What Trickery is This?

Mature Magic Book 4

One of the great things about midlife is having the experience and knowledge that comes from decades of navigating jerks and mansplainers. Unfortunately, I had nothing in my repertoire to help me deal with a true Trickster.

From a strange array of glitches popping up around town, to an apocalyptic level of strange pregnancies, I found myself facing a foe unlike any I’d encountered as Lares of Rome. My new enemy had no impulse control. Zero common sense. And no sense of personal responsibility for anything he did.

I know what you’re thinking…I just described a teenaged boy…but believe me, this guy was taking his flaws to new levels of bad. And his ultimate goal was to run me out of town and out of my guardian job.

He probably didn’t realize it yet, but he was in for a curse, swear, curse of a battle.

I wasn’t giving my people up that easily.

    

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A slender crescent moon hung high overhead, its silver glow painting the boards beneath my feet. Behind me, Monty explored a massive cobweb in the corner of the belfry, his tail wagging with interest.

I leaned against the wide sill of the open archway overlooking my backyard. Far below me, appearing even more spectral than usual, the ghostly Reverend Dodson moved through the tombstones, looking peaceful and content.

A rhythmic pounding sounded from the house below. Trish and Luke had been working long hours every day for a week trying to get all my beautiful windows reinstalled after the emergence of a demonic vortex had shattered them. It had taken almost a month to get the glass, with its unique size and shape, and I was sick of my house being dark and gloomy from being boarded up.

I shuddered at the memory of the vortex.

If I never saw another demon, it would be too soon. 

A cold nose touched the back of my ankle, Monty's way of letting me know he was there. I looked down and smiled. Like the good reverend, my dog was a happy soul, his doggy enthusiasm a bright spot in even the darkest day. "Did you get that mean old spider?" I asked my little hero.

He grinned back at me, his small body wagging happily. Spider web silk hung from one floppy ear and covered his left eye like a pirate's patch. I reached down and wiped it off. "You might not have caught the spider," I told him. "But you definitely caught its house."

A soft chirp brought my gaze up to the bat in my belfry. The yellow eyes were locked on me. "Yes, Your Chirpiness?"

The bat hung there, wings tidily folded and tiny feet clinging to a narrow piece of wood running from the peak of the bell tower to the top of the wall. We stared at each other for a long moment and then I shook my head. "I know you talk. You've spoken to me before. Why are you so stubborn?"

The last few nights, I'd been climbing the narrow staircase and having my pre-bedtime glass of wine up there with Monty. He enjoyed snuffling around. I enjoyed looking out over the moon-painted yard, and I'd been trying to get the bat to talk to me. She apparently communicated with Wanda all the time. The belfry was the teen's favorite spot in my house. She and Bathilda, or Batty as I liked to call her, had spent a lot of hours since I'd moved into the church, chatting about things that neither of them shared with me.

There was another reason why I'd been spending the last half hour of my day in the belfry. It was a reason I was reluctant to admit even to myself.

I was looking for something.

It was something that I'd caught out of the corner of my eye several days earlier. But I hadn't seen it again. And I was starting to think the sighting had just been wishful thinking on my part.

I sipped my wine and looked back up at Bathilda. "What's going through the kid's head?" I asked. "I know she tells you. I just want to help."

The tiny bat spread its wings as if stretching and then refolded them, blinking slowly in my direction.

Nothing.

Curse, curse, swear bat.

With a long-suffering sigh, I turned my attention back to the yard, taking another sip of my wine. Despite my frustration with the magical flying rodent, I was relaxed and happy. Life was falling into a comfortable rhythm. I was starting to get the hang of my new career as a guardian for the town of Rome, Indiana. And the moment in time I was currently living was filled with magic and promise.

Down below, the world had soft edges and a pale haze that made it look enchanted. On the furthest edges of that world, something moved through the shadows, just beyond the moonlight's reach.

My gaze whipped in that direction and held. My breathing turned shallow. The shadows stilled, nothing moving within them. Just when I was ready to give up and go downstairs, I saw it again.

A flash of white, gleaming through the trees.

The soft sound of wings above my head didn't even tempt me to look. I kept my gaze locked on that spot between the trees, far at the back of my property. My pulse picked up. My heart beat hopefully against my ribs. "Come on," I whispered.

Bathilda fluttered out into the night, dodging and dipping as she munched mosquitoes and other bugs. I saw her leave in my peripheral vision.

I didn't dare glance away from the spot at the edge of the woods.

Moments later, when my eyes were starting to sting from my unrelenting focus on that spot, I saw it again. A gleaming white form, moving through the trees.

I smiled. "There you are, beautiful. Come out and let me feast my eyes on you." As if she'd heard my words, the enormous, elegant creature stepped into the moonlight.

Tears burned my eyes. Tears of relief and happiness. "Hello, there, beauty," I breathed.

The ethereally stunning white horse tossed its head, its thick mane dancing silkily around its elegant head. We stared at each other across the distance for several moments. I was afraid to move or look away for fear she would disappear.

Finally, with another toss of her head and a flash of her bright green gaze, the white horse spun around and galloped into the night.

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