Miguela pushed down her desire to turn and flee and stood her ground, eyes locked on the witch. Wendella glided down the steps to the porch and took a few steps forward. Miguela spared a glance to her side, where her companion struggled against the effects of the witch's spell. Things were not looking good. Miguela was outclassed, and she knew it. There was no way she could fight this woman. She could, however, stall for more time -- maybe.
Sweat beading on her forehead, Miguela blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "The last witch, you say?"
"Yes, true witchcraft died out in my people centuries ago. Now they practice some watered-down version of magik that they learned from the Arzans of all races," Wendella said, voice dripping with incredulity. "No offense."
Well, that was a conversation ender if Miguela had ever heard one. Grasping for a less volatile topic that would keep the witch talking, Miguela took a gamble and asked, "Was all that you told Avio true?"
Confusion flashed across the witch's face, and Miguela knew she'd bought herself a little time.
"What do you mean?" Wendella asked, her eyes narrowing to slits.
"You told Avio that you have lived for centuries. How is that possible?"
"I am curious how you could know that," Wendella said. The tone of her voice carried a dangerous edge to it.
Miguela's mind raced as she considered her words. What did she know? She knew that Wendella seemed to genuinely like, perhaps love Avio in her own twisted way. Yes, Wendella had looked at Avio with genuine affection. Maybe, just maybe, Wendella was -- what? Jealous? Yes, possibly jealous. Miguela gambled again.
"I have learned quite a few things about you, Wendella. I know that you treated Avio and Filar very differently in the end. So how about this, I will tell you how I know if you tell me how you can have lived so long."
Wendella looked at Miguela for a long moment before throwing her head back and laughing.
"Sure, why not? This conversation should be entertaining at the very least," Wendella said.
Miguela exhaled sharply. This was good. Now, if she could only keep the witch interested and talking.
"I won't bore you with too many details, but the witches from my era were masters of blood magik and could pull off amazing feats of wonder with the discipline. One such feat is being able to extract ley from blood to reverse the aging process. It seems brutal, but I do what I need to survive," Wendella explained.
"Reverse the aging process? That's possible?" Miguela asked. She knew she should feel more repulsed by the witch's explanation, but she was more curious than sickened.
"I understand that look," Wendella said with a laugh. "Yes, it is possible. However, there are a few specific requirements. First, for women, the blood must come from a male and vice versa for men. Second, the target must be a magikal virgin, meaning they have never used magik. The use of magik changes our bodies, so the blood needs to be pure. This leads to the final condition, the target should be rich in ley, which is why artisans make good targets."
Miguela remembered one of her lecturers at the Academy was adamant that talented artisans were as close to using magik as a person could get. It seemed that Wendella's weird magikal ritual just proved his theory correct.
"It is a shame that we did not meet under different circumstances. You would have made a great witch," Wendella said, pulling Miguela away from her thoughts. "Now, I believe you owe me an explanation."
Miguela decided that she would tell Wendella the truth about how she found out about her conversations with Avio but that she would strategically remove the raising of Avio and any other hints of necromancy. The witch intently listened as Miguela went over the details. While she spoke, she noticed Wendella's crag spider creeping towards Koal. Miguela made sure not to stop talking for too long but managed to steal a glance at Koal. The bounty hunter leaned against a hatched, his face a rictus of pain as he struggled against Wendella's bewitching. Miguela didn't think he'd be able to hold out much longer.
Miguela finished her story, and a huge grin spread across Wendella's face.
"Interesting. I would not have taken you for a necromancer," Wendella said, bursting into laughter.
"That look on your face. You did not know that you were practicing necromancy?" Wendella spluttered between laughs.
Now was the time. Miguela made eye contact with Koal, and the bounty hunter gave her a curt nod. She hoped the bounty hunter would be able to act when needed.
"Let me get my facts straight. You devour the ley of young men to stay young and alive. But from what I saw, you seemed to treat Avio gently, differently than Filar. Why?" Miguela asked, hoping to rattle the witch.
