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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Free Story from Maria Schneider!

Today, the wonderful Maria Schneider is here with a free short story from her Moon Shadow series. If you haven't tried the adventures of Adriel, White Feather, and my favorite sidekick Lynx, you are in luck. Book 1 is on sale for 99 cents through July 20.

Under Witch Moon - 99 cents through July 20!
Under Witch Aura
Under Witch Shadow

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Enjoy, and thank you Maria!

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Under Witch Ghost

Maria E. Schneider
Copyright 2013

A Moon Shadow Short Story

Despite all the magic we had embedded into White Feather’s
house when we rebuilt it, the perimeter of his property—now our
property—was sadly lacking in earth wards. Transplanting desert
sage and sweet grasses in specific spots would not only keep us
safer, it would be a ready supply of ingredients for many a spell.
Old Granny had also offered to provide us with some kick-ass spiders.
Thinking of the spiders sent a creepy chill down my back, but I
wasn’t about to turn down her offer. They wouldn’t be
delivered until after I had finished my share of the protection magic
anyway. I remained knee deep in sand and sage, working in the dimming
evening light. As I lowered the largest sage into the hole, a voice
from behind me hissed, “Adriel.”
The unexpected interruption sent the desert herb sailing behind me
as I twisted to meet the threat. Still on my knees, I spun around,
fell backwards into the hole I had just dug, and raised my silver. My
fingers were wrapped around a lame hand shovel, which was no
protection at all.

My heart sputtered and a disgruntled sigh puffed out as I realized
the threat was Lynx. “Must you sneak up on me?” Even
though Mother Earth communicated with me almost as well as the
breezes did with White Feather, Lynx was a special cat. He was more
an extension of earth magic than a foreign entity. Mother Earth felt
no need to mention when he was skulking about.

“How was I to know you weren’t paying attention to
things around you? I came over to tell you that Roberto needs a
meet.” He offered me a hand up.

Since my bottom was squarely planted in the hole, I had no choice
but to accept his help. He was strong enough to nearly lift me to my
feet with just one skinny arm. I’d known Lynx since he was a
hungry alley cat scrounging food from garbage cans. All muscles and
sinew then, he was even stronger now that he was better fed and about
to leave his teen years behind him. While he might look like a piece
of scrap blown in with the tumbleweeds, his eyes flashed intelligence
and his lithe movements were faster and smoother than those of a
normal human.
“Roberto, the deaf kid, wants a meet?” I stuffed
strands of my long dark hair into the ponytail that had failed to
contain it all.
Lynx handed me the sage that had missed him completely when I
threw it in defense. “You know any other Roberto?”
This was Santa Fe, New Mexico. I could think of four without
trying. “Not that are deaf.”
“He’s not deaf when he’s in a graveyard, which
is why he needs a meet. He has a message from Martin.”
The evening just got better and better. “Martin? Martin
isn’t in a graveyard!”

Lynx shrugged. “He’s dead so it’s the same
thing. I mentioned Martin to Roberto after our little visit to
Fairview cemetery a few weeks ago. Some of the dudes hanging at that
place are flakes. The kid could use better company, you know?”
My eyes bulged. If Lynx thought Martin was better company than the
ghosts Roberto had been communicating with in Fairview Cemetery, the
kid was in more trouble than I could help with. Of course, Roberto
talked to dead people, so how much assistance could I possibly be on
my best day? His ears were deaf to the sounds of this world, but not
to those communicating from the other side. He spent a lot of time in
cemeteries, which was where I had met him. “Little visit to the
cemetery?” I repeated, my eyes narrowing. Leave it to Lynx to
act like almost being swallowed out of existence without the benefit
of dying was nothing more than a bit of social happenstance.

“Tonight, midnight. Tent Rock,” he said.
“What is it with you and night meets! Martin can talk to me
during the day. We’d be insane to hike around those rocks at

And I’d been avoiding Tent Rock because I knew Martin was
haunting the place. Sure, the magic was strong there. But who wanted
to have Martin looking over your shoulder when practicing a spell or
gathering magic? He’d been a drunk, flirtatious,
covered-in-dirt old man in life. He hadn’t bothered to leave
most of his bad habits behind when he died.
“Martin’s in some kind of trouble. Roberto says he can
only appear at night and even that is getting harder for him.”
My mouth gaped open, and I stared at Lynx in disbelief.

He shrugged. “I know, but who else was he gonna ask?”
* * *
Earth witches do not have any power over the dead, for the dead or
even talking to the dead, not that I knew of. There was no earthly
reason that I should have ever seen a ghost, but it had happened more
than once. The first one hadn’t really communicated with me;
she’d either been in too much pain or too far gone.

