Summertime in Sanction

Part 1 by Jamie Leigh Hansen


Only three days past the new moon, the stars were the brightest lights in the sky. They bounced their glow off the crescent-shaped sliver and bathed the woods below in shades of black, white and the barest hint of color.

A twig snapped and Kyle swung around, glaring behind him. “Be quiet! Do you want to be caught before we even have a chance to see anything?”

Three sets of eyes glowed behind him. One set dipped as the youngest, Simon, dropped his gaze respectfully. “Sorry, Kyle. I tripped.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “You have got to be the clumsiest werewolf in existence.”

Simon’s shoulders slumped and Kyle winced. Eric and Matt glared at him. With a shake of his head, Kyle swung around and looked up the small cliff they had to climb in order to reach the spot with the perfect view. No one had witnessed the annual summer celebration of witches before, though many had tried. He and the three werewolves with him would be the first, beating out the other three teams racing toward this one goal.

“Let’s go. A little more quietly. Simon,” Kyle took a deep breath. Some of the witches were empathic. Bringing a sad werewolf with them would be like setting off firecrackers to announce their position. “Simon, don’t stress. Or get excited. Or, well, anything. Just chill. We’ll work out the clumsiness on the field when school starts.”

A relieved sigh sounded behind him.

Eric moved up to his side. “You’re sure this is the best spot?”

Kyle nodded. “I got a peek of the cauldron one day when we were out on the lake. It’s this spot. The clearest view that they likely don’t protect as well with their spells will be from the top of this cliff.”

Matt joined them on Kyle’s other side. “Do you really think they will be naked?”

Kyle full on smiled. “That’s the rumor. It’s worth checking out.”

“Definitely!” All three guys agreed at once.

“What makes the cauldron different from the rest of the lake?”

Kyle shook his head, wondering if Simon really had hit puberty. “It’s where the girl witches swim naked. What else matters?”

Eric laughed. “I did hear they just used rocks to enclose a small area of the lake and then their firestarters heated it and the airblowers made it bubbly.”

“Wow.” Simon stared up the cliff, awestruck. “I wonder what that feels like.”

Kyle scowled. “A jetted hot tub, dumbass. Can we climb now?”

Eric and Matt both snorted.

Simon grimaced, his expression admitting he knew what a dumb question he asked.

Kyle stepped to the steep cliff face and looked up about a mile and a half of nearly smooth wall. Might not actually be that high, but it sure looked like it in the darkness. Finding a few cracks and grooves for his fingers and toes, Kyle took off, going up the side.

One by one, the guys started up behind him: Simon, then Eric and then Matt. They wouldn’t want to leave the inexperienced, soon-to-b Freshman by himself at the back. Kyle didn’t usually hang out with the underclassmen, but tonight’s raid had been planned as a get-you-settled-with-the-big-dogs buddy thing. The Alpha’s two sons each led a team, trying to see the cauldron from different vantage points. There were four teams of four guys and each one had a Freshman of its own. The first team leader to see a naked witch would howl, thereby winning bragging rights for the entire school year.

Kyle grinned and continued up the cliff. Under him, he heard a sudden scrape, then a scrabble of hands looking for another hand-hold, and a slide. “Oh, shiiiiii—”

Smack. Grunt. Eric’s pained voice wheezed out. “Got you, kid. Just take a deep breath and find your mark.”

Kyle hurried faster, the rope over his shoulder. Everyone had wanted to try the climb under their own power, but the rope was the backup plan. And it sounded like they would need it. Wolves were strong, dexterous and very in tune with their bodies, as a rule. But as with most everything in life, there was a learning curve. Apparently Simon’s was gonna be steep.

Kyle reached the edge and flipped himself over it, gasping for breath and looking around. The top of the cliff was a gradual slope of rock and soil, trees and grass. Kyle tied the rope to a thick tree trunk, found a groove to sink the toes of his shoes into, then lay on his stomach.

“Incoming,” he called softly. No telling how close a guard was on the other side of the cliff or what sounds the witch’s spells would catch. He tossed the rope over the edge and watched it unwind and fall. Under a full moon, he would have seen every detail below him. But tonight, he was just thankful he had all of the wolf’s energy and stamina back. He’d never have made the climb without it.

The rope yanked tight against the edge and Kyle covered it, trying to keep it from moving so it wouldn’t fray. When Simon was close enough, Kyle grabbed his shirt collar and added some pull so the kid got over the edge pretty easily. It was easier with Eric. Kyle left Eric and Simon to aid Matt and scouted over to the other side of the cliff.

He could hear the singing and chanting long before he saw anything. This was going to be so freaking cool. His teammates joined him on his final approach. Thankfully, they were quiet this time and no one tripped. It was windier up here, but the blowing leaves were the only sound as they chose a clear spot and crept closer. The chanting built in tempo, syncing with his crazy, thundering pulse.

The smell of the lake made his mouth dry up and he craved a drink. Trying not to pant like a dog in heat, he peered over the edge and saw:

  1. A canopy of trees blocking his view.
  2. Eyes, less than a foot away, staring right at him.
  3. A clear, empty beach with lake water lapping at the edges.

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Sanction Chronicles YA Series

Author Jamie Leigh Hansen

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