Excerpt: How I Met Your Father

In the short story Family Feud in Episode 14, Wanda explains to Nancy how she met her father.

“But Dad helped with the shop. He helped me with arcane homework. He attended Guild events. What did he do that earned Nanna’s ire?”

“It’s what he didn’t do. He didn’t hold his tongue. He would never challenge anything directly in front of you kids. But after the two of you went to school or would go to bed…he would make his opinions known. He never supported lying to you about magic, but he was very adamant that the Colleges were too quick to teach magic to children before they were emotionally capable of understanding the consequences. He likened it to giving a toddler an assault rifle and then being surprised when someone got shot. He felt the obsession with rank and magical power was just as dangerous as being obsessed with money and mundane power. Hmm, he hated the word ‘mundane,’ too. Said it implied witches were superior.”

“And yet he married a Werlock woman anyway.”

“I never told you how your father and I met, did I?”

“You met in college at a homecoming game.”

“Well, that is when we met. But I never told you the how.”

“So it wasn’t just an ‘I saw this stud across a crowded stadium’?”[

Not exactly. Your father had a roommate in college, Ted Volker. They had been friends since sixth grade. Like brothers. Senior year of high school, Ted’s father had died from a heart attack. He didn’t take it well and fell into a depression. Eventually got hooked on drugs. Mark managed to get him cleaned up before it was too late to save him, or so he thought. But during that time, Ted had started to dabble in magic. Got his hands on an actual grimoire some mundane who didn’t know what they had sold at a flea market.”

“By Hecate, that was never going to end well.”

“No. Ted actually managed to summon an imp, but he lacked the will to control it. The imp, however, strung Ted along and would pretend to follow his commands. Ted got emboldened. Had the imp steal money for him, test answers, all sorts of nonsense. Eventually decided what he really wanted was the quarterback’s girlfriend, who was the head cheerleader. I noticed the thing sneaking around and put a stop to it quick enough, but not before it fled back to Ted’s dorm room. So I tracked it down to exorcise the little pest, but by then it had convinced Ted to let it ‘temporarily’ take control of his body to fight me off.”

I just shake my head. “Stupid and greedy is never a good combination.”

“I get to the dorm room and instead of confronting an imp, I’ve got a full-blown possession on my hands. And while I’m dealing with that, your father comes walking into the room, me straddled over Ted trying to perform an invocation while keeping him pinned down. You can imagine what it looked like.”

“I’m trying hard not to.”

“Nancy Clarice!”

“What?”

“Can I finish my story?”

“I wasn’t interrupting you!”

“Anyway, so your father pulls me off of Ted, thinking I’m the crazy one. But then he sees Ted’s eyes have gone completely black and he smells of sulfur. The imp starts trying to convince your father to help him dispose of me, promises power, money, blah blah blah.”

“What did Dad do?”

“He punched him square in the jaw and said ‘Get the Hell out of Ted!’ then stepped aside and let me finish my business.”

“Good for him!”

“I finally got the imp exorcised and managed to stabilize Ted. But now I’ve got this witness to the entire thing, but instead of freaking out about what just happened, he is yelling at Ted for being an idiot.”

“That definitely sounds like Dad.”

“Now here I am, listening to him go on at Ted and going through my head how to handle this situation when he finally turns to me and asks if the creature is gone for good. I tell him it is and that Ted will be fine. The possession was too short to cause any long-term damage, but he’ll need to rest for a while. Then he asks me if I want to go get pizza. Just like that.” 

“What did you do?”

I said yes.” Mom chuckles. “Your father was quite handsome, you know.”


Nancy’s Immediate Family:

Mark Townsend: Nancy’s father was a “mundane,” which meant that Nancy’s brother would never be a witch. Despite his strong feelings about the magical community, he supported Nancy’s arcane studies and helped run the shop. His marriage to Wanda, an open practicing pagan, caused his own family to disown him. In response, he legally changed his name to Werlock the year Nancy was born.

He died at the age of 46 from a heart attack while both children were still in in their teens. Nancy and Scott have no relationship with their paternal grandparents.

Scott Werlock: Nancy’s younger brother is a branch manager for a credit union. Like his father, he is a “mundane.” And like his father, he ended up marrying a witch. After his father’s death, he often felt isolated from his mother and sister because of his lack of magic, and he is uncomfortable with demonstrations of magic in general.

Laurie Werlock: Scott’s wife comes from a family of Transmuters, but she has chosen not to continue her magical training. She operates a day spa where she does employ some of her fleshcrafting talents under the guise of “Reiki” or massage therapy. However, both she and Scott have made a decision to keep their children away from magic as much as possible.

Megan Werlock: Scott and Laurie’s daughter. Megan is aware of magic and has seen her grandparents and mother cast spells, but has not yet shown an interest in learning magic herself…and her parents hope to keep it that way.

The Politics of Witches

The Council of Chancellors

Founded in 10 AD during the reign of Augustus, The Council of Chancellors serves as the administrators of various Colleges of Magic. Each College appoints a Chancellor to sit on the Council, as well as a Vice-Chancellor to assist the Chancellor. Chancellors serve for ten years and are elected by the general membership of the College. In theory, any Rank Three or higher member of a College can seek the Chancellorship. In practice, the position rarely goes to anyone that is not at least Rank Two, and all of the current Chancellors are Rank One. In formal communications, the title of Chancellor is used with the witch’s last name (i.e. Chancellor Parker).

Though The Nine are the ultimate power in the magical world, the Council holds the most “real” power regarding the day-to-day operations of the various colleges.

Archmages

An Archmage is the leader of a guild. Though most witches train privately under a master or with a coven, there are actual guild halls in which formal study takes place. In privately organized Guilds, the Archmage is either the founder of the Guild or someone appointed to the task by the previous Archmage. For College-sponsored Guilds, the Archmage is appointed by the Council of Chancellors. In formal communication, the title of Archmage is used with the witch’s first name (i.e. Archmage Douglas)

Magi

A Magus is the head of a magical school within a College. Magi report to the Chancellors of their respective Colleges, but generally act independently of the College itself. The honorific Magus replaces the witch’s last name in formal communications, and is also commonly used with the formal title from his or her School. (i.e. Warlock Marcus Magus)

The Magi in many ways function like the Deans of different schools within a University. Each Magus works to advance the needs of his or her school, gain resources for members of the school, and design and implement educational programs for the school’s use.

Justicars

Justicars are the official Witch Hunters for the Council. The sole purpose of the Justicars is to deal with rogue witches and supernatural creatures that threaten the Balance. While authorized to use any means necessary to neutralize an immediate threat to the Balance, they are not all-powerful and cannot act with impunity. In formal communications, the title of Justicar is used with the witch’s last name (i.e. Justicar Williams).