Martin had been an earth witch in life, and I’d always
assumed that the reason he’d been able to give me a ghostly
message once before was because we shared a level of common magic.
That was more than I had wanted to share with Martin. My feelings on
the matter hadn’t changed much just because he was dead.
If Lynx thought I was leaving White Feather behind on this insane
adventure, he had another think coming.
“I wonder what Martin wants to talk to me about,” I
muttered at White Feather as we climbed the beginning of the trail
into Tent Rock. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy about the
full moon or not. The moon would call more magic into any situation,
but it also lent more light. With ghosts, it could be a help, a
hindrance or not matter a whit. “Couldn’t Martin have
just asked Roberto to ask me whatever he needed to know?”
“Apparently not. And since you’ve been avoiding Tent
Rock, Martin had to get an intermediary to reach you.”
“Hmph.” White Feather was probably correct about that

I knew where Martin would appear because I’d had more than
my fair share of trouble in the bowl-shaped indention halfway up the
trail. The magic was so strong there, a normal could have felt it. It
wasn’t any problem for someone like Lynx to sense it, and it
was a natural spot for Roberto to have found Martin.

I heard them talking as we ducked under the overhanging rock and
rounded the bend. As I edged slowly around the walled canyon into the
side clearing, it took me a second to realize I was hearing Roberto
clearly as he asked Martin a question. Roberto, being deaf, never
enunciated perfectly because he’d never heard the words spoken.
Martin had never slurred his words, even when drunk, but tonight, it
was Martin’s voice that sounded as though he were talking under
I stopped so suddenly that White Feather nearly knocked me down.

Roberto was a dark shadow four feet off the side of the trail.
Lynx stood more in the open, but he’d promised to be in plain
sight if the meet was on and safe. The glowing wisp of fog between
the two of them was not shaped like a human.

This meet didn’t look safe to me. When I had seen Martin
before, his features were clearly defined, albeit transparent.

If Roberto hadn’t been talking to the wisp of fog and it
answering, I’d not have believed it was Martin at all.
“He’s in trouble.” Lynx kept his attention on
the ghost as he addressed us.
“Roberto or Martin?” I asked.
Lynx cut his eyes to me. The only reason I could tell was because
his pupils glowed yellow. He had changed to cat eyes either because
he was nervous or so he could see better in the dark.

“Martin, not me,” Roberto answered my question. “He
can’t cross here properly anymore. It’s been getting
worse over the last week.” His hands flew as he signed what he
was saying.
Lynx started to repeat what Roberto had just said, but I cut him
off. “Got it.”

White Feather touched my arm. “I didn’t.”
Well, now, that was…disturbing. Since White Feather wasn’t
a threat, I kept my gaze on Martin. He was talking again or trying

“Stooorms. Bloocks.” The rest of what he said was too
garbled for me, but Roberto had been at this longer, and it was his
“There are energy storms,” he translated. “Some
of them block the natural energy that allowed him to visit. Mostly
though, he says he has to stay away because there’s another
thing crossing. He doesn’t want to be destroyed by it, and it’s
the only thing that seems able to force its way back and forth now.
It brings energy from—” He stopped and rubbed his
forehead. “I can’t get that part. He’s tried to
tell me before, but I don’t know what he’s saying.
Something about the dark where magic doesn’t exist.” His
hands went up in the universal shrug.

The mist swirled closer to me. I held my ground, but only because
White Feather was at my back. As it was, I leaned against him, trying
to stay out of reach of the unearthly glowing strands of fog.

Martin’s eyes were not really recognizable; they were pits
of emotion. There was no pupil, no face around them, just sparks that
somehow translated to panic. “Soooleessheeell.”
“Shoeless?” Being without shoes hadn’t bothered
Martin when he was alive. At this point, he didn’t even have
feet! From a barely discernible waist on down, there was nothing but
gray mist.

Then I got it. “Soulless. Hell. Okay, Martin, but what do
you want me to do about it? I’m not dying just to pull your ass
out of the fire!”
For a second, I think the eyes laughed at me. The spark went from
lightning white to a swirl of fog.

Roberto watched me as he talked rapidly and signed at the same
time. Lynx followed his hands, but I had no trouble with his words.
“Martin says he is safe, but the girl is trapped there
in-between with him, and she doesn’t belong there. He thought
he could help her back over, but with the energy wrong, he’s
worried she will get stuck there.”
“What girl?” I struggled to stay focused on the
problem rather than screech at Martin for dragging me into a mess,
one that I didn’t understand and might not even be able to fix.
“Does she have a soul?” I was not about to bring anyone
back here without a soul. Wouldn’t that be like rescuing a
vampire? Or was that like creating one? No…
Thankfully Martin interrupted before my mind walked off any deeper
into crazy. Roberto translated Martin’s blur of words. “Soul,
yes, she has one. She’s still alive. She can see the—”
Roberto shrugged again. “She can see something that comes
through. But she needs to get back through to this side.”
There were a million questions, but from the way the wisps were
starting to separate, I didn’t need to be told we were out of
time. “Martin, we can look for the girl and maybe we can help,
but why did you call me here?”
“The bloodstone.” It was Roberto who answered since
Martin was now nothing more than an arm attached to a fast-fading
light that might have been his chest. “He thinks he can use it
to help her.”
I didn’t generally carry the green and red stone around, but
the last time I had talked to Martin, he had felt me using the
bloodstone here. In short, I wasn’t likely to ever come to Tent
Rock without it.
Bloodstone, or heliotrope, carried natural powers for healing,
especially of blood or circulation, but it also aligned and healed a
person’s energy. Its lesser known use included an ability to
call storms and hold the power of the wind. Wind magic had the power
to carry messages into the past or future because wind had been there
before and could go anywhere without the check of time. Maybe
heliotrope had some power in the realm of the dead.
The particular stone Martin asked for was one he had harvested
from Mother Earth when he was still living. It held Martin’s
magic, my magic, White Feather’s magic and my best friend’s
water witching magic.

Only a fool would give up an object of such power, but it was out
of my backpack and on my palm without hesitation. Martin may have
been an obnoxious drunk while alive and a pest after he died, but he
had given me the stone without strings attached, and later he had
given his life to save us.

“I give this without restraint, freely—”
His shriek split my oath. I nearly dropped the stone to cover my
ears. White Feather shifted the breeze in an instinctive reaction to
save us from danger even though the peril seemed to be limited to a
caterwauling meant to serenade a banshee. My ears rang in protest.
Roberto said, “He says I can give him the stone because I
can reach across. But it needs your earth magic to push through the
“Since I have no idea how to give it to him, I’m glad
you do.” I turned over the stone. White Feather moved from
behind to beside me, barely restraining himself from elbowing me
protectively out of the way. I saw his mouth move, but couldn’t
hear the words.

Maybe my sudden deafness was due to the ringing in my ears, but
that made no sense because I had no trouble hearing Roberto when he
yelled, “Hey, wait!”
Martin yelled back. They both had a hand on the stone. The energy
that was feeding Martin might be weak, but it wasn’t dead yet.
Where he touched the stone, his hand was gray and nearly solid.
“Leggo!” Roberto screamed. His fingers turned an odd
gray color, drained of blood.

Martin wailed in response, a horrific sound that not only echoed,
it knocked rocks loose.

Roberto bellowed back, jerking his hand.

Lynx grabbed Roberto’s free arm and pulled, but the mist
snaked up Roberto’s other arm like a giant glow worm intent on
devouring dinner. Inch by inch, it sucked Roberto into Martin’s
world. He was turning into a corpse before our eyes.
“Uh, Martin…”

Eyes rolled across the fog. “Eneergy…feed earth.”
“Unless you want someone else who doesn’t belong
there, let him go,” I shouted.

White Feather sent a stiff breeze into the fog that was Martin,
but the wind just crossed through him as though he weren’t

I reached for the stone, anchoring myself to Mother Earth. White
Feather knew the second I grounded, and he grabbed me around the
waist. If he yelled instructions, I couldn’t hear them. In this
strange place, warped with the magic that Roberto used, I could hear
and see Martin better than my living friends.

As soon as my magic touched the stone, I could see Martin clearly.
He was gray. Everything was gray except the pulsing green and red of
the bloodstone. His dead fingers were wrapped around it, but
Roberto’s hand still stuck to part of it instead of sliding
“Let it go,” I said.
“I can’t,” Martin replied. His eyes were no
longer sparks. They were just transparent gray that held a human
panic and a sadness that hadn’t been there when I saw him last.

My magic pulsed against the bloodstone. No way would I physically
touch it. I could feel White Feather, his strong arms holding onto
me. Could I call the bloodstone back? Martin had called it across.
His earth magic was stronger than mine…well, it might have
been in life. Mine would be the stronger now.
There were no tools to use here. I could feel the magic, but
Martin was right. This place pulled at the stone, at me, at Roberto.
It pulled at Life.

It could have the stone and what it held, freely given, but it
couldn’t have Roberto. He didn’t belong here and neither
did I.
I had learned to manipulate pieces of Mother Earth, but I wasn’t
very good at it and had only practiced with silver. “Bloodstone.”
I called the stone anyway. Blood was the tie to human life. There was
no need for blood in this colorless place, especially Roberto’s.

