Magickal Vendetta

Heather Marie Adkins

I let the dried dragon's blood trickle through my fingers and into my cauldron. Well, the bright pink "Emeril" saucepan that pretends to be my cauldron, at any rate. The red particles separated and spread across my potion, forming curlicues around the bubbles. The liquid inside was the nasty green color of boiled toads, but that meant I was doing something right, so I wasn't going to complain.

Fall air seeped through the small opening under the kitchen window. It was refreshing on my skin against the heat coming off the stovetop. Outside, the late afternoon sunshine illuminated my garden where it still clung to a semi-state of life. The first frost would destroy it, but until then, it gave me something to watch as my potion boiled.

I grabbed a wooden spoon—the one with the carved owl—and gave the pot a stir, whistling.

Aura sat on the bookcase above my head in her position of power, eyeballing the proceedings with narrowed yellow eyes. "You look ridiculous. Where is your ritual robe?"

Frowning, I pulled the spoon out of the pot and glanced down at my clothes. Okay, so I was still in the tiny purple tank top and red plaid sweatpants I had slept in, and maybe I had Scooby-Doo slippers on my feet, but there wasn't a dress code for magick.

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" I sat the spoon on the plate in the center of the stove, lifting my eyes to my fluffy, black cat.

She cocked her head. "Hmm."

"Whatever." I opened the pantry above the sink and shuffled through the mason jars until I found what I needed. Unscrewing the lid, I pinched out an eyeball and turned back to the stove.

"Don't add that. You're going to ruin the formula."

I shot her a glare with the eye of newt dangling above the boiling pot from between my thumb and forefinger. "Why?"

"It calls for eye of iguana."

Rolling my eyes, I answered, "I don't have eye of iguana, I have eye of newt. They're both lizards."

"Gretchen," Aura sighed. "The newt is an amphibian while the iguana is a reptile. Different entirely."

I pursed my lips. "Who here has opposable thumbs?"

"The brute with half the brain of her cat," Aura answered smoothly, before licking the pads of one paw to show how much she was ignoring me.

I sighed and added the eye anyway.

Of course, the explosion rocked the foundations of the neighborhood.

"You know Tibbett is going to call the cops again," Aura murmured as I opened my eyes to the smoke settling around us. She flicked her tail, dropping the force field she had thrown up like a giant protective bubble. The cat had reflexes that were, well, cat-like. She had saved my ass more than once.

I could care less about my nosy neighbor, Old Man Tibbett, and his penchant for dialing the authorities. My once-green concoction dripped in black, burnt clumps down the stove. And the walls. And my cookie jar. "Damn it."

"Why can't you just go after him with a bespelled sword like a normal, vengeful witch?" Aura leapt gracefully from the bookcase to the kitchen counter and jumped the rest of the way to the floor, narrowly missing a potion crater.

"Not enough," I muttered, reaching for a dish towel and recoiling when I realized it was covered in goo. "I want his balls to fall off or his eyeballs to shrivel…"

"You are infinitely twisted," Aura sighed, waggling her fluffy butt as she picked her way carefully across the floor, headed for the living room.

"You could help me clean this up, you know," I called, still looking for a clean rag. I couldn't remember where I had last seen the paper towel roll.

Aura turned just enough to narrow her eyes at me over her shoulder. "Who here has opposable thumbs?"

Shot down by a cat.

I met Elery at The Coffee Shack a couple hours later still reeking of lavender scented bleach.

"You stink, Gretchen," she greeted me, wrinkling her small, pert nose. "Did you blow something up again?"

I sank wearily into the chair across from her, letting my brown canvas satchel fall to the floor. "I don't want to talk about it. It's still on the ceiling. If I don't think about it, it's not there."

Elery had been my mentor since I first began exhibiting magickal powers. She was a beautiful woman, with ethereal blonde hair that reached her lower back and a pixie-like face harboring ice blue eyes. She was also immortal, which was a sore point for me. Every minute I spent with her, I could feel the age lines battling over my face.

