Needwood: A New World Fairy Tale

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The Death of a Sirachim

A fluffy white cat huddled in the shadows of Main Street, sent by Lilith to witness the destruction of Needwood Village by the demon Samael and his army of imps. Alabaster had selected a spot deep within a forsythia bush to observe the mayhem and remain safe from harm. He had established mental contact with his mistress just after she had opened the portal to the underworld and Lilith’s presence continued to linger uncomfortably in his mind even after the attack had passed. The evil Sirachim fumed over Samael’s defeat at the hands of Fiona and the archangel Michael, but while her plans for the obliteration of the village lay in ruins not all had been lost; for as Lilith observed through Alabaster’s eyes, Fiona required Savvy’s help to stay on her feet.

“My sister is weak,” echoed Lilith’s voice in Alabaster’s head.

“Yes, Mistress, she is,” whispered the Felim. “I heard her tell the child that the battle with the Krytten had drained her of strength. She intends to go home and rest while the child remains here.”

“Fiona will be alone and vulnerable,” said Lilith again to her surrogate. “Return to me as quickly as you can, Alabaster. The time to confront my dear sister draws near.”

“As you command, Mistress,” replied the cat, and he crept out from under the bush to make his way back to Lilith’s tower.

Ensconced in her summoning chamber, Lilith also fared poorly at that moment. Opening the portal to the underworld had taken all of her strength. Worse yet, Michael’s destruction of Samael had rebounded onto her because she wore the Bane. The force of the blow had thrown Lilith back from the conjuring pit and she lay slumped against her work table with her eyes half open and head ablaze with pain.

Her connection with Alabaster weakened and after she had commanded him to return home, Lilith broke it off altogether. Crackling torches threw shadows across the summoning chamber, along with an acrid smoke that stung Lilith’s eyes. She climbed slowly to her feet and stared down at the Bane. Whereas once the ruby pulsed like a living thing it now lay inert on her chest. With Samael’s annihilation by Michael, the Bane too had lost its power.

Lilith yanked the chain from her neck, sending links of gold clattering onto the floor. Dropping the Bane onto the table, Lilith then staggered to her sofa in the next chamber and threw herself upon it. She lay there for a time with her eyes closed before sitting up and reaching for a decanter of blue liquid standing beside a crystal glass. Pouring a measure of the liquid, Lilith drained the glass dry. The invigorating drink coursed through her veins, imparting a modicum of strength. Still, the beverage could not diminish the exhaustion that weighed so heavily upon her.

“Had I more vigor, I could finish off Fiona once and for all,” she lamented ruefully to herself.

The time for their confrontation, however, would need to wait. Opening the portal had drained Lilith too deeply. Only sleep would enable her to recover and so she rose slowly to her feet to climb the spiral stairs to her bedroom.

Miles away from Lilith’s tower, the Lady Fiona also slept. For three days, she lay unconscious on her pallet in a dreamless slumber until at last she forced herself to rise toward evening on the third day. A crippling weakness throbbed through Fiona’s bones and she moved with great difficulty. Pangs of hunger gripped her belly and she thought to make herself a meal, but finding something to eat would not be easy. The fight with Samael had taken her by surprise and since that time Fiona had not had the opportunity to harvest vegetables from the garden. Preparing food would require strength and at that moment Fiona had none to give.

Stepping unsteadily from her bed, Fiona went to the kitchen table and poured a draught of revivifying wine similar to that quaffed by Lilith in her tower. She drank deeply of it and put down the cup, hoping the drink would clear the cobwebs that clouded her mind. Combatting the demon and his army of imps had taken every ounce of vitality that Fiona possessed. Never before had she encountered an entity as powerful as Samael. Working magic against him had been like battling a mountain, requiring that she summon ever deeper reserves of her strength to amplify the power of her spells. Yet in spite of having plumbed the depths of her being, the best that she had been able to do was slow Samael. Only Savvy’s use of the Talisman of the Four Winds had turned the tide against him.

“Thank Elohim for it,” muttered Fiona to herself, adding afterward, “and too you as well, Lord Michael.”

