Something Wicked This Way Comes

Hi all! As promised, I’m over at Mari Wells‘s blog today, with my story for Witch Month. If you’ve read my previous witchy stuff, you’ll see some familiar faces. Less than a week to Halloween – and the magic is hotting up… 😉

Follow this link – if you dare!

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Pic courtesy of eastsidepatch.com

Pic courtesy of eastsidepatch.com

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The Potion Mistress

So…Halloween is fast approaching. This flash fiction story was originally written for a Creative Writing course assessment, last year. As one of the characters will be popping up again in a new tale on Mari Wells‘s blog later this month, I thought I’d remind you about our precocious Lochie Witch… 😉

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The shop bell rang, jangling her aching bones as well as her ears. Abigail narrowed her eyes, assessing the girl as she entered. Her customer was pretty, but unlike many, had taken no particular care with her appearance. Fair hair scraped up into a messy bun, no make-up, no jewellery, yet she carried herself with immense confidence. This young lady was good at something, and knew it. Abigail wondered what it was.

The girl approached, pulling a piece of paper from her bag. She regarded Abigail the way they all did: not seeing her, just a person behind a counter.

“I need these.” The girl held out the paper. “Do you stock them?” Abigail slid her glasses down from where they were holding her frizz of hair back. She took the list and peered at the tiny writing, then turned to the shelves behind her. “We have them all,” she answered over her shoulder. “I’ll just be one moment”. Might as well get the hard-to-reach one out of the way first. Pulling the ladder towards her, she climbed painfully onto the first step.

“Umm…” Her customer sounded less sure of herself. “Can I give you a hand?”

“I can manage,” Abigail snapped, then winced. Mother wouldn’t be pleased if she lost a customer due to being touchy about her – condition. “Sorry.” As she reached for the jar, she couldn’t help thinking: my hands work fine, thank you very much!

“So does your sarcasm.” Abigail fumbled the container in shock, then caught it. Dismounting the ladder as fast as she dared, she faced the young woman. “How did you hear that?”

“You might as well have screamed it.” The girl was looking at Abigail properly now, her mouth twisting in amusement. She held out her hand, an old-fashioned gesture. “I’m Evie.”

“Abigail.” They shook hands. Abigail placed the jar in front of Evie. “Do you want to check this?”

Evie removed the lid, and the scent of roses filled the air. “Mmm, wonderful. Yes, that’ll do nicely. You said you had the other ingredients?”

“I do.” Abigail collected the other two jars. Evie sniffed the second one in approval. The third one, she opened and dipped a finger towards. A single drop rose from the jar and landed on her finger, like a raindrop falling the wrong way. Evie blew on the liquid, and Abigail watched it dissolve into a million sparkling fragments, blue-black like the sky of a storm, before they disappeared. Now she knew what her customer was.

“You’re a witch.” Abigail could scarcely believe it. “A real one. But you’re so…”

“Young?” Evie’s eyes seemed to look right inside Abigail. For the first time, someone saw her. “You’re an apothecary. A real one. And you’re too young.”

“I’m sixteen!” Her voice was defensive. It always was. “Mother can’t manage anymore…and I’m better than her, anyway. At making…stuff. I just can’t get around the shop as fast.”

“What’s wrong with your legs?” Evie asked bluntly. Abigail liked her for that. No pussyfooting around the subject.

“Spina bifida. They thought I might never walk at all.”

Evie nodded.

“My grandmother told me about this place. She said it was the best. I think she knew your mum well – back in the day. Gran said, if the daughter’s half as good as her mum you’ll be all right. Looks like that’s true.” Evie replaced the lid on jar number three. “Why are you so surprised to see a real witch? I thought you’d get loads of us in here.”

“No,” snorted Abigail. “Lots of people who think they are – or want to be. Girls – women – wearing pentagrams or moon symbols and carrying tarot cards. Or the ones who want to know how to stay beautiful or catch some man…” She trailed off, knowing what was in the jars in front of her. The makings of a bona-fide love potion.

