Chapter 1 - Present Day
The sound of the back door slamming shut reverberated through the house. Elaina Peters had been in the living room watching the afternoon news when it happened. She half expected someone to walk passed the doorway ignoring her. It wouldn’t surprise her; there’d been a few break-ins around town over the summer, although there was nothing worth taking here. The house was bland from bottom to top, that’s what happened when you don’t live in a house for fifteen years.
Elaina glanced at the doorway into the hall and waited to hear anything coming from the kitchen. She scooted off the textured amethyst couch and tiptoed towards the kitchen.
In the hallway, Elaina was careful not to walk into the glass table pushed against the right wall. Sadly, the house reminded her of Oakley Hall, the place she had grown up in. The bland furniture had been a nightmare, a constant reminder that she would never be free from the Council’s watchful eye. That’s why she had a dark purple couch; the splash of colour was her way of claiming the place as her own.
The more she trod across the wooden flooring; her bare feet peeled from the floor with each step. The air became heavy with the smell of her lunch from an hour earlier, her stomach clenched in response crying out for more.
Without purpose, Elaina paused. Her feet unwilling to compromise with her urge to move forward into the kitchen. It was like her body was controlled by another. Naturally, she looked at the old brass antique photo frame. The gold brass was speckled with discoloured spots of grey crying out to be polished.
It was the photograph sandwiched between the cardboard back and the glass panel that her attention was drawn to. No matter the time of day, Elaina felt a pull towards the photo every time she walked by it. It must have been over fifteen years old and still it looked like it had been taken and printed yesterday.
She knew, because it was her in the photograph, given a lot smaller than she was now. She was the small fragile girl with toffee apple waves and leafy green eyes wrapped in her father’s ropey arms. She was safe there. Her mother had died in childbirth, leaving her father and her against the world, and boy had they conquered it.
But then, it was just her.
Her father had died.
She had her Godfather, John Simmons, and she had her best friend, Kaida Maki, who was like a sister. She was alone though, deep down at the base level, she was alone. Her fatal genes didn’t help with much either.
She didn’t know why she felt the need to stop by the photograph. Her neck was beginning to strain and she tightened her lips together in a thin line, holding back the sadness which threatened to erupt out of her like a volcano. She glanced down at her feet, her creamy skin stood out against the dark wood of the floor and she could see the pale blue veins through her skin as they criss-crossed and spread out like roots, keeping her in that spot.
Perhaps, it was guilt that kept her there. It was hard to imagine how a daughter could feel guilty about her father’s death; when she had nothing to do with it. The police reports claimed it had been a burglary gone wrong. But, Elaina never curbed her dark curiosity for the truth. At eighteen she had asked for honesty, and it was revealed to her like a blindfold had been snatched from before her eyes. The world was no longer a vivid place, it was in greyscale. The lighter grey was good, but it was never wholly good. And the black? Well, that’s what happened to her father.
Even then, Elaina’s guilt did not belong there. No, it belonged at Oakley Hall with John. John had revealed something to Elaina that Alexander Peters never did. She was right, when she looked at that photograph, the safest place she had been was in her father’s arms. It was safe, because she had been hidden from the truth.
After her father’s death, Elaina had been taken to Oakley Hall. It was a place as large as any estate, protected and guarded by people called Guardians. It was a magnificent place filled with history and life. There, she had learnt who she really was in this world. She had learnt that magic existed in his world, that she could use magic.
She was a witch. A descendent of the Greek Goddess Hekate, as all witches were.
But that wasn’t the reality.
The truth was, Elaina was a witch with no abilities. Unlike John, who could open a portal to anywhere in the world, and Kaida who had the ability to resurrect a recently deceased animal through necromancy; Elaina had nothing. Basic telekinesis was all Elaina could claim as hers, and even then it was weaker than other witches’ telekinesis.
Joining Oakley Hall had taught her something else about her father. Keeping her true self hidden from her did not take place because he did not care, because he did. As an adult he knew the world more clearly than she ever could. Oakley had left her surrounded by a thousand witches; it separated the old from the young; the rich from the poor; the strong from the weak.
Luckily, she was out and away from Oakley. At eighteen and her exams passed, Elaina was granted leave to live amongst the humans. She had sent an application to live here permanently to the High Witch Council, she hoped they accepted it, but she wouldn’t find out for a while now.
If they rejected her application, she had no choice but to return to Oakley Hall. They would likely say it was for the protection of the witch and a necessary precaution; but they didn’t realise she was safer away from other witches.
Elaina moved into the kitchen expecting the place to be a mess; culprits caught in the act; the back door broken and unhinged.
She saw none of that.
