Dragon Bound(2)

By: Thea Harrison


She looked in the storefront. Her blurred reflection looked back at her, a tired young woman, built rather long and coltish, with tense features and a pale blonde tangled ponytail. She looked past herself into the shadowed interior.

In contrast to the noisy none-too-clean surroundings of the city street, the inside of the shop appeared cool and serene. The building seemed to glow with warmth. She recognized protection spells in place. In a display case near the door, harmonic energies sparked from an alluring arrangement of crystals, amethyst, peridot, rose quartz, blue topaz and celestite. The crystals took the slanting sunshine and threw brilliant rainbow shards of light onto the ceiling. Her gaze found the single occupant inside, a tall queenlike woman, perhaps Hispanic, with a gaze that connected to hers with a snap of Power.

That was when the shouting started.

“You don’t have to go in there!” a man yelled. Then a woman shrieked, “Stop before it’s too late!”

Pia started and looked behind her. A group of twenty people stood across the street. They held various signs. One poster said, MAGIC = HIGHWAY TO HELL. Another said, GOD WILL SAVE US. A third declared, ELDER RACES—AN ELITIST HOAX.

Her sense of unreality deepened, brought on by stress, lack of sleep and a constant sense of fear. They were yelling at her.

Some of humankind persisted in a belligerent disbelief of the Elder Races, despite the fact that many generations ago folktales had given way to proof as the scientific method had been developed. The Elder Races and humankind had lived together openly since the Elizabethan Age. These humans with their revisionist history made about as much sense as those who declared the Jews hadn’t been persecuted in World War II.

Besides being out of touch with reality, they were picketing a human witch to protest the Elder Races? She shook her head.

A cool tinkle brought her attention back to the shop. The woman with Power in her gaze held the door open. “City ordinances can work both ways,” she told Pia, her voice filled with scorn. “Magic shops may have to stay within a certain district, but protesters have to stay fifty feet away from the shops. They can’t come across the street, they can’t enter the Magic District and they can’t do anything but yell at potential customers and try to scare them off from a distance. Would you like to come in?” One immaculate eyebrow raised in imperious challenge, as if suggesting that to step into the woman’s shop took a real act of bravery.

Pia blinked at her, expression blank. After everything she had been through, the other woman’s challenge was beyond insignificant—it was meaningless. She walked in without a twitch.

The door tinkled into place behind her. The woman paused for a heartbeat, as if Pia had surprised her. Then she stepped in front of Pia with a smooth smile.

“I’m Adela, the owner of Divinus. What can I do for you, my dear?” The shopkeeper’s face turned puzzled and searching as she looked Pia over. She murmured, almost to herself, “What is it? . . . There’s something about you. . . .”

Crap, she hadn’t thought of that. This witch might remember her mom.

“Yeah, I look like Greta Garbo,” Pia interrupted, her expression stony. “Moving on now.”

The other woman’s gaze snapped up to hers. Pia’s face and body language transmitted a CLOSED sign, and the witch’s demeanor changed back into the professional saleswoman. “My apologies,” she said in her chocolate milk voice. She gestured. “I have herbal cosmetics, beauty remedies, tinctures over in that corner, crystals charged with healing spells—”

Pia looked around without taking it all in, although she noticed a spicy smell. It smelled so wonderful she breathed it in deeply without thinking. Despite herself, the tense muscles in her neck and shoulders eased. The scent contained a low-level spell, clearly intended to relax nervous customers.

While the spell caused no actual harm and did nothing to dull her senses, its manipulative nature repelled her. How many people relaxed and spent more money because of it? Her hands clenched as she shoved the magic away. The spell clung to her skin a moment before it dissipated. The sensation reminded her of cobwebs trailing across her skin. She fought the urge to brush off her arms and legs.

Annoyed, she turned and met the shopkeeper’s eyes. “You come recommended by reputable sources,” she said in a clipped tone. “I need to buy a binding spell.”

Adela’s bland demeanor fell away. “I see,” she said, matching Pia’s crispness. Her eyebrows raised in another faint challenge. “If you’ve heard of me, then you know I’m not cheap.”

“You’re not cheap because you’re supposed to be one of the best witches in the city,” said Pia as she strode to a nearby glass counter. She shrugged the backpack off her aching shoulder and rested it on the counter, pulling the tangle of her ponytail out from under one strap. She stuffed her water bottle inside and zipped it back up.

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