Authors: Stacey Kennedy
The next night, I was glad I could give myself a jolt of energy, or I’d need a double shot of espresso to get my butt in gear. I was zonked. The past few days had been a bit of a whirlwind. I was still getting used to non-vacation mode. As Kyden and I entered the Council’s Hall, the tension in the room was so thick we needed a pair of shears to cut through the air.
When I saw Sabi sitting on the floor with her head bowed, I understood why. She’s a classic witch all the way. Long dark hair, tight but fine features, eyes almost cat-like. Presently, she was having a premonition. It was her gift—she could see parts of the future—trouble stirring within the darkness. The only thing was that it came just minutes before, so action was needed quickly.
Just as we reached Sabi, she gasped loudly and her head shot up. “Black Magic Witches are doing a ritual. A wolf is with them.” Her voice sounded exhausted—premonitions always left her a little weak.
“Where are they?” Zia asked urgently, as she placed her hand on Sabi’s arm to give her boost of energy.
Seconds later, Sabi jumped to her feet, revived. “Come, I’ll show you.”
“Nexi, come with us,” Zia shouted, and ran past us. Kyden started to follow behind, but Zia quickly spun around. “No. You cannot come.”
“I will go with her,” he spat.
Zia scowled at him. “We do not have time for this. It is not safe for you there.”
I grabbed his arm, willing him to hear her. “Listen, she is right. You could be killed,” I begged him to understand. “Please stay here.”
He glowered as I pulled away from him, but he didn’t follow. I ran, following Zia. I could hear Kyden pacing the room behind me. He always had trouble allowing me to fight, especially when I went without him. It was never easy for him.
Just as I reached the door, I yelled back to him. “Don’t worry, I have Willow.”
If I was in danger, Willow would protect me. She had chosen to be my protector. She probably didn’t realize what a full time job that would be. There wasn’t much she could do about it now though. Once chosen, there was no going back.
It was doubtful that knowledge would appease Kyden, but hopefully, it would keep him from acting foolishly. He had no protection against magic. If he went up against a Black Magic Witch, he would lose.
Once we reached the portal in the Council’s Foyer, Sabi, Zia and I grasped hands and stepped through the door. A flash of light shut my eyes. When my vision came back to me, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Four Black Witches stood, circled around a black powered pentagram. It looked like any normal pentagram I’d seen, but experiencing it in use was scary as shit. Breathing was almost impossible. The air was thick and darkness surrounded us entirely—practically sparking off the wind.
The witches chanted in some odd language as a wolf lay in the centre, howling in pain. “Er…why are they not attacking us?” I questioned aloud.
“They are entranced,” Zia answered. “Given up to the dark spell they have cast.” She glanced at Sabi. “Go quickly, get the others.”
Sabi nodded, then vanished immediately.
“We will need more than the three of us to defeat them,” Zia told me, worriedly.
“They don’t feel as strong as Astoria did.” She was the only bitchy Black Magic Witch I had the not-so-great pleasure of encountering.
“These witches are not in Magnus’ guard,” Zia answered. “They just live in his realm. They are not gifted with such a strong force.”
The witches continued to chant as the wolf continually writhed and howled in complete agony. Suddenly, the wolf began to shift forms quickly, changing back and forth from wolf to man repeatedly.
He screamed and when he shifted, my heart plummeted. “Dante,” I screamed, and rushed forward.
Zia grabbed me, her arms wrapped around my shoulders, forcing me still. “Don’t.”
“That’s Dante,” I shouted, trying to break free. “We must do something.”
“We can’t.” Zia held me tightly. “He is lost now. Look at him. Look at his eyes.”
I squinted, noticed that Dante’s eyes were now clouded over with shadows. Then, like a smack in the face, the answer laid before me. This wasn’t the wolves’ doing at all. Dante would never accept the darkness. He was the essence of good. What was he doing here? How had someone done this to him? The last I knew, he was off telling the Alphas of this situation. Now he was knee deep in it.
“This is so horrible,” I managed in a whisper.
“Very,” Zia replied.
“What have they done to him?” I asked.
“They are doing a Black Magic ritual. They have used black ash and blood to draw that pentagram there. It is summoning the darkness to steal Dante’s soul. Do you see the markings in the ground?”
I followed her gaze, and saw serpents drawn together in a weaving pattern, which sat around the edges of the pentagram. “What is that?” I croaked.
“That is an offering ruin.”
“An offering to whom?”
“Magnus,” Zia replied with a little growl.
“Why would they do that?”
She shook her head slowly. “I have no idea. This offering ritual here is how Black Magic Witches welcome a new one into their realm. They are offering Dante’s soul to Magnus—offering him to the dark realm.” She glanced back to Dante. “Never have I heard of this ritual being done with one who didn’t want it.” She looked back at me. “Ever.”
“Think of how you feel about them.” She gave a nod when my face grimaced. “That is how they feel about you.” She glanced back at the witches. “They would
force someone to come into their realm, just as we wouldn’t them.”
“But it’s Dante, he’d never…” I started.
She stopped me, raising her hand. “Exactly, which makes this all the more peculiar.”
I gave my head a little shake trying to make sense out of all this. “Not only that, but why are they making the wolves kill humans?”
She shrugged, completely unknowing. “That is what we need to find out.” She nodded toward the witches. “I am afraid these witches are not going to be so willing to tell us though.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that,” I grumbled.
