|Witch's Bell Book Three
Author: Odette C. Bell PM
Ebony is in trouble. This time it isn't some strange family curse or a hoard of tattooed wizards. It's her dreams; they've turned on her. Something very powerful is controlling her dreams, and if Ebony can't find a way to stop it, it might just be the end for her, Vale, and quite possibly the rest of reality too.Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 5,608 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 08-07-12 - Published: 11-29-11 - id: 2975342
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This story is now complete, at about 90,000 words and it's available for purchase through Smashwords and Kindle. If you can't afford it, please pm me and I will DocX it to you.
Thank you for reading!
Ebony was dreaming.
Her long hair was sprawled across the pillow: a mess of red tangles against the clean white cotton. Her arms were tucked in tight; her hands clutched into fists. Even though there was nothing to grab hold of, her fingers where white and bloodless from the sustained, concentrated tension.
She did not twist and turn in her sleep. Her pillows were not flung across the room as her body fumbled and fought its own demons in the dark.
She was still. Her expression was calm; her lips were softly closed, her eyelids gently pressed together. The only sign of something wrong was the pallid, sickly-white pall spreading over her knuckles and across her fingers.
Ebony had dreamed all her life – all witches did. All witches were taught that the realm of unconscious play hid at once all the secrets of eternity. Within dreams the totality of every lie and every truth can be revealed: everything that may be, that may not be, that never will be, and that will be. Within the swirl of shapes, colours, times, places, and lives lay everything imagined.
All the good and all the bad. All of it.
Everything that can happen to you in life, can happen to you in a dream, and more, so much more.
Ebony's alarm didn't wake her up that morning. Instead, she blinked back her sleep to hear a strange tap-tapping at her window. Licking at her parched lips, she rolled over to see a giant, black crow pecking at her window pane.
She could see the early morning sun glinting off its shimmering, sleek feathers. It even glinted off its dark, glossy eyes.
For just a moment she lay there blinking at it: a little transfixed at the scene. That glint in its eyes...
'You know, you don't see that every day.'
Ebony jumped at the unexpected voice, several of her silk cushions flying off her bed in protest.
'Harry,' she half-shouted when she finally found her breath, 'how many times have I told you not to just walk into my room?'
'You prefer I peddle next time?' Harry was leaning by the door, arms crossed, head angled towards the window, and smile inching further across his face.
'You know what I mean. It's just not...' Ebony searched around for the correct term as she grabbed the dressing gown hung over the back of her bed and pulled it on, 'decent.'
Harry appeared to think, even taking the time to stroke at his non-existent beard. 'I'm a house, not a peeping tom. Need I remind you that when I was all wall and chimney, you had no problem dancing around the kitchen in your knickers?'
Despite herself – and despite the fact that Harry was right, and he was still (in spirit) a bloody house – Ebony felt her cheeks flush hot.
'Oh just get out, you little pest,' Ebony retorted, grabbing a cushion and hurling it at Harry.
Harry didn't even bother to bat it away. The cushion soared over and banged right into his head, but he didn't even blink at the impact.
'You know something, that crow's been tapping at that window for almost an hour now,' Harry said, arms still crossed, posture still a perfect example of cool-and-he-knows-it.
Ebony's cheeks threatened to redden again. 'You've been in my room for an hour?'
Harry just shook his head. 'I've been your room for longer – does that count? But you're missing the point here – that crow really wants to get in.'
Ebony found herself shaking her own head now. She had to admit that her life was never going to be sane as long as she lived with a crazy house wizard.
'We should let him in,' Harry finally pushed himself off the wall, straightening his britches and tightening his suspenders as he picked his way across Ebony's messy floor to the window.
'What? Why? It's just a crow? Maybe it really likes its reflection. Or, considering all that ferocious tapping, wants to peck its own eyeballs out?'
Harry didn't answer. He just made the window open. He didn't even have to touch it; he was a wizard, after all.
There was a moment when the crow sat still on the windowsill. And in that moment a strange little kick of anticipation raced quietly across Ebony's stomach. But the moment passed, and along with it, the crow passed too.
It gave the open window a curious, head-tilted look, then flew off without so much as a tap-tap.
Harry closed the window, but this time he used his hand.
Even though Harry had only been a human (or, more accurately, had only been in human form) for several months now, Ebony was having trouble adjusting to the change. One, there was a man living in her house. And even if he was still technically living in the foundations, the roof tiles, the chimney bricks, and the very books that lined the shelves in the downstairs shop, he still managed to leave the toilet seat up. Two, he – and especially his magic – were a lot harder to ignore in this form. At times, he used his hands to clean the dust off the bookshelves; at others, he used his mind, sending a wind from nowhere sweeping through the shop like a sudden indoor storm.
The magic was palpable, and so too was the power. When Harry had been a store, it had been easy to relegate his powers to that of any ordinary, possessed abode. Now that he was a man and a store at the same time, Ebony could no longer pretend that Harry wasn't... well... one of the most powerful magical creatures she'd ever come across.
And one of the most cantankerous and rude.