Guilds and Rank

Membership in a Guild is not required to be a member of a college. Any witch can send a petition to the Nexus of their chosen college to gain membership. Once the membership is accepted, the witch can visit any college-sponsored guild hall for purposes of research or to take classes, but may find some resources restricted to them.

Joining a college-sponsored guild opens access to more resources, and college-sponsored guilds within College generally provided access to each other’s members.

Rank

Private Guilds are not required to provide access to non-members, but their members also do not gain any of the benefits of from College-sponsored guilds. In addition, while the leader of a Private Guild can use the title of Archmage, in reality the title is merely a formality that doesn’t carry a lot of weight with the larger College body. Further, private guilds do not have the authority to issue Rank Three Trials.

Rank within the colleges indicates a witch’s general level of expertise and power, similar to educational degrees (high school diploma, Associate’s degree, Bachleor’s degree, Master’s degree, PhD.) But to think of it as a strictly linear concept would be too simplistic. Rank is actually a rather complex web of comparative ratings.

For example, a Rank Three Demonlogist would be considered higher rank than a Rank Three Evoker, even though Demonology is a specialized school within the College of Evocation. A Rank Four Illusionist who earned rank from a Private Guild would be considered lower rank than a Rank Four Illusionist who earned rank from a College-approved guild.

And, in truth, in many ways Rank is more a function of the magical bureaucracy than actual power. There are plenty of apprentices that possess more raw magical talent than their mentors, but have a lower rank simply because they never bothered to apply for it. Rank is a way to gain political power within a College, as well as gain access to otherwise restricted research and resources. But because it also requires a commitment to study to pass the trials, it is a fair general indicator of how much magical ability a witch possesses.

Gaining Rank

Any member in good standing with a College can apply to take the Rank Five Trials. The nature of these trials varies from college to college. The Colleges of High Magic tend to have rather intense written exams designed to determine the witch’s understanding of the basic elements of the craft. The Colleges of Expanded Studies tend to have less stringent Rank Five trials, generally as simple as a basic demonstration of magical talent.

Individual Schools can grant rank separately from the Colleges. The only significant difference between gaining rank in a College versus a specialized school is that the Magus of the school must approve the witch’s application. If the witch is an apprentice to an existing member of the school, this is practically guaranteed. In many cases, the actual Rank Five trial itself will be identical to the College’s trial.

A Witch needs to pass the Rank Five trials to gain access to WitchNet, the online resource for the magical community.

Achieving Rank Four is a similar process. Earning Rank Four earns the Witch additional access to resources from Guild halls and WitchNet.

Achieving Rank Three rank and beyond requires membership in a College-Approved Guild, as the trial must be approved by an Archmage appointed by the Council. In the case of schools, the Magus of the school must also approve the trial.

To take the Rank Two Trials, the witch much petition the Chancellor of the College directly or, the case of a school, the Magus of the school. A Magus will almost always confer with the Chancellor first before approving a petition.

Rank One is granted by the Nine. While a witch can theoretically petition for the rank through the Lord Advocate, in reality most witches are granted Rank One after some unique set of circumstances that caught the attention of the Nine.

Creative Commons License
The Politics of Witches by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The Nine

The Nine represent the supreme leaders of the magical community, yet almost nothing is known about them. The Nine are never referred to by name (because nobody is even sure what their names are). They are instead referred to by number based on which school they represent. First of the Nine, for example, refers to the Nine responsible for the College of Conjuration. Ninth of the Nine refers to the Nine responsible for the College of Technomancy. The Nine only rarely involve themselves in the day-to-day affairs of the magical community.

Even the origins of the Nine are a mystery to most magic users. The earliest records of their existence are found in ancient Babylon, where they were first referred to as the Five Pillars of Heaven (the original five colleges of magic). One scroll hints that the original Five were the highest ranking Bare among the Babylonian priesthood, one representing each of the five Supreme gods of Ishtar, Marduk, Nabu, Ninurta, and Nergul. But there is no known corroborating evidence to support this.

Despite the fact that almost nobody knows who these individuals are, their existence and authority is rarely questioned. This blind acceptance may be, in part, due to the fact that they mostly leave the magical community alone. The Nine will impose their authority only in situations that threaten the entire magical community. Their “hands off” leadership approach makes it easy to accept them.

Advocates

Each of the Nine has an Advocate. The Advocate conducts business between The Nine and the Council of Chancellors. Though they prefer to work through indirect channels, they will directly communicate with a witch on pressing matters if doing so is the most efficient method of obtaining information. Advocates are always Rank One members of their College.
Advocates are rarely addressed by their names. Instead, they are referred to with the honorific Lord Advocate or Madame Advocate.

Unlike the Nine, the Advocates identities are well known, and they can be reached even by low-ranking witches in a crisis (though it had better be a real crisis). Advocates spend most of their time at their College’s Nexus.

The Esteemed

The Esteemed are paranormal beings who serve the Nine. It is unclear exactly WHAT The Esteemed actually are. The Esteemed are not affected by spells and powers that normally affect otherworldly entities and routinely circumvent wards designed to block even the most powerful of demons and fae. All that is known for sure is that they are the unwavering servants of the Nine, and have a vast array of peculiar powers. The Esteemed do not have individual names insofar as anyone knows, and are simply referred to as Esteemed when addressed.

When an Esteemed appears, it normally appears as a ball of translucent light. They can communicate in any language and telepathically manipulate physical objects in their vicinity. The Esteemed act independently of the Advocates and are often sent out on pet projects or investigative missions for their masters.

Creative Commons License
The Nine by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The Fae

Fae is a term used as a catch-all for various races that exist simultaneously in the Aether and the material plane. It includes elves, pixies, brownies, changelings, and other races. The primary difference between fae and other supernatural creatures is that fae are considered mortal and can be killed on the physical plane (whereas Demons, Elementals, and other creatures destroyed on the physical plane are merely banished back to their home planes). Fae are also capable of shape-changing into a human form at will in order to pass as human. In most cases, this is a “fixed” form (i.e. the fae has its real form and a single human form it can switch back and forth between).

The Worker Fae

The “worker class” of fae include those fae races that have lived alongside humans in a strangely symbiotic relationship. Each type of worker fae has a unique compulsion that drives it to interact with humans.

Brownies: Brownies thrive in household environments, cleaning and fixing things in the home. Brownies generally hate being watched while they work, however. In the past, they would perform their work late at night while the family slept. A household blessed with the presence of a brownie would leave out honey or sweet cream as “payment” to encourage the brownie to remain. A brownie that feels it has been slighted or abused, however, will cause all of the food in the house to spoil and then abandon the family.

