My first YA tale about a teen female vampire and male witch is still rolling merrily along. Here’s another lil sample, warning, this is unedited, so it may have a few boo-boos that the final version will be without…In this bit, Bastien’s father Kennan is sharing details from his past and when he first met the evil warlock who’s now determined to absorb his power/kill him…
“You were right when you told Peada that I might be hiding something. I am.”
They stared at each other, then at him.
“I hate being right,” Bastien muttered.
Peada’s lips quirked at the humor, but a smile was too much for her. She was too frightened of what was coming. Her heart was pattering like a trapped bird and the ache in her gums had returned times two as though her teeth wanted to come in that moment to guard against this man’s story.
“I know Jon.” Kennan let that short sentence settle, its affects rippling like a rock in a lake. “I met him when I was a boy in Prague. My family was dead. My mother accused, rightly so, of witchcraft. Rocks were sewn into her pockets, and she was tossed off a bridge, her body left to wash downstream like flotsam. My father was killed when he tried to keep them from taking her. Me he hid in the stable. My aunt hid with me until things settled down and then we left town under cover of darkness. I was nine.”
Bastien’s hasty breath told Peada he’d never heard this story before. She wondered if he knew anything of his father’s origins. She supposed it might be tough to relay more than 300 years of personal history. Especially when that personal history began with, “my mother was a condemned witch…”
“I lied to you when I told you I was 287 years old. I was actually born in 1337.”
“Good, God,” Bastien whispered. “That would mean you were born during the crusades!”
Kennan nodded. “Yes. Of course, my aunt was a witch as well, and we lived fairly comfortably after my parents deaths. Occasionally she’d get a vision foretelling some danger, and we’d pack up our things from whatever village we’d settled in and hit the trail. But by the time she was old, I’d grown strong enough to hide us, and she was able to live out her life peacefully. She died at a very spry 90 from a common cold. I was 36 years old.”
Peada frowned. He looked 36 years old now. Had he just stopped aging?
“Yes,” he answered, looking at her. “And no, I’m not reading your mind. I’m reading your very expressive little face. It often happens that way with our kind. If you’ve any power, your body ceases to age when you are physiologically at your best.”
“Then why did my aunt die at 90?” Bastien asked.
“She died because she didn’t practice. She was too cautious, always looking over her shoulder for danger. Her efforts to lay low, to protect me, essentially led to her doom. Without her magic to sustain her, she was basically just a human,” Kennan shrugged, a fond smile curling his lips. “She was a lovely old woman. Very funny, and quite modern for her time. She taught me much; to this day there are lessons she shared that I’ve used to great effect. I no longer miss her, but I’ll never forget her.
“Anyway, after she died, I floated. Never settling in any one place. As time passed, the furor around witches died down, and after Salem, it was as though the new world’s disgust over what had transpired spread around the globe. Things were easier then. The Other experienced a kind of renaissance as man became more skeptical, more convinced of his own superiority. It was easy to live right under humanity’s nose. All you need is money and a handsome face, and I had both.
“It wasn’t all peaches and cream, of course. A powerful witch will always have enemies. And my enemies took much from me. Wives. Children. Homes. Even my sanity for a time.”
Bastien opened his mouth as though to interrupt but subsided.
“Yes?” his father asked.
“Excuse me – I’d absolutely love to hear the rest of this very soon, but given what’s going on – where does Jon fit into this?”
“Ah! Well, as I said, I met old Jon when I was a boy. Not long after we fled my home we landed in a tiny little village called Corekt. A more dismal place I’ve yet to find anywhere on this earth. Jon was a wanderer too. My aunt was securing our lodgings when he came upon me kicking stones into the river.
“’Why do you do that?’ He asked me. I shrugged, full of insolence and anger behind my parents deaths. He said something else. Maybe asked me a question about my family, and I shouted at him to go to the devil. He just laughed and told me he’d already been, and if I didn’t change my ways, I’d be on my way too. And then he vanished. Poof!” Kennan laughed. “It was the first time I’d ever seen anyone do magic fearlessly in the open.
“I told my aunt about this strange man I’d met at the river. She was surprised, but not fearful. She had me describe him to her, and it turned out she knew him. He’d been one of her lovers when he’d passed through our village many years before. That was the first time I realized that men could be witches too.
“My aunt was shocked at my ignorance. She was a vagabond, never staying in one place very long, so she wasn’t there when my parents were hand-fast or when they eventually married. She wasn’t there for my birth either. She came back not long before my parents were killed. She’d had a vision, you see, and knew I would need her, so she came back, made friends with me, and tried to get my parents to leave, but she was too late. She was only there for one night before they came for my mother.”
“I’m so sorry, dad,” Bastien whispered.
Kennan looked surprised at his son’s expression of sorrow, but his face softened when he absorbed the sincerity of the simple words, and noted the mirror same in Peada’s soft brown gaze.
“Thank you, my boy. I appreciate that. Anyway, I looked for Jon after that. Looked for him everywhere. But I didn’t see him again until long after my aunt’s death. I was in Paris. It was 1799, I think, and the city was ripe with intrigue and scandal. Napoleon was just starting to make an absolute nuisance of himself, and everyone was either on his payroll or trying to be. Casanova had just died and most of the young bucks were doing their absolute best to ape his seductive ways, and most failed miserably,” he chuckled, the sound rife with memory.
Peada wondered if he’d been one of the imitators. But then she shook her head. Bastien’s father was no copy cat. As handsome as he was, he likely could have given the great Italian adventurer lessons in wooing women.
“The French Revolution challenged political, cultural and social norms in European society. But for a witch with forever ahead of him, change is just that and nothing more,” Kennan said cryptically. “I saw Jon next at a salon for a well known courtesan named Rosalind. A sadder creature you likely could not imagine, but she was entertaining when she had to be, and that was almost always. Jon was standing out on the balcony smoking, and I sensed something magical and went cautiously out to investigate.
“He asked after me as though we were old friends, but I knew there was more to this meeting than pure chance. Another witch I’d known, Philippe, had just gone missing, and despite our extensive efforts we hadn’t been able to find hide nor hair of a clue as to his whereabouts. His rooms were deserted, tea still in the cup, his cheroot still in the ashtray, but as a single column of ash, as though he’d put it down and forgotten about it. But those of us who knew him knew that wasn’t likely. He imported those bloody cigarettes all the way from Morocco. He’d never have wasted one so carelessly.
“I knew that one witch could absorb another’s power. I’ve even heard of a few older witches willingly relinquishing their life force to a loved one facing a situation so terrible it would take everything they had and more to survive it. But I’d never met a warlock before. And I knew, as I stood there in the shadows of the balcony that the Jon I knew from childhood was no more.
“Oh, he was as calm and placid as ever, smiling cheerfully as we exchanged pleasantries, but there was a horrid energy around him, a soulless dark so dank and empty the very air nearby was ice cold. He’d become the most feared type of sorcerer, one even demons stayed away from he was so very treacherous.”
“What happened?” Bastien whispered.