We wanted to officially announce that this book is delayed. It's going to be available in the fall and we're going to have updated too. This book is just going to be longer than I wanted, so it will need to be pushed back a bit until it's ready!
Until then, catch up by reading Book One: Abracadabra and Alchemy
Enjoy the Prologue of Bloodlines and Bindings below! Feel free to comment your excitement or any questions!
Dark Root Oregon
“Look at the moon, Dora! So bright! So full!”
Sasha cackled as she plunged her shovel into the rich red earth, leaving the tool standing beside the ashen tombstone of an occupant named Anna Grume Lome. A flower chain circled Anna’s name, though the dates of her birth—and death—had been eroded long ago. Still, Anna’s legible marker was a rarity in the old cemetery, where most of the headstones were little more than splintered wooden crosses, held together by rusty nails.
“Aye. The moon is bright,” Dora agreed, one eye on the celestials, and the other on Sasha. She poked out her tongue, certain she could taste both sulphur and iron in the air.
“Let’s keep going.” Sasha retrieved her shovel and began excavating between two nearby crumbling gravestones, whose names had been lost to the ceaseless Dark Root rain.
Dora inwardly cringed at Sasha’s cavalier disregard towards the deceased. These cemetery residents might be dead, but their eternal souls carried on. Dora had been raised to respect her departed ancestors, who could bestow both curses and blessings upon their descendants, as they saw fit. And though Dora’s ancestors weren’t buried here, Sasha was likely to have at least one shared bloodline, here among the dead. Dora stifled a shiver and wrapped herself tighter in her shawl, feeling as if she were being watched from all directions.
“According to Juliana’s astrology charts, consecrating the school tonight will be an auspicious time,” Sasha said, wiping her brow. Sasha often referred to her mother as Juliana, a formality Dora had come to accept. The mother and daughter had a falling out when Sasha was a young woman, and had never fully healed their relationship. “It’s warm as a summer’s night this evening! Fortuitous, don’t you think?” Sasha unfastened the top two buttons of her high collar. Sasha interpreted even the smallest anomaly to mean that she was on the right path, when it suited her agenda.
“It’s not that warm. Yer just hot from all the diggin’.” Dora didn’t share Sasha’s optimism. It was warm for an October night, but where Dora was from, unusual weather was rarely fortuitous, often foreshadowing sickness or drought. And something didn’t seem right, this evening. She felt the dread deep in her belly, squirming around like a bag full of worms, and she trusted her gut much more than any old astrology chart.
“Not only are your words salty, but there are storms in your eyes,” Sasha said, leaning on the shovel. She was wearing a long dark skirt, a stiff, high-collared shirt, and red dirt, from head to toe. “Tell me Sister, what’s on your mind.”
Dora had tried to hide her misgivings, but Sasha knew her too well. Dora’d been having visions--that opening this school was going to bring them unwanted attention, and possibly misfortune. “My tea leaves weren’t as favorable as yer charts,” Dora said.
Sasha nodded, pursing her lips thoughtfully. “Nor were my Tarot cards. The Tower came up twice this week, and Death, too.” Sasha’s strong features momentarily blurred as she considered the warnings, rending her temporarily ordinary. But her resolve returned and she waved her hand, dismissing both tea leaves and Tarot cards with one quick swipe “There are surely obstacles to still be overcome, but we have been working too many years to quit now. We are prepared for whatever comes next, and we will persevere.”
“Aye,” Dora said, knowing she wouldn’t change her mind.
Using the shovel for balance, Sasha squatted, digging her fingers into the cemetery dirt. She lifted a clot, crushing it in her palm, then let the breeze carry the dirt away, speck by speck. When she stood again, she showed Dora the bits of red earth still stuck to her palms. “The magick is so rich here; richer than anywhere else in Dark Root; richer than most anywhere in the world. Building this school here is the right choice. We’ve survived a pandemic, a depression, two world wars, and Woodstock. We’ll survive this too.” She winked playfully, nudging Dora’s side. “Right?”
“Right.” Dora nodded.
“Your head bobs up and down, but your tone is filled with doubt.. I thought you’d be more excited. You’ve earned this moment, as much as I have.”
Sasha nodded to the newly constructed building, with its large picture windows and gleaming, ivy covered walls. It was a marvel, built in secret, with the help of only those they trusted. Sasha even found a contractor who agreed to have a forget spell cast on him upon completing the project, so long as the hefty payment promised him, cleared his bank first. The project had taken a toll on them: financially, physically, and magickally.
“This school is the future, not just for us—but for the entire world. Those premonitions of yours will only worsen if we do nothing. The plan I—we-- have been working on, has come to fruition. Now cast away all doubt. So it is spoken, so mote it be.” She swiped her hand, to cast away doubt, and wriggled her middle finger, to mote it be. “Come. Let me show you something.”
Sasha took her shovel, and then Dora’s hand, and they left the cemetery, walking through the tall grass field, towards a cleared plot behind the school. “We’ll build your greenhouse here,” Sasha promised, drawing an X in the dirt with the heel of her boot. “Won’t that be exciting? With your wisdom, skill and talent—and Dark Root’s magick-- you’ll have a garden that will rival that of Babylon.”
“Yer panderin’ ta me.” Dora squinted her eyes, trying not to smile, as her imagination took root. She did want a greenhouse, and a garden. But she wasn’t convinced Sasha had thought this all the way through. Standing in the moon shadow of the white fortress, the future they had dreamt of for so long, suddenly felt too real, too… big. This was no longer a vague idea, but a looming reality.
She felt again as if she were being watched, though they were no longer in the cemetery. She snapped her head towards the dense forest, which surrounded the school, catching a pair of golden eyes from a tree bough. they blinked out of sight nearly as quickly as she’d discovered them. This wasn’t the first time she’d seen those golden eyes.
“I think Armand might be spyin’,” Dora admitted, tucking her hands into her housedress pockets. It was the only logical choice. Armand was a talented mage, Sasha’s favorite disciple, and occasionally her plaything, and Dora had to walk a thin line when slinging an accusation like that. But Armand was not committed to the light—he was a gray witch, with loyalties only to himself, in Dora’s opinion. A warlock, if ever there was one.
“What makes you think Armand might be spying?” Sasha demanded. Though Sasha knew the warlock’s propensity towards darkness, and openly criticized him for it, Sasha didn’t like when others questioned his loyalty. Dora wondered if it was pride, because Sasha had hand-picked Armand as their first Council Member, or if it was Sasha’s heart, still soft for him, despite his many betrayals.
Dora scanned the forest for yellow eyes. Not that she thought they belonged to Armand; his abilities were good, but were not yet developed enough to shapeshift. Perhaps a familiar, one who could fly and keep tabs on Sasha, when she wasn’t in town or at home.
“Joe caught Armand with a scryin’ bowl,” Dora said.
“Hmmm… That is curious. Armand has never shown the slightest interest in anyone’s reflection but his own. But no matter. There is nothing anyone can do about it now, including Armand, unless he can unravel time.”
“But, some say he’s working with…with…”
“The devil?” Sasha caught Dora’s wide-eyed expression, and laughed. “Yes, I’ve heard the rumors. But Dora, you know as well as I do, there is no one devil, but many.”
Leaving the shovel, Sasha hurried towards the front of the school, beckoning Dora to follow. Their basket of consecration materials sat on the steps before the door.
“There is something I haven’t told you.” Sasha rubbed her hands together, and Dora caught a gold flash of the Ring of Life on her right hand. She spoke in a whisper, leaning in. “We are being watched. But not by Armand. I discovered a mirror in the attic of Sister House. There is a presence bound within the glass, one recently reawakened. An ancient soul with a black heart, who commands darklings to do his bidding. And he has been waiting for this timeline.”
Dora’s jaw dropped. She looked at Sasha, who told such a frightening story with a chilling indifference. Is she telling the truth? Or was it a ruse to clear Armand? No. Sasha’s tales were stretched sometimes—but all were born of truth.
If Sasha found it in the attic of Sister House, the mirror must have once belonged to Juliana, who had originally built their ancestral home. Why did Juliana have it?
“Why are ya telling me jus’ now?” Dora asked, suddenly cross.
“Because I’m going to take full advantage of this auspicious day, and confess everything, all at once.”
“What more could ya have to confess?” Dora asked, conjuring up a buffet of horrible scenarios in her head, knowing each more preferable than whatever Sasha was about to say. She clutched Oliver, the onyx pendulum she carried in her pocket, for comfort. Oliver hummed in her palm like a kitten.
“Just that…the mirror…is inside this building.” Sasha gently tapped the door, as if knocking too loudly might wake whatever was inside.
“In our school? Are ya crazy?”
“A bit.” Sasha shrugged. “I had no choice. I placed a magick ward over it, to keep whatever was inside, bound inside. That ward will require a great reservoir of magick to sustain, an amount we can only harness here. Besides, this way we can keep an eye on it.”
“Is it safe ta be around?”
“So long as the seal holds.” Sasha’s eyes shone with resolve as she slung her thick braid from one shoulder to the other. Looking towards the forest, she said, “And the seal is not our only resource. I wear the Ring of Life. The forest will protect us, and the path enchantments are holding well. We have The Council behind us, and a new school where we will train the most naturally gifted younglings in the ways of magick. We are strong, independent witches, Dora, not to be trifled with.”
Sasha stood up tall, her shadow extending well beyond the steps. The two women exchanged smiles. Sasha’s unbridled faith was a magick of its own, that even made Dora a believer.
Dora took a moment to take in the woods, which stretched for miles all around them. There were no watching eyes in the branches now, only the loving embrace of their guardian trees. Sasha was right. They could face anything.
“Will be a wonderful school, someday.” Dora conceded, imagining the pine wreath they’d place upon the door, as she retrieved the consecration basket from the steps.
“A place to create magick,” Sasha agreed, coiling her braid on the top of her head and securing it with an antique hair pin.
“Ya smell that?” Dora sniffed the air as she dug rosemary leaves and sage oils from the basket. It might be warm now, but snow was coming. Three days away. Five, if they were lucky. Seven if they used a little magick. She would have to harvest her garden soon. She faced her lifelong friend, seeing her as the young woman she once knew, and not the budding elder before her. “Ya realize we don’t have any kids fer the school?”
“Not yet. But soon.” Sasha reached into the basket and produced a series of skinny, yellowing scrolls, tapping them into her open palm. “I have finished decoding the rest of Juliana’s astrology charts. Dora, I think I’ve found them.”
“The girls?” Dora nearly dropped the vial of sage oil. Her heart thumped in her ears. She gripped her chest, too old for too many more surprises at once. “Ya really found the girls?”
“Four, just as you prophesied! They aren’t born yet—but their births are foretold in the charts. All within this decade!”
“We can’t argue with the stars, Dora.” As above, so below.” Sasha pointed upwards, then down to the earth.
Dora could hardly believe it. She had seen the four younglings in her dreams. Four girls, prophesied to change the world. “Where are they from?”
“Scotland. Portugal. And Dark Root. Just like you predicted.”
The girls were coming!
Now it was important! Now it meant something.
Dora fanned herself, excitement overtaking apprehension. She had never had children of her own; had forfeit that part of her life to assist Sasha with this one. But now, she would get to help raise four wonderful, magickal girls! Children that were going to energize this town—and possibly change the trajectory of the entire world.
If we can keep them safe.