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Emma L Adams

Sorcery & Stories: A Library Witch Mystery Book 3 (Paperback)

Sorcery & Stories: A Library Witch Mystery Book 3 (Paperback)

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Book 3 of : A Library Witch Mystery

It's the holiday season in the town of Ivory Beach, and Rory Hawthorn and her new magical family are preparing for the festivities. But when a group of strange werewolves materialises in the library, it kicks off a series of bizarre events which appear to be lifted directly from her aunt's bestselling novels.

Not only is Rory left to hold the fort when her family falls under the effects of the spell, her growing relationship with Xavier, the local reaper, lands her in hot water with his boss -- the terrifying Grim Reaper.

Can Rory fix the damage, stop the rampaging spell and find the culprit before her life turns into a horror story?

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I lifted the long, thin wand into the air, giving it a wave. Estelle watched me with the same enthusiasm as she had when I’d picked up the other hundred wands I’d tried, but not so much as a spark appeared. The wand remained still, a stick of lifeless wood.

“Ah, well,” Estelle said. “Maybe the next one, Rory.”

As long as they don’t run out of wands first. The assistant who staffed the town’s only wand shop had run off to break up a fight between two elderly witches over the last pair of pink wing accessories, leaving us to make our own way through the shop’s dwindling collection of wands.

I put the wand back in its case and slid it into place on the towering shelf. A lot of witches and wizards passed on their wands through the family, but Aunt Adelaide had admitted that Dad’s wand had gone missing somewhere in the library before his death. Since I’d passed my first round of magical tests early thanks to my aunt pulling some strings at the academy, Estelle had brought me to pick out my wand as this year’s Christmas present. I was starting to regret the timing, given the angry yells in the background from the two pensioners at loggerheads over the wand accessories.

Estelle passed me another box with the same patient expression she wore when tutoring undergrad students as part of her PhD in magical studies. Despite our significant difference in magical skill levels, my cousin and I had become close friends in the past month. Estelle and I shared the same curly red hair common to our family, but she’d inherited her curvier figure from her mother, my aunt Adelaide. I had my father’s tall, slender frame and pale features, accentuated by the silver-lined black cloak I wore, which was marked with our family’s coat of arms. Given my natural affinity for biblio-witch magic, I should have no trouble picking out a wand. Yet every time I tried a new one, an irrational swarm of voices whispering that I’d never belong here in the magical world struck up a chorus, breaking my concentration. 

“Maybe they can sense my nerves.” I held up the new wand and waved it. A pathetic hissing noise came out the end. 

“Wands can’t sense feelings,” Estelle said. “Our family has a unique type of magic, so it’s only natural that you might be drawn to an unusual wand.”

The wands all looked exactly the same to me—sticks of wood shaved down to the same shape and size, bare of accessories. Imagining my cousin Cass’s face if I had to admit none of the wands wanted me made me shudder. Carrying a magical pen and notebook and an inventory full of words which contained magic might be impressive enough on its own, but a magic wand was the symbol that would indicate my acceptance into the paranormal world as a whole. Small wonder my nerves were through the roof.

“Come on, I picked out a familiar with no trouble,” I whispered to the stick in my hand. “A wand shouldn’t be that hard to choose.”

“That’s it.” Estelle’s eyes lit up. “Why not ask Jet to help you choose a wand?”

“I suppose it couldn’t hurt.” I’d opted out of bringing my crow familiar to the wand shop with me, figuring he’d get overexcited, but we’d been here almost an hour. Putting the wand back into its box, I raised my voice. “Hey, Jet, can you give me a hand?”

The shop quietened. Then a rustle of wings sounded and my little crow familiar flew into view, landing on the shelf in front of me.

“What may I assist you with, partner?”

“I’m trying to choose a wand,” I said. “I wondered if you could have a look and see if any appeal to you?”

The crow had sensed a bond between the two of us, so maybe he’d be able to sense which wand was best-suited to me. 

“Certainly!” Jet took flight for the shelves, causing the boxes to rattle. 

“Aren’t you done yet?” The teenage shop assistant appeared, looking frazzled. One of the wand-wielding pensioners had hit him with a quick-grow spell and a huge moustache and bushy red beard now adorned his face.

Fighting a giggle, Estelle used her own wand to reverse the damage. “There you go. Sorry about them.” 

“Thanks,” he said. “Why is there a crow in here?”

“He’s my familiar,” I hastened to explain. “I thought he’d be able to sense which wand resonates with me.”

The assistant dragged a weary hand through his now normal-length hair. “I hope my supervisor doesn’t see him. He’s paranoid enough about the Magpie.”

“Magpie?” I queried.

Shooting a worried look over his shoulder, the kid dropped his voice. “The police are trying to keep it quiet, but they suspect a notorious thief is hiding in town. He’s wanted across the country for stealing from prominent magical communities, and he’s known for leaving a magical signature in the shape of a magpie behind wherever he strikes.”

“I didn’t know,” I said, with a nervous glance at the trembling stacks of boxes.

“Your aunts will,” he said. “They’ll want to keep the library safe from his sticky fingers.”

Jet emerged from the stack of boxes and offered me a wand, which I took. 

“Don’t worry, the library’s well-protected.” I gave the wand a wave, and a feeble spark shot from the end. “Is that it? Did it choose me?”

“No,” said the shop assistant, a frown on his face. While I sympathised with him, considering he’d spent the morning breaking up fights between parents determined to get their children the best wand accessories for Christmas, his obvious impatience made me feel even more frustrated. 

“There must be one wand that works for me,” I said. “It’s not possible for none of them at all to choose me, right?”

The shop assistant didn’t answer, but a shadow fell over the shelves from behind me. I turned around as an elderly man came into view, leaning on a walking stick. Like the assistant, he wore the uniform of the wand shop—a red robe emblazoned with an emblem of three wands crossing. Was he the shop’s owner?

“You’re the new girl,” he observed. “Aurora Hawthorn.”

“Um, yes.” Please tell me he didn’t just see me get rejected by over a dozen wands. “I just passed my theory exam and I’m here to pick a wand.”

“So you are.” His gaze went to Jet, then to the towering shelves of boxes. “I am Mr Hale, the owner of this shop. Outsiders do sometimes have trouble picking out a wand, but I can only think of one occasion where the wizard failed to connect to any wand at all.”

My stomach sank. “So it can happen?”

“Very rarely,” said the grey-haired man. “It was a long time ago… and now I recall, I’m not so sure the man was actually a wizard. Occasionally, people break the rules and smuggle in their non-magical friends or partners. It’s rare that they try to claim a wand, but on this particular occasion, I believe the individual ultimately decided to leave town.”

Calm down, Rory. That’s not you. You’ve already proven you’re a real witch. “You mean someone brought in a—a normal, who couldn’t connect with a wand?

“They did,” he said. “You’re not the same, because you’re from a family of witches. You share their talent, so connecting with a wand should—hey, stop that!” He waved his walking stick in the direction of another fight.

The assistant spun on his heel and ran to calm down the brawling shoppers, while the old man sighed. “The whole town has gone mad.”

Estelle and I ducked behind the shelf to avoid being hit by a flying box of wand accessories. With a muttered curse, the elderly supervisor retreated into the back room while his young assistant attempted to break up the fight.

“Did your mum mention anything about this thief?” I whispered to Estelle.

“She may have,” she said. “He’d be a fool to steal anything from the library, though. We’ve upped our defences. If anyone takes our possessions outside of the town, it’ll have some pretty nasty rebound effects.”

“Good.” I straightened upright, returning the wand to its place on the shelf. When I’d first used biblio-witch magic, I’d been filled with a rush of confidence. I didn’t walk through the magical world expecting everything to work as directed, but I was sure that holding my first wand was supposed to feel less—deflating.

Estelle handed me another wand. “Try this one.”

