“I insist that you do something about that child!” Camilla Blackmore was a mean spirited woman. She was on her fourth husband. Number three dropped dead at the grocery store surrounded by innocent people. If she was killing them they were the perfect murders.
“What has Aggy done now?”
“What hasn’t she done! That child is menace! Have you noticed the squirrels lately? Whatever she did to them was on a genetic level. They are breeding like that. Changing nature is against the rules Marcella. You yourself should know that.”
“Camilla calm yourself. She transmuted the squirrels when she was barely four years old. She holds the record for the youngest witch to perform a transmutation.” Marcella Blackmore was the oldest and current matriarch of the Blackmore clan. She was also the High Priestess of the Clan.
“Why do we celebrate this? She didn’t zap just one squirrel. She zapped all of them for ten square miles! Purple! She made the squirrels purple. They have become a tourist attraction for the goddesses sake. I have to chase mundanes off my lawn every morning. For some reason my yard attracts the little monsters.”
“The tourists or the squirrels?” Camilla made a nasty face at Marcella.
“The squirrels of course! The mundanes are just annoying. I would zap those lavender tree rats but they are immune to magic!”
“The money those tourists bring into our shops has been good for the family. You can’t discount that.”
“Fine. Whatever. Her mistake as a young child can be forgiven. It all the other things that we cannot forgive.”
“Camilla seriously? We all make mistakes when we come into our power. Even you did crazy things. I can remember making mother’s clothes three sizes smaller so they would fit me. I can still feel the sting of father’s belt to this day. A brave man my father.”
“I remember making all the bushes on the property taller not changing the genetic makeup of animals.” The two women were standing on the back porch of the Blackmore mansion. The backyard was a jungle of herbs and flowers. The perfect place for a young witch to get lost in. I could hear them but I was essentially hidden from view.
“It was just some squirrels Camilla. She will do great things one day, you know she will. Our seer has seen she will change the world.”
“That is if she doesn’t kill all of us first. Her magic is out of control. The simplest things go haywire and chaos happens. Her change could be permanent. I have no intention of living out my life as a pink chicken or some other creature. Her poor mother.”
Marcella’s face got very stern, and she glared at Camilla. “That, was not the child’s fault and you know it. Teegan’s mental collapse was more the fault of losing her husband than it was Aggy’s misadventure. That was just a coincidence. That party was too much for her that day.”
Camilla blew out a breath. “My ass! What was it? Her seventh birthday? I was there Marcella. My dear husband and I organized the damn thing. I was the one who invited the other children. You cannot change my memories of the incident.”
I bowed my head at the mention of mommy. It wasn’t my fault. It really wasn’t. Poor daddy had died the year before on my sixth birthday. He was bringing a cake back from the store and a drunk driver hit him and he died. I felt a tear roll down my face. Pulling out my handkerchief I wiped my face. Mommy cried for almost a year. She was finally almost back to normal when the incident happened.
“Then the blame for the incident is on your head Camilla. Yours and Harrison. Teegan was not ready for guests much less a yard full of young children. And then there was the gifts. Really, gifting a young child a Unicorn? She was far too young for that.”
“Don’t blame Harrison, may he rest in peace. He thought she would like a Unicorn. What witch child hasn’t dreamed of riding one? I know that Teegan and I both wanted one as children. It’s a status symbol that’s all. Only witches ride in style.”
Marcella shook her head. “Agatha apparently. Camilla I don’t know why you are blaming her. Only the Unicorn was affected. None of the other children had so much of a hair harmed on them. You should know that we ran diagnostic spells immediately after the event.”
“It was the shock of it. Poor Teegan. She fainted dead away. After that she was never quite right. I visit her, you know. Every week I check on her progress at St Bridget’s.”
“It was not Aggy’s fault and you know it. If Teegan had been more aware, she would have noticed the strength of her child’s magic. Teegan was never as strong a witch as you are Camilla. She wasn’t ready to accept that her daughter was so strong at such an early age. I myself would be very hard pressed to whip off a spell such as that without any preparation.”
