Authors: Meghan Ciana Doidge
Trinkets, Treasures, and Other Bloody Magic
- Dowser #2 -
Meghan Ciana Doidge
Published by Old Man in the CrossWalk Productions
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Three months ago, I lost my foster sister, Sienna, to the darkness. As in blood magic and chaos and general mayhem. No one saw it until it was too late, but I should have. Now, I have a wounded heart and soul that I can’t even reveal to anyone around me, because I’m supposed to hate Sienna with the fiery passion of the justified. And I do. I just wish I didn’t feel so lost without her, so unsure of the path I thought I had carved for myself, and so outclassed by the powerful Adepts constantly by my side these days. I’m not even sure if they’re with me for my own protection or because my shiny new powers are rare and valuable. Assuming I ever figure out who or what I am, and how my magic actually works.
Even chocolate can’t save the day every time … just most of the time. At least I’ve got that going for me.
Fully aware that the vampire was watching me from somewhere deeper in the woods, I placed my second to last piece of single-origin Madagascar chocolate on my tongue and lovingly sucked on it. The smooth, creamy, dark-roasted cocoa teased my taste buds and I instantly relaxed.
I wasn’t going to freak out about being stranded in the Squamish forest. I wasn’t going to freak out about being damp from my blond curls to my perfectly painted pink toenails. And I really, really wasn’t going to freak out about running out of chocolate in the middle of bloody nowhere while being harassed by a vampire and stalked by a werewolf.
Okay. I was exaggerating, but only a little. My toes, crammed into clunky, very practical — but ultimately ugly — hiking boots were bone dry.
Everything else was the utter truth, from my perspective at least. Except the werewolf would say ‘training,’ not stalking. And the vampire would — if he bothered to explain at all — call harassment ‘education.’
The last of the chocolate melted in my mouth with no hint of bitter aftertaste, and I opened my indigo eyes, ready to move forward. I was good at moving forward — baby steps, at least — because if I really paused to think or take mental stock, I was afraid I wouldn’t ever get going again.
I was sitting on a fallen, moss-covered tree — a cedar, maybe — surrounded by more trees. Though these ones were still upright and thick enough that I wouldn’t be able to wrap my arms around them. You know, if I felt like hugging trees. I was currently somewhere in a valley that cut between multiple mountains and led eventually, I thought, to Whistler ski resort. I could see three snow-covered peaks without turning my head. Whistler, known for its world-class skiing and fantastic restaurants, would be a great location for a second Cake in a Cup bakery. That is, if I ever got out of this forest and felt like working for more than twelve hours a day, six days a week. I was close enough to a river — the Squamish River, I hoped — that I could hear but not see it. No trails cut through the underbrush. The sun, which had just made an appearance, glinted off water droplets caught on fern leaves. My phone declared the time to be 2:23 p.m., but I had no signal.
So, yeah. I was lost.
The vampire wasn’t in a helpful mood, which was usually fine by me, because whenever he was helpful, it creeped me out. Helpful usually meant he was satiated. And what satiated vampires? Blood. Not mine, so far at least. Not that he wouldn’t fang me in a split second, even if he was all detached with his cool peppermint magic and carved-ice features. A girl just knows — with guys or vampires, though other girls, not so much.
I scanned the immediate area. I could feel the vampire nearby, but he had a super annoying ability to somehow contain or cloak his magic, so that I wasn’t sure of direction or proximity. I couldn’t pick up any trace of the green-haired werewolf. Kandy moved way faster than me through the forest, so she’d probably found the end range of my dowser senses. Plus, she had practically inhaled — even while driving — the dozen cupcakes I’d brought for the hike before we’d even parked the SUV at Alice Lake, so she had a lot of fuel to burn.
A shimmer of sunlight caught my eye … no, not sunlight. What was that? I was done with the sulking and on my feet before I even made the decision. Wow, that was me in a nutshell.
The glimmer of magic beckoned from the side of a cedar tree, as if something supernatural had brushed against it at shoulder height. I usually didn’t see such incidental traces, but I was learning to just go with the heightened-powers persona instead of freaking out about it all the time.
“Gotcha,” I murmured, thinking Kandy had inadvertently left me a clue. Though I wasn’t totally clear if I was actually playing hide-and-seek with the werewolf, or if she’d just gotten fed up being around the vampire and had taken off. Both scenarios were equally possible.
Except that as I got closer, the glimmer didn’t look exactly like Kandy’s magic … its base color was green, but leafy, not grassy. It was too dim for me to pick up any taste —
“The foremost magical authority …”
I actually jumped as the vampire’s cool voice sounded right next to my ear. God, I hated it when he did that. I spun around but the immediate area was vampire free.
“The foremost magical authority,” Kett prompted again. His voice floated in from the right, but I stopped myself from spinning in that direction. Everything was a test with him, but I couldn’t complain because I’d asked for it. Yep, I had promised to treasure hunt for the vampire if he agreed to fill in some of the holes in my magical education.
There were a lot of holes. And Gran was still spitting mad about bargaining with a vampire. If she’d had her way, Kett would have been ash three months ago. Hell, she probably would have let the untethered magic of Sienna’s pentagram just swallow him.
Ah, Sienna. What was that? A full five minutes without thinking of my foster sister and the black magic that destroyed her? I shoved the ache in my throat back down to its permanent place in my heart, then turned to scan for Kett’s magic.
