chapter one: the chase of the full moon
October chill and golden hour incite deep shadows of cornstalks through the field. Indigo parted the stalks aimlessly, bouncing her boots between the dirt and pulling her zip-up jacket close to her bloodstained chest, leaving no towpath through the corn. The witch hunter had been following her a while now, for the third day in a row. It wasn’t unusual to have someone chasing after her, though. The witch hunters had been moving her place to place all month, what she can assume is the same for all witches.
The hunt had been brutal, and it seemed like they were keeping tabs on every witch in Hicory. However, Indigo didn’t have much contact outside of wherever she was staying, so she wasn’t sure whether it was happening anywhere else. Though it seemed to be a local issue. It started with small things; reports of the moon growing bigger and engulfing the whole sky, scarecrows screaming, crops suddenly dying. But, eventually, it grew into the full moon lasting for eight days straight, which everyone in Hicory confirmed. Then, the lakes turned black and the roads turned to ditches. And who is everyone to blame if not the witches?
Every coven has been clambering for safety and the hunters seem to be getting the better of them. For Indigo, though, she was safe. At least for the first couple of days. Having no coven meant no association with witches which meant there was nothing linking Indigo to being a witch. But, now, it’s been a month, and they were starting to catch on.
Her skirt fell between her knees and chafed at her calves when she ran. The corn rose and fell as she bounded further into the field, the stalks catching in her eye when she fell forward. She wasn’t sure how far she had lost the hunter thus far, and her straw blonde hair camouflaged quite well, especially as opposed to Indigo’s bright ginger head. She grabbed at the bottom of her bandana she had banded around her head as a headband, pulling it off as it subsided down her scalp.
Through three parted stalks, she recognized the organized footwork of the girl, her dark outfit ignited by the last minutes of sundown. Soon, it'd be dark out; too dark to see anything and too dark to keep running. She could cast a light spell for herself, but it would only give away her location and burn the stalks. The field felt endless and she could hardly gauge what direction she came from.
Indigo did have to admit, the witch hunter was good. She thought it was a poor choice to have the same girl go after her every day, and they had severely underestimated her skills. Running was nothing new to Indigo, and she had a knack for recognizing patterns in people and hiding in undisturbed silence. Were they trying to tire her out? Scare her away? Or just hope to eventually catch her enough to get the credit?
Abruptly, her foot caught on the dirt and she blithely stumbled forward, almost instantly gathering herself backward in affliction. A dark, gaping hole of void engulfed the floor and half the sky. Indigo's perception seemed to have been hijacked in a way, her eyes blazing bright green as magic fused in her palms. The remainder of the sky became completely dark within in an instant, yet the blackness of the hole was somehow very clearly distinguishable from the sky, though when she looked close enough the colors were nearly identical.
She summoned a light spell under her breath and kindled the stalks lightly aflame. Indigo knelt down and felt at the ground, nearing her fingers to the end of the hole. She slipped her hand lightly into the void and found them pressed flat to the ground.
"Hey, witch." A voice came from behind her with concerned confidence and the approach of her boots on the broken corn sounded through the ground. Indigo didn't turn around, but stood up and moved her light further forward into the hole.
"What the hell is it? What'd you do?" The girl spoke again, inching closer. This time, Indigo spun slightly around to look at the witch hunter, holding her palm of light steadily out to the inside of the hole.
"It's an illusion." She commented, stepping forward into the void and illuminating the silhouettes of corn stalks. "And I did not do it. I don't do illusion magic."
"Well if it wasn't you then who the hell did? Answer, witch." She got more aggressive as she spoke as if realizing who she was talking to. She drew out a weapon-- a dagger, it seemed-- but probably infused with something deadly. Deadly to Indigo, at least. Now, she turned around fully. She glared at the girl's dark eyes with her own ablaze, gripping at the blades in her satchel.
"Don't act like I can't damn you to hell right now and burn you to ashes the same color as this void. You don't make demands to me. Learn your place, witch hunter." She sneered, turning her head back to the illusion. She couldn't damn her to hell or turn her to ashes, that's for sure, but she liked messing with humans. Especially humans that are trying to kill her. "You're oddly passive for someone who's trying to kill me, though."
"Well, maybe you shouldn't turn your back on your enemy so often." She said, and Indigo could hear the grin parting her lips.
Indigo felt the intention of the girl before it happened, and she turned around to block her attack with a baton hidden in her belt. The girl had her dagger edged into the weapon and looked startled at the sudden block. Indigo lowered her baton and swiped the girl's hand away, pushing her body forward and onto the ground of the void as Indigo's ginger hair loomed over the witch hunter's face.
"Quit messing around. You're going to get yourself killed. There is clearly a very powerful energy source-- an illusionist-- lurking around this cornfield. I don't know who or what they are, but I think we both need to get out of here before something happens!" Indigo yelled, holding the girl's arms tighter and tighter as she pushed her into the ground.
