Home > Harvest Web (Moonshadow Bay #4)(7)

Harvest Web (Moonshadow Bay #4)(7)
Author: Yasmine Galenorn

What do you think she meant by that? A king who would not even be king?

Esmara, still beside me, said, I don’t know, to be honest. But when she was talking about this creature, she meant every word. Imp or not, she was telling the truth. You’re going to have to walk very carefully, January. You don’t want to get yourself in a situation that you can’t get out of. Remain watchful if you go walking in the woods.

Do you think it’s nearby?

What do you think? Esmara asked.

I closed my eyes and lowered myself into a light trance. And then, seconds later, an image thrust itself into my mind. Some creature, furious and full of anger, jaws snapping, tongue searching for the hint of something edible, all senses on alert. Rogue—it was rogue, or perhaps it came from a lineage where there was no rule save those it created for itself. But yes, angry and full of hate. And hungry—so very hungry. It was turning toward me and I pulled myself out at the last minute before it could pinpoint my location.

Crap, I felt it. Did you feel that?

Yes, I did—through you. I don’t know what it is, but January, you’re dealing with death here—death and danger. Take care of yourself.

I promise, I said, before returning to the porch. All the way back to the steps, I kept glancing over my shoulder, expecting to see something come running out of the forest after me. Even when I was back inside my kitchen and had shut the door, I made sure to lock it. And even then, the worry continued to nag at me, all through the afternoon.

 

 

I called Ari to tell her what had happened, but she was in the middle of an appointment and couldn’t talk. So I decided to do the next best thing—ward the house.

When the contractors had done their renovations, they had disturbed a lot of magical energy, which wasn’t unusual. But that just meant that I’d better get the wards up and going again before some wayward spirit—or monster—decided to pay me a visit. I discovered I was out of Ward water, but it was easy enough to make. I gathered a small pair of clippers, two paper bags doubled, several small plastic sandwich bags, and a pair of gardening gloves.

As I headed out front and down the street toward a lot that was overgrown with blackberries, I also kept my eye open for anything that might make a good addition. I wasn’t out for the actual berries, but several of the canes, covered with thorns. Ward water was protective, and a blackberry bush had some of the best protection in it. The thorns were filled with magic. Also, if I could find some toadstools, they would help. I’d have to be careful with them around the cats, but once the potion was prepared, there wouldn’t be any reason to worry. I never left it for them to lick up anywhere.

The lot I was heading for was seven houses away, on the corner of Fern—my street—and Castle Avenue. Castle Avenue had a gentrified feel—old, beyond its prime, but trying to make a comeback. My mother told me that some of the oldest members of the town lived there, including several shifters and a couple of witches.

The corner lot had once housed a mansion, but it had crumbled to ruin and the brambles had overtaken it. Bits and pieces of the estate still poked through the mammoth mound of canes that rose ten feet high in a knotted tangle. The berries were good here—in fact, I’d spent hours here during August, gathering enough berries to fill the freezer, and I had also talked my grandmother, Rowan Firesong, into teaching me how to make jam.

Now, as I forged my way through the tangle, I was looking for the thicker canes that had thorns as big as my index fingernail, but that weren’t so thick I couldn’t clip them. I paused before starting, pulling out several shiny pieces of crystal.

I closed my eyes and held the crystals out, tight in my fist. “Please accept this offering in return for some of your magic from your thorns.” As I waited for a sign that I had been heard, I caught a distinctly male voice whispering Thank you. I tossed the crystals into the thick of the blackberries, then went to work.

Clipping the canes wasn’t difficult, though I needed to ensure that I had enough thorns for my spell. I gingerly pulled them out of the tangle, tossing them into the paper sack. A doubled paper bag worked best. The canes usually didn’t rip through the sack, and the thorns had no wicker or fabric to catch on, which happened with baskets and cloth bags.

When I had gathered enough, I began to take a step back but paused, instinct taking over. I slowly turned around, hopping on one foot, as I kept my eyes focused on the ground. Sure enough—there, beneath a thin layer of mulch, I caught sight of exactly what I was looking for.

Amanita muscaria, also known as fly agaric. The telltale red caps with white spots thrust their way out of the ground. In fact, when I knelt to cautiously brush away the mulch and dried grasses, I found a circle of them. A faerie circle. Which meant they had Fae energy locked within them.

I debated. If some Fae creature was growing them, I’d probably piss them off. But I needed the mushrooms and this lot didn’t have the telltale signs of being a Wild Place. Finally, I decided to ask my pendulum.

I brought out a crystal pendulum from my pocket and held it over the circle. “Is it all right if I harvest these? Circle clockwise for yes.”

The pendulum went wild, swinging like crazy until I forced it to stop. I decided I needed to be closer to the mushrooms in order to get a clear answer. I squatted, trying to avoid sitting because there were blackberry canes buried beneath the layers of compost and I didn’t fancy getting thorns stuck in my butt. Frowning, I did my best to balance myself on my heels. Then, slowly, I let go of the pendulum and held the chain over the ring.

“If I can safely harvest these mushrooms, please swing deosil—clockwise. If you would prefer that I leave them alone, swing widdershins. I’m in need of them for Ward water.”

I waited. The pendulum slowly began to swing, first gently, then swiftly. It swung clockwise. The chain flew round in a circle, deosil, and then abruptly stopped. I had my answer.

“Thank you. I have a crystal if you’d like it.” I wasn’t entirely sure who I was talking to, but it felt right to offer it a crystal. I buried the quartz in the center of the faerie ring, then gently harvested the mushrooms, tucking them into one of the plastic bags and tucking that into the paper one.

When I was done, I slipped out of the bramble field, once again thanking the blackberry deva for its help. Heading back to my house, I looked up and saw an older woman standing on the porch of one of the faded houses along Castle Avenue. She looked to be about eighty, though that wasn’t saying much. A shifter who looked eighty could easily be three or four hundred years old. The woman was watching me carefully. I paused as she started down the staircase.

“Hello,” she said, strolling toward the sidewalk.

“Hello,” I answered, stopping by her front gate. “I’m January Jaxson. I live about seven houses down the street—Fern Street, that is.”

“My name is Alicia King.” She paused, taking a breath as she reached the other side of the gate. “You remind me of someone…”

“My mother and father lived down the street. They died last year.” I had kept my last name when I married, hyphenating it. The minute our divorce was final, I had dumped Ellison’s last name, grateful to be rid of it.

“Of course—you’re Althea Jaxson’s daughter.” A light sparkled in her eyes.

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