Margo threw open Quentin’s door to find him curled up in bed reading one of the Fillory books. “Come on Coldwater, you are not spending Halloween in bed.” She paused, rethinking that statement because of what she had planned for the night. “At least, not alone anyway.”
Quentin reluctantly put his book down. “It’s not like there’s anything else to do in this town.” He said as an excuse to avoid whatever
Margo smirked. “I happen to know of a party tonight.” She leaned up against the wall while examining her fingernails, painted black and filed to a point. “At Eliot Waugh’s house.” She added casually.
Quentin perked up at the mention of Eliot’s name. “Did you happen to get an invitation?”
“Invitation?” Margo scoffs. “Eliot and I have been spending every 5th period getting high under the bleachers.”
Quentin rolled his eyes. They’ve only lived in this town a month and Margo had already gotten herself in with the coolest guy in school. Although he was jealous, being her step-brother meant they were a package deal and he often got to tag along whenever he was in a social mood.
Margo opened up Quentin’s closet and pulled out a fedora. It took all her strength not to tease him for having one, but she wanted to get him to the party tonight. As much as she enjoyed torturing him, she really did want the best for Quentin. “You can be Indiana Jones.” She tossed it at Quentin who failed to catch it. “You already have the satchel for it.” She pointed at the shoulder bag that he took with him everywhere.
Quentin eyed Margo’s costume: A lacy black dress with a plunging neckline and hem so short her father would have instantly forbade it if he hadn’t already abandoned her. “And what are you, a sexy witch?”
“The costume just said witch.” Margo flipped her hair back and adjusted her dress to to show off even more cleavage. “The sexy is all me.”
Quentin considered his options for the night. Staying at home and reading Fillory and Further for the thousandth time was tempting, but he’d been wanting to get to know Eliot since he first spotted him with Margo. If Eliot was throwing a party, Quentin was sure it was worth going to.
Margo and Quentin walked up the pathway to Eliot’s door. The lawn is perfectly manicured with not a plastic cup in sight.
“Are you sure this is the right place?”
“Yeah.” Margo wasn’t completely sure. There were no signs of the kind of rager she expected from Eliot Waugh and the only time she had ever been here was after one of their bleacher rendezvous.
They stand on the porch for a few moments before Quentin reached for the doorbell.
“Wait!” Margo screeched.
But it was too late. The bell had already been rung.
“God dammit Coldwater! We’re probably early. You can never be the first one to arrive.” Margo looked around in a panic. “Maybe he didn’t see us. Let’s run for it.” She reached out to grab his hand to drag him away, but the door opened.
Eliot looked at the two of them confused. “Margo? What are you doing here?” He looked Quentin up and down. “And what treat did you bring me?”
Margo pushed Quentin forward. “This is my step brother, Quentin.”
“Um, hi.” Quentin reached his hand out to shake Eliot’s hand and immediately regretted his latest awkward decision.
Eliot took Quentin’s hand and gracefully turned it over to kiss the top.
“I’m Eliot. You’re right on time.” Eliot stepped out of the house. “My parents throw this lame,” he hesitated to say the next word, “party every year. I was just plotting an excuse to bail and two showed up on my doorstep.” He grabs Margo’s hand and spins her around. “Well my bewitching beauty, let’s go find a magical place to smoke.”
Margo leaned into Eliot. “Good luck finding anywhere worth being in this town.”
“Why don’t we just go to the bleachers?” Quentin suggested.
Margo and Eliot both looked shocked. “Voluntarily go to school?” They said in unison.
Eliot took the flask from the pocket of his vest and took a swig before passing it to Margo. “The bleachers are a fine escape from 5th period geometry, but I would never choose to go there.”
“What about that witch house?” Margo took out her phone to look up the Sanderson house.
Eliot peeked at her phone. Even though he’d spent his entire life in this town he could never remember the history. Probably because he spent most of the time pretending he didn’t live there. “What witch house?”
She continued to comb through the search results getting more annoyed by the second at not finding what she was looking for. “Remember that story Lipson was telling us in history.”
