Summary: Set 5 years before the Darkest Powers' series. 10-year-old Melanie Alden was finally given the Book of Memories by her mother Noella, after asking why she left the coven. The reaction of the black witch's neophyte daughter amuses her.

Disclaimer: The story from the Book of Memories was originally written to be the prologue of Dime Store Magic; the second version of it to be exact. It's posted on Kelley Armstrong's website, and it's what gave me the idea to do this. I hold no claim to it, nor do I claim to hold claim to it. The only thing I own here are my idea (this fic) and my oc's (Melanie and Noella Alden)

WARNINGS: Mention of blood, death, torture, the raising of the dead, and ironic torture courtesy of Lucifer's daughter. I warn you now, readers: This story was written under the influence of cold medicine; springtime allergies really suck . . .

OC backgrounds

Noella: Born a Coven witch, she left with Eve, her best friend. In addition to her powers as a witch, she inherited necromancy from her father, also passing it on to her own daughter, Melanie. She's Victoria Alden's granddaughter, and often considers visiting just to show everyone that the Coven only holds witches back from their potential as spell-casters. She owns a store in New York State called the Bad Majick Shoppe; it's officially listed as a bookstore, but sells all sorts of things to all sorts of people.

Melanie: The daughter of Noella and Lucifer. Yes, that Lucifer. And, yes, Noella knew exactly what—and who–she was doing at the time. In this, she's 10-years-old and reading the Book of Memories for the first time.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Momma?" I asked. She was reading some romance novel, waiting for me to finish the grilled-cheese sandwich she'd made me for lunch.

"Hmm?"

I hesitated a little before asking the question that had been the object of my curiosity for a while, finally coming to crescendo last night when I'd been playing hide-and-seek with my friend Sayuri and we'd found some old pictures of our mom's in college, along with some from mom's Coven days; or, as she calls it sometimes, her Kiddy Days. "Why did you and Aunt Eve leave the Coven?"

She shot me a look of amused curiosity herself, a look that said, "You want to know that, do you? Alright. . . ." She'd given me that same look last year when I'd asked how women get pregnant in the first place; needless to say, I no longer trust that look. Sometimes I think she indulged me just to see my reaction to these types of things, teaching me another lesson along with what I asked about; sometimes curiosity kills the proverbial cat . . .. Or neophyte witch, as the case may be.

"You really want to know?" she asked, arching a blonde eyebrow at me.

"Yes."

"Really, really?"

"Yes . . ."

"Really, really, really?"

"YES, mom! I really, really, really wanna know!"

She smiled sweetly at me. "Alright, then. Finish your sandwich while I go get it."

I blinked as she stood up from the table and listened as she went down the hallway and up the stairs- presumably to her bedroom. I hadn't thought it would be so easy; I shrugged it off and shoved the rest of my sandwich into my mouth.

I was putting my plate by the sink when my mom re-entered the room with a leather-bound book in her hands. She held it out to me when I walked over.

The serious look in her eyes worried me for a second, all traces of humor and teasing gone. "I warn you now, daughter," she spoke to me in Latin, "the stories in this book are all real. This is what they use in the Coven to frighten us. Each Coven witch is to receive a copy on her fifth birthday, to be read to her by her mother as a warning. To do otherwise would bring severe punishment. I hand this to you now, trusting you to be mature enough to form your own opinions without the sway of others' weighing you down; in other words, I trust you to be your usual stubborn self. Most of all, I trust you to understand. Can you do this? Melanie Lucienne Alden?"

I gulped slightly, but held my mothers gaze and nodded. As she handed me the book, the smile she gave me was sad. "I hope this helps you understand 'why.'" This, she spoke in English.

I gave her a confused look before heading up to my room; I had some reading to do.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Several hours later, I flipped the page to the second part of the fifth story of the book: Isobel Douglas, Scotland. The words I read frightened me just as much as the other stories had, and yet I continued on with a kind of morbid curiosity that I would later wonder if it didn't count as masochism.

Scotland 1643

Icy water hits Isobel's face. She sputters and tries to leap up, but her body convulses and flops like a half-dead fish on land. Yesterday, after a week of torture, the court tried to wrench a confession from her by hoisting her, arms first, to the rafters, then dropping her again and again, never letting her feet touch down. Today, she can't move.

"Wake up, witch," the guard says.