I waved the wand. The lights flickered, but the wand felt odd and bumpy in my hand, not comfortable like I did when I used biblio-witch magic. 

“Relax,” said Estelle. “Imagine you’re Aunt Candace when she finishes a manuscript.”

“What, annoyed and at a loose end, looking for an argument?”

“Okay, bad example.” She smiled. “What about when she has an ingenious idea for a new book?”

“Inspired by one of us?” I raised the wand.

She gave a mischievous grin. “I’m sure she’ll end up writing an epic romance between a reaper and a biblio—joking, joking,” she added, as I gave the wand a wave. I’d been meaning to set off a stream of sparks, but the wand made a noise like a deflating balloon. 

“Maybe I need to get you riled up instead,” she said. “Or—oh hey, Mum.”

“Did you say Aunt Candace?” asked Aunt Adelaide, appearing from behind a display. “Have you seen her? She went to ‘get some air’ two hours ago.”

“She did?” Strange. Aunt Candace spent almost every waking moment in the library. I rarely saw her set foot outside, especially when she was in the middle of a new project like she was at the moment. Maybe she’d gone Christmas shopping, but she hated crowds even more than I did.

“That’s odd,” said Estelle. “Did she say where she was going?”

“Does she ever?” Aunt Adelaide shook her head. “It’s bad enough the police are on the lookout for that thief… she’d better not be pestering them to answer questions for research again.”

Ah. That does sound like her.

“Wait,” I said. “If you and Aunt Candace are out… then who’s in charge of the library?”

Aunt Adelaide’s expression shuttered. Then she about-turned and left the shop, sweeping past the bewildered-looking assistant. I didn’t blame her—if Cass was left to watch the library unsupervised, the day generally ended with illegally-acquired magical creatures running amok all over the lobby.

“Ah.” Estelle turned to follow her. “Rory—you can stay and pick out a wand if you like.”

Jet flew past with a shriek as a torrent of sparks shot from the wand accessories section. Two shopping-bag-laden witches squared off, and the assistant stood between them, his knees trembling. 

Deciding that I’d rather deal with whatever chaos Cass had created in the library this time than get caught in the witches’ standoff, I put the last wand back into place and made my way out of the shop.

Scores of shoppers packed the high street, caught in the pre-holidays rush. Glittering Christmas trees filled the windows, decorated with snow that looked real and never melted.

Estelle and I caught up to Aunt Adelaide at the town square. “I’ll find your aunt,” she said. “You two… make sure the patrons haven’t turned one another into spiders.”

“Gotcha,” said Estelle. “Don’t worry, we’ve got it under control.”

The library towered over the square, a majestic red-brick building with stained-glass windows and a pair of tall oak doors—a sight that never ceased to take my breath away. I could hardly believe it was mine, even the trick staircases, disappearing floors, and the invisible upper floor that nobody had been able to access for years. Not to mention the vampire sleeping in the basement and the owl who was secretly the embodiment of the library’s entire store of knowledge. My former job as a bookshop assistant under my dad’s grumpy former business partner, Abe, seemed a whole world away from the library’s chaotic yet welcoming atmosphere.

On the ground floor, towering shelves filled the space beyond the front desk, while wooden balconies formed five stories, climbing until they disappeared from sight. In the centre stood a vast Christmas tree decorated with flashing baubles, while glowing lights draped the balconies and fake snow glittered on the shelves. Having seen my aunt conjure up an actual snowstorm using the library’s magic on one memorable occasion, I was glad she’d opted for the fake option.

In the Reading Corner—a cosy space filled with bean bags, hammocks and comfy chairs nestled at the back of the ground floor—a number of patrons cowered behind an overturned desk. On the other side, my cousin Cass stood beside a tall, spindly creature, speaking in a murmur. Estelle’s younger sister had the same long red hair as the rest of us, currently twisted into a topknot. Her pale, freckled features matched mine and my dad’s, while her willowy figure was more like Aunt Candace’s. She wore the same long coat as Estelle, with the sleeves rolled up and covered in what looked like mud and tree bark.

