Raven's Saga 1 (Box Set)|
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Copyright ©2016 Crymsyn Hart
Excerpt from A Conspiracy of Ravens
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Linnea stared at the tiny silver hands on her watch. They moved slowly toward eight o'clock. The gold metallic band had started to turn green on the bottom, its elastic weakening after years of use. Her grandmother had given it to her before she died, along with the house, everything in it, and all the family secrets. So far, she had not been able to unlock any of those. Her grandmother had told her that one day she would be able to. For years, her grandmother had woven stories about the powers inherited down the line of their ancestors and about her parents, who had died in a freak car crash when she was a child.
"Shit." She clutched the metal bar inside the subway. The digital sign above the door showed she had one more stop before the theater. The train was running behind schedule. She had left her house a half hour early to catch the right train. No matter how early she seemed to leave these days, she was always late. Joshua, the conductor, was not happy with her as it was. She couldn't help it if the universe was against her getting to work on time.
Checking her watch one more time, she wished there was a way for her to magically transport herself to the Wang. At least then she would not have to worry about being late for a rehearsal or the show. Tonight was opening night for the second run of the Wizard of Oz. Her best friend was Dorothy, and most beautiful singer anyone had ever heard. Maili had the voice of an angel. Something about it always vibrated deep inside of Linnea like the reverberation of a bell after it was rung. Even when she hummed there was something so hypnotic about it, Linnea had to be careful not to lose herself to it. Maili had so much power over people, when she opened her mouth. Her best friend had no idea, and Linnea envied that. One day Maili would make it big, leaving her behind in the dust of high notes.
She expected that, though. There was nothing special about Linnea. What was a witch without her powers?
A dud. That's what! Linnea sighed and tried not to think about her heritage. That was a migraine waiting to happen.
Clutching the flute case in her hand, Linnea focused all of her energy into making the subway train go a little bit faster. Maybe she could slip into the theater without Joshua noticing she was late again. The train stopped. The doors slid halfway open. She went to exit, but they closed again. They were playing a joke on her. Without thinking, she kicked her pointed shoe against the door. That was a mistake. A bolt of pain shot up her leg. Linnea was left hobbling on one foot as the doors finally yawned open to set her free of the sardine can. For years, she said she was going to get a car and stop relying on public transportation. As time went by, she kept letting the idea and cost of a car go out of her mind as she was perfectly at home in the city. She was happy. Everything she wanted was around Boston. If need be, she could take the train up to Salem and visit her grandmother's coven.
She laughed at the thought of the Old Cronies, three old women who had been her family and her grandmother's friends since before she could remember. They had taught her everything they knew about herb lore, about the legends of her Celtic past, when was a good day to bake bread, and which star was the right one to wish upon when she needed to cast a spell. They possessed so much knowledge. All of them had hoped to pass it on to her.
Fat chance at that!
Henrietta, her grandmother's best friend said she had a great future ahead of her. The old witch had sensed a great power hidden underneath the surface of Linnea. Where was it when she needed it? Right now, I need to be Samantha and wiggle my nose. If I do that, I'll look like a deranged rabbit.
Linnea hopped up the stairs to street level. Her watch now read eight-fifteen. She had fifteen minutes to get her instrument warmed up and be in her seat before the curtain rose.
This was a time when she wished her grandmother's stories were true. She needed to be able to make herself disappear and reappear inside the theater. Her grandmother and the Old Cronies had powers. No matter how the flautist tried, she couldn't make a grain of rice rise off the table even an inch.
Everything her grandmother touched had magic in it. The woman had been the last true witch of their line. She could light candles with a wave of her hand, make it rain with a few choice words, summon the wind with a thought, and whisper spells that always came to pass. Linnea had none of that power even though she had witnessed it firsthand. When the coven gathered, the Old Cronies raised a cone of power. The cone could fuel the entire city of Boston for a month if the witches wanted it to. If the Old Cronies desired, they could use the power and break into another dimension. However, they never conjured anything unsafe.
Checking her watch again, Linnea stopped in the alley next to the theater and rubbed her toe as she leaned against the staircase leading into the backstage. It throbbed from where she had kicked the subway door. Hobbling the block down Tremont Street to the theater hadn't helped either. Nor did getting her heel stuck in the sidewalk steam grate. Taking her shoe off, she noticed there was gum on the bottom of her spiked heel. Great. Just freakin' wonderful.
