Welcome to the release party for Siren Snow by Victoria Barrow. Siren Snow is the first book in The Redhaven Saga, a New Adult Fantasy series. It’s now available on Kindle, but will soon be in paperback as well. What’s it about? Here’s a hint…
Winter is not exactly the ‘season of the witch’. It’s cold in Washington, and everything is covered in snow. But it doesn’t bother Lucilla Sinclair, the Witch-Warden for Washington state. She’s perfectly happily performing minor enchantments at her little arcane shop in Redhaven, an old fishing town turned tourist attraction. She has Mishal, her tall, dark-skinned elemental guardian to keep her warm, and Irwin, her raven familiar to pass the time.
Magickal mischief in the cold, quiet state is slow for the most part, but when a freak winter storm lands a half-transformed Siren on her front porch, Lucy’s life becomes increasingly strange. Her dreams are suddenly assaulted with visions of a beautiful demon man, and her waking hours are spent warding off a cadre of mysterious shadow creatures.
With the life of the Siren in her hands, Lucy must trek through the snows of Canada in a race against time. Her mission: to find the one person with enough knowledge of forbidden black magick to fix the broken Siren Melusine before her seven days on land are up.
This is gonna be a rough week.
Want more Siren Snow? Well, the author has given me permission to post the entire first chapter! Read on…
A day in the life
“Almost there…” I said, under my breath.
“I can’t hold much longer…” He breathed.
“There! New light bulb is in,” I said, admiring the soft glow of filament from our new porch light. “Who says I needed a ladder?” I grinned down at my best friend from where I sat perched on his broad, ebony shoulder.
“I still think this was a bit… unnecessary,” he mused, blinking pale blue eyes at me.
“How many witches does it take to screw in a light bulb?” I teased, fussing with his dark hair.
“Well, one, I suppose.” Mishal made a face at me, and scrunched his brow.
I sighed. “Never let it be said that fire elementals have a sense of humor.”
“We should go check on Irwin. He’s been suspiciously quiet for too long,” I said, turning on my heel to head back into the house-turned-shop. It was somewhere between a Victorian and a Row house, with a deep porch and a stained glass door. A lot of these architectural hybrids had been built right next to each other on the main street of this moderately sized town, and Redhaven’s unique houses were what had originally caught my eye. My little house-turned-shop also looked very quaint covered in a layer of Washington snow, like today. The downstairs had been converted into shop space by the previous owner, and the upstairs had been left as an apartment. It was absolutely perfect for my needs: I could run my arcane shop downstairs, and live above it.
“Irwin?” I called, the bell above the door jingling as I stepped in, Mishal locking the door behind us, since we weren’t ready to open yet. Silence. “Irwin, what are you getting into?” Another heartbeat or two of quiet.
I heard the rustle of wings a moment before the raven landed heavily on my shoulder, bouncing a bit in his excitement.
“Lucy, my dearest. It’s breakfast time, yes? I’m thinking pancakes,” he cawed, though only I understood it as language. I lifted a hand to smooth the black feathers on his chest. He dipped his head to rub his beak along my fingers.
“In a bit, okay? I’ve got to get the shop ready. Plus, that batch of potions should be just about simmered down, hm?” I nudged him affectionately with my head, and he wobbled a bit on my shoulder.
Irwin would have glared at me, had he had eyebrows, but my familiar was remarkably expressive despite. Probably a side-effect of being magically linked to me. Unlike guardians, familiars were linked to their witches heart and soul. They served as animal companions, yes, but they were much more than that. I was able to use Irwin to augment my magick; he made me powerful in his own right. In turn, animal familiars lived vastly longer lives than their wild counterparts, and were leaps and bounds ahead in intelligence in most cases. Irwin had been a very smart raven when I had found and hatched him, and when we had sealed our bound, he was that much smarter. If he’d had hands, he probably could have run my little arcane shop all by himself.
I started up the steps, calling back to Mishal over my shoulder.
“Hey, Mish-Mish, check on the Tank, will you?”
“Of course. Only fifteen minutes until opening, Lucy. Be quick,” he called, his voice echoing off the old wood of the house.
I bounded past the top step and slid into the first room – my bedroom. I was greeted by my reflection in the old floor length mirror that sat propped up against the wall in the corner. Its swiveling stand had been lost years ago, as I’d gotten it at an estate sale for cheap because it was half broken. It did its job well enough, though.
