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Daughter of Smoke

Foolin' With a Witch's Brew

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To Vaeri, it seemed like an omen. Of what, she wasn't sure, but it was most definitely an omen. Or, it could be plain memory loss... She thought to herself hopefully, drawing her woollen black cloak closer around her body. Whatever it was that sent her along the path back towards her old home definitely wasn't doing Vaeri any favours. Kiem didn't travel well on snow, as he was a huge beast at 215 cm and around 2692 lbs. That was why she was trekking, but it was also her fault since she was the one who had chosen him. It seemed like most things were her fault these days. Mistakes were hard to avoid when you were learning and making stuff up as you went along. She would get the hang of it eventually. She knew that for a fact, but until then, she and Kiem would have to live with her mistakes. Unless her mistakes caused them to lose their lives. Then, they would have to learn to die with her mistakes. And... I'm babbling. In my head. Damn it.

Vaeri sighed and stepped closer to Kiem, ignoring his "wet horse" smell and rubbing his flank in a poor attempt to make him warm. Kiem snorted and tossed his head a little, sending clumps of snow flying into Vaeri's face. He stepped away from her.

"Hey!" She cried indignantly, pausing and putting her hands on her hips. "What did I ever do to you?" she asked, frowning and brushing the snow from her face. Just great. Why is this snow yellow?! "Wait!" she said. "Don't answer that, please." Kiem who was now several meters ahead of her snorted again and transitioned from a walk to a trot. "No!" Vaeri yelled, breaking into a run as the horse moved on without her. "You can't leave me! No one else will feed you!" Kiem stopped and dropped his head (obviously from defeat).

Vaeri quickly covered the rest of the distance with ease and clung to Kiem's reins for dear life. "Don't you ever, ever run away from me again!" she scolded, bopping him lightly on the nose. "What if I had lost you forever?" Kiem gave no answer but the slow release of a pent-up breath. That was an adequate answer to Vaeri, and she began walking again, dragging a reluctant Kiem beside her.

They were currently on the road back to Lake Ponkapoag. She had forgotten to get the sheath for her mother's sword, and though she could easily get another one made, she didn't really want to. Plus, the sheath had been perfect, and she doubted that any craftsman could recreate such a masterpiece. It had been a long time since she'd seen it, though, so it might have deteriorated a bit. It also could have appeared a little different to her when she had last seen it, because of the drug. It was the thought and memory that counted, though, which was why she was trekking somewhere in the middle of nowhere, knowing that she was somewhat around the Lake. She barely remembered what her old hideout looked like, but she could definitely vaguely remember the way there. Kind of.

Up ahead, Vaeri could see a little path leading out from the main path into the forest. It seemed like no one had been there for a very long time. The entrance was partially covered with brambles, and grass grew up from the worn path. As she drew closer, she could see the trees inside formed a little arch above your head, letting the sunlight stream through the gaps in the boughs. The light drifted across the expanse of fresh white snow, so blinding that she could barely look at it. The was a small red ribbon tied to the right tree framing the path. It was tattered, threadbare, and hung limply on the bark. Vaeri stopped walking and wrapped Kiem's reins around the tree before tying them off in a knot. She stood in front of the tree for a few moments, ignoring Kiem's blatant glare. I tied a new ribbon around this tree to signify a new year. I pulled them off of my old dress. Vaeri lifted her hand to the ribbon and stroked it gently, violet eyes clouding over briefly. With a strong yank, she tore the ribbon off and tucked it into her side pocket, face blank. Reaching down to separate part of her skirt, Vaeri withdrew one of her smallest daggers and brought it to her neck. She picked up one of the black ribbons lining her throat and cut it off. Then, she tucked the dagger back into her skirt and tied the black ribbon around the tree branch where the red one once stood.

"Bye, baby," she said, patting Kiem on the head gently and walking through the arch. 

It looked like it had the last winter she was there. The sun brought the snow to various melting points, sending reflective light around the area. The birches' bark was a healthy grey, with darker shades splattered down their trunks. Though the branches were bare, Vaeri could almost picture the foliage as it rustled in the wind. She could see the reddening leaves drifting in a downwards spiral, the rain pouring down the from the angry sky. She could hear the chirp of the birds as they soared between branches like little arrows, and could almost see a 12 year old girl huddling into her coat and roasting a rabbit in her hands. She shuddered and anxiously smoothed down her red hair, which was held up in a high ponytail. It was a strange feeling to be walking down a forest path she hadn't seen in a year. She hadn't had any need for her sword in Tia, and only trained with a wooden sword. Her sword was always on her back, ready for use, but the only times she drew it from its makeshift sheath was for intimidation. Now that she was moving on to whatever she was doing, she had need for a proper sheath. This place was full of memories, good and bad, and she didn't like it one bit. The past was the past, and Vaeri saw no need to dig around in it. You could only move forward, and though you might learn from history, rustling through your own history was another matter.

Her former home was just ahead, tucked between the branches of a tall tree. The wood looked like it was starting to rot without her constant maintenance, and snow was piled up on top of the flat roof. The rope ladder was still coiled up in a neat pile by the balcony, and Vaeri could just barely see an old blanket by the foot of the doorway. She jogged towards the tree and stopped at it's roots, staring up at the bottom of the wooden platform she had created so many years ago. She thrust her left hand forward and closed her eyes, keeping her palm facing upwards. Wind whistled through the thin gaps between the trees and shook the slender branches. Vaeri clenched her hand into a fist and twisted it, opening her eyes once again. Her irises glowed a slivery white and narrowed as a breeze laced her palm. She spread her hand open once more and the wind drifted towards the ladder, entwining with the cord and tossing it carelessly over the edge. The glow faded and Vaeri drew her hand back into the folds of her cloak.

Climbing up the ladder wasn't difficult, and she quickly jumped up onto the platform. Walking across the balcony to enter the small little shack, she ducked her head under the small doorway and headed to the far end of the wall, keeping her eyes averted to the rest of her surroundings. Don't look back, don't look around. She reached the shelf where the sheath was held and eased it off of the wall. Vaeri then drew her blade and slid it in, not bothering to look at what she had traveled all this way for. Now that she was really here, she felt no desire to keep the sheath, and toyed with the idea of just tossing it away. It was valuable, though, even if it was just sentimentally, and she had come all this way. She had one last thing to do before leaving, though.

By the time she was back on the ground, Vaeri couldn't help but stare up at the structure again. How had she built this? It was all a blur, and though she remembered somethings, like stealing lots of nails from a carpenter who's wagon had broken down, other things weren't as clear. It wasn't particularly skillfully made, but it lasted, thanks to the strengthening of the wood she had done. It was flammable, though. Feet planted right below her shoulders, arms hanging by her side but not quite touching her, Vaeri breathed in and out, closing her eyes once more. This was a wreck. It was pitiful, the dreams and work of a stupid girl with a messed up family and a messed up life. This was the foundation of that little girl's world. She was going to bring it down. This girl wouldn't exist anymore. This girl was a ghost, and in her place would be someone who wouldn't wait around for her father to try and cut her open. Who wouldn't need to cry because of a man again. Who would be strong. 