"I taught you better than this," she sighed, shifting in her seat and letting her palms rest gently on the table. The woman had the best damn posture of anyone I'd ever met. If there hadn't been a fluffy white puppy on the front of her crimson sweater, you would have thought she was some kind of regal princess.

"I can't help it." I pouted, crossing my arms over my black long sleeve t-shirt. Twenty-eight-years old or not, when she berates me, I revert to nine once more.

"Is this about Slane?"

"Don't you dare say his name!" I snarled, scaring the tiny waitress who had sidled up to the table. With her dark chestnut eyes wide as saucers, the teen took my order for a white chocolate mochaccino before hurrying away as if demons were at her heels.

"Your behavior has already gotten us banned from Starbucks. Could you tone it down?" Elery asked wryly, taking a dainty sip of her steaming Chai. "Did you bother to brush your hair before you left the house?"

My hands shot up to where my mass of curly, bright red hair was tugged into a messy ponytail. "Um, no."

Elery pursed her lips but let the hair slide—unusual for her nature. She loved to preach about how a woman should "always look her best!" She went on. "So, what did you blow up this time?"

I fiddled with the napkin on the table, tracing the name of the shop with one finger and searching for a way out of her question. No exit signs in sight. "A potion."

"What kind of potion?" Elery prompted, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow.

Sighing, I gave in. She always won, anyway. "A hex."

"For Slane?"

"Quit saying his name!" I hissed, reaching across the table to pinch her arm. Glancing around fervently, I whispered, "He's going to hear you."

"Dear goddess, Gretchen, he's a witch, not omnipotent." She smiled at a young, long-haired busboy as he placed a plate of crumb cake in front of her. I never saw her order it, so either she had him completely under her power or she was telepathic and had never told me. Turning her brilliant eyes back to me, she went on. "Gretch, we need to address this Sla—"

I glared at her, clearing my throat.

"This man issue." She raised her eyebrow again, which provoked the sullen teenager in me.

"There's nothing to address." I might have slumped in my seat and crossed my eyes. I probably stuck my tongue out at her. Maybe I even stomped my big black boots on the floor.

Elery reached down to where her gigantic leather purse sat next to her chair and shuffled through it. Her hand emerged from it with a book which she laid on the table between us.

"No." I shook my head vehemently, scooting my chair away from the table as if it were diseased. "Not happening."

She gave me a harassed sigh, one hand pushing the book closer to me as the waitress ran by, depositing my mocha. I reached for the coffee, ignoring the book.

"It's time, Gretchen. Just buck up and do it."

Aura turned her head nearly upside-down to stare at the book on the kitchen table, her nose wrinkling. "So, this is it? It's rather small."

"I'm NOT doing it." I had seated myself a good four feet away from it, my chair jutting out into the walkway between the stove and table. No matter how much I willed the book to disappear, no luck.

"You knew it was a matter of time. Elery gave you all the years you needed to prepare for it."

Pouting, I muttered, "But, I hate him."

"You barely know him. It's unethical to hate someone you barely know."

"It's unethical to build potions with the intent to shrivel someone's testicles, but I do it anyway," I responded cheerfully.

She managed a pinched and irritated look that closely resembled Elery. "Gretchen, you're missing the point. Open the book and get it over with."

"I don't want to. It's stupid."

"I understand that, but sometimes you just have to do things the way the Universe has planned for you."

"The Universe can shove this book up its ass."

"That's going to come back on you three-fold, missy. You better shape up and just do it." On that note, my supposed best friend and familiar slipped from the table and left me alone.

With my destiny.

I leaned forward in my seat, reaching tentatively for the book. Using a single finger, I angled it to better see the cover and shivered. Just a nonchalant black leather book with my mother's name printed on it in gold.

I'm a blood witch. 7th daughter of a 7th daughter. My magick is supposed to surpass that of any witch who isn't a 7&7, though because of the rate at which I blow things up, I guess maybe I'm just a dunce. As a 7&7, my destiny is pretty much laid out like a well-drawn map—I will marry, I will have 7 daughters, and I will die young as my power ultimately consumes me.

It's just the way things are.

The most important thing, however, was who I was meant to marry.

We're betrothed, you see, Slane and I. But, not in the "my father pledged me to your father" type way. No, in a "the universe planned it and sealed it by magick" type way.

Every 7&7 is magickally sealed to her mate, but the magick isn't complete without the final spell—a spell her mother writes.

The book beneath my finger was my mother's Book of Shadows.

The sound of machinery woke me up. I shoved a hand under my pillow to make sure Mom's book had survived the night beneath my rampant tossing and turning, and let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding when I found it. Another clang from outside my window made me groan. "I'm going to kill that old man."

"You are not," Aura said, yawning. "His wife makes you cookies."

"How much work can one house need?" I pushed myself to my elbows, glaring out the open window next to my bed. The chill breeze was cold, even with four blankets on top of me, but I loved sleeping next to the window where I could see the sky.

A bulldozer was raking its way across Tibbett's backyard, digging up a deep furrow of dying grass. I thanked the stars for my privacy fence, conveniently protecting my garden from giant mechanical monsters, and flopped back onto the bed. I buried my face in the pillow, fully intending to fall back into dreams.

"So. How did you sleep?" Aura asked smoothly, both of her paws snaking across the space between my pillow and hers so she could knead her claws in my hair.

So much for more rest.

"Yes, Aura, I gave it some thought," I said into the pillow. "And no, I'm not going to read it."

Ten razor sharp talons pierced my skull and I yelped, jerking away and swatting at her. "You're not my mother!"

"Somebody should be." She stalked out of the bedroom, her fluffy tail swaying.

Aura met me at the coffee pot an hour later, rubbing her body on my arms as I filled the pot with water and loaded the filter. It was her way of apologizing and it always worked.

"Have you purchased candy yet?" she asked me, turning circles around my coffee mug. She was way too energized. She had probably hit the catnip while I was in the shower.

I tossed my mop of wet, red curls over my shoulder and said, "What? Why?"

Sighing, she spun around one last time, like a dog, and sat on my hand. "Tomorrow is Samhain, Gretchen. You are the worst witch in the world."

"Oh." I took a deep sniff of the brewing coffee and closed my eyes in ecstasy as I slumped over the counter. It was like a narcotic. "Yeah, I'll get some today…"

I stood up quickly, banging my head on the cabinet. "Oww."

"What is it?" Aura asked, scooting away from my hand as I lifted it to my head, gingerly touching the point of impact. "Something excited you."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "It really weirds me out when you do that."

"I cannot help that my senses are twenty times that of your own and I can smell your disgusting emotions."

I swear my cat smirked at me.

"We aren't gonna need candy this year, Aur." I smacked my hands together, rubbing gleefully and aiming for the Mad Scientist look.

"You look mentally handicapped, Gretchen, do quit and tell me what has you in a dither."

I smacked her on the bottom playfully and she hissed at me. "I'm going to be a little busy for Samhain this year."

She froze on the tips of her toes, her back rising in a fair imitation of a Halloween cat, only fluffier. "Please, tell me you're not considering…"

I smiled, skipping out of the kitchen and down the hallway towards my ritual closet. "Oh, you better believe it!" I crowed. "I'm harnessing the power of Samhain and getting rid of that man once and for all!"

Halloween dawned bitter cold and spitting rain. I spent all morning under the covers, flipping through spellbooks and ignoring the one under my pillow.

Aura wouldn't come near me. I could hear her mumbling as she paced the den, catching words like "asinine" and "foolish". I think she might have gone for a walk at some point because I heard the jingle bells over the kitty door a couple times, but I was too absorbed in my reading. I barely noticed the passage of dim daylight from my window as it traveled across the floor.

By the time the sun had set, I had a notebook full of information and a hastily scribbled spell thumb tacked to the wall above my altar in the living room.

"I will ask you once more, please reconsider," Aura begged, rubbing against my bare ankles. "This will only end badly."

"I'm wearing my robe," I told her, ignoring her pleas. "No Scooby-Doo this time. Are you proud?"

"Gretchen." She drew out my name like a whine and it chilled me.

"Aura, go play in the litterbox if you don't want to hang around for this, 'kay?"

She huffed, flicking her tail in the air like a middle finger before stalking from the room. I was equal parts exasperated and terrified as I watched her leave the room.

Doing magick without Aura was a lot like attempting suicide on accident.

The den was nicely atmospheric. I had lined the walls with candles on every available surface so that the room felt like a cave. With the lights off and the curtains over the French doors closed, it could have passed for one of my ancestors' old wooden huts.

Except for the twenty inch flatscreen. They didn't really have that liberty.

I struck a match, watching it flare into existence and settle into a steady flame before I lit the black pillar candle on my altar. Lifting the charcoal from the censor, I held it over the candle until it caught. Sparks fizzed across the surface of the coal like bubbles in a soda. I placed it back in the bronze censor then dropped a pinch of mixed herbs on top of it. The smoke curled through the air.

I rather liked simplicity in my spells. A candle, some incense, and intent were all a girl really needed to get what she wanted. On a normal day, my intent wasn't worth crap, but at Samhain—with the veil thin and magick hanging heavy in the air—my intent was epic.

My wand was already humming with power when I picked it up. I felt it connect to the energy inside me when my palm wrapped around the wooden surface—like two interlocking puzzle pieces. I inscribed a pentagram over the altar with its pointed quartz crystal tip and intoned,

Kitty cat tails and bat wings dark

Eyes of the wolf and yellow duck's beak,

Ogre's fingers and a pirate's heart,

Bring to me the one I seek!

I was so accustomed to disaster that I expected some kind of explosion. Instead, nothing but a slight pop heralded his kidnap—er, entrance.

He looked exactly as I remembered him, but it had only been three years so that wasn't abnormal. What was abnormal was the way my heart pounded at the sight of him. The way my palms grew moist and the bottom dropped out of my abdomen. The way every fiber of me wanted to wrap myself up in his arms and stay there.

Slane's hair was the color of sunshine and it grazed his jaw bone with each movement of his head. One side was always tucked behind an ear, and the other fell into his incredibly blue eyes. The hoops in his ears were new—I liked them—and his skin was much more tanned than usual. His tall, muscular form was draped in a monk's robes and he held a big pumpkin-shaped bowl of sweets between his hands.

"Buddhist monks don't have hair," I pointed out to him, waving my wand in his face.

"Gretchen?" he blinked at me, dropping the bowl of sweets so that they scattered across the floor. My mouth watered as I saw several chocolate kisses go sliding under the futon. "What's going on?"

"Welcome to my home," I said sweetly, while sweeping one arm out in a dramatic flourish. I used my other hand to level my wand at him. "It's going to be the first and last time you ever see it."

Slane rolled his eyes. "Gretchen, what for the love of Hades are you talking about?"

"I'm going to break the bond," I told him coolly, poking him in the chest with my wand as he stepped forward, too close for comfort.

"Are you still going on about this?" He rubbed his brow with one hand, wrinkling his nose. "Gretchen, it was a car."

"It was my 1968 Shelby Cobra! And you totaled it!" I yelled, maybe a little too hysterically.

"Yes, Slane," Aura called from the dark recesses of the house. "That is the only reason she hates you. She's utterly irrational."

"Thanks, Aura. Nice to see you again!" he answered. I wasn't sure who I felt was more traitorous for the exchange, my familiar or him. He cocked a half-assed grin that sent fire across my face. "What are you going to do with that thing? Hit me?" He laughed—the asshole laughed!—and knocked my wand hand away.

"Don't taunt me, Slane. I'm your worst nightmare," I snapped, jerking my hand back up to jab him in the arm with the wand. Closing my eyes, I sent thoughts of fire into the wood, hoping to burn him.

It just made my wand flare hot, burning my own hand. I screeched, letting it fall to the ground and put my palm to my mouth, sucking on the offending area.

