Authors: Heather Hamilton-Senter
TO MAKE A WITCH
A Sword of Elements Novella
Two Paths Publishing
Copyright © 2014 by
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission.
Two Paths Publishing
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Book Layout © 2014 BookDesignTemplates.com
Cover Design © 2014 BookCoverArtistry.com
Two Make A Witch/ Heather Hamilton-Senter
. -- 1st ed.
Everything I do is dedicated to my family, especially my children Summer, Holly, and Stephen. Special thanks go to Holly, my dedicated beta reader and mistake finder, and my husband Steve for running across the house just to ring a bell.
The spells in this book are taken from passages in several pieces of ancient Celtic literature including Llyfr Taliesin (The Book of Taliesin) and The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare.
On December 17th, 2013, in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, a vandal painted the tomb of Marie Laveau—the famed Voodoo Queen of New Orleans—bright pink. It was believed that the vandal’s intent was to cover the marks that had been scratched into the brick and plaster tomb. Decades before, a rumor had started that if someone wanted Marie Laveau to grant a wish, they were to leave an offering and then draw three Xs on the tomb, turn three times, and yell out their wish.
This story takes place just after that event.
This air is alive with witches . . .
Conrad Potter Aiken
As I smoothed the quilt down over the bed, I counted in my head—one, two, three—and resisted the urge to run my hands over the flat surface one more time. Taking a deep breath, I stepped away and slipped out of my nightgown, folding it neatly and putting it under my pillow.
I was Lacey Ann McInnis, I reminded myself, and I was in control.
Dressing in my uniform, I examined my surroundings. The wood panels lining the bottom half of the walls gave a feeling of warmth, and while the space was small, the desk under the window still allowed room for a comfortable chair. At the end of the bed, two narrow closets were separated by a small sink and vanity. Shared bathrooms with old-fashioned faucets and marble counters were at the end of each hall.
All in all, it was a more than decent place to land on my feet. The only negative was that I’d been assigned a double room. My roommate hadn’t turned up yet, but personal effects, including a couple of tennis rackets, were strewn across the desk and floor. I resisted the urge to tidy and made a mental note to request a single room when I met with the headmistress.
Pulling out the basket of toiletries in the cupboard under the sink, I began to apply my makeup. The routine was simple: moisturizer for my slightly dry skin, concealer to knock down the little bit of redness around my nose, a shimmer of eye shadow, a light dusting of power, and a slick of neutral lipstick. Unlike most dirty blondes, my eyebrows and eyelashes were naturally black so I left them alone. I’d showered before going to bed so three quick brush strokes restored the bounce to my hair.
Smoothing the pleated skirt over my hips, I was happy to feel some of my curves returning. I wasn’t back up to my normal weight yet, but I felt physically stronger than I had in weeks. Throwing on the close-fitting blazer with its red and gold crest over my heart, I surveyed myself in the mirror with satisfaction. As a cheerleader, I was used to uniforms, but Westover Academy’s already made me feel smarter.
I went to the window and pushed back the curtains. The sky was grey, but even after a drive from Ontario to New Orleans that made me feel like I was winding back time from winter to spring, I still couldn’t get used to the sight of green leaves in December. There might be a bite in the air at night, but I would probably only need a light jacket even at winter’s worst.
A tall girl with pixie-cut black hair burst into the room. She stared at me for a moment and then flashed me a smile that made her somewhat strong features light up. Lean and clear-eyed, she could have walked straight out of a Hemingway novel.
“They told me I was getting a roomie, but I didn’t expect you until term started.” She threw a large sports bag onto her bed. “I thought I’d be the only one stuck here over Christmas break. When did you get in?”
“Hi. I got in late last night. I’m Lacey. Lacey McInnis,” I added.
“Ava Brady.” She smiled again, all dazzling white teeth against tanned skin. “Canada, right?”
“Vermont. My parents’ hotel is swamped with Canadians once the leaves start to turn color so I recognized your accent. I bet you’re not missing the snow up North—I heard you guys just got walloped. Personally, I wouldn’t care if I never saw snow ever again.”
