Home > Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(10)

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(10)
Author: K.F. Breene

“No! Not that. Emery, please. You don’t understand—” Isaias pinched the casing in his hand and jerked, trying to throw it. It hit the desk and bounced back, hitting his side instead.

A puff of green was all the warning the spell gave. It ate through Isaias’s shirt like acid and into the skin of his stomach, burrowing down.

Isaias started to scream, twisting against the magical binding Emery had just constructed. Emery’s heart ached, but not because the spell had been intended for him. In that moment, he didn’t care that his mentor had wanted to kill him gruesomely in order to save himself. This was the man who had pulled him out of the darkness. The man who’d taught Emery and Conrad to use their incredible gifts. Call him sentimental, or a plain fool, but it killed him to see his mentor leave the world like this. Didn’t matter what Isaias had done.

“End it,” Emery said to Solas as he turned away from the grisly sight. “End his suffering.”

A bolt of lightning blasted down from the ceiling. It struck Isaias’s head. The screaming cut off suddenly.

The wind died down and silence filled the room.

Heavy-hearted, Emery stripped away his spells from the door.

“You are too soft for this war you fight,” Solas said as she stepped aside.

He didn’t meet her eyes. “Once upon a time, he was a father figure, of sorts. Regardless of the lies he told, for good or bad, he made me what I am. It’s hard to get around that.”

“I see. And when you meet the Mages’ Guild?”

He led her out of the building and back to the gateway between worlds. This had been a detour. A lingering question. Isaias had nothing to do with the guild members whose names he’d collected thus far. With the war Emery had inherited from Conrad.

The war he intended on fighting with everything he had.

It was time to truly face the guild. He knew the name of the hired gun that had killed his brother, knew the office that man had worked out of at the time, three years ago. He would visit that office in Seattle to start collecting more information. From then, he had but to follow the trail.

“When I meet the guild,” Emery said, “they will rue the day they tore apart my world.”

Chapter Six

Hollow metal poles clattered against the dirt walkway. I jumped, flinched, and spun, all at the same time. I’d even managed to grab my sweater and pull it tighter around my chest mid-spin. My reactions were at once fast and useless, something I never would’ve thought of a month ago.

“You’re so jumpy,” Geraldine, the stall neighbor on my left, said with a booming laugh. She brushed her short dirty-blonde hair out of her round face as she surveyed me. “You look like a ghost is following you around.”

There probably were ghosts following me around. How should I know? There were certain experiences that changed you, plain and simple. Like sitting in an old magical couple’s kitchen after a retreat-turned-bloody-battle and learning from them that mythical creatures were real. It was impossible to go through that and then return to reality as you knew it. Because even if everyone I’d talked to in New Orleans had been lying in some elaborate Penny is so gullible, let’s have some fun prank, there was still that floating ball of fire behind Reagan. There was still that inexplicable gothic church out in the middle of nowhere. And, oh, I don’t know, the cauldron spitting out patterns and colors that turned people into zombies!

Even my thoughts turned shrill at that last thought.

Because yes, it had been explained to me in calm tones that I had helped a powerful mage turn a bunch of unsuspecting women into zombies.

Me. Penny Bristol. The girl who had, until that point, lived a boring, uneventful, dull life of routine.

Which meant two things. One, I was a fool for randomly trusting a set of instructions without a description or even a title—lesson learned—and two, zombies were real. They weren’t caused by a super virus or an experiment gone wrong (yet); they were made by magic. By a potion that was stored, clear as day, in my noggin. So I had that riding around with me.

I blew out a breath. The three magical avengers from New Orleans thought I was a mage.

No, that wasn’t true.

Callie, the older, brash one with the inappropriate sweatpants, said that without training, I was a natural witch. It was Dizzy, her husband, who said I was a mage. A very gifted mage who would probably kill a neighborhood someday soon if I didn’t get training. He liked to deliver horrible news with a smile.

Thankfully, by that point, the third member in the strange magical group, Reagan, had plied me with so much whiskey that I could barely sit on my stool. It made all the news bearable.

Until I woke up, of course, and proceeded to get out of there as fast as I could.

I’d decided to go back to my old life. Ignore the piece of myself that was missing. Because in all honesty, if that aching hole was meant to be filled with murder and mayhem, if magic was dangerous (at least in my hands), I was better off bored but safe. Any idiot could tell you that.

So here I was, in a job my mother found for me, fighting a feeble canvas tent at a medieval-style amusement village outside of Seattle. As soon as the blasted thing would behave and stand up straight, I could set up my usual wares: tarot cards, colorful stones, and fake crystal ball. If people wanted badly told and often wrong fortunetelling, I was open for business on an ever-changing schedule during often weird and annoying mid-day hours.

I ignored Geraldine’s second burst of laughter as I clipped the canvas in place. My stall up, I took the flimsy card table off my rickety cart and pulled out the legs.

“Looks like rain,” Geraldine said as she went about clicking her poles into each other, making a much sturdier frame than I just had. It was why she got most of the choosey clientele. She didn’t look the part of a road-weary and uninterested gypsy out of the medieval times without two cents to rub together. She looked like a modern hobbyist who may or may not have any insight into the occult, but would be an exuberant and fun distraction nonetheless. The fact that her chairs wouldn’t buckle under their butts was probably another advantage.

I’d follow that business model if I had the money to spare. As it was, after the New Orleans monetary setback, I’d decided to save every last penny in an attempt to get my own place and escape my mother’s ever-watchful gaze.

I draped a tablecloth over the card table, set up a chair, and slowed down. This was the most important part of my setup, and why I showed up earlier than most of the other vendors. What went where on the table mattered…at least for me. If things weren’t placed just so, I’d draw a blank the moment someone sat across from me. When the setup was right, it was easier for me to pick up on little clues. Tells about what the person might like to hear.

“I doubt we’ll make it through the day.” Geraldine breathed heavily as she grabbed newish, unstained fabric to drape over her tentlike setup. “Almost summer, though. It’ll start drying up soon.”

I glanced at the heavy Washington sky, thick and gray. Clouds shifted while drifting, churning up darker patches in the sky. Electric energy gave the soft breeze a positive charge as it rolled by with a slight chill. Green trees and foliage swayed and nodded around the dirt walkway.

I stilled in the moment, taking it all in. The vibrancy and energy of my surroundings invigorated me. I allowed the earthy smell to comfort me, buffering against the supercharged atmosphere that sent shivers of anticipation through my body.

This was one of the reasons I still got mocked. I couldn’t help but stand there with my hands splayed out and my face slightly upturned, listening to the nature around me. Feeling it slide across my skin and fill me up with light. In school, I’d been taunted and bullied for being weird. The bullies who bothered me now might limit themselves to strange looks and crooked smiles, but I could always see their eyes calling me crazy.

Before I might’ve muttered an apology, torn down my arms, and bowed my face in embarrassment. Not anymore. There were worse things a person could do, like turn a bunch of women into zombies.

Coming back to myself, I noticed Geraldine staring at me, like she was waiting for an answer.

“Sorry, what was that?” I asked, figuring she’d asked a question while I was in my mini-trance.

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