“It’s not what you think.” Evie reached for her purse as Abigail measured the ingredients into stoppered vials. “You know what next Thursday is? Sorry, of course you do!” She amended as Abigail glared. “Well…the coven’s going to have another go. I think this is what’s been missing. This is the first year I’ve been allowed to read the books, but I’m really good at doing this – stuff.” They shared a conspiratorial glance.

“The sisters sent me here to get the missing ingredients. I’m glad they did. You know your stuff – like what these are for. Hopefully, this time we’ll succeed.”

Abigail stared at her, then the penny dropped.

“The Sisters?” she exclaimed. “You’re one of the Lochie coven? Then that means you’re going to…”

Evie nodded. “On Samhain. At the Old Kirk. This year we’ll do it.” Her face took on a wistful expression.

“We’ll conjure – him.”

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If you’ve read The Summoning (if you haven’t, why not? Go and read it now!) you’ll know who Evie is trying to conjure, and in what form. Will she succeed? Wait and see…

The Old Apothecary Shop by Olivier le Queinec

The Old Apothecary Shop by Olivier le Queinec

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

The cauldron is being stirred once again. I’ve sent Sam the Bengal Cat out to look for frogs, newts and other ingredients I need. Unfortunately, he’s the most incompetent familiar in the world, so I’m likely to get leaves, seeds, and drinking straws (don’t ask).

October is the Witching Month over at Mari Wells‘s blog, and I’m preparing a tale of covens, spells and other strange things. We’ll meet some of the Lochie Witches again, as well as Kate, a solitary witch who featured in my serial for Mari’s Vampire Month. Who knows, maybe a vamp or two will sneak in..?

Thank you William Shakespeare for the title of this post. I will undoubtedly be stealing lines from you again in weeks to come, William. That also goes for Messrs. Burns and Pratchett. And possibly Ms. Rice.

To warm my lovely readers up, I’ll be featuring stories old and new in September, with witches, vampires, and those unfortunates who meddle with them. Let’s go back to the beginning, when we first met the Lochie Witches… 😉

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The Summoning

The witch could see the caravans through the trees. They were an incongruous background to the activities taking place in the ruins of the old Kirk. She pulled a face. Legacy was all very well, but she sometimes wished their rituals happened in a different location. After all, it seemed wrong to summon the Evil One not a hundred metres from shower blocks and chemical toilet sheds.

“Stop daydreaming, Sister!” The voice cut through her thoughts. Aunt Aileen, brandishing a large wooden ladle, broke through her reverie and brought her attention back to what The Sisters were doing. They all called each other Sister, although none of them actually were. They were all related, albeit sometimes distantly – connected by their ancestry, going all the way back to the famous Lochie Witches of the 1700s. Those witches, however, had not had to contend with a busy road on one side and a caravan holiday park on the other. Back then, the Kirk had been remote and hidden amongst the trees at the foot of the Crag. Now, tourists roamed the grounds by day, although admittedly, there were not too many of them braving the Scottish weather at this time of year. At night, there was always the chance that a gang of lads and lassies from the nearby town would want to use the place for drinking or shagging or both.

The coven was the bedraggled remnants of those witches of the 18th century. Not for the first time, Fenella found herself wishing that more of the female line had died out. If they could no longer gather thirteen witches, then she wouldn’t be freezing her arse off on Samhain, trying to summon Auld Nick with fragments of ancient spell books, and a coven consisting of seven senior citizens, three working mums, two singletons and a precocious fourteen year old who was enjoying it all a little too much. Every year they tried to replicate what their infamous ancestors had done, and every year nothing happened, apart from Nana Anne setting her dress on fire and her cousin Jess falling over a tree root and twisting her ankle. Until last year, when the spell might be said to have worked. They had indeed conjured “auld Nick in shape o’ beast” – to quote a famous poem – except the beast in question was a large black beetle. The only reason that they knew the beetle was the Evil One was by the mark on its carapace. It had waved its antennae at them reproachfully and then spent the rest of the night sitting on Evie’s shoulder, much to the teenager’s delight. It hadn’t seemed inclined to do anything else – but then what could he do as a beetle? The 18th century coven had summoned him in the form of a huge black dog, which was much more the thing. Apparently the great hound had roamed the hills all night, terrorising locals and sheep, until the dawn sent him back Below.

Nana Anne stated she was positive she knew which part of the spell had gone wrong and this year they would succeed – properly. Fenella put her thoughts to one side and, at Aunt Aileen’s frantic ladle-waving, returned to the circle of Sisters around the cauldron. The potion was complete and being stirred by the three most senior coven members: Nana Anne, Nana Evelyn (her niece Evie’s namesake) and Aunt Aileen. It was the job of the others to chant the spell, ensuring that the last word was spoken at precisely six minutes past seven. Fenella had often wondered about the significance of that time, but it was in one of the spellbook fragments that had survived unscathed and was very definite. The hour – or six minutes past – was fast approaching. She joined hands with her other Sisters and, at a nod from Nana Anne, started to chant. At the exact same moment, the three witches in charge of the cauldron changed direction with their ladles and stirred counter-clockwise.

The skies above darkened further, if such a thing were possible during a Scottish autumn. Angry clouds gathered overhead and the wind picked up, whistling round the old stone walls of the Kirk and sighing through the trees. The surface of the liquid in the cauldron became as shiny as glass, and even with the stirring of the ladles the massing clouds were reflected in it. The wind was howling now, sounding like the mournful cry of a dog, and Fenella’s scalp prickled. This felt different to the last time, sure enough. There was a…presence, that was the only word she could think of…to the storm, an intensity that she hadn’t encountered before. She chanted with more purpose, her voice stronger and clearer. The others had felt it too, even young Evie, whose face had lost its this-is-fun-because-I-shouldn’t-be-doing-it look and taken on a determined expression. As the climax of the spell was chanted and the ladles made their last turn counter-clockwise, the clouds reached down from the sky, tendrils of grey searching like groping arms in the dark until they found their target – the cauldron. The link that formed between the liquid and the clouds looked like the tornado from The Wizard Of Oz, except for the colours contained within it. The blue-black of the night sky vied with the steel grey of the clouds and the glassy texture of the potion, which itself flashed all the colours of a prism as the column spun faster and faster. Fenella twisted her wrist, not letting go of her Sister’s hand, and sneaked a glance at her watch. They had finished the chant at exactly six minutes past seven. Just as she looked back at the column, it collapsed in on itself, swirling into nothingness in the bottom of the cauldron. There was a single crack of thunder overhead, but no rain fell. Instead, the ensuing silence was absolute. Hardly daring to breathe, the Sisters all leaned forward, but cautiously, in case a massive hound jumped out of the cauldron at any moment.

This, unfortunately, did not happen.

What did happen was that from the cauldron came a short, sharp bark.

Evie was the first one to move forward. Letting go of her Sisters’ hands, she stepped forward three paces and peered over the edge. Her face broke into a massive grin.

“Has it worked?” Nana Anne asked eagerly – far too eagerly for a ninety-year-old woman, Fenella thought. And what a stupid question! If they had indeed conjured the huge black dog of legend, it should have bounded out of the cauldron at the precise moment that the column disappeared. There was no room in there for anything larger than – oh no – surely not…

“Well,” Evie said slowly, “It’s kind of worked…” She reached both arms into the cauldron. When they came out, they were holding a black dog.

A little black dog.

There was a moment of stunned silence. On the one hand, it was a dog. This was a definite improvement on last year. On the other hand, Auld Nick wasn’t going to be doing much terrorising this year either. He looked like…

“I think he’s a Scottie,” Evie said hesitantly. “That’s good, isn’t it? I mean, we are a coven of famous Scottish witches.” Fenella groaned.

“I suppose it is him?” asked Nana Evelyn. She stepped round the cauldron, careful of any treacherous tree roots, and stood beside her granddaughter. Smoothing the dog’s fur back, she checked behind his ear. Sure enough, there was the mark. “It’s him. Well. Sisters, we must congratulate ourselves. This is a step forward from last year.” The dog wriggled. Evie put him down on the overgrown floor of the Kirk. Once again, Auld Nick glared up at them with a reproachful expression. Being a dog this time rather than a beetle, it was much more effective. The Sisters hung their heads, not wanting to meet his eyes. All except Evie, who seemed oblivious to the undercurrents running between the little dog and the older coven members. She scooped him back up and cuddled him. He wriggled a few times, then gave up, barked his sharp bark again and licked Evie’s face with a long pink tongue. She giggled.

