Authors: Katerina Martinez
THE RED WITCH
Amber Lee Series
By Katerina Martinez
A hunter becomes the hunted. A witch faces down her nemesis. The stakes have never been higher.
The veil of shadows surrounding Amber's nemesis is lifted when a contact of Collette's comes forward with information he claims is valuable. The catch? He's all the way in Berlin, the German capital, and he isn't leaving his circle of protection for any witch. Amber's decision is easy, but living with it isn't; not when Aaron comes out of left-field with a question she wasn't sure she was ready to hear until she hears it.
In this spine-tingling chapter, Amber must travel to Berlin and learn whatever Collette's contact knows about Linezka. He could be the key to unmasking and defeating her, or at the very least become an ally in the fight, but a mysterious, supernatural of communications sees her separated from the rest of the coven back home, leaving her and Collette alone to defend against whatever the devil's witch and her minions have in store for them.
Meanwhile, back in sleepy Raven's Glen, an ill wind blows; and Frank, Damien, and Aaron are about to run into trouble of their own...
I couldn’t remember when it had all started to feel like one big dream.
It was almost as if the left side of my brain, my most logical self, rebelled against the very notion that I had just spent any amount of time in a realm out of myth.
Moron! That wasn’t real. You’ve just been asleep, duh.
But I wasn't asleep. I could feel the ache in my bones, the strain on my eyes, and the steady pulse of blood against my skull.
Only a few hours had passed since we climbed out of that hole in the ground and Aaron picked us up, but with every passing minute, the memory of that harrowing experience was fading, sailing away on the evening tide. Part of me was grateful for it. But the other part screamed out in protest, and demanded that I catalogue as much of what had happened as I could.
So I spent the ride home in silence, holding tightly to as many fragments of memory as my willpower would allow. As soon as I got home I raced into the attic, yanked my Book of Shadows from off my altar, and wrote. I didn’t care about the dirt on my skin, under my nails, and in my hair; the only thing that mattered was the book, the story, the experience.
Get it on to the pages
, I thought,
tell their story, if not for them then for you.
It all matters. It’s all important. This is the kind of thing one shouldn’t just forget.
My hand was throbbing and my head was feeling at least three sizes too big by the time Collette stepped out of the shower and found me at the kitchen table, pouring myself onto the pages of my book. She approached, rested a hand on my shoulder, and with a touch snapped me out of my writing frenzy. I must have stared at her blankly for ages before finally blinking, shaking my head, and snapping out of whatever trance I had been in.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said, clearing my throat with a cough, “Fine. How was your shower?”
“Like a kiss from ze Goddess. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it. I wasn’t about to let you go back to that stale little cottage, cute as it may have been. You deserve a warm bed after what you’ve just been through.”
“What we have just been through,” she said, correcting.
I nodded and closed the book, stood, stretched. It felt good to stretch, like my body was sighing after a long day at the mill. “I guess it’s my turn,” I said.
“It is. Do you mind if I read what you have written? I fear I wasn’t myself in ze Underworld, and I would like to see what happened through your eyes.”
“Knock yourself out. I only wanted to get it all down before it left me.”
Leaving Collette to my Book of Shadows wasn’t a difficult decision to make. Wiccans are very particular about their books, the content being private and personal to the Witch. A Book of Shadows is at once a journal of experiences, a repertoire of spells, and a compendium of notes and thoughts on the witch's individual opinion about Magick. It was in an almost literal sense a window to one’s most secret self. But I trusted her not to go snooping around and, in any case, there wasn’t anything in there I wouldn’t have told her freely if she had just asked.
As I headed for the shower I was reminded of that night during Mabon. It was September 23rd last year and I was sitting in my room up at Evan’s family home up in the woods. This was the night Damien had shown me how to do real Magick, the night he stole into my room to teach me the secret truths about the world he had been wanting to teach me about since we met. I had been trying to write in my Book of Shadows for the first time, but I couldn’t even think of a name to call myself by, let alone figure out what to write inside it. But now the pages were starting to fill up with detailed notes on my experiences with the demon, Aaron’s transformation, the cult that tried to have me killed, and my own magical development. That stuff was private, sure. But not to Collette.
Not if we were to become sisters.
It would be nice to have another sister, I thought as warm jets of water washed the last twenty-four hours off my body. Eliza was—and always would be—my sister, but I could no more share my magick or my stories with her any more than a mother could tell her daughter of all the sexual partners she had been with in her lifetime. If HP Lovecraft had taught me anything, it was that there were things man was never meant to know. I may have taken a step away from being human, but Eliza hadn’t; and I didn’t want to bring her into something she was never meant to be brought into.
