Daughters of Dark Root
Genre: Paranormal, Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Dark Root Press
Date of Publication: June 3, 2014
Number of pages: 330 pages
Word Count: 88,000
Cover Artist: AnneMarie Buhl and Greg Jensen
“There are rules that must be followed, Maggie.”
“Even in witchcraft?”
“Especially in witchcraft. What someone puts into the world comes back to them.”
“You mean karma?”
“Like karma, yes. But for a witch it comes back threefold. Never forget that.”
“That doesn’t seem fair.”
“Who said life was fair?”
In the second installment of The Daughters of Dark Root series, Maggie Maddock and her sisters are back, training under their coven-leading mother Miss Sasha Shantay to take over as the new leaders of The Council. But life isn’t as smooth as Maggie had hoped it would be. Harvest Home’s taxes have come due, and her mother’s illness has returned, stronger than ever.
Desperate, Maggie and Eve devise a scheme to make money through witchcraft.
And that’s when things go terribly wrong.
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There are nights when you question just about everything: who you are, where you've come from, what your purpose is, how you got to your current place in life.
And then there are nights when you just accept things.
Nights when you stand beneath a silver moon, digging a shallow grave for a man you murdered. A man who probably had a wife and children, a mother and a job. A man who probably wouldn't have tried to molest your kid sister, if she hadn't been wearing a perfume enchanted to entice men in the first place.
These are the nights you try not to think.
Because if you think––about the corpse sitting in the car a dozen feet away, about your inability to determine wrong from right, about the fact that your mother was right about you after all, that you walk the line, just like your father––you just might go mad.
And I couldn't go mad.
Anyway, it was Thanksgiving, officially, and I wasn't going to let this little incident ruin the holidays.
“No!” I said aloud as I plunged my shovel into the earth and tossed out another spade full of dirt. “I’m going to keep it together!”
“Maggie, you okay?” Merry stopped digging and faced me, her eyes concerned. In this lighting, as her gold hair framed her sweet face, she looked more angelic than ever. “You can take a break, if you need to. We’ll be okay.”
“Me? I’m fine, Merry. Thanks for asking.”
I caught my sisters shooting each other knowing looks, looks that said I wasn’t all right, that in fact I had lost my marbles.
“I’m fine,” I repeated emphatically, tossing out an extra-large helping of dirt and wondering how much deeper we would need to dig.
The spell said to encase the subject in a box, then bury him under the light of a waning moon, but it didn't specify how deep the grave needed to be. An unhelpful omission. Since the “subject” would eventually dig his way out of that grave, clawing his way through the box and layers of muck, I conjectured we shouldn't dig it too deeply.
The experience would be traumatic enough for the poor guy as it was.
Fortunately for us, however, the timing of his death couldn't have been better, being a waning moon and all. If I’ve learned anything from this ordeal, it’s that if you are going to commit murder, and have any intention of bringing the deceased back to life, always plan it around the correct moon cycle.
Lucky break for Maggie!
“I think,” I said, continuing to dig. “That this might be a lucrative business. Bringing people back from the dead. If it works out, we might start charging for it. Gotta bring in more money than that stupid magick store does.”
“Maggie, stop,” Eve said, wiping her forehead with cashmere gloves she would never wear again.
“I’m just saying…why not? We can call it Bodies R Us. They’re not dead unless we say they’re dead.” I grinned at Ruth Anne, sure she’d appreciate my joke.
She shook her head and continued digging.
“What?” I asked, throwing my shovel onto the ground. “Are we too good for death jokes now?”
Merry pressed her lips together. “Honey, you’ve had a terrible shock and now it’s finally setting in. Go sit on the porch steps and we’ll finish this. We’ll call you when it’s done.”
“No!” I screamed, surprising myself with the shrillness of my voice. I tore at the air with both hands, as if being assaulted by an invisible man, tears stinging my eyes. “I won’t sit by while my sisters bury the man I…”
I choked, unable to finish the sentence. I lifted my trembling chin. “Neither hell nor jail is good enough for me.”
Someone’s arms wrap around me. I recognized the vanilla and lavender scent as Merry’s. I hyperventilated in her arms as she held me, cooing me to quiet.
“It’s okay, honey. It will be okay.”
How could I explain to her that it wouldn't be okay? Nothing might ever be okay again. Even if we did manage to raise him, I had the deathtouch, just like my father. And there was no coming back from that.
“What if we can’t do it, Merry?” I sniffed, wiping my nose on her shoulder as I stared at the Christmas tree in the front yard, the box that would soon be a coffin.
“We will,” she said, brushing the hair from my face. “You’ll see.”
“I think this is deep enough,” Ruth Anne announced, tossing her shovel onto the ground. “We’d better hurry.”
I let out one final sob of self-pity and nodded.
Merry grabbed my hand and we converged on the car.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the man in the passenger seat.
He sat buckled in, staring straight ahead. I removed his seat belt, noticing the stiffness of his body we hefted him from the car. You hear that the dead are cold, but you can never imagine how cold. It’s not a freezer type of cold or a snow type of cold. It’s an empty chill, like floating in deep space. A coldness without hope.
“We don’t have much time,” I said as we lowered him into the box.
He didn’t quite fit and we pushed on arms and legs, stuffing him inside like an unwilling Jack-in-the box.
Merry wiped the salve she had concocted across his face and neck. It smelled horrible, like ashes and mold. Next, she reached into her pocket and produced Mother’s wand.
“Once he’s completely buried, we use this,” she said.
“Paul says that in the old days, people were often buried alive,” Eve said, fighting back a shiver. “He said gravediggers found coffins with scratch marks on the inside.”
“Maybe they weren't buried alive,” I suggested. “Maybe they were guinea pigs in spells like this one.”
“Maggie, you’re not funny.”
At last, it was done. The man who’d been buying us drinks and pawing at my sister only a few hours ago was now four feet underground in my front yard. I wanted to stick a cross in the earth, or a stone, something to mark this place.
But I couldn't think like that. I had to believe he was just sleeping and would wake up shortly, and we’d all go back to our normal lives.
Merry lifted the wand. The emerald-colored gem shone so dim, it faded into the night. The wand was dying, too.
“We could use this on Mama,” Merry said, her voice almost a whisper.
There was a cold silence that passed between us. If the wand had one charge left, did we waste it on a stranger? Or did we try and save the woman we loved, who hovered very near death herself in the bedroom upstairs? It could buy her time.
Our heads turned in unison towards her window.
“No,” I said, resolutely. “There’s still hope for Mother, but there’s no hope for this guy. We have to use it on him.”
Merry nodded and we gathered around the grave. She lifted her wrist, ready to cast the wand, but I stopped her.
“Give it to me, Merry. I have to be the one.”
“But Maggie,” Merry protested. I knew what she was thinking. She had the gift of healing, while I had the curse of…
She handed it over.
My hand shook as I took it. Merry might have the right kind of magick, but my powers were greater, and I had Mother’s Circle.
My sisters held hands, chanting words from Mother’s scroll, indecipherable gibberish that produced an ethereal sound when spoken together, like angels falling from heaven.
I raised the wand, catching site of a raven that roosted between the spokes of the old garden gate, intently watching me.
It was now or never.
The price of the deathtouch had to be paid.
April Aasheim considers herself an ‘expert’ in the paranormal. Her mother dabbled in the occult and her father was a martial artist who believed that true power came from an unseen energy that you could tap into.
As a child, April claims to have lived in a haunted house and to have been visited by relatives who had passed on. To combat her frightening experiences, April spent her youth studying world religion including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. Later, April branched out in her studies with a focus on psychology, anthropology, sociology, and the paranormal.
April is married with children and currently resides in Portland, Oregon where she spends her days writing, watching movies, and attending Zumba classes at her local gym.
The Magick of Dark Root is the second in The Daughters of Dark Root series, and her third novel.