My hands shook as my fingers did up my coat. The buttons kept coming undone as I worked to calm my nerves. I couldn't sit and wait for someone to tell me what I wanted to know. I could feel the urge pulsing through me as I grabbed my satchel. If it was this strong after all this time, that had to mean something.
"Where are you going Patricia?" Michael, my brother, broke my train of thought. I was counting on him being asleep or out at another party.
"I'm just going out."
"To the forest, I want to work on some spells in silence."
"What kind of spells?" If I told him what I wanted to do, he would have mom and dad on me so fast my head would spin. It wasn't that I didn't respect the use of white magic, but there was another side to our family, a powerful one, that my brother and parents were content to ignore.
"I want to work with the elements." I fixed the last strap on my boot and grabbed my broom. "Don't worry so much, Dawn might find it unattractive." At the mention of her name, my brother started to blush. Him and Dawn had met during First Year at Salem Academy. Both of them had graduated three years ago, and most of the family was waiting for the wedding announcement. I on the other hand, was in my final year, and my eyes had yet to find someone of my own.
Before he could speak, I had thrown open the window and was sailing through the evening sky towards the forest. New Salem lay dim and sleepy as the moon rose higher in the sky. Not many people went into the woods when it got dark because it was rumoured a powerful and cruel warlock lived there. Everyone in New Salem knew about Edric Colten, a warlock so corrupted by the lures of black magic, that his power was uncontrollable.
"If he's so dangerous how come they don't just send in some guards to kill him?" The skies were less occupied than I had expected them to be. Below me the tops of trees appeared and I began my descent. No one would bother me here, and I would be breaking the law if I got caught. But I wasn't about to get caught doing black magic, I would make sure of it.
I couldn't learn black magic at school. Most of my professors would speak about it, and my hope of finding books was pointless. But I needed to know what made my family leave it behind, considering that many people in the town refused to trust them either way.
"Luna ora dita." The orb of light glowed in my palm. Just enough light for my purposes. The spine cracked as my fingers opened the book. Some of the ink had faded with time but any logical witch could figure out what words should be said. I felt the bubble of excitement that I had had since hearing about black magic explode, and the feeling filled me with a desire I had never felt.
I set my eyes on a branch a few feet away. The spell I had been looking at was used to break something in half and then to use both halves as a weapon. The words burned in my mind, my fingertips felt as though tiny needles were stabbing them. I had never felt so in control while performing a spell. The branch quivered as though a breeze had blown threw it, but I couldn't focus enough power to make it snap. I started again, then twice more, which I'm sure didn't even result in a crack of the branch.
"Maybe I'm doing something wrong."
"No, not wrong, just not enough." I went still, my confidence that no one had followed me shattered. His feet crunched on the early autumn leaves.
"It is a good spell, for a starter spell it can do damage to your opponent." I stayed still as I heard him walk closer. Maybe if I stayed silent he would be less inclined to report me to the Council.
"There's no use being quiet. I know you can speak. Not a lot of people come to the forest at night. They say that a dangerous warlock lives here." He was behind me I could feel how close he was to my back. He moved so that he was front of me. My heart stopped in my chest as our eyes met, his black on my blue. His lips rose at the sides, a ghost of a smile on his clean shaven face. His hair, a mix between sunlight and wheat was messy as if he'd just gotten out of bed.
"If he's so dangerous though, why doesn't the city send in some guards to kill him?" At the mention of my words my mouth went dry. But he couldn't have heard me, not when I was flying and he was somewhere else. "I'll tell you why little witch. Truth is they have sent guards into the woods without letting the citizens know. And would you like to know what happened?"
"She speaks! For a moment there I thought I'd scared the voice out of you."
"What happened to the guards?"
"That's what everyone else wants to know." He grinned then, the look lighting his eyes before they went to stone and ash again. "But what I want to know is who you are."
"There are a lot of Patricia’s in this town, you're going to have to narrow it down for me." Every fiber of my being was telling me to run, to put as much distance between him and I as I could. But something in the way he studied me told me even if I tried, it wouldn't be long before he caught up to me. After that, he would throw me to the Council and collect his compensation for bringing a criminal to justice.
"Has the night chased away your voice again? It's rude to stare like that, you know."
"It's Patricia....Patricia Chambers."
"Chambers?" His face lit up, his grin making me blush. "Patricia Chambers...does your family know what you're doing?"
"They...they agree with the Council that the practice of black magic should remain prohibited."
"And you don't?" I didn't know if I did or not. I had studied the consequences of using black magic, but I also knew that if your opponent was someone experienced with those types of spells, you were as good as dead.
"I think you do, but you're scared if you do I'll report you." His fingers cupped my chin. I had never had a man get this close to me, but I wasn't about to say anything against it. "You have the deepest blue eyes I have ever seen. Eyes like this must see everything, don't they? I think you can see that with my help, you could become a witch to be reckoned with."
"What are you talking about?" His fingers slipped away, but he remained close.
"You have potential Patricia Chambers. And anyone who would venture into the woods this late at night must also be brave. Those are two qualities I love in people." Hearing him put the idea of love and I in the same sentence made me grin. At school, I wasn't the most social butterfly, so I was often overlooked by most of the warlocks. To have someone like this not just speak to me, but praise me made me feel like I was flying. Michael would be furious if he could see me, my parents wouldn't be any happier.
"Patricia, you're still in school are you not?"