Instead, the room was empty and the mess that was there was her doing. Elaina moved passed the island in the centre of the kitchen and the sink filled with a saucepan and plate half submerged in foamy water.
She stopped in front of the back door giving her a clear view of the garden filled with yellowing leaves and browning flowers as winter arrived. She listened out for any sounds that might suggest that she wasn’t alone. Maybe the burglars were hiding.
She heard no footsteps coming from upstairs, no chattering or the hiss of whispers. All she could hear was the hum of the refrigerator…the sound of her neighbour’s music …the birds singing…and a bell.
The tinkling sound caught her attention more than the others. It was louder and less muffled meaning it was inside.
Elaina glanced to the left and through a second doorway into the dining room. Compared to the kitchen, the dining room was darker. Despite black and silver being a feature of the kitchen, the dark midnight blue walls and the pine flooring aged the room back in time.
What caught her attention was the black blob sat on the dining room table.
Elaina hurried into the dining room, her hands out to reach for the cat. He welcomed her with a meow in to his temporary domain of the day. As her fingers ran through his black fur, Elaina felt herself melt into relaxation. There was a reason she had decided to keep the cat after he had strayed into her house.
He began to purr at her, his body shaking under her touch. Elaina pulled out a chair from under the table and sat down on its soft suede cushion. Her eyes quickly flicked over the features of the room. She noticed the bookcase, the computer table with her laptop on stand-by. Like the kitchen, the dining room was empty too. But she was certain she had heard the door open and slam shut. She had felt it; if houses could talk she didn’t doubt it would tell her it felt it too.
To confirm she hadn’t started going mad, Elaina headed to the back door once again. There she tested the door. She gripped the handle and pushed it down. The door opened with ease, a blast of cold air blowing in. She shut the door back up and locked it.
The good news was that he door wasn’t broken; however, the bad news was that the door was open. It didn’t sound like much, but Elaina recalled locking the door after lunch as she’d let Seb out into the garden, much to his disdain.
The door wasn’t locked when she had tested it. Maybe she wasn’t going crazy, but something wasn’t right.
Putting her witch spell skills to use, Elaina headed towards the various cupboards and drawers in the kitchen area. She pulled out two plastic boxes filled with items that rolled around and clunked heavily when they hit the side, and glass that chinked as they rocked together.
She placed the containers on the kitchen side and peeled the lids from their tops. The red one was filled with candles of all shapes, sizes and colours. The blue one was filled with plastic tubs and glass bottles, many filled with dried herbs, spices and flowers. From the box with the candles she picked out three thick white candles and stood them up on the side. She shut the box and moved it away from the counter.
She stuck her hand into the blue box, picked up various tubs and bottles before putting them down again. She was after salt, and by the looks of it, she didn’t have any. She frowned and pushed the box away.
Table salt would have to do.
She grabbed the table salt from another cupboard. She cleared her space and then poured the salt on to it. The tiny white speckles bounces and some rolled away from what the circle she was drawing with it. She thickened it out with a second pour. Within the first circle, she went on to draw a smaller one in its centre with the same process, the salt formed a dot.
Finished with the salt, Elaina took the three white candles she had put aside and positioned them on the salt circle. One sat at the north of the circle, the second on the southern curve. The third candle she placed in the middle on the dot of salt.
Next, she gathered the box of matches from the cutlery drawer and fished one out. With a swipe, the matches sizzled and sparked to life, the orange glow waving at her. With the match she lit the two outer candles. As she did, she spoke to no one and the Goddess. “Hear me now, Hekate, mother of witches. Reveal that which is hidden. Answer with truth.”
Then she lit the third centre candle. Rather than continuing to speak English, Elaina swapped in to the language she had been taught at Oakley, Greek. “Truth be revealed from the hidden sights.” With the candle lit, she blew out the match and waited a couple of minutes for the wax to melt. Once it had melted enough, she blew the middle candle out. Carefully, she took the candle and tilted it on its side. The melted wax that had got trapped in the dip of the wick, slowly poured out over the salt dot in the circle. The wax camouflaged itself against the salt. Put the candle down, Elaina then dipped her index finger into the hot salty wax. It was gritty and smelt like vanilla, it might have made a nice skin exfoliator if that’s what it was going to be used for. With her fingers covered in drying wax, Elaina quickly dabbed the gritty wax on to her forehead between her eyes.
She felt the wax dry against her skin and tighten as she left it. She closed her eyes and finished the spell. “Grant me the forbidden sight; allow me to see what is not seen.”
Elaina crossed her fingers, not because it was part of the spell, but because she wanted it to work. With hardly any abilities, she struggled to cast spells and use magic. For some reason, crossing her fingers seemed more magical to her than the magic, usually because it worked.