And so she drew from her power, tensing up, but then relaxing as the familiar rush of euphoria ran through her veins. Her skin burned, her eyes burned. Vaeri burned, and felt the snow beneath her feet melting. She could feel the slight tremor in her hands and they burned beyond anything she'd ever felt before. The heat flooded her senses, overriding them until it was only her, the flames and the power. Her eyes opened, this time as red as her hair. Flames licked the edges of her dress, and she realized that though it was flame retardant, her cloak was not. Her cloak was a pile of ashes underneath her feet. Fire. Her whole body was trembling now, and she looked up at the tree house, she imagined it bursting into flames, the old wood devoured by the ferocity of the magic. The tongues of fire would lick her old belongings, burning her along with everything inside of it. She closed her eyes and held that picture in her mind, blocking out the hiss of the melting snow and the light dancing in front of her shuttered eyes. She stood there for a long time, and when she finally looked again, the treehouse was a charred mess. The tree was still on fire, the white hot flames ringing its trunk. The fire would pose no danger to the woods, as it would burn itself out eventually. White ash floated down from above, and she caught one on her tongue like a snowflake. It tasted horrible. She slowly backed away from the burning tree and sank to her knees on the damp ground, leaning back against her heels.

It's done.

Edited by Daughter of Smoke

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An hour before her arrival…

 

Another woman stood before the solitary ribbon. A white witch with pallid flesh of such an uncanny  white that it purloined the very beauty of winter. She was smooth, damp like ice, and  glistened the season’s glory under the famished light of the shrouded sun. Opaque clouds exited her scarlet lips, slender fingers reaching up gently to touch the tragic but alluring rivulet of crimson silk. The zephyr adorned it around her hand,  its poignant ambulation like the odyssey of a tragic ballet. Yet the mystical voice of the arcane whispered hauntingly through the closed lens of her Third Eye, compelling her to be there, at this moment and time, it witness it.  It ached opened and see beyond the mortal boundaries of time and space, to see what destiny hid within the memories of this object. And so it was done.

 

Snow ascended around her, aesthetic flakes rekindled in a vortex of magic that sailed amongst the rivers of her ebony coiffure. With her back arched and breasts risen to the gray skies, the window was opened to the existing present and possible future, converging them within her mind. Suddenly time was frozen between being lost, and existing all at once.  A hand, translucent and dreamlike, rose through the air with dismal fingers to rest upon the ribbon. Two now stood before symbolic momentum. The white witch gazed upon her, witnessing a face torn between the rejection of her tribulations and possession of a past belonging to only her. The reminiscing woman, who felt so alone, would never know that she was there with her, grasping upon her memories, and that her misery was not a lonely as it seemed.

 

The seer wished she could turn their hands into a twine, pulls the woman close and plant her scarlet lips to her forehead.  She wished to share her warmth whilst whispering that there was a family waiting to break the chains of her solitude. For when she was enslaved the abyss of the orcs, she would have been a less broken woman  if only someone had done the same. For now, she could only watch. The ribbon melted into a black, like a bleeding wound fading into death, and the seer watched the woman walk away from a once cherished moment.

 

“Matriarch,” came a gruff voice grinding like rock. It belonged to a charcoal stained orc trudging heavily through the snow. The Matriarch at first ignored him, watching the ghostly hypnagogic woman continue to walk down the snow ridden path for an additional breath. When she released the ribbon, the future sifted from the present once more.

 

“What is it,” she responded.

 

“The lake is still a few miles out, we should continue on if we hope to make camp before  the darkness blinds us.”

 

Behind the orc, a platoon of six more waited. Metals chains rattled and blades winked against their steel corded bodies, hot breaths thick between their yellow pale tusks and the crimson eyes deeply glowering for escape from the harsh cold. The white witch strode passed him following steps that had yet to be made through the snow. She paused, silent for a time.

 

“There is someplace I must go, possibly two. Continue on to the lake. Wait for my arrival there.”

 

Without looking back to them, she continued on, long tresses like a cape of night against her back. The sudden thunderous sound of footsteps drew her attention over her shoulder, which was soon shadows by the biggest of the barbaric pack, eight foot and over four hundred pounds of rippling muscle. It was clear he wished to stay with her and she did not protest, so they both continued on.

 

….

 

Flames.

 

The monstrous storm of fire devoured the home, leaving nothing but smoldered memories raining upon the land in the form of wood ash. Soon it was nothing but burnt cider and glowing embers gasping for air through the blackened debris. As Vaeri retreated from it, sinking to the slush earth and shutting off the final ties of her regret, a voice slowly transpired softly and elegantly to her ears.

 

“Such a travesty...”

 

The Matriarch was there, alone in the field of ice behind her. Her face was canted up, the reflective nature of her pale flesh absorbing the last amber shades of the buried inferno, with ash and snow equally salting her crown. Though she faced the destruction, her eyes appeared lost and unfocused. Closer inspect found them nebulous in silver and white without pupils, leaking small wisps of mist as if they breathed. Her almond shaped optics were like crystals of a gypsy's ball: mystical, enchanted, and completely blind to the outside world. Beyond her, knelt by a distant tree and stoic as a statue, the gigantic orc rested. His surface was covered in white and his deep blood optics were closed, attesting to his quiescent state the preceding hour. The Matriarch however, stepped closer.

 

“ Such a travesty to feel such pain from what was once your only life,” she stopped walking a horse’s length away. “My condolences.”

 

She bowed her head, closing her blind eyes for a moment and opening them once more then finished.

 

“Forgive my intrusion on such a sensitive moment, but I am here because my powers as a seer  have led me to you. I have foreseen you in my mind, as clear as I see you now, and believe that it is in your destiny to join my family.” She paused to release a gentle smile, no intention of offering Vaeri nothing more than the truth.


“To join Luna's sisterhood of witches.”     

 

 

Edited by Fallen Joy

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"Such a travesty..."

If it had been almost any other time in any other place, Vaeri would have thought that she was going crazy. After all, that's what people who heard voices in their head were, wasn't it? There were probably plenty of un-crazy people in Valucre who heard voices in their heads, but she was too numb to think about them. And there was the unresolved situation with the mysterious voice. At the moment, she was still trying to comprehend what she had just done. She had just burned down a treehouse in the middle of the woods. That totally didn't sound crazy at all. She had just burned down her own treehouse in the middle of the woods. Well however crazy it might seem, at least she wouldn't be forced to pay any charges. It wasn't until her mind travelled back to the current situation at hand that she realized the enormity of the entire situation. I just burned down my own fucking treehouse in the middle of the woods and am now hearing voices in my head. Vaeri didn't have much experience with what people considered "normal", but she was pretty sure these series of events wouldn't quite cut it. She was pretty sure that the entirety of her life didn't cut it. 

"Wha-?" She stumbled to her feet, slightly surprised at how light her head felt in relation to her body. It was almost as if she were swimming in some thick substance while her head floated above the clouds. "Who are you?" It was a question that flew out of her mouth before she even realized it was there. Who was this mysterious entity that had shown up when she was at her most vulnerable and spoken to her through her mind? Vaeri couldn't help but feel a little exposed at the moment, despite most of her life having done all she could to shield herself. This stranger had seen her in her weakest state when she couldn't even defend herself and now could talk to her using her mind. What else could they do in her head? Pry through her memories? Read her thoughts?