"What makes you think I'm gonna escape this place with you?" She refuted, clearly ignoring everything Indigo had just said.
A loud bounding noise of something in between a thunderstorm and an earthquake broke the silence following the girl's question, and when Indigo looked up she saw lightning forking through the remaining sky while it was further engulfed by the void. When a line of lightning struck just in between the two girls as Indigo started lifting herself off, they both jumped back into the cornstalks covered by void.
The witch hunter looked nervous as she grabbed at the non-existent ground, backing up to find somewhere that was visible. Indigo noticed the cornstalks were able to be felt and illuminated, but they didn't cover either of the girls, so it was as if you were phasing through them but still feeling it on your skin. She also realized her light had faded a while ago, but both of them were perfectly visible. She summoned the spell again, but it did almost nothing.
"What's your name again?" Indigo asked, looking out into the void with her light and trying to find a way out.
"..Camellia. Like the flower." She responded, lifting herself up and giving up on trying to escape.
"Well, Camellia, nice to meet you. Please don't try to kill me again. I'm Indigo, like the color."
"I'll promise to not kill you up until we get out of here. After that, you're free real estate. Got it, Blue?" She said in response, sounding vaguely annoyed but her face showed she might be frightened. Indigo had to say, the nickname wasn't terrible, besides the fact that indigo was in between blue and purple, but she decided to leave it be.
"Whatever, flower. Try me." She teased back, leaning forward and grabbing her by the wrist to drag her through the void. There was nothing obviously there to lead them out of the field and if Indigo were to be honest with herself she had no idea where to start. But, she wasn't honest with herself, and she opted to blindly charge through the field and pretend until she actually figures it out.
Though, she was actively trying to think of something. Based on her knowledge of illusions, they only affect a few desired people at once, so it was likely only her and Camellia were seeing the effects of it. She also knew only one illusion or gathering of illusions can be cast at once and it can only be cast for a certain amount of time. The more powerful, the longer it can be cast, but most shouldn't last more than half an hour. Now, it had been ten or twenty minutes, so it should fade soon.
Camellia followed close behind her, like she didn't want to get lost. She seemed to have relaxed a little bit since earlier but refuses to say anything.
"So, Flower, you got any ideas?" Indigo asked, trying to spark some ideas of her own and simultaneously get Camellia to stop sulking.
"No. I thought you did." She replied dryly, slowing her pace briefly.
"You know, your sudden change of attitude is giving me whiplash. First, you're all confident and snarky, then you start walking with your head down and nothing to say. I can't say that I want to, but I can't seem to read you." She said back, avoiding her question.
"Shut up. Just get us out of here, Blue." She mumbled loudly, kicking at the black ground of grass and walking ahead to be just beside Indigo.
"Wow, not even a thank you? And, seriously, you've gotta get a better nickname than Blue. Indigo isn't even blue, it's more blue and purple combined. If you follow the order of the rainbow it's blue and violet, so... I don't think you can argue with ROY G BIV."
"Can you think of a better one? how about Blue-violet? Is that correct enough for you?" She said sarcastically, leaning her face closer to Indigo's as she spoke.
"How about an actual nickname? One that has at least ONE letter of my name in it? How about this; you think of a better nickname while I try to get us out of here. And when I do, you can say thank you." Indigo prompted, smiling sublimely at her and parting their gaze. She didn't respond, but she seemed content with the offer.
She was almost convinced to walk on blindly until the illusion faded and take the credit for it, but the other part of her actually wanted to get out of the field sooner rather than later. She was running through her mind of spells and ways she could manipulate the illusion, but nothing seemed like it would work. The only thing that might work is conjuring something conflicting to break it. Indigo had studied some conjuring magic but had only practiced it in very small portions. In theory, if she could identify the element of magic being used for the illusion, summoning something of a conflicting element could temporarily break the illusion which should last until it fades.
There were a few issues with this plan. One, she wasn't even really sure if elemental magic worked with illusions. She hadn't encountered a lot of illusions and she wasn't sure if they required a type of element or if it was purely energy-based. Two, Conjuring usually requires the collection of materials. Spell-based summons are rare unless they are smaller. So, unless it required cornstalks, they didn't have much to work with. And, third, she didn't know if she could do it. All witches specialize in two or three specific categories of magic, and the others, although they could be practiced, it was limited how much that witch is capable of it.
Terrible plan, really. Then, another noise came, this time something not unlike the shrill scream of a dying cat. When she turned to the direction of the noise, a small hoard of demons or spirits-- she couldn't tell-- seemed to be rushing towards them through the void.
She first thought they were harmless, but when they approached further, she could sense their aliveness-- and then she could sense their intent to attack.
That is when she drew her blades from her satchel.
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