• Azalea Forrest

Witch in the Lighthouse - Prologue

Updated: Sep 7

Today, I'm sharing the first chapter/prologue of my first book, a novella, called Witch in the Lighthouse, which you can purchase here, and also on Amazon here.


Here's the book blurb:


Magnolia Hanna is a very ordinary young woman, as far as she is concerned. She is a witch from the village of Emelle, a hamlet hidden in the mountains. When her uncle passes away, she inherits his lighthouse in the coastal town of Lightview, where the villagers aren’t so fond of witches. In order to start a new life in this town, she must learn to get along with the townsfolk and find her path to make her own way far from home.

Lightview’s general dislike of magic is a curious thing, and the tale begins to unravel with the name of Basil Olivander, the last witch to live in Lightview in the last ten years. What could this man have done to make the villagers hate magic?


As my first book, the characters and story mean so much to me. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


Prologue


Sunlight shone down through the roof of the greenhouse, warming the redhead’s freckled cheeks while the smell of fresh earth and flowers filled the air. The floor, a mixture of dirt and cobblestone, felt warm and inviting beneath her bare feet. Magnolia Hanna smiled to herself as she clipped chamomile flowers from a shelf of plants with her grandmother Sophie who, although shriveled by the years, was still a charming presence to her granddaughter.

“We’ll dry these for the old Parker couple and I’ll show you how to give it a good spark, dear.” Grandma Sophie laughed with vigor despite her age. She elbowed her granddaughter in jest and Maggie elbowed her in return as they both chuckled at the idea of giving a love potion to their neighbors.

“Grandmother!” Maggie laughed and attempted a stern expression at her elder. Sophie gave her a sly look. The young woman collected lavender, basil and mint, each feeling resinous against her fingers and a smidge sticky, then clipped a sunflower from its stalk and placed them all on a drying rack nearby with the chamomile. All but the flowers gave off a strong scent, but each played well against the other, like tea on a warm summer’s day.

“I thought we weren’t supposed to judge a customer in need?” she continued.

“My dear, give an old woman a break. These bones are due for a good teasing if they’re to make an aphrodisiac for the Parkers.”

“It did take them a bit of courage to approach us,” Maggie commented, but still, she smiled.

“Perhaps they’ll appreciate our services a bit more, then. You’d think they would have moved out of town by now if they were really so bothered. Batty old fools.”

Magnolia rolled her eyes as she adjusted a rather large potted plant so the leaves would stretch out more evenly. The look was of endearment: Grandma Sophie was as energetic as ever.

The Parkers weren’t all that bad. They were new to the lives of witches and had moved to the town of Emelle to be closer to their family, who happened to be witches themselves. In fact, most of the villagers were witches. Not all of them had the potion prowess that Grandma Sophie had, however, which was why Sophie and her granddaughter dried the herbs for the Parker’s potion now.

No, witches had all sorts of specialties and professions in Emelle. Some enchanted clothing, some were farmers, some were even carpenters and potters. There was a librarian witch, a fire-fighting witch and even a mechanic witch. Emelle had a quaint population, but everyone tried to be useful in their own way. Some did dabble in potion making, but Grandma Sophie was the expert.

Magnolia stood from beside the pot on the floor and wiped her hands on her apron, which was tan in color with little plants and flowers detailed in the top corners, and it covered the yellow dress she wore beneath. Her mother had made the apron and Maggie always found herself thinking on how cute it was.

“Well, we’re done for now, aren’t we?” Maggie began to untie her apron, ready to end the day.

Sophie sighed through her smile. Youth; ever eager. “Yes dear, for now. Let’s take a break in the house, shall we?”

Maggie hung her apron on the hook by the door and picked up the hat that sat on its rack beside it. While she didn’t regularly wear the customary black garband no one in her village seemed to do so anymore, eithershe at least wore the pointed black hat. She grinned at her grandmother and received a small bow in return.

Her grandmother used her cane to hobble across the greenhouse to where Maggie held the door. When she stepped through, Maggie followed after and they walked back together to the family home.