“He seems to like Evie,” Aunt Aileen remarked, as dog and girl proceeded to romp around the Kirk grounds, chasing each other, the one barking, and the other laughing. “He did last year, too. I wonder what that means?”

“Sisters!” Nana Anne’s voice, surprisingly strong, cut through all their thoughts. “I agree with Sister Evelyn. It is another step forward. I will study the text fragments and next year, I am sure we will succeed and bring forth Auld Nick in his true beast shape. And perhaps after that, we will do what our predecessors never succeeded in doing, and bring him forth in the ultimate form.” There was a pause as everyone considered the implications of that. From the woods, the excited barks of a small dog were heard, mingled with Evie’s shouts. Fenella wondered if she should make sure they were all right, and then decided she was worrying needlessly. Nobody else would be in the woods at this time of night in this weather. As a Scottie dog, the Evil One couldn’t do more than bite a few ankles anyway. And her niece was still too young to be of any danger. Fenella suspected, however, that when Evie came of age she was going to be a witch to be reckoned with. After all, they hadn’t succeeded in conjuring Auld Nick at all until last year – the first time Evie had been part of the coven. And on both occasions he seemed to prefer Evie’s company… Fenella resolved to bring this up at the next meeting. For now, let the Sisters revel in their nearly-success, and let Evie romp around with her new playmate.

“I expect he’s catching rabbits, or something,” cousin Jess remarked to Fenella, as they each sipped a mug of mulled wine to the background of whooping and excited barking. “Not quite sheep, but still… Must be boring, being cooped up Below. Bet he’s glad to get out in the world for a bit, even as a Scottie dog.” Fenella giggled, and then bit the laugh back. The older coven members wouldn’t approve, but now the drama of the ceremony was over, it all seemed ridiculous once more. Grown women in a freezing ruin, trying to summon the devil for a night of – what? If they ever truly succeeded, what were they going to do with him? Well, obviously, she and Jess…and maybe one or two of the others…but Nana Anne? Aunt Aileen? Fenella suspected that if Auld Nick did ever appear in all his glory, the coven would be seriously depleted, as several of the older members would die of a heart attack.

In the woods, Evie and her canine companion had ceased exploring the undergrowth and were now resting on a grassy bank, sheltered by the trees. Evie lay on her back, the little dog lying on her chest, gazing into her eyes. The young witch broke eye contact for a moment to stare up at the inky black sky through the bare branches above. Then she met the dog’s eyes again.

Her gaze was far more than that of a teenage girl.

“I’m sorry you’re not a huge hound,” she said. “I’m sure if I looked at the texts I could work it out, but they won’t let me until I’m sixteen, and that’s two years away. Mind you, they are getting better at figuring stuff out. I’m sure you’ll be a big dog next year. But that’s not the ultimate aim, is it?” The dog panted at her in that smiley way that dogs do, and licked her face again.

Evie smiled back. “The year after next, then. I’ll be sixteen – of age. They’ll let me read the spells. I’ll figure it out, and persuade them to try my suggestion. I can be very persuasive. Some of them didn’t want me in the coven last year, at thirteen, but I convinced them. So I’ll get my way, and then…” She paused to savour the delicious thought for a moment. So did her companion, his eyes sparkling and his tongue licking his lips – although he might have just been thinking about rabbits – or sheep. Evie doubted it, though.

She knew what witches had always really summoned the devil for.

“I’ll conjure you in the form of a man”.

(Apologies to a local legend for playing around with it, and being creative with the location of various landmarks. This was originally going to be a much darker story, but it went off in a different direction. I think the ending promises darker things to come, however…)

The Blood and the Cauldron – Part 3

The 3rd and final part of this tale (for now). 😉
Many thanks to Mari Wells for letting me feature on her blog!

(Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already)

Mari Wells

Karen is back to give you the final installment of The Blood and the Cauldron

The Blood and the Cauldron – Part 3

Mark pounded on the door of the cottage. He hated going behind Ewan’s back, but his friend was in over his head this time. ‘Kate! Open up!’

