on the grounds here in the middle of the festivities and win the prize.” He held up a bag of gold and shook it. The spectators glanced around at each other, some with cocked eyebrows, some with exaggerated yawns. The king’s eyes glittered in the illuma light. “You’re not impressed with the task, thinking this isn’t enough of a challenge. Too easy?” His expression sparkled. The enchanting fairy queen held her head high, eyeing the spectators with delight.
The crowd of witches and wizards nodded in agreement.
“That is why I brought the mischief makers.” He spread his hand toward the band of masked fairies who’d followed the procession. “They are here to lead you astray, to make your task less appealing, to make you merry, and to make mischief on this solstice night.” The king raised his hands and balls of fire leapt off his fingertips, bursting in the air above their heads. The mischief makers raced into the crowd, luring party guests toward the fire pit, dancing area, and feast. “Good luck. And find the crown before the night’s end to win the prize.”
With her eyes closed tightly, Clover focused and stared through the king’s eyes, watching the party guests, many of whom raced off to search for the golden crown. A young, wide-eyed wizard clutched his mother’s skirt. “Are the fairies real, Momma?” he asked.
“No, they aren’t real. Not in Everland, at least. It’s all part of the fun like watching a play. I bet they are some kind of fancy illusion spell that’s all, just fun and games.” The mother ruffled his hair. “Fairies like to make mischief. It’s their way. They’re trying to keep you from finding the crown. They like to trick young wizards and get the better of them.”
“They won’t trick me. I’ll find it.” With his brow set in determination, he raced off toward the garden, his mother cheering him on.
Clover blinked and squeezed the stone, her attention returning to the library. She whispered another spell, linking a series of scenes to play out over the evening. Being a story spinner and a word witch was her day job and normally she didn’t bring her stories to life so literally, but with a few added illusion spells, she’d been able to bring a basic narrative into the real world. She called it scene stealing. The crystal grounded the story and held the magic until the illusion played out.
Clover set the glowing chunk in a small box on one of the shelves and closed the lid. It would be safe there for the rest of the night, the magic dying out, and the crystal going cold and inert. No one would be the wiser of her gift of magic.
In the witching world of Everland, magic was a part of life. Every witch and wizard was born with a magical talent all his or her own called a
. During their Haven Academy days, young witches and wizards learned the fundamentals of spellcasting, potion making, and wandwork, just to name a few magical classes, but it was a witch’s
that made her special, and Clover’s
was never more exhilarating and on display than at her summer party.
She stepped out of the library, the house eerily quiet. Suddenly, in the low light of the hallway on her way back outside to join her guests, she bumped smack into her neighbor Oliver Yearling. He had a short, wiry build and a shock of gray hair that stood up on his head and for an instant reminded Clover of a fairy.
Clover pulled back. “What are you doing here?”
“You invited me,” he huffed and stuck out his bony chest.
“Of course I did.” She tried to smile in spite of her true feelings. She and Oliver were not the closest of neighbors. “I meant what are you doing in the house? Can I get you anything?”
“I came inside to get a glass of water.” He threw a surreptitious glance over her shoulder, and Clover had the strange feeling he was up to something, snooping around perhaps.
She guided him into the kitchen and poured him a glass of cold water from the tap.
“Your illusions are good,” he said after taking a swallow and summing her up.
“Not as good as mine, of course, but adequate.” He wore a self-satisfied smile. He too dabbled in creating magical illusions to go with his
as a plant mage. He tapped a gold ring he wore on his middle finger against the glass. “I confess I was in the house looking for the source, trying to figure out how you made the illusions so lifelike. I didn’t see you using spellcraft with a wand or charm, so curiosity got the better of me.” There might have been a backhanded compliment in there somewhere.
“I see.” So she was right. At least he was honest and came clean, even if he had no tact. “Well, you won’t find the source magic in here,” she lied. “I hired an illusionist out of Stargazer City to do the job. He created a series of illusions earlier in the day, but wouldn’t tell me any of his secrets.”
Oliver sighed as if disappointed to not snatch up a few new tricks for his spellcraft toolbox. “I should have known it wasn’t you who performed the magic. You’re a wonderful host, but a simple technician when it comes to crafting real magic. Thank you for the water, dear.”