“Such a travesty to feel such pain from what was once your only life,” At this, Vaeri spun around to face the noise, sucking in her breath as she faced the woman who had spoken to her before. She would have felt stupid, stupid for thinking that she would ever really hear unknown voices in her head, but she was too busy staring at the person in front of her. Her ebony black hair rippled down fluidly like a river in the dead of night, blowing slightly in the wind. Her skin was a pale, pale white, and it glowed with a strange sheen that Vaeri had never seen before. Her lips were a red, as red as any blood, but her eyes were the object of the young witch's attention. They were silver and white, they two colours twining around each other and drifting at various stages over her irises, obscuring her pupils- if she had any. Their movement seemed almost random, and small bits of mist leaked out of the corners of her eyes, as if they too breathed, as if the cold caught their breath and bared it for all the world to see. The woman's eyes were- literally- clouded over as if she watched everything, but yet saw nothing. They seemed to take apart her very being and piece it back together again, after taking extensive notes and studying her from every single angle. These were the eyes that held her rapt attention, and she stared into them until the movement of the woman's lips started her from her trance. “My condolences.”

Vaeri stood still, words hovering on her lips unspoken. Who really was this woman? This strange woman who seemed to truly know her, despite Vaeri never having seen her before in her life. She didn't feel so stupid for suspecting voices in her mind anymore, now that she had seen the one who had spoken. She seemed like the type of person who would be able to do such a thing. She cleared her throat, feeling the roughness of it like tree bark. Using her firepower normally left her a little parched, but this was a bit too dry for her taste. She had never really used it anything big, though. It had mostly been utilised for cooking little animals, or warming herself when she was cold. Vaeri had never attempted to do anything like this before, and it appeared to be taking a far greater toll on her than she had expected. Her tolerance and strength would probably grow the more she tested her limits, but she would have to remind herself to make sure she knew her limits. 

"Thank you," she finally said, after hesitating. She wasn't exactly social and rarely had much contact with other people, never mind conversations. The only time she had any sort of interaction was during jobs, and even that was limited to a few words or sentences. "How did you know?" she asked the woman, resisting the sudden urge to step forward. What am I doing? She's a stranger in the middle of the woods with a questionable appearance. Furthermore, she can somehow know the very things I'm trying to bury. Why do I want to go towards her? The woman bent her head, closing her mysterious eyes for a bit before opening them once again and straightening.

“Forgive my intrusion on such a sensitive moment, but I am here because my powers as a seer have led me to you. I have foreseen you in my mind, as clear as I see you now, and believe that it is in your destiny to join my family.” Now this was kind of unexpected. Vaeri had never seen very many fellow magic users, and this was the first seer she had seen, so she studied the woman with a newfound interest once more. She had foreseen her in her mind? That would explain how she knew so much, but it didn't explain what her family was. How would it be in her destiny to join the seer's family? She sure wasn't going to marry into it. Whatever it was, she was sure that the seer would explain later on. 

"It's okay. It was nothing important," she lied, shrugging it off as best as she could. "I just..." her voice trailed off, and Vaeri felt the sudden urge to cry. There was a pressure behind her eyes, and her nose prickled. What had she been thinking? It was reckless and stupid, and just... She didn't know. It was like she had been standing on solid ground, and then the world had shook, dislodging the little plot of land she had been standing on and pushing it out to sea. The big sea where she was so small and insignificant. She had been so sure of who she was back then. She was Vaeri and nothing else. Now that the house was gone, her father and mother nowhere to be found, and her former belongings burnt, she wasn't sure what purpose she had, much less who she was. Who she was. Was there really a time when she knew without a doubt that she was who she was? Was there really a time when her only cares were eating, sleeping and practicing her skills? Was there really a time when she'd had a home? Maybe there was, or maybe it was just an illusion of one, a shell of a house she had poured all of her hopes and dreams into. Well, those hopes and dreams were ashes, ashes scattered in the wind. "Was overwhelmed." She finished, looking away and wiping her eyes and nose with the back of her hand.

“To join Luna's sisterhood of witches.”  Vaeri focused on the seer's last words, doing her best to shove her feelings behind her. Right now, she needed to be strong, and not break down in the middle of a conversation. She could cry into Kiem's furry side later. This erased any misconceptions about marrying anyone. 

"What's Luna's sisterhood of witches?" She asked, frowning a bit and hugging her arms to her chest. It was more out of habit from actual cold, but there was a slight chill to her skin now that some of her heat had been sapped from the fire. It definitely sounded like a coven of sorts, but other than that, she had no idea what it was. She wasn't going to turn down the offer right away, especially since she had no information on it, but she wasn't going to rush into things headfirst. The events of the day so far proved what happened when she was too reckless.

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Regret...it was a disastrous disease following emotional impulsion. The seer would not see the features of Vaeri’s pained countenance darken and wither from her contrition, but the intricate acuity of her sight enraptured it nonetheless. The metaphysical energies of the young witch’s mind suffered cataclysmic wounds and bled sorrow upon her entire demeanor. The white witch stepped forth, her hand elevating half way, but she then paused with hesitance. Despite the fact she wished to be more, felt she was more, she had to recognize that for the time being she was  only a stranger. Her fingers curled and  retreated back to her side.

 

“Luna,” she began. “Is a witch that saved me from the confines of slavery. She brought me into her family, where I have learned not only the importance and potential of being a witch.” She placed her restless hand upon her bosom. “But of being myself. She fights to make a paradise where our ridicule as women and witches will no longer exist.”

 

Her beautiful marble face softened into a sympathetic sadness. “And by your actions, I feel as if you too have suffered such ridicule in your life. To suffer attachment to a past you likewise reject, and have nothing to guide you forward, it makes you bare the burden of weighing your meaning in this world.”

 

She paused to let her words sink, glancing over her shoulder to the far distance and on the resting orc hidden in the layered snow. She too suffered an attachment to her past, now being the matriarch of an army that once subjugated and abused her  so viciously. But now, having the purpose of controlling these beasts in order to create a world where such cruelty would never exist, her pain was diminishing. She had a family now.

 

“My coven extends their hand to you,” she said looking back at Vaeri. “Initially we may not be able to offer you alleviation to your pain, and our promise of family may not mean much for now. However, the one thing I can promise to give you is purpose.”

 

She extended her hand for Vaeri to take it. “You don’t have to make a decision now, but please come with me. I am on a mission of great importance and would be honored by your assistance. Perhaps in the end, you will wish to stay.”


Now she  waited. The wind startled around them, ascending her long rivulets of ebony tresses and extending them to the witch. She hoped her words would reach her, and that Vaeri would take her hand. For while her premonitions were only possible futures, giving her with the choice of either changing them or letting them come to pass, the Third Eye only opened to the greater destinies . The Matriarch knew that if she saw Vaeri, Vaeri was meant to become her sister.   

