1. A Prelude
There had always existed those that could smell magic.
Some said that different types of magic had different levels of sweet or sour to them, like the scent of a flower in the hot mid-summer sun or the headiness of asphalt after a light rain. A charm performed by a clown to entertain a child had a lingering scent very different than a spell cast to remove Digglebombs from a garden.
Tonight, the pungent scent of dark magic that permeated the air was unseen and unfelt by most. Most were safely tucked away inside their homes for the night. Things that went bump in the night were all too common in the news these days. People knew better than to linger out in the darkness for too long.
Daphne Holland was not one of these people. She cared no more for reasonable convention than she could smell magic.
That is, she didn't.
Some may have been surprised to know this. As it was, most sorcerers instinctively possessed the ability to detect and seek out magic through sense of smell. It was much like the way a bloodhound would feverishly track down a scent. Not so for Daphne.
Although she was a witch by blood, circumstances had led to her casting off her family's traditions of magic, traditions which all generations before her had embraced with pride. Her ties to magic had been severed with the death of her family. She hadn't practiced lighting a candle with a snap of her fingers or crocheting socks while playing the piano for many years.
She didn't stray even a little bit. Not even sometimes. Not even to fold her laundry or turn on a light switch.
In fact, she was positively sure that even if she tried she wouldn't be able to perform even the slightest bit of a spell. Her magic may as well have dried up like raisin under the sun. She hadn't felt the presence of it in her body for many years.
She was then, quite barren (as magical folk referred to their inferior non-magical folk).
This peculiarity made her a bit of a curiosity in the small, sleepy town of July – though not enough so that people mistrusted her. The community was such that everyone knew everyone else's business, their history, the names of their cats and/or dogs as well as their pet parakeets. In other words, July was as tight as a knit sweater and unlikely to become unravelled any time soon.
Everyone knew Daphne's name, just as she knew theirs. They chatted with her at her work when she wasn't busy, and greeted her as she rode the streets on her bicycle. There was always a hidden note of pity in their eyes that they couldn't quite hide.
As it was, Daphne was always last out the doors of the Jam Jar café, despite only being the head baker. Not the owner - that title went to Gabriel - or simply Gabe - Donne.
This in itself said a lot about her character, because Gabe and Dottie Donne were not the most trusting of people and Daphne was a bit of an oddity. They trusted her completely, however, having known her since she had been a child. And it was only logical that she stay after hours as she was the one who made the dough that would rise overnight and be ready for her to bake in the morning. She also enjoyed the solidarity of cleaning up a messy kitchen.
Daphne was arguably the best baker within the county. Men, women and children came from miles around to taste her Suffocatingly Sweet Cinnamon Rolls, Breathtaking Brownies, Deadly Doughnuts and Carnivorous Cookies of Several Assortments, as well as other confectionaries of the like. People often commented that perhaps she had not let go of all her magic completely because nothing ever burned in her kitchen and everything always tasted of perfection.
Daphne would merely shake her head at them and smile. Magic held no interest for her anymore. She was a baker through and through, holding evidence of it not only in her often floured appearance but the rounded edges of her figure.
She was pleasant with her customers and pleasant to her coworkers. As a result, business at the Jam Jar boomed.
Thus, every night Gabe would trust Daphne to clean up his café and Dottie would give Daphne a Heartfelt Sandwich for dinner and tell her to keep an eye out as she rode her bike home. After all, all sorts of creepy crawlies loomed in the shadows just outside of the repellent streetlights.
Daphne would always smile and nod, however, and take it as a joke. It was only dark when she got off work for about five months of the year, yet Dottie never failed to warn her. She would continue to sweep up dust from the floor and bid the Donne's goodnights.
Bad things never came to July.
After cleaning up, she would lock up and pedal her bike way up the hill in the middle of July to her rickety old house situated at the top. Secretly, she always made careful to stay in the light provided by the streetlamps and never dawdled.
Then she would quickly open her gate and haul her bike up onto her front porch (She figured it was less likely to be stolen if it wasn't in plain sight. It took her approximately ten seconds to unlock her door, slip inside and close it firmly behind her. It locked automatically with a handy spell previously performed by Dottie. The charms hanging above the threshold would jingle merrily and twinkle a bit in greeting.