Gremlins: Gremlins began to appear during the industrial revolution and are believed to be a natural evolution of the worker fae races. Gremlins love machines of all types, and spend their time oiling or repairing machinery. Like all of the worker fae, they can be temperamental when they are insulted or mistreated, leading them to break or sabotage the machines they love.

Hobs: Hobs enjoy working on farms, where they tend to plants and farm animals. Like Brownies, they hate being watched so they tend to perform their tasks late at night. Mischievous hobs that have been slighted may leave barn doors open, allowing animals to escape or cause crops to wither.

Leprechauns: Of all the worker fae, the leprechauns are the most industrious and businesslike. They love to tinker and repair items, particularly shoes and watches. Unlike other worker fae, however, they expect real coin as compensation. The fabled “pot of gold” leprechauns possess is the result of the payments they receive for services rendered.

The Children of the Woods

The Children of the Woods are those fae that live on the material realm but stay apart from humans. Though collectively referred to as Children of the Woods”, these fae appear in a variety of natural settings. There are dozens of varieties of the Children. The most common are explained below.

Pixies: Pixies are invisible in their natural state, but can will themselves to be seen if they wish. Pixies tend to congregate in wetlands and marshes, and when visible are often mistaken for dragonflies at a distance. Pixies are generally considered harmless but mischievous, and may play silly pranks on humans that get too close to their territories. They will rush to action, however, if a child is in danger, as their own innate innocence makes them protective or children.

Sylphs: Sylphs are fae found in mountains, canyons, and similar remote environments. Sylphs dislike humans “invading” their homes and have some limited control over the wind, which they can use to push people off ledges. Their wrath can be calmed, however, by whistling or melodic singing. In which case, they may follow the human in order to enjoy the music, and then leave them alone as “payment” for their service.

Sprites: Sprites live in freshwater lakes and rivers and generally try to avoid interaction with humans. Sprites will ignore humans so long as the human is not polluting its home and have even been known to save drowning victims. However, they can grow violent if their lake or river home is threatened. Like pixies, sprites are invisible in their natural state. When they chose to allow themselves to be seen, they normally take the form of a young girl.

The Noble Fae

The Noble Fae are those that reside in the Aether and avoid coming to the physical realm as much as possible. The true number of Noble Fae races is unknown, as the majority of them avoid mortals. Those that are known to mortals fall into the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, as these two groups have the most interaction with the physical realm.

Both maintain “embassies” on the physical realm in order to manage those affairs that require interaction with mortal races. Both “Courts” are known to interact with the various colleges of magic and tend to be most comfortable dealing with witches. The Seelie will occasionally deal with werewolves, but refuse to associate with vampires. The Unseelie consider werewolves too feral and no better than semi-intelligent hounds. While they dislike the smell of vampires, they will work with them on mutually beneficial issues.

The division between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts is a matter of politics that go back thousands of years and would take another thousand years to unravel. While mortals tend to think of the Seelie Court as the “good” fae and Unseelie as “evil,” the truth is more complex. Neither group is fond of humans (whom they blame for driving them from the material plane and generally making a mess of everything). Neither would lose any sleep if humans spontaneously vanished from the universe. The Seelie are simply less inclined to “force” that to happen.

While the Noble Fae are considered “mortal” insofar as they can be killed, their natural life span can exceed a thousand years. Noble Fae aren’t even considered “adults” until around the age of two hundred.

Cats

Cats and fae have a hostile relationship. Cats are the only creatures that can see fae even when they are in their natural invisible state. While other creatures like dogs may be able to “sense” their presence, only cats can see and pinpoint the location of nearby fae. Cats treat any fae smaller than themselves as prey and will attack accordingly, and are considered one of the few “natural” predators that fae have.

Fae, for their part, seem to suffer allergic reactions to most cats (even so-called non-allergenic breeds). This can cause sneezing fits, hives, and other reactions depending on the type of fae.

Fae in the Modern Era

The rapid change of the two centuries has changed the dynamic of the worker fae/human relationship. Most fae looking for placements work with agencies, much like the employment agencies used by humans to find jobs. Agencies screen fae and prospective placements to make sure that both the employer and employee will be safe. One of the largest such placement agencies is The Flugalmorph Agency, which has long-term contracts with all of the Colleges of Magic to provide services to member witches.

Fae Appearances in the Nancy Werlock Universe

A brownie representative of The Flugalmorph Agency appears in the story A Clean Sweep in Episode Seven to discuss contract services for Nancy.

A brownie named Harlan appears in the stories Like a Kick in the Head in Episode Eight and Animation in Episode Nine as the brownie assigned to clean Nancy’s house.

A leprechaun that attempted to destroy some construction equipment appears in the story Magically Delicious in Episode Seventeen.

Creative Commons License
The Fae by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Witches Versus Wizards

Throughout history, these two terms have been used in a variety of ways in regards to spellcasters. Among those actually involved in The Craft, the two terms have distinct meanings.

Witches

Witches are individuals who acquire their magic either through Hereditary Magic or Imprinting.

Hereditary Magic: Magic runs in some families, with the magical power passed down to children from their same-gender parent.  Hereditary magic still requires training to use effectively, and if a witch refuses to train and never develop his or her powers, over a few generations the magical energy can die out.

It is rare for hereditary magic to “skip” a generation. This usually happens when the parent is untrained or has not used magic for several years. The gift may appear again in a later generation, however. It is almost unheard of for hereditary magic to skip one child but not the other. All children that are the same gender as the witch parent will have magical aptitude, though the power levels can fluctuate greatly based on raw talent and training.

Imprinting: Some supernatural entities have the ability to grant magical power to Mundanes. In some cases, an imprinted witch can pass on the magical power to offspring as hereditary witchcraft. A shaman that gains access to abilities through communing with spirits, a Seer than gains abilities through prayer to divine entities, or a warlock that gains abilities through a bargain with a demon are examples of Imprinting.

Wizards

Wizards are individuals who acquire their magic through research and study. Theoretically, any mundane who was willing to put in the time to research and study the occult could become a wizard. In reality, the ability to become a wizard is no different than the ability to become a physicist. Sure, people can and do succeed at it, but the amount of work involved is such that most people simply can’t.

Prodigy

A person who spontaneously develops innate magical ability without the benefit of imprinting or study. Most prodigies are psions who develop their abilities after a traumatic experience involving a supernatural entity. But a mundane could also gain magical talents from a sudden exposure to magical energies or even from living in close proximity to a cairn.