He dumps the rest of the bucket onto Isobel's head. As she gasps through the freezing shower, Reverend Kincaid moves from behind the guard and take his place at her bedside, to witness her confession, should she care to give it. She doesn't.

There's no mention of breakfast. Isobel hasn't eaten in four days. It is God's will—and the court's decree—that she should fast, to clear her mind and prepare her for confession. Even if they did bring food, she'd refuse it. Every morsel she eats is charged to her account, along with the cost of the guards and her cell and the expenses of the witch-hunter from Glasgow. Her estate will be sold to pay this account, leaving her daughter a pauper. Should her meager belongings fall short, her daughter will owe the remainder, as will her children after her, until it is paid. Even if Isobel doesn't eat today, there is one more expense to be added to her account. The cost of her burning. Fourteen loads of peat, plus coal and wood.

Kincaid looks down at Isobel. "I must ask again. Do ye confess?"

She says nothing.

The guard dumps her limp body into a cart stinking of horseshit and wheels her from the jail, striking each uneven cobblestone on the way. Isobel doesn't care. They have done their worst and the end is coming. All she must do now is resist any temptation to confess. Confession would not set her free, it would only make her death more merciful. The price of that mercy would be her daughter's life. It is commonly believed that the daughter of a confessed witch must herself be a witch, having learned sorcery at the family hearth along with her sewing and spinning lessons.

The guard wheels Isobel into the courtyard. From beyond the high wooden gate comes the sound of children playing. Isobel closes her eyes and smiles at the sound. Then the girl calls, 'when will it happen, mama? When will they burn the witch?' and Isobel hears the cries of vendors hawking their wares, the excited buzz of speculation, the jostling and shouts of people—neighbors—vying for the best seat to witness her death.

"Pay heed, witch," the guard says. They have long since stopped using her name. "The good reverend will give you one final chance."

Kincaid steps before her, stops and turns his head, drawing her attention to his side. Isobel obeys. Beside Kincaid, another guard appears. He pulls a black wire though his fingers, then, meeting her gaze, snaps it tight.

"Ye know the custom, witch?" Kincaid asks.

Isobel says nothing.

"As sanctioned by King James VI we give you one final chance to avoid the agony of death by burning. Recant and your death shall be quick and merciful, as our Lord decrees. Only your earthly remains shall be consigned to the fire. Refuse and ye shall burn now and for all time."

She says nothing.

"Once more I will ask, as mercy decrees. Do ye recant?"

"I—" Her voice croaks and breaks. She forces herself to swallow, sending shafts of pain through her skull. "I have done no wrong."

The second guard steps forward, the garrote stretched between his hands. His hands move toward her throat. Calling on her last reserve of strength, Isobel flings herself back.

"No!" she croaks. "I do not conf—"

The wire cinches around her throat, cutting off her words. Isobel bucks and convulses against it, her useless arms flopping and waving. The wire cuts through her skin. Pain explodes behind her eyes. She can't breathe. She fights, writhing and mewling as the wire constricts and her eyes bulge and her blood roars in her ears. Then her body goes limp.

Isobel awakes screaming, smelling smoke and feeling flames lick at her bare legs, igniting her tattered dress. In that first moment of consciousness, she thinks it's a dream, wondering if we dream when we're dead and that's what she doing, awaking in the next life and dreaming she's been thrown into the fire after all. Then she opens her eyes. Faces of strangers and faces of neighbors are all ringed about her, their eyes glowing with reflected flames. A great cheer goes up.

"She wakes! Look! She's awake!"

Because she did not recant, they did not strangle her to death, only to unconsciousness, so she would give no fight while they prepared her for burning. So she would truly wake in hell.

Again, she fights. The agony is unbearable and there, only yards away, lies safety. In her first flush of struggle, Isobel realizes the executioner hasn't tightened her bonds, perhaps assuming she has no strength to battle. As she wriggles and twists, the crowd lets out a joyous cry, cheering her on. When the ropes fall from her wrists and waist, no guard leaps to restrain her. No one orders her to stop. Voices urge her on, to keep fighting. Ignoring the flames and the pain and the unspeakable smell, she perseveres until she is free. With one tremendous heave, Isobel throws herself from the flames.

Her strength gives out then and she pitches forward to the grass. A man lunges from the crowd. Then another. Together they use their hats to beat the flames from her dress. Strong hands reach down and lift her from the ground. She whispers her gratitude, voice shaking so badly she can scarcely form words. The two men hoist her up. Then they throw her back into the fire.

