YAPC would like to welcome S. Dayton to the blog today. She is here to share some info and an excerpt of her book The Good Witch’s Weapon. If this looks like something you would like to read, please go grab a copy!
After the mysterious death of her parents 23 year old Violet Quinn arrives in smog filled 1950’s London. In a vast dark forest along her enigmatic Uncle’s mansion a war of Fairies, Witches and unknown creatures is unfolding. Violet finds herself in the middle. Armed with charm, an uneasy magical temperament and new friends Violet sets out to find out the truth behind the war, and her family’s secret past.
Book Two: A League and a Dragon
Book Three: The Light and Dark of Violet
Content Warning: Mild violence and mild romance
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The train station was crowded, bustling with people and steam from the trains. I was looking for a familiar face, but only seeing my Uncle as a child made it hard to recognize him now as an old man. I’m not sure he if would even pick me up. A rich man of his status might not be bothered. He just wrote in his letter to buy the tickets and send word of my arrival. I had, and arrived on time.
Getting off the train most people looked down and away from me. It was unusual to say the least. In Rye, people made eye contact, smiled and often stared. Especially to someone as unusually colored as me. My light green eyes and fair skin made me stick out compared to the tanned skin of the farmers and dark haired women of Rye. My mother’s hair was littered with red, streaks of blonde and strawberry. She was the only one in town who gained as much attention as I did. If we went to town for a meal, or to shop, it seemed half of Rye would be there to greet us. Father preferred the outdoors, and his tanned skin blended in with the others. They thought our porcelain complexions were sickly in comparison. Mother knew we were different, and she often said she “wouldn’t have it any other way!”
I was always uncomfortable with the attention. It was a happy relief to be ignored, to blend into the scenery as if I belonged. It was troubling to me somehow. London was unfriendly and seemed to be filled with smog. The grey sky overhead made good on an unspoken promise, and started to rain. My bright red hair was pinned neatly in a bun, but curls broke loose in the rain. In the dim light of the train station pieces of hair turned from red to deep crimson as I grew nervous. Carrying my bag I looked for a place to wait in the rain. My anxiety grew, my palms getting sweaty and fingers tingle. I looked frantically around for someone to help her. Everyone was looking past. As if she was just an image and not there at all. I closed my eyes to calm myself. I remembered mother’s words and repeated them silently. Calm yourself, breathe. Control yourself, breathe. Center your energy, breathe. I opened my eyes and felt composed.
A tall man wearing a black hat and jacket was staring at me from across the platform. I looked but tried not to make eye contact. I could see him staring without a word as trains rushed passed, people hopping on and off. The station was buzzing with complaints of rain and the chill in the air. As the minutes passed, I sat on the bench with bag tightly on my lap. I could call my Uncle.. I had written of the day and time of arrival. I looked again at the man until he suddenly disappeared. I wiped my eyes with my hand and blinked. Looking around there was no one that seemed to notice. I laughed to myself and realized how hungry I was. The hunger had caused delirium certainly. A grumble in my stomach, mixed with the chill of the air made me miss the green fields and warm pastures of home. I remembered an apple, and dug into my bag looking for it.
“Excuse me, Miss?” Inearly jumped to see the tall man from across the platform, now standing in front of me. His voice was deep, and he was even taller than I had noticed. His broad shoulders made his jacket tight as he bowed towards me and repeated his question.
“Excuse Me, Miss?
I felt afraid to speak my voice. The enormous tanned man was talking to me? Surely I was about to be attacked and sold into some sort of underground London girl trade. I tightened the grip on my bag in case I needed to run.
“You are Miss violet? I am Sampson: Edward Clarke’s personal assistant.”
“Oh yes. I am. Hello.”
I held my hand out to greet him. His expressionless face looked at my bag and grabbed the handles from my grip.
“Follow Me, the car is waiting.”
And with that he was gone hustling through the crowd with the ease of a nearly seven foot man. Under the roof of the train station his long stride carried him past people walking at a normal pace. He breezed past the trains, through the lobby and out the front doors without a single person impeding his speed. He was casually parting the crowds.
I was sweating trying to keep up. I had worn my most comfortable outfit of a long skirt and flat boots only to be chasing a man on slick wet floors in a crowd. I was breathless and cursing myself when we got to the car. A pain in my side had me buckled over behind Sampson as he paused and let me catch up. In a crowd of people darting into dark black cars avoiding the rain, the car stood glimmering. The rain was pouring down, and a black umbrella appeared over my head to keep me dry. All of London seemed to be a dull gray color compared to my Uncle’s car. Catching every bit of light and casting it off the car was glowing. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
The run had caused my hair to fall completely out of the bun and was flowing around like a glow of soft red. I pointed and gasped at the sight of the car. It was completely unlike the rusted old black car my parents owned. The car was a shiny mahogany red, with cream wheels and delicate cream accents on the doors. Painted black lines ran the length of the car, curving and twirling up and over every windows edge. Silver handles to open the three doors on the side. One up front for the driver and two back to back so all the passengers were facing each other. Samson walked to the car and held one of the doors open and motioned I climb inside. I slid on the warm seats; they were soft to the touch yet hard and sturdy. Warm air flowing around me, the plush backs of the seats was nicer than on the train and lined with silver braided edges. I leaned back and smiled to myself. Imagine his house, if this is his car.