Yes, Eliza was and always would be my sister in spirit. And then there was, of course, my actual biological sister who lived out East with her husband. The sister I didn't often speak to and would only see on the very rare occasion my family bothered to organize some kind of big event that calls us all back like dogs to supper. I couldn't tell her anything about my secret life either, and I guessed it was better that way. Secrets were like juggler's balls; try to juggle too many of them at once and one of them was bound to slip through your fingers.
I didn’t linger in the shower. Aaron had gone out to get us a bite to eat and, given that he was probably due back at any moment and I didn’t want to miss a single second of dinner, I decided to finish quickly instead of savoring the sensation of warm water revitalizing my tired flesh. As it turned out Aaron hadn't arrived yet and the growling of my stomach caused Collette to perk up.
“You look refreshed,” she said.
I smiled. “Thanks,” I said, “I needed that like I need a cheeseburger.”
“Something to eat would be nice.”
“Why are you always so proper?” I asked as I approached. She was wearing a pair of black leggings and a long shirt. They were my clothes, of course. The Mistress of Darkness didn't have her own wardrobe yet.
“I’m not sure I understand," she said.
“You haven’t eaten a proper meal since I met you,” I said, taking the other seat by the kitchen table. “So why can’t you just say yeah, I’m fucking starving.”
Collette smiled. “I don’t normally curse.”
“I’ve heard you curse.”
“No you haven’t.”
“Haven’t I?” I wasn’t sure anymore. My face scrunched up as I tried to recall a moment where I had heard Collette swear, but I came up short. “Alright, fine. I’ll just have to get used to it since you’re gonna be living here.”
"Living here?” she asked. Her right eyebrow curved into a perfect arch, giving her a Morticia Addams kind of air. I could totally see her in a black-and-white movie on the silver screen, performing a soliloquy with a skull in her hand and a snake coiled around her neck. “What do you mean?”
“You heard me,” I said, “I don’t want you to look for another place. I want you to live here, in my house.”
“Collette,” I said, taking her hands, “This isn’t the time for you to be humble. Let’s both just agree that it makes sense, okay?”
She swallowed, pensive, but nodded, and her agreement made the butterflies in my stomach start dancing. Not since Eliza had anyone besides me lived in my house, and seeing as my place had come under attack more times than I cared to think about there was no denying that I needed a roommate. Besides, Collette didn’t have a place to stay, and I had a house that was too big. You’re damned right it made sense, even if immigration couldn’t know about it.
I didn’t remember Collette ever mentioning the details of her Visa, after all.
“I would very much like to live here,” Collette said.
“Good. You look like a clean roommate, so I think we’ll get along fine.”
Collette smiled, but it started to curve downward until it settled into something a little more somber, more serious. It was as if clouds had rolled in and snuffed out the light from the sun on a bright spring day.
“What is it?” I asked.
“You understand zat... now I have to tell you what I know, yes? About ze person who is hunting you.”
My stomach went cold, and suddenly the grumbling I felt earlier didn’t much bother me anymore. “Must we?” I asked.
“We could wait, but…” she trailed off.
“I’m sorry. I’m ready. I don’t want to wait. I was just hoping for a little normalcy after all this.”
“Normalcy isn’t a word ze Red Witch will ever know, ma chèrie.”
A soft sigh escaped my lips, but I knew this was coming. My life as a regular person, a normal person, was over the first time I used magick; and a part of me knew that for a long time. This knowledge compacted what could have been a life-shattering moment into an easy pill to swallow. I shuffled around on the chair and made myself comfortable.
“Alright,” I said, “Tell me what you know.”
Collette paused to find her words. The wind was rustling through the trees outside causing them to hiss softly in the night. When I heard a car rolling along my heart leapt high into my throat, and my body warmed. Aaron was back from Joe’s, I thought, and with him, food. But the car kept going down the street until the droning of its engine faded into nothingness. I relaxed.
“Zere are many Witches in ze world,” Collette said, “My Power has allowed me to travel to many places and encounter many Witches, good and bad, and learn about their secret lives and histories. I have spoken to a High Priestess of Selene, shared a meal with the cult of La Signora del Gioco, and done battle with a Shaman of Táltos. Ze world we live in is full of players in a cosmic game, but none play ze game more ruthlessly zan ze Witch I have come to know as Linezka.”
The word sent a shiver through my body and caused me to shudder. I had never met this woman, never seen her face, and the thought of her sent my skin on fire. “Tell me about her,” I said, despite myself.
“Ze stories are many,” she said, “Stretching far across both time and space. Her name does not appear in many texts, but her presence can be felt regardless. It iz said she has gone from place to place, destroying whatever Witch she could find zat did not bow to her and her power. Many have tried to stand up against her and failed, destroyed by ze might of ze ever growing cult zat surround her like wolves protecting their master.”