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The seer's fingers reached out towards her, pausing right before contact and then withdrawing back to her side. Vaeri stiffened but then relaxed, letting out a shaky breath. The woman was unnerving in the sense that she wasn't unnerving at all. Here she was in the middle of the woods with her strange eyes and almost perfect appearance, but yet she wasn't strange or creepy, she was familiar. That unnerved Vaeri most of all, and she was almost afraid of what her body's reaction might be if she was to touch the woman. Every time her wandering eyes caught her gaze, she felt like the woman knew more about her than anyone else in the world. Every time she spoke, it was if she was deliberately holding back on the information she held, like she was hoarding Vaeri's secrets. Her intent didn't seem malevolent in the slightest, though, and it was actually sort of comforting feeling like someone other than yourself knew things about you. It was like she had no need to bottle up her feelings anymore and she could pour out her life's story and her darkest secrets without a second thought.

As the woman began to explain who Luna was, Vaeri felt herself relax even further. It wasn't exactly the words that were comforting but the way in which the woman spoke told her tale. Slavery. How could anyone enslave another human being? Or witch? Or any sort of living being? Vaeri's fists clenched at the words, a haze of anger briefly clouding her mind before being tossed away. She needed to focus. The seer's words were pretty, and Vaeri was sure that at one time, she might have been entirely swept up by them and the conviction in the woman's voice. However, once she turned towards the topic of Vaeri's past, she felt herself start to tense up again. No matter how she might feel towards this stranger, this was something that wouldn't think about again, or at least, try to.

When the woman glanced back over her shoulder (for reasons Vaeri could not fathom- because of her eyes) she followed her gaze, to the lump under a mound of snow. It could have been just a mound of snow, but somehow, Vaeri doubted it. She could almost recognize that look on the witch's face, and for once saw her as more human than she ever had in the minuscule time she'd known her.

Once her speech had resumed, Vaeri found herself seriously considering her options. A purpose was one important thing she lacked, and like the woman said, once she'd found a purpose, the other badly needed things might just follow through. Of course, it could all collapse underneath her, but she wasn't going to think about those possibilities. The mission sounded intriguing, and as it sounded like she had no obligation to stay after the completion, it was an interesting prospect. On the other hand, a mission of great importance sounded, well, important. That sort of pressure and the request for help was kind of overwhelming at the moment. And there was the small fact that she still had absolutely no idea who this woman was, save for being a witch- or a seer more specifically. 

"Who are you? You still haven't answered me," she asked, more curious than suspicious. 

The woman's hand hung between them now, and as Vaeri stared at it, her mind went blank. and so she went with instinct. She reached out towards the woman's hand, grasping it firmly in her own. What could possibly go wrong?

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As The Matriarch’s fingers curled around hers, Vaeri would immediately notice that her hands were cool and hard. Not rough like war ridden hands or brisk from the thievery of winter, but like the smooth polished surface of marble. But there was more, an uncanny warmth from underneath the surface. It was the essence of the arcane tingling between the cleft of their palms. Witches could sense other witches, magic could see magic,  and in that moment when Vaeri saw her, it would be as if she suddenly saw a collection. Behind the lone seer, the presence of many there stood there, watching and protecting her. Her rosy lips smiled.

“Forgive me, perhaps it is because I've felt like we've always known one another... They call me The Matriarch.” A title and not a name. This was because the seer never had a name. “Please tell me yours, and then let us go. We must travel to Ponkapoag Lake, I have a small pack of orcs there waiting for me.”

She only keep their hands entwined long enough to give her a pull, the entire collection urging Vaeri along as the witch turned to return down the  snowy path. When their hands fell apart with the natural drag of gravity, the presence of the coven faded. They walked along the white plane, the Matriarch’s careful movements hinting at her blindness to simpler objects. Her sight was a complicated thing, the vision of a seer weaving different tapestries of color to the darkness. She saw through the possibilities of what could happen if she were to step one way versus another. Minor predictions of the futures that required little energy as they only involved seconds and included only herself. Nonetheless, if she chose to use it, it meant traveling was a beating wave on her energy. Seeing people on the other hand, that was quite different and much more mystifying.

When they approached the placid object, looking from the distance to be  no more than a phenomenal black boulder under ice, the details now bought it to life. Thick husk mist escaped the snow, correlating with the deep heaves of a slumbering beast. The sift of slush threw its eyes open, dark carmine eyes gleaming strong through the ebony and ivory surroundings. The Matriarch paused for but a moment, shifting her body between Vaeri and the mound, waiting as the snow all broke off and the orc rose. The coiled black muscles under its leathery thick skin stretched and bulged the veins against its limbs as he stretched, grunted, and turned his violent eyes on them. He imposed upon the women with an eight foot stature, chains rattling slowly from sharpened axe and sword whilst an unpleasant breath leaked from tusks as tall of their index fingers and thrice the thickness. He was indeed a beast.

“Don’t be alarmed,” The Matriarch quickly said. “Think of him as both my seeing-eye and guard dog.”

The orc grunted, brushing away the last bit of snow from his shoulders.

“He has never told me his name. I’m starting to think no one knows it for he barely speaks. They call him The Bodyguard, though I find myself not calling him anything. Let us continue.”

The gargantuan orc shifted his eyes to Vaeri with unnerving acknowledgement. To say he was sneering at her would be inaccurate, for the vexed grimace on his face never shifted. One could only imagine the true accumulation of gnarls and twists of his countenance when true animosity possessed him.  He blinked slow at her and then when the Matriarch continued to walk, he shifted his gaze away and followed beside her, one of his steps easily equating to three of hers. With the orc there, the Matriarch strode quicker.

“ Have you heard of the legend of the Sable knight?” She asked, reaching her small hand for the orc’s large bicep and thus stability. “It is a folkstale of man who slew a great bea—”

Her words drifted, her posture swayed, a throbbing ache suddenly transpiring within her head. Then a light burst from the depths of her misted eyes and consumed the whole of her optics. Her body tensed into an erected posture, muscles quivering from the strain.

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Morwenna sighed. She had traveled a long while on bare feet and an empty stomach. The poor witch had no where to call home. She had skirted from one village to another, building short friendships, or long enemies.

But she never stayed long.

Only because she didn't know how to contain her powers. She was still a youngling witch. And she was wondering how to do such. 

The girl eyed the lake then. She heard that this place held a sisterhood. And in that witches all over came and learned many things. Of course it was a good place to start. 

She stumbled upon it then as she eyed the orc standing there. Morwenna blinked, gulping back her fear as she wondered if this was the right lake.

And she had never seen an orc before. Shaking, standing there the girl didn't move. She couldn't even speak. She was afraid. Morwenna was frozen in front of this creature.

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Vaeri hadn't had much human contact before. Her mother had always used to cradle her in her arms, and her father had used to pinch her cheeks, but aside from family, she had avoided it as much as possible. She'd never held someone's hand before, but she was pretty sure that most other hands didn't feel like this one. The texture didn't feel wrong; it just didn't feel... Natural. The Matriarch's hand was as smooth as it looked, but it was cold. It was very cold. Her palm was hard too, and it felt more like she was grasping the hand of a statue than a human being. The other strange thing was the warmth. How could a hand be both cold and warm at the same time? Vaeri didn't know, but that too didn't feel natural. Her palm tingled, and she looked down at them, before looking back up at the woman. 

Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes rested upon the Matriarch once again, not clawing it's way out, but simply resting in its place. The Matriarch wasn't one, she was many, and even as Vaeri's wandering violet eyes saw a lone seer, she knew there were more. Their presence surrounded her, and as the warmth from her hand spread through her body, it touched her heart as well. She felt something greater than anything else the world could offer her. Belonging. And just as gradually, the warmth began to fade as The Matriarch and her invisible companions urged Vaeri along, their hands slipping away as much as she cried out silently in her mind. So preoccupied with the feeling of loss that surged through her, she almost missed the seer’s reply.

“I’m Vaeri,” she said, smiling a little. She had heard terrible stories of orcs. Whispers spread by gossipers weren’t uncommon, and working as a barmaid part of the time hadn’t exactly shielded her from rumors. Vaeri didn’t comment upon it though, as she was sure that all would be explained later. The Matriarch didn’t seem like the type of person to easily take endless questions, and Vaeri definitely didn’t need to irritate her at the moment.

Trudging through the white snow wasn’t the most tedious of affairs, and Vaeri basked in the glow of the sun as she walked, head tilted up towards the sky. She’d met plenty of people who didn’t like winter because of the cold, but the cold had never bothered her too much. Maybe it was the fire in her, maybe it was a witch thing. She honestly didn’t know the second thing about witchcraft, so the prospect of joining a coven and such didn’t exactly comfort her.

They came to a stop before what should have been a motionless black boulder. Except it wasn’t a boulder, and it certainly wasn’t motionless. At first she thought that it was some sort of magical rock, something witch related. Then she noticed the way it moved, up and down in a regular motion. Mist escaped each time the rock moved downwards, and as Vaeri came to the realization that the rock was breathing, the orc’s eyes flickered open.

They were red, so, so red, and compared to the leathery black skin surrounding the eyes, they were even redder. The snow shook violently, and The Matriarch stepped between Vaeri and the creature, blocking part of her view. As he rose to his full height of 8 feet, no blocking The Matriarch could do would hide him.

The orc’s muscles were enormous, coiled up tightly beneath his skin. He had tusks too, thick tusks that looked like they could skewer Vaeri in an instant. His weapons clanged as he rose, drawing her attention as she stared wide-eyed at the hulking beast.

“O-Okay,” she said, nodding quickly. If it was with The Matriarch, and she trusted it, she supposed that she could trust it too. Maybe.

As the orc dusted the last remainder of snow from his shoulders and grunted, The Matriarch continued to speak. The Bodyguard gazed at Vaeri, his expression never changing. It was unnerving, and frankly, she found it quite creepy. However, he soon glanced away as The Matriarch started walking once more, to Vaeri’s relief.

The Matriarch stopped halfway through telling her about the Sable Knight, tensing as light burst from her formerly clouded eyes. In front of her stood a shivering girl, who seemed to be frozen. She was shorter than Vaeri. Much shorter in fact, with curly blueish black hair, fair skin and eyes with two different colours. One was orange, and the other was pink. Her gaze was fixed on the orc, and she barely seemed to notice the two witches accompanying it.

“Um, hello?” She said hesitantly, stepping forward a bit. “Are you all right?”

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As Vaeri suddenly addressed a terrified girl, who appeared to transpire from thin air before them, the Matriarch continued to tremble with rigidity.

A lone orc, staring out at the great frozen lake. Red eyes so deep that blood seemed on the verge of tearing through the sockets.

A lone girl, standing there petrified. Body shivering on the byroads of wonder and panic.

Then shadows rose around the girl, one suddenly many. Their darkness blockaded the light, snuffed the sun.

They enclosed on her like a bear trap. Crushing. Consuming….

The white witch broke from her vision, stumbling forward and finding the large hand of the orc stabilizing her small frame. Mist poured from her heavy breaths.  Then likely to Vaeri’s shock, the girl that appeared before them vanished, drifting with the kiss of the breeze with not even footprints left in her wake. This was because it was a projection from the Matriarch’s mind, an open window of her premonition. When the witch heard Vaeri speak to it, she became more even daunted.

“You saw that?” she whispered out between breaths. Vaeri was not incorporated into the soul of the coven, yet she managed to share a premonition with the witch, even if only the start of it. Sisters within the coven could sometimes share abilities, benefits of their melded souls, but even then the Matriarch had never experienced this. Was it when their hands touched? Did something drift from the coven into Vaeri? If this was so, how much potential did Vaeri have as a coven witch? Was it possible that she could master its power on Luna’s caliber?

No, there was no time to dwell on that. The Matriarch shook off the induced weakness within her legs and pushed from the hand of the orc, swaying as a blind person would before she came to a complete stand. The premonition was about another—a second witch. She was certain of it because the Third Eye opened for nothing less. Without an article to solidify her vision, all the figurines within her mind were blurred, and wavered like shadows. What likely happened was that when she touched her bodyguard, she was predicting the future of not the witch, but her orcs, and it was the powerful presence of the witch that seduced the Third Eye to show her it.

“We must go, and we must hurry. There is another sister, and she has stumbled upon my caravan. Without my direction, I’m afraid the orcs may harm her.”

The orcs were under strict command to never harm witches unless directed by a coven witch, but the orcs were dull-minded. If they did not recognize the young sylph as a witch, there could be loopholes to their soulless obligations. The Matriarch would not take that risk. She spoke a rough-tongued language to the orc, who responded by lifting her upon his shoulder.

“I’m afraid we must leave your steed behind for the moment. He is not fast enough,” she said, knowing Vaeri had left Kiem by the ribbon adorned tree. “With luck, we will finished our objective before morning. Please come up with me.”

The orc took a menacing step towards Vaeri, grunting low under its husk breath before kneeling down for her. If she climbed aboard, the orc stood with ease and the Matriarch immediately started to chant. Magic excited around her, acting as wind folding her nightly locks. Gold streams suddenly transpired from the air and slithered down her forearm to the tips of her fingers  grasping the orc’s deltoid. A quaking shiver rushed through the orc as her magic penetrated his black rocky flesh, bright serum visibly entering his bulging veins and illuminating like tattoos does his body. When they finally stained the vessels of his lower limbs, muscles pulsed with electric energy. The white opened her eyes slow, the orc quaking a second time  before bending and separating his legs like a lion ready to pounce.

“Hang on,” the solemnity within her voice could not be clearer. “With the tightest grip you can muster. Like this.” She immediately wrapped her arm under Vaeri’s and then hugged around the orc’s neck with expectation of her doing the same. “Give me your legs.” She extended hers out to entwine their calves on each side of the orc. Stable, she looked to the orc. As she spoke in a gruff language, the bodyguard produced a rare flicker of a grin, something so small that it could be missed in a blink of an eye before he leaped.

 

He practically flew.

 

Electricity burst from the after blast of his spring, sending air rushing with great force against their bodies. The Matriarch’s hair shot back, streaming in a nearly straight line behind them before the rush slowed…slowed…slowed….and paused. And at the height of their jump, they saw the sunset dipping into the horizon in the distance. Its glow that previously basked Vaeri’s skin in a crimson sheen was now only another hour from saying its goodbyes.

