I was in the library with my apprentice when I heard the bell . It was definitely the one at the crossroads, used to summon me for spooks’ business, but it wasn’t the usual nervous clang of a scrawny scared farmer. It was three loud distinct peels of a burley man who wasn’t the least bit afraid of who would be answering his summons. “Well, get to it lad, don’t dawdle, and be on your guard, by the sound of it, you won’t be facing any nervous farmer’s lad” . David was in the fifth year of his apprenticeship now, and I was more than confident in his ability to deal with anyone, but I couldn’t help being nervous about who this may be. It was likely that whomever wrung it with such strength and determination would be expecting me instead of my apprentice, looking to confront me with some grievance. However, Dave was a smart and apt lad, and soon he would have his own territory to look after on his own, so despite my misgivings I had to start letting him handle things on his own. Still I thought it a good business to find Alice and and await his arrival from the kitchen. After wrapping my silver chain about my waste, I dressed in my cloak and boots, and went crossed the library to the shelf where I kept my keys. It had been seven years since Alice and I had come back from destroying the Kabalos god Talkus and a lot had changed in our lives since. When we got back Alice had been cold and sore with me because I hadn’t trusted her in the final battle with Lucrasta, but slowly she had come around and we had gotten very close again. After Jenny, I had realized that I wasn’t quite ready for an apprentice, and decided to use the two years that I would have still been under my own master’s mentorship to continue learning before considering taking on another. Although young, due to our parentage, mentorship, and experience Alice and I were much more than a young spook and witch. Alice was the first earth which with a direct connection to the powerful benign old god pan, whose power and skill surpassed that of any human witch or mage. I was a world renowned warrior, and the first spook with magic powers beyond the basic protections of a seventh son of a seventh son. Over those two years Alice and I had worked alongside one another to ply my trade, as well as that of a midwife and healer, and gave our aid and support to the military who were becoming more aware of the threat of dark powers both human and otherwise. Together we had come to realize that we had much of the skill, power, knowledge, and connections needed to protect the people of the county and make the world a better place, beyond the rudimentary ideals of our jobs. We raised alters to my mam, Zenobia, Grimalkin now goddess of which assassins, and Pan, and pledged to make alliances with any benign powers we found in the dark. I had also kept up my training, and the replenishing of the library, by traveling across the county to consult older spooks, and buying, copying, and writing books on anything relating to our new trade. We made good money, but decided to save it to use towards the dedication of our work. After the first year I heard word that there was a blacksmith's lad living on the outskirts of Caster who happened to be a seventh son of a seventh son, and was due to turn twelve a few months after my own nineteenth birthday. At the mention of this to Alice she had expressed an interest in taking on her own apprentice, a young witch from a family somewhere outside of Pendle. It was quickly agreed and we both sent letters to the families. Although most likely nervous, both responded happy for us to take on their child, so it was agreed that on each's 12th birthday we would travel to there home to meet them. Then came the question of living arrangements. Alice could move into my bedroom with me, but that would only leave one room for an apprentice. After much discussion we decided to use some of our new found wealth to make additions to the house including new bedrooms, an extended kitchen, an armory, an alchemy tower, and a stable in the western garden as we agreed to get some horses for traveling while we were at it. And so it was, that now I was retrieving the key to the alchemy lab as I knew Alice would have locked herself in their with her apprentice Lily for training.
I found Alice and Lily exactly where I expected them. Neither Witch bothered looking up. Alice and I were the only ones with keys to this room so no doubt they didn't have to think about it to know that it was me entering. I didn't want to interrupt Alice in the middle of a practical so I started browsing the room. Over the years both girls had made additions to the library, but they kept the ones most closely relating to alchemy on the shelves in here. I began to slowly finger the delicate spines. Helpful flora and where to find it, The art of Potions, County.... "What is it Tom?", Alice asked sweetly interrupting my reading as she placed a hand on my shoulder. "Did you hear the bell?", I said not turning from the shelf. "Course I did, ain't got cotton in my ears do I?", Alice responded cheekily, and I heard a sneer from her Apprentice. "Did it sound strange to you?" I asked ignoring her jibe. "Maybe a bit loud Tom but nothing too out of the ordinary. What's bothering you my love? About a year after we had taken on our apprentices, after we both turned twenty, Alice and I had wed in a small local chapel, and ever since she had occasionally called me names such as this to be sweet. I was in love with Alice there was no doubt, and although I lived by the values my own master had taught me, I needed to make my own way in the world. There was no rule saying that a spook couldn't marry, although there was a tradition. There were certain practicalities to a spook being married to a benign witch, and as we evolved we taught our apprentices that love, emotion, and adaptation were all things that gave use strength. I had grown a lot since the death of my master, and although things were very different around here I new in my heart he would be proud of me. Just then, I heard the Kitchen door open, tearing me from my thoughts.