At home, Cassie gathered the things she needed and put them in a small pile in the middle of the room before she lit some sweetgrass and tried to still her thoughts. It was an undertaking given the chaos of her mind and whirling emotions, they kept taking her thoughts and running with them in an endless game of ”what if. ” Her mother Veronica and Cassies teachers had called it Grounding and Centering, saying it was essential to any spell. Her grandmother had called it hooey.

As Medicine Woman for her tribe, Barbara Porter, also known as Singing Bird had taken over Cassies magickal education after her mother passed away. Shed been relentless in trying to eradicate all of her daughter in laws teachings to instill her own in their place. The school had gone in yet a third direction, attempting to make rigid the more flowing teachings of her family members. Cassie


struggled with both, resulting in a confused mess of rules and ”feel ” that had her doubting herself at every turn.

School and her mother had agreed on the necessity of this first step so Cassie figured there had to be some validity to it. Hoping to find some success at some point, Cassie began each spell by feeling herself first root to the physical place then let her consciousness become clear.

She closed her physical eyes to see from the one in her mind only. Envisioning the same peaceful waters her mother had taught her to use as her focus, she could feel her body becoming light as she let go to float adrift, losing the sense of her physical body until only thought remained. Then, she cast her circle of protection feeling a pop when it closed around her. That done she slowly, cautiously, opened her eyes to see that the sweetgrass had burned down only an inch. She was getting faster, that was good though she still moved carefully in fear a sudden move would break her painstakingly laid barrier protecting her from any outside influences. Out of habit her fingers brushed past the new bangs, needlessly sweeping them aside.

Holding her movements to the barest minimum, Cassie struggled to keep her mind from returning to its physical senses. The tedium of ritual and ceremony was not her strength, none of this was. The energy of the circle wavered and Cassie took a breath to clear her mind.

The fingers she watched light the candles were as unfamiliar to her conscious thoughts as those of a stranger. Seeking clarity and control of her powers, shed selected white and orange candles with those properties and had set them around herself in a circle.

Just as Veronica had taught her as a young girl, Cassie began to mutter the words, guiding the energy she was pulling from the elements. The fire of the flame and the water from the cup shed brought as well as her nature, the air around her


and the Earth beneath, she drew it all into her being as the center point in the wheel of energy flowing around her. It was essential for her to acknowledge the elements but specifically she remained tied to the water like her mother had shown her, feeling the presence of the others while keeping them at the edges of her circle, guarding yet not entering. Only Water was welcomed inside, which was why she brought the cup.

It was how her mother and her mothers mother down the matriarchal line as far as the stories went, had all controlled their power. To ground and pull through the element tied to their energy. There had never been a question of how Cassie would control hers because she was a woman from her mothers family and it was as much a part of them as their magick itself.

The air around her moved in waves, the energy gathering within her circle pricked at her skin, the air itself becoming cool and damp with faint drops of dew forming on the thin dark hairs of her arms. The feeling was not quite right, not the warm, comfortable feeling her mother said she would feel, the feeling of homecoming. No, Cassie had the distinct impression she was being allowed a grudging use only and at the slightest misstep the power she struggled to find would evaporate back into the air itself. Her tongue flicked over her lips nervously.

Frowning unconsciously in concentration, Cassie reached out. She stretched her energy, opening a door psychically by speaking the words of a prayer to the oak tree, a tree sacred to her fathers people. It was strong, and with its roots running above the ground and below it tied together the elements of both sides of her bloodlines. Cassie had been attempting to use it these past few months to bridge the gap keeping her from her birthright that was her magick and the stability her career would give to her and her family. Failure was not an option.


The new energy of the Earth felt wild and uncontrolled, a hot wind blew over her flesh, heating it with a shiver. Cassies nerves vibrated as she tried to contain the opposing forces and she felt the all too familiar pull as the new energy beat against the confines of the circle and pushed to force out the water. It was as much an intruder here as she was only it was wise enough to know it didn belong. The muscles in her shoulders pinched and Cassie shrugged them back down, breathing in her nose and out her mouth to let go of the tension, stubbornly refusing to give up.

Keeping her tenuous hold on the warring energies raging through her, barely able to keep it all in check, Cassie held out her hand over the mug of bottled water shed brought in for this purpose. It was a simple elemental spell and one she should be able to cast in the field with minimal trouble. However, it was the very same one that had gone wrong and altered her hairline last week.

Her murmurings were low, it was doubtful anyone more than a few feet away could have heard. The tips of her fingers and palms of her hands began to warm. Without pause, Cassie shifted to place a hand over the ceramic mug and for several hopeful seconds while her hand hovered just above the rim, nothing happened. Steam rose, the outside of the mug grew warm and Cassie let a smile play at her lips as the heat reached her nearby fingertips.

Then, as soon as her flesh touched the ceramic, the air around her stopped swirling and pressed in on her in an instant, trapping her breath inside her. It bucked her command to go into the contained liquid, the liquid pushing back refusing the entrance of the Earths energy she only tenuously controlled. Neither would follow her will and the container cracked audibly, a casualty of the war between them. Feeling the energy surging within her threatening to turn on her, the vibrations heating her skin and oxygen depriving her until she felt faint, Cassie rushed to send it out of her before it consumed her, burning her alive.


Placing both hands on the ground to either side of her she let all of it rush out, into the ground where it belonged, feeling the humming in her body go within seconds from maddeningly chaotic to utterly still. The cup split in two, the handle sliding onto the floor with a tinny crunch as it settled in the small puddle forming around it.

Breathing heavily, Cassie let her head hang down and watched a drop of sweat gather on the tip of her nose before she flicked it away with a growl. ”Im sorry Mom, I can do it. ”

It was an effort to release the circle and blow out the candles. Frustrated she rose, stretching her stiff legs and gathered the broken pieces of evidence of her failure to discard in the kitchen garbage. Cassie was getting low on mugs. This was the third one this week.

Feeling the time to admit to her family that she was one of the mixed witches who couldn even muster enough control to make a cup of tea was rapidly approaching, she took a long look around at her small apartments living room. It would be a shame to leave and go back to the home her father shared with her grandmother in North Dakota. Grandmother had moved in after the death of Cassies mother. It wasn that she was ashamed of the meager quarters on the reservation, it was just that this was the first place shed been able to call her own. It had been a relief to be out from under her grandmothers intense scrutiny and criticism, which had become unbearable in the months between her acceptance to the Academy and her departure.

The garden level Chicago apartment had a calming presence, an attribute Cassie credited to the underground tributary running from a subterranean stream into the nearby lake. In all, the unit was less than six hundred square feet and had little more than a galley kitchen and the worlds smallest tub but the open living room allowed her the right amount of space for practicing her craft.


The paint job shed gotten permission to do last year had made it feel cozy and warm. The living room and kitchen were a light creamy color like coffee with too much milk while her bedroom was a rich chocolate setting off her butter colored bedding that looked sumptuous instead of bland, framed as it was by the dark of the walls and the rich gold flecked in the beige carpet. Only the bathroom remained in its original off white state. Try as she might, Cassie could not bring herself to paint it blue. Even the color of water didn feel like it belonged anywhere near her. Yet more evidence that she had failed to honor her mothers memory and lineage.

Shuffling her feet wearily, Cassie took a self-pitying trudge over to the little half wall separating her narrow kitchen from the living room. She laughingly called the area her dining room though she rarely ate there. Cassie slogged past the small table to the aquarium in the corner. The adjoining space behind her, when not in use as a magickal battleground, was used as a living room and housed a humble greenish brown couch at an angle to a small television on a cart that could be swiveled to face the kitchen when she decided to spend the day cooking up holy water or a big batch of soup. In place of a coffee table, Cassie had stacked two wine boxes with their burned in logos facing out and a matched piece of pine laid across them. A swatch of burgundy silk lay decoratively atop the plank to dress it up and protect the wood only barely. Shed found pine to be relatively unobtrusive to her energy fields and it was a lot easier to carry and rearrange when she needed more space than the metal or heavy stones some of her fellow agents found strength in.

The aquarium in the corner was lit both by the kitchen and living room lights so shed never bought one for it specifically, and there was no need for a lid. Its occupant was not one to perform acrobatic feats.


”Hey Bunny. ” Cassie sang out feeling her mood lighten. The soft tone of her words soothed her as well as the multicolored creature inside. Sometimes she thought she heard the memory of her mother in her cadence now that she was grown. Her father had remarked on how similar her voice was to that of her mothers. Sometimes when she wanted to pretend she wasn alone, Cassie would talk to her pet and pretend it was her mother lending her advice or comfort.

Reaching a hand into the glass cage, Cassie scooped up the floppy haired peach and white guinea pig chirring happily at her. Pig cradled in the crook of her arm, she moved back around the wall to the fridge where she retrieved a carrot from the bag shed bought for both herself and her furry roommate.

Fuzzy friend nibbling and chattering happily, Cassie took a seat on the couch letting the overstuffed cushion wrap around her. Her eyes stung, whether from defeat or exhaustion mattered not, the result was the same and Cassie let her lids go down closing the curtain on her day. At some point, the repeated strains of Beethovens Ode to Joy pulled her out of her slumber and woke Bunny from where shed nodded off curled up on Cassies shoulder. Carefully she eased Bunny down onto a cushion and trotted to the table where to get her phone before the last Ode wrapped up its cycle.

”Hello? ” There was no hiding the groggy sound of sleep from her voice.

”Did I wake you? ” It was Anna and she didn sound the least bit repentant.

”No, ” Cassie said what was expected even if it was nowhere close to believable. ”I was just reading. ”


”Good. ” Her boss never wasted time with personal trifles. ”Weve gotten confirmation that the reports of disturbances in the Tampa area are intensifying and weve heard through our Watcher that the source is using a local club to draw energy from the unsuspecting masses. Your triad is expected on the eleven a.m. flight into Tampa tomorrow. Your files will be on the plane, you can familiarize yourselves on the way. ”

”Thank you Anna. ” She hung up her phone returning it softly to the light wood tabletop, stomach clenching in dread at the thought of facing off against another witch so soon. Hopefully she could complete her last mission without getting either of her partners killed. Shed been trying to stay out of their way, minimizing her exposure as a flop as well as avoiding endangering either of them with some reasonable amount of success. Still, in the end they knew she didn have what it took to be an Investigator. For the first time, Cassie was almost thankful her mother wasn there to see her fall on her face.

”What do you think Bunny? ” She asked her little friend as she swept her up from the couch turning her in her hands to face her. Even amber eyes regarded small black bulging ones. ”Are you going to be lonely while Im gone? ”

Bunny gave a gutteral squeak and wiggled her whiskers, delighting in the attention. She was often left alone for a day or two, if it was going to be longer Cassies neighbor, an eleven year old girl came in and took care of her. That meant when she left Cassie would have to put all of her magickal paraphernalia into the hall closet where shed installed a lock.

If she could do proper magick she could have set it all on a shelf and spelled it to be unappealing, it would have been so much less work. God knows what the neighbor thought she kept in the obvious hiding place, but it couldn be helped. And when she got home, the unit would need a thorough


cleansing to clear out the childs energy. It was less than from an adult though which was why Cassie had encouraged the girl and not her mother to come in.

With a kiss to the top of her peach head and a rub to the ears, Cassie replaced the pig in her glass home. A few extra shakes of food and another cube of hay and Bunny was ready to ”batch it ” for a few days.

”Good night. ” She wished the little fur ball already burrowing into her hut for the night. Cassie envied the simple creatures ability to sleep so easily, she knew that she would not be so lucky.

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