3 Times a Charm
You know you’re an unhappy camper when you’ve heard nothing but upspeak for hours. You know, where every sentence sounds like a question? From someone named Becky?
I was really starting to regret my decision to not follow everyone’s advice and leave the talking goldfish behind. She’d been prattling all day and now I had a headache.
“How much farther?” I asked Mildred, the Siamese cat perched on the dashboard of the RV I drove. We’d been on the highway for hours.
The cat’s blue eyes gleamed with pure evil. That’s not surprising, considering she’s my maddener, a feline possessed by the malicious spirit of my witchy former mother-in-law, Mildred Bloodworth. “Hours,” she hissed.
I shook my head. “Nope. Not doing it. I’m tired and I’m sure everyone else is, too.”
I glanced in the rearview mirror at the caravan of recreational vehicles behind me. The seafoam green monstrosity carried Karen and her son, Richie; the white and yellow one was driven by the newest addition to our traveling team, Ben; and Marco was bringing up the rear in his silver Airstream.
“I’m stopping at the next available superstore lot,” I announced.
“Last time you did that a tornado tore through the place,” Mildred reminded me.
“Yeah, but she’s permafrost now,” I countered. The Wind Eternal who’d destroyed the store had been buried in treacherous grit and then Ben, another Wind Eternal, had blown cold and hard, turning the material to permafrost.
I glanced again at the reflection of the green RV. My life is pretty complicated, but at least I don’t have magical Cullers and Elemental Eternals after me like the boy, Richie, does. I still haven’t figured out exactly why so many magickind are after the poor kid, but I’m determined to keep him safe.
As for me, I’m just trying to right some of Mildred’s wrongs so that she doesn’t haunt me for eternity. That, and I’m romantically involved with a magically-compromised wizard who’s also a dragon.
Okay, yeah, my life is pretty complicated.
“Fine,” Mildred sighed, flexing her claws. “The campground you want is at the next exit.”
I gave her the side eye. “You couldn’t have just told me that?”
“Is there a stream?” Becky glub-glubbed. “It’s kind of boring swimming in circles?”
“Please let there be a body of water,” my hod, Link, muttered in his metallic voice.
I glanced sympathetically over at him, buckled into the passenger seat. In his copper cauldron form, he was the one holding Becky. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to be rid of her.
Seeing the sign for the exit, I turned on my blinker to signal to the rest of the caravan that we were getting off the road.
I looped around the exit ramp and found myself on a bucolic country road.
“Follow the signs to Incanto,” Mildred instructed.
A couple of miles later, I turned down a gravel drive and pulled into a lovely flat field. There were no other RVs in sight, but it seemed the perfect place to spend the night.
A large violet dragon landed in front of my vehicle and then morphed into human form. Sol, his top hat at a jaunty angle, strolled over to my window. “Nice find.”
“Mildred’s suggestion,” I admitted. “Do you still want us to try to park in a triangle?”
“A triangle has three sides,” Mildred snapped. “You have four vehicles.”
Sol shrugged. “She’s not wrong. We’ll go with a square. You stay put. We’ll move the others around you.”
Mildred snickered, which sounded like a sickly wheeze coming from a cat. I knew why she was laughing. I’m a terrible driver. I once even ran a man over (thankfully, he’d been dead before I got to him). No one trusts my parking skills.
With Sol’s direction, waving his arms like he was on an airport runway, the others formed a square. Once everyone was parked, I hopped out of the pink RV I drove, eager to get away from both Mildred and Becky.
“How’d you find this place?” Karen asked, emerging from her green camper.
“I just followed the signs.”
“The ones that said Incanto,” I told her.
“I didn’t see any signs that said Incanto,” Marco revealed as he walked up to us.
Richie waved his arm overhead and jumped up and down. “I saw them! I saw them!” He’s a cute kid, but the green light glowing from his eyes was a little disconcerting. It seemed brighter than usual.
I looked to Karen to see if she seemed tired or weak. I suspected that Richie had been pulling energy from his mother and that had been what had been killing her. Then, he’d healed her. I studied her closely now, searching for a change in her energy field. I was relieved to see that her shimmer was a strong orange, as it should be with non-magical people.
“They were magical signs,” Sol told everyone as he joined us in the middle of the square. “This is a magical place.”
“Magical how?” I asked suspiciously. I was starting to embrace my magical identity, but I still wasn’t totally comfortable with all the magic stuff.
“Incanto means charm,” Marco supplied helpfully, tugging on his mustache.
I didn’t bother to ask how he knew that. He seemed to know a little bit about almost everything.
“Can I go explore?” Richie asked hopefully.
Fear flashed in Karen’s gaze, and I knew she was going to turn down his request. She was worried, rightfully so, about her son’s safety.
“I’ll go with you, buddy,” Sol said quickly, offering the boy’s mother a reassuring smile.
She nodded slowly, knowing her son would have a dragon protecting him. “I guess so, but don’t go too far.”
Richie and Sol wandered off.
“Look for a stream or pond!” I yelled after them, remembering that I owed Link a break from Becky.
“Where’s Ben?” Marco asked, looking around for the owner of the fourth side of our square. Focusing on the white camper with the yellow racing stripe, he strolled toward it. “I’ll go check on him.”
Karen surveyed the area. “Pretty spot. Want a cup of coffee?”
Something in her tone told me that she had something on her mind. I nodded, wondering what our newest problem was.