~ CHAPTER 1 ~
by Van, © 1998
DISCLAIMER: All characters from the motion picture Practical Magic and the television series Charmed are the property of Warner Bros. , which has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with this fictional parody. This story is set in the First Season of Charmed.
Halliwell House was like many others in this part of San Francisco: Victorian, in reasonably good repair, tastefully painted (but not a "Painted Lady"), grounds well maintained (but without elaborate gardens); nothing to set it apart from others (or mark it as the home of three novice witches) ...nothing to attract attention. Nevertheless, attract attention it had. Two veiled, female figures watched the house from across the street... two nondescript, forgettable female figures.
On the final leg of her morning run, Phoebe Halliwell sprinted around the corner and approached the front of the house. Her breathing was even and deep. Sweat glistened on her short, toned body, staining her skintight, jade and heather gray, cotton/lycra running shorts and sports bra top. She skidded to a halt, gasping for air, listening to her heart pound, feeling her blood rush... enjoying the burn. As she finished her cool-down stretching exercises, the front door opened and her sisters emerged.
"Try to get something productive done today, would you Phoebe?" Pru nagged. "You really do need to find a real job. We could use the money."
"Good morning to you too, big sister," Phoebe said, with her trademark impudent grin. Not even eight o'clock and already surrogate Mom was scolding naughty child . When will it stop? she thought.
"Please," Piper said, ever the mediator, "let's not start the day with another argument." She gave Phoebe a light kiss on the cheek and used her remote to unlock her car. "I'm going to drop Pru off at the Auction House, then I have to interview new waitresses at Quake, and we may be trying out a new entree, and..."
"My car should be ready before four, so I'll probably be home at the regular time," Pru interrupted."
"...And I'll probably be home around six," Piper continued, climbing behind the wheel and pulling her door shut, "'cause it's my half-day..."
"So I'll plan on seeing you both then," Phoebe said. "If I go out, I'll leave a note."
Pru leaned over and gave Phoebe a quick peck. "Sorry, sis," she whispered. "I know I can be a pain at times."
Phoebe returned the kiss with a tight hug. "More like a royal pain, and all the time," she joked. "Have fun setting the art world on fire."
Her sister returned the hug and kissed her again, then climbed into the front passenger seat. "Be careful," Pru admonished. Phoebe and Piper both knew she was referring to the seemingly endless parade of demons, warlocks, sorcerers, shape-shifters and other supernatural baddies that had started coming out of the woodwork since the sisters discovered their family copy of The Book of Shadows and had gained their (as yet poorly understood and unmastered) witching powers.
"...And if I can't be careful," Phoebe said with a smile, "I'll..."
"...be good!" all three sisters said together. Phoebe waved as they drove away.
Her mind on a hot shower, followed by coffee and a quick read of the employment pages, Phoebe bounded up the steps and opened the front door.
"Excuse me, aren't you Phoebe Halliwell?" a friendly voice said from behind. Phoebe turned—and had a premonition, a premonition of darkness. She couldn't move, or speak, or...
Phoebe collapsed into the arms of one of the veiled figures, who hefted her up over her shoulder and carried her into the house. The other woman followed, pulling the door closed behind them.
The cat watched from the far end of the first floor hallway as the strangers carried the Phoebe-witch up the stairs to the human's bedroom. Almost immediately one of the strangers, the one with orange hair (almost the exact shade of the darkest stripes of a really foul tempered marmalade-tiger tom the cat had once known) bounded down the stairs and left the house. The cat had known a magickal serendipity wave was building in the area for some days, but had been unable to detect any dark influences. Obviously something big was about to happen to the Halliwells, and this was it. She wasn't particularly worried (even though she still didn't know what was going on.) The auras of the strangers weren't dangerous, more... interesting —happiness, sorrow, dark forces bravely met and defeated, an ancient curse lifted, above all... love. Yes, interesting .
The orange-hair stranger returned lugging two large suitcases, hauled them upstairs to one of the guest rooms, left again, and returned with two more. Obviously, the strangers were planning to stay for awhile. Suddenly, "orange-hair" noticed the cat, paused in her labors, and made several disgusting, infantile, overly familiar noises, all the while pursing and smacking her lips—something humans did sometimes when they encountered cats—for some reason. Never one to suffer even well-intentioned fools gladly, the cat flattened her ears, and slowly, tail held high, with great dignity (and her usual feline grace) pattered into the kitchen. Time enough for introductions later, once the strangers were settled in..
