Chapter One - Bottom of the Pot
I pinched the stem of the little black feather between my fingers, blowing softly to see it bend and flutter. The shop was dull today. Really dull. Slower than usual, which worried me a bit. Then again, Raven's Nest had never been hugely popular anyway. You'd be surprised how little a market there is for what the local hens had dubbed "occult nonsense". I did tarot readings, brewed potions, crafted talismans, and used a bit of my own magick to write up some spell scrolls. I even sold herbal teas and remedies, and had a bit if miscellany here and there; antiques, dream catchers, crystals... things I didnt nescessarily deam potent, but some of the people in town liked it. I was practically the Wally-Market of the, aherm, 'occult' world.
I only made enough running it to keep up with rent on the attached upstairs studio loft apartment, with just a bit left over for groceries and other necessities. It was a shame really. You'd think being the liscensed Witch of Washington would have better perks. I didn't even get a check, or a badge. Just a flimsy bit of plastic that was I was supposed to 'keep the peace amongst things that weren't human". What a load. They might as well of just called me a magick janitor. All those years earning a degree in metaphysics wasted.
But atleast the shop kept me afloat. No one ever said being the state witch for Washington was going to be a glamorous job.
As if blowing at the little feather hadn't been exciting enough, I twirled it in my hand instead, almost sure that if I did it fast enough, it might just sprout legs, and do a dance.
I sighed heavily, and turned my attentions to the window. It was late November in Redhaven, and outside reminded me of a slushy: wet, crunchy, and cold. It was Washington after all; it wasn't like we were known for our warm, Mediterranean climate. Nevertheless, it brought a tiny grin to my face. I actually loved this weather. For me, the colder and wetter the better. You know how they say its always rainy in Washington? Yeah, that was me. I prayed for precipitation habitually. Maybe I just didn't like the sun. Either way, I loved seeing the earth wet and glistening, and smelling of fresh things and life. It still amazed me that even though we had become an advanced civilized society, our lives could still be interrupted by a little rain or snow. Besides, it was funny to see people slip and slide on the frozen sidewalk outside my shop's bay-window.
My weatherly musings were interrupted as a rather large, fat raven hopped up onto my checkout counter and let out an airy hiss. I jumped slightly and scowled at him, offering him the feather I'd been twirling between my fingers.
"I wondered how long you'd go searching for it before you finally came to bother me ." I said, grinning at him mischievously. He opened his beak and hissed again, his feathers fluffing up to try and intimidate me. It didn't work, and made him look more like a poof of fluff, rather than the large, threatening, eagle-like bird I'm sure he was going for.
Irwin tried squawking instead, and when I didn't bat an eyelash, he all but deflated and sighed, the sound very human-like. "Look! Theres a gap in my tailfeathers. I have to keep up appearances, you know, or that pretty dove next door will think I'm a turkey. I don't want to look like a turkey, Lucy." He said, taking the feather from me with his beak and tucking it back somewhere around his bottom end where it had fallen out in the first place.
I leaned slightly to the side, resting my cheek on my hand while the other ran a finger over the soft, smooth feathers on his chest.
"You're as old as I am, and you still act like you're fresh from the egg, Irwin. Molting is a perfectly normal part of a raven's life. Trust me, you don't have raven-pattern baldness." I quipped, grinning at him.
He glared at me as much as a face with a beak could clare, and turned his head slightly to look at me with his large, jet black eyes. There was an intelligence there that was beyond anything a normal raven would have held, and even if he hadn't been magickally enhanced with his bond to me as my familiar, he still would have been an exceptionally intelligent bird.