As we approached, the creature hissed, turning to face us. He had elongated features, long limbs, and sharp-looking teeth.

“What,” said Estelle, “is that?”

“He’s a boggart,” said Cass. “He’s scared of loud noises. Don’t move.”

The patrons didn’t move a muscle. The boggart towered over them, his spindly hands reaching out. Cass tapped his wrist firmly and he shrank away.

“He doesn’t look scared,” I whispered. “He looks like he’s about to eat someone.”

“It’s a defence mechanism.”

The boggart howled, the sound echoing throughout the Reading Corner. As one of the patrons made a run for it, his spindly hands reached out again, grabbing the teenage wizard by the leg and dragging him along the carpet.

Oh, no. Wishing I had managed to claim a wand, I pulled out my Biblio-Witch Inventory and tapped the word fly.

The boggart left the ground, hovering in the air. The wizard he’d tried to grab gave a grateful nod, scuttling out of sight. My book vibrated in my hand, resonating with the magic humming inside me. Thanking the hours I’d spent practising, I turned to Estelle. “Is there a cage somewhere here?”

“I’ll fetch one.” She whipped out her own wand, waving it in a complex motion, and a cage appeared beneath the boggart, catching the creature’s spindly form within it. “Sorted.”

Cass whipped to face her sister. “You’re frightening him.”

“I think he’ll survive it,” Estelle said. “What were you thinking? Mum left you alone for five minutes, if that.”

“I didn’t let him out the cage,” she said indignantly. 

“Even if you didn’t, you brought him into the library to begin with.” With another flick of her wand, Estelle locked the cage door. I made a mental note to learn that one as soon as I had a wand of my own. In a library where half the doors were marked with an X—designating them as forbidden and dangerous—one could never be too careful. I’d had to ask for Sylvester’s assistance the last time I’d needed to lock the door on a rampaging magical creature—in that case, Cass’s pet manticore.

Estelle caught me looking at her wand. “Don’t worry,” she whispered. “It took Aunt Candace a while to find a wand she liked, too.”

“But you all chose your wands when you were what, five years old?”

Yet another way in which I stood apart from the rest of the magical world. Dad had grown up here, but he’d had to leave this life behind when he’d married Mum. I’d grown up not having the slightest idea that magic was real, so it was no wonder that my acceptance into this world had hit a few snags. 

“Well, yes,” she admitted. “But you’re new. And besides, you passed your exam. Full marks, Mum said.”

My face heated, while Cass gave a snort. “They haven’t changed the syllabus in years. And where’s your wand? I thought you were going to buy one today. At least, that’s what you’ve spent the last week going on about, so I assume you were.”

I frowned at her. “I’ve mentioned it twice at most. I only found out I passed the exam yesterday. And I didn’t even get to buy one before someone decided to let her pet out of its cage.”

My aunts had taken me under their wing for tutoring in biblio-witch magic, while potion-making, casting spells and magical theory lessons were squeezed into any spare moment I possessed. I was also supposed to be starting familiar training, since I’d decided to bolster the bond between myself and Jet and accidentally gave him the ability to speak instead. But without a wand, I was still cut off from half the magical world, and despite my resolve not to let Cass’s taunting get to me, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.

“I told you,” Cass said through gritted teeth, “I didn’t do it. Aunt Candace is the one you should be worried about, if she’s loose in town without supervision.”

The boggart howled and rattled the cage bars. It wasn’t the first time Cass had brought a magical animal from outside and tried to take care of it in the library, but the Magical Creatures Division was all the way up on the third floor. I’d improved my levitation skills, but last time I’d tried levitating a cage down three floors, the kelpie had escaped, chased the patrons, and then rampaged through the town square. Considering the town was in a frenzy over last-minute Christmas shopping on top of general end-of-term stress, they might need the entertainment, but it wasn’t fair to put any more pressure on Aunt Adelaide. Especially with Aunt Candace up to her usual mayhem.