"Feline grace," the cat considered. "Isn't that an oxymoron?"
Phoebe could hear voices, hollow, distant voices, and there was a strong, sweet, perfume odor, sort of like flowers, or herbs ...but she couldn't see anything, anything at all.
"Dn hrt hr."
"Uv krs nt."
Phoebe could hear words ...but they didn't make any sense. They didn't have meaning. She felt her running clothes being pulled off of her body. Then someone was giving her a sponge bath with a wet, warm, herb scented cloth. She decided it felt good.
"I think we're ready. Go get the rope."
"It's right here. I'm not an idiot you know."
"What hap...? Why...? Why are..."
One of the voices was her own. Phoebe was sure of it. She couldn't seem to make it say anything, but it talked now and then. Poor thing. It seemed frightened and confused.
She still couldn't see. After careful consideration, Phoebe decided she was blindfolded. Yes, that explained the cloth around her eyes and... Phoebe shook her head. She was confused, but it seemed to be passing.
"Hurry up," said the blue-gray voice. "She's almost rejoined."
Phoebe felt hands turning her over. "There," said the green voice. "Lift her a little."
"How can voices have colors?" Phoebe asked.
"You can hear auras as well as see them, if you know how" answered Blue-gray.
"...Or if you're held between planes," continued Green.
"Oh! That makes sense," Phoebe murmured. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," answered Green, "now hold still."
Phoebe felt rope being passed around her upper body, and Green was chanting something under her breath. The binding started with a harness arrangement passing under her arms, behind her neck, and tied between her shoulder blades. Next, her wrists were lifted, crossed and tied with the same rope, pulling her arms up in a double hammerlock. Phoebe felt many passes being taken around her wrists, and some around her thumbs and fingers as well. It felt less like she was being bound, and more like the rope was being rapidly braided around her. The rope was then wrapped around her arms, body, and breasts and several turns were used to lace her upper arms and elbows into the arrangement. An additional turn was taken around her upper arms, and the two free ends hitched and rapidly wound into a thick, complex, running knot down between her breasts. The free ends were then braided through the ropes already crisscrossing and passing under her breasts, and Phoebe felt the interlacing continue to right and left. It had to be her imagination, but suddenly the free ends seemed to be tying themselves! Phoebe could feel no hands at work. The ropes were burrowing and twisting around the other strands, and they seemed to be growing smaller and smaller, turning from rope, to cord, to string, to thread... Suddenly, all the ropes seemed to contract, to grow very tight. Phoebe gasped, the fog in her brain abruptly clearing.
"What... What have you done to me? Who are you? You better let me g—Mmmpfh!"
The blindfold was lifted from Phoebe's eyes. She blinked in the sudden light, and found she was in her own bedroom, lying on her four poster bed. A green-eyed, red-haired woman was standing over her, smiling, and holding one strong hand over her mouth. Next to the redhead, a brunette was tying a complex knot in the center of a long, thin, white silk scarf, a scarf which Phoebe surmised was the cloth that had been her recently removed blindfold. Both women were in their early thirties, and were very attractive.
The redhead leaned even closer, and used her free hand to straighten Phoebe's disheveled hair. "Hush, little one, or Auntie Gillian will have to spank," she whispered.
"Mmpmmfh," Phoebe mewed through the tightly pressed hand. She recognized the redhead's voice as "Green." The brunette must be "Blue-gray."
"Stop being cute and hold her head," the brunette instructed, finishing her knot.
The redhead shifted behind Phoebe and half lifted the frightened captive off the bed and leaned her bound body against her own. The redhead's hand came off Phoebe's mouth, she opened her mouth to scream —and the brunette thrust the knotted scarf into Phoebe's mouth. The scarf was pulled taut and three passes from either side left Phoebe's mouth full of knotted and banded silk, her lips pulled back in an involuntary grimace, her cheeks bulging above the smooth silk. She felt a tight, simple square knot being tied at the nape of her neck. The redhead continued to hold Phoebe's head as the brunette made a gesture in the air, touched the silk gag where its bands bisected Phoebe's mouth, and whispered a quiet chant:"Should she speak,Phoebe attempted to kick the brunette and screamed in anger — and found the already adequate gag suddenly much more than adequate. The knot filled her mouth, completely filled her mouth, and the gag tightened like a python strangling its prey. Phoebe's nearly stillborn scream escaped as a barely audible, muffled whimper.
the cloth will know,
the bands will tighten,
the knot will grow."