So far, I hadn’t even gone on a witch assignment yet. My Guardian role was the only one that kept me busy. This was a hell of a first assignment as a witch. Going up against four Black Magic Witches wasn’t my idea of fun. “Can we get his soul back?” I asked, hopeful.
She cupped my cheek, deep sadness lay in her eyes. “It is not an easy task. Let us get through this first. Keep your mind clear of anything and everyone else but these witches.”
Just then, Sabi reappeared with seven other witches including Haven.
She came up to my side and whistled. “Jumping jellybeans, there’s some bad witches.”
Jumping jellybeans. Oh, Haven.
Only she could take a dark situation and make it light. “You’ve got that right.”
“By the way,” Haven said. “We better make this quick, Kyden is about ready to tear the hall apart. I’m pretty sure he has already worn out the floor with all his pacing.” She glanced at the wolf who was still flashing between forms and her brows furrowed as she focused on him. Then, her eyes widened. “Oh no,” she gasped, and raised her hands to her face in horror. “Dante!”
Sabi came up beside us, her voice filled with regret. “I wish I could have seen this earlier. It might have given us more time to save him.”
“You saved a lot more lives by seeing it at all. We will help him. He’s going to be okay.” Was that for my benefit or hers? I wasn’t quite sure. I could only hope I was right.
Zia interrupted, bringing the focus back on the task at hand. “They need to close the circle before we interrupt this. If they don’t, demons can be released into the Earthworld.” She sighed, and met my gaze. “This is not something we want.”
“That’s for damn sure.” I stated.
Demons—I shivered. Coming face-to-face with one wasn’t on my wish list. I glanced over at the Black Magic Witches who slowly walked in a circle, continued to chant, but this time it was softer—quieter.
Dante had gone silent as well and remained in his wolf form. Dark fog drifted along their feet. The snakes drawn within the ruin slithered about, moved quickly in sync with their chants.
“It’s closing,” Zia warned us. “Be ready.”
Suddenly, there was a loud bang. The witches’ gazes shot to us, practically frothing at the mouth. With as much force as possible, I drew on my powers and threw fire at them. It crackled loudly as it blasted straight for them.
From that point on, it was complete chaos. Magic was everywhere. Fire, Air, Water—all types of fury unleashed. My shield held strong against it, which made me one lucky witch. I had an added protection from Spirit that no one else did—a blessing for sure.
Just as a blast of thick air hit my shield, Willow shimmered beside me. A calming sensation washed over me as my big black panther stood before me.
“Being your protector is becoming somewhat tiresome,”
“Got that right,” I drew on every strength that lived within me. Every reserve of power I stored, I threw at the witches. My magic connected and as the Fire blasted the witch, Willow shot forward and ripped out her throat.
The witch was dead.
Through the cries and jolts of magic came a low deep growl. It was a furious sound that immediately caught my attention. I quickly glanced in its direction, my gaze landing on Dante. He was a second away from tearing Willow to pieces.
Without a moment’s pause, I drew in quickly, whished air out and caged him where he stood. Just another cool thing I could do. He growled and snapped his teeth viciously. He was safe and wouldn’t be a pest again. I focused back on the witches in front of me.
Their magic was everything darkness is. Shadows of misery surrounded us. Everything quieted around me. I calmed, focused on the witch closest to me. With a deep breath, I drew on the Fire element and sent those flames spiraling toward her. I never let go of the magic, never ceased, not until all that was left of her was dust.
Willow pounced forward again, attacked with great speed, but she didn’t see the fireball coming toward her. I shrieked, but it was already too late. She let out a little scream as she tumbled to the ground.
I couldn’t go to her, had to remain where I stood. If I moved, it would endanger Haven. I positioned myself in front of her, so I could shield her from any threats. The magic couldn’t touch her if it hit my shield first.
She knelt down behind me, leaving her hand fixed to the ground. Zia and I were the only witches here, other than the dark ones, who had the ability to throw magic without touch. Mainly, it was just the two of us fighting. Haven and the others were providing shields against the magic shooting at us.
Being that this was my first
assignment against witches, I didn’t really get the whole gist of it. The more it went on, the more I could see there was strategy here.
Zia had the strongest defensive magic. It would have to be Zia that would need to destroy the witches, but she wasn’t safe like I was with my shield. The other White Magic witches provided that protection for her—using their magic to put up walls, create wind—do anything that would deflect their power away. They did everything possible so Zia could destroy the threat.
The remaining two witches continued to come at us hard, blasting with swirls of fire, swoops of air, just about every type of natural disaster imaginable. One option weighed heavily on me.
Not long ago, I’d discovered that I held the ability to draw the darkness into me. Not accept it in any way, but gain the strength that Black Magic provides. It was an easy way out, but the more I accepted it, the harder it would be to resist it. Zia was sure of that.
In resignation, I let go of that thought and continued to assist Zia in our attack against the witches. Sweat gathered on my skin as it took every ounce of my control to hold my shield against their force.
Zia stepped forward, braced herself, and released the magnitude of her ability. Combining her Air and Water together with such a force, she blew apart the witch in front of her, causing her to explode into tiny particles through the sky.
After the initial shock of seeing Zia’s magnificent powers, I focused on the lone witch. She continued to weave around the magic. Zia went harder, dug down deeper, not letting up for a second. I followed her moves, sent my Fire to join in with Zia’s Air as the other White Magic Witches continued to protect her.