“Where’d you even find a boggart?” Estelle asked Cass. “I thought they avoided people.”

My cousin shrugged. “Magical creatures like me.”

The boggart tried to lunge at her through the cage, which fell over. I raised an eyebrow. “You sure about that?”

Cass flicked her wand and returned the cage to its rightful position. “I told you, he gets nervous around strangers. I’ll take his cage back upstairs.”

“I thought you promised you weren’t going to bring any more of those creatures into the library.”

“He was already in the library.” Cass gave her wand another flick. Since the boggart was a lot smaller than the kelpie the two of us had once levitated downstairs, the cage glided smoothly up the staircase. 

“What do you mean by that?” I followed, holding my Biblio-Witch Inventory in case she needed backup. “Where in the library?”

“Boggarts like cold, dark places,” she said. “I found him in the Relics section. He’s probably been there for weeks.”

The boggart rattled the cage bars. I tapped the word rise in my Biblio-Witch Inventory and its path steadied, carrying it up to the second floor.

“Then shouldn’t you call pest control or something?” The boggart gave another lunge, almost tipping the cage over in mid-air. “Or whatever the magical equivalent is? There’s got to be someone you can call when you get a nest of pixies in the attic or gnomes in the garden—”

Cass shrieked, tripping backwards at the sound of a monumental clang. The cage had collided with something solid—or someone, human-height and decidedly hairy. He toppled over sideways onto the stairs, bellowing obscenities.

“Cass, the cage!” I tapped the word rise to steady the cage before it tumbled downstairs.

Recovering, Cass levitated the cage past the unexpected obstacle, towards the closed door at the back of the third floor. I, meanwhile, leaned over the newcomer, hoping we’d only stunned him. He wore an odd silver jumpsuit, which looked like it might belong to an astronaut. Or a convict. Oh, no. Please tell me Cass isn’t collecting prisoners as well as rare animals.

The man sat up abruptly. “How dare you attack an officer!”

“Excuse me?” I said. “Who are you?”

“I am Captain Wayfarer, and you are charged with attacking my squadron.”

That sounded like a load of gibberish to me. “I think you got hit on the head. Were you looking at the books?”

“Books?” He looked around, wearing a baffled expression. “I haven’t seen paper books in many years. Is this a museum?”

“No, it’s a library,” I said. “Where did you come from?”

“Up there.” He jabbed a finger upwards, but there wasn’t anything there except for the white-painted ceiling. 

“What, through the ceiling?” Why did I run into all the nutcases? I glanced around in search of Cass, but she’d disappeared along with the boggart’s cage “Do you want to come downstairs and speak to my cousin? She’s in charge of, uh, hospitality.”

“Very well,” he said. “Take me to your Cousin of Hospitality.”

Oh… kay. Baffled, I made for the stairs, hoping the others would have better luck making sense of our strange new visitor.

Cass came out of the boggart’s room. “Why is there a werewolf in here?”

Oh, is that what he is?

“He claims he’s lost,” I said. 

Cass snorted. “Don’t tell me—he wandered in here after a night at the pub and can’t remember how to get home.”

The man—or rather, werewolf—turned on her with narrowed eyes. “My crew will be on their way to assist me soon. Then you’ll be sorry for insulting me.”

“He’s not making any sense,” Cass said. 

I know that. First a boggart, now a confused werewolf. Why had I given up my chance to buy a wand? I should have known I wouldn’t manage to avoid any havoc until the new year.

Aunt Adelaide waited in the lobby, her arms folded over her chest as an apologetic Estelle attempted to calm down the patrons. Nobody spotted the werewolf until he let out an angry bark from behind my shoulder. “Who are these people? This isn’t the station.”

“Excuse me, who are you?” said Estelle. “You’re a werewolf, right?”

That’s when a dozen huge wolves leapt over the balcony, landing in the middle of the ground floor.

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