It’s been forever since I’ve posted something from my Witch of Atlas world. I was thinking recently about how the story began. I’ve written bits and pieces already, but mostly it’s stayed in my head. This story-fragment is part of how Amy Reed became Althea Raven.

*    *     *     *

Amy Reed crept into the city of Atlas, Texas. She arrived at that time between very late and very early, when even a busy city’s streets are near deserted. Low on money, and even lower on hope, she parked at the back of a parking lot, amid RVs and eighteen-wheelers, and slept in her car.

Something brushed against her nose, feather soft, and she jerked awake. The sun was peering over the horizon, so she’d gotten a few hours of restless sleep. In the dim light, she searched for what had woken her.

The gentle brush repeated, this time on the back of her neck, and Amy froze, visions of horror movies flashing through her head. She swallowed, and turned. Behind her, a little bird made of scraps of paper fluttered its wings.

Its beak opened, but instead of a chirp, it emitted the whispery sound of paper rustling.

Amy began to cry. “Not again…” She fled her car, the paper bird following, flinging herself into the scruffy woods backing the parking lot.

Trees rustled in the still air, as if ruffled by the wind of her passing. Finally, out of breath, she tumbled to a halt against a fallen trunk. After a moment, she straightened. The twenty-year-old witch drew in a deep calming breath.

“The power is yours. It’s under your control,” she reminded herself.

“It doesn’t look under your control,” a male voice said from the branches above her.

Amy pushed her hair, black waves in stark contrast to her exhaustion-pale skin, out of her face, and looked up.

“Ah, I see someone took you under their wings. But perhaps you weren’t ready to fly away yet, little fledgling,” the voice said.

Amy’s wintery blue eyes wavered under unshed tears, so she closed them for a long moment. When she opened them, her face was calm.

The paper bird landed on her lap, and she picked it up, running her fingers along its wings. The bird rustled, and then fell apart into a handful of trash that Amy folded and stuffed into a pocket.

“I haven’t had the power long, and it’s been a difficult journey,” Amy said, not in the tone of someone making an excuse, but of one facing difficult facts.

“I can see that,” the voice said.

“I arrived in Atlas hours ago, and I’m pretty nervous. My control still isn’t perfect. I’m Am-” She paused, fingers twisting in her hair, and then stilling in her lap. “I’m Althea. What are you called?”

The leaves rustled, and a creature emerged from hiding, a cat-like creature with bird wings and a human face. His eyes glowed teal in the shadows of the trees. “I am called Saar, fledgling.”

“Nice to meet you,” Amy said. She touched the purse slung across her chest, producing a papery rustle that reminded her of a little bird. Inside were papers to change her name, and the first thing she would do in town was send them in. And then she would have to find someplace to spend the night other than her car, if she could afford it, and a job.

She was only a half-trained witch, and she knew that Atlas, which sprawled over the intersection of two ley lines, lines carrying magic across the world, would have better-trained witches than her.

But it had only been twenty-one years since a pixie had accidentally revealed the existence of the fey, magical creatures from other worlds, on live TV. In that time, humans had struggled with the knowledge that we weren’t alone, and then with the discovery that some humans could wield magic, too.

Witches begged and borrowed, and the very brave or stupid stole, magic from the fey. Learning was haphazard and dangerous, as a mis-drawn spell glyph could maim or kill.

She had some magical education, which was more than many witches had. She would learn, and grow, and prove her parents wrong. The thought of never returning to her home town, of never seeing her family again, made her heart hurt. But she had barely spoken to them since two years ago, when the powers she’d been fiercely suppressing broke free, revealing to her conservative parents that they harbored a magic-user in their midst.

They’d been convinced that prayer could fix her, and finally she had stopped trying to argue that she didn’t need to be fixed. Instead, she pushed herself to near-breaking to graduate college, and run away. No, she decided, reaching up to weave a small braid in her hair, and tying it off with a little piece of ribbon from the former paper bird, she was done running away. She had run to something—her future, and who knew what it might bring?

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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