Harry walked over to her, eyes narrowed. 'I can see that you are thinking hard – or require immediate morning ablutions – but pay attention, little witch.'
'It was a crow,' she rolled her eyes and gestured towards the now-closed window. 'Who cares?' Ebony knew where Harry was going with this, and really wanted to cut him off at the knees before she got an ear-full. 'It is simply a myth that us witches use crows as magical symbols. They don't bring bad luck; you can't predict the future from them; and you certainly don't keep them as pets, unless you moonlight as a bird enthusiast or are damn macabre. I know what you are thinking, wizard, but-' Ebony pointed at the window, 'that doesn't mean anything.'
Harry just stood there and chuckled. 'You, little witch, don't get to decide what means something. Only the out there,' he pointed up with a stiff finger, 'does.'
Ebony just snorted. Then she finally looked over at her alarm. 'Oh, dammit. That damn thing has broken again! Now I'm late for work!' She jogged over to her dresser and started to pull at the drawers, throwing random garments behind her until she had something that loosely assembled an outfit. 'How could you let the clock break again, Harry? I thought that everything in this house was controlled by you?'
'You bought that for five dollars at the supermarket,' Harry flicked at his suspenders, 'had it not occurred to you that the price indicated quality? Plus, I take offence at being forced to keep someone else's time.'
Ebony rolled her eyes, grabbed her clothes, and ran for the bathroom. 'Can you actually do something useful today, Harry? Like, I don't know, open the shop and actually sell a book to a customer?'
Ebony knew exactly what Harry would say next, but it was worth a try anyway. She skidded to a stop by the bathroom door and pulled herself in, untying her dressing gown as she did.
'It is not my fault if the customers do not buy the books they should, the little blighters,' Harry's tone suddenly took on a distinctly dusty, memorably quality. It was strange to witness, but ever since Harry had become human (or mostly human), his tone had changed. The way he spoke, the way he acted – they felt a little more real and a little less haunted-house.
That being said, he'd always find a good enough time to slip in a 'blighter' or 'blast'. But they were mostly directed at the pigeons these days.
Ebony tugged on a red and black sweater, wrestled herself into a slim-fit black skirt, grabbed a pair of peacock-style earrings she found by the kitchen sink, and opened the door to find Harry standing right there. 'All I'm saying is that you could at least try to sell them the books they actually pick, rather than insisting that they don't need it and flinging some other book at them instead.'
'I am a bookshop, Eb; I know books, I collect books. I have to honour those books. So when the wrong person comes in looking for the wrong book, I don't give it to them. I spend the time to find the right book for the right person instead, because I am a wizard, and right is what we do.'
'Well then, you and Nate should get together sometime and pat each other on the back,' Ebony fixed her earrings in place and pushed past Harry. 'Plus, Harry, you can pretend you match your books to your customers – or whatever – but last week you stopped a retired veteran from buying a book on military history and offered him a crochet guide instead.'
'To engage his attention of fine detail,' Harry sniffed back, 'also, he could have repaired his jumper.'
Ebony just sighed. 'Okay, Harry, whatever. Just have a nice day,' she patted his shoulder as she made for the stairs. 'And don't chase too many pigeons.'
'I wouldn't dream of it-' Harry began.
Ebony felt an involuntary cold shiver cross her back.
'I would blast them from the sky instead,' Harry finished.
Ebony blinked a little, shook her head, then smiled. 'Of course. I'll see you later.'
As she marched down the stairs, Ebony pushed her mind from the strange, still-tingling sensation that seemed to haunt her body. It wasn't nerves; it wasn't anxiety; it wasn't even her usual intuition playing up. She couldn't infer from it that today would be a bad one; as far as she could tell, there wasn't going to be a storm, ghosts weren't going to fly from the cemetery, and demons weren't going to flow through the cracks in the pavement. It wasn't even the first tingles of a tummy ache or the preamble to a nasty flue.
Ebony had no idea what the sensation was. All she could do was feel it as it seemed to shadow and pull at the rest of her body. The only way she could describe it was as residue... though that didn't even fit. Rather than being the prelude to some future shock, it seemed to be the after effect of a past action.
Her mind running circles around itself, Ebony hardly paid attention as she made her way through the shop, heading for the front door. She automatically picked up several books that were strewn over the floor, dusted her hand over a patch of grit on the bench, and twisted the closed sign to open.
She slid the bolt back then opened the door with a quick move that saw the open sign click and tumble against the glass.
'Are you serious?' a voice said suddenly from behind her.
'You in some kind of day dream?' He was leaning against the bookshelf directly opposite the counter.
She must have walked right past him without even noticing he was there. But that fact didn't unsettle her, it was...
Ebony rubbed at her eyes and turned to him.
For just a second, she could see that little look of concern in his eyes. She'd come to recognise that look. In fact, she'd come to recognise all of Nate's little looks.
It was strange, but ever since the first time Ebony had met him, she'd managed to convince herself for so long that Nate was just a single-state guy. Detective Nathan Wall had one personality trait, one emotion, and only one way of looking at the world: he wanted to be right. Everything he did, everything he said, and everything he thought was all either in an attempt to be right or to right some perceived wrong.
