Chapter 18 ♕
I was halfway through the process of losing my mind and still felt it increasing every second. I had no longer any sense of time, but knew that at least a few days must have passed. And I was still surrounded by the same four walls.
Now I had spend whole days without food, water or any sign of life, while I was chained to massive chains that wouldn’t let me go anywhere. Because of the many, many attempts to free myself, the chains had left deep wounds in my skin. And although I felt those wounds very clearly, they were nothing compared to the pain I felt on my face. That king had buried his claw in my face and put a wound there that I already knew even magic couldn’t heal.
Then there was the fact that witches were extremely vain creatures. We protected our beauty as we protected each other. And now he had taken both my beauty and my sisters from me.
And just to make things just a bit worse, my heightened senses were being ravaged by my environment. My ears through the intolerable rhythmic sound of the water dripping from the ceiling onto the floor, up to my nose filled with the scent of my sisters bodies still rotting on the floor. They hadn’t even bothered to take their bodies away.
The combination of witches and emotions had never been a good one. It was not in my nature to grieve or show sorrow. But as I stared at the bodies of my second and third in command at my feet, I couldn’t help but hold back the thirst for revenge. It penetrated like a scorching flame to the very core of my magic.
Asteria and Calandra had been by my side from the very beginning. I had chosen them the day my position as commander of the warriors had been announced. And since then they had never once disappointed me.
But today I had failed them.
This entire action had been intended as a harmless joke, a distraction, a way to pass the time and for my sisters to take their minds off the situation that was going on in the coven.
Because from the moment that our seer Daleca had shown herself among us for the first time in decades, the chaos had struck. Our seer liked to lived isolated, and it was only because of her gift that we granted her that freedom. For her birth on Daleca had been blessed with the gift of receiving messages from our ancestors.
And the message she had brought us only confirmed what we already suspected. Our source of magic was weakening.
All over the world lived many different witch covens. Each of them had a different approach, a different way of life, a different form of magic. The one thing we all had in common was that our magic came from a source. It could be anything. It depended on the particular coven, what kind of magic they practiced, and what their current relationship was with their ancestors. Whatever it was, each source only had enough magic in it for a period of a thousand years.
And every thousand years our ancestors gifted us a new source. But in order to receive another thousand years of practicing magic, we had to prove ourselves worthy. This has always been done through impossible riddles and tireless quests.
There were several stories claiming that some covens had failed to redeem their new source in the past. According to those stories, once a thousand years had passed, the magic they received from the ancestors had no place to settle. This resulted in the entire coven losing it’s magic.
And the one thing witches couldn’t survive without, was their magic. So that meant that if my coven failed to locate the new source, we would face the same fate.
We had searched for days. We had split up and stretched out to the farthest corner of our terretory. But this was to everyone’s annoyance without any result. After we had passed the annoyance, the accusations started. Witches started pointing at each other and accusing each other of hiding the object in order to keep the magic all to themselves. It all quickly got out of hand.
To prevent everyone from ripping each other’s heads off, I suggested that we start harassing a certain princess in her own house. The whole coven despised the princess and for that it seemed an appropriate distraction. Especially after we found out that her birthday was to take place and we could shame her in front of her people.
I made a conscious decision not to tell them was that we might find the object within the walls of the castle. The grounds of ours and the wolves have bordered each other for generations. It would just be an added benefit. But if Deleca had told me what to expect next, I would have kept my mouth shut.
I rattled the chains for what felt like the hundredth time, but they gave nothing. I had to figure out a way to get out of here.
When I thought about what was waiting for me at home, I immediately fell silent. I would owe everyone an explanation as to why so many of our sisters would never return home. I had to look them all in the eye, including Nesita.
Just the thought of my niece and leader of our coven already made shivers run down my spine. Still, I immediately gritted my teeth and tried to suppress the natural reaction. It was not in my nature to fear anything, but this was a matter of hierarchy. She was my superior. That was something that was recognized by every fiber in my body. The fact that we were blood related only made things worse.
She would punish me, if only to set an example out of me for the rest of the coven. I knew I deserved it. Ultimately, I was the one who led everyone to their downfall.
I knew I deserved it, but Nesita didn’t care about that. All she wanted was to be feared. Over the years, since she took charge, our coven had become one of the strongest among our species. But it was never enough. Nesita would always want more. More magic, more followers, more authority.
But somehow she knew she would never be the strongest. That title could never be taken from her. I shivered again as I remembered the way she had emerged out of nowhere from the shadows.
