The air brings in whiffs of smoke from outside. The black cloud twirling around my head. Messing up my hair that I just finished running a hundred brush strokes through.

The moon is high this night, begging me to step outside. It keeps sending in breezes, carrying different scents to distract me.

The lavender perfume a girl wore somewhere within a twenty mile radius. The cigarettes smoke that came from somewhere downtown, laced with some drug that made me dizzy for a minute or two. I could, of course, close the window and be at peace. But Vlad is out there somewhere, he's been gone for over two hours and I'm beginning to worry.

He went to steal some shadows for this new project I'm working on. I have all the material I need, waiting for me to start the spell. Already bathed myself in Anise and Chamomile and sanitized my hands with Rosemary. But I need the shadows. And I need Vlad.

His moonlit eyes glow as he steps onto the window sill, black fur hidden in the night. He jumps over to me and I get up to close the window, keeping the blinds open wide enough for the moon to bathe us in its light. The cat hisses as the shadows tied around his legs freak and try to escape.

"Shh, it will be over soon." I say as I sprinkle salt around us in a thick circle. "Evil spirits are not welcome in this circle. Evil energy will not enter." I repeat this thrice and the room temperature drops around us.

I douse my fingers in almond oil and trace them along a black candle. I touch the top and say the chant, "From the Heaven," I touch the base, "to the Earth." North to south, I repeat until the candle is fully anointed.

"Sever thy bonds. Set them free" I whisper seven times, my lips touching the candle in the silent prayer before I light it up.

I set the candle in the middle of the circle and burn a few drops of Carnation incense. The fragrance immediately swell around the circle, giving my power a path, strengthening my energy.

The invisible threads that stitched the shadows to Vlad's feet unwind and release the inky black creatures. The salt circle cages them in but Vlad jumps out, relieved. Grabbing a dried up bunch of Camomile leaves, I set them to burn on the candle flame. The aroma guiding the shadows towards calm. They stop their mindless shuffling and relax into a puddle in the ground, healing the stitches in their feet.

My work done, I extinguish the candle with a snuffer, inhaling the lingering fumes of candle and incense. The shadows stand on the ground, twitchy and uncomfortable in their new bodies, but not for long.

"Now, what should I call you? Huh, Vlad? Where'd you get them? They look young." One was a male and one female. Not more than twelve years old according to their heights, but that could be misleading. Vlad cradles his head on his paws, sighing heavily. "Okay, I'll just let you rest then." I roll my eyes and focus on the shadows again. Looking drunk as they try to walk on feeble legs.

Won't have any luck trying to get them to do my bidding just yet. I clean up the mess and put everything back in its place, not disturbing the salt circle. They'll be fine in there until they learn a few things. For now, I'll let them worry about their new limbs and how to function them.

I climb on my bed, check the Bay leaves under my pillow and slumber to sleep. The last of the moon's departing rays wash over my face one last time before being replaced by the faerie lights on my dresser. Vlad cuddling up beside me is the last thing I see before sleep claims me.

I braid Iowa's hair, listening to her spill useless (sometimes useful) gossip. Vlad is bored as usual, staring out the window as it pours heavily outside. Rain droplets shattering on the glass and bleeding down in rivulets as lightening makes the sky purple and thunder roars deep.

It doesn't look like the moon will be available tonight, and that leaves only one more night before it loses the full potential and goes on completing the cycle. For now, we're stuck in the dorm. So many people crowding my room feels awkward since I have two drunk shadows lingering in my closet.

"You're all set, luv." I say sticking the final turquoise pearl in her hair. "And no, you will NOT touch my hair."

"Aww, come on Nora. You know I would never even DREAM of something that scandalous!" She mock-gasps, rolling her eyes at me. "I'll do your nails instead!"

"Try that and I will make you believe you're a frog for a week." I wink and turn back, walking over to sort the snacks.

Iowa is the only one who knows about these rituals, about who and what I am. But she's basically an airhead so she hasn't run to the woods just yet. One of the reasons I consider her my best friend.

Her twin sister Wynter is printing cheat notes on the desk, head bobbing as music blares into her ears. I can tell it's one of the Barbie movie songs, even from across the room. Tiara is whispering nonsense on her phone while mixing up her homemade facial scrub. It smells like bad eggs. I mentally flinch and make the finger-in-my-throat puking gesture. Iowa laughs, ribcage vibrating as she struggles to hold it in.

They sauntered in just after breakfast, carrying movies and food, claiming that they needed extra girl time. The old pendulum chimes at 11:00 a.m and a blue thumb-sized peacock flutters out. Perfect timing because I have had about enough gossip to last me a week.

"I have gym class." I announce, debating between a soda and lychee juice. Soda wins. "Don't mess with my stuff, I'll see you later."

I hear a chorus of protests but only Vlad follows as I skip out the door. The day is still young but I keep getting this strange feeling that's sending shivers up my spine. Vlad senses it too and nudges me in the leg. No one's in the hall as I make my way up a staircase and look for the crow. I find her hiding behind a few pale curtains and whistle to get her attention. She half walks, half flies down on my shoulder, thick claws stabbing my skin. Her wings are still wet. I lift the amulet tied around her neck and feed her the cookies I pocketed. Sitting down on the wooden floorboards, I open the note within.


Reading the cursives over, I can't help but sigh. I can't say I didn't see it coming. Playing with -slightly- dark magic wasn't entirely legal. Wolves will howl, that means the sky will clear up tonight. I might be able to cast a few spells before Damian arrives. He always has to just stick his nose where it doesn't belong. But he won't catch my shadows this time.

I thank Naomi and leave her a few more cookies and a list of supplies I need her to bring. "And tell grandma I said Hi." I watch as she swirls into smoke and disappears. I watch in awe like always, "When will you be able to do that?" I ask Vlad, who just glares back.

It's a touchy subject for him. After all, he's only as old as I am and I'm still an amateur witch-in-training. I would have learned things faster if I had stayed with grandma and not a boarding school half a day away from home. It was her who sent me away without explaining anything. But I like it better this way, learning my own spells and playing with magic while having no restrictions has its own kind of joy.

Well, as long as Damian stays far, far away.