Her mind cleared a little and Fiona remarked how well the wine improved her constitution. She poured another draught and popped a piece of ginseng root into her mouth. Its bitterness flooded her taste buds as she chewed, but Fiona knew the root would soon improve her strength. Then she pulled her shawl from its hook and wrapped it around her shoulders before opening the door to her cottage and stepping outside.

Seating herself on the garden bench, Fiona breathed deeply of the late afternoon air. Shadows slanted lengthwise across the grass and her snapdragons wobbled in a light, warm breeze. The rays of the late day sun touched only the very tops of the trees and Fiona smiled as she listened to the leaves rustling softly against one another. She took another sip of the wine and swallowed the ginseng, feeling vitality course back into her veins. Her thoughts grew brighter and she sat up straighter as the beauty of the late summer day healed her body and soul.

Fiona let her thoughts to drift to Savvy and, closing her eyes, she called to her niece. “Savilla, I am awake. Are you well?”

Savvy lay on her bed just before dinner time with her nose buried in a book of spells, but when she heard Fiona’s call she looked up.

“LeBits, I can hear Fiona,” she said to the cat, which lay stretched out across the bed flicking the tip of his striped tail.

“Prrrr, that’s good news! Call back to her.”

“I will. Hang on.”

Savvy closed her eyes and focused on the connection that Fiona had opened. “Hello, Fiona! It’s good to hear from you. I’m well, but I’ve been worried about you. Are you alright?”

“Do not worry for me, Savilla. I have been resting and am slowly regaining my strength. Is LeBits with you?”

“He’s right here beside me.”

“Good. Have you been continuing your studies?”

“I have. I’ve been searching for a spell that will reverse the bottling hex Lilith used to imprison Alistair. We need to rescue him.”

Fiona perked up on her bench. “Lilith has Alistair? How long ago did she take him?”

“It’s been nearly a month since he disappeared. I discovered he’d gone missing only a short time before Samael attacked Needwood Village. Alistair tried to cast a bottling hex on Lilith, but while doing it he broke the circle of salt he’d poured to protect himself. I believe Lilith reversed the spell and bottled Alistair instead.”

“This is terrible news,” replied Fiona. “Alistair is in great danger and we must help him, but I cannot face Lilith in my weakened state. Return to me soon and we will devise a way of freeing your friend.”

“Can you not come and get us?” asked Savvy.

“I can’t in my present condition. I don’t have the strength to transport you and LeBits. You must return to me on foot.”

“I see, Lady Fiona. We’ll set off in the morning then,” said Savvy.

“Very good, Savilla. I will see you tomorrow.”

Fiona broke contact with her niece and stared down at the grass.

“We will free Alistair if he is still alive,” she said aloud to herself now that Savvy could not hear her thoughts.

“He is indeed alive, dear sister!” proclaimed Lilith from Fiona’s garden, and passing through the snapdragons, she stepped onto the grass.

“You!” hissed Fiona, her blue eyes narrowing angrily.

“Tut, tut, Fiona, you look poorly,” sneered Lilith. “Was the fight against Lord Samael so taxing? It’s a pity he did not catch you away from our precious niece or you would be his guest in the underworld this very minute. I don’t know how you managed to summon an archangel to do your bidding, but I will learn soon enough, after I have disposed of you.”

“You witnessed the battle?” asked Fiona.

“Of course. Did you think I could stay away? I watched your fight through the eyes and ears of my Felim, Alabaster. Or perhaps I should say my new Felim, since you managed to turn LeBits against me.”

Lilith scanned the yard for the cat. “Where is he, by the way? I would give him a piece of my mind.”

“LeBits needed little turning from you. He came to me after I freed his mind from your hateful influence,” Fiona spat.

Lilith circled slowly around the lawn, the hem of her sage-colored gown trailing through the grass.

“Alas, it is of no consequence,” she said, “for in but a short time you will BOTH BE DEAD!”

Lilith’s eyes went black as she sent a shaft of lightning crackling toward her sister. Fiona found a reserve of energy, however, and ducked to let the sizzling bolt pass overhead. It struck the wall of the house behind her with a mighty crash, blasting bits of stone and dust into the air.

Lilith bared her teeth and struck out again, sending bolts crashing around Fiona, who summoned the strength to dodge the deadly blasts. As she tumbled, Fiona snatched the shawl from her shoulders and began twirling it in the air while speaking an incantation. The shawl gathered speed until it spun before her like the blade of a fan. Again Lilith lashed out, only this time Fiona held up the whirling shawl and sent the bolt ricocheting off into the trees.

Skirting around the lawn, Fiona traced a circle until Lilith stood between her and the cottage. Then, after the evil Sirachim had released yet another fruitless bolt, Fiona dropped the smoking shawl and made a tugging gesture toward a stone pot behind Lilith. The heavy pot flew through the air and smashed into Lilith’s back, exploding in a shower of dirt. The force of the blow pitched Lilith onto her face, knocking the wind from her lungs. She crawled on the ground spitting blood while Fiona used the opening to entwine Lilith’s hands and feet with long blades of grass.

“Argh!” shrieked Lilith as she pulled at the entangling plants lacing up her arms.

For a moment it appeared as if the vegetation binding her would hold, but when Lilith snarled, “ignem accenderent,” flames erupted from her hands, burning through the grass. Then Lilith rose to her knees and seared off the remaining coils that clung to her legs. She climbed thereafter to her feet and faced Fiona, who stood panting from the effort of casting spells.

“Very clever, sister, but you’ll need to do better than that to defeat me,” she mocked.

“Leave now while you are still able!” demanded Fiona. “This is my home and you are not welcome here. Go back to your tower and your petty conjuring.”

“Oh no, sister,” laughed Lilith, her finger wagging spitefully in the air. “You’ve caused enough headaches for me. After all the time I spent searching for the Bane you destroyed my demon. Your meddling has wrecked all of my plans. Why, you even kept the existence of our niece from me. How dare you not tell Auntie Lilith about Magdalene’s daughter?”

“Magdalene herself kept knowledge of Savilla from you. She represents the best that a Sirachim may become. She has the potential to be more powerful than any of us. It was her talisman that allowed us to summon the archangel Michael, not mine. I merely gave her the invocation. She will be a mighty Sirachim one day!”

“I doubt that very much,” sneered Lilith. “Because I will make sure the girl does not live to see her next birthday!”

The two Sirachim circled each other on the lawn, with the intense hatred that only rival siblings can feel passing wordlessly between them. A trickle of blood dripped from the corner of Lilith’s mouth and she raised her hand to wipe it away.

“Why, Fiona, you’ve managed to injure me,” she spat, her lips parting in a bloody grin.

“That’s nothing. Continue your vendetta and you shall truly feel my wrath,” growled Fiona.

“So be it!” said Lilith and she began weaving her hands in the air.

A wind whipped up, filling the garden with howling gusts. Fiona sought to restrain the maelstrom, but faltered out of weakness. She sent more stone pots flying at Lilith, but the vortex caught them and they sailed off into the woods. Increasingly, Lilith stirred the wind into a tempest. Her black eyes gave off a purplish glow and she began to cackle with malevolent glee. Fiona responded by falling into a trance. Her hair whirled around her head and her eyes turned a glowing white. She spread out her arms and raised her face to the sky as Lilith nurtured the vortex into a tornado that she sent roaring across the garden. The funnel narrowed into a spiral aimed straight at Fiona’s heart, but as it approached her Fiona dropped into the ground as if a trap door had opened under her feet. The deadly cyclone passed over her head and slanted off into the trees, smashing everything in its path.

Enraged, Lilith scanned the garden for Fiona. Yet she found little more than swaying snapdragons and debris from their combat littering the grass.

“Where are you, sister?” she shouted. “You can’t hide from me forever. I will wait for you in your own house until you reappear.”

Thus distracted, Lilith did not notice Fiona rising silently from the ground behind her.

“I do not intend to hide long from you at all,” said Fiona and balling her hand into a fist, she struck Lilith squarely in the nose just as the evil Sirachim turned to face her.

Lilith sputtered and fell backward onto the grass as Fiona leapt on top of her. Rolling and snarling, the two Sirachim forsook magic to combat one another in a battle of physical strength. Blows landed from elbows and fists, but Fiona retained the advantage. She wrapped her fingers around Lilith’s throat and with a murderous fury that she had never previously felt giving her power, she commenced choking the life from her sister.

Lilith gagged and foamed at the mouth, her teeth lined with blood. Her black eyes bulged in their sockets and her face darkened blue as Fiona pressed her weight onto Lilith’s windpipe. Fiona slammed Lilith’s head into the ground and held fast until her sister’s struggling diminished. Lilith’s blows grew weaker and her legs ceased thrashing about. Then a low guttering sound issued from her mouth and she fell silent. Her glassy eyes turned hazel once again and she stared emptily into the sky.

Panting with fatigue, Fiona removed her hands from Lilith’s throat and watched the white lines where her fingers had gripped Lilith’s skin flush crimson. Fiona staggered to her feet and made for her cottage, but her legs gave out and she collapsed onto the grass. Slowly, she crawled to the bench and lay slumped against it, tears flowing down her cheeks as adrenaline and anger ebbed from her veins.

Yet as Fiona lay there crying she did not realize that Lilith remained alive. Unable to escape from her sister’s grasp, the evil Sirachim had cannily feigned death in the hope that Fiona would release her. The deception had worked and now Lilith rose from the ground, her hand gripping a dagger that she drew from inside of her gown. She staggered toward her defenseless sister and raised the blade to attack.

“Grieve not for me!” Lilith croaked hoarsely, and taking a handful of Fiona’s hair in her fist, she drove the dagger deep into Fiona’s back.

Fiona convulsed as the steel blade pierced her heart. Pulling out the bloody knife, Lilith grinned maliciously as Fiona rolled over to face her.

“Ironic, is it not?” rasped Lilith. “Despite your power it is a simple blade that takes your life.”

Fiona coughed a gout of blood and a tear streamed down her cheek. She extended a shaking hand to Lilith, but as her strength failed Fiona fell back against the stone bench. Then her eyes rolled into her head and she slumped dead to the grass.

“It is done!” rejoiced Lilith, throwing her blood-stained hands into the air.

The evil Sirachim lingered a moment to stare down in triumph at the body of her slain sister. Then she gave a cold, malicious laugh and snapped her fingers to vanish in a flash of light.

Miles away, Savvy had just taken a bite of her salad greens when a bolt of pain shot through her temple. Dropping her fork, she reeled dizzily in her seat.

“Savilla, are you alright?” asked her father.

“No, Papa. I-I feel strangely. Something is wrong with Fiona,” she said.

“With Fiona, but how would you know that?”

“I can’t explain it, Papa. It’s just—sometimes I can hear her in my mind.”

“I’m not sure what you mean, but will take you at your word,” said Edward. “Do you need to lie down?”

“Yes, I think I do. Will you excuse me?”

“Yes, of course. Go to your room and get some rest. I’ll come up to check on you in a bit.”

“Thank you, Papa,” said Savvy, and after pushing her chair from the table she went upstairs.

Upon entering her room, she found LeBits in a highly agitated state.

“Savvy, something has happened to Lady Fiona, do you feel it?” he asked.

“I do. Her thoughts have gone quiet in my head. It’s as if she isn’t there anymore.”

“Yes, that’s it. I feel the same thing. There’s a kind of emptiness where Fiona used to be. Have you tried connecting with her?”

“I haven’t yet. Give me a moment.”

Sitting on the edge of her bed, Savvy cleared her mind and called Fiona’s name. Only silence came back to her. “It’s no good, LeBits. Fiona’s not there. It’s as if she were—”

“Dead?” asked the cat.

“Yes, that’s it. It feels to me like Fiona’s gone; like the way I can’t feel my mother anymore. I can think of her and I see her in my mind, but I can’t feel her.”

“Savvy, I think something terrible has happened to Lady Fiona. We need to go to her cottage right away.”

“I agree. You wait here while I tell my father.”

Savvy hurried from the room, leaving LeBits by himself. He climbed onto the window sill and stared off to the west. The last orange glow of the sun faded away and an intense sadness came over him unlike anything that he had ever felt. His chest grew tight and he whimpered. Then he raised his head to the gathering night and yowled mournfully for the loss of his friend.

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