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An Excerpt from "The Witch of Marshallville"

One thing to know about me as a writer is that I always have several projects in the works. Of course, there may be one or two that I primarily focus on at a time, but I always have a few more on the backburner that I hop around and work on here and there.


Before "Something Wicked," I actually solely wrote fantasy. I haven't finished anything in that genre yet, but the other day I came across a series that I started and am considering going back to. I haven't settled on a name for the series as a whole (it'll be three parts), but the first installation is "The Witch of Marshallville."


It's set in a small town in the Ozarks mountains and involves seelies, wolves and all sorts of mystical beings that our heroine Rosie comes into contact with. I really fell in love with the world and characters I created and thought I'd share a chapter with you all.


This is chapter three from the novel.



Working Cover... May Change

Into the Woods to Find the Thing


Despite being out a bit later than expected the night before, Rosie was once again up early the next morning, starting her day out in much the same way. Drinking coffee on the deck as she took in the view. She had really enjoyed herself last night. It was good to catch up with everyone and she couldn’t help but make a mental note to try and spend more time with Clay and Becca before she left.


She then found herself looking off towards Witch’s Point again. Shaking her head, she turned and went back inside, stopping to check her messages before sending off a few quick replies to a couple friends back in Kansas City and then putting it aside. Best to get ready and get to work. Her grandmother certainly did have a lot of stuff to go through. And if she wanted to have any hope of potentially renting the place out on AirBnb in order to keep it, she’d need to take care of all of that before she went back to Kansas City.


After showering and eating breakfast, Rosie found herself standing in the doorway to her grandmother’s bedroom. She figured if she started here - got the worst of it out of the way in the beginning - then everything else would happen much faster. Like a bandaid. Just rip it off and deal with the pain.


But standing there, she felt tears prick her eyes even though she hadn’t started going through anything yet.


The bed was made, yet another quilt made by either her grandmother or her great-grandmother lying on top. On the nightstand was a framed photo of her grandmother and grandfather on their wedding day. She then looked over at the vanity against the wall across from the bed, seeing various bottles of cosmetics or perfume along with a jewelry box.


Rosie closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of wood, leaves and the floral perfume that her grandmother always wore - she was never able to pinpoint just which flower it was. She then opened her eyes and took a step inside. She wasn’t sure just where to start, but found herself going to the makeup vanity. Sitting down, she ran her hand lightly over the various objects, each one conjuring a clear and distinct memory in her head. There were a few photos tacked to the mirror - most of her and her mother at various ages. There were also some older black and white ones. Rosie’s eyes fell on one of her grandparents - they had to be in their 20s - next to each other as they leaned against a truck. Her grandfather’s arm was around her grandmother’s waist, though her thumbs were hooked in the belt loops of the jeans she was wearing. Her long, thick hair was pulled up in a ponytail, a kerchief tied around it. She was grinning at the camera, her eyes twinkling even through the old photograph.


Automatically, the tears started again, but Rosie attempted to swallow them. Even if she was alone, she had a job to do.


So Rosie took another deep breath and started opening drawers, looking through them to see what should be tossed and what could be kept. Most of the makeup she’d throw away, though it wasn’t as though her grandmother had a lot. The jewelry she would keep. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever wear it or what to do with it, but she couldn’t stand the idea of giving it away or selling it.


She then opened the bottom drawer of the vanity, frowning slightly as she saw a thick, leatherbound book. Rosie cautiously reached down and pulled it out, opening it.


To my dearest Rosie


Rosie’s eyes widened as she looked over the familiar handwriting. Her grandmother had written a journal. To her. She bent over, the tears blurring her sight so much that she couldn’t see to read. After a few moments, she got herself under control and looked back down at the page again.


To my dearest Rosie,

The words in this journal I should have told you in person. Much sooner than now. But I was unsure how you - or your mother - would take it. But if you are reading this, then I’m gone or unable to tell you myself.


More than just the house and the land, I am leaving with you our family legacy. A task that has been passed down from woman to woman for many generations. And I know that it may at times seem like a heavy burden to bear, but you are strong enough, my darling Rosie. And it is an important one to bear.


Rosie stopped reading, frowning as she looked up and around the room. What the hell was her grandmother talking about? She glanced at the date of the letter, noting it was written just a few months ago. She then flipped through the rest of the book, noting that each entry had been dated. Her eyes widened as she realized her grandmother had started writing it five years ago.


