The first sacrifice
Larissa the witch hadn’t always been a vengeful woman. She was cunning, that had always been a trait of hers, but she wasn’t always evil. She had a reason to live, once, and when she lost that reason, that happiness, destroying others became her primary occupation. That was when she began using magic like nobody had ever used it before, mastering the arts to a fuller extent than any blueblood in the history of bluebloods.
The fateful day would come when Arula arrived at Remington’s castle as an ally, both for the purpose of discussing plans to overtake an isolated lord Calder and the possibility of Remington and Ellerie’s engagement. That day, their meeting would take place in the library, for the ease of accessing materials with which to draw up a war plan. Several things happened on this very day in my previous life, some of which defined the direction my life would take from then on—but now that I knew better, I would not only prevent those things from happening, but also take the wheel and steer the course of events in another direction.
In any case, it was going to be a fateful day.
Lord Arula arrived at the gates, and I watched his arrival from the library windows. He stepped out, clad in silver and white. Rather than a lord, he dressed more like a knight, standing taller than everyone who came with him—taller than even Remington, in fact. He was just as I remembered: his blond hair tied in a high ponytail, his gray eyes soft no matter what or whom they gazed upon, his smile light and gentle. He was Ellerie’s brother; while they both appeared gentle and good-natured, only one of them was real.
Remington greeted him at the gate warmly, and brought him into the castle, the both of them disappearing from view. A piece of paper flew in from the window. I took it—a note from Remington—and skimmed over the list of materials he wanted me to gather for the meeting later. It would take about ten minutes for them to actually arrive at the library, I noted, given that they would probably greet Ellerie first.
Exactly eleven minutes later, the door of the library opened and closed again, only two voices could be heard. One was Remington’s, the other a pleasing tenor. I recognized the voice. I couldn’t forget it if I tried, and trust me, I’ve tried.
With the last of the listed maps in my arms, I walked down the spiral staircase to the round table at the center of the library that had been moved here from the conference hall just for the occasion. And there were...three chairs?
Quiet as the library was, both men looked up at the sound of my footsteps. When he met my gaze, Arula’s eyes widened in alarm. Yes, I was quite sure it was alarm, not the love-at-first-sight-wow-she’s-so-beautiful surprise. His alarm also confirmed my suspicions, but that would have to wait until the two of us were alone.
“Good morning,” I greeted the both of them, setting the maps down.
“Good morning,” Remington said, “Have a seat, Larissa. I’d like to hear your thoughts on some of this too.”
“Pleased to meet you…” Arula greeted, his voice trailing off in a sad smile.
I sat, and listened for a while to their briefing about the current situation of Calder’s part of the land. Not much had changed. Calder was still described as an uncouth, muscular tyrant who claimed and weighed everything by brute strength, making him a formidable enemy but unfitting ruler. The goal of this operation, Remington explained, was to remove Calder from the competition of kingship.
“The only tricky part is that Calder’s army is indeed the strongest,” Remington said.
“And...it’s just you and me in this alliance?” Arula asked.
I looked up at the gray-eyed man, noting the difference in his behavior. Last time, he hadn’t asked that question—hadn’t doubted Remington’s plans.
“Regrettably,” Remington answered, creasing his brows. “I cannot take him down alone, naturally, and the other lords all seem to have their own schemes. You and I have a long familial history of alliance; this is the only way to do it.”
Having heard all I needed to, I closed my eyes.
No, I didn’t fall asleep. I simply let my spirit wander out of my body in search of one of Ellerie’s maids, invisible. She was in the kitchen, alone.
I placed a hand upon her head, rendering her unconscious. At the same time, I let myself into her body. She would have memories of what I did as her later, not knowing she had been possessed. Upon gaining access to her body, I took the tray of tea that she had been preparing and made my way to Ellerie’s room.
“My lady, your tea,” I said once I was at the door.
I entered her room, and set the tray down on the table. As expected, Ellerie’s room was decorated in soft pastel colors—befitting of a fake bitch, I must say.
“Are you feeling alright, my lady?” I asked, watching Ellerie glare into her mirror.
“I’m fine. Has the meeting started in the library?”
“I think so, but I haven’t been near the library today,” I said.
Ellerie nodded once, her lips drawn to a thin line. Since she didn’t bother pretending to be sweet now, one could only assume that the maid I had chosen to possess was a trusted one.
“Do my hair, Amelia,” Ellerie said, changing the topic, “The wind messed it up a little.”