Slane leaned to scoop my wand from the hardwood, turning it so that he offered me the handle with a gentle smile. "Or, you're an incredibly inept witch who needs someone to take care of you."

"I do not. Jerk." I turned my back to him, studying my red palm in the candlelight.

"You're the most exasperating woman," Slane growled, closing the space between us. His long fingers wrapped around both my biceps as he jerked me to his body, swiveling me so that his lips could fall to mine.

He tasted like magick. It was electric between us, the pull of it moving me closer to him. I yielded to his kiss and rubbed on him like a cat scenting its property. His back was hard beneath my hands; his own palms pushed aside my robe, spanning the skin beneath my tank top.

Between kisses, he murmured, "I've missed you, Gretch."

His confession struck me like a wall at sixty miles an hour. It gave me presence of mind enough to get my wand between us. With a push of energy through it, I sent him flying across the room. He hit the wall hard, crumpling to the floor like a rag doll.

"Oh my goddess, Slane, are you okay?" I babbled, dropping my wand to the altar and rushing after him.

He groaned as I slid my hands under his arms and helped him stumble to his feet. Brushing me off, he rubbed the back of his head and muttered, "What is this really about, Gretchen? Because it's not about the car anymore. Forget the damned car. Freedom?" He finally turned wounded eyes to me, his hand dropping to his side. "Or do you really just not like me?"

"I could never not like you. I love you," I burst out, biting my lip as his eyes widened. "Damn it, Slane, you're my mate. I'm meant to love you."

"Then what's wrong with being together, Gretchen?" He traced a path down my cheek with one thumb.

"My entire life has been ruled by my magick," I murmured, unconsciously leaning into his hand with my cheek. "Learning it, doing it, trying to get it right. I never asked to be a 7&7. It just happened. I don't want to be a baby-maker, pushing out seven kids and then dying young simply because the Universe deems it so." I felt the tears coming and tried to stop them—unsuccessfully. "It's about not giving in."

Slane lifted his other hand so that he cradled my face between both palms, forcing me to look into his steady blue eyes. "Gretchen, I will walk away right now. I would stay away from you forever, no matter how much I want you, no matter how badly I would miss you, just to make you happy. Is that what you want? Just say the word, Gretch, and I'll leave."

It was the tear. The single, crystalline drop from the corner of his eye as it worked its way down his cheek. It dripped from his jaw and splashed on to my hand resting against his chest. When it broke upon my skin, I felt the depth of his love for me and I knew without a doubt that magick had nothing to do with it.

"No," I whispered. He leaned closer, his breath held. I shook my head harder. "No, Slane, that's not what I want. I want you. Forever."

His strong arms wrapped around me, lifting me against him as he kissed me again. That kiss was even better than the last, a vicious, soul-searching kiss that led us to the futon. We landed in a tangle of arms and legs, devouring one another with a hunger born of three years apart.

The doorbell rang and I froze beneath him, one hand full of his luscious bum and the other tangled in his hair.

"You forgot to turn off the porchlight, didn't you, Gretchen?" His voice hummed against my neck. I could feel the chuckle building up in his chest.

"For the sake of all things holy," I groaned, shoving him away. I fell to my knees, shoving his wayward candy back into the bowl. "Help me gather up these sweets. We have trick or treaters."

I married Slane after all. We eloped to Hawaii where a shirtless Hawaiian dude with long black hair and a red flowered skirt married us as we stood waist deep in the ocean. That night, on a moonless beach, we read aloud my mother's spell by candlelight to cement our magickal bond.

We made love beneath the stars and, of course, I got pregnant.

I guess I'll have my seven girls so he can spoil them rotten, just like he does with me. He bought me a new Shelby—I drive it everywhere.

Maybe I'll die young, maybe I won't.

Some rules are just meant to be broken.

Check out Heather's other work:

The Temple


Heather Adkins is a long-time practicing witch living in the wilds of the American South. Make her angry and she just may turn you into a newt and boil your eyeballs in her (admittedly not Emeril) saucepan.