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Episode 23: Witches, Witches Everwhere
Older relatives, slightly singed, rest on tussocks near the river, enjoying quiet conversation. Their breaths puff into white vapor. All in all, the scene is one of a pleasant outdoor celebration in full swing despite the occasional crash from the burning castle. The one common trait all witches share—no matter their politics––is adaptability.
Even the musicians, looking a bit the worse for wear, play a lively tune nonetheless. Several couples of younger cousins dance and cavort on the fresh grass, the smoldering remains of New Castle Highmoor in the background. A Darkmore cousin—one of the Dutch Darkmores, I believe––hands me a goblet of wine.
“What a bash!” He shouts, green eyes blazing, blond hair positively standing on end, and more than a little buzzed. “They’ll never believe it when I tell them about it at home. So happy to be here for the party of the millennia.”
He chucks Maddock’s shoulder, nearly knocking the two of us into a nearby shrub and scurries away. Nearby, he merges with a group of scamps practicing their incantations by knocking down the few remaining walls of New Castle Highmoor.
“Good Lord,” Maddock groans. “I shudder to think what we’ll have to do for our anniversary party to top this.”
“More pressing problems approach,” murmurs Mayebelle, nodding toward two figures making steady progress in our direction.
Aunt Clarissa and Aurora La Croix exchange pleasantries with those in their path, but their course is most definitely toward us.
Maddock groans again. “If those two women have joined forces, we can expect the Apocalypse to follow in short order.”
“They’ll have words to say about the time crystal you used.” Mayebelle winks her good eye knowingly.
“And none of those words will be pleasant, I wager.” He watches the two matriarchs with a tight jaw.
“You better put me down. You may need to use me as a human shield.” I feel my strength returning though I can’t help but think a large serving of that roast beef might be in order.
He sets me gently on my own two feet, but supports me with a strong arm. He squares his shoulders. Dark eyebrows knit over glacial blue eyes in the same defiant expression I remember from a thousand years ago when Aunt Clarissa caught him practicing fire magic without permission. “I don’t care what they say. You’re alive and that is all that matters. I wouldn’t alter a thing as long as this is the result.”
“Their barks are worse than their bites,” Mayebelle says, moving closer in a show of solidarity. “Never fear.”
Mayebelle adjusts the blanket around the baby, but her face twists into a configuration I’ve seldom witnessed in the past eight months. She’s smiling.
Without so much as a “Nice to see you, Allium” Aunt Clarissa, her gown stained and her hair less than perfect, levels a green-eyed glower at Maddock.
“It’s a miracle you didn’t blast us all centuries out of our own time. I told you to be careful with those time crystals.”
Aurora La Croix’s purple velvet gown is dusted with ash and silver strands streak her long black hair. She folds Mayebelle in a bear-like embrace. “Mayebelle, darling. It’s been too long.”
Before Aunt Clarissa can continue, Aurora pats Maddock’s arm, winking a bright blue eye. “You gave us a start, for sure and certain, but all’s well now. Clarissa, you mustn’t blame him too much. Look what he’s brought us.”
Mayebelle strategically displays the baby, now wide awake and staring. The glitter in Aunt Clarissa’s eyes softens. She caresses the baby’s face with a pale finger. “What’s done is done. I must admit the distraction probably saved lives. Not one casualty despite Lucia’s best efforts.”
Aurora digs scarlet fingernails into my arm, excitement in her blue La Croix eyes. “I didn’t have an opportunity to welcome you to the family, Allium, and there is no time now.”
She cocks her head, listening to the air. “Can’t you feel it?”