The Breaking (Northern Witch #3)
Sometimes in life, you can look back to one moment in time and say this – this is what caused it. Caused all the pain and the drama.
The first time I saw Damian, I knew that I was in trouble.
The first time I saw Eadric, standing before me on the moors...
Mark stood, the wind buffeting, and pulling at his heavy coat. It whipped tears from his eyes, leaving a cold streak down his face.
Nothing mattered, though, except the potential demon in front of him. He looked so very human, if a little unusual with his long brown hair and coarsely-woven tunic. Only the black eyes gave him away.
His arm ached, where he’d cut the demon’s mark into his own skin. Fresh fear thrummed through Mark’s veins, he couldn’t deal with this now, alone and helpless. Almost helpless... in response to his terror, Luka appeared at Mark’s side, a warm and comforting presence. Mark chanced a glance at the spirit animal – the dog was relaxed, not reading Silvaticus as a threat.
The demon’s black eyes faded, replaced by a dazzling green. The young man’s expression softened.
“Aye, he’s in here. Slivaticus is wēriġ, he slæ now. Slæ.” Eadric stressed the last word, at Mark’s look of confusion.
“Oh, sleep. He’s weary...?” Mark tried to translate. It was hardly comforting news.
Eadric eyed Mark warily. “Yer th’ witch?”
“Aye. I mean: yes, I’m the witch.” Mark brushed away the last trace of tears. He hardly believed his eyes. “Are you... really here? Now? This isn’t another vision?”
Eadric stepped towards him, reaching about before Mark could think to stagger away. Eadric’s hand rested on his shoulder, warm and heavy, and definitely real.
Mark began to shiver at the impossibility of it. “H-how are you here?”
“Ye summoned us.” Eadric frowned as he repeated himself.
“I know, but...” Mark trailed off. This broke every rule he knew... did demons have different rules?
Suddenly feeling out of his depth, Mark pulled out his phone and called Nanna. He quickly explained the situation, and was met with silence. “Nanna, are you there?”
“Yes.” Nanna snapped, before falling silent again. “See if you can get him to follow you to the yard. I’ll meet you there.”
The line went dead, and Mark was left staring at his phone.
He wasn’t the only one – Eadric looked at the device curiously. Mark realised that it was something beyond his understanding. “It’s a phone, so I can talk to my Nanna. She’s another witch – she'd like to meet you.”
“Witchcræft?” Eadric asked, his eyes still fixed on the phone.
“Yeah, sure.” Mark agreed, shoving the mobile into his pocket. “Will you come with me to the stables?”
“Aye, lead the way.”
Mark started to walk slowly across the moors, taking the direct route to the yard. He eyed Eadric as subtly as possible, half-expecting the demon to rear his ugly head and attack him.
Eadric was a couple of inches shorter than Mark, but he was just as broad across the shoulder. He was wearing the same tunic and trousers from the vision, looking like he had literally stepped out of the 14th Century.
Mark marched on. With his fear waning, it wasn’t long before Luka vanished, no longer needing to protect him. Mark’s gaze stayed locked on the other man.
“Do you... remember me?” He finally asked.
Eadric’s gentle green eyes turned on him, considering his answer. “Aye, at first I thought you wer’ a dream. An engel sent to help me, but Silvaticus kan that engels arn’y real. Then ye came agin, I knew ye wer’ real...”
Unable to shake the feeling that he was currently in a dream, Mark reached out, his hand touching the very firm, and very real arm of his new acquaintance. Eadric shot him a strange look.
“Sorry, I had to check you were definitely here. This is crazy.” Mark couldn’t take his eyes off the man. Sure, he was as ruggedly handsome in person, as he was in the visions; but Mark was more distracted by the demon that Eadric shared his soul with. “How did you end up harbouring a demon?”
Eadric gave him a grim smile, “Why did ye summon him?”
“Robert.” Mark replied, thinking how the demon possessing Damian had left him with no choice.
“Robert.” Eadric echoed, his voice laced with pain.
Eadric didn’t offer any more information, and Mark didn’t want to pry further. They fell into an uncomfortable silence.
The steel roof of the barn came into view, and Mark followed the familiar trail. At this time of day, all of the horses were out in the field and the stables were completely still.
Mark gave a sigh of relief when he saw Nanna’s Land Rover sitting in the yard. The doors opened, and out stepped Nanna. She was quickly followed by fellow-witches, Denise and Danny. Nanna had clearly decided that this needed reinforcements.
The old woman marched across the yard, her eyes fixed on the potential threat.
“Eadric, this is Nanna.” Mark introduced, light-headed at how surreal this was.
Nanna brushed passed him, leaning uncomfortably close to Eadric. She inspected his green eyes for several long moments, her magic coursing between them. Eventually, Nanna leant back, satisfied with what she had seen.