Creative Commons License
Witches Versus Wizards by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Hot Zones

One might think it impossible to keep all of these supernatural creatures and races a secret from the Mundanes. In reality, by virtue of the internal controls found in each community, the Mundane population has been safely left in the dark. The biggest threats to the Balance, however, are the creation of Hot Zones.

A Hot Zone is a location in which the Veil has been damaged to such a degree that magical energy from the Aether pours into the physical world. Hot Zones can form accidentally due to excessive use of vulgar magic. They can also form through deliberately damaging the Veil. The identification and sealing of Hot Zones generally falls to the College of Evocation to handle.

If a Hot Zone is allowed to exist for too long, it can lead to the creation of Cryptids (magically mutated animals) and Thought-Beasts. The list of Cryptids include things like Chupacabras and jackalopes. Cryptids are normal creatures that, due to exposure to uncontrolled magical energies, become mutated and take on strange qualities.

Thought-Beasts are the greater threat, however, as they spontaneously manifest from the collective belief of a local community. In essence, any idea in which people believe strongly enough can manifest in physical form. The nature of the belief does not require that the community thinks the thing actually exists. Rather, the nature of the belief is that of cultural acceptance of the idea. Examples of “traditional” Thought-Beasts include Bigfoot, Grey aliens, Mothman, Owlman, and others.

Modern popular culture and the internet have allowed ideas to spread over large and diverse populations, allowing for the formation of just about any sort of Thought-Beast. Even “Hollywood” monsters can manifest in this nature. A recent zombie outbreak in a remote part of South America, where the zombies emulated the infectious nature of modern cinema’s version of the zombie, has put Cryptologists on high alert.

Thought-Beast References in the Nancy Werlock series:

The story The Gremlin from Episode Four focuses on a thought-beast resembling the gremlins from the movie Gremlins that is trying to sabotage a July 4th fireworks show.

Also in Episode Four, Nancy references an incident in Newark, NJ where some weak Cenobites manifested after some goth kids accidentally tore a hole in the Veil.

The story The Walking Dead from Episode Eight focuses on a “zombie” outbreak in the Pine Barrens during a Zombie Walk for charity, featuring several different types of zombies manifesting in the area.

Creative Commons License
Hot Zones by Julie Ann Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons Content

As someone who got her start thanks to the Open Game License, I support efforts to encourage the sharing of creative content in a way that encourages individual creativity while protecting and preserving the rights of original creators. The Creative Commons licenses allow creators to share their work with others in a way that does just that.

Throughout WitchNet, you will come across content bearing the Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution License. Content on those pages may be used freely by other creatives, even in commercial projects, so long as attribution is provided.

Note that the license only applies to that content where the license appears. It doesn’t apply to samples, excerpts, etc. As we develop WitchNet and the series, we will work to add more content under the license.

Current Creative Commons 4.0 Content

An Arcane Glossary

The Colleges of Magic

The Colleges of High Magic

The Colleges of Expanded Studies

Hot Zones

Witches Versus Wizards

The Fae

The Nine

The Politics of Witches

On the Nature of Gods and Demons

Episode 17 Now Available!

Magically Delicious: Eric and Houston attempt to sneak a Leprechaun into the house the day before Thanksgiving.

Family Complications: After navigating Thanksgiving dinner to avoid the discussion of magic around her niece, Nancy gets dragged into a family secret involving Lee’s sister.

Episode Seventeen brings to a close the original story arch of Nancy’s return to the craft and settling in to her new situation. For those just discovering Nancy, you can pick up the first thirteen episodes in the newly revised Nancy Werlock’s Diary.

All individual episodes are also still available, but we encourage you to take advantage of the compilation for the first thirteen episodes as it saves money and includes several minor but important continuity corrections that help streamline the narrative.

If you want to try a few episodes individually, you can find them all at Smashwords and Amazon.

Character Bio: Nancy Werlock and the Werlock Bloodline

Dr. Nancy Clarice Werlock is one of the most successful marriage and family counselors in the Delaware Valley. Some credit her uncanny empathy. Some credit her quick wit and quirky sense of humor. But Nancy also has a unique set of skills she didn’t learn from any psychology training.

Nancy is a sixth generation demonologist, and though she upset her mother when she decided to pursue a mundane professional instead of taking up the family business, she’s kept her magical skills sharp by integrating a few choice spells into her counseling practice.

As the protagonist of the series, Nancy shares her trials and troubles in the form of diary entries.

Special Abilities

Hellfire: Whether due to her family’s uncanny connection to magic or just a byproduct of her temper, Nancy can wield Hellfire, the potent elemental energy of the abyssal planes, like few other warlocks. Whether it is to send a precise bolt of Hellfire at a single target or to call down a column of Hellfire to take out a group, even her friends warn others to be wary of making her an enemy. (Though she insists to this day she only singed Steve’s hair and didn’t actually set him on fire).

Iron Wall Incantation: A useful incantation to have ready when dealing with an apprentice who often accidentally reads minds, the Iron Wall Incantation closes the witch’s aura and mind off to intrusion, preventing others from reading her aura or trying to pry into her thoughts.

Third Eye Incantation: All evokers, and warlocks in particular, find this incantation useful. Nancy is so adept at casting it that she can even do so in front of mundanes without anyone noticing. The incantation allows the witch to read auras and detect and identity paranormal residues or ethereal entities.

The Werlock Bloodline

For six generations, one of the few things that could scare religion into a demon was the name “Werlock.”

Wanda Werlock: Despite all of the family’s magical power, they are still mortal. Wanda was killed in a drunk driving accident at the age of fifty-five, and it was her death that sparks the series of events that leads to Nancy’s return to the craft. Fortunately, death is merely an inconvenience for powerful warlocks, and Wanda continues to provide support and guidance to her daughter from beyond the grave.

Morrigan Werlock: Considered the most powerful member of the family to have ever lived, and possibly one of the most powerful warlocks of the modern era, Morrigan Werlock achieved Rank One status and served as the first female Magus for the School of Demonology. Like Wanda, she hasn’t let a little thing like death get in the way of supporting her family. It is said that Morrigan’s reputation was such that she could summon archdemons and princes, who actually answered the summons willingly just to have the opportunity to argue infernal politics with her.

Morrigan opened Three Wishes in 1969, using the fledgling New Age movement as a cover to operate a shop catering to witches. Considered scandalous and a breach risk at the time, The Nine nonetheless permitted it, and soon more witches realized it was possible to operate in plain site.