“Oh, yes I was definitely listening to that.” Eliot nodded sarcastically.
Margo rolled her eyes at Eliot. She wouldn’t consider herself an academic overachiever, mostly because she never had to try that hard, but it annoyed her that Eliot never seemed to try at all. And she knew he had the potential to be great. “The short version is a few hundred years ago some witches lived in a house on the outskirts of town. They got themselves burned up and cast a curse, so now everyone is too afraid to go near the house.”
“Meaning, it’s empty and secluded. Sounds perfect.” Eliot took the hands of Margo and Quentin and led them in the direction he thought the Sanderson house would be. A few minutes later they passed his house again, as Margo finally found the directions.
They made their way to the Sanderson house and briefly paused when they saw the visitor's entrance signs.
Eliot turned to Margo. “I thought you said this place was abandoned?”
Not wanting to take the blame for a ruined evening, Margo defended herself. “I’m not the one who grew up here. How was I supposed to know it was turned into a tourist trap?”
Eliot opened his mouth to snark back at her, but Quentin interrupted him in an attempt to keep the peace. “It looks like it hasn’t been used in a long time.” He pointed to the cobwebs and boarded up windows. “Budget cuts probably.”
Eliot considered this. “I wouldn’t mind adding a little breaking and entering to the agenda tonight.” He grinned at Margo and all three of them headed inside.
Eliot stretched out on the counter with Margo leaning up against him with a pipe in her hand. Quentin sat balancing on his toes in a nearby chair. Margo passed the pipe to Eliot who took a long inhale.
He reached out his hand. “Here Q.”
Quentin looked up, startled. He didn’t really expect to be included, but slowly reached out his hand to take the pipe from Eliot.
Margo watched him with intense curiosity. She was fairly certain this was his first time. “You might need this.” She tossed him a lighter. “Make sure to place your finger on the hole.”
Quentin fumbled with the lighter, taking a few clicks to keep it lit and then struggled further to get the flame to the weed. After a painfully awkward minute that felt like an hour he took his first puff. And proceeded to cough up a lung.
Margo and Eliot let out a hearty laugh in unison.
Quentin handed the pipe back to Eliot, stood up and suddenly became very interested in checking out the objects on the other side of the room. He stopped at a large candle placed high on what looked like an altar. He felt a hand on his shoulder and spun around to see Eliot giving him a sympathetic look.
“That happens to everyone the first time.” Eliot reassured him and took out his own lighter to take another hit. “It gets easier.”
Quentin could only nod. He was grateful that Eliot was being kind, but still wasn’t over the embarrassment and laughter he had just endured. Eager to change the subject he reached a hand out to the candle. “What do you think this is about?”
“I may not have been paying attention in history class, but even I know they didn’t have electricity in the 16th century.”
“17th.” Margo corrected. “And that is the black flame candle. Legend says if a virgin lights it on Halloween the witches will come back to life.”
Eliot exhaled another drag. “Okay, nerd.”
“So, let’s light the thing.” Quentin held up his lighter. The chance to keep the conversation away from his failure was fueling his interest in the candle, but there was a part of him that was curious about the magic.
Margo shrugged. “We could use a little ambience.”
A black cat leaped down from the rafters and landed on Quentin’s shoulder. The cat swatted at his face and landed deep scratches down his cheek. “What the hell?” Quentin grabbed the cat and threw it harshly to the ground. He heard the familiar sound of Margo cackling at his expense and turned away so she wouldn’t see the evidence of him being bested by a cat or the tears it caused to well in his eyes.
With determination, Quentin flicked the lighter, getting it on the first try this time and held it down to the wick. To his surprise, the flame that erupted was indeed black and once ignited the heat exploded across the room, forcing them all to drop to the floor.
Eliot was the first to stand. “What the fuck was that? Eliot scanned the room for more hallucinations. “You guys felt that too right?”
Quentin pulled himself off the ground and ran his fingers through his hair. “Definitely felt that.”
Margo dusted herself off. “Relax. You aren’t that high. That was real.”
“Not exactly comforting.” Quentin adjusted the bag slung across his shoulder.