“Eadric said that Silvaticus was exhausted, that he’s dormant.” Mark said, trying to help.
“Hmph, we’ll see about that.” Nanna remarked. “Get your new friend in the car.”
When Mark opened the door for him, Eadric looked suspiciously at the vehicle. “Is this ye carriage? D’ye need aide w’the hosses?”
Mark gestured for him to get in. Once everyone had piled into the old car, Nanna started the engine.
Eadric jumped at the noise, looking to Mark for an explanation.
“It’s a... magic carriage.” Mark offered, ignoring the derisive snort from Danny.
Eadric’s expression changed to sheer terror when the car lurched forwards and bounced down the road in response to Nanna’s aggressive driving.
Mark still couldn’t take his eyes off Eadric. He didn’t sense any danger, despite the sleeping demon. Squished into the back seat of Nanna’s car with Danny, they travelled in tense silence.
After a short journey, Mark looked up to see an unfamiliar house looming in front of them.
“Mi casa es tu casa.” Denise trilled from the front seat.
Mark guessed it must have been closer than their house. He got out, noticing that Eadric was shadowing his movements in this alien, futuristic world.
The inside of Denise’s house was as bright and colourful as Mark imagined. It was eclectic and messy, and perfectly-Denise.
Nanna tried to quiz Eadric, but the language barrier left them both confused.
Nanna sighed and turned to Danny, “He’s all yours. See what you can get out of him.”
Mark felt a stab of envy as Danny proved himself a useful ally for Nanna, again. The history professor took Eadric over to some mis-matched chairs, and they were soon deep in conversation.
Denise brought out some herbal tea, which Mark dutifully sipped.
“I thought we’d take Eadric home – I mean, our home.” Mark glanced over at their guest.
“Not until we know what we’re dealing with.” Nanna cautioned. “Damian and his demon have spent too much time with us, I don’t want to risk their demonic essence causing a reaction in this… new demon.”
“You do seem to attract them, deary.” Denise cooed.
Danny eventually wandered back, with Eadric on his heels.
“His name is Eadric Stoneman. The demon he carried is called Silvaticus, and seems to have a history with the Stoneman family after possessing his grand-father and great-grandfather before him. It seems to be a… mutually beneficial relationship; Silvaticus gets to exist on our plane, and the Stoneman host gets the strengths of a demon.”
Nanna sighed, “It’s not the first time I’ve heard of people being wooed by the dark powers. What excuse does this boy have?”
“A common enemy: Duke Robert.”
“Robert? As in, our Robert?”
Danny gave a sorry smile. “It appears so.”
“I guess that explains why he’s here.” Nanna muttered. “But not how.”
Danny shrugged. “Eadric couldn’t describe it, other than magic. We’ll have to wait for Silvaticus to be strong enough to answer those questions.”
Nanna and Denise shared a meaningful look.
“If you don’t want him here…” Nanna started, before her friend cut her off.
“It’s the best place for him, if Danny’s the only one who can communicate easily with him.” Denise poked Nanna’s arm. “Besides, deary, you are not the only powerful witch in this county. Me and boyo can handle Silvaticus, if he pops his head up.”
Mark squirmed in his seat. He had personally seen how powerful Denise and her son were, but that didn’t forgive the fact that he was the reason there was a demon in their house.
Nanna seemed to be experiencing a similar guilt. “All the same, I’ll ask some of the coven to stop by and check on our… guest.”
Mark didn’t say a word on the drive home. He was still processing the fact that the man from his visions had crossed centuries and was here. With another demon.
The rumble of the old car was the perfect background for the questions that pummelled him.
The further they got from Eadric, the more reality returned. Mark remembered with painful clarity, why he’d been on the moors in the first place.
Damian had left him.
The pain struck anew.
Mark had always thought that people were being dramatic when they moaned about being broken-hearted. The reality was harsh, the raw pain threatening to overwhelm him.
Nanna was on his heels, herding him into his house. Mark’s parents looked up warily, ready to deal with the next dose of trouble.
It was startling, that this was the new normal for his family, when Mark had never (or almost-never) misbehaved. He’d never been in trouble at school, or grounded, and he couldn’t even remember any significant argument.
That his usually-chilled Dad was already looking disappointed, only added to Mark’s dark mood.
“What happened?” His Mum asked.
“Nanna can explain.” He said gruffly, his courage failing. “I’m going to my room.”
Before his parents could protest, Mark stomped upstairs, slamming the door behind him.
His phone blared out, making him jump. He glanced at the screen, his heart leaping at the sight of ‘Damian – Home’. Mark hit the answer button so hard, he nearly broke his thumb.