"Shh, shhh, quiet little one," the redhead cooed, cradling Phoebe's head. "If you don't try to say anything, the cloth will leave you alone." Phoebe's eyes, wide with fear, darted from the redhead to the brunette. After several seconds, the gag slowly loosened its tight grip and the knot slowly shrank to its former size.
The brunette produced a length of rope and after crossing Phoebe's ankles, began binding them tightly together. "I know you're scared, but that can't be helped. We can't really explain what we're doing or why, but I assure you, you're in no danger, we won't hurt you, you'll thank us for all this ...eventually."
Phoebe began to utter a gagged retort, then remembered her self-tightening gag and... Witches! They're witches! she thought.
"That's right," said the redhead, as if she had read Phoebe's thoughts, "we're witches."
"I'm Sally Owens," said the brunette, tying the final knot joining Phoebe's ankles.
"...and I'm Gillian Owens," added the redhead.
Phoebe squirmed in her bonds, still frightened and confused. I thought witches were supposed to be good, she thought. The redhead, Gillian, reached over to the nightstand and grabbed Phoebe's hairbrush. She began brushing the captive's short, dark locks, using her fingers to straighten the most stubborn tangles.
Sally reached over and lifted Phoebe's chin. "She's very pretty, isn't she?"
"If you like them short, with angelic faces, big brown eyes, toned, athletic bodies... and big boobs," Gillian said with a teasing smile.
"Big, perfectly proportioned boobs," her sister corrected. You're just jealous 'cause you've always had tiny titties.
"You should talk," Gillian answered. The only time you have tits anyone can find is when you're pregnant. "She has two daughters," Gillian said, directing her remarks to Phoebe, "Kylie and Antonia, both perfect little darlings. You'll love them when you meet them."
"Right!" Sally snorted. "Both 'perfect little darlings' except after you're been baby-sitting. Gilly-bean here is the family black sheep and bad influence," Sally said to Phoebe, reaching out and playfully tousling the shining hair her sister had just finished brushing, "the role I believe you play in the Halliwell household." She then walked to the door as "Gilly-bean" used the brush to repair her sister's damage. "Well, back to work. You know what to do," she said to Gillian. "I'll start on the summoning spell for the next one." Without another word Sally turned and left Phoebe's bedroom.
Gillian set down the brush and climbed off the bed, easing Phoebe down onto the tangled sheets. "I have a few preparations of my own to make, but I won't be long," she said with a feral grin. "Try not to worry," she said, then left the room, pulling the door closed. Phoebe found herself alone, a very tightly bound, gagged, and confused prisoner
As soon as the bedroom door closed, Phoebe swung her crossed and bound ankles off the bed and stood. After leaning against one of the tall bedposts at the foot of her bed and testing her balance (it isn't easy moving around with your ankles crossed and bound, she was finding), Phoebe awkwardly hopped over to her dresser mirror and inspected her bonds. The gag was tight and efficient. She knew she wouldn't be able to work it loose without the use of her hands. Half turning and looking over her shoulder, she examined the ropes encircling her wrists, thumbs, and fingers.
It was amazing! Phoebe could remember every cinching, constricting instant of her bonds being applied, and she knew it had felt somewhat complex and elaborate—but this was ...impossible ! Her wrists were crossed and held in intricate woven bands of rope, like macramé or sailors' fancy-work. The loops around the base of her fingers and thumbs seemed to grow out of a complex, intricate nest, as did the many strands crisscrossing and encircling her shoulders and arms. Phoebe turned and inspected her front. The binding there was equally complex. She peered in the mirror at a place where two strands crossed, one from across her left shoulder to under her right breast, the other encircling both her arms. At the point of crossing, the rope was intertwined in a flat, complex, knot, but a knot that seemed to impart exactly the correct angle and tension to each strand involved. Almost every crossing of almost every strand held such a knot. Phoebe saw that she was less bound in rope, then woven into a rope web, a web that perfectly fit her upper body. She turned and twisted. Nothing gave. There was almost no play in her bonds, they were uniformly tight and restricting, ...yet, Phoebe found she could breath easily, and was in no pain, not even minor discomfort!
