A Single Drop Of Blood

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This is the tenth part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here. Or find the story index at the top of the page.


There was nothing for Damon to do but sit and wait and to see what happened. To see if the chance arose in which he could attempt an escape. It was clear from what the diminutive, sharp-toothed fellow had said he wouldn’t be coming out of this alive. And, to make matters worse, no-one knew where he was.

Looking about him, he could tell he was in one of the rooms beneath the fake mausoleum. And, to confirm his suspicions, as if after all he had heard and witnessed wasn’t proof enough, there was a newness to his prison that you just simply didn’t find with ancient tombs. There was no dust on the floor. No cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. The smell of damp and decay was missing too. The stone floor wasn’t cold from the earth beneath it, and the one wall Damon could touch, the one he was now leaning against, did not run with damp.

The sunbeams strengthened as the day wore on. Then they faded as noon turned to afternoon, and then afternoon to evening. When the sunlight had been exchanged for the softer silver of moon and stars, noise from the other side of the door grabbed his attention. He stood up.

It was Crispin. ‘Come along, dear brother. Your presence is required. And don’t try anything silly. I don’t think you would enjoy another bash over the head, given you’re having a bit of trouble with healing, so I hear.’

‘You really are detestable,’ Damon said with contempt.

‘Spare me the lecture.’

‘As if I would bother wasting my last breath on you.’

Damon was in fact pleased to be leaving his small cell. The only way he had any hope of getting out of this was to play along until things turned in his favour. And he held on to that thought like it was a life preserver, because if he let it go, there would be no question of the outcome. He would be as dead as a dodo.

Surprisingly, Crispin led Damon up a set of stone steps, which led into the ground level room of the imitation sepulchre. The room was in darkness except for the dozens of candles which were lit around the room. Yet they seemed negligible against the blackness. Shadows rose up around the room. The corners were pitch. If was there was anything hiding in them, Damon would not have known.

In the centre of the room was a stone altar. On the flat top sat a closed book; beneath on a second marble bed and surrounded on three sides by carved pillars, was the prostrate figure of the small, ancient creature who appeared to be master of these proceedings. Around this altar, at a distance of perhaps a metre and a half, was a circle of candles.

‘Master, it is time to wake,’ Crispin said. His voice was quiet but it echoed around the chamber.

Slowly the figure rose and announced, ‘It is time. Bring our…guest.’

Damon was led to the altar, but not before he had to carefully step over the barrier of burning candles. On the other side of the stone platform waited the little man who reverently laid his hand upon the book.

Now that Damon was closer he could see that the book was no ordinary book, for there was no cover to it as such. You could not simply lift the cover and turn the pages, the latter being also concealed somehow. And, the tome appeared to be covered in a thick, dense, dark fur.

‘I have waited a very long time to see what secrets lie within,’ the man Crispin had called Master said. ‘And now, my wait is over.’

‘If you don’t know what’s in it, how do you know you want to open it?’ Damon asked, looking aghast at the horrid item.

‘Be quiet or I shall silence you, demon. Now, to unlock the grimoire we need one drop of our sacrifice’s blood.’

Damon felt all eyes turn to him, and knew something very bad was about to happen.

To be continued…

To read Part 11, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 10 – A Grim Grimoire

What’s In A Name?

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This is the ninth part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here. Or find the story index at the top of the page.


A swift and sudden crack to the back of Damon’s head removed any possibility of argument, contradiction or recrimination. His world went dark to the sound of Crispin commenting,

‘He always was easy to manipulate. By me, at any rate, if no one else.’

‘You did well,’ the thin, raspy voice said.

Then Damon heard no more…

It was daylight when he regained consciousness. Hazy shafts of golden light broke through cracks in the ceiling, highlighting dust motes as they swirled through the air in a downward direction.

As Damon righted himself and sat up, there wasn’t any doubt he was very angry with himself. He should have known. Crispin could never be trusted. And did he not protest too much at approaching the mausoleum?

