Published by 13Thirty Books, October 2016
13Thirty Books asked twenty-six authors to agree to write stories based on the Tarot, with the cards determining which stories the authors would write. Over the course of several months we reached out to some of the best genre authors and proposed our idea. Once we had our authors, we took a tarot deck and a list of all twenty-six names. We would read the author’s name, shuffle the deck, and draw a card. That tarot card and its traits were all the authors had to go on. The card was removed, the deck was reshuffled, and the next name was read off. This anthology contains twenty-six stories based on the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana and the four cards of the Minor Arcana. Award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors combine their talents to deal out twenty-six dark tales influenced by the Tarot. Additional Authors: Aidan Russell, Linda J. Parisi, Crystal Perkins, and Jason Pozzessere.
“Go. It is time. God be with you, child,” Amos whispered.
Anika took in a breath of the crisp, forest air to steel her trembling nerves and approached the sorcerer. She stopped before him and he took her cheeks in his hands, turning her face to study her. Beneath the skull, she saw him smile.
“Why have you come here?” the sorcerer croaked through his brown, broken smile.
Anika gave the question but a brief though. She was here to make right her sister’s death, even if it meant her own. “I am here to ask the old spirits to avenge the wrongs done against my people.”
“And do you know what Ol’ Hige requires of you to regain her strength that she can remain in the mortal world long enough to exact your revenge?” Talk of witches and vengeance made the sorcerer’s smile broaden from a blade-thin crease to a crescent moon.
Anika nodded. The response did not satisfy the old man.
“Tell the old witch with your own last breaths what it is you have come to offer her. What is it you have to give that she will use to cast the spells and bring pain to those who have pained you?”
Anika nodded once more. “I offer my body and my blood.” Her voice was proud, like a martyr who reveled in the opportunity to be fed to the lions.
“And to whom do you offer your body and blood?”
“To Ol’ Hige,” she said. She took a contemplative breath while the sorcerer waited for her to finish. “To Ol’ Hige, the last witch of the island.”
The sorcerer cackled delightfully and clapped his hands. The smell of smoke and decay rolled off his tongue and twisted Anika’s gut. He stepped close to her, eye to eye, still holding his broad smile. Anika wondered for a moment if the old man had grown so tired of the swamps and trees that he was glad for her pain; glad that he could finally add some spice to his hermitic life with a little fire and a fair amount of death. Then he produced a crude knife and ran the blade across her forehead.
She gasped as she felt the sharp pain of her skin severing and the warm, sticky sensation of her blood dripping down her face. She took another breath and settled herself. The worst of the pain was still to come.