Witch myth wildfire the.., p.1
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       Witch Myth: Wildfire- The Beginning, p.1

           Alexandra Clarke
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Witch Myth: Wildfire- The Beginning
Witch Myth: Wild Fire- Book 0

  Alexandria Clarke

  DBS Publishing LLC

  Copyright 2017 by DBS Publishing LLC

  Chapter One

  Rain pattered on the top of my umbrella as I walked into town. It was the end of September, late in the year for a storm, and though mud splattered my Wellington boots, I took pleasure in the soft rolls of thunder and misty rain. For someone else, the weather might have been depressing, but I had a soft spot for dreary days. The world was loud and boisterous, and sometimes the noise was too much for me to process. Rain muted everything. People hurried from doorway to doorway, ducking beneath the hoods of their slickers, desperate to get inside. Cars slowed to navigate the sharp angles of the wet road around the town square, the tires churning up waves that washed over the curbs. Yew Hollow was a painting, and its autumn hues ran like a beautiful mess over the edges of the canvas.

  Suspended between two trees at the front of the town square was a garish orange banner displaying the words “Yew Hollow Fall Festival” in bright yellow font. It sagged in the middle, and a pool of water had collected in the heavy-duty plastic, tugging the branches of each tree inward like a sad hug. Soaked streamers lay limp in the trees, mushy and deteriorating. I set down my umbrella, planted my boot in the fork of the first tree, and hoisted myself up to untie the first side of the banner. As it fell free, the trapped rainwater deluged down the plastic like a cheap slip-n-slide. I jumped to the ground, hopped over the resulting puddle, and scaled the other tree. The second knot held fast.

  “Come on,” I grumbled. The hood of my coat fell back and rain danced on my face as I pried at the slick rope. I blinked to clear my vision. My boot lost traction against the slippery tree trunk. I lurched, scraping my palm on the rough bark as I grabbed for the nearest branch. Drenched, I tried the knot again, but it stubbornly refused to let go. “Really?”

  I looked around. The square was empty except for a few stragglers in the distance. It was safe. I shot a single dart of dark green light from my fingertips, which entwined itself around the knot. The banner loosened and fell. I leapt to the ground, and with a snap of my fingers, the banner rolled itself up into a neat cylinder. I tucked it under my arm, picked up the now obsolete umbrella, and set my path toward the hill at the top of the street.

  A car ambled up behind me, slowing as it approached. I recognized the driver. It was Mrs. Raleigh, the polite woman who ran the local pharmacy. She rolled down her window.

  “Gwenlyn!” she called. “Need a ride?”

  I shook my head. “No, thanks. I like the rain.”

  Mrs. Raleigh smiled. “All right, suit yourself.”

  Thunder crashed as she drove off. The storm was getting closer. I picked up my pace. It wasn’t too long of a walk to my destination, but I didn’t want to get caught beneath an angry sky. I liked rain, but I preferred to watch lightning from indoors. The hill rounded out, and I caught sight of the house. My house, my home. It had been ten years since I’d first moved in, but sometimes it felt like a dream. My boots squelched against the warped wood of the wraparound porch, and the front door creaked noisily on its hinges when I pushed it open.

  This was another reason I loved gloomy weather. When everything was cold and damp outside, it made inside all the more warm and comfortable. A fire crackled in the living room, breaking up the dull gray light from the windows. Someone was baking in the kitchen. It smelled like cinnamon and cloves. Paul Anka crooned softly from an old radio even though its batteries had died years ago. I set down the banner, kicked off my muddy boots, and shook off my slicker. The hooks in the entryway were bogged down by a collection of coats, scarves, and hats. I balanced mine on top and sidled away, pretending not to notice when it fell right off.

  “Hey! What have I told you about water on the hardwood floors?”

  Morgan Summers leaned against the doorway of the kitchen, one eyebrow raised at my delinquent behavior. She was nowhere near old enough to be my mother, but that was the role she had taken on when I showed up at her house when I was sixteen. Then again, she was mother to an entire collection of women, whether they surpassed her in age or not.

  “Like the floor hasn’t seen worse,” I retorted with a grin.

  Morgan pointed to my fallen coat. It leapt up to settle on top of the other clothes. The puddle of rainwater on the floor evaporated and an arrow of blue magic pinched my arm.

  “Ow!”

  “That’ll teach you to talk back.” Morgan smirked, crossing her arms. “How’s the square look?”

  I examined the pink welt on my arm. “It’s kind of a disaster. I got the banner down, but we’ll have to wait until the rain stops to clean up the rest. The streamers are practically inert matter.”

  Morgan sighed. “I suppose that’s what we get for not checking the weather report before scheduling the Fall Festival. The locals are going to riot.”

  “They’ll be fine,” I assured her. “It’s just the festival anyway. What are they missing out on really? The pumpkin pie eating contest? Honestly, it makes me nauseous. At least we didn’t have to postpone the reenactment. That would inspire a level of disappointment that I’m not prepared to deal with, so look on the bright side!”