Angelica Werlock: Belinda’s daughter was pregnant with Morrigan when her mother and step-father vanished. Her husband, Albert Gordon, was also a warlock. Angelica was the first member of the family to reach Rank Two after banishing three mariliths that had been summoned by a death cult. Angelica lingered for a time after her death to help her daughter Morrigan finish her Rank Three trials, then declared that she was going to go find Albert and the two of them would build a fief on one of the frozen levels of Hell…as she was always found of skiing.

Belinda Werlock: Erna’s daughter was actually the first member of the family to formally join the College of Evocation, later convincing her mother to join. Belinda became a renown scholar of demonic lore and penned a half dozen texts on the methodologies of banishing demonic entities. Her first husband, Simon Schubert, was an archaeologist. Simon died on an expedition when Angelica was seven. Belinda’s second husband, Frederick Ferguson, was a Rank Two Traveler. One day, the pair disappeared and never returned. The only thing they had left behind for Angelica was a cryptic note about taking a day trip to the City of Pandemonium.

Erna Werlock: Erna and her husband Henry came to the United States from Germany under the guise of political refugees during the Revolutions of 1848. In reality, Erna was fleeing persecution from a radical religious sect that blamed her for the demonic possession of their leader. In truth, she had been trying to capture the demon to banish it when it made a deal with their leader, but they were disinclined to listen to the truth. Their last name had been Werner, but they changed it to Werlock, a play on Warlock, when they emigrated. Erna died two years after her husband, and never communicated with her family from beyond the grave.

The Apprentice

April 28th

Ever since I left the family business to pursue my own career, I have lived under the deluded belief that the reason Mom never found another apprentice was that she was hoping I would eventually change my mind. I realize now that was not the case. The real reason, I now surmise, is that young witches today are…well…how do I explain?

Anastasia, whose birth name is Margaret but insists on being called by her Spiritual Name, is one of Mom’s regular customers. She’s sixteen years old. Everything Anastasia knows about magic she learned from watching reruns of Charmed and reading Silver Ravenwolf books. Most of her purchases over the last year have been crystals and jewelry making materials. She wears what she makes. Often all of it at the same time.

“My mom said I should try to find a summer job for the summer,” says Anastasia while browsing the collection of semi-precious and simulated gemstones during her weekly after-school visit. “Because I’ll be able to get my learner’s permit soon and I’ll need gas money.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” I reply while ringing up a female customer’s purchase of jasmine, vanilla, and sandalwood essential oils and a pair of diffusers. “I hope he appreciates it,” I say to the woman.

The woman blushes. “He damn well better,” she whispers and then giggles.

“Two-parts jasmine to each one-part vanilla and sandalwood,” I say as I tap her hand. “Do you have any grape seed oil?”

“No, why?”

“Makes an amazing carrier for massage oil.” The woman’s face lights up so I give her a free sample I have behind the counter. “Make sure to come back and tell me how it works out.”

Anastasia walked over to the counter with a small pewter unicorn figure in her hand. “What was that all about?” she asked as the door closed behind the woman.

“Get that smirk off your face. She’s planning a romantic evening with her husband.”

“Oh my God, how did you know that? Did you read her mind?”

“I read her purchase.”

“Oh, I didn’t see what she bought! Which oils did she buy? Is it for a love potion?”

“Not your business. And no. Just oils to set the mood. Is that all your getting?” I pointed at her hand.

Anastasia nodded and placed the figure on the counter. “You knew she was planning on getting freaky just by her purchase?”

I shook my head. “$4.29, Anastasia.” She handed me a $5 bill. “And she stopped at Victoria’s Secret before she came here.”

“How did you know that!?”

“You didn’t see the Victoria’s Secret bag she was carrying?” I handed her the change.

“Oh, no,” she laughed. I wrapped the figure in tissue paper before putting it in the bag. As I handed her the bag, she gave me an impish grin.

“So, how do you know it’s her husband?”

“She was wearing a wedding ring.”

“Yeah, but how do you know she isn’t planning a romantic evening with her boyfriend on the side.”

I shake my head. “Because she was still wearing her wedding ring.”

Anastasia shrugs and puts her purchase in her purse. “Are you going to hire anyone to help with the shop? Because, I’m, like, here all the time so I know where everything is already.”

“I’m not looking for summer help. I need someone full time.”

“But I could help out until you found someone!”

Keeping Three Wishes open, even on a reduced schedule, while also trying to maintain my clients has proven to be a burden. If it had been any other normal shop, I would have hired Anastasia for the summer. Stocking shelves and running a register is easy enough for a teenager. But there is an inventory of items that can only be handled by me or someone I could trust. How exactly would I explain to a sixteen-year-old why a customer needed a vial of goat’s semen? Hell, I still don’t exactly understand why a customer would need a vial of goat’s semen, but Mom’s supplier actually was promoting it in last month’s sales catalog as one of the “Hot Buys” of the season.

And considering how Anastasia carried on about something as simple as essential oils, I don’t think I want her handling orders for goat’s semen.

I chase Anastasia out of the shop and close up for the day. I have an evening session with the Breyers’ and still need to check my Help Wanted listing on WitchNet.

You won’t find WitchNet with a Google search for witches or magic or occult or stuff the average person would associate with the Craft. It doesn’t hotlink with other occult sites. In fact, the domain isn’t even WitchNet or anything close to that. The domain name is deliberately long and complicated to prevent people from accidentally stumbling across it. It is invitation only, with various levels of technological and mystical security protocols in place to protect the site.

You might wonder why all of the secrecy when witchcraft is so out in the open and accepted. The thing is, the Craft isn’t accepted. A watered-down illusion of the Craft is what people accept. The Craft is shielded under the combined ruses of religious freedom and pseudo-science. We don’t brew potions. It’s holistic healing or homeopathy. We don’t cast spells or rituals. We practice anthroposophical medicine. Most people think of witches as New Age hippie environmentalists. And we’re totally cool with that. Because if they actually understood the truth, it could get ugly.

See, the Inquisition didn’t finally end because mankind suddenly became enlightened. It ended because people stopped believing the supernatural was real. There is a scene in the original Men in Black when Kay says to Jay, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.” This pretty much sums up the situation with the supernatural.

Can you imagine the panic if people realized that I could summon a Class Three Succubus? Not that I have any reason to. But I could. Or what if they knew that zombies were real? Granted, we aren’t talking Walking Dead zombies. Technically, those are ghouls, not zombies. Zombies are harmless. But that isn’t really the point. The point is, if the general population had any understanding of what was really going on around them, things would get very scary very quickly.

I log on to WitchNet to find another seventeen applications for the apprenticeship. This brings the total count to over seventy applications in just under a week. You’d think that out of that many applications I should be able to narrow it down to three or four of the best candidates and start interviewing. But the fact is there isn’t a single decent candidate in the whole bunch.