Shouldn’t we be running as fast as we can in the opposite direction? Hadn’t those been his very words?

It’s not even if Damon had fallen for one of his tricks. He had simply not been paying Crispin enough attention. His inner and outward focus had been on the mausoleum, not on his brother.

His head hurt terribly. Gingerly he rubbed the point of impact. It wasn’t suppose to hurt so. One of the upsides to being a demon was a faster-than-human rate of healing, yet something seemed to be impeding it.

‘I’m so sorry about all of this,’ the same thin, raspy voice said who had been speaking to Crispin.

Slowly Damon turned to look in the shadowy corner and out stepped a small, stooped figure. It was only when they crossed into the light of a sunbeam did he realise his size and bent frame was through age. The little man must have been five hundred years old, if he was a day.

‘I don’t really think you’re sorry at all.’

‘Oh I am, only not enough to stop what we’ve set in motion.’

‘Which is?’

‘Ah, that would be telling.’

‘I don’t like surprises.’

‘I don’t care.’ His old wizened face broke out into a wicked smile, showing Damon a mouth full of small, sharp, pointed teeth.

‘Who are you?’

‘Damon, I think you will understand if I decline to reveal myself to you at this time.’

‘Names have power.’

‘Indeed they do. I know yours. I am not foolish enough to let you know mine.’

Damon stood. The world was a little unsteady beneath his feet, but he worked to keep his balance. The only problem was that no matter the direction he attempted to advance in, he could not move more than three steps without hitting an invisible barrier.

‘I see you’ve found my insurance policy.’ The old man chuckled quietly. ‘You see, Damon, we’ve been planning this for a very long time. No short cuts and meticulous preparations will see that I gain all I want on Samhain.’

‘Which is?’

‘Wait for the surprise you don’t want,’ he suddenly snapped, his thin, wheezing words replaced with a venomous snarl. Then, his voice returning to the softer, weaker timbre, as if his short outburst had cost him a lot in terms of energy and effort, ‘The Devil’s in the detail. Isn’t that what they? I can promise you, ever detail has been precisely determined.’

Damon felt a chill tickle the hairs on the back of his neck. Then he watched helplessly as the old fellow shuffled away, back into the shadows. However, before he had gone he said, ‘I would tell you to get some sleep, but soon you’ll have plenty of time for that.’

A little more shuffling, then a very heavy door banged closed and Damon was left alone to ponder his predicament.

To be continued…

To read Part 10, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 9 – The Devil’s In The Detail

Something Strange, Something New

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This is the eighth part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here.


‘Where did that come from?’ Damon asked no-one in particular as they crested the hill they had been climbing. On the other side, the cemetery plateaued, the ground only ever-so-slightly undulating.

The clouds above had parted, and the moon’s silver light cascaded down in wide illuminating beams. One of these moonbeams landed squarely on a building in the middle of Damon’s field of vision. A building he had never seen before. A bone house in the style of a Greek temple.

‘That wasn’t there last night,’ he commented.

‘Looks like it’s Victorian, Damon. Therefore, I would guess it’s been there a while.’

Damon turned narrowed eyes upon his brother. He did not appreciate his sarcastic tone. ‘I know how old it looks but it wasn’t there last night. It’s never been there before.’

‘Right, right. Bone houses just sprout willy-nilly out of the ground.’

Damon ignored Crispin’s quip. This was just another strange thing in a long line of strange things, that alone would probably not have bothered him so. Yet, when all these events combined, the implications would have stopped Damon’s heart if it was still beating.

He had been told stories of gravestones and burials that materialised out of thin air, and none of them heralded anything good and they all ended badly. From what he had learnt, they were used to cover portals, the idea being they were hidden in plain sight. And though this didn’t bode well, it wasn’t something he could turn his back on.

He took a deep breath in and squared his shoulders. Then he started to head in the direction of the marble structure.

‘Er…where are you going?’

Damon pointed at the mock Greek temple. ‘There. It’s a portal. It has to be.’

‘Shouldn’t we be running as fast as we can in the opposite direction, then?’

‘You can if you want.’

‘And leave you alone to deal with it? Wouldn’t be really fair now, would it.’

‘It didn’t stop you in Venice when I was being chased by that angry mob.’

‘You’re not still harping on about that are you? Shouldn’t you have forgiven me by now? Shouldn’t you have forgotten it?’

‘Crispin. Be quiet or go away.’

They reached the impressive building and the brothers climbed the slippery steps, covered with fallen autumn leaves. Damon pushed at the stout wooden doors but they did not budge. So he was left with no option but to announce his presence. He balled his hand into a fist and rapped his knuckles against the dark timber.

Knock knock.

The sound echoed through the quiet night. Not even the sound of the Witches Brew concert reached them where they stood.

Then suddenly, the sound of movement could be heard on the other side of the door.

‘Who’s there?’ a thin, raspy voice asked. ‘Is that you, Crispin? Have you returned?’

Damon slowly turned to face his brother.

Crispin was casually leaning against a stone pillar, checking his fingernails for dirt. ‘I would say I’m sorry, brother, but that would be lying. I know how much you hate lies.’

To be continued…

To read Part 9, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 8 – Knock Knock

Dressed Up To The Nines

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This is the seventh part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here.


‘So what you been doing for two hundred and fifty years?’ Damon asked his brother.

Crispin shrugged. ‘You know…stuff.’

‘What sort of stuff?’

‘You know,’ Crispin repeated. ‘Same old, same old.’

Damon was about to sigh, when he realised he wasn’t particularly interested in hearing what Crispin had spent the last two and half centuries doing. No doubt it was nefarious. No doubt some of it at least, was criminal.

They fell once more into silence, though it could hardly be described as companionable. Yet it wasn’t too long before the sound of rattling could be heard somewhere amongst the gravestone to their right.

Damon halted and peered into the gloom and a moment later the cause of the noise became apparent. ‘Oh no,’ Damon whispered.

‘Oh Damon, darling!’ a call went up.

‘Oh no,’ he whispered again. They had been spotted.

Damon stayed on the path and groaned audibly as a bright, white skeleton dressed up to the nines, wobbled unsteadily towards them. The skeleton was wearing a wig of long, flowing blond hair and a long, bone-hugging dress in blood red. Around her neck vertebrae was a feather boa and on top of her head, a top hat, positioned precariously atop the wig, at what could only be described as a jaunty angle.

‘How is my favourite demon?’ she cooed, before realising her favourite demon was not alone. ‘And who is your handsome friend? Won’t you introduce us?’ She offered Crispin what she hoped was an alluring smile but it was nothing short of sinister.

Crispin, who had seen a lot of the world of the living and the dead, instinctively took a step backwards.

‘Crispin, this is Shelly the Skelly. Shelly, this is my brother, Crispin.’

‘Your brother! Oh how divine!’ she crooned. ‘How very nice to meet you,’ she said, offering Crispin a hand encased in a black glove that reached up to the elbow.

Crispin declined to shake it, kiss it, hold it, look at it, and Damon suppressed a chuckled. Crispin it seemed, was a little frightened of Shelly.

‘Umm…don’t we have a thing…’ he mumbled, turning to Damon. ‘Better go and see what it was, eh? Can’t have people screaming without good cause, even if we are in a cemetery. We better be off,’ he directed at Shelly, taking another step away from her.

‘But you can’t go yet! We’ve only just met! And Damon, you haven’t even commented on my dress!’ She turned around, before looking over her shoulder at the brothers. Then, with a hand on her hipbone, she asked, ‘Do my bones look big in this? It’s my outfit for the Halloween party at the college down the road. I thought I’d have a bit of fun with them.’ She would have winked if she could, but she couldn’t. All she managed to do was dislocate one side of her jaw in the attempt.

‘You look lovely as always, Shell. The colour really suits you. I’m sure you’ll knock ’em dead.’

And with that, he waved and then continued on his way. Crispin ran on ahead.