“Once again my whole point Marcella. She zapped that poor creature right in front of everyone! Then she tried to fix it and only made it worse. Has anyone been able to fix it?”
Marcella winced again. She breathed out a huge sigh. “No we have not. It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I have had every traveling witch or wizard come and take a look. I even sent to Europe for one of their dispelling mechanics. Nothing. She did something… They all say the same thing. It was an impossible spell. Especially for a seven year old.”
“Have you considered what would happen if she does it again? It might be a person this time. She is a walking time bomb.”
“So in your opinion we should parade the child around like a broken toy and subject her to the ridicule of the mundanes? Is that what you are saying?”
“That is not what I am saying at all! You are putting words in my mouth now. She is seventeen years old. It’s not like we can just send her off to college with the rest of the children her age. Won’t any of the witch schools take her?”
“You know the answer to that one, since it is your fault they won’t even consider her.” The older woman had a cross look on her face.
The younger woman hung her head in shame. “For that I am sorry. At the time I was frightened for my own daughter. Winter could have been harmed, and I was very upset. She is the one bright light in my life. I just could not allow Teegan’s daughter to attend any school Winter attended.” Marcella rolled her eyes at the bright light comment.
“So nice of you to worry about your daughter and screw over your sister’s daughter, your niece, at the same time.” Marcella’s voice was so cold her breath could freeze water.
“How many times must I say that I am sorry for that? Grandmother I was scared.”
Marcella shook her head. “That was not an excuse then, and it still isn’t one now. You are a full grown witch with mastery of your powers. Being afraid of a mere child does not make the coven or the clan look good in the eyes of the council. You are this close to being censured.” She held up her hand in a pinch.
“Me? They want to censure me? How dare they! Why haven’t they not done anything about her?” She pointed toward the garden.
“What makes you think they haven’t? Aggy has had the best homeschooling teachers that money could buy. She just needs some refining and a purpose to her life. Come inside and I will explain.” Marcella pushed Camilla toward the doors. She looked over her shoulder and caught my eye. There was no hiding from her. She shook her head at me.
“Why do you care so much about what that old bat of a witch thinks? She just wants to ship you off to some boarding school or something.”
“Who, grandmother or Camilla?” I glanced back at the house. They had gone back inside. I went back to picking flowers. Grandmother promised to show me how to weave them into a crown. Tonight was midsummer.
“Camilla of course. That bat has it out for you. She has ever since your birthday party.”
“Fergus, you aren’t still mad at me because of that are you? I can try to fix you again if you like.”
“No! Don’t. I really don’t want to get smaller or turn into one of those squirrels this time. I would look terrible in purple. No offense Agatha but your magic can be a little lopsided in its effects.”
“Lopsided. I have never thought of it like that. Remind me to tell grandmother the term. The squirrels were a mistake. I was four years old. I can do the basics without bad things happening.” I pointed at the flowers I just picked and muttered danzleikr. The flowers sat up and began to dance. The held each other's leaves and danced around me. I spoke stǫðva. They all collapsed on the ground and lay still. I scooped them up and placed them in the basket by my feet.
“Things like that I can do. It’s when I try big spells or off-the-cuff things that disaster happens. Like at the party. All the girls were screaming and the parents freaking out I reached for momma and she was on the ground. I just reacted and tried to reverse it.”
“Tell me about it.” Fergus was my sort of familiar. He was a unicorn.
“Let’s take these into the house. Maybe Aunt Camilla is gone.”
“Do you want me to stab her? I can get her good. Once you go horn, you never go back!”
I looked down at Fergus. He was shaking his head and dancing about like he was fighting someone. I could only shake my head and laugh. Unicorns! It’s all about the horn with them.
“Don’t make her mad. She is still a little scared of you. Don’t remind her that she is the one that paid for you in the first place.”
“Like she could take me back now. It’s been what ten years? Who would buy a used micro unicorn?”
I braced myself and stood up. Careful not to step on my friend I scooped up the basket and started to walk toward the house.
“Hey! Super short unicorn here! Did you forget about me?”