‘Good Goddess!’ The door flew open, revealing the Witch – as she was known to nearly everyone. Most people didn’t want to know her name, or any more about her than they needed to. At this moment, Mark saw why. Her arms were covered up to the elbows with leaves and sap, and in her left hand she held a bundle of twigs which was crawling with spiders.

‘Kate, I need your help,’ panted Mark. ‘It’s Ewan.’

‘Get in here.’ Kate hurried back inside.

Following her, Mark glimpsed something steaming away in her stillroom, before he was whisked into the…

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The Blood and the Cauldron – Part 2

Okay folks, this is the EROTIC Part 2 of my vampire story. AND there’s blood. You have been warned… 😉

(If you haven’t already, read Part 1 here. And for Part 3, click here)

Mari Wells

Everyone who knows Karen’s writing knows it gets HOT and steamy. She’s about to make it hot and steamy up on this blog. You know if you’ve got Little “eyes” all around you or not. If you do, I recommend you come back once those little “eyes” take their naps. 😀

The Blood and the Cauldron – Part 2

‘No,’ he whispered. ‘It’s not true. It can’t be. I’ve seen you in daylight. You can’t…you can’t…’
The corners of Cara’s mouth turned up. ‘Never full daylight, Ewan. At dawn and dusk. If I’ve consumed enough human blood I can withstand the light. It lulls people into a false sense of security.’
He scrambled towards the door, but the acolytes caught him. His body betrayed him, refusing to fight as lust surged at their touch. Forcing his mind to overcome his treacherous limbs, he struggled in their grasp. He might as…

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The Blood and the Cauldron – Part 1

Today and for the next 2 days I’m featuring on Mari Wells’s blog for Vampire Month. Thanks for letting me loose, Mari! Read Part 1 of my 3 part story here.
(If you’ve already read Part 1, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here)

Mari Wells

Karen Soutar, is an awesome writer. Her vampires are smexy to the extreme. This installment is tame, but just keep coming back. Tomorrow’s installment is as hot as an Arizona summer.

The Blood and the Cauldron – Part 1

The heavy door swung inwards without a sound. That was good; he had half-expected it to creak. He stepped inside, hugging the wall and scanning the hallway for any movement. There was none. He left the door open, hoping that a little light would follow him. It was risky being here this late. The sun was almost down. Then they would rise, and he had no way of knowing how many there were. He had only ever seen the two, but he couldn’t save Cara if there were many more. He would be too outnumbered.

He had asked Mark to go with him, but his friend had refused.
‘It’s a trap,’…

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Testing, testing… *taps cauldron suspiciously*

Got this pic from Facebook - credits to whoever created it!

Got this pic from Facebook – credits to whoever created it!

Sharing this picture, because I like it.

And…although it’s Vampire Month at Mari Wells‘s blog, my story about vampires has a witch in it as well. Check out Mari’s blog for all things vampire, and my lot will make an appearance starting on the 25th July. 😉

In the meantime, here’s a little teaser:

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The Blood and the Cauldron

 The heavy door swung inwards without a sound. That was good; he had half-expected it to creak. He stepped inside, hugging the wall and scanning the hallway for any movement. There was none. He left the door open, hoping that a little light would follow him. It was risky being here this late. The sun was almost down. Then they would rise, and he had no way of knowing how many there were. He had only ever seen the two, but he couldn’t save Cara if there were many more. He would be too outnumbered.

 

He had asked Mark to go with him, but his friend had refused.

‘It’s a trap,’ Mark had stated, ‘And we’re not going. They’ve been after you since they got your sister. Now you’ve given them bait.’

‘I can’t just leave Cara!’ Ewan had protested.

‘You know why we don’t get involved in relationships. Innocent people get hurt.’ At the expression on his friend’s face, Mark softened a little. ‘Look…why don’t you ask the Witch to help you?’

‘And be beholden to her? No thanks.’

 

So he found himself alone, back at the house where Cara had been dragged away. The memory of her cries made him shiver. She had wanted him to explore with her, saying it would be an adventure. In vain he had tried to tell her what lived there. She hadn’t believed him. Not being brought up in the town, she scoffed at the idea that there were any such things as – vampires.

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 Oohh…find out more at the end of July! 🙂