The first problem is that nobody read the requirements. I specified that this was an independent apprenticeship. Meaning it was for an adult student already educated in the Craft who was looking to specialize. Over half of the applications are parents trying to place their pre-teens in a residential apprenticeship. I didn’t officially become Mom’s apprentice until I was fourteen, and even then, it was only because I had been raised with a demonological education, so I already knew most of the risks. Most of these kids wouldn’t know a boggart from a pooka. More importantly, they are kids. I don’t want to raise someone else’s kids. I’m not running Hogwarts. I’m running a business.

About a third of the applications are what I like to refer to as Fairy Princesses. Your typical Fairy Princess is a witch between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four who spent most of her formative years studying enchantment or illusion. Kind of like Anastasia, only they actually know some incantations. The problem with Fairy Princesses is that they tend to be rather sheltered. They’ve never confronted anything truly dangerous. They have a romanticized notion of the Craft, which gets reinforced by their liberal use of mind-altering magic to make men fawn over them. Most Fairy Princesses don’t live pass the age of thirty, however, because eventually they try those stunts with some other witch’s husband or, worse, some shapeshifter, vampire, or incubus-possessed skin puppet.

The rest are either underqualified to pursue demonology or suspiciously overqualified. You have to worry why a Rank Two Transmuter or a Rank Three Necromancer would suddenly want to take up Demonology. Particularly in this economy. With gold selling at $2,000 an ounce, a Transmuter would never have to work again if he was careful and didn’t overplay his hand. And you might not think it, but necromancy is a rather lucrative profession, albeit a creepy one.

After skimming the newest batch of applications, I head over to the office for my appointment with the Breyers. Just as I get over the Ben Franklin Bridge, there is a detour because of a traffic accident.

Have you ever suffered the displeasure of driving in Philadelphia? It is not a driver-friendly city. It’s a spider web of one-way roads, often blocked due to double parking or oversized trucks, and highways that have off-ramps that creep off in all directions without any warning. Once you know a route, it isn’t a big deal. But a detour through Philadelphia just as well could be a detour through one of the upper levels of Hell.

The detour leads me right into a second detour, this one because two lanes are blocked off for construction. While stopped behind a Septa bus trying to navigate the single lane that was still open, I called the Breyers’ to let them know I was running late.

“Oh, I’m glad you called! Will forgot he was supposed to meet with his brother tonight, so we have to cancel,” says Ms. Breyers.

“I’m almost at the office. Can he just meet with his brother later? I don’t know when I’ll be able to reschedule.”

“He left already.”

“When did he leave?”

“About an hour ago.”

“So, you knew an hour ago you weren’t coming, and you are just now telling me? What have we been talking about the last three sessions? Haven’t we been talking about improving your channels of communication and recognizing the needs of others?”

“Um…oh…well, Will and I have opened up channels of communication! He apologized before he left and acknowledged my feelings! We’ve made real progress.”

The bus in front of me came to a complete stop. The car behind me did not.

“I’ll call you Friday to reschedule.” I hang up and put the car in park.

The guy who rear-ended me is already out of his vehicle, cursing about women drivers. The bus still hasn’t moved, and now the driver in the car behind the car that hit me insists on blaring his horn.

Have I mentioned how much I hate driving in Philadelphia?

“Do you not see the giant bus stopped in front of me?” I say as I step out of my vehicle.

“Why didn’t you just go around it?” the man slurs. Drunk and belligerent. Wonderful.

“Sure, next time I’ll go up on the sidewalk, so you can slam into the bus instead of me.” I step around to the back of my car and look at the bumper. There is a little chip in the paint, but no real damage. He has a small dent in his front bumper, but otherwise the vehicle is fine.

“Alright already!” we both yell at the guy who keeps leaning on his horn.

The drunk guy looks around and shakes his head vigorously. He looks at his car, looks at the bus, and then looks in his car. “Look, lady, I’m sorry. Been a long night just trying to get home you know?” He fumbles with his wallet and pulls out a pair of twenty-dollar bills. “Will this cover the damages no reason to call the cops or anything just paint right is this okay?”

The bus finally starts moving again. I wave off the drunk. “Just go home. That’s what I’m going to do.” I turn to get back in my car when the man grabs my arm. “Take the money!” He shoves the hand holding the money into my chest.

“I don’t want it!” I push his hand away.

“Leave her alone!” The drunk gets pulled away from me by another man. He pushed the drunk toward his car. The drunk turns around and makes a fist. The other man just stares into his eyes and says, “In your car. Now.” The drunk shakes his head again and gets in his car.

The man, who doesn’t look older than maybe eighteen or nineteen, approaches me. “You okay, Miss?”

“Yeah, thanks for that.” I put a hand to my face as the idiot with the horn starts leaning on it again. “I gotta get off this street. Holding up traffic.”

“Yeah, no problem,” he says as he touches my elbow. “We’ll talk later.” He turns and walks off before I can ask his name.

I finally got home just before 10 AM. As I step out of the shower, I feel an energy shift in the house. I wrap my robe around me and slowly open the bathroom door. I sniff the air. No sulfur smell. I quietly chant the Third Eye incantation and look around. No residue anywhere. I hear what sounds like wind chimes coming from downstairs.

Oh crap,” I think and try to sneak into my bedroom without alerting my unwanted guest.

If you think of each nether realm as its own continent, the astral realm would be the oceans that simultaneously connect and separate them all. Find the right route, and you can travel the astral plane from the Aether all the way to the lowest level of the Abyss. Not that I personally have ever traveled the Astral plane. Nor have I ever wanted to. I get frustrated enough when I have to fly across country for some conference. I can’t imagine trying to plan an itinerary for inter-realm travel.

The Astral realm isn’t exactly empty, however. It is home to all sorts of entities. Djinn, Daeva, Rakshasa, and a host of others. Unlike poltergeists and demons, these folks don’t need a host to enter the material plane. They don’t need to be summoned. They just need to find a tear in the Veil to slip through. Powerful entities don’t even need an existing tear. They just need the Veil to be thin enough to rip open. And unfortunately, one of the perils of Demonology is that our work tends to make the Veil in our immediate vicinity thin.

I pull out my pair of silver scissors from my nightstand. It’s been ten years since I’ve done any sort of binding or banishing. Please don’t be a Rakshasa, I kept saying to myself. I am too out of practice to be dealing with a Rakshasa at this hour. At least I have kept up my subscription to Demonology Today, so I was still in the loop with the most recent research. But reading the articles and practicing the rites are two different things.

I walk downstairs to find the astral form of my rescuer going through my mail.