Twice more Isobel struggles free and twice more onlookers extinguish the flames on her dress so they would not burn their hands throwing her back in. Soon she begins to burn. The fat beneath her skin catches fire, entombing her in a hell beyond imagining. She screams with newfound strength, a horrible, endless, inhuman keening.. Her dress has charred and fallen free and her naked flesh burns and she screams like a dying rabbit. Yet still her neighbors look on.

They must wait at least another twenty minutes. It takes that long for the fire to burn through to any vital organ. Beside the pyre, the executioner tends the flames, making sure they don't produce enough smoke to choke her and end Isobel's suffering prematurely. Eventually, her arms and legs contract, pulling into her body and soon all that remains is a blackened, smoldering heap. The executioner steps forward and prods it with a stick. Sometimes, miraculously, there is still life in that charred shell and the fire must be re-lit. Not today, though. It's over. The witch is dead.

I couldn't read anymore; I couldn't see properly. It probably had something to do with the lighting, considering when I'd sat down it was only 11am and was now somewhere closer to 4:30 pm. It took me a minute to register that I was crying. I couldn't hold the book steady either; my hands were shaking.

'You're being stupid," I thought. 'They've been dead for over 300 years. Nothing to be done for it now.'

After giving myself a mental tongue-lashing, I wiped my eyes of the few tears there, flexed my hands to stop the shakes and closed the book to go downstairs.

Mom was still at the kitchen table; that island thing in the middle of the room. Only now she looked over a catalogue of candle-making supplies instead of the novel she'd held earlier.

She looked up, closing the catalogue as I set the Book of Memories on the table before sitting down and returning her carefully blank stare.

"Well?" she asked. "Do you have your answers, yet?"

I looked at the table. "Not quite." Truth be told, what had started out as one question turned into a hundred or so. I chose only to ask the most important ones. Taking a deep breath, I asked, "Why didn't they fight back?"

"They lacked the spell-power, and the idea to. The only ones who would've even considered it an option would've been the back witches. The others were under the false impression that, 'If I do no harm and only help, no harm shall be upon myself.' Needless to say, they were very mistaken, and it cost them their lives."

"I still think they could've done something."

Mom was regaining her amusement. "What would you have done, then? If you had all of your witch powers?"

I thought for a moment, coming up with a suitably ironic defense. "Fireballs. Lots and lots of fireballs!"

She smiled at me again, standing, but this time waving for me to follow. When we reach her room, she sits me on the bed and hands me yet another book. "Look, then. This is a copy of Coven-sanctioned spells; see if you can find one for fireballs."

I turned to her after skimming the entire grimoire. "It's not here. There's not a single useful offensive spell in this whole thing."

Having known this, she just nodded.

It dawned on me then; this was why they'd left. I thought of the numerous spells my mother knew not in that grimoire. The list was seemingly endless. The true purpose of the book was now plain as day, as well. It was used to frighten neophyte witches, so they'd be content with hiding like hens in a chickenhouse. To say, "These women flaunted their powers; you could be next."

And I knew. I knew why my mother left the American Coven of Witches.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

An hour later we were sitting down to dinner when I spoke again. "Those people . . . The ones who did those things, and accused those women . . . They should be punished," I said.

My mother once again smiled indulgently as she asked, "And what would you do to them, Mellie? With the powers you possess, but have yet to awaken."

I had already given this a lot of thought, and said almost immediately, "I would put them back in their bodies. I'd make them gather up straw and tinder and put it in a huge pit, then ignite it with a fireball spell and make them walk into it. Then I'd have them come back out and go back in again. It would go on for hours, and only when the fire's out would I release them. Or maybe some of them I wouldn't." From my tone alone, one may have guessed we were discussing the weather.

Of course, though, my mom just had to knock me down from my sense of accomplishment. "The witch hunts took place in several different countries and continents, and over 300 years ago. The remains would be skeletonized by now. How do you get skeletons to keep together and get them across the ocean to one place?"

I felt my face screw-up with disgruntlement. Reluctantly, I admitted I hadn't thought of it yet.

Mom just smiled patiently at me. As she stood to do the dishes, she said over her shoulder, "Let me know when you work out the details."

"I will," I said. Five years later, it's still a work-in-progress.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, that's it. I'll probably write more here as a parting note later, but for now I'm way too beat. Stupid allergies . . . Ah, well. Nighty-night, everyone . . . .