She inspected the area between her breasts, where she had felt the final, complex knot being tied. Here the rope work was the most intricate of all. The running knot between her breasts was compact and flat, and seemed to capture and incorporate every strand that crossed its path. She looked for the free ends of the knot ...and found none. She was bound in one, continuous, fantastic knot. It would take hours to tie something like this, but she knew her binding had taken only three minutes, five at the most. Impossible! Phoebe thought.
"Magick!" came a voice from the doorway. Phoebe looked up to find Gillian standing there, an amused smirk on her elfin face, a large coil of thin, blue rope in one hand. "...the magick of The Book of Ouroboros , of which you will soon learn much more. But all in good time. Back onto the bed, if you please. No one told you you could hop around the room, now did they?"
Phoebe's cheeks burned and she murmured a very rude retort — which was instantly swallowed by her suddenly tightening gag. "Uurk!" was the only sound that made it past the silk. Gillian regarded Phoebe with what the prisoner found to be an infuriatingly smug demeanor. Gillian gestured towards the bed. Phoebe felt like a naughty toddler being ordered about by her older and oh-so- infinitely-superior sibling, and she didn't like it! She got enough of that crap from Pru! Resigned to her present circumstances, but still more than a little peeved , Phoebe hopped back to the bed and flopped onto the sheets.
"Good girl," Gillian said, with a chuckle. Phoebe watched as the redhead leaned over and untied her ankles, then retied them in a loose hobble. Phoebe tried to follow Gillian's actions as the knots were tied, but all she saw was a flurry of fingers and flying rope. The final result was each of Phoebe's ankles encircled by a tight, broad band of interwoven rope, and joined by a single, continuously knotted strand about twelve inches in length.
Next, Gillian took one free end of the coil of blue rope, passed it between Phoebe's legs, and tied it off to the very top of one of the tall posts of the headboard. Phoebe glanced down at the blue coil and noticed a large number of ornate knots tied in the remaining length of rope, each about three feet apart.
Gillian's smile broadened when she noticed Phoebe's inspection of the rope. The short prisoner felt a thrill of dread when she saw the predatory gleam in her captor's eyes. "What I'm going to do," Gillian explained, "is take you someplace you can ... rest ...'til this evening. You're going to be helping us with a little ceremony we have planned, and we need you in the proper, shall we say, frame of mind?"
Gillian thought something was very funny. Although Phoebe certainly didn't get the joke, she had a dreadful premonition (of the non-magickal variety) that she would be involved in the punch line.
Gillian stood over the coil of blue rope and began to chant and gesture. Phoebe could hear the words of the chant— but they weren't in any language Phoebe could understand, or even recognize. The rope began to move, small twitching motions at first, then smooth rhythmic undulations in cadence with Gillian's chant.
The redhead made an upwards gesture—and the rope leapt into the air. With a gag-stifled squawk, Phoebe half jumped and was half lifted off the bed. She found herself standing with the rope stretched tautly down from the top of the tall bedpost, between her legs, and up to the quivering blue coil, which was hovering about five feet off the floor. Gillian made a small gesture, and Phoebe squawked again as the rope between her legs snuggled between her labia. Phoebe blushed. She could feel the rope pulsing and vibrating slightly. Despite her anger at being this carrot-top witch's prisoner (and much to her chagrin) Phoebe felt herself lubricating in response. An added smugness seemed to enter Gillian's chanting voice as she noticed Phoebe's red, glistening cheeks, small hopping movements, and growing excitement.
With another gesture from Gillian, the bulk of the rope flew through the bedroom door, uncoiling as it went. Phoebe could see it disappear down the hall, towards the front stairs. "Just how long is that thing?" she thought. Except for a stretch of a few yards pulled down through Phoebe's sex, in front and behind, the rope formed a horizontal, knotted, blue line, about five feet in the air.
Gillian gave Phoebe a big grin. "Okay, you can start walking."
Phoebe gave the redhead an incredulous look and firmly shook her head to the negative.
"I thought you might need a little persuasion," Gillian said. She held up a white feather for Phoebe's inspection. Phoebe's eyes grew wide with apprehension. She knew herself to be quite ticklish. The redheaded witch made an invoking gesture and whispered a few words, too soft for Phoebe to hear. She then walked behind her bound captive and lightly stroked the feather across the twin globes of Phoebe's dimpled rump.
Phoebe's reaction was immediate and extreme. Squealed laughter was stifled by her gag and she hopped from foot to foot. The feather had felt like a hundred, a thousand tickling fingers! Gillian reached up and touched the lobe of the panting prisoner's left ear. Phoebe squealed again, and ducked her head away from the tormenting touch.
