Chapter 23 - A Coven of Witches
Alice twisted around but this time she was in control. The Darkness was losing it’s grip. She twisted, drawing on the Magic. But it was no longer her own Magic, it was the Fae’s around her. But it was more than that. It was the Magic in the air around her. In the boulders. In the trees. In the very earth.
She pulled it into her. And she focussed on Niseri. Focussed on her essence, on her being. Alice forced the Magic out, blasting it into her and it hit her hard even as she tried to deflect it.
“You put that thing in me.” Alice cried and Niseri laughed though she was clearly winded. “You did that. You created that Spectral.”
“And you invited it in.” Niseri spat back. “Now I have you. I have you all.” She smiled.
Alice glanced around, feeling strange Magic slowly surrounding her, feeling the Witches as they appeared circling her, circling all the Fae beneath them. Alice closed her eyes, feeling the anger, feeling the rage inside her. Niseri had been behind it all. She had done this. She knew it now. She’d trapped her back at the Wash. Trapped her into fighting the last Spectral. And Alice had fallen for it.
She heard the Fae beneath her gasping and could sense their panic. She’d done this. Somehow she’d led Niseri right to them.
“You have done well Fae. I should be thanking you.”
Alice scowled back at her and then sent another blast, a stronger blast, pulling more Magic from the surrounding Fae and it hit Niseri again.
“You can’t destroy me girl.” Niseri said. “I am stronger than you. My Magic is stronger.”
“You are just a Witch.” Alice snapped back. “You can only channel Magic. I am Magic.”
Niseri cackled. “I am more than just a Witch. I have made myself more. I can channel more Magic than you have inside you. More Magic than you can possess.”
“Let’s see then.” Alice replied and she blasted her again.
Niseri deflected it and Alice felt the other Witches around her channelling, pouring their Magic into her as Niseri had done with the Spectral. She closed her eyes. She could feel the Magic in the air around her, in the trees, in the dirt far beneath her and she pulled on it. Pulled on it all. Only this time she didn’t aim for Niseri, she aimed for the nearest Witch and then the next. Blasting them even as they poured their Magic in Niseri.
Each one screamed as the Magic hit them. But they were defenceless.
Niseri hit her back. Hit her hard. A blast of black Darkness that struck at her chest and made her catch her breath.
“I told you girl. I am stronger. You can destroy the other Witches but you cannot kill me.”
“Maybe not.” Alice said. “But you know what I can do…”
“And what’s that?”
Alice smiled then, not even sure how she knew to do it but she knew she could. She pulled the Magic again, only deeper, much deeper, deeper than she’d dared before, deeper than she’d ever been able to. It was like she could feel all the world’s Magic, all of it at it’s core and she called it to her and with it she sent it at Niseri. It ripped through her and she stumbled back as though she was standing on uneven ground and not in the air at all. As though the Magic inside her was too much to hold. Was too heavy for her. Alice focussed and then she pulled it back. Pulled it all back.
Niseri cried then. She screamed. A deep guttural cry reminiscent of the Spectrals she created. But Alice kept pulling until there was nothing left. And then Niseri vanished. She fled. And Alice was left floating above the stone.
She half fell back down to the ground. The Fae Man rushed to her checking she was okay.
“I’m fine.” She said with a small smile and getting back to her feet. “Thanks to you. Thanks to you all.” She added looking at all the Fae that were now around her.
“You do realise what you just did don’t you?” He asked her and she nodded.
“Yes. I took her Magic.”
“She will never be able to channel it again.”
“It’s no less than she deserves.” Fain said behind them all and Alice turned to look at him.
“Fain.” She said, feeling her eyes welling. It was like she was seeing him for the first time. Seeing him without the creature tarring her mind, tarring her essence. She felt the wave of love hit her and all she wanted to do was run to him, to feel his arms around her and know that she was safe.
He smiled at her but kept back. Like he understood that whatever had happened, whatever the other Fae had done, it wasn’t quite over yet.
Alice looked at the Fae Man still stood before her.
