Chapter 27 ♕
An intense sense of contentment runs through me as I see the queen’s body begin to shake and tremble. From my position behind her I saw how the deep red colored blood trickled down from her throat that was now ripped open. The way the muscles in her back and shoulders tensed showed how much effort it took her to breathe.
I had acquired enough knowledge over the years of how to make an enemy suffer the most. Cutting the airways in half was a personal favorite. It was the perfect way to bring her intense pain, while wishing for every passing second that the end would come.
This may be a ceremony considered to be extremely sacred, but that did not mean that there was no room for personal motive. It was unthinkable not to take the opportunity to make her pay for what she had done to me.
I felt so much anger swirling inside me that, if I had still had my magic, it would surely have scorched her body to ashes. But I no longer had my magic.
Looking back at last week felt like a blazing hot poker was being pushed down my throat. Immediately after my return I had sought help from our healers. They had exposed me to every kind of healing they knew about, but the result had remained the same every time. Magic once taken away could never be found again.
Shrouded in shame, I then started trying to limit the damage done to my appearance. The wounds on my wrists had become deep from the friction of the chains I had found myself in for weeks. But the worst part was the wound that ran across my face, made by the barbaric king himself.
It had taken away part of my sight and the beauty that we witches valued so much. Our appearance was our most cherished weapon. I had only looked at myself in the mirror once before smashing it to shreds. The sight of the scars I was forced to carry from now on were too repulsive to look at.
And now I was behind the one who had caused all my misfortunes. I stood there with my magic and beauty taken from me, but I kept my back straight. I would show no weakness in the eyes of my sisters.
For a moment I let my gaze move around the room. This was the first time in months that we had gathered with the entire coven. Which unfortunately also meant that the truth could no longer be denied. The battle with the king had cost us many witches. Not only those who had been captured or murdered at the same time as me, but in the weeks that followed my sisters had made several attempts to overthrow the king and free me. None of them had returned.
The fact that the king had just found his mate during the period and had to leave her every time my sisters had invaded his territory had driven him mad. The last thing I heard about it was that some of my warriors had returned to the border and tried to find as many remains of our sisters as possible so that they could still be cremated so that we could ritually send their magic back to the coven. But apparently those disgusting dogs had preceded us and almost nothing had been found. Which meant all that magic was lost. Magic that our coven could very well have used at this point. Because we were on the edge of a cliff and time was running out.
We had once been one of the most progressive covens. We won battlefields with me on the front line, our healers mastered the best skills for miles around and our magic was dreaded. All of that was lost, and if the ancestors didn’t accept this sacrifice, even the last bit of hope would be gone.
To suppress that thought, I turned my attention back to the kneeling girl in front of me. I quickly rebuilt my walls internally and a smug grin found my lips.
I took the ceremonial knife between my fingertips and start playing with it, walking around her and then lowering myself to my knees where we got to the same level.
Her eyes were glassy as she stared into the nothing. This was all part of the ceremony. As her body slowly blood out, her subconscious had traveled to the place where our ancestors gathered to judge whether she was worthy to serve as a sacrifice. It would remain there until the ancestors had made their decision.
I heard a sobbing sound and glanced briefly over the queen’s shoulder. Huddled and covered in dirt, a young witch sat there. She had collapsed trying to protect herself from one of my sisters who pulled her hair roughly, forcing her to get up. Her face radiated utter desperation, her gaze fixed on the back of the girl named Magnolia.
The only reason I knew the Queen’s name was because I had it engraved on my mind. I wanted to be able to personally carve it on her headstone when I was done with her. However, I couldn’t remember the name of the young, useless witch. On the other hand, I could smell exactly what she was. And witch without magic. It was a disgrace like no other to our species.
In this coven, when you were born without magic, your fate was set from your first minute alive. Witches could learn magic only by studying, practicing and perfecting it. Those who couldn’t master magic, became the test subjects for those who could. Many died in their first years. The witch who was currently at my sister’s feet was the only one left. But from one glance you could tell that she wouldn’t last long.
I personally was responsible for a lot of her burns. I had once managed to burn her vocal cords, because her constant screeching broke my concentration every time. And now that she was no longer physically capable of any sound, she has been my target of choice ever since. Since then I have only started calling her Sil, short for silence. Because her real name was not worth either saying or remembering, but I still needed something to be able to call her when it was time for another round of practice.
For a second I let my gaze drift between the young witch and the battered wolf on the wall. The man had started tugging furiously on his chains, his heated gaze focused on the young witch on the ground. The material around his neck suppressed his animal side and at the same time brought him tremendous torment. It was truly delightful to watch.
The veins in his throat were bursting and every muscle was tight. He seemed to be making an intense effort to say something. After a few fierce attempts, I heard a word from his lips. “Mate,” he growled. That was an interesting discovery.
Throughout, witches did not get mates. We stayed with our coven and chose our companions. Usually with a preference for the strength, so that the descendants would have the strongest magic. We didn’t propagate out of love.
I looked out of the corner of my eye at the half witch and the way she was completely out of it. That could take a while. Maybe I could entertain myself with those two while letting the queen suffer at her leisure.
My sisters cleared a path for me as I walked up to him. All week my warriors had been torturing him. His accelerated healing power had made it difficult to begin, but my witches are steadfast. It had taken time, but eventually they had found a way to use his healing ability against him. It had simply been a matter of cutting the wound deep enough and then pouring pure silver right in, so that when the skin rejoined, the silver melted into the skin.
The rumors that had always been circulating that the king himself trained his warriors seemed to be true, for the wolf warrior had not uttered a sound all week. At the sight of Sil, he gave us the first response since ever. And I fully intended to have fun with it.
As I stopped right in front of him I heard my sisters shouting and screaming behind me. They needed this as much as I did. With a gesture of my hand I made it clear to the guard that the solid material around his neck could be removed. The moment the chain had disappeared from his neck, he gasped for air, but quickly recovered.
“So that heap of useless meat is your mate. Isn’t that just a coincidence. Too bad for you that you got a pathetic case. In the eyes of your moon goddess you must have done something terribly wrong to earn something like her,” I said.
A dangerous growl came from his throat. “Don’t talk about her like that,” he snarled at me. The grin on my mouth only widened. I knew which ends male wolves were willing to go for their females.
I looked over my shoulder, glanced at Sil and Magnolia, and suddenly had a nice idea to pass the time. “Tell me wolf, if I gave you the choice that you could only save one of them. Either your queen or your mate. Who would you choose?” I asked amused.
As if reading my mind, two of my sisters stepped forward and stood behind both Sil and the queen with a sinister grin. Although the queen would be too far gone and feel nothing, it was not the same case for Sil.
I recognized Scarlet as the one who got behind her. Scarlet was one of my most feared warriors. Sil crouched further and began to shake. Scarlet buried her nails deep into the girl’s shoulder and forced her to sit up, her nails elongating as if on command, then pressed against her throat. The blood was already running in tiny droplets down my sister’s fingers.
The sight seemed to drive the wolf mad. And we hadn’t even started with the queen yet. I motioned for Raven, the sister who had joined the queen, to do the same. This time, the wolf hit his fists back into the wall so hard that pieces of stone began to fall.
Scarlet dug her nails deeper into the delicate skin, and Sil began to gasp. The man started pulling the chains more and more.
“My king will have your head for this,” he growled viciously.
It was a good dodge on my question and probably true. Indeed, that would be the case, if he ever managed to find us. Our borders were guarded with the most powerful defensive spells, which ensured that we were completely invisible to anyone other than our own.
Meanwhile, I was getting bored again, so gestured with my hand that the chain could be reattached around his neck. He gave a last deafening snarl before being forced to silence. Then I turned back and walked back to the queen.
In the passage, I glanced in disgust at the weeping witch on the ground before continuing. Both Scarlet and Raven disappeared back into the crowd.
I knelt before her again and looked deep into her eyes. Immediately I was back to the moment when the tables had been turned and I had sat chained and defenseless before her, the moment when she had stolen my magic.
I wanted to make her suffer even more. I wanted to get to where she was and be the protagonist of every nightmare that would ever plague her again. But before I had a chance to do so, the noise my sisters had been making suddenly disappeared.
I looked up and saw that they had all turned their eyes to the floor and were not moving. I looked further and immediately saw the reason for their silence. Nesita had appeared in the doorway.
Her full stance was like that of a predator as she strode forward down the directly formed aisle. I scrambled to my feet and straightened my back. I had done all of this in hopes of falling back into her good graces. I hadn’t seen her all week and now she was suddenly here. That couldn’t be good news. I nodded respectfully when she suddenly found herself in front of me. I gestured grandly with my hand to the queen with her throat slit.
“This was all for you, for the coven. Do I now find myself worthy in your eyes again, sister” I said, keeping my eyes averted.
“Worthy,” my cousin repeated in the same mocking tone she had used against me countless times before.
I gritted my teeth and stifled the fiery anger that arose.
“Do you want to tell me you really think this is enough, Giselle. Don’t you realize you’ve ruined us. We both know that there is only one outcome to this situation,” she continued
“Giselle Virdarte,” she said, much louder this time.
I didn’t know what was happening, but my breathing suddenly stopped.
“You are hereby officially banned from the Virdarte coven”.
She did not waste more words on it, for immediately afterwards she turned and began her way back to the door, through which she had entered less than a minute earlier.
I stood there dumbfounded. My head seemed unable to register exactly what had just happened. But then my sister’s soft voices began to sink in and my emotions came with the strength of one volcano that exploded.
I stepped forward, opened my mouth to launch the greatest torrent of fury at her, when all of a sudden the whole cave began to shake. It happened with such intensity that large pieces of boulders fell from the ceiling. Everyone ran together and took shelter with the sisters who contain the power of earth, who let large boulders emerge from the ground to prevent their skulls from being smashed.
The violent shaking stopped, and just when we thought it was over, an entire wall of the cave flew to pieces.
When the debris settled and the dust disappeared, the invaders sillouets became visible. This time the screeching was even more deafening. Because two shapes loomed out of the dark.
The witch called Raisa, and the king of wolves.