Eliot leaned back against the wall and took another hit. “Then what happened?”
“A virgin,” Margo glared pointedly at Quentin “lit the black flame candle.”
The cat leaped back onto the counter and let out a deep guttural growl. It arched its back and stared at an empty corner of the house. Another flash of light appeared along with a deafening boom. When the light subsided, three figures could be seen in the same spot the cat was staring at.
The three figures stepped forward, revealing themselves to be three young women. It was said that the witches were the Sanderson sisters, but these women didn’t look much alike. The first had pale skin with long white hair as straight as a board. The taller one had dark, wild curls cascading down her back. The last one was the smallest, with slightly darker skin than the other two and tousled brown hair. The only thing they had in common was the look of a once beautiful woman gone sour. Their skin was sallow and cracked, their hair frayed and disheveled, but the most disturbing feature were their vacant glossy eyes.
The blonde woman glanced around the room as if she were searching for something. She had a dazed look on her face like she couldn’t remember what it was she wanted to find. When she spotted Margo, Quentin, and Eliot she stopped dead in her tracks. “You shouldn’t be here.” She shrieked.
The two other witches snapped their heads in the same direction at the sound of the blonde’s wails.
Before Quentin could react the witches were in front of him reaching out for a large leather bound book that was behind him. The cat attacked again, this time landing on the blonde witch.
Quentin heard someone call out “Take the book and run” as the cat made its attack. Without thinking it through, Quentin snatched the book off the counter and shoved it in his satchel.
Margo grabbed Quentin by the arm. “We need to get out of here.” She drug him along with Eliot in the lead, but were stopped by the two other sisters.
The smaller one reached her hand out to stroke Margo’s hair. “Don’t you want to play with us?” She giggled and pulled a handful of her hair, bringing Margo to her knees.
The larger witch suckerpunched Eliot in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. She then stepped over him to keep him from standing back up. Quentin took this opportunity to sneak away and climb on top of the counter. He had an idea that was either going to help them escape or be his last embarrassing act before death.
“Hey!” Quentin couldn’t think of anything more original, but it still got their attention. He held up the lighter and clicked on the flame.
Alice shook the cat off of her and gasped. “Pyromancer!”
“You’ve messed with the great and powerful Quentin and now must suffer the consequences I summon the burning rain of death!” Quentin raised the lighter to the ceiling, right under the smoke alarm.
The witches didn’t have a chance to respond before the sprinkler system was set off. All three of them dove to the floor, releasing Margo and Eliot in the process. As the sisters crawled across the floor seeking cover from what they believed to be acid, Quentin, Eliot, and Margo made a run for the door with the cat running close behind them.
“Alice!” The two dark haired witches called out as they stretched their hands out towards the blonde witch.
“Julia, Kady.” Alice replied gasping for breath. She held her hand up to the rain to shield her face and felt the cool familiar touch of water. The revelation sent her shooting up from the ground in anger.
“Stop screeching you fools.” Alice barked at her sisters on the floor. “It’s only water. We were fooled by that devious boy.”
Kady raised a reluctant hand to wipe the water from her face and gently nudged Julia to assure her that it was safe. Julia peered out from behind her fingers and slowly pushed herself off the ground.
Alice spun around the room in a panic. “The book!” Her head twitched in an involuntary spasm. “Where is the book?”
“He took it.” Kady spat.
“We need that book to finish the spell.” Alice paced back and forth. “Without it we’ll be dust by morning.”
Julia raised her hand to offer a solution. “Maybe we can remember the spell.”
“Like I could trust either of you with something so important.” Alice scoffed. A voice in her head whispered that her sisters were inferior. She was the only one that could finish the spell. “You idiots can barely remember your own names.”
Kady positioned herself face to face with Alice. Something beyond the insult willing her into picking a fight with Alice. “Let’s see you do it then if you’re so smart.”
Alice backed down, not wanting to throw down with Kady. “I’m not going to wing it.” As much as she wanted to prove she was better at magic than her sisters, she wasn’t about to risk her life for her pride. “We’ll just have to get the book back.” It pained her to turn to Julia and ask for help. She couldn’t place it, but there was a voice in her head screaming not to trust Julia and Kady. “Julia, you’re best at tracking.”
With a giddy clap, Julia began her locator spell. Her mind was spinning as she performed the motions for the spell. It’s like she’s been emptied of everything, but this one spell.
They’d been running since they left the Sanderson house and finally stopped to catch their breath outside of the old cemetery. All three of them had their hands on their knees as they gasped for breath. None of them noticed they had been followed by that black cat. Blood dripped from the wound the cat inflicted on Quentin. Noticing it for the first time, Margo reached out to touch his face and immediately felt bad for laughing. To be fair, watching him get his ass kicked by a cat was totally hilarious, but she didn’t want him to actually be hurt.
Quentin fumbled with his bag and examined the book he stole from the witches. It had a black leather binding with a triquetra burned into the center. Two daggers cut through the middle of the symbol.
Margo’s stare drifted from his face to the book. “Why did you take that thing?”
Quentin looked from Margo to Eliot perplexed. “I don’t know. Eliot said to take it.”
The cat sat back on its haunches and looked Quentin straight in the eye. “That was me, dumbass.”
Quentin didn’t know how to react to a cat calling him a dumbass. He wanted to object, but his mind was still processing the fact that a cat had spoken to him at all. He couldn’t help but think of Fillory and that put him a little more at ease. Coming to his senses, he looked back up at Elliot and Margo to confirm they heard it too.
The look on Eliot’s face made it clear that he heard the cat too. “Margo, are you sure we aren’t tripping?”
”If we are I seriously underpaid.” Margo pulled a small bag out from her bra and examined the remainder of her supply.
“I guarded that candle for 300 years and I get screwed by two asshole stoners and an idiot virgin.” The cat growled. “Maybe I finally made it to hell.”
Margo stuffed the bag back into her bra. “Alright grumpy cat, what’s your deal?”
“My name is Penny Adiyodi. 300 years ago the Sanderson sisters killed my sister and stole her life force. When I tried to stop them, they turned my into an immortal cat so that I would suffer alone forever. I’ve kept an eye on the black flame candle to try and prevent anyone from bringing them back to life.”
Quentin dropped his gaze unable to keep eye contact, knowing that this was all his fault.
Eliot chimed in to take the focus off Quentin. “Our bad.”
Margo grabbed the book from Quentin’s bag. “I’m guessing this is their spell book. We’ll just use this to put them back.”
Penny swiped his claws at Margo’s shins, scratching her boots. “No! That book is full of dark magic.”
“Okay, we get it the book is bad.” Margo kicked Penny away. “Scratch my boots again and I’ll skin you alive to replace them.”
Penny circled around to be out of Margo’s reach. “We don’t need to defeat them. We just need to keep them away from that book until morning when the resurrection spell wears off.”
After taking the book back from Margo, Quentin slipped it back into his satchel. “That sounds doable.”
Penny twitched his tail in irritation. “They won’t make it easy.” Penny squeezed through the bars of the cemetery gate. “Follow me, they can’t cross the threshold.”
The first to obey, Quentin swung open the gate to the cemetery. He turned to Margo and Eliot. “We need to hide out somewhere.”
Eliot followed. “Sure, spending the night in a cemetery. What can go wrong?”
With a reluctant sigh Margo followed, stomping her feet along the way.
The spell led Julia out of the house with Alice and Kady following close behind her. Julia stumbled through the woods in a trance, swaying from side to side as the spell willed her in the direction of the book. Nothing else entered her mind. Not the sound of her sisters behind her, the feeling of the cold night air cutting through her thin white gown, or even the pain from her feet, now bleeding from walking barefoot through the woods.
Alice and Kady however, felt every minute of it, growing more irritated with every step. ‘This is all their fault’ that unfamiliar voice whispered at Alice. She did her best to shake the thoughts away. She needed her sisters. Deep down she knew that was the truth and fought with herself to remember it.