I reached down and scooped my little friend up. He was pocket sized. I have special pockets on all my shirts made just for him. They are lined with spell-infused Kevlar. He gets a bit pointy sometimes.
“Ooo I get to ride on the boob again!” He began jumping about in my hand.
I held him up to eye level. “Cut that crap out Fergus! I’m sure Zeus would give you a ride back to the house. How about I give him a call?”
“I’ll be good! I promise. Just keep that monster away from me.” The tiny Unicorn shuddered at the thought of being Zeus’s plaything again.
“He’s not that bad, Fergus. You know he won’t eat you or anything. He just wants to play.”
I smiled to myself. Threatening Fergus with Zeus was one of my standard threats that worked with the little terrorist. Zeus was my grandmother’s familiar. He was a what is known as a Savannah cat. He was a hybrid of a serval cat crossed with a Siamese cat. He was big, really big and Fergus was his favorite toy.
I could still hear voices inside the house as I climbed the stairs to the wrap-around porch. The mansion was an early Victorian showpiece. Three stories with a wrap-around porch it has been used as a model for several Hollywood movies. Every time she sees one Grandmother calls her lawyer and sues them. Magic Margarita’s indeed. I sat down in one of the really comfy wicker chairs that lined the back porch. I had lived here since my seventh birthday. This house had so much history in it.
Grandmother liked to tell the story how the house was originally constructed to serve as a hotel for the town. Her father had other ideas and hexed the owners into selling it to him for less money than it cost to build. The town elders had, of course been outraged that he would dare to impose his will upon others in such a way. He got away with it by saying that a hotel would only attract strangers to town and expose all of us. Thus our clan gained a house and the town a new alderman. He never wanted to be mayor. He was content to stay in obscurity.
Supernaturals came out to the world twenty years later. Germany declared war on Europe in a mad power grab and made use of its Adepts and witch circles. We as a people were dragged into the light. The mundanes didn’t know what to believe. Magic was real. So were the mythological creatures that made things go bump in the night. The Hun were using vampires backed up by witches to kill allied soldiers in the dark of night all across Europe. The Allied powers were desperate and patriotic paranormals volunteered for service by the dozens. Grandmother said that their reasoning was this. “Join now and be seen as heroes. Hide and don’t help and be persecuted for it later.”
For many neither was a good choice. The Vampires suffered the most of all the paranormals. The British army was getting pasted on the Western front and they were desperate. They made a deal with the witch and wizard councils. If they took care of the Vampire threat, the government would formally recognize the paranormals and incorporate them into the country. Someone knew the proper cheese to use when luring rats. They of course leapt at the offer. A great spell was created. British vampires in a rush to be patriotic and avoid future persecution even volunteered to help. The nests here in America told them it was a bad idea and pleaded with their brethren to avoid the battlefields.
The great spell was triggered on Valentine’s day. The circles claimed it was to harvest the energy of love to bring about change. Stupid mundanes fell for it. If they had been paying attention, they might have noticed that it was actually Lupercalia they were celebrating not a holiday named after a Christian saint. It was a festival of sacrifice and that is what they did. They sacrificed the leader of the British Nests in a symbolic blood sacrifice. He was supposed to survive. He didn’t. Neither did any vampire within five thousand miles of Paris, France. As a race they were devastated. Only those on the West coast of North America and those in Asia survived what became known as the Great Purge. Needless to say the Huns were defeated. In the aftermath laws were enacted to give all paranormals the same rights as norms. Or at least that is the theory.
I heard a door slam and tires screech away. It looked like Camilla left. I stood up and stepped into the house.
“Grandmother? Are you still here?” She wasn’t in the kitchen or the still-room. Those were her favorite places to relax in after a visit from one of the more stringent family members.
The parlor was filled with really uncomfortable Victorian era furniture that she claimed her parents bought. It was only used for special occasions. I knew she wouldn’t be in there but I looked, anyway. “Grandmother?”
The front room was where many coven meetings were held if the weather didn’t cooperate. She wasn’t there either. I raised my voice. “Grandmother? Are you here?” I was starting to get worried.
“In here, child.” I blew out a breath in relief. Camilla could be a handful but she only killed husbands, or at least that was the family rumor.
Grandmother was sitting behind the massive oak partners desk in her office. I loved that desk. It had to weigh a good five or six hundred pounds. The backside was covered in drawers. As a child I like to peek in them looking for sweets or things to play with. The top of the desk was covered in really cool green stained leather that she said was original to the desk.
“Are you OK grandmother?” She smiled at me and closed the folder in front of her. I caught a glimpse of some sort of Government seal as the file closed.
“I’m fine, Aggy. Have a seat please.” She clasped her hands together in front of her. As I watched, she studied them for a moment and rubbed them together. “I guess you heard Camilla and her concerns and comments?”
From my pocket the muffled voice of Fergus could be heard saying. “Yeah, we heard the old bat! You should tell to go kiss a warthog and leave us alone.” I giggled and pulled him out of my pocket. He stood on the desk and began walking back and forth as if pacing.
“I won’t apologize for her to you Aggy. She is family.”
There was one rule. Family is everything. We didn’t hurt family.
“I understand. Are you sending me away like she asked you too?”
The older woman shook her head. “Heard that did you? Well I need to do something with you my dear. I have taught you almost everything that I know. Regardless of what my daughters will say you are my best student and my successor one day.”
I started to protest, but she held up her hands to stop me. “Hear me out Agatha, please.”
“I will listen.”
“Thank you. Ignore Camilla and the rest of them. They know very little of the training you have had. You have all of my knowledge in herbs, lore, and practicality. They never chose to learn any of that. The members of our coven have been exposed to too much television and Hollywood theater. Power and magic is not the solution to everything. You must use your head and your heart to show you the way. None of them have shown any interest in learning. They believe that my successor is Matrilineal. The council of course knows better. Believe it or not none of them have ever asked. Your mother… She may have been a victim of someone who broke the first rule. It is one of the reasons I have kept you here rather than allow you to go to one of the schools.”
“I thought that they wouldn’t take me because of Camilla?”
“Trust me. If I asked they would have taken Fergus as a student. Camilla is too easy to guilt.”
I started laughing. My grandmother was very sharp.
She let me calm down then looked at me seriously. “Now we have much to discuss. You have to have training but it doesn’t necessarily have to be from the witch schools. Have you thought what you want to do with your life? Do not say run a shop in town because I know you better than you think I do.”
I thought hard about it. I knew what I wanted to do deep in my heart but it was something looked down upon by almost every paranormal race.
“Spit it out Agatha. I won’t be offended.”
I looked down at Fergus and he had this look in his eye for me to tell her the truth. “I want to be join the police and help people.” I half expected her to yell at me. I looked up, and she was smiling.
“Very good. Did you think I would miss all the mysteries and crime books you read? Or the cops and robbers show you like on the idiot box? Child I pay very close attention to what interests you. Now, down to business. What exactly do you want to do? Do you want to work with Cappy and be his new deputy or strive for something bigger?”
Cappy was the police chief here in our little slice of heaven called Blackbrier Heights. He cruised about town in an old police cruiser that has seen better days. His primary function was to keep the mundanes out of trouble.
“Bigger. No offense Grandmother but we don’t have crime here.”
“We do but you would not have heard about it. No I will not explain. You can ask me later after you finish school.”
“What school am I going to?”
“How about the FBI academy? Would you like to work for the US Government?”
“The Council has been trying to get someone to join for a few years. The Fed’s have to deal with paranormal crime on a daily basis. Some of the less powerful groups already have trained agents serving. They have been asking for a magic user for a while.”
“And they want me? Don’t they know about the mistake and bad stuff that happens?”
“Dear one, even the Council knows that it is not your fault. The have offered to train you, under the auspices of the FBI of course. If you want to help people, this is your chance.”
I of course said yes. So begins my journey. Wish me luck because heaven help the FBI if I cut loose. I hope they have good insurance.