  “I suppose you’re right.”

  “I’m always right.” I nudged her aside to enter the kitchen and peered through the oven window. “Ooh, spice cake.”

  Morgan lightly smacked the back of my head. “It’s not for you.”

  “What? But you know it’s my favorite!”

  Morgan grinned. She was screwing with me. It was one of her favorite pastimes. “It’ll be ready in a few minutes. You’re going to have to wait until after dinner though.”

  “I could die during dinner,” I countered, faking a dramatic faint as though I had a case of the vapors. “And I’ll have never tasted the world’s best spice cake.”

  “Nice try, slick.” Morgan twisted a damp dish towel into a whip and snapped it in my direction. I dodged the attack, waltzing out of reach. “Malia planned a family dinner for tonight.”

  “The whole family?”

  “Yes, ma’am. They’ll be here any minute, so go change. You look like a drowned rat.”

  “You flatter me.”

  I left her to finish the baking and took the rickety stairs up to the second story. In a normal household, it might’ve worried me that Morgan was anticipating guests so soon and hadn’t visibly lifted a finger to prepare a meal. This wasn’t a normal household though, and Yew Hollow wasn’t a normal town.

  In my bedroom, I stripped off my damp shirt. As usual, the faded scars on the underside of my forearms caught my attention, undeniable reminders of a troubled childhood. Before Morgan, I struggled through sixteen years of abandonment, foster homes, and psychiatric wards, but she kept me, loved me, and taught me to trust again. Now the scars were just scars. The only one that mattered stretched from my wrist to the inside of my elbow and subtly glowed electric blue. Unless someone inspected it too closely, they would think it was just a prominent vein. In actuality, it was the mark that linked me to the Summers family even though I never bore the surname.

  Ten years ago, Morgan Summers made the national news. It was a small story, one that didn’t get a lot of attention. It was a passing comment on a late night news show, the same news show that I’d used to tune out the yells of that month’s foster parents. Morgan Summers of Yew Hollow, accused of murder and proven innocent. To this day, I didn’t know why or how I’d known that there was more to the story. Maybe it was the dead look in Morgan’s eyes in her old mug shot from the time she’d shoplifted at a gas station in New York City. Maybe it was an inexplicable kick from the universe in the
right direction. All I knew was that I had to find Morgan Summers, because I couldn’t be the only person on the planet plagued by a secret no one else understood.

  In short, Morgan Summers was a witch, and so was I. Yew Hollow belonged to the Summers coven. The town was a legend and a history lesson that began with Morgan’s ancestors two hundred years prior to my existence. Every Summers woman bore the gift of witchcraft. Long ago, we openly practiced in Yew Hollow, but times had changed and grown more dangerous. Disaster befell the coven, and the witches learned from their mistakes. They cast a memory enchantment so that the townspeople drifted off into blissful ignorance of our influence. The mortals loved the stories and the lore—Yew Hollow’s tourism relied on it—but that was all it was. Nothing more. Or so they thought.

  Downstairs, the murmur of voices grew as the family arrived in sets of threes and fours. A low hum resonated through the walls as though the house itself were alive. Auras waxed and waned, pulsing through me like invisible waves. Each one told me a little bit about the witch it belonged to. Aunt Alberta was grumpy as always. Cousin Elena needed a glass of wine. The littlest witch, seven-year-old Amelia, was positively starving. The spicy scent of pot roast wafted up to my room. My stomach rumbled. Amelia wasn’t the only one jonesing for dinner.

  I pulled on a fresh shirt and toweled my hair dry. At the top of the stairs, I saw a small group of children down below, so I balanced on the polished wood banister and slid down to the first floor. It wobbled beneath my weight as the children of the coven whooped and hollered at my entrance. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick the landing. There were too many witches in the foyer, greeting each other as they wiped their boots, and I ricocheted off of Aunt Alberta’s wide berth.

  “Oops. Sorry, Al.”

  “Who are you?”

  “It’s me, Gwenlyn.”

  “I don’t know a Guinevere. Ah, my love!”

  I rolled my eyes as Aunt Alberta squeezed little Amelia so tightly that her face turned purple. The old woman was senile, and she was known to slip tricky potions into the drinks of those sitting closest to her.

  Upwards of forty witches made up the Summers coven, and all of them had arrived at the house for dinner. There were no men, save for the youngest of the children. Witchcraft belonged to the women of earth. The Summerses kept the opposite sex around long enough to continue the bloodline before sending them on their way. They formed lifelong bonds with each other, and the platonic love between witches was far superior to the fleeting romance of spontaneous trysts.

  “Out of the way!” a voice shouted. Morgan’s sister, Karma, followed me down the stairs. “I can’t stand being packed like sardines in here. Everyone, back up!”

  A path cleared at her request. She twirled her hands like the director of an orchestra, and her lilac aura blossomed around her. It expanded through the dining room, pushing the walls outward. The room grew, the dining table lengthened, and extra chairs popped into existence from out of nowhere. Karma dusted her hands off.

  “There!” she said. “That’s better, isn’t it? Not so claustrophobic.” She slung an arm around my shoulders. “Gwen, I tried a new cocktail recipe. What say you act as my guinea pig?”

  Knowing Karma, the drinks were beyond potent. “How could I say no?”

  We weaved through the sea of witches. When the entire family gathered, I remembered how much I stood out. The Summerses’ genetics took two routes. Half of the coven looked like Morgan and Karma, with golden brown hair and any variation of hazel or green eyes. The other half resembled Morgan’s other sisters, Malia and Laurel. They sported pale blonde locks and light gray eyes. In comparison, I was the only member of the coven with hair the black color of night and golden green eyes like a forest at sunrise. There was one other witch—Morgan’s Aunt Alana—who differed from the masses with red hair and bright blue eyes, but she was prone to skip family dinners so my single hope for solidarity was lost. In the beginning, I was hyper aware of the differences. Now I ignored the creeping feeling of self-consciousness during times like these. This was my family, whether we shared blood or not.

  In the kitchen, Morgan and Malia argued over the temperature of the roast, which sat steaming on the counter, while Laurel filled water glasses and lazily levitated them out to the dining room table.

  “Medium!” Malia insisted. “No one likes their cow still kicking!”

  “It’s roast,” Morgan countered, guarding the slab of meat with her arms out to the side like a hockey goalie. “It’s meant to be pink in the center.”

  “Pink, not breathing!”

  “I am the leader of this coven—”

  “And I am your oldest sister!” Malia interrupted. “I don’t recall you helping Mom cook dinner for all those years—”

  Karma powered between her siblings to reach the refrigerator. “Excuse me! We just want the booze.”

  “Have Gwenlyn decide,” Laurel suggested airily as another water glass floated away. “She’s an objective entity.”

  I waved my hands in defense. “Oh, no. Don’t drag me into this.”

  “Actually, that’s a great idea,” Morgan said. She stepped aside to give me an unimpeded view of the roast. “What’s the verdict, Gwen? But before you answer, you should know that if you make me put this thing back in the oven, I will intentionally burn it.”

  Malia cuffed Morgan over the head. The meat looked perfect to me. It was crispy on the outside but pink and juicy on the inside.

  “I’m partial to the pink,” I admitted.

  “Ha!” Morgan exclaimed.

  “Traitor!” Malia accused. “You always take her side!”

  Glass clinked as Karma unearthed a pitcher full of frothy purple liquid garnished with rosemary from the fridge. She took me by the arm with her free hand. “Run away,” she instructed. “Run away.”

  It took a solid half hour to seat everyone around the extended dining room table. Morgan won the roast battle. It served itself, making the rounds. Dishes of mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, and other side items soared from one witch to the next. I snatched a bread roll from a basket in mid-flight and snapped my fingers for the butter dish. Morgan sat at the head of the table to my right. Karma seated herself on my left. The pitcher rested between us, half-empty. Thanks to its contents, my head was already fuzzy. The room babbled with conversation like a rushing river, ebbing and flowing over the rocks. Malia and Laurel discussed the best spells for combatting a case of indigestion. Morgan argued with one of her cousins across the table. Karma chatted my ear off about a new reality show she’d started watching. Everyone talked over everyone else. My ears rang from the dull roar. Auras connected and overlapped until one witch was no longer distinguishable from the next. We were a single entity, blurred together in a rainbow of hues.

  It turned out that it wasn’t Aunt Alberta’s potions I should’ve been worried about. Karma refilled my glass at any chance she got, and before we made it to the spice cake I’d been looking forward to for the entire evening, I swayed and almost toppled out of my chair.

  Morgan caught me by the shoulder to balance me. “Why don’t you call it a night?”

  “But spice cake—”

  “I’ll save you Karma’s slice,” Morgan promised.

  “Hey!” Karma protested.

  I laughed, leaning over the back of Karma’s chair to kiss her cheek. “You know what they say about karma, Karma.” I waved to the coven. “Good night, all!”

  The witches chorused a farewell. Somehow, I made it down the length of the immense table, into the foyer, and up the stairs without breaking an ankle. My vision blurred as I collapsed in bed. In the morning, I would kill Karma for pumping me so full of whatever she’d mixed into that cocktail. Tonight, I would sleep.

  I woke with a start in the middle of the night, staring up into the dark at the angled ceiling and wondering what had rustled me out of unconsciousness. A face swam into view. My face. I looked at myself. She looked back. I covered my eyes with a
pillow.

  “No,” I said. “No, no, no.”

  I looked again. She was still there. A ghost. Of myself.

  “Oh my God,” I moaned. “Am I dead?”

 
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