Elaina felt the heat of her magic in her soul. It was like someone had flicked a switch in her body and now it was heating up ready to work. She could feel her eyes change, despite them being closed. In front of a mirror, Elaina had learnt that witches using magic change slightly, their pupil becomes enlarged and engulfs the visible eyeball for those that can see it. When she had first seen it happen, she had screamed, now she smiled knowing it had worked.
Elaina opened her eyes and focussed on what she wanted to see. If something had happened while she hadn’t been here, then the spell would show her the truth.
Reality became blurred. The melding of past and present created a ghostly film from which she watched her backdoor open and a man step through into her kitchen. The man was not real; he was the past. In the present the backdoor remained shut and locked up like she had left it.
The ghost figure, once inside, glanced around looking for something in particular. His eyes surveyed the room and lit up when he found the dining room. He strode across the kitchen and towards the table, where Elaina had found Seb. His outfit was loose, grey robing with a belt at the waist. He wore black trousers under the tunic. He had a satchel that hung across his body.
At the table, Elaina watched the past play out before vanishing, her eye sight lost that mist like film and her eyes adjusted to the bright colours of the present.
She took a deep breath and headed over to the dining room to find out exactly what she’d seen. Without a doubt, she knew her silent visitor had been an Immortal, it was the only way they could have got in and out without making too much noise. Why Hermes, Messenger of the Gods, had allowed himself to be heard, she wasn’t quite sure.
As she meandered round the island in the kitchen and into the dining room she rubbed at the dried wax spot on her forehead. It had grown itchy now that she no longer needed it. As she touched it the flakes of white wax and salt drifted to the floor. Normally the mess would have caused her annoyance, but the dining room table grew nearer and Seb meowed knowing he was about to be moved.
Elaina picked him up and manoeuvred him into her arms and sat him against her hip, his back paws hooked into her waist and his front ones dangling loosely. In the space that Sebastian had now vacated without choice, were two envelopes. Both of them were white, both of them addressed to Elaina in different coloured inks.
She separated the two and laid them out next to each other. She picked the larger one up first. She sat Seb back down on the table so she could open the envelope. He mulled around the table, the tip of his tail wavering slightly, before coming back to her and sitting down awaiting the news Elaina held in her hands.
Without opening it, she knew what it was. The thick embossed sigil of the High Witch Council. She slipped her thumb under the fold of the envelope and began to tear it open. She made quick work of it and discarded of the envelope soon after. She unfolded the hand written letter out carefully. Her eyes scanned the page looking for particular words.
Her heart fell apart in her chest as she read the following words:
Your application to live amongst humans has been found inadequate, and has been rejected on the basis that you are not able to defend yourself, if the necessary should arise.
You must return to your selected Hall: Oakley, within ten days of receiving this letter. Failing to do so can warrant a disciplinary action which will be discussed with you by the Head Councillor, Gryphon Boone.
The words washed over her in waves, becoming more volatile the more she continued to read them. Elaina sucked in a breath, it was a shaky and she felt her body quiver as the news sank in. Her breath caught in her throat and she felt herself choke on nothing but air. Her eyes swam around the room, searching for something to anchor her, she needed…. needed air.
She tried her best focussing on her breathing, on the rhythm her body created as her lungs contracted with the oxygen.
Ironically, her eyes fell upon the gold sigil of the council. It was a circle split into three parts, each section contained something different. The left side was a flower, the right was a lit fire torch, and the bottom was a dog. All three of these symbolised the Goddess Hekate. Elaina looked at them and focussed on their meaning rather than the council. The Goddess would help her through this, had to, she was a child of The Witch Goddess just like other witches. Just because her bloodline was weak and her magic was lacking, it didn’t devalue her as a person. That didn’t matter though, did it?
The inevitable truth flashed into Elaina’s thoughts and paraded around like an all-night party with nowhere to go. She reached out for the chair and balanced herself as she registered the truth.
Her application had been rejected because it had been deemed inadequate, she was unable to protect herself if there was an attack made by the Witch Generals. She couldn’t defend herself because her magic was weak, because her bloodline had become so diluted by humans, she might as well not have been a witch. Maybe she would have been taken more seriously if she had become a magician.
People had believed Elaina to be disabled since she could not use magic, it didn’t matter if she had all her limbs and she was in good health, just because she couldn’t use magic, she was discarded by others. Looked down upon because her bloodline was closer to non-magic users than witches. Unfortunately, for witches like Elaina, it was a matter of evolution. Many didn’t survive childhood, but none lived passed twenty. She had one year, and her fate was mapped out by The Fates. They were getting ready to cut her string because the weakest did not survive.
Elaina would not survive.