Smiling politely, I passed my fingers over the small tattoo on my left wrist. The slightly raised edges were warm which meant the spell was still working, still suppressing the natural charm and glamour of my lorelei heritage. I forced myself to relax. The girl was just naturally friendly. I’d always enjoyed being popular, but discovering it was the by-product of being descended from a siren-like creature had burst that bubble. The suppressing spell was the first one I learned. I wanted to know who admired me only because of the magic—most of the student body, as it turned out. After the Crone was murdered, all the spells I’d mastered as her apprentice failed and the tattoos associated with them disappeared from my skin, except for this one last vestige of my few brief weeks as a witch.
I gestured to the bed. “You didn’t sleep here last night.”
Ava grimaced. “The Aged Parents decided to do the whole family bonding thing before they went on their annual cruise. It leaves from Florida so they ever so graciously decided to take a side trip to see me. We’ve been staying downtown, but they kicked off this morning.” She plumped up her pillows against the headboard and hopped onto the bed. Twirling a tennis racket in her hands, Ava looked like she couldn’t care less that her parents had ditched her on the holidays
She stopped abruptly and looked at me intently. “What about you? What did you do to deserve being dumped here?”
I shrugged as I sat on the edge of my bed, careful not to wrinkle the sheets I’d just smoothed. “My mom and dad only have a few days off work over the holidays. We drove down and had Christmas dinner in the hotel restaurant. They dropped me off last night.”
“Hmmm,” Ava grunted. “Do you play?” She brandished the racket in the air.
“Not very well.” That was an understatement. The first and only time I tried, I was so bad and showed so little possibility of any improvement that I never dared to try again.
“Damn. There isn’t a girl at this school capable of giving me a decent game. Tennis is the whole reason I’m down here letting the humidity ruin my hair.” She ran her hand over her sleek, black hair as if she were soothing a small animal that might bolt at any moment. “Westover’s program is top notch, but I need some real competition if I want to improve.”
Ava continued to expand on her plans to go to an Ivy League school on a tennis scholarship, but I was barely listening. There was a hum in the walls as if the plantation-style building had suddenly awakened and become expectant and alert.
My cell phone rang and I picked it up off the desk. “Hello?”
A warm voice on the other end asked, “Miss McInnis?”
“This is Ms. Dalton. I heard that you’d arrived. Would you be able to come over to my office in Stradford Hall?” It was the school’s headmistress. After agreeing to meet her in fifteen minutes, I disconnected the call, and the strange tension dissipated like an exhalation.
Ava half-heartedly offered to come with me, but I declined saying that I’d checked in with security the night before and knew the way. Shrugging, she burrowed into a blanket and was asleep before I even left the room.
Stradford Hall was the second building over from the student residence. It stood at the end of the circular driveway, stone steps leading up to broad columns framing double doors with brass handles. The first floor was taken up by the administrative offices, the dining room and kitchen, and the second floor held a small assembly hall. Larger meetings were held in a separate building at the edge of the property which housed a good-sized theater. I’d let myself feel just the smallest trickle of excitement when I saw the pictures online. The Crone had made me give up being involved in most of my normal activities, including being in the school musical. Hopefully coming in halfway through the year wouldn’t leave me out of any upcoming productions Westover Academy might have planned.
I looked around with interest. When my dad called to say we were arriving, the security guard on duty had met us down at the driveway to escort me to my room, so I’d only had a glimpse through the windows of high ceilings and golden light. Two wide hallways branched off from the spacious foyer, and a large opening directly opposite the front doors led into the dining hall. The guard had let me know that there was no staff over the holidays except for them and a small cleaning crew, so I would have to make my own meals. I stepped inside. Wood tables and benches sat in orderly rows, shining in the light streaming in from arched windows along the back wall.
I returned to the foyer and noticed the small sign on the wall; one arrow pointed to the right with
written underneath it, and one pointed to the left for
Paneled doors with brass knobs lined the hallway with a framed print or original painting punctuating the wall between each one. I couldn’t stop myself from straightening a small print that was hanging crooked. The black and white engraving depicted a robed woman pointing at a ghostly being. A group of bearded men cowered at her feet. At the bottom of the print was the title:
The Witch of Endor
by Doré. A shiver went down my spine.
