Fifteen year-old Cait Weerd has no idea she’s being sought by the undain: sorcerous creatures of necromancy that feed off the spirit of the living. She doesn’t know the undain need her blood to survive. She doesn’t even know she’s a witch, descended from a long line of witches. Cait Weerd doesn’t know a lot, really, but all that’s about to change.
At Manchester Central Library she’s caught up in sudden, horrific violence. In the chaos she’s handed an old book that’s been hidden there and told to run, hide the book or destroy it. It contains all the secrets of the undains’ existence. They and their human servants want to find that as much as they want Cait.
What’s more, she learns that the fate of two worlds is at stake here. Just what she needs. Along with definitely-not-a-boyfriend Danny, she has to decide what the hell to do. Run, fight or just hope it all goes away.
It’s only then she learns who she really is, along with the terrible truth of what the undain have been doing in our world all this time …
Hedge Witch Sampler
Witching Hour Short Stories
Cait threw her rucksack over one shoulder and set off, a small pile of text books cradled in one arm. How she hated her black school uniform. She’d tried to subvert it with blue in her hair and piercings that contravened all the rules. None of it helped. She hated how she looked. She scowled as she walked, warning everyone not to bother her.
Slumped against the grey stone wall of the library, out of the way of hurrying feet and the light of the sun, a man sat on a piece of tatty cardboard. A threadbare blanket was wrapped around his shoulders. On the ground before him lay a hat containing a paltry four or five coins, all coppers. He held a sign in his hands that said simply, Please. The rest of the message, whatever he was begging for, had been torn away. He was asleep, his head nodding forwards, long, matted hair covering his face. The crowd ignored him, probably didn’t even see him.
She wondered who he was, where he’d come from, what his story was. Perhaps he was one of the few who’d escaped the fire: the factory blaze that had killed her father. This man had limped out, choking, his clothes smoking, his skin burned. He was disfigured now, unable to work, unable to do anything but sit and beg. The formless pleading of that single word on his sign.
She wanted to go to him, sit with him, talk to him. She felt suddenly closer to him than all the people around her. They had so much in common, this shared bond of not belonging to the crowd. She stopped walking. A woman dressed in a smart blue business-suit, her gold necklace expensive, white earphones in her ears, tutted loudly at Cait for being in the way.
A flap of the beggar’s cardboard seat caught the breeze and she saw the words This Way Up in red letters. Underneath, smaller, the name of some company.
The man looked up sharply at her. Or rather, through her to something beyond, as if he couldn’t focus his eyes properly. He was young. He couldn’t possibly have worked with her father. Of course. His skin was unscarred, his features thin and pale. Anger flashed through her, an anger that was part adrenaline. The stupid ideas she had. What was she thinking?
“The hunt! The hunt is coming! Monsters! Run and hide, run and hide!” the man shouted. No one paid him any attention. “They’ll chase you down, corner you. You’ll see! Sleep safe in your beds, that’s when they come. The dead of night, down these streets, knives flashing. Run and hide, run and hide…” He trailed off, his head lolling again as if he was a toy whose battery had run down.
Cait stood for a moment, feeling ridiculous. He was just some loser, disgusting, probably mad.
Then he looked up, this time directly at her, focusing on her. A look of surprise filled his face.
“You?” he said, not shouting now, but still speaking loudly. “Here?”
Concern, then fear, then amusement flashed across his features. He started shouting again, pointing at her.
“They will hunt you! Once they find you, who you are and what you are, they will come! Day or night! You … here all along! All along!”
He started to laugh. A crazy, utterly uninhibited sound. He flicked his head from side to side, expecting everyone to see the joke.
It was too much for Cait. She turned and ran for the library, eyes down, shutting out the beggar, his words knives in her mind.
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