Her legend was known among witches. Hundreds of years ago, when her coven was in danger of losing all of her magic for not being able to obtain their new object, they had tried to deceive their ancestors by using magic to trick them into believing that Raisa was the new object, and that she was ready to receive the new charge of magic.
The ancestors fell for it and a supply of a thousand years of magic was transferred into her body. At first the witches thought they had succeeded, but then everything went wrong.
Because no witch can handle so much magic it scorched away her humanity. She was taking over by pure ancient magic. The magic we witches receive from our ancestors is a perfect balance of good and bad. It is our choice for which purposes we use it.
Raisa must have felt betrayed at the time, for the darkness within her prevailed, swallowing the whole magic by the darkness. She had killed her entire coven in a matter of seconds.
She has been the center of all our nightmares ever since. No one has ever been able to overpower her and today was again nothing more than another example of why everyone cringes at the mere hearing of her name.
My thoughts were rudely interrupted by the dungeon door being thrown open. I turned my face away and squeezed my eyes shut, bracing myself against the light that never came.
After a few seconds I opened my eyes and saw the cause. His body filled the entire opening, preventing light from the torches in the hallway from entering.
I reacted instinctively. My whole face turned to stone, preventing any emotion from breaking through. Admitting it or not, I was currently face to face with the king of all wolves, and that terrified me. But I’d rather die before I admitted that to any living soul.
Like all young witches, I had cared more about scary stories as a kid than sweet fairytales. And in most of them, he had been the lead. More than once in the past he’d let an entire coven disappear from the map, sometimes for the most nonsensical of reasons. He was ruthless and immune to magic. That combined made him an opponent that any sensible witch would run from.
Unfortunately for me I did not belong to that group. I would probably look the devil himself in the eye and find a way to piss him off. In a way, that was exactly what I was doing right now.
I raised my face to him. “Look what we have here,” I said sneeringly, “the almighty king himself is visiting the defenseless prisoners”.
Nothing. His whole face was blank. There was no reaction. No emotion, nothing. Not a single muscle seemed to be about to move once he stepped forward, filling the space with light.
Even though he stank of wolf, even I had to admit that I enjoyed seeing all that masculine beauty. He seemed to have been created by the gods.
“We both know you’re not even remotely helpless, witch,” he said.
I licked my lips defiantly and took it slowly so that he could follow each gesture with his alert gaze. I didn’t want to seduce him. I got nauseous just thinking about it. I just wanted to play with him a little, challenge him.
But this king had no weaknesses. That was known to every living being on this planet. He was supreme over each and everyone of us and was fully aware of it. He was the one who played with us. He could make whoever he wanted to disappear in a second, it was simply his choice not to.
It infuriated me that so many were above me. I never wanted to have to bow to anyone again and it was when the king took his last step forward, when it occurred to me how I could accomplish that.
From over his shoulder, I had a direct view of a burning torch and the way the fire danced immediately reminded me of her and the discovery I had made. And now, the king finally had a weakness.
All my thoughts drifted to the memories I had of the red-haired girl. It had seemed that just a simple word from her mouth seemed enough to shut down all our powers completely. It was almost impossible to believe, since until then she had looked like just another pathetic and defenseless human girl. She even smelled like it.
For a second I let my mind run wild. It was common knowledge among witches that the power source could be made of anything. Yet the source of our strength had always been an object, but perhaps it wasn’t now. Maybe she...?
In all fairness, the answer didn’t even really mattered to me at the time. The mere idea that I had something in my possession that could piss off the king was enough for me.
I started talking before he could take the opportunity. “You are probably right. The only defenseless creature currently within these walls is that pathetic girl who stinks so much like human,” I began. Then I closed my mouth and pretended I had supposedly crossed a line, “where are my manners. I shouldn’t be talking that way about the wolf king his mate. That is extremely inappropriate”.
I had hit a nerve. I saw his whole face harden. He clearly knew I was challenging him, but nothing was more disrespectful to a wolf than when his mate was insulted. And again, we were talking about the king here. Insulting his mate was like skipping happily and voluntarily to the stake. But it no longer mattered to me. So I went on tirelessly.
“I really shouldn’t be telling you this. It would ruin the whole surprise thing, you know. But it seems like your mate is the exact thing what my coven has been looking for”.
I looked bored over my shoulder and examined my nails that had become dirty over the days.
“You see, we need her as a sacrifice so that we can continue to benefit from our magic,” I said with a broad grin, “of course, we promise you won’t be bothered by it”.
This time I looked him dead in the eyes.
“You will only have to learn to live with the fact that your mate will die. And that there is absolutely nothing you can change about it”.