Tiffany glanced across Quin’s bony shoulders at Edmon, dense mist swirling around them; he still wore his armor, massive shield in hand as he dexterously stood on the creature’s back, searching for signs of danger around them.
She sighed, turning her focus to the burning bag in her lap, atop her black covered grimoire; she communicated to Edmon through their telepathic link. “You know we’ll be leaving a trail they can follow?”
Edmon was silent a moment. “There’s nothing we can do about it, but be prepared. Your hex will hold off any search parties for at least twenty minutes, and if they are cautious, even longer. Depending on how this toad-woman’s strength compared to the rest, they may abandon their search for us and cut their losses or wait for reinforcements. By that time, we should have enough of a head start. How long will the cleansing take?”
Tiffany’s orange eyes scanned the silent fog that blew past them with Quin’s swift movements. She rather enjoyed the quiet jungle; the atmosphere almost seemed dead, not a creature stirring.
“Hard to say; it really depends on the place we stop, and what’s around. I wasn’t able to get everything I needed, but a healthy chunk of it. I’ll first need to lock down the toad-woman so she won’t cause problems. That could bring its own issues, though.”
“Her tongue is the primary issue. Most the binding rituals I know leave the mouth open, giving the caster the chance to interrogate them for information or just talk to pass the time. I do have a few complete paralysis rituals, excluding the vital functions such as lungs, but that would require more time and preparation with the ingredients we have.”
“Are there any alternatives? If worse comes to worst, then we can cut off her tongue.”
Tiffany glared over at him. “You’d like that; just eliminate the threat altogether, but that defeats the purpose of the Empress talking with her. We don’t know how their voice box functions. That would be fun to puzzle out,” she mused.
“I’d prioritize the Empress’ safety over talking to one toad.” He grunted. “What other options do you have? Can’t the Empress just bring the toad back and question it?”
“No, she can’t. Our charge is new to her abilities, and she’s already extremely weak after creating us. I do have a spell that could work, but … I’m a little nervous about that option since it involves Gwen.”
“The human? What about her, and what makes you nervous about her?”
They both fell silent for a moment as they exited the fog, sounds of the jungle filtering back. It was subdued as Quin drew near, surprising many creatures with how stealthy the skeletal ape-like beast could be.
“I’m not nervous about her … nevermind,” Tiffany grumbled, speaking aloud. “It’s the best option I have, and you won’t like it.”
“Then tell me.”
“Na. You just worry about external threats, and I’ll deal with the others.”
Edmon sighed. “I won’t like it that much, huh?”
“Look at that six-legged cat-like animal! We’ll need Quin to get something like that once we settle down. His arms are a bit full at the moment, the poor thing … we’re working him to the bone.”
Tiffany noted everything they passed, trying to identify anything that could be of future use.
Jungles are the best; there are so many types of materials, but most of these medium-grade rituals take too much time and preparation. If we could find a cave, then maybe we could get some decent minerals to substitute for some of the more complex ingredients. Who knows how far Quin was told to go, though.
They traveled in silence for several more minutes before the scenery began to change. The jungle was thinning, and Tiffany’s lips turned into a smile as a rotten scent blew their way with the wind.
“What’s that?” Edmon asked.
“Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide!” Tiffany squealed. “I think that means we’re nearing a volcanic region; if we can find some hydrothermal pools or mud pots with hot clay, then we can get some amazing ingredients, and the acidic compounds would help with so many rituals.
“There’s bound to be hot springs with high mineral content such as calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and maybe even traces of radium and uranium! There could be iron, copper, and all sorts of ore found nearby in caves, too. This is a wonderful place to stop off at, and we’re so close to the jungle for more materials.”
Edmon hummed as she paused, cutting into her fantasies. “A cave would be a good place to defend. There could also be other lifeforms nearby; stay on your guard.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “That’s your job. Mine is to discover and adapt rituals for our circumstances.”
“I’m a defensive unit,” Edmon grumbled. “You have much higher attack capability.”
“Yes, but it takes time and ingredients,” Tiffany huffed, scanning the foliage with fascination. “We’ll have to be careful of soft spots that Quin could fall into. I’m sure we could get out, but the toad-woman and poor Gwen would be cooked alive.”
“Don’t worry about Quin; he has Minor Environmental Awareness.”
“He’s so reliable,” Tiffany praised, stroking his shoulder.
Edmon grunted at the implication that he was less reliable. “The jungle ends up ahead.”
She waited with anticipation; they broke through the brush to a large copper and brown-colored plain. Massive dead and decaying trees could be seen along the edges of the clearing, and vibrant pools of liquid bubbled around them, steam rising off their turbulent surface.
With the break in tree cover, it was apparent that they were in a valley; massive mountains covered in greenery spiked up to their left, but the place they were at, extending to their right, were barren rocky giants with little tree cover. The scene made Tiffany’s skin tingle with joy; the edges of the clearing had sections of the jungle that pushed in a little further, but the red and brown soil killed most vegetation.
She pointed into the distance, drawing Edmon’s attention to several damaged structures further up the rocky slopes of the barren mountain ahead of them; the remains of a colossal keep was evident, long fallen into decay. “Look at that; it’s massive. That would be a wonderful place to set up base in this new world, and it looks abandoned from here.”
“That’s not for certain, and we should first cleanse the Empress.” Edmon stated, scanning the area. “I liked your previous comment about a cave; I’ll have Quin search for something like that nearby … he’s found a system below us.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Tiffany looked down at the reddish clay Quin stood on, sinking a bit into the mud. “That could be a geyser vent; let’s look for something that could be less dangerous.”
“Very well; how will this smell affect these two?”
Quin moved to their left, heading to a small rigid cliff that rose up with the greenery, leaving the bottom a mass of bubbling clay; he seemed to know which places he could step as he drew nearer to the rocky wall.
“No effect; they’ve been subjected to a hex, most natural scents won’t wake them. This is such a treat! Has he found something? Why’s he going this way?”
“He’s following a string of tunnels underground.”
She watched in anticipation as he positioned himself between two mud pots and turned; his two tails shot out like a spear, piercing the stone and opening an entrance large enough for him to enter with five more strikes.
“Most impressive,” Tiffany praised. “Did you have him learn the appropriate skills to survey his environment?”
“Yes, but for how much destructive power he has, he didn’t have that many Skill Points to utilize; the Empress must not have had him engage many enemies. Is there anything you can do about covering the entrance and our tracks in the mud?”
“Geez,” Tiffany huffed as Quin entered the dark cave, their vision easily piercing the space. “It’s like you expect I can do anything, but … perhaps I can create a weak illusion with the materials around us.” She muttered, glancing around at the large cavern they’d entered. The floor was stone, and there were five branching tunnels, but only one that Quin could fit through.
“I can make it appear like the wall is solid … maybe for a week; however, it won’t hold up under close inspection, and it’s a trick of the light, so you can just walk right through it. Not to mention that I can’t do anything about Quin’s footprints with him coming and going.”
“You need him to go back out?” Edmon sighed, hopping off Quin’s shoulder; he landed without effort, glancing between the cavities. “I don’t sense any creatures nearby.”
Quin set both Gwen and the toad-woman beside each other near the cave he could squeeze through before putting his hand up for Tiffany to transfer to, bringing her to the ground.
She tested the floor with her bare feet, humming thoughtfully. “Of course I need him to go back out; don’t you remember me telling you about that cat-like beast? I need something with blood. It’s so fun exploring,” she whispered, glancing between the holes as she squeezed her book against her chest, Protective Charm still in her grip.
“Right,” Edmon said, and Quin left back through the hole.
She watched him go with a fond smile. “It needs to be pretty big; we have a lot of rituals to do.” Her lips pursed to the side as she turned back to Edmon. “What about the tracks?”
