Witch's Child

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In Escudillo, what you are and who you know could get you killed.

Witch's Child

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Release Date : January 10, 2017

ISBN Number : 978-1-61138-654-7

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By Jill Zeller, writing as Hunter Morrison

In Escudillo, what you are and who you know could get you killed.

Tyler’s command of the mystifying fighting art called Combat may not be enough to save the life of his dear friend, Molly. In the enchanted Southern California town of Escudillo, nothing is as it seems to be. Rogue clowns roam the streets, a mountain highway twists through the heart of town and no one driving it knows the town is even there, and when an old man, who owns a copper bowl everyone seems to want, dies in a fire, Tyler begins to learn a terrible truth about himself, the town’s past, and deadly peril.

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The author of numerous short stories and novels, Jill Zeller lives near Seattle, Washington, with her patient husband, a self-centered tuxedo cat, and two very silly English Mastiffs. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy but there are rarely swords and never elves.
For more, visit her website.

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The Codicil to Volume Six

Esperanza Alonzo del Escudillo

Translation by Vesuvio

I set down here on these pages an explanation of why the witches hate the clowns. This animosity stretches its talons from deep in time, when people lived in trees and knew how to fly. And just as much as people have forgotten how to fly, they have forgotten about the Encanto, and they do not know how close it is. The witches know this, and the clowns laugh at them. The witches were drawn to this narrow canyon in the California hills, far from the grasping priests in the Mission, hidden from the sprawling city to the north. They come here because the Encanto is so strong, flowing from tunnels under our feet. The clowns follow the witches, wherever they go, because clowns can see them for what they are. Clowns claim to not be afraid of witches or their controlling thoughts. But they are afraid. And they should be.

The Indians say the canyon has long been a source of evil, ghosts, and sickness. Mexicans called it cursed, the home of the devil and witches. People disappeared in here, or returned insane or ill. The sickness is in the ground, the Indians say; a doorway to the underworld, and Hell is there, very close to the surface.

Witches use the tunnels to travel between their favorite haunts. The center of all witchery is a place called Carpathia—no one knows where it really is, as it seems to move around—and witches get there by tunnel travel. Every ten years witches congregate at a select location for the Games, where the ancient Encanto fighting art known as el Cambate is played.

Escudillo is one of those rare places where the tunnels have been closed. A grief-stricken mother, whose entire family was wiped out after wandering into the canyon during a time of famine, seeking the very large acorns the old oaks produced, sought the advice of shamans about how to destroy the canyon, or at least destroy the evil there.

The old shaman knew the evil could never be destroyed, or the canyon itself. But he did think he knew how to protect the outside world from the place.

Risking death, the old shaman and the mother traveled into the canyon and buried a copper bowl, bottom up, on a low hill near the creek. Only the old shaman returned, and he could not say what happened to the mother, but neither did he die or go insane, and gradually el Velo appeared, shielding the canyon bottom and walls from the rest of the world. People could enter now and not die.

Things were peaceful for many, many years. The padres came and so did my grandfather, Simon Escudillo. A young man sent away from his family because of scandal, my grandfather went seeking gold. Settling in the valley near the mission, he purchased land and started raising cattle. Expanding his enterprise into the surrounding hills, he learned from the Indians that there was a special part of the canyon where they did not like to go, or stay for very long. Suspicious, Simon began to excavate for gold, as it seemed to him the Indians were trying to protect the gold that could be found there.

He never found it, but he became a wealthy rancher. One day when he was getting old and thinking about leaving the operation of the ranchero to his sons, he had a dream about the canyon; Madre Maria came to him and told him to build a town in the canyon.

So in building the town, he dug up a bowl made from copper. He dug up other things, too, leavings from generations of Indians who used the place as a camp in their travels, after the canyon was cured of its evil. Keeping the bowl because my grandmother liked it, he didn’t think much about it. Shortly after Grandmama died, the copper bowl disappeared, and he thought no more about it.

I fear I have stumbled off my path of explaining the clowns. I confess I don’t really know where clowns came from, or when they appeared. I do know and despise their talent for distraction—they disrupt a witch’s concentration. I know because I am trying to become one. My teacher humors me, I think, but I have learned so much. Another sacrifice is coming. We all can feel it. But no one can find a witch these days—we are in hiding, disguised from ordinary folk, except for clowns.

The witches are nervous, but I am not, because I know whose blood can strengthen our Veil, and keep the Encanto at bay.

And I know the words.

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