She would then usually prepare herself a cup of tea and eat her sandwich (which always seemed to make her suitably tired for bed). At about nine o'clock, she would trudge upstairs, brush her teeth, change into her nightgown and collapse into her comfortable bed.
Approximately eight hours of sleep would be had until she woke up at five to ready herself for another day of baking (except on her days off when she slept till seven thirty or eight). Her routine was simple and unlikely to change.
Tonight, though, would be different than all Daphne's other nights. Perhaps she had realized this in advance when her batch of SS Cinnamon Rolls went a bit wonky, one or two imploding on themselves. This she blamed on the often temperamental oven charm (which was also acting up that day, perhaps somewhat agitated by the unusual October heat). Or perhaps it had been when that old bat, Betty Wickerton, who had come shuffling in with her cane and feathery purse and begun rattling off in her high, wheezy voice about the Vampire Lord Malachi. More likely than not, Daphne had not taken any real notice and continued to pay Mrs. Wickerton's stories little mind.
Now, the village of July was one of many sorcering towns that actively boycotted the presence of vampires (as well as goblins, grooks and trolls. Werewolves were only tolerated the other twenty nine days of the month.).
This may have seemed prejudiced to some. Indeed, throughout history there had been vampires that were not prone to eating humans. That didn't necessarily make them very amiable. And the sad fact was that the majority were very prone to human bloodsucking and had no intentions of stopping this in order to drink cow's blood, chicken's blood, cat's blood or any other kind of blood that wasn't human.
They had been feasting on humans since the dawn of time, they argued. Why stop now? Besides, who was going to stop them?
The SNID's (Special Non-human Intervention Division) would of course argue that it was their problem, but no one really ever saw snids doing much else than adamantly telling the everyone that it was their problem. A bit of a vicious cycle in which not much got done other than a lot of talk about much being done. Vampires had acquired a taste human blood and they weren't going to stop for the snids or anyone else.
The self proclaimed Vampire Lord Malachi was no exception to this perception. No one could really attest to how old he was or where he came from. He was baddie through and through, that much was apparent. The past year had he burst out of anonymity and begun to terrorize the sorcering world.
People had been living in fear ever since. Batty Mrs Wickerton was one of many. According to her, he'd been spotted a town over, only a week after his brutal killings of the Medici family, a great sorcering family if there ever was one. All five of them had been found (including their seven year old son) in their house, bone dry, after Albert Medici had failed to show up to his job with the OTWJD (Otherworld Justice Department).
Although this was a terrible happening and Daphne indeed felt disturbed and saddened by it, news of the Medici's deaths shook her on a far deeper level only because they were one of the Old Blood families.
Old Blood was a term given to the descendants of the most powerful witches and wizards who had developed their magic and brought order to the sorcering world. In their veins ran the magic of Old, back from when the world was young; it was the most powerful yet most unmanageable magic ever known.
Dottie had once mentioned to Daphne that Old Blood was as potent as gunpowder. Whatever that meant.
It was deeply disturbing to many to hear that such affluent sorcerers could be killed so easily. It was even more disturbing, however, to know that the Medicis hadn't been the first Old Blood family to be sucked dry by Malachi. Before them there were the Wyllts, direct descendants of Merlin himself. And before them, the Scipios, who could trace their lineage to the birth of the Roman Empire.
It was said that Malachi was cultivating his own powers by drinking the Old Blood. It was a sinister idea.
Daphne was more shaken by this news than she let on. It was common knowledge that the Hollands – most now deceased – had Old Magic in their blood. Any silly fool could come to conclusion that Daphne was the last Holland alive with Old Magic, magic that she couldn't even use.
Having news of Malachi in the county, Daphne went about her days with an unease about her. Try as she might, she couldn't convince herself that Mrs. Wickerton was simply a senile old bat with nothing better to do that frighten the townsfolk.
The itch in the back of her mind told her the rumours of Malachi were less rumour and more truth.
Chapter two coming soon!