Nary a soul walked through the streets of willows bark, the red witches were soon to begin their ‘ceremony’ as it was; the street was cloaked in darkness and hung heavily with an eerie silence, red glows from lit torches penetrated the endless black. Amidst dead trees and rocky grounds stood a huge brick house built with careful gloom and precise misery.
Through unrestricted windows on the ground floor, twelve figures cloaked in black stood in a dark --save for the hearth-- bare room to carry out a coven ritual. Two figures within a human circle of ten stood by a boiling cauldron filled with unknown liquids.
Huddled in a corner of the room sat eight children, the glow from the hearth outlined their faces, all young faces varying with expressions of; confusion, attentiveness and intrigue.
Seated between two young witches, or rather squashed between, was six years old Nadea, the flames from the fireplace outlined a young transfixed face with fragile features; a pert nose, little rosy lips, delicate chin and a pair of eyes that took up almost all her face, the fire revealed, or more precisely accentuated blue green crystals fringed heavily with sooty long lashes that took in the ceremony with raptness and attention.
With a whispered command from one of the eunuchs, seven children rose and formed a straight line.
Too absorbed with the ceremony to notice anything Dea continued to seat.
A sharp prick on her scalp caused by her hair being pulled by one of the eunuchs brought her attention to the goings-on and had her standing up jerkily. The eunuch further proceeded to give her a painful nudge to join the other witchlings.
Too young to realise that her cruel treatment was attributed to the fact that her mother was a craxe, and too stunned to do otherwise, she went over to the other children.
At the top of the line was Lilith, the first daughter of the high priestess, behind her was her sister Meredith, and behind Meredith were; poppy, Imogen, Aurelia, Camilla and Alexis. All daughters of head witches.
All except her.
Standing at the end of the line did not allow her a full view of the ritual being practiced, she could partly see the elder stirring the bubbling cauldron and the priestess reading off words from a spell book.
The rituals lasted for a moment.... Or two, then the line started moving.
Lilith proceeded to the middle of the circle, her small body stiff with quiet importance and her little nose lifted high with eminence.
Lilith was being given a cup of the liquid in the cauldron, from where she stood Dea could see when Lilith sniffed the liquid and recoiled, but she gulped it down immediately and Meredith came next, her red hair --save for the fire-- the only vivid colour in the room. And very soon all the other children drank of the mixture.
Dea was next.
With an irrelevant but painful nudge, Dea was sent to the inner circle, perhaps if her little mind could comprehend that her future involved an annoying prince and a dangerous prophecy she would have asked for a lifetime of forceful nudges or a kick or two to the rump.
Walking gingerly to the high priestess Dea waited to be given a bowl of the liquid.
But it never came.
Murmurings from the cloaked figures turned to loud chants as their hoods were flung to reveal familiar, yet unfamiliar, faces. A crushing grip on her forearm anchored her to the ground as she began to sway.
More chants, increasing heartbeats, shortened breaths, horrified gasps from the children, hushed commands from the eunuchs.
More chants.... Pounding heartbeats.... Terrified screams.... Loud commands from the eunuchs.... Silence.
Outside, vultures on branches of dead trees flew away in haste as a child’s scream pierced the night.
Locks of velvet night
A blaze to dark enlight
Eyes of light
Heart of might
Phosphorescence of might inbound
The witch and the seer, a pair confound
A love so rare to ice be bound
A witch of might to face the hounds