“You have thirty seconds to explain yourself or I am gonna snip your cord!” I snap the scissors in front of me to show him I mean business.

He jumps and drops the mail. “Crap, she can see me!” he says.

“Of course I can see you!”

“Wait, you can hear me?” He seems genuinely surprised by this. He pushes his astral cord behind him with his foot.

“Who are you and why should I not cut your cord?”

The ability to just astrally project into any building unseen has a host of nefarious applications. The only thing that keeps the power from being abused is the fact that astral projectors are vulnerable to disembodiment. The astral cord connects the projector to his real body. If someone has the appropriate skill, and a properly enchanted pair of scissors, one snip severs the soul from the body and leaves the projector a ghost and his body a corpse. It’s far more complicated dealing with native entities of the astral plane, because their cord serves more as a conduit between the worlds. Severing the cord weakens them but won’t banish them outright.

“Houston,” he finally blurts out. “Houston Vaughn. You glow, so I followed you. I was gonna stop by maybe over the weekend to see if you might know anything about this but I needed to know where you lived first. And I couldn’t follow you on foot and you were in a hurry to get going earlier so I just tagged you and followed you.”

“What do you mean, ‘know anything’? And what tagging? You aren’t making sense.”

Houston pointed toward my arm. I looked down and realized that my elbow was glowing with a pale blue light. I couldn’t see it before the incantation, and after I had casted it I wasn’t paying attention to what was glowing on me because I was looking for an otherworldly intruder.

What kind of power is this? I think. Whatever it is, I don’t like it.

“Wait, wait, wait!” exclaims Houston as I approach with the scissors. “I’m sorry. I thought you would help me because you glow but not like the others.”

I stop. He looks like he’s about to cry. “What others? What do you mean by glowing?”

“Look, I was in a motorcycle accident last year. I was in a coma for a month. When I came out of it, I started to see things. I think ghosts, I guess. But real people, too. They glow with these weird lights. I don’t know. At first it was cool. But then I started floating out of my body. And then my mother showed up and she died when I was six. And now Aunt Ruth is flipping out because I asked her—”

“Stop,” I finally say. “I get it.” I start pacing. This guy manifested powers from a hit to the head? That didn’t make sense. “What was your mother’s name? Was she a witch?”

 “A witch? You mean like a real witch?”

“No, Houston. I mean like a fake one with a Halloween costume and a plastic wand with a little star on the tip.”

“Geesh, no need for the hostility.”

“It is almost 11 PM and I have an unwelcome astral intruder in my house. Be grateful all you are getting is hostility and not a snip.”

“Sorry.” Houston dropped his head and looked down at the ground. “Vivika. Vivika Marchan-Vaughn.”

“Wait, Vivika Marchan? Grande Madame Vivika Marchan?”

“Did you just call my mom a hooker?”

“Not that kind of madame! By the gods, did she not teach you anything?”

“She died when I was six. What was she supposed to teach me?”

Madame Vivika was one of the most powerful psions of the late twentieth century. Some might argue one of the most powerful psions of the last two hundred years. Her death was something of a scandal. Her first husband was convicted of killing her and her second husband as a crime of passion, but nobody in the occult community believed that. She would have sensed his intent from a hundred miles away. That’s how powerful her telepathy was rumored to be. Speculation ran the gamut from a disreputable rival to getting on the wrong side of one of The Nine to faking her own death and achieving Ascension.

And here was her son, or her son’s astral body, floating around in my living room and rummaging through my mail.

“Houston, we have a problem,” I say. “You shouldn’t be able to do this. You’re too old to start manifesting powers now and your mother was a woman.”

“Of course my mother was a woman. What else would she have been?”

“No, no, I mean, hereditary witchcraft is gender-specific. You shouldn’t have inherited your mom’s powers.”

“Wait, my mother was a witch? Witches aren’t real!”

“So says the guy floating in astral form!” I’m pacing at this point. Now less annoyed by his presence than challenged by the prospects of it. “Was your father a witch?”

“I didn’t even know my mom was! How would I know if dad was?”

“What about your Aunt Ruth?”

“I don’t know. I doubt it.”

“You’re too old to be manifesting hereditary powers. And you’re completely the wrong gender,” I say more to myself than Houston. “When did you last talk to your mother? You said you’ve seen her since this all started?”

“Yeah, I see her sometimes when I’m sleeping. She taught me the tagging thing and explained about my cord.”

“Okay, Houston, you need to go.”

“But—”

“Come by the shop tomorrow.”

“What shop?”

“Three Wishes. 113 Peach Street. I need to sleep and think and go through some of my books. I don’t know much about psionics. It’s not my field.”

“Okay. Cool. Um, I can stop by after work.”

Houston vanished. I sit on the bottom step and considered what had just transpired. I thought about summoning Mom, but I had just done that last week and while she hadn’t been mad at me, I knew I shouldn’t have done it so soon after the funeral. But we are talking about the son of Grande Madame Vivika. That’s some serious gossip to share with the rest of her new pals on the other side. But I still don’t have enough information to even know what questions to ask her. And she is still settling in to being dead. Best just to leave her alone for now.

April 29th

Houston walks into the shop around 6 PM. He’s dressed in heavy blue jeans, work boots, and a short sleeve shirt that says Hessman Construction. A couple of the ladies in the shop stop browsing the selections on the shelves and watch him walk over to the counter. I hadn’t taken a good look at him last night, because between the drunk driver and then Houston’s astral act, I wasn’t paying attention to his attractiveness.

His hair is light brown, but sun-bleached in places to a sandy blond. He hasn’t shaved today, and the stubble makes him look a few years older than he did last night. He would be carded if he walked into a liquor store, but at least he looks old enough to be out of high school. Still about ten years too young for me. But at least I don’t need to feel dirty from looking.

He wipes his cheek with the back of his hand to remove non-existent dirt as he looks around the shop. He accidentally makes eye contact with a customer, forces a smile, and looks away.

“Houston, you can just go wait in my office,” I say and point to the door.

A customer with a hand basket full of dried bundles of fenugreek, chicory, and dandelion root nods approvingly as he walks passed the counter and goes into the office. I ring up her purchase and try not to acknowledge her inference. After taking care of the last few customers, I lock up the shop and go into my office.

Houston sits on the corner of my desk, browsing through one of my wholesale occult supply catalogs. He flips through the pages, shaking his head in disbelief. “What’s a linworm and what do you do with its scales?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. That’s the premium catalog. I only order from that if it is a special-order item.” I take the catalog from him and put it in the desk drawer.

“Why do I feel like I just walked into an episode of True Blood?” he says as he collapses into a chair.