To be continued…

To read Part 8, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 7 – Do My Bones Look Big In This?

An Uneasy Reunion

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This is the sixth part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here.


‘Now, now. There’s no need to be like that.’

‘You’re not supposed to be here,’ Damon reiterated.

‘And yet here I am.’

Silence engulfed them. It had been a long time since Damon had last seen Crispin. 1797, he thought. Crossed words and then nothing for centuries. To be honest, he would have preferred it if things had stayed that way.

Damon had found himself a demon purely by accident. Crispin on the other hand, liking the sound of living forever, or at least if not that long, longer than humans usually lived, had sought out a way of lengthening his allotted time himself. And things had gone downhill from there…for the both of them.

Finally, Damon asked, ‘What are you doing here?’

‘My girlfriend got some tickets to a gig she was just dying to see.’

‘And you thought you would pop by the cemetery afterwards?’

‘No. The music concert is down there. Witches Brew will be playing in a bit.’

Suddenly the bright lights made sense. Witches Brew were a motley band of undead musicians who liked to blend the old with the new. The old being medieval love ballads and the new, disco balls. They also had a habit of turning up at places unannounced. Damon was not a fan.

‘Nobody told me. They haven’t a permit.’ Damon was about to say more, a lot more, when the second scream of the night interrupted his thoughts. He was needed elsewhere.

Damon started to walk back the way he had come, completely ignoring his brother. A moment later and Crispin was walking alongside him.

‘Where are you going?’

‘To do my job.’

‘Can I come?’

Damon gave Crispin a sly look. Why was he trying to be so friendly after all this time? ‘I thought you came here with a girlfriend?’

‘I did but I don’t want to listen to that rubbish. I’ve heard it a thousand times and those dreary songs never get any better. So what are we going to do?’

‘Find out what that scream was.’

‘Really? You hear screams in a cemetery all the time. What’s the point?’

Damon sighed. Why was it no-one really understood the intricacies of his job? ‘Something untoward might be happening.’

‘And?’

‘And it’s not right.’

‘But we’re in a cemetery, Damon. If you can’t scream – or make someone else scream – in a cemetery, where can you?’

‘Honestly, Crispin. You’ve not changed at all. Your understanding of right and wrong is as muddled as it’s always been.’

To be continued…

To read Part 7, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 6 – Witches Brew

Bright Lights and Icy Air

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This is the fifth part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here.


Damon left the tent to the accompaniment of Tabitha’s protestations at being booked. But before he went, he offered her a word of warning: if her remedy failed to return the squirrel to its pre-spell proportions, she would be seeing another yellow card. And that meant banishment from the cemetery over Samhain.

Damon didn’t like to be stern, but he knew he had to be. In his position, any sign of weakness would be exploited, and if the wrong elements gained an upper hand, the cemetery would become an even more dangerous place than it was already. It was his job to keep the living and the dead safe, though most days and nights it was a thankless task.

As he continued on his way, a blast of autumn chill billowed around headstones and trees without warning, buffeting the demon. Instinctively, Damon pulled his poncho closer about him. Yet this cold breeze had brought with it more than icy air. A shiver ran up his spine. It was as if someone had walked over his mausoleum. Perhaps they had.

Things were noticeably different in the cemetery that night. There was trouble on the cards, he could sense it.

Picking up his pace, he descended into The Hollow, an area of the grounds located at the bottom of several gently sloping hills. And that’s where he saw them: bright lights of all colours, shining from out of the darkness.

‘I wouldn’t go down there if I were you. Not sure you would be welcome.’ A figure stepped out from behind a big Celtic cross. ‘Hello, Damon. Long time, no see.’

Damon stared into the once familiar face of his brother. Time had changed him, but then it would have. He had been dead for quite some time before being resurrected. ‘Hello, Crispin. You’re not supposed to be here.’

To be continued…

To read Part 6, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 5 – A Familiar Face

The Answer’s In The Acorn

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This is the fourth part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here.


Tabitha led the way to her tent. She didn’t actually live at the cemetery like the majority of the residents, but then she was neither dead nor undead, but very much a live. However, she did spend a lot of time here, and if there was over-night work for her to attempt, she usually pitched her tent in one of the clearing near the woods.

‘Tea? Coffee?’ she asked over her shoulder as she unzipped the door and then cast her bag of knitting to one side.

‘I’m not here for beverages, Tabby. You promised me an explanation.’

She huffed. ‘Fair enough. But I’m in dire need of tea.’ She set the kettle on the little gas stove. Only once her drink was made did she begin her tale.

‘Samhain approaches. As you know, at this time of year, every year, I treat myself to a new spell working to add to my spell book. This latest one I found on the internet.’

Damon groaned. ‘What? You know you can’t trust anything you find on there!’

Tabitha shushed him. ‘Everything was going well…I cast my circle and called the elements and my spirits of protection…I added all the spell ingredients into my cauldron and then said the magic words…’

‘So how did it go wrong?’

‘Who says it went wrong?’

‘There is a squirrel the size of a woolly mammoth two hundred yards from where we are standing.’

‘I know that, Damon. What I meant was, perhaps the spell was simply mislabelled. Anyhoo, the furry fellow we just met wasn’t so big before the spell-casting. He was just an average sized, run-of-the-mill squirrel.’

‘So how did he get so big?’

Tabitha coughed. ‘I…er…accidentally…stole one of his acorns and he wanted it back. You see, I needed one for the spell and when I wasn’t looking he jumped into the cauldron and whoosh.’ Her arms went flying outwards to mimic the squirrel’s expansion. ‘The pesky creature broke my cauldron. It was a family heirloom.’

‘So how are you going to fix this?’

‘Do not worry, my friend. The remedy is in hand. I’ve been baking.’

‘Pardon?’

‘Soul cakes. My own recipe. Ground acorns, I think the squirrel with love them. All I need to do is wait until midnight and get a witch’s dozen of spirits to sprinkle a little soul dust on them and we’re good to go.’

Damon pulled a face. ‘That’s not what a soul cake is, Tabitha. They’re a tasty, baked, part biscuit, part cake thing, with currants made into a cross shape.’

‘You and I must work from different recipe books. Now, if all you’re going to do is tell me how to do my job – notice, I’ve never told you how to do yours – you might as well go and see what that scream was all about.’

The scream had all but been forgotten by Damon. From the back pocket of his jeans, he pulled out a little notebook, that looked awfully like the ones carried by football referees.

‘Oh, Damon, no!’ Tabitha protested. ‘You can’t book me. I’ve never been yellow carded in my life!’

‘Oh I can, and I will, and I think we can all agree, you deserve it, Tabitha,’ he said, scribbling down a few notes, before he pulled out a yellow card and showed it to her.

To be continued…

To read Part 5, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 4 – Soul Cakes

Weekend Writing Prompt #232 – Question

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in the comments.

Word Prompt

Question

Challenge

wk 232 question

The challenge is simple: each week you will be given an exact number of words you can use to write a poem or piece of prose.  You can use any format or style you like; go wherever your inspiration takes you.  The only rules are these:

  • your poem / prose must contain this week’s word (see note below).  The word does not have to count towards the exact word count total – it can be in the title, or the first letters of the lines of a poem can spell it out – you can be as creative as you want as long as it’s there somewhere.
  • the length of your poem / prose must match the number of words stated in this week’s challenge.  No more.  No less.
  • A note on the word: you can use any variation of the word (for example: call, calls, calling, called etc).  If you find you are struggling to use this week’s word you may substitute it for a synonym – just include a note to explain the swap.  Remember, this is supposed to be fun! 🙂

Can’t wait to read what you have come up with!


Whispers and Echoes – is an online journal of short writing – read it here *
Check out the journal’s full submission guidelines here

Weekend Writing Prompt Year 1 Anthology: Outcast and Other Words – Read for free here

What The Witch Couldn’t Say

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This is the third part in an ongoing serial I’m writing. To read from the beginning, click here.