His feathers ruffled. "Even so, the little empty spot on my backend was bothering me. Drafty, you know. "
To anyone else it would have just sounded like normal raven noises, but to me, it was perfect English and in his own, unique voice. I could talk to him, and him to me because he was familiar – my specially appointed animal guide. Having a familiar was a passing right for any witch, and Irwin had been with me since I was very little. He was as much a part of me as I was of him. It was nice being able to have our own little conversations, especially since no one else understood him. Having a familiar was mutually beneficial to both parties. The animal in question got drastically increased intelligence that put them on par with their witch, and were generally able to live as long as we did, which was saying something, since witches tended to live for several centuries, if not more. All familiars, due to the increased intelligence, were able to develop a unique personality, all their own and some, like Irwin, even developed a taste for specific things, and a tolerance for human food. He still loved nuts and bugs, don't get me wrong, but every once in a while enjoyed a couple of m&ms.
"Do you think they make hair treatment shampoos for feathers?" He added, drawing my attention back to him.
I looked at him and sighed, scritching the short feathers on his head with my fingertip.
"Irwin, you're fine. You just as pretty and shiny and fullfeathered now as you were a year ago and the year before that." I said.
He fluffed again, and turned around on the counter, making a sort of hissing hmph sound. If he'd been human, I think he would have blushed. Irwin was a raven, a scavenging bird by nature, but because he'd evolved a personality, he was succeptible to human emotions, including embarrassement. He was also just this side of neurotic.
He smoothed himself out, and hopped to the edge of the counter, trying to look masculine and unabashed. I smiled gently at him, and he turned his beak up slightly to me. I just grinned wider.
"Don't you have some potions that'll be ready soon?" He asked, still not looking at me, but trying to change the subject. A light went on in my head, and I cursed softly, turning away from the counter to hurry up the stairs just behind it, and the second-floor apartment beyond that.
"You little rat, you were supposed to tell me when they were ready! That's your job! " I hollered behind me as I ran up the stairs, stubbing my toe and nearly falling on my face. I glanced down at the pocketwatch hanging from my jean's belt loop. It was a quarter past five. My potions were supposed to be done fifteen minutes ago! Crap.
I nearly tripped over my messenger bag slash purse as I crested the stairs and hurried for the small corner of my studio apartment that was the kitchen. The smell of burnt herbs and roses flooded my nose, and I cursed again, reaching for the metal handle of the big iron pot and then thinking better of it and grabbing an oven mit first. Even through the thick cloth of the mit, the iron pot topper was almost unbearably hot.
I lifted the lid and exhaled a bit as sweetly scented steam rose to swirl around my nose and eyes. I'd left it on waaay to long, and most of the water that was supposed to be this week's stock of weight loss potions had boiled down to a shallow layer of brownish, sludgey liquid. I breathed in the sweet steam and sighed. Those were my best sellers. I'd been cashing in on weight loss potions for some time; they worked exceptionally well on humans. The people who bought them, (mostly women), treated them as a diet aid. To them, I was just one of those new age medicine shops, among other things. But still, I'd bought groceries for an entire month more than once on the money that came in from those stupid things.
I clicked off the oven top and set the big iron pot topper to the side, leaning my hip on the counter and thinking for a moment. I could water them down, I supposed. I doubted my buyers would notice anything. What little I had would sell of course, but more is better. I was used to having twenty vials, not five.
I sighed and decided to do the right thing. It wouldn't have been fair to charge full price for a watered down version of the real thing. Maybe I could pass them off as an especially potent batch. I leaned over slightly and stared down at the brownish water at the bottom of the pot. It would have been just brown water to a human, but I could see my magicks swirling in and around the liquid, like someone had melted a rainbow into it. The magick was still there, so I could atleast sell what I had.
I had reached up into the cubbard over the counter I was leaning on to grab some small glass vials when I heard the bells of the front door downstairs chime. I slumped slightly and let out a small irritated sound before turning on my heels to hurry down the stairs. I heard Irwin squawk in alarm and ignored him, already on my way down.
"Welcome to the Raven's Nest, how may I he-…." I stopped mid sentence as I got to the bottom of the stairs and looked out into the shop.
A demon was leaning up against my checkout counter and had Irwin by the neck. He looked up at me as I came into view and grinned a mouth full of sharp teeth at me.