“Yes, my lady.”
This was the moment I was waiting for—the opportunity to touch her. I placed my hands on her head, combing her hair. In the process, I absorbed some of her innate magical energy into my own soul. Just as the last time, I took all of her energy, but left half of it in Amelia’s body as I took leave to return to my own.
Upon returning to my own body, I sealed the excess magical energy. This extra energy would allow me to break through my human status and use my powers even outside of the castle, but for now, I did not need it, and most certainly did not need Remington detecting a sudden surge of magical energy in me. Now, those two ladies could fight amongst themselves—excuse me as I return to the meeting.
Rubbing my eyes, I pretended to wake up from a nap.
“I’m sorry,” I said hastily, giving an embarrassed smile.
Arula was looking at me with a wry smile, but he didn’t speak.
“Did you stay up late last night?” Remington asked.
“I did, to finish a book. It was morning before I knew it.”
Remington chuckled lightly. “So you do act like a normal person sometimes.”
The meeting continued until conclusions were drawn. Then, just as the men were about to begin discussions of the engagement, there came an urgent knock on the door. I gathered the maps and closed the books in an instant, after which Remington said, “Enter.”
In came another nervous maid. “Lord Remington!” she called, as though running for her life, “Lady Ellerie wishes to see you, er...in private.”
“Right now?” he asked, skeptical.
Remington glanced at Arula and I, then sighed. “I’ll be right back.”
Obviously, Ellerie didn’t want the world to know that she was now human—convinced as she was that I was out to get her, which I was.
As soon as the door closed again, Arula and I wasted no time moving to the couch, a more comfortable and intimate place to talk. I snapped my fingers, turning off all recording gems within earshot.
Seeing that, Arula asked, “Do you suspect him?”
“Larissa, I…” he began, but paused, unsure of what to say.
I patted the back of his hand. Let me do the speaking.
“I’ve waited my whole new life for this day,” I said, “I noticed that you saw the entirety of my two lives, the moment you looked at me today.”
If there was one person I did not resent, one person I was actually sorry to, it was Lord Arula. In my previous life, he had almost been a lover, but a few things stopped that from happening: the fact that he was Ellerie’s brother and how much I hated Ellerie, and the fact that he had been killed during the conquest that Remington and he had just finished planning. The suspicious part was the latter. Arula, born with the ability to see a person’s entire past at first sight, was one of the most diligent bluebloods in the world. Not only was he gifted with this nearly all-knowing power, he was also a talented user of both blueblood magic and human physics. The official statement was that he had been struck down by an arrow.
But a person that talented could not possibly have died in such a simple way.
“I don’t suppose you know what actually killed you?” I asked.
Arula shook his head. “I read the past, not minds; and that incident is absent from your memory, only that it happened.”
“I wasn’t there at the scene,” I admitted.
Lord Arula was a kind soul, unwilling to suspect anyone. Even so, that didn’t mean he would not preserve himself. From the first time he discovered he could see anyone’s past, he concealed it from everyone, even his family members. He only told me about this ability in my past life when we became intimate. My guess was that the first person’s past he saw had been something he knew that person wouldn’t want him to know.
Like, for example, Ellerie drowning a cat and blaming it on a servant she didn’t like.
“If you suspect Remington,” Arula said, slowly, his gaze cast downward, “Why did you let our plan be exactly the same as last time? Do you…”
I lifted his chin with a finger. When our eyes met, I let my hand trail up to stroke his cheek, as tenderly and genuinely as I could.
“My sole purpose of this second run is to take revenge,” I explained, “But when this is all over, and if I have life to spare, I would love to spend the rest of it with you.” There, I took a pause before continuing. “I let the plan go unchanged because I want to be there myself this time. Since we know how exactly it happened last time, we can be better prepared this time; but if the plan itself is changed, whoever wants you dead will simply do it another way, one that we cannot predict as accurately.”
I tilted my head. “Are you not going to stop me from taking revenge on your sister?”
He shook his head. “She never felt like a sister to me, however she acts. All that she does sends a chill down my spine. I...don’t, and can’t bring myself to hate her, but I do believe she deserves whatever lesson you teach her in the future.”
I laughed, standing from the couch to return to my seat at the table. Arula took the cue and followed suit. “No one else on this land can be as warm and cold at the same time as you, my dear Arula.”
Then, I snapped my fingers again, turning the recording gems back on. A minute later, Remington returned to the library.