Stepping stones were laid in the earth casually and they led to the two story white house of the Hanna’s. Runes were carved into some of the stones and steps that led up the wrap-around porch, where plants and small statues decorated the floorboards and windows. Maggie helped her grandmother up the few steps and opened the screen door that led inside. There, the redhead stopped to see her mother sitting in the kitchen, holding a letter and crying.

“Mom?” Maggie quickly stepped into the kitchen and put her hand on the table, close to her mother’s hand. Sophie stood in the doorway and adjusted her glasses as she took in her daughter’s condition.

“What’s wrong, dear?” Grandma Sophie asked.

“It’s Tom,” Amora wept. “He’s died of a heart attack.” Leaning back in her chair, she lowered the letter to the table and covered her eyes with one hand.

Magnolia and Sophie both blanched, but it was Grandma Sophie that walked into the kitchen and put her hand upon her daughter’s back. Maggie was too stunned to do much of anything but stand there, staring at the letter shaking in her mother’s hand.

Tom was Amora’s brother-in-law, but they were very close. For him to die so suddenly and so young was shocking.

“Amora, where’s Daniel?” Grandma Sophie asked, the sadness apparent in her own voice.

Magnolia’s mother shook her head, unable to answer, and Sophie looked to Maggie.

“Fetch your father, dear. Go on.”

Maggie dashed from the room, one hand already struggling to brush the tears from her eyes.


~*~


The next few weeks had been filled with meetings and letters, discussing the funeral and going over the will. At the end of it all, Maggie was sitting in her room wrapped in blankets and staring at a paper. It was a personal letter from Uncle Thomas that was included with his will.

Dear Magpie,

I can imagine this letter doesn’t find you well. I am sorry for that, but it seems I have passed. Excuse me if this comes off as rather queer. You see, I’ve had a share of strange feelings lately. I felt it imperative to write this out and let you know how much I love and miss you and the family.

I’m sure Daniel is happy in his hovel, and I say that lovingly. So in the event of my passing, I want you to have the lighthouse. Please, take care of it, if you would have it. I know you loved it as a child, and in our letters you seem to still comment on it affectionately. I think the town would be happy to have a competent witch taking care of the lighthouse; I think you’d do a better job than an old man like me and with time to spare. Once they get to know you, they’ll warm up.

I love you, Magnolia. And the family, too.

~Thomas”

Tom had always written a bit differently than how he spoke in person and it always made her laugh, even during a serious matter such as this and even through the tears. It was always prim and proper.

She wiped her eyes and sat the letter down in her lap. When she was little, Tom would hold her hand as they climbed the lighthouse stairwell together. Every time she reached the top, she would be amazed at how far she could see. She felt like a giant, and Tom would tell her so. She remembered when they would drink hot chocolate in his living room, especially when it rained… The tears had come again, and she hadn’t even noticed. I should have gone to see him again, she thought bitterly to herself. But she couldn’t let the grief take over, so she drew a deep, shaky breath.

Maggie had never dreamed she would own the lighthouse, nor that her uncle would pass so soon. It was so sudden, and she was anxious to think of moving away from home. She had been thinking of going to visit her uncle before all this happened, that was true. She might have even considered living with him, if he would have had her.

Being close to her family, it was difficult to part from them, and now that Tom was gone, being alone in that empty lighthouse full of memories almost made her feel paralyzed. But, she was a proper witch now and considered an adult at twenty-one, so maybe it was the right time. This was a real opportunity to grow and be independent, despite the unhappy circumstance. She did miss the town, and the smell of the ocean...and especially the lighthouse up on the hill. What she missed most, though, she would never see again.

Still, she managed to smile. Tom wanted her to have it, so she would accept it. Someone needed to take care of the lighthouse, after all, and she did have fond memories of it. When she really got down to her feelings, and she always tried to be honest with herself, she would love to own that lighthouse. This would be a new beginning. She could share her magic and make new friends.

A tear, and then another, ran down her face. She lifted a hand, quietly laughing, to wipe them away. Gods, she missed him.

The idea of spending another moment moping in her room was suddenly abhorrent. She folded the letter up gently and placed it on her nightstand. With a flourish, she threw the blankets still covering her to the floor and stood. Placing her hands on her hips, she surveyed her belongings, her eyes still red and puffy, but her heart full of hope.

It was time to pack.


~*~


Magnolia stayed for the funeral but as soon as it was over, she had her pack prepared and was ready to leave the next morning. She viewed her uncle’s grave once more, where it stood at the forest’s edge in Emelle’s cemetery. Ferns crept out from the forest, peeking out along the edge of the treeline, and a lone dogwood grew outside of the pine to offer shade over Tom’s grave. The leaves of the dogwood were as white as snow, and had been grown from magic. Maggie left more flowers on his tombstone and a drawing of his lighthouse, as if solidifying her promise and her farewell.

On the family porch, she hugged her parents goodbye.

“Are you sure you need to leave today?” Her father brushed some of Maggie’s hair from her face affectionately. He was tall like his late brother, but willowy in comparison to Tom’s stocky demeanor. Amora held onto his arm sadly.

“Yes,” Maggie said, positive. “If I stay any longer, I might not leave at all.” She forced a smile.

“Be careful. You can visit us any time. We’d love to visit you when you’re settled.” Amora hugged her daughter again, then so did Daniel and Grandma Sophie.

“I’ll write you soon, don’t worry. I love you! Say goodbye again for me to everyone.” She hadn’t wanted them to be there on her final goodbye, just in case she needed another cry. It wasn’t that she was ashamed of her emotions, not really, but it was hard enough as it was.

Maggie made her way down the steps and into the garden. The grass made a soft crunch beneath her boots and she wondered when she would walk back up her family’s porch again. With her broom in hand, she sat upon it and almost lazily lifted up into the air, the rucksack on her back not bothering her flight in the slightest.

She waved her final goodbye, seeing tears in her father’s eyes. She couldn’t blame him, even as she hid her own. Her mother cried freely, but Grandma Sophie was cheering Maggie on with that big, mischievous grin on her face. Magnolia flew up higher into the sky and away from home towards the sea. Her pack was full of memories and gifts to see her on her new journey.

The breeze felt rejuvenating even as she watched her little town disappear into the forest. It washed away her current apprehensions and worries and replaced them with hope and an idea of, perhaps, filling in her uncle’s shoes. It might just be a lighthouse, but it had been his life. It was a time for Maggie to be independent and really rely on her witchiness.

She might not have her uncle’s carpentry skills, or his knowledge of lights or machinery, but she could repair things, and clean and other maintaining with her magic. Of course, learning new skills never hurt anyone, either. She was sure the town could use some potions, too, and with her training from her grandmother, she knew she could brew up something strong for whatever their needs.

Her travels were uneventful, though pleasant, and she arrived in Lightview at dusk. She flew over the town at a distance and made her way up the hill to where her lighthouse sat, its light shining on across the cliff. The lighthouse was attached to a home made of red brick and stone. Faded navy blue spiraled up the white exterior, but other than faded paint it didn’t look as if it was in disrepair. Despite her current feelings of grief, she found herself smiling. It still looked like home, just as she remembered it.

Maggie flicked on the lights, lit the hearth with her wand and sat her bag down on the floor. Everything still looked the same. Nothing had been moved, nothing that she could remember. She wondered if her uncle would have rather been buried here than back home, but his will had specified that after spending his living life away from his family, the least he could do was rest his bones in Emelle. In a way, she might have felt less lonely if she could visit him here. But no, this had been for the best.

She touched the mantle affectionately as she looked over the items sitting upon it. Her gaze fell on a picture of the family smiling happily at the camera and she felt a touch of emotion sting her eyes. It would have been nice to have one last gathering together.

“Oh, er. Hullo there!”

Startled, Maggie turned to see someone standing in the archway that led to the lighthouse stairwell. It was a man standing there and he laughed and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.

“Didn’t mean to scare ya’. Honestly, you surprised me! Are you the new owner?” He was a tall man, and round, but he looked strong. He had kind eyes.

Maggie gripped her broom self-consciously and nodded. “Yes,” she managed. And then she stood a little straighter, smiling. “I’m Magnolia.”

