The Witch's Initiation

By: Elle James

Chapter 1

Movement in the shadows caught her attention.

Aurai Chattox strained to see what lurked in the dark. It wasn’t something or someone hiding, but wispy shapes growing and creeping steadily closer to the circle of girls gathered around the candles. Had someone lit a smoke bomb? Were there girls or guys hiding among the rosebushes producing the special effects for this weird show?

When she sniffed, all she smelled was the scent of pine and roses and something she couldn’t quite define. A pungent, decayed smell, almost imperceptible, buried beneath that of the more powerful aromas of the roses and natural vegetation.

As the dark, shadowy tendrils drifted closer, goose bumps rose on Aurai’s skin. She fingered the pentagram at her neck and closed her eyes, drawing on the forces within, the strength of her sisters, the knowledge of the light and her own inner connection with the air, the wind and atmospheric conditions.

She’d made a promise to herself not to use her craft. She wanted to stand on her own as a mortal, not a witch. But something stirred deep inside—call it premonition, call it a portent of evil. If she gave it a nudge, perhaps it would go away.

Aurai lifted her hands by her sides, just enough to stir the air around her. Just a little, not enough to scare the other sorority initiates standing in the circle, their eyes wide, bodies trembling. But maybe enough to dispel the shadowy mist creeping in around them.

A light breeze blew in from the west.

When the West wind blows o’er thee, departed spirits restless be.

A tremor shook Aurai from neck to knees as the breeze kicked up, lifting the tendrils of her hair around her face. Softly, at first, tickling her skin with the strands like the gentle touch of a lover’s hand. The stroke was deceptively soothing, and Aurai opened her eyes. Her hood slipped backward, exposing her head to the night air.

Wind was her friend, her lover, her power, the one force within that always gave her comfort and foretold of change to come. Until now.

The gentle breeze intensified, mixing with the inky shadows to lift her hair away from her scalp, slapping it against her face. White-blond locks acted as whips stinging her open eyes.

She squinted against the onslaught and raised her hands to block the battering strands.

Tall pines, which a moment before had stood stately and stoic at the four corners of the garden, swayed like erotic lovers in the throes of passion, twisting and undulating like naked bodies.

Something was terribly wrong.

Her gift of wind should have been a gentle influence to cleanse the air of the encroaching black shadows around the circle of pledges. Instead, it became a force unto itself, gaining in power and magnitude until the girls fought to remain standing.

Her roommate, Rachel, dropped to her knees, blocking her face against flying debris. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” Aurai called out. Branches broke from the trees and pummeled the small gathering of females, drawing blood, scraping and bruising delicate skin.

Thorny rose stems tore at her legs and battered her face and neck. Aurai closed her eyes again, feeling for the ornate pentagram at her neck. The solid piece of silver given to her by her mother. Each of her sisters had a matching pendant, blessed with a protection spell. She called on the spell now.

Unwanted spirits I call thee

I call thee into the light

Guardian spirits I call thee

I call thee to the fight

The spell had no effect on the wind raging around her. The black, inky shadows swept in, twisting her cape around her body until she couldn’t move.

“Aurai!” Rachel reached out to her. “Aurai!”

Aurai tried to lift her hand to capture Rachel’s, but both arms were trapped at her sides, her cape plastered to her limbs and body like a mummy’s death shroud.

Her feet left the ground and her body twirled through the air, faster and faster, caught in a funnel of leaves, rose petals, thorny branches and black, shadowy fingers.

For a moment, Aurai thought she saw the face of a man in the swirling, black wind. The face transformed into a hideous creature with two heads, one with the teeth of a raging lion. Both heads had the soulless, black gaping eyes of a demon.

As the force lifted her above the girls’ heads, she gripped her pentagram and cried out, “Sisters, come to me!”

The world spun in a vacuum, lifting her higher still. Then the bottom dropped out of the dark cloud, the earth opened and the wind sucked her down, into a black abyss deep below the surface of the mossy garden soil.

Chapter 2

Sisters, come to me!

Deme Chattox’s hands shook as she held the paper cup of green tea, letting the warmth permeate her skin. She’d been chilled since arriving in Chicago. Having left her cushy private investigative business in the balmy breezes of St. Croix and flying overnight to get here, she hadn’t had a chance to acclimate. Hell, she hadn’t had a chance to breathe.

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