“I’ll have Quin run around randomly to lead them astray if someone does come looking; that way, they won’t catch us off-guard, and they’ll have to study multiple trails to determine our location.”
“I like that,” Tiffany commented, going between each cave system to peer down each one.
Three that lead further back and seem to get narrow further down. The big one appears to open up to a smaller room, and it has a small stream … that’ll be important. Quin could fit, but he’d have to crawl on all sixes; that should be the best one. I’ll have to test what kind of minerals are in the water—not a bad temporary location. The other one is a dead-end fifteen feet in, pitty.
“How soon can you make the illusion?”
“With your help, not that long,” Tiffany face beamed.
“Oh? What do you need?” He asked, walking beside her to the entrance.
She pursed her cheeks to the right, studying the width of the hole; Quin had made a twelve-foot cavity in the gray stone, chunks of rock littered the uneven cave floor. “If you could move all these broken stones along the wall, then that would be a start.”
“You need me to clean up?” His tone was dull as his armored helm surveyed the mess.
“Well, they might be useful later, and I need a clean space to work with,” she smirked. “So, yes, I need you to clean up.”
He got to work with a low growl. “This is what Low-Rank Skeletons are for.”
Tiffany called upon her Witch’s Fire, tossing it into the bubbling clay beside the entrance. “Yes, Low-Rank Skeletons would be nice, which is why I’m happy to have Gwen as an assistant.” She chimed.
“Assistant? When did she become your assistant; she’s just a normal human?”
Tiffany hummed with an innocent smile as she pulled her Witch’s Fire out of the pool with a gentle tug of her magic. “Yes, well, normal humans have their uses.”
She walked along the edge, orange flames filled with clay sliding across the floor, leaving a line an inch across smoothly painted along the ground; she brushed away a few small stones in her way with her feet. “Don’t disrupt this line until I’m done!” She snapped as Edmon’s foot got dangerously close to it.
“Did I?” He muttered, tone leaving the impression that he was rolling his eyes, but all she could see of his handsome face was the black armored helmet spewing sapphire-colored mist. Tiffany shot a glare at him before tying the Protection Charm to a loop on her shorts, making sure it was secure.
He’s so stiff! At least I’m getting a bit of sarcasm out of him. It’s a start.
Setting down her sack, she pulled out one of the Calgar Roots she’d harvested and the metal knife. Calling upon another ball of flame, she tossed the root inside while getting on her knees, glowing energy following her down. She pressed the hilt of the dagger against the root, causing juice to be expelled; her magic pulled at the extract, directing it to the opposite side of the fire.
Rising with a soft huff, she looked back at the Doom Guard, picking up a rock the size of her torso to haul it across the room. “Alright, I need your help now.”
Finishing his task, he moved toward her as she walked to the front entrance. “What do you need? More grunt work? Perhaps having the human around wasn’t such a bad idea,” he mumbled.
“Please, this is nothing,” Tiffany scoffed. “This is the temporary and shody form of Witchcraft. Once I begin work on the Cleansing Ritual … that’s a bit more complicated; I don’t want this dark energy ever connecting to the Empress’ spirit again.” She growled, handing him the knife.
“What’s this for?” He asked, black helmet tilting to look at the blade in his hand.
“A mirror!” She said, mood brightening. “I need a light source, and the light of the two moons are the best we’ve got.”
“You want me to sit outside, in the open, and reflect moonlight onto what … that line of clay you made?”
Tiffany nodded innocently, smile bright.
“What about your fire?”
“I can’t use Witch’s Fire for rituals; it’s a part of my magic, so it disturbs the process. I need natural sources.”
He let go of a tired sigh, staring down at the line. “I suppose it’s not that…”
“For five minutes,” Tiffany added.
“Five—minutes?” Edmon slowly repeated before making a sound like he was sucking on his lip.
“That’s correct! Oh, and any sudden movements where the light breaks contact make the ritual a dud … so, don’t move!” She stated, eyeing him. “You might think I’m just waving my hands and throwing out magic like nobody’s business, but it requires a lot of concentration and precision. I have to direct all the energies being gathered. So, don’t mess it up! Shall we begin?”
She guided Edmon several feet out of the cave and showed him where to tilt the blade to reflect the moonlight; he bounced the light off the edge, and the moment it touched the wet mud, it never left.
“Ho,” Tiffany chuckled as she moved to each side of the line, adding half the extracted juice to both sides while preparing the link. “Your hands are actually pretty steady, Edmon; now we just have to hope no clouds block us.” She giggled, causing him to release an annoyed growl.
Ignoring it, she said, “Once I begin the process, you’ll have to keep it there. The light is basically the energy, sap the battery, and mud the wiring; it needs a set amount of power before activating. That’s the five-minute mark.”
“Just get it over with,” Edmon grumbled. “We don’t know what kind of sentient creatures inhabit this land.”
“You can’t rush art,” she chided. “Witchcraft is complicated and dangerous if not done right.” Clearing her throat, she opened her mouth. “Foundation of stone, drawn by mud, and linked to the dream, shimmer with light and cast the walled image of concealment.”
She watched the black lines of her magical weave start to burn black across the mud line, linking both ends of the Calgar Root extract before sparkling lights appeared, lifting off the wet mud. The glimmering white specks slowly lifted toward the ceiling and would eventually become the illusion.
“There we go,” Tiffany smiled at her work. “Once it has reached the right power threshold, the hole will appear like a solid wall. On closer inspection, it’ll look way off, though.”
“This cheap parlor trick is the best the Royal Ritualist can do?” Edmon huffed, communicating telepathically.
“You can be so rude!” She snapped, stomping off to the stream in the next room. “Yes, this is simple Witchcraft, but it’s not like I have much to work with. I don’t have mirrors or even a table to work on. You should be thankful I am the Royal Ritualist and not some random Skeletal Mage the Empress rose from scratch. Do you have any clue how much a raw unit would have to experiment to learn what I already know?”
“Yes, yes,” Edmon muttered dryly. “You’re little Ms. Important. All jokes aside, I am glad you are the Royal Ritualist. It makes my job a lot easier … I would have had no clue how to handle the energy assaulting the Empress.” He stated bitterly.
“Your jokes need work; it didn’t even sound like you were joking at all!” Tiffany snapped. “Yes, well … I’m glad you’re here, too. I would have been little help against that toad-woman without the time you bought me. I’m not that well versed in defense unit skills or tactics, either.”
She knelt beside the water, feeling it with her left hand; it was warm.
This must come from a hot spring further in; the Empress might enjoy it later.
Glancing around the ample, uneven space, she crossed her arms.
What to use … the mud could work as a medium for the design. Sulfur can be the activator … could I find mercury outside? I’ll need a passive ingredient for the control hex to mix with the blood … blood would be way better than clay for the medium.
The question is what I want the host to be … making a clay artifact link would be too fragile, but I’d need a life to link it otherwise. I suppose Gwen is the best bet, binding the connection with my grimoire. This could also give us all the information we need about this area, but it’ll take some training; I can leave that to Gwen, though … or I could seal the deal if the proper requirements are met...
Making up her mind, she walked back to the front of the cave; Edmon was in the same spot, and the partial image of the cliff and cave wall had formed.
“It’s coming along; you’re doing great for your first time taking part in a ritual.” Tiffany praised.
“What about the Cleansing Ritual?”
“We still have time; I need the animal to continue with the next two rituals. The tricky part is that I need it alive for both, which means Quin will need to keep it pinned.”
“Why’s that a problem?”
Tiffany walked over to the toad-woman and Gwen, bending down to brush Gwen’s hair back. “Because I’ll need a lot of blood.”
“Ah … could we just have Quin get another animal?”
“Hmm,” she rose back to her feet. “It would be preferred, but I don’t think we have the time. These two will wake up in the next fifteen minutes, and I still need to draw the design for both rituals. How soon until he’s back?”
Edmon was silent a moment. “Possibly three minutes. He’s subduing a large animal right now.”
“Good, that’ll finish the time needed on the illusion, and then I can go out and see about some mercury.” She walked back to the stream, igniting her Witch’s Fire, she dropped it into the water, attracting Salt, Calcium Carbonate, and Sulfur within it.
After a few minutes passed, Edmon’s voice entered her mind. “Is the wall finished?”
She frowned as she pulled her fire out, studying the three piles within it.
I’ll need to get a bit more Calcium Carbonate for the chalk, but that should be enough Salt and Sulfur.
Setting the fire down, she dispersed it, leaving the pile of materials by the stream’s edge. Walking back to the front, she studied the wall; it was acceptable. If they wanted it to last longer than a week, then he’d need to keep feeding it light, but she doubted they’d be in the cave that long.
“It’s an illusion of a wall, not a wall,” She smirked. “Yeah, that’s enough; it’ll last a week.”
“Finally,” he grunted, walking through the illusion. He turned, helmet looking up and down the long clay line, black markings traced down its length. “I assume we shouldn’t disturb the line?”
Tiffany shrugged. “The spell is active, and the anchor is the two extracts on the sides. As long as the sides aren’t disrupted, then it’ll function just fine. The clay has served its purpose.”
“Alright,” he glanced left, toward one of the tunnels before setting her knife down on her makeshift sack. “Quin’s on his way back. Also … it’s faint, but I can sense another unit; I believe that dark force is disrupting some of our abilities linked to the Empress. I can’t communicate with it.”
“That’s a possibility,” she muttered. “The force is within the earth, spread out seemingly everywhere, and it’s acting intelligently. That’s why this Ritual must be done right; I don’t want it to have a second chance at attacking the Empress’ spirit.”
“Good. What’s next?”
She walked out of the cave, motioning for him to follow. “I need to go to one of those steaming pools; there are tons of bacteria inside of them, producing all kinds of things.”
They followed Quin’s footprints, back to the nearest pool of water. Her bare feet sunk into the hot moist ground, but it didn’t bother her. Stopping at the edge, she dropped her Witch’s Fire and began searching for the slimy sections of the pool.
Edmon let go of a low hum as he looked down at the liquid seeping around their feet. “We cannot stay in this environment for long, Tiffany. Most of our body can regenerate, but our bones cannot.”
“You don’t think I know that?” She huffed. “These pools are teeming with thermoacidophiles, millions of different types in different layers. A slight shift in temperature can kill all of them, but they produce some interesting things. We’re looking for microbial mats or spots where the microorganisms secreted a substance that keeps themselves together, and that traps methylmercury.” She stated with glee.
“The bacteria have done all our work for us, breaking down mercury; it’s a potent ingredient since it’s so difficult for most witches to create. However, if you know how microorganisms function, it’s simple; you can thank my host’s education for providing me with such information. Everything she’d even glanced through in chemistry was given to me; even if she had forgotten it, it was still housed in her brain, buried deep in her memory.”
Edmon grunted. “Great, now can we get out of this acid?”
“Yes, yes,” Tiffany huffed. “I’ve gotten enough for what is needed.” She left the steaming ground, feet making squelching sounds as she exited the moist soil. Entering the cave, she looked down at her blistering and red feet; it wasn’t healing.
She sighed, walking to the warm spa water running into a small fissure in the wall; stepping into the edge, by the hole, she quickly washed her feet in it.
Edmon watched her silently.
“It’s as you suspect,” Tiffany growled. “The force is sealing our linked ability to heal since it is linked to the Empress’ energy. However, our master is already low on Life Force, and this won’t impede my movement.”
He didn’t respond, moving to the exit as Quin returned. The sounds of whimpering filled the cave, making Tiffany rush to follow Edmon, fire housing the methylmercury close beside her.
“Oh, he brought the sacrifice! What does it look like?”
The creature held in Quin’s massive hands was at least eight feet tall and had the appearance of a large raccoon. Its yellow and red fur held a dull tone, but its belly was black; the hairy creature squirmed, but it could do nothing but whine and bite fruitlessly at the bony arms surrounding it. Two of its four appendages struggled to find a hold, but even with leverage, Quin would not let go, leaving its long tail to beat between Quin’s ribs.
“How cute,” Tiffany cooed as she promptly picked up the metal dagger Edmon had left by her sack of herbs and flowers. “We don’t want to nick an artery or organ … we want it to bleed out slowly so we can extract it for all our needs. So, a wound to a leg should suffice.” She stated cheerily while moving closer to slash at its pinned left thigh, orange energy encircling the blade.
However, when she made the cut, the only thing that fell was a large patch of fur. Her lips pursed as she tried again. “Some tough hair this thing has,” she mumbled. “How about piercing?”
Flipping the knife around dexterously in her fingers, she put some force into stabbing along the fur’s length. The creature screamed, muscles tensing, but Quin held it fast as the red blood slid down the blade’s length, collecting in the fire.
“Wonderful, and it’s red; how pretty,” Tiffany wiggled the knife, opening a larger gap for the blood to collect. “We have just about five minutes before our lovely girls awaken. This should be enough blood for that.”
She split her flame, collecting blood, making sure to keep oxygen out of the fire. She left the blade lodged in the animal’s leg to continue extracting the vital ingredient.
“Quin, dear, I can’t be too far away from my flames, so, if you could follow me. Make sure to be within ten feet of me, but not too close.” She prompted, moving back to the toad-woman and Gwen.
Quin did as instructed, Edmon following her with interest. “So, this is what I’m not going to like?”
“Mhm,” Tiffany knelt beside the toad-woman, bringing the glob of blood into the flames housing the methylmercury. “You see how this stuff is now liquid?”
“The meth-whatever it is?”
“The methylmercury, and yes. Once it is cooled to room temperature, it becomes a liquid. It is a very poisonous form of mercury; liquid metal, which has endless uses in Witchcraft and is even very potent in Alchemy … to be honest, Witchcraft and Alchemy share many links. Anyways, this is a powerful multipurpose ingredient, and we’ll be using it to perform a Blood Subservience Ritual. It will act as the binding element … an extremely durable binding agent.”
While she talked, she examined the creature’s blood; it wasn’t toxic like she’d feared and was still linked to the creature’s vitality.
“Alright, Edmon, lift the toad-woman up for me.”
He quickly followed her instructions, forcing her to sit in an upright position as the beast continued to thrash and moan behind them.
She traced the blood around the toad’s neck in a thin chain-like pattern, crossing the two parallel lines. Once finished, she shifted a little to their left to her makeshift sack, extracting the bone knife, she pricked between the chain at the toad-woman’s collar bones, drawing a dot of green blood that mixed with the red.
Moving to the stream several meters away, she washed her hands and the knife before returning. She drew two reverse crescent shapes with a line bridging them on the back of Gwen’s hand with the creature’s blood before cutting two vertical lines at its center, breaking Gwen’s skin and drawing crimson.
Extending the fire housing the methylmercury between them, she called her grimoire; it appeared out of orange flames in the air before her. The book flipped open to the first blank page as she spoke. “Two bound by blood, slave and master, anchored by poison and metal, seal this union by an exchange of vitality.”
The methylmercury shot out of the fire as she directed the ritual, latching onto the toad-woman’s throat and Gwen’s wrist like a serpent. The blood dripping down Gwen’s hand and the green blood sliding down the toad-woman's chest snaked up, spiraling around the mercury until they ran in parallel, feeding into each other’s skin in a short exchange of blood.
The symbols she’d drawn on both women flashed silver before the toad-woman’s turned red and Gwen’s turned green; both their wounds closed as the ritual finished and the mercury split in three, lining the edges of the symbols in a thin outline and sealing the Ritual Contract in her grimoire with the Witch’s Language.
Tiffany took a deep breath before smiling at Edmon. “There we go; the toad-woman is a certified slave to our little Gwen.”
Edmon dropped the creature with a disgusted huff. “A Blood Subservience Ritual … so, we couldn’t be the master since we don’t have blood. Still, putting that thing in a traumatized woman’s control. Is that the best plan?”
“Think about the pros,” she chimed. “The toad must follow every instruction or else suffer extreme pain; consider it like your blood boiling and every nerve being flayed. Of course, it won’t kill her, but she cannot even think about harming or disobeying her master without such a result.”
“She should have been the Empress’ slave,” Edmon grunted.
“Well,” Tiffany hummed thoughtfully, “she is, technically. Gwen owes her life to us and thereby, in extension, our master. She’ll pledge herself to the Empress and become part of the Empire. You’ll see.” She said brightly. “And Gwen will even seal it with a consensual contract.”
Both of the women began to stir as her hex wore off, causing Edmon to call upon his shield.
“No, no,” Tiffany mumbled. “Hold the toad down. Just give me a second with Gwen.”
“You’re right … I don’t like this,” Edmon grumbled as his shield dispersed into ice shards. He knelt down and held the toad-woman in a death grip; she soon began to struggle, making loud sounds in her throat before her tongue shot out, trying to beat at Edmon’s armored helmet, but doing no apparent damage.
“Can you hurry this up,” Edmon asked with a dry tone.
“Gwen,” Tiffany soothingly prompted, lifting the groggy women to a sitting position.
“Hmm … what,” her eyes opened, and she looked around, clearly confused. “It—it wasn’t—this is real?” Panic began to creep into her voice as she watched the toad struggling before her.
“Yes, dear,” Tiffany smirked at the toad as she stopped struggling, eyes wide as she stared at Gwen; she’d thought about attacking her master, likely to use as a hostage. “Now repeat after me, calm down, and sit against the wall. Do not attack anyone, and follow all our orders.”
“I—okay…” She repeated the statement, and after several seconds of tense muscles, the toad-woman sagged in Edmon’s grip, body trembling.
Gwen swallowed nervously as she stared at the toad-woman, dully illuminated by the Witch’s Fire. “I—I can—understand her?”
“Yes,” Tiffany whispered, pulling back her tangled hair. “I’ve performed a Blood Subservience Ritual between you two; she’s now your slave.”
“M-my—s-slave?” She stammered.
Releasing a bit of pressure against Gwen’s shoulders to indicate she was going to let go, Tiffany got to her feet, brushing off her knees. “Yes, but I’m afraid we’re on a clock. We have less than fifteen minutes to prepare the Cleansing Ritual. Once that is done, then we can move to the next step of getting to know each other.”
Gwen’s eyes fell to the ground, tone timid. “Do—you need my help again?” Her focus snapped back to the toad-woman as Edmon let go, and she slowly crawled toward the wall, huddling against it while glaring at Gwen.
“No, this is a bit too complex for you, dear, but could you ask the toad her name?”
Gwen licked her lips nervously before taking a deep breath and asking the question. The toad made a few grunts in her throat, purple eyes sliding to Tiffany. “She said—her name’s Dalria.”
“A pretty name; there’s a short roll with the tongue, I assume.” Tiffany hummed, picking up her supplies before moving to the stream’s edge, where she’d left her extracted ingredients. “You can watch if you want, or talk to Dalria, I’m sure you have a lot of questions, and she can’t lie to…”
Her piles of minerals were gone.
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