With a clearer mind, she took careful steps as she followed Julia. The sight of the blood on her sisters feet stirred something inside her that she didn’t understand. All she’d been able to think about since the resurrection was finding the book, but now she just wanted to stop Julia’s pain. Alice sped up to help Julia, but was blindsided by Kady. The blow reawakened the voice and Alice was back to following Julia in silent resentment.
Kady wasn’t sure what made her do it. Seeing Alice offer Julia help triggered a blind rage towards the blonde. All she knew was that Alice needed to be stopped and Julia had to keep going. With her mission accomplished, Kady felt the rage slip away and felt a pang of guilt for hurting Alice. ‘It needed to be done’ she told herself and felt the guilt fade into satisfaction.
They found a spot to rest under a large oak tree. Margo leaned up against the tree under the pretense of not wanting to sit in the dirt when she really wanted to give Quentin a moment with Eliot. Quentin sat perched on a rock nervously fiddling with his satchel.
“This will help.” Eliot handed Quentin his flask.
Quentin looked up somehow forgetting that Eliot was here with him. “Oh, thanks.”He took a swig and did his best to hide how badly his face puckered from the whiskey. He slung his bag from his shoulder and slid down the rock to join Eliot. “Sorry for causing this mess.”
“This is the most excitement I’ve had in years. Aside from all the being in mortal peril.” Eliot took another swig. “But what’s life without a little drama?”
Quentin nodded in understanding. He’d spent his life playing it safe, but he had to admit running for your life was exhilarating. Maybe it was who he was running alongside of.
Penny was patrolling the grounds making sure it was safe and froze when he came upon a familiar grave.
Quentin noticed the change in Penny and studied the name on the grave. It was badly faded and he couldn’t make out anything but the first name ‘Marina’. “Is that your sister?”
“No. This is Marina Andrieski. Another victim of the Sanderson sisters. She died during the struggle to capture the sisters.” Penny heard the cracking of tree branches and looked to the sky in alarm.
Mounted on their makeshift brooms, the Sanderson sisters came speeding towards the oak tree. Julia and Kady dove towards the group making them all take shelter under the tree. The witches still couldn’t touch the ground and began circling the tree to keep them trapped there. Alice spotted Quentin’s satchel, lying on top of the rock unprotected. She made a beeline for it while Julia and Kady kept the others distracted.
She gripped the broom hard with one hand and stretched out her other arm as far as possible, just barely able to reach one of the straps. Jerking the broom upward to prevent touching the hallowed ground, she returned to a safe orbit and examined her prize. As soon as her fingers touched the cover of the book, a bolt of lightning came shooting down, barely missing the large oak tree.
The lightning got the attention of Quentin who realized he no longer had his satchel. He looked up to see Alice throwing his bag to the ground and clutching the spell book tight to her chest. In a panic, he did the only thing he could think of: try to knock her off the broom. This is how Penny ended up flying through the air and crashing into Alice, making her drop the book.
Alice’s screams distracted Julia and Kady long enough to allow the others to make a run for it. Quentin picked up his bag and stuffed the book back into it while they ran out of the cemetery.
After a brief struggle, Alice shoved Penny off of her and he fell to the ground with a forceful thud. The witches cackled in satisfaction at the sound of his bones breaking from the impact. Knowing it was only a matter of time before he healed, the witches left him to suffer as they relocated their true targets.
“Julia!” Alice summoned. “Start the locator spell.” There was no time to waste. Casting the spell took time and following a stumbling spell driven Julia wasn’t exactly quick either.
Penny lay motionless on the lightning scorched earth of the graveyard. Breath returned to his lungs, blood was once again pumping from his newly beating heart and his body twisted grotesquely as his bones rearranged themselves.
The ground beneath him began to quake as a hand emerged through the surface, followed soon by the rest of Marina Andrieski.
As she finished climbing out from her grave, Penny regained consciousness. “Marina?” He asked in disbelief, wondering if the fall had finally killed him for good.
Marina smirked at the sight of Penny. “What did I miss?” If waking up from the dead to the sound of her former friend in the body of a cat surprised her, she sure didn’t show it.