Chapter 1: Dìon
“I don’t know why my mother decided to name me after the first woman executed for witchcraft in England,” she said, dumping herbs into the bubbling cauldron in front of her. “It sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy just waiting to happen.”
The cat meowed inquisitively.
“It’s Agnes,” she replied, only feeling a little bit strange for talking to a cat. “Agnes Sawyer Key. But you can call me Sawyer.” She poured a carefully measured spoonful of bat’s blood into the cauldron. “Agnes Waterhouse lived in England in the sixteenth century. She was hanged for allegedly bewitching somebody. I know people aren’t really murdered for witchcraft anymore, but it’s still awful to think about. Why couldn’t I have been named after a cool witch? Like Samantha or Rowena? I don’t really want to be hanged for being a witch like Agnes was.”
The cat tipped its head.
“I know they’re not real witches, but they’re still cool.” The cauldron flashed bright green as Sawyer added a pinch of bone dust. “Okay, I’m nearly done.”
She added another pinch and gave it a big stir with the iron ladle. Sawyer sucked in a breath, closing her eyes. She allowed the air to fill her up. Focusing on the magic that flowed through her veins, on the warmth inside of her chest.
The world exploded with light. Sawyer cried out and reared back, arms flying up to protect her face as a bright red mushroom cloud flashed above the cauldron. A boom jolted the frame of the house and shook the foundation all around her, no doubt rattling the entire street. When her ears stopped ringing, Sawyer lowered her arms. She grimaced.
“Well. That wasn’t right.”
The cauldron looked a bit worse for wear. The bookcases that lined each of the attic walls stood half-empty now; books and boxes toppled to the wooden floors. The window on the far side of the room had a spider web of cracks running along the glass. The door barely clung to its hinges. The cat poked its head out from beneath one of the bookcases, green eyes glaring irritably in her direction. Sawyer sighed. “I know, I know. I don’t know what I did wrong.” Chirping like it agreed, the cat slunk out of its hiding space and began to groom its fur, dark brown like Sawyer’s own hair, but with a smattering of white and gray spots along its chest.
At her side, Sawyer’s phone began to trill. Her mother’s photo flashed across the screen. Another sigh. “For Salem’s sake,” she muttered but plucked up her phone anyway. “Hi, Mom,” she said, watching as the cat padded forward and started pawing at the potion ingredients she had lined up alongside the smoking cauldron. She quickly waved it away. She didn’t need any of them to get knocked over and cause another explosion. “Just calling to say hello?”
“Agnes,” her mom snapped, making Sawyer wince. She hadn’t been lying when she told the cat she hated her actual name. “What have you done this time?”
“What makes you think it was me?”
“Because it is always you,” was the reply, and even through the phone’s tinny speaker, Sawyer could hear her mother’s frustration. She had a point, though, didn’t she? Sawyer truly was the root of any magical disturbances in Northfalls. This was her fifth explosion. She had caused frogs to rain from the sky, a tornado made of rose thorns, and one time she had even made their neighbor Ms. Beck fall in love with a man who most definitely was not her husband. It wasn’t Sawyer’s finest moment. Nor was it Ms. Beck’s.
Remembering the phone clutched in her hand, Sawyer swallowed back a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry, Mom,” Sawyer said shakily, shoulders sinking as she hung her head. “I’ll try harder. I promise.”
“See that you do.”
The line clicked off, and Sawyer drowned in the silence that followed.