Home > Burned by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #1)(5)

Burned by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #1)(5)
Author: Jasmine Walt

In Solantha, as well as the rest of the country, anyone who is born with the power to wield magic, aside from a mage’s acknowledged offspring, either has their magic stripped from them or is executed. It’s a brutal method of control that’s existed for hundreds of years to ensure the current regime stays firmly in place, and most citizens give in rather than try to circumvent the law because the older you are when you’re found out, the greater risk of mental damage when the mages strip the magic from you.

The law that hung above my neck like a guillotine, however, doesn’t apply to the magic users who run Witches’ End. The residents of Witches End are allowed to practice their craft because they are foreigners who paid a hefty fee in order to obtain a special license to come over here. And because they aren’t actually the local mages we all love to hate, and charge quite a bit less than the ones in the Mage’s Quarter offering the same services, they do a brisk business here at the Port.

My boot-clad feet finally took me near the end of the pier, where my friend’s shop, Over the Hedge, sat nestled in between an apothecary and a fortuneteller’s shack. It was a small brick building with a glass storefront, the company name frosted on the large glass window in simple but charming letters. A small bell tinkled as I opened the door and stepped inside, and something inside me relaxed as I inhaled the scent of herbs, wax, and burnt-sugar magic.

Every piece of furniture and decoration in the place was crafted out of natural materials – from the white cotton curtains hanging in the windows, to the driftwood tables and shelves scattered throughout the shop and laden with merchandise, to the hand-woven and colorfully dyed rugs covering the wooden floorboards. The only machinery in the entire shop was the clock on the wall and the register on the counter.

Behind said register stood my friend Comenius, the shop owner, muttering under his breath and tapping at the keys. At his shoulder was Noria Melcott, a human redhead dressed in denim overalls, a loud t-shirt, and an aviator’s cap. An annoyed scowl was stamped all over her freckled face as she watched Comenius try to ring up a purchase for the customer standing in front of the counter. She was the younger sister of an Enforcer friend of mine named Annia, and a college student who paid her way between a scholarship and the wages she made working at Comenius’s shop.

“Com,” Noria huffed as she rolled her eyes. “Would you please just let me do it?”

“No,” Comenius said, his crisp, throaty Pernian accent tinged with annoyance. He impatiently brushed back his ash-blond bangs with one long-fingered hand that was stained with herb residue, drawing attention to the strong bones of his face. “I’ve been operating this register long before I hired you. I am perfectly capable of ringing up a sale.”

“Not when the machine’s broken, you’re not.”

“Look, can I just come back later and pay for this?” the customer whined. “I’m going to be late for my shift.”

Amused despite my dire mood, I leaned up against the counter and tapped the table to get Comenius’s attention. “Com, let the geeky girl have a go at it. You don’t want to lose a paying customer, do you?”

Comenius’s pale eyebrows shot up as he glanced over at me. “Naya? What are you doing here?” He took a step toward me, and Noria used the opportunity to dart in front of the register and open up the back end to unstick whatever little gears had jammed inside it. He hardly noticed though – his cornflower blue eyes were firmly fixed on mine. “You’re usually asleep this time of day… or did you get the night off?”

“Not exactly,” I muttered. All the dark emotion, which I’d pushed down somewhere behind my lower intestines, came bubbling up into my chest again. “It’s more like I took off.”

“Why would you do that?” Noria asked. The bell jingled as the customer left the shop with his purchase in hand. It had taken her about two seconds to fix the machine and ring him up – which was not surprising, as she had a real bent for machinery. Narrowing her coffee-colored eyes, she hopped up on the counter, placing herself directly between Comenius and me so she couldn’t be ignored – a tactic that was both endearing and annoying. “I can’t imagine that they’d be able to forgive you leaving in the middle of a Friday night crowd.”

“Yeah, well they’re just going to have to deal.” I shoved my hands into my hair, promptly tangling my fingers into the black ringlets. “Roanas was murdered.”

“What?” Comenius and Noria both gasped at the same time, their eyes huge.

“When?” Comenius asked.

“How?” Noria demanded.

I sighed, exhaustion dragging at the edges of my brain. I hadn’t slept in over twenty-four hours – it had been nearly midnight when I’d gotten Roanas’s cry for help – and on top of that, I was emotionally exhausted. Comenius, sensing my fatigue, had Noria lock the front door and flip the ‘OPEN’ sign around to ‘CLOSED’, then brought out a pot of his soothing tea and had us all settle into the small sitting area in a corner of the shop so I could tell them the story.

I told them everything between sips of tea, silently thanking Magorah, the All-Creator, as the herbal concoction soothed my ragged nerves and bolstered my flagging energy levels. Comenius was a hedge-witch; all of his spells, amulets, concoctions and devices were created using nature magic, and he made some of the most killer herbal remedies around, amongst other things. Hence why everything in the shop was made out of natural materials, and also the reason Comenius couldn’t operate the cash register to save his life. It was like he had an allergy to anything remotely made of machinery.

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