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Weightless as gravity struggled to regain its hold upon then, the Matriarch skimmed the shoreline. There, black dots  stood out amongst the trees and cast of blushing white. One at the edge of the lake, another some feet behind it, and five more closing in a circle around them. As the tides of her hair begin to lift into the air like a wave, she spoke.

“Vaeri, you can use fire magic, right? Can you create updrafts to guide us to that point?” She unlocked her hand and pointed. "The air is very brisk, if you heat it at the right angles, the draft will push us."

As she waited, a strange noise came from the orc. It was so rough and deep and it would take a few moments to realize that the orc was chuckling in glee. His dark red eyes were imbibing the view and those small rises on his thick lips remained. Vaeri wouldn’t know it, but it was one of the only times the bodyguard expressed such emotion. When one rivaled the weight of an obese gorilla, the feeling of flight was an astonishing thing. That’s why the Matriarch thought he laughed every time she did this, he never explained why.

~ ~ ~

Back down at the lake, the small crush of snow caused the orc peering at the frozen carmine hues of the lake to grunt in alert. He gazed over his shoulder, his sniffing nose already telling him it wasn't an orc. Morwenna smelled too pretty.  His eyes lacked pupils, but he somehow appeared to dilate them and zone in on her. Then suddenly, with the rustle of understory of dried bush and ice, more of the black beasts emerged from the tree line of the forest; others rising from mounds of layered snow that once appeared to be rocks.

Under one of the large orc’s arms, another human was being carried. He was an older graying gentlemen, thin and his wrinkled face pale from the situation. His slush boots and lure decorated vest suggested he was an ice fishermen, further noted by the way he was trying to beat the back of the orc with his rod—who completely ignored it in interest of the new arrival. They all took large steps, devouring over two feet of distance between each one, and threatening to form a circle around her. If they did, they just stood there for the moment, grunting at her like a pack of wolves. Words escaped a few of them, but it was the language of orcs.

One took another step, reaching his hand out, and like a classic bully, tried to push her shoulder so she fell into the snow.

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Morwenna was pushed but she didn't go far nor fall down. The orc was trying to bully her. She then heard another voice, and at first she didn't think it was real. 

That it was her imagination. And she didn't respond. But after a little, it seemed to hit her ears again.

"Quite alright," she lied. "I've just never seen an orc before. " Um, you are?"

Yes, Morwenna had been talking during standing there with an orc. With her hands she pushed the orc back, standing her ground. She after all, did get in fights before and had come out alright. 

She tilted her head then. That woman, was she the one she was suppose to meet? Morwenna wasn't sure. But she stood there arms crossed against her chest. 

Not budging.

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And then she vanished, as if blown away by the wind. No footprints were where she had last stood, and the snow looked untouched, shining brightly as the sun reflected off of it’s glossy surface. The Matriarch panted, and Vaeri immediately turned to face her, having almost forgotten about the company she held. Now, she was braced against the sturdy arm of her orc companion, panting heavily as her breath steamed in the crisp air. What the heck just happened? Vaeri wondered, glancing back to where the girl had just stood seconds ago. Judging by the condition The Matriarch was in, she knew what was going on.

“Yeah, I saw her...” she said slowly, nodding her head and shooting her a strange look. “Why wouldn’t I have seen her? And where did she go?” She added, crossing her arms across her chest. This was getting weird, and as much as she wanted to trust The Matriarch, it was getting a bit too weird. Vaeri needed answers. She’d put off asking questions before because she was certain that they would be answered, but so far, no answers had arrived. “You never finished talking about the Sable Knight either. What does that have to do with anything?” As she took in the woman’s physical condition as well, she frowned. “Are you okay? What happened?” Maybe it was an overload, but she needed to know things, and asking questions gradually wouldn’t change the answers.

The Matriarch took a bit more time to recover from whatever strain she’d underwent, and shakily pushed off from The Bodyguard’s arm, swaying a bit before straightening. Vaeri stood by, watching in silence. As much as she felt she could help, she highly doubted that The Matriarch would appreciate it. She seemed like the type who didn’t like to rely on others too much, even with her evident physical blindness. Though the seer’s face didn’t reveal much, she looked unnerved. Was her temporary weakness an abnormal thing? If not, then what had disturbed her?

As the witch spoke again, Vaeri blinked in surprise and then nodded, brown furrowing. So she would have to wait till later for answers. The other witch’s welfare was certainly way more important than answers to her questions. Maybe the sudden bout of exhaustion came from larger visions?

Watching The Matriarch speak to the orc in a gravelly tongue and then perch on his shoulder was one of the most bizarre sights she had ever seen. Was the orc to carry her as they walked along?

Whatever the reason, she knew that they could always come back for Kiem later. It was highly unlikely that anyone would be traveling along the fairly deserted road, and since it was winter, even more so. He was in no danger, though it couldn’t take long, or else he might get hungry. He could last till morning, so once again she nodded in consent, mind buzzing anxiously.

When the orc took a step towards her, she was shaken out of her thoughts, and merely stood by stiffly as he kneeled. Come up? As in, get on his shoulder too? Vaeri looked him up at down nervously as slowly walked forward, placing a hand on his arm. His skin was like leather, tough, but it also had a layer of flexibility to it. It was entirely different from anything she’d touched before, and the thick veins under the orc’s skin pulsed routinely. Swallowing, Vaeri placed her other hand upon the orc’s arm and hoisted herself up, carefully placing her feet and then climbing up the side of his arm to his back.

The second she had secured herself, The Bodyguard stood up, and The Matriarch began to chant. Vaeri understood none of the words, and merely watched in wonder as golden streams of something twined from the witch’s forearms down to her slender fingertips, visibly sinking into the orc’s skin as she continued. They ran along his skin like an additional maze of golden veins, gradually spreading across his body and inking an undecipherable pattern.

The orc crouched, powerful legs bent, the golden lines still shining as brightly as before. Following The Matriarch’s lead, Vaeri hooked her arms around the orc’s neck and her legs around his torso, keeping her arm hooked through her companions. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but it wasn’t too uncomfortable either. Vaeri adjusted herself slightly, then listened with interested as The Matriarch issued a command of sorts.

As the orc leaped towards the sky, all Vaeri could do was hold on and laugh. Hold on because they were high. Like, really high. She didn’t want to see what would happen if she were to let go. Plus, she and The Matriarch were linked. If she fell, they would teeter off balance, or she would bring down both of them. Laugh, because, well, they were high. Streams of more golden stuff burst from the orc’s feet as they continued, pushing them to such a height that they could see the sun sinking into the horizon, the previously blue sky now smeared with pink, purple and orange. It was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen. The wind played with her hair, and it billowed out behind them as they seemed to freeze in the moment, just watching the sun go down.

And then it was over, and they were skimming the shoreline of the lake, the tops of the trees below them and black blobs in the distance. The dots were ringing a smaller black dot. When The Matriarch spoke again, Vaeri nodded for the third time. Having received no formal education whatsoever, so had no idea where in particular she would have to heat the air, but she figured she could work it out. Trial and error. The orc laughed, and it resonated through her body, as he shook. She couldn’t help but smile at it, and then closed her eyes, breathing in and out.

Her power was just there, under a level of consciousness she could barely feel. It was still there though, so she reached out for it and cautiously drew upon it, yelping as they jolted to the side rapidly. Okay, note to self: Do not heat in that particular direction. Vaeri painstakingly worked her way around them until she had a grasp on how to use the air to her benefit. Drawing a bit on the wind as well, her eyes turned red and silver as she guided the orc down to the spot the seer had pointed to. By the time they touched down, she was mentally tired from the strain of remembering which direction equalled which.

The orcs and the woman they were circling were only a few meters away, and as Vaeri stared at them, she realized that the woman was the very same one she had just seen minutes ago. She was standing defiantly, arms crossed across her chest as she faced an orc off. As much as Vaeri had to admire her bravery, it didn’t seem like the best idea, seeing her situation. She couldn’t exactly judge, though. Of more importance was the fact that she was the same woman. Was this the witch and if so, why had Vaeri seen her in the first place?

Edited by Daughter of Smoke

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As Vaeri performed, it would be the second time she impressed The Matriarch. The first was her unconscious ability to merge within the spindle of the coven’s magic without being woven within, and the second was her natural adaptation and refinement of untrained witchcraft. Although initially messy, the witch’s learning curve flaunted its eminence as her stumble rolled into grace. Thus the hot winds sailed the orcs' descent along waves of air and vapor. However, the white witch had little time to express admiration or glorification of such actions, for the mist within her blind eyes was seething with hot distempered emotion. She couldn’t see what happened, but she still knew what was occurring below. Vaeri once assumed The Matriarch had a short fuse and little tolerance for repetitive questioning and naivety—and she was mostly accurate. However, that pestilent short fuse and coiling wrath was reserved almost exclusively for orcs.

Despite her serenity and tenderness when addressing a follow witch, the seer was deemed 'The Matriarch' because of her brutality against the tusked population she controlled. Luna designated her to overseer the orcs not only because of her familiarity in their culture and language, but the hatred she possessed of the very hands that once mercilessly beat and literally burned the sensation, softness, and texture from her very skin. She grew amongst the violent culture as their tool for magical premonitions; their barbaric mannerisms were ingrained within her mind and their uncouth influence guided her upbringing as a child. Truth be told, despite her beauty, she has just as, if not more of the beast than they. The easily triggered aggression boiled within her chest, and she waited with for them to touch the ground so she could release her fury on all them.

The hot air rose, kissing a wall of nearly frozen currents above and immediately condensing into miniature black clouds that flashed with internal light. The small puffs of thunderstorms faded as soon as they transpired, but it was something The Matriarch felt and noted for later.

When Morwenna reached her hands out to push the size domineering orc, one of her palms not even capable of covering half on his pectorals, its ridiculously large hand whipped out and snatched the whole of her wrists. Clamped like clam, his grip held enough pressure to entrap her and make her nerve fibers ache. If he succeeded in grabbing her, although the movement was simple, it was enough to excite the others who grunted and snarled with instigation, enticing him to lift his arm and pull Morwenna from the snow. He lined their eyes six feet from the snow, and consumed her into his glare. The deep bloodied irises spilled carmine to the whole of his sclera from months of ash and heat poisoning. Deep within the optics were blackened vessels that esoterically nourished his unique sight. Wretched breath accompanied with drool of ravenous salivation leaked towards her face, the lust for violence so frightening and revolting that it appeared almost perverse.

The Matriarch, unable to take it, released the orc.

She fell from the sky and landed stiffly behind Morwenna within the circle, the snow caving under her unusual marble skin, and body crouched with hair caped upon her pale exposed back. When she rose to a stand, these was no longer mist within her eyes, but electric discharges. The orcs immediately knew she was furious, immediately knew they’d made a mistake, and worse—immediately knew there was nothing they could do about it. The orc with Morwenna immediately dropped her, only capable of retreating two steps back before a bolt of lightning flashed forward and collided into his face. The clash sent him sailing harshly back over the lake. The frozen surface rumbled and cracked under the orc's massive weight when he collided, left with smears of crimson as he rolled violently across it. When he stopped tumbling, he was motionless.

The other orcs were immediately anxious but frozen, desirous to run but knowing it only only further ignite her temper. The Matriarch whipped around, slapping her hand across the air and sending an equal wave of lightning into each of them, shoving them all back into the snow. It was not nearly as fierce as the first orc but they all crumbled and grunted in pain in the nonetheless. Curling her fingers and lowering her arm, the witch closed her eyes and released the last of her blinded rage with an exhale.        

 If Vaeri lost her balance, The Bodyguard reached his arm out and embraced her, the two landing soon after the Matriarch’s reprimanding actions.

The white witch turned her head, with eyes that dimmed so a soft mist once more, towards Morwenna. Her gaze was unfocused, but she appeared to be looking at her.

“Are you alright?” she asked tenderly. “Forgive me, if that seemed cruel, but it was far less than what they would have done to you.”

She reached her hand out for her touch. “Tell me, my sister, what are you doing here?”

The word ‘sister’ was familiar and inviting. Although Morwenna a stranger, The Matriarch greeted her like an old forgotten and beloved relative, much like she had done Vaeri.

The Matriarch knew Morwenna was another witch destined to be within the coven, and she also knew that there were many questions still left unexplained to Vaeri. Even more pressingly, she knew there was a great monster they were meant to slay upon the rise of the moon. There was a lot to say and do, but she could only do one at a time. And each had to be done with the utmost care.

The orcs around her were recovering quickly enough, their thickened non-conductive hides absorbing the heat of the electricity as easily as it did magma. They did not stand, for they knew better than to flaunt their resilience before The Matriarch, and thus resigned to crouched bows of submission. Even the orc on the ice eventually shifted, though one of his eyes suffered heavy damaged and was bleeding onto his left cheek.

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Morwenna's heterchroma eyes widened as the Matriarch used her magic to send the orc flying. Another like her. Her heart fluttered wildly in her chest, her body heaving up and down with such force. She was amazed and terrified at the same time.

I'm--I'm fine," she stuttered for a moment. She straightened her pose as she tried to recollect her composure. "I came to find a place to live. I am yet to understand my powers."

Morwenna looked down at the orc that was injured. The Matriarch had such power and it made her envious. But she knew better. She looked towards the other woman then, the one she saw from before. 

Rubbing her eyes, Morwenna wanted to make sure she wasn't seeing things. 

"I want to know who I am, and what I can do."

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The Matriarch wasn't happy-looking. In fact, she looked positively furious. Vaeri stared silently as The Matriarch's formerly misty eyes were sparking. Like, literally sparking with electricity. She didn't look too pleased about the way the orc had treated the other girl, which wasn't the biggest surprise. The orc who had held the girl immediately dropped her, backing up as it registered whatever it was that tipped it off to The Matriarch's displeasure. The unfortunate orc didn't get very far. A bolt of lightning flew at it's chest, and Vaeri let out a low whistle as the orc flew through the air- though less gracefully than any bird she'd seen. Landing with a resounding crack on the ice, it tumbled a few meters before coming to a stop, smearing the smooth ice with blood. He didn't move. Even more bolts followed, each one hitting it's target- the centre of each of the other orc's chests. None of them were as powerful as the first however, and The Matriarch let out a pent up breath. To Vaeri, it seemed to be more calming than created out of any extra strain. 

