Ritual Space

By: Viola Grace

An Obscure Magic Book 4

Chapter One

Adrea worked to stock the shelves with the recently dried herbs that she had painstakingly prepared. The bell over the door chimed with perky insistence.

Adrea screwed a smile on her face and descended from the ladder. “Good morning, what can I get for you?”

When Adrea got a look at her client, she winced.

“It is that bad?” The woman’s voice warbled from beneath skin turned toad green.

Adrea tilted her head. “Do you have any of the original substance?”

The woman reached into her purse. “I bought it near the old quarter.”

Adrea opened it and sniffed, jerking her head back at the pungent odour. “Okay, that is an easy fix.”

She gathered a bowl and got back on the ladder. With quick and economical movements, she gathered the ingredients for the salve that would restore the woman’s skin.

Worts and weeds went into the bowl in quantities that she carefully measured after eight years of working in Foxes Tea and Herb Shop.

The bowl was polished wood, and scrubbing them out and oiling the work bowls was one of her evening duties. It was a neutral substance and would not alter the effects of the herbs.

When she had collected what she needed and returned to the counter, she picked up a glass pestle and ground the herbs into a fine powder.

“Does it smell?” Her client looked nervous.

“Like peppermint and chamomile.” Adrea reached for some of the essential oils, and she mixed them in.

When the paste was mixed, Adrea grabbed a spoonful of the neutral face-cream base and mixed it all together before scraping every bit of the cream into a small screw-top container.

“That will be fifty dollars. Take it next door to Leda and give her the prescription.”

The woman nodded eagerly and handed over the cash.

Adrea got her the change and slipped the small container into a paper bag before writing a prescription with the details of the ingredients. “Leda, next door to the left. Express Enchantments. She will have you out the door in a few minutes.”

The woman nodded and clutched the bag to her chest as she nearly sprinted out the door.

Adrea shook her head and sighed. That was a rough one, but folks tended to get what they paid for in some of those old-quarter shops.

The bell rang again, and she looked up. She didn’t need to ask; with a bit of flair, she measured out a series of herbs and set water to boil.

The elderly woman took a seat in the teashop portion of the space and leaned over, “You are looking cheerful today, Adrea.”

“I am always cheerful when you are here, Miss Crathmore.”

“You know I have told you to call me Milly.”

“I know.” She winked. “And I have told you not to call me cheerful; it makes me look less than serious.”

She poured the water into the pot containing her herb selection and set the pot and a teacup on a tray with a small container of honey and a spoon.

She carried the tea over to Miss Crathmore. Her high school teacher was looking spry for a woman in her nineties.

The tray was settled, and Adrea was heading back to the counter when agony ripped through her. She might have screamed, she tried to scream, but pinpoints of fire assaulted her body.

Miss Crathmore shouted, Adrea heard a phone being dialled and everything went dark.

The hospital was cold, sterile, and Adrea felt perfectly fine. She was laying in the bed, and to her less-than-impressed gaze, her parents were in the room.

Her father looked furious. “I can’t believe that you did this, Adrea.”

Her mother looked resigned. “You should have told us about this, Addy.”

“About what? I had some kind of attack.” She swung her legs out of the bed and got to her feet. She wasn’t even on any kind of IV.

Her mother reached to help her, but her father held his wife back. Adrea staggered past them and into the bathroom to wash her face. She leaned down, splashed cold water on her face, and then, she stood up to glare at herself.

She nearly fainted again. Her skin had lost all traces of a tan, her hair was snowy white instead of honey brown, and her eyes had gone from chocolate to vivid blue. She looked like her great aunt and namesake, Neadra. That could only mean one thing. Neadra was dead.

She wobbled back to the bed and sat down.

Her father scowled. “How long have you known about this, Adrea?”

“About what?”

“About you being Neadra’s inheritor? The magic was supposed to come to me as her next of kin.”

Adrea closed her eyes and took an inventory of her body. She felt miles away.

“Dad, the space can only be inherited by a woman. You know that.”

He jolted. “You are lying.”

A terrible sense of calm came over her. “I am telling the truth. Neadra told me that little tidbit when I was thirteen. I am surprised you didn’t know, as you seem to be so sure of everything else.”

Adrea looked at her parents and saw the small, ineffectual being who was her father, and the weasel that had birthed her. It was true enough that her mother was a ferret shifter, but looking at them through her new gaze, she could see the truth; they were grasping and greedy.

She went to the locker and grabbed her clothing, heading back to the bathroom and changing into her street clothing.

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