There were two things guaranteed to every person alive—death and taxes. If you were fortunate to survive birth, you couldn’t escape either one. The first could be construed as a blessing after enduring a miserable existence while the other could very well be a curse haunting you unto the grave if left unpaid. Of course, living came with plenty of obstacles before you checked out permanently. I had been fortunate not to have encountered those things. Yet.
My life included other issues—being a female and being magickal. Either category had its own difficulties, but when combined they turned into a complicated stew. It was bad enough that as a girl my world focused on eligible bachelors and endless hours learning the fine art of womanhood. But being born female and magickal meant being unappreciated on a whole different level. It could be just as harsh as not having enough finances to carry you from day to day. I called it devalued worth.
Female Spelltwisters didn’t own property. We didn’t get to display our skills because no one trusted us. Men said we were too flighty to be taken seriously. Honestly, they believed we might get the vapors or some nonsense right in the middle of an incantation.
Male Spelltwisters were different. The male gender was afforded better jobs and the right to own property, magick or no, but a better lifestyle came with magick. Being able to get whatever you desired practically made a man royalty.
Everybody who was anybody—even those who claimed to have no interest in spells and things—craved the status.
Of course, nobody wielded their powers freely without a certificate from the Institute of Prodigious Arts (IPA), the school for training Celestine Spelltwisters. The Abra Guild, that haughty group of magickals who dictated what could be done in Crowley, oversaw the IPA. Needless to say, there wasn’t a female within their gilded walls.
I should have said that some males were given the privilege of practicing magick. There were those like my half-brother, Lance, who weren’t magickal at all. His lack of ability combined with my power gave Mother reason to hate us. She called my brother and me her greatest disappointments—useless and unable to improve her lot in life.
You see, Eleanora Alderdice Cuthbert, our esteemed mother, was a Sage capable of perceiving all types of magick, but she possessed no power of her own. She wrongfully thought that by harnessing herself to men with capabilities that she would produce the right children—Celestine males. Instead, she gave birth to Fractals—offspring with only a fifty percent chance at magick. Fractals were unpredictable. Even the Abra Guild suggested that marriages between magickals and non-magickals be avoided at all costs to prevent their birth. Any unfortunate children born to the couple were supposed to be tossed into the Void—a wasteland for those who practiced without permission.
I was pretty certain Mother knew about the Guild’s dictates. Thankfully, she didn’t listen and saved us from a fate worse than death. Unfortunately, she failed to realize that her dark intentions would have never created Celestines—those born pure of heart. All she’d ever produce would be children with inherent evil coursing through their black souls—Murcurials.
Call me the zounderkite for believing that one day Mother would recognize that I was her greatest gift. I’d been wielding magick since I could walk, but no one could ever pin anything on me. I was as guiltless as a priest. Whatever I wanted, I got. Well…almost. What I truly wanted was Mother’s respect and appreciation.
Regrettably, the only thing that mattered to her was finding me an appropriate suitor. Her goal was to find a man who would see my abilities as useful talents and put them to use tidying his household and keeping him fed. As the saying went, magickal daughters were a boon. If she was of pretty face, admire her from afar but never ever test her.
But I’d had enough of being the invisible child.
The under-appreciated child.
A girl that no one in Crowley took seriously.
Trevor, my stepbrother, didn’t fear what I could do to him. Even Lance doubted what I could do. Everyone pushed aside my powers, but no more. Even if it killed me, I would find a way to make them all notice. I was ready to be tested.
And I would pass with flying colors.
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