Spells Trouble (Sisters of Salem #1) by P. C. Cast

It took only moments for Sarah to open the door. She and Dorothy rushed out and Sarah locked the door again before returning the keys to the constable’s deep pocket.

Odysseus growled softly.

Sarah nodded. “Yes, yes, I know. But he will awake with no memory of what happened and an empty jail cell. He shall spread the story of how the Goode witch and her spawn magically flew through iron bars and disappeared into the night—likely on the back of Satan’s steed—which would be you, my Odysseus.”

The huge cat purred as he wound around her legs.

“His tall tale will do more to make the townsfolk pause before tracking me than if I tied him and locked him away.”

Odysseus chirped contentedly as Sarah took Dorothy’s little hand and cracked open the door.

The night was dark and still and filled with the scent of rosemary. Sarah waited impatiently for the next ghastly creeeeak—snap! Thunk! of the gallows. Predictably, the men’s laughter and applause followed, covering any sound she, her child, and their faithful familiar might make as they darted from the jail. They hugged the side of the courthouse, then dashed from shadow to shadow, making their way from the center of town.

“Mamma! Mamma!” Dorothy whispered urgently and tugged on her mother’s hand.

Barely pausing, Sarah bent and picked up her daughter. “What is it, little love?”

“You are going the wrong way.”

Sarah jogged across another dark dirt road and past two clapboard houses before she answered. “We are going to a new home—one that is far, far away.”

“Is Father not coming with us?”

Sarah’s jaw set. She caressed her daughter’s matted curls and reined in her anger. “No, love. Your father did not keep us safe. So forevermore that will be my job.”

Beside them Odysseus chirruped up at Sarah. She smiled and corrected, “My job and Odysseus’s.”

Dorothy’s expression was somber and she suddenly appeared much older than her four years. “We shall keep each other safe.”

“Indeed we will, little love. Indeed we will.”

The predawn gloaming had begun to turn the sky the gray of a dove’s breast when the three fugitives finally made their way to the apple grove that divided the west side of Salem from the farmlands and forests beyond. Sarah slowed, then, and allowed Dorothy to walk beside her while Odysseus trotted with them, weaving between the fruit-laden trees as she made her way to the oldest of the apple trees.

At the heart of the grove Sarah approached the ancient tree respectfully. She placed her hand against the rough bark and whispered, “Merry meet, old friend. I give thanks for you to our great goddess, Gaia.” Sarah smiled up as the leaves above her quivered in response, though the lazy night breeze had completely died. She walked to the north side of the tree, where two massive roots had broken through the surface to form the V of a divining rod. There she dropped to her knees and, using a sharp stone, began to dig.

It didn’t take long for her fingers to touch the wooden box. Sarah didn’t bother to pull it free. Instead she cleared the dirt from it, opened the lid, and pulled out the cloth satchel she had buried the day before they’d come for her. It held her treasures—the means to a new future: travel cloaks for herself and Dorothy as well as a change of clothes, a leather purse filled with every coin she had saved, and her grimoire disguised as a prayer book. Beneath the book was a piece of cloth, carefully dyed the deep green of moss and of her daughter’s eyes. Within it was wrapped a tin of salt and a precious walnut-sized opal that glimmered lazily in the wan predawn light.

“Sit here at the base, little love,” Sarah told her daughter as she poured a circle of salt around the ancient tree. Then, with Dorothy by her feet and Odysseus beside her, Sarah drew three deep breaths and held the opal to the center of her forehead as she invoked.

By stone and salt I call to thee,

Guide mine steps from this fair tree.

Gaia, goddess good and kind and just—

In you I have always placed my trust.

Now I beseech, show me thy way

I am yours to command—yesterday, tomorrow, today.

Lead me to a place of power

Where never again will your daughters fear and cower!

With the last word of her spell Sarah closed her eyes and imagined that she peered out through her own forehead, into the flaming opal, and past it—to the magic it revealed.

“Oh, goddess be blessed! Thank you, Gaia! Thank you!” The words rushed from Sarah as green light lifted from the floor of the grove. Under her feet a ribbon of emerald pointed westward. As Gaia’s power channeled through the opal to enhance her sight, the path blazed and pulsed with energy, building in intensity in the distance. She felt its pull as if she had been tethered to it.