The man eyed the broom with some curiosity but he grinned and reached his hand out to her for a shake. “I’m Mikel. I own a produce stand down in the market, but it was my turn to check on the light today. There’s a few of us that have been takin’ shifts from town. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” They shook hands. “Why don’t I make you some tea, help you settle in? Got any belongings that need to be moved proper?”

Maggie shook her head no and gestured to her rucksack on the floor. “I only brought what I could carry. Luckily for me, everything else I’d need is already here. I wouldn’t mind some tea, though.”

Mikel clapped his hands together. “Excellent. I could fancy myself a cup as well.” Rubbing his hands together excitedly, he headed off towards the kitchen.

Maggie followed and found herself in the same familiar, comfortable kitchen with a round wooden table sitting beside the window. She sat there while Mikel turned the kettle on. It was a homey, rustic kitchen with an electric stove that looked like it might also burn wood, and there was a refrigerator, too. A small window sat above the sink and a second larger one looked out at the bluff from the kitchen table in the corner. She remembered that Uncle Tom had liked to cook, so there were plenty of spices and cooking utensils.

“It’s a shame what happened to Tom,” Mikel said sadly. He was setting up the cups and sugar. “Did you know him?”

Maggie gave a half smile as she looked at Mikel. “He was my uncle.”

“Oh!” Mikel averted his gaze as if he should have known already, and then slowly looked back at her. “I’m sorry, lass. He was a real help around town, y’know. Everyone loved him.” He looked Maggie over for a short moment before taking the kettle off the stove. He poured the tea. “I thought you looked a bit young. You’re not here on your own, are you?”

“I am. But it’s fine. I’m happy to take over for my uncle. I stayed here for a bit when I was little, so I have fond memories of this place, even still.” She leaned forward in her seat slightly. “Just honey, please.”

Mikel brought Maggie her cup and sat with her at the table. “It’s a hard job maintaining the lighthouse. But Tom lived for it. He had a love for these hills, the sea, and the sights at the top of the light. He used to say it was the closest he got to flying.” He eyed the broom Maggie had sat in the corner of the room. “I don’t think you’ll have as much trouble, though, being a witch and all.”

“You can tell?” She looked surprised.

“There hasn’t been a witch here in a long time.” He gave her a knowing look, almost sad. “I wouldn’t worry too much, but there’s a few here that don’t shine too kindly on witch-folk. Don’t take it personally.”

“Oh.” Maggie remembered her uncle’s letter. “I’m sure they’ll warm up to me.”

Mikel laughed and slapped his knee. “That’s the spirit! Now, if ya’ need anything, you just give me a holler. I live off of Naia Street, just around the corner from the market. It’s a bit late to be showin’ you around, but you oughter go down there n’ have a look as soon as you feel up to it. It’s about time I got back to the wife.” He downed his tea, set his cup in the sink and then squeezed Maggie’s shoulder affectionately.

“Thanks for the tea. It was wonderful to meet you, Mikel.” She squeezed his hand in return, honestly grateful.

“And you, lass! Someone’ll be by to show you the ropes of how this old light works. I’ll let ‘em know in the mornin’. Here’s the key, n’you have a good night now.”

The screen door lightly knocked shut and Magnolia sat alone in the kitchen, nursing her tea and holding the key to her uncle’s lighthouse tightly in one hand. She stared down into the swirling mug and felt a mixture of emotions. The hot liquid made her feel a bit more normal, at least.

She made her way back into the living room with her broom and set it beside the door, and then hung the key from its ring on the rack. She picked up her rucksack only to set it down on the couch in front of the fire. All she wanted now was to sleep, but she couldn’t even imagine going up to her uncle’s room and using his bed, not yet. So she laid down on the couch and hugged her bag instead. Her long trip had been exhausting and she couldn’t deny that she felt a little overwhelmed.

Sleep came easy; it wrapped her like a blanket. And thankfully, it was dreamless.


And that's that. What did you think? Leave a comment to let me know! :)

Again, you can purchase Witch in the Lighthouse here, and also on Amazon here.


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