The blackness scuttles. It stretches and writhes, groaning for another taste of her offering. It is cold, but familiar, and she sits alone and listens. The shadows lie, but the skilled ear can hear the occasional truth, and that is when the good magic comes.
Blue eyes closed, bare flesh touching the stone floor beneath her. Goosepimples everywhere because there is a wind where there ought not be any wind. This is the magic of the tricky witch.
The sanctum is buried beneath the ruins of a once-great tower. It is where light comes to die. Every flicker of flame or ray of sun is consumed by the ritual circle drawn in blood. It swallows it like a hungry beast. Blue and red lines, connecting, intersecting. Sigils and runes all feeding one another, each thrumming to the cadence of the magi’s short, gasping breaths. Tied to her as tightly as a child is tied to its mother, but this umbilical cord is not flesh. No, it’s power. Her power. A tether of squirming shadows and ice.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Were this a place of light, one would see a pale face, porcelain ivory and perfect, tilted back to the ceiling, peering at what was strung overhead. Blood on her brow, blood on her cheeks. Blood running down her neck in thick rivers. The offering was too large for her alone and so the felguard had foisted it. No, not it. Him. They were people – remember, that is what the Riders taught you. The walking, talking meat were people. And this people is strung over a network of crisscrossing chains, his slim, Sindorei body cut where he’d bleed true. Neck. Groin. Inside the elbows and along the thighs. A shard of ice had opened his chest, splintering the bones apart, each one snapping like a toothpick beneath the brunt of a Darrows’ spell.
She has not lost her touch.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The blood runs over her bare skin. Crusting her eyes, gluing her lashes together. It runs down her cheeks in rivulets, the occasional gob drying to a small, itchy patch. It drenches her shoulders. It covers her heavy breasts and thighs. It had been warm in the beginning, but now it is cold, the largest puddles gone to viscous, chilled jelly. It smells of copper and death, but she never moves. No, she lingers and lets it pour over her, lets it feed her circle until she feels herself lulled to the good place, the deep place, where the line between brilliance and madness blends.
“Talk to me,” she rasps to the shadows, her hand reaching out into the darkness. She knows where the dagger is, the hilt cold and stone beneath her fingers. She sharpened the blade herself before she’d come, sliding a stone over it again and again while she hummed. Always humming, the song she hums her son, the song she hums those who’ve died for her.
The sound of the stone striking medal. SHHHHTICK. SHHHHHTICK.
Feeling the weight of the weapon, the humming begins anew, a song older than her or her mother or her mother’s mother. She drops the pointed blade in the biggest puddle of the man’s – yes, the man’s – blood, covering it before lifting it to her lips and kissing it. Slime and death on her mouth. The man’s gift to her ritual, but it is necessary. For this, it is necessary. She lolls her head to the side as the shadows around her tremble. Excited. They want to feast. They wanted to feed on what the tricky witch has wrought.
The sliding of the sharpening stone over the metal blade. The sliding of the metal blade over the soft skin of her forearm. It is a fast, merciless cut, deep enough that she hisses, her nipples pebbling at the pain, her teeth clenching on the sides of her tongue. Her own essence dribbles to her elbow and drips down to her thigh. It marries that of the man above her. She doesn’t know who he was, only that he’d crossed her, and now they shared the most intimate bond of all – a victim to his murderess.
She feels faint, woozy, the cut in her arm splaying her wide, but there’s pleasure, too. Languid pleasure. Spine-arching rapture. The magic stirs in her belly, growing like a child. It is time.
Drip, drip, drip.
She lets the knife clatter to the ground before bringing her arm to her mouth, her small, pink tongue trailing over her wound and inside the clean cuts of flesh. Tasting the hot tang of life, she lifts her arms as she tosses her head back and screams, her voice cracking before erupting into a torrent of unright giggles. Her hands open, fingers splaying as she calls her magic, and the circle around her blazes to life. From north to south the magic ripples, her blood-smeared skin dark against the spectral display of runes. The sigils tattooed onto the backs of her hands burn a crisp, white light that nearly blinds in the darkness.
Her hair uncoils from her neck and falls onto her back, saturated with the Sindorei’s blood. It’s a serpent of tangled black mess that unfurls with a lewd squish and a plop. She shakes her head to free it, tendrils gluing themselves to her sticky skin as she rises from her seated position to her knees. Her head is back in veneration, her arms still raised in offering. The shadows quiver for her, throbbing and thrumming in orgiastic pleasure before something -- her newest something -- creeps from the deepest recesses of the sanctum.
The thing. The thing she’s called with her magic.
She opens her eyes because the shadows tell her to SEE, SEE, SEE. MISSSSSSTRESS MUST SEEEEE. And she does see, and what she sees is large and round. Yva lets out a squeal, her arms falling to her sides as the creature approaches, not walking but hovering. It flies. The circle of sigils beneath her cast a dim light, enough for her to make out the large, purple eyes, the rows of double fangs, and the tentacles that sway beneath that big, glorious body.
“Yes. Yes, I adore you. Come to me. You are mine,” she says, and it does come to her, and it is hers. She feels the shadow creature’s tentacles curl around her arms, the warm, undulating flesh caressing her skin and sipping from the magic riding her body. She feels its breath, fetid and terrible, blowing on her neck, and she pulls it close to cradle it to her bosom. She brushes her blood-smeared cheek over the top of its head and she lets it feed from her, a babe on its magical teat.
“My new baby. My new darling,” she says.
It trills in the darkness.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
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