The doorbell rang.
That was the problem with her business. Too many people thought that they could approach her at any time. Even oh dark thirty even though her hours were posted clearly on her door and on her website.
Of course answering the door would be something to do other than sit in her study shivering in the dark. Not that her world was every anything but dark. It was one of the reasons she hated bad dreams -- she had no way of turning on the light. Bad dreams that held warnings of things to come were the worst.
The doorbell rang again.
She slept -- or tried to -- the same hours as most people. Kept steady business hours too. Something that she had no trouble making clear to those morons who woke her up in the middle of the night. They came to see Glenda the Good Witch, but after midnight they found the Wicked Witch of the West and left quaking in fear of flying monkeys.
Whoever was at the door would have no reason to suspect how grateful she was for the interruption of her thoughts.
The doorbell began a steady throbbing beat, ring-long, ring-short, ring-short, ring-long and she grew a lot less grateful. To heck with flying monkeys, she was going to turn whoever it was into a frog. She shoved her concealing glasses on her face and stomped out the hall to her front door. No matter that most of the good transmutation spells had been lost with the Coranda family in the seventeenth century -- rude people needed to be turned into frogs. Or pigs.
She jerked open the door and slapped the offending hand on her doorbell. She even got out a “stop that” before the force of his spirit hit her like a physical blow. Her nose told her, belatedly that he was sweaty as if he'd been jogging. Her other senses told her that he was something other.
Not that she'd expected him to be human. Unlike other witches, she didn't advertise and so seldom had mundane customers unless their needs disturbed her sleep and she set out one of her “find me” spells to speak to them -- she knew when they were coming.
“Ms Keller,” he growled. “I need to speak to you.” At least he'd quit ringing the bell.
She let her left eyebrow slide up her forehead until it would be visible above her glasses. “Polite people come between the hours of eight in the morning and seven at night,” she informed him. Werewolf, she decided. If he really lost his temper she might have trouble, but she thought he was desperate, not angry -- though with a wolf, the two states could be interchanged with remarkable speed. “Rude people get sent on their way.”
“Tomorrow morning might be too late,” he said -- and then added the bit that kept her from slamming the door in his face. “Alan Choo gave me your address, said you were the only one he knew with enough moxie to defy them.”
She should shut the door in his face -- not even a werewolf could get through her portal if she didn't want him to. But . . . them. Her dream tonight and for the past weeks had been about them, about him again. Portents, her instincts had told her, not just nightmares. The time had come at last. No. She wasn't grateful to him at all.
“Did Alan tell you to say it in those words?”
“Yes, ma'am.” His temper was still there, but restrained and under control. It hadn't been aimed at her anyway, she thought, only fury born of frustration and fear. She knew how that felt.
She centered herself and asked the questions he'd expect. “Who am I supposed to be defying?”
And he gave her the answer she expected in return. “Something called Samhain's Coven.”
Moira took a tighter hold on the door. “I see.”
It wasn't really a coven. No matter what the popular literature said, it had been a long time since a real coven had been possible. Covens had thirteen members, no member related to any other to the sixth generation. Each family amassed its own specialty spells, and a coven of thirteen benefitted from all of those differing magics. But after most of the witchblood families had been wiped out by fighting amongst themselves, covens became a thing of the past. What few families remained (and there weren't thirteen, not if you didn't count the Russians or the Chinese who kept to their own ways) had a bone-deep antipathy for the other survivors.
Kouros changed the rules to suit the new times. His coven had between ten and thirteen members . . . he had a distressing tendency to burn out his followers. The current bunch descended from only three families that she knew of, and most of them weren't properly trained -- children following their leader.
Samhain wasn't up to the tricks of the old covens, but they were scarey enough even the local vampires walked softly around them, and Seattle, with its overcast skies, had a relatively large seethe of vampires. Samhain's master had approached Moira about joining them when she was thirteen. She'd refused and made her refusal stick at some cost to all the parties involved.
“What does Samhain have to do with a werewolf?” she asked.
“I think they have my brother.”
“Another werewolf?” It wasn't unheard of for brothers to be werewolves, especially since the Marrok, He-Who-Ruled-the-Wolves, began Changing people with more care than had been the usual custom. But it wasn't at all common either. Surviving of the Change, even with the safeguards the Marrok could manage, was still, she understood, nowhere near a certainty.
“No,” he took a deep breath. “Not a werewolf. Human. He has the sight. Choo says he thinks that's why they took him.”
“Your brother is a witch?”
The fabric of his shirt rustled with his shrug, telling her that he wasn't as tall as he felt to her. Only a little above average instead of a seven foot giant. Good to know.
“I don't know enough about witches to know -” he said. “Jon gets hunches. Takes a walk just at the right time to find five dollars someone dropped, picks the right lottery number to win ten bucks. That kind of thing. Nothing big, nothing anyone would have noticed if my Grandma hadn't had it stronger.”
The sight was one of those general terms that told Moira precisely nothing. It could mean anything from a little fae blood in the family tree or full blown witchblood. His brother's lack of power wouldn't mean he wasn't a witch -- the magic sang weaker in the men. But fae or witchblood, Alan Choo had been right about it being something that would attract Samhain's attention. She rubbed her cheekbone even though she knew the ache was a phantom pain touch wouldn't alter.
Samhain. Did she have a choice? In her dreams she died.