Wide photo of a heavily wooded lake in northern Wisconsin.

Accidental Magic – Sneaking Off – Part 1

The gravel crunched under Laura’s feet as she crossed the road to the old logging trail.  Faint shadows of mist clung to the low spots.  The trees were spread out, so there was plenty of light, and the area had been logged out in the past, so there were no enormous trees.  Her passage startled a Broken Window bird, who crashed and clinked at her as it sought a higher branch.  The grass was long and thick, and Laura’s canvas sneakers were quickly soaked.

Before swapping charms yesterday, Laura and Kaveh found a spot in the woods, where they could practice without being seen.  He’d said they should practice magic in preparation for school, but it was such a secret she suspected they weren’t supposed to be doing it by themselves. Instead of deterring her, it made their trade more exciting.

She sat down on a patch of gravel already dried by the sun and tried the torch light charm.  It was essentially a mancer flashlight.  Light was supposed to shine out of the palm of her hand, and she could point it wherever she needed to see.  She thought it was harder than levitation, but Kaveh’d had about the same luck floating his shoe. He’d sent leaves flying all over the place, and he’d gotten the shoe to sort of roll over on the ground a few times.  Perhaps she wasn’t a good teacher.  He hadn’t gotten discouraged, and she reminded herself that learning new spells was hard.  It didn’t make her feel better, especially when she thought about how much she had to learn to catch up to other kids her age.

She stared at her palm and concentrated on the charm.  Her hand seemed to glow faintly, for just a moment, then she was blinded by a bright white light.  “Aaagh!“

“Are you okay?” Kaveh asked, suddenly in the clearing with her.

She’d better get used to him sneaking up on her, if they were going to be friends.  He certainly wasn’t afraid of what she might do to him if he startled her.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I should have told you.  Never look at your hands when you’re trying this.“

Laura groaned and blinked a lot.  Although dots of light danced in front of her eyes, she could see him kneeling across from her.  His eyebrows were scrunched up.  Or maybe that was from the dancing dots.

“Are you okay?” he asked again.

“I will be,” she said.  “Just give me a minute.“

“I think you’ve got it,” he said tentatively.  “That was a lot brighter than yesterday.“

“Yeah,” Laura said.  “I could tell.“  When she could finally see properly, she tried the spell with her hands pointed away.  Again, the light was very bright, and she wondered if she was using too much power.

“Okay, now see if you can make it dimmer… No, not that much.  Just a little.”  He coached her as she attempted to modify her light. “Good.  See if you can do it gradually.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.”

She still needed to work on making her light brighter and dimmer slowly, but she’d made progress.  She wondered if he’d teach her another charm, even though she didn’t have anything to swap for it.  

As always, he could smell breakfast in the air, which ended their practice session.  “Same time tomorrow?“ he asked.

Laura nodded.  “I’ll have to be careful not to wake Molly, though.” She rolled her eyes.  

He smiled.  “Not used to having a little sister, are you?“

She shook her head.  “I’ve been living with Aster since I was six, and it’s always just been the two of us.  It’s weird to live with a real family.”

“Do you remember your parents?” he asked quietly, as if he wasn’t sure he should.

“Oh yeah,” she said.  “But remembering something and living it aren’t the same.  There’s a lot I don’t remember.“  They reached the driveway.  “I don’t know if they told me bedtime stories, or if they sang to me, like Dave and Therese do with Molly.  But I remember what they looked like.  And I know my dad taught me how to climb trees.”  She was glad about the trees.

“Oh,” Kaveh said softly.

Talking about her dead parents was definitely a discussion killer.  “So what’s for breakfast?“ she asked, attempting to lighten the mood.  The silence was too depressing, especially since her mom and dad died a long time ago and she’d learned to live with it.

He made a show of sniffing at the air and thinking about it.  “Waffles.”

“Race you.”  The words were barely out of her mouth and she was off. She beat him to the porch with a respectable lead, and she decided that running wasn’t a special werewolf trait.

“It would work better if you’d paddle on the same side all the time,” Kaveh said with some exasperation.

“My arms get tired.”  Laura sat on the seat at the front of the canoe.  Kaveh knew what he was doing, or so he’d claimed, therefore, he got to sit in the back.  At first this seemed like a good idea, because someone had to steer, and she couldn’t.  She also thought she’d get a better view of the lake.  Instead, she spent most of the time trying not to tip headfirst into the lake.  “You get to change sides,“ she said, holding her oar across her knees as she twisted to look at him.

“I have to, or we’ll crash into things,” he insisted.

“Yeah, but I feel it every time you switch.  It rocks the boat all over.” She hadn’t been excited about the canoe to begin with, and being in it had not improved her enthusiasm.

