This week we have a new book from an author who has been here before. Have a read of this exclusive from Morgan Daimler’s Lost in Mist and Shadow.
“Wow, that stuff reeks,” Jason made a face, waving his hand in front of his face.
Allie stopped walking, the burning bundle of sage leaves held out in front of her. She glanced around her store, the ordered rows of bookshelves now obscured by a haze of smoke. “I like the way it smells.”
Jason wrinkled his nose, then looked up towards the ceiling, “You did remember to turn off the smoke detectors before lighting that thing up, right? Because I’m going to be really embarrassed if the alarm goes off and -”
“And all your firefighting buddies roll up and see you playing witch.” Allie interrupted, rolling her eyes. “Fine Takada, go open the front door and let some fresh air in.”
“More like let some smoke out. I hope no one thinks the building’s on fire,” Jason laughed, already jogging up to open the door. Allie mimed a kick in his direction, forgetting her bad ankle which screamed in protest at taking all her weight. She staggered, pain shooting up her leg, and bit her lip feeling foolish, but Jason hadn’t seen anything. She turned quickly and went back to smudging the store, limping more than usual now as she walked around trying to get the smoke into every crevice. Jason had always been prone to worrying about everything but Allie was pretty sure he was just teasing this time.
“I’m not sure that helped very much,” Jason moaned as Allie moved between the shelves in the back of the store.
“Well, then go open the back door and get some circulation going. Maybe that’ll help.”
“Do you really think burning some plants will get rid of funky energy?” Jason asked, hesitating.
“Yup. I know it does. My grandmother swore by burning sage.” Allie said, blowing on the smoldering bundle to keep the embers going.
“I dunno. Seems kinda weird, even for magic. I mean I get channeling energy, and chanting spells, and drawing out patterns to set a spell, but burning an herb and expecting it to cleanse the air seems, I dunno, just counterproductive.”
“You sound like such a firefighter, arguing against burning things,” Allie laughed.
Jason laughed with her, “I guess, but really how do you know it works?”
“Because I can feel the energy changing. Don’t they use herbs for cleansing in Japan?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Jason shifted slightly starting to move towards the back as Allie emerged from the bookshelves. “Not my thing and remember my mom and I came over to the US when I was little.”
“Yeah, I always forget you aren’t into your dad’s heritage side of things.”
“Why should I be?” Jason looked uncomfortable. “Who needs an emperor and seppuku anyway? You’re talking about a culture that hasn’t changed hardly at all since the black ships arrived in 1853.”
“You’re being ridiculous, and please you’re talking to me here, you think traditional Japanese culture is rigid try Elvish culture. You offend someone by using the wrong pronoun and you get challenged to a duel.” Allie waved the sage bundle in the air for emphasis and ash drifted down onto the wooden floor.
“I’m being ridiculous? You’re trusting burning plants to clean your energy,” Jason said sticking his tongue out at her.
“Hey, who’s the empath here? I think I can judge what works for getting rid of bad energy.”
He rolled his eyes dramatically, “Whatever, I’m going to open the back door and I’ll get some lunch started, if you have anything worth eating back there and I can see through the haze to find it.”
“You are such a dork. I think there’s some leftover pizza in the fridge if you want to heat it up and you can get some tea started. There’s a bunch of kinds in the cabinet over the sink,” Allie shook her head slightly as Jason disappeared into the back area of the building where her small kitchenette and storage rooms where, heading towards the back door. She felt a moment of unease at the idea of the back door being opened and left open with no one watching it, but she shoved the feeling away. Nothing was going to happen and she wasn’t alone. She was safe. Shrugging she turned and kept smudging lost in thought.
In the last month, since their friend Syndra had been killed and then Allie had been kidnapped and almost killed herself, she and Jason had been spending a lot more time together. Sometimes Allie
wondered if Jason really liked being around her so much or if he was trying to protect her from the one person involved in hurting her who had gotten away, but mostly she tried not to think about it. He was the one uncomplicated thing in her life, the one person who didn’t seem to want anything from her, and she enjoyed being around him. He was also the only one she had been able to think of to help her out when she decided her store needed an energetic overhaul: her cousin Liz wouldn’t help with anything magical, her friend Bleidd was off visiting his elven relatives for the first time in more than a half century, and her boyfriend had been gone for several weeks, on an assignment in the adjoining Fairy realm.
She had tried to comfort herself a bit about Jessilaen being gone by reminding herself that it wouldn’t be any different if she had accepted his offer to go and live with him, but she knew in her heart that wasn’t true. If she were living with him at the elven Outpost or in Fairy she would have gotten updates from the other Elven Guard or his family. Elves lived in very tight knit communities of extended family units and if she had agreed to be part of that she wouldn’t be left totally on the outside with no one telling her anything about what was going on. Not even Jess’s brother Zarethyn had made any effort to keep in touch with Allie and she felt far too uncomfortable with the situation to call him herself.
Part of the problem was, she did know exactly where he was and what he was doing but she wasn’t supposed to. Jess had finished his assignment and was back at the Outpost now, but he hadn’t called her to tell her that yet. Allie assumed that meant he wasn’t free to see her, and since she shouldn’t know what was going on with him it put her in an awkward position. The only reason she did know was that when she had been kidnapped she had used a spell based in dark magic to try to save herself by creating a psychic bond between them using her innate empathy. In the immediate aftermath of the events Jess and the other elves in his unit of the Elven Guard had all felt that the spell’s effects would most likely fade over time – they hadn’t, nor had she managed to get any control over her empathic gift since opening herself up to it. Jess’s presence was a constant for Allie and she heard what he was hearing in the back of her mind like the perpetual murmur of background noise in her head. If she concentrated she could block it out to some degree, but if she wasn’t careful she projected herself fully into his mind and saw and experienced whatever he was doing in that moment. Sometimes all it took was thinking too much about missing him, or wondering what he was doing…and she didn’t dare let anyone know how little control she had over it. Or how much of his life she end up eavesdropping on, both because it felt like an invasion of privacy and because she worried that she might get him in trouble with the Guard if they knew that she knew so much. She felt like a giant magical disaster, but there wasn’t anyone she could go to for help. She shook her head slightly as she finished up the last section of the store. Jess knew, of course, that she was still in his head, but not how much she was there, and she had been making an effort to pull back as much as she could.
Sighing Allie limped over to the counter and dropped the last of the sage bundle into a waiting brass bowl to let it burn itself out.