“Who are you all?” She asked.
“We are the Fae they couldn’t catch. They Fae they couldn’t collar. And the Fae that escaped them.” He said and Alice frowned.
“Why did you help me then? You put yourselves at risk. Now the High King will know you exist.”
“You made us.” A woman said stepping forward and standing beside the man. Her hair was grey with beautiful silver streaks and she had to be at least fifty. “You summoned us.”
“I didn’t.” Alice said shaking her head.
“You did but you didn’t know you were doing it.” The man said. “You don’t know how to control your Magic.”
“I had control. Before that Spectral.”
“No you didn’t.” The woman said gently.
“Then teach me.” Alice said. “Teach me and I can control it.”
The woman shook her head and so did some of the other Fae around her.
“We can’t teach you while you’re with them.” She said looking over at Fain.
“Because they see us as nothing more than possessions. Weapons that they can use. But that is not our purpose. We were not created to use our Magic like that.”
Alice looked at Fain still waiting and she felt the conflict inside her. She wanted to learn, wanted to finally control her Magic but there was no way she was going to abandon Fain. No way she was going to simply walk away from him.
“So what do I do?” She asked quietly.
The Fae Man looked at her and then at Fain.
“You shared your Magic with him.” He said simply and she nodded.
“It wasn’t intentional.” Alice said. “But I love him and I won’t leave him. I won’t.”
“Do you know what you are?”
“I’m Fae.” Alice replied confused.
“No, you are more than that. You are Alarin. Technically you are our Queen.”
“Your blood marks you as our ruler. Your ancestors have guided us and ruled over us for more than a thousand years.”
Alice swallowed unsure what to say. Unsure how to even process what they were saying.
The man looked at her again before glancing round at the Fae that surrounded them.
“You do not know how to use your Magic. The way you use it now is wrong and the Witches have used that against you. You almost got us caught because of it.”
“I didn’t know. I didn’t mean to.”
“No. But that cannot happen again. If the Witches were to get their hands on us the balance of good would tip. And no one would be able to stop them.”
“So what do I do?” Alice snapped without meaning to.
“I will teach you.” He said and her jaw dropped. “I will teach you. But on one condition.”
“What is it?” She asked afraid of what he would say. Afraid that he would ask her to leave Fain. To choose between him and her Magic.
“You cannot agree to it.” He said before turning to look at Fain. “But you can.” He said.
“What is it?” Fain asked aware everyone was now staring at him.
“You have to grant me safe passage. You have to guarantee that I will be safe, if I go with you. You have to promise not to imprison me, or lock me in Iron, or collar me. And when she has control, when she has learnt, you promise that you will let me walk away.”
Fain looked at Alice and he didn’t hesitate. He knew what she needed. He knew that whatever the hell was going on with her Magic she needed help and he couldn’t give her that and neither could Jelric despite his best intentions.
“Agreed.” He said and the man nodded.
“Then let’s return to the Castle before anyone else who can sense our Magic gets here.” He said and they both nodded.
“Wait, what about everyone else. Where will you go?” Alice asked looking at their faces. They had helped her. They had saved her and a part of her felt like she’d never see any of them again.
“We will return to where we came from. Where we were safe.” The silver haired lady said.
“Where is that?”
“If you ever need us, you will find us. Your Magic will know the way.” She said and slowly the rest of the Fae faded around her until there was nothing but the three of them standing amongst the trees, in the mist.
Alice gasped feeling like a part of her had just vanished with them. That some part of her family that she’d only just met was already gone.
The walk back to the castle took hours. Even longer than it had taken to get to the woods. Alice felt like her head was whirring, both from the release of the Spectral and from everything she’d just found out. How could she be a Queen? How could there be so many Fae hidden in this world. It was madness. She shook her head slightly and Fain frowned looking at her, worried. She smiled at him.
It’s okay, she thought to him, I’m just trying to get my head around it all. He smiled back and nodded.
The Fae Man glanced between them, like he could sense they were communicating but he said nothing.