Storytelling Time: Coven at Callington – Chapter 1 Part III
Did he? Or didn’t he?
Magic can be a tricky beast, especially when you’re unsure who’s wielding it.
Read on to find out how Braden handles this situation when it happens to him on a dark London alleyway in the early 1800s.
Genre: a Regency fantasy romance (c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 1 – Part III
London, England, September 1815
Braden stepped away from the wall.
Instead of fleeing, the barguest raised its head and howled – a long, agonized call.
A cry for help?
The air in the alleyway shuddered and an astringent stink of cinder and sulfur stung Braden’s nose. Then four more hounds materialized through the walls, landing on the cobbled stones with a light fresh bounce in their steps.
Cursing, Braden drew back as the deadly reinforcements faced him, growling, teeth bared, frothy drool dripping from their snouts. The triumphant barguest was at their lead. Braden’s back touched the alley wall. A desperate side-glance toward the entry showed his footman walking away.
“Garth!” His desperate plea bounced off the barrier. Garth must have reinforced it to keep sounds from attracting passersby. Without his assistance, Braden couldn’t pass through that magical blockade to safety. What had once been a shield to protect innocents was now a fortification that trapped him with the enemy.
The fight was indeed about to end, but not as he’d envisioned. Giving a frustrated huff, Braden sent up a silent prayer of apology for his sad failure in his duty to protect this world. He begged for whatever miracle the Good Lord could spare and raised Agamore to defend himself.
The remaining creatures backed away from Agamore’s blazing fury. No doubt as stunned as Braden by the sword’s unexpected power surge, the hounds abandoned all compulsion to fight to the death and scrambled to flee. Claws scraped stones as hound after hound vaulted over each other in a rush to speed down the alley. The wounded hound ran last, skittering as it followed its fleeing companions.
Braden, recovering from his shock at his sword’s surprising flare, gave chase. Shouting in triumph, he pounded down the dark alley after them.
One glanced backward, red eyes glowering with hatred, and then the barguest streaked down the length of the lane. Like mist touched by sunlight, all the hounds vanished.
Braden slowed, stopped and bent over, hands resting on knees as he caught his breath. In his grip, Agamore’s light dimmed and died, leaving the night as dark as before. The magical sword became no more than ordinary steel.
“Milord, they got away,” Garth shouted at him from behind his barricade.
He spared his footman a resentful, backward glare, ready to return a quip about where had he been when his master needed help. Yet, it was probably due to Garth’s spell on his sword that he had been able to fight off those hounds at the end. He should have known Garth wouldn’t leave him defenseless.
Despite the use of forbidden magic, Braden was inordinately grateful to his exasperating footman for saving his life. Breathing hard and wiping at his moist forehead, he returned to the scene of the initial fight. “Bring light.”
Garth pulled out a candle from his pack, lit it with a soft-spoken incantation and then hurried over. Braden couldn’t bring himself to object to the blatant use of magic, not when the same power had saved his life.
Everywhere, black splatters gleamed in the candle’s flickering yellow glow. He took out one of the cloths he carried, specially protected and blessed for this purpose, and used it to wipe down his sword.
“Thank you for your help.” His words were heartfelt. Garth deserved a reward for this night’s work and there’d be a gold coin in it for him later tonight. “You saved my life.”
“What help, milord?” Garth asked.
Did magic come so easily that he didn’t even notice when he performed something as spectacular as that flaring sword? He glanced at his footman, curiosity mingling with an irrepressible flash of envy.
Braden flung the filthy cloth and his soiled gloves to the ground by the dead beasts and held Agamore out to Garth. “Thank you for making this sword light up and burn that hound. That’s what finally chased them away.”
“I didn’t do that,” Garth protested, and exchanged the weapon for a velvet bag containing ingredients with which to bless this evil-sullied ground.
“Of course you did,” Braden said. “Do not worry. This once I forgive you for disobeying my order to never to use magic on me. Your spell was impressively effective.”
“Milord, I swear I didn’t cast such a spell.” Garth slipped the great broadsword into its sheath on his back.
Head pounding with worry, Braden hid his astonishment. “Then why did you leave me unguarded?”
“I’m sorry, milord, but you looked to be thrashing them devils without any need for my help, and the night watch approached. I added a silencer spell on the shield and went to warn him off. When I returned, the hounds were fleeing, though there seemed more of ‘em. So, the sword flared? Odd. It wasn’t any of my doing, sir. I swear.”
Braden looked at the sword hilt and then into Garth’s eyes, to see if he were lying. The confused look in his servant’s gaze seemed genuine. That begged the question, if Garth hadn’t bespelled Agamore, what had happened in this alleyway?
Prayer answered? Dare he believe he’d been granted a personal favor from God? The thought both elated and terrified. He must seek the archbishop’s guidance. See if other guards had ever been gifted such an extraordinary blessing. He shook his head. How ironic that he seemed more comfortable believing in spells than miracles.
Trying to still his unruly thoughts, Braden took out handfuls of red powder from the velvet bag, and while muttering a quiet prayer, sprinkled the holy mixture that the archbishop gave all the guards to spread over demon corpses. As he prayed, consecrating the battleground, clouds of incense smoke spewed up, bubbling over the fallen beasts, soiled material and poisonous streaks of fae blood. Soon, the ground was covered in naught but ash and sand.
“Garth, could those hounds have been waiting here for me?”
“How, milord? You only decided to come two hours ago.”
“Yes, after you brought me that note earlier from Dewer suggesting we meet at White’s tonight.”
“Didn’t like that note,” Garth muttered. “Almost didn’t give it to you. Should’ve listened to me instincts.”
“Garth.” Braden stopped and glared over his shoulder at his footman. “I decide which notes I read or not.”
“O’course, milord. Ain’t that always been the way? Though sometimes notes do get misplaced. Just happens.”
Braden frowned, not liking the innocent look on his footman’s wizened features. How many notes had been misplaced since he’d hired Garth two months ago after rescuing him from a vengeful wraith? No wonder life had become positively tedious since then.
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