Trying to pass for human-boring was tedious, but for them to be comfortable around any of the magick-folk, glamour magick had been necessary for us. It was the sort of magick that fooled the human eye into seeing us as different than we really were, and had become the most widely practiced of all the magicks. All of the Greater Races, and most of the Lesser ones had picked it up; it was very convenient to stroll around human cities without getting stared at or badgered. My hair, however, had been a problem. It was so red, I’d had trouble covering up my hair appropriately with glamour, and it always bled through in weird shades. I’d finally just said fuck it, and left it alone. Witches were human enough that I didn’t really needglamour for anything other than my eyes; I was just an eccentric witch with bright red hair who owed a shop filled with equally eccentric goodies. A point on some tourist’s brochure. I was okay with that.
The mirror jiggled and I looked down to see Irwin admiring himself, his beak pressed up against the glass. His feathers puffed up and he made a sort of happy trill. I smiled and rolled my eyes at him while I separated my hair.
A few twists later and my hair was done in a quick, chunky side-braid, tied off at the bottom by the thin ribbon. I straightened my plush, pale green turtleneck (it was cold inside the house too), and picked a bit of fuzz off my dark jeans. Hand-me-downs were not exactly the height of fashion, but it was better than nothing.
“C’mon Irwin, we’re running a bit late today.”
He lingered for a moment, eying his own feathers, before hopping across the floor and flitting up to my shoulder finally.
One of the back rooms had been knocked out to create, what I assume to be, the world’s tiniest kitchen. It was just large enough to house a small fridge, an even smaller stove, one singular laminated counter, a teeny-weeny two-seater table in the corner, and a little sink. When I had first moved in, I was a little taken back by how the only kitchen in the whole house was tiny and upstairs, but the rest of the house was spacious in comparison, and the set up downstairs had been just too perfect. So I dealt with my tiny kitchen in most cases, but we did spend a lot of time at the diner down the road. I had longed to put in a microwave somewhere, but not even magick could make that fit. However, like my half-broken mirror, the kitchen served its needs.
I approached the stove and clicked off one of the two burners, lifting the lid of the cast-iron pot to inspect its contents. It shimmered faintly, giving off a pleasant minty, floral kind of smell. I could see the last of the syrupy magickal essence at the bottom, bubbling up through the oily liquid and dispersing into the multicolored bubbles that escaped around the edge of the pot topper.
Irwin peered sideways at the pot, occasionally pecking at a stray bubble as it floated past his beak. He wriggled a bit on my shoulder, impatient for what was coming.
“Is it ready yet, Lucy? Is it? We haven’t cast in so long.” His feathers fluffed up a bit and he shook them out, right down to his tail feathers.
I glanced over at him. “It’s been like, three days, Irwin. Calm down.”
He quieted himself, but I still felt the pressure of his clawed feet squeezing my shoulder in anticipation. We stood there in quiet for a moment or two while the last of the syrupy essence at the bottom melted away and then finally, truly this time, it was ready.
I rolled up the sleeve of my left arm and held my hand above the pot. Irwin cawed happily and bounced down my arm to grip the back of my hand with his clawed foot, lacing his toes between by fingers. He looked at me for the signal, and I nodded. In an instant, the tiny back room, make-shift kitchen was aglow with magick. I felt Irwin’s magick tingle its way up my arm and into my chest, lending his energy to me. I heaved a sigh and pushed back with my own warmth, my own magick, until my familiar shivered. We’d created a circuit and it was time to use it.
I felt that circle of energy coursing through us; from him to me and back to him again, over and over again, gaining speed and warmth and power. The edges of Irwin’s feathers began to alight, as if on fire, but the flame was pale and ghostly, and a shade of soft purple. I felt that same fire ignite in my hand, and the circuit picked up speed. Irwin cawed loudly, spreading his softly flaming wings as if to take flight. I felt him start to pull, so I began to push. From the very center of me I pushed that warm, pale fire down my arm to my palm, where it was helped along by Irwin’s own brand of magick, and with his help, we concentrated that light and heat into something tangible.