"I'd like to meet with you again. Potential of this type should be nurtured, not snuffed out." I stayed silent, not wanting to make a promise I couldn't keep. It didn't matter how nice he seemed, I had never seen this man before. If I could make myself believe this was bad idea, even though it felt good, then it would be easier to forget him.
"Thank you, but I don't...who are you?" He chuckled, stepping away from me briefly before his face was level with my own. My lips went dry, I couldn't have said another word even if I wanted to.
"You're out in the woods at night. No one lives in the woods except for a certain someone. I didn't stumble upon you Patricia, I knew you were here."
"I'm not going to hurt you. I don't hurt anyone who hasn't done something to me first you know. But if you chose to run, you won't make it more than a few steps before I catch up. The Council will sooner throw you in jail for practicing black magic before they send someone here. I'm offering you a proposition, a deal we can both benefit from."
"I'm not interested." Despite his words, I was on my feet and took off in seconds. My broom clutched in my hand as I sprinted. I heard nothing but my own feet as they pounded against the dirt. Low branches scratched at my face and arms, twigs snapped as I pushed my legs harder.
Michael would know something happened the moment I stepped in the door. As much as I loved my brother, he was the type to do the right thing most of the time, and I knew he couldn't keep what I had been trying to do a secret.
"I warned you." My feet left the ground, my body turned upside down. Edric was in my line of vision for a second before I was slammed against a tree. His feet made no sound, but his low chuckle gave him away.
"You're fast, I have to admit. However, I wanted to clarify something because I seem to have confused you. I wasn't lying when I said you had a talent that needed to be nurtured. Let's face it, no one who knows half as much as I do about black magic will want to help you, a Chambers."
"This was a mistake."
"Was it? You're the one who made the decision to come into the forest knowing I live here. Tell me Patricia Chambers, who plans to make a mistake?"
"Get away from me."
"I want to help you."
"Stop." My body was pinned against the tree, his spell stronger than I had thought. His hand remained extended, the pressure building on my chest. "S-s-stop... I...I...c-can't-"
"Can't what my little witch? Perhaps if you hadn't run I wouldn't feel the need to mistrust you." His eyes never left my face as he stood before me. I couldn't read a single emotion as my throat tightened. My body refused to move under his control, I couldn't even blink while under his spell.
"P-please..." If he was half as cruel as the other witches and warlocks made him out to be, that plea was laughable. I didn't want to with him, with someone like him. But as I stood there, the supply of air dwindling and the fear of death creeping into my bones likes a sickness, my mind raced with thoughts.
"I don't want to hurt you Patricia. You are far more useful alive, not just to me, but to the rest of New Salem. Don't you understand that power is what we need to take back what is ours? Power like mine, like yours; power that can change the way people think." He stopped, the weight on my chest beginning to lighten. "But I'm going to make myself clear once and for all. If you go and tell the Council about what happened between us, if you even mention my name to them, I won't just come after you; I'll come after your family and leave you to suffer the consequences of crossing me." If I hadn't been terrified, I would have started crying thinking about what a warlock like him was capable of.
But I wasn't as helpless as one might think I was. I could have done more to him bad I known who he was earlier. I could stayed at home instead of trying to sneak out of my own house. Without a doubt Professor Castrina would have told me what I wanted to know about Black Magic. She had been the one teaching me extra spells after class, and I should have used one of them when he had first found me.
"I'm not powerful."
"I'm not going to repeat myself Patricia. You know what will happen if you choose to refuse me."
"Will you tell anyone if I agree to help you?" He smirked to him he had won, though there wasn't a second option.
"Not anyone who would object to the cause."
"What if I change my mind?"
"Power tends to keep people from doing that."
"What if in a bid to make you shut up I use that spell again? What if you die here? What if they never find the body? You're too full of these half thought ideas you know. I'm tired of this back and forth, I want an answer right now." I swallowed, my heart thumping in my chest as the feeling of a crushing weight returned to my chest.
My body crashed into the ground beneath me. I felt searing bursts of pain in my shoulder as my body remained unable to move. His spell held me in such a way that my injured shoulder was being pushed into the ground. I cried out, not being able to move to alleviate driving mad trying to think of a way to break the spell.
But isn't this part of what you wanted? The voice inside my head, as clouded as it was, was clear in the chaos. I wanted to learn more about black magic, to better understand why no one in my house would talk about it. I wanted to become an ordinary witch, to travel to the human world, to do anything except be in the forest with no one but that warlock to see me.
My body jerked and I felt myself float for a few seconds before my body was slammed backed into the dirt. I didn't have the time to make a decision, not the one I wanted to. Panting, I gave one last cry before I spoke.
"I-I agree!" The weight left, the pain in my shoulder and back cooled and I knew it was him using another spell on me. He took a few steps closer to me, I took the hand he offered and he pulled me to my feet. He kept his hand where it was, and I would lying if I told anyone that it didn't excite me even just a little. He stood close to me, closer than I had wanted.
"Then we have to start as quickly as possible my little witch. But," he let go of my hand. "Maybe not tonight. Maybe not tomorrow either because I have other plans, but you won't regret learning magic from me Patricia Chambers." He left me with a kiss on the cheek, gone before I could say anything to him. I held my broom until I could see the whites of my knuckles and leaned against it. A breeze blew through the trees, my coat doing little to keep the true cold out as I stood there.
What have I done?
What have I yet to do, that was the daunting question.