Sampson climbed in the front seat, shaking the umbrella gently and laying it on the open seat and drove away without another word. I watched as the streets turned and the car weaved along them. Other cars and busses were on the road, and parked on the sides, but nothing like the one I rode in. I was warm and happy, and couldn’t help but smile out the tinted windows at the people on the streets. It seemed as if no one turned to look at us certainly they could see the car? It was twice the size of a normal car, and they were mostly black and rusted like the one her parents owned. I had a feeling that London wasn’t very fond of visitors and I was clearly from out of town. But Uncle made his life here, and perhaps the way their gaze avoided her was a reflection on him. Was he a good man? A honest man? I was hoping he wasn’t a bad man. There was a glass window between Sampson and myself, but I could see it was half open. I inched closer slowly, keeping in mind the bumps in the London streets. I tied my hair back neatly and cleared my throat. Sampson made a “Humph?” sound to acknowledge my closeness to the open window.
“Mr. Sampson.” , “how much longer?” they had only been driving 20 minutes or so but days of traveling without anyone to talk to had left me anxious for conversation. Unfortunately, Sampson probably wasn’t the best choice.
“Just Sampson, Miss, and we are arriving shortly.”
I couldn’t help but smile, what an adventure! My back to Sampson I sat and watched out the window. A wave of heat rippled through my hair and down my neck. I flushed with delight and excitement. Watching the buildings turn from city to a smaller town, from tall buildings to small businesses. Marbles Books, Hobbins Grocery, Kendal Square Market. The signs were painted in gold letters on faded black slabs of wood. The windows were dirty but you could make out the chocolates in the window of F.H Confections. People were hidden under their umbrellas, faces shielded and jacket collars pulled high as to not let the cold air sink in.
I felt my energy spike. My fingers were tingling like they often did when I was upset. I wasn’t upset however, I was excited. It was a familiar feeling, that had been happening more and more since my parents were gone. I could feel a change within me. It was a feeling my mother had as well. My heart pounding and my fingers feeling the need to move. We passed a hat shop, a bank, a few taverns and I felt the car start to slow down. The engine of the car roared and hummed over the road avoiding bumps and pedestrians with ease.
I felt a pang of sadness for enjoying myself in the wake of everything. But I knew my parents would be happy Uncle had so generously taken me in. At my age without a husband It would be hard to keep up the house alone. Let alone make money on the small herb farm they had. It had produced less and less over the years. The car slowed and turned down a dirt driveway in between two buildings. To me, it looked like an ordinary ally, not nearly wide enough for two cars to pass. They drove up to a cast iron gate where Sampson got out of the car and eased it open. The rain had briefly stopped but the clouds still hung in the air. I warmed with anticipation and felt my hair darken and deepen in color. You could still not see the house yet. I found myself sitting very close the partition window that separated my area from Sampson’s. I was leaning left and right, trying to catch a glimpse of something, and when I did, I was not disappointed.
To say this house was a Manor, would be an understatement. I thought it a castle. Like the pictures in my books. A thick row of hedges shadowed a gray and red brick house with black gilded windows. They seemed a bit dark and dirty, but I attributed that to the weather. It was at least three stories tall, with a balcony off the right side two stories up. On the right were a row of hedges fenced in and an overgrown garden. Half dead and half beautiful ivy climbed over a fence and up the side of the house. A field was surrounding the whole property, with a thick forest behind it. A small chicken coop and wooden building was set back along the edge of the trees. Looking back towards the city, I could only see more trees. A long dirt driveway separated us from the rest of the world.
My mouth was wide open and I was counting windows then Sampson slowed the car to a stop. On the roof I could see windows in the slanted ceiling for gazing at the stars. Uncle’s name was etched in a large stone to the right of a covered entrance. “Dr. Edward Clarke,” I read aloud. Sampson had opened the car door and was now standing, waiting. I couldn’t help but smile as she looked up at him.
“My Uncle is a Doctor?” I asked. Gathering my skirt and avoiding the puddles of the driveway as I climbed out.
“Yes, Miss. A Veterinary Surgeon.. Please follow me in now.”
He shut the car door behind me but I was staring at the house. It was large and beautiful and mysterious. Unlike the humble wooden house without curtains or grand hedges I have at home. HAD at home, I corrected myself in my thoughts. There is no home in Rye anymore, this is home now. And as I followed Sampson in, I was warming up to the idea.
About the Author: S Dayton is a New Englander with English roots. Her style is quirky, witty and full of adventure. She lives in Maine and spends afternoons hiking, entertaining family and drinking cheap wine.
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