FREE SHORT STORY! Half Moon Rising Origins: The Witch’s Spellbook

Here’s a little story I wrote that examines the origins of Trey’s spellbook in HALF MOON RISING (or click HERE for e-book version of Half Moon Rising).  Enjoy 🙂

Sorry about the shift in font size…blogging headaches!!!!

The Witch’s Spellbook© 2007 Margo Lukas 

     Village of Lucia, Spain; 1485 

      The moonlight glowed too dimly through the cottage window.  The thick wax seal remained an undecipherable blur to the old witch, her eyes clouded by years spent toiling in the garden.

       While the stranger loomed over her small table, Isabel DeLagado caressed the wax ridges and let her fingertips prove the truth of the package’s sender.

      Surprise jolted her frail frame.  “The seal of the Alpha King himself?” 

     Carlos, her companion, protectively laid his gnarled hand on her shoulder, mistaking her awe for fear.  Her lover’s struggle to bring his frame to full height filled her with sadness.  Alas, any defense Carlos mustered against the stranger would have been useless.  Utterly useless.

 “Señora, and good Señor,” the man watched Carlos’ trembling hand hover above an empty scabbard, “Be not alarmed. My king personally answered your plea.  Your request, plus the fact that your message found us at all, demanded his personal reply.”

Isabel smiled in spite of the danger surrounding their meeting.  Locating the den of the legendary Baltic Pack had not been easy.  The wily Spanish werewolves had made themselves scarce since the Inquisition began burning across the countryside, and her far-flung coven mates refused to aid her, instead begging her to flee east with them.

Yet no obstacle existed to make the Witch of Lucia give up her quest.  The scar from the bloodletting ritual tingled on her bosom as she recalled the powerful spell used to summon otherworldly aid. 

 A month ago, like the coming of night, the sullen gypsy with a healthy dose of pixie blood in his veins had appeared at her doorstep.  Pixies viewed witches as their mortal enemies, but Isabel’s spell proved stronger than his primal urges to flee or fight.  When he had left that night, he carried with him as payment, her missive to the Baltic Pack and her most sacred blade.

It was an ancient and powerful knife, but a mere plaything compared to the contents of the package on her table this night.  Their magic seeped through the heavy leather wrapping, beckoning their new mistress.

“My Isabel, time is passing quickly.  Cardinal Vega’s guards will notice our guest.  Give him what you promised and let him leave.” 

Carlos.  Her dear Carlos.  His mortal body ravaged by wars fought for long dead lords and by an even more persistent enemy—age.  He knew her strengths, and yet he feared more for her than he did for himself.  Ever the protector.

“Your man is right.  I remind you, Señora DeLagado, my lord Alpha bid me present when you opened the parcel as proof of no trickery on our part.”  He didn’t attempt to hide the venom in his voice.

Once—long before Carlos transformed her existence—this whelp’s arrogant tone would have unleashed her anger, but now it only made her pause and wonder.   Why such hatred for an old witch?  A mystery, certainly, but one for another night.  Tonight called for action.  Isabel slid a sharp nail across the thick seal, revealing the parcel’s contents.

Long fangs stitched to a piece of velvet gleamed with their own light.  The Baltic were an ancient, strong werewolf pack, and Isabel guessed few other werewolves possessed teeth as powerful as these.  Her payment to the werewolves carried just as much power, if not more. 

Other witches might call her a traitor for what she planned to do, but then many of them did not want to acknowledge the time had arrived for such desperate acts.  A change was happening and Isabel would not let thousands of years of knowledge be lost. “Carlos, retrieve the book and give it to Ko—oh, I’ve forgotten.”  Her paper thin cheeks burned with embarrassment.  Her mortal frailties grew with each passing day.

“I am Koltis, Señora.”  The Baltic envoy reached into his cloak and plopped a small leather bag onto her table as he corrected her. 

Carlos shuffled into a shadowed corner and seconds later handed Koltis a small leather book.

The werewolf slipped the volume into a hidden pocket of the pouch. “It isn’t likely to be taken from me, but my alpha insisted.”

Isabel’s pride prickled at his youthful, arrogant tone. “That book holds powers not to trifle with.  If it fell into the wrong hands, all beings, magical and mortal, lay in harms way.”  She could not prevent the thunder of her own hard-earned magic from shaking the cottage.

“Isabel, control yourself. The Guards.  They will come and take you away tonight if you are not careful.”  Carlos’ hands gripped her shoulders tighter than most dared.Only from him did she allow such a touch.After all, he was the reason for this evening’s exchange.  If not for Carlos, she would have fled months ago with the others.

“I am a warrior,” Koltis’ eyes held mild surprise at her outburst, “The Alpha King entrusted me with this mission.  I will not fail him.”  He rested his hand on the cottage’s wooden door.

Isabel raised her hand to stop him.  “Wait.  Tell your Alpha I wrote the spells exactly as taught by my coven.  Exactly.  They have never been written so there will be strange words.  He must trust his inner feelings.  It will show him the true magic of these spells.”

The werewolf’s solemn nod assured her he understood her instructions.  He opened the heavy door.  Steamy air rushed inside the cottage.  Koltis frowned.  “All of Spain smells of burning flesh.  Even tonight when no fires dance in the town square.  Leave like the others.”  He glanced at Carlos solemnly, then met Isabel’s gaze, “Alone you could make it.”

She covered Carlos’ wrinkled hand with her own, “After a hundred years on earth, I found love.  I am more woman than witch now.” She lifted the pouch carrying the werewolf teeth.  “Either in death or in life, this will ensure we are together.  I will not leave my true love to perish.  I lived too long without him.” 

œ 

Enough torches burned in the deserted square even Isabel’s half-blind eyes saw clearly.  Six red-garbed soldiers guarded the square’s gate.Cardinal Vega had overseen her binding to the stake personally, but thanks to a whispered spell, the ropes hung just loose enough for her to slip from them when the time came.

If the time came.

Vega had veered from his usual theatrical display of power.  He barred the peasants from the square to prevent their interference in the execution of a woman many revered.The crowd had been an integral part of the plan, but Isabel hoped Carlos found another way to reach her.She slid her gaze to where the robed Vega knelt in prayer beside her.  Ever the showman, he had commissioned a special dais on wheels.  With it, he laid his hands on the damned in mock mercy and rolled away before the flames were lit.

“Amen.” The priest broke the silence.

Vega’s final word shot adrenalin through Isabel’s body.  Her tongue rubbed the wolf’s fang hidden in her mouth as she searched the square for any sign of Carlos.Nothing stirred.Despair stung her throat as her plan fell apart. 

Only vengeance remained.  Its original purpose denied, the deadly fang could take Vega’s life as well as a sword.  Death waited for her in the hands of the guards, but at least the monster perished with her.Breath filled her lungs as she prepared for her last act on earth.

A severed arm, covered in the fine red velvet, sailed past her head.

Vega’s face went ashen. “Your demon will not stop me, you witch.”  The priest reached into his robe producing a gleaming dagger.

Galvanized, she shook free of the ropes and ducked clumsily as he lunged.  His blade sank into the wooden stake.

“Isabel.  I’m here.”  Carlos hobbled up the steps to her side ignoring the cardinal trying to free his knife. “The tooth.  Do you still have it?”

She spit it into her hand.  “Your sword? Where is your sword?”  They had hidden it so carefully in her garden lest it be taken from him when the Inquisition came for her.

“Lodged deep in the first guard’s gut, I’m afraid.” Carlos pulled her into his arms.  “But we don’t need it. Look around my love.”

She tilted her head away from her lover and saw for the first time the wolf creature that had made Vega panic.  It stood on upright legs towering over the only man still standing.  With a single sweep of its clawed hand, the guard’s head left his body and arced into the sky.

The Beast.

Stories told of the werewolf’s monstrous form, but Isabel had never witnessed the creature.  A perfect killer.Determination gripped her anew.  All was not lost.  Still, Isabel wanted Vega’s life for her spell. 

 As if sensing her thought, the great Beast jumped to the platform and reached for the petrified man.

“Make this one hurt, Koltis.” Isabel commanded. 

 The werewolf plunged his claw into Vega’s chest. 

Isabel looked the dying man in the eyes. “For the innocents who fed your bloodlust.  Now you will feed mine.”

“The spell.”  Carlos grabbed her and pushed Isabel’s fang to his chest.  “Let us finish this now while his blood still flows to feed the magic.”  He produced his fang and pointed its deadly tip at her heart.   

Together they started the ritual, the spell’s chant memorized perfectly.  Each word uttered with more difficulty as Carlos plunged the tooth deeper into her chest.  Unbearable pain gripped her, and yet, a supernatural force kept her upright.  Kept her chanting.  The magic of a thousand years guided her hand as she pushed the fang into her lover’s chest leaving a bloodless wound.

Blackness descended and the physical world abandoned her.  Isabel grasped at darkness, her feet kicking in a vain attempt to find solid ground.  “Carlos!”  Oh, goddess, she had failed him.  They were lost to each other.

“Here.  Open your eyes.  I’m here.”  He spoke clearly, with a resounding timberStrong hands grasped her waist and lifted her body in the void.  Her heart leapt as she opened eyes and beheld the man before her.

Carlos.  Dark-haired.  Tall.  Strong.  Alive and young again.  Eighteen by the look of his unlined face.

“Damnation Spanish witch, you are incredible. I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”  A deeper voice rumbled from behind her shoulder.  “And no wonder you wouldn’t leave this human warrior.  He’s almost as handsome as me.” The naked werewolf, once more a man, unceremoniously kicked the dead cardinal off the platform.

Tears ran from Isabel’s eyes, “The renewal spell worked.  We are transformed by the werewolf fangs buried in our hearts.”  She wanted to hold her lover.  Take in every vibrant inch of his skin, but first she had to thank their savior.  “We are in your debt, brave Koltis.  Whatever you name we will—”

“Hush.  Nobility did not bring me back to this wretched place.  Morbid curiosity lured me. Truthfully, I could not believe you—a witch—would stay and give a mortal back his youth, if it meant you risked death.”

Carlos hugged her closer. “I spied Koltis outside the gates.  I did not know he aided my fight.  When I saw the faces of the guards, I realized he had joined my cause.” 

Koltis hushed Carlos, “No more talk of payment.  Looking upon Isabel’s beautiful face is enough. Sometimes even I need to be reminded of the power of magic.  But now I must remind you others will soon find this slaughter.  I hope you have a plan for escape as well.”

Isabel looked at Carlos and joy overwhelmed her.  A cry of glee threatened to burst forth—a new youthful impulse.  Instead, she calmly nodded. “We hid clothes and coin in a wilderness between here and the port.  We’ll find a ship and let it take us where it will.”

“Then I shall be on my way.  I have a book hidden under a wheelbarrow which my King is waiting for.  A book I should not let fall into the wrong hands.”  Koltis leapt off the dais to the stones below.

Isabel marveled only a moment at the muscles of the supernatural being.  Her young body remained unmoved.Carlos filled her soul.  Her mortal companion.  Her true love. 

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2 Comments

  1. Jae said,

    Ohhhhhh.

  2. chris said,

    that was cheap!!!

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