“And what’s wrong with that?” he asked, grinning mischievously.  He leaned from side to side, slowly tipping the boat each time.

“Stop that!”  In her rush to catch the sides of the canoe for something to hang onto, she dropped her paddle into the water.  “Oh, now look what you’ve made me do.“  She reached for the paddle and felt the boat tip, and she immediately leaned away, setting the canoe to rocking.  She glared at him.  “Now I’m going have to jump in and get it.”  She’d have to swim to shore with it.

“You don’t have to jump in,” he said, smiling.

“Are you going to go get it?” she asked.  “How am I supposed to get back to shore?“

He had a peculiar look on his face.  “You ought to be able to levitate that.”

“Oh.” She hadn’t even thought of that.  “I guess.“

“You have to start thinking like a mancer,” he said.  “My parents use magic all the time.  Hell, I use a lot of magic, even if it’s just basic stuff.  And most kids at school are going to be used to working with whatever magic they know whenever they want.“

Laura concentrated on the paddle, gradually drifting away.  She didn’t want to send it sailing through the air, so she tried a light touch.  She wasn’t as gentle as she’d planned, but it did the trick.  The paddle floated two feet in the air, dripping water.  It wasn’t harder than the rock or shoe, just different.  As Kaveh started paddling toward it, she got an idea.  Without taking too much time to think it over, she tried to bring the paddle to her, and it worked.  Almost too well.  She held out both hands to catch it lengthwise, but it hit her so hard she tipped backward off her seat into the canoe.  She went from sitting and watching it fly at her to seeing the clouds in the blue sky overhead in a blink of an eye.

“Woo hoo!”  Kaveh yodeled from the back of the canoe.  “That was way better than my idea.“

Excited by her accomplishment, she couldn’t stay mad at him.  She clumsily disentangled herself from her seat before inching her way back to it. “Wow.  That was really cool.”

“Now let’s paddle,” Kaveh said.  “That’s what we’re here for… and you need to relax.“

“What do you mean?” Laura asked.  She’d never been told she needed to relax.

“Your back,” he said.  “You’re too tense.  If you don’t sit so stiffly, the bottom half of your body will move with the boat, and your top half will kind of stay in one spot.“

“Huh?” She felt her forehead wrinkle as she looked at him in confusion.

“If your upper body doesn’t move so much, you won’t tip the boat so much,” he explained.  “Try it, you’ll see.“

Laura thought she had a right to feel uncomfortable in the canoe, since she’d never been in one before.  But Kaveh was right, and she started to feel better about the Stupid Little Boat, which was what they had decided to call it.  

They were heading back to the cabin when Laura heard a bell from across the lake.  It was the kind of large bell some of the churches in Clarissa had suspended on an open scaffold with a pull rope near the ground.  None of them were grand enough to have enclosed towers. Laura stopped paddling, and both felt and heard Kaveh lift his oar out of the water as well.  Distant shouts, whistles, and calls echoed across the lake.  She thought the noises were coming from just past the point on the other side, but the trees were too thick for her to see anything.

“What’s that?” she asked in a whisper.

“There’s a magic camp across the lake,” Kaveh said.  “If it’s still enough, we can hear them singing campfire songs from the dock at night.  You can’t hear it up by the cabin, because of the wind in the trees.“

“What do they do at magic camp?”

“I’m not sure,” he said.  “I’d kind of like to find out.“

Laura grinned and looked over her shoulder.  “Should we go over and check it out?”

He appeared to be mulling it over, then he shook his head.  “They’ll see us.  And they’ll just tell us to go away.“

“What if we keep our distance?” Laura suggested.

“What fun is it to go over if we can’t see anything?” he asked, sounding a little annoyed.

“Do you have a better plan?” she demanded.  From his expression, he did.  “Well?“

“If we go in the middle of the night, we should be able to get a good look around.”  He’d lowered his voice even though there was no one near the water at their strip of beach.

It sounded fun, like an adventure.  She was sure her grandma wouldn’t approve, and neither would her summer guardians.  “Won’t we get into trouble?“

He grinned.  “Only if we get caught.”

Accidental Magic is the first book in a series I started after my writers’ group pointed out that my default writing voice was particularly suited to the young adult fantasy genre. The protagonist is a thirteen-year-old girl who spends the summer before starting magic preparatory school trying to learn some magic, make some friends, and figure out what exactly happened to her parents.

This book is done and well polished, and while editors and agents enjoyed it, they felt it wasn’t strong enough. I hope to return to this series in the near future. This section has its own little arc, and stands on its own, so it makes a nice excerpt.

Check out part two >>>

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Author of adult and young adult speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, dark fiction)

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