The Skinwalker's Apprentice by Claribel Ortega
Age Group: Young Adult
Release Date: February 24, 2014
New York City 1984: It’s Emerald Kipp’s sixteenth birthday, and nothing has changed. She’s still the biggest loser in school, she’s still trying to find a place for herself and yeah, she’s still a witch. Her last year of high school is turning out to be the worst yet, and Emerald thinks it can’t possibly get any worse. Unfortunately for her, she’s dead wrong.
East Hampton, NY 1658: The Pennyfeathers are the black sheep of their small English settlement. As hard as they try to keep the family secrets just that, the magical bunch just can’t seem to fit in. But when a High Priestess witch chooses 16-year-old Margo Pennyfeather as an apprentice, Margo’s luck finally begins to change. What she doesn’t know, is there’s a lot more to her apprenticeship, and to being a witch, than she could ever imagine
Discover the mysterious beginnings of The Empire Witch Series in "The Skinwalker's Apprentice: An Emerald Kipp Novella."
“We will begin with the most basic of spells,” said The Priestess on Margo’s first day of lessons.
Margo sat in a small, circular room on the second floor of the stone house. It was mostly empty, save for a marble table and the stiff wooden chair where Margo sat nervously. Unlike the rest of the house, the room had but one window, and judging by the view, Margo guessed they must have been inside the onion dome on the roof. The young witch tried not to fidget, as The Priestess circled around her as she spoke.
“There is magic that is practical, that you will need in every day situations, and magic that is impractical.”
“I do not deal in the impractical sort,” said The Priestess sternly, stopping directly in front of Margo, “love potions and beauty enchantments are amongst the kinds of frivolous spells you will not be learning here. Instead, I plan to teach you useful, direct, magic, which you can implement in most any situation.
You are to take these lessons seriously, for you will never know when they might be of use to you. The difference between knowing practical spells and not knowing them, is a matter of life and death.”
Margo gulped and nodded anxiously, her eyes following The Priestess as she continued to pace about the room. “For your first spell,” said The Priestess, taking her wand from her sleeve and nodding at Margo, her signal to do the same, “we shall be attempting a growing spell.”
The Priestess’s face contorted suddenly at the sight of Margo’s wand.
The young witch blushed. Her wand had been handed down to her by her grandmother Mary, and it was not in the best condition. In fact, the once wooden wand had been enchanted to have the look and feel of toad’s skin. Mary thought it would impress The Priestess.
Margo smiled nervously as she tried to hide the slime secreting from her wand and sticking to her fingers.
“That…wand, just won’t do,” said The Priestess delicately. Margo put the wand on the marble table, the gunk stretching as she tried to free her hand from it. She pushed the wand to the corner of the table, and pressed down hard on the cold surface, trying to wipe the glop of her hands. Her face turned red as she struggled to pull free, and finally an exasperated Priestess pointed to Margo’s hand with her own wand, “ Divisio.”
With a slight “pop” Margo was free, but still covered in slime. She shook off what was left of it on the floor with a few sharp flails of her arm, smiling bashfully at her teacher as she did.
The Priestess walked over to the small window facing the front of the house. She opened it, and pointed her wand at a weeping willow that adorned the road leading to her front door. Margo heard a loud CRACK and suddenly, a tree branch was entering the room.
The Priestess placed her wand in her skirt waist, and pointed one long, jagged, fingernail in the direction of the bough. A green light shot from her black nails, cracking the limb, and sending the branch back into the woods from whence it came. The Priestess brought the remaining wood further into the room in her net of brilliant light, spinning it as she did, her eyes steady and focused. As she did this, the branch whittled down bit-by-bit, splinters flying every which way, and darting dangerously close past Margo’s face. The Priestess’s flesh was the color of rusted copper as the viridescent light danced off her skin and Margo could see the wand she was crafting beginning to take shape.
Claribel Ortega is a graduate of the SUNY Purchase journalism program, and got her start writing for the school’s Independent Newspaper. There, she quickly rose the ranks from editing the student’s often times hilarious ads and ramblings on the back page of the paper to staff and feature writer.
After graduation, Claribel worked as a reporter for The Rivertowns Enterprise, a local paper in lower Westchester County, New York. As a reporter, she enjoyed going to board of education meetings and texting the town mayors about the line at Starbucks. Today, Claribel works for The Combined Book Exhibit, a book marketing company in Westchester NY.
She lives in New York with her really awesome boyfriend, her suspiciously intelligent yorkie Pancho Villa and is surrounded by an impenetrable fort of books she gets from her job.
“The Skinwalker’s Apprentice” is her first book, and cheese is her favorite food.