Just a note – I am hungover to high hell, and feel like crap… hence the short chapter.
The smell of sulphur is stronger than before, rotten and vile it fills my mouth, my nostrils, every pore and every inch of my skin.
“Stop!” Chaska commands as my foot reaches the bottom step, “Come no further…”
The witch points to the cauldron which obediently bubbles into life… thick pink smoke seeps from underneath the lid which rattles menacingly.
Chaska mumbles some words from her spell book, her long nail trailing over the page as she reads, her eyes darting to and fro so quickly their movement is almost a blur – she’s eager to get on, eager to fulfil my spell… and something about that disturbs me.
All of a sudden she’s stopped speaking and slowly her eyes meet mine – crimson iris’ almost throbbing with some unknown desire, hunger for power evident there.
I’m not aware of what’s happening until the knife is upon me, I don’t have time to scream before it’s hovering between my eyes, darting from side to side like a cobra waiting to strike and I’m frozen in fear.
“Hold still, boy!” Chaska calls, and the knife whisks left to right repeatedly before striking my head.
I expect it to hurt, to feel warm blood trickle down my face and into my eyes … but as the knife recoils, it hovers over to the witch who snatches it out of mid-air.
“Good, good,” she says, as if canoodling a favourite pet.
I see a shock of black in her green hands – hair – my hair. That’s what the knife had taken.
Holding the knife purposefully in one hand, and a lock of my hair in the other, she mumbles in some unknown language as she strides over to the bubbling cauldron.
Without flinching, she removes the hot lid which sizzles and singes her flesh – then she drops my hair into the pot. It belches loudly, and as it does so her chant gets louder.
Pulling her hair around her neck, she holds it tight before taking the knife and slicing it off – I’m surprised by the cleanness of her cut – the knife slides through her hair like butter, and her greasy locks are promptly deposited into the cauldron.
In that moment I’m aware of nothing but Chaska’s chanting and the roaring of intense flame. The noises combine to reach deafening proportions and I pull my hat down over my ears, sheltering my mind from the song which fills the vast room.
As suddenly as it started the chanting stops and I open my eyes to find Chaska mere inches from my face – “It is done.” she whispers.
A blinding flash of white light sears my vision and in that moment the sound of a million voices reaches my ears. I see a beautiful redheaded woman with her hand to her lips, a playful smile upon her face… and then I see nothing at all.
Fintan Quade was cold.
The icy October night had penetrated his clothes and seeped into his skin, chilling him to the bone.
Unaware of how long he had been waiting outside the strange cottage in the woods, his feet had long since gone numb and his hands were red and sore from jack frost’s nipping.
Fin was about to give up – despite knowing that Yves had to give up at some point, that he couldn’t stay in the cottage forever, he knew that waiting out here in the cold was pointless – he’d catch up with the boy another time.
Slowly rising to his feet, he swore as cramp set in, pulling and contracting his muscles, causing him to hop unpleasantly on the spot.
The explosion from the cottage knocked him off his feet, and he stared in horror as white light engulfed the entire vicinity, blinding him and making his eyes water.
When at last the light dissipated, Fin glanced around the woodland for any sign of movement… unable to understand what it was he’d just seen.
The door to the cottage creaked open and a sliver of warm ambient light lit up the trees around him, Fintan watched as an old lady appeared in the door way, and pushed Yves Black out of her cottage and into the woods. There was something different about the boy’s demeanour – something not quite right and zombiesque the way he moved cumbersomely through the woods without a backwards glace.
Fintan watched as the old lady scooped up a toad in her hands planted a slobbery kiss on his head… he noticed the wand in her belt and in that moment realised what she was… she was a witch – Yves Black had made a bargain with a witch.