“Did you get any sleep last night? You look exhausted.”

Houston puts his elbows on his knees and drops his head into his hands. “I got into a fight with Aunt Ruth this morning. I confronted her about Mom being a witch and she freaked out.”

“By the gods! Why would you do that?”

“You asked me all these questions last night and I realized that I know nothing about my parents except what Aunt Ruth and Uncle Harold told me. And everything they told me apparently is a lie.”

“Okay, look. My bad. I didn’t warn you. Rule one. We do not talk to mundanes about the Craft. Not in any real, meaningful way. We can play the religion card. We can talk around it by referencing things like aromatherapy or colorology or other faux scientific dribble. But we do not, cannot, tell people anything remotely close to the truth.”

“Yeah, too late now. She kicked me out of the house and said I could rot in Hell with my mom. And I’m pretty sure the only reason Uncle Harold hasn’t fired me yet is because we’ve got three guys on vacation this week.”

“Are they Catholic?”

“Evangelical Protestant.”

“Damn. Sorry.”

Contrary to popular belief, modern Catholics are rather mellow about the occult. I think it is because the Catholic Church itself is rather matter-of-fact about the whole thing. Miracles. Exorcisms. Stigmatas. Bleeding statues. They got plenty of their own mysticism going on. Not that they are warm and supportive of witches or magic. They just don’t find the concept all that alien. Evangelicals, on the other hand, get crazy at the mere thought of anything supernatural. You’re dealing with people who believe Earth is only 6,000 years old. Taking “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” literally is not a big jump for them.

Houston looks up at me. His eyes are red and tearing up. I resist a sudden urge to rush around the desk and hug him. “What am I? Did you learn anything? How do I get rid of this?”

“You don’t get rid of it,” I say. “Look, I’m not an expert on psionics or anything. I’m a Demonologist. So—”

“You worship demons?” he asks with a look of horror.

“NO! Geesh, that isn’t what a demonologist does.”

“What exactly does a demonologist do, then?”

“First things first, not all demons are what you would call Christianized demons. Demons existed before the rise of Christianity. The Church just lumped all of the existing types in with the Fallen and mucked up the works in the process. Think of demons more like, like alien races. Only instead of living on other planets, they live on other planes of existence.”

“That doesn’t make me feel better.”

I take a deep breath. He’s wrapped his arms around himself and he’s rocking back and forth in the chair. He looks so vulnerable and adorable and…sexy.

“What…what was that just now?” he asks as he leans back in the chair.

“What was what?”

“What just happened? The glow around you changed. It went from silver to red.”

I blush. “What…um…shade red did you see?”

“I don’t know. Red. How many shades of red are there?”

I exhale in relief. He can see auras but doesn’t know how to interpret them yet. “Never mind. We can discuss that at another time.” I regain my composure. “You…can’t turn it off, can you?” Houston shakes his head.

For most witches, invoking any sort of power requires manipulating the energies around them through incantations. Think of it like a recipe. Mix two parts of this with one part of that to get the desired result. But for a lot of psions, their powers are always on and they have to learn how to manually shut them off.

“Houston, you’re a psion. A Psychic.”

“But how? You said last night that wasn’t possible.”

“I said it wasn’t possible for you to inherit your mother’s abilities. But I did some research into your family. Your accident occurred near the anniversary of your mother’s death. I think you had a near-death experience that tore the Veil and allowed your mother to Imprint on you.”

Houston closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair until his face looked to the ceiling. “I died on the operating table. That’s what the doctor’s said. I was dead for about three minutes, but they were able to revive me.”

“I’m guessing your mother has lingered around to protect you, and when the Veil tore, she took the opportunity to Imprint on you to pass on some of her power.”

“Like a Guardian Angel?” He looks back at me with those beautiful, tear-filled eyes.

“Kind of like that,” I say. Ye gods I want to rip your clothes off, I’m thinking.

“What did you say about my clothes?” He looks confused. He didn’t even realize it was a surface thought and not a spoken statement.

“Right. Psion. No off switch.” I utter the Iron Wall incantation to shut him out of my surface thoughts. Thank the gods his ability is so clouded. “Anyway, imprinting has been known to happen during near death experiences. It usually occurs from a demon or spirit that wants the recipient to achieve some goal, however. Sometimes poltergeists or specters will imprint on a person to avenge some wrong that happened to the spirit. Or a demon might imprint on a person to manipulate the person into helping it enter the material plane later. It’s very rare for a relative to imprint on a family member, but it is theoretically possible. And considering how powerful your mother was, it doesn’t really surprise me.”

Houston looks at me with his head tilted to the side, as if studying me. “You don’t glow anymore. How did you do that?”

“It’s an incantation. I figured my aura was distracting you, so I walled it off.”

“Can you teach me how to wall people off so I don’t see their auras?”

He’d make a great apprentice. I look around the room instinctively, though I don’t actually expect to see anyone. It’s a vaguely female voice, muffled by the Veil so it is only barely audible. I smile and shake my head. “You are just loving this, aren’t you?” I whisper.

“Who are you talking to?” asks Houston.

“My mother,” I reply. “So, how would you like to be my apprentice?”

“Apprentice? Like a sorcerer’s apprentice?”

“Like a demonologist’s apprentice. I can teach you the various incantations to control your powers. And you can help me around the store.”

“I don’t know. I guess I need to learn this stuff, but I need to find a job before Uncle Harold fires me.”

“An apprenticeship is a job,” I say. “It’s a full-time position with health benefits and all of that. Though it is an HMO and due to the unique nature of some metaphysical ailments you need to use healers in network. But they’re all specialists in the Restoration school.”

“This is all weird. okay. I guess I’m in. So, what do I call you? Master? Mistress? Archmage?”

“How about just Nancy.” I go over to the file cabinet and pull out the apprenticeship agreement and related employment forms. “Just fill all of these out and I can get you set up on WitchNet.”

“So, do I sign these in blood or something?”

“Oh, sorry.” I hand him a pen.

Houston starts to fill out the paperwork, but then pauses. “Hey, I don’t know when I’ll be able to start. I still have to find a place to stay.”

“Where are you staying now?”

“I just got a room at a motel right now. But I can’t stay there permanently.”

You have a spare room in the house.

“Enough, Mom!” Houston raises an eyebrow. “I have a spare room you can stay in until you find your own place.”

“You sure that’s okay?” The side of his mouth curls up into a smile. I don’t even think he realizes he’s smiling.

“It will be fine,” I lie.

From across the Veil, I hear a muffled laugh.

Excerpt Three from Nancy Werlock’s Diary (Episode One)