Gillian moved to the front and held the feather an inch from Phoebe's gagged face. Phoebe's wide, brown eyes followed the innocent white object with dread as Gillian slowly waved it from side to side, then ever so slowly let her hand drift down 'til the feather was a tiny fraction of an inch from Phoebe's right nipple.
"Will Phoebe be a good little witch and do as Auntie Gillian says?" Gillian asked.
Phoebe's nostrils flared as she shook her head yes, trying very hard not to make her nipple bob into contact with the dreadful feather.
"Gooood," Gillian cooed, and stepped to the side. "Walk!"
Phoebe took a hesitant, hobbled step forward. A few inches of blue rope slid through her sex.
"Keep going," Gillian urged. "We don't have all day."
Phoebe took another step ...then another. The rope offered little resistance, pulling down in front as she advanced and back up as she passed. It was like sliding on a thin column of air ...a warm, quivering, vibrating, thin column of air. Phoebe felt her anger warring with growing feelings of arousal.
Then she passed over the first of the knots.
It was heaven! It felt ...so ...good! Phoebe's nipples blossomed into erect buds, and she squealed into her gag, oblivious to its answering embrace. Her eyes focused again, and she saw Gillian's self-satisfied grin. Phoebe blushed anew, mortified to have her smug captor witness her excitement.
"Come on, my witchy little slut," Gillian teased, waving the feather. "We have quite a way to go."
Phoebe started forward again. The second knot was approaching. She touched it.
It... It... It was better than the first knot. Gillian let her rest for a few seconds, then gestured down the hall. Phoebe passed over the third knot.
...The next thing Phoebe knew, Gillian was helping her to her feet. Phoebe blushed and turned her face, but Gillian took the captive's chin in one hand and turning her face back, kissed each of her hot, tear stained cheeks. "I swear to you this is necessary," she whispered in the dazed captive's ear. "If it's any consolation, ...my first time I was even more responsive to this spell than you are." Phoebe looked at her tormentor. Gillian had been through this? Gillian laughed at Phoebe's puzzled expression. "You'll understand later. For now ...walk!"
Phoebe looked up at the blue rope. Knots waited as far as she could see, down the hall, and down the front stairs. She couldn't do it! It wasn't possible!
Gillian waved the feather and repeated her command. "Walk!"
Phoebe inched forward, holding her breath as she passed another knot. It felt good ...very good ...but not good enough. She started forward again. The next knot was good ...but the same. As was the next... And the next... Phoebe had never felt so excited in her life, ...excited but not fulfilled.
"It learns, you see," Gillian said, matter-of-factly.
Phoebe looked at Gillian, her damp forehead wrinkled in question.
"It won't let you cum again," Gillian explained. "It does no good to charge a battery if you're going to let it dis charge itself, now does it?
Phoebe glared at her captor, still confused, her anger rebuilding. Gillian waved the feather and the march continued. Another knot... Another... Another...
Phoebe was growing desperate for release. Sweat was glistening on her body, and her blush was hot and seemingly permanent. She stumbled down the stairs, through the lower hall, into the kitchen, and towards the stairs that led down into the cellar, her mind a fog of sexual frustration. Maybe the next knot would be the one to bring her to blessed climax... No?... Maybe the next...
Halliwell house is very old, and has been occupied for generations. The cellar's low ceiling is cluttered with cast iron and old copper pipes. The only illumination is a few dim, widely spaced lightbulbs. It's full of all sorts of junk: a broken child's wagon, an old bicycle, several large cardboard boxes, a sheet shrouded dresser's dummy, broken furniture awaiting repair that would probably never come, musty trunks full of old clothes, the discarded almost-refuse of decades. The walls are dry-laid, native stone, and at some point, several steel columns have been placed to add support to the ancient timber beams supporting the upper floors. Cobwebs cover the stones and most of corners where beam meets wall or column, and everywhere are shadows, shadows and darkness.
Phoebe absolutely hated the cellar. She had never wanted to play down there when she was a child, convinced that spiders the size of... the size of... BIG spiders lived down there. Other things probably lived down there too: nasty, ugly, unfriendly things. She just knew it.