“Damian?” Mark gasped.
“Hi, Mark? It’s Maggie, Damian’s aunt…”
“Oh, hi Miss Cole.” Mark replied, not even trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
“Have you seen Damian? Is he with you?” She asked in a rush of words.
“No, he called this morning to… say goodbye.”
Aunt Maggie swore so creatively, it made Mark blush.
“Sorry, I’m still getting used to playing the responsible adult.” Maggie followed up. “Damian left me a letter, a bloody letter, that’s all I’m worth after… sorry, I don’t mean to rant.”
“That’s OK.” Mark mumbled. “What did Damian have to say?”
“Not much, he was being vague and said he had to leave.” Maggie sighed audibly, the sound causing the phone line to crackle. “I thought… I thought he was settling in and enjoying life. I’d never seen him so happy, he had football and friends, and he had you… Then I had to go and ruin it.”
“It’s the only reason that makes sense. I’d created a home where Damian could finally feel safe after everything he’s been through, then I went and ruined it by letting Miriam stay overnight. It was inappropriate and too fast, but I didn’t mean to. I guess I got swept up in the moment and I confess I forgot about Damian…”
“Woah, it’s not your fault.” Mark interrupted, when it became clear Maggie had plenty more self-flagellation to share.
“It’s not?” Maggie asked, her voice shaking.
“Damian was cool with you and Miriam.”
“Yeah. I mean, he wasn’t about to suggest double-dating; but he was happy that you’d found someone nice after your douchebag boyfriend.” Mark replied, knowing that he might be stretching the truth a little. The revelation about Maggie and her first girlfriend had inconveniently come right before Robert took over and all hell broke loose.
"Then why did he leave?” Maggie insisted. “I knew he kept secrets… I didn’t think they’d drive him away.”
Mark groaned; how many times had he told Damian to tell his aunt about Robert. Mark didn’t think he had the right to confess about the demon Damian had been harbouring for months.
“I can’t share his secrets, Maggie. Just know that, he thinks he’s protecting you.”
“He’s sixteen, it’s my job to protect him, not the other way around.” Maggie fumed. “I’ve got half a mind to go down to London and drag him back by his blond highlights.”
“London? You think that’s where he’s gone?” Mark asked.
Maggie sighed, “Yes, I found a search for train tickets on the computer. I wished I’d noticed in time to stop him…”
“I’m sorry...” Mark made a poor attempt at being sympathetic.
“Well, if you hear anything, please let me know.” Maggie begged, before making an awkward goodbye.
Mark trembled as the call ended. Damian had to realise how many people cared for him, and now Mark knew where to find him. The capital was a big and daunting thing, somewhere that Mark had only ever seen on screen. The idea of going alone was terrifying.
Mark’s phone rang again, and he was tempted to throw it across the room. He was exhausted and wanted to be left alone.
When Sarah’s name flashed up on the screen, Mark froze. This was the first time she’d contacted him, since he’d called her a liar, when she’d claimed to witness Damian kissing Michelle. Mark burnt with guilt that he’d made the mistake of trusting his new boyfriend over his lifelong friends.
“Hello, Mark.” Sarah replied tersely.
There was a long pause, and Mark feared that she would hang up.
“Thanks for calling, I… need you guys.”
“You always do. Wasn’t that the problem?” Sarah sighed. “You’ve really hurt Harry.”
“How’s he doing?” Mark asked, not sure if he wanted the answer.
“He’s feeling pretty betrayed. I’ve just come from his place, and he’s miserable. You’ve got a long way to go to make it up to him.”
“Oh, too soon to ask for help…”
“What help?” Sarah asked, exasperated.
“Damian’s done another runner.” Mark admitted, quietly. “He thinks he’s protecting us, but the safest place for him is here.”
Sarah groaned. “Again? Seriously? When a guy keeps running away from you, you need to take the hint.”
“So, you guys won’t help?”
“Not a chance.” Sarah replied firmly.
“Even if it means an impromptu roadtrip to London?”
“London?” Sarah echoed.
“Yeah, his aunt thinks he’s bolted for his old home.” Mark reasoned.
“Well… I suppose a trip to London wouldn’t be too bad…” Sarah paused. “If you can fix things with Harry.”
Mark swore, it would be so much easier if he could just kidnap him. Maybe there was a magical spell that could help heal their friendship.
“When I left, his mum was forcing homemade stew on him. Now is the time to strike.”
Mark flinched at the memory of Mrs Johnson’s cooking, now that was certainly a special potion. Sarah was right, Harry would be upset by the food, and Mark could start to earn his trust again.
Pre-order your copy of The Breaking now at the pre-release price of $1.99 (normal price $3.50).
It will be released 20th March 2020.