Wendella's eyes flashed dangerously again, but she quickly composed herself.
"I suppose I can indulge your curiosity. Even the Nawahl from this age can bewitch men. Today's version is not as powerful, but it does get the job done," Wendella said.
Miguela saw the crag spider scuttle closer to Koal. There was something about the Nawahl and their lunarbound she learned at the Academy, but she was drawing a blank about what it was.
"Bewitching awakens a man's primal instincts. For most men, this instinct involves sex. When Avio was bewitched, all he wanted to do was make me happy. He was different from other men," Wendella explained.
"But, you devoured him anyways," Miguela commented, praying that she was correct about the witch's feelings for Avio.
"Yes! You will never know true sacrifice until you destroy the one soul who could love you!" the witch snapped. Miguela did not think Wendella was rationalizing. Wendella believed what she was saying. Her insanity was almost as frightening as her abilities.
"And what could we have offered each other? He was pure, and I am what I am. I would have soiled him beyond recognition," Wendella raved.
Then Miguela remembered what she learned about the Nawahl in the Academy. The Nawahl shared a magikal link with their lunarbound, and murdering their bound animal would incapacitate the bondholder.
"It was a pleasure talking to you, but I am afraid I do not wish to discuss things any further," Wendella said, snapping her fingers in the direction of the crag spider.
"Hit the spider!" Miguela yelled.
Koal leaned back on his knees and threw his hatchet, putting all of his body's weight behind the throw. The hatchet struck, burying itself deep in the spider, causing it to shriek with pain. Koal scrambled to his feet, quickly running to the spider and stomping it to death.
Wendella screamed in pain, but she did not fall unconscious as Miguela had hoped. Instead, the witch turned towards Koal, lunging and screaming. The witch covered the distance between her and the bounty hunter with ease. Koal squared his shoulders, preparing for combat but was snatched up like a children's doll by the shrieking witch. Wendella clamped a hand around Koal's neck and lifted him off the ground.
Miguela stood, unsheathing her dagger from her belt. She had no idea how to use it, but imminent death was a great reason to learn. She sprinted toward the witch's back, the knife held above her head. Koal must have seen her because he wrapped his legs and arms around both of the witch's arms, causing her to focus only on him.
Miguela plunged the blade into the nape of the witch's neck. A twist followed a tug, and then blood sprayed into the air like a fountain. Miguela felt something snap inside her, and she started stabbing and cutting. Someone was screaming. Miguela wasn't sure who. Eventually, exhaustion took her, and she found herself on her knees covered in blood, Koal by her side, mumbling words of comfort.
"We did it. We brought justice to the people of Arizi. You are a hero."
And at the sound of his voice, Miguela passed out.
Miguela woke up as Koal laid her on a table in the inn. She wanted to apologize to the people for ruining their night, but she passed out again before getting the words out. Miguela woke again in the baths with Caecilia washing her hair. Caecilia was muttering to herself about how difficult it was to wash the blood from her hair. The water was so warm and relaxing that she allowed herself to slip into unconsciousness again. The next time she woke, she felt much better. She was in a chair sitting between Caecilia and Henna. Caecilia beamed with relief as Miguela showed signs of lucidness. Henna smiled as well, but it seemed a little forced. Miguela made small talk with Caecilia. Caecilia caught her up on what had happened while Miguela was unconscious.
"Thank you. Thank both of you," Miguela said, taking their hands and squeezing them.
"I don't know if you should be thanking us quite yet, Miguela," Caecilia retorted.
Miguela sat in thought, wondering what Caecilia meant by her comment. While thinking, she started to notice her surroundings. They were not in one of their chamber rooms. They were in the Archmage's office.
Before she could ask what was going on, the door to the office opened, and in walked the Archmage.
- Tokyo, Japan
Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.
Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.
Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.
The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:
Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms
Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms