Home > Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(15)

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(15)
Author: K.F. Breene

In a daze, I took my tent and whatnot down and piled it onto my cart. It was annoying to set up and take down every day, but management reserved the right to move us around or cancel us at any time. Clearly they thought keeping us mobile was the easiest way to handle things. For them.

The lane was mostly cleared away as I made my way out, and only one guest of the village was hurrying through the hardening rain. Even in a panic to keep from getting wet, he noticed the strange stain on the side of my umbrella.

I rotated it away from his judgmental eyes. I honestly had no idea what it was from, but it wouldn’t let the rain wash it away, and I never remembered to pick up a new umbrella when I was in the store.

At my car, I loaded everything in (the poles were always a problem) and sat in the driver’s seat, checking out the mostly empty parking lot. The afternoon sky, dark with clouds, rumbled in the distance. Albert had been exactly right. This wasn’t any old rainy day. There was a storm brewing.

Halfway home, after stopping by the store to grab a few things for dinner, I slowed at a barricade blocking off the street. Rain pounded my windshield. The squeak of my wiper blades competed with the radio.

I frowned because this way was never closed. It was a larger street that didn’t host any street fairs or races—not that it would be a likely day for such a thing.

I glanced in my rearview mirror, seeing that I’d missed a standing sign that probably read “Detour.”

At least they had signs. I’d never strayed from this route, and I’d learned it from MapQuest (flip phones didn’t have GPS). I didn’t trust my ability to figure out a workaround without guidance. Streets around these parts were windy affairs that messed with my nearly nonexistent directional sense.

A car slowed at the detour sign and turned. Another followed behind.

At least I’d have someone to follow.

As I straightened in my seat and grabbed the gear shift, my gaze caught the barricade again. The image wavered, just for a moment. I turned the wipers on a little faster, trying to see through the driving rain.

My heart quickened.

It wasn’t a barrier at all. It was a tightly woven band of multiple colors, patterns, and textures.

It was magic.

Chapter Nine

Adrenaline coursed through me. Without thinking, because that was clearly my jam, I threw the car into drive and lurched forward.

The hood of the car sliced through the artfully crafted spell. I stopped on the other side and looked back.

The magic was still there, untarnished by my intrusion.

I turned back to drive on, but it occurred to me that an essential part of training was analysis. If I wanted to learn how to work spells, I needed to know how other people put them together. What went into them. I was being presented with that opportunity right now, which clearly meant I should head outside in a storm. Clearly.

Why did I have to think so much?

I pulled over to the side of the road and grabbed my umbrella. The driving rain beat down hard, splashing the concrete around my shoes. I hurried forward, getting hammered in the shins as I did so. They’d be soaked in no time.

The weave was magnificent, like the design of a master seamstress. The colorful patterns twirled and spun together, exquisite and exciting. I felt the pulse of the spell throbbing in the air before it soaked into my middle, its intent clear.

Keep out. Danger ahead.

I felt goodness within the spell. Light. Good intentions. Whatever was happening, this spell had been crafted by someone with his or her heart in the right place.

I ran back to my car, my shins getting another blast of tumultuous water. A gust of wind layered my side with rain.

What a day to stumble upon magic.

Back in the car, I drove ahead slowly, looking carefully for any sign of additional magic. I felt it before I saw it. Evil intent. A vile undertaking. Something that would cause serious harm. I didn’t see any magic, but I could feel it, clear as day. The spell was in the stages of being cast, I’d bet my life on it. Soon, the colorful jet of destruction would bloom over the street toward its intended victim.

I didn’t think that was imagination talking, though I couldn’t be sure.

I pulled to the side of the street again, watching. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me.

I paused.

If magic could make people into zombies, it could also make people invisible.

Adrenaline mixed with fear had me outside of the car in a flash, umbrella and purse in hand. I thought about grabbing a tent pole, too, just in case I needed to javelin someone or something, but a quick glance at the sky made me think better of the idea. Holding a big lightning rod in a storm wasn’t the smartest of moves.

Although my umbrella wasn’t far from…

I scurried toward a leafy bush at the side of the road. A streetlight clicked on over me, showering me in its glow.

Great timing.

I tiptoed farther along and crouched beside another bush, looking out at the quiet street. A small, deserted lot sat off to the right, the green grass stretching to the playground beyond. On the other side was a tire business, its windows dark and bays closed. The burger joint was likewise closed, very peculiar for this time of day on a weekday.

“I just want a name,” someone shouted, and I recognized the voice immediately. Gravelly and low, it was the stranger from earlier in the day. I couldn’t see him, but it sounded like he was on my side of the street.

I patted my pockets, more of a nervous gesture than an attempt to find something. My stones were in my bag in the car. Not that I knew how to do anything more than throw them at someone, but I sure would’ve been happy to have them with me.

“Let it go,” someone else called out from the playground side of the street, the one that emanated evil intent.

“You’ve lost your mind if you think I’m going to let it go. Just give me a name and you walk away from here.”

“There’s three of us,” Dr. Evil yelled out. I wondered if he had his pinky to his mouth. “We’re going to walk away from here regardless.”

The stranger’s laugh was low and humorless. “My brother and I were dual-mages. Did they tell you that? My power is the same as his. You think you three stand a chance against me?”

“Were dual-mages,” Dr. Evil said. “How does that feel, when your other half is ripped from you? I’ve heard it is a wound that doesn’t heal. Think you’ll find another natural to sew it back up? That’s the only way to get peace, isn’t it? Join with another mage?”

The sound of rain pounding on cement ate away the silence. The force of the evil intent grew. Dr. Evil and his flunkies were about to throw their spell.

“This is your last chance,” the stranger said, warning clear in his voice. I felt absolutely no intent—good, evil, or otherwise—coming from his side. “Who ordered my brother’s death?”

Like a rubber band snapping, the evil intent was released. It rocketed out from the side, a mishmash of murky colors and twisted patterns.

“Watch out!” I yelled, stepping into the street and waving my hands. “Run!”

Three jets shot out from the stranger’s location, the weave so fine and intense that it blurred into one color and obscured my ability to judge its purpose. My logic picked it up easily enough, though, and even if it hadn’t, I didn’t need to wait long to see it in action.

The stranger’s magic ate away the evil spell, dissolving it into nothing before blinking out itself.

I had no idea why I hadn’t seen the stranger before. He was standing next to the street in front of the tire shop, plain as day. And he could clearly see me. I could tell because his head was turned, his face pointed in my direction.

Fat raindrops pelted my head and face like bullets from a machine gun. Cold water soaked through my sweatshirt. I barely noticed.

Crack.

A shock of death rolled toward me from Dr. Evil. I turned and threw up my hands, fast but useless.

A sheen of bright white arched around me, forming a half bubble to my front. The murky black-brown stream of badness slammed into the sheen of white. It exploded, consuming the incoming magic and then rocketing back out to follow the line of fire.

Someone screamed, a hoarse, terrified sound. It cut out suddenly. Someone else shouted. The stranger stared at me, immobile.

   
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