“We went over all that already, vampire,” I said, hoping to get him to talk again. “Like thirty minutes ago.”
“Perhaps I wasn’t happy with your answer.”
There he was — a rapidly fading wash of red in the shadows, three trees to my left.
“Perhaps you fell asleep and forgot, old man,” I teased. Then I took three quick steps only to grab thin air.
He laughed. I could feel his breath on my neck. “Answer, dowser.”
I spun. The taste of cool, clean peppermint with something spicy and dark underneath — not cinnamon or nutmeg; I hadn’t quite figured it out yet — hung ever so briefly in the air, then dissipated.
“The witches Convocation, vampire Conclave, and shapeshifter Assembly are all overseen by the Grand Council,” I said, “which is comprised of members from all the Adept communities, though not all the species.” I hadn’t caught Kett once in the three months we’d been playing this game. At least Kandy wasn’t here to curl her lip at me.
I paused between fir trees to wrap my fingers around the hilt of the invisible knife I always wore across my right hip. Actually, the knife wasn’t invisible. It was hand carved out of jade rock I’d found near Lillooet, and about the length of my forearm and the thickness of my thumb. The sheath — a birthday gift from Gran because such spells were beyond me — was invisible.
“Going to stab me, dowser?” the vampire asked.
“Nope,” I said as I closed my eyes and unzipped my Gore-Tex jacket a few inches. I weaved my fingers through the wedding rings I wore soldered like charms onto a thick gold chain around my neck. The necklace was an accumulation of nearly two years of work. Today, I wore it looped three times around my neck, so that it lay across my collarbone over my T-shirt. The T-shirt proclaimed me a spin-the-bottle champion in faded white lettering.
“The knife is your best offense. Revealing its existence, even a second too soon, could be a fatal mistake.”
“But you can see through such magic, vampire.”
“I’m not teaching you to fight me —”
I pivoted and then lunged between two closely spaced trees to slap the vampire with the flat of my hand right in the middle of his chest. “Tag, you’re it!”
He stared at me, surprised. It was subtle, but it was surprise. His white blond hair, unnaturally pale skin, and ice-blue eyes stood out starkly against the wet green and brown backdrop of the forest. Kett had been human once, hundreds of years ago — though he had yet to actually confirm his age — but he hadn’t retained much natural expression. His eyes were slightly wider than normal, hence surprised. I’d beaten him.
“You used the magic in the knife and the necklace to amplify your dowser senses.”
The wedding rings of the necklace and the jade stone of the knife contained natural or residual magic that I had — unknowingly at the time — reshaped with my own magic to create a new magical object. This exceedingly unique talent was the reason I now had a self-appointed vampire mentor and a werewolf bodyguard. ‘Alchemy,’ as the vampire called it, was so rare that I hadn’t even heard that such a talent existed among the Adept. It was most likely an inherited ability — my father’s biological contribution to my magical genetics — but seeing as not even my mother knew who dear old dad was I didn’t know for sure.
“Is that praise I hear?”
“No. It is a lesson you should have learned within our first week of training.”
Ouch. “Nasty,” I said.
Kett shrugged. A human gesture he seemed to be trying on lately. I think it was difficult for him to be around so many people all the time.
“You’re just pissed that —”
“Now, where is the werewolf?”
“Slave driver,” I muttered. “Fine. It’s not like I want to keep tromping around here in the moss and mud. You promised me treasure, vampire. You lied, again.”
“I’m not the dowser.”
I huffed and turned away from him, so as not to be continually distracted by the magic I could see dancing on his skin. I reached out with my dowser senses again — once more anchoring myself within the stores of magic in the necklace and the knife — to seek the flavor of Kandy’s magic. I came up with nothing except a hint of that same unknown glimmer a few tree trunks away.
“You really cannot sense the werewolf, dowser?” Kett sounded genuinely perplexed.
“Maybe she’s gone too far.” I moved toward the new glimmer to look at it more closely.
“The wolf should not have been able to test the limits of your range within the short time she has been gone.”
Kett wrapped his fingers around my elbow to stop me from continuing to clomp around. I didn’t exactly move lightly through the underbrush. Then he paused as if listening.
“Should you be able to hear her?” I asked.
Kett’s eyebrows lowered a sixteenth-of-an-inch, which I took as an admonishment to be quiet. The vampire scanned slowly left, then right. He then repeated the gesture. “No wolves,” he said.
The forest was suddenly much quieter around us. As if the prey within had all sensed the presence of a predator. It was frightening how Kett could hide that so effectively if he wished.
“You can’t track her?”
“And how would I track her, dowser?”
“You’re a vampire. You hunt.”
“Not by scent. If that is what you are suggesting.” He was really affronted. But how the hell was I supposed to know? He wasn’t exactly forthcoming about his abilities. None of the Adept were, but vampires were practically xenophobic.
“By what then?” I asked, laying on the snark. “Heartbeat?”
“Yes,” he answered. His voice dipped into that occupied quality it got right before his fangs made an appearance.
I’d been joking about the heartbeat thing. Yeah, it wasn’t funny if it was true. I took a step away and touched the hilt of my knife for reassurance. The vampire — though sometimes freaky — wasn’t going to attack me … not right now, at least. Usually there was a bit more warning. I hated that I occasionally forgot who and what he was. It didn’t help that he was nice to look at and his magic was unique and distracting, to me at least.