Damon the Demon took great pride in his job as the cemetery’s custodian. He could never have claimed his job was an easy one, but he could guarantee each night he worked would be different from the one before and the one that came after which was something he relished.

Usually.

And, during the course of his work, he met a great variety of beings. Some living. Some dead. Some good. Some bad. But they were all interesting in their way – a point which was becoming very clear as he had begun writing his memoirs the previous year.

And yet…

He had followed the path he was on a little way, before it split, after which he took the right hand branch, believing the scream he had heard earlier (but, rather worryingly, hadn’t heard since) had come from that direction. Here, great stone memorials to the dead loomed out of the ground, and towered overhead, which was probably how he had missed it.

It being a very wide, very tall and very furry squirrel.

With jaw falling open, he stopped dead in his tracks and stared up at the thing in surprise and horror, which only grew in magnitude as the creature spotted him and leaned down for a closer inspection.

Footsteps clattered on the path behind him, accompanied by a frantic shouting. ‘Wait! Stop! Damon, please!’

It was Tabitha.

Damon wanted to turn to face her, to give her a piece of his mind, but he was rooted to the spot, unable to move, unable to speak.

‘Ah, you found my new…friend.’

‘Friend? What did you do?’ he growled through gritted teeth.

Tabitha giggled nervously but said nothing.

‘You could have warned me.’

‘I didn’t really think you were going to walk off and leave me,’ she answered sheepishly.

‘You watched me walk away. Surely you were not that cross. You could have said something.’

‘Such as?’

‘I don’t know! How about, “Earlier today I tried out a new spell and wickedly conjured up a gigantic squirrel!” I think that covers it, don’t you?’

‘You wouldn’t have believed me. Now, if you would just like to step backwards slowly…yes…that’s it…the poor thing gets a little jumpy if you make any sudden movements. Then I’ll explain everything.’

To be continued…

To read Part 4, click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 3 – A Wicked Conjuring

Not While I’m Working

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To read the first part of this story, A Suitable Job For A Monster, please click here.


A scream in a cemetery could mean all sorts of things. Sometimes ghastly, gruesome things. Other times it might herald nothing more than a practical joke.

Damon, scratching his chin, mused that in the days running up to Samhain, it could be either. So there was only one way to find out which one it was that night. He was going to have to investigate.

The scream had come from Damon’s left, so he headed off in that direction at a brisk pace. The path he was on took him down a steadily sloping hill and then meandered through a small clump of trees which was lovingly referred to by the residents as “The Wee Woods” because of its size. On the other side, the landscape opened up once more to reveal a densely-packed swathe of memorials, dating to some of the earliest – and grandest – burials.

‘Are you going to walk past me without even a hello or a nod?’ a sulky voice said from out of the gloom.

Damon stopped and turned. Sitting on top of a long, flat tomb of marble was Tabitha Stephenson, all dressed up like the witch she was.

‘I thought we were friends,’ she pouted.

‘We are.’

‘I thought we were best friends.’

‘We are.’

‘I thought we were besom buddies.’

Damon rolled his eyes. Tabitha was easily offended and knew how to hold a grudge. ‘I heard a scream. Thought I better check it out.’

‘There’s always screaming round here. It’s a cemetery. What do you expect?’

‘This close to The Veil thinning…it could be serious. And it is my job.’

‘But you could spare a few minutes to exchange pleasantries with an old pal.’

‘Not while I’m working. Someone could very well be getting murdered as we speak.’

‘Suit yourself,’ she muttered, switching on a little lantern and pulling her knitting from her bag. ‘Run off and save the world. Don’t spare a thought for a lonely friend.’

‘Tabitha-‘

‘Go.’

And, believing a time-sensitive issue might be unfolding as he stood there wasting time, Damon did just that.

However, he didn’t get very far…

To be continued…

To read Part 3 click here


Written for: 13 Days of Samhain vol ii: Day 2 – Besom Buddies