That sort of power and skill was beyond anything Vaeri had seen before. She had seen the way the seer had caused The Bodyguard to go to extraordinary heights, and she had seen how calm and collected she was, but the pure fury in those attacks were definitely new. It was slightly scary, exciting, and unnerving at the same time. Whatever they were heading off to do must be difficult, though. If The Matriarch could do that, and still needed Vaeri's help, then things might be more challenging than the young elementalist had originally assumed. 

Thoughts of the other girl suddenly came to mind, and Vaeri turned to face her, stumbling a bit as her legs trembled underneath her weight. The Bodyguard's hand flashed out to steady her, and Vaeri leaned into his support, continuing to watch. She had no reason to butt in.

As The Matriarch began speaking to the girl, her face softened, and Vaeri's heartbeat began to slow down. The girl wasn't hurt. She wasn't exactly sure what was going on, much less who the other girl was, but she was unharmed, which was the important thing. 

"Thank you," she said, patting the orc's arm gently before starting to walk forward, deeming the pair slightly safer to approach. She stood to the left of the seer, facing the new witch (or at least that's what she appeared to be) and studied her once again, eyes more curious than cold. Normally, Vaeri would have been a bit more trusting, but after seeing this witch before and then watching her vanish into thin air, it was kind of weird. Just a tiny bit, though.

Only an observer for the moment, Vaeri forced herself to still, fighting the rush of excitement that went through her as the other woman finished speaking. So she is another witch, and one who's fairly new to her powers as well! Vaeri may not have been entirely new to what she could do, but she did know that she was far from at her best. What she had done earlier in the day was entirely new, and she had known about her powers since well, as long as she could remember. No, Vaeri definitely had not reached her full potential. And here was another witch, who was learning too. It just seemed kind of perfect.

Now wasn't the time to force anything upon her though, especially not a friendship that might not even be wanted. She did however let out a little smile, directed at the confused girl in front of her. She had no answer to her questions, or at least any proper ones, so instead she looked to The Matriarch, who she was almost positive knew what was going on. If anyone knew, it would be her.

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The Matriarch stared down softly at Morwenna, the woman speaking words both lost and permeated with purpose. It suddenly made sense why the seer saw Morwenna so invasively within her vision; the witch was searching for her. Things that subconsciously or consciously sought one another, even within an expansive and seemingly infinite universe, tended to to come together eventually—especially when magic was involved. This alone convinced the witch there she need not dig, pry or test Morwenna resolve, she was undoubtedly a destined sister of the coven. The Matriarch placed a hand upon her shoulder, her touch cool and hard, and she softly nodded.

“And then so you shall, my sister. Please tell me your name.” She waited for an answer before smiling a tad wider. “Blessings shine upon the coven today to have you seek and discover us.” She lowered her hand, turning her head towards Vaeri. “As it has with your presence, Vaeri. I’m honored that both of you accompany me this night.”

She glanced up at the sky, the horizon bleeding more profusely into the heavens and indicating a soon shift from dusk to night. The temperature would become very brisk soon, and though she had limited sensitivities to temperature, she wouldn’t assume the same for them.

“A fire,” she said to one of the orcs. “And a place to sit," she said to another. Both of the orcs immediately rose from their kneeling positions and set off to oblige her. The Matriarch exhaled a long deep breath thick into the air. Things were coming together.

Then as if noting it for the first time, she turned her face towards the orc holding the local fisherman. The old man had given up struggling from exhaustion at this point, partly dazed from succumbing to the throw of his captor ( and severely disappointed that the orc managed to still hold him when it happened). He merely waited for what was to come. The withered man looked nonetheless terrified though at his situation. The Matriarch seemed to stare for a brief moment (an odd gesture for a blind woman), but then eventually turned away. 

The orcs were quick, snapping dead wood and clearing the snow. In a short intermin, the slush has been pushed away into a clear circle in which a set of wood was piled and an orc scraped a rock to a metal blade, birthing sparks that ended in flames.  Three furred drapes were lain on the wet ground, one for the Matriarch and the others for Vaeri and Morwenna. If anything, the orcs were efficient.

“Sit with me, I’d like to explain why the sisters of fate have gathered us on this very night.” The Matriarch waved her head, offering them both to sit within the comfort of the flames. The Bodyguard guided her to her placement and she sat before the flames—an interesting occurrence, for she seemed to need him for some vision guides more than others. When the other two sat on the other side of the fire, she smiled gracefully, the flames reflecting on the carmine hue of her lips.

“You have questions for me,” she looked at Vaeri. “I apologize for not taking the time to answer them. Allow me to reintroduce myself to you both.” She placed a hand upon her sternum. “They call me The Matriarch, seer and keeper of the orcs within the Sisterhood of Witches. Our coven follows under the rulership of Luna, a 566 year old witch that comes from a world and realm beyond this one. She has come here to liberate and expand the potential of sister witches upon Valucre. She strives to create a family with the strength to achieve her dreams of paradise for all witchcraft. I was emancipated from the bondage of slavery I have suffered since I was a child because of her, and so I dedicate my life to her purpose.

"Since then, I have been able to expand my abilities of a seer beyond what I have ever thought possible. The feats you have witnessed today were not of my mere own, but of the combined force of the Sisterhood. It is through their empowerment that I have found both of you. Or perhaps…”

She paused to smile at Morwenna. “Why you have found me.”

“The Sisterhood is bounded through energy beyond our feelings of love and trust. We are bound through the unfathomable force of the arcane; of the Coven's Soul. All of our souls are partially coalesced as one, making us not only truly kindred spirits, but capable of potentiating each other abilities beyond that of which a witch single could hope to accomplish. You’ve felt it, Vaeri.” She looked at the said witch. “When we held hands, you felt them all reaching out for you together. Then you felt it twice through my vision of Morwenna. You saw what my Third Eye revealed to me. It is called skill possession, an advanced technique of the Coven’s Soul that allows our sisters to share arcane abilities. You Vaeri, through a mere touch, were capable of doing this unconsciously. Your potential is both daunting and seductive. I cannot begin to imagine the expansion of your powers within the coven.

"And you..." She looked at Morwenna. “Dearest Sister, your sheer willpower and desire to be a part of something greater influenced the opening of my Third Eye and allowed me to see you. It lead you to us. Your dedication and determination reached the Coven’s Soul without even being exposed to it. The Fates wanted you here with us.

"You see, my sisters, the greater the Coven’s Soul becomes, the more we can sense and seek our sisters. And the more we can break our limitations. Together, as one, there is truly no end to our ability. We will never be alone again. And we will never be weak.”

 The Matriarch settled, exhaling deeply. She allowed them time to understand her words. She wasn’t as great a speaker as Luna, but she learned from Luna's prose what the meaning of the coven was able. She also felt it. She hoped they would too.

“And tonight as my sisters, I ask you to help me slay a great beast.”

Edited by Fallen Joy

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