He was the very embodiment of a knight, in more ways than one.
But then she'd actually gotten to know him. Now all the little side-ways, lip-curling smiles he gave weren't in aid of his righteousness. The depressed-brow, sunken-mouth grimaces he would offer at the sight of some crime weren't because he was aching to make it all right again (though there was a little of that). No, it was mostly just Nate being Nate.
And yeah, she could see the concern on his face; his bottom lip was half-turned in, his eyes were just a touch hardened, and he wasn't standing as easy as he'd been a moment before.
'You okay?' he asked quickly.
Ebony shrugged her shoulders. 'I just got up on the wrong side of the bed today.'
He nodded his head. 'Right. Well, you're also late.'
Ebony sighed, pressed her lips together tightly, and nodded. 'Tell me something I don't know.'
'All right, we've had another kidnapping,' Nate said, mirth gone.
His words appeared to hang in the air between them; even the dust motes that usually tooled around the store seemed to stop out of decency.
Ebony felt herself stiffen up, her hands clutching at the air by her side, knuckles hard and white. 'Oh, god.'
Nate just offered a simple nod. In that little move, he shared her horrid expectation perfectly.
'Who is the victim?' Ebony closed her arms around her middle, leant back against the counter, and stared over at Nate.
He looked tired. In fact, ever since this spate of kidnappings had began, all the department looked tired – her included.
She hadn't been sleeping well for at least three weeks now.
'A little girl,' Nate finally answered. His expression was grim, his stubble-covered chin stiff, his eyes angled towards the floor.
Ebony put her head in her hand. The tingle – that damn tingle from before – still seemed to be shadowing her every move. She could feel it lacing around the pit of her stomach, winding up her back, and tracing across the soft skin of her cheeks. It felt like water slowly seeping from a leak.
She pushed it out of her mind; she had work to do. 'Okay, I take it your car is out front?'
He jammed his hands in his pockets and just nodded easily.
Despite the fact he looked tired, Nate always looked great. And it wasn't in a plastic, stiff-faced model way. The more Ebony stopped to actually look at the guy, the more she allowed herself to see. It was the way his skin would crinkle at the edge of his eyes when he smiled, and the way he always angled his head to the side and slightly up. It was the way he could hold your gaze no matter what.
But, all that being said, Nate was, more often than not, bloody annoying. He knew exactly when and how to irritate Ebony, and did so on a frequent basis.
But sometimes, just sometimes, she allowed herself to see something else shining through the cracks in the detective's façade.
'Car's out front,' Nate finally replied after putting down the book he'd apparently been reading. 'Coffee and doughnut waiting.'
Despite the scene they would soon be travelling to, Ebony curled her ruby-red lips and gave a little purr. 'Oh, it hasn't taken me long to train you.'
Nate just looked back, apparently unmoved. 'Training entails consistency. Perhaps tomorrow I'll get you a cup of kitchen grease and a slice of fruit cake.'
Ebony hated fruit cake. If she wanted to eat a brick, she'd start munching on people's houses. 'Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now let's go.'
Nate opened the door for her – once a gentleman, always a gentleman, apparently.
'How did you get in, by the way?' Ebony raised an eyebrow at him, catching a scent of his cologne as she passed by.
A mischievous grin took to his lips. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a little silver key. 'Harry gave me a key.'
Ebony blanched. 'He did what?'
Nate just shrugged. 'What can I say, we get on great.'
First they'd bonded over their mutual hate of dragons. But now that Harry had grown a pair of legs and a pair of suspenders to keep his pants in place, his relationship with Nate had deepened. Yes, that's right, they went to the pub together.
They were friends.
Ebony could remember quite fondly when she'd broken into Nate's house based on Harry's insistence that the detective was bent. She could remember when Harry had – on more than one occasion – tried to behead Nate with a book.
But oh no, now they talked about the best ways to steal dragon hoards over a damned larger at the pub.
But that Harry had given him a key... 'How dare he give you a key to my house-'
Nate ticked his head to the side. 'It's his house actually. You just live there.'
'Semantics. Now why on Earth would he give you a key anyway?' Ebony waited until Nate opened the car door for her. 'He hiring you as a cleaner?' she snorted at her own bad joke.
'Nope. And before you suggest that he's trying to encourage my stalker side, the answer is no. And no, he's not giving me the key for a charm bracelet.' Nate trailed off. 'Now what other lame possibilities would you come up with? That he gave me the key so that I could mess up all the clothes in your closet – if they are in any order whatsoever, that is.'
Ebony just stared at him, lips steadily pressing closer together. 'You want to be hexed, partner?'
'I'm just doing some research. He gave me the key so I could get into the shop and read all those dusty books.'
Ebony threw herself into the passenger seat and stared up at Nate.
'Also,' Nate tapped the top of the car before he got in, 'he gave me the key on the express condition that I haunt you at night. You know, rattle your shutters until you have horrible dreams-'
Ebony's expression changed. She couldn't really help herself, it just happened.
'Eb? You okay?'