I knew the story from Sunday school. King Saul of Israel had made the witch of Endor summon the spirit of the prophet Samuel to seek his advice in battle. Instead, the prophet foretold the king’s defeat and death.
Something hard and painful settled at the base of my throat. The witch was beautiful and carelessly powerful. She had been the instrument of a king’s despair and then had disappeared from the narrative, untouched by the wars of men.
I forced myself to turn and continue toward the open door at the end of the hall. Stepping into a comfortable reception area, I waited for the young woman working on the computer to notice me. I assumed this was the
Miss Claire Benoit, Administrative Assistant
, whose name was at the bottom of most of the paperwork and emails I’d received from Westover during my last minute application. As she frowned at something on her screen, I admired her cappuccino-toned skin and cascade of dark curls.
The woman looked up and the deep line between her eyebrows was the only flaw in her smooth skin. My responding smile was friendly, but not ingratiating or obsequious. I used to know every shade of meaning available in a smile—when the woman relaxed and smiled back, I knew I hadn’t lost my touch.
“Sorry, chère, I didn’t hear you come in. You must be our new student. I was just working on your file right now.” She gestured gracefully to the half-open door behind her. “Headmistress Dalton is waiting for you.”
“Don’t forget to pick up your class schedule when the headmistress is done with you. It’ll be on my desk if I’m not here. Oh, and Lacey?”
Miss Benoit’s lips twitched slightly. “You don’t need to wear your uniform outside of school hours except at official school events.”
Heat flooded my face, but I smiled and nodded as I went into the main office. The woman waiting for me was slim with stylishly cut, dull brown hair, dressed in an expensive looking suit. She immediately reminded me of Cailleach, but where the Crone seemed ancient and ageless all at once, Headmistress Elisha Dalton looked young but seemed older. A portrait of her hanging on the wall to her left showed a remarkable likeness, even though the brushstrokes were somewhat impressionistic. There was a power in it that drew my eye.
“Hello, Lacey.” Leaning over her desk to shake my hand, she gestured for me to sit in the chair facing her. When she noticed the direction of my gaze, she brushed her hair back self-consciously. “Not only is Miss Benoit an excellent assistant, but she’s a very talented artist as well. I have to admit though that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable to have my own face staring at me all day long,” The woman’s voice held only a hint of the languid drawl of a native Louisianan, marking her as fellow transplant to New Orleans “I didn’t expect you to show up so soon, Lacey. When security let me know you’d checked in last night, I cut short my vacation to meet you.
My cheeks went hot. “I’m sorry. I should have realized everyone would be on holiday.”
She waved her hand. “I was rattling around the house with my cat looking for something to do. Besides, you’re not the only student on campus I should be keeping my eye on.”
“I met my roommate Ava already.”
The headmistress smiled slightly. “Yes, hopefully you’ll last longer than her other dorm mates have.” I was surprised by the comment. The girl had seemed pleasant enough. The headmistress hesitated as if she realized she’d been indiscrete. “Just let me know if you have any concerns. There are some other rooms empty.”
It was what I’d wanted—a room to myself—but I felt a perverse desire to be contrary. “I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I said, putting on my most convincing smile. The suppression spell in the tattoo on my wrist burned slightly as it tried to counteract my charm.
I was surprised when the woman frowned slightly in response. “What exactly drew you to us, Lacey? You’re very far from home. We almost never accept new students halfway through the school year, but Miss Benoit convinced me—and now, here you are. The question is, why?”
I twitched down the cuffs on my blazer, playing for time. I certainly couldn’t tell her I’d mined my contacts on the Darknet for a recommendation on a school in North America that might be witch friendly. Of course, that was when I was still anxious to pursue my studies, but the longer I was away from magic, the more I felt like I was turning back into the person I used to be. I’d persuaded my parents to fund my last semester of high school at this outrageously expensive institution and hoped I hadn’t drained their savings account for nothing. Still, it was better than going back to my old school where I’d made such a mess of things.
I was a good girl, until I became a witch. Now I wasn’t anything, and maybe that wasn’t so bad.