Quickly, she turned back to the letter at the front.


I am leaving you with all my knowledge. Knowledge that was passed on to me from my mother and her mother before that. There is more - I have kept all of their writings for you. You’ll find them on the bookshelf in my study. But start with this book first.


All the stories I have told you since you were a little girl, they are all true. I know that seems impossible, but look throughout history and you’ll see that many very possible things were once thought impossible. You come from a long line of strong women descended from the first White Witch of Marshallville - Rose Evelyn Price - the name you carry along with all the women in our family.


That’s right, not only was she real, but she is our ancestor. You can find her grave in the family plot along with all the others. Be sure to put up a stone for me next to them and bury some of my ashes there when you get a chance. And there’s a family tree in this book - be sure to add your daughter’s name there when you someday have her and keep the tradition going.


I’ll let you read her book to learn her story, but as I said, everything I told you about her is true. And she did protect the town, but mostly, she protected the spring in Witch’s Point and what lays beyond it. Yes, that’s real too. It’s hidden back in the cavern so that no one will stumble across it, and well, over the years we may have done a few extra things so that only we could get to it. It is a source of power for us, but it is also so much more.


You see, Rosie, there’s a lot more to this world than you ever thought. In fact, it’s not the only world. Now, I’m not talking about heaven or hell or any of that church bullshit. I’m talking about a world with people and things that you thought were only in your wildest dreams. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Remember those stories I used to tell you about the seelies and elves and wolves and dark witches and warlocks and all those creatures? Well, turns out those are real too. The spring is a gateway to their world. I wasn’t making up stories when I told you they would sometimes wander around in our woods. They really did, though always out of sight.


I left you the house and the land because it is now your responsibility to guard and protect it. I’m sorry that I didn’t start teaching you sooner, or even told you sooner. Your mother didn’t want me to, but since she refused the responsibility and I’m gone, it now falls to you.


I know that you can handle it. You always were smart and strong. And I know how much you love this place. That’s how I knew that you were going to be the one to take up the legacy of the Price women. You’ll make us all proud.


Good luck and I love you with all my heart,

Grams


Rosie sat back, her eyes wide as she looked up at the photos. What the absolute hell was her grandmother talking about? Had she been sicker than they thought? But she seemed absolutely fine until the stroke. She looked back down at the book, flipping through some of the pages. An old piece of thick paper fell out to the floor. Reaching down, she picked it up, unfolding it. Written down in various inks and handwriting were a list of names. Her eyes fell on the first.


Rose Evelyn Price, born March 3, 1795


Her eyes widened as she scanned down the list, finding the last three names.


Rose Evelyn Price Walsh, born April 16, 1942

Lauren Evelyn Price Byrne, born February 20, 1967

Rose Evelyn Price Moore, born May 7, 1992


It was her name. And her mother and grandmother’s names. Her heart began pounding as she looked back at the book. Part of her thought she should call her mother and ask her about it. She quickly dismissed that. Her mother would probably tell her that her grandmother had been crazy and for some reason, part of Rosie thought perhaps she wasn’t.


She quickly stood and ran out of the room, taking the stairs two at a time to get up to the study. Dropping the book and paper on her grandmother’s desk, she turned to the massive bookshelf. Scanning the books, she stopped when she found a group of leatherbound books of varying ages.


She grabbed the first one and opened it to the first page.


The Words of Ruth Evelyn Price Carter (Walsh)


Her great-grandmother. Rosie quickly grabbed and looked through a few more, finding they were all marked on the front page by the names of the women in her family. The ones on the family tree. She sat down on the floor with a loud thump, her mind reeling.


“Okay, let’s think about this rationally,” she said to herself. She looked down at the books. Could it be true? All of it? Logically, no. There was no way. Perhaps she was just from a long line of elaborate story-tellers. But what if it could be? How was she to figure that out?


She then looked up, the idea popping into her head. There was one way to find out if it was true. She could go to Witch’s Point. Find this so-called spring and investigate it for herself. She looked towards the window in the direction of the point. It seemed like the fastest way to test the theory.


Go find this spring. Then jump in and see if she ends up in another world with various magical creatures.


Rosie then started laughing loudly. Surely this was some elaborate prank that her grandmother planned to play from the dead. The laughter then died from her lips. Grams didn’t play pranks. Sure she told humorous stories. Teased. Made jokes. But pranks were not something she did. Looking towards the door again, Rosie made up her mind.


