STEAM WAFTED FROM the cauldron as bubbles popped
and pinged against the iron sides. The boiling potion gave
off a pungent vapor that moistened Annie Pearce’s face and
frizzed her massive wave of curls. She wiped away the sweat with
her sleeve and checked the heat beneath the oversized cauldron,
reducing the blue and orange flames. Though the heat was lower,
the flames still danced and pulsed as they cooked the holy water.
Stirring the potion calmed her apprehension and siphoned
some excess adrenaline she always felt before facing a vampire. But
then, this wasn’t an average vampire.
The timer beeped and, standing on bare toes, Annie peeked
inside the pot. The clear liquid bubbled softly, so she shut off the
fire before dumping a bucket of ice into the mixture. As cold met
hot, the potion hissed like an angry snake, sending more steam in
the air. Unfazed, Annie sang along with P!nk’s “Who Knew” as it
blared from the small radio near the stove.
As the potion cooled, Annie loaded supplies into a field pack.
First came an abridged version of her Book of Shadows. The tome
contained potions, spells, and notes—an accumulation of Annie’s
life experiences with magic. The book had grown exponentially
over her five years with the Wizard Guard; thumbing through the
book, she was amazed and maybe a little proud by its thickness.
The book fit nicely beside several ash stakes, each whittled to
the sharpest point, good for piercing the skin and the breast bone
of a vampire. On top of those lay a rolled map of Chicago tied
with a scrying crystal necklace.
Three songs played on the radio by the time Annie finished
gathering and packing her supplies. After closing up the pack, she
poked her head into the cauldron and immersed a pinky finger in
Rummaging through the kitchen cabinets belonging to her
best friend and Wizard Guard partner Bobby “Cham” Chamsky,
she found a stash of small glass vials, grabbed a handful and placed
them in a haphazard cluster on the counter. Filling twelve—more
than enough to take down the vampire—she tucked half of the
bottles deep inside her field pack to prevent shifting during teleportation. The rest she left for Cham.
“Isn’t the potion done yet? It smells like it’s burnt,” he complained from the dining room.
Rolling her eyes and arching her back Annie glared at him.
His scrying crystal glowed bright white, and he marked another
location on the map next to the several already drawn that night.
“I’m a potion master. It’s not burnt. Haven’t you found him
yet?” she asked defensively.
Cham glanced up and offered a grimace. “Yeesh. He’s never in
one place long enough to confirm his location.”
Burn my potion, right.
“So where would you hide a zombie army?” Cham asked, still
pushing the crystal across the map.
“Someplace large and discreet, I would think. Any location fit
that so far?”
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