Home > Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(3)

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(3)
Author: K.F. Breene

“Yeah!” Beatrice pumped her fist. It didn’t take much to rile her up, clearly.

“In the human world, you go to jail,” a woman with a large bosom said. Her tone was flat, logical. “But if you break any of the rules set by magical people, there is no telling who you’ll have to face. Can you imagine Roger sending his shifters after you? Would you want Vlad as your enemy?”

The group collectively shivered. I widened my eyes, playing those words over in my head again.

“Do you mean shifters like…shape shifters?” I asked in a small voice. I felt ridiculous for even voicing the words.

But no one heard me. Or if they did, they weren’t interested in answering.

“Maybe this is a test,” Beatrice said with a pinched mouth. “So far, the high mage hasn’t asked any women to join his army, but here we are, helping out. Ready to defend the church and battle evil. Maybe this is a trial.”

“Sorry, wait…” I blinked too many times in an effort to wrap my brain around this new string of information. “Battle evil?”

“Ladies,” Tessa said as she held up the sheet of paper they’d been poring over earlier. She made a circle in the air, indicating they should circle around the cauldron. “Let’s get started. We’re behind schedule.”

“Okay, but—” Beatrice grabbed my upper arm and moved me to a place within the circle they were creating. “We’re not here to fight or anything, right?” I asked her.

She smiled and turned her eyes skyward. “Don’t be silly. We’re on potion duty. The mages will do the fighting. Now…” She resumed analysis of the paper, probably missing the alarm I knew was plastered across my face. Or maybe she just didn’t care. “This is very advanced. Lots of steps. We’re going to have to be careful or this defensive measure won’t materialize.” She brought up a pointer finger, and I thought she was going to jab the paper. Instead, she threaded it into the hair at her temple and scratched, the dry sound making me crinkle my nose. “Let me just look over it…”

As I was eyeing everyone to gauge whether they’d give chase if I ran, a strange sensation crawled up my middle. I gasped as it opened up like a blooming flower, spreading tingles and heat through my body. I noticed the small piles of herbs and other ingredients placed at intervals around the cauldron. My mind sparked with recognition of each item, adding to that strange feeling in my middle.

I knew what all the herbs were from studying my mom’s book on medicinal herbs and reading book after endless book on the subject in the library, but I also had a sense for how particular herbs fit together. Like, sometimes when I cooked, I could feel which ingredients would work best with what in order to obtain my desired outcome.

But the feeling had never been this strong. I had never been this sure.

I glanced up at the high ceiling. Then shifted my gaze to the stained glass windows at the front of the room. That cloud of evil intent still hung heavily around the church, but the energy within it sang. It called to me. Begging me to use it. To shape it.

I took the sheet of paper from Tessa before even registering I’d moved. Instead of sprinting for the door and calling for a cab, I slipped my phone into my pocket, adjusted the canvas purse draped against my side, and lifted my chin. I was assuming control. I had no idea why, or what would happen next.

Chapter Two

“I will read this,” I said to the circle in a loud, clear voice. To Tessa, I said, “You take one of the stations.”

“I understand you want to help, young Penny, but this is much too advanced—”

“I will read this,” I repeated in a tone brooking no argument. I’d never used that tone before, and it was as surprising to me as it clearly was to Tessa. But out of the blue, confidence strengthened my resolve, straightening my spine and ringing through my body. I felt perfectly in control, something I’d seldom experienced before.

But the clock was ticking. If there really was some good vs. evil battle coming, as preposterous as it sounded, and if that Cloud of Doom around the church was part of it, I did not want to be here when things got messy. I needed to help them see this potion through, and then get out as fast as possible.

I pulled the sheet closer to my face and looked down the list of ingredients before inspecting the piles assembled near the cauldron. They were organized so each batch could go into the cauldron at the same time.

Thank you, sous chef.

The loopy scrawl, large and evenly spaced, made me immediately think it was a woman’s writing. The clusters of directions and scratched-out lines, which were then repeated lower, indicated this was a copied potion.

I want the book this was copied from.

The thought came out of nowhere, and the sense of longing attached to it was so powerful that I startled. Something deep inside of me wanted to see the source. To hold the book and feel the ancient paper beneath my fingers. I somehow knew the true intent of the instructions would be revealed in the artist’s renderings, in the crinkle of the pages. The strength of this potion would be embedded there, seeking a master to will it to life.

I was that master.

Confidence flooded me—not just in my ability to read a page and command a group of witches, but to hear the whisper of the original spell. To hear the deeper desire of the creator and turn the words into a physical presence.

Wow, Penny. Just wow.

My imagination had switched from horror-stricken to grandiose. I constantly surprised myself.

“Penny, maybe I should—”

“Here we go,” I hastened to say, not giving Tessa a chance to reclaim leadership. “Now.” I scanned the group in front of me as I opened my mind and (it sounds ridiculous, given that they were a group of strangers, but I don’t know how else to describe it) my heart. “Ladies, take your positions.”

They looked around at each other, none of them appropriately spaced or standing directly in front of their ingredients. It wasn’t even a circle. It was an egg.

Having learned from my mother’s constant manipulations that it was faster to man-handle everyone into the space I wanted them to occupy than wait for them to fall into line, I briskly visited each person, precious minutes ticking away as I did so.

“I thought you were a beginner,” Gaunt Face said as I switched her position with Tight Bun. I had no idea why I did it. Intuition was in the driver’s seat at this point.

“I am,” I said, moving to the next person. “Don’t worry, this transformation is equally shocking to me. Many terrible decisions are being made today. Let’s hope I’m done with them by the time I need to vamoose. Unless flying brooms are real?” I paused on my way back to my position, my eyebrows raised hopefully.

Judging by the looks, they now realized that I was, indeed, a novice. Oh well. I’d probably lose my balance and fall off a broom anyway.

Back in my place, I held up the paper again. “Here we go.” I read the first line: “Approach the cauldron from the east and take the wooden spoon into your dominant hand.”

The ladies all exchanged looks before turning back toward me. I sighed, because that was the simplest of the directions and they were already confused.

“Beatrice, you’re the most eastward. Step forward. Grab the spoon with your dominant hand—are you right-handed? Yes, that’s it. Dominant hand, there you go.”

Who is this woman reading these directions?

I didn’t know, but I liked her.

“Now, Gaunt Fa— I mean.” I paused, because that would’ve been a hurtful slip. “You there.” I waved my finger at Gaunt Face. “Cup the sage and bay laurel in your hands.”

She did so, and I read the next bit of instructions. Namely, how exactly, and where exactly, they should drop the ingredients into the water of the cauldron.

“Focus,” I said in a hush, doing as I’d just said. I let out a breath slowly, stilling myself in the moment. Tingles crawled across my skin and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I felt a pull in my middle. Like someone was tugging a string attached to my ribcage. The energy in the room was rising.

I smiled in delight…then my confidence wavered.

“If we’re in a circle, all working together, can I say the words for the spell, or does the person dropping the ingredients into the cauldron need to?” I asked.

   
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