The red specks answered, responding to my pull, shifting forward,
like to like. The drops of bright red swelled under Roberto’s
fingers. I reached out and touched his shoulder, a part of him that
hadn’t yet turned gray.
With a sucking, popping crack, the red separated from the green. I
pulled harder, trying to draw them to us, to Roberto, to earth.

A gray blob rose from behind Martin, a bump I had thought was a
rock or just another shade of gray. As I pulled, Martin came forward
too, half in his world and half in mine. With the draw of magic, his
arm glowed and that light drifted ever closer to Roberto’s
shoulder and my hand.
The gray shape darted forward. My grunt of warning was too late.
The shape hit Martin. As it touched his shoulder, it turned into a
hand. The blob resolved itself into a woman. She was as colorless as
he was, but there was an odd shimmer about her. If gray could be
iridescent, she was it. A snippet of energy occasionally burst across
parts of her, keeping her from unrelenting gray.

When she touched Martin, he stepped back towards her and yanked
harder on the stone.
The force of his pull would have forced me forward if not for
White Feather’s grasp. With a muffled plea, I reached my free
hand to White Feather’s arm across my waist. Our rings touched
and sparked. I clung to him and kept my grounding to earth, dragging
at Roberto and the bloodstone with everything I had in me.
The woman’s eyes burned straight through me, a flash of
blue, just before a maelstrom of colors burst across the dead
landscape, blinding me. I lost my hold on Roberto and flew backwards
so fast, there was no time to brace myself for the impact.

I didn’t know if I’d been sucked in or pushed out
until White Feather groaned underneath me.
“What the hell was that?” he muttered, spitting sand.
I blinked, wondering just how hard I’d hit my head.
Everything around me was a mix of dark shapes looming, waiting to

No, wait. Like fools we were running around Tent Rock at midnight.
I tried rubbing my eyes, but other than grinding sand into my skin,
it didn’t help.
“Dead witches are the worst,” Lynx said right before
dropping a whimpering Roberto next to us.
“Do you have a light?” I demanded.
“What for?”
“Lynx, not everyone can see as well as you do.”
“Light will just draw attention to this mess.”
White Feather turned on his flashlight. Roberto shook like a leaf
and stared at me as though the situation were all my fault.
“You okay?” I sat up and felt for my own head. Sand
coated me from head to foot. Being washed in desert must be part of
the requirement of the magic here.
Roberto stared down at his hand. I turned it to face the light. He
said something, but the magic had shut down, whatever kind it was he
wielded. I could no longer make out his words.
Lynx tilted his head, and asked, “What happened to the rest
of the stone?”
I picked up the piece of rock from Roberto’s palm. “Martin
has it. Only the red part crossed back with us.” There wasn’t
a hint of green in the piece.
Roberto nodded. He found the strength to stand and began signing
frantically at Lynx.

White Feather said to me, “Can you hear me at all?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Martin’s gone. I couldn’t hear
you while Roberto was holding open the link. He included me somehow.”
“That must be why you ignored my suggestion that you not go
after the bloodstone.”
“Probably,” I hedged.
“And the reason you ignored me when I told you to stop
pulling on the stone.”
“How did you know I was pulling on it?” We both stood
and brushed uselessly at the sand.
He grunted. “I could push wind into it, but not pull it
back. I could feel you there as if I were pushing wind at you. You
weren’t listening to me.”

I leaned over and picked up my backpack. “Thanks for holding
on to me.”
He reeled me in close. His lips against mine, he said, “Always.”
Lynx said, “Roberto wants to know if you can find the girl.”
White Feather sighed.
“Good question,” I replied. “I don’t think
it will be tonight.” Since I hadn’t recognized her
washed-out features, and had no idea how to bring her back across if
we found her, I had a bad premonition that locating her was only
going to be the start of our problems. “Maybe now that Martin
has the stone, she’ll be fine.”
Roberto signed something.

Lynx said, “He says we’ll need to find her to be
certain.” Then he shook his head. “Roberto has the same
problem you do. It’s like you both think you can make Pandora’s
box safe if you sneak up on it and dismantle it one spell at a time.”
Completely unfair comparison. Either way, we had solved a large
enough problem for the night. It was time to go home. I might just
sleep with the lights on.
For more adventures with Adriel and crew, check out the novels:
Under Witch Moon
Under Witch Aura
Under Witch Curse
Visit Maria at her blog:
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
in any form without prior written permission from the author. This is
a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either
the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously, and any to any person, living or dead is entirely

Cover Art: Copyright of individual shots: various artists via


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