Gazing at her toe, she wiggled it slowly and realized it was not broken, but it had been close. It was all she needed considering her now injured foot was the one she kept beat with while she was playing. At this rate, it would be hurting all night. A nasty bruise had already started forming under the nail.
"Better late than never."
Linnea looked up to see Maili staring down at her. She was already in Oz garb. Unlike some of the other Dorothys Linnea had seen sing their way through the theater, Maili didn't need a wig. Her hair was naturally ebony dark. Linnea eyed a strand of her dull brown hair and wished she were half as pretty as her best friend.
The flautist gazed at her chewed nails with the chipped purple polish on them. She had tried to stop biting them and let them grow, but with playing the flute so much, long nails would hinder her playing, so she reverted back to her habit of gnawing. It didn't matter if she had fake nails on either. She bit into those, too. Linnea shook her head and stared up at her friend, who was inhaling a drag from a cigarette. Linnea waved her hand to move the smoke away. She didn't know how many times she had told her friend to quit sucking on those things. Eventually it would ruin her beautiful voice.
"You should stop that you know. Some of us need our lungs to make a living. Besides, you don't want to damage those pipes of yours." Linnea struggled to get her foot back into her shoe since her big toe had swollen to the size of a golf ball. A regimen of soaking in Epsom salts and lavender followed by a bag of ice was what she was up for when she got home. Hopefully then she could walk on it without looking like a crooked monkey.
Maili chuckled. It sounded like the tinkling of breaking glass. "I'm down to three a day. That won't kill me. Then again I still have one after sex. I guess my habit is about seven a day."
Linnea blushed at the mention of her friend's sex life. The whole cast knew she was fucking the scarecrow. Whatever Maili saw in Jason, she didn't know. He was as bad a singer as he was an actor. He might be sleeping with Maili, but that doesn't mean any of her talent is going to rub off on him. He's an idiot. Why can't he get a clue? Why can't Maili just get rid of him? He's got no brains. Just like his character. Jason was so concerned about his looks, the whole show stopped if he had a pimple. Linnea knew he was cute. Blond hair, blue eyes and a six pack for a stomach. He might not have been so bad, if he didn't think everyone around him was there to wait on him hand and foot.
No matter. Linnea knew her friend would get tired of her boy toy sooner of later and move onto someone else. She had seen it before. The flautist doubted Maili ever really loved anyone. If Linnea brought it up over their late night sessions of rocky road ice cream and orange vodka, Maili laughed it off and changed the subject. The singer had confided in Linnea once that she was not going to get married. Her mother had already arranged one for her. How many flings she had didn't matter just as long as she knew when it was time to get married, and that was it.
Linnea didn't press the issue further as she had heard the resentment in her voice. She didn't understand the whole idea of an arranged marriage, but it was obvious Maili was from a different kind of family and society. She didn't need to worry about money and always treated when they went out. Linnea had never met her best friend's mother. That Maili had a mother who didn't interact with her made Linnea feel bad. She would have killed for that. She didn't remember her parents, just the photographs her grandmother had of them at their wedding when they seemed to be happy. How happy she would never know.
"Even still, Maili. Those things can cause cancer. You shouldn't --"
A large shadow passed over the near full moon. Linnea heard the flutter of wings next to her ear. An ominous caw echoed in the alleyway. She jumped. The largest raven she had ever seen had settled on the dumpster. Chills tap-danced on her spine as the night suddenly got colder. It almost reminded her of Halloween when the atmosphere was ripe with spirits.
No matter, she couldn't know what was hiding in the darkness. Staring at the bird, she saw the blue-black sheen of its feathers. She'd never been close enough to a bird of this size to see how beautiful it was. Its slender onyx beak looked deadly should it decide to use her fingers as dinner. Nearly the size of a toddler, it must have had a wingspan of at least five feet. She wondered if it was an eagle in disguise.
The bird fixed her with his dark eyes like it was reading her soul. The flautist got an eerie sense, as if someone were stepping on her grave. Something about the raven was off and yet it seemed vaguely familiar. It was a crazy notion.
Maybe it had lost its way. Yet, there was a spark inside of her that recognized the animal...