The Witches of the Glass Castle, p.1Gabriella Lepore
THE WITCHES OF THE
Published by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
The right of Gabriella Lepore to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him/her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
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Cover Design by Rue Volley
Edited by Elizabeth A. Lance
Copyright© 2014 All rights reserved
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.
Novi, Michigan 48374
For Ben Alderson –
who found this book just when it was about to be forgotten!
ADDO VIS VIRES
The Glass Castle
How the Birds Fly
Buttons and Daggers
The Language of the Rain
Allies and Enemies
Blood of the Coven
The Call of Duty
United We Stand, Divided We Fall
ADDO VIS VIRES
Mia gasped for unpolluted air, but the opaque purple smoke poured into her mouth and spilled down her throat, filling her lungs and suffocating her. As she scrambled up the rickety step ladder, flames licked at her legs like the venomous tongue of a serpent.
‘Dino!’ she cried, choking on the thick fumes. She clung to the wooden step ladder, her slate-grey eyes scanning her surroundings. But she could see nothing beyond the flames and smoke that engulfed the stone-walled basement.
Mia covered her mouth and nose with the sleeve of her knit cardigan. Her eyes smarted in the toxic air, but she forced them open.
‘Dino!’ she called out again, her voice hoarse.
And then her brother ruptured the flames, diving for the step ladder and pushing her up to the hatch door.
In a scuffle they burst into the hallway, coughing and sputtering. The hatch door slammed shut, enclosing the blazing basement. Mia staggered to her feet, but her legs buckled and gave way. As she fell forward her palms hit the wood floor with a smack.
Dino lay several feet away, clutching his head with both hands and writhing in pain.
Mia crawled to him, reaching out to him.
‘Get away from me!’ he spat. His coffee-brown eyes were fierce.
Mia shrank back, afraid of him for the first time in her life. Although he was only a year older than her, his barbed voice suddenly seemed to propel him to decades her senior. Even his face no longer seemed like the face of a seventeen-year-old boy, but more like that of a grown man.
Dino let out a tortured cry.
Dazed and frightened, Mia called out for help even though she knew nobody was home. She and Dino lived with their mother and their aunt, but neither of the two women had been home when the power had cut out. Mia and Dino had gone down into the basement to investigate and that was when the explosion had happened.
But to Mia’s surprise, she heard the sound of footsteps descending the staircase. For a second she wondered if she was imagining it, but then a familiar form appeared in the hallway.
‘Aunt Madeline!’ Mia cried in relief. ‘There’s a fire in the basement. Dino’s hurt!’
Madeline crouched over her nephew as he seethed in pain. He gripped his head, his chocolate-brown hair darkened from sweat.
Mia pushed her own hair back from her face, freeing strands that had been stuck to her tear-stained cheeks. The brunette shade was identical to her brother’s.
‘He’ll be OK,’ Madeline confirmed, calmly. She placed her hand on Dino’s brow, her fingers cluttered with colourful rings. After giving him a cursory glance, she rose to her feet.
‘Cassie!’ she called for her sister, though with no real urgency.
Mia, still huddled on the hallway floor, watched as her mother appeared on the scene. Standing beside each other, Cassandra and Madeline were like mirror images. Both were beautiful, with wild red hair and bright-blue eyes. Only from their dress sense was it apparent that Cassandra was a little more conservative than her free-spirited sister. At that moment, both women wore the same blasé expression on their faces.
Dino let out another tormented howl. ‘Get away from me! All of you!’
‘What’s happening to him?’ Mia cried. She reached out to him again, but he swiped her hand away.
‘He’s going to be fine,’ Cassandra said in her usual motherly tone. ‘Maddie, darling, perhaps you should take Dino upstairs while I talk to Mia,’ she suggested – although it was more of an order than a request.
Madeline nodded her head and hauled Dino to his feet, guiding him through the hallway. He stooped and stumbled into the wall with a thump.
‘Oops!’ Madeline chuckled light-heartedly. She aligned him back on course to the staircase.
With her aunt and brother gone, Mia returned her focus to her mother. ‘There’s a fire in the basement,’ she blurted out. The words seemed to jumble in her mouth as she spoke.
‘Don’t worry,’ Cassandra told her. ‘It’ll burn itself out.’
Mia paused. ‘No. It’s a…’ she stuttered, trying to explain herself, ‘…it’s a huge fire. There was an explosion. I lit a candle and it…it just blew up. The entire basement is on fire.’ She waited for the severity of the situation to sink in for her mother. But it didn’t happen.
‘Yes,’ Cassandra said smoothly. ‘I understand. Did you read it aloud? The writing on the wall, I mean.’
Mia’s head whirled. There had been writing etched into the stone wall: ADDO VIS VIRES. And she had read it aloud.
‘Did you, Mia?’ Cassandra pushed.
‘Yes,’ she admitted, confused as to whether or not she should be feeling accountable for something disastrous. After all, what repercussions could there possibly be for reading out some nonsense words?