Clover gritted her teeth. Pompous old goat. The reason her illusions were so lifelike was thanks to her
of story telling; spells alone couldn’t come close to her accuracy and detail. As Oliver strode across the yard, a fairy mischief maker snaked her arm around his and tried to lure him onto the dance floor, but before she knew what was happening, Oliver zapped her with a stinger spell that shot from his ring. With a little hop, the fairy rubbed her arm and hurried away from the cantankerous wizard.
Unable to relax just yet, Clover had one more surprise for the night and quickened her pace toward an old-fashioned wagon that had been stationed behind a stack of hay bales at the far side of her yard. The Meadowlands might have been a far cry from the modern and glamorous Stargazer City and the magical hovercrafts and bikes that raced above the city streets, but she didn’t know many wizards who still rode around in wagons. An elaborate painting of a sparkling night sky lit up with luminous designs graced the wagon’s side.
The Linder brothers were known for their gorgeous sparkling scenes displayed against the dark backdrop of night. They were also practically identical in appearance—short, stocky, blazing golden eyes like cats, and completely bald. In fact, they had no hair anywhere, save for a few sparse hairs where their eyebrows should have been. Apparently, working with magical fireworks and explosives took a toll on body hair. Too bad they hadn’t discovered a way to do magical leg waxing that didn’t cause a witch’s eyes to water in agony.
Clover snaked behind the small fort of gigantic hay bales, which the Linders had brought with them, creating their own little hideout. Perched on a stack of hay, Henry Linder strummed a guitar and sang off-key about his long-lost love and a dog named Rufus, an empty plate and bottle of beer by his side. Clover’s brow arched. She cleared her throat and Henry jerked to his feet, setting his guitar down with a bang.
“How are the preparations going? Do you need anything?” she asked.
“Show’s on schedule. We’ve got it covered.” Henry eyed the empty beer bottle and his plate on the ground, a smear of barbecue sauce on his chin. His cheeks reddened under her stare.
All work and no play was not the motto of the witching world. Clover waved off his worry. “You should have a little fun tonight, too, as long as the fireworks go off without a hitch.” She peered inside the wagon, filled with strange copper piping and glass apparatus.
Henry jumped down from his seat. “We’ll be ready. Don’t worry. Jacob’s running the final test now.” His brother was drifting through the yard, spells crackling from his fingertips. Henry waved to him. “Go inspect the design. Jacob will show you.”
Clover followed a trail of rope laid on the ground, tied with glass balls filled with glowing crystals that jumped and popped. Additional trails of rope crisscrossed the yard in a huge spiral web pattern. The yard looked like a treasure trove of hidden magical eggs.
“It’s a mixture of elemental magic of fire and air. We use fire crystals and the wind,” Jacob said when Clover approached, his golden eyes gleaming.
“All this power is impressive.” But glass fireballs in her yard made her a little nervous. “I hope it’s not dangerous.”
He shook his head. “That’s why we brought Rain.”
Now making it rain would be a magical feat.
Jacob pointed to a witch with white hair flowing down to her knees, drifting out of the forest at the edge of Clover’s yard. She was waif thin and dressed in a long loose dress covered in shimmering disks that looked like scales. She approached and they shook hands. Her palm was moist and cold to the touch, giving Clover a shiver.
“Rain’s a water elemental. Never hurts to be cautious.”
“Smart. I’m glad you’re here.” Clover tried not to stare, though she was brimming with curiosity.
“There’s a pond a few miles north. I can draw on it if we have any trouble. But we rarely do,” Rain said.
“Sounds good. I want a smooth show.”
Jacob winked at her and tossed a handful of crystals above him and a haze of blue light erupted in the air. When the smoke cleared, his form had been turned into a starry outline of the wizard dissolving into nothing. It was a cool trick and then someone tapped her on her shoulder. When she turned around, it was Henry who stood, holding out a bouquet of sparkling flowers. Clover beamed. Rain blew on the palm of her hand and a gust of wet wind hit Clover in the face, causing her to laugh and the sparkling petals to fly away. She’d paid them a small fortune in gold and from what she could see, was going to get her money’s worth.