A tight, tiny ball of light formed, and we poured ourselves into it. Infinitely dense and bright, the tiny light seed grew, by a miniscule fraction. Before it could get carried away, I cut off the circuit. Irwin heaved a satisfied sigh, and the tiny, hard ball of light and fire dropped into the pot. The moment it hit the shimmering liquid, it dispersed into a fine, pinkish fog.
“You need to brew more, Lucy. We don’t work nearly enough.” He made a series of bird noises afterward that did not translate to my ears, and settled into the crook of my neck. I think if he had been a cat, he might have purred; he always enjoyed the ‘high’ after a spell. Part of being a witch’s familiar, I suppose.
The pinkish fog cleared, and I peered into the pot to see about three inches of perfect fluorescent pink and green fluid: a week’s worth of Luck Tonic. Which, in turn, would be roughly half of the rent for the month. My job as the Witch Warden for the state usually didn’t even cover that, so we ended up relying on sales a lot. Irwin was right, we really didn’t work enough. Being a Witch-Warden was shit for pay.
I kept all of Washington’s human population safe from the things that go bump in the night, and I only got a little over minimum wage. Maybe. The magick folk were begrudgingly welcomed into human society a couple of centuries ago, so I suppose the subject of pay for those of us who worked for the humans never came up. Washington was so quiet, in terms of misbehaving baddies, that I didn’t really get called out much, which meant the Raven’s Nestwas my main source of income these days.
I wrinkled my nose slightly at the thought, but returned to my work, pulling out one of the three drawers in my small kitchen to grab from the stock pile of empty vials. In a few short minutes, and with a little help from Irwin’s feet, I had twenty neat little vials of greenish-pink liquid. I corked them with vigor, pulled on the hem of my sweater, and carefully stacked nineteen of them into my make-shift-shirt-basket; Irwin was able to carry the last one in his clawed foot.
I hurried downstairs with Irwin gliding right behind me, the promised stack of crackers held securely in his beak, just as our old Grandfather clock (another beat-up estate sale find) chimed off-tune to tell me it was nine o’clock and time to open shop. I carefully dumped the nineteen little glass vials into a basket near the register that sat on a counter which in turn was positioned off to the side near the door. Irwin handed off his one vial and hopped off my shoulder to sit on the checkout counter, next to the basket of vials.
“Just about,” I heard him call from around the corner. “We’ve got a tiger fish today.”
I came into the second of the two big rooms downstairs, and saw Mishal removing the large black cloth I used to cover the Tank every night. It wasn’t really a tank, per se. It was a large, flat, thin box of glass affixed to the wall, sort of like a skinny fish tank, but the glass pane facing the room had been removed. The water inside was dark, and held in place by an enchantment, so it didn’t spill out, and instead just sort of pleasantly rippled in place. It was essentially a wall of water I could use for various things. Most often it was some form of fortune telling for tourists, and sometimes the locals. How’s the baby doing, should I invest in this, is my husband a lying cheating bastard… you know, the usual inquiries.
I approached the wall of water, studying its dark, mirror like qualities, and its pristine flat surface. The Tank only ever had one fish swimming around inside of it, and it never needed to be fed. In fact, it was a different fish every day. We had no idea why, or how it did this, but the Tank had been a gift from my crazy Aunt Rissa, so we hadn’t thought to question it.
“Yeah, it’s usually something tiny, like a gold fish. Wonder what that means.” I mused aloud, watching the enormous striped fish swim awkwardly around in the shallow water, clicking unsettling large teeth.
“Yup! Thanks a bunch for getting the floor ready. You really do too much, Mishal.” I gave him a grateful smile, feeling a bit guilty that my elemental guardian did more work for my shop than I did.
“Good morning, Tank,” I said cheerfully, as one might greet a friendly neighbor. The water bubbled around the edges of the glass, as if in reply, and the tiger fish inside moved to look at me. The Tank didn’t talk, or make known that it was… creepily sentient, but I thought it better to be polite than not. Politeness is always a good rule.
I looked around the shop, and saw that the many baskets and bins that lined my walls were full and neatly presented. I nodded, satisfied, and made for the front door to open up for the day.
A tall, thin man in an officer’s uniform, who was mostly mustache, stood talking to Mishal, who had forgone his trio duty to answer the door while I’d woken up the Tank. I hadn’t even heard the doorbell.
“Lucy,” Mishal said, his expression serious and vaguely irritated, “Sergeant Durndell needs to talk to you.”
Ah. Just my luck.