Best to go see if this was real with her own eyes.


~~~


Rosie glanced up at the quickly gathering clouds in the sky above her and then down at the mouth of the cave at Witch’s Point. It hadn’t taken her long to quickly pack up a bag and throw on her hiking boots before heading out. She wasn’t sure how long she would be looking for this spring so made sure to pack some trail mix and a water bottle. It had started out an easy hike with nice weather, but she found it odd at how quickly the clouds had shown up - especially since a storm wasn’t in the forecast. She couldn’t help but feel more and more worried as she had continued the hike, nearly stopping and going back a few times.


The sky had been clear and blue when she set out, and it only took about 20 minutes to hike to the point. Sighing, she stepped into the cave, reaching to pull out the flashlight she found in a drawer from a side pocket of her back pack. As a last minute decision, she had also tossed in her grandmother’s book, though she wasn’t quite sure why. Perhaps there could be something useful in there if she got lost. Maybe a map or whatever. Some directions.


Heaven forbid, she actually find the damn spring.


As soon as she entered the cave, the wind picked up and the rain started. Rosie spun around, her eyes wide as she watched the storm, thinking this was insanely strange. Sure, this part of the Ozarks was no stranger to freak storms. But not quite like this.


Suddenly, she heard something coming from behind her. Rosie whirled back around, the light from her flashlight bouncing around the rock walls. It had been faint, but didn’t sound like the rustling of an animal. No, it had sounded almost like a voice. As though someone called out from deep in the cave.


“Hello?! Is someone back there?” No answer, just silence. “Do you need some help?”


More silence.


Then there it was again. It sounded like… singing. Rosie took a step towards it, almost as though something had taken over her body and forced it to move, but the singing stopped. She stopped as well.


Rosie looked back towards the opening of the cave. The wind was now howling outside, whipping branches around like crazy. The rain was pouring down, pounding into the earth. There was no way she would be able to make it back to the house in this weather. Not with lightning now cracking and thunder rolling through the hills.


Like it or not, she was stuck there. With a noise that was currently giving her chills. For a moment, Rosie wondered if nature had decided it would do whatever possible to make sure that she stayed in the cave and continued looking for the spring. But that was ridiculous.


After going back and forth a few moments, Rosie straightened her back. She came here to look for a secret spring, so might as well get to it, the storm be damned.


She turned to look back into the cave. Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward, watching the light bounce off the cave walls. There was a fair amount of graffiti and remnants of whatever party the locals last held here.


“Okay! I’m coming to find you! Just… so you’re warned! Don’t hurt me! I just want to help!” Rosie shouted, feeling incredibly stupid. But at the same time, if it turned out to be someone, she didn’t want them to jump her because they felt threatened.


Cautiously, she started making her way back further into the cave, stumbling occasionally over the rough ground. The passage turned just ahead so she couldn’t see how far back it went. No one really knew how big the cave was. While a popular sport among local kids was to dare each other to go as far back as they could, no one ever made it that far. Whether it was because they thought the old witch was still alive back there waiting to kill them, or some large, dangerous creature, everyone got scared and gave up.


Of course, Rosie didn’t believe either of those options. But it didn’t stop the chill from running down her spine as she continued further back down the passage.


“Hello!” Rosie called out, coming to a stop.


She had just heard the noise again and it was a bit louder - to the point that she could no longer deny the fact that there was indeed something in the cave besides herself. A shiver of fear went through her and for a moment, she contemplated turning around and going back. This was incredibly foolish. She was far from town up in the mountains in a cave. No one knew she was here. She had no weapon.


If she was hurt, murdered or died in some terrible accident, it would probably take them weeks to find her, if they even thought to look here at all.


But yet, something propelled her forward. Her feet began moving again. Right, she had her phone. Surely she could somehow get back to the cave entrance to call for help if she needed. Though she couldn’t remember how the reception was up here.


Rosie kept going for what felt like hours, but probably wasn’t. Farther and farther into the cave, thankful that she hadn’t come up to any forks yet. Of course, that would be about the time that she hit one.


“Should have knocked on wood,” she grumbled, going back and forth with the flashlight, wondering which one she should take.


Huffing slightly, she closed her eyes, willing the voice to sound again so she could at least figure which way to go. She tilted her head to the side a moment before her eyes popped open.