Her gag drowned her whimpering protests as Gillian made her follow the rope down the steps and back into the furthest, darkest corner of the cellar. She ran out of rope in front of the steel column furthermost from the steps, and Phoebe and the rope collapsed to the dirty floor together. Gillian made an abrupt gesture, and the rope flew back into the air, twirled like a blue cyclone, and fell back onto the floor in a neat coil. Through a haze of frustrated lust, Phoebe noticed that the rope was nowhere near long enough to have stretched from the cellar to her bedroom. More magick. She also noticed that all of the knots, all of those teasing, tickling, tormenting knots... were gone.
Gillian tucked the feather behind her ear and walked over to a nearby trunk. She opened it, and rummaged around 'til she found what appeared to be an ancient, moth-eaten shawl. This was folded into a thick, fuzzy pad, and placed at the foot of the support column. Gillian then knelt beside her gasping prisoner. Phoebe was almost oblivious as Gillian untied her hobbled ankles, dragged them behind the column, crossed, and retied them. She did voice a stifled protest when Gillian lifted her up onto her knees (and her knees onto the pad), pressed her back, bound hands, and dimpled rear against the cold steel and began using the blue rope to lash her into place. Despite half-hearted, squirming struggles, Phoebe soon found herself bound and immobile, knees splayed, the thin rope pulling her tightly back against the smooth column.
Gillian produced a thick, round candle from somewhere and placed it on the floor, about six inches in front of Phoebe's glistening sex.
"Break-time's over," Gillian teased. "Time to continue charging that battery." She expended her hand and touched the candle wick. It burst into flame with an audible pop.
Phoebe felt a warm glow emanating from the candle, a glow that grew 'til Phoebe felt the chill of the unheated basement disappear. The wick shed the light of a normal candle, but the heat of a small bonfire. "Magick!" she thought, through a haze of fatigue, sweat ...and lust.
Standing erect, Gillian pulled the feather from behind her ear and held it before her, chanting and making a circular motion with her other hand. Slowly at first, then with increasing speed and vigor, the feather began to twist in her grasp. She let it go, and it flew several inches into the air, then began to drift towards the floor with an erratic, fluttering motion. It drifted towards the candle ...and hovered , an inch above the flame, spinning and twisting in place, buzzing and whirring like the blade of a tiny, invisible helicopter. Gillian's chanting changed tone, and the feather began to climb higher, and higher, until it was even with Phoebe's tear stained eyes. Gillian clapped her hands together and took a step back.
The feather began to rise and fall, flutter and spin, sometimes almost touching the cobwebs of the cluttered ceiling, sometimes almost touching the candle flame. It moved in wider and wider fluttering orbits, rising and falling, always centered above the flame. It happened to brush against Phoebe's right breast.
The captive gasped! That thrill again!— in spades! Just like the rope! Just like passing over the knots! She tingled over her entire body ...but especially where the feather had imparted its magickal caress to her heaving breast.
The feather darted back to the candle and spun rapidly to full height, and the the fluttering, spinning dance began anew. It brushed Phoebe's inner thigh.
Phoebe squealed and clinched her eyes shut. It was good ! ...but not enough! ...not enough!
The feather danced in the flickering light, spinning, spinning. Phoebe's glazed eyes followed its course with horror and dread.
"Poor little Phoebe," Gillian teased, "...all alone with that nasty feather; ...all alone; ...for hours."
Gillian backed towards the cellar stairs, savoring Phoebe's distress, her pleading eyes, her futile struggles. Gillian slowly climbed the stairs, turned off the cellar lights, and closed the door.
I... I know they aren't evil. I just know it! Phoebe thought. Why ...why are they doing this? she wondered. The fluttering feather was approaching yet again.
Upstairs in Piper's bedroom Sally Owens knelt before a makeshift altar of a spread cloth and flickering candles. Gesturing and chanting, she teased a few tangled hairs from among the bristles of Piper's hairbrush and added them to the carefully arranged pattern of herbs, powders, and aromatic oil droplets in the stoneware plate before her. The chant built to a crescendo, and—The contents of the plate flashed into flame, followed by a rapidly dissipating cloud of sweet, pale smoke—Across town in Quake, Piper decided it was about time the two most senior waitresses took a hand in the interviewing and hiring of the new help. A restaurateur didn't have to do everything herself. Piper was going home ... immediately ! She had things to do, important things, like... well, important things. She grabbed her sweater and purse, made a few hurried instructions to her staff, and headed for the parking garage.
This way to: