Echoes of Midnight

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Seven

“You’re ruining your skirts, Isa,” Amaris reprimanded the petite goddess as she tried to recollect her fitting bodice from falling apart. “Quit acting like a child and focus.”

The three fates hunched below the awning of a large oak tree, hiding from the sights of the rowdy gamblers in a nearby tavern. Unabashed, Isadora gathered her skirts together and readied herself to vex Amaris with sarcasm when Branwen’s voice fluttered behind them.

“Leave her be, Amaris, nothing makes her more miserable than the moon disappearing in the sky.”

“I can’t keep calm unless I have my moonshine again,” cried Isa, defeated with the thought of being powerless.

The moonshine fueled them as witches, their magick and congregation. Mortals dismissed it as silly stuff from fairytales, yet the fates knew that it kept Bellevedere from vanishing in the present continent of Nouveau.

Witches and mortals have been co-existing for centuries in Nouveau. Congregations and festivals from each village were its lifeblood. From afar, Bellevedere looked too apart from its nearby ones: Aquafirth and Haicraig, attracting outsiders who love the seas and hilly mountainsides.

Yet, Bellevedere held its secrets dearly within the columns of its castles – even the fates knew it wouldn’t be long before an intrepid tourist discovered them.

“There, there, Isa, sooner or later, Stefan would realize that we are helping him instead of blindly following his orders,” Branwen quipped softly.

Amaris spared her a sideways glance while Isa scrunched her eyebrows together in confusion.

Helping him? Leading those female tourists to Mudwick was a not an easy task. We’ve been feeding Stefan the very thing he lost a long time ago, and he couldn’t accept it. Stubborn man, intent on playing knight when he himself couldn’t even consider marriage to save the soul he dearly loved before.”

“I don’t get it too, Isa, where do the females went inside the castle? And for the first time, Stefan took the risk of letting a woman enter the healer’s room. The others before only get past the foyer and we never heard what happened to them ever since.”

Isa found herself bereft for snide remarks, then Amaris surprised them both when she suggested, “It isn’t our place to question his decisions. Our chances lie on that tavern and he would be outside any minute now.”

A half-minute passed and still the man they agreed to meet with didn’t show up in the entrance. Their impatience grew with agitation, but not until a rumbling growl disturbed it followed by inhuman steps only Amaris dared to look back.

“What happened? And where’s Daemeon? Is it not midnight already?” asked Amaris as the creature stopped few paces away.

It was an amalgam of monstrosity. Its talons wore marks of unknown blood of animals it slaughtered in the forest. With a feathered back akin to a fowl, the creature slowly spread its tiny wings as though it was running for miles for awhile.

"The High Lord threatened me with a sword and saved the mortal. She attempted to ran away, but the High Lord caught her before I could scare her out of the castle and deliver her to y-“

“NO!” exclaimed Amaris, incredulous with a plan that had gone wrong. “Our agreement was to bring the mortal to us so we could lure Stefan from the castle.”

“He’s quick, Lady Amaris, and his powers are getting stronger,” the creature replied, its voice quivering into rabbit-like spasms, frail and afraid of Amaris who stepped out of the clearing and unexpectedly exposed herself to the tavern’s merrygoers.

“There she is! The beautiful woman I’m talking about!”

The cavernous tavern erupted into chaos. Malodorous smell plumed outside as several drunk gamblers sprinted towards the entrance to the forest, a stone’s throw from where the fates were hiding.

Amaris quickly hid herself behind the rose bushes, nearly missing the conversation she didn’t want to hear.

“Haven’t you heard, Jonfrit? She’s probably a witch intent on carving up your heart to offer to the Devil.”

Rambunctious as children playing in an orchard, the drunk men howled in laughter. Others were already slumped on the ground – engrossed upon hearing the word beautiful and riddled with endless amount of alcohol.

The man named Jonfrit turned in a circle, bracing his sights for the elusive woman he saw wearing a blood-red gown. Sweat profused his forehead and questioned his sanity – was it his alcohol-addled brain that conjured up the image?

With Jonfrit’s losing consciousness, the fates began to move in undue determination.

“No wonder Amaris never loved a mortal. They’re nasty,” smirked Isa while maneuvering her body against the wall to the tavern’s entrance.
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