‘Oh, good,’ Cassandra breathed. She helped her daughter upright and carefully steered her into the living room. ‘I had a feeling it might happen today.’
With her legs still trembling, Mia collapsed on to the beige couch.
‘Oh, no!’ Cassandra sucked in her breath. At last her reaction seemed appropriate. ‘Mia,’ she went on, ‘there’s a hole in your cardigan!’ She picked at the torn fibres on Mia’s shoulder.
Mia stared at her, aghast.
Mistaking her expression, Cassandra added, ‘Never mind. I’ll sew it for you. It’ll be as good as new.’ She tugged at the loose threads on the cherry-red cardigan.
Mia gawped a
With a reluctant sigh, Cassandra took a seat on the couch. She stroked her daughter’s hair. ‘You are fine. Dino is fine. Everything is happening just as it should.’
‘But the basement?’ Mia whispered. Her usual peach complexion was now ashen.
‘Let me explain this to you as best I can. You were destined to go to the basement today. Actually,’ she corrected herself, ‘today, tomorrow, yesterday – I suppose it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that the writing was on the wall. And it was, wasn’t it? You saw the words?’
Mia nodded shakily.
‘You read the phrase out loud?’
‘What does it mean?’ Mia asked. She didn’t dare speak the words aloud again; all of a sudden they felt like a lot more than just words.
Cassandra took off her own cardigan and draped it over Mia’s shoulders. ‘Loosely translated, it means, “To give power. It’s Latin, I believe.’
‘What sort of power?’ Mia murmured. Her heart was pounding so wildly that she felt as though it might burst out of her chest at any moment.
‘The power which was already yours. Your birthright. Myself, Aunt Maddie, Dino, you, we’re all entitled to it. And now is your time to take it.’
All of a sudden Mia felt short of breath. ‘Take what?’
‘Power, my love,’ Cassandra said each word meticulously. ‘You’re sixteen now. You’re old enough to use it. I suppose you could think of today as a sort of rite of passage.’
Mia dropped her hands to her lap. She noticed that they were trembling. She was scared. Scared by the explosion, scared for her brother, and even scared of her own mother.
‘Mia,’ Cassandra said, smiling gently, ‘you’re a witch.’
The Glass Castle
The narrow streets of Silver Brook were eerily deserted. In fact, they were surprisingly quiet for such a bright summer’s day. Only one car chugged along the winding road – a rusty blue station wagon. It wasn’t an urbanised town, so the roads were never congested like they often were in the larger cities. Silver Brook was, for the most part, surrounded by mountains and forest, but the warm summer months tended to bring out the tourists. Not today, however; today was different.
With an impromptu swerve, the clapped-out station wagon veered off the main road and pulled on to a parched dirt track. Pebbles and clumps of dried mud crunched under the weight of the bulky tires. The car rattled along at a leisurely pace, closing in on an archway of trees, all of which seemed to bend towards each other, creating a tunnel.
Cassandra drove into the tunnel, and at once the glare of the afternoon sunlight vanished. ‘This brings back memories,’ she remarked to her sister, who sat in the front passenger seat picking at her chipped, orange nail polish.
‘Tell me about it,’ Madeline agreed. ‘It wasn’t all that long ago our mother was driving us here for the first time.’
‘Not that long ago?’ Cassandra echoed. ‘Try twenty years!’
‘For some of us, maybe!’ Madeline spluttered in outrage. ‘Stop insinuating I’m as old as you are.’
‘You’re only two years younger than me!’ Cassandra laughed.
Madeline frowned at her.
‘OK,’ Cassandra relented. ‘It’s been eighteen years for you.’
‘Eighteen years ago…’ Madeline processed the thought, gazing wistfully out at the tunnel of branches. ‘Am I really that old?’
‘Yes, dear,” Cassandra replied with a smile, ‘I’m afraid so. At least you can take solace in the fact I’m even older.’
Madeline considered it. ‘True.’
From the backseat, Mia listened to her mother and aunt’s conversation. Right now everything seemed like a mystery to her. She wasn’t even sure where she was going. All she knew was that she and Dino were being sent away for a while. Of course, her mother and Madeline hadn’t exactly used the words ‘sent away’, but that had been the gist of it.
Mia blinked against the bursts of sunlight that sporadically broke through the trees. She squinted, trying to glimpse beyond the tunnel, but the bright light between the gaps blinded her. She looked away quickly, almost as though she’d been burnt by it.
Sitting beside her, Dino showed no reaction. He stared straight ahead, his eyes locked to the back of his mother’s head, fixated on her mane of fiery red curls. Where Mia displayed curiosity, Dino’s stance was that of a condemned man. It was as though he already knew what was beyond the tunnel – or at least what it represented. And it symbolised the end. To him, the tunnel was a portal of rebirth into a life that he did not want. And consequently, the end of the life he had.
Mia wanted to speak to him, but she didn’t dare. His dark-brown eyes were cold and warded her off.
She sighed. Dino was no stranger to a sullen mood, but ever since the basement his bad temper had become a permanent fixture. It was like he was a different person. Unlike Mia, Dino was experiencing side effects from what happened that day. From what she could gather, he was still tortured by the pain in his head. It had lessened, but it had by no means gone. Of course, nobody knew the full extent of his suffering because he had barely spoken in days.
All of a sudden Madeline let out a piercing shriek, cutting through the tension in the back seat. ‘This is it!’
‘This is it!’ Cassandra repeated, matching her sister’s enthusiasm.
Mia sat up a little higher in her seat as the tunnel of trees opened out into a rolling meadow, dotted with buttercups and lush green grass. The sun beamed vibrantly, somehow more dazzling than it had been in town.
‘Cassie!’ Madeline gushed. ‘It’s exactly as I remember it.’
‘Exactly,’ Cassandra agreed. ‘It’s good to see that some things never change.’ She kept her concentration on the dusty road, but she glowed with a new energy.
Madeline twisted in her seat, leaning into the back of the car. ‘Do you see it? Do you see the castle?’ she asked her niece and nephew.
Mia peered out the car window. At the far end of the meadow was a magnificent stone castle. ‘Yes, I can see it,’ she said, looking back to her aunt.
Madeline and Cassandra both let out a whoop of delight.
‘What about you, Dino?’ Cassandra asked, her eyes still on the road.
Dino gave a heavy sigh. He glanced half-heartedly out the window. ‘Yeah,’ he muttered.
The two women cheered again.
‘I’ve been waiting a long time for this day,’ Cassandra rejoiced.
‘Me, too!’ Madeline sang. ‘You’re all grown up.’ She smiled fondly, but more at Mia than Dino. ‘And now our coven is finally complete!’
‘Maddie,’ Cassandra scolded her, ‘this isn’t about you. It’s about them.’
Madeline pouted. ‘It’s about us. All of us. And so what if I’m excited about finally getting our four?’ She elaborated for Mia and Dino’s benefit. ‘We need four to make a strong coven of witches. That’s where the big power is. But it’s only ever been the two of us, your mother and I. Well, since Anton and Phillip, anyway.’
‘My uncles?’ Mia furrowed her brow. She had never met her uncles, but she recognised their names from the rare occasions that her mother or aunt spoke of them.
‘Yes. We were a coven,’ Cassandra confirmed. ‘But that was a long time ago.’
‘What happened to them?’ Mia asked.
‘Those two useless fools!’ Madeline scoffed. Her red hair bobbed wildly as she turned her attention back and forth between Mia and Cassandra. ‘They are poor excuses for witches. Pitiful men…’
Cassandra cut her off abruptly, ‘Can we please not talk about them today? This is supposed to be a happy day.’
‘A happy day?’ Dino snapped. It was strange to hear his voice after such an extended silence. ‘How is this is happy day? Our lives
Cassandra and Madeline swapped a quick glance.
‘We’re not sending you away,’ Cassandra assured him. ‘You’ve been blessed with a gift, and Wendolyn will help you to develop it. You’ll only be here during the summer. You’ll be back home in time for school.’
Dino grimaced. ‘Bonus.’
‘And she’s not a nutcase,’ Madeline said, glaring at him, less tolerant than his mother. ‘She’s opening up her home to you. You need to learn to show some respect.’
‘Maddie,’ Cassandra stepped in, ‘have a little patience. He’s going through a tough time.’
Madeline rolled her eyes.
‘And, Dino,’ Cassandra added, ‘we’re only a short drive away if you want to come home. But with your…new abilities,’ she chose her words carefully, ‘I think it’s important for you to be here. Wendolyn will guide you, and soon the pain will subside.’
‘Why aren’t I in any pain?’ Mia wondered out loud.
Dino narrowed his eyes resentfully.
‘Because your power is not the same as your brother’s,’ Cassandra explained.
‘Oh.’ She chewed on her thumbnail. ‘So, what is my power?’
Cassandra and Madeline laughed. They ignored her question and continued chatting among themselves.
Mia looked at Dino, and for the first time during the car journey, he looked back at her. She drew in her breath. He was her brother, but she almost didn’t recognise him – not as she had previously known him, anyway. His eyes were like bottomless pits and his stare was intrusive, as though he were stealing all of her thoughts before she had even had them.
Can you hear me? she asked silently, testing him.
He didn’t respond. He continued to stare at her, silently picking her apart.
Mia turned away from him, but his focus didn’t shift. Stop looking at me! she wailed inside her head. She lifted her hand and covered his eyes, breaking the stare. Dino pushed her hand away and returned his attention to the back of his mother’s head.
The Witches of the Glass Castle by Gabriella Lepore / Fantasy / Young Adult / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes