2 Spells Too Many
You know you’re an unhappy camper when you’re stuck in traffic behind a truck filled with manure. At least I was. That stench!
“How much farther?” I asked my navigator, trying to only breathe through my mouth.
“Another few hours,” she hissed.
I should probably explain: my navigator, the only one who has any idea where we’re headed, is a Siamese cat possessed by the spirit of my witchy ex-mother-in-law, Mildred Bloodworth. She is, in magical lingo (which I’m just learning), a “maddener”. It’s an appropriate name considering she drives me crazy.
You’re probably wondering why I’m traveling with her considering I can’t stand her company. Basically, it’s self-preservation on my part. If I can right some of her wrongs, she won’t haunt me for eternity. Talk about motivation.
“I’m stopping within the next hour,” I told her, glancing in my rearview mirror. I was being followed by a beat-up seafoam green RV and a sleek silver Airstream. “We’re stopping.”
“You can’t,” Mildred argued. “We need—”
“I am not parking this monster at night.” The last time I’d done that, I’d run over a body. Thankfully, the guy was already dead, but still. I didn’t want a repeat performance.
“What if there are no campgrounds?” the cat challenged, her blue eyes flashing.
“I’m not opposed to boondocking.” Boondocking, since I’m not only learning magical lingo but that of my fellow RV drivers, is when you camp somewhere that’s not a campground…like in a rest stop or superstore parking lot.
“Fine,” Mildred huffed, turning her back on me and curling into a ball.
“That’s a wise decision on your part,” Conroy, my helper, piped up. He’s a metal and stone owl pendant that hangs around my neck. “Look what happened the last time.”
A lot had happened last time. I’d been a murder suspect, met a hot magician, Sol, who was really a magically castrated wizard or something; realized I possess and can use magic (though I’m still not sold on the whole idea of my being a Royal); performed a ritual on a tailless squirrel so he could become human again and reunite with his love; and almost been killed not only by a regular human, but also some magic stealers called Cullers.
The Cullers had been at Raven’s Nest campground to get a young boy, Richie, who now rode in the green RV directly behind me. We’d barely been able to stop them. We being myself and Sol, who, when drained of magical energy has an unfortunate habit of turning into a white rabbit on the verge of death. If it hadn’t been for Marco’s well-timed distracting bird calls, I could have died twice. That’s who was in the silver Airstream, bringing up the rear: Marco, a former wizard’s assistant, and Sol.
Seeing a sign for a superstore at the next exit, I put on my blinker and led our ragtag caravan off the highway. I needed a break from Mildred, and I was pretty sure Sol needed one from Marco’s endless stories.
I maneuvered slowly through the crowded parking lot until I reached the outskirts, where there was room for all of our vehicles to park. As I turned off Princess’s engine, I sighed with relief. Driving the camper van was stressful enough, but doing it while constantly making sure the other two were keeping up was downright exhausting.
I opened the door, ready to climb out and stretch my legs.
“You have to turn.”
I let out a startled yelp as Sol appeared beside me wearing his top hat. He does that a lot, seems to pop up out of nowhere. Normally, I wouldn’t mind an attractive guy appearing in my orbit, but he does have a tendency to piss me off with his know-it-all magicness.
“I’m in the lines,” I said defensively. I’d taken care to pick a pull-through spot so that I didn’t have to back in and embarrass myself.
“We need to circle the wagons.”
“We don’t have wagons,” I felt the need to point out. “Plus, I’m no geometry whiz, but I think the best we can do with three is make a triangle…no circles for us.”
He frowned at me, the magical lavender shimmer that surrounded him pulsing with annoyance. “You know what I mean.”
“What if I don’t want to?” I made the mistake of looking into his dark gaze and a hot flush rushed through my body, incinerating nerve-endings.
His gaze narrowed. I wasn’t sure if it was due to my flippant response or if my shimmer was darkening from the heat that filled me.
He took a deep breath, then let out a slow controlled sigh. “Look,” he said in an overly patient voice, “I get that Bloodworth has been driving you nuts all day, but could you please just do this one thing for me? I have reasons for making the request.”
Crossing my arms, I said, “And if you’d shared them…or if you’d said please at the outset, I would have gladly cooperated.”
“Ravena, would you please turn your vehicle where I direct you?” His smile was so fake and tight that I thought it might crack his face.
“Gladly,” I responded in kind.
He stepped away, and I slammed my door shut and undertook the difficulty of maneuvering the camper where he wanted.
“You are a terrible driver,” Mildred mused as it took me a dozen attempts to do what Sol wanted.
I considered grabbing the spray bottle I kept handy and giving her a squirt just to be spiteful.
When I’d finally parked to Sol’s satisfaction, I hopped out of the camper and closed the door, glad to be away from the cat’s commenting.
“Hey, Smoosher lady!” Richie yelled, jumping out of the green camper.
That’s the nickname the little boy had given me for running over the body. Smoosher lady. Classy.
“I told you not to call her that,” Karen, his mother, told him. She offered me an apologetic smile for her son’s antics.
“It’s okay,” I assured her.
She looked drained, but Richie was full of energy.
“Let’s go!” He grabbed her hand and tugged her in the direction of the store.
“Wait,” she snapped at him. “The adults are talking.”
Marco emerged from his Airstream and surveyed the scene. “Not the most ideal camping spot, but it does offer a kitschy suburban milieu.”
Shrugging, I said, “I was getting tired.”
I felt Sol’s eyes on me, assessing.
“Me too,” Karen murmured.
“We’re getting pizza!” Richie announced excitedly.
“Birthday pizza,” Karen explained, taking her son’s hand. “We’ll bring back enough for everyone.” They began to walk toward the store.
“I’ll come with you,” Marco announced, hurrying after them.
Sol and I watched them go. Then he said, “Walk with me.” He quickly added, “Please.”
We began to stroll around the lopsided triangle formed by the campers. I didn’t understand why he wanted me with him, or why we couldn’t just talk standing still.
“Where are we headed?” he asked.
I shrugged. “She won’t tell me. All I know is it involves kissing a frog.”
He gave me a strange look. “A toad?”
“Nope, she specifically said a frog.”
“That she specifically did not say.” Noticing a black feather on the asphalt, I bent down to pick it up. The last one I’d found had come in really handy in my fight against a Culler, so I stuck it in my back pocket.
Sol watched me curiously but didn’t comment. Instead, he asked, “What color is Richie’s shimmer?”
I frowned. “Orange.” All non-magical people had orange shimmer. Most magical people were blue. Sol was lavender. “You can’t see it?”
“I can see it, but he’s on the cusp of the change. I thought maybe you’d spot it first.”
Not liking the sound of that, I asked, “What change?”
We started another loop around the campers.
“Your redia hasn’t explained?”
“She’s a terrible driver,” Conroy, my pendant, said. “I didn’t want to distract her.”
“Shut up,” I told the owl. “You try to drive with a maddener yowling at you.”
Sol chuckled. “Why do you think the Cullers wanted him?”
“I dunno. They sacrifice little boys on an altar or something?” I guessed.
“It’s his birthday,” Sol said, shaking his head. “He’s coming into his power.”
An odd feeling shot through me at his words. I stopped walking, forcing him to do the same and face me. “What power?”
The rest of his sentence was drowned out as a half dozen engine-revving motorcyclists pulled into the lot, close to the store.
Their shimmers were neon orange, indicating their emotions were high.
I glanced nervously at them.
“They’re harmless,” Sol said.
“They’re coming back.” I pointed to Karen, Richie, and Marco headed toward us.
“I bet Marco forgot his wallet,” Sol muttered.
My skin prickled and suddenly it was hard to breathe. I swayed unsteadily, trying to catch my breath.
Sol grabbed my shoulder, the heat of his touch scalding me through the fabric. “Ravena?”
“Something’s wrong,” I gasped.
Frowning, he studied the bikers. “They’re not doing anything except acting like idiots.”
As I bent over, hands on knees, desperately trying to take in air, I dimly heard Richie yell, “Is Smoosher lady sick?”
I glanced up long enough to see the three hurrying toward us, concern on all their faces.
The pressure on my lungs doubled just as I heard another roar over the engines. Everyone in the parking lot turned, searching for the source.
That’s when the screams of terror began.