This one, she thought, no, rather she felt, the flashlight pointing down the tunnel to the left. She started walking down it. Farther she went, wishing she had thought to bring a jacket as the temperature continued to drop. But then, something just up ahead caught her eye. It was a light that seemed to be coming from a cavern just off the passage.


Heart pounding, Rosie quickly made her way towards it, noting that the sound - most definitely singing - had started up again and was louder, clearer, seeming to come from whatever was up ahead. She could also hear the sound of falling water. Turning the corner, she found herself looking into a cavern about the size of her grandmother’s living room. Towards the far wall, there was a medium-size spring that seemed to be lit from within. A small waterfall cascaded down the wall into it.


“Holy shit. It’s real,” she murmured, her eyes wide. Turning off her flashlight, she quickly walked in, though slowed as she neared the water.


Cautiously, she edged closer to the spring, looking down and noting that it was incredibly clear. Though her stomach dropped slightly as she could clearly make out that it was deep enough she couldn’t see the bottom. She then looked around the small room. There were no other passages leading in or out. And no one was in here.


So where did the singing come from? Or were her ears playing tricks on her.


As if to make a point, it sounded at that moment. A clear, beautiful voice singing in another language softly filled the cavern and then drifted away.


Rosie’s eyebrows rose as she looked down at the water again. No way. There was no way. Or well, no, there was a rational explanation. Someone had obviously taken the time to rig up lights and hidden speakers. Why was beyond her, though maybe it was supposed to be some sort of elaborate prank?


“Okay, Grams. You were right that there is a spring here,” she said, staring down at it. “Now… how am I supposed to prove the rest?”


Well, that was obvious. She should jump in. But a smidge of fear ran through Rosie as she leaned forward a bit, once again trying to determine how deep the spring went. And then there was the singing. The otherworldly singing that was either coming from hidden speakers or through this so-called portal.


She hesitated. Partially because she wasn’t sure just how safe it would be to jump into a spring hidden in a cave. Partially because she was afraid of what she might discover if she did. While the large part of her mind argued that this was all just some story her ancestors had conjured up and passed down throughout the years, a small part of her wanted it to be true.


Wanted to travel to some far-off land that her grandmother had told her about that was inhabited by creatures she thought were only in books and fairy tales.


But it was stupid. This was stupid. Rosie shook her head.


“Okay. This is just crazy,” she said out loud, her voice echoing around the cavern.


She took a step back, intending to just leave and go back to the house. Maybe go through the journals - which she probably should have done before coming up to the cave, now that she really thought about it. But as soon as she put her weight on her foot, it slipped against the wet surface of the rock and the next thing Rosie knew, she was falling back.


Her legs flew forward out from under her and she landed on her back hard despite the cushioning of her bag, her head bouncing against the rocks. Stars appeared before her eyes as her body continued sliding and suddenly she was surrounded by water. Her mouth opened in shock, causing her to swallow a large amount.


Even though she couldn’t see clearly with all the bubbles rising around her, her fight instincts took over as she tried to kick back up to the surface. But there was a mysteriously strong current that latched on her legs and sucked her deeper into the spring.


Kicking and struggling with all her might, Rosie looked up, watching as the surface moved away from her at a faster and faster pace, the panic coursing through her veins. Then, she was tumbling head over feet, continuing further and further into the spring, unsure of which way was up or down.


Her lungs were burning and Rosie knew that she was drowning. But still, she couldn’t seem to give up, attempting to swim in the direction she hoped would lead her to the water’s surface. But the exertion was catching up to her as she felt the strength leaving her limbs. Her vision grew blurry and she could no longer tell what was up or down.


“Wonderful… this is how I die,” she thought dryly as her vision started to fade out.


But then suddenly, she saw a face in the water not far from her. A man with dark brown curly hair, a chiseled jaw covered in stubble. But more strikingly, his piercing blue eyes seemed to sear through the water right into her soul.


Oh look… an angel… Mom was right… there is a heaven…”


Rosie reached towards him, struggling to keep her eyes open. They finally closed just as she felt a strong grip around her wrist and then something pulling her. She collided with a firm body, attempting to open her eyes.


She wasn’t imagining this.


Suddenly, they were out of the water, Rosie coughing as mouthfuls of water spewed out. She opened her eyes, her vision still blurry, though she could feel that she was lying on her side on something softer than rock.


“Rose? Rose! Open your eyes!”


She blinked and looked up, her sight zeroing in on the man. Relief filled his face.


“How... do you...”


And then everything went black.


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