How To Be A Bad Ass Witch Book One
Modern times call for modern solutions.
Six weeks earlier
“James? The council is assembled if you would like to begin.” The voice was smooth and cultured, with just the faintest hint of French roundness to the vowels. Footsteps sounded, and another figure came to the window. “What are you watching?”
James P. Lovecraft nodded at the scene outside the windows. Beyond the rolled-aside crimson curtains and blue-tinted glass planes that opened out on the mansion’s property, the rolling hills and fields of upstate New York were blanketed with pure white snow. Icicles hung from the evergreen boughs and gnarled branches of the surrounding trees.
“Festive, don’t you think?” He looked at his companion. “And appropriate for a meeting of the council.”
“Snow,” Mother LeBlanc said with a shudder, “is never appropriate.”
He smiled at her. Her age was a mystery. At first glance, she looked no older than twenty-five or so, a beautiful woman with smooth mahogany skin and a perpetual broad, pleasant smile of relaxed bemusement. Her long box-braided hair added to the effect.
The dress she always wore, however, was … strange. It seemed to have been woven from dozens of square feet of multicolored silk and velvet. It had no particular shape, yet it somehow emphasized the curves of her body as she moved or when it settled around her. Its bright hues appeared to have changed each time one looked. It was almost miraculous but sufficiently bizarre that people who first met her took some time to overcome their slight discomfort at its implied mysteries.
James knew it was likely a holdover from the New Orleans voodoo tradition from whence the woman came. Though she’d moved on to mainstream thaumaturgy, the magic of old Louisiana still held secrets that were obscure to the other members of the council.
For example, in addition to the dress’s sheer ponderous massiveness, it also had the curious ability to disguise the presence of whatever else LeBlanc might be hiding within its folds.
James recalled an incident five years ago when she’d pulled something—he couldn’t recall what—out of her sleeve unexpectedly. He’d quipped that she could likely cook an entire meal with the contents of her dress.
Without missing a beat, she had promptly reached into the garment’s many billows and produced an iron pot, a sharp kitchen knife, an onion, a bag of spices, a ladle, and, finally, a live chicken, which squawked and scattered loose feathers across the floor. She held the unfortunate fowl over the side table and slammed the knife into its neck, allowing the bug-eyed head to roll into a corner before gutting and plucking the rest. Meat, diced onions, water, and spices had all gone into the pot, which she took into the kitchen.
When the soup was done, she’d brought it back for them all to partake of, and that was that. He’d never again questioned or commented on Mother LeBlanc’s wardrobe.
It helped that the soup had been delicious, though he wouldn’t have dared mention it if it weren’t.
“Are you ready?” she asked him.
He nodded and adjusted his glasses, clearing his throat as he did so. He was a trim man who appeared to be somewhere in his mid-thirties, with high cheekbones and a narrow jaw. People were generally unsurprised to discover he was descended from old English aristocracy.
The two of them entered the mansion’s dining room, and James nodded to the other master thaumaturges gathered around the ancient oak table.
They were ready, though they did not yet know it, to hear his plan to save their profession.
He took his seat partway down the table from Mother LeBlanc at the head. She cleared her throat and looked at the assembled council. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome once again to the annual meeting of the High Congress of Thaumaturgy.” She gave a wry smile. “We appreciate you showing up only two weeks before Christmas; it’s a busy time of year, but at the last vote, everyone agreed to maintain the traditional date.” One eyebrow lifted conspiratorially. “So, no complaining.”
A few people chuckled drily. James figured that if anyone were going to protest, it would be Mary Mitchell two seats down from him, but she remained silent.
“This is an important meeting. As you know, recruitment remains at an all-time low, and we have been unable to fill the vacancies left in our congress.” LeBlanc gestured with a slim dark hand at the three chairs that sat empty around the table.
Everyone looked around uncomfortably. Those who currently sat on the congress called themselves the Twelve for obvious reasons, but the round table had been meant to accommodate fifteen. The other three seats had been empty for far too long.
Mary Mitchell raised a hand. “We did decide not to promote anyone else to the triumvirate position,” she said. “And we’re functioning just fine without a leader. Is it truly necessary to replace those seats, or is it only centuries-old force of habit?”
James had to admit that she had a point, but as usual, she was missing the big picture. Lady Mary Carter Mitchell was a slim, thin-faced woman, who combined an old-fashioned primness and sense of propriety with a highly modern impatience. She disliked meetings, procedures, and oversights, preferring to rush through such things as quickly as possible so she could return to her lifelong hobby—the study and manipulation of plants.
They were almost at the point for James to segue to his own plans, but before he could, Damian Diaz spoke.
“High Witch Templeton,” he said, in his booming, theatrical way, “was not only our head bureaucrat. A proper coven requires thirteen members.” He gave a wry smile, “Yes, she had an unfortunate tendency to be busy somewhere else whenever any of us reached out to her for help,” there was a round of chuckles around the table, “but she never shirked her duty when it came to larger-scale spells, which there are now no way for us to perform should we need to. We should fill the thirteenth position, at least, or better yet, all three of the empty seats.”
“Yes,” James said at once, seeing a natural segue, “and that is why it’s imperative that we seek new recruits. Mother LeBlanc and I are in agreement on this.”
“In the past five years, we have found no students,” LeBlanc told them. Though the fact was well-known, it was not often spoken aloud, and many at the table looked away. She continued, “In the past two years, we have found no candidates for training. Within two or three generations, unless we turn things around, our discipline might disappear entirely, and, with it, our ability to guide events for the good of humanity.”
The thaumaturges around the table looked at one another, then most of them ended up gazing at Lauren Jones. Round-faced and ginger-haired, she was the sort of person who perpetually looked younger than she was. On even brief acquaintance, however, it became clear that she could command the attention of any audience. As the best teacher among the Twelve, she had been particularly worried about their lack of recruits.
Now she turned her brown eyes on James, though she thought for a long while before she spoke.
“It has weighed on me,” she admitted. “We say we have stepped back from human affairs due to the increasing interconnectedness of the world, because even a small intervention is more likely to be noticed, because interventions are less likely to be necessary, but I wonder. I wonder if we have stepped back because we feel powerless. And I wonder if our abdication of our duty means that someday we will be needed, and we will not be there.”
There was silence. Even James, who had come prepared to argue for expanding their ranks, had not thought such dire things. Over the millennia, thaumaturges had intervened rarely but impactfully, aiding scientists who attempted to cure diseases, helping isolated groups of soldiers who might turn the tide of a battle, and sometimes turning wildfires or storms away from highly populated areas.
As the interconnectedness of the world grew, the number of isolated groups cut off from human aid shrank, as did chances to intervene without someone noticing.
And now, without thirteen members in the coven, there were many spells that could not be done at all, even if there was a need and they could do so without revealing themselves.
James nodded quietly and swallowed.
Lauren did not let him recover from her bombshell. “We all agree that this is an urgent need,” she said. She did not spare a glance for Mary Mitchell, and her tone suggested she would brook no argument. “Tell us what your plan is.” She gave a small smile. “I assume you have one.”
James hid his own smile as he turned to LeBlanc. “Madam, with your leave? My idea might take several minutes to explain.”
Though not formally their leader, she served as their spokeswoman and held some degree of authority over how the discussion would proceed. Since his idea was unorthodox in the extreme, he needed every iota of respectability he could garner.
The two of them had planned this in advance, and everyone knew she would say yes from the way she hesitated, drawing out the moment. If she were planning to say no, she would have said so instantly. Still, James found himself waiting anxiously for her assessment.
She smiled. “Yes, Mr. Lovecraft,” she pronounced. “Make your pitch.”
“Excellent.” James sat up a little straighter in his chair. “Society is changing around us; each day, it’s a new world out there.” His background in advertising had taught him the value of dramatic, attention-grabbing statements. “If we are not only to thrive but even exist in the decades to come, we must rebuild our ranks. We need a proper coven again, and we need apprentices to carry on our legacies.”
Mary and the other more conservative members narrowed their eyes at this. Old, stuffy, and absorbed in their own affairs, they were less than amicable to the prospect of having to accommodate newcomers.
James, however, was not prepared to stand by and watch thaumaturgy die out. “I propose a solution that is at once new and old: publishing. In this unprecedented age of literacy and with the recent advances in e-reading devices, a grimoire could be easily distributed.”
“Write a new grimoire?” Mary Mitchell objected. “That is your grand plan?” She looked at the others, contempt plain on her face. “We cannot even find new recruits, and you want to rewrite our grimoire?”
“No.” James took a deep breath. This was the place where his idea was the most unorthodox. “My plan is to release the grimoire to potential recruits. To self-publish it in the hope that some of those who find it have the will and talent to practice the spells.”
There was a long silence. Damian looked shellshocked, Lauren was sitting back in her chair with her eyes focused on the middle distance, and Mary was fuming. The others wore expressions of disbelief.
Only Mother LeBlanc seemed calm. Her half-smile adorned her face as usual, and she leaned lightly on one arm, watching the others.
“You mean,” Mary asked finally, “give out our secrets to the entire world?”
Everyone looked at James.
“Yes,” James said simply.
How do I get that book onto my reading list? Is this gamble going to pan out, or is it putting their entire way of life in danger? Find out on November 27th when How To Be A Bad Ass Bitch Book One is available for download on Amazon or your favorite digital book platform.